A testimony from Rachel of Sisters with a System
In 2016, one of our children unexpectedly qualified for the National Bible Bee competition.
Friends and family donated money that allowed us to fly to the competition in Texas. It was a tremendous, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our single-income family of 8!
Fast forward 5 months. All of our children wanted to return to Texas and three wanted to compete at Nationals. The only problem was, we didn’t have the funds and certainly didn’t expect others to foot the bill again.
My husband and I set up our 2017 budget, but were only able to save $40/month for a trip… so, we started a Texas Jar and decided to get creative.
- In addition to spare change, any time we came in under budget for an expense, the difference went into our jar — no matter how trivial.
- We cleaned out our attic and closets to have a yard sale, during which the kids had a concession stand. They raised almost as much money with their concessions as we did with our yard sale!
- We sold a few items on Ebay and Craigslist.
- I cooked some especially frugal meals (think Meatless Monday!) and tucked the money saved into our growing fund.
- The kids earned some money doing yard work and housecleaning for their grandmother; they wanted to put all their money into the fund, but we only allowed them to contribute half, with the other half being deposited into their savings.
- My husband gets paid biweekly (26 paychecks/year), but we budget on a monthly basis (24 paychecks/year), resulting in two “extra” paychecks per year. We put a portion of this money into the Texas Jar.
Still, saving money was only half the plan. It takes a lot of money to get a family of 8 from Ohio to Texas and back (42 hours total driving), plus the expense of the 4-day competition. So, we plotted and schemed the cheapest ways to travel.
- We cashed in hotel points (both ours and a those of a generous friend) for free nights.
- While mapping our route, we decided to drive through the night once to stretch our free hotel nights.
- The majority of our meals were food we packed in a cooler (both on the road and in our hotel). Once we arrived in Texas, we bought groceries for easy meals we could eat in our rooms.
We finally had the expenses whittled down to $2500, and had saved $2300. We had counted and recounted our money, rolled the coins, and hoped each time that the final amount would miraculously change.
The departure date was drawing near and we were thinking hard about robbing Peter to pay Paul, when a couple from our church gave us a check for $200! The trip was the most memorable one our family has ever had, made all the more special because of the way this truly was a family effort!
Rachel is a homeschooling SAHM of 6 and co-creator of the blog Sisters with a System, where she shares ideas and printables for organizing our homes, homeschools, finances, and lives!