Sunday, January 29, 2017

Happy New Year!

I know this post is a long time coming, but I've been laying low in order to get some debt taken care of, and the start of plans on what exactly will be done on our compound.

The Debt

As I chip away on this debt, I'm realizing that it'll be taken care of quicker than I anticipated. The expenditures between Andrea and myself are really getting locked down and we are making some pretty big jumps on our debt. I've started looking into not only making extra payments, but applying those payments towards principal. I strongly recommend this to anyone attempting to get rid of debt. Make those monthly payments, cut costs when you can, and apply extra, even if it's $50 towards the principal.

A New Goal

When we initially started looking for a home, our eyes got ahead of our paycheck and financial stability.  As we eyed $400,000 homes, we were hopeful. The more we crunched the numbers, the more we realized that despite the home search websites telling us our mortgage would be around $1400 a month, the truth is the total monthly cost would be about $2400 a month. Between the mortgage, utilities, insurance, and other associated costs, the price is much higher. So, we set a new goal:

We'd save for the down payment, as well as 3 to 6 months of living expenses.

Our goal is a somewhat lofty one, but it is reachable, as we are working great jobs and make good money. Breaking the habits of frivolous spending and utilizing our money to the most of it's ability has made the goal a lot more attainable.

Currently, we rent from a great couple and have a really unique position. We split everything, cost-wise, and our monthly utilities are incredibly cheap. This allows us to save a ton, while knocking out debt, and getting us closer with each paycheck.

Planning the Compound

To help smooth the process of waiting and saving over, I've started to develop an action plan for what exactly we will do with the land we are looking to purchase. The blessing/curse of this is process is that I cannot gather enough information about what we will do and our plans for each area.

The goal is to make the land as self sufficient and productive as possible. This is going to require the permaculture school of thought with ideas like a food forest, hugelkultur, and incremental increases in beds, swales, and growth areas. The idea is to not get in over our heads with the work load, but maximize the output to feed ourselves and sell the extra at farmer's markets. Eventually, the goal is to take an acre and develop it for hops, but that's a long ways off.

The curse of all this is the fact that I can't plot my areas out based on what my land is, simply because I don't have the land yet! What I can do, however, is gather my info and utilize that when the time comes. I'm choosing to have digital copies as well as paper copies to add to a library when our compound finally comes to be.

One topic I'm currently researching is energy independence and how to minimize our compound's existence on the grid as well as backup systems for energy, heat, and water during storms or grid failure.

That's all far off in the distance, but before you'll be here.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Decisions, decisions

Compounders, as we come across properties that have a few of the elements we are looking for, we are finding one thing in common:


It's certainly a sellers market, and that definitely provides us with a number of choices. Searching homes in the areas we are looking for is a good opportunity to find out what exactly we want. In addition to that, you also get a great feel for a couple of things in terms of aesthetics and the power of modern technology.

We toured a 4 bedroom place on 5 acres. The pictures we saw had us sold. Drone footage of the land, the photos were just spectacular. Once we got there we hit things with a critical eye, realizing that the house itself was nice, but it wasn't exactly what we were looking for. It's isolated on a decent plot of land, sure, but most of the land is wooded and clearing it for the sake of raised beds is going to prove to be quite the chore. We found a couple cosmetic issues that may cause a few problems, in terms of raising the value of the property, or at a minimum holding it's value.

This property is going to house a couple small businesses, and due to the nature of those business, we are going to need an outbuilding. Something roughly 2,000 sq. feet and two stories. I'd prefer steel and modern materials with a few creature comforts in there, as we will be handling most of our business in there, as well as training and workouts. Ideally, I'd like it to be somewhat soundproof, or close to it. Work and workouts in that building, home is home.

Keep the two separate and you'll be just fine. There's a reason people put in a "home office" and the exercise equipment ends up being a fancy clothes hanger in your bedroom.

In short, the search continues, and with this market, we can play the game financially to get the best possible deal, but it's definitely tempting to jump on a property when you see it.

