Debt Free Scream

I have to pop in here to let you all know how geeky excited I have the chance to yell “We’re Debt Free!” on the Dave Ramsey show this afternoon.

I just did an interview with Jon White on our Debt free story and you can hear that here. And I was also recently featured on Babble with our story to financial freedom.

For more on our story to becoming debt free click here or search “debt free” in my side bar.

Guys!

Jodimichelle

I’m very excited.

{Life List} Becoming debt free

Stick with me here, I’m going to go in about 100 different directions to get this post to make any kind of sense. Don’t you love it when I do that?

Here’s some reference points for you, if you’re new to this conversation, on how I got to where I am today.
Life List
What I’ve said, so far, about becoming debt free – a list of posts I’ve written here to outline our journey, give some tips and hopefully inspire some of you as well.
Most recently, dropped this bomb on a key ingredient to how we’ll be debt free by Christmas.

That feels weird to say out-loud. It involves some continued hard work and probably the sale of our mini van, but we’re 110% committed to this.

We sold our house this past summer and sold it for less than we paid when we bought the home in 2004. We carried over debt from the sale of the home, and dot-to-dot game led us to building a new home, which we are currently in the process of selling (before it’s even finished – this is that aforementioned bomb we dropped) – the sale of the new build isn’t official until mid December some time so we’re sitting tight until them to make any huge proclamations and claim SOLD. We’re being as careful as we can at this point. Nothing is for sure until there are signatures. And the ink is very, very dry. But we’re 98% there.

Since we’ve been saving for a down payment on this new build and our monthly obligation to housing (we’re renting) is less than $500 right now – we’ve been able to knock this one out of the park. The debt that we carried over from the sale of the first house, earlier this year, will vanish mid December. As in ZERO. As in, WOW. As in, Thank you God. As in, We’re more than half way there.

The only other debt we carry is a car payment (hence the probable sale of the van) and taking everything into consideration (and hoping for a sale) we’ll be completely 100% debt free by Christmas. Which means we need to get serious about the van situation.

Now. Here’s what happened today.

I’m clicking around my Google Reader to read through blogs I love and I came across this guest post on The Lettered Cottage.

Insert frantic clicking, sharing and spreading of this link.

You guys … I want that story. I want to be able to feel that freedom. I am in the midst of writing this very story for our lives and I cannot wait to share the day with you when this is a reality and not something I’m reading from someone else’s home.

Food is a huge problem in this house – I try and try and just cannot figure out how to spend less. I menu plan, I coupon clip, I watch the sales, I stock my pantry but I’m missing something. I don’t know what it is yet. I will learn. I’m getting there.

So I plan to buy the ebook (or maybe get it as a Christmas gift?? hint! hint!).

I am on fire.

Other helpful links I came upon:
Rara Bakes and read through the archives of Grocery Shrink to find uber helpful tips and links, recipes and free printables as well.

Other favorites:
Simple Organized Living
Food on the Table Blog

My brain hurts a little bit. Time for a nap.

What do you got, though? Any tips you follow religiously, websites you always walk away from feeling like you gained more the time lost to read it?

Planning: Debt Free

We’re back with some more money talk. Let’s be debt free, friends!

I talk quite a bit about how unorganized I am. How I struggle with the piles of paper and staying on top of menu planning and list making. It’s not a strong point of mine. It’s a weakness I’m very aware of.

Menu Planning

But I also know and understand the power of planning. Having a small note pad with me at all times to keep on task, remember important information or to tell me what’s next … it’s like a brain.

I’m also a very visual person. Reading patterns is for the birds in my opinion. Sticking to a recipe is like following all the rules. I prefer to pretend there are areas in my life where rules just need not apply.

Thinking on paper - Quilt for Jessica

However … money is one of those things I’ve learned over and over and over and over and over and OVER again that not planning it will always result in losing it.

Always.

There’s not a family friendly leash to put on your money to make it stay where you want it. There’s a budget and that is what works.

It’s a good thing I married someone who knows how to handle details.

Aaron working on his presentation

Only – the details of our household? Are left to me. (He pops in for a hello every once in a while and more often lately after starting the FPU class)

So, for the tips:

Obviously here – let’s get on a budget shall we?

