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This is How We Do It – Part Three

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Today is Day Three of This is How We Do It. Y’all have submitted some awesome questions! Don’t forget to read Part One and Part Two.

  • Oooh I want to know how you paid off $20,000 in 8 months on one income? Thanks for the inspiration!

😀 Well, Barry and I decided that since our lives are spent teaching others how to save money and how to live on less than they make, it seemed really silly for us to still be in debt. So, with $20,000 left on our home mortgage, we decided to kick it to the curb…..for good. We cut our budget to the bare bones – we didn’t take a summer vacation and we got rid of some unnecessary bills (land line phone, etc.). We figured out through numbers that it would take us about 10 months to get it done. We prayed for God to bless our efforts….and we went to work. Barry took any extra work he could find – he did some construction work on the side, he taught budgeting classes, he designed some websites, and a few other things. I taught tons of workshops and was given several very nice donations which went straight to the house. Any extra money that I could squeeze out of my monthly budget was saved at the end of the month and added to the mortgage’s principal balance. And sure enough, God in his grace blessed our efforts. We finished paying it off in 8 months instead of 10! Funny story….about $1,800 of the money came from a hail storm that damaged Barry’s truck. The insurance company “totaled” it and gave him that cash toward a new vehicle…..we don’t have issues driving a little bit of a dented truck when we have a paid off house… the money went to the house instead of a new car. That was our priority – and plus, I think it gives the truck some nice, country character. Don’t you?  😉 When we’re ready for a new truck, we’ll pay cash using the money we’re now setting aside.

  • What ‘budget’ system do you recommend? Also, I want to do the envelope system but need help getting started. Tips?

We use a cash system for our budget. I love it! The envelope system that I use is the one from Dave Ramsey’s store, but I’ve seen really cute ones all over Etsy. I’m giving away our old one to a reader, so make sure you check out the giveaway at the end of this post!

If you want to know exactly how we do our budget, make sure to sign up to get Barry’s free budgeting eBook on the right of the screen.

Tips on getting started….

  1. Make a budget for the first month – it won’t work. Try again. You’ll need about three months for it to start clicking. Be persistent.
  2. If you’re worried about using cash for all expenses, start with one category first – like groceries. Learn from that and then expand.
  3. Take your budget envelopes with you everywhere. This might be hard to learn…..but they need to become a part of you so that you don’t accidentally end up somewhere without money. I even take mine camping in the woods……but I’m weird like that.
  • I don’t understand how it saves money to go to different stores for different products. It seems time consuming and difficult. It feels like it would make me spend extra on unneeded stuff. I enjoy your blog and I am intrigued with the way you live frugally.  But haven’t figured it out yet, even though we are trying to get debt free.

             Mary Caldwell

Excellent question Mary! You know, before Annie was born, I would hit about 6 stores all in one day – trying to get the best deals. I’d spend all day driving all over town to do it – and I’d be exhausted at the end. Now, I don’t have the time or opportunity to do so….and I’ll be honest – it’s not worth it to drag a 2 year old all over town while she has a mental breakdown after the second store and I worry that the cashier is going to call social services. I’d rather shell out a couple extra dollars here and there at ONE store. So, I try to just hit one store per week, if I’m going shopping. I check the ads, and whoever has the best deals going on, that’s where I go. Now sometimes there might be two stores that have deals I can’t pass up – then usually I’ll send Barry to one after he gets off work. It is VERY time consuming to hit lots of stores….but it’s worth it to some people – just not me anymore. Instead I find that buying in bulk means that I have to shop less often. I’ve also found great deals by shopping online which means I never have to leave the house. So, for you I would say that maybe you should scan the ads and see who has the best deals. Go to that store to get those deals and the other things you need for the week…yes, it might be a bit more for a few things, but the savings from the deals should make up for it. If something is SUPER expensive at that store, then wait until next week for another trip.  Check out Deal Seeking Mom to keep up to date on online deals.

I think you’re on the road to being frugal. :-)  Living on a budget is a great way to start! Some people are fooled into thinking that being frugal is in your DNA – something you just do. I’m here to tell you that being frugal is a LEARNED HABIT. If you want to be frugal, you can teach yourself. Start today. Pick one thing and go from there. Please let me know if I can help you.

For all the posts in this series, see links below:

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Comment Policy: I love hearing your thoughts and input on what I write. Since I write about what works at my house, what pleases my handsome hubby and darling children; I'm sure we'll disagree sometimes. In those cases, do what's right for you and yours. As with any form of communication, please only post comments that move the discussion in a positive direction.

About Stacy

Stacy is the author of Crock On: A Semi-Whole Foods Slow Cooker Cookbook and Keep Crockin': A Poorganic Slow Cooker Cookbook, and a stay-at-home and homeschooling mom to her three children, Annie (June 2009), Andy (August 2012) and Eli (September 2014). After an “awakening” in March 2011, her family switched to a more natural, whole foods diet. She likes to blog about how to live on less than you make and how to eat good food while doing it. Her passion is teaching others how to save money and she tag teams with her husband in this endeavor. At Stacy Makes Cents you’ll find information on how to save money in the kitchen, how to have fun with your kids, and how to be thrifty in all areas of life. Her passion is teaching others how to live debt free. Make sure to follow her on Facebook, Youtube, Pinterest and more to keep up with her daily antics.


