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Monthly Financial Check-up

We made some good headway on the children’s educational savings this month. As I mentioned two months ago, we completed our goal for Kathrynne’s savings account and were making progress on Kaitlynn’s. This gave us both the momentum to just get it done. So we sat down and figured out some various savings we could re-allocate in order to free up more money for the educational savings accounts.

Ever since we replaced Jesse’s car last year, we have been setting aside money to replace the mini van I drive. It’s still running great and looks like it’s got lots of life left in it, so I convinced Jesse to dump that savings into the educational savings instead.

(We have a good emergency fund and Jesse has a very reliable car that our whole family can fit it in, so we have a back-up plan if the mini van up and dies tomorrow. I really don’t mind going back to being a one-car family for awhile if we have to and would rather have the children’s educational savings funded and drive our mini van for a few more years before replacing it.)

So reallocating the vehicle money plus some other savings added with the money we were able to put in savings this past month gave us just enough to finish out our goal for Kaitlynn’s educational savings account.

We got both of their savings accounts set up this past month (they came with us to set them up and it was a great opportunity for us to explain what we were doing, why we were doing it and how compound interest works!) and now we’re working on funding Silas’ account. Since he’s younger, we’re putting less in his account, so I’m hopeful we can possibly have his funded by the end of August. I’m not sure on that, but we’ll see!

Here’s our current goals list:

Our Family’s Financial Goals for the Summer of 2010 through December 2011

1. Significantly increase our giving to needs in our community and around the world. This is an ongoing goal, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set.

3. Pay cash for a replacement for Old Blue Van.

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income.

8. Fund our children’s educational savings. Kathrynne and Kaitlynn’s are done, now we’re working on Silas’.

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

10. Save for our next BHAG.

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

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170 Comments

  • Homesteading hippy says:

    this is gonna sound like a silly question, but when you say you have your children’s education funded, do you mean ALL of what they would need for college????? how do you know what they will need?

  • Elizabeth Sue says:

    Thank you for putting the link in about being a one car family. As you know my husband’s truck was stolen and destroyed by thieves. So for this season of life we are a one car family. It was encouraging to read a post about someone else that is one car as well.

    • Crystal says:

      You’re welcome! Being a one-car family is hard, but there are blessings, too! I actually miss how much more we stayed home and how simple our lives were when we had one car — though it is very nice to have two right now.

      That’s so frustrating about your husband’s truck!! 🙁

    • J says:

      Sorry about your husband’s truck! We are a 1 car family but is made much easier by the fact that my husband bikes to work most days except December through February when he has to drive most days due to snow/ice.

    • Monica says:

      I agree. Since the birth of our twins (and my decision to stay at home with our 3 under 3) we have been a one car family. It puts a whole new meaning behind the term stay at home mom! I guess we have just figured out a way to work around it. It is nice to hear from others. At times it sure can feel like you are alone in a decision.

  • That’s great, Crystal! I bet it feels good to check those off your list! 🙂

    We have continued to make more progress toward paying off our mortgage, for which I am extremely thankful. If the Lord allows things to continue as they are, we are likely to beat our five-year goal. Hurrah! With baby #3 arriving any day, I’m thinking it would be pretty great to be able to move into a bigger house sooner rather than later!

    • Crystal says:

      Way to go on your progress! Moving to a house that allows us all to be in three bedrooms versus two bedrooms has been so nice! I’m pretty sure we’re all sleeping better as a result, too. 🙂

  • Suzy @ Lovetosave.org says:

    We are working on debt freedom at the moment. Also paying cash for our wedding and paying off our credit cards. We are excited to report that by the end of this year we will have our emergency fund built up again, our wedding paid for, our credit cards paid off and some car repairs paid for ALL in cash! What a wonderful journey! 🙂 We have already begun our financial goal list for next year… We will be having a substancial amount being added to our home fund and ALL debt will be paid off!
    Here is a link to a series of posts I have started for our financial freedom journey.
    http://wp.me/p1gr1r-QD

  • Here is our Financial Plan for July. We were finally able to help out an elderly gentleman and provide him with basic transportation. It feels so good to help others and give blessings to those who may not be receiving help from any other source.

    http://www.savingwithaplan.com/2011/07/july-financial-checklist/

  • Trixie says:

    I think it’s great you took the girls to set up the accounts and explain what they were for. My parents did this with me to set up a savings account and that day is forever etched in my memory. We went every week to put the money in from my egg business and take out $ to buy the feed. It made a HUGE impression on me.

  • Jacqueline Evans says:

    WOW! I got teary-eyed reading your success so far. My husband and I met 3 years ago; blended family with 4 young boys (1 together). We both suffered major financial setbacks due to divorces that left us Bankrupt (literally)… got involved in our church where Financial Genius Dave Ramsey appeared in person! We went through a 12-week program, however we have yet to put it in place due to the recent filing of our joint BK. Success stories like yours make it seem possible…we are mid-thirties and sometimes feel it’s “too late” to make any nest eggs for ourselves, or anyone. I’m glad I read your post; sure gives me a big BOOST to get it going…$1,000 “baby step” is first on the list. We are $342.00 in so far! 🙂

    • Carrie says:

      yay jacqueline!!! working towards that first goal, and then achieving it, makes everything seem possible. keep up the good work!! we are 3 years into our total money makeover and “loving” every step of it! i love reading success stories – little ones to big ones, they all keep me motivated to stay on track myself 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      You can do it!!!!

    • Marlene says:

      Jacequeline,
      You have to start somewhere! It is definitely not too late. Sadly, I know people who are my parent’s age who have hardly anything for retirement. Taking that in consideration, you are already ahead of the curve and have many, many years ahead of you to make wise financial decisions. Good luck!
      ~Marlene

    • Fireweed says:

      You can do it! When we were 35, we were $94,000 in debt from not having sufficient insurance to pay for the cancer that hit the husband and heart surgery to correct a birth defect for me. By 55, we had a paid for house, 2 paid for cars, and were able to retire. We live modestly but care free now. The first five years were very tough, but it was worth it.

      • Crystal says:

        Thank you so much for sharing your incredible testimony! Would you ever be interested in sharing a guest post on how you pulled out of all the debt to be where you are today?

  • Sally says:

    If you don’t mind me asking…where did you go to set up the E.S.A.? I am thinking of starting one for my grand daughter, and I’m not sure where I want to go. I am impressed that you are getting the most out of your car and using the money for savings. So many would not have done that and I think it’s great. Keep up the good work!!

  • Carrie says:

    “Sister C” does a Financially Fit Friday where I spill the beans on what we are paying off and saving for, and where the money comes from in order to do so. “Sister K” does a Money Makeover Monday where she has begun to do the same as “Sister C” – come watch us get rid of our debts and share your stories with us!

