If you would have told me six and half years ago, we would be have experienced the amazing feeling of being debt-free twice, I would have literally laughed. But, here we are, debt-free. And, it is simply amazing.
While we were engaged, a good friend introduced us to the brilliant teachings of Dave Ramsey. He encouraged us to start as soon as we were married. So, we read Total Money Makeover. We were inspired and ready to take on the challenge of living a debt-free life. Blindsided by the downfall of the economy, I had lost my job as a structural engineer in 2009 when the recession was at its peak. Shortly after losing my job, I started a photography business. Out of the blue. As in I did not know what the “M” on my camera stood for and I almost threw my computer out of the window thanks to not having a clue how to use Photoshop. I was 110% self-taught. To this day, I still look back at that period of time in amazement. Photography was the start of an unknown, yet wonderful path.
With the blossoming of my photography business, I also decided to dip my toes into going back to school to get my master’s in elementary education at Rockhurst. I always dreamt of teaching little ones. So, I did. For two semesters. But, something felt off. The education field was falling apart in the areas we lived near, and I did not want to end up in the same boat as I had a year ago. So, I prayed. Well, would you believe three weeks after we got married in the summer of 2010, Bryan lost his job?! We were now newlyweds who were living off two unemployment checks. We were lost. Stumped. And, scared. Really, really scared.
We stayed unemployed for nearly four months. We considered leaving the Midwest and making moves to the south or even overseas. We learned how to live smart with our money. To stretch a dollar as far as it could go. To live with less and be grateful for the roof over our head. What I remember most of that time period were the nights that we would be on our knees praying. Praying for guidance, for peace, and for jobs. We literally handed everything over to God. We knew this was out of our hands and we needed to put our faith and trust into God. Oh my, did he take care of us!
Bryan found a contracting engineering job. And, I found a job as a recruiter for engineers for the company that employed Bryan. They were not our ideal jobs, but they helped us get back on our feet. We will always remain eternally grateful to this company. As soon as we had steady paychecks coming back into our checking account, we decided to buy a house. We went house hunting for about a month. We found the most charming home in the cutest area of town. It had everything we wanted including a sunroom (something I have always dreamt of having in our home). We put an offer in. And, while we waited for our offer to be accepted, we both came home that evening feeling uneasy. Something again did not feel right. We sat down and had a good conversation that evening. We decided with everything that had happened, buying a home was not the right choice for us. We wanted to travel the world while it was just the two of us. And, we REALLY wanted to re-visit the idea of becoming debt-free. So, we called our realtor and asked to retract our offer on the home.
We worked hard that year. Really, really hard. We lived on one income. Being unemployed prepared us for our debt-free journey. Thankfully, Bryan’s job was taking off, and my photography business was flourishing. In the midst of our full-time jobs and wedding/lifestyle sessions, I decided to start taking pre-reqs to apply for Rockhurst, this time to achieve my newfound dream of becoming an occupational therapist.
It was eighteen months to the date from when we started our new jobs that we became debt-free. We paid off close to $70K of debt. I quit my full-time job as a recruiter, we celebrated our second wedding anniversary in Europe for two weeks, moved to an adorable apartment on the Plaza, and I started OT school full-time. I knew there was a reason as to why God had placed us on a debt-free journey. Because three months into the program, we found out we would be expecting a surprise blessing nine months later. Being debt-free gave me the ability to finish OT school while having the added expenses of our sweet little man and daycare costs. Y’all, He seriously does know best.
When I graduated from OT school, I remember seeing this dreaded number stare back at my computer screen. It was quite large. 72K. And, I remember thinking, no way can we do this again. We have a baby AND daycare expenses. But, we made a pack once again. To live on one income. To work hard. To live as simple as possible.
We found out another little blessing would be arriving in the summer of 2016, which gave us all the more fuel to chop away at my school loans. And, would you believe we paid off $72K of student loans from Rockhurst and went debt-free once again within two year two months prior to his arrival?! We spent the remainder of the time building our other saving and investment accounts up.
People ask us how we did it. And, we tell them, it was not easy. We held off buying a house and new cars. We cut back on eating out. I did not get to shop near as often as I would have liked. We did have fun and set aside money for us to continue to travel, which helped when we felt like giving up on paying off our debt. However, if we had to do it all over again, we would not change a thing. It was worth EVERY sacrifice we made.
So, really, how did we do it?
We followed Dave Ramsey’s seven baby steps:
- Emergency fund of $1000 in the bank
- Pay off all debt (largest to smallest)
- Set aside 3-6 months of expenses
- 15% of your income into retirement savings
- Save for college funds
- Pay off your home
- Live and give like no one else!
