Frugality House Hacking

2020 Financial Goals

Our Current Housing Situation

This year our rent is due to go up by $100, bringing it to around $1460.

A few details about our living expenses:

We rent a 3-bedroom house on the outskirts of Portland with a fully-fenced front yard and backyard.

Call it hedonic adaptation, but we’re very attached to our 3-bedroom, no roommate situation. Due to our very different wages, my boyfriend and I split the rent about 36/64. That brings my rent payment to $864 per month.

Cheap for what I get, but also more than I want to be paying.

The two extra rooms we have function as:

  1. A guest bedroom/art studio/office (The Multipotentialite Room) We usually have 1-2 overnight guests per month. This room handy saves me from crawling over air mattresses in the living room when people stay over. (Also, it keeps me sane because I need my introverted quiet time in the mornings.)
    I also use this room to set up my folding craft table; I use it for sewing, watercoloring, calligraphy, etc. When I meet with freelance clients over video chat or work from home, this room is my go-to.
  2. A recording studio My boyfriend is a musician and has his recording equipment set up in this room. When we have more than one guest staying with us at a time, they are wedged on the floor between his guitar amps and desk.

The Goal

I want to figure out a way for us to lower — if not eliminate — our housing expense. My ultimate goal is for us to cash flow our house; i.e. our tenants or roommates would cover the mortgage, leaving us some cash left over as profit.

Having a monthly rent payment this high has been getting in the way of my other financial goals. One of those goals is to achieve a 50% savings rate, allowing me to retire in my 40s.

To this point, I’m able to put between $1000-1700 away per month out of my $3300-ish after-tax income. (I’m an hourly employee, so the figures can vary.)

The Plan: Save for a down payment

This year, I’m going to reduce my Roth IRA contribution to start saving for a down payment. I want to pursue either a house hacking situation, or purchase a duplex or triplex for ongoing rental income.

I’ve found multifamily homes in the area ranging from $235,000-375,000. With an FHA loan, I need at least $8,225 for a down payment.

I’m going to break that up into two rounds of saving:

  1. $5,000 from January-June.
  2. $5,000 from July-December

(Mini goals make the world go round.)

Screenshot from YNAB budgeting app. Shows that savings goal for $5000 by June 1 is 31% complete but underfunded by $88.68 for this month.
My savings goal set up in the YNAB app. I’m underfunded this month because I accidentally left my automatic transfer to my Roth IRA active. Ooops. 😬

My Holdups

I’m unsure of how to balance my retirement contributions right now. I want to max out my Roth IRA for the second year in a row. But continuing to do that while I save for a home will slow down my ability to save for a down payment. (Especially when we’re planning a Hawaii trip win June with some family members.)

My Dave Ramsey roots tell me to put retirement on hold while saving for a down payment. On the other hand, the math nerd side of me doesn’t want to pull entirely out of the market.

I’ll probably end up throwing a little bit into my IRA every month. I don’t want to miss out on the magic of compounding interest.

Then more questions arise:

Do I try to look for a higher paying job?

Do I do freelance work to bring in extra cash to throw at my house savings?

I’m a huge proponent of hobbies, free time, and the whole anti-work movement in general. Thinking about selling even more of my time for extra cash hurts my heart.

Then — where are we even wanting to live?

We’ve been talking about leaving Portland for years now, but we’re still here because of my boyfriend’s music career. So while he’s still in the band, we have no definite action plan.

While I don’t have any answers yet, I know that our housing payment is a problem that needs fixing. And the only solution that makes sense to me is to start saving for something cheaper and income-generating.


Five Frugal Things

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for certain products that I recommend. That means if you click through and purchase, I’ll receive a small commission on the sale at no extra cost to you.

I gave my mom a DIY Deva Cut

I’ve been practicing the art of hair cutting on myself for many years. As a Curly Girl fanatic, I’d shared pictures of the awesome curly cuts I’d gotten from Deva stylists in the pasts.

She was very interested in trying out a Deva Cut when she came into town. I told her we could make an appointment at my favorite salon, but if she wanted to save some money I could try my hand at it instead.

The eternal penny-pincher, she opted for the latter.

I didn’t take a picture, but it looks awesome. She’s got an even more glorious and shapely mane of curls now!

Most of our holiday gifts were thrifted or made with love

With the exceptions of consumables and some tech items, most of the gifts centered around books, picture frames, and albums.

I repurposed a hideous project planner for my boyfriend by making a new cover for it. I copied some of his own drawings and went to town with my watercolor set. Then I used a page protector, lots of washi tape, and Scotch tape to affix it to the old cover. Here’s the result:

Watercolor cover featuring a strange looking creature holding a sign that says: 'Productivity Planner'. A grandfather clock is in the background. Glittery rainbow washi tape frames the art.