It’s not set in stone and both parties involved (if there is more than one party TO involve) should have a say. The best thing about a budget is that you’re in charge. You get to change it if needed. You get to say where extra’s go, where less than extra needs to come from. You’re on top of it.

It takes a couple months to really figure it out and make sure that you’re allotting enough money in your needed categories. We’re learning that we just need to add a little more into our food budget. I’m actually embarrassed about that because I want so badly to be able to live on less where food comes into play – but trying to wear a size 3 shoe on a size 8 foot is just painful. So this month, we’re adjusting and we’ll see how we come out on the other side.

Slow and steady wins the race.

Patience? Who me? Just because you don’t have hundreds of dollars to set aside each month for saving doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be saving SOMETHING. $10 a month grows slowly … but all of a sudden you look and there’s $2,000 there that wasn’t before. It’s powerful.

Maybe I’m just in the the middle of learning this lesson and it’s just starting to take hold … but there’s something to be said about the way my grandparents lived. Literally picking up pennies from the sidewalk to take into the bank to pay down their mortgage. That’s powerful.

Every penny, literally, counts.

Closet

Cure what ails you.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a shopper. I love to bargain hunt and I’m a deal finder – yes. That’s a hobby. But shopping for clothes? Shoes? Not interested.

That didn’t happen over night and I wasn’t always like this – but here’s how it happened for me. When I was 18 I had a breast reduction, before that clothes weren’t appealing to me. They didn’t fit my body well, my body didn’t fit me well – so I stayed away. After the reduction? All of a sudden I could buy tshirts in the junior section of the stores and I was ALIVE! I owned cute underclothing for the first time in my entire life. No more “minimizers”. I was working full time so I could afford to buy myself clothes when I wanted – but back then?

I was making small amounts of money and then very large amounts of money – it wasn’t consistent. I was on a budget at 16 and I really liked the percentage break down. I saved 30% of everything I brought in. I didn’t touch it. The rest? I gathered and divided so I could pay for gas, car insurance and my phone and tithe. Then there were left overs. I could spend that if I wanted but it was really hard to part with it because I knew how hard I worked to get it.

So I didn’t buy too often. The feet and shoes? I have freakishly small feet and it’s just not fun to shop for shoes. They rarely fit my foot. So I don’t even look.

From there it just turned into the way I lived. Now I have kids to shop for and it’s so much easier to buy them an outfit than spend money on myself. I rarely have child free shopping experiences so I just don’t have time to fit items on and preview a look or style.

I think this is hard for a lot of women – the shopping. After I became a stay-at-home mom I had a REALLY hard time not spending money every single day. I lived at Target for a few months. I had a very good baby who slept wonderfully and I was bored out of my mind. So I shopped. Alot.

We froze my debit card in a block of ice in the freezer. True Story.

You just have to do what’s right for you in this situation and you need to be honest about it with an accountable party.

That’s what I’m thinking about today. Next up? How to hunt for bargains, how to score great deals.

Things I’ve learned lately

It’s almost the end of the year and I’ve been loving the recent round-ups I’ve seen on social media with 5-star books, podcast episodes that were dynamic and worthy and content that made an impact so I’m sharing the things I’ve held dear this year and what I’ve learned along the way.

We’re going to tackle a few spaces and I’m going to give you the outline first, so you know what to expect or where to jump for the content that might make the most sense for you, right now. I’m so glad you’re here. Take this as an invitation to share your stuff in the comments.

Home:

I’ll leave the bits and pieces here that inspire me. Books that I love having available on design, that I turn to again and again for comfort, inspiration and ideas. I’ll break down my own process for what I do when I’m working on a space and how I execute it. And I’ll round up the best purchases I’ve made this year for our home.

Food:

Mmmm, you guys. I’ll give you the recipes we can’t stop making. The lucky ones I’ve printed and spilled on that have wear marks from happy fingers. More books, because, and this should be a theme for you, I love cookbooks. And I’ll round up the best hostess gifts I’ve given and gotten, to make your Holiday giving (perhaps) just a little easier.

