Finance

Our Personal Journey Part IV

With Brent’s unexpected promotion, the second time I stayed home wasn’t the tight financial experience we had the first go around. It was still a difficult year with his travel schedule and getting me to the point to accept medication as a viable option to help control my depression, but at the end of the year, it made complete sense why God had led me back home. No doubt, we would have fallen apart if I had been working full-time.

Remember that dream home we bought that needed a lot of work? Over the 5 years since we moved in, we have saved and paid cash for some much needed upgrades:

  • Put on a new roof
  • Have the entire outside repainted
  • Repaint the entire inside
  • Buy a new washer and dryer
  • Buy new stainless kitchen appliances (microwave, range, dishwasher, and fridge)
  • Purchase a new formal dining room set (we didn’t have a dining room in our former house)
  • Purchase a new bedroom set for our daughter (her nursery had been piecemealed together, and once she turned 5, we decided she needed some decent furniture)
  • Install a new AC unit
  • Decorate areas of our home
  • Buy a backyard patio set (our former house didn’t have a formal patio)
  • Complete random miscellaneous improvements that can add up (install new light fixtures, change our whole house to LED lighting, install new door handles, etc.)
  • We’ve also been blessed to save and do things other than home repairs during this time as well (Disney annual passes, vacations, travel, concerts, etc.)

We were able to do all of this without ONE, SINGLE PAYMENT. I don’t say all of this to brag (because our home is still a long way from “dream” status), I say it to explain that if you’re willing to be patient and pay cash, you can accomplish a lot without dealing with payments, stress, and tying up your income.

 
Our home after a new roof and fresh paint. What a facelift!

So what are the things still left that we’d love to save for?

  • Master and guest bathroom remodels
  • Kitchen remodel
  • New flooring throughout the house (yes, we still have the same carpet/tile/linoleum that was installed when the house was built)
  • New formal living room set (we currently have an almost empty room in the house)
  • A pool

Obviously, those are some hefty price tag upgrades. In all honesty, we could have chosen to finance some of these projects and made the payments fit in our monthly budget even without me working. And let me tell you, on hot summer days, I’ve been tempted to add a pool to our backyard!

So, with me at home and Elizabeth approaching kindergarten, we had a decision to make: completely scale back our budget and send her to private school or send her to the A-rated public elementary school that was within walking distance from our house. We opted to try public.

She attended for 3 weeks and was not thrilled with school. Trying to get her ready each morning and complete basic homework each night was a struggle. And Brent was still traveling.

But, he finished his last trip (for a good long while) and returned home a few days before I received the phone call…

It came from my former place of employment. Their new English teacher for the 2015-2016 school year had quit three weeks into school. And that’s when one of the women in administration I admire and respect asked if I’d be willing to come back and at least step in until they could hire a new teacher. I really wasn’t interested until I heard that the 9th grade students I had taught the year I left would be on my 11th grade roster. I had already invested so much into their education, I didn’t want to see them lose ground. The decision became personal for me, and I decided to set my pride aside.

If Brent had still been traveling, the answer would have emphatically been “no.” But, I figured it was worth a conversation. At first he didn’t support me returning, even on a temporary basis. But, the thought of this gig only lasting maybe a few weeks to a month eventually eased his mind and he gave me his blessing.

So back I went.

A week and a half in I decided that I couldn’t just leave my wonderful 11th grade students hanging. I tried to envision what their junior year would look like if they ended up with three teachers before the year’s end. For many of them, it wouldn’t prove productive. So I prayed and decided that I needed to carry them through to the end of the year. I let my boss know, I signed a contract, and Elizabeth was moved to the school where I taught.

We saw God’s hand move as he placed me back at work for that year.

