Saving 100% Down for A Home: Part 2

Stepping Out in Faith

I well remember the day we moved. All of our family helped us pack up our little apartment and drive up to Topeka to unload it in our basement apartment there.

It was a bittersweet day. We knew that this was how God was leading us. We were excited to begin the law school experience. But we were so sad to be leaving behind our friends, our family, our church, our community, our jobs — basically everything we’d known for over 20 years.

And we were scared. Our savings was nowhere near enough to live on for three years, so we were going to have to get really creative and resourceful, as well as come up with some sources of income pretty quickly. Since we were in a small town and knew no one, this was going to limit our options (in the past, almost all of our jobs had been offered to us without us even applying or even looking for them!)

But, since we believed this was God’s will, we knew He would provide. So we couldn’t worry about the next three years for long, because we had to dive right in and start figuring out how we were going to make ends meet in the here and now!

We settled into our little basement apartment, Jesse started his classes and I set out to find a job. I had worked as a mother’s helper before we got married and loved this, so I decided to advertise in the local homeschool newsletter to see if there were any families interested in this. Within a month, I was working for three families a total of four days per week, plus I had a regular babysitting job.

Jesse worked part-time virtually for his dad’s business and, between our two incomes, we made enough to just barely cover all our expenses. In the extra time I had while I wasn’t working, I started researching more about work-from-home jobs.

We were hoping we would be blessed with a baby soon and I knew I wanted to stay home as soon as we had children. So I figured now was the time to be preparing for this.

Soon after Jesse began his second semester, we were elated to find out we were expecting! The only problem was that I was soon so sick that I had to quit working. This cut our income in more than half and created quite a bit of anxiety since our outgo was suddenly much more than our income.

Jesse was able to get a job working part-time for an attorney so our income increased some — which was a huge blessing! — and I spent most of my days in bed with the laptop researching anything and everything I could come up with about ways to make money from home. I knew that I needed to come up with a way to make at least $200 extra each month in order for us to barely eek by and not dip into the law school savings.

As most of you who have tried to start a home business from scratch know, making a $200-per-month profit in the beginning is no small task! I’ve recounted my story of how I became a work-at-home mom before, so if you’ve missed that series, be sure to read it here. It wasn’t an easy journey, but I learned so much in the process!

During the last year of law school, we discovered this guy named Dave Ramsey. Jesse started listening to his radio show and kept coming to me all pumped about what he was learning. I really wasn’t too excited. After all, I stubbornly thought, weren’t we pretty smart when it came to finances? Did we really need some guru with a radio show to tell us what to do? I mean, c’mon, we were debt-free, we were living on a budget, we were living beneath our means, and we were giving–even on a very small budget. What more could some guy on the radio really teach us about money?

I drug my feet. I made up excuses. But Jesse persisted in encouraging me to listen to Dave Ramsey. So I finally gave in and said I’d go through Financial Peace University with him. I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything. And maybe, I’d learn something new.

Boy, was I ever stubborn and proud.

After the first week of Financial Peace University, I understood why Jesse was excited about this guy! Dave really knew his stuff, he thought a lot like us, and he was a great communicator. And believe it or not, I was getting a little hooked.

As we went through the next 13 weeks of classes, I learned all sorts of stuff I realized I had no clue about when it came to finances. Things like the various pros and cons of different kinds of insurance, what exactly mutual funds are, and how to wisely prepare for retirement.

But more than the typical financial terminology, I had a complete paradigm shift when it came to money.

I’d always thought it was great to live beneath your means and it was good to give generously, but I’d never really thought extremely long-term concerning money. Nor, had I ever had a strong reason for practicing frugality other than that we had to—or else get ourselves buried beneath loads of debt.

Dave Ramsey gave us a vision. He inspired us to think big, plan ahead, and dream big dreams. Most of all, we were motivated to get our family in the best financial shape possible so that we could bless and help others by being generous givers.

When we were finished with Financial Peace University, we sat down and made some big goals. In fact, the goals were so big, they seemed impossible to us at the time. But we decided to aim for the stars. After all, we figured that even if we didn’t hit them, we’d likely make more traction than if we hadn’t aimed at all!