  1. Thank you so much! My husband I are young and struggling to make ends meet while he finishes college. We are having a baby in April and I really want to be able to stay home so we’re hoping to get all of our debt paid down before then so that hopefully this dream can become a reality. You give me so much hope that this can be done!

  2. OK, this might be a silly question and you may have answered it before, but I’m new here so forgive me if you have :-) But, how do you pay bills like the Electric bill, cable bill, etc. with a cash based system? The only thing I can think to use the cash based system on is groceries or things you pay for locally, which isn’t much. Maybe I’m just thinking of it too literally though?

    • Not a silly question at all! :-) We only use cash for those categories that we might be tempted to overspend. Having the cash out means that we don’t – when it’s gone, we’re done. For us, these categories are: clothing, gifts, groceries, miscellaneous household, and entertainment. For other bills like electricity and water, we pay online with our debit card. I KNOW we won’t overspend there because we’re only going to pay what we owe…..unless we start to lose our mind. :-) We also pay with our card for gas – it’s hard to get a toddler out of the car just to go inside to prepay and then get them out again when Mommy accidentally goes over. But, we always budget for everything – even those items that come off the card.
      Check out this post for exactly how we do it:

  3. I think what I love most about this series is all the glory God is getting! Prayer and complete reliance on God to provide what we need is a resounding theme. I’m so grateful for you guys!

  4. I am new to your blog and have been reading through it the last few days. So many of your posts have sounded so much like me! We too, paid off over $20,000 in one year and are debt free except for the house. We are now working on our 6 months of emergency savings before we tackle our house. (That should be done this fall.)

    I have a question and I am interested to what you husband would say about our situation. Our oldest daughter will be going off to college this fall. As I said, by then we will have our emergency savings built up and our only debt would be the house. My question is, should we help our daughter out with her college expense or concentrate on our house? Should we divide our extra money between the two? That is the way we are leaning, and I know Dave would not agree. We only plan on helping our daughter out with tuition. She will be responsible for her rent and books. She is going to a community college, so it isn’t really pricey. What are your thoughts?

    • Thanks for this question, Rebecca. I answered a question recently from someone who didn’t have the finances to help their child much through school and would give much the same answer to you. It is from my post Simply put, I don’t want you to set the expectation that your child’s college is anything but their own responsibility. It is wonderful if you want to help, but your daughter will value her education much more if she has to “own” it. Whether this means you set expectations that you’re only going to pay a percentage each semester or at the end of a semester decide to give her some money to “congratulate” her (without telling her in advance), she will later appreciate that she had to make the tough decisions to be able to get her education.

  5. On a different note – every time I see “this is how we do it” in the subject line I hear “this is how we do it baby, this is hooow weee dooo it!” and my head is bopping.

    Hubs and I are going to be looking through these together in the next week so we can take care of some financial house keeping before I am not bringing in an income anymore. Thanks!

  6. MaryEllen says:

    This may be a silly question, but here goes. We are still paying for our landline even though we don’t even have a phone plugged into it because the phone company is also our internet provider. It seems like we have to have the phone line to have internet. How do you have internet if you got rid of your landline? We have a really low monthly payment for the internet, but the phone part really irks me.

    • This is not a silly question! If you are “required” to have a phone line, that either means you have dial-up or DSL, both of which use your landline to provide the connection for your internet. There are other options out there – cable being the most affordable and best. We currently have cable internet without any other cable service (TV, phone, etc.). There are also many utilities that offer fiber connections (our local power company offers this). Then there are satellite internet providers, like HughestNet. If you are stuck with using a landline-based service, you are also likely stuck paying for a landline. BUT…if you want to cut out the phone service, some (few) phone companies will allow you to pay a higher internet rate and not have the landline phone service.

  7. That is incredible. Congratulations! I love the title of your posts. 😉

  8. It is difficult to go to a bunch of different grocery stores to get the best deals. I find that it’s a lot easier now that I shop just once a month, similar to your buying in bulk strategy. Once a month, I make a big shopping trip over several days to several different stores and stock up the majority of my groceries for the month. I actually look forward to it all month long. I’m sick.

    • I used to enjoy grocery shopping – now I dread it….hence the bulk buying. 😉 Thanks for chiming in, my frugal friend!

  9. I am really considering this envelope system. However, is it a huge pain to get cash? I mean, we get our checks deposited into our account. You sure do motivate me! How do you work it when you two are apart ?

    • I always keep the budget in my purse….and if Barry wants or needs money, I give it to him in the morning. He always keeps some cash in his wallet. We go to the bank once a month and get cash out – our check is directly deposited too. One trip per month isn’t bad. :-)

  10. Miriam Cain says:

    I like this system, but, if you have the discipline, using one good rewards credit card and paying it off each month can have good dividends. I have earned over $1300 in free rewards towards travel and shopping in just 3 years, and not paid a penny in interest or fees–even for a stamp.

    • Sorry in advance for a long response:
      You mention the issue with your approach in the very first sentence – DISCIPLINE. The “average” American doesn’t have that discipline and so it is like playing with snakes. While many end up perfectly fine, others get bitten and it kills them (financially, in this case).

      Also, there have been several studies done that show we (all of us) spend more with plastic. D&B did a study several years ago that claimed 12-18% more on average. Other studies have put it as high as 30% on average. Cash = instant discipline.

      Credit card companies wouldn’t offer such great rewards if it didn’t equal profit for them. You may have the discipline to “win,” but I counsel people regularly who thought they did and ended up broke because of it. Hence, why we don’t do debt…PERIOD.

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