Matt and I are budgeting this year for the first time. I used to think I was budgeting by just spending "as little as possible", but now I realize there were hundreds of dollars slipping through our fingers in my carelessness. We've been going through Financial Peace University and living on a purposeful budget (budget forms here). This involves sitting down before each new month and talking about what we will need to spend money on this month that we didn't need to spend money on last month.
We are a family of two adults and one toddler. When we started budgeting we were having trouble staying under $150 for groceries every two weeks, but lately I've been grocery shopping for under $100 every two weeks! I accomplish this by shopping at Aldi, and shopping once a week for the week instead of once every two weeks.
Here's a list of my last grocery store trip.
Pink Lady Apples (2)
Light String Cheese
Old Fashioned Rolled Oats
Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk
Colby Jack Cheese (2)
Fresh Green Beans
Frozen Cut Okra (2)
Frozen Broccoli Florets
Frozen Fancy Green Beans
Frozen Chicken Tenderloins
That was my list (reading straight from the receipt) and the total was $43.29 (I had a $5 off coupon, so I actually spent less than $40 on this run).
For breakfast we eat a lot of eggs (with a side of veggies, or on toasted bread with butter, tomato, and lettuce) and oatmeal (either in almond milk microwaved and then add apple bits, or I always toast half of the oatmeal in coconut oil with vanilla(not purchased this week) and sweetener (not purchased this week) to make granola, which we eat like cereal with the almond milk poured over it.
For lunch most work days (5 or 6 days for my husband and 2 or 3 for me) we pack a sandwich with meat, lettuce, mayo, and tomato (meat and mayo not purchased this week), but some work days we bring leftovers from the night before to eat for lunch. We also take apples, carrots, string cheese, celery, peanuts etc. as snacks for work.
For dinners we're pretty easy going, meat and veggies with herbs and spices often. Our last dinner, I steamed broccoli, cooked chicken and then mixed up some mayo, cheese (which I shredded), onion powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mixed it all together and baked for awhile, and it was yummy and satisfying. I only bought chicken this week because we already have fish, ground beef, and a full turkey in our freezer, so this week we can have a little of each of those to get through dinners, and I may not need to buy any meat at all next week.
Next week I will have to get more vanilla, but we should have frozen veggies and some cheese left over, so I'll get less of those, etc. It's a give and take every week, but we're staying under $50.
I can totally understand if you're used to eating fancier than we do, but I'm talking about grocery shopping on a budget, spending less than $50 a week, while maintaining a no sugar/white flour/white rice/potato diet.
Good luck, happy budgeting, and if you're headed to Aldi don't forget to bring a quarter!
One of our apple trees, two springs into its life, is covered in apple blossoms. I have every expectation that the apples, which were small last year, will grow bigger as the years and tree progress. Our God thought of everything when he gave us color and taste and sight and sound and touch and smell and wonder. He gives the best gifts.
God continues to work on our family, directing Matt and I separately toward the same verses, growing our family. We're learning that our opinions, our friends' opinions, our families' opinions, our church's opinions, and our culture's opinions are irrelevant. Satan has spent his long life convincing God's children that God doesn't mean what He says, and we have to measure our choices, and thus our lives, against God's actual words.
Genesis 3:1-4 Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field with the LORD God has made. And he said unto the woman, "Yeah, hath God said, 'Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?'" And the woman said unto the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.'." And the serpent said unto the woman, "Ye shall not surely die:..."
Jeremiah 23:16-17 & 22 Thus saith the Lord of hosts, "Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, 'The LORD hath said, 'Ye shall have peace'.'and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of their own heart, 'No evil shall come upon you.' ... But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.
God's been making changes in our family lately. He put His finger on wordliness in our home recently, reminding us that friendship with the world is enmity with God, and it has continued from there.
My personality (ENTJ) is the commander type. So, when God teaches me something true, I want to take it to everyone and say, "Look. Truth. Adjust accordingly." That's the way my personality works, but God has also given me verses in Matthew 7:3-5 recently that say clearly, "Don't be concerned about what other people are doing. I want to work in your life and your family."
Here are the verses He's given us this week. Here are the verses He's using to change our family:
Proverbs 3:3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart.
2 Corinthians 6:17-18 Wherefore come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you. And I will be a father unto you and you shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.
Proverbs 5:7-14 Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her(the strange woman, the world), and come not nigh the door of her house; lest thou give honor unto others, and thy years unto the cruel; lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labors be in the house of a stranger; and thou mourn at the last when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation of the assembly.