  • Hi everyone,

    I became a single mother soon after my daughter was born because I did not want to strive to make a relationship work that was not going anywhere. Well, long story short I no longer had the income that I once had and here I was with a baby, full-time job, mortgage, car note, and insurance for two. All this was a major set back for me, so then I stumbled onto Money Saving Mom and realized how I could limit my spending and live frugally. I have now started my own blog and want to help others just like Money Saving Mom helped me.

    • Autumn says:

      That’s great to hear you are helping to share with others what you learned like so many of us here at MSM. Kudo’s to you for hanging in there and going forward.

    • Crystal says:

      I so admire single moms and all they carry; it sounds like you are doing an amazing job!

  • Laura says:

    What is a BHAG? The link wasn’t working.

  • whitney says:

    You inspire me so much! I’m very aggressively paying off my husband’s student loans and our car payment, they’ll be paid off in 4 years, and it’s about $60,000 worth. AHHH!!

  • Great job on your savings! Wow! You can really get a lot done financially when you don’t have a house payment. Thanks for setting such a great example!

    Here’s my financial update:
    http://www.frugalfollies.com/2011/07/elevate-your-finances-in-2011-june.html

  • Sarah says:

    Crystal, I have a question for you. I think you answered it in not so many words but I wanted to check. When you say you are creating an educational savings account, is it literally a 529 or Coverdell or is it a UTMA/UGMA or general account? The reason I ask is, what if one of your daughters feels God leads her to not go to college at all but to get married, have childrene and stay at home? If you had the funds invested in an actual college saving account/educational account, the money could be penalized at withdrawal for not using it for such purposes. However if it is just savings in general for them, I know they can then use it for other things as well (you said maybe starting their own business). Just curious. Thanks!

  • Sara C says:

    Just yesterday I got a check from an Insurance Settlement from a car accident last year. We used the money from that to pay off 1 medical bill and my last credit card. Now we are chomping away at my student loans and hope to have those paid off early next year! It’s such a great feeling to be consumer debt free. Now, to be completely debt free – that’s going to be wonderful!

  • Jennifer says:

    That is awesome! Way to go! Due to my dh’s hard work we were able to pay $5000 cash for my son’s braces last week. We are also about to pay off our van loan (we had to delay it 1 month to pay for braces), so come August 1st we will be debt free except the mortgage! Oh the plans I have for saving money once we have no payments! I can’t wait!

  • Melissa says:

    This is our financial check up. We need to work on increasing our income.

    http://www.momsplans.com/2011/07/may-and-june-2011-financial-goals-update/

    Thanks for posting each month. I love watching your progress and it helps me stay accountable.:)

  • AnneJisca says:

    The BHAG link doesn’t work, just so you know. 🙂

  • Noelle says:

    Sharing your family’s list of financial goals and journeying along side your readers is such an encouragement. As a family with a college student, we wish we had started seriously saving a long time ago- I am so glad to see you are sharing this important tip with your readers! For families who also have children in college, I would recommend this site as well: http://morewithlesstoday.com/. The author is a mother with a daughter in college, and she has very interesting tips and ideas for parents and students in this stage of life. Thank you for sharing, I will be following from now on!

  • Brynn says:

    I am not sure if you answered this in a previous month, but once the college fund is “fully funded” does that mean that you don’t add any more money to it, ever? Or is that for this year? For instance, if an IRA lets you put a max of $5000 in it A YEAR, and you do, that’s “fully funded” – for a year. But do you mean completely and then by the time your children are of age the compound interest will mean there is enough in there for them to attend college? Thanks!

    And also – what a great example you are to so many of us. My family is not where yours is, but I am proud of the progress we’re making and you are an inspiration! I especially love that you share with your readers your belief in Christ and how you are raising your children. I am reading to my kids more because of reading a post you shared. 🙂

  • LeaDawn says:

    Thanks for the update!

    It is inspiring to see others set and reach financial goals. Thanks for inspiring all of us to live below our income so that we are able to save for the future and give to those around us.

    The last few months we have been focusing on finding small ways (on a small income) to reach out to those in need around us. I feel that we can show our appreciation to God for the many blessings he has given us through giving and helping others.

    I think it is great that your family gives so much to charities to help those in need. Thanks for being an example to all of us!

  • Nancy says:

    When you check the item off you list as ‘funded’ does that mean you don’t need to contribute to it anymore? I’m just confused on how you can fully fund a college account for college in 15-20 years with one deposit, or fully refund a retirement IRA when you are young. There are tax benefits to funding every year as you get older.

    • Crystal says:

      For the educational savings, we’re fully funding them this year with enough that, with compound interest, will total the amount we’ve decided to set aside for each child by the time they turn 18.

      We’re setting aside 10% of our income for retirement. We waited to bump up our retirement savings to this amount until we had accomplished some other goals. This is an ongoing thing that we’ll be doing every year, but it’s checked off because we moved things around in our budget to make saving 10% of our income for retirement a set priority in our budget now.

  • Carrie says:

    Congrats on your progress! You guys are so organized, I need to work on that for financial goals. We don’t have debt other than a mortgage and a fair amount of savings, but I would like to have things planned out better.

  • Celeste says:

    Crystal I have a question for you. We are finishing up on babystep 2(from Dave Ramsey). We already have our 3 to 6 months of savings. So we will be working on college fund soon. How did you decide how much? You don’t have to tell me how much I am just wondering how you decided.

  • Crystal, you & your family are such an inspiration to our family! We became debt free before we had our daughter but after a ton of “Murphy’s”, we ended up borrowing to purchase a second car when she was born 3 months early. Not the best decision, but we’re only $500 away from paying it off now. We have a whole list of financial goals we’re hoping we can cross off our list before 2012!
    http://moneymarriageandmotherhood.blogspot.com/2011/07/keeping-us-accountable-update-on-our.html

  • Lana says:

    I was able to pay an extra $1500 on our mortgage this month. We are seeing the end in sight now.

  • Jen says:

    On Monday we are paying off our house after 4.5 years so we are excited to be done with that debt! God has blessed us for sure!

  • Meredith says:

    With my husband being unemployed, our biggest financial goal is to use as little of our emergency fund as possible. It’s only been a month, but so far we haven’t even had to stop putting money into our savings. What a blessing it is to be debt free. Plus, cutting back on groceries and other areas has helped. What could’ve been very stressful is just a blip on the radar, so far:)

    • Lana says:

      We were unemployed for 9 months but because we were financially stable, had an emergency fund and a stockpile of everything we were hardly hurt at all and my husband had a nice rest which he really needed. Hope your husband is blessed with a good job soon!

      • Meredith says:

        Thank you so much! It really is encouraging when kind people, like you, comment and share their story! Thanks again:)

  • Denise C. says:

    This may not be huge, but it was huge for myself and my husband. We tightened up on spending in general. I have an SUV, gas is a lot to fill it. For the past few weeks, my husband gave me his car to use, and will ride his motorcycle to work. (I’ll add that I filled my truck a few days ago, the first time in 3.5 weeks! Yay!) 🙂

    NO trips to Target.

