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Monthly financial check-up

How did you do in January? We finally sat down together with our financial advisor and got some things straightened out/set up for our businesses and retirement savings. It feels good to have that all in place and to now be saving 10% of our income towards retirement. Lord-willing, this will allow us to not be a burden to our children financially when we are old and feeble someday!

We’re now working hard at funding our children’s educational savings accounts. We decided to do something rather out-of-the-ordinary and actually fund them in the amount we’ve both agreed upon in one lump sum, rather than just put in a yearly amount. Since our children are still young, we realized that compound interest is going to play out favorably for them over the next 12 to 17 years, so it would be less expensive for us to go ahead and just put in one lump sum for each of them now. This also will allow us to have one less thing to have a budget category for once we are finished saving the amount we’ve determined we feel we want to put towards their education.

We are not putting this money in typical educational savings accounts, even though it’s a little less tax efficient because we don’t want it to only be ear-marked for college. We definitely expect that at least some of our children will attend college, but some may be more entrepreneurial and may want to start a business in high school or pursue learning outside of college (such as a hands-on internship).

While I definitely think that college is a wise choice in many circumstances, since I didn’t go to college, I tend to be rather counter-cultural in believing that traditional college is not necessarily a necessity for every single young person. We hope to encourage our children to seek God and determine what their own bents, interests and passions are and then we want to help them out financially as they pursue those — whether that be college or some other route.

At any rate, here’s our financial goals update for January:

1. Give generously to the needs in our community and around the world. (This is an ongoing goal that we’re seeking to make a priority each month so we’re not checking it off.)

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

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Jesse’s van. (DONE)

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room. (DONE)

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls. (DONE)

6. Fully fund our IRAs. (DONE)

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

8. Fund our children’s educational savings.

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 goal of paying cash for commercial real estate.

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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  • Kristine says:

    I have been reading this blog this morning and am amazed at the controversy this has caused. I think it is incredibly brilliant to fund your child’s future. Crystal is not limiting her children by telling them what their future is. I think this promotes creativity and self-confidence. Why people are criticizing her is ridiculous. Crystal writes a blog to inspire and give out ideas. If you don’t like it, there is a little x you can click that is on top, to the right on the page. Click it and you don’t have to read it.
    My family has always gone to college and it was expected. But now, being a teacher (a special-education teacher that is), I have learned that not everyone is cut out for college and that what we should except from our children is hard work and success. Crystal’s children are going to feel the support from their parents to pursue that, whatever it might look like.
    And for the person that was criticizing spelling, I am a teacher and have a Master’s Degree and I can’t spell and punctuate worth a lick! 🙂

  • Jennifer C. says:

    I had never thought about funding college in a “non 529” account. Thanks for the tip. Like you said, Crystal, I think it’s important for our children to follow God’s lead in their life (college or no college…)

  • Sandi says:

    Well we just paid off my van and we pay cash for almost everything anymore pretty amazing! Working on our last credit card then we will be debt free except for the house AWESOME!!

  • Wow, some of the comments are very harsh about the college thing. I really didn’t think it was that big of a deal when I read it on your post.

    Anyway, I did do a post – an update of my yearly goals, not just financial ones. If you want to read it, here it is: .

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  • Chris says:

    In January, I was able to get things started to contribute 10%+ in my IRA for the year. 🙂
    Now, I need to get my estate planning in place. I’ve delayed this for two years. It’s well past time.

  • What great goals! I just wrote an article on goal setting. Our goals have changed in the last couple of months since I’m a house-wife but we are scrimping and saving every penny! 🙂 I would love for you to check out my blog at!

  • Chris says:

    I also wanted to say that my parents set aside some money for my siblings and I in the 1970s. It ended up just being a few thousand dollars, but I also received scholarships, grants and worked through college. My sister used hers when she got married out of high school. My brother, well. He planned on just saving the money for a rainy day. He saved the money for well over a decade. Then the bank changed hands and that bank ended up charging monthly fees for dormant accounts. My brother never opened the bank statements until the money was eaten by the fees.

  • Christina says:

    Please share what type of accounts you set up for your children.

  • nanasewn says:

    Our generation did not expect parents to pay for our future, whether college or otherwise. We were not wealthy so it was never an issue. In these difficult economic times it may be all you can do to care for your young families with love and acceptance and not have to worry about whether you are having all your childrens future ducks in a row. I cannot imagine the added stress at a time when families are concerned with feeding their family today! We are not promised tomorrow in any way and life will take many turns between now and then. Comparing ourself to what others have or are able to choose, may cause us to be jealous, bitter and miss the joy of today. I have known parents who have funded their childrens futures by sacrificing their present…..perhaps not the best lesson taught. Each must choose from their own circumstances. It would be interesting to peek in on the parenting decisions of Candices examples above.