The first time we did the debt-free journey, our household income was not very high. As our income increased, our budget never changed. We always made sure we lived well below our means. (We still do to this day!). There are a few of Dave Ramsey’s steps we did out of order. For instance, we did step #1 and #2, but we skipped over step #3 until we became debt-free the second time. Then, we completed step #3 and saved twelve weeks of income for my maternity leave (which we did not even use!) before Nikhil arrived. (Since I had started a new job, I was unable to get a paid maternity leave.) Bryan is the only one currently contributing to his retirement, and we are not worrying about step #5 quite yet. Instead, we are saving like crazy to buy a home and make our mortgage payment as low as possible. Also, we hope to buy a newer, full-size SUV for our family and a truck for B in cash. And, we do give back quite a bit to charities and our church. Once we purchase our home and car, we will go back to working on step #4, #5, and #6!
We have seen debt trap our family and friends, and we have seen the fear in their eyes from being held back from their dreams. Our hatred for debt grew during those years leading us to be gazelle intense. We became passionate to live a life without debt. We had (and still have) those weekly discussions about our finances and our budget. There were times we would grow weak. And by we, I mean me. (Guilty as she raises her hand in the air.) Getting lazy with our finances was not going to happen. If you plan on becoming debt-free, being serious about sticking to your budget is important, friends. I promise you will be grateful you did when you reach your goals!
Our debt-free journey led to me being able to work part-time and being more at home with our babies. While we are huge Dave Ramsey fans for our big picture plan, we also are fans of Alexa von Tobel of Financially Fearless: The Learnvest Program for Taking Control of Your Money. She has this 50/20/30 plan that you implement monthly in order to find a happy balance between living life to the fullest each day and planning carefully for your future.
- 50% of your take-home pay is for fixed expenses (mortgage, car payment, utilities, gym memberships, and cable-Netflix and/or Hulu included.
- 20% of your income is for your future/debt (retirement, college fund, debt, credit card, and even if you are saving for a down payment on a home).
- 30% of your income is for happiness (travel, restaurants, entertainment, gas, groceries, and hobbies).
If you have not read this book, add it to the top of your reading list. Her company has also created a website/app that allows you to have all your financial debt/assets in one place to keep track daily, weekly, and monthly. Her thought process is pure genius.
My hope is that our story puts a fire in the heart of someone else or a family who is wishing to do the same. I can say after being on the side of lost and fear, it is truly a remarkable feeling to breathe easier and know we have the freedom to live our life any way we want.
Thank you, Dave Ramsey.
(four years ago in the French Riviera with my love)
You just have to ask yourself, are you willing to sacrifice for a short period of time in order to dream big and reap the rewards for the rest of your life?!
“Live like no one else so you can live like no one.” -Dave Ramsey
And, that is exactly what we did!
Have you ever read a book in which one moment you thought your face would hurt from laughing so hard, and then the next moment, you are in tears from the rawest of emotions because she wrote it ever so perfectly?!
At the start of this year, I chose two words that would keep me focused on my goals for 2017: nourish and grace. These two words are my everything this year. I am choosing to say yes to only the things in life that nourish my soul and add grace to my life.
These two books: Grace Not Perfection and For the Love. They are my most favorite. Of all time. Every word both these brilliant ladies wrote resonated within the deepest parts of my heart. And, let me go ahead and say it, they were game changers for how I am currently living my life.
I met Emily Ley five years ago. She encouraged me to attend a conference called Making Things Happen. On a whim, I bought a ticket, flew to DC, and sat in a room full of ladies (all of whom I did not know). For the next 8 hours, I listened to their stories, became inspired and transparent, and made a plan to achieve my personal dreams. I adored every ounce of Emily. She, too, was married to a loyal and loving Bryan, which connected us right away. At the time, her dreams of the Simplified Planner and a book were non-existent. Her husband and her were trying for another baby. For over two years. A path quite challenging for them. Her southern charm and authentic view on living life is contagious. Grace Not Perfection is the first book I read in which I could not put the book down. It was through her words and encouragement page after page that gave me a newfound perspective of how to embrace our new normal and make every day worth it. Even if it is messy. And, to let perfection go little by little. I will leave you with one of my favorite excerpts from her book.
Choosing the Good over the Perfect
Our kitchen counters may not be spotless, but the drips of ice cream came from an impromptu late-night sundae party, so I’ll happily wipe them up.
My shirt may be wrinkled when I walk into the preschool classroom, but that’s because we had a tickle fight on the couch before we left.
We may not have been on a fancy date in three years, but we’ve enjoyed many a good conversation on the front porch, holding hands and a baby monitor at the same time.
We might be scrambling to get out the door every morning because of three little bodies to dress and feed, but on some days we worried we’d never have even one squirmy little love, so I’ll savor the scramble.
Amen, friend. Amen. This book is filled with so. much. goodness.
