We Paid Cash: A Month-Long European Family Vacation

We paid cash!
A testimony from Jessica who blogs at Life as MOM and Good Cheap Eats

My husband and I honeymooned in France and assumed we would return every year. Then life happened. Graduate school, unemployment, a baby, a house, miscarriages, more babies, more debt, more stuff got in the way of our newlywed dreams of travel.

After we paid off all our debts, we started dreaming big dreams again — a trip to France for a month with our six children to commemorate our 20th wedding anniversary was one of them.

Folks looked at us like we were crazy!

Not only had we dared to do something big like to travel with kids, we notched up the crazy by saving up the money to do it. It took two years, but we pulled it off.

Here’s what we did to make it happen:

1. We said it out loud.

Part of the success of a goal is to be brave enough to put it out there publicly. We talked about it enough that we would have been really embarrassed if we didn’t pull it off. Sometimes, pride is a good thing.

2. We envisioned our kids.

Just like when we did the really hard work of getting out of debt years earlier, we explained our plans to our children so that they would understand why we were making cuts to our spending or doing extra things to increase our income.

3. We created a budget.

I planned a hypothetical trip and calculated all the price quotes. The total was staggering, particularly when I added extra to allow for inflation and a weak dollar.

4. My husband worked overtime.

Getting up at 4:30 a.m. on a Saturday wasn’t his favorite thing to do, but my husband did it.

5. We opened a separate bank account.

I opened a dedicated account in a different bank from where we do our regular banking. I also chose not to get an ATM card. I wanted that money liquid but as inaccessible as possible.

6. We put all other vacations on hold.

We put off other travel plans, instead banking the money for France. Staycations and family visits were a great way to do family travel while we worked toward a bigger goal.

7. We socked away all extra income.

Even though we have two incomes, we choose to live on one. Any income that came in over our regular expenses went toward the France fund.

8. We deferred lots of “extras”.

There is a lot of excess in our lives, lots of things that are fun, but that we can certainly live without. We cut back so we could divert that money toward our vacation instead.

Now that we’re home and finally unpacked, it’s been so encouraging to look back at what we pulled off and the great memories we created as a family. It was an amazing trip, one we plan to do again in 2016!

Jessica Fisher is a happy wife and a homeschooling mom of six kids under 18. She loves French cheeses, sandy beaches, good books, and Jesus. Not in that order, of course. Catch up with her on her blogs, Life as MOM and Good Cheap Eats.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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We Paid Cash: A Down Payment

We paid cash!

A testimony from Anne of Modern Mrs Darcy

My husband and I set a big hairy goal more than ten years ago. We wanted to move out of our much-loved starter home (6 people, 1 bathroom, you get it) into a slightly larger place — while keeping our first home so we could rent it out. We wanted to do it before our oldest child — then a toddler — hit the teen years.

We did our research: our banker suggested we borrow a big chunk of change off our first house to use as a down payment for the second, but we didn’t want to. We were uncomfortable with cashing out our equity: the big crash of 2008 was still fresh in our minds, and we didn’t want to give up the margin we enjoyed because of our small mortgage. Besides, once we put our first home into use as a rental, we wanted that place to cash flow. That’s easy to do with a small mortgage, but much harder with a brand-new 80% one.

So that meant we needed to save up a down payment from scratch. While still paying the mortgage on our first home. Yikes!

To make a long story short, we did it. We moved into our new place in May, and our new tenants moved into our old home a week later. Here’s how we did it:

Think long term.

We have known for over a decade that 1. we wanted to move before our oldest was a teen and 2. we wanted to keep our first home when we did.

Richard Foster says that people overestimate what they can accomplish in one year but grossly underestimate what they can accomplish in ten. We were working with a ten-year plan.

Sweat the big stuff.

Most Americans spend the most on housing and cars. We had a low mortgage payment on our first home, and we aren’t car people. (That’s a nice way of saying our cars are old and inexpensive to operate.)

Bonus: we don’t freak out when one of us dings the minivan backing into the stone wall at the park. Hypothetically speaking.

Put it on autopilot.

For years, we’ve relied on automatic deductions to take a portion of our paychecks straight out of our checking account and into savings. This was especially helpful early on when we were lacking in enthusiasm because we had so far to go.

