Becoming Centsible Series

This is part 4 of a 4 part series, Becoming Centsible: My Frugal Journey.

Sigh… I never learn!   At least this time, I had the means to pay it off and began to do so.   It was this time that I met Scott.   As I said, he was just buying his house.   In fact, just about a month after I met him, he sat down to have a meeting regarding the colors inside his home.   His mom said to make sure he picked neutral colors, so someday his future wife could decorate however she wanted.   And that’s why I now live in a home that is completely beige from top to bottom, except the extraordinarily bold navy blue countertop in my master bathroom.

Scott stretched out his move in date and home building as long as possible, so he could continue to save, finally putting half down on the home.   About that time, Scott and I decided to get married.   When I moved in finally, we took   some money we had saved up to furnish the home, but couldn’t afford all I wanted.   I apparently still hadn’t learned my lesson, because I convinced Scott to get some items that were more extravagant than we could afford and suddenly I had another debt to pay.

We paid bills and made ends meet.     And then we got the shock of our lives.   After being told I’d never have kids, I found out I was pregnant.   I was excited.   I was scared.   More than anything, I’d always wanted to be a mom and there it was, on the horizon.   My life flipped upsidedown and my priorities changed.   I didn’t want to miss a minute of being a mom.   I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. But, I knew that meant big changes in our lives, especially financially.

With a new goal in mind, my husband and I set up a plan to get out of debt before the baby arrived.   We started living on one income, using my income to get our heads above water.   I had to get creative with menus, grocery shopping, and looked at how we could cut our bills.   I found I loved frugal shopping way more than I loved spending money I didn’t have.   Together we worked towards our one goal and by the time our daughter joined our family in 2004, we only had our mortgage left to pay. It was enough.   We’d made it.

Of course, our budget is tight, living on one income in a two income world.   Of course we struggle, but living savvy and being frugal has allowed me to stay home while our three children grow.   I don’t have to miss a minute.   This is what is important to us and it’s our decision, so instead of complaining about our tight budget, we make it work.   We don’t buy anything if we don’t have the money.   We find a way to do without.   Because, other than our children, there’s nothing we can’t live without.

Now, we have set up plans for college, in case something should happen to Scott or I, and even retirement.   We have a plan and together, we’re working towards it without going into debt, because knowing how it feels without bills rolling in, we never want to go back there again.

This year, we have a new (less important and frivolous) financial goal.   We’d like to take an all-out vacation to Disney, before our oldest daughter starts Kindergarten.   Of course, we’ll still be frugal, but we’d like to splurge a bit to get the full experience, while they kids are young enough to still get chills at the sight of Mickey Mouse and would give anything for Ariel’s autograph.   We’d also not like to have to dip into our savings.

We’re pulling the purse strings tighter, eating from the pantry more often, eating out less often, and enjoying more nights together at home as a family.   We’ve talked to our children about our goal and sometimes have to remind them, when they are begging for a toy at the store or to go out to eat.   Luckily, they’re on board with us!   Especially, my 5 year old, who is marking the days off on her calendar. I wonder how long this “we’re saving our money for Disney” routine will work when they ask for something at the store?

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Becoming Centsible: Sliding Downhill

by Beth Montgomery on February 6, 2010 · 0 comments

in Announcements, Frugal Living

This is part 3 of a 4 part series, Becoming Centsible: My Frugal Journey.

My sophomore and junior years flew by.   At the end of my junior year, my best friend and I were still living in the dorms, while all our friends were getting apartments near campus.   In envy, I made the worst decision and ruined my comfortable lifestyle.   We found our own apartment.   It was cheap, near campus, and not a horrible decision for a first apartment, but it wasn’t part of my agreement with my Grandparents.   The next year, bills piled up around us for utilities and rent.   We both worked hard, while going to school, to make ends meet.   And while we were doing fine, we didn’t have extra money to go out and have fun.   We sat home, eating Ramen noodles, each evening, while our friends shopped, went out to eat, and hit the town.

I stayed strong for a half of the year.   Then New Years and my birthday came, I decided I deserved a night out.   Just one night, and then, I’d go back to sitting home and being responsible.   I reached in and grabbed out one of the credit cards.   The one with the lowest available balance.   I was going to pay it off as soon as the bill came.

It was so easy.   Just a swipe and whatever I wanted was mine.   After that night, it got too easy.   I kept using the credit card, promising to pay it off as soon as I got the bill. But when that bill came, it was more than I had, but luckily there was a little note that said minimum payment.   It was so low, I was shocked.   I happily paid off the minimum payment and continued to shop, as the balance grew and grew, until I maxed out the credit card completely.

I wish I could say it made me realize and I smartened up, but I didn’t.   I just reached for the next credit card.     It got so bad, I kept thinking, it’s too late now, why stop?   I even bought a cell phone on credit and ran up a bill too high to pay.

The bills grew and I couldn’t even make the minimum payment.  And then, instead of bills rolling in, creditors started calling and I was hiding out, avoiding the phone.