Play it smart. Plan and save, you'll be better off in the end.

You can get something close to what you want, and improve it yourself (sense of ownership), and end up saving some money in the process. Aim small, miss small, and you'll be able to improve the home around you, instead of having it fit someone else and their idea of what it should be.

Discipline Equals Freedom

Recently, my good friend Tom interviewed a gentleman by the name of Charles Hugh Smith on his site, Small Scale Life. Smith is a regular writer for Zero Hedge and got into a length discussion with Tom about several topics, one of which stuck out to me. The idea of "mincome".  As I've stated, in earlier posts, the financial process of buying a house with land in the country is a new move for me. I've always rented, and to have the ability to purchase a home with some land, start a business, and attempt to drive that business towards success is promising.  It takes a multitude of things to fall into place, all of which are guided by a phrase recently introduced to me by a Navy Seal named Jocko Willink. He runs a podcast available on itunes and stitcher. Par for the course for the elite Navy Seals, they're all very disciplined in everything they do. To Jocko, discipline equals freedom. I've adopted this motto for myself, because those guys are the best at what they do. It wouldn't be the worst idea to follow their mindset and pursue that discipline as well. I am banking on the fact that it will pay off, simply because their track record speaks for itself.

In the pursuit of the land we are looking for, this discipline comes with some hard choices to make. We want a ton of room, a ton of land...more, more, more!!! As we look deeper, go through the numbers, write it out on paper, we would be banking on additional income to even make the minimum mortgage payment. Instead of making this an emotional quick pick up, we've had to step back and realize that patience will pay off in the end, even for a couple taking on a large home buying project with additional responsibilities of land, business setup, taxes, etc. You need to have the discipline to realize when you're biting off more than you can chew. If you don't, you'll end up like tons of people in 2008 when the market crashed. Blame bankers all you'd like, but two people need to agree to a business contact, and if you're borrowing more than you know you can pay back, you did this to yourself.

Caveat Emptor indeed.

The embracing of the new motto hasn't been easy. I'm breaking old habits, realizing the goal is right there, it's a few months away, and as I watch the cash pile up for the down payment, it's really worth heading into work, working overtime, and planning to make this happen.  Sure, taxes are a pain in the ass, but they can be mitigated and the tax system is meant to be utilized by people to get the most benefit from it while paying "their fair share".

A coworker recently shared some great insight into buying that "dream home" right off the bat. This guy ended up $90k upside down on a house and is STILL making payments to rectify the situation. He went, as he put it, "too big, too soon" and ended up in over his head, working a ton of overtime to pay a mortgage for a house he was never at. That's not my intended goal. A few lessons came out of that:

1. Save. Save as much as you can to prepare for this. An emergency fund is great, but if you can work, save some of that. Pay yourself first and DON'T TOUCH IT.

2. Eliminate that debt*. A payment is a hindrance to you goals. Don't let that payment slow you down. Particularly, a car payment. Car payments keep people broke, and it's a commonly accepted theme that you "just live with the car payment". Look, I get it. I want a muscle car more than most guys, but I'm also not willing to pay $800 a month just to ride around in something like that unless I can brag about paying cash for the whole damn thing. I digress...

***The debt is a tricky thing, however. Dave Ramsey and I disagree on a few things, one of which is the idea of a credit score. Credit cards can be an incredibly powerful tool in keep that FICO score up. It's evil, but it's a necessary evil. Without getting too political, it's a game and you simply have to consider playing it. Try having a credit card with a recurring charge on it, let it hit your credit at 10-20 percent of available credit and keep it there. Make the minimum monthly payments and watch the score go up. Believe me, I've been doing it for less than a year and my score has gone up 120 points.

3. Make an informed decision about buying based on YOUR needs. You are spending a lot of time and money looking for a place to call "home". Traditions, love, memories, holidays, breakfast, lunch, and dinner are going to be there. Make it your own. Family will come and stay if you invite them, but don't buy a house considering the fact that your family members might not have enough room. That's a flexible thing, and you can always make time to accommodate, one way or another. No love will be lost, and there's always a way to convert a spare bedroom into an office/bedroom. No big deal, it'll happen.

