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Monthly Financial Check-up

We made some good headway on the children’s educational savings this month. As I mentioned two months ago, we completed our goal for Kathrynne’s savings account and were making progress on Kaitlynn’s. This gave us both the momentum to just get it done. So we sat down and figured out some various savings we could re-allocate in order to free up more money for the educational savings accounts.

Ever since we replaced Jesse’s car last year, we have been setting aside money to replace the mini van I drive. It’s still running great and looks like it’s got lots of life left in it, so I convinced Jesse to dump that savings into the educational savings instead.

(We have a good emergency fund and Jesse has a very reliable car that our whole family can fit it in, so we have a back-up plan if the mini van up and dies tomorrow. I really don’t mind going back to being a one-car family for awhile if we have to and would rather have the children’s educational savings funded and drive our mini van for a few more years before replacing it.)

So reallocating the vehicle money some other savings added with the money we were able to put in savings this past month gave us just enough to finish out our goal for Kaitlynn’s educational savings account.

We got both of their savings accounts set up this past month (they came with us to set them up and it was a great opportunity for us to explain what we were doing, why we were doing it and how compound interest works!) and now we’re working on funding Silas’ account. Since he’s younger, we’re putting less in his account, so I’m hopeful we can possibly have his funded by the end of August. I’m not sure on that, but we’ll see!

Here’s our current goals list:

Our Family’s Financial Goals for the Summer of 2010 through December 2011

1. Significantly increase our giving to needs in our community and around the world. This is an ongoing goal, so we’re keeping it uncrossed off from the list.

2. Pay cash for a replacement washer and dryer for our very used set.

3. Pay cash for a replacement for .

4. Pay cash for a couch for our basement family room.

5. Pay cash for bunk beds for the girls.

6. Fully fund our IRAs.

7. Bump up our retirement savings to 10% of our income.

8. Fund our children’s educational savings. Kathrynne and Kaitlynn’s are done, now we’re working on Silas’.

9. Double our Emergency Fund Savings (Instead of having around six month’s worth of expenses set aside, we’re planning to set aside a year’s worth of expenses.)

10. Save for our next BHAG.

We’d love to hear about your recent financial goals and successes! You can post about it on your blog and leave your link in the comments. Or, just share about your progress/goals in the comments. Let’s all keep each other accountable to be better stewards of our resources!

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  • Crystal says:

    This is something we’ve decided not to share publicly as it’s something we’re waiting to share with our children until they are older.

  • Danielle B says:

    Wow! That’s amazing!

    My husband and I thought we knew what our goals were for the next five years, but during a day away this past week for our anniversary, God stepped in and completely erased it all. My husband has an amazing call on his life to music/music ministry, and this next year will be in preparation for making that happen.

    I’m so glad for all the lessons I’ve learned from people like you over the last few years, as every bit of creativity and frugality will be put into action to make this new “goal” happen.

  • says:

    I am so impressed at what you and your husband have been able to do! It inspires me 🙂

    We don’t have any debt, but have not focused much on financial goals. I am going to work to this.

    We are a one car family and are just waiting for the car to die (it is 15 years old). Our goal is to pay cash for a new car. That would feel so good! I’d like to work more aggressively toward that goal in case it does kick the bucket soon.

    Thanks again for the motivation. I always know where to come when I need financial/frugal encouragement 🙂

    • Crystal says:

      It’s amazing the momentum you can get from creating financial goals, breaking them down into bite-sized pieces and then working towards them!

  • says:

    Nice Crystal, thanks for the inspiration. We are now debt free (except for the house). We have a six month emergency fund, but are looking to beef it up a little. We may be moving to a single house as opposed to a townhouse so looking to set money aside for the extras we will need. It’s so important to have goals. I like reading about yours.

  • Debbie says:

    We’ve managed to pay a little over $18,300. towards our mortgage principal in six months. Our goal is to pay this mortgage off by January of 2018. Will we make it? I’m not sure, but I’m not giving up without a fight. Our mortgage is pretty hefty (live in New Jersey). We also paid cash for our son’s college summer semester. I feel blessed to have the means to make these things possible and all of you continue to inspire me. Crystal, I love to read your financial updates and I love when you ask us to tell you our financial goals. Each month, I look forward to tell you how we are doing.

