Celebrating a Major Financial Milestone!

Early tomorrow morning our family is flying to California to visit some special friends of ours.

We're very excited about this trip for many reasons: we're looking forward to a vacation as a family; we can't wait to hang out with some incredible people; and we're anxious to get to introduce our children to what a real beach is.

But this trip is about much more than family, friends, and fun; we're taking this trip in celebration of reaching a huge financial milestone in our family.

If you've been reading my blog for more than a few months, you know that we got this weird idea to pay cash for a house and we set a big goal at the beginning of 2009 to have fully-funded our house fund by the end of the year. We started the year at 33% and it seemed very far-fetched to think we'd actually make our goal.

But God had other plans. He worked some miracles, moved some modern-day "mountains", and by His grace and enabling, I am thrilled to tell you that we are ending 2009 at our 100% goal! We're already seriously pursuing house-hunting and hope to have purchased a home debt-free by the end of April 2010, if not sooner.

Truly, "with God, all things are possible!"

This huge financial milestone did not happen instantaneously. It was not something we just up and decided to we'd aim for a few weeks or months ago. In actuality, our journey towards saving to pay 100% down for our first home began before we were even married!

On Thursday, I'm going to be sharing the nuts and bolts of our story and the struggles, lessons, difficulties, and victories we've encountered along the way. No matter where you are in your financial journey, I hope and pray our story is an inspiration to you to dream big dreams, set audacious goals, work hard, and not give up when the going gets tough. You just never know where it might lead!

Have you written down financial goals for 2010? If not, be sure to check out Simple Mom's post on the subject to nudge you in the right direction.

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Monthly Financial Check-up

It's November and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in October?

I've been waiting with bated breath to be able to post our monthly financial update because this is another huge milestone for us. And I finally get to share…

We began October at 69% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 75%!

While it looks like we're likely not quite going to make our goal of being at 100% by the end of 2009, it is incredibly exciting for us to be at 75%! 

It is hard to go against the grain, to live counter-culturally, to be self-disciplined.

It's hard to forgo instant gratification and stop comparing yourself with the "Jones's".

It's hard when you're the only one packing a lunch, driving an old car, wearing thrift store clothes, and clipping coupons.

It's hard when you see other people just going out and buying whatever they want whenever they want it when you're barely able to afford paying $17 for groceries that week but you're committed to paying 100% cash for everything. 

None of where we are today has happened by taking the easy road. It's the result of God's grace and enabling, it's the result of our parents' wise examples and training, it's the result of a strong work ethic instilled in us from the time we were youngsters, it's the result of setting big goals and sticking with those goals day in and day out–even when we felt like giving up.

When I look at that 75% house savings number in our bank account, I know that it is worth it to choose to do hard things. We've learned so many valuable lessons along the way, our struggles have matured us, our victories have emboldened us.

And we know beyond any shadow of a doubt, that making short-term sacrifices to achieve long-term goals is every bit worth it.

(If you're new here, be sure to check out this post where I explain in detail why we've committed to this "crazy" idea to pay 100% down on a home. )

——————————————–
How did you do in October? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in October and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in November. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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September Financial Update: It starts with the small things

Meagan left the following comment on my August Financial Update post:

I just wanted to tell you something. This morning I have about a week’s worth of dishes piled up. We don’t have a dishwasher and I hate it so much. Although this sounds weird, this post and others you’ve posted before have inspired me to get my life in order. We aren’t in the position to be debt free yet but you’ve inspired me to do the dishes. I can’t do the huge things yet, but I can do the little things, so that when we are in a position to do the big things, we will be ready to face the challenge. -Meagan

Meagan, your comment was right on the mark. You are so absolutely right!

My desire in sharing our financial goals and progress here is not to discourage others who are in different financial situations but hopefully to inspire everyone–no matter what your financial situation–to do something and start somewhere.

You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t stand up and take the first step. It’s easy to dream big dreams and make big plans, but the execution of them must happen one step at a time.

Back whenever my husband and I first had this crazy idea to pay cash for a home, we thought it truly would be impossible. We crunched a bunch of numbers, talked about all sorts of money-saving and income-earning ideas, and we both wondered if we’d lost our minds to set this goal and then share it with the world by publicly posting it on my blog back near the beginning of 2008.

