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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.
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
The Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel is once again accepting new applicants in many locations.
If you are accepted as a panel member with Nielsen Homescan,
you will be sent a small hand-held scanner and will scan all the bar
codes of everything you purchase. Once a week, you'll transmit this
information to Nielsen and you'll earn points which can be redeemed for
a variety of items from the Nielsen Gift Catalog.
The Nielsen Homescan Consumer Panel is a "mini-USA" that represents all
types of Americans. Manufacturers and retailers will look at the
information you send to them to decide what products to make and sell to
consumers all across the country.
I posted about this opportunity awhile back when they were accepting applicants and many of you left comments on your experiences. Some of you did not enjoy doing this at all and some of you found it quite enjoyable. If you're interested in hearing about others' experiences in this program, check out the comments on this post.
Guest Post by Jessica from Utah Deal Diva
Like millions of other Americans, I hadn’t anticipated my husband suddenly being out of work. We’d always lived within our means and had little debt, but we didn’t have much in savings either.
How were we going to pay our bills? Would we lose our house?
Those were the thoughts running through my head as the reality of our situation began to sink in. I am a stay at home mom for our three young children; my husband was the sole breadwinner and then suddenly he was without a job.
How were we going to make it with no income? I was overwhelmed with our sudden change of circumstances.
Thankfully, my husband and I quickly resolved that we would not let this situation break us. We had worked too hard to let this ailing economy make victims out of us. We made a plan and prayed hard that God would help us. Little did we know how abundantly our prayers would be answered.
Here are some lessons we learned while my husband was unemployed:
1. Being unemployed is hard work. My husband and I are both hard workers, but never before have we worked so hard to stay right where we were at. Our only goal at the time was to pay our bills and stay in our home.
Within two days of being out of work my husband secured a part-time job working retail. When he wasn’t working there, he was spending hours and hours every day searching for a new job. I helped him search before the kids woke up and after they went down for naps. We worked with recruiting firms and friends to find new employment. In one word I would describe it all as exhausting.
2. The companies you pay your bills to are more willing to help if you ask. Within a week of being unemployed, I called all of the companies our bills were through, telling them our situation and asking what they could do. I was so grateful to find that every company I called was more than willing to help us. We switched phone plans, downgraded our cable, and canceled services. Suddenly our meager income was stretching a lot farther.
3. I didn’t miss luxuries nearly as much as I thought I would. Right after my husband lost his job, we declared a spending halt. We bought nothing unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then, we most often bought second-hand.
We re-discovered the value of family time and truly enjoyed spending it together. We made meals from scratch and had a new-found appreciation for the items we already had. Our lives became very simple and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.
4. Meal planning and cooking from scratch saves a lot of money. This is something I’d known for a while, but I learned anew just how true it was while unemployed.
We had built up a nice food storage thanks to using coupons so I regularly assessed the items in our pantry and planned meals accordingly. We made our own bread and found joy in creating yummy treats ourselves.
I also got very creative in seeing how far some food items could stretch. A member of our church dropped off a whole ham one night and I stayed up late slicing and packaging it so as to use the entire thing. I even boiled the ham bone in soup! We were able to feed our family over 7 meals with that one ham!
5. Using less of everything really didn’t affect our way of life. And when I say everything, I mean everything! One of the areas we made a real effort to use less of was gas and electricity. We wore sweatshirts instead of adjusting the heater and used the warmth of the oven to heat the house after we baked something.
We were mindful of even the little things from the length of showers we took to how much shampoo we used. We turned our water heater down and adjusted our dishwasher to the lowest settings. As a result of changing our actions, we didn’t freeze, our clothes and dishes were still clean (as were we!), and we ended up shaving 25% off our utility bills!
6. We didn’t really need many of the items we already had. I regularly walked around the house assessing what our family could live without and I sold the items online. I sold books, clothes, and electronics. Anything we didn’t need that I thought might have value was suddenly on the market!
My husband scoured the garage and cashed in a load of scrap metal. I’d been couponing for years and had quite a supply, so I assembled coupons and sold them in groups. We spent $20 to cosmetically fix up an old car we’d had for years and hung the “For Sale” sign on it, unsure if we could even sell it in this economy. We sold it for our full asking price a month later.
