I met Dave & Jill Spieldenner last summer and we quickly found we shared a passion for kids and financial literacy. The Spieldenner's have been coaches for organizations such as Crowne Financial and Veritas Financial. I found their personal story fascinating and the journey they've been on one to learn from. They've graciously agreed to share some of their story, perspective, and advice in the FamilyMint Blog and this is their first entry. - Jeff Introduction to the Spieldenner Family
When Jeff Eusebio invited me to write on the FamilyMint blog, I immediately started to struggle with deciding which awesome tid-bit of wisdom I would share with my very first blog entry. What came after that was several months of writer’s block. The pressure was so great, and I had several starts with brilliant ideas that transformed into mediocrity that could not possibly represent my first blog entry. Today, I decided to do a simple introduction in order to break the ice.
My wife and I have been married for 13 years this August. Through most of our married life we have lived in Northwest Ohio, not too far from where we grew up and went to high school together. Our oldest son was born the October after our first wedding anniversary, and has been a rock of stability and justice within our family. He was followed by our second oldest a couple years later, who has always provided plenty of comic relief. Six years later, we adopted our little angel from China, and she has blessed our family with sweet giggles, tutus, nail polish and lots of pink. Finally our youngest son was born 2 months after we returned home from China, which made him and his sister always feel a lot like twins.
Having a family of 6 in today’s society means that being disciplined in managing family finances must be a priority. This realization, and ultimately a commitment to do something about it is what brought my family to FamilyMint. If you are reading this blog….your probably have a very similar story.
The event in our lives that is somewhat unique, and most significant in our journey of financial prudence was the adoption of our daughter. When we decided that the calling of adoption was in our future, we had a budget that was balanced (meaning we did not have any extra left over after paying our bills), a mountain of debt (in the form of school loans, car loans and a mortgage) and virtually no savings. We knew that the total cost of doing the adoption would be somewhere around twenty thousand dollars, so we had to make some changes and develop some discipline if we were going to be able to afford the adoption.
We started off by getting very serious about budgeting. We knew that we were going to have to start setting aside a few hundred dollars a month, and we had to have an accurate picture of our spending habits to identify a way to set aside this money. I consider myself fortunate to have the type of wife who is very good about logging our transactions on the computer, and she ultimately is the key to our budgeting success. We then became very frugal and eliminated any fixed expense that was not absolutely necessary, such as our newspaper subscription, cable, internet, eating out, etc…, which freed up enough cash for us to set aside $200 a month towards adoption.
We used a budgeting method known as envelopes. This means that we did not simply use a budget to track where our expenses were going, and compare that to the amount we planned to spend for the month. We distributed the money from my paycheck into virtual envelopes (very similar to the process FamilyMint uses to distribute allowance into goals), and when an envelope was empty, we would stop spending against that category until the next paycheck deposited more money into the envelope. If an envelope would go red (negative), we would have to take money from another envelope that was green (positive) to get the envelope back to zero. In one year, we went from living paycheck to paycheck, to actually having $800 in our checking account when we were cashing a paycheck. All along we continued to set aside $200 a month towards our adoption.
We also began focusing on reducing our unproductive debt, since we looked at those monthly payments as an opportunity to increase the amount of money we could set aside for the adoption. The first debt we were able to eliminate is our school loans. This meant that we could set aside an extra $150 per month towards our adoption. Then we paid off our minivan, and committed ourselves to driving it as long as we could, which allowed us to set aside another $300 per month. Before we knew it, we were setting aside $650 each month towards the adoption.
Though it did not feel fortunate at the time, the adoption that was supposed to take 9 months to complete ended up taking about 4 years. As our wait seemed to drag on, this was a “blessing in disguise”, as that delay in the process gave us more time to save. When the email finally arrived with the picture of our little Golden Flower (our daughter’s name in China), we had about $10,000 saved up, which was the amount we needed to finalize the process (we had already paid about $10,000 in fees over the 4 waiting years). Being able to finalize our adoption without incurring debt (and paying off all our other debt in the process) is more than we could have ever expected.
Looking back on that experience, I am so grateful that we were able to afford the adoption of our little girl, because she fits into our family so well! I am also very appreciative that this financial challenge has caused us to develop good spending and savings habits that will pay dividends to our family for many years to come.