One of the seemingly-impossible goals we made at that time was to buy a house debt-free within five years of finishing law school. It felt so far-fetched that we didn’t even have the courage to tell anyone else about it. However, we thought that if we really scrimped and saved, we might be able to squeeze out enough extra from our budget to buy a small, very basic fixer-upper home at an incredible deal within five years.

It was also during that last year of law school that our income increased a fair amount. Jesse got a better-paying part-time job working for our state’s Attorney General, and I was finally landing upon some work-at-home jobs which were actually producing a regular part-time income. For the first time in two years, there was actually money left over at the end of some months!

We started realizing that, once Jesse was out of law school and able to work full-time, there was a good possibility we’d be able to save a nice amount of money every month. So we began to talk about our post-law-school financial goals.

Changes After Law School

When Jesse finished law school, by the grace of God, we had no debt and we had a few thousand dollars in savings — thanks to our income increase over the last year of law school.

We were ready to jump in with both feet and start saving everything we could. But first Jesse had to pass the bar. It was a grueling six weeks of study. He took off work and we lived on our savings while he studied.

After the two-day intense bar exam, he went back to working part-time and we waited for the bar results. A lot was hanging on him passing the bar, as we didn’t really have plan B — or the funds to cover another round of studying and prepping for another bar exam if he were to fail the first one.

We were elated to find out about six weeks later that he had passed the bar! He was sworn in as an attorney a few weeks later and began his job as a full-time Assistant Attorney General in Kansas.

For the first time since we were married, we now had a full-time income coming in each month, in addition to the part-time income from my business. We were excited about being able to increase our budget some and start building back up our savings again. It looked like we were “set” for the next few years and it was an amazing feeling to finally be adding to our savings, instead of just depleting it.

In the middle of all this, we were thrilled to find out we were expecting our second child! We started looking at the possibility of moving from our little basement apartment to a duplex and we began thinking of how fun it was going to be to actually be able to afford to splurge on little things every now and then.

There was a very real temptation to want to significantly increase our standard of living. Hadn’t we lived on beans and rice for long enough? Hadn’t we spent enough time wearing secondhand clothes and driving old cars?

Instead, thanks to Dave’s encouragement, we decided to think long-term. Sure, we could easily blow the extra money which was coming in on nicer cars, expensive clothes, lots of restaurant meals, or extravagant purchases. But what would be the point of that?

We’d stopped worrying about impressing people a long time ago, we’d learned that money and things don’t buy happiness, and I really liked getting good deals at the grocery store and elsewhere and couldn’t bear the thought of paying full price for things.

In addition, we also considered the possibility that our income could go down significantly or we could have some major medical crisis. Wouldn’t we rather do all we could now to put ourselves in the best position financially while we had the opportunity?

So instead of going out and buying a house or even increasing our standard of living by much at all, we opted to continue our beans-and-rice budget and sock away as much of our income as we could into savings.

And that was a good thing, because God had other plans… plans much different than we could have imagined.

Just a few weeks later, much to our surprise, the Kansas Attorney General was defeated in the October election. In hindsight, I’m not sure why we never considered this outcome; I guess we were walking around on Cloud Nine, wearing rose-colored glasses.

Needless to say, this was a major blow. In fact, I remember standing there watching the concession speech with the biggest knot in my throat and the sickest feeling in my stomach. All our dreams, plans and hopes seemed to be dashed to pieces right then and there. Jesse didn’t feel comfortable working for the elected Attorney General for a variety of reasons, but that meant he was left jobless once the new Attorney General came into office.

The next eight weeks were a rollcoaster ride. Something would come up and it would look like a great job possibility only to have it fall through the next day.

Near the end of the year, we started feeling a little desperate. Nothing was turning up on the horizon and Jesse had already turned down the opportunity to stay on at the Attorney General’s office under the new administration (a decision we were starting to seriously question, even though we prayed about it and had felt strongly that’s what God wanted us to do!).

At the very last moment, a job opened up in Kansas City. It wasn’t Jesse’s first choice for a job and it looked like it probably would only be a two-year position, but it was our best option at that point. So, in a record five day’s time, we packed up our little apartment, found a rental in Kansas City and moved.

Little did we dream what difficulties lay just ahead of us in Kansas City.