And then there is Jennifer Hatmaker. If you have read any of her other books, you will know she is hilarious and real. And, it is so hard to not fall in love with her and her beautiful writing. I fought tears of laughter and tears of sadness as she spoke of how it is to be a mama. She reminded me how sweet this mamahood life is in the midst of dirty diapers, temper tantrums, spit up, late nights, teething, and toddlerhood drama. It was through her words, I discovered I am living a life far better than I dreamt of when I was 18 years old. That I get to play house everyday with three amazing people and the world’s sweetest pup (seriously, Pebs, deserves some kind of award for being amazing around the boys!). Through her words and stories, I felt grace flowing through the depths of my soul giving me patience and encouragement. And teaching me to not take this life all too seriously. Her “Thank You” notes chapters alone were simply fabulous.
Do yourselves a favor. Get your hands on both of these books. They will change you. In more than one way. Your heart will feel light. You will be inspired. To do greatness and live simply and with joy. These two amazing ladies, they are on to something genius. And, I cannot thank either of them enough. For reminding me this life…it is a true gift.
How has it been SIX months since I last wrote in this space?!?!
Friends, it has been a whirlwind since we welcomed our gorgeous babe. Maternity leave was glorious. As in, it was an absolute dream. While I was on maternity leave, I truly believed going back to work was going to be an easy transition. I was very, very wrong. It took less than two weeks for me to slowly lose pieces of myself. I struggled daily. I smiled at work and with friends, but deep down inside, I was screaming for help. Most days, Bryan came home to a mess of a wife. I felt like I was failing in all aspects of my life. I was headed down the path of hitting rock bottom. I loved my job. Yet, my heart was tugging me to stay home with my babies more. However, I was not ready to give up working all together. My heart and head were fighting in a daily battle. It was unreal. As the day would come to an end, I would still remind myself of the gratitude I felt toward this life God had given me. However, said gratitude was growing more and more distant. I knew I was in need of a BIG change. So, I turned to praying.
Here is the thing about prayers. They are something powerful. Seriously. Praying in my thirty-two years of life has lead to some amazing miracles. It should not surprise me when I began praying, not even forty-eight hours later, my boss and friend (whom I adore!) from my previous job reached out to me about working part-time. Within one conversation with Bryan, we realized the job was too amazing to pass up, and it was all I could do to say I accept.
Taking a step back in working has been a major blessing. However, when I first accepted the part-time job, I felt like I gave up too easily. As in, I failed. I failed at being the working mom who could juggle her job, keeping two little humans alive, be a loving wife, be a supportive daughter, sister, and friend, and stay healthy all the while achieving my dreams. I have come to realize saying no to some parts in my life meant saying yes to more important parts in my life. Yes to date nights with my hubby, to adventures with my crew, to playing on the floor with my love bugs, to dance parties before dinner, to snuggles on sick days, to creating, to writing and photographing our life, to reading inspiring words, to making healthy choices, to resting, and to slowing the heck down!
On more than one occasion, my girlfriends have told me how I make being a mother of two look so easy and fun. (Insert an open mouth, wide-eyed Shefy face.). I have told them the photos on Instagram or Facebook serve as no indication that mamahood is easy for me. In fact, I have extended invitations to them to spend an hour at the Lindsey household to see the chaos that enfolds. I lose my cool more than I can count on both hands every. single. day. Some days, the playroom and kitchen are a mess of toys and splattered food. And, I can promise you that I have cried more in the past six months than the combined total of my thirty-two years of life. All of this has led me to saying out loud, I am not perfect. I am not a perfect person, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, or therapist. And, I am currently learning to accept these two sentences. Because what it comes down to is this: I fiercely love being a wife and mama bear to my people in the midst of the craziness.
For the longest time, I would apologize to my hubby or friends for looking like a mess. Or for our three year old acting like a rambunctious human Taz Manian. Or for our babe who gets fussy around the evening time. The list went on. Finally, I came to an understanding. While I may look like a mess, I am still breathing and walking. That in and of itself is enough to wake up feeling grateful for. While I have a crazy three year old who has no concept of personal space and tests our patience daily, he loves like no other; he says his pleases and thank yous; he takes care of his baby brother without us asking; he tells us on a daily basis how much he loves us and how we are his best friends. (We must be doing something right!) While our babe gets tired and fussy around the evening time, he spends the other 75% of his day in squeals of joy, “Shefy Shaking” and smiling with the rosiest cheeks you have ever seen. And, I know this chaotic time in life is going to pass by too quickly. And, I will hope for nothing more than to wish I could relive it all over again one day very soon. The good, the challenging, and the in-between moments.
I made one promise to myself for 2017. To live a simple, joyful, intentional, and purposeful 2017. If there is one thing I have learned in my profession as an occupational therapist, it is life is short. It is not guaranteed by any means. My hope is a mum who is struggling in this season of life finds this post and becomes inspired to dream, to change what is not working, and to say yes to what matters in her life. She realizes she is not alone. And, she finds peace in knowing making certain choices does not mean she failed, but instead she stumbled upon something more beautiful in her path of life.
