Happy New Year…..

Doesn’t September feel like a start to a new year??  It always does to me! The cool breeze is in the year, the kiddos are back in school.  We are living in an environment of growth, physically and mentally as our son starts his last year in Middle School.  I love that feeling of growth and want to continue to experience it myself.   Otherwise, my life feels stagnant.   I set goals every year to help myself to continue to grow. 

This time of year I always reflect on my goals for the current year and what I hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.   I am not a New Years Resolution sort of gal,  my new year starts in September.    Just seems logical as we get back into the routine of school.    And worst yet, when I reflect on my goals in September it gets me in gear to finish them by the end of the year.



2015’s Focus – SIMPLIFY

I try to keep my goals to a minimum, I only have 3 goals in 2015.   My goals for 2015 are as follows:

1.  Simplify My Life – to me this meant decreasing my commitments that kept me out of the house and focus on the  activities that matter to me.   I was just feeling stretch too thin and wasn’t enjoying it.   After many years,  I took a break from my book club.   Spending more time at home, having Sunday dinner with our children each week.  Doing things that really makes me happy.   The simple everyday things have more impact then we realize on our own happiness.    We also simplified our life by decreasing the amount of stuff we own.  This is an on-going project, but we have made a lot of progress.   We have no desire to keep up with the Jones’.  We are becoming more selective as to what is allowed to come into our home.  Our desire is to be DEBT FREE!!!

2. Park in the Garage –  this winter we will park at least one of our four cars in the garage!   We took time off in May and really made a big dent in cleaning the garage.  This weekend I had four boxes left to go through, which are done.   The garage is almost done, I just need to organize a bit and get rid of all the empty bins!!  

3.  Organize my photos –  this one I haven’t made much progress on at all.   By cleaning out the garage and around the house, I believe all photos all photos are all in one place.   I want to get at least one photo book made by the end of the year, so this will be my project I will be spending the rest of fall with. 




2016’s Focus – HEALTH

While most of my goals in 2015 focused on simplifying our life.  I hope in 2016 to focus on my health.   My goals for 2016 are as follows:

1.  Healthier  & Happier – I bought the book  52 Small Changes One Year to a Happier,Healthier You by Brett Blumenthal 2 years ago.   Each year I start the book and only make it through the few changes and then lose momentum.  This year I will make it through all 52 weeks.    By blogging about my experience each week, I hope I will get some of you to follow along with me and keep me accountable.     Plus this will get me blogging more than just my menu each week. 

2.  Writing Project – Complete a writing project I would like to do. This is a crazy idea I got one morning in the shower, which is by the way, the location my best ideas come from!!   I am going to give it a try….I blog, that is writing, right??

3.  Continue to Simplify……


What are your New Year Goals this September???   Join me in getting Healthier and Happier in 2016.  Look for a blog post each Wednesday discussing the new change we can make that week to aide us in being healthier and happier!


Happy  New Year!!


Our FPU Story: That was then……..This is now…….


Our Financial Peace Journey started in the fall of 2010.  Hubby and I were in church and the pastor announced a new class called Financial Peace University starting.  Hubby asked me if I wanted to attend.  I was sort of non-committal as usual and said “I don’t care”.   Little did I know what God had planned for us and our family!

We had debt, but then everyone does, right??  That is normal, isn’t it??   We were able to meet our minimum payments each month, we paid private school tuition for our youngest son.  We had a house and two cars, none of which were paid for, but we had them!  We went on vacations and worried about how to pay for them later.  Living the American dream……

Arguments we had usually touched-on money issues and honestly we otherwise didn’t really talk much about money or our family finances.   We, like many people were supplementing our income with credit cards.   We did little to no planning for the future and I am not so sure we would be saving anything for retirement.  Actually, I know we would not have.  We were living in the moment and retirement was years away…about 25!

I paid the bills and handled the household finances alone.  It was very stressful for me and I didn’t feel comfortable saying no to my new hubby.   We were a newly blended family in 2000 and we didn’t plan a lot on how we’d handle money together before we were married.  We were definitely living like everyone else, and going into debt.

