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Category: Get Your Finances in Line in 2009

Monthly Financial Check-up

It’s July and guess what that means? It’s time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in June?

We began June at 48.5% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 50%!

I cannot even begin to tell you how exciting it is for us to have reached the half-way point in our house savings. We had set the bar a little high in our savings goal so we’re getting very close to the point where we can actually start looking at houses.

We’re going to begin our house search by doing more research into what our options are, what areas we’d like to live in, and what features we’re looking for in a home. Once we’ve done that, enough time will likely have elapsed that we’ll be able to begin looking at homes–for real!–which are in the price range of what we have saved up.

It is amazing for us to look back over the last few years and realize how far we’ve come. What once seemed like a “big, hairy, audacious goal” is starting to become reality. The beans-and-rice budget is paying off and it feels weird to realize how close we are. Yet, just because we’re inching closer and closer to our goal, we don’t want to let our resolve slide or our frugality slip–something we’re having to guard against.

I’d really like to be at 55% of our goal by the end of July so that we will have saved over 20% towards our house savings goal this year so far. But we’ll see how the month goes!

Thanks so much for encouraging and cheering us along. It’s a huge help to have so much accountability in this! If you have recommendations for us when it comes to buying a home (books we should read, things we should consider, or any advice you’d like to give), please do pass it along. I feel like I have so much to learn and I want to be as well-researched as I possibly can be.

(By
the way, if you’re new here, you can read more about our financial
goals for this year and our progress so far by scrolling down on this
page here. And if you’re wondering why we’re attempting to save to pay 100% down for a house, be sure to read this post.)

——————————————–
How did you do in June? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in June and, if you’d like, the areas
you hope to improve in July. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don’t have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let’s all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

Monthly Financial Check-up

It's June and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in May?

We began May at 45.5% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 48.5%!

We're almost halfway to our goal and I'm hopeful that by the end of June, we'll at least be at 50%, if not more. We'll see!

By the way, if you're new here, you can read more about our financial goals for this year and our progress so far by scrolling down on this page here.

——————————————–
How did you do in May? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in May and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in June. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

Monthly Financial Check-up (and some thoughts on financial stewardship)

It's the beginning of May and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in April?

I've mentioned many times here in the past that I believe one of the greatest keys to financial success begins with setting goals. As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." My husband and I have been amazed at how much harder we work, how much more careful we are in our spending, and how much more ground we cover when we set goals for our finances.

Most of you know that our big goal for this year is to save up enough to pay 100% down for our first home. However, our ultimate goal is not just owning a home free and
clear; our ultimate goal is to wisely steward our money in such a way
that we have as much as possible leftover to give to others.
We see staying out
of debt and owning a home as one step closer in the direction of being
more financially able to help others.

It's wonderful to use coupons, bargain shop, take advantage of free restaurant meals, and so forth. But, for us, it's not just about the coupons, the sales, or the freebies–those are just a means to an end. Our heart's desire is to live on less than we make so we can take care of the needs of our own family first so we can then be able to give and reach out to others. Giving abundantly is our biggest goal financially.

In order to be able to "give like no one else" as Dave Ramsey says, we must first "live like no one else." If we are squandering all of our earnings and then living paycheck-to-paycheck, we will never be in a position to be able to help many others because we will just be barely eeking by ourselves.

Jesse and I recently watched this video by Dave Ramsey on giving and it gave us goosebumps–literally! To think of the impact we can have in this world if we are committed to doing all we can to be wise stewards of our finances. Just imagine the possibilities!

If you have yet to watch this short video, I highly recommend you go do so right now. It just might change your whole perspective on finances! Later this week, I'll be sharing a few ideas we've been implementing for giving which anyone can do–even if you have a very meager budget. Stay tuned!

With these things in mind, we're especially excited about the headway we were able to make in April:

We began April at 40.5% of our house savings goal. We ended the month at 45.5%!

I just can't even begin to express how thrilling it is to see our goal of owning a home debt-free becoming more and more a reality. God is good! And truly, setting goals makes a huge difference!

——————————————–
How did you do in April? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in May. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Monthly check-up

It's April and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in March?

After not making a lot of headway on our savings goals last month, we were determined to kick it up a notch in the savings department–especially since the end of March would mean we'd be a fourth of the way through the year.

So my husband and I sat down and had a "money meeting" of sorts and determined what areas we could squeeze a little more from our budget, possible things we could give up, and ideas for cutting corners. Here are a few significant changes we made as a result:

1) We didn't fund our envelopes for a month, outside of groceries. We had leftover money in all of our envelopes from previous months and there was nothing we needed to purchase which couldn't wait another month or couldn't be purchased with what we already had in the envelopes. (If you are unfamiliar with how the envelope system works, check out this post here.)

