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“$50 here and $75 there adds up fast…”


An encouraging story from Terri:

My husband and I read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in March of 2009. I absolutely loved the book as it started us on our journey to becoming debt free in a year.

Our goal was to pay off a student loan, home equity loan, and to get my husband a used car since his 15-year-old SUV was on it’s last leg. It was about $25,000 worth of debt and we were looking at used cars in the $10,000 price range.

We started by:

  • Making sure our allowances for our taxes were correct so that we were getting the maximum amount back per paycheck
  • Temporarily discontinuing contributions to our 401K and the kids college funds
  • Cutting back on eating out
  • Using coupons

I realized that in one month I spent $600 at Target! It was not all at once but $50 dollars here and $75 dollars there, it added up fast. After that discovery we really only bought necessities when shopping.

We started using Mint.com to keep track of our spending habits. Once we figured out where all the money was going, and stopped our other contributions we came up with an extra $2000-$3000 per month to go toward debt.

We paid off both loans one year later on February 22, 2010, and two months later we paid $11,000 in cash for my husband’s Mazda RX-8. Handing over the check was pretty scary but it felt awesome!

We continued to save the following year and now have $25,000 in our savings account for emergencies, and no debt except the house. We have also been able to increase our tithing at church. We have almost given more to church the past three months than we did all of last year at church. It feels wonderful!

Our next goal to to save for retirement by increasing our contributions to 15%. Everything that is leftover will go toward the kids college and pay off the mortgage.  I would also love to be able to start helping more people in need now that we have our act together. I would love to give that big tip to a single mother who is a waitress or give a $100 bill to a stranger in need on the street.

It is amazing to me that when we were not managing our money well, we wanted to go out and spend it.  In contrast, now that we have money set aside, we do not want to spend any of it!

I am so looking forward to see what this year brings. We have been blessed by God beyond belief. It truly is amazing.

Terri is 36 and a stay at home mom to her two wonderful kids. Her husband is 43 the Senior Director for a Computer Consulting firm. Terri likes to make a little extra money every now and then by subbing at her children’s old preschool and picking up an occasional data entry project for her husbands company.

Do you have a story to share about your financial journey which would encourage other readers and give them hope? Email it to me and I’ll consider posting it.

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121 Comments

  • Sarah says:

    Thinking about getting the Dave Ramsey book. Is it a detailed plan of implementation?

    • Dawn says:

      I checked out his book at the library 3 times before I just decided to buy it. I re-read it often to keep me motivated and to help inspire others. He calls them the 7 baby steps each which are explained in detail in The Total Money Makeover book. It is definitely worth it!

    • Terri says:

      I loved the book. It was very detailed. Once I finished, I passed it along to my husband and we started right away. I found it at Target, (of course) on sale for $17.99, normally $24.99. You may want to check amazon.com. I took tons of notes so it was helpful to have my own copy and not a borrowed one from the library.

    • Michelle says:

      I recommend getting it from the library first. Honestly it is only right for certain people. If you are simply overspending and have lots of “stuff” debt, he’s probably right for you. If you are paycheck to paycheck even with a decent low-frills budget, not so much.

      • Emily says:

        I agree. I was hearing all this hype about his books, but I didn’t want to spend any $ on it. I borrowed it from the library and read it, and I’m glad I didn’t buy it. Although there were a few ideas and tips I got from reading it, his system just wouldn’t work for my family. No way would we ever feel secure with just $1000 in an emergency fund while paying off our 2 only debts (besides mortgage); my minivan and student loans. Just my opinion, but I’d rather chip away at those 2 loans while building my emergency fund to a number I feel safe with.

  • Catherine says:

    Does Dave Ramsey recommend cutting 401k contributions? I’ve thought about it since that’s about $500/month for us but thought it was a no no. I too, spend tons at Target, my husband works for their DC’s but I’ve cut my trips down and it’s helped a ton. So you did roughy 35k in a year?I’m looking at that amount,roughly. We have a good savings but are going to need that at the closing at our second home. It’s awful to have the money but not be able to apply it towered debt.

    • Andrea Q says:

      Here’s the basic outline of Dave’s plan:

      http://www.daveramsey.com/new/baby-steps/

    • Kacie says:

      He does recommend cutting 401k contributions, or at least lowering it to the company match only for a time. The reasoning is, if you can pay off your debt super fast, you’ll be in a much better long-term position because of it.

      But, if it seems that it will take like a decade to pay off your debts (even going gazelle intense) then it might make better sense to continue funding your retirement.

    • Lacey says:

      Do you feel safe giving all of your information to Mint.com? I would love to start the program but am very weary about giving out bank passwords and such.

      • Rachel says:

        I have used mint now for several years and have never had a problem. Here is a link where they explain why it is considered safe:
        https://www.mint.com/how-it-works/security/

        But really it is up to your comfort level. My husband and I felt it was worth using and matched our comfort level, but I know others who do not (my mom doesn’t feel safe when using it, so she uses excel).

      • Ada says:

        I was wary of using Mint.com too, because I don’t really like having so much of my information available (in some way or other) online. We decided to purchase YNAB (You Need A Budget) after a 30-day trial. It’s really kept us accountable and we’ve quit spending money that isn’t actually in our bank account yet. I highly recommend it if you’re willing to get a little intense and keep tabs on things regularly. You can try it for free on their website: ynab.com. Good luck!