    NO major trips to the grocery store. If we ran out of milk, milk was all I bought.

    My husband makes good money and we have no debt aside from our mortgage. Frivolous spending made our checking account down right depressing, especially if pay day was quite a bit away. We tightened the reigns again and will be (fingers crossed) a bit ahead after payday! Extra money will go into savings (we will move it over quickly.)

    It was quite nice not living from the last paycheck until this one. 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      Great job! Do you have a written budget? If you set one up and stick with it, you’ll probably give yourself an instant raise!

      • Denise C. says:

        We’re just setting up a budget. I made a list of all our bills, (monthly, quarterly, and yearly). One of the biggest things I am rexaming are some household/beauty stuff. I’m no longer buying conditioner at $6. (it was good and didn’t dry out my hair, just weigh it down). Groceries are getting under control too! 🙂

        • Crystal says:

          I’m so excited to see how this impacts your financial situation — yay!!

          • Denise C. says:

            Us too! When my husband looked at our bank account, he told me, he was proud of me that I didn’t go to Target. That was a great thing to hear. I’d go there out of boredom sometimes, and well that is asking for trouble. Ya know what? I survived! 🙂

    • Rachel says:

      Target is dangerous for me too! Glad to hear you were able to resist it.

  • Elise Adams says:

    Great post–thank you so much for being open about your goals and progress. We are a long ways behind most of the commenter’s here–we’re just trying to get off welfare! And over the past month we’ve made some big changes to make that happen in the next six months or so. This post http://adamsorganizing.com/2011/07/04/what-the-secret-millionaire-and-the-homeless-have-in-common/ is where I list the changes we’re making. We have a LONG way to go–but we won’t give up!!!!

  • Thanks for sharing your progress and being such an encouragement to so many people. I’ve shared our progress here.

    http://wonderwomanimnot.blogspot.com/2011/07/financial-check-up-june.html

  • Amanda says:

    This month I was really bummed because we had to replace my husband’s laptop AND found out we owed $200 extra to our oil company for our winter heat. However, we were able to pay it all with cash and barely dip into the emergency fund because God provided some extra side work… so instead of it being a disaster, it was simply an inconvenience 🙂

  • Jennifer says:

    I am so excited because after being unemployed and a SAHD for two years my husband is going back to work for at least 6 months. Since he was laid-off we paid off all of our debt except my student loan and mortgage and have learned to live on a single income. Now we have a prioritized list of goals that we can use all of his paycheck for!

  • Wendy says:

    Crystal,

    You are such an inspiration to me. I have change a few things thanks to you and WOW they truly have made a difference in my family. I can’t wait to read your book. I’m sure is going to be full of wonderful advices and tips as your website. I have a question regarding Emergency Saving Fund. What percentage would you recommend to save? I really want to start doing that and report back to you. Take care!

    • Monica says:

      Wendy,
      I’m not sure what Crystal would recommend and I certainly am not qualified to speak for her but I think she follows along with some of Dave Ramsey’s plans. The first baby step in his Financial Peace University is to save $1000 and then down the road after debt is paid off, create an emergency fund of 3-6 months expenses.
      Crystal is full of tips and is so motivational so I’m sure she’ll fill in the gaps.

      • I know it can seem overwhelming with the idea of $1,000 – trust me, we were there! Start with what you can afford – whether it’s five dollars a month or your refund checks from rebates. Every bit helps.

        • Wendy says:

          Thank you Robbie!
          I will certainly follow your advice. Anything makes a difference. I will be returning some things back to the store that honestly I didn’t need them and I will start from there 🙂
          Have a great weekend!

      • Wendy says:

        Thank you Monica 🙂 God willing by the end of this month, I will make that money happen. Some people owe me $ and now I have a destination for it. Enjoy your weekend!

  • Emma says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years. Since the birth of my first daughter when we went from two incomes to one. The advice you give on budgeting has really helped us. Last month we were able to pay all our insurance for the year plus a big car bill with money we had specifically been setting aside for those purposes over the past year. So nice not having to scramble for that money with this month’s income only. Thanks for sharing all the tips and tricks you do.

  • Dona says:

    Hey Crystal…congrats on all your accomplishments. Everything seems to always fall in place for you guys. It seems like murphy is always striking at our goals. Do you ever hit snags???? How much do you let go??? I mean, for instance, we have some goals right now but other stuff keeps falling apart around my house. I feel like we take one step forward and two back. Currently, one of our ceiling fans is broken, all our cordless phones have broken (we have just one phone working in our house of 6 people) accidents have led to two doors being broken, one of our bathroom tiles just broke..my kid had to have xrays done, …etc. etc. etc….We are not fixing or repairing any of these things due to our gazelle intensity. But I must admit my patience is thinning. While all this is going on in my life, my next door neighbors are both out of work. Yet they laid nice new carpet throughout their house, bought new furniture and went on vacations. I feel like we are living the “abnormal” life as Dave Ramsey calls it…..but there are days I am discouraged…can you tell this is one of them! Now that you are homeowners…is everything just perfect at your house??? Do you hit bumps??? Is the emergency fund always full and never needing rebuilt up due to things like the above???

    • Holly says:

      I can so relate to what you are saying!!! We have had our recent string of financial setbacks, including needing to replace a car battery this month. :/ It can get hard and be frustrating at times, but you just have to keep moving forward.

    • Cn says:

      One thing I learned from the Dave Ramsey course was that you should be putting aside little bits for the house maintenance, car repairs and medical stuff. You just leave it in the envelope until you need it. That way not everything is an emergency. It really helps us to do that.

      • Crystal says:

        Yes, that’s what we do and then, when something breaks unexpectedly (like our hot water heater did a few months ago), we have money set aside to pay for a replacement. Even just $10 or $15 a month in these categories can really start to add up over time (provided things don’t break every month!).

    • Christy says:

      I can relate. We really need to sell our tiny, no garage, no yard townhome in the near future (2 kids, big dogs) to live in a “real house” as I call it–not huge, just slightly larger w/ garage, attic, and yard, but how are we going to sell it if we don’t maintain it–hole in a door, son’s closet doors off track, huge hole in screened porch….

  • Jessica says:

    In May I made the decision to move out of the “city” and move to the small college town I work in 30 miles away. My rent will be increasing by $30 a month but I will be saving that in gas. I redid my budget with my new rent amount and expected utilities and am excited to be able to allocate $400 towards financial goals. The goals range from continuing to pay cash for my last two semesters of grad school, paying off my car in 9.5 months, saving for a new bed set and a new tablet/computer.

    I am committed to staying focus on my budget so that I can pay off all my debt by May 2012. I still owe around $6,500 but with my tax return and penny pinchin’ I am hoping to have it paid off.

  • Holly says:

    I love how candidly you share your financial goals and progress. It’s very motivating to see how hard work and budgeting can pay off. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • Whitney says:

    how do you budget for utilities? because they change every month….