But we did anyway, because we knew that, if we were going to pull this off, we’d need all of the accountability and cheerleading we could get. And then we dove in and took the first step: we set up a house savings account and we started setting aside every penny we could squeeze out of our small budget.

The first hundred and then the first thousand we saved were very rewarding. Little by little, things started picking up steam: our efforts and years of work on various income-earning things started to produce real fruit; we found new ways to cut our expenses even more; and we were the recipients of some unexpected financial gifts. The snowball just kept rolling downhill and picking up more and more snow–at a much greater rate of speed than we had originally ever envisioned.

Last October, God supernaturally opened up the door for us to be able to move back “home” (where cost of living is low) and start our own law firm. We used some money we’d set aside for extras, made the move, took a big leap of faith to start the law firm, and watched in amazement as God has blessed it far beyond our wildest expectations.

We kept plowing forward and our momentum grew. We continued to live on a modest budget (see a basic idea of that here) even as our income increased and we were constantly on the lookout for ways to earn extra income on the side (we’ll be talking more about these in the new Becoming a Work-At-Home Mom series).

One day last June, we woke up and realized we were half-way to our goal! Lord-willing, by the end of 2009, we are hoping to be at 85-95% of our goal–miles closer than we could have ever dreamed we’d be at this point.

How do you run a mile? One step at a time.

It is the same with financial goals or any goals, for that matter. They can only be accomplished one small step at a time.

It’s takes faithfulness in the little things to eventually see big progress. For us that’s been little things like: matching coupons with sales, planning a menu, purposing to live on a budget, reusing something instead of buying another new item, shopping around to get the best rates on insurance, making homemade pizza instead of ordering carryout, driving older vehicles, shopping at thrift stores, and learning to be content with what we have. All of these things might seem like a drop in the bucket when done individually, but, over time, each of those drops can start adding up.

Maybe you can’t save up to pay cash for a home, but you might be able to save $5 on your grocery bill this week and set that aside for savings. Start with the small things, be faithful in the little things, and stick with your goals–even when it feels like you’re going nowhere.

Start somewhere, do something, and don’t give up! Over time, as you become more experienced and adept at saving and earning money, you’ll likely start to see those little steps add up to a large amount of ground covered… and it will be worth every little sacrifice!

********************************

Now for the numbers:

We began September at 65% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 69%! 

(If you’re new here, be sure to check out this post where I explain in detail why we’ve committed to this “crazy” idea to pay 100% down on a home. )

——————————————–
How did you do in September? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in September and, if you’d like, the areas
you hope to improve in October. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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Monthly Financial Check-up

It's September and that means it's time for our monthly financial check up. How did you do in August?

Here are our quick stats:

We began August at 57.8% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 65%!

I about fell over when my husband did the math and told me the final tallies. It's so excited to finally be getting really close to something we've long dreamed about, talked about, prayed about, and worked very hard towards.

Recently, a blog reader I had the privilege of meeting in real life was commenting to me about how difficult it must be for us to be waiting to purchase a house when we could afford to go out and pay 65% down on a home which is roomier and better-suited for our family than the rental we're currently in.

While having more than two bedrooms would be nice and having a larger yard that doesn't back up to a busy highway would also be a wonderful thing, neither my husband or I feel like we're in the least bit miserable waiting to pay 100% down. In fact, we both are very determined we want to stick it out to our 100% goal–even if it takes longer than we hope.

Why? Well, for one, we want to stand by our commitment to stay out of debt. We understand that this is not possible for everyone in every situation. That said, we do believe it is much more possible than many people believe it to be. And we hope that we might be an inspiration to some of you to set big goals and work hard towards them.

We also want to be an example to our children. Growing up, my parents had a dream of getting out of debt and then buying land and building a debt-free house out in the country. They worked hard towards that goal and when I was 12 years old, we not only had paid off our house, we had purchased land, built a house, and moved in.

Seeing their example made a major impact upon my life and this is one of biggest reasons we're currently aggressively saving towards buying our first home debt-free. It is our hope that our children can stand on our shoulders–just as we seek to stand on the shoulders of our parents–and, who knows? Perhaps they will be able to buy their first home with cash before they are even married!

In addition, we want to be the best stewards of the resources we have so that we can bless as many people as possible. We aren't seeking to pay cash for a house so that they we can go pursue some extravagant lifestyle. Instead, paying cash for a house is just the first step in a long line of goals we have for our family as we seek to make an impact in this world by giving of our resources to help those in need.

