18 WAYS WE MADE IT 18 YEARS… AN ANNIVERSARY REFLECTION.

Today I celebrate my 18th wedding anniversary!!!! WOWZERS!!!! It’s hard to believe it has been that long, but what an INCREDIBLE adventure indeed. Especially jumping into marriage at 22, my husband and I grew up together. We have raised 2 children, traveled the world, bought and sold property, developed businesses, paid off debt, overcome challenges and setbacks, and learned SOOOOO much along the way. The best part about it, is that we did it all TOGETHER!!!!! And more importantly, with God at the forefront the entire time. We are by no means perfect, sooooo far from it. We have DEFINITLY had our challenges, but we are committed to growing and getting better and better as we go. Over the years many people ask, how do we stay together? How do we keep the love alive? Well, I truly believe that the secret sauce to a successful marriage is doing it according to the bible. Marriage is created by God. It is a sacred covenant between you and Him and when done in line with His Word, it can be the greatest journey of our lives. In honor of 18 years, I reflected on 18 specific things that I believe has kept our marriage blissful.

  1. Seek Godly/professional counsel during the tough times. Sometimes you just need a 3rd party who can shed light/Godly wisdom on an issue that neither of you can seem to agree on. We have sought counsel on several occasions during our marriage and it helped us regain our focus.
  2. Travel/ride through beautiful neighborhoods/test drive nice cars/connect with people you admire/try new foods… DREAM BIG!!!! It sets the tone for “the possible.” We are not called to settle and be stagnant. Step outside your comfort zone and dream/vision cast together. We do this ALLLLL the time. It is so much fun to explore the AMAZING possibilities that await.
  3. Do as many things as you can TOGETHER. Pretty much, if you see me, you see my husband and/or the kids. We are always together. We LOVE being TOGETHER. We grocery shop, walk, ride, go to basketball games, read, eat, worship, do yard work, etc. TOGETHER. We are a team. It makes EVERYTHING enjoyable.
  4. Divide chores and tasks evenly among each other. Because we are all stakeholders in this estate, we work together to help it run smoothly. He has strengths and so do I. We use them daily to help take care of the needs of our home/family in a balanced way so that no one is overloaded.
  5. Build your budget on one salary. Even though for a while we had 2 incomes coming in, it made it that much easier to transition into me stepping away from my job (both times) because we ALWAYS set our budget and spending on his salary. This takes the pressure off when babies come into the equation or any other demands that will require one of you to reduce work or step away from the job.
  6. Get out of debt and stay out. We eliminate the main area of contention when we don’t have enormous amounts of debt lingering over our heads. It takes such a load off and allows for great freedom to not have to use every dollar we make paying a bill. SOOO worth the sacrifice.
  7. Take vacation time. We go on at least 1 major trip and several weekend getaways each year. We enjoy the time SO much and it helps us recalibrate for all the great adventures ahead.
  8. Go on a date regularly. We go out at least once a week. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive, but just getting dressed and out keeps the party pumpin’!!!
  9. Put the kids to bed!!! Many people allow the kids to stay up late, sleep in their bed etc. We never did that. The kids have a bed time. We spend a TON of time with them every day. But when it is bedtime, they go to bed. That leaves time for us to have some time each day as well.
  10. You build your family, let God build your enterprises. Though we have goals and dreams, we are careful not to rush them at the expense of our marriage and/or family. Enterprise and businesses will come. However, these precious moments to raise our kids and build a strong foundation takes time, effort and dedication. It is our #1 priority.  We leave the work at the office…
  11. Pray together daily. Though we pray and have our time with God each day independently, we also pray together as a family each day. It sets the standard in our home that God is the head. It helps us keep our hearts on him FIRST.
  12. See and celebrate each other’s differences as additions/bonuses to what you lack individually. Though I am super outgoing and passionate, Mike is laid back and calm. This helps complete the package vs. creating a source of division. Differences are assets.
  13. Keep a thankful journal. I write in a thankful journal every night. Often times when I get frustrated or FORGET how great my husband is, or how great things are in our life, I can look back on years of great things that have happened to me EVERY SINGLE DAY and it INSTANTLY gets my mind right back into perspective.
  14. Take a MILLION pictures, keep records, make playlists of moments during the journey that you can regularly reflect upon. It goes SO fast and there are SO many monumental adventures to cherish. They will help keep a smile in your heart.
  15. Build your foundation on the Word. Avoid TV shows, movies, songs, examples of marriages that don’t line up with the Bible. This thing IS NOT miserable. Instead, it is SOOOOO much fun, when done God’s way. (ie. Love is patient, kind… does not dishonor others… is not easily angered… keeps no record of wrongs… etc) Look in the right places for wisdom and examples of marriage.
  16. Look good for each other, KEEP IT TIGHT!!! Lol!!! Put on your make-up, workout, dress nicely, be sexy for him/her as much as possible. Reinvent your game and stay SPICY!!!
  17. Spend time growing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, etc. as an individual to offer your best to the union. Read books, attend conferences, invest in yourself regularly in you can be a strong and healthy teammate.
  18. Last but CERTAINLY not least: Acknowledge that DIVORCE IS NOT AN OPTION. I KNOW times get tough. I mean TOUGH. But (with the exception of infidelity/abuse), it can be worked out. If you fight for your marriage, and don’t give any outside force a foothold, together you and your husband can put 10,000 to flight. Love never fails. I am thoroughly convinced!!!