2) We skipped grocery shopping for two weeks and held an Eating From the Pantry Challenge instead. This was a fun challenge to take on and it not only helped clear out some groceries and pantry items we needed to use up, it also allowed us to put some extra money into savings.

3) We had a monthly Restaurant Night instead of a weekly Restaurant Night. We usually budget to go out to eat once a week as a family but we decided to skip three of the four weeks in March in order to have a little more money to put into savings.

I'll admit that this was probably the hardest for me as I enjoy the luxury of having dinner out once per week. However, it is definitely not a necessity–we lived without restaurant food for months when my husband was in law school!–and it's certainly something we can easily live without. So it was good to make the commitment to make dinner every night. I'm definitely thinking this is something we could do more often–especially once this pregnancy is over and I have a little more energy!

These were just a few examples of ways we freed up some extra cash in the month of March. There were a myriad of other little ways, too.

The good news? All of the cutting of corners paid off because at the end of this month we were able to put enough into our house savings to push us past 40% of our goal!

We're beginning to get excited as we're starting to little by little see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to paying 100% down for a house. (If you're new here and are wondering why we've made this goal, you can read more on that here.) We've been looking at houses in the area just to get some ideas as to what is out there and we're realizing it's very possible we might be able to get something for less than what we were hoping to pay.

Armed with this knowledge, we've decided that as soon as we hit 70-75% of our goal, we'll be able to start seriously looking at houses. We plan to only look in the price range we currently have saved and then as we are able to save more, we'll continue to bump up our price range until we find a house.

So our current plan is to continue saving in earnest for the next six or seven months and then see where we're at. Depending upon the housing market, it's beginning to look possible we just might make our big goal of paying 100% down for a home in 2009.

It still seems very far off, but we're excited at the traction we're making and invigorated to keep on cutting corners, pinching pennies, and forgoing little non-necessities (and big non-necessities!) in order to make faster headway. It certainly can't hurt anything!

To recap our March progress:

We began the month at 37.5% of our house savings goal. We ended the month at 40.5%!

We're excited to see what April brings!

——————————————–
How did you do in March? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in March and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in April. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Monthly check-up (and some thoughts on setting goals)

Is it almost the middle of March already? Time is flying! Now that February is well behind us, it's time for our monthly check-up to see how well we're doing on our financial goals for 2009.

After I shared specific reasons last month on why we've made it our goal to save up to pay 100% cash down for our first home (read them here if you missed that post), I realized by the emails and comments I received that a number of you are missing my point in sharing this.

The point is not that everyone here needs to save up and pay 100% cash down for a home (though I certainly hope we might inspire some of you to consider doing this), the point is to encourage you, by our own example, to work hard and aim high.

Perhaps you can't save up to pay 100% down on a home, but you can certainly do something and start somewhere. And that is what this monthly financial check-up is all about.

As you've probably heard it said before, "if you don't know where you're going, any train will get you there." If you don't have any financial objectives or goals, you'll likely spend most of your life aimlessly earning and spending and making little traction in the process.

You can choose to continue this endless cycle which will get you nowhere, or you can choose to start doing something and going somewhere today. Do you know where you want to be in a year from now, or five years from now, or ten years from now? Set down and map out some written goals and then make a plan to accomplish these goals.

If you've never set financial goals before, I encourage you to start small. Perhaps you could commit to sticking with a grocery budget for three months. Or maybe you could purpose to give up a particular small weekly expenditure and put that money directly into a savings account instead.

Whatever you do, do something. Even if it's something seemingly minuscule. Often, just taking a baby step in the right direction can propel you farther than you ever dreamed possible!

Setting financial goals and working intensely towards them takes sacrifice, self-discipline, effort, sweat, perseverance, and work. But it is so very worth it.

I remember back to our law school days when we were living in a little basement apartment and could barely afford to buy groceries. There were many days when I wanted to give up and give in. It was hard to wear the same clothes again and again, to drive old vehicles, to wonder how we were going to pay our bills that month, to forgo invitations to go out with friends because there was no way we could afford a restaurant meal that month.

There was many a time when I had had enough of the scrimping and scraping, but, by the grace of God, and the resolve of my husband, we kept on with our objective of finishing law school without any debt. And I can't even begin to express how grateful I am that we didn't give up when the going got tough.

So many people told us that it would be impossible to live on a part-time income throughout law school without incurring any debt. But you know what? I've learned that just about anything is possible, if you're willing to set your mind to the task, work hard, and not give up.

The financial freedom we have now because we're not carrying around the
bondage of school loans is amazing and was worth every bit of sacrifice
during those law school years. And tasting the victory of meeting a financial goal after long and hard toil has only propelled us on to setting bigger goals–in all areas of life.

