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Financial Shape in 2008: Monthly checkup

It’s already the second week of June and I’m behind on getting our monthly checkup posted. How did you do in May? Here’s our update:

Short Term Financial Goals for 2008

1) Have our fully-funded emergency fund in place (6 months’ worth of living expenses) by the end of April. As of March 11, 2008–DONE!
2) Switch health insurance plans and open an HSA. We
were approved for our new health insurance plans in April and have also
set up our HSA. Done!

3) Start up an IRA and invest at least 5-10% of Jesse’s income in this. Started in March. (We plan to increase this to 12-15% of Jesse’s income as soon as we purchase our home.)
4) Open up a mutual fund for each of our children and invest $50 per child per month in it. Started in March.

5) Save up and invest $30,000 this year towards paying cash (100% down) for a house in 3-5 years. Now
that Goals 1-4 are finished, we’re working super hard on Goal #5!

May brought a few unexpected expenses with health needs and vehicle issues, so we only put $2000 in our house savings, not $3000 like I’d hoped. However, considering the setbacks, I’m grateful we were able to put even $2000 into it.

It’s been two months since we first opened our house savings mutual fund and we now have saved $4500 towards our house. Yay! Our
short-term goal is to save $15,000 in our house savings by August 31,
2008. This is a rather ambitious goal, but we’re working hard towards
achieving it and are excited to see if we might actually make it! Who knows?

We spent some time in May putting some additional online income-earning ideas into place which we are hopeful will, Lord-willing, allow us to meet or exceed our goal of having $30,000 in our house savings by the end of the year.

How did you do in May? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2008, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and 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!

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  • amanda says:

    Thanks for encouraging me to write out my financial goals! I’ve been meaning to get started on them for awhile 🙂

  • Ali says:

    that’s great that you make so much money to be able to save $30,000 in a year. we don’t even make $20,000 a year. you will be able to buy a great house in the end.


    Money Saving Mom here:

    Ali–Don’t lose hope! We used to make around $13,000/year when we were first married and we lived like that for a few years. I well remember what it’s like to barely be making ends meet–or to not even know how they will meet at all.

    Lots of hard work, staying out of debt, following the lessons handed down to us by our parents, constantly learning and trying new entrepreneurial things, more hard work, and the blessing of God is the only way we are able to be in the financial position we are today.

    Even though many people think we’re crazy, we live on about half of what we make right now. Most of that half is my husband’s income which he’s making from his temporary contract job. The other half is coming from extra things we’re doing on the side that anyone can do. You can read more about this here:

    We’re choosing to be quite frugal now while we can because we don’t know what the future holds. We’re nothing special; we’ve just worked hard, been patient, lived beneath our means even when it was really tough, and tried to follow the principles we’ve found in God’s Word concerning finances. We’ve made a lot of mistakes along the way, had a lot of really bad entrepreneurial flops, and learned a lot of lessons.

    It’s been hard–sometimes excruciatingly hard–but God has been faithful and where we are today is a testament to His faithfulness and provision and the wise training of our parents.

    My hope in sharing where we’ve been and where we are so honestly is to encourage all of you and give you hope. Creativity and thinking outside the box, coupled with the blessing of God can produce amazing results!

  • The Math Guy says:

    Great to here that you’re so set on taking care of your finances! I’ve recently started a
    blog about this, motivated partly by the CVS-ing savings by sites like yours that really help out. I’ll be the first to tell you that mutual funds are in general a waste of your money, mainly due to their high fees and inconsistent manager tenures. Index ETFs are the best place to be…I’ll be posting on this soon. In any event, please check it out, and keep us all updated on how the finances are going!

    Money Saving Mom here:

    You obviously haven’t read Dave Ramsey. 😉

    We’ve spent a few years researching this and definitely believe we’re making the wisest choice here. We’ve invested in a good growth stock mutual fund with a consistent track record of at least 10-12% interest in any given ten-year period over the last 70 years.

    Not all mutual funds are worth investing in, but there are many great ones out there especially if you are planning to invest in them for at least ten years. In our case, we’re looking to invest for five years or less, so we went with something really conservative.

    I highly recommend that you check Dave Ramsey out. He’s saved us thousands of dollars over the last year and is one of the main reasons we’re in such a great position financially.

  • Shannon says:

    Wow, still great goals. We just talked to a rep from an HSA, how do you like it? What are the pros and cons?

  • Elizabeth says:

    Wow, Crystal. This is really great. What mutual funds do you currently invest in? We are looking to start something similar for future children, but are unsure what mutual fund to go with. Thanks for your help and keep up the good work!

  • Tracy says:

    I think it is fantastic that you are encouraging people to think ahead. That old adage is so true: failing to plan is planning to fail!

    Planning ahead for us has never been easy as my husband is in his own business and earns differently from month to month. However, after a very lean season (2 years with hardly any work) and growing tired of the feeling of not being in control, we read Mary Hunts ‘Till debt do us Part’. The book is about far more than debt and laid out a finance-management plan that we felt could work for us.

    We’re into our 3rd month of using the system and it is going GREAT! Gone are the feelings of uncertainty and fear and I have enjoyed the freedom of knowing exactly how much I have to spend in each area and where our hard-earned money is actually going! In addition, I am driven that much more to save in every area because I see in real terms that my hard work (coupons, bargain hunting, etc) actually saves money, and we find great joy in then putting those extra savings to work for us!