Whew!!!! Aren’t you glad we haven’t been married 40 years!!! Lol!!! You would be reading forever!!! Lol!!!! I am thrilled to share this awesome ride with my best friend. We are having a BLAST!!! We have built something SO special and I am committed to seeing it through to forever. I hope some of the items on this list are a blessing to you. It was a fun reflection for me. Thanks for reading it!!! May you experience all the joys of an awesome union!!! Here’s to Happily Ever After…

HOW TO BUY YOUR CAR WITHOUT A LOAN… 6 Easy Steps… YOU GOT THIS!!!!

Remember back in the day when your parents/grandparents had a vehicle? They may not have had 3 cars in the garage, but if there was one, they owned it, maintained it, worked hard for it and pretty much drove it until the wheels fell off. If your parents were like mine, they even had to save up for the car and perhaps carpool or ride the bus until they could actually afford to finally make the purchase.

Many of us look back at those days and reflect a time of hardship and lack. We see people today with 3-4 new cars in the driveway and deem it a point of success… we have finally arrived and are so much better off than our parents ever were. Unfortunately, though we look the part, and banks have made a way for us to “seemingly” attain, most of us are not “owners” of anything. We are paying monthly payments on just about all our (what we like to call) “assets”.  We are convinced that if we didn’t finance them, we would otherwise not have them.  And though we may not be able to afford $20,000 + upfront, surely, we can all afford $299 – $599 + a month right????? OF COURSE…. It seems that way. However, we can all agree that life doesn’t always turn out like we planned, and unexpected expenses occur which add undo stress and pressure to our financial situation.

I submit that our parents/grandparents owned way more than most of us today, simply because they were not borrowing. Let’s not talk about how less chaotic our lives would be if we were able to cut back on our hours at work, or if we were able to sow, invest or multiply the money we were throwing away each month on finance fees for an item that lost value the MINUTE it was driven off the lot.

Well, I am here to tell you that it IS indeed possible to OWN everything you purchase without having to borrow from anyone. Nearly 20 years ago, my husband and I started the process of becoming 100% debt free; that we would not charge, or finance another thing.  With the exception of our home, (we have a plan for that too) we have stuck to that goal and are super close to owing no one, nothing (pardon the double negative!!! 😊). It has been a sacrifice, and definitely delayed gratification, but it so liberating to have complete control over our spending. However, it has certainly required us to alter the process for some of the major purchases, such as buying a car.