    • Lindsey says:

      Yes, temporarily. You have to look at the numbers. Quite often you’re paying much more interest on your debts than you’re earning with your retirement contributions. And I’ve found that because we aren’t contributing to retirement, it inspires me even more to hurry up and pay off our debt!

  • Melanie Walters says:

    I love your whole post, but especially this comment: “It is amazing to me that when we were not managing our money well, we wanted to go out and spend it. In contrast, now that we have money set aside, we do not want to spend any of it!”

    I have found that being intentional puts so much more meaning behind every dollar you spend. I am still learning, but that has been my experience too. Even learning some shopping strategies has made impulse buying so much less appealing, and the few times I’ve caved, I’ve also ended up with buyer’s remorse, and most often returned those unnecessary things…most of the time!

  • Mandy says:

    I love your confession about Target! I, too, was shocked when I started to realize exactly how much money I was spending there, especially after holidays when they would put everything on clearance. Thanks for sharing.

  • Kendra Brown says:

    Even giving $20 to a stranger is invigorating!

  • Ashley says:

    Has anyone else used mint.com?? I guess it just makes me nervous for them to have all that information but it seems like it would be a great resource to have.

    • Rae says:

      I use Mint! It is a great resource. I highly recommend it for an easy and secure way of keeping track of your budget. I love that I can see my whole financial picture at a glance… and it even helps keep me on track in making sure I have bills paid on time because I can easily see where I’m at in each category of my budget.

    • Kristen says:

      I use it and I feel it is safe. It has been recommended by the NY Times, Ladies Home Journal and many other places.

      https://www.mint.com/product/reviews/

    • Ada says:

      You might try out ynab.com. They have a 30-day free trial and it’s a program you download to your computer, but you have to input the information, whereas Mint.com automatically links to your account and decides the category of spending for you. I like the control of YNAB personally, but you definitely have to be willing to stay on top of things every few days. It keeps you accountable if that’s what you’re looking for. Good luck!

  • Pippa says:

    What a great testimony ! We must all remember all of everything we have has been given to us by the good Lord and if we start to believe we are doing all of this on our own we are sadly mistaken.

    • Katie says:

      AMEN! All too often people think that they are the ones in control. Sadly, they are wrong. When things start to get rough they look to what they can do differently not to the Lord. They need to trust Him in the good and bad.

  • Anne Pyne says:

    Thanks for your post. My church is taking the Dave Ramsey course together, on Sunday nights for 13 weeks. I’m looking forward to getting debt free !!! Glad to hear how well it’s working for you 🙂

  • Totally agree with the not wanting to spend now that you have money set aside. I’m still in debt, but have my emergency fund and started paying off extra on credit cards. The more I save the less I want to spend, crazy how that works. Thanks for the great story.

  • Challice says:

    I love the idea of giving $100 to someone and whatnot. We are really working for that and yeah, a little here and a little there adds up so quickly! gulp.

  • Great post! Thanks so much for sharing and encouraging us!

  • Denise C. says:

    Terri,
    I am so with you on the Target thing. My husband counted 27 transactions in one month that had 31 days. Yea. However, I’ll some of those transactions were prescriptions (we all got sick at once!). Little things really do add up.
    I have set goals for April not to go to Starbucks (a bad habit that I picked up again.), I also want to limit my visits to the grocery store. I am very inspired about you saving so much! My husband and I are trying to get our finances in order, we both unexpectedly had to purchase new cars last year (our savings went to fixing my SUV, only to have it completely die on me 5 weeks after getting bit back). We have 2 car payments and a mortgage. NO CREDIT CARD DEBT!!!! We WILL NOT use the credit card for any purchases whatsoever. 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story!

  • Jacqueline says:

    So very inspiring for people like me who want to do more with what God has truly blessed me with. Thanks for sharing!

  • Stephanie says:

    I had a chuckle that you could free up $2,000-$3,000 a month, we only MAKE about $2,000 per month!

    It gets discouraging to us sometimes to only be able to save small bits of money, but we are doing our best and that’s what counts! Congratulations on your success!

    • Bethany says:

      Same here! Just remember, the small bits do add up!

      • Anne says:

        We are in the same boat here. My husband makes around 2400 a month. We have 6 kiddos at home that we homeschool. We have our mortgage, and a student loan, and 1 car payment. We do the best we can, though. We know that even small deposits for our savings add up.

      • annie says:

        Right there with ya!

    • Nicole says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! I was just sitting here thinking wow $2000-$3000 saved a month; how much do they make?! But we all have different incomes and circumstances, so just doing what we can is all we can do.

      • Wendy says:

        I thought the same thing but looking at her husband’s job description, it must be lots of money. We live on $40,000 per year and $8,000 goes to buy health insurance or towards dental expenses. Ridiculous I know and we are healthy. I could never think of going to Target or Walmart several times a month dropping $50 or $75.

        One thing I have a hard understanding about Dave Ramsey is that he assumes you can pay off bills and not have any more come in. I find that unrealistic. We always have a dental bill. Once we get it paid off, it’s time for another cleaning or filling etc.. or here comes a car repair or something else. There always seem to be new bills popping up at our house so we never get all of our bills completly paid.

        • Lea Stormhammer says:

          Don’t assume that it’s a enormous amount though. $5000 per month income is roughly $60,000 per year – a good income very certainly but not an enormous or unreasonable amount for the job title listed, especially if it’s a large company in a high-cost-of-living area. If they have a low mortgage payment or other low-cost housing opportunity, or are simply extremely frugal, they may easily be able too live on $2000 per month and bank the rest.