    I’ve always been very frugal but frugality is almost useless unless it is part of a well managed plan. It leads to feeling deprived rather than providing security and joy in being a good steward of God’s blessing.

    We’ve also learned another very important lesson: its not about how much one earns – its about how much one spends! This perspective changes a whole lot in the way we view our budget and resources!

  • Robin says:

    Thank you for being so open about your finances, it is nice to see real data from real people. You guys are saving more than we EARN as a family of 6, LOL, so I guess we are also living on half of what you make, just not half of what we make! You are really generous about sharing knowledge, and have been blessed financially, it all works out in the end.

  • SH says:

    I’m really impressed with what you’ve been able to save. But, I’m like Ali, $2,000 would be over half of our monthly income. That kind of saving just isn’t possible for us right now. But, I congratulate you nonetheless on how far you’ve come.

  • Andrea says:

    Crystal – I’m so happy for all the success you’re having! I don’t have a post on this one, but we’re plugging along on our 2008 financial goals too! I’ll post more at the end of June on our accomplishments.

    I’m so thankful to have found your site, and the many other blogs to help with our savings at the grocery/drugstores so we have more to save in our financial interests. God has been so good to us and I pray that he continues to blessings on your family too!!

  • Andrea says:

    Sorry – one other comment/question. What specific book of Dave’s does he talk about mutual funds and investing (to your reply above)? I haven’t read one of his books yet, but I’m eager to learn more about investments and he’s just the man I’d love to learn from! TIA 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing Crystal. I keep meaning to join in this goal-sharing and not getting to it – this month I finally did. I think it’s a great idea, because making the goals is such an important step in actually getting to where you want to be.

    We also aim to live on half (or less) of our income and put the rest to work. We feel fortunate to be in a position to do so, of course. It’s very satisfying!


  • Also, I don’t think Dave is againt index funds (though he probably wouldn’t go for the ETF version, considering that an unnecessary extra step). Index funds have better returns than most managed funds (see A Random Walk Down Wall Street for tons of data), and so are in line with Dave’s plan. Index funds also keep costs low, which can make a big difference in the long run. I’ve been doing all index funds since before I found Dave, and didn’t feel any need to change that to be in line with his plan.


  • Chris from St. Mary's says:

    I don’t have a blog, but I did open my first ING account. I ended up with the $25 bonus and 21 cents in interest. You scoff at 21 cents, but that was in 11 days. At my current bank, I got 21 cents of interest for a whole month with $1500 in the account. Yeah. I got my statement the other day and the account now bring in 0.14 percent interest. That was the final straw.

    So for June, the goal is to switch bank accounts (I’m shopping for a credit union — the first time in my life I’ve shopped for a financial institution), then close out the current bank accounts, then putting my emergency fund all in ING or ING checking (yes, I know the interest rate is relatively stinko compared to savings, but I’m training myself to transfer money over the phone. I’ll leave $50 in checking and use this only in emergencies and after I make a phone call to transfer.

    BTW, I’m single, no kids and take home $1350 a month. I’m debt free (as of April). Obviously, I can’t save $2k a month. That’s not the point. Do what you can do, then sit down to figure out what else you can do.

  • Stephanie says:

    I have to say this series is so encouraging to me! I love seeing how others are making living debt free work for them! Thanks to all who participate!

  • chrissy says:

    when you say you live on only half of your income does this include all bills/medical/church contrib/etc before taxes?? or how do you define that? do you have a amplebudget published on your blog??
    thank you!!

    do you pay a 10% pretax tithe as well?

  • Frugalicious says:

    That’s great you are a Dave Ramsey person. I hope you and your husband considered a 529 college savings plan for your children. Unlike a mutual fund the growth is tax free and education related expenses are tax free at deduction.

  • Sarah says:

    At first, I wondered how I could relate … Crystal saves in one month more than our monthly net income! Honestly, that is hard.

    But the point isn’t the dollar amount. How much of our income can we save? Do we have the right heart to take care of what we have? Before trying to follow Dave Ramsey or Mary Hunt or Clark Howard, we must make sure that we are committed to being a good steward of what the Lord has given into our hands. Then, we must pursue being a hard-worker at managing our income, whether it is more or less than anyone else.

    By posting dollar amounts and endorsing Dave Ramsey, Crystal takes the risk of being criticized. But I do thank her for showing that hard work is necessary no matter what your income level is. She has not deserted frugal living even though her household income has increased. She does not pretend to be immune to mistakes. She continues to help many people, and has gained financially from that. No, I’m not a Dave Ramsey reader (I’ve only just heard of him), but if it’s working for Crystal, I think that’s great. It’s obviously benefitting her family and I am eager to see how she continues to teach about good stewardship, generosity, and frugal living.

  • Crystal, your approach to savings and investing is awesome. Your discipline is something we should all strive for. With America continuing down the path of an overall negative savings rate it is refreshing to find a blog like yours. Thank you for sharing.

  • Cireena says:

    I have not set up a good Blog regarding our Financial Shape yet, but I am SO excited that I have to share at least in a comment! I know, its June, but the excitement is killin me. We just started out Financial Makeover in May, we have our $1000 in Savings! YAY, and we have paid off all our Medical Bills except 1 that will be paid off in 1-2 months, and that starts the Snowball… I am so shocked how fast things turned around. Just 2 months ago we were behind on all our bills and our mortgages, now were caught up, saving, and getting rid of Debt!

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