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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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.

A&amp;W-524

 

So You’re Thinking of Moving Out? (Or Perhaps You Should Be)

You’re 18 (or older) and you’re thinking about moving out of your parents’ house. I’d like to suggest you stop and ask yourself a few questions before you do.

  • Are you going to college?
  • Do you have a job?
  • Do you have a car?

If you’re still in college, whether you’re working your way through or your tuition’s being paid by your parents, a scholarship or grant, I’d suggest you live at home until you complete. (Notice I didn’t say student loans? That’s because you should just say no to student loans!) Trying to cash flow your tuition while living on your own only works if you have a really high income, which most young college students usually don’t have. I cash flowed my undergraduate degree while living at home, but made the mistake of moving out while I worked on my graduate degree—these are the infamous student loans I’ve been trying to pay. Another option is splitting the costs of an apartment or house with multiple friends.

Now, let’s say you’ve finished college and/or you’ve gotten a job. First, you must recognize how much money you have coming in. Do you make enough to move out on your own? The answer, at first, may be “no.” I’ll tell you why. You need enough money on hand to pay a security deposit and first month’s rent. This means you’ll have to save a little money before signing that lease; I suggest you save 3-6 months of living expenses before moving out, just in case something unplanned occurs. You wouldn’t want to move into your own place, only to have to move back home when your car breaks down, or you lose a job! Be prepared.

Here are a few other costs you’ll need to think about:

  • Do you have a reliable car? Insurance? Maintenance costs.
  • Are you a single parent? Childcare costs. Will you have reliable/neighborly help or family nearby?
  • Do you own a pet? Monthly pet fees/costs.
  • Don’t forget those daily living expenses! Food, clothing, gas, renters insurance, electricity, internet/cable, water, & cell phone bill, etc.

Now, perhaps you’re an adult and you simply don’t want to move out? What’s your reasoning behind staying home? Economic? Your parents insist you stay home? Let me tell you something. My parents never wanted me to move out; they expected that I would stay home until I got married. But I’m 31 and I’m still not married! Thankfully, I recognized that I needed to move out and learn how to take care of myself, because who knew what God had in store for my future. What if I never got married? I didn’t want to be living at home forever!IMG_3270

Honestly, unless you’re a college student, like I mentioned above, I suggest you move out on your own. Something happens when you move out on your own and you’re responsible for your own well-being. You grow and develop in ways that you can’t do at home under your parents’ wings. You’re forced to become more responsible with your money, forced to make decisions that affect your life and future, and you meet people you might never have met, while at the grocery store, gym, job, church or while hanging out with your friends or volunteering.

If you can’t afford to move into your own place, again, as I mentioned before, get a roommate (or two), take on another job, or better yet, think more intently about what you really want to be doing with your life, and change career paths! Create goals and take steps to reach them.

Finally, living at home can stunt your growth and prevent you from reaching your full potential because you’re comfortable and have a security blanket (i.e. your parents). However, once you’re on your own, you are responsible for you, and you’re forced to push yourself outside your comfort zone! Therefore, stretch those wings of yours and take the leap (obviously, within the bounds of reason)! 😉

Love you all and God bless!

Rich in Faith

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? (James 2:5, NLT)

Yesterday, as we (my church family) were praying for churches that we’re working towards establishing in El Salvador and Ghana, I began thinking about the impoverished communities where these churches will be built. As I prayed, in my spirit I was reminded of 2 Corinthians 8:2 which states, “They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity.” Of course, in context, Paul was writing this to the church at Corinth, regarding the churches in Macedonia, who, though having very little, gave freely and abundantly to the believers in Jerusalem, who had even less. But I was reminded yesterday, that the believers in other nations and cities who are lacking basic every day needs, are in the same boat! They may have very little in monetary and dietary value, yet they are rich in faith and joy. How is that possible?

Well, let’s recall the Israelites in the desert, after God rescued them from Egypt. Did God not provide for their every physical need on a daily basis? Just as the Israelites were forced to a position of complete reliance on God for daily sustenance—manna, quail, water, and even clothing—these churches in nations with very little, recognize that God is the giver and sustainer of life! They have faith in His faithfulness and ability to provide for their every need, even though their current situation tells them otherwise.

I believe, in America, faith like this is difficult to obtain because we have so much! Having much isn’t a bad thing, but when we come to rely more on the things that we have, rather than the Giver who provides them, our faith and relationship with Christ are impacted negatively. Therefore, we shouldn’t hold so tightly to the things that God has so richly blessed us with, but always remain in a position of obedience, thanksgiving, joy and compassion that moves us to help our brothers and sisters in need.

Lastly, a few weeks ago, as I was helping out in the kid’s church on a Sunday morning, the speaker described a pitcher pouring water into a cup and the cup overflowing, as an example of Psalm 23:5: “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” And as he spoke on this, I immediately pictured one of those fountains in my head, in which, a pitcher pours water into one cup, which, inFountain turn, pours water into another cup, and then into another, and so forth. I remembered that God blesses all His children—whether financially, spiritually, with knowledge, or other gifts—but we aren’t to keep the gifts to ourselves! We’re to allow it to pour forth into the lives of others, so that they, in turn, can do the same.