Stick to the essentials.

The closer we got to our goal, the more motivated we became. For the last year we spent very little on nonessentials. The closer we got to the goal, the more we cut out because we were close enough to taste it.

Save dollars big and small.

Unexpected birthday checks, payments from consignment stores, yard sale funds, freelancing checks: whether it was $3 or $300, we banked all those extra income checks in a designated savings account at a not-normal-to-us financial institution that was really a pain to withdraw funds from.

Just keep swimming.

Ten years ago, it was daunting knowing that we needed to save up a big chunk of change starting from zero. But we just kept plugging away.

We were inspired by Crystal’s own journey to pay cash for a house. Like her, progress came slowly at first, and then all at once.

It wasn’t easy, and it took ten years, but paying cash for the downpayment on our new house sure felt great!

house keys

Anne Bogel loves strong coffee, long books, and big ideas. She’s putting a timely spin on timeless women’s issues at her blog Modern Mrs Darcy, where readers engage in an ongoing conversation on womanhood today. A classic INFP, Anne couldn’t choose a favorite book – or child – if you paid her, but she would love to talk about your best-loved titles and what we can learn from heroines like Lizzie Bennet and Anne Shirley all the live-long day.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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We Paid Cash: A Family Vacation

We paid cash!

A testimony from Sara

My husband and I recently took our ten-year-old daughter on our first family vacation. We started planning two years before the trip so that we could save enough cash to be able to enjoy the trip without having to go into any debt.

How We Saved:

We set aside any overtime pay my husband was able to get, as well as the twice-a-year bonus he receives from his employer.

We decided on a road trip as a more frugal option. We drove from Minnesota, where we live, to Pennsylvania, and then to New Hampshire. My husband has family in both states and our daughter was able to meet them for the first time!

A few months before we left, I began collecting non-perishable snacks and bottles of water to pack in the car so we would not need to purchase expensive gas station snacks. By starting early, I was able to watch for sales and use coupons for the snack items.

Our lodging costs were offset as my husbands family generously offered to let us stay with them while we were visiting. That really helped the budget not having to stay in a hotel the whole trip.

Finally, we were able to save money on food because we had a kitchen that we could prepare a lot of our meals and did not have to eat out as much.

It felt so good to just be able to enjoy our family vacation and not have to worry about how we were going to “pay for our trip” once we got back!

We had a great time!

family photo

Sara is a wife and mother of her ten-year-old daughter. She also works part time at a busy optometry office. In her spare time she enjoys reading, baking and running.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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We Paid Cash: A New-to-Us Car

We paid cash!

A testimony from Victoria

With 2 young boys, our growing family wanted a bigger vehicle. It was complicated trying to pack 2 boys, 2 carseats, a stroller, and all the bags that go with young children into the trunk of a car!

I wasn’t ready for a minivan, and neither was my husband, so we began searching for an SUV with a third row.

Finding something in our price range was extremely difficult, but after a few months of searching, we found a vehicle that we loved. It did have more miles on it than what we wanted, but the price was right!

outlook

We were able to pay cash for this vehicle, while still maintaining a healthy emergency fund because my husband sold his beloved four-wheeler, and we put our entire 2013 tax refund towards the vehicle. We also got a nice trade-in value for our car, which helped a lot.

Helpful Hint: I suggest trading-in over selling privately. When you trade in, the trade in value comes off the purchase price of the car, therefore you pay much less tax!

Because we saved so much by paying cash and because the vehicle did have over 100,000 miles on it, we were also able to pay cash for a 4-year, bumper to bumper warranty. We hope this will also save us money some day!

Victoria is a wife and mother to two busy boys! She also works full-time as a mission trip coordinator for a non-profit in Indiana (best job in the world!). In her spare time she enjoys running, camping, and attempting to re-decorate her home.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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We Paid Cash: A New Patio

We paid cash!

A testimony from Julie from The Family CEO

When we bought our house 13 years ago, one of the things we liked best about it was the patio off the dining room. We loved the shape of the patio, the curved steps leading down to it, and the fact that it allowed us to enjoy our private back yard with a tree line running the length of it.

