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10 Easy and Delicious Camping Meal Recipes

10 Easy and Delicious Camping Meal Recipes

Camping is a great frugal activity to do with your family or friends. And with these 10 easy camping recipes, you’ll have a bunch of delicious and budget-friendly meal options.

I absolutely love camping, and making delicious meals while being outdoors.

These easy camping recipes are simple and have quick clean up and prep. And, this list has a ton of delicious and easy camping meals, from desserts to nachos.

What I love the most about these easy camping recipes is that you will end up with meals that are more interesting than what you may normally have. And, because you can prep some of these meals in advance, you can spend more time having fun while you’re camping.

For more recipe roundups, check out:

Note: If you’re looking for easy weekly meal plans, full of budget recipes, I recommend $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a delicious meal plan and shopping list every week for just $5 a month.

10 Easy and Delicious Camping Meal Recipes:


1. Walking Tacos

Get the recipe here.


2. Campfire Cones

Get the recipe here.


3. Easy Shepherd’s Pie with Campbell’s Soup

Get the recipe here.


4. Easy Baked Camping Apples

Get the recipe here.


5. Healthy Rice Crispy Treats

Get the recipe here.


6. Coconut Mashed Sweet Potatoes With Maple Pecan Sauce

Get the recipe here.


7. Hot Dog On A Stick

Get the recipe here.


8. Quinoa Tabouli

Get the recipe here.


9. Beefy Campfire Nachos

Get the recipe here.


10. Hawaiian Packets

Get the recipe here.

Where are you traveling to next? What do you think of these easy camping meal recipes?

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How We Paid off $266,329.01 in 33 Months

How We Paid off $266,329.01 in 33 Months

How We Paid off $266,329.01 in 33 Months #debtpayoff #moneysavingtipsToday, I have a great debt payoff story. I’ve known Lauren for years – pretty much ever since I started Making Sense of Cents years ago! She was one of the first blogs I read actually.

Lauren Mochizuki is an ER nurse, wife, and mother. She and her husband paid off $266,329.01 in 33 months.  They also purchased their fixer-upper dream home, and renovated it without going into debt.  At her blog, she is sharing her home renovation story, encouraging others to become debt-free, and that one can live a great life while being on a budget. Enjoy her story below!


The Background

Female, age 25, nurse, recently married, living her life with no regard to finances.  Frequently dines out, goes to concerts, travels to foreign countries, never volunteers to work any extra shifts, lives beyond her means.  Purchased a brand new Subaru Forester, husband also purchased a brand new car, lives in an 1,100 square foot condo.

Total debt owed: $266,329.01.


My Story

My name is Lauren, I’m a registered nurse, wife, mother, blogger at, and firm believer that you can live an amazing life within your means! I didn’t have a clue what budgeting actually meant.  

When my husband first brought up the idea of budgeting, I was incredibly resistant. I thought that budgets were boring, restrictive, and I didn’t want to compromise my spending habits.  I couldn’t have been more wrong about my ideas surrounding budgeting.

Looking back eight years ago, I realized that change is difficult, but the outcome was worthwhile.  We are now debt free!

Other debt payoff stories:


Inspiration to Become Debt-Free

Eight years ago, we had some friends that were doing radical things to become debt free.  We thought they had lost their minds. They were working lots of overtime, and paying down their debt.  At the time, it sounded very extreme, and obscure.

Then one day,  after reading Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” and having a long discussion with our aspiring debt-free friends, he said “I want us to become totally debt-free too.”  

I was ready to give my husband a swift karate chop when I heard that.  It never occurred to me that we had money problems. Our bills were being paid on time, we put aside some money in savings, but most of all, we were having so much fun with our money!  

Our debt breakdown was:

  • Credit card bills: $1,871.31,
  • The balance owed for two new cars: $31,211.10,
  • Mortgage balance for our condo: $233,346.60.

Total Debt $266,329.01.


Figuring out my “Why”

My husband kept pitching the idea of “Financial Freedom” to me, and that sounded pretty amazing, and at the same time daunting.   I wanted to support my husband, and if becoming debt-free was something that was important to him, and in reality important for US, then I decided  that I should give it a try.

I went from 0-60 very quickly.  I not only took on this journey of debt-freedom; I lived it, breathed it, and became incredibly passionate about it.  I also read “Total Money Makeover”, which fired me up even more. It was an easy read, for a “free-spirit” like me.


Accountability Partner

My husband and I became budget accountability partners.  He is the President of the Budget, and I’m the Vice-President.  

Together, we make decisions about how our money is spent, our work schedules, family schedules, and our future.  Having an accountability partner is something that is helpful for being successful on a budget. Whether it’s a friend, sibling, or coworker, find someone you trust, and respect, and most importantly hold you accountable for your decisions.


Establishing our Monthly “Budget” Meeting

At the end of each month, my husband and I decide how we are going to spend our money for the following month.  We call it our monthly budget meeting.

For example, if we made $5,000 one month, we would assign each dollar to a budget category (examples: utilities, mortgage, toiletries, work expenses, groceries, savings, etc.) for the following month.

I am the social events planner for our family.  During our budget meetings, I always have our monthly calendar open.  This step is key to having a successful budget meeting. We check the following month events for birthdays, showers, events, or weddings so that we can budget appropriately.  This helps to avoid any budget surprises.

We would also plan out all of the extra shifts we would be working during this time to cover these expenses.

It took us nearly 6 months to really get the hang of budgeting and tackling any issues that would arise.  It felt like the first several months, we kept discovering new budget categories that needed to be added.

We also started planning for big expenses all year long such as:  yearly memberships, property taxes, car and house insurance. We were also mindful of bills where a discount was given for yearly payments instead of monthly payments.

Special holidays such as Christmas, is a budget category that we allocate money to all year long.  This allows us the freedom to enjoy the holiday without wondering how we are going to pay for it.


Establish Rainy Day Savings

Unexpected costs had occurred, and we weren’t prepared.  Thankfully we had some money saved, but we realized it wasn’t easily accessible if we needed it for an emergency!

We quickly transferred that money into a different account (from a whole life insurance plan into a regular savings account) where it could be readily available to us.  It’s a good idea to have 3-6 months in your emergency fund.


Reducing our Expenses

After reviewing our monthly mortgage payment, we decided to refinance.  We changed our mortgage from a 30-year-fixed mortgage to a 20-year-fixed mortgage.  This single-handedly saved us thousands of dollars in interest.

Next, we checked every single utility bill and figured out how to bring down the monthly costs.  We were very successful with this process, by shopping around for utility providers, to decreasing our consumer habits (figuring out ways to use less water, electricity, etc), we managed to decrease most of our monthly utility bills.

Two other areas we changed to save additional money: meal planning and thorough review for big purchases. I started weekly meal planning, and I try to only grocery shop on a full stomach.  Don’t allow yourself to waste food and money if there isn’t a specific meal plan in place.

If there were big purchases that my husband and I would want to make that were over $50, we would have a conversation with each other, and sleep on it.  If we still wanted the item after a few days, and if there was money in the budget, then the purchase was justified.

We inadvertently had lots of no spend weekends.  A really frugal, and fun weekend for us would include time spent with friends and family at the beach.   Bonfire, barbeque or dutch oven meals would help reduce weekend spending, and they were delicious (my favorite are the dutch oven nachos)!  A major discovery in this whole process was that time is one of our most precious assets, and spending time with others is priceless, and doesn’t require additional money.


Increasing our Income

In order to achieve our goal, we HAD to increase our income.  

We were both incredibly thankful to have the opportunity to work extra shifts at our jobs.  I acquired a second job as an emergency room nurse, and my husband and I worked as if our lives, our future, and dreams depended on it.  

I’m talking: multiple 16 hour shifts a week for myself, and 60-120 hour work weeks for both myself and my husband (we were intentional to make sure that our mental and physical states were not in jeopardy).  We were on fire for this “financial freedom” that we were working towards. As Ramsey would say, we were “gazelle intense.”

We attended money conferences (we saw Dave Ramsey speak several times), listened to financial podcasts (You Need a Budget), and read blogs (Making Sense of Cents, Mr. Money Mustache), and books (The Millionaire Next Door, Start, The Go-Getter) that would encourage, and inspire us to keep working towards a debt-free life.  

Selling items also became a means to make more money.  We had garage sales, and sold things on eBay, and craigslist.  We wanted to be good stewards of our resources, and therefore sold items we no longer needed.  For several months, we were living off of 30% of our household income.


The Visual Aid and Celebrating Milestones

My husband and my mother-in-law pulled their creative resources together, and created a visual aid!  It was a picture made of felt material, of a mound of dirt, broken into many pieces that sat beneath the ground and a beach scene (our happy place).  

We kept the visual aid in our bedroom. It would be one of the first things I saw every morning when I woke up, and one of the last things I saw before I went to sleep.  It was a great reminder of our debt-free journey.

My husband and I created many different milestones to celebrate along our journey.  

  • We celebrated every time we paid off $5,000, and we would remove a piece of dirt from our visual aid.  
  • We printed out our mortgage amortization schedule, and celebrated every time we turned a page in our mortgage amortization schedule, and every time we saved another $5,000 of interest on our mortgage.  
  • When the principal became greater than our interest on our mortgage payments, we celebrated. It felt like we were constantly achieving a different victory!
  • Every month after a budget meeting, my husband and I would take a picture with our visual aid, we would write down the month, and if we celebrated any milestones that month!  
  • Our “celebrations” would include apple cider or champagne toasts, making a nice dinner at home, or simply reflecting on our goals accomplished that month.

After thirty three months, when we finished paying off all of our debt, I put all of the pictures together and made them into a photo album for my husband!  It’s so rewarding to look back and reflect on all the sacrifices, and all that we accomplished together! I still get teary-eyed when I look at it, and enjoy sharing this book with our children.  

This journey was one of the most challenging, and meaningful things we have ever done together.


Keep your eyes on the prize

Don’t play the comparison game.  I was the most successful when I kept my focus on our own progress.  It was very distracting when I looked around at what everyone else was doing.  I kept reminding myself that I didn’t want to be like everyone else, I wanted to be debt-free!

This whole process was difficult, challenging, life changing, and incredibly rewarding!  There were times when I felt like giving up, and just burnt out. When I felt like giving up, my husband would continue to encourage me to keep going.  He reminded me what we were working towards, and that we were positively changing our financial trajectory forever.


Work Hard, and Stay the Course

Thirty-three months can seem like an eternity when you are in the thick of it.  If you are living radically, any time spent during this season can seem like a long time.  

We had a few months where life’s challenges happened, and things would get in the way of our goals.  We didn’t let that deter us, instead, it gave us more motivation to continue on.

After a laborious thirty-three months, we became totally debt-free!  We were also expecting our first child. I still remember the day we went to the bank to pay our final mortgage payment, and the day we called in to the Dave Ramsey radio show and did our “debt-free” scream.

One year later, we purchased our fixer-upper dream home in Orange County, California.   We paid half of the total price of the home as our down payment. Three years after that, we completely renovated the home without going into debt.  We have a mortgage now, but it is very reasonable, and it’s the only debt that we have. I no longer have to work full-time, but work per diem as a nurse, and my husband rarely picks up any overtime shifts.  

We now enjoy spending lots of time together as a family.


How We Paid off $266,329.01 in 33 Months

Plant Seeds of Joy and Generosity

Maya Angelou once said “When we give cheerfully, and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”

I would highly encourage being generous with your resources because it’s good for the soul,  whether it’s writing someone a kind note, buying someone’s coffee behind you, or giving to a non-profit organization or church.

During our entire debt-free journey, we donated 10% of our income, and it was always the first thing we budgeted.  This may not be for everyone, but we discovered that there is lots of joy to be had when things are given from a grateful heart.

We were first inspired to become debt free because of our friend’s story.  We now share our story in the hopes of inspiring others, and that it is possible if you are willing to work for it.  The timeframe for becoming debt-free might be long, and difficult, but it will definitely be worth it.

If you are thinking of becoming debt-free, find your passion, and don’t let anything stop you! As Colin Powell once said “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”  You can do this!

Do you have dreams of being debt free?

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10 Powerful Lessons That Every Freelancer Needs to Know

10 Powerful Lessons That Every Freelancer Needs to Know

Hi, it’s Ariel, Michelle’s editor. Over the past couple of years you’ve seen me here on Making Sense of Cents talking about real life frugality, staying in a small house, and editing and writing strategies. Last year, I turned my freelance side business into my full-time job.