We started FPU and are thankful every day for God leading us there.  He knew what we needed, more than we did.  We sort-of had our head in the sand regarding our debt.  If you had asked me how much we had in debt back then, I would have had no idea.  FPU pulled our heads out of the sand to face the debt we had accumulated.

I have never shared this publicly before, except in the safety of the FPU panel, as it is embarrassing, we had $109,000 in credit card and student loan debt.    Putting a real number on our debt, really opened our eyes!  I am sharing this now as we want everyone to know that financial peace is possible.  We are sharing our story in hopes that other families will join our family in the journey to beat debt and discover the financial peace we all yearn for.


God will generously provide all you need – 2 Cor. 9:8


This is now………

Our marriage is stronger than ever due to FPU and learning to work together as a team.   We frequently discuss our finances and make decisions together.  I can hardly recall the last time we argued over money, it is that rare.  We sit down together every week for a budget meeting and pay our bills together.  We try to identify and share a weekly victory to keep us (me) motivated. We plan, (MAJORLY), for our future and retirement.   A big part of this journey is staying motivated.  It takes some sacrifice to become debt free.

Honestly, we feel we live like no one else, but we have not found it uncomfortable.   We both agree we still have a very pleasurable life with a brighter future.  At times one of us may feel discouraged (usually Jen) but the other person is always there to remind them of our goals.   We have goals and dreams.  We discuss those and the steps to achieve them.  The most amazing thing is these dreams are achievable.

We have an emergency fund to help us avoid using a credit card.   We only use one credit card for things that MUST be paid-off each week.  We are accumulating ZERO new credit card debt.

We are very hopeful and excited about our future.   As of this month, we are down to only one vehicle loan and one student loan.  Our snowball is starting to gain some serious momentum!  After 4 years on the FPU program, we have paid-off $89,000 in debt,  and the debt is decreasing MUCH faster now.  We should be debt free by April 2016.  As we pay this off, our retirement planning will also skyrocket! (Instead of paying interest to creditors, we are investing that same money into retirement!)

We hope our story inspires you and helps you to realize it is possible and worth all the sacrifice and hard work. (It is really not that hard!)   Join us in living like no one else………



Paul and Jen


Other Articles in our FPU Series:
Financial Peace University
Change Takes a Leap of Faith
Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund
Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!

Gear Up Financially for Fall…..


Hello Friends!

Can you believe it is August 1st today??  Summer is winding down and thoughts soon will start turning towards back to school!    Do school expenses sneak up on you???

As tempting as it might be, you don’t want to put your budget on auto pilot.  It is different every single month – those irregular expenses (school expenses,car insurance) will pop up and wreck havoc on your progress if you let them.   We have a separate account were we sink funds for our irregular expenses.  You can read more about the type of expenses we sink for in our blog post “FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund”

If you just need a refresher on budgeting here is a great guide by Dave Ramsey about budgeting.  August is month with a lot of irregular expenses.  Dave Ramsey posted a wonderful article about budgeting for August.  He highlights some of the August irregulars that can sneak up on you.

We haven’t added these items into our budget.  We were happy to have the reminder provided in the Budgeting for August article.   We will need to add lines into our budget for back to school supplies, a few new clothes (we will shop second hand  at Plato’s closet), lunch tickets (yeah, this working mom can’t seem to make a lunch for her kiddo) and fall soccer fees.   We have only accounts for an saved for soccer fees out of the list.

The Budgeting for August article includes a reminder that Christmas is 4 months away so hopefully you have been socking some money away.   We did sock away some money from our tax return for Christmas and we are very proud to say, “It is still there!”  Christmas is usually the category we take funds out of if we have run low in our Emergency Fund or our emergencies have come too close together.

For me, Fall is the time of year when I once again am motivated to get my life organized.  Get the house more organized and clean and menu plan more consistently.  It is great to get back into routine after a little bit of a summer slide.   See, I am even posting a article that isn’t a menu plan, which I have let slide a bit :-)

Fall also brings to the our household our car insurance bill.  We pay every 6 months for the 4 cars we insure.  So this morning, we get the email that $1302.00 is due by the end of August.   In the past this would put us into a panic or we would have to do the installment plan and pay monthly costing us an additional $250.00 in fees.   But this morning, Hubby said,  “do we have enough money saved for car insurance”??  I wasn’t sure so we looked at our Freedom Account spread sheet and we had set aside $1309.00 from our tax return for car insurance.  Seven dollars to spare…..now that is some financial peace that can make you smile!!!

