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Saving 100% Down for A Home: Part 5

Moving Back Home

After we moved back to our hometown and Jesse started his law firm, things were a little shaky for the first few months. We’d already started a few businesses in the past, so we knew somewhat of what we were up against in opening the law firm. But in another respect, this was a completely new ballpark.

We had experience in online marketing, but developing a local business — especially when there are strict rules and regulations regarding how you can market yourself as an attorney — was a huge learning curve.

But Jesse was motivated, focused and driven, in spite of the many different obstacles and setbacks which came his way. And it was so wonderfully incredible to see my husband throw himself into building his business from the ground up. He spent hours researching, reading and listening to audiobooks on entrepreneurialism, marketing and starting a business. He tried many out-of-the-box ideas and slowly his business started to take off.

And then, God had a big surprise waiting for us.

Only a few months after Jesse started his practice, the attorney he was office-sharing with approached him about an opportunity. Another local attorney, who’d had his own practice for many years, was getting ready to close up shop and was looking for someone to take over his phone lines, phone book ads and client base.

It seemed too good to be true and we were definitely interested! The only catch was that we had to be willing to take over the payments on the phone book ads. As a brand-new business owner committed to staying out debt, the costs of these phone book ads were pretty significant. Once again, we prayed about it, crunched a lot of numbers and finally decided that the costs involved with this were worth it.

So Jesse accepted the offer and assumed the phone book ads and phone lines of this well-established attorney. Within a few weeks, we began to discover just how huge of a break this was for Jesse: the phones were ringing, the clients and appointments were lining up and Jesse was starting to have more work than he could handle on his own.

I began helping him out for an hour or two each day from home (typing up letters, handling administrative details, etc.), but it was quickly becoming too much for me to keep up with. It was a little daunting to consider hiring an assistant so soon after beginning the law firm, but we realized that there was no other way he was going to be able to keep up with things at the rate it was growing. So we were very thankful when he found and hired a full-time assistant soon thereafter.

It’s been amazing to look back and see how God has blessed the law firm from the get-go, far beyond our wildest dreams. In fact, from the first month, it has turned a profit. We’re humbled by God’s goodness.

It’s also been so thrilling to see Jesse succeeding in his work and loving what he does. Having your husband find great fulfillment in his career is wonderful to witness. I feel like God taught Jesse much through those first few years of job difficulty, all of which prepared and equipped him for his business now.

In addition to God blessing Jesse’s business abundantly, God also continued to bless The traffic steadily increased, and along with that, the income from the site increased.

Because we didn’t have any debt and were able to keep our expenses low, the good income which was coming in from our businesses allowed us to be able to save a significant percent each month towards our house fund goal.

We’d set a big, hairy, audacious goal of saving our 100% down goal by the end of 2009, but truthfully, we didn’t ever expect we’d actually hit that goal. And as fall rolled around, we were still quite a ways off from it. That was okay; we were happy with the traction we’d made and excited about the direction things were moving.

But then, November and December came and our earnings ended up being much, much higher than usual because of a couple of unexpected business opportunities which arose due to the Christmas season. We were absolutely floored and thrilled to actually hit our 100% down goal by the end of 2009.

We started looking for houses in earnest at the beginning of 2010 and continued saving while we did so. Five months later, we found the “perfect” house. It was much nicer than we were expecting to purchase, but the price was exactly within our budget and it had every single feature we were looking for, plus a number of other things we had always thought would be really nice to have in a house.

We prayed about it, researched everything we possibly could, got a second and third opinion and felt like this was “the” house. So we put in an offer, the owners accepted our offer, and six weeks later we brought a cashier’s check into the realtor’s office, signed the contract and paid 100% down for our house.

It was the most amazing feeling — and it still is. We know that there is no way we could ever be debt-free, house and all, were it not for so many factors: the wise financial foundation our parents laid for us early on; Jesse’s dad investing the money from his mom’s death so we could pay cash for law school; discovering Dave Ramsey, a man who motivated us to dream big dreams and set big goals; our commitment to stay out of debt during law school which fueled our creativity and entreprenuerialism, which then resulted in two businesses which provided good income to allow us to save.

