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The Debt-Free Way to Build a Swimming Pool: Meet a Super Saver

By Lynn Shattuck

  • PUBLISHED December 03
  • |

When Ken Allred and his wife Jennifer went house-hunting in Omaha, NE, a few years ago, they were sold on their future home because of its stunning back deck. “We thought, how nice would it be to have a pool?” Ken Allred says.
When the Allreds did their research, however, they learned that the pool they envisioned would cost—with installation and landscaping fees—an overwhelming $80,000. 

The couple was tempted to borrow money to have the pool installed right away, but they had just finished paying down most of their debts and weren’t eager to acquire more. So they decided to add a line item in their budget for the pool, and began to divert the $800 they’d been paying each month on a recently paid off car loan. They put that into a savings account for the pool.
To reach their goal faster, the Allreds also took a hard look at their existing expenses. “We carved out another $400 each month by cutting back on dining out, renegotiating with the cable company, and really looking at all the nonessential things we could live without today so we could live better later on,” says Ken.
Ken, who is vice president of engineering at a meat processing company, set up automatic transfers from his paycheck to fund the pool account. He used a high yield savings account that wasn’t linked to any of their other accounts, to fend off any temptation to use that money for anything else. “The only way we could access the money was through a wire transfer,” he says.
It wasn’t easy to wait six years to reach their goal, especially during the hot Nebraska summers. “Every summer we had the same discussion, about if we should just take out a home equity loan and build the pool,” Ken says. But instead, the couple revisited their financial goals to reinvigorate their motivation. “For three or four months each year, we’d get really serious and cut out dining out and buying clothes entirely, which allowed us to save another several hundred dollars,” he says.
The couple also contributed about 20% of Ken’s bonuses to the pool account, and reminded themselves of their goal whenever considering other expenditures. “We had to ask ourselves whether we’d rather take the kids on a trip or stay home and be resourceful,” he says.
The Allreds’ discipline paid off—their pool is slated to be open for their family and friends this summer. 

What will they do with the new room in their budget? “We have a basement we’d like to remodel,” Ken says. “We’re in discussions about that right now.”

Lynn Shattuck is a writer living in Maine. Her work has recently appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bankrate and

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