Dumping Debt: Part 3

Three years ago my mom gave me Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) kit for my birthday. While I was a little skeptical, at first, I read the book and listened to the CDs on my way to and from work…and I allowed Mr. Ramsey to change my perspective on how I handled money.

So, when my boyfriend (now hubby) and I were getting serious, we watched the DVDs together. I could tell he was a little skeptical, as well. However, he gave it a try. He saved up and purchased my engagement ring with cash, and when we got married, we did so, debt-free (you can read about that here); even our honeymoon was paid in cash! During our first 7 months of marriage we worked hard at paying down our debt, which included his car and my student loan.

In November, we discovered we were pregnant! Being just one payment shy of having the hubby’s car paid off, we went ahead and made the final payment, and then pushed pause on our debt-snowball; only making a minimum payment on my student loan each month. Then, we saved during the pregnancy. We did purchase a used car, with cash, when my car went out of commission earlier this year, but then we continued to save. After this mommy and baby came home from the hospital, we used the money we’d saved to pay off the hospital bills, and put a huge chunk down on my student loan.

And on October 31st, 2017, we made our LAST student loan payment, making us DEBT FREE at last!!

Now, we’re on to Step 3, and then on to what Dave calls Step 3B, which is a down payment for a house. And guess what! YOU can do it too! It takes hard work and self-discipline, yes, but it’s possible!

Have I mentioned that after baby girl came, I left my job!? I’m now a stay-at-home mom, because we made good financial decisions based on Dave Ramsey’s principles!

Do you have any dreams or goals that you continually push aside, because your finances prevent you from chasing them? Perhaps you should check out Dave Ramsey’s FPU. You won’t regret it.

7 Baby Steps

  • Step 1: Save $1000 Emergency Fund
  • Step 2: Debt Snowball
  • Step 3: Save 3-6 months of Expenses << This is where we are now!
  • Step 4: Invest 15% of Household Income
  • Step 5: College Funding for Children
  • Step 6: Pay off House Early
  • Step 7: Build Wealth & Give!
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Study with Purpose

Good day! I know, it’s been a while. It’s been almost 2 months since I’ve started working a part-time job, in addition to my full-time position, and I’ve just been really tired, lately. So, I apologize.

A few weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook wall, that we must beware confusing faith with superstition and that I would write more on this at a later date. Well, today is that day…lol.

I’m always left speechless when I see/hear things about people flipping randomly through their Bible and expecting to land on the perfect passage for their current state of life. While there may be a few instances when the Holy Spirit leads you to the perfect passage for the particular moment, this is not usually the case. We should not be randomly flipping through the Scriptures to find our daily passages of study. There’s a specific way to study the Word and it’s not randomly selecting verses or passages.

I’ve heard it said that you should always read 12 verses before, and 12 verses after, when reading any particular verse or passage of Scripture, so as to read the verse within context; but I feel like this is too simplified, and while this may help, there’s still a better way. Let’s take a look at a few things we need to take into consideration when we study the Bible…

Motives

In my Multiply: Week 7 post we talked about our motives for studying the Word. We talked about studying the Bible so that we can learn more about who God is, as well as learn more about ourselves and the world we live in. We talked about studying the Word so that we can be changed by it, and exalt Jesus in our daily lives; so that our relationship with God is strengthened; and so that we are prepared for our God-given mission. If we’re randomly choosing Scripture to study, we’re not exactly going to grasp the full meaning and purpose behind the text. How can we recognize and understand the heart of God, without reading the rest of the book and comparing the passages?

Prayerfully & Obediently

Many people complain that the Word of God is too difficult for the ordinary believer to understand. I usually respond by repeating, “Make sure your praying for understanding from the Holy Spirit, when studying the Word.” The only way we’re going to grasp the meaning of Scripture is by allowing the One who wrote it, to reveal it to our hearts. As 1 Corinthians 2:9-14 states:

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

We are absolutely dependent upon the Holy Spirit to reveal the wisdom found in the Word and to help establish it in our lives. Francis Chan puts it this way, “Perhaps the strongest reason for saturating our Bible study in prayer is that we desperately need the Spirit to make our lives align with the truths we are studying” (Multiply). The truth of the Word means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t change us and we don’t apply it to our lives.

