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Monthly Financial Check-up

Due to the wedding and our vacation last week, I'm a little behind in getting the Monthly Financial Check-up posted. But I couldn't skip it, because we had a really good month last month and I am thrilled to be able to share this update.

We began July at 50% of our house savings goal and we ended the month at 57.8%!

Yes, that's a big leap and we are ecstatic to be moving closer and closer to our goal of paying 100% down on a house. In fact, we've started looking at houses on a casual level right now–just to feel out the market–and it is so incredible to look at many of them and realize we're almost able to pay the full price for some of them in cash.

Every month recently when we've run the numbers, my husband and I are amazed. We well remember those difficult law school days when we could barely afford to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. We remember going without so many things, trying to make the most of the little we had, pinching our pennies, and praying heartily that God would somehow make the money stretch to the end of the month so we could pay all of our bills.

It was so hard to not know how we were going to be able to pay for our rent or to only have $17 to spend at the store for our entire week's worth of groceries. It required a tremendous amount of determination to not lose sight of our goal (to make it through law school without any debt) and to keep living like no one else–even when we were really tired of doing so.

But you know what? All that scrimping and saving has paid off in bigger dividends than we could have ever imagined. And by the grace of God, we are only months away from paying 100% down in cash on our very first home.

I share this with you all, not to set ourselves up on a pedestal. We've made plenty of mistakes and we will make plenty more in the future. I share this with you to encourage you that–no matter what financial position you may be in today–don't lose hope and don't lose heart.

Success requires sacrifice. You will never get
anywhere financially if you are not willing to do something: to get up,
get moving, set goals, and see them through.
It requires effort, commitment, dedication, and determination.

it takes time.
Getting out of debt or saving up to pay cash for
something is not usually an instantaneous thing; it takes many months
or years of work and sacrifice. But it does pay off.

So set goals, stay focused, and stick with it and you, too, will reap the rewards of discipline, determination, and hard work.

If you want to read more about our lean law school years and a few of the lessons we learned through those difficult years, be sure to check out this post.

How did you do in July? Whether
or not you posted financial goals for 2009, please take a moment to
post about your financial successes and/or failures in July and, if you'd like, the areas
you hope to improve in August. Then, come back here and leave your link
below. If you don't have a blog or would rather share anonymously, feel
free to leave your update in a comment. Let's all keep each other
accountable to be better stewards of
our resources!

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  • Lona Pritchett says:

    Great Job staying on track!!

  • says:

    I understand that you have fairly low costs on things like groceries and toiletries, but that alone in one month isn’t enough to save 7.5% of the purchase price of a home, which even if you were only buying a $100k house, would be $7500 in savings in one month.

    Can you do a post about where / how you are saving that much, since obviously groceries alone is not it?!

    I mean, is your husband working 100 billable hours a week practicing law, or do you have other sources of income (like ads here) that you put toward it?

    I just ask because my goal is for our house to be paid off in one year’s time (which would be $55k… considering that is more than I take home in a year, it is one huge goal). If you have a secret, fill me in!

  • Kristina says:

    Thank you so much for this post. It brought tears to my eyes. My husband and I made horrible financial decisions a few years ago (buying a house above our means, foreclosure,etc) one which have come back to haunt us and the rest just hanging over us, as we try to just keep a roof over our heads. We are being garnished for a large amount and had planned to go bankrupt. But thanks in part to your blog, we’re realizing we can pay off all our debt, slowly but surely. Coming to your blog gives me inspiration to know we won’t always be in this position and that the future is bright. God bless you and your family!

  • says:

    I haven’t blogged about it yet, but thought I would leave a short note. I was truly inspired by this blog to get our finances in order and get this house on a budget. Groceries was never something I really cared about how much I spent. Over the last year I have averaged $600+/month in food. That includes groceries and eating out. I would be literally sick when I got home from the store because I had spent so much, but had no clue where to start to cut back.

    I have been cutting coupons, baking from scratch, and using MSM for about a month now. There is 1 more paycheck in this month which will be a week from Friday, and I am proud to say that I have stayed with in my budget I sat for my self and I have only spent $230 in food for the month of August. This is a HUGE step for me.

    I also have friends at church who have been doing the MSM and coupons, and so I have found support and help and prayers and that helps SO much!

    We have also started the envelope budget and that seems to be working too….baby steps, baby steps. I’m sure we’ll make mistakes along the way, but so much has already been accomplished with this!