We feel that living a life without payments and with a strong financial plan in place will better enable us to reach out to those in need. And we're incredibly excited about the possibilities to give and serve with our finances–as God allows us to do so. (By the way, there's an excellent video here which has been a huge inspiration to us in this regard.)

So yes, our home might be a wee bit small right now, our yard even smaller, and it might seem very counter-cultural for us to wait just a little bit longer until we've saved up 100% to pay cash for a home, but we're willing to wait because we know that someday it will be worth the sacrifices!

(If you're new here, be sure to check out this post where I explain in detail why we've committed to this "crazy" idea to pay 100% down on a home. )

——————————————–
How did you do in August? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in August and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in September. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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Monthly Financial Check-up

Due to the wedding and our vacation last week, I'm a little behind in getting the Monthly Financial Check-up posted. But I couldn't skip it, because we had a really good month last month and I am thrilled to be able to share this update.

We began July at 50% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 57.8%!

Yes, that's a big leap and we are ecstatic to be moving closer and closer to our goal of paying 100% down on a house. In fact, we've started looking at houses on a casual level right now–just to feel out the market–and it is so incredible to look at many of them and realize we're almost able to pay the full price for some of them in cash.

Every month recently when we've run the numbers, my husband and I are amazed. We well remember those difficult law school days when we could barely afford to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. We remember going without so many things, trying to make the most of the little we had, pinching our pennies, and praying heartily that God would somehow make the money stretch to the end of the month so we could pay all of our bills.

It was so hard to not know how we were going to be able to pay for our rent or to only have $17 to spend at the store for our entire week's worth of groceries. It required a tremendous amount of determination to not lose sight of our goal (to make it through law school without any debt) and to keep living like no one else–even when we were really tired of doing so.

But you know what? All that scrimping and saving has paid off in bigger dividends than we could have ever imagined. And by the grace of God, we are only months away from paying 100% down in cash on our very first home.

I share this with you all, not to set ourselves up on a pedestal. We've made plenty of mistakes and we will make plenty more in the future. I share this with you to encourage you that–no matter what financial position you may be in today–don't lose hope and don't lose heart.

Success requires sacrifice. You will never get
anywhere financially if you are not willing to do something: to get up,
get moving, set goals, and see them through.
It requires effort, commitment, dedication, and determination.

And
it takes time.
Getting out of debt or saving up to pay cash for
something is not usually an instantaneous thing; it takes many months
or years of work and sacrifice. But it does pay off.

So set goals, stay focused, and stick with it and you, too, will reap the rewards of discipline, determination, and hard work.

If you want to read more about our lean law school years and a few of the lessons we learned through those difficult years, be sure to check out this post.

——————————————–
How did you do in July? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in July and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in August. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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Monthly Financial Check-up

It’s July and guess what that means? It’s time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in June?

We began June at 48.5% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 50%!

I cannot even begin to tell you how exciting it is for us to have reached the half-way point in our house savings. We had set the bar a little high in our savings goal so we’re getting very close to the point where we can actually start looking at houses.

We’re going to begin our house search by doing more research into what our options are, what areas we’d like to live in, and what features we’re looking for in a home. Once we’ve done that, enough time will likely have elapsed that we’ll be able to begin looking at homes–for real!–which are in the price range of what we have saved up.

It is amazing for us to look back over the last few years and realize how far we’ve come. What once seemed like a “big, hairy, audacious goal” is starting to become reality. The beans-and-rice budget is paying off and it feels weird to realize how close we are. Yet, just because we’re inching closer and closer to our goal, we don’t want to let our resolve slide or our frugality slip–something we’re having to guard against.

I’d really like to be at 55% of our goal by the end of July so that we will have saved over 20% towards our house savings goal this year so far. But we’ll see how the month goes!

Thanks so much for encouraging and cheering us along. It’s a huge help to have so much accountability in this! If you have recommendations for us when it comes to buying a home (books we should read, things we should consider, or any advice you’d like to give), please do pass it along. I feel like I have so much to learn and I want to be as well-researched as I possibly can be.

(By
the way, if you’re new here, you can read more about our financial
goals for this year and our progress so far by scrolling down on this
page here. And if you’re wondering why we’re attempting to save to pay 100% down for a house, be sure to read this post.)

——————————————–
How did you do in June? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in June and, if you’d like, the areas
you hope to improve in July. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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