Sunday, November 3, 2013

Budgeting: Our Journey to Debt Freedom

Those who know me know I’m cheap frugal. I’ve always been “tight” with my money and found ways to save.  Even as a kid, I remember that any time my Dad would treat me with ice cream money that I would skip the ice cream and save the money in my secret hiding place in my bedroom. Ha!

I don’t remember anyone ever really teaching me to be this way- I think it was more of a natural instinct. Even in college, I applied for every scholarship I could and attended a public university so I could graduate with zero student loan debt. I am so thankful my parents were so supportive and encouraging with my academics and athletics growing up, and I attribute a lot of that to their efforts. I also waited to begin my Master’s and Specialist’s until I had a job and was able to pay out of pocket for tuition. I HATE the thought of paying interest!! If you own a home, have you ever done the math to see how much you would pay total for your home if you were to pay on it for the full term of the loan? It’s NUTS!!

So, I have always been frugal. And so has Jon. (He has always had an entrepreneurial mindset.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. We LOVE to give!! I love to give gifts, give to support our favorite causes/charities/church/missions, etc. And I think know that God BLESSES a generous heart when you give for the right reasons and with the right attitude. We are never more like Jesus than when we are serving and giving!!

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” – Hebrews 13:16

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” –Luke 6:38

But I believe in being educated, disciplined, and intentional when it comes to finances.

When I got engaged, Emily gave me a copy of Dave Ramsey’s book and I read it before we got married. Then Big Jon read it on our honeymoon, and we decided to get serious about budgeting when we got home. We did of course discuss finances before we got married, and fortunately, we were are very much on the same page when it comes to financial matters.  (This is a very important issue to discuss when dating/engaged. Over half of all marriages end in divorce, and the number one cause of divorce is financial issues. I can totally see that because although we don’t fight often, and even though we agree on the big things, when we have argued or do argue, it’s typically about money.)

Jonathan and I both have a strong desire to be DEBT FREE and have no problem working hard and both agree that we need to be frugal. We don’t mind making sacrifices and going without. I know there is balance in that because we aren’t promised tomorrow, but we both believe that we need to be extremely disciplined in our finances now so we don’t have to worry about them in the future. We are very prayerful over every purchase we make. And I can say we were definitely taught the value of HARD WORK from our parents. That is hands down one of the qualities I appreciate and value so much about Jon! I do not tolerate lazy very well and believe that I am called to be a hard worker as well. (Even though I feel passionate about being a stay at home mom, I work very hard to contribute to our family and still be very present and keep priorities in order. It IS possible! And if we are striving to be the Proverbs 31 woman, we are called to do so. Read Proverbs 31:13-24…)  I want our children to see that we both value hard work and it is pleasing to the Lord.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,”- Colossians 3:23

“Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth.” –Proverbs 10:4

Early on in our marriage, we developed a budget and somewhat followed the envelope system (except without the actual envelopes).  Looking back, I feel as if we allotted too much of our budget for entertainment- going to the movies, eating out, and vacations. We also went way overboard on gifts for one another. We always saved and never went in to debt or put it on the credit card, but we would be much further right now if we’d started as soon as we got married.

Since AdvoCare has been in our life, we have become even more serious about our finances. Our company is big on debt freedom and financial education, and I am so thankful for that because it has helped us refocus.  They offer a free debt buster system and encourage distributors to read leadership and finance books, and I love that everything they have taught us lines up with Biblical standards.

DID YOU KNOW??  Jesus talked about money more than He talked about Heaven and Hell combined. Scripture shows that He talked about finances all the time. Of the 38 parables, 16 are about finances and how to use them for God’s blessing and how to keep them from abusing yourself and others. In the NT, five hundred verses teach about prayer and a few less than five hundred talk about faith. More than two thousand verses deal with financial matters.

I know society tends to overlook debt and make it seem “normal,” but the truth is, debt is not okay. There is no such thing as “good debt,” even if it’s a mortgage for a house. We now do not buy anything unless we can pay cash for it. Obviously that wasn’t an option for our house, so we are paying additional principal every month in order to pay it off as early as possible.

“…and the borrower is slave to the lender.” –Proverbs 22:7

Within the last year, we have really buckled down on our finances. We started by writing down all of our expenses for a whole month (yes, that is a long time to document!)- every dollar we spent. Honestly, we were blown away by how much we were spending on little things. Stopping at the gas station for bottled water or a granola bar; eating out; our cable plan, etc. We looked at every area and decided to get more serious about our budget.

This may be too intense for some people, but we are really committed to becoming debt free, so here are a few things we have done in an effort to cut expenses:

  • We stopped buying clothes.Other than two pairs of maternity pants, a few maternity tops, and a dress, we have not bought ANY new clothes in a year. Even with the baby, pretty much everything he owns has been passed down or bought at a yard sale. Obviously as he gets older we will have to buy him more, but we want to be very conscious of what we spend on clothes and toys.
  • We dropped to the lowest cable package (and actually plan to drop it all together because we do not watch it anyway), and have not gone to the movies at ALL.
  • We have majorly cut back on eating out and rarely do (especially since we have had the baby), and have decided to only go on trips and make purchases that have potential for return. (For example, AdvoCare trips where we get to spend time training our team/incentive trips; a laptop; tools for Jonathan’s cabinet business, etc.)
  • We have cut back on gifts BIG time and decided to spend time together (and do cards or make gifts) for birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas. We can make each other feel special without buying tons of “things.”

We have prayed about it, discussed it, and decided what is important to us and a non-negotiable part of our budget. Here are a few things we ARE willing to spend money on/invest in right now.

