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November’s Monthly Financial Check-up: We replaced Old Blue Van!

October was a pretty monumental month for us: we replaced Old Blue Van with a new-to-us car! I’m so proud of my husband for his willingness to drive a old, barely-running van for the past few years in order for us to be able to save to pay cash for a house. His sacrifices paid off because he now has a very nice, very reliable vehicle which gets  much better gas mileage and should last him for a good many years to come.

This is the first time we’ve ever had a vehicle that had less than 60,000 miles on it and was only a few years old. And it feels really, really weird. Almost as if it’s a rental car or something.

We were able to get a great deal on it — even a little less than our budget! The original sales receipt from the car’s initial purchase was in the glove box and we were pretty shocked to discover that by buying it three years old and with 30,000 miles on it, we got it 50% off the sticker price. If that’s not proof that you can save money by buying used, I don’t know what is.

So, here’s our current list of Financial Goals:

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.

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.

Our goal for this next month is to buy a couch set for our basement family room. We already have the money almost saved, we’re just looking for a good deal. I’m anxious to get some furniture in our completely bare basement family room so we can offer people somewhere to sit other than the floor!


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, 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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  • cassie says:

    congrats on the new vehicle, crystal!

    our current goal is to increase my income and our RRSP contributions by mid january, 2011. 🙂

  • Julie says:

    That is so awesome! I am trying to get us doing cash for all our transactions, but I am finding it takes additional planning.
    I wanted to know if you had any input on refinancing mortages. I have heard that it is worth your while if you can get it 1% or more lower than your current interest rate. I would like to have lower payment but use the difference to put toward priniciple and save better for things similar to how you guys are doing. Any thoughts?

    • Aimee says:


      Check out your figures with a mortage calculator before you refinance your mortage. 1% interest drop may not be worth it because of the points, closing costs, appraisal, bug, new adendems that the new/same mortgage holder has.

      Refinancing also allows the insurance company to come in and scrutanize your home again & with tighter restrictions on your home – they may demand a new roof, roof mounting, alarms, do away with forbidden dogs. The appraiser will see and document any silly non-permitted pulled work – fence, shed, poured concrete, electrictrical work like adding on more lighting outside without a permit – all that stuff that we are supposed to pull a permit but don’t. You do not want to live on pin & needles because of a silly outdoor light or the little poured cement for your trashcans.

      The closing costs may far exceed your benefit of just paying more on your principal every month now. Give it more thought & calculations. I hope this helps. Mortage companies just are so crooked with young people, I hate to see it happen to those trying to do the financially conservative right strategies. Aimee in Florida

    • Deb says:

      Look into refinancing. We did a few years ago and were able to switch from a 30-year mortgage (we were 5 years into it) to a 15 – year and pay the SAME AMOUNT each month (we had been paying a few hundred extra each month). It’s been amazing how much our balance has been whittling down now. A mortgage broker will crunch numbers for you and tell you what makes sense for your situation. We learned that paying 2 points would save us $9,000 over the course of the loan, but paying 3 points wasn’t worth it.

      It doesn’t hurt to ask a broker. And if that doesn’t work, paying a bit extra each month can mean HUGE savings in interest and the length of the loan.

    • Dawn Dart says:

      @Julie, I would recommend that if you can lower your interest rate by 2%, than definitely go for it. It isn’t easy. There is a lot of paperwork to go through and inspections, appraisals, etc. But your work can pay off. We refinanced and closed in January. We had 28.5 years left on a 30 year and switched to a 15 year loan. Our interest rate is 2% lower and our payments only went up $75 per month. $500 more a month is going to principal. We got a really good appraisal also which led to us no longer needing mortgage insurance.

  • Diane says:

    Way to go! You are an inspiration 😉

  • Jenny M says:


    Can you explain why you’re not putting the IRAs and the retirement savings up higher on the list? My husband and I both work and I’m so nervous that we wont have enough for retirement. We currently max our ROTHs, contribute an additional 3% to retirement above that amount (making our total retirement contributions about 15%-20% annually) and I’m still afraid we won’t have enough. I’d be interested in knowing what your retirement projections are and what your goals will be for then and if you have suggestions on retirement planning for younger couples such as yourselves. We’d love to hear them or read what you’re reading!