Study Logically

We study logically by considering the context of the scripture. We ask questions such as:

  • Who wrote this passage?
  • To whom was it written?
  • What was going on during this time period?
  • Where was this taking place?
  • Why did this happen?

We study logically when we recognize that there’s a difference between interpretation and application. Interpretation means that we ask what the passage actually says and means. Whereas application means we apply that meaning to a specific situation. “Ultimately, each passage has one meaning, but it might have many different applications…We should all read the same passage and walk away with the same meaning” (Chan, Multiply).

Sometimes there are passages in Scripture that contain metaphors, parables, poems, prophecies, and other literary devices, and when that’s the case, it’s simply stated. However, for the most part, we should be looking for the plain meaning of the Scripture and take the Bible literally, rather than allowing our personal agendas or assumptions divert us from what God is saying in a passage. “We need to learn to take Scripture at face value” (Chan, Multiply).

Lastly, two of the most important aspects of studying the Scripture is to let go of our presuppositions, and allow the Word of God to transform our way of thinking, our lifestyle, and actions.

*For more on how to study the Bible, I highly recommend Francis Chan’s Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples.

Book Review – Expectant Parents: Preparing Together for the Journey of Parenthood

When my husband and I found out we were expecting, I was still working at a Christian Bookstore part-time, and came across this book for expectant parents. I only read two books during my pregnancy; this one by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin, and Pregnancy: The Best Time to Submerge Your Baby in Prayer, by Edna Rivera. (I discussed the other one with my husband, but decided not to review it here because it was originally written in Spanish and we think some of it was lost in translation. I’d give the English translation 3 out of 5 stars.)

20170911_195623I enjoyed Gosselin’s book because it wasn’t about how to take care of a baby; I grew up with four younger sisters, so that’s not the part of parenting that scared me. Instead, this book discusses not only some of the changes your body will face during pregnancy, but also things like your changing marriage/relationship; how your finances or career decisions may be affected; and social challenges you may face.

A few of my favorite chapters are those directed at dads, surviving the social sides of pregnancy, and the chapter on fitting in and finding community. 

My husband isn’t much of a reader, but I convinced him to read the “Being a Dad” chapter. And I didn’t realize how beneficial the chapters on surviving the social aspects of pregnancy and finding community were until we found ourselves planning our own baby shower and, later, bringing our precious bundle home. Our family doesn’t live nearby, so we don’t have the familial support like many of our friends. Now, 7 weeks in, I’m searching for a mommy group and/or women’s bible study.

In conclusion, if you’re an expectant parent I recommend adding this book to the list of parenting books you’ll want to read. 

Babies, Budgets, & Faith

It’s currently around 2 a.m. and I’m beginning this post as I feed my 5-week-old baby girl, whom I affectionately call my Cookie Girl. If you’ve been following this blog, you know that we discovered last Thanksgiving that we were expecting, and since then it’s been a challenge to write because I’ve had baby on the brain, lol. It’s no joke; once you discover you’re pregnant, that baby is all you can think about for the next few months and it’s a real challenge to discuss anything else.

Angelica&amp;Wilfredo(1of39)Pregnancy is one of the most faith-testing things I think a woman can face; at least it was for me. I’m someone who likes to plan and be in control, and pregnancy is so outside your control. Everything is completely in God’s hands. From the timing of conception, to the sex of the baby, the health of mom and baby, and to the circumstances and time of the delivery; He plans and knows every detail, leaving us with no choice but to trust Him.

I thank God for a healthy and smooth pregnancy and delivery. I know not everyone has a good experience during pregnancy. I had some nausea during the first trimester, but nothing too serious, and not until my last trimester did I have a ton of difficulty sleeping and swelling in my legs and feet. I gained a pretty healthy amount of weight by mostly sticking to foods high in protein throughout, not giving in to every craving, and drinking lots of water. And when my water broke at 5:30 a.m., in July, we were blessed to welcome a precious, healthy baby girl into our arms, just 12 hours later.

