Monthly Financial Check-up

We’re excited because, after we paid our taxes a few weeks ago, we had some extra money in our tax savings account to throw towards our savings goals. This allowed us to be able to fully fund the amount of educational savings we’ve decided to set aside for Kathrynne. Since she’s our oldest, we’re setting aside the most for her as she won’t have as much time for the interest to compound on the money.

So now we just need to save for Kaitlynn and Silas and then we can move onto our final two financial goals for this year. I have no idea if we’ll actually be able to hit both of them, but we’re at least going to try!

We also have been doing a lot of talking about our upcoming goal of saving to invest in real estate. We were initially planning to invest in commercial real estate, but the more we’ve studied, read and talked, the more we’re leaning towards residential real estate. We’re hopeful we might be able to pay cash for our first piece of real estate by the middle of 2012. We’ll see!

Our Family’s Financial Goals for the Summer of 2010 through December 2011

1. Significantly increase our giving to needs in our community and around the world. This is an ongoing goal, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set.

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van.

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs (for 2010).

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income.

8. Fund our children’s educational savings — Kathrynne’s is finished

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

10. Save 40% towards our real estate investing goal.

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

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  1. says

    Congrats on reaching some amazing goals! Our goal right now? Keep our heads above water and continue living debt free! We made a decision a little over a month ago for me to quit my job…decreasing our monthly income by 1/3. It’s a tight, tight budget, but it allows me to be at home with our kids, at least into the fall/winter. It means we’re not saving right now, but we’ve got an emergency fund we can fall back on if we need to. We’re hoping that in another year and a half with my hubby graduates from college (again) we’ll be in a whole different place financially and be able to make some huge gains. For now though? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

    • Megan says

      I think it’s awesome that you’re going to be able to be home with your kids!! I think, in the long run, that is MUCH more important then simply having a large bank account. :)

  2. Megan says

    I hope this isn’t a stupid question – but what amount is a good goal to ‘fully fund’ a child’s educational savings? It’s something that we want to do soon for our children, but we don’t really even know where to start.

    • says

      Yes I have the same question so it can’t be stupid, lol!! Does “fully fund” mean an annual amount that you have decided on or the ENTIRE cost of her education?! Thanks!!

      • Stephanie says

        I wondered that as well, but I am thinking there are probably limits like there are with retirement accounts?

    • Bre says

      It depends on the age of the child and the type of account you set up. If you have an ESA than you can contribute $2K max a year per child. If you have a 529 there is just a lifetime limit of between $100K-$365K depending on the state you have it in… Basically I’ve heard if you start when the child is born and invest $200 a month, every month, the account should have over $100K by the time the child is 18. Hope that helps!

      • Patti says

        I encourage everyone to put aside what they can towards their child’s education but there is no guarantee that it will be enough or will even make a dent. We, too, were told to invest $200 a month until my child reached 18 and we would have his college paid for. Well, today he is 18 and one of our accounts (an annuity) is going to pay his first semester and our other savings ($1000 birthday savings bonds) is going to be enough to pay another semester. Yep, that is how much “interest” we have earned. According to FAFSA, we earn too much for him to be awarded any money and,even with his excellent GPA, he has won no scholarships. We are not discouraged, however, because we are frugal to a fault so we are going to “eat beans” and make it!! It is just a season in our life and we are determined to do it WITHOUT dipping into our retirement savings. So save! save! save! but be aware that interest may not pan out and college tuition will keep going up.

        • Julie says

          As some one mentioned to me a while ago. You can take a loan out (or your kids can) on their education, but you can’t take a loan out for retirement! If I can’t fully fund my four kids education, they have three options: 1. one work until they have the money, 2. take out a loan or 3. not go! But I will not go into debt and sacrafice my retirement for their education. I know to many it is going to sound harsh. But THEIR college education is not something I am willing to go in debt for.
          Just my personal opinion.

          • Bethany says

            I agree, Julie. My oldest just finished her second year of college. She had enough grants and scholarships that her first year was covered. Her second year she had to take out a small loan. For the Spring semester of her second year she got a job as a resident assistant in the dorms. She gets free room and a small monthly stipend. If they are motivated they can do it.

    • Carey says

      I think Crystal’s goals are great and she’s an awesome inspiration to work hard and save hard in order to meet our financial goals. But, everyone’s abilities and goals are different. I would recommend using a college savings calculator (like this one: to get an idea of what you might want to start saving towards your children’s education.

    • Linda says

      Thats a great question, I would like to know too. I have older children and it might be to late for them, but I also have younger children and I want to start. We were thinking a Roth IRA and hope that with the interest it will be enough to at least help them out. They might have to work. Right now we are just trying to do baby step number one. So, hoping we get that done and work on our debt, we might start in the next year or so.