  • Elias says:

    We recently aquired some medical bills and this made us look at our finances. I’ve been down this road of budgeting before and failed quite miserably. My weakness is buying for the kids and keeping up with the “Joneses.” Not so much trying to impress friends, just join them in birthday parties, Girls night out, theme parks with the kids, etc. Which btw, if anyone has advice on what they do for the whole birthday party thing, I’d love advice. We get invited to 2-3 a month and it gets really expensive. I’m also guilty of taking a vacation in the summer and I run so I am addicted to Itunes.
    So far I’m recording spending on a spreadsheet and my husband is on board. We will have $300 more a month since my son starts kindergarten in the fall. I also started coloring my own hair, avoiding Target (like many of you do!) couponing, avoiding toll roads and we’re meeting with a financial advisor this week.
    My goals:
    1 .Pay off debts-We have plenty of credit cards. I’m meeting with a financial advisor to see about finagling some money around to get them down quicker.
    2. Max out 401K-We are currently only putting in 6% and I’d love to increase to 20 but it won’t happen until the cards are paid off.
    3. Bulk up savings (first I suppose)-we have nothing now due to my husband being on sick leave and hospital cafeteria food bills acquired during our stay.
    4. Stop buying “stuff” for the kids. They are entitled and demanding and I’m creating bratty kids.
    5. Coupon better

    That’s all I got so far. Thanks for all the great suggestions given on the board!

    • Amanda says:

      I know how toll roads are a drain on the finances. My last job that I was at for three and half years was 30 minutes away and pretty much the only way I could drive was going toll roads. I had to pay four tolls a day at 50 cents each toll and then 70 cents for each toll when they raised the price a year or so later. At that time gas was close to around $3.99 a gallon so it was a big hit. I asked my project manager if I could possibly transfer to our downtown office but he wanted me to continue to work for him so he said he would try and work something out. The company gave me a raise to keep me at that office. I loved working with my project manager anyway, so I was happy with the extra money. Then I got laid off last April and I swore I would find a job closer to home and not on that side of town with the tolls roads. Unfortunately, the best offer I got was at a place again on that side of town but 40 minutes aways rather than 30 minutes. The only thing I hate about the job is the location, tolls and 40 minute drive. I tried to look for alternative routes to avoid tolls too, but it only allowed me to avoid one toll a day. I considered the savings worth it. However, after getting a flat tire in heavy traffic on 95S I decided to go back to the toll road (less heavy traffic) mostly and one other way from time to time that adds a few more miles to my trip. I am still looking for my dream job and not on that side of town.

      We take summer vacations too, but I do not feel guilty about it. We have been trying to make them budget friendly. For the last two years and again in September we will be going to Myrtle Beach. We live in Richmond, VA so this is a day trip by car for us, one way to save. We also bring food with us that I got with coupon deals and we get a room with a kitchenette so we can eat most of our meals in. We eat a few meals out, one at a Hibachi grill that we love near the hotel. However, since they are so expensive we eat early and get the Early Bird Special and only water, which is half the price for the same amount of food. We do a few activities, but try to use coupons from the coupon books around town. We also go in September when prices are cheaper because we do not yet have children. Now, that I paid the last payment on my school loan today we will however be saving to go on a cruise next year. I think there are ways to enjoy vacations and still save and plan for a big vacation every few years and again find ways to save for it. After all we have to also enjoy they money we make and not just put it towards being debt free!

      • Elias says:

        Your advice on taking a vacation is great. It’s true we shouldn’t completely deny ourselves I guess. We were thinking of avoiding the resort next year and just camping on the beach instead. My parents are big campers so they would let us use their equipment.
        Good luck finding your dream job! My attitude in life is that things always have a way of working themselves out. I worked for a crazy boss for a year who treated her employees horribly. She begged me to stay and then gave me a bad reference when I left. Ever since then, I’ve always appreciated my bosses so much more. So maybe it was a good experience for me? It made me stronger. That’s for sure.

    • says:

      Elias, I think that you are doing the most important step which is to get mad and make changes!

