Monday, June 16, 2014

Setbacks and FREEDOM!

I missed last month.  I just realized that I never wrote a post for May!  I am chalking it up to the craziness of school ending and me basically being a single parent for the second half of May.  I guess it just slipped my mind!  I know you were all hanging on the edge of your seats waiting, right!?!? :)
     Since the beginning I have known that this journey wasn't about money.  I mean from the outside it kind of seems like it is ALL about money, but for K and I this journey has been about finding a closer relationship with God and along the way learning some really great ways to be good stewards of our money.  I feel like the Lord has torn down pretty much all of our old ways of thinking about money and replaced them with new, better ways.  We feel like we truly understand a want vs. a need now.  For example, when my friends are untying my swimsuit and twisting it all up and tying it back up at the lake because I didn't realize how stretched out it had become and I wasn't able to walk around without flashing the whole beach, that constitutes needing a new swimsuit (true story, by the way).  Something else we have learned is that God shows up in different ways.  This year so far has been all about being a "slave to the lender."  K has worked an average of 85ish hours per week with little to no sleep.  God has continually shown up for us with random gift cards, encouragement, free babysitting and some friends that took us out to a nice restaurant (which was the first and only time we have gone on an evening date all year).  How have we stayed connected, you ask??  By the grace of God.  Seriously.  I can't give you an answer for that, but we have somehow managed to stay connected, if not grow closer through these last six months.  This journey has been long and difficult so far, but guess what?  We paid off all of our debt last Tuesday, June 10th!!!  WOOHOOOOOOOO!!!!!!  I am ecstatic now, but the day we paid it off was pretty much a joyless day (that crafty crafty Satan).
     When we paid off our debt it was the day after we had dropped my car off at the shop, again.  It had already gone in last month needing a new starter motor and $650ish dollars later it ran fine...until this month when K was taking our oldest to a sleepover up in Shingletown and was pushing the pedal to the medal and only able to go 40mph!!  So it went in to a different shop since the last one didn't know how to pick up a phone and let you know things about your vehicle when you had specifically told them that you were stranded at home with three kids who needed to get to school and no car because your husband works out of town (can you tell I was upset?).  Long story short, there was no joy or excitement when I sent that final payment because we had this huge looming unknown of my car and weren't able to find out until Thursday night that our bill was going to be 3600 bucks!  Talk about taking all the wind out of our sails.  We have the money to cover it, but it's going to take every single cent we have.  I moped around for a day or so feeling sorry for myself.  Funny how quickly and easily we can get discouraged even after six months of God showing up faithfully.  Like He wasn't going to show up this time as well.  God used some great people in my life to pull me out of my pity pit.  My parent's encouraged us first, since I was at their house when I found out the cost of my car.  My good friend Melissa told me it was going to be like driving a new car without the new car payment, which I honestly hadn't thought of.  My good friend from high school called me up to tell me that she and her husband were so encouraged by our journey that they are starting one of their own and were wanting to  say thank you for living this journey in the somewhat public forum of the internet.  More friends told me at a party last Saturday how our journey and this blog has impacted them and said thank you.  So THANK YOU to all of you!!!  You probably didn't know how much you helped pull me back up after getting knocked clean on my butt.  "He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." John 15:2.  Thank you Jesus for showing me the fruit that we are producing.  It's so encouraging!!!  It is to your glory God that we bear much fruit! :)
     So here are our totals:

  • New debt total as of June 16th- $0.00!!!!!!!
  • Amount paid off since April- $3972!!!
  • Amount paid off since we started- $24, 042.66 (higher than our starting total because of interest paid and a car issue that K had)

So, you must think we're going to Disneyland now or something, right!?  We're debt free!!!  Well, not so much.  While we are debt free (besides our house), the call that God placed on our lives was for the whole year, not just until we became debt free.  So we will still not be buying anything new for ourselves or any house projects etc. until next year.  We've made it this far, right!?  There are some things that we feel like we can relax on like coffee dates, but for the most part we're on to baby step number three and trusting God to lead us.  Our next goal is to have 10,000 of our 36,000 emergency fund built up by the end of the year.
     A side note, if you are reading this and feeling discouraged, please don't!  Know that this journey is the result of God working in both of us for quite a while.  K and I haven't always been on the same page when it comes to money, God brought us to this place with a lot of hard work and obedience.  However, be encouraged in the fact that if we can do it as two non-financial people with zero experience and just a few tools from the Dave Ramsey course, then you most definitely can!  Seriously.  If we can do it, ANYONE can.  haha!  Praise the Lord!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

It's an Early April Round Up! I'm too excited to wait!