FPPU Banner

Do you wish you could feel a bit of that Financial Peace???  If you aren’t feeling that Financial Peace, join us for our Fall session of Financial Peace University starting on September 16th at 6:30 at First Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake.    Attend the first class for free to get a feel for the class or you can register for the class online on the Dave Ramsey Site.   We have a page on the Dave Ramsey site that is for our specific class.

Remember it is never too late to change your financial future.   Please share this information with others that could benefit as well.  Financial Peace University is a wonderful gift for those newly married.  Give them the gift of starting out on the right foot and missing out on the years of fighting over money!

Financial Peace University, changed our lives, marriage and family tree forever.   That is why we keep coordinating these classes, we have seen the real life changes it has made in us and others.  We have more hope for our future and retirement.   We know we will be able to retire  with dignity   The biggest change was the improvement in our marriage.  Our marriage was strengthened and I can honestly say I can’t recall the last time we have a disagreement about money.  We are in it together, support each other and are a great Team!

The part of our journey that always nearly brings me to tears is the changes in our family tree.   That is amazing!!   Our children’s thoughts on credit, entitlement and finances are forever changed because of our journey.  The life style our oldest and youngest child have lived are a bit different, but the lessons learned are invaluable.  Of course sometimes, my youngest child has said, “I wish we could be a normal family”.   Normal meaning living beyond our means, accruing credit cards debt for vacation that we could not other wise afford, making car payments on new cars, going to movies at the theater and eating out regularly at restaurants.  Sorry, my son, I don’t think we will ever be normal again, thankfully.

Our oldest son is 26 and married.   He has been saving for retirement for a number of years already.  They own their home.  They are living in a modest home they can afford easily.  They have a funded Emergency Fund, live by a budget and pay for cash for most things.   I for one could not say that at the age of 26!!   I would hate to tell you how I was living at age 26, but suffice to say it was  BROKE!  The success of our son, is directly related to our decision to change our life and begin the Financial Peace journey.


Our son and his wife are also teaching a Financial Class for teens (Generation Change) at First Lutheran starting on September 16th.   Generation Change is an all-new suite of Bible studies designed to lead teens to a better understanding of God, themselves and their money—and how it all works together.   Can you imagine the life your child will have if you equip them with information on how to handle money God’s way at an early age???  Think of all the stress and heart ache they will miss out on!   Our son and his wife taught this last year and the story that impacted me the most was of one young girl getting ready to head to college.  She was working over the summer and saving money for her mission trip, but she also started to save for her retirement.  A 17 year old girl decided that it was a priority for her to save for her retirement !!  Wow, she is going to have one bright future!

If you have any questions about either of these classes simply contact us through our Financial Peace Class page on the Dave Ramsey website.  If you are in the White Bear Lake area, feel free to stop by for the first class to check it out!

Wishing you all a wonderful week!


Paul and Jen
Joyfully Living Below Our Means

FPU: Big Tax Return = Big Screen TV! NOT!!


There may have been a time in our lives when a large tax return meant some new expensive toy for the family.   We are no longer those people and have really changed how we look at our tax returns.

In 2010 we embarked on a new journey to become debt free after attending Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class at our church.   We are still working on that journey. The entire experience has been  life changing for us.   This experience changes how we look at our tax return.   Most of our tax return is earmarked before we even receive it.  We fully fund irregular expenses we know we will experience in the upcoming year.

I must admit: This practice would most likely not be endorsed by Dave Ramsey.  He would like you to manage your money and not have the government hold onto it for you all year.  For us, it works as it actually forces us to live beneath our means.  It is a fool-proof way to save funds that we know we can’t touch until we file our taxes. If the government makes an extra 5 bucks in interest off of our withholding, then they can keep it and we’ll appreciate that this money was saved for us Smile

That being said, you can bet we file our taxes very early in the tax season.  We file our taxes the first Saturday in February.  Since we both claim “single-zero” on for payroll deductions our return is usually pretty big.