It’s been nearly a year since I went full-time with my freelance editing and writing business (you can read more about that here).

The learning curve has been steep at times – I had (okay, sometimes have) absolutely no clue how to run a business. More often than not, I turn to Google for advice, searching for things like “how to file estimated quarterly taxes” and “how to set your freelance writing rates.”

There are best practices, but if there’s an official rulebook for freelancing, I haven’t been able to find it.

Freelancers make up a growing portion of the workforce – there are currently over 56 million freelancers in the U.S. That’s 56 million people who are running businesses, and most of us don’t have actual business school training. We’re making things up as we go, learning from others, and just trying to do what’s right for our businesses and clients.

One of my greatest sources of wisdom has come from working with some pretty amazing clients. From a weird vantage point that’s both in and outside of their businesses, I have the unique opportunity to observe my clients as they navigate running businesses that are much larger than mine, but still having started with equally humble beginnings. They’ve talked candidly about their mistakes, what they wish they knew going in, and have helped me become a better business owner.

I will forever be grateful for what they’ve shared with me.

So in the spirit of sharing, I’d like to pass on a few of the lessons I’ve learned in the past year working with a handful of incredibly successful bloggers and online business owners.

Related content:

Here are 10 freelancing lessons I’ve learned from my biggest clients:


1. Create a code of ethics for how you’ll run your business.

Whether this is something you write out or just hold in the back of your mind, a code of ethics will help inform the way you accept new clients, interact with them, and manage your overall business.

You’ve probably already encountered situations when having a code of ethics would apply, but if you haven’t, it’s coming. Further down in my post, you’ll see at least one point in which this kind of thing is valuable.

Here are some examples of the types of statements and standards you might include in your code of ethics:

  • Always prioritizing your client’s or customer’s needs
  • Avoiding conflicts of interest
  • Protecting intellectual property
  • Understanding the types of clients or customers that might not be a good fit for your business (an example for me would be if a client asked me to edit a blog post that promoted hate speech)
  • A willingness to work with clients or customers regardless of gender, race, religion, etc.
  • A promise of high-quality products and/or services
  • Responding to questions, comments, concerns, and returning work in a timely manner
  • Being transparent with your ability to meet deadlines and expectations

Your code isn’t something that you need to hand out to clients or customers; it’s there to lean on and inform the work you do.

Your code of ethics will likely be a fluid document, and that’s completely okay. As your experience grows and your business changes (see the next point), you will learn more about yourself and your needs as a business owner.

Related: So You Want To Be A Freelance Writer?


2. Learn to adapt.

To stay relevant and endure, you must continually adjust your business based on the needs of the industry that you’re working in. What services or products are your clients asking for? What type of content do they want to read about? If you want your business to survive, you must be willing to make those changes.

I’d say that nearly half of the services I now offer are in direct response to my client’s needs. That’s adaptation, and it’s growing my business.


3. When you want/need to work, say “yes” to as much as possible.

You already know this, but it still needs to be said: if you need cash, then you need to work. What that means is that you’re going to find yourself working on a lot of projects that you don’t really love.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to agree to every job. Like, I could never find myself working for someone who promotes hate speech, even if I really needed the work – why it can help to have a code of standards even early on. Fortunately, there are lots of menial jobs out there that can sustain you and your business, and there’s nothing wrong with doing them.

You’ll get those high-paying, soul-fulfilling jobs eventually, but that’s after you grow your base and have some cash flowing in. Then you can be a little pickier about the type of work you take on.

Related: The Truth About Making Money Online


4. Find a way to organize your workflow.

Workflow is a little bit of a buzzword, but it just means the process in which you start and finish work. It can relate to one specific project or task, or you can talk about workflow in how you structure your working day.

Why is workflow important? Well, it helps you stay on task and increases your productivity and efficiency.

Finding the right workflow is incredibly hard when you’re working from home, like many freelancers and online business owners do. You see laundry that needs to be folded, and you say to yourself, “let me just take care of that.” Having some structure to your workflow and scheduling time for breaks will allow you to know whether or not you can fold that laundry now or later.

Between my freelance clients and the one part-time job I still work, I’m pulling around 40+ hours per week. It’s really easy to push some of that work off until the weekend, but I’ve organized my workflow so that I keep the weekends to myself as much as possible – you’ve gotta get that work/life balance right.

If you need some help with workflow, Asana is a free team and project management tool that’s amazing. I found it through one of my clients, and I am 100% happy with what it’s done for me and my business.


5. Freelancers no longer live in the wild west.

I recently went to this freelancer’s happy hour and met a few folks who have been freelancing for decades. I was telling them about my experience as a newer freelance business owner and someone said something like, “you’re lucky to start it now, it used to be hell out there for us.”

They went on further to describe the old idea of what freelancers do, from the perspective of both clients and freelancers. It was ride into town, pick up some work, go unseen for a couple of weeks, and then ride back in to drop off work and pick up a bag of cash. No one wanted to interact with the freelancer and the freelancer couldn’t care less.

Freelancers were just too wild to work a real job.

However, we collectively agreed that attitudes towards freelancers have shifted. Good freelancers are in communication with their clients when it’s needed. We aren’t just doing the extra or crap work that no one wants, or at least that’s not always the general perception.

Most importantly, freelancers are being treated like valuable business assets who are running their own respectable businesses. You can still call yourself a cowboy if you want, but at least now you’re welcome in town.


6. Take care of cracks before they grow.

With that growth and adaption I mentioned in #2, there are naturally going to be a few cracks that appear in your business – your foundation is settling. While that’s normal, take care of that stuff before it gets too big and actually hurts your business.

I learned this lesson just a few months ago when someone I was outsourcing work to was making some little errors here and there. I told myself it was no big deal and that it would fix itself. But it didn’t. The outsourcing I was doing to save me time was now costing me money AND time.

It was uncomfortable, but I talked with my freelancer and we fixed the issue. Things are now really great, and we’ve both promised to always be honest with each other if stuff like this happens again.


7. Learn SEO.

You do not need to be an SEO master to benefit from some basic search engine optimization tips, and that basic level stuff isn’t that hard to learn. So, read some articles, find a course, listen to podcasts, whatever… just inform yourself.

You don’t have to optimize every page of your website or blog post with keywords, and you also shouldn’t expect that SEO alone will take you to the top of page 1 in Google rankings. Sites pay for that, and it’s often indirectly through months or years of building up their sites.

Learning SEO, at the very least, teaches you what you’re up against, the kind of content people are searching for, and the types of services (if you’re a freelance editor and writer like me) that clients are looking for.

Here are a few resources for SEO training and support:

  • Stupid Simple SEO
  • Ahrefs (a paid tool for analysis, research, rank tracking, etc.)
  • Yoast  (a WordPress plugin that has both free and paid options)


8. Get to know your audience and/or your client’s audience.

If you’re a blogger, you know that your audience is driving your work. So, if you’re a personal finance blogger and your audience starts asking for more budgeting advice, you do reviews on apps like Personal Capital and Mint. Have a food blog and your audience wants more vegetarian recipes? You put some on your content calendar.

For freelancers, I think that you also have to be aware of these audiences.

There are big, and sometimes very subtle, differences in the types of readers and customers your clients have. This informs the content, tone, and language you’ll encounter and need to be familiar with, and it will help you move between your work. And, I’d say this applies to most, if not all, freelance writers, editors, virtual assistants, etc.

To learn about your client’s audience, you can ask them for some demographics, read through the comments on posts, follow them on social media, and join their online communities.

I know it takes a little extra time, but trust me, it makes you a better freelancer who understands your client’s needs and is sometimes able to identify them before they do.


9. Outsource as needed.

If you’re a freelancer for a blogger or online business owner, it’s because someone has outsourced work to you. Outsourcing doesn’t just save your clients time. It lets them focus on tasks that have a higher ROI (return on investment). So, spending a little money increases their earnings overall.

Freelancers can also outsource, and it’s incredibly helpful when you’re smart about it (see #6 as a reminder).

Even though I am an editor, I outsource editing for some of the writing I do to a few different freelance editors whom I know and trust. While it might take me around an hour to copy edit a blog post that you’ve written, it can take me 3+ hours to edit one that I’ve written. The time I save is then used for other tasks that pay better.

Read more at How I Make Working From Home Work For Me


10. Network, even if it’s awkward at first.

Remember that freelancer’s happy hour I told you about? It was awkward, like really, really awkward. A decent part of that is because I don’t always know how to talk with new people, but I really did learn a lot. It was also just really nice to meet other people who are doing the same thing that I’m doing – this is hard to find when you’re self-employed, working amid piles of laundry on your dining room table, and referring to your dogs as coworkers.

Networking can bring you new clients and introduce you to ways of doing business that you never thought of. And, you can find people to commiserate with and share in the successes that those directly around you just don’t get.

Where you network is going to depend on what you do, but Facebook groups and other online communities are a good starting point.

In the end, everyone is just trying to run their business the best they can.

Working for yourself is sometimes an act of humility. You can get clients who don’t like your work, readers who email you saying that you’ve misrepresented facts, and sometimes you just don’t think things through and majorly eff things up.

I know it’s frustrating, but we’ve all been there. The upside is that you learn something with each of those challenges, even if it takes you a little time to see the silver lining. Trust me, you regain your footing and move forward.

Are you interested in becoming a freelancer?

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Save Money With These Top Tips For Buying A New Car

Save Money With These Top Tips For Buying A New Car

Looking to buy a new car? Here are 10 top tricks and tips for buying a new car so that you can learn how to save money with your next car purchase. #tipsforbuyinganewcar #buyingacar

I’ve recently heard a lot about people spending an exorbitant amount on their monthly car loan. Personally, I know several people who spend over $1,000 a month on their car loans while barely making enough to cover that and all of their other bills.

So today, I want to give you some tips for buying a new car so that you can save money on your next car purchase.

According to USA Today, the average new car price is around $37,000, with the average new car buyer paying around $550 a month with loan terms of 69 months. Many people are buying more expensive cars and taking out loans with high interest rates in order to “afford” them.

In fact, according to Edmunds, the current average annual interest rate on in 2019 is 6.19%. I’ve even seen car buyers with interest rates of 20% and higher.

And, people are extending their car loans for longer periods of time in order to get an even lower monthly car payment. While 72 months used to be a crazy long time to finance a car, terms of 84 months are even starting to become the norm.

Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have a car loan or buy a new car. But, I do want people to be more mindful of their car spending and be more knowledgeable going into the car buying process.

Today’s post is all about the best tips for buying a new car so that you can save money when buying your next vehicle. And, many of these tips for buying a new car also apply to buying a used one.

Not all car dealerships and car salesmen are bad. I know this for a fact because my husband used to be a new car salesman (and he was nice, I promise!). My husband knows all about the flack that salesmen get, and he even helped with some of the tips for buying a new car that I’m going to tell you about.

Despite the reputation car salesmen get, the car buying process itself can be really stressful for everyone.

Whether you are purchasing a new or used vehicle, there are several car buying tips and tricks you should know of so that you can walk away with the best deal possible. There are so many options and extras that come up when buying a car, which means there are many ways for you to end up leaving confused or paying more than you should be.

Whether you are buying a $500 car or a $50,000 one, you want to get the best deal available. To make sure you don’t walk away from a deal angry or regretful, it’s important to be as knowledgeable as possible.

Cars aren’t cheap, which can leave a lot of room for mistakes and overpayments. You can buy a car that doesn’t meet your needs, is too expensive, and more.

We’ve had a lot of vehicles in our life, from a really cheap $500 car that ran well (yes, you can find good vehicles for cheap), to expensive new vehicles. And, we’ve used all of the tips I’m going to share with you today.

Before I tell you the top tips for buying a new car, I want to tell you about several ways that car dealerships make their money. These are things to be mindful of:

  • Your trade-in vehicle. To make a profit on your used car, car dealerships will offer you less money than they can sell it for. Of course this is normal, but you want to be mindful of this so that you can get the most money out of your trade-in vehicle. Even though it takes a little more work, you can often make more money if you sell your car privately instead of selling it to a dealership.
  • Incentives and bonuses from the car manufacturer. This means that if you can buy a car when a dealership hasn’t reached their selling quota, you may be able to get a great deal on your car purchase (this is covered more in my list of tips for buying a new car). Many times car dealerships will take a loss on the vehicle if it means that they will be able to reach their quota.
  • Financing the vehicle. Dealerships make money when you finance vehicles through them.
  • Extra options. These are things like an extended warranty and upgrades.

