My Debt-free Birthday

Last Wednesday we celebrated my 32nd birthday. 

Birthdays look a bit different around our house these days. And we are okay with that. 

They are simpler, more intimate. Yes, because we are working furiously to pay off our debt. But, mainly because it’s tricky to surprise someone with a gift when you’ve planned everything to a “T” 3 weeks prior in your budget committee meeting!

Now, I love throwing a good party. One of my favorite things in the world is to stand back and see my closest friends and family enjoying each other’s company and forming new connections in a atmosphere I carefully crafted especially for them. So, we still have big – albeit not necessarily expensive- parties for the girls. And as they are getting older, their parties are more like a windstorm of chaos than the gleeful image I gave you above.

Anyway, for Alan and myself, we get to choose if we want gifts or just the good old cash. I took the cash!

It was fun to have extra money to spend on frivolous things like nail polish. I also purchased my first pair of Vans and have tucked away the remainder for a rare girls’ dinner on Friday night. 

My birthday started with Alan skipping his morning workout to make me coffee and breakfast. If you know Alan, you know this is huge! It ended with a funny card (my favorite), a homemade dinner of salmon and roasted potatoes and blowing out a candle on some cupcakes brought over by a sweet friend. Oh, and the family cleaning the house without complaining. #winning


Side note: If I’m being honest, I was completely wiped out from work when I got home. Before starting our debt free journey, I would have ordered a $20 unplanned pizza. Instead, we ate planned for salmon with side dishes we already had in our pantry. Yes, it was my birthday and I could have insisted on pizza. But, I also realize that just because it’s my birthday does not give me permission to derail our journey. It’s so hard to adult sometimes. 

It was a simple day, but the surprises tucked in along the way made it special. As I made a wish, blew out my candle, and looked at the three bright, smiling faces around me, I hoped for many more simple birthdays filled with the love many of you- my dear friends and family- so graciously give. 

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Meeting Old Blue, Part 2


As Alan I drove away, we knew there was a potential kink in our plan.

We didn’t have a second car.

In an ideal world, we would lovingly drop off our two children at their respective schools and then share happy, uplifting morning conversations over coffee while we carpooled to work together. 

But, alas, Alan leaves the house much earlier than the rest of us…and we literally work across town from one another. On a good day, it’s a least a 30 minute drive from my office to his. (In the south we measure distance in minutes, not miles. I have no clue how many actual miles separate us during the work day). 

We had poked around on a few used car sites and Facebook Garage Sale pages, but the cheapest car we could find was $5,000…and we had about $3,000 to spend.

We wanted a Toyota or Honda, as we felt confident it would last us until Spring 2018 at the very least…when we plan to be debt free.

So, at the time we sold the Nissan, we had one potential lead in a neighboring city. We felt a peace that this was going to be the car. Hell, it had to be. We didn’t really have a lot of options here!

By 6:30 that evening, I had picked Alan back up from work and dropped off the girls at our cousin’s house. 

We ventured to a neighborhood we were unfamiliar with, pulled up in the driveway, walked to the front door, knocked and waited. 

A tall, thin, salt-of-the-earth man came to the door. His jeans, boots and grease stains contrasted against Alan’s suit and my business-professional dress and heels. First impressions mean a lot to me. Almost instantly, he struck me as a hard-working family man. 

Together, we walked down to his garage and he showed us the car: a 2005 Toyota Camry with over 100,000 miles on it and selling for $3,000. And, of all things, it was blue. Nearly the same color as the Nissan. We later joked that this was good so Alan would not have complete car shock each morning when he walked into our own garage. But, seriously, I do think it helped!

We knew instantly we were going to buy this car, but we played around looking at it and taking a test drive “just to be sure.” 

The man shared they had an offer on the car a few weeks prior, but couldn’t get the title paperwork together in time to the previous potential buyers liking.

 We almost missed out.

By the time we made an offer and went upstairs to complete the paperwork, I think they were onto us.

“Are y’all doing the Dave Ramsey thing?” his wife asked.

When I replied yes, she shared they had too. In fact, it was what enabled her to be able to stay home with their young son.

And they decided to sell the car as a way to raise money to adopt their next child. 

Wait. What!?! 