    • nanasewn says:

      Forgot to add…MSM is doing a wonderful job of showing us the possibilities of life and she too reminds often ….to choose from our own circumstance. Thank you MSM

  • Jeanna says:

    Crystal and Jesse are doing a wonderful job with this blog. The thing that has been forgotten here is for people to be positive which iswhat Crystal’s blog is all about. In the words of her good friend Jessica
    “Let’s use our big girl words when we choose to write a comment”
    The blog is all about encouraging each other let’s not loose site of that!

  • I love these posts!!!! They are so inspiring and I love seeing how fast you can accomplish goals when you have no mortgage… which makes me work that much harder to save on EVERYTHING so that we can pay off this little 1150 sq.ft. home we live in! Thanks to many of the suggestions I’ve read on this website (which led me to Dave Ramsey) we’ve completely changed our ways of live, we live debt free other than the mortgage and we are focusing on saving and paying off our house! Thank you for all of the inspiration! Here is a look at our goals for ourselves and our little “fixer-upper” house!

  • Lets play nice:)

    Congrats on all your hard work! We just finished paying off all of our credit card debt. Next up, car loan:)

  • Spendwisemom says:

    We have one and maybe another wedding this year and that has changed our goals considerably since we want to pay cash for all of it. We also have kids in college. All now have scholarships and are paying their own way, which is very helpful. We won’t be paying more than our $300 per month extra on our mortgage and won’t be doing any investing this year. But, a wedding is a wonderful thing and not having any bills to pay after it is over is going to be fantastic.

  • KS says:

    We actually started Dave Ramsey’s plans over 5 years ago, but didn’t stick with it. We spent this whole time digging ourselves deeper into debt and not saving anything.

    So our goals are not awe-inspiring like most. We’re just trying to fix our mess…so out came the Ramsey books from the attic and here is the list:
    1. Make a budget
    2. Reinstate the envelope system and cut up plastic
    3. Bring any past due or over limit accounts current
    4. Start the initial emergency fund

    So far so good. A little jealous I’m reading about people contributing to various savings accounts…but no one to blame but ourselves for the mess we are in. We’ll get there someday!

  • Tammy says:

    Crystal may not have gone to college but did take an online course that had something to do with paralegal-it was so she could understand Jesse’s job better.Please explain that one again.I am not sure but I would think if she had wanted to this online certificate could have helped in a job .

    The argument of college vs non college is a very old one and very argumentative.Who knows what life will be like in 13 years when their oldest is old enough to go to college or not go.Many go to college and many not.Good thing Jesse went to college so there would be good Christian lawyer around.Some get lucky on getting jobs without degrees but that is NOW.I have many friends who have gotten jobs without degrees but if somebody walked in the same medical or dental office library without a degree they would be laughed at and told to get one.Times have changed and again they will. New jobs are created every day and then some die out.I for one can’t ever work at a photo processing plant thanks to digital cameras.

    Also many of the names mentioned of famous people who have no degrees at one time went to college and dropped out.The timing of the technology field was so new they invented it and they didn’t need the degrees.

    • Crystal says:

      Yes, I got my paralegal certification through an online course. And yes, I could have used this to get a job as a paralegal if I had gone on to sit for the exam.

      I think a college degree is a necessity in many fields — legal, medical, etc. We’ll see how God leads our children when the time comes for them to start considering higher education, careers, etc.. 🙂

  • Mary says:

    To anyone asking why would you start a fund with a “lump sum” rather than put in money over time…I am currently reading “Financial Peace” and Dave (we all know what Dave I’m talking about!) gives an illustration that is very easy to understand. I’ll try to sum it up:

    Ben and Arthur – both save at 12% – both save $2,000 per year. Ben starts at age 19 and stops at 26. Arthur starts at age 27 and stops at 65.

    In a nutshell, Ben puts in $2k per year for 8 years = $16,000. He winds up with nearly $2.3 million dollars at age 65.

    Arthur doesn’t put in anything for the first 8 years, and then puts in $2k a year for the next 38 years ($76k total) and he winds up with $1.5 million at age 65. That is the beauty of compounding interest!

    12% is completely possible (check out Vanguard) – and heck, if you have 16 grand lying around, put it all in the first year at 12%. $16,000 put in savings at 12% compounded yearly = $50560 after 18 years.