4. Make sure you enjoy your home!!!! This one is important. Don't get in over your head and go big on a property that you can't afford. It causes a cascade effect. You work a ton of overtime to pay a mortgage you can barely afford and you've got 3 of the 5 rooms in the house empty. It doesn't have to be a lavish palace (unless you can afford that, in which case...kudos!), but it does have to be a home. This is your sanctuary, your castle. One thing I'm definitely going to be considering is the outdoor patio and relaxation spaces on our property. I want a place to sit, drink my morning coffee, watch the sun come up, and realize that all those brutal nights at work, all the overtime I suffered through, all the extra work I took on, helped me to get that deck, that coffee mug, that view, and the produce I'm growing on that property. I'll realize that I worked to feed those chickens to get the fresh eggs, and I can pick some fresh berries from the bushes to throw on that plate for my breakfast.

Discipline equals freedom because once you implement it, the freedom tastes just that little bit sweeter.

Until next time, stay focused and do things On Purpose, With Purpose.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Old Ways vs. New Ways
Today has been particularly challenging. It's also served as a great learning experience. As I've mentioned before, I'm subscribing to the Dave Ramsey school of thought.
Debt isn't a good idea, it never has been.
It can certainly be a tool, but it's a matter of an "old vs. new" way of thinking. I'll explain:
Our grandparents knew how to save money. "Save that money for a rainy day, you never know when it'll hit." It seemed like such archaic advice, I never seemed to listen to it.
Do I regret it?
Sure a little.
What I do know is that we cannot get away from spending money in our day to day lives. You almost have to try and patch up a dam with chewing gum. What can change is your habits. When you learn to save instead of spend, it's incredibly powerful. Try starting with $1,000. Ten $100 bills. Do it in cash. Hold it in your hands. Then...
Freeze it in plastic bag in a block of ice so you can't get to it without thinking twice.
I've done it and I've forgotten I had it from time to time. When I needed a new motor mount and serpentine belt for my car, you better believe I had it ready to go. I bought a few tools, some dinner, and had a friend teach me (with a little help from YouTube) how to replace them. Everyone's got "a guy for that", and most of them are nice enough to help you if you're willing to learn. I saved about $500 by learning and doing it myself.
It's easy enough to just run it over to the mechanic and have them do it, but for the money, is it worth it? I felt a sense of pride knowing that I added just a couple more "quick quality fixes" to my arsenal, and I have some ownership in that car besides the cash I've put into it.
So what's the lesson here?
There's a reward in all of that work. The "old way" of doing things is valuable. It creates and maintains tradition, roots, and bloodlines for people. It creates quality and culture. Things need not be so disposable, provided we can be able to learn how to work to maintain them.
 Our lives have become far too simple, too quick, too much of an easy solution to modern living. We have ideas pitched and ads thrown at us every single day. Try and go a day without seeing an ad trying to sell you something. The ads aren't the point, and they certainly aren't to blame.
Your habits are.
I recently had a telephone meeting with a woman that is going to help us with financing our mortgage for the home and land we'd like to buy. The house is perfect, the land is just right, the area is great. We can't find a damn thing wrong with this house! As the process went on, she gathered all the requisite paperwork and credit scores, bank statements, you name it. The result was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard:
"You make too much money to qualify for any of the first time homebuyer programs to put minimal money down. It's really not the worst problem to have, you know." She said, laughing to ease the inevitable tension.
"Too much money? How's that possible? I'm a firefighter, not some investment banker. This house is only $400k. I'm blown away by this." I stood there in shock, feeling like a toddler who didn't get his toy at the grocery store. I was about 30 seconds away from throwing a gigantic hissy fit about "GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS THIS, MIDDLE CLASS THAT!!! I WORK TOO DAMN HARD TO BE SCREWED OUT OF ANY OF THIS!!!! I DESERVE THIS!!!"
I held my tongue. Politics had no place here, and I certainly have learned to think before I act or speak.