  1. We came to realize that Elizabeth needs, at this time, to be at a private, Christian school. The difference I saw in Elizabeth and her attitude toward school was incredible. Getting her out the door each day was no longer a struggle, and she loved doing her homework. It also gave us peace of mind knowing that like-minded teachers and staff were instructing her every day.
  1. I had a handful of students who desperately needed me last year. I probably did more counseling last year (for a variety of reasons), than I have in my entire career. Sometimes it was as simple as being a shoulder to cry on or a place to hang out during lunch when they just needed some space. Other times, it was helping them work through major life decisions.
  1. Remember our first house we were renting out? We finally came to a place where our last renters moved out and we thought we might be able to sell it, especially since it wasn’t profitable (the rent checks we received each month didn’t even cover the mortgage. On top of that, we owed $185 in HOA fees each month, and the general cost of repairs had caused us to bleed money each month for 5 years). But, we had some improvements we needed to make just so we could break even on what we owed on the mortgage. Plus, we knew we’d be paying a double mortgage while it sat on the market. Having my paycheck allowed us to let it sit vacant for almost 5 months while we fixed it up and had it listed. It finally sold (we lost a ton of money from the original purchase price), but we were freed from the burden.
  1. I had such a cynical attitude towards the school from being deeply wounded and wronged and God showed me I needed to work through it. When I left this past May, I did so without resentment. That year gave me the time I needed to heal.
 
With some of my creative writing kids. They were a hoot!

So things were running smoothly, our paychecks were allowing us to do a lot of cool things (we had brand new categories in the budget that were just stinking awesome), and it was nice knowing that I could press the eject button whenever I wanted if things got too stressful.

Up until that point, Brent and I had been trying to get pregnant for almost 3 years, when I resigned to the idea that it just wasn’t going to happen. We were a one-child family. I suddenly started routing out a new vision for our future. I saw myself working for the next 5 years to pay off our home and then returning home once that huge goal had been accomplished.

But, just as we make plans, God reveals something bigger and better.

Half-way through this past school year, we surprisingly discovered we were expecting. And, just like that, my heart told me I belonged at home…again. God had blessed us with extra income for those 11 months to help us get through what would have been a worrisome, money-depleting patch. I was able to help my students who needed me, Elizabeth was moved to a Christian school, I worked through my resentment, and we were given the time and money to sell our first home.

So here we are, full circle. Remember that pool I would have loved to finance? Or that master bathroom remodel? We could have afforded the payments in our monthly budget. I could be floating in this hot, hot, heat, sipping on lemonade, or relaxing in a luxurious bath spa with no worries…

Except the absence of those payments are the very thing that frees up just enough space in our monthly income to pay for Elizabeth’s costly tuition.

Oh, yes, I could be floating, but our only choice for Elizabeth’s education would be public school. And right now, what’s working for her educational experience is more important than my vanity and life of “luxury.”

She’s in 1st grade, and while we are going to evaluate what is best for her each year, it’s nice to know we have a choice. If private school is the best option for her until she graduates, I probably won’t be floating in a pool until I’m 50. Some of the cool things we had fit in our budget for that one year have since disappeared. We aren’t currently able to save for vacation or a new car. Our meals out will be a lot less. I might not have a brand new kitchen or bathrooms or flooring, but that’s what parents do for their kids, right? They sacrifice and defer some of their wants and desires to do what’s best for their offspring. All of those things are just “stuff.” Believe me when I say I wish I didn’t drive a 2001 mini-van that has chipping paint and a huge dent in the back, but I wouldn’t trade it for how I’m currently able to use our money to invest in my daughter’s life. I’ll have a luxury car one day, but for now, we’re just not in that season of our lives.

So yes, as I sat and peacefully drank coffee after my daughter left for her first day of school this year, I thank God that we can write that hefty tuition check each month because of our healthy financial habits over the last seven years. If we hadn’t taken that first step then, you’d be seeing a completely different portrait now. Probably one that included all of our fleshly wants and desires, but not one in which private school would be an option.

 
Me, doing what I do best! 🙂

Take that first step. For some of you, getting to a place of financial freedom might be as simple as 6 months. For some, it could be what seems like an overwhelming number of years. But how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

 

And better yet, if you’re a student who hasn’t entered the world of debt yet, I guarantee if you start practicing financially healthy habits now and avoid debt at all cost, you’ll probably get to retire early with a ton of money! No, seriously! Debt eats away at your future. It’s never too early to start healthy habits to set you up for success later!

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