A testimony from Sarah
Each summer, our family’s income drops dramatically. My husband is a graduate student, and his funding stops during the summer months. While I am still earning money, it is simply not enough to pay all of our bills and living expenses.
In the past, we have used credit cards to help us through the summer. This year, however, we have committed to paying off our debt, and we refuse to add any more to our credit card bill.
Back in October, we sat down together and examined our finances. We decided that we would need $700 for each summer month (June, July, and August) to be able to pay all bills and live comfortably. That is $2100! That number seemed almost unreachable at the time, but we committed to trying.
Imagine our excitement when we had saved that much by the end of March!
Here’s how we did it:
We Saved All “Bonus” Money
We decided to view any “bonus” money as money earmarked for our summer fund. This included:
- $500 end-of-the-year bonus from my employer for having an advanced degree
- $200 gift at Christmas from family
- $500 from our tax refund
It was tempting to view this money as fun spending money. However, since we were committed to our financial goal, we immediately put it in our summer account.
I Picked Up Extra Work
I am a full-time teacher, and my school asks for staff to tutor in the afterschool program. This program pays $25 an hour, so I decided to work two hours a week.
From this relatively small time commitment, I ended up earning $700!
There were many days when I was exhausted by the end of the school day, but I knew our goal of a debt-free summer was worth the effort.
We Saved Money Leftover from our Budget
Our family has a written weekly budget that we keep a close eye on. We have decided how much we will spend each week on groceries, household items, gas, fun, etc.
We actually have a chart on our refrigerator where we record everything that we spend in those categories each day. Therefore, it is easy to know if we are over or under our budget at the end of the week.
My husband and I decided to take any money leftover from our budget and transfer it to our summer fund. For example, we budget $70 per week on groceries for our family of five. If I spent $65 one week, we moved $5 into our summer account.
I wasn’t sure if it was worth it to save a few dollars here and there, but I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I listened to my husband, because we saved $200 this way!
It was an amazing feeling when we realized that we had reached our goal. We are looking forward to our stress-free, debt-free summer. We’ll be able to enjoy it much more knowing that we will not be paying for it for years to come.
Sarah is an Orthodox Christian, wife, mother of three small children, full-time teacher, and writer. She blogs about faith, family, and frugal living over at The Orthodox Mama.
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