"Well, I've worked every angle, and the only thing I can do is an FHA loan with 3.5 and..."
As she rattled off the details, I had a moment of clarity. This isn't anyone's fault but my own. Of course, I could've saved a couple hundred bucks from every paycheck I've earned and I'd have $200,000 to put down on some ridiculous house that I've always dreamed of, but I didn't.
If you find that kid or any teenager, let me know.
Then feel free to stuff him in a dumpster. I kid, of course. I'd be envious of that kid. In fact, now that I'm rambling, I'm going to have my children put that money aside to put a down payment on a house. Maybe some extra health insurance or longer jiu jitsu classes to keep them out of the inevitable dumpster they're gonna get stuffed in or the swirlie hey could get.
What I also realized is that I should be looking forward to the ability to achieve this goal. When I put it into perspective, I have a chance to make a horrible or really great financial decision that could set us up for the rest of our lives.
The home buying process, I realized, can absolutely be an impulse buy. A $400,000 impulse buy, let that sink in for a little bit.
Has it hit you? It will.
Remember the car I told you about? The one I just did the repairs on? Well, as it happens, that was an impulse buy. I had completed baby step one, and my old Isuzu Trooper blew a push rod, effectively ruining the engine, totaling the car. I scrapped the car, took my cash from my emergency fund for what I THOUGHT was an emergency, and went to the dealership. I purchased the car thinking I NEEDED the car. I just had to have transportation. Never mind the fact that I was 6 miles away from work, spending less money without the car, and I sure didn't want to ride the bus anymore.
Or did I?
The bus wasn't that bad, and honestly, it was nice to be able to read a book on my way into work. The other option was to ride my bike into work, an the 6 miles was a fun ride, even in the AZ heat.
Looking back on it, I should've never gotten the car. I should have waited, saved up enough money to pay cash for a car. It was the definition of a toxic car loan. 16.75% interest is a really good way to whip yourself into shape on paying off a debt really quickly. The day that car has the final payment made and I get that title is the day it starts making money for me. I'm going to drive it until the wheels fall off.
In a way, the car and it's purchase is a lot like the purchase of the house. The chance at an impulse buy, the possibility of biting off more than you can chew, the fact that it's so easily obtainable, and the fact that it's advertised as so much more than the American Dream to so many people who shouldn't be taking part in it just yet (think the housing crash of 2008).
That car and its maintenance also has an important point to be taken away from it as well. Taking ownership of something is important. It's a responsibility, and the more work you put into it, the more of a connection you have to it. It means more because you're responsible for your own work. Put in the work, be humble, and be willing to learn, you'll reap the rewards.
The whole thing comes down to something simple:
Old ways vs. New ways.
It comes down to habits. You have to make the decision to live well within your means.
So, as I wrap this one up, it's back to the drawing board. Only this time, I'm not going to be in such a bad position. I have a plan. Each step I accomplish is another temptation, but I realize that I can be in a really good position, financially speaking, to have the homestead and make things work the way they should, benefitting the family Andrea and I have planned.
Stay tuned, because this is going to get really interesting.

I realize I've left something incredibly important out in all these posts! My girlfriend Andrea is my partner in crime for this whole project.

I'll talk about her a little bit, because she may be (probably) doing some guest posting on here, particularly when the kitchen project comes up. I can't say much more than that, because it'll ruin the surprise...

I got the phone call to leave the desert of Arizona and drive out to Virginia to work for a fire department. My dream job. It all fell into place.

Little did I know I'd be introduced to my dream girl.

We ended up in the same academy class, and she ended up sitting right next to me. Funny how chance works sometimes. We fell for each other pretty darn hard, and have realized that we want the same things in a family, as well as life. We want to raise our kids with an ethic of hard work, a pursuit of knowledge, discipline (we will get to that later), and respect for what they've earned in their life, up to and including sacrifices we've made to teach them about all that.