        Ok.  I have to start off with a rant.  Bear with me.  It's a rant against THE MAN!  The bank man that is.  (To be more clear, the BIG bank man, not the small local banks. haha!)  Want to know how much we have paid in interest on just our three credit cards so far this year??? (keep in mind that two are now paid off) $490.83!!!!!  And it's actually more than that as I couldn't find the interest payments for January on our two Chase cards.'s the fun part!  Want to know how much interest we have made on our savings account since the beginning of the year!!??  Brace yourselves!  $0.05.  Yep FIVE FREAKING PENNIES.  WHAT A SCAM.  A little lopsided, don't you think??  Wow...thanks bank for my five cents.  Whatever will I do with all that money?  (HEAVY SARCASM)  My daughter finds more money on the ground at Michaels than we make in interest at your bank.  I don't know why this is making me so angry this morning.  But OHHHH I AM SO ANGRY!!!!  I guess it's bringing up lots of previous bad choices from my past with money and credit cards.  Let this be a warning to any and all young people who might be reading- DO NOT FALL VICTIM TO STUDENT CREDIT CARDS!!!!!!!!!  That is where my bad choices started so many years ago.  It only had a $1000 limit, but I think it took me six years to pay it off and there is NO WAY I could tell you what I bought with it.  How stupid is that!??!?  Do you want to know who you're supporting with your interest payments for that leather jacket you just couldn't wait to save up the money for so you put it on your credit card??  You are supporting CEO's of big banks that make MILLIONS every year.  It's pretty ridiculous when you think about it.  Why are interest rates so low on savings accounts??  Could it be that banks don't need our money anymore because credit cards have become so profitable for them?  There is no longer a need to entice customers to put their money in their vaults and so they don't give a you-know-what about what they pay you in interest.  That is just my theory.  They start to care, when you have lots of money, but for the majority of us regular people they could care less.  Please know, I am not trying to demonize bankers...I used to be one!  It's the brass that annoys me.  The people who run their companies with greed in their hearts and then get deemed "too big to fail."  How many CEO's of banks lost their homes in the last crash?  How many lost everything they had?  I would guess 0-1.  Now, how many middle class people lost everything?  Their homes?  Jobs?  I guess it makes me so angry because it makes me see how greedy we have been and I don't like to equate myself with a greedy bank CEO.  Man it sucks to type that!  haha!  But it's true.  How many things have K and I bought because we weren't willing to wait and work to save the money?  I don't know.  Too many.  It ends now...forever.  And so does my rant.  HAHA!
     Boy did I trick you all with my title!!  Not really.  I AM excited about what has happened this month!!!  First, let me tell you about how we messed up.  There was a period of about 10 days or so where we just lost it.  It was a mix of exhaustion and poor planning.  We lost track of spending and while we didn't buy things, we ate out WAY too much.  In wondering what happened, I realized that our tax return had been sitting in our checking account and we had fallen back into old habits and were using it as a "buffer."  It was like a weird sub-conscience thing.  We knew we shouldn't have left that money in the checking account, but it happened and it was a big fat fail.  Anyway, what got us back on track was only what I could describe as a weird "funk" over our house.  Then that night God gave me a dream.  It was me, balancing the check book and looking at things online and realizing that if these other checks cleared that we weren't going to have funds to cover everything.  It was one of the most boring dreams ever, but what was weird was that it was SO REAL.  I was literally messed up for two days about what was real and what was from that dream.  I kept worrying that we didn't have enough money and then finally when I sat down to double check everything, I realized it was all from the Lord.  I took the dream as a warning and also that the Lord wanted me to take another look at our finances.  Why were we sitting on this tax return?
     Finally when K got home from work, we talked about how we had messed up and he made a good point.  He said it just didn't feel right to have this money sitting around when we still had debt to pay off.  We needed to not hoard it.  I don't know why I thought we could keep our tax return.  Sometimes I guess I need to be reminded that it really is ALL God's! (apparently I need reminding of this monthly) "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight," Proverbs 3:5-6.  I love how God used a "funk" and a dream to make our path straight again.  Once we listened and took that money and put it toward debt, it made a HUGE difference both in our debt total and in our enthusiasm for this call that God has placed on our lives this year.  Ok...let's get into some numbers!