Buying a new or used car can be fun and stressful at the same time. You don’t want to get tricked or duped, so here are tricks and tips for buying a new car before you start shopping!

Here are my best tips for buying a new car (or used one):


Think about the WHOLE COST of the car.

The most important of these tips for buying a new car that I can offer you is that you should think about more than just the monthly payment.

You should only purchase what you can actually afford. Just because the monthly car payment looks affordable, it doesn’t mean that it actually is.

There are car payment terms that are as long as 96 months, which is just crazy to me. A car salesperson may stretch out the car payment so that it looks to be more affordable for you, but you should be aware of the whole cost, which includes things like interest and taxes.

Please, please, please, look at the whole cost and see if that’s actually an affordable amount for you to be paying every month.

Even if you aren’t buying a brand new car, used cars can still cost you more than you think in insurance and taxes, so always think about the total cost before you purchase your next vehicle.


Shop around for your own car financing.

If you have to finance your car purchase, make sure you shop around before you agree to the dealer’s interest rate. Sometimes the first dealer you visit will have the lowest rate, but sometimes they won’t.

You may be able to save yourself hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars a year by simply shopping around. Plus, it’s extremely easy to shop around for the best interest rates – start with local credit unions and banks!

I’m in quite a few Facebook groups about personal finance, and this topic comes up over and over again: people who are excited about getting a car loan with an interest rate of over 20%. And sadly, many of these people are buying brand new cars, not realizing how much they are about to pay because they don’t know much about personal finance.

20% is not a good interest rate for a car loan – so please don’t be excited about that! I am saying this to help you, not to be mean in any way.

You should shop around and make sure you are getting the best possible rate. If you are getting a 20% interest rate on a car loan, then you should probably not be buying a brand new car. There are plenty of more affordable vehicles that are older but still quite reliable.


Visit more than one car dealership.

You can shop around car dealerships both online and offline.

I recommend shopping online before you go to a dealership, this way you can be prepared in advance with the costs, loan terms, extras, and more. While shopping around does take time, you won’t be wasting it on a dealership that can’t get down to the price you want.


Skip the extras at the end.

When you are about to purchase a car, you will be encouraged to buy many small options that you may not need. This may include extras such as:

  • Paint protection
  • Extended warranties
  • Upgrades

While you may believe that you need some of those options, you should make sure that you’re not just thinking about the monthly cost. The financing manager will offer you these extras in a way that makes it seem affordable. But, these extras only appear inexpensive because they are padded into your monthly cost, so don’t be fooled by how “affordable” they seem.

Yeah, $10 or $50 each month may not seem like much, but it can add up to a lot over a 5 year period!

Trust me, you are paying for these. Dealerships make money on these extras.

Related: 30+ Ways To Save Money Each Month


Figure out how much your trade-in is worth.

One of the best tips for buying a new car if you’ll be trading in your vehicle is to know how much it is worth before you step foot into a car dealership.

Kelley Blue Book is a great resource for researching what you’re old car is worth. While you may not get the exact amount that Kelley Blue Book claims you will get, it can be a good estimator or starting point when negotiating with the car dealership.


Know when to shop.

There are certain times of the month and year that are better for car shopping than others. If a dealership is trying to meet their sales quota, they are more likely to give you a deal than when they’ve already beat their quota or if it’s the beginning of their quota.

This is because car manufacturers will give bonuses and extra incentives to car dealerships who sell a certain amount of vehicles. This gives car dealerships extra motivation to give really good deals if they are close to their quota.

This is one of the best tips for buying a new car that my husband learned from selling cars.

To know the best time to shop for a new car, you may want to make friends with a car salesperson, find out when their end of month or end of quarter is, and so on. Or, you could just ask someone at the car dealership.


Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Even if you get a discount, such as a car manufacturer discount, you should still negotiate. Many times, those friends and family discounts mean that you are not able to haggle at all, which can lead to you actually paying a higher price.

Cars sales are usually meant to be negotiated, whether it is a brand new vehicle or a used one. If you don’t haggle, you will most likely lose out on a lot of money.

Other aspects of the vehicle buying process can be negotiated on as well, this includes your trade-in vehicle, warranties, interest rates, add-ons, and more.

Learn more about negotiating at How To Rock At Negotiating On Everything.


Be nice.

No matter what, you should be a decent human being. This is one of my tips for buying a new car that applies to most other aspects in your life.

Being rude doesn’t get you anywhere. It won’t get you the best deal, and it may actually make the salesperson and the dealership not want to help you.

After you purchase a car you are asked to go through the car manufacturer to grade your car salesperson. If the salesperson knows that you might give them a bad grade (for no reason at all), they may not want your deal because it’s not worthwhile to them to have a bad score, which decreases their salary/income.

Plus, you should always be nice anyways. Salespeople are just doing their job and trying to make a living, and the majority of them are good people. If you’re nice to them, they may be willing to help you out a little more.


Miscellaneous tricks and tips for buying a new car.

Here are several other tips for buying a new car (or used one):

  • Never shop when you’re hungry or tired. You should always be well-rested and ready for an eventful day.
  • For the car dealership to beat their quota, sometimes they will buy a new car themselves and put it on the “used” car dealership side. The car is still brand new, but is now considered pre-owned. This can allow you to save a good deal of money. However, you do want to be mindful of the warranty, because the warranty has most likely started once the car was officially bought the first time, even if it was bought by the car dealership.
  • Purchase a car at the end of the car’s model year. Dealerships want to move out last year’s model to make room for the new ones, which can lead to a good discount.
  • Look into car insurance before you purchase. You should contact your car insurance agent so that you are not surprised by a high insurance rate after you make a purchase.
  • Figure out what you’ll need to pay in personal property taxes for your car, which varies state to state. You will need to add this into the total cost of your car.
  • Don’t tell the salesperson what your budget is for a monthly payment. You should always negotiate on price first. A dealership will try to get you into something that will just barely fit your monthly payment budget, which can cause you to spend a lot more money in the long run.
  • Be confident. When negotiating, you should always be confident in what you are saying, and do not be afraid to walk away. If it’s not meant to be, then it’s just not.

What other tips for buying a new car can you share? Leave them in the comments below!

The post Save Money With These Top Tips For Buying A New Car appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


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10 Easy Freezer Meal Recipes

10 Easy Freezer Meal Recipes

On nights when you are busy, having a freezer meal ready to go is one of the best ways to feed you and your family. So, to help you get ready for your week, I have 10 easy freezer meal recipes for you to try, from breakfast burritos to meatless shepherd’s pie.

Freezer meals are simply meals you prep and cook in advance, stick in the freezer, and pull out to reheat when you need them. They are simple, healthy, and help you save money.

If you’ve never made freezer meals before, here are a few tips:

  • Batch cook several meals at once.
  • Label your meals with reheating directions.
  • Use freezer quality bags so your food doesn’t get freezer burn.
  • Make a list of what freezer meals you have and put it on your fridge or somewhere else that’s easy to see.

Trust me, these meals are nothing like the frozen dinners you would buy from the store – home cooked always tastes better (the from scratch Hot Pockets on this list look delicious!).

And, one of the best things about these easy freezer meal recipes is that you can save a lot of money on your monthly food budget. You will be less likely to get fast food or take out when you know that you have a delicious meal at home that you just need to pop in the oven or microwave.

For more recipe roundups, check out:

Note: If you’re looking for easy weekly meal plans, full of budget recipes, I recommend $5 Meal Plan. $5 Meal Plan is a meal planning service that sends you a delicious meal plan and shopping list every week for just $5 a month.

Here are 10 easy freezer meal recipes to try:


1. Healthy Homemade Hot Pockets

Get the recipe here.


2. Tuna Casserole

Get the recipe here.


3. Freezer Mac And Cheese

Get the recipe here.


4. Vegan Lentil Shepherd’s Pie

Get the recipe here.


5. Crispy Cheddar Chicken

Get the recipe here.


6. Breakfast Burrito Bonanza

Get the recipe here.


7. Instant Pot Pumpkin And Plantain Curry

Get the recipe here.


8. Butternut Squash Soup

Get the recipe here.


9. DIY Frozen Breakfast Burritos

Get the recipe here.


10. Black Bean Taco Soup

Get the recipe here

Are you interested in making easy freezer meal recipes?

The post 10 Easy Freezer Meal Recipes appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


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How I Made Money Blogging From Home In April 2019

How I Made Money Blogging From Home In April 2019

How I Made Money Blogging From Home In April 2019 #makemoneyblogging #workfromhomeWelcome to April 2019’s business report where I show you how I made money online and traveled full-time last month. It’s time to look at this month’s update and see how I did.

If you’re new to Making Sense of Cents, you may be wondering why I would want to publish my business report each month.

This all started out as my extra income report because, in the beginning, it was all about the money I was earning from my side jobs. In my side income reports from the beginning, I included all of the income I made except for what I made at my day job.

However, I left my day job as a financial analyst in October of 2013 and now my monthly business reports consist of the many ways I earn a living with my business.

Many have asked why I would ever want to publicly talk about what I’m working on each month. Some think I’m crazy, whereas some are glad I’m open about what I’m doing. Whatever you think, I enjoy publishing my monthly business reports and I share them publicly for three main reasons:

  1. Before I started blogging, I knew nothing about side hustling and making money online. I didn’t think side jobs were worth the effort and I thought the only way to significantly increase your income was through raises at your full-time job. If it weren’t for others publishing their monthly income reports, I don’t know if I would have ever tried side hustling. I want to help show others the positives in side hustling and how it can change a person’s life. There are many different ways to make money online, and I like to share my story each month to help motivate others to improve their financial situation by making more money.
  2. Secondly, I like to publish my business blogging reports because it’s a way for me to look back, learn from my mistakes and actually see what areas need improvement. I use my monthly blogging reports as a way to track how I’ve done and it helps to keep me accountable.
  3. Lastly, I like to show others that making side money is possible and that there are many legitimate ways to make money from your home.

I know I say this every month, but it’s the truth. Life is great now that I’m my own boss and a full-time blogger. I look forward to each and every day and it’s a wonderful feeling. I truly love waking up every single morning.

Above are just a few of the reasons for why I enjoy publishing my monthly income reports. I like to show others that you don’t have to hate your job and hate your life. You can make changes to your life and make money in a way that allows you to truly enjoy the life you are living. I’m not saying that you have to LOVE your job, I’m just saying that your job should, at least, allow you to do what you like to do outside of work (whether that be spending time with loved ones, painting, hiking, etc.).


Quick reminder on the recent announcement.

I want to repeat the announcement again because I have been asked – How I Made Over $1,500,000 In 2018 – Is This The End Of Income Reports? so that no one is confused. I’m sure I’ll receive many questions from readers who missed it.

As you all know, for quite some time I have been thinking about getting rid of my monthly income reports. However, whenever I would mention this in an income report, 99.9999999% of you asked me to continue on. Due to that, I want to find a happier way to continue with them.

Now, these will be “Business Reports” where I talk about how the business is doing, my goals, etc. Basically, everything will be the same, except there will be fewer numbers.

Instead of breaking my income apart down to the exact figure, I am including a pie chart. Many of you asked that I still do this so that you can see where income is coming from.

If you’re looking for actual numbers, I did publish income reports for several years that talked about how much I earned from specific sources. You can find every single income report here.

I really don’t think too much will change. Instead, I want these monthly reports to be more helpful, instead of focused on just the numbers. I will still be answering reader questions, talking about what I’m working on, and so on, so I still think these will be extremely beneficial.

Many of you have asked “Did your blogging income drop after getting rid of the numbers in your income reports?”

It’s only been a couple of months since I decided to stop publishing the exact numbers in each income report, and I also definitely do not know what direction I’m going with these still.

Many of you have wondered if my income has dropped because I’m now no longer showing readers exactly how much I am earning.

I was curious too to see if this would impact my earnings at all.

Well, after just a couple of months, traffic appears to be the same, and email subscriber growth is the exact same as well.

Most readers have completely understood me wanting to get rid of the numbers aspect of income reports, which has been nice!

So, it doesn’t look like it will change anything at all.

