How Our Finances Have Changed Without a Mortgage

posted by Andrea | 05/29/2019

After a decade of living ULTRA-frugally in an effort to pay off our mortgage early while also paying out-of-pocket for our many home renovations, Dave and I realized we were both more-than content to continue living very frugally, even if it wasn’t necessary.

In fact, we’ve basically kept the same lifestyle over the past few years, despite the fact that we no longer have the added expenses of our mortgage or lots of home renovations.

So what are we doing with the “extra” money?

This is a question I’ve been asked countless times over the past few years — and one I’m finally answering today! 

1. Christian school tuition:

This expense is the main reason we wanted to pay our mortgage off BEFORE our children started school — once all 4 kids are in school, their monthly tuition will far exceed our previous monthly mortgage payment. 

However, this is something Dave and I personally feel very strongly about, and also something we are required to do based on Dave’s contract as a Christian school teacher (no, we do not get any discount because he’s a teacher). 

I realize this huge expense might be seen as a “waste” of money when we could attend public schools for free, but we feel that sending our children to a Christian school is just another way we are “investing” our money back into our own family and into our community.

2. Saving and investing: 

We’ve always been fairly diligent with saving as much as we can and regularly investing each month. We also don’t have all that many expenses right now (outside of school tuition), so we’ve decided to put most of the “extra” money into savings or towards a few smaller investments. 

We will eventually need to upgrade both our vehicles as they are both 10+ years old with higher miles, and we’re still talking and planning for an underground pool in the future. We will most certainly need to dip into our savings in the coming years, but for now, we are content to let our money “sit” in various savings and investment accounts. 

3. Groceries:

We spend quite a bit more on groceries these days — and I’m totally OK with that!

I started shopping at Aldi again last year and was pleasantly surprised by how much money AND time I save! I also save more by limiting my shopping trips to every 2 weeks, but due to a larger family, older children, more entertaining, regularly bringing meals to others, and buying more quality foods, we simply have a need for more food — which costs money!

I don’t obsess over getting the BEST deal on every food item we buy, and I have fun buying special treats for our kids too — for example, Nora thinks pizza lunchables are pretty much the best surprise ever, and the boys love beef jerky sticks and the individual yogurts that come with cookie crumbs or M&M’s on top. So every once in a while, I’ll surprise the kids with these treats — even though they aren’t on sale and even though they aren’t overly nutritious. 

I also regularly “gift Dave with groceries” — like a certain type of beer he likes, a fancy trail mix he enjoys, or Reeses’ Peanut Butter cups. 

Again, I feel like this extra expense is simply another way I’m able to invest back into our family and friends, so I’m happy to do it. 

4.  Generosity: 

I hesitate to put this on the list because I definitely don’t want you to picture Dave and I giving hundreds of thousands of dollars away… nope, not at all! However,  we have increased our giving over the last few years as we simply have more available to give. 

We don’t go crazy, and we still say “no” to several requests for our money, but we’ve increased our giving to church and we diligently write a modest check every time our schools have any type of fundraiser or capital campaign. 

We also enjoy giving more frequently on a REALLY small scale — like sending a small monthly donation to our local PBS station, gifting money to various organizations over the holidays, anonymously mailing gift cards to people we think might need them, surprising our teachers with special treats all throughout the year, or making a little kid’s day when they come to the door selling candy bars and we buy 10 “just because”. Seriously, you should see how excited the kid gets! 

I doubt Dave and I will ever have the ability to give millions, but I do think we are able to do a lot with the resources we have, especially now that more of our resources are “freed up”. 

5. Less Work:

Believe it or not, we actually earn LESS now than we did 5 years ago, and that’s intentional. 

We have intentionally chosen for Dave to be home ALL summer versus getting any type of summer job (like most of our teacher friends), and he has stopped coaching while our kids are young.

I have also intentionally chosen to scale back the amount of work I do as I simply have so many other request and needs for my time in and around our home and family. 

I have quit a couple of my Virtual Assistant jobs and I have scaled way back on the number of sponsored posts and giveaways I do, even though they were big money-makers for me. These tasks took up significant amounts of my time and energy — and although I enjoyed all the work I did (and I might enjoy it again in the future) I feel that for now, my time is better spent in other ways, even if that means a lower income for our family. 

So often in today’s culture, we are told to WORK MORE so we can EARN MORE so we can then SPEND MORE on bigger and better things. And while I fully understand the appeal of this cycle (believe me, I do!) Dave and I just can’t “buy into it” at this point in our lives (pun intended!) 

We would SO MUCH RATHER work less, earn less, and spend less if it means enjoying a simpler lifestyle with more time at home.

This fits OUR personality types perfectly — I know some might think we are crazy! That’s OK 🙂

 

Dave and I both come from very frugal families who have always lived well below their means. We’ve happily lived off a fairly moderate income for our entire married life, and our circle of friends are mostly teachers with the same moderate income, so an extravagant lifestyle has never been anything we’ve even considered. 

At this point in our lives, we are more-than-content to live quite frugally because it’s all we really know (we don’t know what we might be missing out on!)

