Renewed Sense of Purpose

It’s been ten years since I first took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. For the first time, I felt like I knew how to handle budgeting (I used to think it was inhibiting, when it’s actually incredibly freeing) and how to tackle debt. I met Brennan a few months later and eventually taught him what I had learned.

When we got married, we both brought debt (student loan and other debt) into the marriage. Our total amount of debt was $106,929.39. Staggering. Crippling debt. But, we followed Dave’s plan (with a few detours) and committed to knocking that out as quickly as possible.

We bought our first home six years ago because we saw the profit potential and knew it would be a way to become debt-free even faster. And it worked.

In our first six years of marriage we paid off $85,000 and were down to only my student loan. But then we became lazy and, when tempted to take out a large construction loan to remodel our new home, we gave in impulsively to have the instant gratification. While not in debt to the extent we were when we first got married, it’s debt, regardless, and it has been difficult mentally to get over our mistake.

Our new church announced that they were offering the class beginning in January, so we decided that it was time to take it together and get back on track. We have continuously budgeted our entire marriage but it’s time to start the “debt snowball” once more.

Now that we have children in our home again, we’ve realized that THEY are our motivation and purpose. We never want to have to tell them they can’t participate in something because we don’t have the money if debt is the reason. 

Our goal is to be debt-free by the time they turn five. That is fifty months from now.

We have a plan. We’ve tightened up our budget as much as possible – which led us to realize that we surprisingly don’t have a spending problem, but rather an income problem (in terms of having extra to be aggressive with debt payoff). We weren’t sure what to do, but we prayed for opportunities to earn extra money that could be applied directly to our debt.

And, as always, God is faithful to His children.

I was presented with the opportunity for a new part-time job that will not only bring in some extra income but also help us cut our food budget and simplify meal planning (and give me a much-needed break a couple of nights each week).

And then, on Friday, I was offered a promotion at my other part-time job that not only pays more but it’s a lot more responsibility (being the manager on duty – MOD). Not only was this an answer to my prayer, but I was an answer to their “prayers” because it’s only 1-2 weekend days a month and they didn’t know how they would find someone willing to work so few hours. Then they remembered me, my qualifications, and how I’m currently only working there 1-2 times per month, and they said it was the perfect solution all-around. God’s hand is clearly in this. 

This all happened in the last three weeks and we’re still in awe. 

We didn’t pray that God would just hand us money (though we wouldn’t say no 😉 ) – we prayed for opportunities to EARN it, and He came through quickly and amazingly!

I share all of this as an encouragement. ANYONE can do what we’re doing. EVERYONE can become debt-free even though it requires dedication, sacrifice, and hard work. As Dave says, “Live like no one else so that later you can live and give like no one else.”

We are “gazelle intense” and ready to pay off my student loans and this construction loan as soon as we possibly can. The future of our children is worth the sacrifices we make now.

How We Cut Our Cellular Costs in HALF

Like many people, Brennan and I have recently been trying to figure out where we could cut costs in our budget. There weren’t many obvious possibilities, but we saw a commercial that brought us hope.

We have Comcast internet at home, so when we saw a commercial for Xfinity Mobile we were intrigued. It sounded too good to be true, but it has turned out to be everything it promises.

  • You only pay for the data you use – $12 per GB, or unlimited for $45. This gives you complete control over your bill!
  • You can switch back and forth between unlimited and pay by the gig, even mid month! This means you’re always getting the best deal.
  • Xfinity uses Verizon’s network so we have the same cellular coverage that we did with AT&T.
  • You are automatically connected to Xfinity WiFi hotspots whenever they exist, which is frequent! This means you use less data.

Our first bill with Xfinity will be HALF of what we were paying with AT&T. That’s a savings of $100!

The added benefit has been increased quality time: we’ve been trying to not use our phones at all when WiFi doesn’t exist, so we’ve had more quality time together while we’re away from home.

It’s so easy (especially as an introvert) to just pick up your phone and browse the internet instead of engaging with people; but, because we decided that we will try to use as little data as possible each month and made it a game, it’s also increasing our quality time with others.

It was hard to leave AT&T after fifteen years as a satisfied customer, but so far Xfinity is proving to be a much better way to do mobile and it’s saving us a significant amount of money each month.

This isn’t a paid endorsement, but I’d encourage you to look into services like this if you’re interested! It’s worth the switch.

Financial Transparency and Blessings

We have been wanting to share how we have been using the Team Tori funds for quite a while as a way of being transparent, as well as to show our stewardship with the amazing financial blessings that have been sent our way by very generous people.

Since the amount is publicly known, we wanted to use this as a way to say thank you once again. We don’t feel that we “owe” an explanation, but we want to give one as a way to show you how much your generosity has blessed us and has enabled us to take even better care of Tori than we could have on our own.