  3. Melissa N. says

    I admire and am in awe of how well you guys do with money. We are out of credit card debt and own one car. I have paid off my student loans too. We have a 3 year loan for my husbands new car (1.9% interest rate!) and a 30 year home mortgage. We are much better off than most of the couples we know and I am very proud of our hard work. Though we still have a long way to go. I feel our accomplishments pale in comparison to yours.

    • Whitney says

      Don’t compare yourself to others too much Melissa – it really sounds like you guys are in a great spot financially! Just keep in mind that every family has different careers and thus different incomes. You shouldn’t compare your financial status with another family when one or the other may make a significant amount more (or less) than the other. I love reading Crystal’s post as a guide however, I am fairly convinced that her husband makes quite a lot more than mine – we’re talking attorney’s income vs. mechanic income, let’s just stay realistic here! 😉

      • Courtney says

        It’s true that Crystal’s husband is an attorney – but just to give credit where it’s due, don’t forget that Crystal is also a very successful businesswoman and probably makes an excellent income :)

    • Sue says

      I know what you are saying Melissa. I am inspired by what is written here but I can get down about it also. I am always like… “how do they do it so fast?” Whitney is right though.. try not to compare yourself to others.. it is hard to do cause it just sometimes seems that things are happening for others faster than you. You will get it done.. it just may take more time.
      Sue in NJ

      • Stephanie says

        I feel that way a lot too, we are in a very different financial situation and sometimes I get discouraged that we are not able to do the many things we want, like save for our children’s education, but it’s just not possible right now. We are far from frivolous with our money, but we are in survival mode and that’s just the way it is! Either way, God is still faithful!

        • Kristine says

          I feel the same way. My husband had to switch careers a few years ago and start all over at an entry-level job in another state. I’m a stay-at-home mom, and our finances have been very tight. It’s been a struggle just to pay for our basic expenses–food, rent, gas–let alone saving anything. It’s easy to get discouraged sometimes, especially when reading about others who are in a better spot financially. But I wouldn’t trade the time that I can spend with my kids for any amount of money.

      • Jessica says

        And living in NJ isn’t typically a low cost area. It’s hard too when you do make a decent living, but your area is so expensive, it never feels that way. You just pay taxes and mortgage, and there is barely anything left. But, this is where the job is….

    • says

      It does sound like you are doing well. I agree with what others have said that 99.9% of the people reading this post would get discouraged if they compared themselves to this. I have read these posts at times, and, like you, gotten a bit discouraged. We are doing really well relative to most people and meeting our goals, so why did I feel discouraged. I finally realized are that our goals just look completely different than these. Not only are we not at this point yet, but we never will be, nor do we really want to be ever. We have no goals of investing in real estate (besides purchasing our own home to live in one day), probably will not pay for all of our future children’s college, and we won’t pay cash for our home. It’s really about how well we are meeting our own personal goals! Everyone’s circumstances are different. You can be every bit as successful as Crystal here if you are meeting whatever goals you have just like she is meeting the goals that are appropriate for her.

      • says

        Yes, please do not be discouraged! I share this to hopefully inspire you to make the most of where you are, to work hard and dream big dreams — but what is a “big dream” for you will be completely different than what a “big dream” is for someone else.

        • Toni says

          I also believe that with commitment on the part of the student, along with partnership by the parents, college IS attainable with little or no debt. There are grants if they qualify. The student can go to a community college (for at least the first 2 years, if not all 4) and live at home for lower tuition. The student can hold a part time job and attend school part time, taking perhaps 6 years (or even more if necessary) to graduate. There are co-op programs. If the parent’s schedule is shift work, some overtime might be an option to help pay. Really, if your child is college bound (and by that, I mean determined, focused, and willing to work hard for it), there are alternate ways to make it happen. Even if you can only set aside the cost of books, it would go a loooong way to achieving the college goal.

          I was laid off from my full time job when we had just purchased a home (hadn’t even moved in yet but too late to back out of the sale). My dh was only part time at that time. First mortgage, down a full time income, having to make it on a part time income. I entered our local community college and earned my degree as a registered nurse (a 2 year program, one of the best in our state even against 4 year colleges, with good pay.) We were totally determined to get me through without creating debt. I took out no loans and did not qualify for aid. My husband worked as many hours as he could pick up, and I held a part-time job while going through school (NOT an easy thing to do). I was an average student in highschool (did not live up to my full potential then), but set the curve in my chemistry class in nursing and made all As and Bs. I say that not to boast (though yes, I was proud of my efforts) but rather to make the point that determination on the student’s part goes a LONG way. It can be done. Be encouraged that if you cannot save large sums of money, it can still be done.