1 Kings 18:38-39 Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, He is the God; the Lord, He is the God.
Galatians 5:13 & 16 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
There are many reasons why I admired Matt enough to marry him. One of the brightest reasons was the way he had kept himself from the world and close to God's Truth during his teen years when most of his peers (myself included) had excused themselves from conviction for a summer or two of sin. There are beautiful things I knew about him before I married him, and these past (almost) six years, he has only become more impressive to me.
One of the things he does remarkably well is execute projects around our home. He tore out the chimney that was in our wall (from the old furnace) and in his free time (which he has very little of with his new job) he has been putting in built-ins beside our stairs. I'm so excited to have all of that space to style with books and pictures and pretty tid bits. It's going to be beautiful when he frames it all out. Our hutch looks a little empty in this picture, but that's because I had taken all of our neutral hardback books to be props in the Egyptian Escape Room we just threw at the church for the young adults and the teen group. I'm going to do a whole post on that later. It was pretty fantastic.
Have y'all gotten into Escape Rooms? Matt and I have done two recently with some friends, and we blew through one of them (solving it in half the time) and then bombed the second one, which knocked our pride down a solid notch. They're a fun date if you're into solving puzzles and observing clues. They are pricey, but we paid for the first one last October and received the second one as a gift, so we aren't breaking our financial goals to enjoy this fun. Focused and not finished.
Matt has fallen into a good pattern with his new job, putting in more hours and bringing home more bacon, and though we miss his occasional early afternoons, we Nowak ladies are falling into our new patterns too.
We've been taking longer walks around the neighborhood, collecting lamb's ears, gumballs, dandelions, and anything else we find in the median. Apparently there might be a snow storm this weekend, but this week has been the best, most beautiful weather for backyard swing sets and front yard grass picking, including long talks with endearing old lady neighbors.
With extra time every afternoon before Matt gets home, I've been baking little Trim Healthy Mama treats and meals, cutting the grass, and planning an Escape Room Teen Event that we're hosting at our church next week (which is going to be amazing).
We're still going through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, taking the steps, budgeting with intentionality, selling clothes that don't fit any more (boom!), and throwing all extra money at our house mortgage.
Lately Matt and I have been doing some Bible and heart searching, praying to be more like Jesus and unhypocritical (which describes Jesus perfectly) in our home.
Why do they ask me for advice? I've only been eating this way for a year. I know why they ask. It's because Trim Healthy Mama has made a visible difference in my life. Because I look different than I used to look. I look better than I used to look. They want to look different than they currently look. They want to look better than they currently look. I'm like a billboard for Trim Healthy Mama. A testimony that it works.
This morning when I woke up to a new message from a beautiful lady who I haven't spoken to in years, it hit me hard. I knew what the message would be about as soon as I saw it, because that's what people message me about. People know that I have learned this way of eating and am willing to talk about it. I was right. The message was asking me for tips and tricks as she begins this new journey.
I have been a Christian for more than a year, and I wish that I was a better billboard for being like Jesus Christ. That's all. That's the extent of this post. I'm not enough like Jesus Christ, and I want to be more conformed to His image and His desires for me as a woman, wife, mother, and friend.
Regardless of who you are or where you are financially, I think Americans would benefit greatly from walking through Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps and being intentional about every single dollar, living a debt free life. Make an actual budget for every month before it begins, unique to that month, with a list of all of your expenses and where you're going to spend your money.
I feel like I need to stop and address the fact that we, by God's grace, did not start in debt as a couple. We didn't have a car loan or a student loan, and so in some ways I'm jealous of the people who get to do their "debt free screams" where they've paid off all this money and climbed this mountain hand in hand, though I know most people who are in debt would be jealous that we never were in debt. BUT we did have to make the choice (with every new life step), to not go into debt. To not get a car loan. To not get a student loan. And life happened along the way: burst pipes, car accidents, babies, job changes, and college, all paid with cash.
We CHOSE to always (through lows and highs of our income) live on less than we made and put money aside. That's a choice. It's not always easy, any change is hard, but in my experience, this change is worth it.
We didn't start off with money genius or intentionality. When Matt and I got married, like most well-loved couples, we were given some money. We used that money to buy a car with cash (whew, one good move, hail damage and all), and then we blew through the rest of it on meals out and I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ELSE. Once the money was gone, we looked around, confused. Where did it go? What did we spend it on? And most of all, where do we go from here?
