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Thursday, June 26, 2014


Grace & Peace To You,

Debt as of 06/09/2012:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 06/26/2014:  $19,695.28

Total Debt Paid Down:  $72,949.72

We are very fired up about the progress we're making!  Like the US Men's National Team, we're limping in but going through to the next elimination round of our debt payoff.  An interesting stat about the debt numbers you see above is that when we began two years ago, the $92K number was made up of eleven different debts. These included student loans, car loans, a medical bill, and a credit card bill.  Today's debt number consists of one student loan.  That's all that's left!  We're on our way to reaching our goal of posting $0.00 by the end of December 2014. 

Today's money saving tip is about:  Envelopes.  We didn't event this system, but we sure use it!  The system is fairly simple.  You budget a certain amount for each category. For example, we budget $400 a month for groceries. Then, when we get paid, we pull $400 in cash and place it in an envelope labeled "Grocery". When we need groceries for the week, we pull a certain amount from the envelope. When the envelope is empty, we have no more to spend on that category for the month. This prevents us from impulse buying and randomly swiping our card. It also allows us to know where every dollar we make goes. With the exception of gas, we hardly ever use our debt cards for payment. We have a gas budget, but we really like to pay at the pump. Our envelopes consist of the following: Grocery, Date Night, Miscellaneous (which includes clothes, haircuts, etc.), Entertainment, and Extra Earned. The extra earned envelope is one we try to put money into each week. We also have a tax deductible receipt envelope since we are both teachers and can claim money spent on our classrooms.

We obviously have other lines in our budget, but most of those transactions are done online.

This system may seem a little tedious. However, we have found from personal experience that it really helps you control your spending.

Many people use a file folder for their envelopes, which is how we started. We recently decided, as a visual motivator, to post it on the wall in our dining room. It has almost become our debt freedom/dream wall. It includes our envelopes, running total of debt payments for the month, and our debt payments from the previous month so we can try and beat it each month. The newest addition to our wall includes a map of Hawaii. We put this up to begin planning our trip for next summer, but mainly to keep us focused on what we're working towards. The last thing you may see is a quote written on a piece of paper above the board. It is from one of Bryant's favorite singer songwriters, Scott Miller. It simply reads:

"If you're not going to make your dreams epic, why bother to dream anything at all."

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily

Friday, June 13, 2014

Our American Dream

Grace & Peace To You,

Debt as of 06/09/2012: $92,645.00

Debt as of 06/13/2014: $21,959.38

Total Debt Paid Off: $70,685.62

We recently celebrated our two year anniversary. Originally, we had hoped to be done with our debt by that day. While we did not achieve that goal, we are celebrating being $70,000 less in debt. Our new goal is to have our debt completed by the end of 2014. 

The road to debt freedom is certainly not an easy one. It is a marathon, not a sprint. When we first started, our intensity was high and the journey was fresh. Two years in, the journey can be exhausting and, at times, very demoralizing.

A few months ago, Emily and I came to the realization we would not meet our two year goal. We started to contemplate stopping our debt journey and putting it on hold to save for a house. That is one of our big life goals. While we would still pay on debt, we were thinking about slowing down and putting more money towards a home. It was something we were seriously thinking and praying about. Isn't that the American Dream? House, white picket fence, 2 kids, and a golden retriever?

Our prayers were answered in the form of a friend who works in the financial education field. He was familiar with our story and what we are trying to accomplish. When we shared our thoughts on stopping to buy a home, he offered a different perspective on the "American Dream." He said he believed what we are doing is the "American Dream"...being debt free. He broke down our situation and reaffirmed our plans for the future. Here are some things that changed our perspective from that conversation:

1. Your American Dream can be different than what society tells you it should be. Don't be defined by what the masses tell you is standard. 

2. Just because you are out of college or there is a 3 in front of your age doesn't mean you're behind the rest of the world if you don't have a house, kids, etc. Live your dream, not someone else's. Rather than focusing on what's not there, focus what you have and how it can enhance your life. Our lives are not defined by not having a house yet. 