If there’s anything new that you would like me to add to these monthly reports, please let me know in the comments below!

Income breakdown for April 2019

How was business income in April of 2019?

In case you are new, the main areas I earn a living from include:

I regularly earn over $100,000 a month blogging, and I have earned over $5,000,000 from my blogging business total over the years.

Check out How I Successfully Built A $1,000,000+ Blog for all of the different ways you can make money through a blog.

April of 2019 was another great month for Making Sense of Cents and the whole blogging business. I earned a great income and enjoyed my month.

I have many plans for the rest of 2019, and I have a jam-packed to-do list that I am very excited to start crossing off and accomplishing.

Some of the things that I plan on doing in order to grow Making Sense of Cents include:

  • Focusing on SEO. I will be taking an SEO course soon from start to finish, in order to start growing Making Sense of Cents in this area. I tried a few years ago, but stopped. While I get decent traffic from SEO without much effort, I do think this area can be a great way to further grow my website.
  • Learning about Pinterest and Facebook advertising. I would like to use social media advertising to grow traffic as well as to grow my email list.
  • Adding a shop. I would like to create a shop for Making Sense of Cents, where I sell products such as printables.
  • Creating new optins. I don’t have many optins for my email list, and haven’t added a new one in quite some time. This is currently on my to-do list so that I can reach new readers and gain more subscribers.

The month was great in many areas – blogging, course-wise, life, and everything else. The business is doing well and I’m very happy with it. My business is doing well, I have a lot of ideas for the year, and I am very excited about everything. I really love my business and I don’t know where I would be without it.

Below are some of my monthly online income reports. I publish an online income update every month but only included some of them below as it would be a very long list. If you head on over to my income page you can find all of my monthly income reports from the past few years.

If you are interested in starting a blog of your own, I created a tutorial that will help you start a blog of your own for cheap, starting at only $2.75 per month (this low price is only through my link) for blog hosting. In addition to the low pricing, you will receive a free website domain (a $15 value) through my Bluehost link if you purchase, at least, 12 months of blog hosting. FYI, if you are asking yourself “can you make money blogging?” – my top tip is to be self-hosted. This is essential if you want to monetize your blog as you will appear more professional and this will help you monetize your blog tremendously. My blogging income did not take off until after I switched to self-hosted WordPress.


Blog/life news

April wasn’t a bad month, but most of the month was spent working on the boat, getting warranty items addressed, modifying things, and so on. As you can see from the picture above, we hauled our boat out of the water, and that is me standing in front of it.

In May/June, we will be sailing our boat from Fort Lauderdale, through the Keys, and to St. Pete. We were going to go up the east coast, but quite a few things have come up and we just don’t have the time to dedicate to go up the coast, along with several other reasons (such as the fact that boat repairs/additions took a LOT longer than we thought).

Don’t worry, though, we have an exciting summer loosely planned and we will be going back to tropical waters once hurricane season is over. If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know the news. And, I will be sharing all about it in a blog post soon!

Work-wise, April was full of a lot of work. Since we weren’t sailing the boat, I had a lot of time to work on the blog when we weren’t working on the boat.

But, I still have a ton of work to do, and I am hoping to catch up in June, which I’m fairly certain that I will be able to do.

Below are several other business and blog-related updates:

  • I’m currently less than one month ahead in blog posts. I would like to be around 2-3 months ahead.
  • Traffic for the month was over 400,000 page views.
  • I am working on a series where I will help readers with specific financial questions, and tutorials to go along with them. Topics such as: How to open a bank account, How to write a check, Finding an online bank, Building and creating an investment account, etc. What other topics would you like to see me cover?
  • My community group for Making Sense of Cents is continuing to grow. This is a Facebook group in which you can seek advice from other readers on all sorts of topics such as finance, blogging, travel, running a business, and so on. There are already over 14,000 members!
  • I released my How To Start A Blog FREE Course. If you’ve been wanting to start a blog, then check this out. I created this email course for those who are interested in starting a blog, but haven’t done so yet. The course is free, and over 50,000 people have already signed up. Thank you, everyone, for the kind emails about how great the course is. Glad everyone is enjoying it!
  • Due to how well my first free course went, I also created the free Master Your Money email course. It’s full of great money management lessons and financial worksheets (such as a free budget template), and I’m loving the positive response from this email course as well.
  • Other freebies I have include 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income and 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.


Popular new posts on Making Sense of Cents last month:


Featured Question: What products can I promote on my blog?

I feature one question from a reader in each monthly income report. Please leave a comment below if you have a question that you would like me to answer. 

Are you wondering what companies and items you can promote/sell/advertise on your blog through affiliate marketing, and sponsored partnerships?

Luckily, the list is pretty much endless.

No matter what topic you are blogging about, there are probably many, many items you can advertise on your blog to your readers. And, a lot of the products that you use in your everyday life are included!

I’ve heard from numerous bloggers that they cannot find affiliate programs for the specific niche that they are in.

Well, let me tell you, you’re not looking hard enough (or, even at all) if you can’t find any affiliate programs.

Nearly every niche has affiliate programs, and there is an affiliate program for the majority of products that are out there. Most products will have affiliate programs, so the list is endless.

To find the specific affiliate programs mentioned below, they may be linked directly, you may have to find them within an affiliate network (such as Shareasale or Awin), click on “Affiliates” or something similar within the footer, and so on. If you’re not in my affiliate marketing course, you may want to purchase it because I teach you exactly how to find affiliate programs and how to get approved to them as well.

Here are some affiliate programs that you may want to look into according to your niche:

As you can see, there are many, many affiliate programs for each and every niche to choose from. And, many of the above can be applied to different niches – you don’t have to put yourself in a box! For example, I am an affiliate for all kinds of products, from finance, to blogging, to work at home, to travel, to food, and more. If you enjoy a product, there is probably an affiliate program for it.

If you’re interested in affiliate marketing, then I recommend taking Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. In this course, I list out over 80 possible affiliate programs for different niches, I teach you exactly how to apply for affiliate programs (and get approved for them!), the affiliate income strategies you need to implement so that you can earn passive income on your blog, and more.

Past featured questions:


My plans and goals for my blog and my business.

We have a crazy May planned. We’ll be finishing up work on the boat, traveling to see family quite a few times, and sailing the boat from Fort Lauderdale to the Keys, and then to St. Pete.

I’m also hoping to get a lot of work done.

Plans and goals can help you run a successful business. I believe that working towards a goal can help keep a person motivated too.

Below are some of the areas I am currently working on:

  • Complete the Facebook Ads For Bloggers course. There are two courses that I am really wanting to finish so that I can continue to grow Making Sense of Cents. Learning about Facebooks ads is so important and I think I will benefit from this course a lot.
  • Complete the Stupid Simple SEO course. This is the second course. SEO is something I just have never really spent much time on, so I know that this course will be extremely helpful!
  • Get to Inbox 0. After several months in the Bahamas, my inbox is out of control. I also have around 5 or 6 different to-do lists that are work, life, and boat-related that need to be addressed before I go crazy, haha!
  • Create a freebie optin for affiliates to share for Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing. I have been asked by several affiliates for this, and I’m glad to finally start working on it! This is a great thing to do because my affiliates can easily promote my course with this freebie optin, and then be credited for future sales. For me, as an affiliate for other products, freebie optins are usually the very first thing I promote (as well as my favorite) because it’s a great way to introduce an audience to a new product/service/company.
  • Get at least three months ahead on Making Sense of Cents posts. Being ahead in blog posts makes life much more enjoyable because I can focus on other things knowing that the majority of my writing work is already done. This is one of my major 2019 goals!
  • Work less than 30 hours per week. For the most part, I am working less than 30 hours per week. However, there are some weeks when I spend all day and night on my laptop, not even sure where the day went. Due to that, I would like to continue to work on a better work/life balance.
  • Be more present. My main goal in 2019 is to be more present, and I recently wrote about it here – My Quest To Be More Present And Enjoy Life More. I’m excited for the year of travel and sailing we have ahead of us, and I want to enjoy it as much as we can. I’ve been so focused on the business the last several years, that I want this year to be focused on life outside of business. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE running Making Sense of Cents, and that’s what makes it so hard to break away and be more present outside of work.
  • Have fun. Okay, so this isn’t really a goal that is quantifiable or something that I’ll track, haha, but I am really looking forward to 2019!


Affiliate marketing results.

Affiliate income was at a normal Making Sense of Cents level in April of around $50,000.

Some of the things I am working on to improve my affiliate income include:

  • Planning out 2019 for affiliate offers. I’m not really much of a huge planner, but I am changing that in 2019. I already have affiliate promotions planned out for almost all of 2019. This will help to keep me organized and better prepared.
  • Learning about SEO and applying techniques to my blog. This past guest post has me super interested in starting to take SEO seriously – The exact template that helped my site earn $95,000 in affiliate income last year.
  • Using Facebook ads to my affiliate marketing advantage. This past guest post also has me interested in growing in this way as well – How One Blogger Grew His Blog to Over 2 Million Visitors In A Year.
  • Creating a high-quality funnel. Funnels are something that I have never really spent any time on, but I would like to change that. I want to create a high-quality funnel where I continue to give valuable information to my readers, and keep them happy for the times when I may not have the greatest wifi.
  • Continuing to grow the reach of Making Sense of Cents. Traffic has been a little stuck lately, and I want to change that! I want to see what I can do to grow the traffic, as that will help me to reach new readers.
  • Analyzing popular affiliate blog posts to see how they can be improved for the future.
  • Seeking out new affiliate products to promote, and seeing what my audience is interested in.

And more!

Earning affiliate income is something that I’m extremely grateful for, especially lately. We have been so busy lately and I haven’t spent as much time on the business as I would normally like.

Even though I am spending less time on the business, I am still earning a great income each month and this allows me to focus on a better work-life balance.

I’m a very big fan of affiliate income, of course. It’s something that I enjoy due to how passive it can be. It makes full-time traveling much more enjoyable when I know I can bring in an income while having fun seeing new areas.

If you want to learn more about affiliate marketing, I recommend getting the free guide 10 Easy Tips To Increase Your Affiliate Income. With this time-saving cheat sheet, you’ll learn how to make affiliate income from your blog. These tips will help you to rapidly improve your results and increase your blogging income in no time.

I also have a course too!

In the course Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing, there are 6 modules, over 30 lessons, several worksheets, bonuses, an extremely helpful and exclusive Facebook group, and more. I go through everything that you need to know about affiliate marketing, such as:

  • A quick introduction to affiliate marketing and how it works
  • The exact steps I’ve taken to earn over $500,000 from a single blog post
  • How to correctly pick affiliate products to promote
  • The steps to increase your conversion rate
  • 80+ affiliate program ideas for different niches
  • How to build trust with your readers (this is a MUST!)
  • The required disclosures you need to know about
  • The many different strategies to promote your affiliate links

My course is anything and everything about affiliate marketing. This course is perfect for you whether you are a new blogger or if you’ve been blogging for years, no matter what topic your blog is about, what country you live in, and so on.


Sponsored partnership results.

April was another great month for sponsored partnerships. That is because the first few months of each year is usually a popular one for financial blogs. Page views are up and readers are interested in improving their finances due to making new annual goals.

Due to this, I formed new sponsored partnerships with a few financial companies in the first and second quarter of 2019.

For some reason, sponsored blog posts and sponsored social media ads seem to scare bloggers, whether they are brand new or have been blogging for years.

What do I charge? How do I find companies who will want to work with me? What are the rules?

There are SO MANY QUESTIONS when it comes to sponsored posts.

It makes sense – sponsored partnerships are something that probably 99.9% of bloggers want to pursue, but the problem is that they have no idea where to start.

I started Making Sense of Cents in August of 2011, at the age of 22, without any hopes of ever earning an income from it. It started as a hobby – just a way to journal my life and talk about my personal finance situation.

Then, around six months after I started my blog, a blogger friend of mine connected me with an advertiser and I earned $100 from that advertisement.

It wasn’t a lot of money, especially considering the amount of time and work I had already put towards my blog. However, it was very motivating to see that something I absolutely loved to do could actually make money. I honestly had no idea that blogs could even make money when I started mine!

After that first $100, my blogging income quickly grew.

I now charge, on average, around $5,000 per sponsored post.

You can learn more about sponsored partnerships in my free guide 8 Easy Tips To Make Money From Sponsored Posts On Your Blog.