In a world where everyone around is driving the latest $30,000 + vehicle, our appetite can often times be greater than our bank account. Though most vehicles on the road are less than 5 years old,  studies show, a very small percentage of them are owned by the driver themselves. So technically, most drivers are 1-2 missed payments away from repossession, or in laymen’s terms:  the true owner (the bank) can come take it back. Not to mention how many times beyond the actual price consumers are spending once the financed term is complete… and by that time, the once satiated appetite is way past ready for yet the newest version… and the vicious cycle begins yet again. And here we are, the $30k turns into $50k;  we are now at the perpetual mercy of the improved features of overpriced vehicles for which banks have so graciously provided ways to consume our salary….7 year chunks at a time.

In the meantime, we are led to believe that our infant child, toddler and pre-teen would otherwise be riding in harm’s way if we didn’t buy a new carWe would risk DEATH if our engine blew up while driving on the freeway to soccer practice… or heaven forbid the transmission left us stuck at a red light because it had 119k miles on it!!!! DON’T BELIEVE THAT LIE!!! I am here to dispel the “used car” myth once and for all. You CAN buy a new or used car that is safe, dependable, quality, stylish AND in your budget…WITHOUT GOING INTO DEBT.

Over the past 20 years we have had super success buying cars for our family. We have a process that has given us great results, and guess what, neither of our cars has ever caught on fire, blown up or had the air condition freeze it to ice!!!!  Here is a little list of our purchases:

Year purchased Year/Make/Model of car Price of car Mileage at purchase Mileage at the end of the term Years we owned it
2017 2007 Hyundai Veracruz $6,200 130k+ Still have it… 131k 1 month and counting
2015 2015 Subaru Cross Trek $27,000 BRAND NEW Still have it… 104k 2 years and counting
2012 2003 MINI Cooper $8000 81k 122k 2 years
2008 1998 Mercedes Benz $5000 98k Still have it…286k 9 years and counting
2007 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee $3400 151k 298k 10 years
2004 1995 BMW $8500 153k 215k 3 years
2001 1989 Audi 80 $3600 69k 145k+ 3 years
2000 1991 Volvo 240 $3100 155k+ 300k+ 7 years

 

As you can see, we have enjoyed some of the luxurious, foreign, sport utility, compact, etc. cars and have gotten great life out of each of them. Here’s how we do it.