          I think sometimes we forget that other people don’t necessarily have the same priorities for their money that we do. I was talking to another parent at my children’s dance class who commented that she couldn’t understand why “anyone” wouldn’t put their child into the competition dance line, get facials and have their nails done weekly, and their hair cut and colored monthly! I had to laugh because I’m sure that she thinks I’m crazy for getting my hair cut 3x a year at most, having had my nails done 4x in my life and a facial never and there is no way on earth I’d put my kids in the competiton line at this age (our kids are all 5 or 6!). I do spend half my income on graduate school and private school tution (my husband has a scholarship for seminary), which I know other people think is nuts (this woman included!).

          The whole thing made me laugh and I think it was a good reminder that just because someone has a different income it doens’t necessarily mean they are spending their money the way we think they should!

          Saving is saving, whether it’s $5/month or $3000/month. Every little bit helps and every little bit gets you closer to your goal of a particular purchase, being debt free or whatever!

          Just my two cents!
          Lea

        • Claire says:

          If you have a dental bill like that- that you know is going to be consistent, then I would recommend (and I’m pretty sure I got this idea from Dave;-) ) saving for that bill a little at a time each month so that you have that money when the bill arises. Treat it like a monthly expense & part of your normal budget. Also, have another category for car repairs in your budget. Dave also recommends that you try to save to build up an “emergency fund” of 3-6 months living expenses so that you pay for unexpected bills. However, to start, try to save $1000 for emergency expenses & then build up from there. I hope this helps!

        • Katie says:

          Dave also recommends picking up a 2nd job (pizza delivery, etc..) to help pay off debt if you are not having enough income coming in to do so. He doesn’t say you have to keep that 2nd job forever, just until you have some savings built up. 🙂

      • Monica says:

        I was thinking the same thing,,, I was like “Seriously? freed up that much money a month, spent 600 at Target?!?!” We only bring in about 1600$ a month. SO I read this and I feel like we are the only one’s working with very little money.

        • Helene says:

          I know it doesn’t matter how much you make, its what you do with it but I think there are a lot of us with a monthly income of the $2000 range. I’m a single parent/grandparent raising a now 5 1/2 year old (he came to me 4 years ago at 19 months). I got ready to put $600 in savings Dec 30 and the furnace needed $622 in repair as soon as I walked in the house. This is how my attempts at savings usually go.
          I have also found Mary Hunt’s debtproofliving.com works better for me than Dave (even though I went to see him twice at church 2 years ago) and even once told her that.

    • Tamara says:

      You’re not alone – we only bring home around $2200 a month. We save what we can. 🙂

    • Terri says:

      Thank you. My husband has been with the same company for 12 years now. He is 43 and now a senior director for a computer consulting firm. He has worked his way up the ladder. If you listen to Dave Ramsey there are lots of people who pay off tons of money making very little. I do feel truly blessed and I am so thankful for my husband and kids. Just take baby steps and you will make it.

    • Jenn says:

      I thought the same thing! I was reading this saying, “if only I had that much to put away each month!” But diligence and perseverance pay off in the end, no matter what amount we save. 🙂

      • Kristen says:

        LOL I always feel like that when I read these posts, it’s both encouraging and depressing at the same time! I can’t even imagine saving money right now considering how little we make, BUT I know that’s only temporary since we’re both in college full-time.

        • Kathy says:

          Please, please remember that the feelings of depression or discouragement comes from COMPARING and we are not supposed to do that. God has a different plan and income and job situation for each family. Terri didn’t have to share her numbers but she chose to, to provide a more concrete example of what she was talking about. But don’t compare your family’s numbers to hers. Look at the overall point she is making in her article, that every little bit adds up, $50 for someone is $5 for someone else.

          Please don’t get discouraged because you are comparing. That’s just you-know-who talking!

          Blessings,
          Kathy

    • AudraB says:

      ditto.

    • Debbie says:

      I think it’s important to realize that 99% of the time, “the more you make, the more you spend”. You can make $50K a year or $150K a year; if you spend every penny and then some, you’re broke. Also, if you make $150K vs $50K, your debt is probably much higher too.

      So small steps, whether it be an extra $200 a month or $2,000 a month, it all counts. I’m managing to save an extra $700 a month right now to get my bills paid off – it’s so exciting to see the debt going down.

      • Lindsey says:

        Absolutely! It’s been my experience, that quite often people with large incomes, also have large debt. Don’t compare, instead be inspired! 🙂

  • Leah says:

    Us, too-Stephanie-we make right at $2,000 a month. I would be thrilled to find even $200 a month extra to put toward debt!! Thank goodness for MSM, she’s so helpful in finding the best deals on necessities for my family!

  • Jennifer H says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. It is so encouraging to hear how others are able to become debt free. I have wanted to read Dave Ramsey’s book, but for us, it is hard to find extra money to buy the book. I too had to giggle, like Stephanie at the thought of freeing up that much money each month. With both my husband and I working, we barely make $1600 a month. Jobs in our area are hard to come by. Fortunately, we both found jobs, but since they are retail, they are low wages, and neither one of us gets full time. We each average about 20-30 hours weekly. Any suggestions on how to save when you are already struggling to get by?

    • Tamara says:

      Try the library – that’s how I read Dave Ramsey’s books. 🙂

    • I also pick up his books from the library!

    • Kimberly says:

      I think the biggest thing for us and the place to start was a budget and a goal. Hey, even $5 saved at the end of each month is $5 you didn’t have before. And there are times when things are going to be really tight and you just have to hang in there and do what you can and there won’t be any money at the end of the month. Those times, we’ve focused on just living within our means and never living outside them. That in and of itself is a big and important thing.