  • New debt total as of April 23rd- $3, 971.13
  • Amount paid off since last month- $8429.20!!!!
  • Amount paid off since we started- $18, 428.87!!!!  
Our tax return paid off my Chase card, which was half of the HVAC system.  Then, because of K working his butt off we were able to make a $2500 payment to the other half of the HVAC on the other Chase card!  So insane!! We also "paid back" our tax return the money that we shouldn't have used from it.  It's so ridiculously amazing!  I was just laughing in disbelief when I was paying bills because the Lord is just so good.  His ways are ALWAYS better than my ways.  Let me end with a well known verse among Dave Ramsey peeps because it rings SO TRUE to how we feel right now.  It is Proverbs 6:5- "Free yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler."  We are keeping that gazelle intensity until we are debt free!!!!!!  Praise the Lord!

Friday, March 28, 2014

It's the March Round-Up! And it's Madness!!!! (Get it? March Madness?) :)

     We are three months into a year that the Lord has called us to be content with what we have for one whole year.  That means we are not buying anything for ourselves.  No clothes, which is no big deal for me.  The no house projects on the other hand is HUGE for me.  We have been shown so much grace and provision in these three months it is incredible.  We have felt so supported by our friends and family and we are so thankful for that!  Let me share with you all a few things we have learned and also how we're coming along in our effort to kick our debt in its FACE!!!!!
     First off, let me share this story with you because it happened recently and it's my blog and I can.  haha!  I was sitting in church last Sunday fiddling with my wallet that holds all of our cash.  (It has sections in the back that you can label...meant for coupons, but AWESOME in place of envelopes! Bed Bath and Beyond is where I got mine...thanks for the tip Bethany Skinner! :)) I don't know why I was doing that instead of paying attention, but that's what was happening; I get distracted easily, just ask my husband.  Anyway, I looked in an obscure side pocket and found our tithe check from February!  I NEVER put checks in that wallet.  I have another place that they go so I won't forget about them.  Apparently I missed my own memo.  "Oh well," I thought.  "At least I'm at church and I can just give it to them now.  Perfect!"  That's when I heard the Lord say to me, "I am giving that to you."  "Lord," I said, " have it all wrong.  I am giving this to YOU!"  "Use this money to pay off your car," said the Lord.  "No." Said my self-righetous self.  "This money is yours God!"  Then the Lord said to me, "ALL money is mine.  And I am giving this to you."  I didn't know what to think.  We have been continuing to give our tithe this whole time because we felt like the Lord wanted us to.  Now he wanted us to keep it!?  It did NOT feel right.  I went home, called K and told him about it and asked him to pray about it and I would do the same and we would talk about it the next day.  While I was making dinner I was reading Proverbs (sometimes that's the only time I get when my kids aren't pulling at me because they know I'm going to feed them food so they don't interrupt.  HAHA!) and God highlighted a verse for me.  It reads, "To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice," Proverbs 21:3.  My mind was blown (which seems to be a regular occurrence these days).  The Lord is PROUD of us.  He DELIGHTS in us following his will and saying yes when He calls.  He would rather see us pay off our car, doing what is right and good, than see us just give another sacrifice to the church.  Now please.  I am NOT saying that you shouldn't give to your church!  We still feel called to give and we will continue next month as usual, but I have a much different attitude about it now.  Instead of, "here you go is OUR money for YOU."  It's, "Here Lord, here is YOUR money, what would YOU have US do with it?"  I feel like this was a HUGE lesson for us and am so humbled that God is cheering us on in huge ways.  Our tithe check was for $400...we owed $414 on my car.  We went down the next day and paid that sucker off.  Here are some pics because we are dorks.