    Thanks for sharing! AND CONGRATULATIONS to you, J and the kids on another wonderful financial accomplishment!

    Jenny M

    • Anonymous says:

      @Jenny M, You are doing a good job saving. You should run yourself a retirement calculator to determine if you are saving enough. at the top of the page there is a tab for retirement planning and there is a calculator. There will be fill in the blanks that they will use to calculate what your needs will be in retirement and how much you need to save to get there. You should always max out 401k contributions up to the employer’s match. Not taking advantage of this match means you’re leaving free money on the table. Use the tools on your plans website too so you can determine the best allocation based on your age and risk tolerance. You should always examine your investments at least once a year. Roth IRA’s are great vehicles bc all your growth will come out tax free and you have a lot more control over when you take the money out (Traditional Ira’s and 401k’s require distributions when you turn 70 1/2).

      I work in the financial services field, and I am just offering some hints!!

  • Lisa says:

    You guys are doing great! I have a suggestion for your furniture items – go to yard sales/garage sales…I just bought a cute white bedroom suit for my daughters’ room for only $50 and they also had a great couch for only $25. Not new, but had lots of life left!

  • Melanie says:

    We have bought IKEA bunk beds and IKEA platform beds from Craigslist and ended up paying 1/3 or less the cost of the original. It’s a great way to find a good price! I sold the bunk bed when we were done with it for the same cost I bought it for, and then put that money towards the platform beds. Congrats on your new van!

    • Kacie says:

      @Melanie, I agree — I’d like to know more about the lower-priority retirement contributions.

      It’s not quite the Dave Ramsey order. But then again, most people don’t have a paid-for house! 🙂

      We are saving 15% toward retirement, plus my husband has the equivalent of a 3% company match. We don’t have college funds started yet. Our house down payment fund is coming along nicely and we expect to be able to put 20% down on a 15-year mortgage when we’re ready to buy.

  • Lisa says:

    Whoohoo congrats!!

  • Joy Ashworth says:

    Great job on the car! We recently paid cash for our used van after saving 2 years for it (and driving one car). It is an awesome feeling. You probably already know this but Craigslist is awesome for buying furniture. You can get an awesome deal on some amazing furniture. That’s actually how we found our van (and didn’t have to pay sales tax because it was from an individual) – we also bought our little boys bed for 80% off retail price from there – it is a Pottery Barn bed which has great resale.

  • Chris says:

    I finished saving for replacement hot water heater and dryer (both are old) and have moved on to saving for a recumbent bike for exercising indoors. Hopefully I can get a deal sometime in December.

  • Liz says:

    Congratulations on your new vehicle! Very exciting to accomplish a goal and get to drive something a little nicer.

  • Jody says:


    I see it has already been suggested, but my suggestion for both the bunk beds and the couch(es) would be Ikea. I lucked out recently and found a white sofa and loveseat, both slipcovered, on the damaged room, for significantly more than 1/2 off. I’ve only had them a few months but they’re holding up very well with constant use (but white, yeah, maybe not next time).

  • Carol says:

    Congratulations on the vehicle purchase! That’s fantastic! Your financial successes as a couple are living proof that we reap, in due season, if we faint not :0)
    We’re really excited here at our house, because after being without furniture in our living room for the last year, we were finally able to purchase a living room set. I had set aside $1,000. to do our living room. This was to include everything: furniture, curtains, rug, gas logs for the fireplace, etc.
    We knew we wanted leather furniture, and were willing to buy used, but it had to be from a smoke free, pet-free home. We’ve been looking on craiglist for a year, and didn’t find the right set until 2 weeks ago. A couple was moving, and put an Italian leather furniture set on craigslist. The set was advertised at $525. We figured it was probably junk, at that price, but set up a time immediately to go look at it. The set was gorgeous!!! Looks like new. Came with a long couch, a recliner, and a chair with an ottoman. It was an incredible deal !!!! Best part was: since 7 other people had appointments to come and look at the furniture after us that day, it can only be the favor of God that we were first :0).
    (And I will have an entire living room furnished with exactly what I wanted, for the budget that I set. )
    I’m feeling so grateful.
    It’s so much more satisfying and exciting to allow God to work on your behalf, than to just run out and charge things that you can’t pay for. (Though I can’t say that we weren’t sorely tempted during those 12 months!! LOL)

