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Guest Post: The Little Things Make a Big Difference

Guest Post by Beth from Recipes and Deals

Do you ever sit down to pay bills and think, “Where did the money go?”

That used to be me every month. I was nervous to have anything automatically withdrawn from our checking account because I didn’t want to write a check and not have money to pay a bill, yet I felt like all I did was pay bills!

We had recently made the transition from two salaries to one and we found it to be a big challenge. Plus, we had two children 20 months apart. Both were in diapers for awhile and both have food allergies which necessitate the purchase of more expensive grocery items.

After several attempts at setting budget and falling behind we finally took advantage of our church’s class offer of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We began a hard, long, and ongoing conversation about where our money was going and we’ve learned a number of things along the way. Here are just a few of the things which have made a big change in our finances:

1) Always use cash when possible. Making the change to pay with cash
as opposed to using a debit or credit card has made such a huge
difference for us. We use the Envelope System outlined here. When the
envelope is empty, it’s empty.

2) Look for extra ways to make money. I am a certified swimming instructor and now that our boys are older, I’ve been able to slowly begin teaching again part-time in the Summer. The extra money goes to our emergency fund or other extra expenses we have. 

I sell our children’s clothing to a local consignment store and have made a few hundred dollars doing so. In addition, we have a garage sale once a year. Throughout the year, as we outgrow things or find we no longer need them, I price them and add them to our garage sale boxes in the basement. In the past 3 years, I’ve made over a thousand dollars selling old furniture, baby items, and clothes at our yearly garage sale.

3) Find an accountability partner. This is vital! My sister-in-law and I are of the same mindset. With children 4 months apart in age, we are in the same life stage, and have the same desires to be good stewards of our money and bodies. We talk several times a week, exchange recipes, coupons, and tips. Most importantly, we celebrate each other’s successes and encourage each other in the frustrating times.

Since October, we have been aggressively paying down school debt and have been committed to paying cash for all expenses. As of April 1, we will have approximately $7,000 less debt than we had in October! We have truly seen how often it’s the little things which make a big difference in the long run!

Beth is a stay-at-home mom and lives in a small town in the Midwest. You can see her weekly menus, recipes, and deals at her blog.

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  • Lauralee says:

    We too use the Dave Ramsey! We have paid off over 10,000 in debt since June 2008. In fact today my car broke down and I am so greatful that we have an emergency account. This has changed our lives and I must say I equally agree that you MUST have an accountability partner!! Great post!

  • Jean says:

    Thank you for the encouragement! My husband and I began our “Financial Peace” journey at the end of January through Dave’s class and feel so much more in control of our money than ever before! We are expecting our first baby in Sept. and are excited to teach him/her the way to live as good stewards of the money God has given to us. We also live using a bi-weekly budget as well as cash envelopes for clothes, food, entertainment, books, and garage sales! We are excited to fill our nursery with fantastic deals! Our celebration is that since the end of Jan. ’09 we have paid $6,800 on our debt!!

    Keep up the good work!

  • Lisa says:

    My husband and I have been members of Financial Peace University since February of this year. Although my kids are all school age (2 in 5th and 1 high school freshman) I have always stayed home and enjoyed being a housewife. As the kids have gotten older we have begun to struggle more and with a soon-to-be driver in the family and college not far off, we decided it was time to check ourselves and get our finances in order!
    We are now on Baby Step 2 and I can’t tell you how much the tips, tricks and tactics I have learned on moneysavingmom, have helped our budget!! We too use the envelope system and using all my coupons seems to keep my envelope full much longer.
    I am now a coupon-aholic and our family will soon be out of debt. Thanks to you and also to Dave Ramsey!!!

  • charlene says:

    Great article Beth! I totally agree about using cash and selling stuff. We have so many projects around the house I want to do and I have found that I can accomplish a lot with frugal shopping using money I earn by selling things we don’t need. I wrote a post about how I sold one old chair and was able to use that and $13 to decorate our guest bedroom when we moved. We are focused on Dave’s plan too and I have found it is really helpful to stay tuned in to his program. I use him as my accountability partner!