      As far as birthday parties, I feel your pain. We live in a wealthier area of the country and everyone gets $25+ presents for children’s birthday parties. What I have done is to set a $5 limit on presents for birthday parties by stocking up on clearance toys at Target, going to the dollar store or using those $10 off $10 purchase coupons that I get for Kohl’s in the mail every once in awhile. I REFUSE to let silly “Keeping Up with the Joneses” feelings keep me from my goals! 🙂 If you have older children, could you have them buy their friend’s presents out of their chore/allowance money?

      As far as kids’ activities/Girl’s Nights Out, etc I have found that I just don’t do as much of that anymore. I will go to a Girl’s Night Out at someone’s home or eat dinner first and then just get dessert if at a resturant. Another solution for me has been to host or to suggest inexpensive day trips with friends. Last night, I hosted a Movie Night for my daughter’s 11 friends. It only cost me $5! I made cupcakes and popcorn and we watched “The Princess and the Frog” on Netflix. I am finding myself getting creative. Good luck!

      • Christy says:

        Our circle of friends has set a $10 limit on birthday gifts. I often buy $10-$20 gifts for less than $10 w/ coupons/clearance, etc. but they are none the wiser and I’m pretty sure a lot of them do it too!

      • Elias says:

        I didn’t even think of the Kohls coupons. That’s an awesome idea! Thanks!
        I also love your movie night idea. A lot of my friends are in the same money situation so maybe I’ll suggest a movie/potluck for our next get together. 🙂

    • Jessica says:

      I feel your bday pain! I tend to buy kid bday presents in bulk. I pick one girl, one boy gift, and when I find a good one on sale, I’ll buy 2 or 3 so I have the next few parties covered. Also, I use note cards bought on clearance instead of birthday cards (save $3). Reuse gift bags or use wrapping paper when giving them (save $1). Use tie ribbon, not premade bows unless bought on clearance. I tend to buy paper after xmas, they always have paper that is pretty neutral- plain silver mixed with a pink bow for example. In addition, I’ve stopped accepting every invitation. My rule of thumb is that if I’ve never heard their name, we don’t go. No random kids just because they are in the class.

      And on vacation, don’t eat out. Saves a fortune. And everywhere you go- eat before you go places and carry bottled water for everyone all the time.

      Also, I only go out with my “Joneses” every 2 out of 3 times there is an invite. When something pops up that I think costs more than the fun it’s worth, I don’t go. (concerts, theme parks etc). Then I try to make plans to either get together for pizza, bbq, or something low key. If we all go to eat, I try to lean towards a BYOB place, that makes a difference.

      I don’t buy stuff for my kids at the store. Period. If my daughter, who is 5, wants something, she has to earn it. Chores, etc. It makes her SO excited when she finally gets it. I just tell my 3 yr old to put it on his bday list.

      Also, our library has a music section, maybe you could borrow new music? Good Luck!

      • Elias says:

        I love that your kids have to earn new things! I need to set up some basic chores around the house. What kind of chores does your daughter do?

        I’m good about not buying them large purchases in a store. It’s the little trinkety stuff that at the time seems like no big deal. For example, last night we went to a drive in movie, which was only $9 for a family of four and we brought our own food/drink. Well of course there was a vendor selling light up swords, flashlights, etc. The kids did pretty good. My 2 yr old says “We not getting lights today,” which i was impressed! So as soon as she started getting ancy during the move, I bought the stinking flashlight/lollipop toys and a soda for myself. This morning the flashlights are somewhere at the bottom of the car not being played with and I’m kicking myself for wasting $10 on what was suppose to be a cheap night of entertainment. How many times do I have to make these mistakes? Okay, I’m done beating myself up now. 🙂

        I didn’t even think of checking out music from the library. I think I’ll go see if they have anything good today. Thanks!

