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Tag Archive: Paying Cash for a Home

Saving 100% Down for a Home: Part 3

A New Job in a New City

Jesse started his new job the beginning of 2007 with high hopes. 2006 had been a difficult year of finishing law school, preparing for the bar, taking the bar, waiting for the bar results, morning sickness and then spending a few months not knowing whether he was going to have a job at the beginning of the year or not.

We were very ready to get back into a “normal” routine after months of upheaval and uncertainty. And we were excited to start saving in earnest after years of depleting our savings.

But within the first month at his new job, Jesse realized this job was going to be a lot harder than he had anticipated. The learning curve was steep, the hours were long, the work was stressful and the office environment was tense.

It begin to wear on Jesse and within a few months, he was almost continually exhausted and stressed. More big projects arose and he had to put in longer hours. Jesse, the always easy-going, fun-loving guy, was so overloaded at work that he rarely smiled or enjoyed life anymore.

I knew it was becoming too much for him and I felt powerless to help him. I tried to make our home a welcoming haven for him, I tried to encourage him as best as I knew how, but the pressure he was dealing with at work was enormous.

He was working so many hours and was so focused on keeping up with his job that he wasn’t home much anymore. And when he was home, he wasn’t very “present.” It was a hard, hard time. He hated being “absent” from our family, but he also had to keep up with things at work lest his job be in jeopardy.

The stress trickled down to me and I began neglecting my own health. Soon I started experiencing issues in my pregnancy. I became very anemic and ended up in the hospital for five days when I was 34 weeks along. They were worried I was going to have to be induced early since my hemoglobin and platelet counts were so low. But God intervened and I was able to carry Kaitlynn to 38 weeks before being induced.

These health issues felt like the last thing Jesse needed to be dealing with. And I felt so bad that I was adding extra burdens to his already-overloaded plate. But God used it for good, because it was a wake-up call to both of us to realize something major needed to happen in Jesse’s job situation, or he needed to quit.

The thought of him quitting scared us though, as we desperately needed the insurance benefits from his job — especially now that I was having so many health issues. It was a vicious cycle and we felt trapped.

We prayed and talked about it a lot. More and more it felt like it was the right thing for Jesse to turn in his resignation. And yet at the same time, what about our financial goals and hopes and dreams? Wouldn’t it be completely shooting ourselves in the foot to voluntarily cut off most of our income?

And how would we survive if Jesse wasn’t able to get a new job right away? We had been working hard to try and save money, but after all the medical bills from my health problems, we only had enough in savings to live on for a few months. And my income from my online business was certainly not enough for us to survive on.

It seemed like it would be foolish to resign just because a job was too stressful, so we tried to come up with ways to restructure things in our home and lives to relieve as much stress as we could. We figured if we could just ride this out for a few more months, things would probably get a lot smoother.

But then very unexpectedly, Jesse was asked to resign. While this came as a complete shock to us because no one had any idea we were praying about him resigning, we took it as God’s clear direction for us. But we didn’t know what the next step might be, or how we were going to live if Jesse didn’t find a job very quickly.

So without much warning, we were left without our primary income source — in a new city with little support, few friends and even fewer business contacts.

At first, we were pretty confident finding a new job wouldn’t be too hard. After all, we were in a big city and Jesse had his law license. How hard could it really be to find something which would pay the bills?

Well, apparently it was a whole lot harder than we’d initially envisioned. The days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months.

We applied for just about every job under the sun. We prayed harder than we’d ever prayed before. We contacted anyone and everyone who might have a possible job lead. We followed up with every application and did our best to leave no stone unturned.

And yet, no one was even calling to offer Jesse an interview, let alone a job.

I wish I could say that I kept a cheerful attitude through all of this. On the contrary, I woke up every morning with a sick feeling in my stomach wondering how much longer things would go on like this. And I’m very ashamed to admit it, but I often found myself angry at my husband.

I felt alone, scared and stressed, and I took out my frustrations on my husband — which was the last thing he needed at one of the lowest points in his life. Our marriage started feeling the toll, and during those months of unemployment, there were times when it was only hanging on by a thread.

