Cultivating Financial Freedom

September 4, 2016

Cultivating Financial Freedom

Welcome to A Bowl Full of Lemons. During the month of September, I will be sharing our journey towards financial independence and hopefully inspire you to do the same. But before I begin, I must warn you that I am not a financial advisor and my college degree doesn’t have anything to do with finances, so if you have any specific questions, please ask your financial advisor.  I am merely sharing the mistakes we’ve made and what we’ve learned along the way.

So what is Financial Freedom? Financial freedom or independence is generally used to describe the state of having sufficient personal wealth to live, without having to work actively for basic necessities. For financially independent people, their assets generate income that is greater than their expenses. (Wikipedia). Sounds like a good place to be, huh?  To be as transparent as I can, I am going to share our story with you, so you know where we came from and where we are  today on our path to financial freedom.


Cultivating Financial Freedom by A Bowl Full of Lemons


So the story begins… I’ve been married to my husband for almost twenty years. We got married when we were very young.  We were both in the military and like so many of you, we were living on minimum wage. We were in love and that’s all that mattered. Neither one of us had a clue about money. We lived paycheck to paycheck and didn’t know (or care) how to save a dime. We spent every singe penny we had (and more). The paychecks were gone as soon as they came in. We were what you call “broke”.

Like the average American, we lived beyond our means.  When the money was gone, we figured out that we could spend even more by using credit cards, so we did. We lived like this for the first twelve years of our marriage. It was stressful and it was exhausting.  We didn’t know any better and we certainly didn’t know there was a better way. About eight years ago, we eventually came to our senses and decided enough was enough (This was our transition from immature young adults to grown ups). We could’t live like this anymore and something had to be done to change this wreckless path we were on or our financial future would be doomed.  As I began reading a lot of books and researching about how to eliminate debt, I stumbled upon a guy named Dave Ramsey. Little did I know, our financial future would forever be changed.

Fast forward to twenty years later, and here we are with college degrees, very well paying careers, and a beautiful home.  Who knew we would make it out of poverty and the mountains of debt we had accumulated?  The odds were stacked against us but we were determined. God was watching over us for sure. We worked hard and have accomplished so much over the years and we can finally see the finish line. We are just about debt free, and I think we’ve pretty much figured out how this money thing works. It’s really quite simple – spend less than we make, follow a written (zero based) budget, pay off our debts (and don’t borrow money), save as much as we can, max out our retirement plans, and eventually we can live like no one else and give like no one else.

During our financial journey, we’ve made some dumb mistakes (purchasing an RV for one – ugh). We are far from perfect and we’ve stumbled a gazillion times along the way, but we always get back up.  We have never lost sight of our goal – financial freedom.  We have gone from completely broke (thousands of dollars in debt) to just about debt free in eight years, while on Dave Ramsey’s plan. It has been a long journey and we’re still not finished. We currently have one debt left to pay (our RV) and of course our mortgage. To speed things up, we have decided to sell our RV.  We are gazelle intense on paying off our mortgage in the next two years so we’ve decided to go on a strict written budget. We are currently living way below our means (my kids are not thrilled). We have eliminated practically all shopping (except for necessities) and we’re only eating out out once a week (the only thing that has kept me sane during our spending freeze).  We are allocating all remaining funds to our mortgage. We are following a weekly menu plan, to help eliminate the need to eat out. Looking back, that’s where a lot of our money went.

We have set specific goals and revisit them often. We have a weekly budget meeting, to go over how well we did for the week and make our plan for the next week. We are in it for the long haul. If everything goes according to our goals and plans, we anticipate being completely debt free in two years (yay). At that time, we will continue on our path to financial freedom – building wealth and help others as much as we possibly can.

Financial independence is a wonderful place to be and I hope I can inspire you to look at you finances and decide if you are happy where you’re at right now.  You don’t have to live paycheck to paycheck for the rest of your lives. Being “broke” is a temporary setback. “Poor” is a way of life. Which one are you? If I had to guess, most of you are just broke. If you’re ready for a change and want to learn how to budget and live a comfortable, debt free life, follow me this month and cultivate your own financial freedom!

Make sure you subscribe to my blog so you don’t miss any blog posts! The subscribe box is at the top of the blog. To get more inspiration and budgeting support, join my budgeting group on Facebook. I’ll see you back here on Tuesday, where I’ll be going over how to set financial goals.


25 comments on “Cultivating Financial Freedom

  1. Norma Hunter says:

    I absolutely LOVE Dave Ramsey! He helped my ex-husband and I get out of debt!

  2. Kerri says:

    My husband and I have been debt-free for 3 years, thanks to Dave Ramsey. It took us getting to the brink of divorce (money fights) and my husband almost dying from 2 blood clots in his lungs for me to have a wake-up call. I’m positive that God was sending me a message!

    Needless to say, I find this budgeting thing like my diet. Some days we are kicking butt, others are more of a struggle. We had a major setback this year when we lost $15,000 to a crooked contractor who literally stole our money (that we had saved /busted our butt for over a year). We are now picking up the pieces and moving on. We are even still going to Disney World debt-free because of our budget. Paying cash for the entire trip.

    No matter what your income, you can do Dave’s plan. I highly recommend listening to his free podcast on ITunes and utilizing his Every Dollar app. His plan WILL change your life. My marriage is better than I ever expected and we are changing our daughters’ futures. Cash is king!

  3. Gail says:

    As someone who has been following Dave Ramsey’s plan for 7 years and is totally debt free, the plan absolutely works. My husband and I have seen lives changed while facilitating FPU classes. You can change your story and do it fairly quickly (it takes you less time to get out of debt than it took you to get into it, with intense focus). Thanks for sharing your story. I look forward to following along, so we can share with others.

