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    Finances, Humble Style

    November 14, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    A couple nights ago, Si turned to me and said, “Do you know how blessed we are to have no debt other than the house?” For some reason, this caused memories to come rushing back to me: the tiny apartment in Uptown Whittier where we lived, the shock of being pregnant so soon, the fear of trying to make it on one small income in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I remembered scrimping on everything in order to make $400 payments per month on our school loans. The minimum payment was less than half, but we couldn’t imagine trying to live on one income when we owed money on our educations, had a car payment.

    And then we ended up with expensive NICU bills from the hospital.

    Someone, somewhere had whispered in our ears in the earliest days of our marriage {and probably during our engagement} that debt was a burden marriages often have trouble shouldering.

    Amy the Humble is at it again, this time explaining how her family has gone, over the past twelve years or so, from living on $318 per week to owning their own 40-acre farm in Kentucky. And here I mean owning: no mortgage. {They also have no mortgages on any of their horrible rental properties, but I’m not sure that’s something to brag about.}

    I am putting this in a post, by the way, because it is all too evident that most of you completely ignore my Assigned Reading in the sidebar.

    I forgive you.


    Now, being as Amy is a Humble sort of bear, you aren’t going to find directions on how to be debt free while owning all the goodies you ever wanted. But if the good life to you means a simple piece of land where your children run free and there is room enough to practice old fashioned Christian hospitality while also grazing your very own cow, Amy has some posts for you.

    And if you just want to get out of debt, I think you’ll find some motivation there, too. If you want to live below your means {significantly below, maybe} so that you can practice more generosity, this series is also for you.

    I am starting to sound like the proverbial used car salesman. At this rate I may as well get myself some motor trade insurance and fully complete my transformation.

    Part of her second installment, Strong Beginnings, reminded me of a conversation I recently had with our oldest. Amy explains that her husband’s first job out of college gave him a salary plus a car and maid service. He had no out of pocket expenses, from the sound of it:

    In life, there are forks in the road. What you choose at this moment is significant. Greg made an important choice here that we–his wife and six children –benefitted from many years later. I can’t take credit for any of this good thinking because I was still in ninth grade worrying about important things like my hair.

    Greg put one year’s salary in the bank. He didn’t treat himself to a vacation, a new car, or a gadget. Everyone gets these choices and what you do with them are the reason you are where you are today.

    Here is how this connects to my son. E. is addicted to Howard Pyle, and evidently has been reading too many fairy tales where the father dies and leaves all this property to his oldest son. E., in case you’ve forgotten, wants to be a farmer more than anything else. As we’ve been working on our backyard {which is a half-acre of dirt in the process of getting a facelift}, he has gotten it into his head that all of this is going to be his someday! I finally pointed out to him that his father has to die for that to happen, and doesn’t he want his kids to have grandparents?

    Then what will I do? he practically screeches. How will I ever get land to farm?

    I told him I didn’t know. Land in California is very expensive, and I didn’t even mention the cost of buying water in this desert. But what I told him was simple. He is free to live here at home until he is 20 or 21, and during that time we expect him to be working, saving, going to school, or doing whatever else it takes to prepare for becoming provider for his own family. {He can’t stay here forever; the Bible makes it clear that a man leaves and takes a wife.}

    And then I told him he better start saving. This was when his eyes got wide. It hadn’t dawned on him that he’d have to bankroll his own life someday. This is the fun part of parenting: Shock and Awe.

    And maybe, I said, that means that it’s time for you to stop frittering your money away on trail mix at the grocery store.

    If he’s lucky, he’ll make the right decisions when he reaches his own forks-in-the-road.

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  • Reply Brandy November 14, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Indeed! That was a major motivation for us when we moved. As all of our costs continued to rise, we really needed to cut overhead. Our mortgage is significantly lower than our previous rent, plus the act of moving brought about a number of re-evaluations that caused even additional overhead cuts. Right now we are spending a lot (not debt-financed, but still spending), but that is all in what Amy calls “appreciating assets.” We’re preparing the yard to provide the bulk of our food in the coming years: this weekend we plant grass fit for grazing ducks and a cover crop to green compost the garden beds…All of this outflow should reduce outflow over the longterm.

    But now I’m on a tangent. 🙂

    I hope that Mr. Obama reads your father-in-law’s letter. It sounds very sensible. 🙂

  • Reply Rahime November 14, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    ‘Chung’s dad recently wrote a letter to Mr. Obama generally to this effect. If we’re going to survive as a nation, America and Americans need to stop spending more money than they have…and we need to work harder and start expecting less for that hard work. I doubt the president-elect will read it, but it’s always a good reminder to live beneath our means.

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