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Your Money

Understand Your Finances

We're paying off debt—so we can buy our first house

Small business owners tackle debt with strategic savings plan

This is part of Savings Diaries, an original series in which people share how they try to reach key savings goals during 2018. It is part of a broader Chase initiative to encourage more Americans to save money.

Helping you save for tomorrow. Learn more

As we march into 2018, my husband and I are reflecting on our success—and planning for the future.

The last two years have been filled with change: In 2016, we got married—and paid for our wedding in cash. Last year, we moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to expand our careers. I've been busy building My Fab Finance, a digital media platform, for which I've doubled my revenue in just two years, and I've created other income streams. My husband, Khomari, is a freelance videographer and editor. We recently purchased health insurance (ouch!) in anticipation of growing our family. Khomari also purchased a life insurance policy.

We've reduced our household expenses by planning meals—and growing our own vegetables. We redefined what date night looks like by focusing on low-cost items, and cutting unnecessary transportation costs.

Being creative and strategic has taught us new ways to save. Getting to this point, though, was a journey. Khomari and I dated for four years. We come from different backgrounds, so understanding how to work together—especially when it comes to money, and especially as husband and wife—has been work.

Tonya Rapley with husband

Our backstory

I grew up in a home where money was discussed openly, and regularly. My mother had a spiral notebook that she kept the household budget in. Although my parents were in the military, and we grew up middle class, my sister and I began working in our teens. My parents wanted us to respect hard work, and money. I started filing my own taxes at 16. I went to college, earned a master's degree in urban policy and public affairs, and worked as a community organizer and educator. But as I built a life in New York City, the bills piled up, and I found myself struggling.

Khomari, on the other hand, didn't grow up talking about money at home. He grew up in New York City's East Harlem neighborhood, and was raised by a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school. He was fortunate to earn a full scholarship to a boarding high school in Massachusetts. He chose not to go to college, because he didn't want to accumulate student loan debt. In his 20s, Khomari worked a bunch of different jobs, hoping to gain traction in the film industry. It wasn't until we began dating that he really began to pay attention to his financial life.

young african woman sitting on sofa with laptop

The path to becoming a small business owner

In 2013, I was working for a national nonprofit organization that empowers women, and I had an a-ha moment. The result was a blog, My Fab Finance, to document my journey to improve my credit score. Within one year of launching, I improved my credit score by 130 points. I paid off old debts, and established new lines of credit. We boosted Khomari's credit score 120 points.

As the blog grew into a business, my personal needs changed. I went from having traditional employment to being a business owner who pays a team of three people. Thankfully, my journey has forced me to confront old perceptions of success—and establish my own vision of financial freedom.

Setting our financial—and savings—goals

Now, Khomari and I are plotting our financial goals for 2018. Here are a few:

  • Pay off Khomari's $8,500 debt for the cameras he bought to grow his business.
  • Eliminate the $7,100 in credit card debt I created while growing my business.
  • Pay off the remainder of the nearly $2,300 in student loans my mother took out for me.
  • Save $18,000 ($1,500 a month) toward the purchase of a first home, possibly with a Federal Housing Administration loan, or through the Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America. Both offer affordable down-payment options and flexible terms for homes in expensive markets like Los Angeles. This is our two-year goal. Our ultimate goal is to have $50,000 saved—and we plan to aggressively save more in 2019 once our personal debts are eliminated.
  • Save an additional $2,600 in my business savings account, so that I have a backup of 6 months of overhead expenses.
  • Save an additional $3,500 in our emergency household account.
  • Create living wills, and will.
text quotes from Tonya Rapley

In the coming year, there are other expenses that we may need to consider. For example, we may need to travel to New York to care for Khomari's mother, who has been ill. We'd also like to travel to the Philippines, Italy, Japan, and maybe Egypt. There are some things we want to experience—and celebrate—before we grow our family.

This is the first time Khomari and I have identified what our long-term goals are for our household because, honestly, this is the most stable we've been professionally, and financially. Now, we're ready to financially thrive.

And that starts with saving.

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