We rethought some of our subscription streaming services

We’ve been talking about cancelling our Netflix for a long time. Most of the time, we use the Hulu account we share with friends to watch content.

I was holding onto Netflix for my mom’s sake, as I was sharing the account with her. When she came up to visit for the holidays, she agreed that she didn’t like much of the content on there either. It was only encouraging her to binge watch shows she didn’t really like.

We also discussed her use of Amazon Prime. She wasn’t using the streaming service anymore. And since she doesn’t order much online, she made the decision to cancel it before the next renewal date.

All in all, we cancelled Netflix and set a cancellation reminder 3 days before the Prime renewal. Savings all around!

We replaced my headlight and wipers at home

While we go to Jiffy Lube (with a coupon) for regular oil changes, we do most everything else at home. This last time, they offered to replace my newly-dead headlight and my shoddy wipers at the shop.

I declined and instead picked up a pack of headlights from Walmart and a set of wiper blades from Costco. My SO (aka my personal mechanic) swapped those out at home, saving us some change on installation costs.

Invested in another 5 gallon storage container

I’d been eyeballing that 25 lb bag of black turtle beans at Winco for months. But our 5 gallon bin was still halfway full of pinto beans.

I figured we’d finish off the pinto beans and then switch to black beans for a few months. Finally, I’d had enough. Our house should have room enough for both pinto beans and black beans.

We now have a 3 storage containers to hold and protect our favorite bulk buys: jasmine rice, pinto beans, and black beans.

(I can’t remember the last time we bought a can of beans. It feels so good.)

Your Turn

What five frugal things did you do this week?


Five Frugal Things

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for certain products that I recommend. That means if you click through and purchase, I’ll receive a small commission on the sale at no extra cost to you.

I made a double batch of pinto beans in the Instant Pot.

Bean tacos. Beanadillas. Bean soup. Beans and rice.

Since we got our Instant Pot, we’ve had a bean revival in this household. I don’t know why, but I just wasn’t much for cooking dried beans before my beloved Instant Pot.

Not on the stove top. Not in the slow cooker.

Before the Instant Pot, we were trying to finish off a gigantic bag of pinto beans from Costco that we’d had for a little over 2 years.

Now we’re going through these things like crazy.

Here’s my favorite Instant Pot pinto bean recipe.

We should have enough pinto beans to last us until the middle of next week, I think. (Did I tell you we like our beans in this household?)

I started using my gym membership again.

My gym key tag gathered a lot of dust this year. It hurts to think of how many months went by without me setting foot in that place.

Reminder: a $10/month membership fee is not frugal if you don’t use it.

My plan of going after work wasn’t working. A too-full parking lot and my own mental exhaustion were enough to tip the scales in favor of me skipping the gym.

Instead, I decided to try going on my way into work instead. I’ve gone about 5 times since the beginning of last week, and it’s been a game changer.

I have so much energy throughout the day again. Also, I’ve had better discipline when it comes to cooking dinners at home in the evenings. Which brings me to…

I packed all my breakfasts and lunches for work this week.

Green drinks and oatmeal and curry, oh my!

I usually give in to cravings and buy Taco Bell and/or vegan sandwiches during the work week.

But my desire to stay on-budget during the holidays has been beneficial for my (lack of) fast food discipline.

Here are some recipes I’ve made this week:

Here’s a pic of my killer overnight oats.

That’s frozen berries, walnuts, flax seed, chia seed, raisins, oat milk, and pumpkin pie spice. 🤤

I DIY-ed part of my Curly Girl routine.

I’m a hardcore follower of the Curly Girl hair routine. Like most things, it can become very expensive if you let it.

I’ve been trying to use up all my stockpiled and half-empty hair products. After running out about a month ago, I finally went out in search of deep conditioner.

I wasn’t able to find any vegan or budget-friendly CG products at the store (we’re talking $10+ for a tub of deep conditioner). So I decided to wing it with the bottle of extra virgin olive oil in my kitchen cupboard. No complaints here, and my curls came back to life. Kind of like a water bear.

I didn’t — and will never — buy Spotify Premium because of free library alternatives.

I listen to Spotify at work and I love it.

But the ads drive me bonkers. Absolutely insane. They’ve figured out the perfect combination and frequency of Odwalla and ChexMix ads to drive me mad.

(I have added a strike-through because these brands are now on my blacklist for having the worst ads.)

I found out that hoopla (offered through the library) lets you check out and stream up to 10 full albums (ad-free) at a time.

That’s plenty of music for me, as a serial playlist- and song-repeater.

I’m so excited to get my music queued up for the next work week. Finally, I can avoid the maddening nature of ad-infused streaming services.

Your Turn

What five frugal things did you do this week?