When we found out we were pregnant, we were just a payment or two shy of paying off my husband’s car. So we finished that, and then, just as Dave Ramsey suggests, we paused our baby step two–paying off debt–to save for baby.  However, while we were adding to our emergency fund, my car’s power-steering gave out on me one night, just as I was merging onto the highway. This pushed up our timeline to purchase another vehicle by a few months, and we were able to purchase a new used vehicle with cash, in May. Then we went back to putting money into our emergency fund for the rest of the pregnancy.

To be quite honest, I wasn’t as on my budget game as I should have been during this pregnancy. The biggest budget buster for us was food, since nothing ever sounded appealing to me, lol. But we did save in other ways. An area I recommend to save money on is maternity clothes. I suggest only purchasing a pair or two of maternity jeans; two pair of dress pants, if you work outside the home; two maternity shirts; two tank tops; two or three pairs of maternity leggings; and three or four maternity/nursing bras. I also picked up a few stretchy, flowy, dresses from Ross to wear as tunic tops with my leggings, and my sister sent me a few beautiful dresses she’d found on the clearance rack, as well. Dresses, leggings and tunic tops were my best friends towards the end, and I’m still wearing them post-pregnancy, since my pre-preggo pants aren’t fitting just yet.

Baby clothes are another area to save in. We realized early on that there are sooo many cute baby clothes out there that it would be very easy to go overboard. I had to remind myself, more than once, that our new baby wouldn’t need all that many clothes. Baby’s outgrow them really fast; and clothes tend to get laundered every few days anyways. Most importantly, God really instilled in me that our children are not toys or fashion accessories; Cookie Girl has been entrusted to my husband and I to raise and train for His glory, not to put on display. Besides, what would we be teaching her if we were overly concerned about her appearance? The Lord, Himself, says that it’s our hearts that matter (1 Samuel 16:7), not outside appearances, and we would do well to instill that in our children.

I thank God that He’s given us this opportunity to love, teach/train another human being about Himself. It’s quite a responsibility to raise a little person that will ultimately become a full-fledged adult. My husband and I find ourselves praying quite often for direction, and we’re only in the first few weeks! We may still be learning about this whole parenting thing, but I’d like this to be a shared experience, so intermittently I’ll bring up challenges and things we’ve learned along the way with y’all, just as I have regarding other areas of my life. I love y’all and pray that God continue to use me and this blog for His honor.

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Planning a Debt-Free Wedding 

This post has been a long time coming. For those of you who don’t know, my husband and I were engaged in December 2015, and married by May of 2016. We’d been dating for about a year and a half before he proposed, so we decided on a short engagement. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’ve been following Dave Ramsey and have been trying to pay off all my debt for the last few years, so the then fiancé and I agreed not to go overboard on the wedding.

So, how did we accomplish a beautiful wedding without going into debt? I’ll explain.

Talk About Your Goals

Before we were even engaged, W (the now hubbs) and I had discussed our financial goals. He watched the Dave Ramsey FPU videos with me and we talked about how this would work for us. Therefore, when we went to pick out that engagement ring together–lol, yes, I wanted to pick it out–he knew going in, that we weren’t going to finance it, and we had a budget in mind.

Budget

There goes that dirty little word, lol. But it’s so important! Without a budget, the sky is the limit. I’ve heard about couples who start out their marriage tens of thousands of dollars in debt because they went for the huge engagement ring, lavish wedding, and expensive honey moon; and we didn’t want to be in that boat. Especially, since we were already going into marriage with my student loan debt and his car loan (we’ll talk about this more at another time).

Here are some ways we chose to cut down on expenses.

The Ring

We shopped around a few places looking for the ring. What I originally thought I wanted, once I saw it on my finger, I wasn’t really impressed with. However, the best decision we made was to go with a local, family-owned jeweler. Their prices were much lower than the chain stores AND they had the ability to replicate any designer piece that we wanted at a fraction of the cost.

The Dress

I chose not to go overboard on the dress. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a dress A&amp;W-158that, let’s be honest, I was only going to wear once. Two of the most important take-aways during dress shopping 1) don’t knock the discount rack, and 2) don’t be afraid to try on something you think looks strange on the hanger. (That’s how I found my dress!) Also, don’t forget to include the cost of alterations, shoes, and veil, if you choose to wear one. Lastly, instead of going with the dress shop for alterations, check around for a good deal. We chose to go with a local tailor because they charged much less. (Don’t forget, you could always rent a dress if you won’t want to purchase one.)