Are you interested in earning blogging income?

The post How I Made Money Blogging From Home In April 2019 appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


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Living On A Boat – The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful

Living On A Boat – The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful

Living On A Boat – The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful #livingonaboat #boatlife #smallspaces #travel“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than those you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the wind in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – H. Jackson Brown Jr.

Wow, it’s crazy to think that we’ve been living on a boat for over a year now! Just a year ago, I was pretty much a complete newbie to sailing. I had no idea what I was doing, and at times, I was wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into.

You can read all about our start in Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

In the beginning, I shed a lot of tears, was stressed out, and occasionally wondered if I made a huge mistake.

But, I also pushed myself, learned a ton, and was rewarded with each new accomplishment. I’ve even received compliments on my docking, line handling, and sailing skills from other sailors, and that is so nice because it helps improve my confidence with this never ending learning process. I know that I am not perfect, but I know that I am trying my hardest!

We had so many people tell us that they were excited for our new journey, but we also had just as many people tell us that we were going to die and/or not make it.

So many people told us that the first year of sailing and living on a boat would be the toughest, and we’ve personally met many people who quit just a few months into the sailing life due to that.

While I am still no expert (learning never ends when it comes to sailboats), I am very proud of what I’ve learned this past year – not just about sailing, but pushing my own limits as well.

While the first couple of months living on a boat were the hardest, the recent months have been absolutely amazing.

There have been amazing sails, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, great snorkeling, fun dinghy rides, so much incredible sea life, fun visits from family and friends, and more.

I love being on our boat and I’m sad whenever I have to leave it. I love sailing, I love the planning that goes along with it, I love going to new destinations, I love being on the water, and more.

It’s crazy to think back to the start of this past year and realize how much I’ve grown and learned. It’ll be interesting to read this post next year and do a second year update.

Related content:

Recently, I posted the following question on Twitter, and between the responses there and the questions I’ve received via email and Instagram over the past year, I have a lot of things to talk about today.

So today, I am going to answer your questions about living on a boat!


Did you quit RVing because you didn’t like it?

Oh, have I heard this question so many times…

We did not stop RVing and switch to sailing because we didn’t love RVing.

In fact, we loved RVing a TON! We decided to start sailing because we wanted to learn something new and go on a new type of adventure.

While we sold our RV last year, we haven’t finished our RV adventures.

I recommend reading 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life.



Is living on a boat as perfect as it looks on Instagram and Youtube?

Things aren’t always picture perfect like on Instagram – cruising on a boat and traveling with your home is a lot of work.

One of the things I hear ALL of the time about sailing is “the highs are high and the lows are super low.”

That is the truth.

The hardest part for me about living on a boat is the fact that I enjoyed RVing sooooooo much, and I sometimes miss the adventures we had on land – rock climbing, long hikes, cycling, and more. While this is possible to do while living on a boat, it is a little more difficult as you can’t exactly park your boat at the bottom of a mountain or carry a bunch of outdoor gear on board. In fact, we can barely find room for our folding bikes on our boat, let alone a mountain bike.

RVing had gotten so easy and comfortable. There really weren’t any super lows – everything really was amazing.

But, we had wanted to move onto a boat for quite some time. Actually, we wanted to live on a sailboat before we even started RVing.

We made the switch to a sailboat because we wanted the challenge, to gain new skills, and to try something different.

And, living on a boat does bring lots of new challenges, like dealing with the weather, fixing broken things, staying safe, it being expensive (boats are expensive!), and more.

I talked about the subject more in my recent blog post Is Full-Time Traveling As Good As It Sounds?

Still, sailing is great and the highs are amazing! I would never trade all of the hard things in for all of the incredible things we’ve been able to do – sailing to new locations, spending time exploring beautiful islands, being able to moving our home with just the wind, being able to make our own water, and more. There really are so many great things about sailing that you just can’t do while RVing.


What did you do the first year on your boat?

In our first year living on a boat, we:

  • Sailed from Fort Lauderdale to St. Pete (we stayed in St. Pete for hurricane season).
  • Went on many day and overnight anchorages at nearby islands to improve our skills and to have fun during hurricane season.
  • Added several things to our boat, such as a Code 0, feathering props, and more.
  • Sailed to Key West on a friend’s sailboat – the boating community is great!
  • Once hurricane season was over, we sailed to Key West and did our first solo overnight sail. It was around 33 hours and was the first time it was just the two of us sailing.
  • Hung around the Keys for about a month.
  • Sailed to the Bahamas and went to so many islands.
  • The first stop was Bimini. Bimini isn’t usually talked about a ton, but we loved this little island!
  • Then, we went to Grand Bahama. We stayed for just a few days to check it out.
  • Afterwards, we headed to the Berry Islands, Great Harbour Cay to be specific. We absolutely loved the community here, as well as the fresh bread delivered to the marina. Yum!
  • Next, we sailed to Chub Cay. We had a visitor fly in to stay with us and we stayed for a while to relax after the busy months we had.
  • New Providence came next, and we loved Nassau! People were friendly and there was a lot to do.
  • And on to the Exumas. We were only able to do the northern Exumas this visit, but it was a blast. We will definitely be back! We snorkeled, saw a ton of sea life, and the blue water just can’t be beat.
  • Then Eleuthera. After visiting Eleuthera by plane the previous year, we knew we wanted to bring our own boat for a visit. While we only visited one tiny spot on this long island, we had a great time.
  • After that, we somewhat retraced our steps and went back to Florida (where we are now) to have some boat work completed.

I ended up with around 3,000 nautical miles under my belt in the first year of living on a boat. I accomplished more than I thought I would, and I am so very happy with how the year went!

What are your future sailing plans?

As full-time travelers, we don’t live by a specific schedule, and that’s because things can change fast. One thing we learned from RVing is that it’s hard to plan even a month out, let alone years.

Our plan right now, which will probably change, includes going back to the Bahamas next winter and exploring the parts that we weren’t able to visit, such as going further into the Exumas, the Abacos, more of Eleuthera, and so on.

There are around 700 islands in the Bahamas, and we loved our time there so much that we definitely want to go back!

The Bahamas are great, especially if you have dogs. The Bahamas are easy to get into and each island is a little different.

We have dreams of exploring the Caribbean even more and visiting Europe, the Pacific, and more.


When will you be done living on a boat?

The number one question we got while RVing was “how do you get mail?” The number one question while sailing is “when will you be done?”

I find this super funny because the questions are so different even though they are both about full-time traveling.

I have no idea when we will be done. There are still so many places we want to see and sailing goals we want to meet.


How are the dogs doing on the boat?

For some reason, some of you think that we just gave our dogs away. Haha, that simply isn’t true! I wouldn’t be living on a boat if it meant my dogs couldn’t come. We’ve had them for far too long – we got Sailor when we were just 18 years old, French Fry when we were about 20. They come on nearly all of our trips, and they seem to love it!

We have taken things slowly with them since they are older and didn’t grow up on a boat. Taking it slow is the top tip we’ve heard heard from other people with boat dogs.

They’ve adjust really well, and our dogs can get on and off the boat just fine. Sailor runs on and off without any help and hasn’t fallen in at all (yet).

We had no problems bringing them to the Bahamas, but we did have to get some documents in order to be approved, which wasn’t too difficult.

Since our dogs were used to RV life, they got used to a TON of walks, chasing us on mountain bike trails, hiking mountains, and more. But, that didn’t really translate very well to boat life, haha.

We’ve learned that even though we would love to visit far away islands, our bigger dog just likes walks too much. To keep her happy, and us, we’ve done shorter sails and still walk her about 5-6 times a day.

We’ve met many people who have re-homed their pets due to the reasons above, and others who limit walks. We know some people who literally never walk their dogs, we know some who walk once a day, and then there’s us – walking our dogs about 5-6 times a day. Due to this, we tend to get some weird looks from other sailors.

But, I’m fine with all of this. We still find plenty of places to explore and I just can’t imagine not bringing our dogs with us! While there is definitely more planning required when you have dogs on a boat, we wouldn’t trade it for the world.


How do you receive mail?

Last year, we switched our residency from South Dakota to Florida. We chose South Dakota while we were RVing as it’s a state friendly to full-time RVers (fun fact: it’s one of the top 3 states that full-time RVers tend to choose). Now that we are on a boat, though, Florida makes more sense.

We belong to a mail forwarding company called St. Brendan’s Isle. All of our mail gets sent there, and they forward our mail to wherever we are.


Aren’t you scared of rogue waves, sharks, your boat breaking down, modern day pirates, or unexpectedly sailing into an unfriendly island?

I get asked this a lot, and it’s tough to answer.

These are all things that can and have happened to people while sailing. There are ways to prepare yourself for freak events and ways to be more careful, but in the end, I’m not scared enough to stop sailing.


How much learning and training do you need to put yourself (and your husband) through to sail and operate a boat?

Learning never ends on a boat. We did training in June and July of last year and have been doing everything by ourselves since then.

Wes has logged many more miles than I have, and he has several family members who have lots of sailing experience. For me, though, I was a complete newbie.

You can’t really take time off from learning when you’re living on a boat, but I expected that going in. If it were easy, then everyone would do it!


How do you do your laundry?

We have a washer/dryer on the boat. It’s an all in one unit and works very well! The only downside is that our clothes come out quite wrinkly.

Since we have dogs, having laundry on board is really nice since our bigger one gets pretty dirty and likes to roll around a lot outside – we’re constantly cleaning up after her!


Do you think you’ll miss your boat when you move onto your new plane? 😉

I had to include this one. While this person knew I was joking, most of my readers, even family and friends, thought my April Fools joke was real. Ha!

So no, I’m not moving onto a plane.

You can read more about this here: We’re Moving Onto A Plane!


What’s the biggest difference between living on a boat and an RV? In terms of actual living space, etc. Obviously not just the fact that it’s in the water versus on land.

Because I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of questions about RVing versus sailing, I’m going to write about this more in-depth in a separate blog post.

RVing and sailing are similar in a lot of ways, yet they are different in a lot of ways too.

With both options, you are traveling with your home and bringing it to new places. You can bring both of them around the world (yes, you can bring your RV around the world – people do it all the time), you always have the comforts of home with you, some of the systems are similar (such as how you still need to dump your tanks, fill up water, solar, etc.), boondocking is similar to anchoring, campgrounds are similar to marinas, you’re living in a small space, there’s lots of planning that goes into where to travel next, and more.

But, of course, they are different too.

Differences between sailing and RVing include:

  • Our living space is MUCH bigger on our boat, and that means we can host guests much more comfortably. But because of the layout, the boat has less storage space than the RV. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but that’s just the way it is.
  • Living on a boat comes with more daily and weekly chores than living on an RV. That’s because, on a boat, you are fighting so many elements since you are dealing with both the water and the wind.
  • You can go a lot faster in an RV. We could easily log 500 miles in a day and still feel great. Our last RV drove like a dream. In the boat, though, sailing 75 miles in a day makes for a really long day.
  • Being on the water, even in a marina, is absolutely beautiful. I love just being able to go outside and see the beauty around me. Yes, RVing is great too, but being on the water is a much different and wonderful feeling.
  • When you are sailing, you get to see so much amazing sea life from your boat, even when you’re in the marina. Right from the helm seat while sailing, I’ve seen sharks, dolphins, schools of fish, sting rays (we even sailed through a “fever” which means that there were over 1,000 rays and we were surrounded by them!), sea turtles, star fish, and more.
  • Paying attention to the weather is very serious when you’re living on a boat and sailing, while it’s not nearly as important when living in an RV.

The list goes on and on.

Both are great and they both have their positives and negatives. It’s hard to choose which one is better because they allow you to do slightly different things.

We have met many RVers who used to sail, and many sailors who used to RV. The type of people are actually quite similar – whether they want to admit that or not (there’s definitely a rivalry that goes on amongst sailors and RVers, which I’ve learned about over the past year, haha).


What is the best and worst thing about living on a boat?

Best – being able to travel, sail, see ocean life, and explore. Our boat is fairly self sufficient, and that is an amazing thing. We have solar panels, we can make our own water, and we have sails to move the boat. Sure, we do use our engines, but we really haven’t used too much fuel in the past year.

Worst – the amount of planning, breakdowns, and bad weather. While our Lagoon 42 has been solid, other items have broken or failed us, such as our solar panels, watermaker, we had a prop fall off as we were docking, and more.