Andrea is a Virginian, a local. She's seen a lot of changes in the area, from the tech boom, to a swelling population to over a million people during your typical work day. She loves baking, lifting weights, crossfit, and I've even tried to get her on the Jiu Jitsu mat every once and a while. I lucked out because this girl LOVES Seattle. It's a regular vacation spot for us. We both feel at ease in that city, there's something special about it. You can either find us training in the weight room, running a trail, or hanging out on the couch if we are feeling particularly lazy. She's the best teammate a guy could ask for.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

It's been a while, compounders!

I've been busy scouting places and figuring out what my girlfriend and I am looking for.

The biggest question is:

How much land do you really need?

At first, I was fully convinced that I needed 20 plus acres. Then as I laid out my plans (veggies and fruits, some hunting, some harvesting of firewood, the possibility of zoning in land for neighbors) I realized that under 10 acres would be perfect. It may be a case of compromise in some areas based on cost, effeciency of running the land and it's uses, and the overall project we are looking at.

Taking a note from Jack Spirko's book, I think the final result will be 3-5 acres, partially wooded with the ability to expand. Spirko talks about having 3 acres. He's got some veggies, fruit trees, ducks and quail that are producing plenty. I think my goal is to utilize about 1 acre for veggies, 1 acre for fruit trees and berries, and 1 acre for a longer term crop like hardwoods for harvest and regrowth. At some point, I'll be addressing the idea of building and creating a food forest to surround the house. Foraging would be an interesting experience, provided you've set the forest up for success.

It isn't all about veggies and gardening (although it is fun), I'm looking to create a compound where I can entertain guests, get some shooting done, lift some weights and practice jiu jitsu. A large outbuilding is going to be a great source for all that in addition to a studio for podcasting and recording.

Let's hear some ideas in the comments about what your idea of the usage of this land should be for!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

In the last post, I started with a quote that came to me:

"With Purpose, On Purpose"

That's the goal here, doing something with a purpose.

With a goal in mind.

The goal is to talk about and develop a plan, while simultaneously chronicling it. As this plan develops, it'll get more detailed. For now, it's all table talk. On that note, I want to share the over-arching theme of a conversation with my good friend Tom.

(Shameless plug, Tom has really kicked some butt with his project, and I recommend you all go give it a read/listen. He's got some great podcasts up on the site, as well as ITunes. From gardening to life simplifications, he's really growing quickly. The site is, go give him a read and listen.)

I'll be keeping this blog largely apolitical. I will, however take a moment to use the recent Hillary Clinton email investigation to point something out. If you aren't aware, she was not indicted by the FBI for some mishandling of emails. These emails had classified information, and it was considered a large breach of justice and security of information of the USA. The theme of the conversation, which really opened my eyes to the importance of this Condo to Compound project is...

On a local level, this really doesn't matter. This means nothing to you or your goals.

This doesn't change much of anything that you're going to do to get away from a city, plant a garden, grow your own food, and learn to utilize the land while bouncing ideas off your tribe. Regardless of what is going on "Inside the Beltway", focus on your world. You know, the one that's right in front of you.

As Tom and I spoke, we realized something simple, a real road to freedom is getting out there and building your life EXACTLY the way you want it. This involves planning, finance, and setting goals that you are going to reach.

I've been moving rather quickly through Jean-Martin Fortier's book, The Market Gardner. I have to admit that this book has been a really great read, but more importantly, the knowledge in this book is priceless because it's fitting for the size of project I'm working on. We may end up with more land within our property lines, but the main goal of having a large, productive vegetable garden will not change. As I employ various methods for this project, I'll be using resources like Fortier's book to expand the size. The goal initially will be to have enough to support my family with fresh fruits and vegetables and work on expansion of the garden with the goal of sales or getting involved in a CSA. At this point, it's sketches in a notebook and reference, but my tribe and drive to get away from the city is proving to be stronger every day.