          • Diana says

            I know people who have worked on college and university campuses. You would be surprised to find out that those individuals who work on the campus often qualify for free or discounted tuition. More surprising is that some campuses offer discounted or even free tuition to employees children! The standards for those children to qualify for free tuition are usually pretty tough (ie. high gpa and qualifying exam scores). But it’s an option that is worth looking into!

          • Sara says

            My mom took a minimum wage job at a Christian University to allow me and my sister to have 95% break in tuition. Pay was terrible, but benefits were worth it!!!

      • Shelley says

        Laura Jane- I completely agree with this. I think having personal goals is important. I too would never want to have real estate to take care of and worry about other folks living on my property (possibly tearing it up or never paying rent, spending time in court etc.) but I also have the personal goal of getting a good education! I don’t mind having student loan debt in order to get an education which is one of the MOST important things in life. Debt can be paid off, but I surely don’t want to spend my time later down the road being unemployed with no education. SO having personal goals is important. I am glad that Crystals situation works for HER but you know…its not for everyone.

    • says

      I want to add my two cents into this conversation and agree that you should not be discouraged or compare yourself to others. But I also want to be realistic and say this as diplomatically as possible. If your family is making $50,000 per year (hypothetically) and your expenses are $40,000 per year, the most you will be able to save is $10,000 per year. With living more frugally and taking tips from this wonderful site, you may be able to cut down your expenses to $35,000 per year. But still, you will only be able to save $15,000 per year.

      On the other hand, if your $50,000 income suddenly jumps to $150,000 because your husband just graduated veterinary school and got a job, and if you are still living on $35,000 per year, you will suddenly have $115,000 to save. As great as Crystal’s money-saving tips are to cut expenses and live frugally, you are never going to be able to put aside a large lump sum of money if your income is $30,000, $40,000, and $50,000. You can only cut your expenses so far. But if your income has grown dramatically, then you can.

      Crystal can put down a large sum of money because her blog is wildly successful and her husband has his own law firm that she says does quite well. If they are still more or less living on a frugal budget, and it appears they are, then of course they can reach their financial goals a lot faster than if they were still living on a small income. But most of this is due to a huge increase in income while still living on a small budget.

      That doesn’t mean, you cannot become rich or save for college or retirement without a very large income. You can and should no matter what you make! It just has to be done little by little year after year and will take a long time. But your money will grow over time, and this is a great way to save money. Again, it will take time. So don’t get discouraged by comparing yourself to someone who most likely makes a lot more money than you do.

      • Kristine says

        I agree. We’re in that $30,000-40,000 range after my hubby had to switch careers three years ago and start over in an entry-level job. I’m a stay-at-home mom. There’s just no way that we can save a lot of money at a time when we’ve had to struggle just to meet our basic expenses, but we save what we can and try to live as frugally as possible. It is easy to get discouraged sometimes.

      • Jessica says

        Agreed. While Crystal may save more than some of us, I think it’s good lesson and motivation that even when you have the money, live frugally and you will be able to advance your family instead of just going the easy way out. To me, Crystal’s discipline is impressive to staying frugal when she doesn’t necessary need to (although it might not be good for the blog! :o)

        • Briana says

          I find Crystal’s financial posts so encouraging! And to the people who find it discouraging… it is not about keeping up with the Jones’s.. its about doing the best YOU can do! I found this blog right around the time we started the financial peace class. I loved all of the ideas and we couldn’t wait to get the ball rolling…the problem was our income was $20,000/yr for our family of 3. There wasn’t much left at the end of the month, if anything. We kept our faith and we saved anything and everything we could, and with a whole lot of praying and a little bit of luck my hubby got a new job! He is now making more than double his previous income and I am set to graduate from nursing school this december. We are continuing to live exactly as we did before and we finally starting to see some amazing results. Crystal and her family are such wonderful role models for us and we have learned SO much from this blog!

          • says

            I’m so excited for you all! When you keep your expenses low — even when your income increases — it’s amazing what can be accomplished!

      • Linda says

        I am not an expert or in anyway know about savings, but I am assuming that taking into consideration compound interest, to fully fund an education might be less than you think. Her daughter is very young and compound interest is a wonderful thing when it works in your favor. Finding a great interest rate and leaving the money alone will allow it to grow. I read a book at used the example that if a very young adult saved money for about 5 years and left it at a 12% interest he would end up with more money than an older person saving every year until retirement. This was a long time ago and I cant remember it very well, but I am saying this because instead of being discouraged we should save anything we can and let time grow the money. sorry for the rambling.

  4. says

    Do you mean you paid off her educational savings for the year or for her total goal you set? In other words, is this an area you will add more to in the coming years for her or is Kathrynne’s savings completely done?