For 2014, the following will be fully funded from our tax return:

Debt Reduction – we will pay off our last credit card, if there is still a balance once we receive our tax return. (That card is down to about 1 and 1/2 payments til zeroed-out.)

Emergency Fund – will be fully funded at $2000.

Car Insurance – set aside enough funds to pay car insurance on all vehicles every 6 months to receive a discount.

Christmas – yes, we fully fund Christmas in February!  What peace of mind!  (Because you know Christmas is going to happen again this year.)

City of WBL – irregular bills are hard to budget for so we fully fund them from our tax return.  This a quarterly bill that used-to sneak up on us at times….not anymore!!

Soccer Fees –  our youngest plays traveling soccer

Camp – our youngest goes to camp each year.

Duct Cleaning –  This year we are having the ducts in our home cleaned.  Between illnesses and allergies, it seemed like a good thing to get done.  This was last done in 2007.

Summer Fun – this is a new category we are funding this year.  We found that small parties, mini-weekend-vacations and other fun events over the summer wreaked havoc on our budget.  This year we set aside extra money to go to participate in summer fun!

Training – as a licensed social worker, I need to attend 40 hours of training every 2 years to renew my license.   I need to complete 26 hours this year.  This will fund the conferences, meals and lodging for me to complete my training hours.

We should be able to fully fund all of these items from our tax return.   This is a huge relief to us to know these expenses will not have to be worried about!   As you can see there is no Big Screen TV on our list, but instead many other things that give us a huge sense of relief knowing they are fully funded for the year.  The concept of saving for future expenses is called a “Sinking Fund”.  If you want more info you can read our blog post about “Sinking Funds” and how we organize our finances.

We are different people with different priorities….we live a simpler life striving towards our goal to be DEBT FREE, (and financially secure when we retire!)

Wishing you all a wonderful week!



Paul and Jen
Joyfully Living Below Our Means

FPU: Sink Your Debt With A Sinking Fund


Hi Everyone –

We hope you are all having a great week!   Did you get a chance to make your budget??  Remember it is a work in progress.  You may need to tweak your budget for a few weeks or even a few months until you find what works for you.  This week we thought we would expand a bit on our sinking funds and how we organize our finances.  It is very important to know where your money is and where you need it to go.  A sinking fund is kind-of like a lay-away account where you sock away a little money each week to pay something that month, (or year, etc.)    In addition to your budget, this micro-planning and saving for future monthly, quarterly, biannual and annual expenses will keep you on track to debt-freedom.  We do this by maintaining two checking accounts we utilize to organize our funds.

1.  Household Account – This is the account we initially put all of our weekly income into and pay out all our expenses for that week. This is simply an in-out account and we maintain a very low balance here throughout the week.  After our weekly budget meeting, we may have $ 7.83 in our household account.  This account is very close to zero based budgeted….we leave very little unaccounted.

2.  Freedom Account – This account is absolutely VITAL to our success.   This is a holding account, (or sinking funds or “layaway account”) for our funds that must be earmarked for future expenses that we know are going to come due eventually.   We maintain a spreadsheet naming every dollar in this account and fully funding every expense we have or will have.  The funds in this account come from 2 main sources.  1) We move funds from our household account into this account when naming all our dollars at the end of our weekly budget meeting.  2) The other source of these funds is our tax return. We tend to receive a good-sized refund each year because we both claim single-zero for the year..  While Dave Ramsey would not advise this, it works beautifully for us and has kept us on-track and ready for even the largest expenses. It  actually forces us to live below our means, (which is what people with debt REALLY have to do! This. Way. Works. It is the most iron clad way to save our money and not spend it!)

The following is a list of the categories or line items in which we have earmarked funds in our freedom account.

Emergency Fund – we maintain $2,000 to assist us in an emergency so we aren’t tempted to use a credit card.  This is for *real emergencies like car or home repairs. Funded as much as possible with weekly pay and if not at 2000 come tax return time, it will be put back there with tax return money.

House Payment- we save 1/4 of our house payment each week to fully fund our mortgage before it is due each month.  It is easier to come up with a little each week than to come up with the full amount when it is due…and a lot less painful. This is funded with weekly pay.