Self:

Oh hey. Hi. It’s me. I am an enneagram 5 and I love to learn. I didn’t know that was special until I dove in and realized not everyone wants more information, all the time. About everything. I know things, so you don’t have to. (hashtag) I’ll round up the books I can’t wait to read (duh), the podcasts I can’t stop thinking about and recommending to friends, and the poetry and places that have gotten me through this last year.

Money:

Weird, right? NOPE. I am very good at budgeting and saving. We’ve been through the Dave Ramsey courses, are debt free, have sold businesses and are very well versed in real estate investing. I have things to tell you. Buckle in. I’ll share some resources with you, some tough love (because “get rich quick” and “too good to be true” are actually correct barometers to avoid for being healthy and wise with money) and I’ll share with you what I’m up to lately.

Sorry, just jumping back in to add this: I don’t want to be an asshole here. You don’t need tough love and I don’t really care if you’re part of a pyramid scheme or think bitcoin is what we should be paying attention to. Doesn’t matter to me, won’t move my needle. I do love talking about these things because, again, I love to learn. I’m curious and love to figure stuff out. That’s where I’ll be sharing from. Not my lady-parts high-horse. You’re doing amazing.

Hosting:

As a family, we have a set of values. Schaap’s do hard things. Resourcefulness over resources. Being creators, not consumers. And, among others, we host. Our house is an open house, we say yes. We do the damn thing. I’ve learned a few helpful patterns for hosting and taken the guess work out of much of the anxiety. I’ve talked about hosting here before (here and here): but we moved homes since then and specifically bought a home that could host more. So I have some updates. Will share my go-to recipes, themes and give you the nitty gritty on how it happens.

Amazon:

What? I know. But hear me out. I mayyybe geek-out, on the regular, about the best buys on amazon. Life hacks, maybe? The things I didn’t know could solve the problem I couldn’t name? How to keep my cupboards from creeping open. What’s that smell and how to get rid of it? Is there a trash can for this very small space I have? Why can’t I reach anything in the back of my cupboards? Yea. It’s great. I’m here for you. And amazon delivers. (ba-da-bing!)

I’ll see you back here soon with our first breakdown.

There’s water in my basement but everything’s ok.

I rushed home this afternoon after a workout to shower and get to a 1pm lunch appointment. I was cutting it close but I love the race against the clock and I would make it. Until I ran downstairs to change the laundry and find something clean to throw on and run out the door …

There was a sound of water running and the wash machine wasn’t on .. and then I stepped on our rug and it was soaking wet, and now so were my feet, and then I looked around more intently and yes; our water heater must be leaking. Must have BEEN leaking – there’s standing water in my basement. Coming up through our Hickory hardwood floors, just dancing around the grooves of the wood as water might do, when it has nothing else to do. I will have to contact Full Spectrum Plumbing to fix it.

Raindrops: spring rain

I thought if I could figure out how to stop the leak and clean it up, I could still make it to my lunch a little late. I had been daydreaming about what I was going to order. I was so excited. A frantic call to Aaron, an email off to our insurance agent. I thought I would just have to wait … so why not wait over lunch?

But then the phone started ringing. The insurance agent, then the clean up crew, then the plumber. Everyone could come right away, or shortly. And all of a sudden I wasn’t going to be ordering lunch. Or washing my dishes, or finishing the laundry, or cooking.

I was (am) literally stuck here.

——–

Aaron and I had just talked about our plans for this summer. We need to replace a roof on a portion of the garage, we need a new door and the cement steps are giving way. It’s time to refinish our main-floor flooring. We are slowly and surely making our way towards a replacement car for our van. All the things, right? All. The. Things. Clearly we should have been planning to replace a water heater, too. Possibly a furnace. This is an old house, and while we remodeled her and gave her a new dress, she is still standing on the same 80 year old bones.

And sometimes I forget that doing something once doesn’t mean we’ll never have to do it again. Buying a car once doesn’t mean that in 230,000 miles you won’t need to buy another. Replacing floors doesn’t mean you won’t have to refinish them. Taking hot showers and doing your dishes doesn’t mean you won’t wear out the mechanics that deliver that hot water to you.

