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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.

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  1. Amyd says

    I am sorry to hear of your husbands lay off. Hopefully this will be a short one. Be very thankful you have such a good savings built up already as it will get you through a rough time! I think you are very fortunate to have it to rely on. So many people don’t have a penny saved. Your hard work will get you through this and other rough times!

  2. says

    I have been waiting for the continuation from your last post–ahhh–now to wait for the next one :) I love these posts! They are so inspiring and encouraging! We started FPU a year ago and my husband made “what I thought was a crazy goal” of becoming debt free by 2010–well, we are only about one month away from being debt free, and we even had a baby in August and we paid all the medical bills in cash–I am thankful for my husband’s “crazy” idea and Dave Ramsey’s class! Thanks for sharing your story!

  3. Erin says

    Cliff-hanger!!! I can’t wait to find out what happens next. My husband and I leave as debt free as we can, but nothing as committed as this. You are truly and inspiration. And you write so well, you should do a book! Millions of people would be intrigued enough to buy it! I know I would! Thanks again Crystal…you make me try more every day.

  4. Jennifer says


    I thought you already posted this entry and I was left hanging last time and now again. Please post part two and let us know the outcome. But I guess you did alright considering you saved 100% pay off on a home. Kudos to your family.

  5. Susie says

    Thanks so much for sharing! I can’t wait to hear the rest!! I am so inspired by your blog. Your blog has been a huge factor in motivating us to change out financial outlook and set bigger goals. Thank you!

  6. Andrea says

    Yes, please continue the story! If you’re anywhere close to being able to buy that house, now is a great time to do it!!!!

  7. Meghan says

    I understand about having a goal that seems so crazy and audacious that you don’t want to tell anyone about it. My husband and I have been dreaming for awhile about taking a year-long, around-the-world trip with our two boys. We’ve been reading, researching, and budgeting, but in the beginning our goal seemed so crazy that we didn’t even tell our families. Well, we’ve figured out what we have to do to accomplish our goal financially, started working towards it, and we’re finally sharing our dream with our family and friends. Sharing our goal not only motivates us, but it also holds us somewhat accountable and keeps us on track with our savings/budgeting.

    • Heather says

      @Meghan, oh my goodness! My husband and I would love love love love to do this BEFORE we have kids! The military makes it difficult, but we’re hoping to see as much of this world as possible in the two years we’ve given ourselves before trying for a family — my husband’s biological clock is ticking! :)

  8. says

    Sorry to hear that! .. I took Dave Ramsey’s class many years ago. I think I was too young to grasp the planning for the future part. But, if you we’re implementing his ideas then I am sure one of them is to have an emergency fund. I believe he said somewhere that it should be a few months worth of income. Don’t quote me on that. Hopefully, your husband has some form of unemployment benefits. I will pray for your family. And yes, beautifully written!

  9. says

    Like a soap opera here! :)

    It is so helpful to me to read about the challenges of others and learn from their lessons. When my husband and I married in 2002, I was quitting my job to begin graduate school and he had just finished his BS. He had difficulty finding work in his field and had to take a suboptimal job driving a forklift in a warehouse so that I would qualify for in-state tuition.

    We managed to save 20% down for our home within two years and I graduated with my Masters degree, and shortly after we bought our house!

    A few years later, we had our first child. When she was 10 months old, he lost his job. Thankfully we too were so used to living below our means, that we did not have to rely on credit or otherwise borrow to get through the next 6-month period until he found a new full-time position. His new position is so much better for him and our family.

    Now our daughter is 3 and we’re expecting a new baby in July. Our house is 80% paid off- less than 6 years after we bought it.

    I agree- it would be SO EASY to just blow the money on fancy clothes, dining out, a cleaning lady, nicer new cars or umpteen other things.

    But honestly, it’s not what we want and we don’t believe it is what God wants us to do with the blessings we’ve been given.

    Looking forward to your next installment!

  10. says

    You are doing more than share your experiences- you are helping change lives! Thank you for your openess and allowing God to use your family to show His glory. I love Dave Ramsey too, but hearing from a woman’s perspective is a little easier on the ears for me. I hope you post part 2 soon!

  11. says

    WOW! I know, it takes discipline to even begin down the road of the less traveled – being debt free -but then to see your dreams shattered by something completely out of your control… even knowing God is faithful…
    Can’t wait for the rest of the story!

  12. says

    I got laid off THREE days after we put our house on the market and put in an offer on a bigger one. The homeowners were very nice and did not make us pay a penalty. But it was insane. And WAY before we learned financial restraint. I learned fast though. Talk about a harsh lesson. We are very careful to live below our means now. And thank goodness, because we have had medical bills o’plenty.