And ultimately, we give all the glory to God. For some reason, He chose to give us the parents He did, the financial upbringing He did, and to put us in the financial position He has. We don’t deserve any of it, and He could take everything we own away from us tomorrow. It’s His money and His house and we want to be wise stewards of what He has entrusted to us, for as long as He chooses to entrust us with it.

I write all this not to bring glory to ourselves, but to inspire you. We’ve made many mistakes along the way. There have been many struggles. But we have seen so clearly in our own lives that making short-term sacrifices in order to accomplish long-term goals can be so rewarding. And I’ve shared the details of our story in the hopes that it will encourage you — in whatever financial situation you’re in — to set goals, stay focused, think outside the box, be creative, and reap the fruits of your efforts and diligence.

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  • Kelly says:

    You left us hanging again?!?! 🙂 I enjoy reading your blog and keep up the good work.

  • Ashley Bradford says:

    I LOVE this series…you are keeping me on the edge of my seat!!! I can’t wait for the next installment…you truly are a blessing and an inspiration! Keep up the good work!

  • Bernell Holmes says:

    I just enjoy reading this!
    I have been married for 6 1/2 years now (2 children), and my husband and I have realized some huge financial mistakes we made that we are now paying for. But, with, our faith in God, and me being a coupon-a-holic, we have vowed to be DEBT FREE in the next 2 years!
    I also plan on teaching my children at an early age, the importance of being Debt Free, and how to be good stewards over their money!
    Not to get all religious or to offend anyone, but I believe that living beyond our means, and being in debt, is not how God wants my family to live!

    Please continue to share you story! It is very encouraging and will help so many!

  • Ashlee says:

    This series so great. It’s nice to hear your background to make us better understand how you got to where you are.

  • Bobbi S. says:

    You have my attention completely…happily waiting for the next segment. I too love hearing the background, I think it makes us understand your position on the subject much better. 🙂

  • Rachel says:

    Ughh! Always gotta leave us with a cliff-hanger!! LOL

    Thanks for sharing your background, it REALLY helps put things into perspective. My husband and I are on the track to becoming debt-free, but had we known what we know now back then, we probably would not be in this position at all.

  • trixie says:

    Dear Crystal,

    You posted the other day that your cringe when you hear that someone’s been a reader of your blog (BW) from the very begining. But I have been and have really enjoyed your writings over the years. I totally get it that we all grow, change and learn as the years go by. It seems like the older I get, the more I understand how little I know. So, don’t feel embarrassed.

    In reading this series, and recalling your blog from a long time ago, I never really realized at the time how challenging things were for you. You always tried to look at the bright side of your circumstances and situation and I really appreciate that. Of all the great things you’ve shared in this series, looking for the good things and making the best of a situation are the big take aways for me.

    Thank you!

    • Kacie says:

      @trixie, I agree…I remember “the beginning” and I didn’t realize how much of a challenge things sometimes were for you! You were always so upbeat, but I don’t think you were misleading in any way about your life. You were just optimistic, and I think that’s a good mindset to have 🙂

  • i love reading this. so inspiring!

  • Alysia M. says:

    I am loving this series! As a working wife and mom of 3, I find all of your posts so inspiring. This post has raised a question for me, though. Something we are struggling with now is the decision to expand our family. Although my husband and I would LOVE to have another baby now, we know it would set us back financially. Daycare, diapers, formula, etc. would eat all of the money we are using to get out of debt. You decided to start your family right away, even knowing that waiting would allow you to earn more money working. Sometimes I want to just do it, and trust that God will take care of the finances. Other times I am scared that it would just be “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Should money be enough of a reason to stop you from having a baby?

    • @Alysia M., I think if you wait until everything is perfect in life to have a family, it can never happen! God can provide in amazing ways if it is His will to give you more children….