    • Shannon says:

      One thing I’ve been doing to save little bits of money here and there is to use the envelope system for our groceries and eating out budget. Every two weeks when my husband gets paid I put the exact amount of money in the envelopes and only spend out of them for groceries and eating out. At the end of the two weeks, whatever is left in the envelopes goes into a new envelope in my dresser drawer. I was able to apply an extra $85 to my student loan (on top of the extra we already pay) last month from my leftover envelope money.

    • Liz says:

      Jennifer, if you haven’t already, you should read Crystal’s post on this website called “Is It Possible To Save Money When We’re Barely Keeping Our Head Above Water?” If you scroll up, you will find it on the right of the page and you can just click on it. Very inspiring. H

    • Jessica says:

      Jenneifer- my heart goes out to you and your husband. I understand where you coming from and was there myself up till last October. I realize that everyone’s hardly getting buy is a little different. What worked for me and my hardly getting buy maybe way different than yours. You may already be doing these things. Hopefully some of this helps.

      (If you not spiritual, skip to the next point) I suggest sending up a good prayer before proceeding to the others. I was just finding my faith when I embarked on this financial journey and lifestyle change. However, through this process I have been able to see that God really does provide.

      Get information together that you will need to create a budget such as a list of bills (approx amounts and due dates) a history of where you money has gone (bank statements, receipts), and several pay subs for both you and your husband. Having all this info will help you create a realistic budget. I would suggest setting this budget up using the lowest paycheck you guys have had recently so that when paycheck are larger you have instant savings (or wiggle room). Once this budget is set including all you categories that you spend money on (gas, groceries, entertainment, health/beauty, household goods, ect) I would suggest making envelopes for them. The envelope system really really helped me get my spending under control. If there was no money in the envelope, I knew I couldn’t buy anything. Moneysavingmom.com is filled with good deals that will help you spend the least amount on an item possible from groceries to cleaning supplies.

      Reexamine your budget after every pay period. Were you able to stick to it last time? Do you need to change an amount this time? Did you have leftover money in your envelope? A budget is something that has to be reexamined constantly. Its not something you make once and keep for ever.

      During that reexamination, I realized I was spending way way way to much money on soda. I kept telling myself that it was my one bad habit so it was okay. However, the numbers didn’t lie and when I saw that I was spending over $25 a month on it, I realized I had to stop drinking it. This may not apply to you, but I would suggest looking for habits like this that you can quit for a while to save big money. Do you eat out a lot? Buy coffee out often? Have a candy habit?

      Look at cutting back on things. I had the most basic cable package that allowed me to have any TV channels but it still cost me $30 a month. After the first of the year, it was up to almost $35. So I canceled it. I realized that I can read the news online, watch tv shows there also. I took up reading as a way to fill the time in the evenings. I looked at my cell phone bill and realized I had some extra services (roadside assistance, phone insurance) that I could cancel and dropped my bill by $15. I started using natural light whenever possible and making sure all unused electric equipment was unplugged. My electric bill dropped by $20 a month.

      Think creatively. Become a problem solver. Realize that things will never make you happy, only relationships will. Once you start telling your money where to go, it is amazing how you can save a few dollars. Think, if you get paid twice a month. Each pay period you save $5 on groceries, $5 on gas (less trips out since you spending less), and $10 on utilities or cell phone- that adds up to $40 a month or $480 a year. If your struggling that is a lot of money.
      (Sorry this turned out to be so long).

      • Laura says:

        I really liked your comment! My favorite part was:

        ” A budget is something that has to be reexamined constantly. Its not something you make once and keep for ever.”

      • Koree says:

        I just found out that my apartment complex will be forcing anyone who wants to renew their lease to pay an extra 40 a month for cable. I was so angry because I can barely afford my other bills and I cannot factor in another frill. Looks like I have to move again!! This will be the 14th time in 7 years

  • Katy says:

    It doesn’t matter how much money comes in. Mismanaged money in any amount is money lost. I have had money to spend and had to watch every penny. The feeling is the same if you live paycheck to paycheck. The person with a larger income just has more stuff or more vacations if it all gets spent.

  • Maria says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. I realized that we were spending $800 per month at walmart about the same way you did – not all at once. I have learned a lot of things. Couponing has helped me to realize that if I had used coupons then, we would not have gotten in so much trouble. I have learned my lesson(s). I am wiser with money now…and look for every way to save money in anyway I possibly can…the other day I happened to clean some things out of my closet – went through some old receipts and I was shocked at the fact that I spent so much and saved so little on every day items – that now I get for basically nothing…I wish I knew all I know now…but I am trying to move on and do way better. Our biggest problem was eating out and taking ppl out to eat. Now, I am not afraid to say we can’t get that or we can’t afford that. We get it when we can!! I enjoy reading your story, because I can totally relate!! Thank you!!

  • Lise says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. We, too, were able to cut back and put that much into monthly savings. We also relocated to a lower cost of living location which was a huge part of that savings.

    I’d like to thank Crystal for running a variety of stories. I know several people are blown away by saving $2K – $3K per month but that is much closer to our situation so it’s nice to relate on that level. Certainly not realistic for everyone but for a lot of us, it is.

  • Kristy says:

    I was wondering about the mint.com to help with your budgeting. I bought a collection of Dave Ramseys books and software awhile back when it was a great deal and there is a budget in there also. Are they all the same? Reading the testimonals on the blogs helps keep me motivated.