We do not feel deprived, we don’t have all that many financial needs (or wants), and we are satisfied with our current financial position — even if it might not look all that impressive on paper. 

I realize our choices might seem odd to many of you! I don’t expect anyone else to choose these same choices — and honestly, we probably wouldn’t have chosen the same choices 5 or 10 years ago — but they work for OUR family for NOW, and that’s what’s important for us. 

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40 comments

  1. Kristen @ Joyfully Thriving

    06/23/2019

    Love your point of gifting Dave with special groceries. Andy loves it when I surprise him with a favorite treat too! And yes! Like you, we always give at the school auction or capital campaigns. Yes, we’re already giving as a teacher at a small Christian School in so many ways, but we want to give in this way. We want to support our school ministry this way too!

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    Andrea Reply:

    they say “food is the way to a man’s heart” — that is definitely true for Dave!

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  2. Liane

    05/30/2019

    Very good choices. I agree totally with them. We paid off our mortgage early and used the modest amount of extra cash to buy a motorhome. It’s far far more frugal that air – hotel – rental car – bad restaurant food vacationing. We get to travel anywhere we’d like whenever we want to weather allowing.

    When I met my DH 35 years ago I was a widow with a toddler. I could not keep my house in a pricey community and I owed my dad the down payment he’d loaned us so I had to sell it. My DH at that time had no plans of ever being a parent and had bought a house in a very low income area. After we married I moved in here. When school enrollment time came along 4 years later, I was a full time college student and the local schools here were and still are horrible. California has some of the schools in the country and the poor, mostly immigrant communities are the worst. My DH teaches classes as part of his job to technical support folks from all over the world who speak a dozen different languages. It’s hard for him with a class of five to ten. Can you imagine an entire classroom of 30 unruly, underfed, poorly equipped to learn children who don’t speak English? That was the school world my daughter would have entered if it had not been a fellow student, a Christian, who introduced me to her school. And from that point forward there were no other choices I considered viable. Now 40, my daughter still has friends from the Christian grammar school and high school she attended. It was hard at times especially in high school when the tuition was getting steep. But we persevered. Since the house was only $75k we had a pretty low mortgage and when I started work as a critical care RN our income quickly hit 6 figures. But we never moved, we never needed more. This neighborhood is gradually “gentrifying” and dead lawns and broken windows are slowly being replaced. It’s still very diversified and in reality that translates to other cultures don’t have the same esthetic values as some of us. Meaning lawns are parking places. Side yards are for storing broken down appliances. Sheets are acceptable as curtains. Orange is a perfect color for half the house. Sounds horrible right? Well at times it is but it’s what I’ve learned to accept as where a God wants me to be. My mom died after an extensively long and expensive illness requiring board and care, as she was blind and unable to care for herself. Thankfully the values my father instilled in me were such that I could take care of her and stay in her home, using it as a base of operations. My dad had left enough to more than care for her. He was also mortgage free and left no debt when he passed away. I don’t think that any of the ways my life has been blessed could possibly have happened if we moved into a pricey area, paid thousands of dollars in property taxes and thousands more in mortgage payments. We’d have been surrounded by snotty rich folks with entitled brats. I have met these people and I am glad I am not one of them. Think Real Housewives meets Dallas and you get an idea of the kind of neighborhood we could afford but eschewed. Common sense and faith prevailed.

    Now, to wrap this up — we still live frugally but my DH tired of the constant fix and repair of old used cars. With a small amount of cash from my inheritance I bought him a new compact car with nose to tail warranty and for me I leased a modest SUV. I know Dave Ramsey is anti lease but in the end it’s cheaper than repairs. And it’s not forever. When he fully retires we won’t need two cars. We plan to move to a lower cost of living state. We live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. Being frugal all these years and not having a mortgage means we can buy a house anywhere we want to.

    I know, long. But I think there’s a lesson here to all young parents. If nothing else, live on one income even if there’s two and invest in a solid Christian education.

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  3. Linda Crane

    05/30/2019

    your bigger and better thing, your “splurge”{ as some might see it, is your choice of four children and time with that family. I, too am a mom of 4..all now grown, and 3 that are nearby come almost every Wed. night for a family dinner with the grandkids, age 29 to 3 mos. I was a teacher, now retired, always frugal by necessity and choice. Widowed now after a happy 20 yr marriage,and previously divorced. It was not always easy, but I find joy in living within my means and knowing how to enjoy the moment, and the moments. Few regrets. I am a nester, gardener, remodeler, with many hobbies and interests, especially cooking. and piano (which I also taught on the side when the kids were babies). I enjoy following your commentaries. God bless.

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    Andrea Reply:

    That’s a great way to think about it — thanks Linda!

    yes, our “splurge” is our family time — we’re sacrificing income (and time with friends or by ourselves) to “invest” in our children’s lives. I love this!

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  4. Sabira

    05/30/2019

    Hats off to you and Dave.

    Great going!

    All the best..

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  5. Summer

    05/30/2019

    Your best line was that “you don’t buy into it!” I love it! It’s so true, we are ‘sold’ on everything all day, especially through our phones now. I am old school, I guess, and we are super frugal as well. We “spent” all our time with our children, who today love to spend time with us. It’s so freeing not to have to keep up with the Jones and to have multiple options because you aren’t maxed out financially.

