Behind the Screen Interview Series – Garrett and Claudia of Two Cup House
I have another first for you this week. 2 for the price of 1! We are getting to glimpse behind the screen of our first couple Claudia and Garrett of Two Cup House. They are closing in on their last mortgage payment and have totally changed their lifestyle by moving into a tiny house. If you are new to the concept of tiny house living you should definitely take a look at it. In a world where the average house size has nearly doubled over the past 50 years they are bucking the trend and adopting a minimalist mindset.
Let’s talk a little bit about who you are and where you are coming from. Tell me about your money journey? What got you started in learning about personal finance?
Garrett: My journey started at the age of 14 with my first job. As a kid with a steady paycheck, I had lots of money to blow. Looking back, this is most likely where I developed the bad habit that continued for 20 years. I went to college using loans. After college, I went out and “bought” (loan) a new car, a “project car,” the big house, and basically everything else I wanted. The results were roughly $185,000 of debt. This is when Claudia and I got married.
Since Claudia and I had similar spending habits, we continued to spend until we reached $200,000 in debt. We constantly played the yo-yo game with credit card balances. As the frustration and stress began to build, we reached the breaking point. One evening while I was traveling for business, I received a call from Claudia. She had found a $3,500 lot for a small house. We knew making this one step, downsizing, would eliminate $155,000 of our debt.
This is when the Two Cup House blog started. Since then, we have continued to focus on eliminating all debts, reducing expenses, increasing incomes through multiple sources and investing in our future.
Claudia: I started working at age 14, but it was to help support my family. My parents didn’t manage money well and always seemed to be running short on cash. I thought going to college would be my ticket to financial security, but I repeated some of the mistakes my parents had with money.
At age 29, I decided I didn’t want to live with so much debt anymore, so I started reading personal finance blogs to help us better manage our money. We downsized our home last year and are just months away from being completely debt free. We track our debt on a page on our own personal finance blog.
What would you say the biggest money obstacle has been for you to overcome?
Garrett: Eliminating the mindset that debt is okay.
Claudia: Convenience! When everything is a drive-through, it makes convenience food too easy to consume (and waste a ton of cash on). Learning how to plan meals was definitely a huge obstacle for us.
How has overcoming that obstacle changed you?
Garrett: By mentally saying “debt = bad,” we started to question all purchases, began to figure out ways to eliminate debts and ways to earn/save additional money to eliminate the debt we had. This paradigm shift resulted in us questioning the 30-year mortgage we had on the big house. Since debt=bad, we decided to eliminate our largest debt: the big house. We downsized from a 1,500 sq feet to a 536 sq feet house. This one step had a chain reaction of positivity. We’ve reduced debt from $240,000 to about $56,000 today. We have reduced our stress levels and improved our health. We have also found that we have tons more time to do the things we want to do rather than mow a big yard, remodel, or clean a big house.
Claudia: Honestly, we have not 100% tackled our grocery budget, but I’d say we’re 90% of the way there. Overcoming (much of) the obstacle of convenience has changed us in several ways. Now that we don’t eat at restaurants or get fast food as much, we’ve lost weight, paid off tons of debt, and we have a lot more energy.
Are there any obstacles you are still working on ?
Claudia: We’re also working on our emergency savings. Recently, we had some car repairs done, which nearly depleted our savings. Knowing how much is right for us to save in our emergency savings account is a struggle.
There’s a moment in the Godfather 3 when Michael Corleone is trying to get out of the “Family Business”, and he says: “Every time I try to get out, they pull me back in.” What is one bad money habit you just can’t seem to shake?
Claudia: Trying to take the easy way out and get [insert bad, but convenient food here] for dinner. When we’re tired, the last thing we want to do is cook, so we go to a restaurant and end up overspending. We’re trying to resume meal planning and prepping food on the weekends knowing that the middle to the end of the week is a struggle.
If you were to start your money journey all over what would you do differently?
Garrett: It would have been great to start this process earlier in life.
Claudia: I worked hard to get to college, but I would have worked harder to find more scholarships so as to avoid student loan debt.
What is your proudest money accomplishment?
Claudia: September 2015. We moved into the small house, which was a huge step toward reducing our living expenses. It was also the same month we paid off our credit card debt.
Who is your money hero?
Garrett: Robert Kiyosaki
Claudia: Robert Kiyosaki presented a different way of thinking about earning a living that really opened my eyes!
What was your worst money mistake?
Garrett: Buying the big house
Claudia: Buying a brand new car
What was your first money lesson?
Garrett: Track your spending using a tool like Mint. You’ll be surprised where your money really goes.
Claudia: Money is scarce, which I have since accepted is untrue.
What money habits do you see in yourself (or others if you are perfect) that make you cringe?
Garrett: Using more water than I should. It’s a minor expense right now, but when we go to our Tiny House aka Two Cup House, the cost of sourcing water will go up, especially in environments where we would need to be off the grid.
Claudia: When I don’t stop to think about the consequences before swiping, I cringe later! I am much better today, but I know we’ve tossed a lot of stuff that we bought in our “spendy” days but never used.
Would you classify yourself as a Spender or a Saver?
Garrett: Reformed spender but looking forward to be a saver/investor.
Claudia: Reformed spender
What’s the one personal finance book that had the biggest impact in your life?
Garrett: Cashflow Quadrant
Claudia: Think and Grow Rich!
Ok now for some non-money questions. Let’s give our readers a glimpse of what makes you who you really are.
Give me a list of your top 5 foods?
Garrett: pizza, blueberries, blackberries, cheesecake and tacos
Claudia: nectarines, blackberries, blueberries, pizza, and tacos
What is your favorite drink (alcohol or non-alcohol)?
What kind of daily traditions or habits do you have?
Garrett: I always start the morning by reading a book. Refraining from looking at my phone between the hours of 7:30PM and 8AM has turned me into a reader.
Claudia: I get up at 5:30 a.m. and go to the gym. When I return home, I read a chapter from whatever book I happen to be in the middle of and then cook breakfast. Shower, pack lunch, and then it’s off to work I go. 🙂
Which group do you fall into:
Apple of Samsung? Apple!
Coke or Pepsi? Coke!
Coffee or Tea? Coffee!
Night owl or morning bird?
Claudia: Night owl, but I’m digging the morning bird routine.
Garrett: Neither. I love to sleep.
I’m a huge music fan, what’s one (or more) of your favorite albums?
Garrett: All the Pink Floyd albums
Claudia: I listen to so many musicians that I couldn’t pin down a favorite album. I enjoy listening to everything from Enya to Metallica to Fever Ray and more.
What’s the one movie you could watch over and over again and never get tired of it?
Garrett: Into the Wild
Claudia: The American President
What book are you reading right now?
Garrett: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Claudia: Tax-Free Wealth by Tom Wheelwright
Finish this sentence with the first thing that comes to mind
Garrett: I would rather hike than be at work.
Claudia: I would rather wash dishes than cook dinner.
Do you have a favorite quote?
Claudia: I saw it on a t-shirt once, but I can’t find the source: “I will not tiptoe through life only to arrive safely at death.”
Where can people find you online if they want to get ahold of you? (Think social media accounts)
Thanks you two! This was a great interview. Make sure to head over to their site. It’s one of my favs.