That Cash Budget Life: Dave Ramsey


I just made my first “Big Girl” purchase: a couch! I have received all my other furniture for free (thanks Mom + Anna), so I’ve been spared 27.5 years from buying my own furniture (excluding my $40 mat in Africa). Since I made my first major purchase today, I wanted to blog about what has helped me financially!

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My cousin, Kim, who peer pressured me into attending FPU.

It’s been about two years since I was peer pressured (by my Aunt, Uncle and Cousin mind you) to take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace class. I couldn’t really say no because, well… My Aunt, Uncle and Cousin led the class. I’d be shamed at our weekly family dinners if I didn’t say yes, so I just agreed to go. I don’t like shame.

Growing up, I experienced two extremes financially. I was raised in a single-parent home in Memphis, and we hit some hard times along the way. When my mom moved us to Chicago and got remarried, we settled into more financial security. From living at both extremes, lack and surplus, I grew up having a dysfunctional relationship with money. I was horribly fearful of it, honestly. [Ironic that God called me into missions where I have to depend on Him to provide for my daily bread… It’s been quite hilarious actually.] Especially with all my “baggage” in regards to money, Dave Ramsey’s course was SO helpful for me.

Little did I know, it would be THE BEST class I’ve ever taken. I’m not quite sure why I ever learned about Media Law and Ethics (come on, the US media is not ethical.) when I could have been learning about THIS in college. Being support-based, financial responsibility is high on the list of priorities for me. People give to my ministry, and not only do I want to be responsible with those resources, but I want to be responsibly for my personal finances as well. Those two are related. Fortunately, or unfortunately.

STARTING POINT: The most important thing I learned in the class was how to create a Zero-Based Budget and how to stick to it. The Zero-Based Budget’s core rule is to take every cent and find it a home in your budget. You take your paychecks and divide them up into your tithes, savings, debts, and then expenses. You don’t leave one cent unassigned. (IE: If I get a $500 a paycheck… $50 goes to tithes, $50 goes to savings, $200 goes to rent, $100 food, $30 to this, and $70 to that.) (all these numbers are theoretical).

I don’t know if you’re like me, but if I’m like, “Oh, I have like $35 bucks leftover from X.” I forget that I don’t have $35 leftover because I spent $6 here and $9 there. I end up overspending. A zero dollar budget helps prevent that, if you stick to it.

STEP TWO: I was using the Zero Dollar Budget sheet for about a year and a half and then finally committed to the Cash Budget life about 8 months ago. A Cash Budget is where you use only cash for your expenses.

Once I’ve figured out my budget and have seen what I want to use cash for, I begin to organize my “envelope system.” I use a coupon organizer and divide up my sections into the different categories of my budget. This does require a little bit of planning ahead and a trip into the bank (for example: my Summer Mission budget on the 10th is $35. ATMs don’t give 10s or 5s, so I have to calculate how many 20s, 10s and 5s I need for all categories to sort it correctly). Once I’ve figured the denominations for for the 10th and the 25th, I write it on a post it and stick it in the front pocket of my new wallet. That way I don’t have to remember, “How much do I take out on the 25th and the 10th? That goes where? And how much?”

My notecard/post it looks like this (obviously not real numbers…)

Food: $130 (need 6- 20s, 1- 10)

Fun: $20 (need 1- 20)

Clothes: $30 (need 1-20 and 1- 10)

At the end of my notecard, I calculate how many of what I’ll need. So with the examples Ive listed, I’d need 8 twenties and 2 ten’s. I do this for the withdraws on the 10th and the 25th.This saves time, frustration and your teller won’t totally hate you.

This one has a little spot in the front for a change purse, so your change doesn’t fly around everywhere. Oh, and your lipstick.

Here’s what I DON’T use cash for:

  • Rent (check)
  • Savings (EFT)
  • Household Utility Bills (Check)
  • Car Insurance
  • Car Gas (Credit Card*)
  • Giving to Missionaries + Charities (Credit Card*)

Here’s what I do use the cash budget for:

  • Food (grocery and eating out budget)
  • Entertainment (movies, girls outings, etc)
  • Clothing
  • Beauty (toiletries, makeup, etc)
  • Misc.
  • Gifts (wedding presents, birthday gifts, etc)
  • Church Tithes
  • Money for students to go on Summer Mission/other conferences (HINT: students, send me a support letter!!!)