The Guest List

It may seem like I’ve placed this in the wrong spot, but really, the size of your guest list is going to determine a lot about your wedding. When W and I were discussing our wedding plans, I originally didn’t want a wedding; I wanted to elope. Mostly, because I’m in introvert and get stressed out by crowds. Eventually, I changed my mind, but I wanted to keep the wedding as small as possible. Therefore, our guest list was less than 50 people. This meant we could choose a smaller wedding venue and had some wiggle room when it came to food and drinks.

(Disclaimer: If you go this route, don’t be surprised if people get upset with you for not inviting them to your wedding. Sadly, I have family members that refuse to talk to me because we chose not to invite extended family.)

The Venue

Living in Northern Virginia means that our area is rife with prime wedding locations.A&amp;W-348 However, most of them cost MUCH more than we wanted to spend. We decided on a small, local farm that charged by the hour to use their barn space, and we chose to have a brunch wedding. Choosing the brunch wedding meant we didn’t have to pay the costs associated with an evening wedding (i.e. extra security, clean up, lighting, etc.). The cost was soo much better than if we’d gone with one of the bigger farms, or bed-and-breakfasts, that provided a full-service wedding. And we used the picnic tables provided in the rental, so we didn’t have to rent tables and chairs!

The Caterer & Baker

A&amp;W-213My husband loves food. Like REALLY loves food. I was just telling someone today, that he’s pretty much an artist in the kitchen. I cook to eat, but when he cooks, it’s a creative experiment, lol. So, when it came to food we really had to do some research. We went with a local caterer, who provided his own staff and table linens, and worked well alongside the bakers from the cupcake shop we purchased our cupcakes from. And we ate family style! Meaning, food was passed along the table, instead of buffet style or plated. I loved it!

Photographer & DJ

We have quite a few friends who have side photography businesses, and I’m sure you do too, since it’s become much more common nowadays. I’d suggest you shop around, and check out portfolios before making your decision. Your lowest offer might not be your best, but neither might your highest. We chose to have a friend that we weren’t specifically inviting to the wedding take our photos, because we didn’t want our guests to have to work during the wedding. We also knew someone who offered DJ services, through our church, at a reasonable price. You’d be surprised how far networking and checking with your friends can take you.

Flowers & Décor

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For most weddings these two might go under separate categories, but for our wedding I’d say they went under one. First off, we didn’t have a wedding party. There were no bridesmaids, groomsmen, flower girls, or ring bearers. Remember, we wanted to keep the cost and stress levels way down (and when you have additional people involved in the ceremony, the stress level skyrockets). I’d suggest, even if you do have a wedding party, don’t use a big flower retailer, because you’re going to pay way too much. We almost purchased our flowers through Costco, because they had good prices, but instead, we were able to find a florist who was just starting out. She gave us a great deal on my bouquet, Ws boutonniere, and our parents boutonnieres and corsages. I believe when it comes to flowers, less is more. (I think we actually ordered a little too many flowers for our table décor, lol.)

For our table settings we purchased some lace, crates, and milk bottles from the craft store and IKEA, and during the wedding ceremony our guests sat on bales of hay.

Friends & Family

Lastly, we couldn’t have had a debt-free wedding without our close friends and family. A friend did my wedding day makeup; our parents helped pay for the venue, my dress, and the flowers; and the night before the wedding, some of our friends and family helped us decorate our venue. Afterwards, they helped clean up and put everything back in order. A&amp;W-217

I just wanted to share this with you to tell you that you don’t have to go into debt to have a beautiful wedding. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is that you’re marrying the one you love. As I told W before our wedding, even if everything went terribly wrong, all that mattered was that at the end of the day we’d be husband and wife.

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Dead Men Walking

Hello friends! I know, it’s been a while. There have been some pretty crazy changes going on in my life. If you recall, my husband and I are expecting our first baby (it’s a girl!) in July, so I’ve had a lot going on, but I really wanted to share this with you…

I’m currently 21 weeks, and during this pregnancy there have been certain times where I’ve had some pretty strange dreams. But none stick out more prominently, than the one I had early in my second trimester, because it seemed to have spiritual significance.