  • tracy H says:

    My husband and I took the FPU class at our church two years ago. We “got” most of it but didn’t go full force into it till now. We are reviewing the class and have just paid off all of the debt we had left over! We are excited and getting ready to go full force into funding our emergency fund. I am also looking for extra ways to earn money! Garage sales in my neighborhood don’t do well at all so I am thinking of other ways to earn extra aside from the part time job I am working. Thanks for the great post.

  • Lisa says:

    I just started using the cash envelope system and so far it has been such an eye opening experience. I realized how much money were were spending by using our debit cards.

    Check out my pretty envelopes and how its going at my blog.

  • Hi Beth,

    Wow–it sounds like you really have made great strides toward smarter financial management.

    As far as the question, Where does all the money go?, I really like having an account with It pulls my financial information from my various accounts and categorizes my spending, so then I can see what percentage of our income is going to groceries, for example. It also keeps my husband and I on the same page in regard to where our money is and how we’re doing financially at any given time. I recently wrote about Mint on my blog, PlinkPlink: Moms Talking about Money:

    Thanks for the great tips!

  • I loved this post so I tried to click over to Beth’s blog, but the link didn’t work. Could you please try to post the link again. I’m always looking to read a great new blog!


  • Ann says:

    Great ideas. I think finding ways to make extra money is helpful, then you feel less guilty when you splurge a little bit on something you really want. I am constantly looking for fun and creative ways to make money.

  • Tashia says:

    I absolutely agree with it all! It makes a huge difference in how you perceive your money. My husband and I too, attended a Financial Peace class at church and it was life altering! We were headed for disaster, we made some major changes in how we handle our money and decided to get out of debt. In the first 15 months after the class we had paid off $30,000 in unsecured debt! And we are still plugging away at it.
    We stopped using credit cards and our debit card. We now follow a budget and use cash for everyday spending just like you mentioned.
    I am a stay/work at home mom, so I have to find ways to make some extra money too. I love selling on ebay and I also have a wonderfully successful garage sale every year, last year I made $1300! Visit for garage sale tips.

  • GroceryMama says:

    I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan! I hope my church brings in Financial Peace University. Great job on bringing down the debt. We are powering it down as well!

  • Kayla Shockley says:

    I love Dave Ramsey, I too use the envelope system and I love it. I use to never carry cash because I was afraid I would use it, then that got me in the habit of using my debit card all the time. Now that I use cash, I rarely use my debit card. It “hurts” to hand over all of your cash!

  • Carrie says:

    This is great… I think more people would know where their money went if they would get on a cash only system. We have a checking account that we use only for hubby’s paycheck to be put into..then I go and withdraw all of it (yes all of it except maybe $20). We live by cash alone and I will tell you it has made a huge difference. We just paid off yesterday my hubby’s truck we are completley debt free now. We actually save more using cash then we ever did with a checking and savings account. I feel we are more accountable now with what we spend then we were before. Great article. I am always finding ways to be more frugal as well.

  • Mrs. Jo says:

    Great post! I wish you all the best in your debt-free journey Beth!

  • Melody says:

    I have heard people criticize Dave Ramsey’s way of thinking because Americans can’t live “without credit.” My husband and I have been working the steps since Feb of 2007 and have paid off over $20K in debt and I have been able to stay home with our son, which has no price tag! My family grew up with credit cards, mortgages and car payments and I thought there was no other way. Some of our friends don’t totally understand and there eyes glaze over, because in their minds, there is no other way to live. We have given Dave’s books as gifts to many with hope that we can help others make this journey. Thanks for the great article!

  • Michelle H. says:

    I love Dave too! I am on the envelop system as well and like it much better and we started paying off debt this year using our tax refund as a place to start. So far with the tax return, budgeting w/the envelop system, selling on ebay and making a few extra bucks online, we’ve paid $8100 since Feb. 09! I can’t wait to yell….I’m debt free!!!

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