  13. Carrie says

    Thanks so much for sharing this. You are a major encouragement to me. We’re working on getting debt free (Dave Ramsey style), and we just encountered a minor set-back that throws off our financial goals time-line. It’s easy to get discouraged, but reading this was just the encouragement that I needed to keep plugging away!

  14. Jessica says

    Always leaves us hanging :) Such an inspiring story…hope you share the rest very soon!! Congratulations on all your hard work!

  15. says

    Hi, I’m really enjoying this series. We are going to try to save up 100% for a house too, we are a middle income earning family, and already own a small home, but we are a family of 6, so really need more space. I started a blog this month to document our journey to do so, and to share with others what I know and learning.

  16. janaki says

    My parents and my previous generation had/have the same mentality as you do, even i have the same idea regarding Financial Health for a family. Love you post

  17. Lisa says

    I agree, you’re a great writer. Its funny you’re always talking about Dave Ramsey. My mom (the very frugal one) asked me if I had read his books before and I had told her “no” and hadn’t recognized the name. Then just the other day she asked me again about the book and I said wait….. I know a blogger that loves him and just paid off her house using his techniques. I’m very impressed with your success and determination.

  18. says

    Your story is so inspiring! I can’t wait to hear more. Especially the next part… my husband’s job is ending in February, and he hasn’t found a new one despite several months of looking and despite being a highly trained and educated engineer. I want to hear about how you were able to hang onto your plans despite that obstacle, as I am concerned about doing the same thing now.

  19. Caroline says

    Wonderful blog! I enjoy reading your blog as the wife of an attorney (now 12 years out of law school)! We too lived on beans and rice during law school, and managed to graduate with very little debt. (He had debt from the first year before we married….) Paying cash for your house will make life so much easier in the long term. Wish we’d done that!

  20. Tasha says

    We just completed Financial Peace University. We are not debt free, but we are working hard to get there. Taking the classes is the best thing we could have done for our finances. We had a pland and were determined to get debt free, but taking the classes gave us a clearer plan of what to do once the debt is paid off.

    I would recommend the classes to everyone no matter what stage of life they are in. It will transform the way you look at your finances.


  21. Allison says

    Good for you! I’m jealous….we had a house but got foreclosed a few years ago. :( We have been debt free for a year, but it will be a while before there’s any extra to save, let alone pay the basic bills easily! I know God is providing though, and I’ve learned a lot about contentment these last few years.

  22. Lindsay says

    I love hearing these financial stories from you! I am also the wife of an attorney who hasn’t been out of school too long. People always think that because my husband is an attorney that we have all kinds of money and that we don’t need to save our money. Those people are so WRONG!! Every dollar you can save helps! It dosen’t matter who you are, we can all benefit from saving money!! Thank you Money Saving Mom!!

  23. Ami says

    I keep you in my thoughts. Very beautifully written and keeps me filled with hope that I too can have savings built up the way you have to put my mind at ease if the unexpected ever happens to me or buying my first home as a single mom on my own. I too know that it will happen, may not right away, but it will.

  24. Sheila says

    Don’t leave me hanging is exactly what I planned to say, but I see Katherine beat me to it =-) Hope you plan to continue it tomorrow?? Now I’m off to listen to Dave Ramsey online 😉

  25. says

    When did you husband lose his job? That cannot be a good thing. Then again, I see this is a series you started back in december, so I’m assuming things are better now? Praying for ya!

  26. Susan says

    Thank you for your example. I’ve started a 5 year plan for myself in paying off debts and paying down my mortgage so that by the end of 2014, I can move from Chicago to Central IL to be closer to my family and build a house for myself down there. It will be a HUGE stretch to have my current home paid off by then, but I’m hoping to be able to have my 2nd mortgage paid off and digging into my main mortgage. Thank you for the example that this CAN be done!

  27. Susan says

    I agree I love reading about your financial strides and I am only 22 it inspires me to buy my first house and pay cash for it!

  28. says

    I can’t wait to read more!

    I can totally identify with the reluctance to learn more about finances! I feel like we are doing everything we can, but you’ve inspired me to see what I am missing, thanks!

  29. says

    I struggle with thinking about money long term because I could get hit by a bus tomorrow! I’m not into big houses, cars, clothes, etc., but I love travel and food! It’s a tough balancing act to save for the future while still enjoying these things in the present.

  30. Jodie says

    I have been following your blog for awhile now and just wanted to let you know how inspirational your story is. Looking forward to hearing the rest….

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