    • Monica says:

      I don’t know if your electric company offers it but you might want to check into something called levelized (might be the wrong name) billing. Basically, they look back at your last year and set an amount that you will most likely pay. It has helped us to know how to budget for that.

    • whitney says:

      I actually pay a set amount each month, regardless of what is due. They just credit the next bill with what I overpay. For example, I always pay $200 and the extra I pay in the spring adds up to help me out in the expensive summer months, and the same goes for fall and winter. That way I never have to pay much more than I expected and it’ just easier this way for me.

    • Susan says:

      I used to be on a budget plan with my electric company. I canceled it though because it was actually costing me more. For example, I was paying $120. a month and a few months ago it went up to $140. Now through all this time my bill was always the same. I decided to take a closer look at my bill this month to find out that they wanted me to pay $140. when the the bill without the budget plan would have only been $113.

      • Christy says:

        At least the way mine works–coastal SC–blazing heat in the summer, usually very mild winters….Yes, in March when it is 70 degrees everyday, I pay $135 even though my “bill” would have only have been $85, but in July, I still pay $135 even though my “bill” would have been $200. They take the average you spend in a calendar year and divide it by 12. I used to love the fall and spring months when I could use the money towards something else, but I hated the summer months. Now I am able to budget accordingly. We still try to save energy–they reassess every year and either raise or lower your bill. Sometimes you even get a refund.

  • Andy says:

    We figured out our ten month emergency fund and decided to take from our savings to pay cash for my bar preparation class (3k) and put the same against my law school debt!

    My husband was able to find a job in the same city as my new job. This was certainly a blessed month for us. We plan to put his paycheck towards my school debt and be paid off in three years.
    Thanks everyone for sharing …so inspirational.

  • Kacie says:

    Hooray for your family!

    We are making great progress ourselves. In the last month, we wrote the biggest check of our lives and bought a new-to-us van. We had been a one-car family for about 3.5 years but since moving to our new city, that’s just too hard. So we bought the thing outright and we are hopeful that both of our vehicles will last us long enough to teach our son how to drive on (he’s 2.5 years old now…so we’ll see!). They both have low miles and have been well maintained, and they are reputable makes so hopefully we can hang onto them for a long time.

    Next up is finding a house. We intend to put 20% down on a house and pay our own closing costs. As long as we don’t close on something before the end of August, I think we should be able to do that. It has been slow going for finding a house, but that’s ok. More time to save up! And if we’re still saving by mid-August and we already have our full down payment and closing costs, we can keep on saving for immediate updates to the house or furniture or something. Or just a fatter down payment 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      I’m so excited to see how God leads you — I know He has the perfect house for you! I’ll continue to pray for you to have patience and wisdom while you wait.

  • Faith says:

    This may seem like a silly question, but how much will college cost in 15 years?? How do you know how much to save for?

  • lorie says:

    Its hard not to think in my heart, “Well, if our income was high too we could do that too”, but I know thats wrong and just envy. We only bring in about 30K a year or less. But I am happy that other people could do this. And I love your blog it really helps. We do with what we have and are very blessed and try our best to save as much and we think we can and should. The rest we just leave in God’s hands.

    • TeamBonk says:

      Lorie,
      I often feel this way too. If we made more money … if we had better jobs … if we lived where couponing was more possible.
      Your attitude is great – we just do what we can and leave the rest to God as well.
      God bless!
      Michelle

    • amy says:

      Lorie, I understand how it seems like paying off or saving like some here seems totally impossible! We make less than 30K as well and sometimes I get discouraged reading this post every month, but I still read it because it reminds me that despite making less, we can STILL save and pay things off if we stay disciplined! After 10 years of marriage and 3 kids we finally wrote out a budget and the difference was amazing! We quit writing out a monthly budget this past winter and guess what? We weren’t as careful and found ourselves struggling again. Our goal for July was simply to write out a budget again and we have already seen a difference and it has encouraged us to make at least one financial goal! That seems like so little sompared to others here, but I have to remember that God expects us to be wise with what He has blessed us with! I have to be careful not to compare our family with others because that just makes me more discouraged. Keep saving and doing what you can and maybe make just one goal! It doesn’t have to be huge and it doesn’t have to be done as fast as some here, but completing it will be very encouraging and motivating for you! You can do it! 🙂

      • Crystal says:

        A written budget is amazing, isn’t it?

        And you know what, if all you can afford to set aside is $10 or $25 per month in savings, that’s still something and it’s progress! Start with microscopic goals and work up from there.

        Don’t be discouraged. It’s not how much you make, it’s how you steward what God has given you!

        • Lyn says:

          Hi Crystal, no offense, but when someone says “it’s not how much you make” – that tends to ruffle my feathers. I’m sure the sentiment behind that is well-meant. However, when you live on a larger budget, it’s just going to be easier, plain and simple (especially if one is wise with their money as you and your husband appear to be). If one isn’t wise, well, that’s another story, and that’s just being wasteful. No one can dispute though that having more money is easier than having less! I am sure that your family is able to accomplish much more today than you were able to while living on $12K/year for a few years.

          Although I can appreciate your monthly check-up posts and am happy for you and your family’s success, I do miss the old posting days when finances were tight for you. I think it’s because I could relate to it so much more. There’s something about frugality being necessary vs. a choice. Creativity with money-stretching becomes quite important under these circumstances. Such posts/articles relating to that challenge have always inspired me the most.

    • Crystal says:

      Just remember that eight years ago, our income was less than $12,000 per year.

      Have you considered ways you can increase your income? That’s what we did when we were barely squeaking by and realized that, in order to accomplish our long-term financial goals, we were going to have to find creative ways to increase our income. It is very possible for anyone to do — even if you don’t have a lot of skills, time or money to invest in starting a business. Creativity, ingenuity, hard work, persistence and sticking with it when the going gets tough, along with trusting in the Lord and asking Him for wisdom and direction, can take you very far!

    • Jessica Claire says:

      Lorie,
      Just 5 short years ago I found out I was pregnant for my first son. That’s when I knew I needed to get my act together. I was a single mom through out my pregnancy and until my son was 2. When I found out I was pregnant I got going on a strict budget and just 7 months later I purchase a house. The only assistance I got was medicaid because my work provided really bad insurance. I paid for a car with cash as well. At that time I was making just $12,000 a year. And had absolutely NO credit cards. Fast forward to today. And my husband and I combined make less than $40,000. We own 2 houses, 2 cars, a motorcycle, a camper, we have 2 children, paid cash 3 weeks ago for our honeymoon, paid cash 2 weeks ago for our honeymoon to HAWAII, and still have no credit card debt. Our son was just born 3 months ago and I was on bed rest for 5 months. So we have had 8 months with me not having an income (just went back to work last week). Now, I tell you this to encourage you not brag. I hope you know that it is possible! We obviously don’t have a high income but we coupon and keep our utilities VERY low (lots of blankets and hoodies in the winter time, lots of open windows in the summer) So please know that it is possible to do great things with a small income! You just have to be focused and know that you can do it. (Oh, and just so you know, we aren’t home bodies and we really are never bored. We are constantly out and about doing stuff, just doing stuff the smart way.)