  • When we get paid, we immediately tithe at least 10%, and we are always mindful of other opportunities to give.

“Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops;” –Proverbs 3:9

  • We buy as many real, clean, and organic foods as possible and buy the BEST supplements. Nutrition is one of THE most important aspects of health, and we believe in honoring God with our bodies.
  • We have a gym membership because this is our “hobby” and stress relief. I saved up and paid for a year so it is not part of our monthly expenses- plus, they gave us a significant discount for doing it that way.
  • Anything that is safety-related when it comes to the baby. Carseat, SnuzaHero/mattress cover, etc. His safety is important.
  • Books. We bought Amazon Prime so we can order books on the reg and not pay shipping. SO worth it! We read- a LOT! Christian books/Bible studies, leadership books, parenting books, etc. Personal growth is very important and we don’t want to ever stop learning!


A few other things we do:

  • Put the max amount in a ROTH IRA every year.
  • Save! Even if it’s $5, we make an effort to save every month.
  • Have an accountant. Because we own our own businesses, this is a smart investment for us.
  • Have only one credit card, and use it for EVERYTHING. It’s an easy way for us to track expenses, and we do not buy ANYTHING unless it is in our budget and we have the cash for it. We pay it off at the end of every month- no excuses- ever. And we use the travel points to help pay for AdvoCare trips. (I do not recommend this if you struggle with temptation to just swipe the card! We are both so tight that discipline with a credit card is not an issue for us, but if it were, we would NOT have a credit card.)
  • Redo our budget often. Takes lots of planning, discussion, and awareness. It helps us stay focused.
  • Multiple streams of income. We don’t put all of our eggs in one basket, but definitely focus the majority of our efforts in the businesses we know will pay us the highest for our efforts.
  • Pay any bills “in full” so we do not throw away money on interest.
  • Pray for contentment. (Hebrews 13:5) We know “more” is not “better.” We just want to be good stewards of the resources God has blessed us with.
  • Give more than we are comfortable giving. That is called FAITH, and we know you can never outgive God.

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35

We know it won’t happen overnight and are very realistic. And of course we aren’t perfect, but I am thankful we are on the same track and it feels good to know WHERE we are going!



Always Learning said...

We have always spent less than we earned even when we were first married and had very little. The only debt we ever had was our home and it is paid off now. We bought everything with cash, even our cars. Now that our children are all grown up, we love helping them out financially anyway we can. The Tightwad Gazette is a great book with many ideas how to save money.

Michelle Irons said...

I've been following your blog for a few months now and I enjoy your Christian view so much! I'm often sharing with our newlywed small group something I saw on your blog and now the wives are following you too! I've been married for about 6 months and we are working so hard at personal growth and our faith together and I've learned so much from your blog. From following your blog I've also just started my own, it's a working progress. Thanks for the great post and perspective!

elizabeth said...

I managed to stay out of debt until I met my husband. He had a spending problem when we met, and I went along with it, until we fell into a lot of debt. Both student loans & CC.

It is the classic American debt story.

Then we decided to get real about it, make A LOT of drastic changes, (like: we don't buy paper towels) and we are slowly reaching the end of our debt tunnel. By the end of next year we should be completely debt free except for our car payment which we will still have another year.

But we have come a long ways from where we started and have learned to make God the center of our financial choices. His way is always the right way.

I hope you continue to post about this topic! It's nice to see reminders for ourselves and I KNOW there are beginners out there who are looking for good tips/resources. :)

Janny said...

Keep it up! My parents taught us the envelope system when we were kids 20+ years ago and I'm sooo glad we all stuck with it. We're all very disciplined about our money and have no debt. Regarding clothes - have you registered at ThredUp yet? Check it out. I get my baby some great items on the CHEAP (starting at 12 months, but my 7 months fits into some items). (If you use this link we both get a credit!)

Janny said...

Keep it up! My parents taught us all the envelope system when we were kids 20+ years ago and I'm sooo glad they did. We are all very disciplined with money and have no debt. Regarding clothes, have you checked out ThredUp yet? I get my baby girl some darling items on the CHEAP (ok and myself a few things too). Practically new clothes for a fraction of the cost. Pretty nifty. If you use this link we both get a $ credit :) Woot!

Elise said...

Thanks for this! Dave Ramsey's book was awesome and it's nice to see someone else lives debt free.

Gina Bean said...

Thanks for sharing! Your journey is shockingly close to ours, and I always love hearing about others stories to know we aren't the only ones living this way :)

Unknown said...

Did you use a certain form when you documented all of your expenses (broken down into categories, etc). I am wanting to do this with my family and was just curious how you went about doing it. Thank you so much for sharing your blog. It is a blessing to read!!!!

Jaclyn @ Haute Granola said...

I'm doing a blog series this month about budgeting and finances. I was raised with no concept of saving money because we were blessed to grow up in a home with zero financial worries, but my husband (also of the entrepreneurial mindset) is incredibly financially focused.

Over the years I've learned how to budget and how to appreciate it. It's never easy, and it's taken me a long time to not get sucked into the instant gratification (I'm honestly still learning to resist).

Great post!

#mommylife said...

very inspiring! great post! :) :) i'm def gonna look into the debt buster program soon!

Unknown said...

Wow. I salute you for putting Bible passages in your article. And I admire the dedication and focus you put into managing your finances. May the good Lord lead you always in the right path.

Unknown said...

I found your blog a couple months ago and love seeing all the similiaries in our lives. We are also building an Advocare business and paying off all our debt this year! ($60,000!) I love reading your posts! :) What leadership level are you at in your business? We are currently at Silver and striving for Gold by March!