Getting out of debt is no easy feat, but it’s possible if you set your mind to it and work to reduce spending and increase income. Just ask Casa Mochi blogger and emergency room nurse, Lauren Mochizuki. With hard work and determination (and many sacrifices), her and her husband were able to pay off more than $250,000 in debt in less than three years. Getting out of debt gave them the opportunity to purchase and renovate a fixer-upper and turn it into their dream home. And dream home it is. Just wait until you see all of the fabulous décor and personal touches throughout. Plus, Lauren offers some helpful tips on getting out of debt and living well on a budget. You don’t want to miss this home tour!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! I’m Lauren. I’m an emergency room nurse, wife, mama, blogger at www.casamochi.com, design and budget enthusiast, and coffee lover! Five years ago, my husband and I decided to get out of debt and paid off $266,000 of debt. This amount included our cars, credit card debt and the balance of our condo. This changed our lives forever: it changed the way we looked at money, it afforded us the opportunity to purchase and renovate our fixer-upper dream home, and it changed our financial trajectory forever.
Some people get excited about things like tacos, and “This is Us,” and I get excited about saving money (although I do also love tacos and “This is Us”). It is possible to live well on a budget, and that is my passion. I also get excited about beautiful spaces; I was able to design our entire home renovation, and it was one of the most stressful (and fun!) experiences!
How would you describe your home’s style?
It’s funny, but I’ve never thought about this question until this moment. I’ve decorated our home with a mix of sentimental and functional décor. Things like our hanging surfboard, to the painting of me and my husband surfing, to the other colorful art that we chose because it looks like a bunch of surfboards; we are a family that spends lots of time at the beach, and our home reflects some of that. We also have chosen various boho, modern and minimal décor throughout our home. Our home is still a work in progress. My next project is to start tackling the bedrooms, starting with my son’s, which I might take on for the “One Room Challenge.” My goal is that our home reflects our heart: a warm, inviting space where people can come and stay awhile.
What is a favorite element of your home?
My favorite element(s) of our home are the accordion windows and doors in our kitchen and dining room. We decided to include these in our renovation plans because we wanted a seamless transition between the interior of the home and the backyard, as we spend lots of time outside. When the weather is warm, we keep the window and door completely open and you can see the backyard from the front door. There is a running joke in our family that my husband keeps the doors so clean, that we need to keep a Post-it on the door, because one time it was so clean that I forgot it was there, and I ran into it in front of a house full of guests! Ha!
What were some of your go-to décor resources?
My favorite go-to resources are T.J.Maxx, Target, Etsy, West Elm, Pottery Barn, Craigslist, thrift stores and garage sales!
What’s your favorite room in your home? Why?
My favorite room in my home is the kitchen! One of my love languages is food, and sharing meals together with my family and friends. I love that we created a space where people can congregate around the island and keep me company while I prepare food. When we were designing the kitchen, the goal was to make it inviting, and conducive for having company. Our kitchen island measures 6 feet x 11 feet, and we have seating for seven around the perimeter of the island.
We also have two other things that are very special to me: a print that says “This Kitchen is for Dancing,” given to me by my friend Sara, and a wooden sign that says “Salud.” I am happiest when I’m dancing, and it’s common for my husband, myself and my kids to crank up the music and have ourselves a dance party. The “Salud” sign is special because that word has three different meanings: cheers, bless you (when you sneeze) and it can refer to good health. These are all things that I wish for my friends and family.
If you could change one thing about your home, what would it be?
If I could change one thing about my home, I would take out the column between my kitchen and the dining room. We took down the wall that separates the kitchen from the living room, and our engineer said that we had to have a column to support the new giant beam that is where the wall used to be.
Are you still an ER nurse? How do you balance that with a successful blog?
I just celebrated 10 years working as an ER nurse! I work 1 to 2 days a week so I can mainly be home with my kids. The whole balancing thing is hard. I find that all of my blogging hours happen when the kids are asleep: mainly late at night and during their nap time. I’m OK with that for now, as the niños will only be little for such a short time, and they will be starting school soon. It’s fun being able to turn my passion into a blogging business. It definitely takes a lot of hard work, failing and getting back up again. I’ve had four previous blogs that I didn’t maintain. What has been effective for me this time is to have other, more experienced bloggers as mentors. They help to remind me that I can’t do it all and be good at everything. Also, I do what I can, when I can and if I can’t get to it, I don’t beat myself up. I try again tomorrow.
Have you always been a budgeter?
I have not always been a budgeter! In fact, going into our marriage, I had around $3,000 of credit card debt that I was paying the minimum payment on. I would buy whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, with no forethought on how I would pay for it. There was no financial game plan. I’ve definitely come a long way, and I was quite resistant to the idea of budgeting because for awhile, because I had no self-control. It turns out, making a budget and giving myself permission to spend when I have the money, is incredibly liberating.
You paid off over $250k in 3 years! How did you make that happen?
We paid off $266k of debt in 33 months. It was one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. We did everything we could to pay off the debt: we went on a budget, I got a second job, we worked like no one else, we sold stuff and we said ‘no’ to lots of purchases.
Do you have any other tips you can share with other mothers trying to pay down their debt?
To the mom that is trying to pay off your debt: you can do this! Get a budget accountability buddy, someone that will get excited about your goals with you, and hold you accountable to them! Start to keep track of your expenditures and how much is coming in each month. Once you have all the information, put yourself on a budget. It takes at least 3 to 6 months to get a strong handle on budgeting, as expenses and spending categories can change. Figure out ways to increase your income, whether it’s selling things or figuring out another side hustle. If you figure out how to keep your income greater than your expenses, you will pay off your debt! And if you fall off the wagon, get back up and try again. Don’t let anything deter you from your goal!
What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have ever received have been quotes I have read by Colin Powell: “Don’t take counsel of your fears or naysayers.” “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic. It takes sweat, determination, and hard work.”
What was the last thing you Googled?
The last thing I Googled was how to make gluten-free pumpkin pancakes. I just made some for breakfast this morning!
What’s your morning routine like?
My morning routine: First, before I get out of bed, I write down 2 to 3 things that I’m thankful for on a note on my phone called “gratitude.” I make my husband some coffee. Then, I go for a run or I do a “sweat with Kayla” workout. I check e-mails, make breakfast for the family, pack lunches and I get dressed and ready for the day!
Photography by Allison Richter
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