    • Christy says:

      I feel this way all the time. We were listening to Dave Ramsey in the car last night and the people were calling in to yell they were debt free. These people in there 20s had paid off their student loans making 90K a year (no kids). I turned to my DH and said, “Your student loan would have been paid off years ago if we made 90K.”

      And the only way to increase our income is for DH to get a different job. I teach, have a Masters (to make more), National Board Cert. (make more, at least temporarily). Before children, I tutored, worked all summer, etc. Now I choose to spend time with our kids. DH has a part-time job in addition to his full-time job.

      But we are still plugging along with what we have. And I will say that although it was a huge leap of faith, since I started tithing 10%, it all seems to work out somehow.

  • Sass says:

    I had a rough month in June with massive budget overruns, and if I don’t get a rein on some of it, July is going to be just as bad! HOWEVER, I did manage to pay off one of my credit cards! Now to just get really focused on #2 — I’d really like for it to be gone before the Princess goes off to college!http://gettingusthere.blogspot.com/2011/07/credit-card-1-gone.html

  • Lisa says:

    Hi Crystal!
    I just need to know… do you still only have 3 pairs of shoes???

    • Crystal says:

      Actually, I only have two for the summer: flip-flops and tennis shoes (I’ll trade out the flip-flops for boots in the winter). We do have a few weddings we’re going to in the next few months, so I’m going to have to find some sandals or something to wear to those, since I don’t think flip-flops are going to cut it. 🙂

      • Liz says:

        Crystal, you should consider doing a summer vlog in your “free time,” lol…I know many of us enjoyed your winter one awhile back.

      • Dani says:

        I find this amazing! LOL!! I wish I could bring myself to only own two pairs of shoes, well maybe four or five. I have 10 pairs of flip flops alone!!!

  • We have had a few set backs this last month – travel for my niece’s baptism, a car accident that, while we are not responsible, my husband did miss work, hail damage to our house (that deductible hurts) and other small items. Our big goal is to regroup and start making a plan to buy a bed for my youngest at the next round of mattress sales – cash – pay fall tuition (which I suspect may not be cash), and to start tracking and making a positive impact towards decreasing our credit card accumulations from the 3 years my husband was out of work. Still praying for some more freelance work to come in!

  • Kimberly says:

    I have enjoyed this post and tne comments! Any tips for convincing the husband to be more frugal? I have been praying…and God is teaching me patience!

    • amanda says:

      I was also wondering any tips for my husband. A lot of the time, he is like “we have plenty of money” but I just want to be even more fanatically stable. You never know what can happen.

    • My husband was not frugal at all when we got married but slowly over the past five years he is getting better. It is all about compromising with us and I have learned that I have to give into him sometimes and I just try to save as much as I can through myself being frugal. I’m not his mom and I don’t want to be a nagging wife so this way works for us.

    • Crystal says:

      Have you talked about your financial goals? For my husband (who tends to be the spender in our family), that was what really helped him have the desire to become more frugal. Seeing on paper what we could accomplish if we made sacrifices makes it much more motivating to follow through and stick with a budget.

    • Michele says:

      My family is somewhat the same – I am the frugal/financial planner one. My husband is more of the spender. We do a plan each year (mostly me) and we have a % taken out of his paycheck to go to our 401(k). I send off a check each month to our children’s college fund and our Roth IRA. Our bills are mostly automated. I buy the groceries. So pretty much whatever is left is free to be spent which my husband does willingly. I figure that I’m not going to change his spending style and more than he is going to change mine. So I quietly get all the expenses and savings done at the front end so he can buy what he wants with whatever is left at the back end. It works pretty well for us.

    • Laura says:

      My husband is the spender in our family! One thing that has helped us is using cash and having a “cash allowance” to pay for budgeted items like dry cleaning, lunches and a little extra spending cash. We have bit of a friendly competition to see who has more cash left every two weeks when he gets paid. He has been saving his extra cash for several months to pay for fireworks for July 4th!! This has really helped to keep his debit card in his wallet and out of use!

    • Elias says:

      I faced this problem the first time I realize what a finacial mess we were in. When I showed him everything on paper, he just couldn’t believe we were spending more than we made. He still tends to “convince” me that we need to go out to dinner and he is often bringing up the idea of buying a second car (with a loan). I remind myself it’s a process. I tend to learn things the hard way and through experience, so I try to be patient with him. I am finding that setting a goal on paper with him is helping. I’m thinking about going to the cash envelope idea so we can physically see when the money runs out. Good luck!

  • Amy says:

    Crystal,
    I love, love, LOVE your monthly financial updates!!! They are so inspiring and a great reminder of the power of written goals! Last week my husband and I celebrated our 22nd Wedding Anniversary 🙂 We always write down our our blessings from the last year, and our goals on our anniversary. We keep these in our Wedding book, so it is easy to go back and review our blessings. It is a great reminder of how God has always provided for our every need. These are a few items checked off from this year’s list:
    Financial Goals:
    Continue to tithe
    Continue to provide our kids with a Christian Education
    Pay cash for Washington DC trip… had a GREAT visit with Michele Bachmann!
    Pay cash for two kids’ braces
    Pay cash for 2 chairs for the living room
    Pay cash for a new computer
    Pay cash for a nice headboard for our room. (We have never had one…just a mattress! It was delivered on our Anniversary—fun!)
    Pay cash for a Home Stager to help us sell our house
    Some of our new or continuing goals:
    – Return to saving 15% for retirement (after our emergency fund is fully funded…we have been saving 15% for retirement ever since we graduated from college, but we are putting that on a short hold because Dave Ramsey says we need emergency savings… and we think he’s right!)
    -Sell our current home
    -Buy our forever home
    -Match our son’s savings to help him buy his first car with cash.
    -Help our kids graduate from college debt free
    -Save for Hawaii trip for our 25th Anniversary 🙂

  • Kandace says:

    I like the way you guys are tackling financial goals– big chunks instead of $100/month for months on end. We’ve recently decided to tackle one big goal and then move onto the next. It’s finally feeling like we’re making progress instead of slowly chipping away at saving for our daughter’s college for months and months, or saving for new appliances for months and months. Do it and knock it out!

  • Maegen says:

    We use our state’s 529 plan to save for our boys’ college.

    Basically, we’re buying credits in advance.

    What I like about it is that we’re buying them at the price that was set when we signed up, so we’re protected from increases (the biggest university in our state just approved a 20% tuition hike)! Also, we’re actually buying a “thing,” so we’re not subject to the ups and downs of the stock market or interest rates.