Northern Michigan

———

A couple weeks ago at church there was a young man who got up at the end with a word for the congregation. This happens in our church – people listen for the Holy Spirit and often get images, dreams, or words of encouragement to share with everyone else – and he shared something about tithing. He had felt God convicting him to tithe $60 but all he had to give was $30 and he kind of went back and forth with himself for a while trying to justify his need vs conviction. After a bit he drove to the bank and got the amount he felt he was supposed to give and experienced overwhelming peace in that obedience.

That same morning I said to Aaron, a little off the cuff, I think we should be tithing. We haven’t for a while, and at the time that felt like what we were supposed to be doing. There’s obedience in all kinds of different ways with our time and our resources. But for some reason, that morning, I just felt like we needed to start again. Aaron said to add it to the list of things to discuss and then we kind of dropped it and went on with our morning. But as soon as the pastor called up the volunteers to take the offering, I whipped out our checkbook, wrote a check and dropped it in the bucket. Not knowing any of this young mans own conviction over tithe that same morning.

Weekend up north with Penelope

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Earlier this month I felt God hammering me with the word “Provision” – defined as “the action of providing or supplying something for use // An amount or thing supplied or provided” and I tend to think of provision as strictly financial.

I’ve chronicled our financial story on this blog for a long time. Becoming debt free and selling and buying homes, how we budget and even most recently – how we plan, financially, for vacations. Provision is a large part of our daily life, belief in God or not.

But when I started looking for more what that word really means, in a spiritual sense, I found some amazing things. In Philipeans 4:9 It talks about God supplying (providing) all our needs according to His riches in glory. In Matthew 6:26 it talks about the birds of the air – how God feeds them without their sowing or reaping … and aren’t we worth more than the birds?

Around the house and in the garden

I learned that Provision, in the sense that I felt God was hammering me with it, is a word for His economy. There’s an all encompassing feeling to being “provided for” rather than just putting money in the bank.

God wants to provide me with love, rest, assurance, knowledge, intimacy, joy, purpose, and satisfaction. He wants to care for my hunger, fill my emptiness, call me “daughter, sow seeds of intimacy into my life, save my marriage, equip me daily to parent and instruct me to steward my gifts well.

——–

It’s not that I’ve felt a lacking in provision, but I’ve been missing the point. Mostly in my personal life. I’ve felt the need to continue to work harder for relationships, for success. I’ve felt the pressure to perform and rush and run. I’ve felt guilty for the time available to me in order to pour into women, children, our family. I’ve measured myself against the world with a yard stick that is always only too short. But by centimeters. So the recognition was just in front of me, almost there. Just a little more. A little longer.

And I failed. Every time.

Windmill Island

But this word provision brought with it an understanding that God will provide my comfort. Not Aaron, or success, or recognition, or financial gain, or even being debt free, not my plans or expectations or need for control. None of the labels I want for myself or seek in this life are ever going to provide me lasting comfort.

When I have unmet needs, God reminds me to turn towards him. When I’m dying for connection, God reminds me to take my disappointments and unmet expectations to him. He is the giver of all good things.

——-

So we had our hot water heater replaced, floors are ripped up and broken into pieces in our basement, tomorrow the washer and dryer get moved to assess any damage underneath. We might need new floors. All things. All temporary things, fixable things.

A wrench in anyone’s plans for sure. And still a mountain of unknown ahead. But the sun is shining and everyone who’s been in our home helping this afternoon has been kind and friendly, professional and quick and most important, understanding.

I feel completely at ease in all of this. No rushing or fretting. No amount of planning can undo the surprises and no amount of planning can keep the surprises away, either. We’ll do what we’re able, when we’re able. And not just financially, because if I’ve learned anything here it’s that provision is far deeper than creature comfort.

Cherry blossoms

——–

As I was wrestling through this idea of Provision over the last few weeks, God kept asking me this question:

“Are you more worried about what people think of you, or what I can do through you?”

And I’d have to say that mostly I’m more worried about people, but slowly I’m learning to swim.

South Haven Pier and Lighthouse in the fog 2014