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How We Changed Our Financial Blueprint

Were poor money management habits passed down to you from another generation? This is SUCH an encouraging post!

Guest post from Hope of Under The Median:

Whether we realize it or not, the way we handle money is primarily a result of a template, set in childhood and reinforced by our parents. In other words, we tend to spend and save money much like our parents did.

This financial blueprint is a strong force in our lives, and if it’s not a fiscally strong one, it can take a moment of crisis to overcome it. This is my story.

My mother was widowed at the age of 42, with four children and no idea how much money was coming in or where it was all going. When I was 18, she told me tearfully one day that she and my father had never lived with a budget. He just made money every month and they paid the bills. There always seemed to be enough money. She was terrified!

Even though I watched her go through this experience, I didn’t live with a written budget (or any spending plan) until I was well into my 20’s. I worked with the only blueprint I had ever known — much like my parents, I just made money and hoped that there would be enough to go around.

Two moments of terror stand out in my mind.

The first, when I was 20. I had moved out of my mother’s home and was living with two roommates. One evening, my bank account dipped to just $25 and the ATM would not let me withdraw any money. My gas tank was nearly empty. I prayed every day on the way to work that week that I would make it there and back without the car dying. I got paid at 4pm, and by 4:15pm I was at the gas station!

The second incident occurred when I was 24. My husband and I had been married for just two months and our checkbook indicated an almost zero balance. My stomach plummeted into the pit of my stomach. My mind reeled as I realized we had spent nearly every penny of our wedding cash gifts in just a few weeks. If we didn’t make immediate changes, we would be in big trouble in a very short time.

That’s when the light went on!

I worked at a Christian radio station and a man named Larry Burkett had just begun a daily program called “Money Matters.” It was the first generation of live Christian money management call-in programs. I listened carefully and began to implement Larry Burkett’s suggestions.

Within weeks, I had plugged into some great authors and teachers. I read a lot of books. I figured out what ideas I could implement right away, and created a list of ideas to consider for the future. I learned to cook from scratch and how to track my expenses.

We focused on one or two areas at a time. When we had those areas streamlined and under control, we move on to another couple of areas.

Over the next thirty years, we rewrote our family’s financial blueprint.

We gained financial traction as we lived within our means. Although we made a salary which was significantly under the national median income, we paid off our first mortgage in five years. We brought up four sons in our tiny two bedroom bungalow, while saving money to pay cash for our second home.

I won’t tell you that it was easy… because it wasn’t!

At times the road seemed long. But, now I see my 20 and 22 year old sons living on a written budget, paying cash for automobiles, planning for the future, and sharing financial principles with their peers.

I realize that our change wasn’t just for us. It was also for them!

I’m Hope Ware, married to Larry since 1988. We’ve raised 4 amazing sons debt-free on an income which averaged under the national median. I blog over at Under the Median. In my spare time I teach in the high school department at our local homeschool co-op and I sing second soprano in a semi-professional ensemble.

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  • Stephanie says:

    Hope, your story is so empowering and much needed at this time. I am so happy for you and your family. We are unfortunately in the same bad situation. Can you send a list of the books you read?

    • Charity says:

      I’m not Hope, but I’d highly recommend Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.

    • Hope Ware says:

      Hi, Stephanie. Thanks so much for reading my post. It’s been 30 years since I began reading books on finances. But, there are certainly some newer books that I would recommend:
      1) The Millionaire Next Door – older book, but very good.
      2) Love Your Life, Not Theirs by Rachael Cruze.
      3) Living Rich for Less by Ellie Kay. She has written several books.
      4) Any Dave Ramsey book.
      5) America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money – LOTS of practical easy-to-implement ideas and tips!
      6) Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half with America’s Cheapest Family

      • Julie says:

        Did you know that the daughter of the author of the Millionaire next Door just wrote the Next Millionaire Next Door? It’s really good. She began the research with her father who was killed by a drunk driver and then she finished the study .

  • Hope Ware says:

    Julie, for some reason I can’t reply directly do your comment. So, I’ll try to do it here. I just became aware of The Next Millionaire Next Door Book. I have read the first book twice. I have the new book borrowed from the library right now and I’m anxious to get started on it. Did you like it?

    • Julie says:

      Yes, it was very good. Good reminder to stay dedicated and disciplined. I also read Ramsey personality Chris Hogan’ s Everyday Millionaires and it was fine but I would say less content and facts and more “Yeah, you can do this! ” pep talk. Which is what a lot of people want , I’m sure, but the Next Millionaire Next Door was more my style.

      • Hope Ware says:

        Thanks for the reviews! I absolutely loved the original Millionaire Next Door. It was so encouraging to me to realize that most millionaires have not inherited their money. They earned it working regular jobs. They simply lived beneath their means, in modest homes, driving older cars, and clipping coupons. I plan to borrow Chris Hogan’s new book next. I was on the advance publicity team for his Retire Inspired book. So, I was able to read an advance copy and review it. His style is very encouraging and easy to understand. So, I’m looking forward to reading his newest release. While I was perusing the library section on budgeting I also found another book which I have not read: “Meet the Frugalwoods : Achieving Financial Independence Through Simple Living”. It looks very interesting, too.

      • Julie says:

        I just requested the Meet the Frugalwoods from my library, thanks! Yes, it is very interesting and encouraging just to be reminded that consistently saving over time can lead to having plenty later. Yes, both Hogan’s book and the Next Millionaire Next Door found that most millionaires have inherited nothing, and most budget and know the exact numbers for their budget categories.

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