  • says:

    Sorry for the double linkies, for some reason the first linky omitted the & – I guess Mr. Linky doesn’t like &

    Please feel free to delete the first linky without the &, sorry for any confusion.

  • april says:

    I too would LOVE to know how you and your husband save and your steps to saving and what all is involved in that! I am trying to figure out a budget and system for my husband and I because everything we have tried is failing and we really want to please God with our money and be good stewards of it! ANy tips/info on your weekly/monthly budget and how your saving would be so great! Thanks! April

  • Jenni says:

    I just wanted to echo Jessica’s question – it would be even more encouraging to hear where that 7.5% comes from, even if you don’t give specifics. We try really hard to cut back on groceries, and from what I’ve seen in past budgets you have posted, seem to have the same type of budget (maybe groceries are $150/month higher or so), but we are nowhere near able to set aside $7,500 in savings. I’ve read before on Dave Ramsey’s site that half of it is the budget side, but the other half is income.

  • says:

    You have so much to be proud of! I’m actually a little teary-eyed over what you’ve accomplished. Congratulations!

  • says:

    High fives all around! Great job, and thanks for the inspiration. 😉

  • says:

    Way to go! I bet that feels great. Would love to hear what type of house and /or land you are looking at.

  • Ace1234 says:

    Hi, Crystal! Congrats on saving! saving! saving!
    We are all cheering for you and Jesse. I cannot wait for the day I get to read the “We paid cash for our home!” post on your blog.

    I’m curious as to how you are “holding” your house money. Do you have it in a money market? Is part of it invested in a good growth stock mutual fund? (as Dave would say!) Not meaning to pry… just wondering…


  • says:

    Thank you as always for sharing your personal story. It is an inspiration to see how God has blessed your faithfulness!

  • Celia says:

    We are really getting pounded with medical bills from my pregnancy. I have anywhere from two to three appointments a week. We are spending 300 dollars a month on drugs and co-pays. And my car broke this month. And we had some surprise bills. But we still paid for everything with cash. I love reading your blog because it reinforces my belief that we CAN pay for everything in cash and I WILL be able to stay at home come March.

  • says:

    That’s an awesome testimony for the month. Some of your wording reminded me of the Dave Ramsey book that my husband and I read a few months back. We’ve been on the Ramsey plan for a bit now and it has made a HUGE difference not just in our financial situation, but in our thought processes and approach to finances. We have always lived on a budget and are usually very good with money (having both grown up in very poor families), but now we have specific steps, goals, and a new approach to our money.

    Just wondering if you were also following the Dave Ramsey plan.

  • Cher says:

    Crystal, that is wonderful!!! Praise God and may the heavenly Father continue to bless your precious family!

  • Thank you, everyone, for your kind encouragement. As far as how we are saving as aggressively as we are:

    1) We are living on a strict budget. We have been on a strict written budget since the day we married over 6 1/2 years ago and we continue to be on one to this day. This is by far the number one reason we have been able to save so aggressively. Instead of money slipping through our fingers like sand, every dollar is accounted for.

    2) We don’t have any payments. Because my husband graduated from law school without any school loans and because we have no personal debt of any kind, we can live on a lot less and thus free up a lot of extra money for savings.

    3) We have multiple streams of income. Many people put all their income-earning eggs into one basket. Namely, the money they earn from their place of employment. We’ve never had one sole source of income; it’s always been a variety of little sources of income in addition to our main sources of income.

    Over the past 6 years, we’ve done a lot of research and had the opportunity to learn from a lot of successful entrepreneurs and this is one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned. We’re constantly seeking out new ways to add to our income streams, ways to get a better return on our investment of time and money, and ways to be a better steward of the time and resources God has given us. We’ve tried a number of things (many which haven’t worked!) but over time, we’ve learned many things which work well for our family and our situation. And we’re constantly seeking to read and learn and experiment in the extra time we have. There are so many possibilities out there to tap into if one is willing to put forth the time, effort, and diligence.

    4) We are living on significantly less than we make. While our income has increased by quite a bit in the last few years, we haven’t changed our personal budget hardly at all. This frees up a lot of extra income to throw into savings.