So excited to own my Excursion!

The Banker helping us thought we were funny and probably a little crazy. :)

Little D's excitement doesn't show on his face, but I like to think he was jumping for joy on the inside!  HAHA!

MAN THAT FELT AMAZING!!!  What a gift from the Lord!  Now let's get to the numbers and see where we stand going into April!

  • New debt total going into April- $12, 400.33!!
  • Amount paid off since last month- $3,095.87!!!!
  • Amount paid off since we started- $10,000!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you would have asked both of us last December when we would have had our debt paid off we would have said maybe some time next year, meaning 2015.  Never in my craziest dreams would we have thought we would have been able to pay off $10,000 in a year...let alone THREE MONTHS!  God is SO GOOD.  That is the point.  If we were trying to do this on our own, there is no way we would have had the conviction to stick with every extra penny we have going to debt.  It's not easy and we have messed up...ok I have messed up (remember my coffee I bought?), :) but it's all a part of this learning journey we're on.  So thankful today for God's grace and really is limitless.

Have a great weekend friends!!  April starts on Tuesday!  AHHHH!!!!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Exhaustion Setting In

   "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man." Proverbs 24: 33-34.  "The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. " Proverbs 22:7.  The Lord led me to these verses tonight to encourage me.  Not the most encouraging verses right?  I didn't think so either until I started thinking about it.  You see, I miss my husband.  He is my best friend.  Not the cliche, "I'm married to my best friend!"  No.  He truly is my best friend.  He knows everything about me, he is patient with me, he supports me, he loves me unconditionally, and he is a HUGE help to me when he is home.  As I sit here and watch a documentary about tornados (I know...don't judge me) I can just feel the emptiness; and I don't like it.
     Being alone comes with the territory of being a fireman's wife, this I know.  We also knew that this year was going to be tough.  After almost three months of K basically working four days straight and then being home for two we are starting to feel it here at home.  We all miss him.  That's why these verses were so encouraging to me.  They spell out exactly what we are avoiding by K being gone so much and what we are living out at the same time.  The first verse gives purpose to this emptiness and the second rings true in so many ways.  Let me tell you, we definitely feel like servants to Chase Bank until these credit cards are paid off.   Thank you Jesus for knowing exactly what I need to hear and when.
     Here's a funny story, I had a fail moment last Saturday and stopped at Dutch Bros. on my way to the kid's basketball games. (Yay for transparency)  They got smoothies and I got a coffee.  I wasn't supposed to get that coffee.  Know why?  My parents showed up to the game with a surprise coffee for me!  GEORGIA.  GET IT THROUGH YOUR HEAD.  GOD KNOWS YOUR NEEDS.  EVEN COFFEE.  REMEMBER THE GIFT CARDS!?!?!?  I think I am still shaking from all the caffeine I drank that day.

***(Hang on while I find a new documentary to watch...the tornado one just ended.  Here we go...National Geographic: Dawn of the Maya.  Exciting, right!?)***

     I realized tonight that this journey doesn't end after this year is up.  We need to keep moving forward so that this doesn't happen again.  No more servant role for us unless we are serving our God!  I realized today that we quit the first go around.  We stopped following the Dave Ramsey principles after we had our debt paid off and never moved past baby step number two.  Not this time.  We will attack the emergency fund next so this doesn't happen again.  God has blessed us with too much for us to live our lives in bondage.
     So friends, pray for us please.  Pray that I can be still and just trust God.  Pray that God will continue to encourage us to finish the race as we are only 1/4 of the way through the year.  If you are reading this blog know that I am praying for you and asking God to highlight what you might need to read today.  That you might leave this site feeling encouraged (except for my whiny post today ;))  in your finances and ready to tackle some debt along with us!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Good Words, A Travel Fund and little bit of selfishness....OK a lot. :)