And, that’s just completely normal for #boatlife, haha. They say traveling on a boat is simply fixing a boat in exotic locations – ain’t that the truth!

I hope you enjoyed today’s blog post about the reality of living on a boat. I feel like I have so much more to talk about, so I will be doing this again for sure!

What other questions about living on a boat do you have for me?

The post Living On A Boat – The Good, The Bad, And The Beautiful appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


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How To Make $1,000 Extra With Facebook Each Month

How To Make $1,000 Extra With Facebook Each Month

How To Make $1,000 Extra With Facebook Each MonthToday, I have a fun interview to share with you that will show you how to make extra money running Facebook ads for local businesses.

I recently had the chance to interview Bobby Hoyt. Bobby is a former high school teacher who paid off $40,000 of student loan debt in a year and a half. He now runs the personal finance blog Millennial Money Man full-time, as well as a digital marketing agency for local businesses that he started in 2015.

Yes, this is a skill you can learn!

Last year, business owners spent over $88,000,000 per day on Facebook ads.

If you are looking for a new business or even just a side hustle so that you can learn how to make extra money, learning how to make money running Facebook ads for local businesses may be something that you want to look into.

In this interview, you will learn:

  • How Bobby started making money through running Facebook ads;
  • Why small businesses want Facebook ads;
  • How a person can find their first Facebook ads client;
  • How much you can make doing this type of work;

And more!

Bobby has been seen on CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider, Reuters, MarketWatch, and many other major publications.

One last thing before we head to the interview on how to make money running Facebook ads for local businesses. Bobby has a course called Facebook Side Hustle Course that teaches you how to successfully make money running Facebook ads for local businesses.

Because you are a Making Sense of Cents reader, Bobby has created an exclusive $100 off coupon code just for you. Simply use the coupon code “MICHELLE100” at checkout to get the discount before the course closes and the discount disappears.

Check out the interview below for more information.

Related articles on making extra money:


1. Can you share your story and also tell us how you started running Facebook ads for clients?

Sure! At this point my story is getting more and more complicated, but I’ll filter it down to the important parts.

Just a few years ago, I was a high school band director that wasn’t quite happy with my career path. It’s not that I didn’t like teaching part of my job or the kids, but I felt trapped. Like a lot of teachers, I was really struggling with the idea that I would never really make a lot of money, and I definitely didn’t feel like I was being paid enough for how hard I worked (band directors regularly work 70-80 hours per week).

I also had $40,000 of student loan debt coming out of college, which didn’t help. Between that and my teaching salary, I was feeling trapped.

So I decided to live as far below my means as possible (up to and including renting a 10×10 bedroom from my in-laws and driving a crappy car with no power locks or windows), and threw everything I could at the loans.

18 months later, I had paid off the entire $40,000 of student loan debt!

But… I still had the job I didn’t like haha. So I started blogging, eventually created Millennial Money Man, and got SO passionate about working online that I walked in one day and quit my job after making a cool $3 in display ad revenue.

It wasn’t exactly the smartest move and I don’t recommend that anyone quits their job the way I did, but at the time I felt like I could “make it” with M$M and was willing to take a shot on it.

After I quit, I got scared. Not going to lie. I loved running the blog and it was growing, but I wasn’t bringing in enough money. In fact, I wasn’t bringing in any money at all.

That’s when I started looking for other ways to make money while the site caught on, and I eventually ended up connecting with the jeweler that made my wife’s engagement ring.

He needed someone to help run their website, create content, and run Facebook ads.

I was desperate, of course, so I started working with him and learning how to run ads for local businesses. The money was solid for the amount of work it took, and I picked up a few more clients which allowed me to make money while I continued growing my “full-time” gig.



2. I keep hearing that “Facebook is dead?”

You can hate Mark Zuckerberg all you want – but this just isn’t true.

Facebook ads are the most effective local lead generation strategy for brick and mortar businesses, and when you add in the fact that Facebook also owns Instagram (which is wildly popular and is quickly becoming popular for local business lead generation), that won’t be changing any time soon.


3. Do small businesses really want Facebook ads? Why would they pay for a service like that? Can’t they just do it themselves?

They really do want Facebook ads, and it isn’t hard to see why. The only thing that business owners need more than extra hours in the day, are more customers and clients walking in the door.

Local businesses use Facebook just like the rest of us do, and they’re constantly seeing their competitors successfully use Facebook ads to bring in leads for their business. They hear about how effective Facebook ads are and they want that for their business.

The problem is that Facebook doesn’t exactly make it easy for business owners to run ads effectively on their own.

Here’s the normal progression for small business owners that attempt to use Facebook ads:

  1. They see the “boost post” option on their Facebook page
  2. They hook up their business credit card and boost a post
  3. They waste money because boosting a post isn’t the correct ad type to run for local businesses
  4. They give up and decide that Facebook doesn’t work

It’s unfortunate, because if they just used the correct ad types they would actually be able to generate tons of leads for their business. Instead, then get frustrated and give up.

That, or they just don’t have time to learn how to run ads effectively or even make time to focus on the ads. Even in my own business, there are plenty of times that I outsource tasks that I either a) don’t have time to do, or b) have no interest in learning.

You can help solve both of those problems – you can bring them tons of new customers and increase their monthly profits, while also taking a big task off their hands so they can focus their time on other things without stressing about their marketing efforts.

That’s why there’s such a market for ad managers. You can go in, run the correct campaign types for business owners, help them generate new business, and charge great money for the service because you are increasing their profits.


4. Is this side hustle hard?

No, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t work involved. We teach our students literally everything that they need to know to be successful with this side hustle, from creating the ads, to finding the clients, all the way down to the nuts and bolts of billing their clients.

If someone is willing to put in the time to dig into the course material, then we do everything we can to help them succeed in the private coaching and support group that’s attached to the course.

The course itself is structured in a logical, step-by-step way and uses “over the shoulder” style videos, so student can literally see our screens as we create the ads and talk them through the process.

When it comes to actually running the side hustle, it only takes a few hours per week to run ads for a client. The beautiful thing about Facebook ads is that once you set them up, they essentially run on auto-pilot.

Sure, you’ll need to make small changes from time to time, but the reason this course has worked so well is that it’s truly designed to be a service that is provided in your spare time to bring in an extra $1,000 – $2,000 per month.


5. How can a person find their first Facebook ads client?

We understand that the idea of trying to find clients is hands down the most intimidating part of starting this side hustle, which is exactly why we spend so much time on client acquisition strategies in the course.

Luckily there are plenty of simple ways to find clients online, even if you’re an introvert or are brand new to the online business world. We provide training on 9 different ways to get clients using a variety of methods and social media platforms. We have effective strategies using Facebook groups, LinkedIn, email, YouTube, and Upwork just to name a few.

All of these methods can be used to find clients without paying for advertising. It just takes some time, effort, and a little courage to put yourself out there. We’ve found that some of our students are very introverted, and some are extroverted, so we made sure to include strategies that will be for all personality types.

Our biggest advice when it comes to client acquisition is to focus on one or two of the strategies that we teach, and then go all in on those.

Our students tend to gravitate to different strategies, but we’ve found that the ones who stay focused and put the work in using the strategies that appeal to them most are the ones that stack multiple clients (assuming they want more than just one).

It’s also important to note that we don’t just give you the strategies and send you out into the world on your own.

We help our students strategize client acquisition in our coaching and support group.

Let’s say you reach out to a business owner and want a little help formulating a response to something they say to you. All you have to do is post your situation in the group, and we will tell you exactly what to say to get their business.

We really do everything we possibly can to help our students get clients, which is a large reason our students have been so successful since we launched it in 2018!


6. How much money can you make doing this type of work, and how many hours does it take per week?

The going rate for Facebook Ad management is $1,000 – $1,500 per month, per client. Now I know that sounds like a ton (and it is), but you have to think of this from the business owner’s perspective:

If you could pay someone to give you a steady stream of customers to your business, would you? Especially if the leads were affordable, and you made way more money from the new customers than you were paying for the ad management?

It’s really a no-brainer for a lot of business owners.

The other factor is that while $1,000 is a lot of money, it’s usually not an arm and a leg for an established small business owner. Many times, their rent alone is several thousand dollars per month!

So when you look at the $1,000/month per client we recommend charging from the business owner’s perspective, it makes a lot more sense.


7. Is there an opportunity to grow this side hustle into a full-time business?

I love this question, and the answer is absolutely! In fact, during our last launch someone asked this exact question in my Facebook group and our students chimed in with some incredible responses.

Check this out to see what I mean:

How To Make $1,000 Extra In Your Spare Time With Facebook
The course was initially designed to just be a side hustle, but we’ve had quite a few students take it full-time and leave their day jobs.

Here are a few other stories from some of our other $5k Club Members (our $5k Club is for students who have 5 or more clients paying $1k per month – it’s a big deal in our coaching community when someone achieves this):

  • Kathrine left her job and was able to support herself and her children after a divorce using what we teach in FBSH
  • Jason and Candace were able to build up enough income to allow Candace to leave her teaching job and become a stay at home mom. Now they are working on replacing Jason’s income.
  • Graham paid off $20k of debt last year and now runs his agency full-time from the comfort of his home.

We have video testimonials from these people on our sales page, so you’re welcome to check out their stories and put faces to the names)


8. What exactly are people going to learn from your course?

The course teaches you how to create profitable ads for local businesses so that you can start making an extra $1,000-2,000 per month on the side, even if you have no marketing or technology background.

Inside you’ll learn:

  • How Facebook Ads work, so that you will be prepared for any questions from prospective clients, and will be able to confidently share your new expertise with clients
  • To create profitable ads for local businesses, with step-by-step video walkthroughs so that you know exactly what settings to choose and buttons to push to get the best results
  • Strategies for troubleshooting problems with ads, and exactly what steps to take to overcome those issues and improve ad performance
  • Unique methods for targeting the right potential customers for your client, so that they make more money and refer you to other businesses
  • Our top three strategies for finding your first Facebook ad management clients, so that you can start making money as soon as you complete the course
  • Systems and templates for tracking results so that you can show your clients exactly how much money you are making their business – when clients understand the results you’re getting, they’ll want to keep you on payroll forever! (Some of our clients have been with us for years for this exact reason)
  • Ins and outs of running a Facebook ad business, so that you can get better results for your clients and work fewer hours.

You get lifetime access to the course for just $397. Just to give people a little perspective, Facebook training courses like this typically go for $1,200 or more.

But I wanted to do something different. Mike and I understand how difficult it can be to create a successful side hustle, but we also know how life-changing it can be.

I have so many readers that ask me for legitimate side hustles, so we decided to price this course so that it was accessible to as many people as possible.

And since you can earn more than double the investment with your first client, we think it’s a pretty sweet deal.

But when you join you’re going to get more than just the course…

You’ll also get access to our coaching and support group where students can ask questions, get troubleshooting advice on their ads, and help them put out any fires that might come up with their clients. Membership in the support group is paid, but we give everyone who joins the first month for free to make sure they get all the help and support the need to be successful when they start. After that it’s only $47/month afterward. And of course, the group is totally optional, you can leave at anytime.

But think of it this way – you can get the course plus nearly a year and a half of support for the amount you can earn in the first month working with ONE client.

Please click here to check out the Facebooks ads course.

What do you think of this Facebook side hustle idea?

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30 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned In The First 30 Years Of My Life

30 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned In The First 30 Years Of My Life

Thoughts On Turning 30 - Money And Life Lessons I've Learned

Next week, I turn 30.


While some of you will still think of me as a youngin’, turning 30 is… uh… interesting.

When I was really young, I frequently remember adults telling me that their 30s were the best years of their life.

Even with that, I thought they were crazy.

When writing this article, I stopped and started reading articles about turning 30. Some interesting things I found from 11 Points and Buzzfeed include:

  • At age 30, you’re older than 42% of Americans.
  • The most common way to die at age 30 is by accident.
  • The average person has had 7.5 jobs by age 30, and you’ll have 2.4 more by age 35.
  • 30 is the average age of retirement for NFL players.
  • At the age of 30, you are six years older than Monica and Rachel were at the start of Friends.

I thought those were entertaining to read, haha!

Despite some initial fears about turning 30, I do think that my 30s will be the best time of my life.

I’ve learned a lot about myself over the years, and I have grown a lot too. Thinking back to what I was like a decade ago makes me cringe, haha!