    • Aimee says:

      @Alysia M., I’m glad you asked this because I was wondering as well about the comment about starting a family quickly. While I agree that waiting for everything to be “just right” isn’t realistic because that time will never come, I do believe that our decision to wait to have children (were married 5 years – 30 years old when our first child was born) was the prudent thing to do. Please know that I do NOT mean this as a criticsm of others who make a different choice. Just wanted to offer up that we’ve found that parenting has been much more enjoyable for us than friends who had children earlier and were not as financially stable. God does provide but one of the ways He provides is giving us reasoning skills to think through decisions such as these and whether or not they are sound/wise decisions.

  • Jenni says:

    I love all of your series, but this one is especially interesting. My husband is applying to law schools as I write, but we’re at a different place in life than you were – we have two little boys, and one on the way in March! I’m looking forward to hearing how you funded your living expenses, especially – working part-time w/o kids is one thing, but doing it when you have children is a unique challenge.

  • I LOVE this series! I had horrible financial examples growing up and am having to learn the hard way how to be debt free! It really is something I struggle with everyday, but I have to remind myself and pat myself on the back when I think of how far we’ve come. “God never said it would be easy, he just said it would be worth it!” Thanks for the inspiration, can’t wait until next week!

  • I greatly appreciate reading about how you have done all this, saving, being debt free, living within your means, all while staying home with your children. I’m committed to being home with my kids, and so we are living on a tight budget all while trying to pay off debt. People often suggest that I “should just get a job” and leave my kids with a babysitter. This idea makes me sad-I don’t want to leave my kids! Do you ever have this happen to you? How do you respond? I don’t want to insult anyone, but I also feel odd explaining to others that we cannot go out to eat or contribute cash for a gift when they know that I have made the choice not to work.

    • Chris says:

      @Amanda @ Simplify To Save, it’s too bad that saying, “We’ve found that having children to love and be loved is more important than a lot of material things,” doesn’t suffice for an explanation, or can be construed as insulting, when you’re just stating the truth (that at one time was much more obvious). I mean, the things won’t love me once I die; but the children will, hopefully.

      • Aimee says:

        @Chris, The implication in your response is that parents who work outside of the home consider material things more important than their children. That is why your statement is insulting. I work outside of the home for a number of reasons but none of them is that I prioritize posessions over my children. This may be surprising but your children would likely love you regardless of whether or not you stay home.

    • Jenni says:

      @Amanda @ Simplify To Save, People don’t often say it to my face, but where we live, the cost of living is so high that most people have to have two incomes. We’ve chosen, however, to forgo a lot of the perceived “necessities,” such as cable, eating out a lot, sending our son to preschool, buying the latest fashions, etc. and make it work. I think that it could work to say, “Everyone has their own order of priorities, but for us, my staying at home with the kids is very high on that list.” Some people won’t understand, and trust me, I’ve struggled several years since we got married and had kids to not get offended when people even say things like, “I don’t know how you guys make it on such a small budget . . .” – the pity they seemed to have used to really bother me. But I’m trying to keep the pity and disapproval out of my thought life like a set of unwanted visitors who come to trample all over my home. I don’t think that people who say things like the ones who mentioned are intentionally being judgmental, but just that they have an idea in their minds of what is the “good life” that is different than my own.

      And I know this comment is already long, but just the other day I was re-organizing my sons’ clothing and toys, and realizing how much we had even on a limited budget, and that after we had donated quite a bit a couple of months ago. I can’t imagine what my house would look like if I had more money to spend on my “needs!” 🙂

      • @Jenni, Thank you for your kind words! I know what you mean about the toys-we have so much, how could we need more? I do miss out on going out with friends, as eating out was something I really enjoyed, but the benefits of spending my days with my kids is worth it!