Fast forward ten years or so, and that same patio was shifting and settling and becoming less and less enjoyable, even a little bit dangerous.

We nursed the patio through another summer or two because we wanted to pay for the improvements in cash. Eventually we had the money to tear out the old patio and put in a new one without using any debt. We kept the same shape of the patio and the curved steps we loved. But we made it larger and including a seating wall and some outdoor lighting.

Now we’re enjoying not only the new patio, but the satisfaction of knowing that it was paid for in cash.

Here’s what helped us pull it off:

1. We’ve paid off a lot of debt.

Getting rid of a couple of car payments, some credit card balances, and a home equity loan in the last five years or so has meant that more of our cash flow each month is ours to keep. In the time leading up to the new patio construction, we were able to add to our savings most months and also set aside a bonus or two, which would have normally been applied to debt.

2. We delayed gratification.

We weren’t able to replace the patio at the first sign of an unsettled brick. We had to live through a few years of settling and even some exposed rebar before we felt ready to take on the expense of replacement.

3. We scaled back our expectations.

Our original plan was to build a deck off the kitchen that wrapped around the house and met up with the new patio off the dining room. We got several bids on that and realized that the cost of doing that – along with an easement complication – meant that plan wasn’t in the cards.

We adjusted our plan to include only the new patio off the dining room, with some terraced steps leading down to the lower part of the yard. It’s not quite what we had envisioned, but it’s still a lovely space. And we may someday do the deck in a scaled back “phase 2″.

new patio

IMG_9247

Julie is a freelance writer and blogger specializing in personal finance and lifestyle topics. She blogs at The Family CEO.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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We Paid Cash: A Cross-Country Move

We paid cash!A testimony from Laura

My husband was getting ready to graduate from college when we decided to move our family of four from Southern Oregon, back to our home state of Colorado — a 1,000 mile move!

Since we had been living on a college-student-sized budget, we didn’t have a lot of money to spend on moving, but we were committed to doing it debt-free.

I went to a do-it-yourself moving company to get estimates, and found that to move all our stuff would cost around $2,500, including gas and lodging. But if we chose to pare down and move our stuff in a trailer that we could haul, we could move for less than $1,000, including gas and lodging.

The largest trailer we could rent from this company was 6×12. Yes, that is six feet by twelve feet (the inside of the trailer is just 11.7 x 5.5, don’t ask me how I know that)!

Since we had been living on a very tight budget, nearly all our belongings had been purchased used and they were looking quite used. We considered that the amount it would cost to move everything was not equal to the value of our belongings, and that if we chose not to move those items (and get rid of anything we weren’t in love with), we could fit into the trailer. Besides, if the Oregon trail pioneers could move a household in a covered wagon, then surely we had no excuse!

Once we decided to move, we had a month-and-a-half before the big day. Here is what we did:

I dug through every room in the house and ruthlessly purged. I kept only the items that we absolutely used and wanted, and everything else was either listed on Craigslist or went in a garage sale pile.

I listed our furniture and nicer items on Craigslist.

Then we had 3 garage sales. At the end of these three sales, we had sold almost everything we wanted to eliminate.

Between Craigslist and the garage sales, we earned $1300!

Then came moving day. When my husband went to pick up the trailer, the trailer wasn’t ready on time, so we got $50 refunded to us. What a great way to kick off our money-saving adventure.

I packed breakfast, lunch, and dinner food in a cooler to save money on restaurants, and then we camped one of the nights.

By the time we paid for the trailer, gas, food, lodging, and even a visit to a zoo along the way, we only spent $900 on our move. That meant we had a whole $400 to get us started in our new home.

Even though it was challenging to eliminate so many of our possessions, we have what we need to get started. And though we will need to spend money to replace items we originally sold, I am confident that we will find a debt-free way to do this as well!

moving

Laura Coble blogs over at Short and Sweet Moments and shares her journey as a mom, wife, and woman learning to stress-less and live in God’s grace. She is a mom to two boys and wife to her best friend. Her move taught her a lot about minimalist living and practicing Eccl 5:15 which says “We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us”.

Have you saved up and paid cash for something — large or small? Submit your story for possible publication here.

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