Our life. It is an absolute mess. But, it is our imperfect kind of mess. And, I am insanely in love with it.
Cheers to dreaming big, simplifying life, and living with more grace and less perfection!
This mama thing of two little humans.
I thought I had it all figured out.
I was wrong.
It has been quite the humbling experience thus far.
Before Nikhil was born, we figured it would be easy. We did it once. How hard could it be the second time around?!?
Nobody tells you there are going to be days where you feel lost and alone. Especially during those late night feeds. Or days where a tornado has dropped by in your home thanks to your three year old, and you are too tired to clean it up. Or days when you have two tearful minis both requiring your love and attention. And, you feel like you may want to throw in the towel and cry in the fetal position in the corner of a room. Because this mama thing of two has you right at the edge of “What the heck was I thinking?!”
But, nobody also tells you the wonderful surprises of mamahood with two babes. The kind of surprises that unfold right before your eyes leaving you at a loss for words. Nobody tells you how your heart will explode into a million pieces when you see your oldest wake up every morning running into his baby brother’s room to say good morning and give him snuggles. Or the way your oldest takes his job of “big brother” VERY seriously and you start to envision the way he will ALWAYS have baby brother’s back when they are older. Or the way they look at one another and in the deepest parts of your heart, you know they will be the best of friends no matter the age difference. Or when you watch one asleep and smiling in your arms and the other one running around with laughter and pretending to be a pirate. And, you think to yourself, “How in the world did I get SO lucky to have two happy and healthy babes?!”
This new season of life is one that continues giving me moments of challenging experiences mixed with gifts of gratitude. I certainly do not know what I am doing most days. I am still learning. In other words, we are on survival mode. But, then there is this.
(Photo by Sweet Me Photography)
This photo. I have starred at it a hundred different times. My heart has exploded on countless occasions. And, I have realized, in the midst of our crazy and messy life, there is not one part of our life I would want to change. Because, it is beautiful. And, because…I love them so.
This letter is long overdue.
I wanted to write to you when we first found out about you. But, here is the deal, sweets. I have been scared.
You will learn about your big brother’s story one day. There were many emotions that went into being pregnant with Noah man. All of those same emotions and fear resurfaced as soon as we found out we were expecting you in nine short months. Please know this. We were beyond excited to meet you and have you become our newest addition to our crew. Yet, we wondered if your story would be one similar to your big brother’s story.
Following your big brother’s arrival, we prayed for you. Even before your existence. We prayed we would once again be blessed with another child to bring into this crazy, beautiful world. Most of all, we prayed you would be healthy. In whatever form that may be.
Three years ago, Noah gave us the gift of strength. The kind of strength that would take a mighty force to break us. His story is one we will always remain grateful for and there is not one detail we would change. It made us stronger and better versions of our 2013 selves. And, you my love, well, you gave us the gift of faith. Because on a very hot July day, you were placed into my arms and for the next 25 minutes, with tears streaming down our faces, we repeated, “He is perfect. He is just perfect.” On July 8th, we saw through you just how amazing and big God’s presence is in our lives.
The story of your birth…it is beautiful and simple. You came ten days early. But, you were ready. And, we were ready. (Although later, we will tell you how we were not physically ready as we did not even have a hospital bag packed.) At 8:45 in the evening, I felt a little something “new” and later learned it was my water breaking. Your daddy took me to the hospital to get checked out. At 11:45 pm, they checked me to find out I was already 5 cm dilated. At 12:45, I was admitted and not leaving this hospital without you. At 4:00 am, we were getting ready to meet you. (Boy, your brother and you do not mess around during the labor part!) And, at 6:16 am, you had arrived. All 7 pounds & 3 ounces and 20 inches of you exploded every inch of our hearts with pure love and joy.
Your daddy is still stuck on cloud nine. Your big brother is already your biggest fan and protector; he will never let anything bad happen to you. (I can promise you that, love bug.) Your fluffy sister accepted you right away and never blinked. Almost like she knew you were supposed to be a part of our family.
As for me, I cannot stop starring at you. And, saying continuous prayers of gratitude to God. I told your daddy a few times while I was pregnant with you, I feared not being able to love you the same as I love Noah. Those fears went straight out the window the moment I saw your big, beautiful blue eyes, your adorable button nose, your perfect, pink lips, and your tiny hands and toes. It was instant. The incredible love I felt for you that day and every day following since that sweet, July day. You may be tiny, but we adore how much fuller you have made our home.
Welcome to our crew, little one. We are a crazy, loud, and fun bunch. You are going to fit in just perfectly.
I love you. More than I can put into words.