  • Our story is so much like yours! I loved reading it.

    I too had a Target problem. I am a natural spender and still have to fight to not overspend on “deals”.

    We have 6 months until we are debt free (expect our primary mortgage) and are starting our emergency savings fund. I have to admit that saving money for emergencies and retirement sounds a lot less exciting than paying off debt! 🙂 But I know it is key to a successful future.

    Great job and thanks for sharing your story!

  • Jennifer says:

    This is so encouraging! Thanks so much for sharing your story. We have been working on getting out of debt for over four years (one of which was spent in partial unemployment). We had the money at the end of two years to pay off our debt, but have kept it in our emergency fund during our year of unemployment and even now as my husband has a low paying job that doesn’t allow us to pay all our bills (he lost his second job). We keep needing to dip into savings. He’s looking for a higher paying job, but sometimes it gets discouraging to be so close to the goal (only $1900 more to go!) and still be unsure how soon he’ll have that next job. These stories are great at remembering that it is possible in God’s timing!

  • Angie says:

    We are trying to get started, but just can’t seem to get ahead. My husband got a new job in January and it pays really good. He is almost done with his training. We got so behind on our credit card bills that we can’t catch up, I am hoping that after training we can start making good payments on them and get them paid off. We are still barely getting by. I want to be debit free by the end of this year, because we will need a bigger vehicle when our 3rd child turns 1 and we want to get a house. I like reading these stories on how people paid off their debit it is really encouraging.

    • Katie says:

      Listen to Dave Ramsey’s radio show- it is so encouraging and has LOTS of great advice about how to deal with creditors.

    • chandler says:

      Angie,
      With the Dave Ramsey baby steps, he talks about paying off the smallest balance first if you have multiple cards. This allows you to have less cards that you owe. As you decrease those numbers, you gain momentum in paying off the others. Good luck to you. I would recommend cutting back anywhere you possibly can. For us, we canceled our phone and cable, which could run anywhere from $100-150 a month depending on the plan. We realized that it just wasn’t worth it.

    • Andrea Q says:

      You may not need a new vehicle as soon as you think! The new carseat recommendation is to keep babies rear-facing until they are at least two years old (it is much safer!). If the carseat you’re currently using for your baby has a high weight limit, you can keep things the way they are, putting off a vehicle purchase until you’ve had a chance to save some money. Even if you need to buy a new seat to keep him rear-facing, that’s a lot cheaper than a new vehicle!

  • Cat says:

    Before we ever had kids we decided we wanted to be debt free by the time we started a family and did as such and only had a mortgage payment. We also had substantial savings and life was good! Fast forward to an unexpected 3rd pregnancy, 1 job change and 1000 mile move, we are back in debt just from chasing a career. My husband makes a really good salary, but we have incurred quite a bit of debt and used all our savings and having been debt free before, I hate the feeling. We have 2 homes which is the biggest drain but keep drowing because things just aren’t working out (mainly the economy and increasing property taxes on second home) . I’ve taken on a part time job which is not at all where my heart is. My heart is being broken 3 days a week when I’m missing out on time with my kids. I hope to hear more stories of where things ARE working out and that people are content with God’s timing. I often wonder about the lessons we are being taught through this trial, and I am think patience is one!

    • Kelley says:

      You’re story sounds like ours, except our children are grown. My husband lost his job, had a major surgery and finally secured a new job in another state. We, too, have two homes and have watched our savings trained and our retirement accounts depleted over two years! I look here for encouragement as well.

    • chandler says:

      I hope everything works out for you. I know the pain of working so much that you don’t see your children awake that day. Thankfully, I had family to support me, but it was difficult to not spend the time I wanted to with my children. I will be in prayer with you over this. May God provide you new opportunities so that you can be home with your children if that is your heart’s desire. I strongly believe that if that is the desire of your heart that God will make a way.

      • Cat says:

        Thank you so much! I’ve been praying for this situation to improve for about 3 years. I have no doubt there is a plan and have changed my prayers to where I now pray for God’s will instead of improvement in my situation. I was so psyched and motivated yesterday and then today I examined the bills and got frustrated. It was my day off at least and it looks like another one tomorrow with a sick child with mono. But at least I’ll be at home ;). That was something else that piled up…medical bills. Anyhow, thanks again for your prayers, we could use them. Please also pray for all those who read these comments and they too become motived.

  • Victoria says:

    So glad that Terri mentioned checking her tax allowances-that is something we should all do to ensure that the right amount of taxes is being deducted from our paychecks. I read an article a few months ago that most taxpayers get more than $1500 back in tax refunds each year–that is money that you can put in a savings account, CD or use towards paying down your debt instead of lending it to the government till tax time! As Terri mentioned, it all adds up!

  • Allison V. says:

    So encouraging! I’m getting up on my own two feet now, but I also look forward to the day when I can give back to my church’s benevolence fund, or “pay forward” the gifts and blessings that have been given to me. It’s a good feeling to be headed in that direction.

  • Trixie says:

    What is it with Target. When I used to do budget counseling with people, almost every single couple had issues with unconcious overspending at Target — numerous times a month! It got to be where I was surprised if there wasn’t a Target problem. lol.

