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Monthly Financial Check-up (and some thoughts on financial stewardship)

It's the beginning of May and guess what that means? It's time for our monthly financial check-up. How did you do in April?

I've mentioned many times here in the past that I believe one of the greatest keys to financial success begins with setting goals. As the saying goes, "If you aim at nothing, you'll hit it every time." My husband and I have been amazed at how much harder we work, how much more careful we are in our spending, and how much more ground we cover when we set goals for our finances.

Most of you know that our big goal for this year is to save up enough to pay 100% down for our first home. However, our ultimate goal is not just owning a home free and
clear; our ultimate goal is to wisely steward our money in such a way
that we have as much as possible leftover to give to others.
We see staying out
of debt and owning a home as one step closer in the direction of being
more financially able to help others.

It's wonderful to use coupons, bargain shop, take advantage of free restaurant meals, and so forth. But, for us, it's not just about the coupons, the sales, or the freebies–those are just a means to an end. Our heart's desire is to live on less than we make so we can take care of the needs of our own family first so we can then be able to give and reach out to others. Giving abundantly is our biggest goal financially.

In order to be able to "give like no one else" as Dave Ramsey says, we must first "live like no one else." If we are squandering all of our earnings and then living paycheck-to-paycheck, we will never be in a position to be able to help many others because we will just be barely eeking by ourselves.

Jesse and I recently watched this video by Dave Ramsey on giving and it gave us goosebumps–literally! To think of the impact we can have in this world if we are committed to doing all we can to be wise stewards of our finances. Just imagine the possibilities!

If you have yet to watch this short video, I highly recommend you go do so right now. It just might change your whole perspective on finances! Later this week, I'll be sharing a few ideas we've been implementing for giving which anyone can do–even if you have a very meager budget. Stay tuned!

With these things in mind, we're especially excited about the headway we were able to make in April:

We began April at 40.5% of our house savings goal. We ended the month at 45.5%!

I just can't even begin to express how thrilling it is to see our goal of owning a home debt-free becoming more and more a reality. God is good! And truly, setting goals makes a huge difference!

How did you do in April? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and failures in April and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in May. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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  • Great job on getting to 45%–you are almost halfway there! What an amazing accomplishment, Crystal. Your post is very thought provoking, and a great reminder.

    Thank you for all you do–and for all of your inspiration!

  • Karen E says:

    That is awesome Crystal! Thanks for sharing and for encouraging us to keep up with our financial goals. 🙂

  • Katherine says:

    5% in one month? Congratulations! That is very inspiring.

  • Eden C. says:

    yay for you! congrats! that is SO exciting!

  • Michele says:

    Our goal for 2009 is to contribute $6,000 to our children’s Education Savings Accounts ($2,000 for each or our 3 children) and to contribute $10,000 to our Roth IRAs ($5,000 each) in addition to contributing the maximum into my husbands’ 401(k) which is $16,500. To date, we have contributed $4,000 to our children’s ESAs and $5,500 to the 401(k). We will do a more complete analysis on June 30, as we track how our investments are doing and calculate our net worth on a quarterly basis.

    I agree that goals are the most important step in financial planning.

  • Jessica says:

    Great job on your savings! You’ll make it yet! 🙂

  • Jay says:

    Of course you do not have to answer but what is a roundpark number to save for a house? 200,000+? We recently looked at a four bedroom that was 250,000-I can’t imagine paying a house down like that. For now we are happy with our much smaller house and don’t want to buy something we can’t afford. Congrats in your success!

  • Congrats on your progress! That is a lofty goal of paying 100% down and I am very excited for you to achieve it!

  • Jen says:

    that’s amazing! congrats!

  • Wow Crystal! I huge congrats to you and Jesse! You all are doing awesome. Thanks for being a great example to so many.

  • Kristi says:

    As a fellow Dave Ramsey fan, God bless you for the information and encouragement that you are sharing with others through this blog. I have only stumbled upon your blog in the past month and have really enjoyed it. To learn that you are encouraging others to live a debt free lifestyle is AWESOME! I will pray for continued success in your goal. We paid off our house in Sept. 07 and we are committed to never borrowing money again. Thanks for what you are doing!

  • Kacie says:

    Hooray, Crystal! You are making such inspiring progress.

    For a few weeks, my husband and I were considering buying a house. After running the numbers in a variety of ways, we saw that we simply weren’t ready. We needed too much money upfront, and we’d be living too tight for comfort.

    I’m pretty sure you and Jesse have considered this, but don’t forget to save a few thousand for closing costs! You’ll save maybe a grand or so since you won’t be financing your house, but at least over here, there’s still costs as far as inspections, title work, etc. that quickly adds up.

    I don’t know if you’ll have to pay your first year of property taxes upfront or if you’ll be able to pay them monthly, but that’s one other thing to research.

    Again, you’ve probably already figured that one out too, but just tossing that out there anyway!

    Best wishes with your last hours/days of your pregnancy!