      • Aimee says:

        @Jenni, Maybe they’re genuinely impressed at how you’re able to live within or below your means in a high cost area! You should be proud of yourself for making your family’s priorities a reality and assume positive intent from those around you. They’re probably amazed that you’re able to do it. 🙂

        • Jenni says:

          @Aimee, I think some people do have positive intent, but there have been times when it seemed pretty obvious that some didn’t think we were making enough money, i.e. suggesting that we apply for food stamps, or mentioning how hard it must be for me to grocery shop and think about how much I’m spending (but really, after reading blogs like this, you almost want to say, “How could you not think about how much you’re spending?” :))

    • Allison says:

      @Amanda @ Simplify To Save, I think sometimes people say negative things about another person’s situation because they are feeling uneasy about their own. If they can find something wrong with your choices, it may make them feel validated in their own. I wouldn’t worry about it too much if I were you, just be confident in the choice you have made for your family.

    • @Amanda @ Simplify To Save,
      I usually laugh and say “The cost to pay for the babysitter for them, would eat up anything I made at a job”

    • trixie says:

      @Amanda @ Simplify To Save,

      Hi Amanda,

      Hang in there and don’t let others get you down about your decision. I think its awesome you are doing this. I grew up very poor by this country’s standards (no hot running water, no indoor bathroom, etc) , but I grew up with a Mom that was home with me and I’m so greatful for that. Your children will be too, and so will your husband, that’s all that really matters.

  • Laura says:

    I love reading your blog, especially this series. I love the fact that you are so frugal, and so simple. I’ve always admired that in people, because it brings us back to basics. I grew up very poor, but one thing my mom always taught us was that the clothes we wear, or the things we have will never mean anything. I wasn’t blessed with having any money put away for my college, so I am left paying for every single penny of my university. Its never the amount of money people have that make them human, its how they operate as an individual soul, and how humble they are. I know plenty of people who are very rich, and some that are very poor, and they are my friends because of what they feel, and who they are inside.
    I think Its awesome you are debt free, and one day we will be debt free. Maybe with just a house payment…. I’m not working at the moment, and I’m raising my child, and then the one on the way, and in the mean time I’m working on getting my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology!!! In that time, my two kids will be out of daycare expenses, and into school. which will allow me to go to work. You inspire me everyday, and I can’t strive to be perfect, only happy, and with peace of mind. I will take any tip any day!!!

  • Allison says:

    I’ve been wondering about the nuts and bolts of paying cash for a house. Did you get a mortgage and pay it off the next day? Or write a big fat check the day of closing? What about closing costs? (Or is that the seller’s responsibility?) What do you do about taxes and homeowners insurance, since you wouldn’t have an escrow account through a lender?

    • shelly says:

      @Allison, For taxes and homeowners insurance, you just save your money and pay it on your own. You actually can do that even if you do have a mortgage. Great way to build interest on the money during the year while you save it 🙂 The escrow is just their way of providing a “free” savings account, mine as well make some money off of it!

      • trixie says:


        We have a mortgage and we pay our own taxes and insurance. I created our own “escrow” account. And it’s much nicer than having a bank do it. Plus sometimes I allocate extra and am pleasantly “surprised” with extra money. THAT never happened when the bank handled the escrow for me on a previous mortgage.

    • @Allison, When we purchased our home cash three years ago, the title company just called us the day or two before with the total amount that would be due, and we brought a cashier’s check in for that amount to closing.

      For taxes and insurance, we take the annual amount due, divide it by 52 weeks, and budget that amount every week when we get paid. That way, all the money is there when they need to be paid 🙂

      Closing costs are usually (mostly) negotiable between the buyer and the seller, and are outlined in your contract and/or purchase agreement.

      Hope that helps.

      Jaime @ Like a Bubbling Brook

    • Crystal says:

      Our realtor found out the exact amount it would be and we got a cashier’s check for that amount from the bank to take to the closing. As some have said above, we just pay the taxes and homeowner’s insurance out of pocket.