Tuition – we save 1/4 of our son’s elementary school tuition each week to fully fund by the due date each month. This is funded with weekly pay. While tuition is not a large expense, it comes due at a time of the month when a number of other things are also due.  Having this item saved in advance helps us to meet all our obligations during that time of the month.

Snow Ball – once we have funded our weekly amount due into the house payment and tuition, the rest goes into the snowball.   We collect all extra funds and when our credit card comes due, we pay everything in this line item onto this bill.

Car Insurance – We pay our car insurance twice a year to receive a discount.   Every 6 months we are prepared to make our payment.  This ended our days of being surprised that the car insurance was due again! This is fully funded with tax return money.

Christmas – we finally have figured out that Christmas will happen every year.   We agree upon an amount we will spend on Christmas food and gifts.  The agreed upon amount is moved into the Freedom account from our tax return.  We have enjoyed a cash only Christmas for the last few years.   What a relief! (and fully funded way back in March with tax return money.)

City of WBL – this is another of those bills that can sneak up on you since it is only due every 3 months.  We set aside enough funds to cover a years worth of this bill from our tax return.  We are never surprised and this item is always fully funded.

Camp – Tommy will be going to camp this year, which we set aside funds from our tax return to cover this expense.

School Fundraiser – Each year our son’s school has a fund raiser – we set aside a set amount each year to purchase a table at this event and to donate to a cause very dear to our heart, the Christian education of children.

Our Freedom Account is what Dave Ramsey would call our sinking fund.  A sinking fund is simply a financial strategy that will make a huge difference in your life!   Sinking funds are reserve funds set aside for a specific purpose. If you can set up a spreadsheet with every expense you will be paying over the year, track your saving for each of those expenses in advance and deposit that money into your Freedom Account you will avoid the gotcha’s of irregular expenses.  Back-to-school time, Christmas shopping and Summer getaways are no longer capable of derailing your budget  (…and Yes, if your sinking funds are funded and you’ve saved a little cash for a hotel or campground stay, you CAN occasionally go!) Oh, and back-to-school, Christmas, birthdays and mini-vacation are never an emergency, right?

Since we are still working on paying off debt our sinking fund is limited to monthly and annual bills for the most part.  Once we are debt free these categories will be more fun and include new furniture and vacations…..until then, we limit our sinking fund to annual, quarterly or monthly bills.  Trust me, we frequently dream of that vacation and how great it will feel once we are debt free.   Only 2 years, five months and 2 weeks……but who’s counting!

Wishing you all a wonderful week!


Paul and Jen
Joyfully Living Below Our

Pantry Challenge – July 2013 – Save Money and Waste Less (Updated)


We are gearing up for a Pantry Challenge in our house.  We ate like kings over the 4th of July and now it is time to cook from what’s already in our fridge, freezer, and pantry, this is a great way to save money as well as waste less.   Our grocery budget is a little tight for the next two weeks, but with a little planning I think we will come in under budget.

This challenge was the perfect time to clean out and organize all the places we store food.   We have a upright freezer, pantry shelf and second fridge in our basement.

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As you can see, we have plenty of food to assist in this challenge.   I removed everything from the pantry shelves and replaced it all.   I made sure to place like things together for easier inventory in the future.  I know I will save money by keeping like things together, since I found 4 boxes on Panko while organizing.  I did the same thing with the freezer.

When organizing the freezer, I made a list of all the types of meats we had in freezer.  Then it was time to plan a menu based on the meat and food we have on hand.   I planned a 2 week menu.  Week # 1 will be posted on Sunday evening as my Menu Plan Monday post.

Tomorrow after church hubby and I will complete our bi-weekly shopping.  Below are the goals I have for our shopping trip.   I will post an update after we are done shopping, so you can see how we did.   Wish us luck!!

1.  Stretch our food budget by eating food we have on hand.
2.  Spend $80.00 on food related items for the next two weeks.
3.  Spend $60.00 or less at Sam’s Club
4.  Spend $70 or less on non food items.