This method has helped me save for life’s necessary expenses, and it helped me to not overspend with that pesky easy-to-forget-swipe. It’s easy to remember you spent money when you’re looking into your envelope system and you see that there is no money in there! ūüôā

The Financial Peace class ¬†is something I will encourage most of my graduating students to attend. It’s so incredibly helpful. I really feel like I am experiencing financial freedom and a greater joy and capacity to give. I can see sacrificial giving when I’ve “maxxed out” my giving budget and take it from another budget. And that’s super cool. I love that.

Here’s some great resources I would HIGHLY recommend.

Zero Based Budget

The Seven Baby Steps

Envelope System

And last, but DEFINITELY not least, go to one of the classes! You can find one near you HERE! 



100 Days of Shopping My Closet: Day 5

{I am participating in a 100 Days of Shopping My Closet Challenge where I refrain from purchasing any new clothing, accessories or shoes until December first. See the original post here. Ladies, do this with me. But you know, in your own closets!}

Temptation is real, y’all.

As I was skimming through FB on my phone when I couldn’t fall asleep, I saw this ad.

asian market shoes

Not a big deal to the average person right? But wait. I need to fill you in on my boot problem. Last fall/winter, I looked for boots in over 25 different stores and five different states. Let that sink in. Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, North Carolina and Kentucky.

I found one pair of boots I liked at a secondhand boutique but they were1.5 sizes to small. Despair. I want a slight heel, but not too high-heeled that I can’t wear them in snow. I want a slightly rounded toe but not too round (like last year’s) because I want to be able to wear them for the next 15 years. And because I want them for the next 15 years, I want them to be quality and genuine leather. I don’t want anything decorative. Nothing fancy, but nothing plain. I almost cave every time and just buy a pair of $70 boots that may last 3 years, but I want investment pieces. I don’t want to throw away money every other year.

So this ad was a temptation. While they more than likely aren’t quality boots [they aren’t.], they are $20 ¬†a pop. Get out. But. 100 Day challenge said, “Girl, you need to recognize.” So I recognized. And screen shot the page… for a later reminder.

Sometimes I’m a Genius: Discount Shopping for Contacts


Y’all, life is tough being visually challenged. Contacts and glasses are a necessary evil in my life. Before this year, I was on my mom’s very great flex spending plan so I never had to worry about footing the bill for these things. My money could go to better things like, you know, Senegalese clotheses.

I asked my mom if she would go through my new insurance policy with me so I could make smart decisions about where I am going to go to purchase my 2014-2015 supply of contacts. I didn’t realize how expensive contacts were and how much planning needs to go into finding the best bang for your buck.

Here are few tricks I’ve learned about shopping on a budget for those necessary, budget-busting evils like contacts.