    529 plans vary from state to state, so it’s definitely something to research before jumping in, but we feel very good about it, even though it’s a big check to write each month.

    • Elias says:

      We’re in Fla and we locked in the price for my oldest but when we went to sign up our youngest, they no longer locked in anything so we’re looking for an alternative at this point. We pay $89/mo vs $320 for the same for my daughter. At this point we are thinking that increasing our 401K will provide a higher investment since the company matches it. I’m still debating…

      • Amanda says:

        I would not use your 401K for your children’s educational expenses or any loan for that matter. I have read many places that they do not recommend this as you have to pay fees and interest to do so. But I think the Roth IRA is a retirement plan you can use for educational expenses without incurring any fees and it does not count against your children’s financial aid estimates which is really important. I would look into it. I cannot remember if that is the right plan 100%, but one of the retirement plans you can use for educational savings.

        • Elias says:

          Thanks Amanda. The only reason I had considered the 401K is it’s actually a 403b so we are able to borrow against it and then pay ourselves back (within a time period) with minimal penalty.
          This is what I’m hearing anyways. I wish I had taken some economic/financial classes in college. 🙁
          We are actually going to talk to someone this week about our finances so I will also ask about the college fund. If I find any savy advice not already posted, I will share!

        • Elias says:

          (Sorry if this posts twice). Thanks Amanda. The only reason I was thinking of the 401K is because we can borrow against it and pay ourselves back with mininimal penalty. It’s actually a 403b. We are going to go talk to a financial advisor this week because I know nothing and all I remember from economics in highschool was being lost!

    • Amanda says:

      Be careful, 529 plans count against financial aid for your children. I believe Roth IRAs or one of the retirement plans can be used solely for educational savings and they don’t penalize you for using the money. I think I read that in All You magazine and a few other places.

      • Maegen says:

        It may vary by state to state, but our plan counts as an asset of the account holder (that would be us-lol), so it will affect our kids’ ability to get aid the same way any other savings account we might have will-not all that much.

        While I certainly hope they earn scholarships, my experience with financial aid, and that of my husband, was that most middle class kids will primarily qualify for loans, which we really don’t want our boys to have. We have so many friends in their 40s who are still paying off student loans!

        I’m not a financial expert by any means, and it’s not an issue with a right or wrong-just sharing a tool that works for us. Money management is an ongoing learning process for us, and like everyone else, we’ve made our share of missteps.

  • Crystal says:

    This is something we’ve decided not to share publicly as it’s something we’re waiting to share with our children until they are older.

  • Danielle B says:

    Wow! That’s amazing!

    My husband and I thought we knew what our goals were for the next five years, but during a day away this past week for our anniversary, God stepped in and completely erased it all. My husband has an amazing call on his life to music/music ministry, and this next year will be in preparation for making that happen.

    I’m so glad for all the lessons I’ve learned from people like you over the last few years, as every bit of creativity and frugality will be put into action to make this new “goal” happen.

  • Stacy says:

    I am so impressed at what you and your husband have been able to do! It inspires me 🙂

    We don’t have any debt, but have not focused much on financial goals. I am going to work to this.

    We are a one car family and are just waiting for the car to die (it is 15 years old). Our goal is to pay cash for a new car. That would feel so good! I’d like to work more aggressively toward that goal in case it does kick the bucket soon.

    Thanks again for the motivation. I always know where to come when I need financial/frugal encouragement 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      It’s amazing the momentum you can get from creating financial goals, breaking them down into bite-sized pieces and then working towards them!

  • Nice Crystal, thanks for the inspiration. We are now debt free (except for the house). We have a six month emergency fund, but are looking to beef it up a little. We may be moving to a single house as opposed to a townhouse so looking to set money aside for the extras we will need. It’s so important to have goals. I like reading about yours.

  • Debbie says:

    We’ve managed to pay a little over $18,300. towards our mortgage principal in six months. Our goal is to pay this mortgage off by January of 2018. Will we make it? I’m not sure, but I’m not giving up without a fight. Our mortgage is pretty hefty (live in New Jersey). We also paid cash for our son’s college summer semester. I feel blessed to have the means to make these things possible and all of you continue to inspire me. Crystal, I love to read your financial updates and I love when you ask us to tell you our financial goals. Each month, I look forward to tell you how we are doing.

  • Elias says:

    We recently aquired some medical bills and this made us look at our finances. I’ve been down this road of budgeting before and failed quite miserably. My weakness is buying for the kids and keeping up with the “Joneses.” Not so much trying to impress friends, just join them in birthday parties, Girls night out, theme parks with the kids, etc. Which btw, if anyone has advice on what they do for the whole birthday party thing, I’d love advice. We get invited to 2-3 a month and it gets really expensive. I’m also guilty of taking a vacation in the summer and I run so I am addicted to Itunes.
    So far I’m recording spending on a spreadsheet and my husband is on board. We will have $300 more a month since my son starts kindergarten in the fall. I also started coloring my own hair, avoiding Target (like many of you do!) couponing, avoiding toll roads and we’re meeting with a financial advisor this week.
    My goals:
    1 .Pay off debts-We have plenty of credit cards. I’m meeting with a financial advisor to see about finagling some money around to get them down quicker.
    2. Max out 401K-We are currently only putting in 6% and I’d love to increase to 20 but it won’t happen until the cards are paid off.
    3. Bulk up savings (first I suppose)-we have nothing now due to my husband being on sick leave and hospital cafeteria food bills acquired during our stay.
    4. Stop buying “stuff” for the kids. They are entitled and demanding and I’m creating bratty kids.
    5. Coupon better

    That’s all I got so far. Thanks for all the great suggestions given on the board!

    • Amanda says:

      I know how toll roads are a drain on the finances. My last job that I was at for three and half years was 30 minutes away and pretty much the only way I could drive was going toll roads. I had to pay four tolls a day at 50 cents each toll and then 70 cents for each toll when they raised the price a year or so later. At that time gas was close to around $3.99 a gallon so it was a big hit. I asked my project manager if I could possibly transfer to our downtown office but he wanted me to continue to work for him so he said he would try and work something out. The company gave me a raise to keep me at that office. I loved working with my project manager anyway, so I was happy with the extra money. Then I got laid off last April and I swore I would find a job closer to home and not on that side of town with the tolls roads. Unfortunately, the best offer I got was at a place again on that side of town but 40 minutes aways rather than 30 minutes. The only thing I hate about the job is the location, tolls and 40 minute drive. I tried to look for alternative routes to avoid tolls too, but it only allowed me to avoid one toll a day. I considered the savings worth it. However, after getting a flat tire in heavy traffic on 95S I decided to go back to the toll road (less heavy traffic) mostly and one other way from time to time that adds a few more miles to my trip. I am still looking for my dream job and not on that side of town.