     So I just have to say how encouraged we are by everyone's encouragement of us!!  I have had more people vox, text or just tell me how God has used this blog to teach them something in their own lives or are encouraged just knowing that someone else is going through the same thing too.  It's SOO HELPFUL to hear those comments!!  I just want to thank you so much because God always seems to have someone do it when we need it most.  This journey is becoming about so much more than finances.  There is a much bigger picture that God is getting at.  I've mentioned before about the legacy we are leaving for our kids and I know that is a big part of it, but your finances are the lifeline of your family for most people.  How they are handled says a lot about your priorities and what you value.  Matthew 6:21 says- "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  We were storing up all the wrong treasure.  God, with all His grace, is helping us correct that wrong.  Praise the Lord that he loves us so much to redirect our paths even when we don't know we're on the wrong one!  I just have to shout for joy really quick- "WOOOOO HOOOOOOO!!!"  Ok. Done. For now.
     I must share with you all about our travel fund.  Our travel fund consisted of a gallon sized glass jar that we would put all of our extra change into from the cash budget purchases.  Well throughout this journey it has been sitting on our counter almost full of change and some dollar bills.  Check it out-
It was pretty full!!

I had felt a tiny little pull from the Lord early on about this jar.  I ignored it.  So lame I know.  I justified hanging onto this jar of coins because it was for the whole family!  It wasn't just a jar that was for me and K, we had talked at length with the kids about what we were going to use this money for.  Hawaii came up, Disney Land and even a trip to Utah to see my sister and her family.  It had a purpose.  God wanted me to let it go.  I was being a big baby and didn't want to let it go.  "WHAAA!" I said to God...."Just let me keep this!  It's just coins...mostly!"  I hung onto it until one day my husband called when he got to work.  He had felt convicted about that stupid jar all the way to work and felt like we weren't really giving our all if we didn't give this jar up.  SO LAME!  At least that's what I thought at the time.  Anyway, when he got home, he and the kids emptied it out, sorted and rolled it up.  It was super exciting that I will share some pictures with you!

Their faces say it all...pure excitement!

The barbie in the back has passed out from the sight of all this coin!

They were such good sports about it, and I think it helped make them more a part of this journey as well.

See?  Thrilling!  The grand total came out to $277.50.  The next day we marched down to Golden One and made a payment toward the principle on my car loan.  Every. Penny. Counts.  Every penny that goes toward this debt is a penny toward freedom.   I don't miss that travel fund.  All the change we get now goes into the debt jar for a extra little payment at the end of each month.  I don't know why I was such a baby about this (That darn selfishness again).  I laugh at myself now, but if we are obedient in the small things we will be trusted with bigger things.  This is about so much more than just our finances. "Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noon day sun," Psalm 37: 5-6.  We commit our ways to you Lord.  ALL our ways.  Even our travel funds.

Thanks for reading friends!  Hope you had a great weekend!!

Friday, February 28, 2014

February Round Up!!! It's a good one!

     At the risk of every one of these month ending round up blogs sounding the same, I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S ALREADY MARCH TOMORROW!!!  Seriously.  We have been at this for two whole months!  I am so excited to share with you about our month!!  Let's dive in and see how we progressed.
     If you recall last month (or maybe you don''s really not a big deal) we didn't meet our goal for the amount that we would like to pay each month toward our debt.  Life happened.  We dusted off our initial disappointment and moved on knowing that God is leading this and we are just following along.  During the month of January K was able to pick up a lot of overtime.  A LOT.  I averaged out his hours and he ended up working 80 hours/week last month.  That is TWO full time jobs.  That guy is insane.  I have never been more thankful for his job and the fact that he LOVES it.  Especially since he is spending so much time there this year!  haha!  Let me tell you, if we had tried to do this three years ago we would have failed...miserably I might add.  We wouldn't have known how to stay connected when he is basically at work for two thirds of the time and home for one third.  God's timing is always perfect.
     Anyway, because of the perfect storm of K working his tushie off coupled with a light bill month, meaning we have a few bills that come every other month or quarterly and this month was one of only two times this year that all of those bills weren't due, (Again, God's timing is perfect) we were able to pay off our American Express in FULL.  IN FREAKING FULL.  SO GOOD!!!  We also have what we call a "debt jar."  That is everything extra cash-wise that comes in goes into that jar.  For example, my work money, a reimbursement check from K's work for a class, any extra money left over from our cash budgets all get tossed into the jar.  We had two months worth of money in there because I forgot to deposit it last month (And maybe I was just holding onto it because I am lame) so yesterday I was able to take that money and make a payment for $211.77 to the principle on my car.  Woohoo!  Here's how the numbers look for us now after February:

  • New Debt Total: $15, 496.20!
  • Amount paid off since we started: $6, 910.90!!!!
  • Amount paid off since last month: $5, 819.01!!!!  
    I love seeing how God is providing work for K and all he has to do is say yes.  Working 80 hours/week is no joke, especially since most of that time he doesn't get much sleep working in one of the busier houses in the fire district.  I am so thankful for the convictions and passion that God has put into both of our hearts for this year and years to come.  We are learning so much.  We were talking the other night and started wondering what we would have done with extra money like we had this month if God hadn't called us to this this year.  We had no idea.  We would have saved some for sure, but who knows what else we would have spent that money on.  Nothing important enough for me to think of right now!  We definitely wouldn't have spent every last penny we could getting rid of our debt, I can tell you that.
     So that is where we stand this month.  It was a really good month!  Months like this will balance out the ones where we aren't able to pay off as much.  Please remind me of that when I am whining about one of those times.  :)  Thank you in advance!!

Have a great weekend friends!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Transforming to Humility

         Recently I had to come to a hard realization...I am prideful.  Not the kind of prideful that you are thinking about.  I don't walk around telling everyone how awesome and amazing I am (at least not all the time..haha!) and I don't think I am better than anyone else.  I know that I am saved by grace and grace alone...not by anything of my own doing.  This kind of pride is the sneaky kind.  
     I have had some amazing friends offer me yarn and paint among other things because they know what we're doing this year and that those things aren't in our budget.  What was weird for me was noticing right after they offered me these things I had a feeling that I didn't deserve it.  It didn't last very long and I was excited to receive these things, but I couldn't shake that initial feeling that came over me.  I prayed about it and came to the realization that I didn't feel like I deserved those things because we do have money.  K actually makes good money in his job...we are not struggling to put food on the table.  It just so happens that all of our extra money is going to pay off debt that we created.  My pridefulness was in my thinking that God didn't need to bless us with these things because we didn't deserve it.  We created this don't need to bless us...just let us dig ourselves out of it God.  We've got worries God.  You've got so many other things to deal with.  See??  SNEAKY!   The amazing thing is that God knows we created this mess...but he doesn't care.  
     God wants to bless us through this mess we created.  He doesn't want the enemy to try to take those acts of kindness from friends and discredit them by turning them into acts of pity.  God showed me that our friends aren't offering these things because they pity us...quite the opposite actually.  They are offering us these things because they are 100% behind what we are doing this year and that is how they are showing us their support or cheering us on.  Take that Satan!  It's been such a freeing thing to realize and takes me off the defensive if someone offers us something.  So good.  I love this journey.  Want to hear the verse that the Lord led me to?  It's pretty amazing...I will answer for you.  You want to hear it.  Proverbs 11:2 says "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom."  MIND. BLOWN.  How true is that!?!?  How is it that I have read through Proverbs at least four times and never had this verse pretty much yell in my face from the page.  I love those moments when God uses his word to slap you upside the face with wisdom.  Thanks God!  
     Here is a picture of my "new" red door.  Isn't it FREAKING AWESOME!?  I am so glad I didn't let that sneaky pride take over or I would still have a plain boring door.  It's the little things, you know? :)