  1. Establish a price. This is SO important. What can your family afford? Not just for the moment, but throughout the life of the vehicle… gas, repairs, maintenance? Look at your bank account, bonus for the year, extra money you received and consider a CASH amount you can spend. If you don’t have it yet, SAVE IT!!!! Put aside a little money each month, combine it with a tax return, sell an item in your house you don’t need anymore, and create a specific amount you can spend. Don’t be afraid to start off small. You would be surprised what kind of car you can buy with only $2,000!
  2. Determine the need. Many people buy cars based on what’s hot and flashy, what looks cute. Consider what you NEED. Do you have a long commute and need fuel efficiency? Are you in the car for long distances and need extreme comfort? Do you drive through mountains and/or snow and must have 4-wheel drive? Or do you have a growing family of 5 and need ample seating? Whatever the case, be sure you are addressing the NEED vs. style, name, color, or other superficial reasons that will cause you to spend outside of your price range.
  3. Consider your options. Now that you know what you are looking for, you can explore the HUGE variety of vehicles out there to meet your need and your budget. Today there are many places to search for new/used vehicles right online, which can often times present a much better alternative to used car lots. One of our favorite sites is www.autotrader.com .  You can refine or streamline the search to accommodate your exact budget, need, amenities, and other items on your wish list. Be sure to explore ALL the options. You would be surprised of the makes and models you’ve never heard of or noticed on the road. Our latest purchase was a Hyundai, Veracruz. It is a vehicle we didn’t know existed, but after research, we discovered it met our needs PERFECTLY and ultimately became our only consideration.
  4. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. RESEARCH. This may be one of the most important parts of the purchase process. Once you have narrowed your search to potential vehicles, you must research the history of that particular make and model. www.edmunds.com , www.kbb.com , and www.cars.com are all great sites that offer details, specs, reviews, recalls etc. about automobiles from every year of the manufacturing process. They provide information such as gas mileage, pricing, amenities, safety ratings, size, towing capacity and so much more. When researching alternatives to the Veracruz we recently purchased, we considered other vehicles such as the Subaru, Tribeca and the Volvo XC90. However, after extensive research and reading consumer reviews, we found the Tribeca to have major transmission issues and both required premium gas. This helped make our decision very easy. Taking time to consider the history of the vehicle and the background of its manufacturing can save a lot of heart ache in the long run.
  5. TIME TO SHOP!!!!! Finally, you are ready to take your money and make an informed purchase. Search your spirit when exchanging information with the seller. If it is a used car dealer, have they marked the price up to an astronomical rate? What is the Kelley Blue Book value of the car? How many owners has it had? Any accidents? How well was it cared for? Why are they selling it? Don’t buy off your emotion. You want a car, but YOU have the power… YOU HAVE THE MONEY!!!! If they are asking too much, but you really like it, talk them down. Be firm on your price. You have done your research, so you know how much this car is worth based on mileage, and condition. When you test drive it, LISTEN!!! Listen to the car, the sounds its makes. Look at the handles, the locks, the windows, the tires, the brakes. Does the moon-roof leak? The condition of the car will tell you a lot of how well it was cared for and help you make an informed purchase.
  6. HAVE A SUPER MECHANIC. Last step. Many people swear by taking their car to the dealership to have it serviced. We have never done that. We have always been fortunate to know of a very knowledgeable mechanic who is reasonable and enthusiastic about his/her job. We always have him look over our vehicles before putting it on the road. Remember you are buying your used car in “as-is” condition. Surely, it may need a tune up, new tires, extra coolant etc. He will be able to put it on the computer to determine exactly what it needs before driving it, and throughout the life of the car. It is always a plus when the mechanic develops a relationship with you and your car, so you have a reliable source to help when repairs or maintenance arises.

There you have it!!!! I know this was a long one, but you are now equipped to make an informed decision when purchasing a vehicle. Whether you are in the market to buying a brand new or used car, I strongly encourage you to always buy it with cash. Who wants to spend half of their paycheck each month for YEARS on newer features that will only expire soon after. When you buy it, it’s YOURS. It becomes an asset. No one can come take it and no one will hound you each month for their dues, while overcharging you several times over. The best part of it is this: When it is time for you to move on to a true upgrade, you will have the choice of doing whatever you choose with your car. So far, we have been fortunate enough to give several of our cars to others upon upgrading, (which has been one of my favorite parts of car ownership). I am excited that every purchase is better than the one before. I am excited that instead of spending our money on expensive car notes each month, we are able to save, invest, and enjoy. I pray this post helps you as well. May your greatest purchases be ahead of you!!! Here’s to 300k+ mile debt-free voyages!!!!

 

 

SWIPER NO SWIPING!!!! A New Year’s Resolution Suggestion…

Looking for a great resolution for 2017????? What if: you decided that starting 2017 you will live debt free? What if you cut up your credit cards and decided to make all purchases with cash/debit/check only, got out of debt and stayed out???? Sounds difficult I know.

My awesome pastor taught a series at church WAAAAAY back in 1998 about living a life free of debt, maintaining a budget and basing your spending on one salary (after tithes and offering). Since 1998, my husband and I made the decision to tithe and give offerings faithfully, live on his salary alone and to not charge or finance another item ever again. With the exception of a mortgage, (we have a payoff plan for that too!!! Lol!!!) we have maintained those goals without compromise… not for a car, my master’s degree, furniture, vacations, jewelry, clothing… NOTHING. It took a TON of sacrifice, delayed gratification, buying used, and strategic budgeting… But I tell you, we have never missed a beat, never gone without and have gained the true freedom to do exactly what we are called to do.