    • Shelley says

      I can’t imagine saving for my childs FULL that possible? Education costs go up yearly…

      • Mary says

        I think they decided to save “x” amount of dollars per child and have reached that goal. That is the impression I get. Not that they will completely fund their education regardless of costs. Just that each child will have “x” amount to use as they wish.

    • Brenda Z says

      From what i’ve read in the past here- They decided (instead of doing a college savings account to put money into every month or year) to figure out how much they want to allocate to each child’s education expenses or entrepreneurial or personal/ministry endeavors- and are choosing to save a lump sum to invest on it’s own to hopefully accumulate to that desired amount by the time they’re 18 or 21 or whenever they choose to give it to them. Did I just make sense?

  5. Becky R says

    Crystal, that is so wonderful!! You have made great strides in your financial plans. What a blessing for your family!

  6. Brooke says

    Way to go!!! Investing in real estate is something we are saving to do soon also, and we feel that in this economy residential is the way that we will go. I think that it will be hard to rent commercial right now- businesses are failing, and a property could sit unoccupied for months or even years. Good luck with your goals, your family has been such an inspiration to my husband and I!

  7. K.T. says

    Your accomplishments are so inspiring but I feel like I will never ever be out of debt. I just graduated from college with $40,000 in student loans(comprised of approx. 10 different loans), my husband and I combined have $4,000 in credit card debt (no interest though!!), 30 year mortgage and a 4% 5 year car loan. I had the unexpected blessing of having a daughter six months ago….right when the student loans started repayment and I am just absolutely desperate to get out of debt so I can be a stay-at-home mom. I wish I could’ve seen the future and I never would have attending a University. I feel like it was so worthless! I am trying to put any extra money on these as they have the highest interest rate.

    Anyway, do you have any tips for me to tackle this? I am a big couponer and plan to start a garden to save on groceries…we do have a hard time cooking every day though because we both work full-time.

    • Suzy says

      You can do it! When I married my husband, he had almost $60k in debt between student loans and credit cards. Through many tears (on my end) and hard work, we were able to pay it all off. Work on the smallest bill first and move upwards even if the interest rates are higher on other bills. It keeps you motivated and you feel like you are actually making progress.

    • says

      You can do it! We paid off 13,000 in cc debt in the year and half after I was laid off. My student loans are just as high as yours and we have a house, car payment. We hope to pay our car off this year two years ahead of schedule. We have also had a lot of medical issues over the past two years and have been able to stay out of debt. Feel free to e-mail me
      thedollarholleringhomemaker(at) gmail (dot) com. I would be happy to share some tips with you one-on-one.

    • Kara says

      You can do it!!!
      We didn’t have as much debt when we got married, but we put ourselves in about as far as you in 7mos after getting married. We are slowly digging ourselves out. We used our tax return for the last 2yrs to help pay off our debt. We have paid off 5 debtors in the last year.
      Just keep at it, you’ll get it. Keeping rolling your payments after you pay a bill off.

    • J. says

      I have never posted on a site like this but your note just hit my heart. Please don’t live in regret. I have been a SAHM with an engineering degree! I have a friend who finished medical school, only to become a mom! Your time in school was not a waste. It will be so helpful to you as a parent. Remember that you will be the one helping your beautiful daughter with Algebra one day! Also, when she is older and you are looking for part time work, your degree will be a big advantage over others who never finished school.

      My only tip is to stick to a budget. Pay God first, pay your debts, then pay yourself with savings. What is left after that is your new “job”. You must figure out creative ways to make it last longer. You are smart and creative and you can do it! No Regrets! Life is too short!

        • Shelley says

          K.T. Also remember that you will be GUIDANCE in your childs life to show her how IMPORTANT it is to get an education! College is something that is so incredibly important to my family. My husband is going to law school this fall and I am also in school right now. It is hard but soo worth it! Your years home with your daughter you will not regret. When she starts kindergarten (and believe me, it goes by FAST!) you will be able to work again.

          • K.T. says

            I think you may have read this wrong. I am upset because I am not able to be a stay at home mom due to my student loans.

      • Kristine says

        Thank you for the encouraging words. I’ve also sometimes wondered what good my college degree is when I don’t use it for a job. My hubby and I had $25,000 in college debt between the two of us when we got married. It could have been worse, and fortunately we did pay it off eventually, but we’ve always struggled financially, especially the past three years because my hubby had to change careers. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids. That’s such a good way to look at it–that my education wasn’t wasted if I can help my kids learn because of it. :)

    • Shelly H. says

      They probably seem quaint and old fashioned by today’s standards, but when I quit work to stay home with my kids almost 20 years ago, all the Tightwad Gazette books (there are three) by Amy Dacyczyn saved my life! This was when the Internet was in its infancy so there isn’t much about online help, it’s more just everyday stuff and attitude. Be warned – she is hardcore! No whining, lots of beans and rice type meals, lots of garage sales for clothes, lots of making do by doing without, etc. I think she is great for getting you into a frugal mindset!