    • joann says:

      @Carol, I love this story! We had been patiently waiting for a new to us entertainment center for a few months. My husband was helping a friend move last month and the friend was going to abandon his entertainment center in the basement. It was exactly what we had been looking for and it was free! I know that feeling of gratefulness!

  • Amanda H. says:

    Congrats! I love following your journey; you’re such an inspiration! I have not gotten my husband convinced of the living debt-free idea, yet, so I’ve just been doing what I can somewhat under the radar. I have a suggestion for bunkbeds as well, haha. Have you considered building your own? I am going to be building some much needed furniture pieces for our home that I haven’t wanted to spend the money on and since the Craigslist in our area is pretty lame, I don’t have a lot of selection there.

    I discovered Ana White’s site – Knock Off Wood – and she has some of the easiest plans and directions ever. I love it. Here are two plans she has for bunkbeds.

    I’m looking forward to watching the rest of your journey and hopefully starting our own soon too!

    • peever says:

      @Amanda H., Thanks so much for posting that link! What a great website! We’re trying to save up money for a bedroom set for our daughter since she’s outgrowing her toddler bed. My husband is super handy so I might have to convince him to take on a winter project to save some money. 🙂

  • Amy says:

    That’s great! I’m so excited for our new budget starting on the first of December! We’ve come up with a plan to be out of debt in 2 years! Can’t wait for next month link up!

  • We just paid off our 2007 Truck 3 years early and are now DEBT FREE (except for the house).
    Check out my post on it:

  • Jill says:

    I have a question for your readers. When you are saving up for someting like a new car do you open up a seperate account and deposit money into it every month? What if you are saving up for more then one item do you open up multiple accounts?

    • Kim says:

      @Jill, We have only one savings account but keep a running total on the different items were saving for. Do what works for you. I know some people have a separate account for each thing they are saving for.

    • Anonymous says:

      @Jill, I believe ING direct allows you to have one account, but set up sub accounts that you can earmark specific dollars for specific things. This way you are only tracking one account but able to keep your categories separate!

    • Bethany says:


      That’s a great question! Personally, we are fans of having a separate account for bigger savings goals. For example, we started saving just over two years ago for some home improvements, so we opened a clockwork Certificate of Deposit (if anyone is unfamiliar with them, you open with a certain amount, and agree to make an additional deposit each month (like “clockwork”). We had a certain amount from our budget directly deposited into the CD each month over a two year period. When it matured in August, we withdrew the amount, plus interest (which was higher with the CD than regular checking or savings). Starting Monday, we are having our living room, entry, upstairs hall, and main bathroom repainted and re-floored. We’ve lived here 5 years with 30+ year old carpet, carpet in the bathroom, and tile from the 1960s for our entry. Our family lived here happily and it never bothered our guests : ). However, it is so exciting to move into the new century and pay cash!

      Regarding saving for more than one item, we only do the bigger goals. We also paid cash for some smaller goals during those two years (couches, outdoor work) and just kept it in the checking account. Sometimes, I just keep the money in an envelope (if you use that system), if I know it will be secure.

    • Stephanie says:

      @Jill, We opened a separate (online only) savings account for our car fund. We also have accounts for Christmas and car insurance that we pay a little into each month to spread out those big expenses. As far as other stuff, we have another account called “special projects” that we put any “leftover” money in at the end of the month. That account is for whatever our next big expense is going to be (currently saving to replace our deck).
      I used to try to keep track of it all with Quicken, but it was too easy to let the lines blur between them, so separate accounts were definitely the answer for us!