        • Jessica says:

          Don’t beat yourself up, it happens. It sounds like the little one is getting the right expectations. That is key. After a while, I started to think ahead about what is likely going to happen. For example, I bought a few of those glow bracelet packages at Target, 15 bracelets for $1. Just when we got to the 4th of July fair, those came out for the kids. They were thrilled (no request for anything glow, swirly) We packed drinks and I told them they could get ice cream. It helps to set expectations though I still felt bad when I didn’t let them do ALL the activities some of their friends did, but I’m not spending $20 on kids crafts!! Sometimes I will tell them they have $5, spend it however you want. They seem to really respond to the freedom and my daughter is so cute b/c she carefully weighs what she wants the most. We talk about the best value to her, is it $3 lemonade or $2 face painting and a $1 cookie?

          I also keep dum dum lollipops in the bag for times I need some “incentive” to not be ancy. Those are great for the 3 yr old. I use them rarely, so rarely they are always surprised by their existence, but they are my back up plan.

          I bought them really nice water bottles, those go WHEREVER we go, with peanut butter crackers, so there is never a thirst/hunger emergency.

          My daughters chores where she can earn money is pull weeds – 1 cent each. Fold laundry = 5 cents per piece. Empty the kids stuff out of the dishwasher, 25 cents. She doesn’t get paid for the basics like picking up her toys. Also, I tell her she can find old toys to sell and I will put them in the yard sale pile and give her money. She must have given me 8 things the other day to sell.

          BTW, I worked in the 401k industry for 15 years. I started contributing when I was 21. Let me tell you, START EARLY. I’m way ahead of almost everyone I know. I’m a SAHM now and I still have more retirement saved than most. So don’t make it 6 or 20. I started bumping it 1% every year, or when I got a raise. Make it a lot easier to digest.

          Love that Kohls coupon idea, we are getting one in November so I guess I need to start watching for their coupons!

  • Greene RD says:

    We just finished off paying off my grad school loans this week of a little over $4000. I will admit that we had a little help from my father but it is still a big accomplishment for us. I am now possibly planning to start a PhD program in health Ed/nutrition and plan to pay cash!!! We’ll see where the Lord leads me.

  • Amanda says:

    I am happy to report that I paid my final payment of my student loans off today and it should post by Monday. I had five groups, $50,000 total. I made my five year goal to pay off my high, variable rate loan (3 groups, $30,000) first in August of 2009. I had hoped to pay off the other two groups of my low, fixed rate loan (20,000, but total was down to 12,000 by then) in the following year, but I had to unexpectedly buy a new to me car the following month. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to save a nice downpayment as I had also planned. My transmission was about to die and I was getting stuck at stop lights. With a 30 minute drive to work at the time and mostly highway roads, I had to get something reliable, quickly. I still made large payments on my school loan, but had to make a car payment as well, which I didn’t have before.

    Then in April 2010 I was laid off and on unemployment for seven months. However, since we were used to a lot of my money going towards my loan each month, a few other monthly household expenses, groceries and my car loan the unemployment did not set us back financially. I was still able to contribute to our normal monthly expenses, but paid a lot less on my loan (still more than the monthly payment). I actually saved quite a bit on unemployment while my husband continued to take care of the majority of our other household expenses. I was able to save gas money by barely driving, not buying clothes for work and eating out even less than we were doing.

    I got a new job in February of this year and got right back to paying high payments on my school loan after my first pay check. I was able to pay off the 4th of the 5 groups of my loan in February with what I saved on unemployment, so those seven months of unemployment were not a total setback to my school loan goals. I was also able to find a good job that was related to my educational background, similar to my last job and paid more money. I am still looking for the great job that is a 100% related to my degree, but I knew this job would be great for my resume and help me get back on track with my financial goals. (Plus, I don’t think we can be too picky in this economy. I didn’t start getting interviews until January of this year, but things are opening up slowly and my dream career is waiting for me somewhere. I also had surgery for endometriosis a month before I was laid off and was able to recover in those seven months. Unemployment was part a blessing for me then and luckily a small setback on paying off my school loan). Once I got back to work and to paying large payments on my loan again, I challenged myself to pay two huge monthly loan payments after I got my paychecks. It worked out because I still had some cushion in my checking account to do so. Even though most of my checks went towards my loan, I was still able to make my other payments and contributed to my normal, monthly household expenses. I find that the more I push myself to make certain financial goals, the harder I work towards making it happen.