    • says

      You can do it! Set whatever goals are appropriate for you and your situation and start working toward them. It sounds like you are on the right track by trying to come up with a plan and by couponing and gardening. If you really don’t where to start, I would suggest Dave Ramsey’s book “Total Money Makeover.” I don’t absolutely agree 100% with everything there, but you cannot go wrong following that plan. Also, since you have a child now and it sounds like it’s really important to you to stay at home with her, you should think about things you might be able to sell. For example, could you sell the car with a loan (even if you’re upside down) and get a really old 2 or 3 thousand car? Do you own another car you could sell and downgrade? I have no idea what type of house you have, but maybe you could downgrade there? I know you would lose a lot of money on it if you haven’t had it very long, but if there’s any way you could sell it without owing much and the move into a cheap rental, it would be worth it to be able to stay at home with your daughter. Depending on how much you make at your current job, you might be able to quit it and pick up a part time job in the evenings or a small work-from-home type thing that would help supplement your husbands income.

    • says

      For the cooking every night: You can definitely do that!

      We live in a small town with only a couple eating out options, but we never eat out. We basically refuse to do it. It doesn’t fit in the budget. I plan very basic meals for week nights – tacos, baked chicken, skillet dinner (maybe with ground beef and hashbrowns), crockpot meals (BBQ chicken sandwiches, a roast, etc.). Keep it really simple! You can even make taco meat on the weekends and freeze – just thaw in the fridge during the day, heat up for dinner – and you’re ready to eat!

      We both work, and we carpool now, with the rising gas prices. We still eat a sit-down meal every night together – that’s a priority for us. I plan our meals one month at a time – but even if you have a weekly menu plan, that will help immensely.

      Have a plan – and refuse to resort to take-out. You can do that! (And it will save SO much money!)

      • Janet says

        I recently took on a second job and found that me and my husband were starting to eat out more than previously because I wasn’t always home to fix dinner.
        The thing I do to help is to fix stuff on the weekends. I usually fix something on Sunday (a tuna casserole, pasta with sauce, etc…) that will re-heat well and use it during the week when I know I will get home later. My husband knows that is what for dinner and I either take some with me or eat it when I get home. I usually make enough so that it can be used twice during the week.

        The other thing that helps me is that on Sunday I write down what we are going to eat for dinner each day for the next week. This just helps me stay on track – I can make sure I have ingredients, prep things the night before if I need to, and my husband knows what’s for dinner and can start cooking if he gets home before me or if I don’t make it in time for dinner.
        Once you get a routine it will get easier. I hope this helps!

      • Rachael says

        I made scrambled eggs and toast last week and it was my family’s favorite meal. My husband especially loved that there was only one pot to clean after dinner!

    • Diana says

      I understand how you feel that your university time and expenses were worthless. And it seems like a huge burden and stress now. That’s the same way I felt when I graduated with debt. What I didn’t consider was my husband. When he feels stressed out from work, he knows that I also have a degree and thus a way to make money if something should happen to him or our family. And when he did have an injury and needed to take a long period of time off of work, he was able to do that instead of continuing to work injured. I was able to step up into that role to work, to help our family unit, and to allow my huband to heal. God works in mysterious ways. Stick with your plan, it sounds like you are doing very well and try not to be too discouraged! Hugs!

  8. Allison says

    Husband and I have paid off $11,091.50 in credit card debt so far in 2011…only $19,143.00 to go! I know…terrible to start out with that much on credit cards. Not an excuse but kinda, major remodel turned bad…in court and all, I had to finish my house…on the cards it went. I also started 3 different free savings accts with ING…hopefully its a good place..first time using ING. So far so good. Each of the accts has an auto deduction from my cking acct bi-monthly now..YAY! Land purchase, morton building purchase, and construction of our forever house! We are on our way….
    Good things will happen in 2011!

  9. Sunny says

    Good for you and your family! Hopefully you’ll cross off those last ones in no time! :)

    Right now our only goal is to pay off our debt… :((
    So far your blog was a big help toward our goal! Thank You!! :)

  10. Diane says

    You are doing so well, Crystal! I really appreciate that you are so careful with your money even when you have enough that you could be more relaxed with your spending.
    We continue to put as much as possible on our mortgage every month, at least 1,000 dollars. We are on track to have the 30 year loan paid off in less than 6 years from purchase, in 4 years. Until then, we’re being very frugal (and still will be after it’s paid off).