I know so many people struggle at this point for so long, but I got lucky.   Just out of college, I got a job at a very small, new company and was making great money.   I went back to staying home and being responsible.   Though I hadn’t caught on to the full understanding of frugal living, I was good at living on little and actually enjoyed those Ramen noodles.   I consolidated my debt, made higher payments than necessary, and after a year, I had was paid off.

And then I bought a car on credit!

Stay tuned…

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This is part 2 of a 4 part series, Becoming Centsible: My Frugal Journey.

My mom had me when she was very young.   Then, when I was still young, my parents divorced.   For five years, it was just me and my mom living in a small house, which made us more of best friends than mother and daughter. In fact, when I got my first kiss, I didn’t grab the phone to dial up someone at school.   I ran in and woke up my mother to tell her all about it.

Years later, I learned this wasn’t true, but at the time I viewed my mom’s philosophy, when it came to money, as don’t worry, be happy.   We ate out, bought clothes, went to movies, and didn’t talk about how much a single mom worried about things like how she was going to pay the next bill that came our way.   I was clueless.

As I grew, things only got better for us from my perspective.   Our family grew and when I entered college, I concentrated completely on being a teenage, while my friends got jobs. If I wanted to go to the movies or out with friends, I asked and mom gave me money.

It was my Junior year, when financial fear started to creep into me.   I knew my mom had absolutely no way to pay for my college.   At the time, neither did my dad. They talked to me about things like loans and scholarships. And an image of me working myself weary to pay for college, while keeping up with school work formed in my head. I knew so many people did it, but to me, I’d never been there. I’d never done that.   It was foreign and scary.   I even went as far as to consider not going to college, because I knew I couldn’t afford it.

My prayers were answered in the form of Fairy Grandparents.   My Grandparents, who at the time owned Midas shops, struck a deal with me. If I worked for them each summer from now until I graduated college, they’d pay my tuition. The idea of not starting my life drowning in school loans was undeniably appealing, so I eagerly agreed.

That summer, I moved in with them and started working full-time during the summer at their Midas shop as the receptionist. It was a great opportunity for me.   For them, they got a loyal employee who they knew wouldn’t quit on them and would work hard.   I learned a lot and eventually, even got to hire, train, and unfortunately fire new receptionists for other stores.   But, most importantly, I was getting a pay check and saving my own money.

College came so quickly.   I spent the summers at my Dad’s working at his Midas shop, where my step mom tried hard to teach me financial responsibility.   She helped me balance my check book, track my spending, and save.  Each month, when my bank statement rolled in, we had our monthly meetings.

The winters were spent at college, where I had no one to answer to but me.   I knew the dangers of credit cards.   I’d be told about financial responsibility. I was armed with everything I needed.  But everywhere I looked were signs telling me that all I had to do was fill out one application and I’d get a free t-shirt.   My friend and I hit every single possible free t-shirt opportunity, buying our books at two separate stores to get them and even filling out a few credit card applications. Our wardrobes were stocked with new t-shirts announcing our college name to the world.

Of course, without any credit history “good or bad, I was immediately approved, and credit cards started appearing in the mail.   My freshman year, I was good.    I didn’t touch them.   I took them all and tucked them in my sock drawer, just in case I needed them some day.   And there they stayed…

Stay tuned…

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Becoming Centsible: Meet Scott

by Beth Montgomery on February 4, 2010 · 1 comment

in Announcements, Frugal Living

This is part 1 of a 4 part series, Becoming Centsible: My Frugal Journey.

One promise I made to you was to let you get to know me a bit better this year.   Since I write a money saving blog, one thing you need to know about me is why do I cut my budget so much? Why do I pinch pennies, snag freebies, and horde coupons?  How did I become a savvy shopper?   Was it in my blood?   Is it out of necessity? Or is it something else?

Bring the past only if you are going to build from it.   ~Domà ©nico Cieri Estrada

To tell the truth, I’m not so proud of how I got here, because it doesn’t portray me in the best of light.   Sure I’m doing wonderful now, but that wasn’t always the case.   But this story is part of who I am, so here it goes…

We’ll start with my husband, since he’s the sensible one…

Though born in Indiana, my husband, Scott, grew up with his family in Florida.   They thought nothing about using credit cards, buying on credit, home mortgages, car payments, and so on and so forth.   It just built up.   It wasn’t as if they were sinking in debt.   They were just your average American family.

My husband, however, it’s your average American guy.   He tends to view things from the worst possible angle.   A true pessimist at heart.   We’re complete opposites, but that’s probably while we’re perfect for each other. But, that, of course, is another story.   Anyway, while his family saw how wonderful they were living, he only saw bills and payments that never ended.

After college, he moved back to Indiana where his family had relocated during his time at FSU.     Instead of doing what most single guys do and setting up a bachelor pad, Scott did something embarrassingly uncool for a college graduate.  He moved in with his parents.   And then he did something sensible.   He start saving every penny to buy his own home. He didn’t go out often.   He stayed home and saved.

A few days before he started picking out a color scheme for his new house, he met me.

I managed to look past the entire living with his parents thing and saw someone who made a very smart decision in his life.   One I wished I’d made as well…

Stay tuned…

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