Update After Shopping:
1.  Food Total = $119.01 (over by $39.01 due to extra fruit bought at Sam’s Club and estimating low on a few items)
2.  Non Food Total – $ 84.63 (over by $14.64 – forgot I had to buy an item for Grandpa that was $16.52)

Total Spent:  $203.64
Overall, I am very happy with shopping considering this is the cost for two weeks.  So really our food budget this week was less than $60.    This should help to get us back on track with our budget.   We might need to continue our Pantry Challenge for another week or so.


Paul and Jen
Faithfully Living Below Our Means!

Vacations While On The Debt Free Journey

Working towards becoming Debt Free is a journey and for us a long journey.  Should you be taking a vacation when you are on the debt free journey???  Our answer is yes.  It helps to have a small reward to keep you motivated.  Our vacations while working on becoming debt free are nothing like before.

If we truly think about what our goals are with taking a vacation, we will see that it doesn’t need to cost a lot to meet those goals.   Our goals for vacations are to spend time together, take a break from work and make memories with our kiddos!

Some fun options we have enjoyed include:

Stay-cations:  One year we simply planned a daily outing within our own city.  We explorer new parks, swimming at the local lake and visited some fun museums.  Since we were in our own city we could sleep and eat at home saving us a fair amount of money.  Another activity our family loves to do it is go geocaching.   Fun and very inexpensive.   You will need a smart phone or GPS to participate in this fun activity.  Using the geocaching app on your phone for GPS you will find hidden caches (treasures) that others have hidden for you to find.  It is a great way to explore your own town/city.  We discovered a hidden park only blocks from our home that we didn’t know about.  For more information check out the Geocaching Website.

Camping:  We recently returned from our first camping trip of the summer.  While camping does have a cost associated with it, it is a lot less than staying in hotels and eating in restaurants.   Camping does take some planning, but it is well worth it.   The memories you make with your children are priceless.   We do have a tent, but my back no longer likes to sleep on the ground.   Instead we have found a camping option we like much better, Camper Cabins.  Camper cabins at the State Parks are rustic, one-room wooden cabins that provide basic shelter for those who want a “camping out” experience but prefer not to deal with a tent.  Camper Cabins are located at many of MN State Parks and campgrounds such a KOA, Kamp-Dels, Pine Terrace Resort and Beaver Trails Jellystone Park. Most campground that has the word resort in the title has cabins of some type.  If you want to take advantage of the MN State Parks Camper Cabins you need plan in advance for your reservations.

Our most recent trip:  Bear Head State Park – Camper Cabin – ($50 – $55 a night)


Menu Planning/Camping:  As much as I stress how menu planning saves you money at home, it also saves you money while camping.  Before our camping trip I completed a camping menu plan including snacks and did as much prep at home as I could.  This made cooking at the cabin so much easier, especially since it rained a lot!


I also packed a lunch for us to stop and have on the way to our campsite.  This always brings back great childhood memories for me and any food eaten outside just tastes better.

As always the bottom line is planning and budgeting.  Little getaways are possible if you plan and budget for them.  We appreciate our little vacations so much more when we plan and budget for them.

Hope you are able to plan some fun into you summer!


Paul and Jen
Faithfully Living Within our Means


2013 Financial Goals

We are happy with our progress in our goal to become debt free except for our mortgage. We are following Dave Ramsey’s baby steps.  It has become very exciting to see our snowball finally moving.  We are keeping our eye on our goals!  We are finding it very helpful to write yearly goals and share a weekly victory to keep us motivated.  This has been LONG process for us and it can be a struggle to keep motivated.

1.  Increase Deferred Comp/Retirement Savings   DONE!

This is a secondary retirement amount.  We started this account by only putting very little into this secondary retirement account.  We will double our amount we save into this retirement account.  We also have a primary retirement account matched by our employers.

2.  Pay off our Chase Card by March 2013.   DONE! 

3.  Accomplish Tommy’s MCS through 5th grade. DONE!

Tuition paid for 6 years of private elementary school.  A wonderful foundation for our son, worth every single penny.

4   Pay off our last credit card by December 2013.

We are on track to pay our final credit card off just before Christmas, if no major unplanned expenses hit us.  We are so excited to think we will be going into 2014 with no credit card debt!