      We take summer vacations too, but I do not feel guilty about it. We have been trying to make them budget friendly. For the last two years and again in September we will be going to Myrtle Beach. We live in Richmond, VA so this is a day trip by car for us, one way to save. We also bring food with us that I got with coupon deals and we get a room with a kitchenette so we can eat most of our meals in. We eat a few meals out, one at a Hibachi grill that we love near the hotel. However, since they are so expensive we eat early and get the Early Bird Special and only water, which is half the price for the same amount of food. We do a few activities, but try to use coupons from the coupon books around town. We also go in September when prices are cheaper because we do not yet have children. Now, that I paid the last payment on my school loan today we will however be saving to go on a cruise next year. I think there are ways to enjoy vacations and still save and plan for a big vacation every few years and again find ways to save for it. After all we have to also enjoy they money we make and not just put it towards being debt free!

      • Elias says:

        Your advice on taking a vacation is great. It’s true we shouldn’t completely deny ourselves I guess. We were thinking of avoiding the resort next year and just camping on the beach instead. My parents are big campers so they would let us use their equipment.
        Good luck finding your dream job! My attitude in life is that things always have a way of working themselves out. I worked for a crazy boss for a year who treated her employees horribly. She begged me to stay and then gave me a bad reference when I left. Ever since then, I’ve always appreciated my bosses so much more. So maybe it was a good experience for me? It made me stronger. That’s for sure.

    • Elias, I think that you are doing the most important step which is to get mad and make changes!

      As far as birthday parties, I feel your pain. We live in a wealthier area of the country and everyone gets $25+ presents for children’s birthday parties. What I have done is to set a $5 limit on presents for birthday parties by stocking up on clearance toys at Target, going to the dollar store or using those $10 off $10 purchase coupons that I get for Kohl’s in the mail every once in awhile. I REFUSE to let silly “Keeping Up with the Joneses” feelings keep me from my goals! 🙂 If you have older children, could you have them buy their friend’s presents out of their chore/allowance money?

      As far as kids’ activities/Girl’s Nights Out, etc I have found that I just don’t do as much of that anymore. I will go to a Girl’s Night Out at someone’s home or eat dinner first and then just get dessert if at a resturant. Another solution for me has been to host or to suggest inexpensive day trips with friends. Last night, I hosted a Movie Night for my daughter’s 11 friends. It only cost me $5! I made cupcakes and popcorn and we watched “The Princess and the Frog” on Netflix. I am finding myself getting creative. Good luck!

      • Christy says:

        Our circle of friends has set a $10 limit on birthday gifts. I often buy $10-$20 gifts for less than $10 w/ coupons/clearance, etc. but they are none the wiser and I’m pretty sure a lot of them do it too!

      • Elias says:

        I didn’t even think of the Kohls coupons. That’s an awesome idea! Thanks!
        I also love your movie night idea. A lot of my friends are in the same money situation so maybe I’ll suggest a movie/potluck for our next get together. 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      I feel your bday pain! I tend to buy kid bday presents in bulk. I pick one girl, one boy gift, and when I find a good one on sale, I’ll buy 2 or 3 so I have the next few parties covered. Also, I use note cards bought on clearance instead of birthday cards (save $3). Reuse gift bags or use wrapping paper when giving them (save $1). Use tie ribbon, not premade bows unless bought on clearance. I tend to buy paper after xmas, they always have paper that is pretty neutral- plain silver mixed with a pink bow for example. In addition, I’ve stopped accepting every invitation. My rule of thumb is that if I’ve never heard their name, we don’t go. No random kids just because they are in the class.

      And on vacation, don’t eat out. Saves a fortune. And everywhere you go- eat before you go places and carry bottled water for everyone all the time.

      Also, I only go out with my “Joneses” every 2 out of 3 times there is an invite. When something pops up that I think costs more than the fun it’s worth, I don’t go. (concerts, theme parks etc). Then I try to make plans to either get together for pizza, bbq, or something low key. If we all go to eat, I try to lean towards a BYOB place, that makes a difference.

      I don’t buy stuff for my kids at the store. Period. If my daughter, who is 5, wants something, she has to earn it. Chores, etc. It makes her SO excited when she finally gets it. I just tell my 3 yr old to put it on his bday list.

      Also, our library has a music section, maybe you could borrow new music? Good Luck!

      • Elias says:

        I love that your kids have to earn new things! I need to set up some basic chores around the house. What kind of chores does your daughter do?

        I’m good about not buying them large purchases in a store. It’s the little trinkety stuff that at the time seems like no big deal. For example, last night we went to a drive in movie, which was only $9 for a family of four and we brought our own food/drink. Well of course there was a vendor selling light up swords, flashlights, etc. The kids did pretty good. My 2 yr old says “We not getting lights today,” which i was impressed! So as soon as she started getting ancy during the move, I bought the stinking flashlight/lollipop toys and a soda for myself. This morning the flashlights are somewhere at the bottom of the car not being played with and I’m kicking myself for wasting $10 on what was suppose to be a cheap night of entertainment. How many times do I have to make these mistakes? Okay, I’m done beating myself up now. 🙂

        I didn’t even think of checking out music from the library. I think I’ll go see if they have anything good today. Thanks!

        • Jessica says:

          Don’t beat yourself up, it happens. It sounds like the little one is getting the right expectations. That is key. After a while, I started to think ahead about what is likely going to happen. For example, I bought a few of those glow bracelet packages at Target, 15 bracelets for $1. Just when we got to the 4th of July fair, those came out for the kids. They were thrilled (no request for anything glow, swirly) We packed drinks and I told them they could get ice cream. It helps to set expectations though I still felt bad when I didn’t let them do ALL the activities some of their friends did, but I’m not spending $20 on kids crafts!! Sometimes I will tell them they have $5, spend it however you want. They seem to really respond to the freedom and my daughter is so cute b/c she carefully weighs what she wants the most. We talk about the best value to her, is it $3 lemonade or $2 face painting and a $1 cookie?

          I also keep dum dum lollipops in the bag for times I need some “incentive” to not be ancy. Those are great for the 3 yr old. I use them rarely, so rarely they are always surprised by their existence, but they are my back up plan.

          I bought them really nice water bottles, those go WHEREVER we go, with peanut butter crackers, so there is never a thirst/hunger emergency.

          My daughters chores where she can earn money is pull weeds – 1 cent each. Fold laundry = 5 cents per piece. Empty the kids stuff out of the dishwasher, 25 cents. She doesn’t get paid for the basics like picking up her toys. Also, I tell her she can find old toys to sell and I will put them in the yard sale pile and give her money. She must have given me 8 things the other day to sell.

          BTW, I worked in the 401k industry for 15 years. I started contributing when I was 21. Let me tell you, START EARLY. I’m way ahead of almost everyone I know. I’m a SAHM now and I still have more retirement saved than most. So don’t make it 6 or 20. I started bumping it 1% every year, or when I got a raise. Make it a lot easier to digest.

          Love that Kohls coupon idea, we are getting one in November so I guess I need to start watching for their coupons!

