Memorial Day Weekend 2007 was our first exposure to Dave Ramsey. CNBC was running his “Dave Ramsey Roadshow” — most likely to fill time during a holiday weekend. I don’t recall how I landed on the channel, but I know my husband was working on the computer at the dining room table and able to hear what I was watching.
We had been doing many good things with our money – investing, saving for our 2 year old’s college tuition, paying bills on time. We were also spending a ton of money — on daycare ($10,000/year), on loan interest, and on take-out meals from California Pizza Kitchen because I was working full-time. We were starting to hate the day care lifestyle.
Seeing the show (YouTube version above) gave us the VISION for what we could be doing with our money. To read about the full plan of action we took, go here.
Ten years have passed since that life-changing Memorial Day. Some of the foundational elements of our current family life, such as having me home when our daughter is not in school, would not be possible if we hadn’t seen this program and acted on it. If you could use a change in lifestyle and want more freedom, it would be amazing if I could pass this gift on to you.
Stopping to smell the roses….
We were relaxing on the couch last night and I remembered that this Thursday is our debt-free anniversary. My husband and I had to think back to how many years have elapsed since we paid off our house. Six! Every year I have to count back to figure it out. DD was in kindergarten when we sent that last check off to Wells Fargo, and now she is in middle school.
It takes hard work to pay off your house and credit cards, but it is just as big of a challenge to stay out of debt afterwards because there is no “end” goal to count down to. It’s just — stay out of debt and keep staying out of debt.
Over the past 6 years we managed to re-side our house, buy a new car, and added a bathroom to the basement without going into debt. To accomplish these required a lot of saving and budget meetings week in and week out. It’s possible to pay cash for these expenses though when you aren’t making payments. Our next major expense is hopefully a trip to the UK in 2017. To accomplish this… saving, budget meetings every Saturday night, and using my part-time employment to put towards the vacation budget line.
If you are currently in the debt payoff process, keep at it with that gazelle-like intensity. Efforts like clipping coupons and having no spend days are fine, but none of these things can rival the amount of money you save when you aren’t paying interest on car, home, college and credit cards.
Thursday we will probably celebrate by getting take-out dinner of some sort, and perhaps a family activity this weekend like going for ice cream. . . or Chik Fil A 🙂
Many things about being an adult come as a rude awakening:
- I thought I would never go to the dentist when I grew up. Now I go twice a year and make my kid go too!
- I thought I would grow up and be able to eat Cheetos whenever I wanted, every day if possible! My grown-up self fears the effects of that kind of eating.
- If I had known our income today I would have thought it would be enough to live like the Drummonds in “Diff’rent Strokes”. Reality is decidedly non-Park Avenue.
One other “unfair” part of being a grown-up is that while we are fortunate to be able to afford many things, we have to save our own money for them! Seriously disappointing! Even being debt-free has not made a money tree grow in our backyard. If we say we want something – be it Starbucks, or taking a special vacation – we have to come clean with ourselves and allocate money towards what we value.
That “coming clean” part of budgeting can be a little mentally painful, because my human nature wants all the pleasure with no pain. This isn’t a pity party, but I want to capture the thoughts that go through my mind every week on Saturday when we update our weekly budget. We confront our financial choices twice in our house – once when we enter the purchase into Quicken, and the next time when we close out our budget at the end of the week and see what we spent. This “reality check” is what keeps our inner child from running away with our bank account. Pout.
If you find expenses like lattes, drinks after work, eating out, or new clothes are busting your budget – or that you can’t commit to a budget – could it be that the kid part of your personality isn’t on board with the reality of adulthood – a reality where the consequences are all ours to enjoy?
Four years ago our daughter was in kindergarten and I took a part-time bakery job to get a little more income rolling in (my take on Dave Ramsey’s ‘get a job delivering pizzas’). We were watching our grocery expenses (beans and rice, as Dave says) and throwing everything we had at the mortgage which was ticking down into the $20-30,000 range.
We got to the point where we were looking at our emergency fund and savings and said to ourselves: “What return are we getting on the savings vs. what is the interest costing us on our mortgage?” When we were below $20,000, we decided to take a chunk of savings and pay our mortgage off (of course we left enough to cover home ownership-type emergency expenses).
Getting it actually paid off was interesting! We had to call the mortgage company and get a final payoff amount. We had a limited number of hours to get a cashier’s check from the local bank and get the whole thing sent via express service to the mortgage company. They wanted every last dime of interest, you can be sure! Our local banking staff were excited for us, and they waived the fees for the cashier’s check.