    • Stephanie says:


      We just put it in our online savings account and raise the minimum we want in there. So say, there is $1000 in there and we are looking to pay $1000 for a car (just to keep the numbers simple). Then our minimum balance needs to be $2000 before we buy a car. If we were to do several things at once, I would probably keep track of it in Excel or a paper that I put up for us to see (like those thermometer shaped things for fund raising campaigns). DH is all about Excel; I like graphs and such.

    • Amy says:


      Jill, We do two things. In our “BIG” savings account currently we are just saving our 3-6 months living cost. For smaller things like a new washer we are saving this money at home in a money box! The total we are saving up for the small items wont make interest in the bank and we like to see our progress to keep us going! We have in the past put money in our savings account for other things like a vacation and we just kept a running list of what money was for what in that account.

      Another thing we do sometimes is make a poster board we can hang up on our closet door! We make a chart on there with the savings goal and the amounts add some pictures and inspirational words. Things to keep us on track! Every time we add to savings we add to the chart! Its a lot of fun watching your savings grow! Its Highly Motivating!

    • Susan says:

      I have taken advantage of account opening bonuses when saving for specific goals. For example, a local bank had a $125 bonus for opening a new checking account with a $100 minimum deposit and monthly direct deposits from a payroll check. I didn’t have to deposit the whole paycheck, just set up a direct deposit of some amount. I decided to direct deposit $60/month and called this my Christmas club account (anyone old enough to remember those?) This account came with a free debit card and I will use it for all of my Christmas shopping.
      After paying $900 for a new starter and front brakes on our old Trooper last month, I told my hubby that we should start a car maintenance account – again at a bank that’s offering a bonus. The only trick will be remembering which debit card pays which expense, but I think I can handle that!
      You can locate bank account bonus offers at Just make sure to read and understand the fine print if you open one of these accounts.

  • Danielle says:

    Way to go!

  • Heather says:

    Seems like furniture sales are better in January, so you may want to wait, unless you think you can catch some end-of-year clearance.

  • Kelly says:

    Great job Crystal! My husband is currently on his way to pick up a Dining room table, chairs, hutch and clock all paid in cash. It is nearly brand new listed on Craig’s list for almost 1/3 of the retail price! It is so nice to be able to save up the cash to buy great things and not have that debt hanging over you.

  • Ginger says:

    Congrats! I love and look forward to these sorts of posts from you, Crystal. It keeps me going when Starbucks and online shopping begin to chip away (again!) at my savings plan.

  • Melissa says:

    Congratulations on the van! I would love to see a post on how you got so much off the sticker price!

    I have updated my financial goals, but it was kind of a rough month thanks to Murphy. (At least we had the savings to deal with all of the expenses.)

  • We’ve been on Dave’s plan for over 6 years and we are debt free except for our house which we are on track to pay off in 5 years. In the meantime we are putting 15 of each of our incomes into retirement, saving for college for the 3 kids, and for the holidays we are helping out some needy families. This month we felt blessed to help out a 72 year old man who wrecked his vehicle, we paid for some of the repairs and made sure that in the meantime he has had plenty of food, company and of course his medications. It feels good to focus on helping someone else.

  • Thats awesome!
    We have been working on saving 700 to replace the timing belt and other things for our 60,000 check up
    We are almost there (need 200) and we still have about 10,000 miles to go before we need to get it done.

  • We paid off our mortgage in October! And then the very next week, our furnace / heat pump died. $7898 to replace (will get energy tax credit and manufacturer rebate to bring that down some). Then my washing machine died. $375 to replace– cannot be without that with a baby in cloth diapers, a preschooler and us two messies! Then the week after that, our sewer backed up, full of tree roots. $847 to fix that.

    Does anyone else have major home problems like this???

    • @Milk Donor Mama, Congrats on paying off your mortgage! We will be paying ours off this month and it feels so good (but a little weird!). Our furnace also died this month so we had to replace that, but a friend got us a great deal. Praying nothing else major like the rest of your issues happen!

    • Stephanie says:

      @Milk Donor Mama,

      Must be something about paying off a house and the furnace dying. Just to warn others. =) Last year we paid off our house, a month later the furnace went out. Thankfully we were able to repair it and wait a few months (till it wasn’t the middle of winter) to have a new one put in.