  • Greene RD says:

    We just finished off paying off my grad school loans this week of a little over $4000. I will admit that we had a little help from my father but it is still a big accomplishment for us. I am now possibly planning to start a PhD program in health Ed/nutrition and plan to pay cash!!! We’ll see where the Lord leads me.

  • Amanda says:

    I am happy to report that I paid my final payment of my student loans off today and it should post by Monday. I had five groups, $50,000 total. I made my five year goal to pay off my high, variable rate loan (3 groups, $30,000) first in August of 2009. I had hoped to pay off the other two groups of my low, fixed rate loan (20,000, but total was down to 12,000 by then) in the following year, but I had to unexpectedly buy a new to me car the following month. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to save a nice downpayment as I had also planned. My transmission was about to die and I was getting stuck at stop lights. With a 30 minute drive to work at the time and mostly highway roads, I had to get something reliable, quickly. I still made large payments on my school loan, but had to make a car payment as well, which I didn’t have before.

    Then in April 2010 I was laid off and on unemployment for seven months. However, since we were used to a lot of my money going towards my loan each month, a few other monthly household expenses, groceries and my car loan the unemployment did not set us back financially. I was still able to contribute to our normal monthly expenses, but paid a lot less on my loan (still more than the monthly payment). I actually saved quite a bit on unemployment while my husband continued to take care of the majority of our other household expenses. I was able to save gas money by barely driving, not buying clothes for work and eating out even less than we were doing.

    I got a new job in February of this year and got right back to paying high payments on my school loan after my first pay check. I was able to pay off the 4th of the 5 groups of my loan in February with what I saved on unemployment, so those seven months of unemployment were not a total setback to my school loan goals. I was also able to find a good job that was related to my educational background, similar to my last job and paid more money. I am still looking for the great job that is a 100% related to my degree, but I knew this job would be great for my resume and help me get back on track with my financial goals. (Plus, I don’t think we can be too picky in this economy. I didn’t start getting interviews until January of this year, but things are opening up slowly and my dream career is waiting for me somewhere. I also had surgery for endometriosis a month before I was laid off and was able to recover in those seven months. Unemployment was part a blessing for me then and luckily a small setback on paying off my school loan). Once I got back to work and to paying large payments on my loan again, I challenged myself to pay two huge monthly loan payments after I got my paychecks. It worked out because I still had some cushion in my checking account to do so. Even though most of my checks went towards my loan, I was still able to make my other payments and contributed to my normal, monthly household expenses. I find that the more I push myself to make certain financial goals, the harder I work towards making it happen.

    I am proud to be STUDENT LOAN DEBT FREE!!! Now, on to tackling my car loan in the next 6 mos to a year and saving more for a down payment for our house. I am also happy to report that couponing, Upromise, Ebates, moneysavingmom.com, southernsavers.com and never paying retail for anything were just a few of the ways that helped me pay off my student loans and meet some of my financial goals. I have also received lots of encouragement from this blog towards working on and achieving my financial goals through this monthly update and other posts. I am glad they are so many other people out there that are working towards being debt free!

    • Amanda says:

      Oh, and we are lucky to not have credit card debt and my husband never had student loan debt. He was in the Army National Guard, had in-state VA tuition and help from his parents. We have two car loans to finish paying off and are saving for a down payment for a house.

    • Elias says:

      What an inspiration! I hope one day I can make a similar post. That is a huge amount of debt to pay off and I’m sure it wasn’t easy. You go girl!

  • Chelsea says:

    My employer recently increased my healthcare reimbursement from 50% to 70%. Since we had already budgeted based on 50% for the year, we’re now putting the extra 20% towards paying off our car!

  • This is always my favorite post of the month!

    We are staying on track to pay off our debt (except our primary mortgage) by October. We just finished paying off our 2nd mortgage this month!! That was a debt we thought that we would always have to live with but now it is gone. FREEDOM! 🙂

    We have gotten off track with having a written budget and so are going to sit down and do that this weekend.

    I am getting so motivated to pay off our mortgage. It is going to be hard to focus on savings/retirement/college savings next instead of the mortgage!

  • Katherine says:

    Here’s our financial update this month: http://faithfulsojourners.blogspot.com/2011/07/monthly-financial-update.html

    We were really hoping to be debt free this month, but currently are taking 2 weeks of training to be able to move overseas (Asia) in full-time ministry…missing work for that long meant the wise decision was to continue to wait and save (especially since we will have some medical bills next month). Hopefully either next month or September we will be debt free! 🙂

  • Meg says:

    How do you determine what amount to put in for that lump sum for college? I’ve looked at calculators but I’m still not getting it :/

  • Ann Pamperin says:

    You are such an inspiration Crystal. Right now we seem to be going backwards not forwards. I lost my job in November and now Hubby is getting a pay cut. I have just started a business on esty selling crafts and am hoping to make a living at it so that we can start saving again. Thank you so much for all of the useful information you provide. I have saved so much money following your blog.

  • No Debt MBA says:

    You may want to consider a solo 401k or another small business retirement plan for your blogging income. I found my solo 401k to be a great savings tool and it lowered my taxes tremendously.

    Congrats on funding her education!

  • Lisa M says:

    I feel so blessed to have paid off all our debt except the house. It has enabled us to take in our daughter who lost her job and her fiance recently. We couldn’t have afforded the additions to our grocery budget and utilities if we had not done that. We haven’t fully funded our 6 month emergency fund but we are getting there, just a little slower right now. And we are sort of a one car family as we gave one paid off vehicle to our daughter. So even though it is again sitting in our driveway, it doesn’t go anywhere because there is no gas in it! My husband and I both work full time and he takes me and picks me up from work. It is nice having that little bit of time to ourselves on the drive to talk and wind down from work together!

  • Carrie says:

    Well, we’ve had an interesting history of financial decisions, but at the moment we have two house payments (one on our home and a second on a rental property we own). Something “snapped” recently and we decided to go all “gazelle-intense” on our primary home mortgage. I’ve written about it on my blog and hope to give a monthly update on how we’re doing. Thanks for all the encouragement over the last couple of years, Crystal – you have no idea how many people stalk your blog and get something out of it! 🙂 Blessings!

    http://carriesbusynothings.blogspot.com/2011/07/bottom-line.html

  • Michelle says:

    Thanks for posting your monthly updates! They really encourage me to stay gazelle intense and I love reading all of the subsequent comments.

    I started a monthly financial check-in on my blog and it really helps with accountability.

  • Heather says:

    I look at these updates and am floored by how much you are accomplishing at a young age. Then I remember that your house is paid for- you might want to note that on your updates since many of us are still shelling out hundreds or thousands a month on mortgages! Also want to say that you are a part of daily life for me, inspiring me to work harder on my finances. I’m all about coupons and deals, as evident on my blog, but am just now focusing on the budget and details much more…no more fees due to oversights on my part!
    Thank you!

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