    5) We’ve been at this for quite some time. 🙂 I think this is one of the biggest reasons we’re in the financial position we’re in. We’ve scrimped and saved and worked and learned and budgeted and planned and set goals and continued to keep at it even when it seemed like we weren’t gaining any traction. Little by little, we’ve started to gain traction and one thing has built upon the next until we’re starting to see our efforts really begin to pay off.

    6) We are both intensely committed to our goals and working with gazelle-like passion to see them to fruition. By far, this is the biggest key.

    7) And finally, we realize that all we have has been given to us from God. We never want to lose sight of this. Whether in poverty or plenty, we want to be wise stewards of the resources God has given us.

    We see money as a tool to be used to make a difference in the world and we want to manage what we have well so that we can have the ability to reach out and help as many people as possible in our lifetime.

  • says:

    That’s wonderful! Well done and thanks for the encouragement!

  • says:

    Great going and praise God!! I do have a question for you, if you don’t mind. I have been wondering for a long time now, how, if at all, will your lives change once you purchase your home with cash? I mean, housing by far, is the largest expense that most people have. Without that expense, will you start eating out 24/7, or traveling the world? I ‘m just curious, in general, how your lives might change when you no longer need to pay for your home. Thanks Crystal!

  • says:

    Congrats. I hope you can take advantage of the lower market prices and get a great house!

  • Heidi says:

    This post was a huge encouragement to me. I am currently getting my Masters of Divinity and my husband and I are paying for it without going into any debt. We have had to make a lot of sacrifices to do this, and it is hard to always stay focused on that goal, especially when you see some of the things you are having to give up. However we know that doing this debt free is the way God would have us take on this challenge.
    I just started using coupons about a month or two ago and your site has been so helpful. Thanks for helping us save so much money!!!

  • Nancy says:

    Wow! I am impressed. We are commited to paying extra on our 15-yr mortgage every month this year and up until August we have done great(an extra $400+ a month). Then July came and we were gone 24 out of 35 days travelling. So, we are sending in just a little extra towards principle this month. I still have our heads up. Most people don’t have the ability to send in any extra. We are hoping to have our 15-yr(we refinanced 02/08) paid off in 7 years or less. At the current rate it is easily do-able.

  • says:

    I am so impressed with your savings! You are an inspiration to me! Thank you for all the hard work you do! Many blessings!

  • says:

    WOW! That sums it all up!

  • Jen says:

    Congratulations Crystal!!! I can’t wait to read all about your new house, paid for with cash. 🙂

    I don’t think links #11, 15 and 16 are applicable to this post. They look like spam to me.

  • says:

    Actually, I just discovered your blog the last week of June, so July was the perfect time to test your $40/week theory. My husband and I both lost our jobs in December, and while we are both working part-time (and waiting on word on a grant) we are definitely in the penny-pinching season of life. It has been 8 loooonnnnngggg months of wondering how bills will be paid as we shuffle our lives around.
    I was super skeptical about your grocery budget — I, too, have small children (one eats anything and everything and the other mostly eats bread and fruit) and I really didn’t think we could make it work with our quirky necessities, like lactose free milk. BUT IT IS! I’m so thrilled to say that for our first months of July until now we only went over our $40/week budget one time… I spent $46 last week stocking up! 🙂
    Anyway… thanks. I’m thankful for your willingness to share your budget ideas, your time, and your lessons-learned with us.

    Oh, and a big congrats on the house thing. A blessing from the Lord, indeed.


  • loan says:

    Congratulations! Your site is so inspiring, and I’ve learned a lot from you. Also wanted to send out words of encouragement to your other faithful readers who are working towards their financial goals – it does get easier! And it’s amazing how quickly… I paid off my college loans in 2001 and started from zero, but little successes slowly snowball into bigger ones, and I just bought my 2nd house – in cash! Thanks for the great site… I’ve even converted a couple of my manly welder coworkers 🙂

  • says:

    That is so great that soon you will be able to pay 100% down for a house!!!

  • says:

    I take great encouragement from reading your updates about your family’s financial goals! My husband and I currently live in a small, old duplex while we pay off school loans and save to buy a house. Every month we get closer to our goal of being debt-free, which makes the small house (and many other money-saving habits) more than worth it.

  • says:

    I love your financial check-ups and can’t wait for the day you post about buying that first home with cash! You inspire me to do better!