    • Veronica says:

      @Milk Donor Mama,
      Yes. Our mortgage isn’t quite down. But in the past couple of years we had to replace our metal roof and furnace and air conditioning. Ouch, no fun I know.

  • Thanks again Crystal for your encouraging words and helping many of us out with some sound advice. Seeing a financial adviser to determine which route I should take. Go completely debt free or expand and diversify with investments and take on “good debt”.

  • kelly says:

    Way to go! We are still driving a 12 year old 2 door Ford Escort with a Britta Marathon carseat in the backseat and have no plans to trade up until it shows signs of kicking the bucket! For those who suggested used furniture, I would be very wary about buying any upholstered furniture that is used. Bed bugs and fleas could be an unwelcome surprise! I don’t have a problem buying used wooden furniture such as a dining table or coffee table…..but not anything like a couch. Just my two cents.

    • Lana says:

      @kelly, I so agree about the bedbugs. It would cost thousands to clear up a bed bug infestation besides all the horrible pesticides you would be exposed to.

  • Joann says:

    Congratulations!!! I love these posts too. You and Dave Ramsey have been a huge inspiration to us. By the grace of God we finally got on a budget and for the first time were able to buy airplane tickets to see our family for Christmas with cash (debit card cash that is :-). The funny thing is we were only able to start saving money when I quit my job to stay at home with the kiddos. It’s amazing what can happen when you get your priorities straightened out!

    • Stephanie says:


      I too agree that I enjoy these posts. Since we became debt free a year ago we have been struggling to actual spend money on the things that we said, “When our mortgage is paid off I would like to ….” We finally actually wrote them down and started on them earlier this month. I’m glad we took some time in between to just enjoy being debt free though. (We did increase our retirement a year ago, though, and I didn’t even notice because it was basically the same amount we had been spending on debts.)

      Thanks for continuing to show us that wise use of your money, no matter the stage at which you are at, is the point and continued goal. And congratuatlations on the “new” vehicle.

  • Aimee says:

    Congratulations, Crystal, that’s awesome!! Hope you all are enjoying the new car and that you have MANY years and MANY miles of reliable transportation. 😀

  • Jessica says:

    So happy for you! I agree with the PP you are such an inspiration to me! I’m really cracking down on the budget and starting our Dave Ramsey baby steps this month. I can’t wait to be able to buy our next USED vehicle in cash as well!
    And I suggest checking out Nebraska Furniture Mart (we visit the one in KC when we need new furniture) – they usually run some really great deals! Have fun shopping!

  • Congratulations!! What a huge accomplishment and an encouragement to me. My husband and I just made the huge decision to sell our van (still had payments – that were killing us financially, due to a huge cut in my husband’s salary) and we’re learning to live with one car until we can save up enough to pay cash this time for another van. I keep reminding myself of Dave Ramsey’s quote “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else” It was totally worth the inconvenience when we had a missionary come to our church on Sunday and we could give towards his minsitry. God’s word is right when it says a borrower is slave to the lender. We had relinquished control of our finances when we signed a loan agreement. We’re still learning. Thanks again for your website it is an amazing resource, but also a great encouragement!!

  • We replaced carpets in our home recently and got a great deal. I shared here how I worked to get a good deal on the materials as well as on the labor.

    Also, I learned that if you are paying cash, you should be able to get an extra discount, so be sure to ask.

  • Love these posts! We’re in the stage of adjusting to having a fully funded emergency fund, but not having fully-funded-other-funds that allow us to not have to touch the emergency fund. Make sense? It’s a new way of life, and maybe not as glamorous as we thought it would be.

    I wrote a post about a month ago about adjusting our thinking, and how it’s also helped me grasp some housekeeping concepts.