    • Anna J says:

      I think your math is off – $16,000 at 12% compounded for 18 years I get over $123,000! Making your point even better 🙂

      • Mary says:

        I ran a bunch of different calculations and must have looked at the wrong output – sorry! Simple savings calculators are available online – I used (or should I say, tried to use…LOL)

  • Tara says:

    I can’t believe the turn the comments have taken on this.

    I feel that Crystal was merely making the point that not everybody fits into the “one size fits all” catagory when it comes to college. I wholeheartedly agree with her on that. For our family, it’s important to have the funds for our children to attend college – that doesn’t mean that they MUST do that. My husband has a college degree, and earns a good living. My brother-in-law, with no degree, had a “paid for” house in the nicest neighborhood in their area when he was 35 years old. It’s not all about “book smarts”. People are wired differently and excel in different areas. Thank God. It’s a shame that some people think that a piece of paper makes them “better” than others that may not have had the opportunity or desire to go to college. It’s also unfortunate that along with that college degree doesn’t come good manners and the ability to appreciate a different point of view – whether you agree with it or not.

  • Paula says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Crystal! My husband and I both have bachelor’s degrees. I am currently a stay-at-home mom/nanny (not using my degree at the moment) and DH is an elementary school teacher, so we have a lot of student loan debt and not much income to show for it. On the other hand, my dad and brother are both construction workers. Neither of them have a college education and they make far more money than us! When deciding how to invest for our son’s future, we chose NOT to utilize a 529 plan because we do not know what his future will hold. Aside from the points that several people have already made, there is one that I feel has been overlooked. It is possible that he will choose to go to college, but will receive academic, athletic, or need-based grants/scholarships that cover a great deal of his education. If that is the case or if he chooses a career that does not require college, we would like the money to be available for something else such as starting a business, paying for trade school/apprenticeship/internship, or perhaps buying his first home. Our only requirement will be that the money be used on something of lasting value that will help launch him into his adult life (no motorcycle or expensive honeymoon!)

    To each his own, I say. Every parent is responsible to God for making choices that they feel are in the best interest of their child(ren). Crystal was just sharing the choice that they had made for their own family. She was in no way insisting that everyone else should do the same thing for their family. I don’t think any of us need to be critical of anyone else’s choices in this area as it is a matter of preference, not a moral issue. Thanks for sharing your financial ideas, decisions, and progress with all of us, Crystal. You’re doing a great job. Keep up the good work!

  • Laurie Villotta says:

    I guess the question I have for Crystal is how are you and Jesse investing this money for your childre? What route? I completely agree that not everyone is college material. Like Crystal I want some money to be there for whatever my children would like to pursue. I do not believe in the 529 plans at all. From many top known money people Dave Ramsey and Suzie Orman they both like the idea of an educational IRA. I do not know all the specifics,but I am interested in having my origianl questions answered. The responses should have never turned into a debate about having a college degree that was no the intent of Crystals origianl post. Many of you did not read her goals clearly and started bashing her before you should have posted.

  • Elysha says:

    I am currently writing my dissertation, and will graduate with a Ph.D. in May (fingers crossed).
    Can I just say I have learned more from Crystal and Dave Ramsey regarding money and financing than I have from 12 years of college? I am currently 100K in school loan debt and though the journey has been interesting, I wish I could start all over again and do it all without debt. Live and learn, right?

    I admire your honesty and transparency Crystal. Keep up the great work. I hope to be debt free in two years 🙂

  • Because of your 31 Weeks to a Better Grocery Budget I decided to scale back our weekly groceries to $25 per person. Our family is 2 adults and 3 children under 4. I know $25 seems like a lot, but we eat completely organic and since we were unable to have a large garden this past summer we’re paying full price for organic produce in the middle of the winter.

    Needless to say, I can’t wait until the farmer’s markets open again.

    By the way I hope to get down to $22 per person per week this month. We live on a college campus with lots of other families who are very busy and struggling financially. We want to use the extra $15 each week to prepare meals for the families around us.

    Thank you for all of your encouragement! You’ve really helped me to think outside the box when it comes to handling our money and blessing others!

  • Davonne says:

    My husband and I finished paying off a credit card last night!!!!! Two down, one to go. (We paid off the first card in September.) We are incredibly excited – I can finally see the light at the end of this debt tunnel!