So to sum up, instead of getting all worked up about political garbage you cannot change, focus on your goals that are right in front of you. Those are absolutely what matter. You'll end up with less stress, more productivity, and the ability to improve the world around you, instead of the one you can't.

From Jack Donovan's Becoming a Barbarian:

"To leave the Empire behind and take on a tribal mind, you must choose to perceive that transformation not as an act of self-negation, but as a process of becoming and personal evolution. Belonging in a tribe is becoming."

"Ask, 'If I invested all of my time, energy, and resources, up to and including my own life, to change this one thing, would it be reasonable for me to expect to alter the outcome of the situation?'"

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

On Purpose, With Purpose

I've been doing more research, and I've decided it's time for an update.

First things first, however...some backstory

My girlfriend and I decided it's time to get out of the city and even the suburbs. We decided it's time to move to the country.

As our relationship develops, we are finding that we have more in common than we think, but there's a few disagreements as well.

We both want a place off the beaten path, very warm and inviting in terms of our home, but we want to be within an hour drive of some "creature comforts" like groceries and a few shops.

We are looking for a simpler way of life.

In terms of the property, we initially wanted around 10 acres. As we researched the land sizes more, what's really important for us is a plot of land that actually produces for us. Our research is now leading us to a plot between 2 and 5 acres. The further we research this, the more we will narrow down the land specifically for our needs. At this point, we are looking for the following:

  • Land that has natural barriers (trees, shrubs, rock formations)
  • Vegetation with a medium density.
  • Trees that can be harvested for firewood/food forestry
  • A decent soil makeup to help improve for veggies/fruit trees
In terms of the last point (soil makeup), as the research continues, I'm going to present my plans for vertical space as well as raised beds and watering systems.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however. We have to find the land first, and that's proving to be a huge task all by itself.

Financially speaking, going from a renter to a homeowner is a big jump that's been made "simple" by mortgage companies and realtors. Nothing against them, but I've learned something incredibly over the last 11 months by Jack Spirko and Dave Ramsey...

Debt is CANCER. You must kill it as soon as possible.

Say what you will about using debt as a tool to get your wildest dreams responsibly financed, but that rarely happens anymore. Our grandparents handled money a certain way (provided they too were responsible). We would do well to follow their footsteps.

We were tempted to jump right in with the offers we received on financing pre-approvals and supposed deals we almost immediately were saturated with. We had to resist at all costs until we paid our previous debts from student-loans and car payments. Getting on a cash based budget using a zero balance method is the best thing we could've done to pay down debt aggressively and have our monthly costs managed. As we watch the saving grow, we have more leverage and will be able to responsibly finance something within our budget, and more than likely look specifically for something below our means to improve to our liking as opposed to the new tradition of buying the turn-key dream home right out of the gate.

Buying a smaller home that can be improved on a decent plot of land will be beneficial for a number of reasons, most importantly the knowledge that the property you've purchased is something that you will make your own to specifically suit your needs. This includes the ideas for our place such as the outdoor space with firepit, bbq, smoker, and pizza oven. The large, raised gardening beds for veggies will be suited to grow a large percentage (if not entirely) of our vegetable needs, fruit trees, and utilization of vertical growing space for vined veggies and fruits. Outbuildings, such as a space for a hot tub and barn with a full gym and area for podcasts (coming soon!) will be utilized and customized to fit our needs. As far as the food storage and gardening aspects, I'll be touching on more of that when the plans for the raised beds and agriculture planning gets solidified more. 

As I speak with the realtor and finance company I've chosen for this life-changing purchase, I realize that if I make a well informed, financially sound decision, the better chance I've got for this to be successful. I want the land to not only fit our needs, but to produce for us as well. It's a big investment on all fronts, so it has to be planned carefully. Financially speaking, the first step is knocking out that debt and save save save!!!!

Feel free to comment below, I'll be responding to any questions you've got.