  • B says:

    I know a lot of people on here seem anti-credit card but, by using a credit card to pay everything you have a very good picture of your spending style. Using a credit card DOESN’T put you in debt, I have used a credit card fore very single purchase in the last 10 yrs. and have yet to pay one cent in interest. I use my card as if it were a check. I log onto my account weekly and evaluate spending. It has aided us tremendously in saving and evaluating how the money is being spent.

    • Heather says:

      I agree. My husband and I have been married for over twenty years. We are debt free and have money in both our savings account, retirement accounts, and the boy’s college accounts. We have used credit cards since we were married and have never carried a balance or paid a single penny of interest. We have enjoyed the free airline motels, Disney Dollars, and hotel nights that we “earned” but using our credit cards. All in all – a win/win situation for us!

      • Nicole says:

        I agree! My husband and I have a Target Visa card, which we use only at Target to save an extra 5%. It gets paid off every single month in full. We also use a Discover card, which earns great rewards. We pay it off in full every single month, and every couple of months, we have $50 built up in rewards, which I credit to the card. It’s like making money to use a credit card, and they don’t get one extra cent from us! I look at it as making money, or saving in the case of the Target card. When I was pregnant with my first son, we did not cash out our rewards and let them build. When I was on unpaid leave from my teaching position, (I chose to take it to be home longer with him) we had over $500 we redeemed back on our card. That covered groceries for a few months while I was not geting paid! Now, I am a stay at home mother of two little boys. We have more in savings now than we did when I was making a good salary! We have no debt besides our house. We live in the Northeast, where it would take forever to save enough cash for a house, so mortgages are hard to avoid here! If you use them wisely, keep track of your budget and pay them of in full, they can be a helpful tool for saving money!

    • Katie says:

      That’s wonderful that you all have enough self control to use credit cards wisely! 🙂
      Although I have to point out that if you use a debit card you can see the same transactions on your bank statement. Also as far as rewards- we have a high interest checking account that gives us 3.5% on ALL our money- not just what we spend on a credit card 😉

      • B says:

        I would highly caution you to look into the risks with using a debit card. I assist in managing the “purse” of the state I work for. We never encourage anyone to get debit cards and mine (automatically issued by my bank) is rarely ever used. With debit cards it is very easy for a someone to steal your info and completely clean out your entire account-and you won’t get any of it back. We had 8 employees this weekend lose their entire paycheck (Friday was our payday) and other money in their account. Using a debit card is pretty much like writing your SSN on a business card and handing it out.

        • Katie says:

          B- if you have a Visa or Mastercard sponsored debit card it has the exact same coverage in loss return as a credit card.

      • L says:

        Katie, do you mind if I ask where you bank at? 3.5% is an awesome rate!! 🙂

        • Katie says:

          Sure! Community bank and trust. But you can just google high interest checking accounts to find one in your area.

    • chandler says:

      I use a spreadsheet that I created to track all money coming in and going out without the use of credit cards. I have categorized it so I can see how much is going into which category. You can even customize it and color code it to track certain areas like grocery or gas.

    • Stacey says:

      Way to go on your debt payoff!! We too are currently putting a large amount towards debt reduction and it is great to see the amounts going down so quickly. I was laid off for a year (2009) so we reevaluated and lived off of one paycheck and ended up being in better financial shape at the end of that year. We dropped things we didn’t need, cut spending (shocking how much we did spend in certain areas), and did without for that year. Since getting a new job, more than half of my income goes to debt because we got used to living without that income.

      To those that are discouraged about the take home income, please realize that some people posting have been in their careers for years and were once closer to where you are now. We got married soon after college, bought a house, racked up credit cards, car loan, and had a student loan. It was easy to get into a hole quickly. We went to debit cards, paid off the credit cards and the student loan and set up a budget. After a while we went back to using credit cards for the cash back bonus and never have carried a balance again. You definitely have to keep track of all of your spending on cc’s but they can be worthwhile to use also.

      Over the years, income bumps went to savings and 401k’s and retirement investing, etc. However, as was noticed when I lost my job, we were also spending way too much too. My job loss was a blessing because it helped us refocus our money and how it is allocated and now we are making it work more for us and questioning every purchase.

      I haven’t read DR but I know the basic concepts. It doesn’t quite fit us because we have the savings and investments and have had them all these years as well as car loans and loc’s. Basically, we will be striving to pay off the car loan and loc in the next year and then save for a new car for me. All this while, we will continue our automatic contributions to savings and retirement. Our mortgage is a super low interest rate so we will probably invest more rather than pay it off quickly when the other goals are met.

  • lalalalala says:

    Ladies, this isn’t class warfare. It does not matter what we/our husbands make: those of us who are in this situation are so because we couldn’t make ourselves live on that amount. It has little to do with how much money we make, but our attitude about money. If we continue to act the victim, we aren’t going to get out.

    I am also like many of you and my husband’s take home pay is only 2,400 a month. Granted, we live in Michigan – which in comparison to many other parts of the US is a very low cost of living, even in the large metro area we live in – however, 2,400 doesn’t feel like a whole lot when automatically 648 of that each month goes off to pay our credit card debt minimums and 165 goes to student loans.

    I could find it depressing that others were able to get out of their mess quickly and it looks like I’ve got a long ways till the light at the end of the tunnel. But I also have to remind myself of the “situationals”.

    I am twenty-five. We have an almost two-year-old, I have no career and am going back to school for a better degree, and my husband is really just getting into his (been with his IT company for 4 years). We’re not going to make as much money as older couples who are established in their careers or who have some kind of equity. That doesn’t mean we can’t try and come up with other ways to scrounge up extra money. An extra 200 may not be as much as an extra 2,000, but it’s still EXTRA. Sometimes it’s hard when other people in a better financial situation are able to afford the extras like new clothes and eating out. But I’m not there yet. The only way I will get there is if I acknowledge where I am right now and how I am going to get to *there* regardless of how long it takes.