  • Denise says:

    Thanks so much for all your useful tips on saving money! May God continue to bless and prosper you as a child of God. You have touched so many lives…..including mine. YOU (and your family) ARE an inspiration to me and my family! We are currently looking on getting our budget under control and really looking at how God would like us to use HIS money. I think we are off to a good start. We just need to stay focused!

  • Brandy says:

    I have to say how inspired this post and all the comments have been to me. My husband and I hve made some bad decisions, financially, but are trying to work to correct them. Your post has given me the encouragement to do just that. Thank you.

  • Alison says:

    Congratulations! What a huge accomplishment you are so close to achieving and so many accomplishments along the way. It really is encouraging to read your blog and I’m glad you share so much more about frugality and being a good steward than just where to find the good deals! Thanks so much!

  • John says:


    Keep up the good work. You’ll be there before you know it.

    For those already in a mortgage, I’d like to offer the suggestion that you overpay on your mortgage every month. E.g., if your mortgage is $600/mo, make payments of $700 or $750 (or more) every month. This will help you pay down your mortgage much faster than the traditional 15 or 30 years.

    BTW, we’re on schedule to have our mortgage paid off in the next 5 years (while we’re still in our 30s) while making what the government deems poverty-level wages. We’re on track to do this because my wife feeds our family of 6 on $50/wk and we have no other debt and therefore we are able to pay more than double on our mortgage every month. If you’re currently making minimum payments on your mortgage, try paying a little extra and gradually increase the amount over time. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Heather says:

    just curious if you’ve thought of taking advantage of the $8000 tax credit for first time home owners. It seems like it’s too good to pass up… I bet your mortgage payment would be less then your current rent b/c you have so much saved… and then all that money could go toward extra mortgage payments…

  • Lyndsey says:

    Crystal- You have been such an inspiration to me. Around March my husband and I started to track our spending using Quickbooks and realized how ridiculous our spending was. It wasn’t until June that I started clipping coupons and one of my friends introduced me to your site. By making small changes in how often we eat out and clipping coupons we are now able to put 1k+ into savings each month (where we were barely putting a couple hundred). Thanks for all you do!

  • says:

    You are such an inspiration to all of us. I can’t even name all the SAHMs I know who read your blog daily and use your posts to save TONS of money at the grocery store. This month has been a tough one for us..we had a baby last month and the medical bills have started rolling in. We don’t believe in debt so we’ve been paying them all in its hitting us. So its been even more crucial for us to save money. But the Lord is always faithful and we have been able to do better at the store this month than we ever has. We too are saving up for a large purchase and its so great to see the savings slowly build. Thank you again for sharing!

  • says:

    Congrats! That is insanely amazing. You are an inspiration to all of us!

  • says:

    Thanks for the thoughts on how you make it work. It can be easy to think that it’s just because your husband is an attorney and you guys live in KS, but I know that you have made huge sacrifices to get where you are today.

    I liked in your comment here that you kept on going, even when it seemed like you weren’t getting any traction. I think there are times where we feel like despite our efforts, we aren’t getting traction. But I know that this can change. After we have baby #2 and life settles down a bit, I’m hoping to be able to do some more to contribute to the income side of things from home, and my husband is also re-evaluating his job. We’re thankful at least right now that a) we don’t have any debt, b) despite unexpected expenses, we have the cash to pay for everything that comes up, c) we are able to save some every month, and d) that we almost have our 6 month emergency fund completed. That’s a great place for us to be in, given that 3 years ago we were 18,000 in debt w/ no kids, and now we are living on a smaller income because I stay at home.

  • says:

    Awesome for you!!!!!!! My husband and I are starting the Dave Ramsey plan as well and hope to get rid of our debt in the next few years!

  • says:

    Congratulations!! I enjoy reading about your progress!

  • says:

    Thanks, MSM for adding your comments to my question in the comment I left.

    Our only debt is our mortgage, and we bought less house than we could afford (bank would lend us $280k at the time we made $64k /year combined- how crazy is that! We instead took a $119k mortgage).

    We also live well below our means and now own 63.5% of our home just 5 years after we bought it.

  • Liz says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your finances with us. I know it is a personal topic for many and I just want to express my thanks to you for doing so. I really look forward to your monthly update. I will be so happy when you buy that house in cash.