  4. Norma Hunter says:

    I’m not seeing where to subscribe to your blog though. Can it be done from my phone? Thanks

  5. Danielle says:

    Great article and topic!! We are on our way to being completely debt free. All we have is our mortgage as well, but I am interested to hear how you are dealing with paying for college and that experience. I have one going to school in a couple of years so interested to hear how you prepared for that financial milestone. Thanks so much!!

    • Toni says:

      We have one in college now and 2 in private school and we cash flow all of it.

    • Amy says:

      Our son will graduate next year from a junior college debt free 🙂 First of all, I must say that prayer is the most powerful action a parent can do for their child. I made a specific request to God and He amazingly answered. Second, we put a lot of time and effort in searching for scholarships that were applicable. Thirdly, make sure to apply for FASFA because that will determine how much grant money you are eligible for. Also, in my state there is a discount for residents. I’m not sure if this applies for every state,but it would be worth looking into. Lastly, we received graduation money 🙂 That was such a blessing!

      Your child’s guidance counselor is someone you should contact as well. They are knowledgeable about all of the local scholarships available. My son’s counselor was very helpful and would e-mail us information on a regular basis.

      I hope this helps. I know it’s a little scary, but it will all fall into place 🙂

  6. Melissa says:

    I have to ask…are your children in activities or did you eliminate all that? They are expensive…especially when you have 5 kids. Curious how you handle that and the entertainment they want to do with friends.

    • Toni says:

      I have 2 kids at home now and they both are in activities. Each person will be different depending on your income/debt. My kids generally do one activity at a time so its not a problem. As far as entertainment goes, I budget $20 per week total for both kids. Once the $ is gone, they have to use their own commission (allowance). Its working well for us and they are less likely to overspend because they don’t want to use their own money.

  7. Charity Rasmussen says:

    I LOVE this post! Ive heard about Dave Ramseys budgeting system by so many friends and family but I have yet to take the plunge. My husband is on board with the idea but I haven’t committed to doing it. To be honest the whole thing doesn’t exactly thrill me. I have a problem with compulsive spending (planners, bags and LulaRoe are my main obsessions). I know that my actions are not helping my family take a hold of our budget so we can pay off our responsibilities and live more freely. Thanks so much for talking about this. Its a constant struggle but its really nice to see/read about others who have come out on the other side!

  8. Samia says:

    Dave Ramsey has brought sense and financial control into our lives! I feel much more confident in dealing with financial setbacks.

    I am curious to know why do you think RV was a financial mistake? We were thinking of this as “how nice it would be” option and I would really appreciate your insight.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Can you share the name of the specific book please?

  10. Puna says:

    Thank you for sharing Toni! Looking forward to the rest of September!!!

  11. Ooh! I’m really looking forward to this series. I love DR and listen to his show everyday. I love hearing other people’s stories. It’s nice to know we’re all human and make mistakes, but that we can come out the other side with a lot of hard work and effort

  12. Carli says:

    Thanks for a great blog post! My husband and I really got into budgeting about 3 years ago. We decided to get serious about saving for our down payment on our house. After saving $60,000 we bought a brand new house, back packed through Eruope, went to NYC and paid off our car! And had our beautiful baby girl! Now the only debt we have is our mortgage and we can’t wait to have it paid off. Now we have a bit more freedom to take some career changes. This month I am starting a new business, doing a health challenge and doing a no spend September! I am all for budgeting, menu planning and setting goals! Can’t wait to read your posts and learn some more!

  13. Wendy says:

    Hi Toni,

    Trying to locate the printables you have pictured here in your shop for purchase. Can you help? I’d like to buy them to follow along.


    • Toni says:

      Wendy its in the shop now! Use the discount code DEBTFREE to get 50% off the Debt Free kit through Wednesday. 🙂

  14. Krystal Algier says:

    You are actually the reason I am a Dave Ramsey follower…You have mentioned him a few times over the years. It is truly life changing. Good luck on your Gazelle intensity.
    I enjoy listening to his radio show. I use his app to stream it. It’s amazing how many aspects of life are affected by his behavioral changes approach to getting out of debt.
    Will you do a debt free scream on his show?! That would be amazing.

  15. Christine C says:

    The RV can’t be a complete mistake as I’m sure you had some fun trips in it. I’m excited to hear more of your story as I am working towards financial freedom myself. Once I finish school and get a better paying job, I’m hoping to be able to help my husband pay off our mortgage a lot quicker. It felt great once I paid off my credit cards. Now I try to make sure I can pay it off in full each month otherwise I don’t make the purchase.

  16. Mallary says:

    I am so happy for you and hope to be in the same shoes some day. I am currently in nursing school (you’ve been there, right?) and feel like I have a negative income right now. Thankfully my husband is keeping the roof over our heads. I’m hoping that after graduation we will be able to turn all of this around and get on the right track.

  17. Justine says:

    We have been following Ramsey for almost 4 years and have been debt free (except the house) for much of that time. Since then I have found that I really LOVE to hear others financial stories and to offer help and encouragement when I can.
    I wish we would have followed his advice for the first 7 years of our marriage!

  18. Tami says:

    Shoot, does this mean no new LV or Tieks posts for 2 years? 😉

    I am hoping you will do some meal plan posts! $125 a week is roughly $500 a month…we are a family of 4 and I aim for $700 but end up over easily if I am not paying attention to what the meal ingredients are costing! I would love cheaper healthy meals but we also have individual food allergies…it’s not easy!

  19. Jessica says:

    I love your story! Thanks for sharing. My husband and I used Dave Ramsey’s financial peace university as well to pay off all our debt! Financial freedom feels amazing! Funny thing is the first paycheck being debt free, my husband got laid off! God has a little since of humor, I’m so thankful we were able to get debt free prior to him losing a job. Take care!

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