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Goodbye 2018

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We think it’s no secret that we made 2018 our bitch. It was a hectic and eventful year for us, but we made some huge steps in the right direction. In this week’s post (coming a day later than usual due to the holiday schedule) we are going to go over some of the good and bad times we had in 2018 regarding our travels and our real estate.


We know what y’all are thinking: “You can’t travel. You’re trying to save money and travel is expensive.” Well, 1. Don’t be an asshole. And 2. You’re wrong. Travelling doesn’t have to be expensive at all, and while we are focused on saving for the future, that doesn’t mean we live like hermits and never leave home. Between travel hacking, and keeping an eye out for deals, we saved a bunch of money on travel. We also prioritize travel expenses over crap like coffee’s out, new clothes, and nights out at the bar. We had one big trip to Europe planned going into 2018, but we ended up taking a few smaller trips as well.
We started off the year taking an impromptu trip the last week of March down to Tampa, FL to try to pick up a triplex at an auction. We didn’t decide we were going to actually go to the auction until a few days before it actually happened. The trip there was one of the longest days of our lives that started with sketchy airport chili, and evacuating the plane, sprinkled with missing our connecting flight and crashing in the airport, and ended with us not getting the place and flying straight back. Luckily, we weren’t out much, only our sleep and our sanity, because we travel-hacked our way there and back.
Our next trip was a long weekend in mid April to Virginia for CampFI Mid-Atlantic. We’d been on the Financial Independence path for a little over a year at the time, but this camp reinvigorated our resolve to get out of the rat race. It was also invaluable to meet people who were not only on this path, but are actually living in early retirement in their 30’s. We had such a good time, that at the end of this week we are going down to Florida for CampFI South East for my third CampFI. We seriously can’t suggest going to one of these events enough.
At the beginning of May we took our big trip of the year which included a few days in

Emily and I in front of Aphrodite’s Rock

New York, a week in Cyprus, and a week in Croatia. We covered our costs to get there in this post: Booking Free Flights To Europe…and Why I Cancelled Them. This was the first time we’ve gone to Cyprus and not stayed with Emily’s grandparents. Normally, our cheap asses would jump at any opportunity to have a free place to crash, but in this situation, it was money well spent. But, we had such a great time in Cyprus that it furthered cemented our goals to move there in the very near future. Great food, great wine, great weather, great family, great landscape, and relatively low-cost of living makes Cyprus an easy choice for “retirement”.
View from our Airbnb balcony

The second stop of our trip was to one of our favorite places: Dubrovnik, Croatia. Emily and I went to Dubrovnik a few years ago for our honeymoon and we have some great memories from there. But, Dubrovnik has had a huge increase in cost even in the last three years since we were last there. We were admittedly a little shell-shocked, but a couple of bottles of wine, and a few runs down to the supermarket had us right as rain. We splurged a little bit on our Airbnb to get a place with a view, and it did not disappoint. It was the perfect location for a light breakfast, the occasional leftovers for lunch, or to just relax and play cards. We spent more money on this leg of the trip than we had anticipated, but we still found ways to keep the costs down.
It was a quiet few months for us after our eurotrip, but I was lucky enough to get a free ticket from Fiology to go to CampFI South in Arkansas. This was the one trip of the year that I took without Emily. Yet again, the camp was one of the highlights of my year. I made a lot of new friends, learned a lot, and got to see more of the country that I hadn’t seen before.
IMG_5120.JPGEmily, on the other hand, took more trips without me as usual this year. It started with a short beach trip with her sister and niece, followed by a long weekend in Charleston for a friend’s bachelorette trip, and ended with a long weekend girl’s trip in New York City for our friends 30th birthday. As much as we hate to go on trips without each other, it’s hard to say no when opportunities to make memories, spend times with friends and family, and explore different cities come across our path. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we go all out and splurge, but rather, make conscious decisions about meals and transportation on these trips. Plus, somebody has to stay home and puppy-sit the little lady.

Real Estate

We started our FIRE journey with the goal of buying two properties a year: one house-hack, and another pure rental. Well, we blew that out of the water this year with our 4 property purchases of 7 units that puts us at 10 units total.
isyzhpqfe44vsa0000000000We bought our first property of the year March 19th. This house is The House Hack that Allows us to Live for Free. Long story short, it’s a 3 bed 1 bath house with a 1 bed 1 bath detached apartment that we got for $86,500. We currently rent the house out for $870 a month to the nicest tenants and neighbors that anyone could ask for.
The next two places we bought less than a month later. Two duplexes side by side in a neighborhood that is seeing aggressive gentrification. We bought these places for $49,900 apiece. To give you an idea, the 3 bed 2 bath house across the street sold for $320,000. Anyway, here we got 2 1 bed 1 bath units per duplex, but they have not been without their headaches.
ISu040xu7wxyjq1000000000Duplex 1 had a hot water heater burst which flooded the living room. Luckily, it wasn’t anything that a shop vac, some heavy-duty fans, and a de-humidifier couldn’t fix. We also replaced the roof a couple of months ago, so that’s one less thing we should have to worry about this decade. Structurally, these units are solid, but aesthetically, they leave a little to be desired. Both units were occupied for $350 apiece, so $700 total, but we recently non-renewed one of the tenants when her lease was up and we are in the process of going through and painting and plan on renting that unit for $450. We plan to do the same as soon as the other tenant’s lease is up, which will put us at $900 total rent.
45201185_2162725790406153_8839078047043813376_nDuplex 2 is significantly older, and we’ve put plenty of time into renovating one of the units. While this duplex has more curb appeal, the floors are wonky, the electrical system is outdated, and it doesn’t have central air or heat. We currently have a month to month tenant in the unit that we renovated for $550 a month, but she has turned in her notice to move, and the other unit is currently unoccupied. We have been discussing selling the duplex, turning it into Airbnb units, or just gutting the entire thing and renovating it from the bottom up. But, that’ll be a decision and a project for 2019.
isek4dxp6m38ue0000000000Our last purchase of the year was a 3 bed 2.5 bath house for $116k. It was rent ready from the minute we bought it, but we rolled in and painted the cabinets to make it seem a little more modern and rented it out a couple of weeks later for $1,200 a month. We think that we could rent it for $1,300 but with us closing in November and getting it listed just before Thanksgiving we were more interested in getting it rented ASAP and worrying about gradually increasing the rent later.
To wrap up this post, 2018 was a great year for us. There were times that it was stressful, uncertain, and hectic. But, we still made some serious progress towards our financial and retirement goals, saw some amazing places, met some amazing people, and most importantly made some great memories together. We can’t wait to make 2019 our bitch too.


  • Linda

    Looks like you guys had a good time! YOLO!
    Sorry about your real estate purchases before the stock market started melting down though. I suggest keeping them up and holding on as long as possible because prices are weakening and things are looking dicey, especially for non-prime real estate.
    I’ve been through this before and it’ll be Ok if you can hold on. It just stinks to lose time and sleep over mistimed purchases.

    • James Lowery

      It might just be blind optimism, but we don’t see the same doom and gloom as you do. We aren’t too worried about the stock market and our property purchases. All but one of them is cash flowing pretty healthily and we have plenty of buffer for vacancies or repairs. We are happy with our purchases and both sleeping pretty well 🙂

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