Matt had a job, and I had a job, but I was also in school, and every penny I earned was going straight to keeping my school bill current. Matt's job certainly paid for our expenses with some left over, but if we didn't want to live paycheck to paycheck, we needed to know what to do with any money we had left over. We wanted freedom from the chains of money, and eventually a house filled with babies, and a van to carry them around in. If these were our goals, what were the steps we should take to reach them? I see God's fingerprints all over our search. I wanted advice: craving someone else's experience to help us make good financial choices.
I blogged about it, a year into our marriage. It's there archived for the world to see: I essentially said, "We know nothing. How much should we save as a down payment on our future house?" and someone who I've known for my whole life, a few years ahead of me, took the time to respond and say, "20%. It's old fashioned and it's a lot, but do it." That was all it took for me. I'm goal oriented and focused when I get something in my mind, so even though I had no idea how much 20% would end up being, I could look at the prices of houses in our area and know that we needed AT LEAST $20,000.00 saved.
I am in no way making light of $20,000.00. $20,000.00 is huge, and it was even bigger then. Gigantic. A ton, but we had A GOAL: a step to take. So we started. God provided work and money. God gave us health. We took extra hours and side jobs, picking blueberries and delivering packages and babysitting and and and.
So, we saved up 20% and moved back to Virginia, entering into debt for the first time as a couple. But it didn't feel like debt. It was a house. And still, really, I think it's the best debt you can go into (because it has gone up in value since we bought it), but I wish we had waited, and I'll tell you why.
Now, three years into home ownership, as I mentioned in a previous post, we still owe $79,000.00 to the bank. AND WE HAVE PAID OVER $11,000.00 IN INTEREST TO THE BANK in those three years. Interest. Not principle. Not money towards the loan, just extra money for them to jingle in their pockets and buy big buildings and fancy cars with. $11,000.00 DOWN THE DRAIN. And if we follow their formula, we still have TWENTY SEVEN years left of payments to them. The math on that is absurd. Yes, I know the interest goes down as you go along, but $11,000.00 interest is ALREADY ABSURD, and they're going to get plenty more even if we throw every single extra dollar we get at this.
It's ridiculous. Americans BEG for debt. They want it SO BADLY. When you get approved for a loan, you feel like a million bucks, even though it's COSTING YOU MONEY. "Thank you soooooooooooo much for letting me pay you!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you, big bank for giving me money that I have to return to you and also give you additional money as well. You're the best!"
Yikes, it works me up. What a crooked system, that we're all living in and supporting. What if, hear me now... What if we saved up our money and bought things? With money. With our money. What if as God handed us money, we were intentional with it? If we can save up (over) 20% in two years (for a cheap house, mind you, in a not fancy neighborhood), that means in less than 10 years, we could have saved up 100%. Would it have been annoying in the short term, to rent and wait, deferring that desire? Yes, I'm sure it would have been, but we are, God willing, going to teach our children, so that they can start early and not spend their lives throwing money into the abyss that is Loan Interest.
After we bought the house, I found Dave Ramsey's plan. I knew about his general "stay out of debt" mindset, but finding his steps for saving, has helped us tremendously.
If you're young, start the plan. Start the steps. If you're not young, start the plan. Start the steps.
I will list the steps below. You do not start on the second step until you have finished the first step etc.:
1. Save $1,000.00 as fast as you can. This is your tiny emergency fund, a buffer between you and life.
2. Pay off all of your non-mortgage debt. List your debts, smallest to largest and pay the minimum on everything except the smallest debt. Knock it out fast. After you knock the smallest out, you take that payment and throw it at the second debt and on and on until you're DEBT FREE except your home.
3. Save up 3-6 of expenses (not income) in case of an emergency.
4. Put 15% of your income into retirement. If you have a 401K match at work, start there. Then a Roth IRA for the rest of it.
5. Put money toward your children's college fund.
6. Pay off your house debt.
7. Live and give like no one else.
My point is not that you shouldn't own a house or a car or go on vacation; I just think that we as Americans are living blindly. Accepting the myth that debt is fine and normal and everyone does it, so that makes it ok.
I'm not doing it. We don't have a credit card. We only have house debt, which we are throwing every extra dollar God hands us at, and when that $79,000.00 is paid off, I'll be thrilled to owe no man anything, but to love him. (Romans 13:8)