  • Olathe mom says:

    I am another KS mom and a long-time follower of December212012, and before that Biblical Womanhood. One of the commentors above asked about life “after” the house is bought. 😉 Would love to throw my two cents in here. For one, I think it is easy to assume that once we are over the next “hill” life will be considerably easier. Of course, life will be much FREER for the Paine’s because of the discipline to pay cash for a house. However, like all of us, they will have continued need to pay property taxes/insurance/higher utilities for said house. Maintaining a debt-free lifestyle will mean that they continue to save for cars IN CASH. I think they’ve mentioned a large family, which is a blessing that will require more money (and perhaps a shuttle bus! Ha!) They likely have deferred some other financial priorities, such as retirement savings or college savings, to achieve debt freedom with a free-and-clear house. Of course, saving to put 100% down on a home while in your twenties (wow!) will make the other savings goals easier to meet. Finally, the decision to homeschool will (I’m assuming here) require more of December212012’s time as her children grow. Therefore, her “side businesses” here and elsewhere may need to defer the needs of the family at some point. Finally, I’ve read many times about the family’s commitment to the tithe and to additional giving.

    I suppose I am meaning to say that all blessings require continued self-discipline, if they are to continue to be blessings. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I would guess that opposed to world travel or eating out, you might find this family aggressively saving for the future, giving abundantly to ministry, and having such audacious treats as a seasonal trip to the Cheesecake Factory! 😉

    Kudos to you, Crystal & Jesse, for setting such “weird” and insurmountable goals…and for your even rarer commitment to ACTUALLY achieving them.

  • Debbie says:

    I think that you deserve nothing but good things to come your way. My children are now 19 and 15 years old which gives me the flexibility to work outside the house now. In 1998, we bought a two family house, which we paid off in six years. That home now provides us with an additional income of $1500 per month. We did this while living on a 900 sq. feet house and while I was attending college full time. My husband worked tons of hours to make all this to happen. Because of your blog, I decided that we can pay off the home we live now sooner than later. Come September we will budget diligently and split any extra money between savings and paying off the house. You put God first and you make the necessary sacrifices to accomplish your goals. Keep inspiring us and from the bottom of my heart THANK YOU!

  • says:

    You all are absolutely amazing. I would love to just pay our house off someday, and work towards that goal. You should be so proud of yourselves, congrats on your future home and debt free life. I am proud to say we are credit card debt free, for the first time this year, and have gone all year and we will continue on with our credit card debt free life. Thanks for all your great stories!

  • julie says:

    Congratulations and thank you.
    No matter what one’s financial situation is, your monthly updates serve as reinforcement and inspiration.

    I think it was last month when you asked about things to consider when looking for a home, but I didn’t get around to writing a comment then. I know you will be homeschooling your children, but I think it would be a good idea to check out the neighborhood elementary schools where you are considering buying a home. Even if you won’t be sending your children there, these schools often reflect the character of the neighborhood they serve and can give you a sense of the neighborhood’s values and priorities.

  • says:

    Way to go on your savings! I’ve recently enjoyed following your blog and clicked on the link today to read about your time spent in law school. My husband will be a 3L this fall, we have a 19-month-old boy and a little girl due in December, I am staying home and couldn’t relate more to some of the things you shared about during that season of your life. I’m confident that God desires glory from ALL seasons of our lives, but am not always great at living out that conviction right now and was encouraged to read about your attitude and response to your situation. Thanks for sharing.

  • Katie says:

    Congratulations. You have actually made me think that anything is possible with a little determination, focus and commitment. You have change the way my husband and I think about money. The other day we paid for our car insurances and house insurance in full for the year saving us a whooping $750. It was SO nice to log onto our bank and delete direct debits!!

    We are saving for a car at the moment so that we can buy it without a loan and not get tied up again in that spiral of debt.

    If someone had told me what I know now 10 years ago I’m pretty sure we would own I house completely too. We are looking at focusing on paying off our mortgage in 6 years time.

    Thank you so much for being SO different:) Do you do tours or talks??

  • Michelle Drummond says:

    Great going for you guys!!! Awesome. Praise the Lord and all He has given you!

    Can you be a bit more specific as to what you do to provide the “multiple streams of income”? IN other words, do you sell on Ebay,, read emails, do surveys? And if so, how lucrative monthly versus time is this for you? Especially with 3 little ones? And can I assume that the 7.5% surge this month is $7500? If so, WOW WOW WOW…hope I am not prying…just need your confirmation for inspiration purposes 🙂 God Bless!

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