  • Sunny says:

    I didn’t anything about finance as I grew up. Thanks to my loving parents, I was able to get almost everything I wanted, mostly expensive clothes, shoes and accessories. When I landed Iowa State Univ six years ago for graduate school, God confronted me. After I decided to follow Him, I realized how irresponsible my lifestyle was. I decided to become financially independent from my parents and started to cut back my expense dramatically. Two years ago, I married to my dear husband. He has been a very good steward financially and very supportive to my frugal ideas.We took Financial Peace University together when we were dating. Though I had a good will to save, I didn’t know where to start. One of my friends, who is a pastor’s life, introduced me to your blog. It really helped me in a practical way. I was able to cut off our grocery expense from $500 to $300 each month. (I am Asian, so I have to buy some grocery from Asian market. It is hard to cut the cost there.) More important, it is very encouraging to read many godly ladies’ stories. I am grateful to GOD for you! I want to let you know how helpful you have been in my life and I really appreciate it!

  • Claudia Matei says:

    I loved part one, but I love part two even more. (I don’t know I can wait til next Tuesday to find out what happened next) I really admire you and your husband for what you did and the sacrifices you made. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and for the past maybe two months my husband and I have had numerous discussions on attempting something like this. Of course not all of the things you did would work for us (I read your first blog, the one that you took down, and I didn’t find anything wrong with it, if anything I am a tiny bit jealous because I don’t think I would ever be able to do some of the things you did even if I really would like to think that I want to) Anyways, my husband and I have been really been looking at our finances and the changes we can make to the way we live our lives in order to be able to save big like this, maybe not a house, but just the future. And all this thanks to you and your blog and the wonderful Godly advise. (sorry if this sounds like rambling) GBU

  • Kate says:

    I don’t understand why you couldn’t work full time – you had no children so there was no problem in finding childcare. It seems a little unfair to expect your husband to work as well as study?

    Sorry don’t want to appear negative but I don’t understand it. Is this a cultural thing? Doesn’t everyone leave school and get a full time job?

    • Allison says:

      @Kate, I was wondering this too.

    • Crystal says:

      You’re jumping ahead! Stay tuned for my post next week. 🙂 When we were first married, I worked 4 days until I got pregnant. I know it might not be the norm, but we both felt strongly that my place was to be at home full-time as soon as we had children — even while he was in school.

      • Kate says:

        Thanks for clarifying -No I think it is normal to stay at home after children! Childcare is so expensive that unless you have family nearby working is not really an option!

      • Crystal says:

        @Crystal, Oops, that should be I worked 4 days a *week* until I got pregnant (which ended up being a little over a year after we got married!)

        Sorry for my initial typo!

  • Jen says:

    I’m wondering what you were doing prior to getting married. This has been all about Jesse so far. What kind of work were you doing to save up your $5,000? Were you renting an apartment, etc?

    • Megan says:

      @Jen, I second this! I’m curious too 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Great question! I lived at home and taught violin and worked part-time at a tea room. I also did a lot of ministry/volunteer work in our local community as well as getting my paralegal certification.

      • A says:

        I am really impressed that you saved so diligently when you were young. How lovely to come to marriage prepared with a small savings account. My dad always encouraged me to save about $2000 a summer in my college years, and that wise advice meant that I could work a simple, part-time job about 10 hours a week while attending school. (My parents did pay tuition and room/board while I was in college, which I know was a blessing, to the tune of $6-7K a year back in the early 90s).
        By the time my hubs and I got married, in the May after finishing school, we pretty much had $500 between us! 🙂 However, we had no debt and two drivable cars…in addition to hand-me-down furniture! Blessed indeed! Young love and no money…it is a lovely way to start!

  • Thank you for this series!

    I had my second child in July and the call to quit my job and stay home is getting louder. We paid off our home in October, then the very next week our furnace/heat pump died ($7298), the washing machine died ($375) and the sewer backed up– tree roots ($847).

    When I returned to work I figured I would give things two months and re-evaluate. That two months will be up in a few weeks.