  • That is an amazing accomplishment! We are debt-free except for the house and are hoping to be totally debt-free. We try to give as much as we can in non-monetary ways… volunteering, donating things we no longer need, etc. It’s not a lot, but it’s something.

  • I love reading your updates, Crystal! It completely inspires me to reach to new levels. We are working on refinancing our house this month which is exciting. We’re approved for the loan (yay!), but I’m not counting my chickens yet.

    I watched the Dave Ramsey video and enjoyed what he had to say. I’m trying to remember that even the small amount God has entrusted to us now still belongs to Him. Even though it is hard to give now, giving out of our little honors Him so much as well!

    I’m not a naturally generous person, but I want to be like the Macedonians who gave out of their poverty. May He make me able!

  • you are inspiring with your house goal! And a great reminder (and kick in the rear) when I needed it! Thanks again!

  • mistyG says:

    thanks so much for sharing this today. i am teaching the follow up classes for the Town Hall for Hope study written by Dave. i started the class tonight by sharing an excerpt from this blog. we have a lot of people that have not taken FPU & don’t quite “get” dave yet. i wanted them to see that it is possible to live debt free. it was very inspiring to all of us who read it. thanks again!
    i have also shared your site as one of my faves for deals.

  • We had a good April that has turned into an exciting early May! Our goals right now including finishing our 6 months living expenses, car savings (we don’t need a car right now, but just for when we do need one), business savings (for a business that my husband is planning to start) and then down payment savings for a house (saving 100% down is simply not a reality in the expensive housing market where we live, sadly).

    We were so thrilled to do our taxes and finances this afternoon and realize that with what we are getting back on our taxes this year (much higher than we anticipated) and our regular monthly savings, we will be able to finish off all of our other savings and start our down payment savings, by the end of this month! Whohoo!

    Thanks for the video link! We love Dave Ramsey and I’m excited to watch it with my hubby later tonight! Congrats on your house savings, too- that’s incredible!

  • Melissa S. says:

    Awesome job with the finances! We are debt free except for the house, and we’re working on our 3-6 months of living expenses. Dave is a great guy! I love listening to his radio show.

  • Eden C. says:

    you know. that is 5% in a month. if you keep up that rate, you have less than a year to go! congrats again.

  • Suzanne says:

    your progress is amazing. It’s very impressive…and I know how hard you’re working!!
    We are on a 12 month path to NO DEBT. I use a lot of what Dave Ramsey tells us. My heart wants to give more and I can’t wait until I am in a position to give MORE. One of the things I am so looking forward to is adopting a child through Compassion. I just can’t do it right now, but as soon as we get from underneath the debt, I’ll be able to.

  • Lisa says:

    Congratulations on a great month, Crystal! I just want you to know that I read out-loud your monthy progress reports to our family. We have a 16, 13 and 12 year old. I think your goal to save 100% of your house payment is amazing! I also hope that it inspires our children! We are debt-free except for our house and it is a very manageable mortgage payment BUT, I did squander so much of what the Lord gave us in the early years. I am just now learning how to be frugal! I will echo that giving generously does change your perspective on “things”. We have been giving generously for about 8 years and it has changed what I value and God is continually giving me the grace to live within our means.

    We are about to enter the college years. We don’t have it all saved up and that concerns me but I am watching to see how the Lord provides. Sometime, if you have time, I’d like to hear about your college / law school years. How can we give our children a good education without them going into debt or going into debt ourselves?

    Thanks for all your help with the deals, coupon links and encouragement!

  • Liz says:

    Thank you for sharing your finances with us. It will be a great accomplishment for all your readers when you finally get that house!

  • jan says:

    well, we certainly didn’t save anything, but it was nice to be able to write checks for IRS and the unexpected letter from same. Wiped out my savings account for the most part but still, nice knowing that I had the money instead of scrambling around trying to find a way to pay without incurring interest and/or penalties.

    Crystal and all others, it’s always inspiring to read what you are doing …

  • Great inspiration, Crystal! I sure wish Dave Ramsey had been teaching all this when I was a newlywed, 22 years ago! But, it is not too late, even for me. It takes awhile to turn things around, but it is worth the effort. We’ve been working towards our goals for a few years and I am still hopeful we will find financial freedom! It is great to be able to teach our children how to BEGIN their adult life on the right track so they don’t have to dig their way out later!

    blessings and congrats on your progress!

  • Blakely says:

    Thanks for the link to the Dave Ramsey video. Keep up the good work on your goal. It makes it so much easier when you can see it grow. Thanks for a great blog.

  • Ms. Green says:

    Congrats for getting one step closer! I’m also a fan of Dave Ramsey’s debt-free strategy, but unfortunately didn’t read the book until after both of us graduated law school with a lot of debt. Our April went well — I started a 2008 IRA for myself and contributed the maximum amount to it! We also put aside our emergency fund into a dedicated, “do not touch” fund and plunked in our monthly savings goal into our student loan payoff / home buying fund (we haven’t decided yet what to do with it, as it’s not enough to do much with right now — just 10% towards the housing goal, but only 6% towards the student loan payoff. Eeek!)
    Keep up the good work!

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