After reconciling our marriage in 2009, getting control of my spending and finding Dave Ramsey in 2010, and getting out of debt in 2011, 2012 was an interesting year for us. After years of being in debt, we both kind of sat back and thought, now what? The next step in Dave’s plan was to save 3-6 months of expenses, so we began adding to our savings account. We also added extra envelopes for updates to our home, travel, and savings for a different car for me someday. Instead of going out and buying a different car and financing it, we put an equivalent of a “car payment” away in savings and I continued to drive my Suburban. Here are some thing we were able to pay for with cash since we had been putting money aside in envelopes.
1: We put a new air conditioning unit in our house when the old one died. This expense was covered mostly by what we had been setting aside in the “household” envelope. We did have to take a little from savings, but not much! It was so wonderful that it didn't put us in a financial bind.
2: We were able to help our twin daughters buy cars; (we matched their savings up to a certain amount for their cars). We were able to use our tax refund for this. Any other year our tax refund went to debt. It was wonderful being able to assist them in buying something they had been saving for for many years.
3: We paid for our middle daughter’s braces. We had been adding money to a Health Saving Account monthly and were able to pay the entire sum in cash, saving us 10%!
4: We paid for our oldest daughter’s graduation party after setting aside money each month for the year leading up to it. I also shopped sales for party supplies and food and was able to buy 50 pounds of roast for sandwiches at her party for $1 per pound. By doing the food myself we were able to provide a nice meal at the party for about $1.25 per person.
5: After saving for about 6 months we went to Colorado on a hiking trip for our 10th anniversary. We stayed in a simple house in a quiet neighborhood with a lower rental fee. This worked fine since we were mostly out hiking. It came equipped with a kitchen, so instead of eating out we cooked most of our meals and only went out to dinner twice. We enjoyed going out for dessert out a little more often, but it was much cheaper than eating out 3 meals and snacks a day.
Paying for things with cash from money we had set aside was a totally new experience for us. Our savings was growing more slowly with the added expenses, but regardless, we were able to add significant amounts each month. For the most part we continued to use cash, although I would use my debit card more for the ease of paying when grocery shopping. I was able to keep track of each expense in a money program to keep my spending on track within each virtual “envelope”.
That year, my grocery spending took even more of an overhaul than when we were trying to get out of debt. We switched to mostly whole, organic, foods, and I made many of my own cleaning products, lotions, and personal care products. I started a small garden plot and grew the vegetables we ate the most of and also frequented the farmer’s market which also saved a great deal. I also started to buy in bulk. I make my own bread, buns, and tortillas, so we buy 25 pounds of wheat every few months which I grind into flour. We also buy honey, oatmeal, nuts, dried fruit, raw, organic sugar, and olive and coconut oil in bulk. With these I made my own granola, bars, trail mix, and cookies for a quick breakfast or snack. Even with buying organic I was able to lower our grocery budget $200 more per month by being mindful of what we were eating, buying in bulk, and eating in season, when possible. We also went mostly paperless. I bought some cloth napkins on clearance for about the price of a package of paper napkins. We still use these after over 2 years and they are in great shape. We also had cloth cleaning rags we used in the kitchen to greatly reduce our paper towel usage. All of these little changes added up to big savings.
During this time I found I had a real love for doing things the “old fashioned” way. I realize that this isn't for everyone, that some women work full-time or part-time, or that some simply do not have an interest in spending hours a day in the kitchen. That is ok! That is the beauty of our country that women have so many different options. But this is what I loved and what worked for my family. Chad, too, loved the home cooked food and the savings we had by my making things at home. After staying out of stores for so long I had really lost the desire to shop like I once had. And my mind had slowly shifted from what I consumed to how I could save. I actually made more selling clothes that year than I spent buying them. I loved the freedom being debt free (except for our house) provided.
But in the midst of this, the desire to get out of the rat race of our typical suburban life was becoming more prevalent in my mind. Let me say right now, we were SO fortunate to have what we had, but even though I was thankful for our beautiful home and nice neighborhood, I had the desire to have a quieter, simpler life. I wanted a life where I could quietly serve my family, raise more of my own food, and perhaps someday help and encourage young women who also had similar desires.
Chad during this time was having a desire as well; to learn and share more about the Bible. He loved sharing with other men and encouraging them in their walk with God. He also greatly enjoyed teaching his adult Sunday school class. He wanted to be better equipped to do both of these things, so after talking it over with me, he decided to enroll in seminary online, while continuing to do his job at the bank. So in August of 2012 he started classes. This caused people to ask what he planned on doing with this degree. While at that moment, he did not have a clear picture, he felt it would be shown to him in time.