Share This:

Subscribe for free email updates from Money Saving Mom® and get my Guide to Freezer Cooking for free!

Read Newer Post
«
Read Older Post
»

Comments

  1. Amy says

    Ahh! I can’t wait to hear the rest…although we sort of know…but looking forward to hearing more. You have such a gift of sharing/encouraging with your own life. Thanks for blessing so many, including me. Keep up the great work. Your children are so blessed to have you and Jesse as parents. What a legacy! Blessings to all of your family.

  2. Saver says

    Is there a way to help people who say they are poor but feel they can only eat expensive organic foods? I try to feed my family healthy foods but organic can get very expensive. Is it ok to go in to debt to get the best foods available?

    • Heather says

      @Saver, In my opinion, it is not okay to go into debt for organic food. Get what organic you can afford, and go conventional for the rest! Not all organic food is that healthy, anyway (ie. organic cookies).

  3. Andrea says

    We two went to financial peace university about 2 years ago and really opened our eyes too. Now we use Dave all the time and love the envelope system. We have already paid off one car and have 2 more months on another car then we will work at paying off student loans. Then we will be debt free.

  4. says

    I’m so excited for you, Crystal! What you’ve done is absolutely fantastic. There are a lot of parallels in our lives. My parents were extraordinarily frugal when I was growing up (to the point where we never had a car because we could walk everywhere we needed to go just fine!), and it paid off big time; they ended up owning two homes outright and had no debt whatsoever. I inherited one of these houses after my mom passed away suddenly in 2003 – my heart aches that she can’t be here to enjoy the fruits of all their labor, but I am doing my best to honor the legacy I was left by using it wisely and planning towards my own big goals. And let me tell you, my mom would have been so proud of all my coupon-clipping! :)

  5. says

    Crystal,
    You should write a book!! You writing is wonderful… so touching. I feel you relate so well to most of us might be thinking or doing! Thanks so much for all that you do! May God bless you!

    Katie

  6. Michelle Burkhart says

    My husband and I facilitate Financial Peace University at our church! I love to see you write about it! I feel very strongly about his teachings! Thanks for getting the information out there! Let me know if you ever need any more info! :)

  7. says

    I agree! Don’t leave us hanging! I read Dave Ramsey’s, “The Total Money Makeover” after reading the first installment of your story. I was able to get it from the library but as soon as I can afford it I am going to get my own. I have hoped for years that dh and I could somehow get on to the same page. Because of you it’s starting to happen faster. I have been doing the coupon clipping thing for years out of sheer necessity. We are in a bad predicament right now because dh is trying to live bigger than we can afford. Just this morning we had a major disagreement about his spending on something that cost $100 while assuming all was fine and dandy. Dh has an income source via paypal that I don’t have access to. I had told him a week ago that one of our basic utilities was about to be shut off and that I would try to get an extension. I got the extension but it wasn’t a big one. I went off the info he gave me as to when his next check would be in our hands. It still isn’t here and when I asked him about it he hit the fan. He accused me of not keeping him up to date, etc. I then reminded him of our previous conversation. You could have heard a pin drop. As the realization washed over his face I felt bad for him but this one was his. The Lord gave me a miracle in that I was able to get another extension but I’m no longer willing to live this way. And come heck or high water I think I won’t have to. We all have to have a changed heart in order to work together in a marriage regarding money. We’ve been married a long time and I’m hoping that now is the time that these shackles will begin to be removed. Thank you for sharing your story. We needed to find Dave Ramsey and we did because of you.

  8. Anna Espinoza says

    Please…oh, please…post Part 3 soon! I check your site all the time, but even more so because I cannot wait for you to finish your story! You have inspired me so much to change our ways!

  9. Susan says

    I love your series!!! Can’t wait to read the rest. Because of you introducing us to Dave Ramsey, we have sold our current, way too expensive for us, house (escrow to close next month), and have a contract on a foreclosure house. Our new house payment will be 50% cheaper than the one we currently have! Although I wish that we could have had a bigger down payment for this new house (we actually have to PAY money to get out of our current house), I am still very excited about being able to save so much money every month! Thank you!!!!!!