God used our families to be a blessing to one another at a time when we both needed His grace. 

We thought we were getting a car and changing our own family tree. But, we helped change someone else’s too.

We affectionately welcomed the Camry into our family that night. And Old Blue, as we call her, is our symbol of sacrifice, humility and a new way of life. 

On that night, we said goodbye to our foolish habits and poor financial decisions and hello to Old Blue. 

P.S. After selling the car, we had exactly (within $4) the amount needed to pay off the Nissan, purchase Old Blue and do some necessary maintanance. You may call this a coincidence, but we think it’s just God being so good! 

Different and Doubt

flowerGetting out of debt is not all sunshine and flowers. So, if I’m being completely honest, I’m struggling with what I like to call stuffitis. 

I look around and see a co-worker’s sharp looking business clothes, a friend’s shiny car, a child at daycare who is perfectly put together, a girl at the doctor’s office whose attire is on trend yet casually chic, a neighbor with a newly landscaped lawn.

I want to appreciate and admire, but I feel self doubt instead.

I can’t appreciate their beauty because it brings out the lack thereof in my own.

My favorite shoes begin to look more worn; my go to work pants, faded; my jeans, too skinny; my sheath dress, dated; my kids, sloppy; my flowerbeds, overgrown.

Yes, I unashamedly like nice things. And I know when we are debt-free, our envelopes for certain budget items will expand. We will have more breathing room to accommodate needs and wants.

But for now, I’m stuck in this awkward state of spending paralysis when I do have money to spend on wants. Am I spending on the right want?

There is this need to spend on the exact perfect item, no matter how trivial its cost, because every extra penny we spend or save is significant to our journey right now. I can’t and won’t just go buy another this or that if the first item I chose doesn’t work out.

Perhaps this is an opportunity to budget in some small rewards when we reach large benchmarks? Or maybe it’s a opportunity to dig into a good Bible study and do some soul searching?

I know it’s best to keep my head looking forward, focused on the goal ahead. But, sometimes y’all, being different is just hard.

What We Do on Payday

It’s the happiest day of the month- pay day! Alan and I have found what we do, or don’t do, on pay day largely determines our success or failure for the reminder of the month.

I get paid solely on the last day of the month, while Alan gets paid on the 15th and the last day of the month.

However, these same principles apply even if your pay schedule is different. So, don’t think you have an excuse if your life doesn’t mirror ours. Every family’s situation is unique. But, that doesn’t mean you get to sell yours short by not getting it together financially.

Through trial and error (i.e. running out of money and having to sell things or pull from a different envelope to “make it work”) we’ve discovered these actions are non-negotiable must do’s to stay on track for the month.

  1. Take out all cash on payday– even if you have to sacrifice your lunch break to get it done. Because we get 3/4 of our monthly income on the same day, this works for us. An alternative approach is to take out half of your money for the month on the 1st and the remainder on the 15th. This may mean that some purchases will have to be delayed until the end of the month. That is completely okay. Delayed gratification is a perfectly acceptable- not to mention grown-up and biblical to boot- way to live.
  2. Take out the exact demoninations of bills you will need. So, if you have $12 budgeted for one category, you will need to get one $10 and two $1s. Yes, you will need to go inside a bank, stand in line and work with a human teller. This is not something you can accomplish using an ATM. Don’t think you can outsmart the system by just getting a $10 and making change from another category later. It will not work. It will get screwed up, you will fight with your spouse wish y’all would have just taken the correct amount to begin with. Trust me.
  3. Don’t spend any money until all cash is taken out and safely tucked away in its designated envelope. Again, it will not work. It will get screwed up. You will forget how much you spent, and three weeks later, wonder why you are $20 short on grocery money. And then you will have to forgo the money you needed/ wanted to spend on clothes because these tiny humans in your house expect regular meals and snacks…with fancy things like juice and ketchup. Note- if your hubby decides he just. Can. Not. Wait. for a haircut until his cash is in hand, just run over to the bank and deposit that cash! 

Now that your cash in its appropriate amounts is safely tucked away into its new home, you are free to begin spending! Just so long as you stick to your predetermined spending plan (I like that better than budget.) 

Here’s to a diligent, on-purpose, budgeted month!