10 years ago, I wasn’t great with my money, I bought way too many clothes, I never believed I would be traveling full-time, and I would have laughed if you told me I could retire whenever I wanted.

Because of that, I think birthdays are a good time to reflect on any life and money lessons you’ve learned throughout the years. For me, it helps me see what mistakes I have made, it also reminds me that I’ve made good decisions too. Whether they have been good or bad, I’ve learned a lot of valuable life lessons.

I published the first of these posts three years ago, 27 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned. I have been adding a new lesson for every year, and now I have one more. I plan on doing this for each new year ahead of me.

I really think self-reflection is a good idea because we can learn so much from the past, both the good choices and the mistakes we’ve made.

Trust me, I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve also made some great choices. All of those choices have led me to where I am today, and now I am happier than ever.

While I am not perfect, life is good, and I am very fortunate. I have great friends, a great family, a happy marriage, wonderful dogs, a business that I love, a life of travel, and more.

So, in honor of my birthday, here are 30 life and money lessons I’ve learned in the first 30 years of my life.

While some may seem obvious, others may not, but everything below is what makes me who I am today. Plus, you may learn something new or something may just click after reading my list. Enjoy!


1. Value your time.

When I was younger, a year seemed like an extremely long time. Now, it seems like years go by very quickly.

Time is important, and you should value it. Instead of spending your time doing something you dislike, make a goal to eliminate any negativity and focus your time on what you enjoy doing. Don’t wait decades to start living a life you love.

Related: Reclaim Your Day With These 12 Time Saving Tips


2. Never compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.

Comparing yourself to others can sometimes give you motivation to work harder, but you also don’t want to be unrealistic or get frustrated with where you’re at.

You should always give yourself time with a new task, and don’t think of yourself as a complete failure because you’re not at the same point as someone else, especially if they’ve been doing it for longer than you have.

Everything takes time, and practice makes perfect.

“One of the great temptations for us as leaders and dreamers is to compare the start of our new adventures to the middle of someone else’s. You work on your first book and pick up Max Lucado’s 14th book and say, ‘Mine isn’t as good.’ You post your first blog post and look at Michael Hyatt’s 100th and think, ‘Mine is nowhere near as great as that.’ You give your first speech and watch Ken Robinson’s 1,000th at TED and think, ‘I’m not great like that.’” – Jon Acuff

Related: Don’t Compare Your Beginning to Someone Else’s Middle


3. Create a plan to reach your dreams and goals.

You aren’t going to magically reach your dreams and goals unless you create a plan to do so.

What do you often dream of? Maybe you want a certain career, you want to travel, or something else.

Whatever you want to do, why not create a plan so you can reach your goal? You might live in regret until that happens! You only live once, so a good first step is creating a plan to achieve your dream.


4. Be positive.

I say this in many of my posts because I truly believe in it. It’s also something that I think more people need to work on.

Being positive can completely change your life. This means you should laugh more, smile more, be happy with yourself (this is very important!), quit being jealous, complain less, have a better outlook on life, and more.

The power of positive thinking may help you:

  • Find another option or route.
  • Feel motivated so you can keep pushing forward.
  • Move on from your past mistakes.
  • Convince yourself that you can improve your situation (career, financial, family, etc.).
  • Reach for your goals.
  • Be happier.

Related article: Why I Believe Being Positive Can Change Your Financial Situation And Your Life.


5. Learn something new as often as you can.

Back when I was in school, I hated learning new things. Yes, that’s how most children and students are. However, when I was a college freshmen there was a man in his 60’s in one of my philosophy classes who told me something I didn’t fully realize until years later. We all asked him why he was there, because, as young 18 year olds, we all thought school was such a drag. He proceeded to tell us how learning and school were the best things in life and that one day, while maybe not right now, we would realize that same thing.

Well, now I get it.

I now enjoy learning more than ever. I’m constantly reading and learning about new things, and I want to know even more.

There is so much to learn in the world, and it is so easy to do. There are classes, articles, great books, and many more things that are so easily accessible in this day and age.


6. Stop living in regret.

You can’t change the past, so there is no point in dwelling on regret and letting it negatively impact you. Instead, you should learn from your mistakes and move on.

That can be hard for many people to understand, but once you do, you can move forward with your life.


7. Don’t care about what anyone else thinks.

This is one that took me awhile to realize, but thankfully I’ve now learned to live my life this way. You should do things for you and not let other people’s opinions rule your life.

Do what is right for you!


8. Live life to the fullest.

No matter who you are, what you are currently doing, how much money you have in the bank, and so on, you can start living your life to the fullest.

You just never know what may happen in the future, so taking advantage of the time you have now is very important. No one ever wants their life to flash before their eyes and wonder whether their life was meaningful, if they had a good time, or if they regret past decisions.

And, yes, you can live a great life on a realistic budget.


9. Cherish moments with loved ones.

Now that we are full-time travelers, we don’t see family and friends as often as we used to. In fact, we haven’t been “home” in over a year.

I’ve always cherished the time I have with those I love, but now I make sure to make each trip even more special.

You should never take a moment for granted with those that you love. This will sound very doom and gloom, but you just never know what may happen to you or them. Plus, spending time with your loved ones is always a great time, so why not just do it more?!


10. Make time for fun.

All work and no play makes for dull life.

You should always make time for the things that you love, even if it’s just a few hours each week. This can help lift your mood, increase your motivation, and more.


11. Excuses are just that – excuses.

Many people make excuses for why things aren’t going their way. Yes, sometimes you may find yourself in a bad situation, but you are still in control of your own destiny.

Don’t let excuses hold you back. Instead, take action in your life and overcome the obstacles in your path.


12. Do what YOU want to do.

What makes you happy, excited, joyful, and motivated? That’s what you should be doing with your life, as long as it’s legal, haha!

If you want to live a life of adventure – Go for it.

If you want to start a family – Start planning one.

If you want a better job – Get one.

If you want to change the world – Do it.


13. Less is more.

The idea that less is more is something I think about nearly every day.

After having to get rid of the majority of our belongings to move into our RV and now boat, I truly realize how less is more. We had so much junk that we had never touched, and it wasn’t improving our lives in any way.

Having less stuff is great for many reasons:

  • Less clutter.
  • We can give more attention to what truly matters.
  • Less money spent on things that don’t matter.

Related: 8 Lessons I’ve Learned From Living With Less Stuff


14. Laughter is the best form of medicine.

Laughter and happiness can pretty much cure anything. Next time you’re feeling down, try to find a way to laugh. It will help!


15. Help others as much as you can.

Helping others can change more than just your life. Whether you do something big or small, do something! The smallest gesture can make someone’s day and completely change how they feel.

Here are a few ways to help others:

  • Smile and say hello to everyone you cross paths with.
  • Donate items from your home.
  • Donate blood.
  • Encourage someone who is struggling.
  • Foster an animal.
  • Become a Big Brother or a Big Sister.
  • Volunteer.

Read more at 58 Random Acts Of Kindness.


16. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

Without trying something new, you’ll never know all of the amazing things you are capable of doing. Instead of constantly thinking “what if?” you may need to take the leap and finally try it out.


17. Dogs are awesome.

Here’s proof.

27 Money And Life Lessons I've Learned


18. Gain control of your financial situation.

Money isn’t everything, but being in a good financial situation may make your life easier.

You should pay off your debt, earn more money than you spend, stop keeping up with the Joneses, save for retirement, and so on. These are very important money lessons to learn.

Gaining control of your financial situation is important because you won’t feel as stuck when it comes to money. You will probably be able to do more with your life because you won’t be held back by monetary problems.

This can help you reach your dreams, such as traveling more, following your passion, be less stressed, and more.


19. You can say no.

You don’t have to say yes to every single request. Saying yes can be great if you have the time, but saying yes to everything can also cause a lot of stress and leads to people taking advantage of you.

Sometimes you have to evaluate your options and possibly say no.


20. Gossip stinks.

Gossipping doesn’t help anyone.

If you don’t like someone or what they’re doing, why should you spend your time thinking about them or talking about them to others? That is just a waste of time!


21. Don’t let life pass you by.

It can be really easy to let life pass you by. Before you know it, years or even decades may be gone.

Too many people have the mindset of “Oh, in ten years life will be so much better because of this and that.” And then they just let their lives go by without ever thinking about the present.

Well, what about now?! Ten years is a long time! Reaching a goal is great, but during the present, you should try to fit in some happiness as well (on a budget, of course).


22. See the beauty in everything.

There are beautiful things all around us. Instead of seeing the bad in things, try to see the good.


23. Kill them with kindness.

Being kind to others is always important, even when a person is being negative, hurtful, or difficult.

Whenever someone is being difficult in my life, I almost always attempt to kill them with kindness.

And, I’ve found that it works 99% of the time.


24. Be open to new things and tackle your fears.

When was the last time you did something new? So many people live inside their comfort zone when they actually need to branch out every now and then.

Yes, stepping outside of your box can be tough, but what if it completely opens your eyes and changes your whole outlook on life? Wouldn’t that be amazing?

Related: 10 Daily Challenges To Improve Your Life


25. Balance is important.

You can’t do everything 24/7. You need some sort of balance to stay sane.


26. Be confident.

Being confident can help you succeed in life. If you don’t believe in yourself, then who will?


27. Money is just money.

Too many people let money take over their lives in ways that don’t bring them any joy. Yes, you need money to pay your bills and to survive, but it is just money.

This can be one of the hardest money lessons to learn because earning more money can positively impact your life. But, don’t let money take over your life or think that it will make you a better person. You should use it as a tool to help improve your life.

Instead of thinking about money in a negative way, think about it in a positive way and take actions to improve your financial situation.


28. Traveling full-time is amazing.

Traveling full-time is absolutely amazing. While I know that not everyone wants to travel full-time like I do, I know that I love it.

I love being able to live by the beach, mountains, desert, and anywhere else we choose to go. I love that I am spending more time outside and hiking nearly every single day. I love how beautiful the outdoors are. I love meeting new people and trying new things.

And, I’m so glad that I gave this untraditional lifestyle a chance.

Related: 11 Reasons to Choose RV Life


29. It’s okay to be afraid. (written in May 2018)

So many people are afraid to try new things. They’re afraid of what may happen, the unknown, making a mistake, failure, and more.

However, you won’t know what may happen unless you put yourself out there.

Not everything in life is easy, and in order to reach your goals and live your dream life, there are going to be some scary things that you may have to do.

Making changes in your life can scare you, but it can also be great. Changing your life for the better will most likely mean that you have to step outside of your box and try new things.

One of the scariest things I have done was starting to sail full-time. I nearly talked myself out of it just as we were buying our boat. I felt very comfortable traveling in our RV, we had been doing it for a couple of years, and I had found my comfort zone.

I had to remember that RVing scared me when we first talked about it. Just like sailing, I made all sorts of excuses for why it wouldn’t work.

Sometimes you have to remind yourself that it’s okay to be scared and that many of the things you’re doing now scared you before you started them. Fear is normal human behavior, but don’t let it hold you back from living your dream life.

Related: Welcome To Paradise – We’re Living On A Sailboat!

30. There’s a lot to see and do in this world (written in April 2019)

I know that most of you will laugh at me – but turning 30 is something that I was dreading for a little while.

No, it wasn’t keeping me up at night, but it made me think about all of the things that I still haven’t done, and how there is still so much to do and see.

But, the world is an amazing place and I’m glad that I get to experience a little bit of it.

I know that my 30s will be amazing, and I have big plans to explore even more and reach some travel/outdoors goals of mine!

What life and money lessons do you think are important?

The post 30 Money And Life Lessons I’ve Learned In The First 30 Years Of My Life appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


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How We Paid Off Our $223,000 House By The Time We Were 30 (Yes, We Have Kids!)

How We Paid Off Our $223,000 House By The Time We Were 30 (Yes, We Have Kids!)

How We Paid Off Our $223,000 House By The Time We Were 30 (Yes, We Have Kids!) #howtopayoffmortgageearly #debtfreeHello! Today, I have a great guest post on an amazing debt payoff story. If you are interested in learning how to pay off your mortgage early, this is something you should definitely read! Enjoy.

I get asked all the time, “how in the world did you pay off your house at your age?”  Normally I give some wise anchor answer like I won the lottery, or my rich uncle died but those just aren’t true.  The truth is, I’m a pretty normal guy but I had a big, not so normal goal.