Many people ask me how I retired at age 37? How we were able to pack up and build a home in the mountains, travel regularly, buy a brand-new car in cash, give generously, etc… It really doesn’t make much natural sense. My husband and I come from low income families. Both of us grew up on welfare. When people see us now, they would never know. I am careful to share our story with others because our success is not based on traditional methods of education, intellect, some great investing scheme. We didn’t collect an inheritance, win a settlement etc…

Simply put, His ways are higher than ours. We’re not perfect, and never claim to be. But He is… When we were led to live debt-free, we simply obeyed. And God simply provided. I dare you to trust Him with your finances… With EVERYTHING!!!! You will soar to places beyond your dreams!!! I hope this blesses someone today… Happy New Year!!!! 🙂

“I Want to be a Baller’s Wife!!!!!”

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“I want to be a baller’s wife!!!” I remember this being a common response from my female students when discussing future endeavors post high school. With so many opportunities, talents and gifts the girls had before them, I was disappointed that they were reduced to this option.

Oh, what is a baller’s wife you say? Well, I’m no Webster or anything, so don’t quote me on this, but my definition would be: an opportunist, a woman who latches on to a man at the height of his career with hopes of optimal gain.  This idea really bothered me, especially with the continual images on cable TV of seemingly wealthy women living a life of excessive glamour, fame, prestige and drama. I guess I can’t direct all my frustration on the Housewives of Atlanta (or the like), when Disney and other big name production companies have been pumping our heads with these images for decades. The Cinderella story, Rapunzel, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty… the idea that somehow a man is going to sweep an otherwise distressed damsel out of her misery. Save her. Take her on his white horse and whisk her off to a life of wealth, ease, and happiness.

Well, what’s so bad about this? I mean a man is supposed to be the provider, the protector. He is supposed to take care of his wife and children right? Of course he is, however the baller’s wife leaves women burdening the man with excessive provision. Burdening the man with rescuing her from all her problems. Burdening the man with relief from debt and other financial stressors. If we consider God’s plan for man and woman, it would change the entire trajectory of the mate selection process.

First of all, a man should have his stuff together. He should know his purpose in this life. After careful examination of his gifts and talents (over several years) and close relationship with God, he should know what he is called to do. Every step he makes after high school should line up with him getting closer to that calling. Unfortunately, men too, are inundated with the overwhelming requirements to gain status, wealth and a name. They settle for a goal with monetary reward vs the goal of fulfilling the call on their life. Ultimately this leaves him to a life of complacency, regret, envy and lack of true accomplishment.

God knew that men would struggle with accomplishing their true purpose alone, so he created a woman. A woman is called to be a help mate. One who will work hand in hand with her husband to help him achieve the call on his life. They then, would enjoy success, fulfillment, wealth, and wisdom from the journey together. There is grace on this plan. Though it is contrary to popular belief, it works. If a woman was working on herself spiritually, emotionally, educationally, financially, getting her stuff together, she would not need a man to rescue her. She would be willing, and able to provide her husband with the help that he needed. Unfortunately, if a husband is distracted from his calling to perform the tasks of paying off his wife’s debt, working around her insecurities and making sure she is whole, he can’t possibly be all he is called to be. He is forced to use his entire check/salary to feed her whims. Her desires for $400 purses and drawers of makeup and racks of shoes used to fulfill her deeply rooted insecurities that are camouflaged as desires/needs. Unfortunately, this never works so it is wasted effort.

After 17 years of marriage, I guess some could say I appear to a baller’s wife. My husband is a robotics engineer, and a minister of music. He works from home, earns a nice salary and has provided a comfortable life for my children and me.  The difference is… He didn’t wake up like this!!! Lol. I met him in college. We were married soon thereafter and all the while, I have been by his side, hand and hand, helping him to make decisions that help lead him to his goals. Helping him with the behind the scenes tasks that allow him to shine. As he pursues the Word, he has all the components that allow him to fulfill his dreams with ease, which ultimately benefits us all. They say behind every great man, is an amazing woman. I believe that to be true. And any married woman can attest to the idea that her husband probably couldn’t put a good looking outfit together without her help.