The next day we went right back to rebuilding our savings, and we haven’t paid interest ever since! Staying out of debt has had a huge effect on our family’s financial future. Our accomplishment is something we share readily with our daughter, and we hope it will be an experience she can look back on when she makes her own financial decisions for college and beyond. We will celebrate as a family today with breakfast out (we are off work and school by chance today), a special dinner, and family time.
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Santa Fe, NM
I may be a grown-up, but I still haven’t gotten over the fact that there is no magic money tree. I bought a nice pair of dress pants for church… and it is never fun to enter those purchases into Quicken and deduct the money out of the budget, even when I have funds saved for such purchases.
My daughter is now learning about this hard reality as she transitions into allowances and chores. “Teachable moments” are cropping up left and right!
“Can I have money for the Scholastic book fair?”
“No, you haven’t read the last book I bought but you are welcome to use your own money.”
“But I am saving my money for something else!”
She went on to wonder what would happen if she were the ONLY one in the class with no money for the book fair. I said she would have to tell her friends she is saving her money for something else. This conversation, for me, echoed many of the financial decisions my husband and I are making every day. Why do we only have 1 bathroom… because we are saving for something else. Why does my husband drive an ‘entry-level’ car… because we are saving for something else. Freedom from debt is a wonderful situation, but it is still a life filled with many purposeful decisions about money.
Oh, and the book from the book fair that she reeeaaaally wanted? The library has a copy waiting for us on reserve.
We picked strawberries!
The calendar says summer, though in the midwest it is wet, foggy and cold. I have polar fleece and wool socks on, for real! The temperature doesn’t feel like summer but the spending does! It’s week 2 of being home with my daughter, and things feel a little more financially disorganized than usual. Exhibit A: unplanned trip to Michaels Crafts today = 15.00. Now, on one hand, I am happy to do it as my daughter has been working tirelessly in her room on “world crafts.” On the other hand, too many days of living it up will show up in the ol’ budget at the end of the week.
Last summer I had the purse-strings cinched a little tighter as we had an expensive vacation to Santa Fe and the need to save for our exterior renovation project. This year we have many smaller items we are budgeting for, but nothing forcing us to really push hard and save like mad. Honestly, we have spent so many years pushing hard on big goals, that it feels kind of strange to be without them. So this summer I am trying to find that balance between spending money on worthwhile, fun outings while not getting to the point of ‘I forgot to make a meal plan so we have to go out to eat…’
Last summer I also struggled a bit in the transition to being home full-time. See ‘Summer Time, Is the Living too Easy?’ Curiously, I wrote that almost a year ago exactly! This confusing state seems part and parcel of adapting to summer vacation. For today, I have my crafting kid singing away in her bedroom (with a sack of feathers and beads from Michaels…) and I am off to prepare dinner at home using ingredients on hand. That’s the balance we strike for today.
Trying to balance spendy days with cheap fun days…
Three years ago this week we retired our last debt – our mortgage. Our debt-free anniversary makes it onto the family calendar as a special day right along with birthdays and family gatherings. We worked very hard to get to the point of being debt free, and perhaps like getting a college degree or getting married, you aren’t quite sure what life will be like when you meet this hard won goal.
You might imagine life with no payments looking like hitting the mall with a wallet of cash and vacations anytime, anywhere.
Our life is not like that. A wallet of cash at the mall and perpetual vacations will not keep you debt free . . . that’s the catch.
We still work our budget just as ever before. We are still having budget meetings every Saturday. Being debt-free has given us freedom, and at times the freedom is like the water a fish swims in… we forget the freedom is even there. The freedom being debt-free gives us is the freedom to plan our life with a good deal of our income. Sure, some of the choices aren’t super exciting, such as retirement and college savings, but having income to make those choices IS a great blessing. The fear of losing the freedom to plan our lives is enough to keep us working a budget.
So, what did we do on our debt-free anniversary? We had a family weekend getaway that included driving all over the place to find a Webkinz for our daughter. Mom and Dad enjoyed staying in a room on the executive level of the hotel, which was the only thing ensuring a decent night’s sleep with a bunch of hockey kids roaming the other floors. After a ‘polar vortex’ winter, we came home refreshed and appreciative.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of my reflections. If you are new to our debt-free journey, you can start at the beginning.