    • Diane says

      I meant to say, extra payment of at least 1,000. After that we will increase our contributions to retirement fund and our child’s education fund.

  11. says

    We have no debt- paid off the mortgage last year. We paid it off 23.5 years early!

    We’re saving to pay cash for a “new to us” car for me, probably a compact like a Honda Civic. We also fully funded our Roths for this year and we put $2k in each child’s college savings fund also.

    I’m also quitting my fulltime job and going part-time. So our income will significantly decrease, but being debt free, it’s not a huge issue.

    We have a few home repairs we need to do so that will be around $1k probably.

  12. says

    Crystal–my family’s #1 financial goal right now is to move to a larger house while keeping our current home for investment property. We already own one piece of residential investment property, and it didn’t seem “possible” to upsize without selling that or our current residence. But your posts about your own family’s journey to pay 100% down for your own home inspired us to go for it!

  13. Denise says

    Is your retirement savings of 10% separate from funding 2 Roths? I know you have them listed as 2 separate goals, but I didn’t know if saving 10% meant funding your 2 Roths.

  14. Kelly says

    Just an idea– a money saving idea of course. Payments on loans are always monthly- make the payments every 2 weeks- when you get paid. You’ll end up making an additional payment each month. For example: you pay $200 a month for a car loan. If you make you monthly payment each month- you’ll pay 12- $200 payments = $2400. If you make half the payment every two week- you’ll pay 26- $100 payments = $2600. Plus- you’ll save a ton on interest!

  15. Kelly says

    Correction- you’ll end up making an additional car payment each year- not month… but that would be awesome.

  16. says

    Yay! It’s so fun to hear how you all are reaching your goals, and inspiring to us to keep pressing toward ours. By God’s grace, we were able to put another big chunk (from our family side business) toward our mortgage this month! I think the bank is really going to wonder what’s going on (they called us last month to make sure they knew what to do with the check we sent…I was joking with my husband, “What do they think?! It’s for their own Hawaii vacation! 😉 ) In addition, we’ve reached the point financially where we have scheduled regular additional payments on our mortgage, and were able to put even more toward that scheduled payment in April. Hurray! This week we meet with a Dave Ramsey ELP to consolidate our retirement savings and begin adding to that for the first time in our five years of marriage.

    Thanks so much, Crystal! You and your blog really have been a catalyst for me (and thus, our family) to live beneath our means and work toward complete financial freedom. I’m so excited to be making big progress! :)

  17. Chelsea says

    Wow! It’s amazing what you can save/put your money toward when you don’t have a monthly house payment, car payment, student loan payments, and other debts.

  18. Katie says

    You prove just how much a person can do when they are completely free of debt, including a mortgage. That’s our next big goal: pay off our mortgage!

  19. says

    My goals for this year are to pay off the student loan, and get myself a new car… cash of course, working on being debt free is really freeing

  20. Mitzie says

    I have a quesiton about the fully funded education also. If do not mean for the year can you list your criteria for deciding went into deciding what amount you chose for her? I am not asking for the actual amount, but what factors you and Jessie used in making that decision.


    • says

      We both just decided upon a figure that we felt we’d want to have saved up for each of our children by the time they are 18. Then, we figured up how much we’d need to set aside this year so that, with compound interest, it would grow to that amount by the time they are 18.

  21. Debbie says

    We just paid our son’s summer college tuition in cash ($4600) and we’ve paid $8,657.59 towards the principal of the mortgage so far this year. Our goal is $15K reduction on our mortgage principal in 2011. According to an amortization table we are four months ahead on the life of our mortgage. I am inspired by the following bible quotes: The rich rule over the poor and the borrow is servant to the lender. Proverbs 22:7.

  22. Heather says

    You mentioned having money left over in your tax savings account – is this a special kind of savings account or simply one where you set aside money to cover taxes? My husband and I were hit with a huge tax bill this year (some of it from a mistake on our part, some of it from being newlyweds with a complicated tax situation that we are still trying to understand) and really want to avoid that in the future. We are both withholding more from our paychecks for 2011, but i can’t help but wonder if putting that same amount of money in a savings account is a better idea. Any thoughts?

    • says

      Since we’re both self-employed, we have to pay through the nose for self-employment taxes. A few years ago, we didn’t adequately prepare for this and were, like you, hit with a lot more taxes than we’d banked on having to pay. Since then, we’ve starting setting aside a good portion of all income for taxes.

      It goes into a special savings account we’ve set up specifically for this and we don’t touch it until we pay our taxes. If there’s anything left over (which it’s our goal that there is instead of us owing more than we’d planned to have to pay!), we get to put it towards our savings goals for the year. It stinks to have to set aside a big chunk of our income for taxes right off the top, but it’s better than ending up owing more than we were expecting and having to scramble and come up with it somewhere else.

