Confessions of Cultural Heretics

"When the whole world is running headlong towards the precipice, one who walks in the opposite direction is looked on as being crazy." T.S. Elliot

Archive for the category “Finances”

Snowballing at last

As we have mentioned in a previous post, Brian and I went through Dave Ramsey’s course called Financial Peace University when we were engaged. This class had a huge impact on our relationship and helped us to get on the same page about money and set up a long term game plan. Our first goal was to each get an emergency fund in place and then to start attacking our student loan debt. After we married, we combined our incomes and formed a new, written budget every month, which we have done every month since. Although our income was by no means huge, we were able to pay off a few of the smallest loans in just a few months. 

Then came our first pregnancy and Brian’s acceptance to medical school (both of which we were hoping for). This changed our position tremendously. We both felt strongly about me staying at home with our baby, yet also felt convicted to find a way to pay for medical school without putting our family into $150,000+ further into debt. I was able to find a temp job after our move which covered much of our living expenses until the baby was born, but didn’t touch the cost of Brian’s first semester of med school. Every avenue we had pursued came to nothing and we knew we needed to make some tough decisions if we were going to remain committed to avoiding taking on any additional debt while Brian pursued his degree.

So after much prayer and soul searching, Brian joined the Navy (something he had pondered since college, but I wasn’t too keen on at that time). We banked the sign- on bonus for a large emergency fund, and lived off our monthly stipend. Although our monthly stipend wasn’t much, I was able to supplement our income a bit from tutoring and became a true home economist to keep our expenses down. By the grace of God, we were able to ride out the remaining three and a half years without adding to our debt, despite cash flowing two pregnancies and deliveries, a major dental procedure and the purchase of a van.

Fast forward to the present and we are thrilled to be able to press play once again and begin attacking our debt with a vengeance. We just paid off  my last student loan ($9190.82), using the money we had been saving for emergencies during medical school. Only $39423 to go! Target date to being debt free: June 2014. We’ll keep you posted.

~Johanna

5 Quick and Easy Ways to Save Money

As a stay at home mom, I feel it is part of my job to continually be looking for ways to economize and save money. To make this realistic, I found it helpful to start by attempting one thing at a time. Perfecting my homemade bread took time and if I had been trying to learn how to make yogurt or can at the same time, I doubt I would have stuck with anything very long.

  1. Make your own bread– I have been using this recipe for almost 2 years now and over time have altered it to include ultragrain flour for a fiber and whole grain boost, using Eagle Mills Ultra grain unbleached all purpose flour.  It is fantastic even after the loaf has been frozen.  If you have a good stand mixer, it is even easier and requires no kneading!
  2. Make your own Yogurt-our three year old inhales yogurt and can easily go through 2 quarts a week himself.  We received this model from my wonderful mother in law for Christmas and the yogurt it has produced has been thick and creamy.
  3. Make your own laundry detergent-with a new baby in cloth diapers and a toddler who is potty training, the washer is pretty much constantly going. Good detergent is SO expensive, so I found this really simple laundry detergent recipe
  4. Use cloth diapers-we use the unbleached Indian cotton prefolds  with the rumparooz one size fits all covers.
  5. Can and/or Freeze fresh produce from your garden or local market-I have been blessed with a wonderful neighbor who taught me how to can and a mother who is just a phone call away for quick questions. This book is a great introduction to a variety of techniques for those who are just beginning or in need of brushing up some rusty skills.

-Johanna

How Dave Ramsey Shaped Our Lives

When Brian and I were engaged we began to realize how differently we approached money. I was a saver and he was a spender, I was the nerd, he was the free spirit. Although this had been a concern while we were dating, it never really was an issue that needed to be addressed while our finances were still separate. But good, honest marriage preparation has a tendency to bring these issues out of the closet. One day my boss mentioned that there was going to be Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University classes starting on the campus where I worked. I grew up listening to Dave in the car with my Dad as he drove me to class on his way to work. Immediately I knew this was something that Brian and I needed to do.

When I told him about it, however, he was not enthused. He said it was too expensive (so I paid the $100 to take away that excuse) he said it was too big a time commitment when we were both working full time (one night a week for 13 weeks). Finally, I decided to press hard. I told him it was really important to me and asked if he would do it for me? He relented. To this day I still think that was the best 100 bucks I ever spent and Brian has thanked me over and over for dragging him to that first class. After the first session, we were both hooked. Everything Dave said made sense and we had so much fun while we were learning! Looking back, we consider Financial Peace University one of the best practical things we did to prepare for marriage.

But things began to change dramatically in our relationship before the course was even over. For the first time, we had written individual budgets. I felt a sense of peace when I finally knew exactly where I stood financially.   Neither one of us made much money and like many brand new college grads, thought we didn’t have enough money to make a budget, but having a written game plan for the month was like getting a pay raise.  We were amazed how earmarking where each penny would be spent before the month began kept us disciplined in our purchases and prioritize our needs and wants. It was so important for us to get on the same page while our finances were separate in order to make the transition to marriage and joint accounts smooth. Because of FPU, it was an easy and exciting transition for us.

As a married couple, we implement the lessons of FPU every day. I carry an envelope system for our cash categories. Before the beginning of each month, we use Dave Ramsey’s Monthly Cash Flow Form to plan and prioritize our budget. Over the course of the month, we have frequent discussions to keep each other up to date on where we are. Now we take pride in finding big big bargains on our usual purchases and clever ways to enjoy a night out.  The knowledge gained from FPU has guided us in making the biggest decisions and kept us on track when facing small temptations.

At a time when the number one cause of divorce is money fights, we have been blessed with financial peace. Because of Dave, we have long term goals and patience to sacrifice to get there. I no longer worry about money. Although we still live on a tight budget, I don’t worry anymore about money. I know right where we are, where we are going and we have an emergency fund for the things we can’t predict.

One day while in prayer, I realized that fear about money is not a fruit of the Spirit and in fact can hold us back from our duty to be good stewards of the money God has trusted us with. How can I use it for His glory if I don’t even know where it is going or have a plan for how I can get to a point where I am more free to bless others with it? Our goal is not to become wealthy so we can buy anything we want or do anything we like, but rather to become financially secure so that we can provide for the needs of our family and then be the instruments of the Lord in whatever work He has for us.

That’s why we’re living like no one else, so that later, we can live like no one else!

For those of you wanting to know more, Dave’s Total Money Makeover is a must read!

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