[Just a short side note: A few months after all of this took place, God really convicted me of how wrong my attitudes were during this whole experience and I went and humbly asked for my husband’s forgiveness — which he graciously gave to me, even though I didn’t deserve it. I’m thrilled to report that our marriage is much stronger today as a result of all of these trials and I believe beyond any shadow of a doubt that I am married to the most wonderful man in the whole wide world! He has stuck by me through thick and thin and loved me no matter what. I’m so blessed to be Jesse’s wife!]

Gratefully, we didn’t have any debt and we were still living on a strict budget, so the job loss didn’t plunge us into complete financial ruin. I can’t even fathom what it would have been like had we piled up a bunch of debt in law school or followed the advice offered by many following law school: to go buy a house and live extravagantly now that my husband was officially a lawyer.

While our marriage was in bad shape, we did make one good decision — to be as creative and resourceful as we could in order to avoid dipping into our Emergency Fund unless we absolutely had to.

At this point, I had an online bookstore and a small personal blog which I’d slowly been growing. I had recently written a course on Supermarket Savings and we decided to experiment and run a big blow-out sale. We set up an affiliate program for the sale and notified as many of our online friends and companies about the sale.

By God’s grace, the three-day sale on our ebook package earned enough money for us to live on for a few months. We could hardly believe it! That was a huge bright spot in the midst of tremendous discouragement.

We started to really think outside the box when it came to our income: Jesse took on some contract jobs, we got a newspaper route and I continued to bring in some supplementary income through the online bookstore.

It was also during this time that the idea for MoneySavingMom.com was born. There weren’t any blogs listing weekly deal match-ups for drug stores at that point and many people who had purchased my Supermarket Savings ecourse were writing and asking for more help and counsel.

I’d learned a lot about blogging and monetizing a blog over the past few years and I figured starting a frugal, money-saving blog might be a great opportunity to test some of those ideas out. Jesse was excited about the idea, so we brain-stormed a name and set up the site.

At that point, I was hoping the site would provide a place for me to practically help people learn to live on less by sharing things which had allowed our family to stay out of debt and live on a beans-and-rice budget. Little could we have dreamed that MoneySavingMom.com would someday soon be earning a full-time income and help us be able to save and pay cash for a home!

Unbeknownst to us, while it seemed like we were getting nowhere in the job search, God was doing some pretty amazing things behind-the-scenes to lay things out for our lives to be turned upside-down — in a very wonderful way!

Our Journey Towards Saving 100% Down For Our First Home: Part 1

Yes, we paid cash for our home, but we don’t think most people should follow in our exact footsteps. While we hope to encourage and inspire you through our story to think outside the box and set big goals, we want you to adopt goals which are right for your own family — even if they are much different from our family’s. Every family is in a different situation with different needs, different circumstances and different longterm goals.

We think being debt-free and owning a home outright can be a wonderful thing, but there are many ways to get there and it’s going to look different for everyone. We chose to do something pretty counter-cultural and save up and pay cash upfront, but this was because we were in a unique position to do what we did. And it started way back when we were young…

A Wise Financial Upbringing

My grandpa had raised my dad that the only debt which he should ever have would be a mortgage on his house. My dad took this to heart and when I was very young, my parents, who had never had consumer debt, began working towards paying off their mortgage early. After they paid off their mortgage, they began saving to build a house debt-free.

When I was 10 years old, they sold our current paid-for residence and our family moved to a rundown trailer (which didn’t have heat, air conditioning or a stove!) while they built a house debt-free using the money from the sale of our paid-for house and the money they had saved. My dad was the general contractor and did a lot of the manual labor in order to save money. I recall going with my parents to store after store while they negotiated prices on everything from the trusses to the light fixtures to the toilets.

Within seven months, our home was finished enough for us to move out of the dilapidated trailer. And they had paid for everything in cash! Observing their commitment to live a debt-free life and the sacrifices and creativity they employed in order to accomplish it had a profound impact upon me.

When my husband was 11, his mom died after a long struggle with cancer. After her death, Jesse received a small sum of money and his dad wisely invested most of this money for him to use for college — which we are so grateful for! His foresight to do this is one of the main reasons our family is in the financial position we are today as that money, combined with what Jesse was able to save while working part-time through high school and college, added up to almost the exact amount needed to pay cash for law school ($35,000).