      • Laura says

        If your businesses are not setup as S Corporations have you put anything into making an S election? It would save some money on the self employment taxes. However, you would have to pay yourselves a reasonable salary and pay both sides of the self employment tax on that.
        Also, I love your site!

  23. Koree says

    My financial goal is making rent each month. (And dreaming of days where this won’t be a struggle).

  24. Annie says

    It is inspiring to hear what life choices are available when a couple, especially a young one, is entirely debt-free house and everything. But older couples do not despair!! My husband and I are in our late 40’s married 22 years with 2 teens/1 tween and just became non-mortgage debt free this year for the first time in our marriage!

    *Our immediate savings goal is to save $8,500 for an August road tax assessment. over 70% complete now.

    *Our next savings goal is to Fully fund 6 months of expenses within 12 months. I need the knowledge from this integrity filled website to accomplish this! (by the way-the only blog I decided to use)

    *We have no college savings so my oldest daughter is working part time to pay cash for her first car, and then spending about 20-30 hours a week this summer applying for literally hundreds of private scholarships.

    *We currently have a very low 6-figure 401k, thankfully, that we will again be contributing to in 2012 along with our very first RothIRAs.

    *All the replacement items like cars and furniture will just have to be God’s goals for the moment. :)

  25. says

    We do quarterly financial check-ups rather than monthly. But since I did our 1st quarter one late, here it is. Our goal each year is to put away $2,000 for each of our 3 children’s education in an ESA. We also contribute the maximum to my husband’s 401(k). The ESA’s were done by the first quarter. The 401(k) get’s pulled out of each paycheck, so we are on target for that. Our remaining goal is to put $5000 per year into each of our IRAs. By March 31 we had put in $3000 of that. Our remaining goals are to just keep our expenses in line with what we budgeted. We’d like to start a savings fund for our next car, but we have not yet started, and probably won’t until I get a part-time job. We also have some housing expenses (replacing siding and doing some drywall work) that we will incur this year. We’re not sure of the cost yet but haven’t started saving for it yet.

  26. Mai says

    Quick question for Crystal. Since you both are self employed how much is health insurance for your family? Private insurance is so pricey these days.

  27. says

    I am always so inspired at how focused your family is on your financial goals. We’ve gotten a bit off track around here since I’m in the final month of my 2nd pregnancy and on modified bed rest. Not being able to cook and do all the frugal stuff has really taken a toll on our budget! But, after the baby comes, I’m excited to get back on track and get working toward saving up for a new-to-us car and getting my hubby’s student loan (our only debt – even if it is huge) paid off. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • says

      Hang in there! We always give ourselves some breathing room during pregnancy — and I’ve never been on bedrest. Give yourself grace; you’ll be back on your feet soon!

  28. says

    This is hands-down the post I look most forward to each month on your blog! I just love seeing things getting crossed off your list and it inspires us to keep working to cross goals off our own list! Thanks!

  29. aj says

    That is really wonderful. I have to wonder how you are doing this? We make a pretty good income and we are making a dent in our debt, but it seems that just when we get one budget item under control, something else comes up. Our grocery spending is great now but with gas prices going crazy and our oldest learning to drive (means insurance will go up) I don’t know how we are going to put any more towards debt reduction or saving. Retirement savings is under control but college savings is non-existent and my kids are 11 & 15.

    • says

      We don’t have any debt, we live on a strict cash budget and we have the blessing of great incomes from both of our businesses. This allows us to have some pretty ambitious goals. If we had debt, we’d be focusing all our efforts on paying it off before setting other goals.

      Just do the best you can do with your unique situation — and don’t worry about what others can or can’t do. Set goals that are ambitious (but not overly ambitious!) for your own family, break those goals down into monthly and weekly bite-sized pieces and then keep yourself accountable to those goals by re-evaluating where you are in relation to your goals on a monthly basis. See if there are any changes you can make to save more or spend less, stay focused and don’t get discouraged. Over time, you’ll start seeing some great traction!

    • Jennifer says

      One way to save money is to postpone the driver’s license for the teen until he or she is 17 or 18. If you provide transportation now you can continue to provide it after she or she is 16. Also, not buying a car for the teen will save even more. For college costs, look for a book by Zac Bisssonnette called Debt Free U which details how to pay for college starting with zero saved. It involves community college, a lot of part-time work by the student and modest life style changes ( to the tune of about $90 a month) by the parents.