5.  Update our will to reflect changes we have discussed.

It is time to change our will now that our children have gotten older.   It has been 9 years since we had our will initially written.


What are your 2013 Financial Goals??




Paul and Jen
Faithfully Living Below Our Means!


FPU: Jen’s Little Secret….


We all have our struggles, it is true.   While I might be great at budgeting money and living a frugal lifestyle,  my secret is that I am not good at denying my children ANYTHING!!  I struggle daily on what my heart and my head tell me.  My heart tells me that my boys are my life and I would do and give them anything!  My head tells me that I have to stop doing this and have my son earn his money to buy what he wants.  How else is he ever going to know how to do this as an adult??  As my parents might have said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees!”


While I am not extravagant in what I give my child, I know I am missing the mark on utilizing these teaching opportunities.  And we all know I am still going to give him things, but maybe a little less   I will share with you some examples from the last week and see if you can relate.   


1.  It is starting to warm up in MN and we hear the icecream truck coming down the street.  Don’t ask me why, but this guy *knows to park in front of our house!   Tommy goes running to his “Spend” envelope and finds he only has 1 dollar.   He asks me for a dollar and of course I hand one over to him.   Hubby reminds me about how our son needs to do his chores and he would have plenty of money for the ice cream truck.   


2.  I am dropping off my son at school and the school book fair is set up.  Our little guy informs me that his class gets to go shopping today and he needs some money.   I did think twice about it this time….but in the end, I couldn’t say no.   I gave Tommy some of my fun money, which is where a majority of my fun money goes.  I am always spending it on the kids or some other gift, etc.


3.  Hubby and I are packing our son to go to an overnight trip with his school to an environmental camp.   The packing list says to bring some money for the camp store and a treat on the way home.  Hubby, because he is MUCH better than I am at this, asks our son if he has any money in his spend envelope.  Well, the answer is “no” of course.   I of course plead my son’s case, he can’t be the only child without some funds on the trip.  Hubby opens his wallet and give our boy $10 from his own fun money, because as terrible as I am at giving my sons anything they want…..my hubby is that way with me….he loves me.


As I am typing up these examples, I think to myself what harm would have been done to Tommy if I had said “No”??   No to ice cream truck….he would have had a bowl of the ice cream from in our freezer.  No to the book fair….he would have read his library book or one on his shelf from previous book fairs.   No to spending money for the trip…..he would have still had a great time and made wonderful memories with his class and learned that doing his chores would have given him money to spend, but memories and fun don’t need to cost anything.


Dave Ramsey says that personal finance is 20% head knowledge and 80% behavior and for me this problem is 90% psychological.   I grew up the youngest of 5 children and wasn’t the richest kid in school.  I would cringe when the teachers would ask, what did you get for Christmas and my classmates would have this long list and I would say my one thing.  While my hubby and I budget for Christmas, you can bet my children get more than one present.  I just grew up knowing that my family didn’t have the things others did.  No trip to Disney world but we always went on a family vacation every summer. My parents seemed content and didn’t seem to worry about the need to keep up with the “Jones”.


Looking back at that as an adult, I have a totally different take on it.  While the embarrassment stayed with me, I learned some very valuable lessons from my parents.   My parents didn’t have a extravagant home, but they never refinanced and owned their home while I was at home.  I remember my parents making the last payment on the house after the man they had a contract for deed with passed away.  At Christmas, while I might not have had numerous gifts, the one gift I wanted was always under the tree and I felt loved.  To this day, I still can remember the joy of my “Baby Alive” I received when I was little and the clock radio I received as a teen.  And of course, my best memory is of the puppy my parents got me, Chico.   Never mind that I drove them nuts acting like a dog so they would get me a dog.  These gifts meant so much to me.   My parents knew that and always did their best to make sure I felt loved.


I don’t recall my parents using a credit card much in my life and they paid cash for most things.  My dad bought his vehicles and boats with cash and he still does today.   We bought items at Garage Sales and my mother sewed.  We always had a garden to grow and preserve our harvest for the winter.  We would even go to the colony to get more produce to meet our needs.  So was I affected by my parents saying “no “to me….yes, I learned to appreciate what I had, work hard, garden, sew, cook, save money and be frugal.  I am so thankful for that today!   My mom is amazing and taught me so much!


