From Financial Integrity
Christina & Jeff - Our Ongoing Journey to Financial Integrity
- Multi-adult household
- Two children/dependents
In September 2001, Jeff and I were working full-time. We both had cars, and we both had debt. We were also dating and in love. On September 16, 2001, our lives were about to change and our strive for financial integrity began to evolve.
On September 16, 2001, Jeff and I got engaged; we were in our mid-20s. We both knew that our parents could not afford to pay for a full wedding, no matter the size. We had accumulated many items. So, began our life of simplifying. To raise money for the wedding, we had a garage sale and sold items on e-bay. We priced items and shopped around for the best deals. We handled and/or made many of the smaller items for the ceremony to save on costs.
The big day arrived on March 2, 2002. I could not have asked for a more beautiful day or ceremony. Even our honeymoon was wonderful even though we had opted for the more reasonable choice instead of the very expensive, completely out of our means, tropical island honeymoon. Because of that decision, we were even able to buy our first home that month. That first year of marriage was a very expensive one, since we had to do some major home improvement projects right from the start. We also decided to purchase two new bicycles for recreational purposes.
In June 2003, my car started having issues that were very costly to fix. We were told that it would be better to just trade it in and get something else. We decided to trade in both cars and buy a brand new car that we would share. It was at this time that my job situation had become very unstable due to downsizing. After being let go from my third job in a year, I decided I would go back to school to finish my second degree. With having only one car to insure and maintain I was able to go back.
Fall of 2003, Jeff started toying with the idea of riding his bike to and from work to help save wear and tear on the car and to help save me time as well. In October he worked on mapping out his routes and began having practice runs to build up his endurance.
By spring of 2004 Jeff was riding his bike the ten miles to and from work every day no matter the weather. It was during this time we really got into working on our financial situation. We combined our checking accounts into one shared account. We also decided to reconcile the checking account. It was an overwhelming task, but it paid off since we were able to see where our money was going. We compared the statements to our records and we actually found errors. Once we had the account matching with the bank, we began keeping track of our bills and accounts on a computer financial program. This helped to make sure that the bills were not overlooked and to keep up with the reconciling.
We continued and improved our finances in 2005 and 2006. I went back to work. With the extra money I earned, we were able to take care of a few more home improvement projects. We began working in earnest to simplify our lives by switching over to electronic bill pay and statements. We began our tradition of having year-end meetings where we would discuss the past year’s spending and how to manage and use the new year’s bonus and tax refund.
One of our brainstorms from these meetings was to start what we call “slush funds”. We would take all of our bills and figure out how often they were due and how to make smaller payments every paycheck. The idea was that it is easier to find $15 or $20 every month and let it build up in a separate account to the amount due, than to have to scramble to find the total amount all at once.
With this system, we had money put away for all the bills we knew were due. We also had money in accounts for those unexpected items like car repair or medical expenses. This was great because in 2007 I was no longer able to work, due to a knee injury that required surgery to repair. However, life has a way of throwing a curve, because instead of knee surgery we found out we were pregnant. With the time off, I was able to rest, which was a good thing since the pregnancy was not an easy one.
On April 27, 2008, our twin daughters were born, a whole three months early. This led to a very long hospital stay for both girls and much extra help for them to develop and grow. Even now, they still require extra help, but overall are healthy and active. During this time, because of our choices, I was able to continue to be a stay-at-home mother and wife. We live credit card debt free and have the money to continue to live a happy family life with all the basic needs met.
Yes, it can be a hard life to live with the constant choices we have to make to make sure we remain debt free. But overall, the choice to work on our finical integrity is worth every penny.