  30. says

    Our #1 financial goal right now is paying off our down payment loan (an interest-free loan my parents gave us 3 years ago). However, my husband is definitely a spender and not a saver, so I’ve had a hard time convincing him to set much aside as far as an emergency fund. Granted, his job is very secure and aside from a nuclear holocaust will always be there, but I still worry about unexpected expenses like a car breaking down or the water heater exploding. Since he is the wage-earner and leader of the household, should I just go with his financial goals (i.e. throwing every extra cent at our mortgage and debt to my parents, along with remodeling our house to make it liveable for our growing family) or try to convince him of the merits of having a larger emergency fund? (He’s happy with the $1K we have in savings; says it’s enough for deductibles on insurance and that we should trust God for all other emergencies.)

    • shannon says

      A difficult situation when you and your spouse are not on the same page with finances (I can relate). If he is truly seeking the Lord and you all cannot come to a compromise, I say follow his lead. Maybe a good compromise if both agree would be to determine how much extra money you all have at the end of the month and you all put, say 60% to paying off your parents and 40% to emergency fund. Also, not sure what the situation is with your parents and the terms under which the money was borrowed, but it could be that your husband is really wanting to get out from under that ‘debt’ and does not feel like the 100% provider until your parents are paid off.

  31. Katie says

    I just paid off my husband’s lowest student loan yesterday! We still have 2 student loans, 2 car payments, and our mortgage though. We could save more if I went back to teaching, but I prefer to run my daycare from home in order to be home with my daughter.

  32. Amanda C says

    You are amazing! I love hearing about your monthly updates. I am always inspired. Thanks for sharing!

  33. Leah Kelley says

    We started Financial Peace University in September 2010. So far we have our Emergency Fund set up, and we are half way through paying off our debt. We’ve paid off our car (bought it in August) and are working on past debts like credit card bills and hospital bills. We were over $20,000 in debt and we will be close to debt free (within $1,000) in 2 weeks! We also have started funding our 3 to 6 month Living Expense fund, we have $1,000 in there. There really is something to this “Live like no one else so you can Live like no one else” thing :-)

  34. Jody says

    I would really encourage you and your husband to continue to pray about if residential real estate is the way you should go – in this economy there are a lot of renters, but sadly there are not a lot of people that have the character to care for a home they don’t own. We have watched the rentals in our neighborhood get trashed, fixed up, trashed, fixed up and trashed again. I can’t imagine what the owner’s must be going through in repainting, re-carpeting, fixing holes, re-landscaping, etc. . . it must be costing them a fortune. Anyway, that is just a thought. If you do decide to rent, I will pray that you get good tenets – who don’t have pets! :)

    • Crystal L. says

      As a renter, I can definitely attest to this. Not that I would ever destroy a home – I always leave things the way I found them – but our landlords have always told us horror stories about their previous tenants and how much they appreciate us for being sane people.

      At this old stone house we rented that cost a bundle to heat in the winter (electric heat), the previous tenants cut a hole in the floor of the master bedroom above the garage so they could put a fire down there to heat the house with.

    • says

      I can vouch for this too. DH and I are long-time renters, and we have found ourselves being favorites of landlords…simply because we pay on time and don’t cause trouble! How sad that we are the exceptions rather than the rule!

  35. Jennifer Foster says

    I know this is probably not an option a lot of people want…especially for their children BUT the military pays for college tuition. I’m in the Air Force and I’m able to get 100% of my college paid while I’m active duty plus I get the GI Bill which I was able to transfer to my husband. His entire Bachelor’s degree is being paid for plus we think he’ll be able to finish his Master’s with no out of pocket expense but books. Doing four years in the military and getting college completely paid for is a pretty sweet deal…depending of course on what you’re doing in the military. It’s certainly not for everybody but it’s an option. You have to understand what you’re signing up for…I’ve been in 12 years and you certainly can’t do it solely for the college money though!!

    • Lindsey says

      that is def a great option. I have a friend who is in the navy and just completed Med school without having to pay anything herself!

  36. says

    So I’m curious… how did you do the math to decide to completely fund their educational savings at once instead of maxing out an ESA at $2,000 a year until they are age 18. We are currently doing ESA’s but I am very interested in seeing why it might be better to completely fund them up-front. Thanks!

  37. chantel says

    You are right on about investing in residential real estate vs commercial real estate. My husband and I extensively researched the pros and cons of both and found a much higher return on our investment in residential real estate. (At least in NV and OR.) Not to mention that the prices of homes in our area have drastically been reduced. The residential rental market is fantastic and have never been without a renter for more than a few days, tops. (We have found most of our renters want to extend their contracts for another year+ at the completion of their intial year contract.) Commercial properties have been sitting vacant for months, if not years, in our area. Tough to make payments on a property that is yielding no return. Go residential!!

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