Jesse’s dad and stepmom also modeled careful financial stewardship: they always lived within their means, didn’t buy things they couldn’t afford and worked hard to pay off their house early. Jesse was inspired by this from an early age and started to hope he could follow in their footsteps when it came to finances.

Paying Cash for College

In his last year of high school, Jesse started applying for scholarships in earnest and he was able to get a full ride for the first two years of his undergrad. He also lived at home and worked part-time, so his expenses were very low and he was able to continue to save money.

He transferred to a private Christian college in Virginia in his third year. While he learned a lot from his year there, it cost an arm and a leg and he also wasn’t able to work much while going there. When he ran the numbers, he realized that if he were going to stay at the private college for his last year of undergrad, it would significantly cut into his law school savings. So he decided to move back home and finish out his final year at the state university he’d started at.

There was also another strong reason he chose to move back home: he was anxious to marry me! 🙂

Getting On the Same Page About Finances

When Jesse finalized his plans to move back home and finish his final year of undergrad at the state university, he started applying for scholarships there. We were thrilled when he was able to get an almost full scholarship again for his last year. He once again lived at home and worked part-time, enabling him to keep his expenses very low and allowing him to save money.

Soon after he moved back, we got engaged and started planning for our future. One of the things we spent a lot of time discussing and praying about was finances.

Since we had both had such an excellent financial upbringing and wise examples in our parents, neither of us had any debt, and we were very committed to living beneath our means. However, in crunching the numbers, we knew it was going to take some extreme creativity and frugality if we were going stay out of debt through law school.

Jesse had researched the costs of law school and determined it would likely be a little over $10,000 per year if he were to go to an in-state school and get a scholarship. He also had to add on the cost of books, which would be somewhere in the vicinity of $4,000 total.

All told we were looking at it costing right around $35,000 for three years of law school — which was almost the exact amount he had in savings thanks to the money his father invested for him plus the money the money he saved while working.

So we could pay cash for law school, but we also had to find a way to survive and pay our bills during those three years. We figured that we could live on right around $1,000 per month if we basically only spent money on the bare necessities. I had saved up $5,000 from working some part-time jobs before marriage, but we were hoping to keep that set aside as an Emergency Fund to use in case we had some crisis (and we did indeed end up using it a few months into law school when Jesse totaled his car!).

We were looking at having to find a way to come up with at least $36,000 extra in cash to pay for our basic living expenses for the next three years. That probably doesn’t seem like much to some of you, except we were hoping to start a family soon after we were married and we were committed to me being a stay-at-home mom once children came along. In addition, Jesse was limited to working only 20 hours per week per the law school rules (they limit students to only working part-time since the class load is so heavy in law school. And, in retrospect, I think anyone would be pretty out of their mind to try and work much more than that!)

We made a very barebones budget and we talked about every way possible we could come up with to cut expenses and bring in extra income. In addition, we discussed what sacrifices we’d be willing to make if it came down to it.

After much prayer, we knew this was the path God was calling us to; but it didn’t mean we weren’t scared or stressed sometimes, wondering how it was all going to work out. At the same time, though, we were excited to make a leap of faith and see God do miracles on our behalf.

Practicing Frugality From the Get-Go

We got married right before Jesse’s last semester of undergrad and we started practicing frugality from the get-go: we honeymooned in an old and inexpensive hotel in a small town in a neighboring state and splurged once to go out to eat at Subway. The rest of our honeymoon we ate food we’d brought from home or which we picked up at Dollar General while we were there!

Back from our honeymoon, we rented the cheapest apartment we could find and we outfitted it with furniture hand-me-downs we got from friends and family, plus a used couch we bought for $100. We both worked as many hours we could at our part-time jobs, we saved everything we possibly could and we learned that a strong marriage is not dependent upon how much money you spend, but on the depth of your love and commitment to one another.

Jesse graduated from the state university in May and we started making plans for our move to Topeka, Kansas, for him to go to law school. The real test of our faith and frugality was about to begin.