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Friday, February 27, 2015

Building An Emergency Fund?

As we all debate the color of #thedress (BTW:  I said blue and brown, Em said blue and black), it's time for a Friday blog post! We thought we would take a look at one of the more important aspects, for us, of saving and paying down debt:

The Emergency Fund.

You have to have it.  I don't think this is something that many people are opposed to.  We all like the idea of having the "rainy day" fund.  However, how many of us actually have one?  When we started our debt journey back in 2012, we certainly didn't.  However, It was one of the first steps we took.  Why?  Because life happens.

If you're not familiar with the term, an emergency fund is money you tuck away in savings.  You do not touch it.  It is there when you need a life line.  No matter how careful you are, there is going to be a doctor bill... especially if you have kids.  You can be up to date on your oil changes, but the car will need new brakes.  It's Sunday afternoon and your washing machine breaks?!?!  You cannot predict life's circumstances, but you can be ready for that proverbial "life" curve ball.

We kept, and still keep, an emergency fund of at least $1,000.00 in the bank for such occurrences as the ones listed above.  That doesn't mean $1,000.00 is the end all saving point for this fund.  It is a good place to start though.  Once you have that figure in place, it's probably a good idea to keep adding based on your income and household numbers.

So how do you build this fund? Check these 4 quick ways to build an emergency fund from Dave Ramsey:

Hope you have a great Friday!

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Are we still living on a budget?

It's funny now that we're out of debt, not much has changed.  Many people ask us if we've gone on a wild spending spree.  In full disclosure, we have raised some of our personal categories like discretionary money and shopping.  We also go out to Panera Bread a little more frequently than we used to:)

However, we are still on a budget.  This choice we made several years earlier wasn't just a quick fix.  It was a life style choice.  There was always going to be the next step after paying down the last debt.  Now we are going to take that awesome vacation to Hawaii as we wrote about in the last post, and we even celebrated last weekend with a big dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  Check out the celebratory pic:

But we still live on a budget.  We still meal plan and still live on a grocery budget.  Bryant has dental bill from a procedure last month.  We are now saving for a house.  And then there is this little thing called retirement.  Yes, friends the world still turns.   However, ours turns with more options.  That is what being debt free does.  It gives you a choice rather than someone telling you have to pay them.  Hopefully you're debt free.  If you're just starting or on your way, know that it is awesome.  Also, know that you have to think about the next step and where you want to go.  This is not just a five year plan.  It is a life plan.

It doesn't matter how much money you have.  You need to know where it goes.  If you're a millionaire and spend all your money, you're still broke.  I guarantee if you ask anyone who is well off financially, they know where every cent goes.  That's the way this works.  You know where your money goes and you make it work for you.

So here's to making your money work for you!

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily Adler

Friday, February 20, 2015

Is this the condition that I feared?

Well, here in Tennessee, it seems we're slowly escaping the great ice storm of 2015!  Not sure if any more winter is in store for us, but I'm about over it!  It makes me feel for all of those people up in Boston and greater New England who are forever trapped in snow and ice right now (on a serious note prayers/thoughts to all of those who have been without and have lost during this time).  We just got a small taste of this weather . . . and you can have it back!

On the other hand, as we sit this morning in our tiny apartment, it makes me feel very thankful.  We've been out of school all week and had a ton of unexpected free time.  It's given me a lot of time to think (I should note this can be very productive, but also very dangerous!)  My father used to tell me, "There will always be someone better off than you, but there will always be someone off worse."

This week we have been trapped inside the house and had to live off the basics (you can laugh)! We've done everything from puzzles to Harry Potter movies.  We've never once lost power.  We've eaten delicious snacks and cooked great homemade dinners.  We're sitting in comfortable clothes, drinking hot coffee, and watching the Today Show. Is this really that bad?  It reminds me of this quote:

"Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: " Is this the condition that I feared?"


You may be reluctant to give "things" up to save money and pay down your debt.  I know it's not easy.   It wasn't for me or Emily either, at first. Try it for a week, or dare I say month, and see how you do.  I bet you will come out on the other side saving more money than you expected.  You will also not be any worse off.  However, I bet there will still be a ton of people in the world not doing well at all.  Maybe you will say, "Is the condition that I feared?"

Start your debt journey.  It's worth it.  Just some random thoughts for a cold Friday!

"Don't be afraid to give up the good to go for the great."

John D. Rockefeller

Stay safe and warm,
Bryant and Emily Adler

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

"All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them." - Walt Disney

So Dream Big.

When we started the debt journey, we knew we had big dreams. To quote one of Bryant's favorite musicians, "If you're not going to make your dreams epic, why bother to dream anything at all?" - Scott Miller.

We set a huge goal of debt freedom in under 3 years. To follow that goal, we also said we would go to Hawaii the summer after we obtained debt freedom. We wanted to reward ourselves for two years of extreme sacrifice.

Today, we can happily say we have reached both goals. We are debt free, and we bought two tickets to Hawaii today....using cash.

So our advice is this....Dream big. Set big goals. However, know that in order to reach them, you have to make a plan to get there. You also have to stick to it. Dreams don't come true without hard work and determination. Get after the things you want in life today. Don't wait for someone else to make them happen for you.

We will say it until we are blue in the face, you can do this. ANYTHING is possible with hard work, sacrifice, and determination. Live life to the fullest. Change your circumstances. Do what makes you happy. Work hard for what you want. Go after it with everything you have. Enjoy life with the people you love. It is all worth it.

Take time to make a plan to reach your goals. Dream big. Life is short. Have hope and be happy.

See you in June, Hawaii.

