I’ve mentioned before in my quest for organizing and simplifying my life, I signed up for Stitch Fix to build up my wardrobe with higher quality clothes. I wanted to invest in a few pieces that made me feel good, items that were versatile so I would make fewer decisions about what to wear. Through one of the Stitch Fix Facebook groups, I connected with Kelly Rodenhouse.
She works from home as a medical transcriptionist by day, has an online health and fitness coaching gig, is a huge Dani Johnson enthusiast, and is very active on social media, sharing her struggles and successes through it all. I have been following her story the last several months of how she has simplified her finances and ultimately simplified a lot of her lifestyle. During her lowest earning year of her ten year career, she conquered an incredible goal when she made her final mortgage payment on her house (and she’s 34 years old, btw).
So here’s how she did it ...
What prompted you to set the mortgage-free goal?
It was a step-by-step, toe-in-the-water type of goal because I didn’t think I could actually do it. About four years ago, I was at a conference and they were shredding mortgage paperwork on stage. I thought “that’s really cool, they paid off their mortgages through extra income and they are normal people.”
A year later, I attended another conference about personal finance and relationships. The speaker, Dani Johnson, was formerly homeless, suicidal, with only a couple bucks to her name. She shared her story of how she completely turned her life around, and began helping people earn financial freedom. That’s when I decided I want to pay off my mortgage!
Being around like-minded people helped. I remember telling my mom and dad that I wanted to try. I kept putting myself back in front of those people at that conference doing these amazing things and helping others make a change. About a year ago I got very serious about it and became acutely aware of things I was spending money on. I was constantly asking myself the question “do you want this thing in front of you or do you want something you are working toward that will last a lot longer?” I went for it and I did it!
What were some of the compromises you made in order to achieve this goal?
One of the thing Dani Johnson teaches is to print off bank statements and highlight where the money is actually going (luxury vs. a necessity). She was homeless and knew what was needed to survive - water, food, shelter. Everything else really is a luxury. When I looked at my bank statement, I had to be honest myself. All those little splurges add up.
My friend’s husband is a pilot and talks about having to make all these millimeter adjustments to stay on course. I did the same to make progress toward my goal. All these little millimeter adjustments make a difference. I cut out little things like OJ, soda, wine. I keep my house at 62 degrees. I wore a coat when it was cold and avoided turning on my AC in the summer. It was miserable! I love antiquing but I would browse and refrain from buying unless I absolutely loved something, never purchasing more than one thing at a time; I would suggest walks instead of going out to dinner when catching up with friends. I made a point to eat everything in my cupboards before before I went to the grocery store.
My grandpa gave me money at Christmas which would have covered the cost for a conference I was interested in attending, but I ultimately decided to put that cash straight to the house. I also earned a free trip for a cruise through my side business, but the travel to get there wasn’t covered.
Were there any big milestones during this process?
I wanted to have it paid off by July 4th because I thought it would be a fun date to be mortgage-free (talk about Independence Day, right?). But I did it two months later! Once I picked the date, I reverse-engineered it from there.
Do you have any habits or rituals that you are going to continue after achieving your last goal?
I’m going to keep attending the Dani Johnson events and be around like-minded people.
I actually want to reign back in spending - mostly that coffee habit! Just because I have the extra income, doesn’t mean I have to spend it. I really like a local place called Bigby for this drink called the Teddy Bear (it’s a white chocolate mocha). Or Starbucks - same thing, with skim, keep the whip! I love coffee shop atmospheres because I get so much done - it’s worth it to be productive outside of my home. I’m not gonna buy a coffee and just take it back home.
You simplified quite a bit to achieve this goal. Do you consider yourself a minimalist?
I have more than one pair of shoes … and I have more than two black shirts, but I do consider myself to live more minimalist than the average person. I think less stuff makes for easier decisions, less time cleaning and maintaining things. Plus less waste and more cash in my pocket. I do have stuff around me but only because I love it. I don’t have stuff just to have stuff.
What advice do you have for someone who has a wild idea or crazy goal but they don't know where to start?
You have to have a vision. I ran a half marathon and I was the girl that couldn’t finish the half mile in school. But I wanted to be the girl who could do hard things. Whenever “Hall of Fame” by The Script came up on Pandora, I would pause and imagine myself running across the finish line. This was the most impossible feat someone could imagine me doing. When I crossed the finish line, I had this song playing. It kept me going when I wanted to quit.
If someone has an idea or goal they want to pursue, I would want them to be clear on why they are doing it, what it would look like for them, journal about it, just know what they’re fighting for. There might be sacrifices, crap thrown at you, people laughing at you. If you have something placed on your heart, it’s there for a reason.
Where do you look to for inspiration when it feels like you aren't making progress?
I’m surrounded by amazing people. I put these people around me that are personal development gurus with different skills that I can learn from. I’m always inspired by my best friend who made a big move to NYC.
What's next for you?
I’m a city girl living in the country and have been looking at condos in Chicago on the river. I think about doing an Airbnb, traveling around, bringing my job with me. I’m going to NYC to visit my best friend and have thought about an extended stay.
Her move inspired me to think more about what I’m doing. I’d love to be a travel blogger, a job that’s portable, the ability to work from anywhere. I want to take advantage of the position I’m in to live this life as big and brave as I can.
I had so much fun interviewing Kelly - after following along with her on social media, it was exciting to chat with her and get to know her better. If you want to read more about what she’s up to, check out her blog or follow along on Facebook and Instagram. Warning: she doesn’t punctuate or capitalize, but she’s super funny, honest, and offers up the pep talk you didn’t even know you needed!