I am realizing while writing this what a disservice I am doing to my son by not saying “No” sometimes.   I learned a lot from my experiences with money as a child.  As a parent it is my job to provide for my child, but also to teach him about life, which includes how to handle money.   This is my job and I need to take is seriously.  It is better if he makes a $10 mistake now than a $10,000 as an adult.   



I have had a discussion with my son about how he will need to do his chores to have spending money.   That Mom will not be giving her money to him when he wants it .  We have a list of chores on the side of the fridge and he receives $1 for each completed.  Most weeks, we only can give him $1 or $2 for chores completed.   He could easily earn $10 a week, if he did his chores.   Time to teach the value of money and hard work!   It is my job as a parent to prepare my children for the real world, just as my parents did.   The lessons we teach our children now about how to save, give and spend will lay the foundation for their financial future as an adult.  This will be very hard for me and I am sure I will slip up, but I am going to give it my best!




Jen C



Other Articles in our FPU Series:

Financial Peace University
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
FPU: Leap of Faith
Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund
Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!
Summer, Soccer and Avoiding the Golden Arches


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Summer, Soccer and Avoiding the Golden Arches


Summer is nearly here, I hope!  It is hard to tell in Minnesota.  But summer means crazy schedules and the desire to spend as much time as possible outside.  Summer in Minnesota is too short to miss a single nice day.   We have one son left at home, but we are super busy with his soccer schedule.  Those of you with more than one child in sports….I don’t know how you do it!  With hectic schedules it is harder to eat at home….but it is possible to avoid those quick drive through meals with a little planning! 

Planning is the key to most of our success in this pursuit of becoming debt free.   If you want to save time and money, menu plan!   How do you menu plan when you have to be at soccer practice three nights a week at 6:30 and Mom doesn’t even get home from work until 5:30 or 5:45??   Planning, planning and more planning is the answer.  On soccer nights we plan easy meals that can be made ahead, which saves us time and money and a million calories!!  Supper is ready and in the fridge just waiting for us. 

We look at what evening we will be home during the week and then make a few nights meals that evening.  A few weeks ago on a Monday evening, Jen made two additional meals in addition to our evening meal.  She made Beef Enchiladas and Chicken Salad for Tuesday and Wednesday night meals.  Jen makes the enchiladas to the point of going in the oven, then puts them in the fridge with the heating direction on them.  Then we can call home and have who ever is home put supper in the oven and it is ready when we arrive at home! 

Beef Enchiladas ready for the oven!

Chicken Salad can be made ahead!  Cut up some fruit and have a bag of Sunchips and croissants on hand and supper is ready in a matter of minutes!  Plus this meal is healthier than McDonalds and cost less as well.

Other meal ideas that can be made ahead – most sandwiches, such as ham spread, seafood salad and Summer Sub Sandwiches – crockpot meals and Pasta Salads.  Jen recently subscribed to the Emeals Healthy Lunch Menu Plan, which makes for great make ahead quick meals on very busy nights!  We can even grab the meals out of the fridge and eat them on the way to practice, if needed. 

We hope this post gets you thinking of how you can spend a little time each week to plan your meals and avoid the golden arches this summer!   It is great to pack a lunch to take with you on an outing as well.   Lunch always tastes so much better outside at a park!!  Of course we occasionally have a meal at the Golden Arches, but when we do it is a real treat.   Just remember you can make your own healthy food fast with a little planning.


Happy Budgeting!!

Paul and Jen 
Faithfully Living Below Our Means!



Other Articles in our FPU Series:

Financial Peace University
Our FPU Story: That was then…..This is now
FPU: Leap of Faith Budgeting…Time to Make a Plan
FPU: Inside Our Weekly Budget Meeting
FPU: Sink Your Debt with a Sinking Fund
Groceries: Cut the Dance and Start to Wiggle!


How to post a comment on xanga, if you don’t have a xanga account: Click on the “add comments” link under the post. Above the comment box is the heading SIgn in to Comment – You many sign in with your facebook account, twitter or as a guest. Then simply comment and hit submit!!