Therefore, let us remain in a position of submission to God, seeking His face daily, and allowing Him to continually pour into and bless us, so that we can pour into and bless those around us. Let our faith be not in the things we have, but in the One who gives them; and may our hearts be full of joy and faith, knowing that God is faithful and just (Psalm 111:7; 1 John 1:9), trusting that He cares for us (Matthew 10:29-31), and having full confidence that He has and will continue to provide for us, strengthen, and protect us (Psalm 31:22-24; Isaiah 40:29-31; Romans 5:17-18). In Him we place our hope!

This is why we work hard and continue to struggle, for our hope is in the living God, who is the Savior of all people and particularly of all believers. (1 Timothy 4:10, NLT)

Pantry Staples on a Frugal Budget

Living on a budget isn’t always easy. I don’t make much money and I’m still trying to pay off my student loan, so as a single, working woman my grocery budget is only $60 for every two weeks. As such, there are a few things I’ve learned about grocery budgeting and shopping.

  1. Always plan your meals. I always try to plan my meals in advance so that I can create a proper grocery list, which brings me to point number 2…
  2. Always go shopping with a written grocery list. Going without a list means that you’ll forget things you may need and probably pick up things you don’t.
  3. Use cash! Using cash prevents you from overspending. I know people prefer debit cards these days, but every time I use my debit card I end up spending more than I budgeted.
  4. Bring a calculator. As you pick up the items you need, add up the cost, rounding up to account for taxes; and if you go over budget, put something back! A budget is worthless if you don’t stick to it.
  5. Last, but not least…Eat something! I probably don’t have to tell you this, but I’m going to anyways…NEVER go grocery shopping while hungry. Please eat something before you go, otherwise you’re sure to just start throwing anything and everything in your cart.

PantryShopping began getting easier as I chose to stick to these rules. Additionally, I realized a few things would no longer be purchased due to my slimmer budget. Prepackaged foods ate up my money, as did meat, so I began making more from scratch and eating more vegetarian meals. I didn’t completely give up meat, but I don’t have to eat it with every meal. Since I work during the week, I batch cook on the weekend and freeze meals for lunch, and then I make simple things for myself at home for dinner (ahh…the unmarried life, lol).

In conclusion, below is a list of budget-friendly items that I try to always keep on hand.

  • Rice
  • Quinoa
  • Steel-cut oatmeal
  • Pasta
  • Tortillas
  • Cereal (Yes, I have a problem, lol.)
  • Peanut butter
  • Eggs
  • Tuna
  • All beef or Kosher Hot Dogs
  • Almond milk
  • Cheese
  • Coffee/Tea
  • Creamer
  • Sugar/Honey
  • Spinach
  • Baby carrots
  • Apples
  • Strawberry jam
  • Vinegar & oil salad dressing
  • Seasonings (salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, lemon pepper, etc.)

Depending upon what’s on sale or what I plan on making for lunch for the next two weeks I might pick up one package of ground beef, chicken, pork, or salmon. There are other items I pick up as needed, but these are the basic items I try to always keep at home.

Dumping Debt: Part 2

It’s been a while, since I’ve posted anything, much less regarding how my debt-free journey is going. I’d been slowly chipping away at my credit card and student loan debt, but what really made a huge dent thus far is that I received a refund earlier in the year (primarily because I’ve been paying interest towards my student loans) and my mom graciously surprised me with some money she’d been saving for me.

These two unexpected gifts allowed me to completely pay off my credit card (woohoo!) and the smallest of my 3 student loans. Most of the second to smallest student loan has also been paid off (it should be gone by the end of this month), leaving just the largest of the 3 loans. This means that I’ve paid off $3270.20 in credit card debt and $4011.72 in student loan debt within the last year!

That’s a lot of money! I could only imagine what I could have done with this $7281.92 if I didn’t have these debts.

Goals

For me, this journey to becoming debt free is important because I want to be in a place where I can give freely and generously. There has been many a time when I’ve wanted to help someone or bless a cause, financially, and have been unable to do so because of debt. One day, I want to be able to offer services to aid and bless those around me. With this goal in mind, it’s easier for me to give up the things I want now, so that I can be in a better position to serve later.

What goals do you have for your future? Can being debt-free help you reach those goals?

Whatever you do, be sure to create a plan! Like Zig Ziglar says, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” Be intentional with your finances and your time.

7 Baby Steps

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

And remember, the 7 Baby Steps really begin when you create a budget (and stick to it)!  Two great applications that I personally use to help me create a budget are the new Dave Ramsey application Every Dollar and Mvelopes. I can’t use Every Dollar on my phone, since it’s only available for iPhones, so I use the Mvelopes app for my Android. Be sure to check them out and tell me what you think!