  • Trinity says:

    You are such and inspiration! we are currently paying off our bills and will be done with our credit cards some time next year. Our first goal is to get out of the living week to week routine. it is such a pain to live that way. Then we are working on paying off our car and save money for savings. I cant imagine being able to buy a car for cash let alone a house. I guess one step at a time…lol

  • Gina Leake says:

    Congratulations, Crystal! That is so wonderful! Right now, we are rebuilding our savings after my husband was looking for work for a year. The lack of income drained our savings, but thank the Lord we HAD a savings to fall back on. I’m greatly encouraged by your personal posts, watching God provide for a sister in Christ and her family. He is so very good, isn’t He. 🙂

  • Rhonda R. says:

    People are always trying to give a way bunk beds on in my area. Why don’t you try posting in your area. You may get a barely used set for free (and it’s one less item in our landfills).

  • There are always lots of metal bunkbeds for cheap or free here…..if you were here, i would have one I would sell you!
    Good job on the car purchase! We have not ever not paid cash for our cars….and it is nice to do.

  • KC says:

    Do you plan to write any post on “children’s educational savings” in the future? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

  • Lisa says:

    It is so amazing how quickly you can accomplish your goals when you are without a mortgage or rent payment every month! We have recently become debt free except for the mortgage. Although the minimum payment amounts were not enormous on any of our debts, it is shocking how fast the money we were spending on paying debts is now accumulating for other goals. I am looking forward to the day when the mortgage payment is gone!

    Thanks for the encouragement that you provide sharing your family’s continuing story of your decision to live debt free.

  • Liz says:

    These are my favorite posts. Thank you for sharing them with us. It helps me keep motivated to reach our financial goals!

  • Bila says:

    What does BHAG mean? I went back to your Sept post and tried to figure it out but I am lost.

  • laurie says:

    Complete envy is what I feel but in a good way!

  • Tina says:

    I have been reading your blog for quite a while now and enjoy it very much. Since we have been using Dave’s principles, we have paid off our van and the only debt we have is a small amount we owe the IRS from when we were self-employed. We are saving now for a family vacation to DC and VA next year. The kids are involved. We even rolled $75 worth of coins the other day! My 14 year old son is using Dave’s high school program for his Personal Finance credit and is loving it! He’s even urging us to be more frugal like suggesting we order water instead of tea when we go out to eat and such. It’s so awesome to see my son getting a sound financial foundation at such a young age.

    Please keep these posts coming! They are very encouraging!

  • Stacy says:

    That’s great. We’re working on paying down our credit card debt. On track for 2013, so we can start saving soon!!

  • shay says:

    Love your list of goals! I think that number one should have a percentage or dollar amount listed by it (maybe you do, but just haven’t published it). If you don’t set an actual number or percentage, then it will remain un-crossed off forever.
    I made New Year’s goals and have reached almost all of them for the year!

  • How exciting Crystal! We just paid off our van this year and it feels really good to get rid of that debt. I love the idea of paying for things with cash and that’s what we are working towards. Course my husband says we will always have one or two credit cards that we use occaisionally just to keep our credit out there. He is a mortgage broker and has seen people turned down for a loan if they don’t have some kind of trackable credit.

    Like some of the others who commented here, we love Craigslist. It requires patience and monitoring, but in our case it’s been worth it. We just bought the most beautiful leather sofabed and love seat for only $250! I thought it must be junk, but the pics looked good, so we checked it out it. It was perfect for us the people were just unloading it for cheap because they needed to move out of state. It’s amazing what you can find on there!

  • How exciting. The Lord is good. So happy for you!!

    We needed to replace our vehicle a few years back (2007); the mechanic said it was unsafe to drive and not worth repairing. I prayed a lot, then we decided that we needed something with less than 100, 000KM and a 2004 or newer. My husband told me our budget that we had to stick within in order to pay cash. When I told the dealers I wanted a van with those two requirements, they kind of laughed.
    A week later I was driving a 2004 Montana with 108,000KM on it and we paid less than our budget and we paid it in cash!!

  • Priscilla says:

    just curious, if any photos of the Old Blue Van have been posted?

  • Amy says:

    I’d love to hear how you found a good deal for a new washer and dryer. We’ve been without a washing machine for almost a month after a leak. I just got the final estimate of repairs from the appliance repair company this morning and it seems like getting a new washer entirely would be a better idea. Any advice on where to find a deal?

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