When your budget won't let you give gifts to everyone in the world—which is always, by the way—who should you give...
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On her website, MoneySavingMom.com, Crystal Paine describes what life was like when she and her husband stretched a few thousand dollars into three years of living expenses. It's easy to imagine that they accomplished this decades ago—that their life looked like a black-and-white movie set of a cozy apartment with an "ice box," and a loaf of bread cost a nickel.
But the truth is, Crystal and Jesse have only been married eight years! In that time, they've handled their money with the wisdom of past generations while they lived out the dreams of their own generation—two successful businesses, three beautiful children and the flexibility to make their own choices about their future.
Oh, and in Crystal's home, a loaf of bread probably costs less than a nickel thanks to her couponing know-how. But we'll get to that later.
Tough Times Teach Valuable Lessons
Before Crystal and Jesse married, they promised never to go into debt for anything except a house. So with a few thousand dollars from an inheritance and money saved up from part-time jobs, they trusted God to provide while Jesse attended law school for three years.
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As you might imagine, few wanna-be lawyers drive beater cars, shop at thrift stores, or take a sack lunch to school. Crystal and Jesse learned quickly to stop worrying about what other people thought of their spending habits.
Their grocery budget was $35 a week—for food and household products. Crystal learned about couponing from her mom, who put her in charge of grocery shopping and menu planning for her family of nine, and she put that knowledge to use to meet their slim budget.
"The lessons we learned during those times of feeling pretty desperate financially were so hard, but oh, so good!" Crystal writes on her blog. "And we wouldn't trade them for the world."
Sticking To The Commitment
When Jesse graduated, he landed a job that paid more than enough to pay the bills. Crystal's income from some work-at-home projects was growing, too.
"I'll be honest and tell you there was a very real temptation to want to significantly increase our standard of living when our income went up," Crystal said.
But they didn't, thanks in part to their discovery of Dave and Financial Peace University.
While Crystal and Jesse already knew how to budget and live below their means, they didn't have any long-term goals for their frugality. FPU taught them they should have a vision for their money. So they set a goal—to pay cash for a home, a goal so big that they didn't even tell anyone about it.
"So instead of going out and buying a house or even increasing our standard of living by much at all, we opted to continue our beans-and-rice budget and sock away as much of our income as we could into savings," she said.
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By the time they reached their goal, Jesse lost his job. The family, which now included two small children, moved closer to their hometown, Jesse realized his long-time dream to start his own legal firm, and Crystal launched MoneySavingMom.com.
Reaching Out To Others
The website itself was born out of their commitment to their financial goals. While Jesse was looking for work, Crystal wrote an e-course on couponing and decided to sell it on her blog. In three days, she earned enough money to support the family for several months. She realized people were hungry for the knowledge she had about cutting grocery expenses, so she launched the website to share it.
Now, 80,000 people turn to that website each day not only for coupon deals, but also for insight and encouragement to live a debt-free life.
Oh, and their 100%-down house savings goal? They reached it two years ahead of their original schedule!
This is what Crystal posted after her family moved into their paid-for home:
"We knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that God is good. We stepped out in faith and obedience at the beginning of our marriage to follow His leading to be counter-cultural and follow the biblical principle of 'owing no man anything' (Romans 13:8). It has been far from easy, and there have been many times when we've wanted to give up and give in. But as we've stayed faithful and obedient—even when the going got very tough—He has blessed that obedience and faithfulness far beyond our wildest imaginations."
To learn more about their journey and get coupon deals, check out MoneySavingMom.com.