I’m back (maybe)

Hi friends.  It’s been a while.

I went back and read my most recent post.  And then remembered why I haven’t been blogging for the past 7 months.  It’s crazy how life events can drain all inspiration from a human.

I’m not sure that I have much to say other than we’re still here.  And I *may* be updating from time to time.  I don’t feel like I can fully commit to saying “I’m back” (thus, the title), but if inspiration strikes I will probably share a few words.

A little update– we are still attempting to live simply and pay down our debt.  Getting closer every month!  We have had to re-vamp our budget multiple times in the last few months, and will get to do it again in the coming months as we prepare for several financial transitions.  But being the crazy budget lady that I am, I don’t mind it at all 🙂

We’ve also gone through another paring down of our belongings as we prepare for another baby boy, due at the very end of July!  I will just say, it’s pretty amazing how many things we owned were “necessities…” until the greater necessity became space.  Then those items were pretty quick to get the ax.

Last thing I will say:  God is still faithful.  We’ve had some ups and downs recently, but despite our circumstances, He is good.  He is faithful, and He is good.

I hope all is well with my friends out there on wordpress.  Hope to catch up soon 🙂

Work

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This blog serves as digital documentation (for the entire world to read, if they so desire) of our journey toward living a debt-free life. So far, our journey has been incredibly challenging, but completely rewarding.

We started off our journey to financial freedom when my husband and I were both working as teachers, living in a very nice middle class suburban home, with the ability to basically spend our money however we wanted. Over time, we have learned to more fully surrender our lives to Jesus and through that we made a series of pretty radical life-altering decisions.

First, I stopped working. Not necessarily by choice. I had a rough year during my second year of teaching and was unable to find another teaching job due to my performance evaluation. Something I was truly ashamed of a few years ago, but Jesus has brought healing from both that situation and also healing of my perfectionist/performance drive, so now I can share that with you all without feeling like a failure as I once did.

A few months later, the Lord shared that we needed to sell our house and move into Waco proper. We did that and have had some financial relief due to a much lower house payment.

Then, once we moved, Josh started working like crazy. When I say “like crazy” I really mean it. The photo up there talks about a second job. Well, Josh took a second job… And a third…. And a fourth… In addition to the volunteer work he does for the a/v team at church. Not to mention, being an amazing husband and father….

One of those jobs was pretty sporadic, but the other two extra jobs have been weekly gigs. My husband, in his support of me being a stay-at-home-mom, and in support of our desire to become debt-free, basically forfeited all days of rest for weeks and even months at a time. Not because his main job can’t support us. But because he is working hard so that we can live comfortably AND get out of debt more quickly.

I have also been waiting and praying for some way to earn extra money for us to speed along our debt payoff. I originally was hoping to utilize this blog to do so, but discovered that was not the direction I wanted this blog to go.

As I have continued to pray, we have received answers and are excited to have a few new opportunities to keep pressing forward.

Friends, it’s not easy. But it WILL be worth it. We make the sacrifices now so that later, we can live in financial FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOM!

I am so looking forward to the day when I get to post on here that we are DEBT FREE!! Keep your eyes peeled, because it may be happening soon 😁

I’m on the Social Media

If you like what you see here, and you want access to my personal information (jk), follow me on Twitter @savingsgracetx, and like my page on facebook!!  Hope to see you there 🙂

Summer Saving: New Cash Envelope System

For my first post in this series I wanted to share my new cash envelope system. If you are on a budget, I highly recommend you adopt a cash envelope system. I was resistant to it for a long time for two reasons:

1. Our bank is out of town and it’s inconvenient to have to use the ATM every time we need cash.  Also, having to work it out so our cash is in multiples of 20s is kind of a pain.

And

2. I was certain I could demonstrate some amount of restraint with my debit card.

Which was untrue.

I believe we’ve already established that Mary and self-control generally don’t go in the same sentence (read my post about Walmart). Unless you’re saying Mary doesn’t have self-control.  Anyway, recently I have realized the errors of my ways and have fully embraced the cash envelope system.

This system will help you save money this summer for one main reason: if you don’t have the cash to pay for something, you can’t buy it. That simple.

I’ve mentioned before about attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. During that class we learned about the importance of paying cash for everything you can. If you’d like to know more about this, click here.