  10. Kim says

    I’m a new reader to your blog and I’m very excited to hear about your saving and clipping. We completed FPU in Dec 2007 and are on baby step #4. Yahoo! It’s so hard some times when it feels like everyone around you is buying this or that and going on vacations. But I know we are doing the right thing for our family. The zero-based budget has been a true blessing to us these last 13 months. My husband’s job has been having shut down days/weeks with little notice and I’m a stay at home mom to our 4 kids. I am thankful that he has a job and I’m even more thankful that if he would come home some day and tell me he’s been let go that we would be OK. It’s great having a plan!

  11. Amber says

    Ack!! I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for the next installment and you leave me with another cliffhanger!! Love the inspiration!

  12. Katie says

    Hi Crystal,

    This is the reason why I love your blog, you take the theory and apply it so that we can all watch (oops read) and learn! You have such an engaging way of writing that I feel I know you. I have read umpteen budgeting blogs but yours is the only one that truly speaks to a family. We have saved lots down to your practical advice.

    Thanks

    Katie

    P.S. We made the brown sugar twists this afternoon and they are delicious (admittedly not so aesthetically pleasing as yours). I might add cinnamon to the brown sugar as a bit more of a twist.

  13. says

    What a great testimony to Financial Peace University!
    My husband and I took FPU last year and it changed our lives….it is truly what Crystal has written here – life-changing, smart & liberating :)
    We are looking forward to “living like no one else” and “giving like no one else”.

  14. says

    It’s is so great to hear other people tell their stories about taking FPU. My husband and I took it at our church last summer. It has changed our way of thinking about finances and I wish that we knew about it sooner! We’re still in baby step 2 but hope to be out it soon. Thanks for spreading his message, I think that everyone should hear it!!

  15. Nancy says

    I am really enjoying your blog. I looked up Dave Ramsey after reading your first installment and immediately checked out all his books from the library. My husband and I are almost finished with step 1. Thank you so much for all you do.

  16. Kristen says

    We are one step closer to being Debt Free and can’t wait!!! Dave Ramsey is an amazing man with a wonderful financial plan. We started his class a year ago – and it changed our marriage! Living in an apartment for a few year wasn’t what we had planned – but owning a house will be more enjoyable when we are debt free! Thanks for all your encouragement!

  17. says

    Great cliff-hanger!!! Looking forward to the next installment! I am familar with Dave Ramsey but haven’t read any of his books or taken his course–maybe it’s time my husband and I do that!!

  18. Shelley Gardiner says

    I love reading Dave Ramsey stories!! Thanks for sharing. My husband and I received the book “Total Money Makeover” from our employer last year. We started our total money makeover in April and have paid off over half of our debt since then. (all our debt except for our mortgage) the program really works and I highly recommend it. Thanks to websites like yours, we are able to stick to our grocery budget!!

  19. michelle says

    my husband and i are going through financial peace classes now and i LOVE it! i think it will change out lives!

  20. Jenna says

    I am so excited about all this, my husband was amazed to hear that you were able to even pull it off, definitely has him interested. I am really curious about FPU, would you recommend it to everyone? And did you guys go with the basic $99 package, or the more expensive one and why? Want to take the classes, but need to persuade the hubby into it.

    Thanks!

  21. Jenni says

    Hi Crystal,

    I’ve been reading your blog for sometime, and have really learned a lot from how you budget. I’m so glad to hear that you’ve finally reached your goal of paying for a home in cash, but was wondering if you could address one of the questions I’ve always had: did most of the money you guys were saving each month come from just your husband’s extra salary, or were there other streams of income? And if there were other streams, what percentage, roughly, did those other streams represent in how much extra you could set aside each month?

    The reason I ask this is that I’ve seen budgets you’ve posted in the past, and sometimes we’ve actually lived on less than the budgets you’ve posted, but there’s no way we could set aside enough to save for a house in 3-5 years. I’m guessing that part of this is due to living on a teacher’s salary in California v. a lawyer’s salary in Kansas, but I also know that you’ve said in the past that your husband doesn’t earn six figures, and that just because he’s a lawyer doesn’t mean he’s rolling in money.

    I guess I’m just wondering what the biggest ways are to increase your other streams of income. I don’t find taking surveys or squeezing our already lean food budget just a bit more to be a way that we could set aside a couple of extra thousand each month. I hope I’m not being too nosy in asking this – I know it’s probably not safe to post specific figures, but I’m more just curious as to where most of the money came from (i.e. blogging revenue, other streams of income, etc.).