When our friend Jessica surprised us with the GoFundMe page we were still in the hospital with Tori, pre-Krabbe diagnosis. She set it up to cover both medical and living expenses that we might incur because of Tori’s situation. We had no idea what we were facing or how much it was all going to cost. To say that we were blown away by the support that came in is an understatement!

We would have been more than happy with the original goal she set of $5,000, which would have covered our deductible and out-of-pocket requirements for our insurance; but you kept giving and giving, and eventually over $19,000 was raised. That doesn’t include the cash, checks, and gift cards that were sent directly to us, either!

You may have been wondering how have we spent the money, so we want to share with you that we have done so very carefully. This probably doesn’t include everything because my memory has been affected by a lack of sleep, but it gives you an idea! We promise that none of it has been used frivolously or carelessly, and all has been for Tori’s benefit.

Because of your generosity, we…

  • Filled up our HSA (health savings account) as much as was allowed legally in order to pay medical bills;
  • Purchased a deep freezer to hold Tori’s breastmilk;
  • Purchased essential oils to aid in keeping Tori (and us) healthy, as well as to help with pain relief for her;
  • Purchased an inexpensive laptop ($300) for hospital stays and traveling so that we could update the blog and communicate properly (we discovered how difficult it was to only use our phones while we were in the hospital for five days with her in February);
  • Purchased supplies and ordered photos to create her Project Life albums so that her story is fully recorded in words and photos;
  • Reduced Brennan’s work week from five days a week to four days so that he can be home with Tori three full days a week…
  • Started making memories with Tori off of her “Bucket List“;
  • Paid for our stays at the Ronald McDonald House and other expenses to get us to and from Pittsburgh for her appointments;
  • Took Tori to California to see Lesa’s side of the family, who aren’t able to travel to see her in Pennsylvania;
  • Helped another Krabbe family pay for a piece of equipment they desperately needed and insurance was fighting with them over;
  • Traveled to the Hunter’s Hope Symposium where we received much needed encouragement and knowledge;
  • And more than I can even remember, I’m sure…

All of that listed above amounts to less than $10,000.

On top of this, you all voted diligently and we won $1,000 in free gas from Exxon! This is going to last us for a very long time and we were able to take gasoline out of our budget! Huge blessing!

As you can see, YOU have been God’s hands and feet to us, and through you He has taken care of some significant needs during this time. This has eased some of burden we carry in this journey with Tori and has allowed us to have much-needed time together as a family. Priceless.


We have been so fortunate to have amazing primary insurance that has covered EVERYTHING for us. We do not take this for granted or even expect it to continue, given the issues that so many families have shared with us.

We had kept most of the money in savings in order to pay for things we assumed that insurance wouldn’t cover, but, thus far, Brennan’s insurance has covered all of her equipment, even the $5,300 adaptive stroller!

But, once we got the stroller we realized that we had a significant problem: it wasn’t going to fit in either of our cars.

Her stroller, which provides comfort and support so that she can travel more comfortably, would not be able to leave the house/neighborhood.

We realized that a different vehicle would be required, so we started looking, knowing that we didn’t have the money saved up to pay for it (we follow Dave Ramsey and don’t believe in financing anything 🙂 ), nor could we afford a car payment right now.

So, after seeking counsel from trusted friends and family, and after prayer, we decided that this was the best possible use of the Team Tori funds that we had left. After all, what good is all of this equipment if we can’t take Tori out of the house?

We knew our budget of $14,500 was low for a minivan, but we started looking anyway. There were three used minivans on the market at local dealerships, all with low mileage and unbelievably low prices. We consulted with a friend who is a car expert and he advised us to pursue one of the three – the same one we loved!

So, we went to the dealership, test drove the one van (2011 Dodge Grand Caravan Crew) we loved the most (and Tori slept through the entire test drive because she was so comfortable in it!); they wanted more than we had for it, but Brennan did an amazing job of negotiating and talked them down to exactly what we had left in the Team Tori fund!

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We paid for the van in cash and walked away SO excited, knowing that Tori would now be SO much more comfortable in “her” van, and knowing that we didn’t have to be afraid to take her out of the house as much anymore.

Tori always used to cry in the car…she rarely cries in the van now. It is obvious that the smoother ride has made a difference for her.

We absolutely believe that the purchase of the van was a God-ordained thing! From the timing to the amazing van we found for just the amount of money that we had, to the fact that it can not only store all of Tori’s equipment with room to spare AND she is comfortable, it has been one of the greatest blessings of our lives.

The fund has been building back up thanks to so many donations toward her “Bucket List” – and that is exactly what those funds will be used for. Experiences, memories, joy. Designated funds are used as they are designated.