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily Adler

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

A Personal Note

Sorry we missed you on Monday if you're a regular follower of the blog!!  To quote Emily, "Our life is in chaos."  We're doing ok, just crazy busy!  If you saw our kitchen sink this morning, then you would understand.

Ok, so money saving tip for today.  Valentine's Day is coming up.  Seriously who really just hates this holiday?  Hallmark execs salivate in their offices at this time of year.  We don't like it, but nobody wants to be left out either.  Now, this tip is more for the guys out there, but it could work for anybody.

 Are you looking for a low budget Valentine's Day gift that still means something special?  This one can be a little challenging, but it doesn't have to cost you a fortune if you think outside the box.  This is a great low cost idea that I have to credit my buddy AP with.

Try writing a personal note or letter on stationary or a blank 99 cent card.  In day of emails, iPhones, Hulu, Facebook, and Twitter, how often do you write or receive hand written notes?  Almost never.  I bet if you do get one it's from someone 65 and up.  This is a lost art, but can be very meaningful.  Sometimes the perfect gift isn't a rose, earrings, or an over priced piece of chocolate!  If you really want to tell someone (your special guy or gal) you love them try doing it with your own words.  You may be an awful writer like me, but count on the fact that nothing beats the honest heart.

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily Adler

Friday, February 6, 2015

WBIR News Feature

We're so blessed to have so much coverage for our story!  We really appreciate WBIR, and especially Steve Butera, for taking the time to not only share our journey, but to also highlight our profession as teachers.  You can find the link to the feature here:

I'm not your where you stand on education, but I think we can all agree that it is important.  Whether you're a teacher or a CEO, we all have to live within a budget.  Don't let a salary number define who you are.  No matter what your income level is, you can make a positive change in your life.  That may not always lead to big gains, but progress is progress.  There is always hope.

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily Adler

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Free Coffee (cont.)

Ok, we were going to post on a different topic today, but in light of our recent coffee post I thought I would pass along this news.

Chick-Fil-A is giving away free coffee the entire month of February!

They're giving customers a free 12-ounce small hot coffee or a 16-ounce medium iced coffee anytime during restaurant hours.  No purchase necessary.  It is important to make sure your local area restaurant is participating before you head out.

I just went by our local store and picked up a 12-ounce hot coffee to check it out.  Not bad coffee.

Bryant and Emily

Monday, February 2, 2015

How To Give Up Starbucks . . .

Many of you have asked us about different things we had to give up during our debt pay down.  Here is one of the lighter but serious sides of that struggle.  Okay, it is really not that serious.   However, it is still near and dear to my heart.  I don''t know what kind of coffee you drink, but I'm a coffee snob. I love Starbucks.  I know some of you consider them to be a member of the evil empire along with Wal-Mart and others.  However, whether you like them or not, buying premium coffee out is expensive.

Just a tall (small size at Starbucks) black coffee at Starbucks is around $1.84 in our area.  If you got one every morning of the work week (Mon.-Fri.), here is how that would breakdown:

$9.20 a week
$36.80 a month
$441.60 a year

That's almost $500 a year on coffee!  I hate these type of stats . . . I mean I hate them, but they're always very sobering when it comes to money for me.  Did I mention that is just a black coffee.  How many of you out there get one of those carmel macchiato things?  Yeah those go for like $3-5 a pop. Do the math and then give it up.

This was very hard for me to give up!  Again, I'm a self admitted coffee snob.  We currently have in our home kitchen repertoire:

Coffee Grinder (yes, we buy whole bean . . it's the only way to go . . try it . . you won't go back)*
French Press*
Expresso Machine*
Standard Coffee Machine*

*I should note here that we got these units as wedding gifts.  We did not purchase them during the debt pay down.

Now once we locked down our budget, there was not much room for Starbucks runs.  How did I deal with this?  The same way I got through a lot of this.  I got resourceful.

Side tract:

It's amazing how resourceful you can get when you're faced with no extra money options.  Whether its coffee or a weekend trip, look for the deals, coupons, friends, family, and freebies that can help you get from Point A to Point B while still paying down your debt! i.e. coffee:  I found that I could get a free cup of coffee at work, at the bank, at the grocery store, my apartment complex, and even the oil change place?!?!  Basically, where ever my day took me, I could stop in for a coffee.  Now some were better than others in taste, but the price was always right.  

Now, I'm not saying be a cheapskate!  There is a difference in being cheap and frugal.  Don't just walk in and rip people off for the heck of it.  However, if you are going to work, a place of business, or errand for a real reason, then I don't think it's wrong to grab a cup of joe on the house.

Okay, we're back from my free coffee tangent!  Back to making coffee at home.  First, I had to buy whole bean coffee and make all of my coffee drinks at home.  This proved to be a trial and error system.  The easiest was regular morning coffee.  I bargain shopped Kroger, Wal-Mart, . . for the cheapest whole bean bag of coffee I could find that would give me the closest coffee house experience.  Living on a tight grocery budget we could not always just buy Starbucks in store.  It usually came out to like $8.00 a pound at the grocery.  It is amazing to me what high end coffee goes for.  We had to suffer through several bags of cheap generic coffee.

I'm not sure what your coffee tastes are, but, for us, the best deal/taste was at Trader Joe's where we could get over a pound of their bottom shelf medium roast for about $4.00.

We basically gave up the other specialty drinks.  You can make them, but it takes practice and is very time consuming!!  The ones we would keep in the rotation:

hot chocolate*

*Since we're teachers, we usually got lots of homemade mix from students!  This usually lasts us for a while and has a sentimental value.

That sure beats the heck out of instant-just-add-water while your paying down debt!!  Tastes great too.  Be sure to check back in with us later this week for a cool local feature on our debt journey.

In Christ,
Bryant and Emily Adler