In this dream, I was in a town, where everybody was dead, but they didn’t know it. They were walking around like zombies (without all the gross bodily changes that occur in the sci-fi/fantasy world). They were just trying to go on about their daily routines, but were failing. Oddly enough, some realized that they were dead and wanted to leave this town with me, even trying to take some of their children with them, but the other dead people tried their best to prevent them from leaving.

For the next couple days I pondered this dream and realized, this is reality. We walk by people who are dead in their sin every day. They just don’t know it!

In fact, Ephesians 2:1-3 states that we were all dead in our sins, walked in disobedience, and lived according to the desires of our flesh (we did what felt good/right in our own eyes); and Romans 8:7 says we were actually actively/willfully hostile to God. But God…

But God, being [so very] rich in mercy, because of His great and wonderful love with which He loved us, even when we were [spiritually] dead and separated from Him because of our sins, He made us [spiritually] alive together with Christ (for by His grace—His undeserved favor and mercy—you have been saved from God’s judgment). And He raised us up together with Him [when we believed], and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, [because we are] in Christ Jesus, [and He did this] so that in the ages to come He might [clearly] show the immeasurable and unsurpassed riches of His grace in [His] kindness toward us in Christ Jesus [by providing for our redemption]. ~ Ephesians 2: 4-7, Amplified

God gives us new LIFE, hope, joy, and peace! This isn’t to say that there won’t be tough days or troubles/obstacles in our life, but that He’ll be with us every step of the way; if only we’ll believe and accept Him as Lord and Savior. There’s hope for the walking dead, found only in Christ Jesus.

But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent? That is why the Scriptures say, “How beautiful are the feet of messengers who bring good news!” ~ Romans 10:14-15, NLT

So, who are the dead men/women walking in our lives? Could it be our co-worker, our classmate, or relative? Could it be our neighbor, our doctor, or cashier?

May we be the bringers of good news!! May we guard our tongue and speak truth in love. May our actions line up with our words and beliefs. And may we boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ wherever we go!

The Gift of Life

Good morning, my beautiful readers! Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything, but I have a really good excuse this time! I’m pregnant! Currently, 13 weeks and 2 days.

I was working two jobs when my husband and I discovered we’d be expecting–the day after Thanksgiving, lol–but I quit my part-time position in December, after the holidays had subsided, and the only thing preventing me from sharing with y’all has been the fatigue and nausea associated with the first trimester. I have been feeling a little better the last few days, so hopefully, I can continue where we left off.

This morning, on my way in to work, God and I were having this really long conversation. I was talking to Him about my pregnancy and the baby; my marriage and relationship with my husband; my friends and family who are also expecting; and my friends who’ve recently given birth, and their marriages. Then I started thanking Him for the life He’s given me and here’s where I started to break down a little.

If you’ve read my testimony, you understand why I began getting so emotional. There was once a time in my life where I didn’t see a baby as a precious gift, but as an inconvenience. I’ve since then recognized my flawed thinking and repented of my sins and failures, but to be in the position that I am now…is overwhelming, to say the least. God’s not only given me new life through His Son Jesus Christ, but now He’s giving me new life in the form of a baby; and that just goes to show how forgiving, loving, and merciful and generous He is.

This Friday, January 27th, is the March for Life in D.C. Last year I got snowed out, and this year I won’t be able to make it just due to the fact that that’s a lot of walking and I’m not prepared for it in my current state (my body has been so achy, lately, since everything is shifting inside). However, if you can make it, I encourage you to do so. I’ll be praying for your safety and that God speaks clearly through you. Don’t forget that there are people on both sides of this issue and we all need to see God’s love and truth through you; we need our talk to be seasoned with grace at all times.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:1, ESV

Lastly, I just want to say…we serve a great GREAT God and I don’t know where I would be without Him. If you are, or ever have been, where I once was, or you don’t have a personal relationship with Christ, and you want to know more, submit a comment below and I’ll be sure to respond with love and grace. I love you all, because God loves us all, and gave up His one and only Son for us so that we might have eternal life with Him…all of us.

Take care and God bless!