I originally had a cash envelope system that was literally envelopes with cash in them. I was not a fan of this system because it felt disorganized just having a bunch of envelopes floating around.  Also, I’m a bit haphazard at times and I just knew at some point the envelopes would tear, or get lost, I’d lose track of things, and every thing would come crashing down. So yesterday I revamped my cash envelope system and I am already loving it!

mini-accordion file

I bought this mini-accordion file a couple of years ago for 98¢. I had my own business at the time and was using it to organize my business-related purchases.  Now I keep my driver’s license, check book, our A+ card, coupons, and gift cards in the front, and I labeled the each of tabs with a sharpie marker for each of the cash categories in our budget.

cash envelope system

These categories include:

giving– currently revamping, but as of right now, this is for spontaneous giving, as well as gift giving (birthdays, etc.).

grocery– self-explanatory.

gas– self-explanatory.

household– for items such as cleaning products, toilet paper, batteries, etc. Anything related to the household that is not edible.

pets– for food, occasional treats and toys.

entertainment– for family activities such as eating out, going to the zoo, etc.

miscellaneous– for those times when you just have to buy something that wasn’t in the budget.  AKA our cash version of the emergency fund. It’s only $20.

Josh
Mary
Josiah

The last three are for purchases that we as individuals may need or want. For example, Josiah (our son) may need new socks.  Or I may just want to buy him books or a toy. These categories are our own spending money to use as we like.

In the past, when I’ve budgeted for these cash categories, I’ve used the debit card to pay for them.  Unfortunately, it is wayyyyy too easy to go over budget with a debit card.  “I know the money is there… I’m $2.50 over budget.  I’ll make up for it somewhere else.  No big deal.”

Dave Ramsey says, “While debit cards can’t get you directly into debt, if used carelessly, they can cause you to over-spend. There’s something psychological about spending cash that hurts more than swiping a piece of plastic. If spending cash whenever possible can become a habit, you’ll be less likely to over-spend or buy on impulse.”  Source: daveramsey.com

If you’re not already using a cash envelope system, this may be your first step to saving this summer!!

New Series–Stay Tuned!!

This week I will be starting up a new series.  Still working on a title more awesome than “Summer Saving Series…” because that is not awesome at all actually.

But as the current working title suggests, I will be sharing some things that we have implemented over the years to save during the summer months.  Topics will include saving on utilities, family activities/vacations, personal pampering, gift giving, holiday celebrations and more!  I am super excited to save with you this summer!

I will also be sharing some content from other bloggers as well.  If you have a post you think would be helpful and would like for me to share with my readers, let me know in the comment section!

Series begins on Thursday.  See you then 🙂

 

Giving Generously

I have to admit. I am a control freak. There are certain areas in my life in which I am just a complete and utter control freak. No other way to put it.

Take for example, cooking. I enjoy cooking. I am not the world’s greatest chef, by any stretch, but I like to try new things and create and pretend I’m on Master Chef. But, as soon as any one else tries to help me, I go into super controlly mode and start internally freaking out about how inconsistently the onions are chopped.

That is not a joke.

I am basically the same way with our budget. I am determined to get us out of debt, but I have also assumed all control of our money and have left very little room for God to work his miracles in our finances.  I have been praying about this, as I recognize it’s an issue, and want to release my absolute control over our budget and let God speak on how to handle things.

Right now, as far as giving, each month we budget our tithe, an additional small amount toward our church’s new building fund (we are just over 35% of the way to our giving goal), and another small amount for spontaneous giving.  Basically, we give just enough for me to be able to tell myself we are giving to lots of different things, but my heart has really been saying, “I’ll just do this small amount so I can put even more toward our debt payments.”  After hearing from the Lord, my plan now is to budget more for each category of giving, and then intentionally seek God on how we should give the money budgeted for spontaneous giving.

Doing this means we will be putting less money toward our debt, but I am certain that this needs to be a priority for us.  Here is the verse I am praying as we continue on this journey:

“Remember this–a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop.  But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  You must each decide in your heart how much to give.  And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure.  ‘For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.’ And God will generously provide all you need.  Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (NLT).

Happy Mother’s Day

This may or may not be your typical Mother’s Day post… I guess that just depends on how you generally view this day.

I want to first say, I am so thankful for my mom. Over the years we’ve had our moments (both good and not so good), but to have a mom who forgives your dumb decisions and harsh words is truly such a gift. My mom is that mom.

I hope I can be that mom too. My prayer for my son Josiah, and our future children is that I, alongside my husband, can disciple them to know the Lord. That we will demonstrate Christ’s character in our life as parents and help lead our children to intimately know him and reflect his character as well.

I know, however, that doing that 100% of the time is impossible. I am not perfect, nor is my husband. We will mess up and forget that we are supposed to be the light in this world. We will do things that don’t reflect the character of God. We will say things that hurt people–maybe even our children.