    Thank you for your inspiring and well-educated blog, Crystal 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    Crystal – I’d love to hear more about the kind of accounts you’ve chosen to set up for your children. I, too, do not expect my children to attend college. We’ve been saving money for them, but have not yet put it in any type of investment account because every time we broach the subject, our bank tries to get us to put it into a 529. When we explain that we want the kids to be able to access the money for things other than college, they look at us like we have two heads (each). “Why wouldn’t you want your kids to go to college???” Like we’re imbeciles.

    Truth is, neither DH or I finished college, and we’ve gained MUCH more experience in real life and through apprentice-type programs. I see my sister and her husband, both with Master’s Degrees, barely able to make ends meet. I’m kind of the “black sheep” of the family, the only one not to finish college, but in reality, both my husband and myself are much happier in our life choices than all my (5) and his (1) siblings that did complete college. We have nothing against higher education (except the exorbitant cost!), and if our children want to go to college, that’s fine with us. But we don’t expect them to do it, just because “that’s what you do” and I think that mindset offers much more freedom in pursuing dreams.

    But back to my original question. We’d love to have the money that we’re setting aside for the kids earning more than 0.3% in a savings account. Could/Would you be able to share what type of account you’ve set up for your children?

    Thanks! for this particular post, and for all you contribute. 🙂

    • Jennifer says:

      Never mind – found your comment to Brooke. (I skipped past many of the comments after some of them turned ugly, then scrolled up from the bottom after I posted mine). Thanks!

  • sue says:

    Anyone have ideas for saving when very little money is coming in. My husband owns his own electrical construction business and when there is no jobs there is no income. We are fortunate to own our house and car, so no debt but we still have minimal bills such as utilities , taxes and insurance. And to give 10% of nothing, is nothing. I’m good at the drugstore game so I usually can make money there, but still nothing to save.

    • Crystal says:

      Could your husband possibly do something else on the side which could serve as a fallback when there aren’t a lot of electrical construction jobs available? That would be my suggestion, without knowing more details regarding your situation.

    • Freebies says:

      How about if you are good at the “drugstore game” giving a couponing class. Charge what you think might be worth your time.


    • Gail says:

      Would your husband consider smaller electrical jobs than what I am assuming is major electrical construction jobs? For example, a neighbor recently had all her dated ivory colored electrical outlets and light switches changed out for white ones, as well as some light fixtures and ceiling fan. He might want to contact Realtors and work with them for leads. Many people need electrical work when they are buying or selling. (I know I do!) I also see electrician business cards posted at Hardware Stores. Not sure if that works or not. Hope this helps.

  • Freebies says:

    There is a great article in this months Woman’s Day about If Kids Should go to College or Not. I really enjoyed it.

    here’s the link if you don’t get a subscription:


  • Blair says:

    This is all very interesting with the college and retirement discussions, but I want to know about the cruise you mentioned previously. Don’t forget to budget for that! Not that you would or anything, I just didn’t see it there. I think you and your husband would really like it. It’s a very relaxing vacation and, frugally speaking, probably the best way to maximize your vacation dollars.

  • Angie says:

    I feel strongly about this too:

    I tend to be rather counter-cultural in believing that traditional college is not necessarily a necessity for every single young person.

    I’m trying to explain that belief to my Mom, and she doesn’t understand. “Everyone must go to college” is one of those “pearls” of conventional wisdom I always question such as:

    1. It is always good to have a Plan B – I feel with a Plan B, one sometimes entertains failure as an option for Plan A.

    2. Living together before marriage is always smart – I realize it’s a personal decision and I try to avoid being controversal, but I really don’t believe it would have been a smart choice for me.

  • marisa says:

    I’m currently in grad school in the UK, and will probably still do even further college education after my Master’s. The university setting has been a great way for me to learn, travel, and improve myself overall. However, I completely agree that college, particularly of the 4-year university type, is not for everyone. Education is a different matter. It can be achieved through volunteer work, on the job training, self-study, etc. I also believe that community colleges and vocational training are absolutely fantastic choices, and I met some of the most motivated and brilliant students in these settings. It’s fantastic that you are giving them these options and support.
    In regards to whether college = a higher paying job, I’m of two minds. Yes, I feel that I’ve developed my interpersonal and analytical skills through my college experiences, and that has played a key role in my successes as an employee. Yet none of my jobs so far have been directly related to my degree; I’ve got them all through networking and positive relationships. I am continuing with my education not because I think it’ll immediately guarantee me some posh job, but because I really believe in what I do (and think eventually I could get that posh job out of it, just not today – hehe!). So there really is no one size fits all approach.

  • billie says:

    will you talk more about saving for opportunities other than college? That sounds really interesting. Would you mind sharing how much or how you came up with your ‘lump sum’ amount? thanks!

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