What made the cut…

black-scissors

I spent MLK weekend on Dauphin Island with my best girl friends. Its a small island near my hometown of Mobile, Ala., that has miraculously – and thankfully – managed to escape the commercialized tourist attractions many beautiful coastal beaches have become.

With not much to do, we spent the weekend talking about life’s gifts, challenges and opportunities. A few of us have worked, or are currently working, Dave Ramsey’s plan.

My girls read the blog, so we began talking about my journey and how Alan and I paid off $52,000 in 2016.

I shared that a major player was that we cut so much from our budget…and I was asked, “What did y’all cut?”

Truth be told, I don’t even remember what all we cut. But that just goes to show that we clearly do not miss those things.

To satisfy my curiosity, and to help you see where you can trim your budget, I looked back at our spending before we started our debt snowball. Here’s what we though we couldn’t live without…

Sirius XM  RadioSavings: $12/ month and $144/ year. – Instead we listen to Pandora, podcasts or the old fashioned radio.

DirectTV  – Savings: $75/ month and $900/ year.  – We have an HD antenna and a Apple TV (which was gifted to us), so we are pretty set.

Gym MembershipSavings: $29/ month and $348/ year. Alan kept his. But, I had to be honest and admit that I am not going to go to the gym…no mater how much or how little my membership is! We do upgrade to a family membership for June – August ONLY so we can go to the pool on the weekends.

FoodSavings: $360/ month and $4,320/ year. Over the past year, we have gradually cut our food and toiletries budget from $850 to $490 per month. Honestly, I didn’t even realize how low it was until I did the math for this post! The key to this is choosing a grocery store that is known for having great prices, shopping very intentionally and only buying things you absolutely need for the upcoming week. I’ll save the rest of my grocery wisdom for another post.

ClothingSavings: $250/ month and $3,000/ year. This is another one of those things that involves a lot of intention. We only buy what we need when we need it. And we plan for it a month ahead. We shop around, use coupons and purchase an item that will get the job done for the best possible price.

Cell PhoneSavings: $78/ month and $936/ year. Are you financing your phone? Many of today’s contracts have you paying for your phone as you go…and you may not even realize it! We paid off our phones early and it lowered our bill significantly.

MiscellaneousSavings: $100/ month and $1,200 per year. For a while we had this catchall fund for things that came up we forgot to budget for. Well, it ended up just getting squandered on who-knows-what throughout the month. Now, if something comes up that is a need we must pay for – and its not a big tickets emergency – we will make a conscious and intentional decision to pull from another envelope.

For us, our budget is a work in progress. Just yesterday, we were discussing switching internet providers to see about getting a better price. It becomes a fun little game to see where you can save and look for opportunities not to spend money. I challenge you to look at your budget, see where you can cut and what you can save on. Are there “wants” you are calling “needs?” Yes, this process is challenging…but you can do it.  Romans 8: 28. 

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Gettin’ Old

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It’s gettin’ old, y’all.

Saying no to an impromptu dinner invitation because there is no cash envelope for last minute plans.

Waiting until next month to purchase new work pants, and hoping you can find a reasonable fit on sale.

Removing items from your grocery cart that you don’t really need so you can stay in budget for the week.

Worrying about what will come up that you can’t afford because you chose not to budget for it. I often have to remind myself chose is the operative word.

And, frankly, I’m tired of it.

So, I rebelled a little. I’m so bad at rebelling that I didn’t even know I was doing it until I sat down to write this post…

Yesterday, I took my girls to the grocery store, and tired of saying “No,”  I said YES! 

I needed to spend $70….and I spent $96 instead. And I’m not even sorry. Still in cash, just from a different category. From tithing, actually. So, maybe I do feel a little sorry. #CatholicGuilt. 

I said yes to $26 worth of items  we didn’t need. Yes, to organic vanilla yogurt and pink sugar wafers. Yes to cucumbers and tomatoes. Yes to hot dogs and hot dog buns. Yes to macaroni and cheese. Yes to a few more items that made their way into my cart.

Come to think of it, I should have also said yes to rocky road ice cream…

Have you read the book Wild? I felt like Cheryl Strayed when she reached a general store after days of hiking with pennies in her pocket, received a fresh $20 and had her way with a plethora of chips, burgers and Snapple Lemonade.

I haven’t quit the debt-payoff plan or given up on the cash system. I’m not lost forever and I haven’t abandoned ship. I just don’t want to do this anymore.

Thankfully, the end goal is that I won’t have to.

 

Time Changes Things

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In 2016, Alan and I paid off $52,000 of debt. Balances on credit cards, car notes, cell phones, and school loans gone over the course of 12 long months.

When we tell our close family and friends about our progress, they seem shocked we would be able to pay off this much in one year. And, quite frankly, I think we are too. But, we are not surprised.

Before last year, there were many times when Alan and I said, “If only we could just live off one person’s salary and use the other to pay off debt…”

But, that was never possible on paper or in practice.

In 2016, we didn’t plan to live off one income. But we did. Actually, we lived off less than one income, paying off more debt each month than what I bring home.

How did we do this?

We were extraordinarily intentional.

We have amazing parents, family and friends who encourage our goals. They pray for us, love on us and cheer with us. Heck, they even buy clothes for our kids or send us hand-me-downs, treat us to coffee, and insist we don’t buy gifts for each other at Christmas. And if they all think we are crazy, they haven’t let on yet. Except for that one time I brought a generic Coke to the office…

We cut up all our credit cards and closed them out about a year ago, and have never had one single moment where we missed or needed them…or their cash back…or their points. What about your credit score?! Well, it went up.

We said “no” to a lot of wants or unnecessary purchases by practicing a lot of self-control. I say “practiced” because it’s not perfected. Wants and needs get entwined. It’s never fun differentiate the two or easy to push your own desires aside for the good of the end goal.

But, at the end of the day, we had the grace and strength to come this far because God gave it to us. When I think of how far we have come, loaves and fishes repeatedly comes to mind.

Over the course of the year we cut our grocery expenses by several hundred dollars, spending less than $500 per month on food and toiletries for a family of four. Yes, including diapers and wipes. Yet, we always had plenty to eat.

We stopped going out to dinner…for the most part, we still occasionally celebrate at Steak and Shake where the kids are free and our crew can eat for $30! Whoop whoop! Yet, we always found something fun to do together.

We stayed home more. Yet, we took more bike rides, played outdoors and grew ever closer to our sweet neighbors who have become some of our best friends.

We continued dreaming, but I stopped coveting…a bigger home, a designer bag, expensive clothes, fancy beauty products, lavish vacations. While we are working toward being able to truly afford this type of lifestyle, the lust for it has been taken away.

Yes, the adjustments have been hard. To be honest, sometimes they completely suck. But, Alan and I hold strong in that just because something is hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

Once we are done paying off our debt, our spending habits will change. We will keep our cash envelopes, but hopefully they will become a little fatter.

 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24