Hi, I’m Tyler, my wife Ashlee and I paid off our $223,000 mortgage off by the time we were 30.  Now, we live a life full of freedom, adventure, and 4 kids. To find out more, check us out at Paid Off House.  

So here is how we did it. I know some of these things are pretty common-sense things, but I happen to know for a fact that they work. (Because we did it!)  

Related content on how to pay off your house faster:

How to pay off your mortgage early.


Dedication is key to paying off your mortgage early

Dedication is key when you want to achieve a specific goal, let alone a big hairy goal like paying off your house.  We weren’t dedicated to the goal of paying off our house just to have a paid off house.

We were dedicated to paying off our house because we knew what it would do for us and our family.

We had 2 kids when we first started our debt free journey (now we have 4) and we wanted to spend more time with them, especially me.  We knew if we could pay off our house super fast, we would be able to give our kids the time and dedication they deserve.

We knew that if we had a paid off house, our career, work and business decisions would be free from the stress of having to worry about making a specific amount of money to pay the mortgage.

We knew it would free our time up, so not only could we spend more time with our kids, but we would be able to spend more time as a couple too.  We knew it would bring a freedom that we hadn’t had in a long time. That is what we were dedicated to.



When you focus your time and energy on a specific goal, good things will happen.  You have to have it be your number 1 priority. This kind of focus will allow you to push things off to the side that don’t matter and keep moving toward paying off your house.  

You can’t let the little things, or the big things get in your way.  The little things are the little sacrifices you have to make day in and day out to achieve your goal.  

Giving up those $10 lunches or the constant trips to Target or Walmart (those will eat you alive), cutting cable or whatever it may be.  Those are the little things that will nickel and dime you to death.

The big things are the luxurious things that tempt all of us.  

New cars, boats, super expensive vacations and so on. I’m not saying live like a bum, we didn’t.  We still had a lot of fun and went on vacations while we were paying of our house, but we did it smart with our focus still on the big prize.  Now, we could go on vacation every month if we wanted to!



Let’s face it, if you’re not willing sacrifice, you will never hit a big goal like paying off your house.  Just like being focused, you have to be willing to give up things in order to hit a big goal. I drove a 2004 car with 200k miles on it (I still have it by the way) when I easily could have splurged and bought a nicer one.  

Whether it’s sacrificing your lifestyle for a period of time or working really hard to make extra money or both, without sacrifice, you’ll keep getting what you’ve always been getting. I sacrificed a lot of long days and some nights to increase my income.

I was working in sales, so the nice thing was, the more I worked, the more I made.  Everything extra we made went directly to the mortgage principal. When we first started out, I was only making about $60,000 and my wife is a stay at home mom (hardest job ever).  By working like a mad man, I was able to increase my income month after month along our journey..

I’m 100% positive that the reason I was able to increase my income, was because of our goal and our drive to hit it so quickly.  Had we not had that goal, we could have lived of $60,000 no problem and been comfortable. By reaching for something greater, we were able to succeed.  It’s not easy but it’s so worth it. Get out of your comfort zone and start doing something hard!



Budgeting has a lot to do with focus and sacrifice.  You have to be dedicated and focused on your budget or it won’t work.  I know budgets aren’t always a lot of fun, but when you stick to them, they work.

When my wife and I started doing our budget, it was a guaranteed fight every time (mostly because I was such a tightwad) but after some trial and error, we got the kinks worked out and it really started to improve our communication and our overall financial picture.  By doing our budget, we knew exactly how much extra we were able to throw at our mortgage each month.

If you want to pay off your house, you have to know how much money you are bringing in and where you are spending it. It sounds simple and after a little trial and error, it is simple, and it does work.


Better Half On Board

If you are single, you can skip this section because the only person you have to worry about is yourself.  For those of us who are married, it is essential that our spouse be on board with us. It would be impossible to do this on your own.  Luckily, my wonderful wife was on board from the get go. She saw the vision I saw of a world of financial freedom.

I’m not going to lie to you and say it was all cupcakes and rainbows. My wife enjoys buying clothes and one of our main challenges was coming up with an amount of money that we both felt good with that she could blow (I mean spend) on clothes. It took a little give and take but we made it work. Now that we have our house paid off, well, let’s just say her ‘clothes fund’ is very healthy!

If for some reason your better half isn’t on board, try to get them to see the vision of what debt free could mean for you.  There must be something that gets them excited. For us, it was the freedom, travel when we want, spend more time with kids and just the overall peace of mind of having no mortgage.  Everybody is different, find out what really gets them going because whatever it is, just imagine how much bigger and better you’ll be able to do it when your house is paid off.


Free Your Income

The main reason we were able to pay off our mortgage off so fast (3.4 years) wasn’t because we were making a ton of money or because we ate ramen noodles everyday.  What really helped us is that we didn’t have any other debt or big expenses. By not having any other obligations, huge portions of my take home pay would go towards the mortgage.  

Think about how much extra money you would have if you didn’t have any other payments other than your mortgage.  If all your money is going towards payments on credit cards, car loans, student loans etc., your money is tied up.  Pay off your consumer debt as fast as you can and free up your income.  It will allow you to throw big hairy payments at your mortgage and knock it out super fast.


Don’t give up

When we first took out our 15-year mortgage when we were 27 years old, I would think to myself, “man, I’m not going to have this house paid off until I’m 42 years old.”  Back then I thought 42 was really old and it just seemed like an eternity.

Even when I did the calculations of putting extra toward the principal of the mortgage, it still seemed like forever before it would get paid off.  We didn’t give up and we were determined to pay that sucker off.

At first, we weren’t able to throw a lot at it and it wasn’t paying down very fast.  When the balance goes from $223,510 to $222,510, it doesn’t move the needle very much.  

It kind of demotivates you. You have to stick with it!

Our 15-year mortgage turned into a 3.4 year mortgage because we didn’t give up.  We slowly and methodically kept paying down our balance month after month. Some months we were able to throw big chunks at it and others we were only able to make the minimum payment.  The key was just keeping on keeping on!


The “WHY” of paying off your mortgage early.

Have you ever wondered what kind of things you could do if you had your house paid off?  We did. In fact, that was our driving force that allowed us to work so hard and pay it off so fast.  If you have your “why” set in stone, it allows you to get through the hard stuff and keep your eye on the prize.  Here were our “why’s”.



If you like to travel like we do, paying off your house will give you the freedom to go whenever and wherever tickles your fancy!  

Since we paid off our house 3 years ago we have able to go to Hawaii 2 times, an Alaskan cruise, Cancun, Cabo, Puerto Rico, Florida (Disney World), Ensenada, Disney Land twice (not my choice), Vegas, Mexico City twice, Washington DC, France, Vancouver, New Port Beach, Lake Powell 4 times (happiest place on earth), Yellowstone, Zions National Park, and several small trips inside our great state of Utah.  I think that list would be even longer if our kids weren’t so young.

The point here is when you don’t have a house payment, it frees up a lot of your income to do things you really love doing.  I’m not a big spender by any means and really don’t care for luxury items but I love to travel and make memories with my family.  


Spend time with my family

I have a really good friend that works on Wall Street.  He makes a ton of money but considers himself a weekend dad.  He gets up at 5:00am to get ready, catches the train by 6:00am and gets to work by 7:30am.  He works all day and then catches the train to get back home by 8:00 pm. By this time his kids are asleep, and he repeats the process day after day until the weekend comes and he can see his kids.  Thus, “weekend dad”. Sound fun? Not to me.

I have nothing against hard work.  Trust me, I’ve worked my butt off to get in the position we’re in now but that was a short-term thing for a long-term purpose.  There were some days that I wouldn’t see my kids all day either. But I knew if I could hit my goal of paying off my house, I could spend as much time with my family as I wanted to, and now I do.  Life is all about family and spending time with them.

Do you ever find yourself playing princesses with your 4-year-old daughter in the middle of the day on a Tuesday?  I do. Or how about playing ball with your boys on a Thursday afternoon? I do. I even get to coach my boys little league teams and not have to miss any of their games or important activities. It’s awesome!  

I also get to spend a ton more time with my wife as well.  We go out to lunch all the time, exercise together, work on projects together, go hiking, mountain biking, boating together and the list goes on and on.  Not to mention I’m able to help her out around the house a lot more (her favorite). If you’re a family man like me, this will be one of the best rewards you will get from paying off your house.


Giving back

One thing that I have dreamed of doing since I was in my early 20’s was a doing a humanitarian mission to Mexico.  My parents taught me to serve others and doing a humanitarian mission was right up my alley. It’s hard to do these kind of things if you don’t have extra money or time. When you pay off you house, you have both.

After we paid off our house, I took my then 8-year-old son to an orphanage in Mexico where we helped build a little school house.  This was an amazing experience! Luckily, I grew up working construction with my dad, so I was really able to put my skills to work. I highly recommend you do a humanitarian mission of some kind.  You really appreciate life more when you see how little some people have in the world.

On a separate humanitarian mission a year later, I was also able to travel to Mexico again and help a water foundation that helps build wells for communities that don’t have potable water.  Again, another life changing experience! If you have ever dreamed of making a difference in someone’s life, getting yourself in a good financial position will allow you to do these kinds of things.  


Help others Financially

When don’t have extra money, it is impossible to help others financially.  Once we paid off our house, we were able to really start helping people out financially.  Think of things that you could do to help people out financially if you didn’t have a house payment.  If gives you so many options.

Here are some of the things we have done to help people financially:  Give huge tips at restaurants, pay for people’s meals behind us at drive thru’s.  The secret Santa for families in need each Christmas (my personal favorite). Give extra to our church.  Give to fundraisers. Help family members that are struggling. A little while back my wife’s cousin was going through a divorce, so we surprised her with a nice juicy check!  It was awesome!

Helping people out financially is one of the most fun and rewarding things you can do with money.


Buy nice things

Like I said before, I’m not a big spender and luxury items just aren’t my thing.  But when you pay off your house, if you want nice things, you can buy nice things.  When we were getting out of debt, I sold my Nissan Titan that I loved to help us speed the process up.  Those were some long years without a truck let me tell you.

After we paid off our house, I got my Nissan Titan back, and in nicer fashion!  I have a sweet truck that I paid cash for and my wife drives a sweet SUV that we paid cash for (she likes nice things more than me).  

The point is, when you have your house paid off, you can save up and pay for anything super fast.  If you like nice clothes, you can buy nice clothes. If you like nice cars, you can buy nice cars. You have to pay the price and have some patience for a while, but it is so worth it.  



Because we don’t have all our money going to banks, credit cards, mortgage companies etc, we have money to invest.  It’s amazing how much money you free up when you pay off your house.

I love investing.  Ever since I took a finance class in college and started calculating the time value of money, I was hooked.

Here is an example of what a mortgage payment invested can do for you:  My mortgage payment was $1558. If I just took that $1558 mortgage payment and put it into a good mutual fund that averaged 10% (mine have averaged 10% over the last 10 years) for 30 years, it would grow into about $3.5 million!  Who could get mad at that? And that is only a mortgage payment! Think of all the other money that you will have to invest as well.

One of the biggest investing benefits I’ve experienced from paying off my house was money and time that I’ve been able to invest in myself.  I’ve invested in courses, books, conferences, seminars, classes etc not only just for business and financial gain, but also for personal and family gain.  This money that I’ve been able to invest in myself has paid me a huge return, not just in money but also in quality of life.


Quality of life

Your quality of life when you pay off your house is unquantifiable (that’s probably the biggest word I’ve ever used in my life).  I say that because most financial advisors will tell you to keep your mortgage for 30 years at 4.5% or whatever your interest rate is and invest the difference to make the spread.  

That sounds good and just might work but they leave out the risk of having debt (mortgage debt is still debt) and also the unquantifiable factor of your quality of life without a house payment.  I am 100% certain my return on investment from paying off my house is 100 times better because of what it has done to my quality of life.

I know you have heard it before, “if I can do it, so can you”. But it’s true, I know you can pay off your house if you have a big enough “why”.  Once you do, you’ll have the rest of your life of pure freedom!

Like our story?  Check us out at Paid Off House.

Do you want to pay off your mortgage early? Why or why not?

The post How We Paid Off Our $223,000 House By The Time We Were 30 (Yes, We Have Kids!) appeared first on Making Sense Of Cents.


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