    Feel free to ignore this question if you don’t want to answer it :).

    Thanks,

    Jenni

    • Crystal says

      @Jenni, Great question! A substantial portion of what we’ve saved in the last two years has come from extra income sources–not from my husband’s earnings as a lawyer (I’ll be talking more about this in Part 3). However, his income has increased quite a bit in the last year (he started his own law firm and it has taken off and done much better than we could have ever hoped!), so that will be changing here in the next year!

      If you’re living on a lean budget already and finding you can’t squeeze much out of it, I’d highly recommend looking for ways to increase your income instead. There are thousands of ways to do this–and we have many more ideas than we’ll ever have time for! Start looking, start trying things, keep at it, get creative, and you just might be amazed. We certainly have been!

      • Jenni says

        @Crystal,

        Thanks for answering this. I know you’ve been blogging for a long time, and have really put time and energy into finding whatever ways you can to earn money from home. I’m glad to see that it’s paying off, and that all along the way you’ve stayed true to God and family in the midst of your efforts. I’m not sure I’m that good of a blogger, but am trying other things right now. We’ll see :).

  22. joezapp says

    You sound like a clone of me! Always drove old cars, ate inexpensively (but healthy!), and I now get my clothes at thrifts. I’ve lived within my means. So much so that I’ve saved enough to retire at 44. But I DID make one big mistake which is the difference between being able to retire with comfort, and being able to retire WEALTHY. I rented for 14 years. If I had bought 10 years earlier, I’d be SO much better off than I am now. And, I also had plans of paying cash for a house.

    The fact is…there is nothing wrong with putting down a nice down payment and taking on a mortgage. The time lost not owning is worse. You miss out on price appreciation and tax deductions. And, of course, your rent is just thrown away as profit for someone else’s business.

    The way to do it is to put down at least 20% to avoid PMI, and do a lot of research to find the lowest rate **15 YEAR** mortgage you can find, with low fees. Rates are still considered low. If you’re not thrilled paying that rate of interest, you can make additional principal payments that will drastically cut down the term of your loan. Remember, too, that you are not in debt if your assets are more than your liabilities. Bills to pay, yes. But not in debt.

    With all my earnest saving and frugal living in my lifetime, that is my biggest and MOST COSTLY mistake. I urge you to start looking for a low-priced home and get a low-rate mortgage soon, before you miss the boat!

  23. Michelle D. says

    I left an earlier comment about paying for our house in cash, but it was deleted? :( I want to stress the importance of not neglecting other financial areas of your life as well. We own our house outright, but additionally, we fully fund our IRAs each year, have an emergency fund, normal savings and investments.

    Also, don’t get caught up in SPAVING (spending to save). Be choosy about which deals you chase.

    • Crystal says

      @Michelle D., Michelle, it must have not come through because I certainly didn’t delete it. :(

      We’re definitely huge believers in first getting a good 3-6 month emergency fund and having good insurance in place as well as setting aside money for retirement while saving. That way, in case a crisis happens while you’re saving, it doesn’t sink you!

      We cut back on retirement savings some while saving for our house just because we’re young and have time on our hands. But now that our house savings is complete, we’re bumping up our retirement savings as well as our children’s savings accounts.

      And yes, how much you spend is much more important than how much you save! We need to be reminded of that over and over again. That’s why it’s important to have a budget and stick within those parameters.

      Thanks for your input!

  24. Heidi says

    Wow, hanging with bated breath here!
    I follow your website almost daily and really enjoy reading your more intimate things like this, you seem to be kindred spirit. In fact the Dave Ramsey thing got me all excited, we took the class three years ago, and my husband now actually teaches (or facilitates, Dave really teaches it!) the class at our church, he just started his fourth class. I commend you for “living now like no one else, so later you can live like no one else”.

  25. Zena says

    Ok , If you can make it…we can. God does have a way of speaking through people you don’t even know. You have no idea what this means to me right now. God continue to bless you.

  26. Becky says

    I’ve been watching for part three and have yet to see it?! Did I miss it somehow? I am dying to know the rest of the story!