My main point is for women to understand that they are designed to help their mate. It is not the other way around. The provision that a man will provide is a benefit of him reaching his true potential. But he needs you to help him do it. Often times, we are so willing to put the attention, time, care, effort into the visions of our bosses at work, in order to help him/her fulfil their vision for the company, yet we are reluctant to help our own husbands. Help him. Your efforts are not in vain. They will not go unnoticed. Whether you are a stay at home mom holding down the fort, or you help pack your husband’s lunch each day, help fill out resumes, or make necessary sacrifices for him to go back to college, there is grace on your ability to help him become all he is called to be.

While the Cinderella story, the woman standing on the sidelines at the basketball game, or the ladies on the hot reality TV shows seem glamorous, if you study them carefully they are merely a facade. A complete counterfeit of God’s real plan. We should strive to become all God has called us to be, so we can help our mates become all they are called to be. Together, with God at the head, there is nothing we can’t accomplish. There is no enemy or weapon formed against us that can prosper. And THEN, the happily ever after can commence… 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

DO IT YOURSELF!!!!

Recently, my husband completed our taxes using Turbo Tax. For the last 16+ years, we have always paid different accountants or other tax companies to do it for us.  The last two years, we were disappointed not only with our return, but the lackadaisical manner at which they were completed. Since we moved to a new area, we sought out reputable accountants that could file our returns for us to no avail. So, we decided, why not save a few dollars and headaches and attempt this ourselves? After filing with great ease and success, I was left to wonder, how many other ways do we put our fate in the hands of supposed trusted people, and at what cost? What other skills do we lack simply because we don’t try?

Think about it. Back in the day, I remember people growing their own food in the garden, changing their own oil, building their own sheds, changing their own tires, painting their own nails, washing their cars, dying their hair, booking their vacations, cutting and fertilizing their grass, cooking their food, etc… Today, we have gotten to the place where we can’t leave the house on a sunny afternoon without having someone else cut and paint our toenails for us. YIKES!!! We are quick to complain about the scratch put in our new car’s exterior paint job during the 5-minute automated car wash, yet we are too busy to wash it ourselves. In the meantime, a $10 car wash every week, $7 brow wax, $30 manicure, $90 lawn care, $50 dog grooming begins to add up…

The problem is not seeking out the help to perform tasks that clearly the professionals can do easier or faster than we can. Obviously, we all are super busy. But, at what cost? I find it interesting that we have gotten to the point where we will spend a large portion of our salaries paying for the ability to have many of these tasks performed for us. How much would we save, and not have to work if we simply did them ourselves? What new skills would we learn and be able to pass on to our children if we even tried?  A person who brings home $600 a week in pay, yet has a 1-hour commute, a $200 daycare bill, lunch in the lunchroom/restaurant, gas etc.. is ultimately working to pay for work. The idea of taking our 6-week old child to a daycare facility, depending on a restaurant to supply our nutrition regularly, expecting the local lawn company to keep our lawns looking pristine, not only makes us vulnerable to the level of excellence they CHOOSE to perform, but it costs a ton. When we did our taxes, we certainly put a lot more effort, time and care into the job than anyone else could. We learned a lot and saved a TON of money. You certainly would care for your child much better than the worker earning a minimal wage. And you would take pride in making your lawn look amazing because it is a reflection of you.

I am not suggesting that you drop your busy loads to complete menial jobs around your home. But perhaps we can all be mindful of just how much we spend and how often we put our responsibilities in the hands of others that otherwise are not connected to us in any way. God has given you grace to do all you need to do in your home. Be wise not to turn that authority over to complete strangers whose only motivation is not their service to you, not your best interest, but making a buck or two…

Ps. If you get a second, add some of the ways you save money by “doing it yourself” in the comment section below. Hopefully we can generate various ideas that would help us all…