3. Figure out what you want and what makes you happy. Don't change it based on what society says is normal. For example, society would tell us at 28 and 32 years old, we should have a house and kids by now. We don't. Do we want a house and children? Absolutely. However, our goal right now is to spend the first years of our marriage becoming debt free and traveling together. If you already have those things, we are not saying that you are wrong and we are right. It's okay and normal for everyone to have different goals. What we are doing is abnormal and seems weird to a lot of people. We believe it has strengthened our marriage and has been the right path for us. We are not saying it is the right path for everyone. No matter what your situation is, if you are hampered by debt then we would encourage you to take a look at your life. How is the debt defining you? Is money holding you back from what makes you happy? Our dream is to travel together the first few years of marriage and to set up a good future for ourselves and our family. Debt was holding us back. Therefore, we had to reexamine how we lived and make changes to reach those goals. 

4.  Our New American Dream: Being debt free. Living and working on our own terms.  Holding all 52 cards. Choosing how to spend our time and money!

In Christ,

Bryant and Emily

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How We Save

Grace and Peace to You,

Here are our latest debt totals

Debt as of 06/09/2012:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 06/01/2014:  $23,500.30 

Total Debt Paid Down:  $69,144.70!!!!!!!

Yes, America, we are getting closer!  The first date listed is our wedding day.  When we started we set a goal at being at $0.00 for our two year anniversary.  While we have made tremendous progress over the last two years, it is very clear that we will not make that goal.

However, we do not view that as a setback and it only makes us hungrier to finish!  We have been very blessed over the first two years of our marriage and can only be thankful to have the opportunity and blessing to live our lives in this way.  Many of you have asked how we are doing it.  The short answer is a lot of patience, sacrifice, prayers, and discipline (the last one mainly coming from my wife:).  The rest of this post is a list of how we are able to make the progress we have in our finances.  Feel free to comment or contact me through the blog if you wold like to hear more on one of these.

  1. Budget:  You have to push a pencil and see what you're getting each month for income, bills, spending, and of course what is your debt.  We actually do this the old fashion way in a notebook, but there are plenty of online templates for setting up a budget.  The biggest part in this is knowing and having control over where every dollar you earn goes. That includes the change in your purse or car. If you really want to know the truth then turn on Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and look at last month. Our budget is done month to month because every month has different expenses to account for. We list our bills first and then take care of the fixed expenses.
  2. Sacrifice:  We don't eat out (other than one date night per month that is budgeted).  We don't shop.  We don't really go out with friends (this one has been especially hard for me).  I can't tell you how many things we've had to say no too with friends.  Even though it is tough, it's amazing the feeling you get when you have control over your life and money.
  3. Meal Planning:  We set our meals a week in advance on a calendar.  Each meal is designed to make leftovers for the next day for lunch.  We split a smoothie each day for breakfast.  In total we live on about $100 per week for food.  This one may be a little different for you if you have kids, but the planning aspect of this one is huge.  This also saves us time and stress of meal planning through the week, not to mention we've actually gotten better at cooking!  I owe this one all to Emily. Check out our cool meal calendar (you can't see it but written in on the days are what we have for dinner that night):
  4. No Cable:  This one wasn't as hard to let go of as you might think.  We only have wireless internet for our jobs through our provider.  We use Netflix and Hulu which are very cheap for monthly subscriptions.  A friend even gave us a digital antenna which gives us the major networks.  I'm telling you even after this we may not go back to cable.  Very thankful that the World Cup is being streamed on all ESPN/ABC though:)!
  5. Extra Earned: Where can you bring in a little more money each month? There are online earning sites that we use that will bring in a small amount (every penny counts in the debt battle). We use Swagbucks and Bing Rewards for extra income each month. We roll our change. We use all the extra money we get towards debt. That includes birthdays, Christmas, tax returns, part time job, etc. 
  6. Ebay and Craigslist:  "Declutter" your life!  We recently downsized to a smaller apartment to save money on rent. In that transition, we realized we had a lot of stuff that we didn't even use. Therefore, we sold it all on Ebay and Craigslist and made several hundred dollars in the process. You would be surprised what you can find to sell if you look around your house. 
  7. Reward Yourself: It's important not to forget yourself and your marriage in this process. We give ourselves a date night. We give ourselves fun money that we can spend however we choose. We save for vacation each month. We celebrate each time we pay off a debt. We are still doing a small trip for our anniversary. 
Most importantly, we do all of this as a team. It is certainly not easy. However, it has strengthened our marriage to lock arms and work towards a goal together. We can honestly say in two years of marriage that we have not had one fight about money.

"Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else later." - Dave Ramsey

In Christ,
Bryant & Emily