Each time I sold something I’d calculate what bills that item could pay for or how long it would enable us to live in our house. Tens of dollars turned to hundreds, and hundreds turned to thousands. It was incredible and we felt so blessed.
7. Our trials give others the opportunity to serve. As difficult as it might be to be on the receiving end, it’s necessary at different times in our lives.
We saw the Lord’s hand in so many small acts of service given to us by neighbors and friends. People wrote us kind letters with thoughts of encouragement. Others sent small amounts of money anonymously. It was all very much appreciated and we are grateful for the services rendered.
After only a few months, my husband was able to find a new job–for which we are very thankful! The truly amazing thing is, due to the changes we
quickly made in our lives, not only did we not have to touch our
savings, but we added to it!
If I can pass on one piece of advice for others who find themselves suddenly unemployed it’s this: even in this economy, you have more influence on your personal and financial situations than you think. Never forget the power of prayer and hard work!
Jessica blogs about all the deals, steals, and freebies available in Utah at her blog Utah Deal Diva.
I always give myself some slack in the healthful eating department at the end of my pregnancies and after a baby is born. I know some of you can pull off six-course, from-scratch breakfasts, lunches, and dinners when you have a newborn or are 10 months pregnant, but I'm just not that ambitious.
So for the past few months, we've stuck to pretty simple meals and had more convenience foods than usual. We've haven't gone over-budget and we've not been living on total junk food by any means, but there's been a lot more white flour, sugar, and processed foods consumed in our home than normal.
Now that life has settled down a bit more and we're more adjusted to
homeschooling and having three little ones, we're working on getting back
to more healthful eating around here. We're slowly using up the extra processed foods we've accumulated and going back to cooking and baking from scratch.
One of the things I'm especially ready to add back in again is using freshly-ground whole wheat flour. However, my dilemma has been how to afford buying wheat kernels.
When we were living in Kansas City, I was purchasing wheat kernels for around $0.69 per pound at Whole Foods. Now that we've moved and no longer have a Whole Foods store nearby, though, I've been on a search for a new and inexpensive source of wheat kernels. The health food stores here allow you to purchase small quantities of wheat kernels, but they are over $1.50 per pound–which adds up really quickly when you bake as much as I do!
I found that buying wheat kernels in bulk was going to save me a large amount of money but my only problem was that buying in bulk meant I'd also have to pay a larger amount of money upfront. I thought about just using some extra non-grocery money to buy a big bag of wheat kernels, but then I decided to challenge myself to see if I could set aside a little bit from our $40 per week grocery budget and, over time, save up enough to be able to afford this bulk purchase.
By staying under-budget and mostly skipping shopping one week, I was surprised to find I had enough leftover after only one month of saving to purchase a 50-pound bag of wheat kernels last week!
I was planning to make a trip to a nearby town which has a bulk foods store to pick these up, but my older sister lives near an Amish Bulk Foods Store which has incredible
prices so she offered to buy some for me and bring it with her
when she came down for our little sister's wedding last week.
In addition to the wheat kernels, she also picked up a big bag of wheat germ and wheat bran for me–two items which were much less expensive at the Amish Bulk Foods Store than they are at the grocery stores here.
Altogether, the total for all of those items was only $30! I'm guessing the wheat kernels will last me close to a year and the wheat bran and wheat germ should last me at least a few months.
I was so excited to be able to find a way to creatively afford a bulk purchase like this without going over our $40/week grocery budget. And now the wheels are turning in my brain and I'm contemplating saving up for some other bulk purchases.
Since I'm new to buying in bulk, I'd love to have input from those of you who are more experienced at this. What items do you routinely find are better deals to purchase in bulk? Are there any websites or companies you would recommend for bulk purchases?
Edit: For those of you who have asked, I have this grain mill.
My dad bought it for me for Christmas two years ago. I usually grind up about 5 pounds of wheat kernels at a time and use what I can immediately and store the rest in the freezer until I use it. If you do this, it helps preserve the nutrients in the flour.
I usually use straight whole-wheat flour in much of my baking and at least half whole-wheat and half white flour in most of the rest of my baking. Here's our favorite Whole Wheat Bread recipe and here's our favorite Whole Wheat Waffle recipe. I hope to share more of our favorite whole wheat recipes soon.