So, wherever you are and whatever life situation you are in, may I encourage you to dream big dreams, set big goals, aim high, work hard, and persevere? And you just might find yourself completely surprised at what all is possible when you're willing to set your mind to do something, make the necessary sacrifices, and stop listening to the naysayers!

Related: I encourage all of you to read this great article on High Performance Achievement.

And now for the monthly progress report:

We started out February at 36% of our house savings goal. As of February 28, 2009, we're at 37.5%!

I was hoping to make it to 40% by the end of February, but at least we made some headway. In addition, putting less into our house savings than we'd hoped in February has motivated us to examine all areas of our budget to see how we could cut more corners–which is always a good thing to do!

———————————–

How did you do in February? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in February and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in March. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

Get Your Finances in Line in 2009: Monthly check-up (and some thoughts on why we’re saving to pay 100% cash down on our first home)

January is behind us already–wow! That means it's time for our monthly check-up to see how we're doing on our financial goals for
2009
.

As you will recall, our big goal for this year is to save up enough to
pay 100% cash down on our first home.
This has been a long-time dream
of ours and we've been actively working the past year towards this. In
actuality, though, we've been dreaming and working towards this even before
we got married.

You see, six years ago when we go married, my husband and I both committed to stay out of debt during law school–something
we knew would be a challenge, something which is rarely done, but something we both felt was possible, by
the grace of God.

We made it through my husband's undergrad and three
years of law school without debt–which was our first goal. And once we
had done that, we had momentum and motivation to aim for our even bigger goal of paying cash for
our first home. Because we didn't have school loans, car loans, or credit card debt, we realized that with lots and lots of hard work,
lots of scrimping and careful sticking to our budget, and lots of perseverance, paying cash in full for our first home just might be possible.

So that's our big goal for this year. A lot of people look at us like we're crazy for attempting something like this–especially when we started out with almost no savings after law school. But we're pretty used to that since people thought we were nuts for getting married before law school, having a baby during law school, and staying out of debt during law school. I guess you could say that being weird has become our modus operandi!

At any rate, we're not just shooting after this to be weird; we've run a lot of figures and spent hours calculating the numbers and we realize that in our situation, waiting and saving for a few years–if it takes that!–to buy a home debt-free will allow us to be in a much better position financially than if we were to take the money we have saved and put it as a big down-payment on a home.

It would not only likely take us at least a few years longer to pay off that home than it will take us to save up to pay cash in full for a house, we also feel like we would lose some of our momentum in the process. We're highly motivated right now; we don't want to be renting any longer than we have to and we're willing to forego a lot of extras and luxuries which we could easily afford in our budget in order to sock away a much larger amount to savings.

In addition, we're learning a lot about patience and self-discipline. What you wait for and work for, you appreciate much more. Yes, we could go buy a home next week. Yes, we could put a good down payment on it. And yes, many folks would think we were being financially-savvy for doing so. But we wouldn't have the opportunity to learn all the perseverance we're learning right now.

We also know that there is a temptation to buy more than you can really afford when taking out a mortgage. (Which is one reason our country is having the housing crisis they are having right now–but don't get me started on that!)

In the past few years, we've experienced some total and unexpected financial setbacks. When my husband graduated from law school, it appeared he had a good and secure job that he'd hold for the next few years. Things outside of our control happened and within a few months, he was without a job. Another move, another job, and another eight months later, he was again without a job. God took care of us and provided for us very well during these times, but we learned that you can't put your security in a job or a paycheck.

Very quickly, we came to be so grateful we had waited to buy a home. It's quite simple and inexpensive to get out of a rental agreement and downsize to a small apartment compared to the headache and possible financial strain which could ensue if you have a house payment you can't pay in a house you can't sell.

So even if others think we're making a mistake to wait to buy a home until we can pay cash for it, we continue to press on, persevere, and save. Not everyone is in a financial position where they can save like we are blessed to be able to do right now. We have a good income, our expenses are low, and we don't have debt. Because of this, it's a no-brainer for us to do what we're doing.

We don't expect everyone to follow in our steps nor do we think everyone in every financial situation should. However, we do hope that we can be an inspiration to many of you out there–especially to those of you who are young and just getting started in life. Just because everyone tells you you can't, doesn't mean that you can't.

Be willing to dream big, aim high, and work hard. Don't let the naysayers get you down. Keep on, press on, persevere. And you just might be surprised at what can happen! I know we've certainly been!

And now for the monthly progress report:

We started out this year at 33% of our house savings goal. As of January 31, 2009, we're at 36%!

Only 64% left to go! Yes, it might seem like a small percentage step, but we are thrilled to
be making headway like this. It still seems impossible that we might
actually make 100% of our goal amount by the end of the year, but who
knows? We'll keep working, hoping, dreaming, and saving all we can.

And we'll see what February holds!

———————————–
How did you do in January? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in January and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in February. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!