We are very diligent with these generous gifts that you have given to us and we do not take your generosity for granted. Every gift that we have received has left us in awe and wonder of God’s love – and your love – for Tori and for us, that even in the middle of the worst storm of our lives, He is there, calming the waves and making a way for us to focus on the important things, like loving Tori with our whole hearts.

So, THANK YOU. Thank you for supporting us, for organizing fundraisers, for designing t-shirts and bracelets and Jamberry wraps; for bringing us meals, for pumping breastmilk so that Tori has nourishment; for sending Tori cards and gifts (and giraffes), and for allowing the three of us to have so much cherished time together; thank you for spreading awareness about Krabbe and leukodystrophies, for contacting your legislators about Newborn Screening legislation.

Most importantly, thank you for continuing to pray for Tori and for us. We know that God hears our prayers, and even if He chooses to answer them in a way that we don’t like, we will still praise Him and serve Him, because we know that He is good, loving, and kind.

Thank you doesn’t seem like enough. This long post doesn’t seem like enough. Know that we are so blessed by each and every one of you who follow Tori’s story. Your encouragement and prayers get us through each day ❤

Day Twenty-Five: I’m Thankful For…Dave Ramsey.

Preface: Last year I decided to express my thanks during the month of November for something new each day, as so many others have done before me. I never finished this series, so that’s my goal this year. I am re-posting the ones I wrote last year and adding new ones. This one is new. :)

In January 2009, my church offered a class called “Financial Peace University” by Dave Ramsey. I had never heard of Dave, but I was in desperate need of financial peace. I had a lot of debt (both credit cards and student loans), I didn’t budget, and I was always uneasy when it came to money matters.

I can truly say that this class changed my life. 

Throughout the thirteen weeks of this class, we learned about the importance of having an emergency fund of at least $1,000, how to budget, how to prioritize our debts to pay them off in what Dave calls a “Debt Snowball” (smallest to largest debts), what types of insurance we should have, how to save for retirement wisely, and many other practical tips.

We learned that it’s important to “Live like no one else (meaning to make sacrifices now) so that later you can live like no one else (debt free and able to do whatever you want!).” This simple phrase makes it easier to sacrifice things that we may want right now for the long-term goal of being debt-free.

My favorite lesson was the last one, the one that focused on giving. Dave emphasized that the greatest thing about being debt-free is the ability to “give like no one else” because you don’t owe anyone anything. 

Since going through FPU, our financial outlook has changed completely:

  • We LOVE budgeting and the peace that it brings. Seriously. We tell our money where to go – we don’t wonder where it went.
  • We have NO credit card debt (paid off our last one in August 2012) AND no credit cards!
  • We were able to buy a house last year.
  • We are hoping to be completely debt-free in a couple of years (if we sell our house, we can pay off our student loans with the profit).
  • We give so much more than we did before, and it is such a blessing to be able to do so.

If you haven’t taken the opportunity to take one of Dave’s classes or read his books, please do so TODAY. He’s having a huge sale from now until Christmas (I believe) and most of his books are drastically discounted. It will be the best investment in your financial future that you have ever made!

Our Budget Plan…

I was asked by a friend how we do our budgeting, so I thought it would be a great blog post! I’ll try to keep it short and sweet.

First of all, we love the teachings of Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University. We cannot recommend him enough! Because of his wisdom the only debt that we have left is our student loans.

We maintain two spreadsheets: Our budget, and our “Special Expenses by Month”

The first one is our budget. Every other Wednesday, I (Lesa) enter the amounts that are due for this pay period. We always budget to “zero”–meaning that every dollar is accounted for. We use cash for food, necessities, clothing, date nights, etc. so we pull out the cash on pay-day. The line items below often change based upon our needs for that pay period (i.e. if we need clothes, we’ll add that line item).

We have our spreadsheet set up to automatically calculate things, so once we enter our income (we usually know by Thursday morning all of our income for that pay period) into the purple section it tells us how much we are over/under budget so that we can adjust accordingly.

When you are trying to get out of debt, it is important to use any extra money that you have to make extra payments. That is how we paid off our credit card debt so quickly–it requires sacrifices, but it’s so worth it.

(Click on the image to make it larger)

And our Special Expenses by Month looks like this:

This spreadsheet helps us to never be surprised by a bill that is coming up. It allows us to plan for them and be prepared! It would make it very easy to total up your special expenses to divide by the number of pay periods per year so that you could save little by little, as well.

Because we get paid twice a month, we do our budget twice a month. However, you have to do what works for you! This has been such a blessing to us because we always know exactly what we have to spend. We pay all of our bills on pay-day for that pay period which also reduces time and stress because we never forget to pay a bill.

If you have additional questions, please let me know! Budgets are not constraining–they are truly freeing!