    I am proud to be STUDENT LOAN DEBT FREE!!! Now, on to tackling my car loan in the next 6 mos to a year and saving more for a down payment for our house. I am also happy to report that couponing, Upromise, Ebates,, and never paying retail for anything were just a few of the ways that helped me pay off my student loans and meet some of my financial goals. I have also received lots of encouragement from this blog towards working on and achieving my financial goals through this monthly update and other posts. I am glad they are so many other people out there that are working towards being debt free!

    • Amanda says:

      Oh, and we are lucky to not have credit card debt and my husband never had student loan debt. He was in the Army National Guard, had in-state VA tuition and help from his parents. We have two car loans to finish paying off and are saving for a down payment for a house.

    • Elias says:

      What an inspiration! I hope one day I can make a similar post. That is a huge amount of debt to pay off and I’m sure it wasn’t easy. You go girl!

  • says:

    My employer recently increased my healthcare reimbursement from 50% to 70%. Since we had already budgeted based on 50% for the year, we’re now putting the extra 20% towards paying off our car!

  • says:

    This is always my favorite post of the month!

    We are staying on track to pay off our debt (except our primary mortgage) by October. We just finished paying off our 2nd mortgage this month!! That was a debt we thought that we would always have to live with but now it is gone. FREEDOM! 🙂

    We have gotten off track with having a written budget and so are going to sit down and do that this weekend.

    I am getting so motivated to pay off our mortgage. It is going to be hard to focus on savings/retirement/college savings next instead of the mortgage!

  • says:

    Here’s our financial update this month:

    We were really hoping to be debt free this month, but currently are taking 2 weeks of training to be able to move overseas (Asia) in full-time ministry…missing work for that long meant the wise decision was to continue to wait and save (especially since we will have some medical bills next month). Hopefully either next month or September we will be debt free! 🙂

  • Meg says:

    How do you determine what amount to put in for that lump sum for college? I’ve looked at calculators but I’m still not getting it :/

  • says:

    You are such an inspiration Crystal. Right now we seem to be going backwards not forwards. I lost my job in November and now Hubby is getting a pay cut. I have just started a business on esty selling crafts and am hoping to make a living at it so that we can start saving again. Thank you so much for all of the useful information you provide. I have saved so much money following your blog.

  • says:

    You may want to consider a solo 401k or another small business retirement plan for your blogging income. I found my solo 401k to be a great savings tool and it lowered my taxes tremendously.

    Congrats on funding her education!

  • Lisa M says:

    I feel so blessed to have paid off all our debt except the house. It has enabled us to take in our daughter who lost her job and her fiance recently. We couldn’t have afforded the additions to our grocery budget and utilities if we had not done that. We haven’t fully funded our 6 month emergency fund but we are getting there, just a little slower right now. And we are sort of a one car family as we gave one paid off vehicle to our daughter. So even though it is again sitting in our driveway, it doesn’t go anywhere because there is no gas in it! My husband and I both work full time and he takes me and picks me up from work. It is nice having that little bit of time to ourselves on the drive to talk and wind down from work together!

  • says:

    Well, we’ve had an interesting history of financial decisions, but at the moment we have two house payments (one on our home and a second on a rental property we own). Something “snapped” recently and we decided to go all “gazelle-intense” on our primary home mortgage. I’ve written about it on my blog and hope to give a monthly update on how we’re doing. Thanks for all the encouragement over the last couple of years, Crystal – you have no idea how many people stalk your blog and get something out of it! 🙂 Blessings!

  • says:

    Thanks for posting your monthly updates! They really encourage me to stay gazelle intense and I love reading all of the subsequent comments.

    I started a monthly financial check-in on my blog and it really helps with accountability.

  • says:

    I look at these updates and am floored by how much you are accomplishing at a young age. Then I remember that your house is paid for- you might want to note that on your updates since many of us are still shelling out hundreds or thousands a month on mortgages! Also want to say that you are a part of daily life for me, inspiring me to work harder on my finances. I’m all about coupons and deals, as evident on my blog, but am just now focusing on the budget and details much more…no more fees due to oversights on my part!
    Thank you!

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