    But besides all my appliances biting the dust, my father became extremely ill and my grandpa died, and I was hospitalized with PPD after my son was born. So nothing has been “typical”.

    I earn more than my husband and have more job security, and I have more education and job experience than he does. We also would like to move to a more family friendly neighborhood by the time our oldest starts kindergarten. So actually quitting my job is a daunting prospect for me mentally.

    But each day I feel more and more like it would be better for my family for me to be home.

    • Melissa says:

      @Milk Donor Mama,

      I think that it hard as a woman to be the one with a more stable job and higher income when it comes to having kids. That desire to stay home isn’t quite as simple in that case it seems. I know that desire is strong for you, but it may work to where it might be better if he were the stay at home dad. It strays from the traditional idea, but helps you to get the best of both worlds – a steady, reliable income and the love and care of your kids.

  • It seems to me that you might have saved more money by waiting to get married until after Jesse completed school. You could have stayed at home, worked full time and saved as much as possible; he could have rented a single room in a house while away at law school and saved as well.

    But I am glad that things have worked out for you so well!

    • Crystal says:

      This is definitely something we considered, but we were very ready to get married and didn’t want to wait three and a half more years — especially since we’d liked each since the time we were 9 and 10. 😉

      In our case, I think that being married at a younger age and going through the trials of those early years together brought our marriage much closer. Also, Jesse would tell you that he was able to be a better (and more focused!) student as a result of being married.

      However, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend what we did to everyone else. But, after much prayer, it was the way we felt God directing us and we don’t have any regrets!

      • A says:

        My dad encouraged us to wait the four years to marry (we were engaged in our first year of college!) and that is something we will do differently with our family. We were mature and committed to one another, and might as well have been married and living in married student housing. It would have been the wiser choice. I’m sure some parents feel that it is unwise to “pay for” college housing/tuition, for instance, for a married child (sort of defeats the whole “leave and cleave” concept), but we believe that if our children wish to marry in college, we will give them charge of their college funds to manage as a young married exercise. Rather than keep them tied by the purse strings, we’ll advise them well and let them live-and-learn, if you will!

  • Crystal, thanks for sharing this. I’m looking forward to Part 3. My husband and I are trying to save up to start our own business, so this is very encouraging.

    I did have to laugh though, when I read the sentence about Jesse totaling his car unexpectedly – the alternative being that he would have planned for it! 🙂

  • Tracy says:

    Thank you so much for your obedience in sharing what you do with us, Crystal, and for seeking to do so with honesty drenched in grace. The Lord has used you to help my husband and I in our own financial decisions. You are so right in always emphasizing that what works for you is not necessarily what is best for others, but the principles you explain so clearly help many make wise choices. Thank you.

    I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.

  • Jerilyn says:

    I love following this story! 3 years ago my husband and I were preparing to move for him to go to seminary and on the eve of having our first baby (literally and figuratively! 😉 we were wondering where we were going to get 36k… we ended up both doing some part-time work (I nannied and brought my son with me) until the 2nd little guy was on his way where my husband decided to not to pursue seminary anymore, even though that was what he wanted to do. So God has provided for us too, just not in the way we expected!

  • Kim says:

    Thanks so much for sharing these stories with us! I told my husband about what you’ve done so far and we are wanting to commit ourselves to buying a house debt-free since we’ve never been in debt while being married. Thanks for your inspiration – it makes me feel like it’s more possible!

  • Tina says:

    Thank you for sharing your insight / experience with this. I would be very interested in the “after story”, in other words how does your budget/lifestyle look differently now that you are a home owner and no longer a renter.

  • Jody says:

    The splurge for the honeymoon meal at Subway made me laugh out loud and exclaim “I love these people!” 🙂

  • Amber says:

    Thank you. That is all really – I can’t even describe how you have impacted my life for the better.

  • CJ says:

    I’m an Ichabod too!

    I just stumbled across your blog today and have also recently completed the Financial Peace University. Several participants at my table are really struggling and I am happy to pass along your blog to them too!

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