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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Money Money Money Maaaaahnaaaay

It's been a L O N G time since I talked about anything financial around here, and I need some advice from my most favorite people.

If you've been reading LVL for any length of time you'll know we are Dave Ramsey devotees. We are debt-free and dutifully attempt do a monthly budget to keep ourselves that way. It's one of the many reasons I get to stay home with my feet up and eat bon bons all day.

The last time I wrote about things on the blog it was December of '09. We had just opened up a college fund for the Squirt, which meant we were finally on step 5 of the Dave Ramsey plan. If you're not a devotee the steps are:

#1 Create a $1000 emergency fund
#2 Pay off all debt (except a large mortgage) in snowballing order (from smallest to largest debt)
#3 Build up to a 3-6 month emergency fund
#4 Put 15% of your income away for retirement 
#5 Establish college funds for children at home
#6 Pay off your mortgage
#7 Build wealth and give generously! 

And today, over 3 years later, we are still sitting at Step #5. I was listening to Dave on a run this morning and I found myself getting really frustrated. We moved through those first few baby steps relatively quickly but this college fund thing is HARD. Since the Squirt's birth we've had fits and starts with college savings. Some months we'd have extra and put a bit away, but it wasn't a given. Then Sweet B and Blue Eyes came on the scene and that extra dwindled even further.  For about 6 months now we've consistently been finishing out the month with extra cash on hand. It feels AWESOME. But it's a drop in the bucket compared to what our kids will need.

I've played around with online calculators and the general consensus is that we need to be saving $1800 each month in order to put our 3 kids through 4 years at a public university by the time they are 18.


WHO HAS $1800/month TO SAVE FOR COLLEGE? Don't answer that - I probably can't handle it.

We don't have $1800...but we definitely have enough to have some fun. :) Regular date nights, a vacation now and then, highlights when I want them (instead of when my good friend and hairdresser sweetly tells me it's time). If we put it all into the (still woefully underfunded) college accounts, we're back in the world of cash envelopes and strictly drinking water at restaurants (#firstworldproblems) and I imagine we'll be living that way for quite some time until the "extra" comes up to the $1800 marker.

I'm wondering what your thoughts are. Should we forgo all fun and strive to reach the $1800/month point before loosening the reins on the budget (in twenty years)? Or should we establish our own college savings goal regardless of what the expert calculations tell us and work towards that goal before having fun with any leftover? The progress minded girl in me HATES staying stuck on this Baby Step for so long!

Please give me some encouragement!


  1. In my humble opinion - You can't not live life. For your sake, the sake of your marriage and the sake of your children (aka - you need to have fun, within reason).

    Secondly, as much as I want to help my children go through college, higher education is NOT mandatory; it is not a need I HAVE to meet for them. It is a choice that my children will have to make (one they may even choose to forgo). I had no help with my college education and I put myself through and paid off my own loans before I was 30. It didn't have to be my parents responsibility and I worked harder in school because I was paying for it.

    Lastly, we are not guaranteed tomorrow. If we put off 'living life' to strive for something that we may never even get to - how sad is that?

    1. So much wisdom here Katy - you are right. We are NOT guaranteed tomorrow. Thanks for the encouragement to live a little...with prayer and thanksgiving!

  2. Something that Zach and I have been doing this year to save a little more is evaluating every category of life to see where we can decrease spending. I just consolidated our auto & home insurance to save extra money in that area. We are looking at a new alarm company to save another $20 a month. I have also stepped up my couponing this year to completely eliminate our Target spending. Now I only use the $85 weekly grocery money to get everything for the entire house (including diapers, cleaners, paper towels). That is a savings of $75 every 2 weeks. I have actually been able to spend an average of about $60 a week on everything so far this year. If you want to get back into couponing, I would love to help. I get stacks of coupons a week from my neighbors now. Maybe you and BJ can look at each category and just see if there is anywhere that a new service provider or little cut backs could help put a few more dollars away. Hope that helps.

    1. You are the QUEEN of couponing. So inspiring. The wiggle room we have in our budget currently is actually from shopping around and changing our health insurance. Crazy how much we're not spending each month anymore.

  3. I agree with what Katy said. Even if you can't save it all, maybe save a little. You can help them with their first or second years of college. I'm very much like you in the fact that i like to see progress. Brian reminds me that sometimes we still have to live a little. Hope this helps.

    1. Don't you love that God gives us spouses who complement our own personalities?

  4. I'm such a black or white/all or nothing person, that I can totally empathize with what you are saying.

    However, you DO need to live and you DO need to take vacations, etc. The worst thing I can think of is my children being grown and never remember our family's shared experiences...that night camping in the tent with the giant wind storm which nearly blew it over and us out of it, the 7 hr car trip during which kid B puked 'x' number of times causing us to store bags of barf on the floor, the hot sunny pools in California, and the fishing trip during which they actually caught something (okay, this one hasn't happened yet but we have high hopes for this year).
    These are thinks that CANNOT be sacrificed.

    In the same breath, I had major help with my Uni tuition (which is much cheaper in O'Canada...but regardless, I didn't have to pay it all...) and I was so very grateful.

    I say, if you can put away small amounts and allow it to accrue with a piddly bit of RESP interest do it. Baby steps add up and every little bit WILL help them when they are older.

    Plus, if only 1 or 2 of the 3 hit post-secondary then the money will stretch further.

    Phew - what a novel. :)

    1. "bags of barf on the floor" ...oh my Ash. May I never know what that is like. I think we are going to work towards a savings goal of our own creation (NOT $1800) and trust in the miracle of compound interest to help us out some more.

  5. I can see your struggle laid out here. You like order and systems. You like to follow rules and stay in the box. I myself love that too. I like patterning my family after other godly families. Absorbing as much wisdom of those whom are steps ahead of me have to give. My family also LOVES Dave's Ramsey! Here's the thing though, sometimes I get so busy in my planning, avoiding and absorbing "the right way" that I may not take in account of Gods will. It may look totally different then what I've been told or makes common sense. God has a way of asking us to step out in faith. Most of those times don't make any sense. I know today it's about vacations and little joys, but God has a way of stretching us. Sometimes I get in such a tizzy that I forget to ask Him what He wants for our family. I know I know so bad... the planner in me! God has always showed me Grace in this area though, and I am truly grateful for it! This may sound funny to you but I believe God wants all of you. This means everything down to your little joys:) I've experienced him use our little joys to send us messages. You can't go on vacation with out God;) I can't even tell you how many times He has either used us or had someone encourage us when we were away. Most importantly, I pray you know that you are so loved by God and that He is proud of you. You are his daughter and He as your Father wants to take care of you. He knows the desires of your heart. He also knows what's best for your kiddos. He will not pass over your family Katie with blessings and gifts. Train up your children in the way they should go, be faithful unto Him in everything, and He will shock and awe you with the rest:) Camarie


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