    It’s not fair really to downplay others accomplishments because they make more money than you do. Terri and her husband may be bringing in more money, but I have a feeling in order to pay the large sum they were, they had to cut a lot more than I am currently cutting.

    Three years into our debt repayment plan, we’ve paid off $22,000. Just $11,000 more to go! Which we’re hoping to have paid off in one year, if all things go accordingly. Sure, it might not be as impressive as others, but for my family it is a miracle that we are thankful for.

  • Abageal says:

    I am new here and have recently started using coupons. This post caught my eye and well reading thought I would drop a note. I am a stay at he mom of two and my husband makes around 2300 a month also. He will be starting with the police dept in a month and that number will go down even more. We are in the same boat when it comes to paying off bills, though we have no credit cards. I recently started using mint.com and it has been such a help and eye opener. We recently bought a used 08 Honda oddysey and the loan was for six years. By using mint I found out by paying just an extra $100 a month on our payment it will be payed off in 3 1/2 years and save close to a $1000 in interest. I would definetly recomend it. Also I love to give if finacial means allow it, but I found a great way to make someones day without a lot of money. We don’t go through drive through eaterys much but if we do we try and pay for the car behind us. You never know how paying for a meal may help someone! Sorry about the long post…

    • Crystal says:

      Way to go! Thank you for sharing your encouraging story!

    • Emily says:

      I once was the recipient of such a kind gift. We had company in town visiting shortly after we moved to a new state. I wasn’t working, so money was a little tight. I went out to the doughnut shop to pick up a dozen for us and our guests for breakfast, and when I got to the window to pay, the cashier told me that the car in front of me had already taken care of my bill. Imagine my surprise! I was so delighted and it made my day. And I really appreciated it, since we were just learning to live on my husband’s income back then.

    • Sarah says:

      THANK YOU!!! I used to love paying the toll for the driver behind me, but the arrival of EZ-Pass made that impossible. I have been wondering how on earth I could do something similar, and I never thought of drive-thru’s. Ooooh, I’m excited!

  • anne says:

    First time to this site. Love it!
    We did the Dave Ramsey plan, too. We are now debt free except for the house. Wa-Hoo!! The idea behind the anti-credit card stance is that studies have been done showing that people spend more when they swipe a card versus forking over cash. We still use one cc plus our debit card, but it takes real discipline to not overspend. Then again, those who clip coupons and plan gocery trips to maximize savings tend to be disciplined 🙂
    Regarding Target (and IMO Walmart) I think it’s impulse. We go to buy groceries or some other specific thing but are surrounded by clothes, toys, electronics, housewares, etc. Sensory overload.

  • I can’t give money to strangers. Period. So that doesn’t bother me at all not giving money to strangers. We need every penny!

    • Lana says:

      I just cannot think that way! We just came through 9 months of unemployment and I did not stop giving to others in need during that time. No matter how little I have had at times in my life there are always others who are way worse off than me. In this time of downturn in the economy I often see people who I suspect have not even eaten for days. I often keep granola bars that I have gotten very cheaply with coupons in my car to give to those people. I know we are taught to fear people who look to be living on the streets but often they have no choice. I cannot turn my back on those situations and live with myself. The more I put myself out there the more I see that it is by God’s grace only that I am not in their situation. I can tell you from a life of giving that I cannot outgive God and He will pour out blessing on those who give to the poor.

      • anonymous says:

        I agree that we should help people in need. However, I would give them food, not cash. If you want to donate cash, why not donate it to a homeless shelter or a food bank so that you are certain the money is going to feed people? Or, buy McDonald’s gift certificates (or something similar) and offer those to the strangers on the street rather than cash.

        • Lana says:

          I don’t give cash as a general rule but there are so many other ways to help. We have an intersection of roads where I often see people begging for money but since I have worked with the homeless in our area and can usually recognize them by the condition of their shoes, etc. I know those people are NOT homeless and I would not give them anything. But if I were to give a homeless person cash I am not accountable for how they spend that money, they are!

          One day I was loading groceries into the trunk and a woman approached and asked if I had anything I could give her to eat. I honestly only had things like raw meat, trashbags, etc. so I had to say no and it was after that that I started to carry things like granola bars with me. I felt so bad that I had nothing to give her. Later I realized that I could have gone back in and bought her something but she dissappered quickly after I answered her because I think she was horribly embarrassed to have asked me for food.

    • Shannon says:

      Donating free food, toiletries, clothes, old funiture none of these cost you a dollar

    • I feel I need to respond so everyone can read this who did not. I did not say don’t give to strangers, I said I couldn’t give MONEY to strangers. There is a difference.

    • Lana, I did not say I can’t give GOODS to strangers. I said I couldn’t give MONEY. There is a huge difference. I am also on unemployment because my father’s company laid me off. Now he has passed away. I also don’t feel like there is anything wrong with me saying I can’t give MONEY to others. I can’t. I budget down to the dollar. Things I don’t need, I give away.

    • Sorry for the multiple posts! When I clicked submit or reply they wouldn’t go through! Crystal, feel free to delete some posts!