  1. Know your insurance policy, what providers are in your network¬†and how much is covered. Mine covers a certain monetary amount and then after that it covers a percentage of what’s left-over. It’s important to know this to know what kind of budget you’re working with. This saves your from missing something you could reimburse or the frustration or paying for something out of pocket that you didn’t realize you were responsible for.
  2. Know what contacts work best for you and your lifestyle. Monthly contacts don’t work for me because I don’t wear contacts enough. On average, a one year supply of dailies lasts me 20-months. Please note: monthly contacts are good for 30 days from your first wear not good for 30 wears. There’s a difference. If you wear contacts everyday, these might be a good choice for you. If not, discuss your options with your optometrist and she what they recommend for your eyes and lifestyle. This can help reduce cost and waste.
  3. Unless you’ve done your research, be patient and don’t buy your contacts the day of your eye exam. I know it’s fun. The excitement of a new pair of glasses or a new supply of contacts is great (NERD), but please do your research on your options before you get stuck paying double. **SEE BELOW.
  4. Research rebates and the rules! Acuvue always has great rebates. Their standard rebate is $50 or $100 off your year supply. There are strict qualifiers though- for instance you must buy the product in a store. You can’t get a rebate for a product you bought online. See if the brand you’re looking for has a rebate by calling customer service or googling “your brand name + rebate.”¬†**NOTE: If you’re really dependent on this rebate, please read the fine print before taking the plunge!
  5. Speaking of rebates, check point-earning sites or cash-back sites like SwagBucks or (GREAT ONE, thanks Kristin!) for partnerships. Sometimes there are special offers through these search domains that give you points if you go through their website to shop online. The more points you have the better the rewards. Rewards are often times gift cards/certificates to partnering stores (like Starbucks). Also, it’s rare that there would be a Groupon for contacts or glasses, but rare doesn’t mean impossible!
  6. Free Shipping: Most online retailers will give you free shipping if your order is over $50. ¬†Trust me, your order will be over $50. Double check that so you don’t debate over a $3 difference between two online stores and get stuck with a $40 S&H fee you assumed was free.
  7. How Low Can You Go? While a lot of retailers with physical locations do not advertise that they do price matching, ALWAYS ask. Know what their policy is. Generally, it is before rebate prices or manufacturers coupons.
  8. Please be careful using online sites.¬†There are a plethora of contact retail sites out there. I am not an expert on what the laws are regarding selling contacts, but know where your contacts are coming from. If you wouldn’t buy prescription pills online from a little known source, maybe don’t by them from lesser-known websites. Know that going through third-party dealers means you probably won’t have much of a warranty or much help after purchase. Check on their rules and regulations as well.

Here are some examples I used while researching Acuvue 1 Day contacts in the 90 count pack.


  • LensCrafters: You’re killing me smalls.¬†One box (45-day supply) is marked at $69.95. Year supply is $559.60. If someone doesn’t have a flex spending plan to pull from or insurance, I don’t know how they do it. The good thing about LC is they do price matching. They will even call around for you if you tell them which places to check. If you have had a recent eye exam and purchase these contacts in a store, there’s a $100 rebate available on the Acuvue rebate site. Dropping the final cost to $459.60, averaging at $1.26 per day. Holy expensive batman…
  • 1-800-Contacts: I can’t tell how I feel about this place... I will say I am impressed with their Unbeatable Price Guarantee policy. Not only do they match prices, they go 2% lower in the price. Normally, price per box is about $70. But, if you buy a year supply, PPB is dropped down to $57.49. Bad news, you can’t use a rebate with it because you bought it online. And since LC’s initial cost is ¬†before the “rebate,” 1-800’s price is lower so you can’t use the 2% decrease. If you’re a returning customer, this is as low as it goes. Good news, ¬†if you’re a new customer you get an automatic $25 off your purchase. And like most other places, shipping is free for purchases over $50.¬†The sales price before taxes is $424.92 averaging at¬†$1.16¬†per day.
  • Walgreens-¬†Is this a new thing? Has Walgreens always sold contact lenses? I found out that Walgreens has a 20% off promo code until 4/30/2014 (SEASONS20) for any contact lens purchase. They also have my contacts listed at $62.99 per 45 days. This is the second lowest price I’ve found. Bad news, ’cause there always is some, the Acuvue Rebates specifies that it is only valid for in-store purchases. Unless I am mistaken, which I may be, Walgreens does not carry these contacts in store. Good news, this is the lowest price available without insurance. The final price would be $403.14. Price per day: $1.10.¬†
  • Pearle Vision: For those who eat Pearls for breakfast... I just want to say, my initial total came out to be $719.76. You’re funny Pearle Vision, but for real though. There was absolutely nothing on their website about contact discounts, rebates, etc. I’m not even going to do the math on this one. Free shipping for orders over $50. You can keep your $50 and I’ll keep my arms and my legs, thank you!

While I try to be a loyal customer to LensCrafters, I may just have to go to Walgreens for this one (if they are covered in my network for contacts). Thanks for reading and learning with me!

What are some ways you’ve found to help budget in the necessary evils of life?

Is there another site you and your family use?

Mary Lou