But it’s important (for me) to remember that even though we can never be perfect parents, God is our perfect parent. He is the God of second chances. He loves us unconditionally. He forgives us when we make those dumb decisions. He allows us to pursue an intimate relationship with him where we can truly be made new in him.

Whether this day brings up feelings of joy, ambiguity, disappointment, or sadness, remember, we have all we need in the Lord. He is our perfect parent.

And even though your mom isn’t perfect, and you’re not perfect, she is the perfect parent for you, and you are the perfect son or daughter for her. Let God be the one who is perfect. And let moms be who they are… The most caring, giving, loving, imperfect people on this earth.

Happy Mother’s Day

saving{s} grace

Today marks the start of my documenting our journey to financial freedom.  We’ve actually been on this journey since the fall of 2011.  My husband and I were both teachers here in Texas.  For those of you who don’t know, people say that teachers don’t make a lot of money (which is true), but when you are a young married couple with hardly any expenses, a two-income teacher salary is prettttttttttty nice.  The only problem is we had no idea where our money went.  We paid all our bills, bought groceries, went out to eat frequently (but who doesn’t?), bought stuff, but still couldn’t actually pinpoint how we spent our money.  Clearly we were very irresponsible.  And clearly it was time for a change.

So in August of 2011 we attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class that was offered at our church.  Long story short, it has absolutely changed our lives.  Over the course of that 12 week class (or however long it was…), we were able to accomplish Baby Step #1 ($1,000 emergency fund), plus get a head start on Baby Step #2 (pay all debts).  As we continued to follow Dave Ramsey’s plan, we were all set to be completely debt free in May of 2013.

Of course, I’ve failed to mention thus far that we follow Jesus first.  That is the absolute number one priority in our marriage:  to love and obey Jesus.  And when you do this, the plans you make sometimes have a way of changing… especially when you’ve surrendered the control you have over your own life to this crazy guy who promises life abundant if you just choose to trust him.

…back to my original story…

A lot happened between finishing FPU and finishing out that school year.  I ended up resigning my position at the school I taught at, and trusting that another position that was made just for me would open up and all would be well again.  But just in case, we skipped ahead to Baby Step #3 (3-6 months expenses into savings).  As the summer progressed, I applied for… I don’t know… a hundred jobs?  Just kidding.  But it seemed like it.  I had several interviews and after a few, I was certain I would be employed by the start of the next school year.  Again, following Jesus.  Again, plans changed.  I never found a teaching job.  I was thankful that we had saved 3-6 months of our expenses so that we could have a cushion, should the need arise.

And yes, the need arose.  We found out in September of 2012 that I was pregnant.  A complete surprise, but a welcome one!  If you know me, you may be doing the math, thinking, “Wait she had her baby in September of 2013, why was she pregnant for a year?”  Well, I wasn’t.  The need for that 3-6 months of savings arose because I ended up having a miscarriage.  We went to the emergency room, not having any idea what to do as this was happening to my body and to our baby.  We spent several hours in the ER all for the doctor to tell us what we already knew was happening.

It kinda sucks to have to continue my story after that…  But it is a part of our journey, and an important one.  I laid around the house for a while, but on the 3rd day after this happened, I woke up and was overcome with a sense of peace.  To this day I don’t understand how that happened, after only 3 days of grieving.  But it did. Thank you Jesus.

As life started to move on, I found out I was pregnant again in January of 2013!  Again a welcome surprise, but this time I was full of fear.  We had drained our emergency fund, our 3-6 months of savings, I had no job, and my husband was exploring other options as far as his teaching career went.  It was a scary time, and that brings us to the present.

As our journey has continued, we are still committed to becoming debt free, although we had to take a several month hiatus.  Now I am a stay at home mom, and we are a family of three (or five, if you count the pups) living on one relatively-new teacher’s salary.  We sold our house (and a lot of the stuff that was in it).  We live a much simpler lifestyle now, which is why I have started this blog.

It sounds silly, but this is my passion… finding new ways to be frugal and get us closer to our goal of being debt free!  I want to share our journey to financial freedom to inspire other families who may be doing the same thing.

I will be sharing how

  • we’ve cut our budget
  • we’ve saved money on groceries and other necessities
  • we’ve managed to establish a savings again
  • we make our own everything
  • we continue to give to our church and other causes/individuals
  • we continue to pay off debt on one modest income
  • and how we live a much simpler, semi-urban lifestyle here in Waco, Texas.

Following Jesus first, and letting him establish our path to financial freedom.