  • This post was so incredibly encouraging!! And I agree…it doesn’t matter how much you make. Wasting is wasting. At one point, my husband’s income was 6 times what it is now, and we had the outgo to match the income!
    Things are much more stable now, because we aren’t spending as much! We have 10 children, with 9 still at home. I have always stayed at home and homeschooled them. We never eat out, and we are big thrift store shoppers for clothes and other necessities. I buy our groceries at Wal Mart, because we have no Aldi’s or Costco. The closest Costco is 1 1/2 hrs away.
    Even so, there are always a couple of ways to save. Although with gas at the price it is, that may change soon!!

  • Kelly says:

    I read David Ramsey and agree with some of his principles. I am a BIG supporter of a budget. If you write down every penny you spend you think twice about spending it! We recently went from 2 incomes to one and now we are able to save more because we watch every penny. Before we were living freely on 2 incomes and spent what we wanted to. Wish we would have figured the budget out years ago, we would have been able to save a lot more!

  • Carol says:

    I’m happy for you…it “sounds” wonderful..they way you did it… ahhh…but for us people who only make 3,000 a month…and are just trying to keep our heads above water….I’m thinking it ‘ain’t gonna happen’.

    • anonymous says:

      Have to agree. We are two adults and six children on one income. After the gas expenses for my husband’s truck (he is a driver) we are lucky to have $3000/month left. I think as far as Dave Ramsey goes you have to take what works for you and leave the rest. If you can cut little things out of the budget, though, it does add up. I started collecting all our spare change and putting it into a Christmas fund. It’s really surprising how those pennies and dimes do add up!

  • Patti says:

    This is a very inspiring post especially the idea that every dollar is planned and used wisely. In my 30 plus years of marriage, we have had many different income levels. When we were barely getting by, we knew exactly where every dollar went and we managed them and saved quite a bit penny by penny. When we have been “flush”, we have forgotten our strategies and ended up in debt. I found my waterloo to be WalMart. It seemed I spent $30 every time I went there!! So I quit going. Back when we were young and barely getting by, I planned my meals for 30 days in advance and went to the grocery store once every 6 weeks!! (I actually had to drive 40 miles or so to get to a “good” grocery store). Of course, I went to our hometown store for perishables in between, but if I only needed one apple, I only bought one apple – not a whole bag. Now that we are at the end of our careers and making way more money, it seems like we still find ourselves in financial “trouble” – ie: needing to assign our dollars more carefully. We just returned Saturday from a 7 day vacation – airfares, $250 dollar/night hotel rooms, etc. which we had planned and saved for (it is our last “family vacation” as our son goes away to college in the fall). Today I found out we will have to spend $1000 on our 20 year old car. Oh, well… that is how life goes. At least if you are consciously keeping track of your dollars, you can make these decisions and control your money, instead of always feeling like your money controls you. Best of luck to everyone who is reading this blog. That means you are working on it!!

  • Vita says:

    Agree with you on all counts. I barely bring home $3k per month total, and I am the only one working in our household. I can’t get into Dave Ramsey at all. I’ve listened to his radio show before and I just want to slap him!

  • Kristen says:

    While my husband and I have been debt free for almost 1 year – we still find it hard to save every month. We recently purchased a home and were blessed with the birth of our first child. With new expenses that come with a house and doctors bills we try our hardest NOT to get into savings…. while we aren’t “saving” money – i feel right now it’s the best we can do. I happy for those in a different position right now, but i wouldn’t change our situation for anything. I try to remember that things happen in cycles – maybe one day we’ll be able to start saving again… instead of spending! Thanks MSM for all your guidance and encouragement.

  • Val says:

    Oh that’s so inspiring. We’d love to get to that point but can’t yet. We have trouble making ends meet each month (by a few hundred dollars), so saving even a dollar would be a miracle . Saving $2-3K is unfathomable, especially when that’s about all my husband makes and we have 2 toddlers and one on the way. But reading stories like this make me think that maybe some day either I can make extra income somehow from home or my husband can get a better paying job and we can help others just like you described. That would be the best feeling in the world! Thanks for such a great story with a great ending!

  • heidi says:

    I know others have mentioned giving money to strangers above, but I just want to say – give your money to places where you know they will do good things. The stranger may spend it on drugs, alcohol, etc. You have no control. Once I heard people from Salvation Army speak and they said never give your money to people asking at the corner etc. give to the organizations that help those people. There are tons of places to give and the stranger is not a good one.

  • Laurie says:

    Dave Ramsey is still having a $10 sale for the Total Money Makeover as well as most of his other books at his website. Check it out.

  • Jennifer says:

    Bought The Total Money Makeover brand new from a swip swap site back in January. I felt like it was a long shot, but I posted that we were ISO of the book. Two days later an angel responded that she would sell it for $5. I couldn’t put the book down, it really got me fired up about getting rid of our debt. We are working on Baby step 2 and have a long way to go, but hearing other peoples stories really helps as well as listening to his pod cast http://thedaveramseyshow.radioserie.com/ I owe a HUGE thank you to Money Saving Mom as I had never heard of Dave Ramsey until I started reading the blog, I was so lost and had no idea how to manage money until now. Giving every dollar a name, Genius.

    • Elly says:

      The Total Money Makeover book has been so inspiring for my husband and I. We were blessed with the CDs and DVDs at one point and so enjoyed listening and watching.

      For those who may still be looking for a budgeting method, every dollar.com is working super well for us. It is free and similar to the Gazelle Budget tool that was part of the Total Money Makeover website a few years back.

      Thanks, Crystal, for resurrecting this very encouraging post and comments!

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