    Thanks for a wonderful inspirational post, again!

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  6. Jennifer

    05/29/2019

    For anyone who says you’re crazy: 1) you’re super smart, and 2) you can tell them you’ve got a long-time follower whose family sold their home on 2 acres of land in south Texas to buy and live aboard a 41 ft sailboat. Talk about frugal and crazy!! Thanks to our frugal lifestyle for the last several years, we just arrived in Florida after sailing away from Texas last Dec and spending 3 months cruising around the Bahamas. We could never have done that with a mortgage or having to pay travel costs. Now we’re working in Florida (I see clients in person and online) and saving up and living frugally so we can go do it again this winter. Different goals, similar beliefs about living frugally, equally happy families!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — well that’s a fun story! I’m certain you will have so many wonderful experiences because of your willingness to live frugally and not always do what everyone else says you should do (buy a big house and upgrade all the time) Good for you!

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  7. Erin

    05/29/2019

    Great post. We too have all of our children in Christian school. Although, our public schools in Las Vegas have a poor reputation so private school is very common here. I love the values they receive and know my Christian morals are being reinforced at school too. It is a sacrifice we do for our family but not gonna lie and say it is cheap. I’m driving a 16 yo car at the moment but it runs and it has AC and heat. What more do I need? We do try and take a family vacation every year so we splurge in some areas too. Thanks for giving your readers a peak into your finances and encouraging us to prioritize our spending and the important stuff.

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for your encouragement!

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  8. JJ

    05/29/2019

    My husband and I both went to Christian high schools and colleges. It was a huge blessing!!! I remember public school teachers sending their kids to the Christian schools I taught at. It surprised me. I will say some of the most authentic, live-it-out even after Sunday Christians I know graduated from public school, so it’s not a slam to kids who go to public schools. But often the environment and world-view taught daily in Christian schools trains and prepares students to serve for a lifetime. They learn to filter academics through the Bible, which empowers them to be life-long learners who can think for themselves with the right filter. I’m forever grateful to my parents for their sacrifices so that I could go to Christian schools! That was awesome of you guys to have the foresight and discipline to provide this for your children!!!

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    Andrea Reply:

    oh yes, we have nothing against public schools — and honestly, our local public schools are rate very high in the state. We just know how valuable our Christian education was for us and we want to give that to our children.
    I agree 100% with what you said about filtering ALL the academics through the Bible. So often people think a Christian school is just a few prayers and a Bible class — but that is SO NOT the case. Every single class, every single lesson, every single song, every single part of every day is taught from a Christian perspective. There is no way to replicate it within a public school — no matter how wonderful the teachers are!

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  9. Rhonda

    05/29/2019

    Someone once told me “I want to work to live, not live to work”. That certainly fits YOU, Andrea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    yes, that sounds like a good motto to live by! Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Debby

    05/29/2019

    You are spot on. Oprah says the best gift you can give yourself is time. That is exactly what you and Dave are doing. And you are being intentional. This is an awesome post. Your kids will always remember the amount of time you all spent together. Good job 🙂

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    Andrea Reply:

    well if Oprah says it, it MUST be true! 🙂

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  11. Stephanie

    05/29/2019

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s very encouraging and inspiring to others. I love the fact that you prioritize family over earning extra money and that you are content with what you have. You and Dave are wise beyond your years!

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    Bonnie White Reply:

    I agree 100%!!!

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  12. Jen

    05/29/2019

    I love this! Finances are so personal. No two situations are the same and no one looking in from the outside knows all the details so it’s easy to judge how others spend their money without having all the facts. Jeff has taught in a christian school for 12 years now. Before that, he was a pastor, so finances have always been a struggle for us. (i have worked full time since our youngest son went to kindergarten.) We were never required to send our children to christian school and we always got a tuition discount. But, I love that your school requires it, although I know a discount would help! It saddens and confuses me when christian school teachers can clearly afford the school but don’t feel the school is good enough to educate their kids. (I am speaking from conversations I’ve had personally with other teachers who expressed this to me.) It seems to me that if the school is good enough for a paycheck, it should be good enough for your child’s education. (Obviously, I’m speaking generally. I understand there are situations where public education is a better option for the child.) Anyway, off my soapbox now!

    We have been the recipients of anonymous gifts many times. It’s a blessing I can’t explain. And, a few times, we have been able to give anonymously, which is an even bigger blessing. I only wish we could do it more.

    We are now in the middle of paying for Christian college, which we’ve taken MUCH heat for. Our kids are paying what they can as well but, for us, it’s a sacrifice we are willing to make. When I stood at graduation a few weeks ago and listened to the speaker and saw my son and his sweet fiancee’ say goodbye to dear christian friends they had made over four years, it was worth every dime to me. Again, it’s NOT for everyone nor do I believe it should be. But for our family, it’s been more than worth the sacrifice.

    Thanks for sharing, Andrea!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Jen 🙂
    Dave and I have had MANY conversations about the fact that it would feel like a “slap in the face” for his school if we didn’t send our children to the local Christian school — but again, that’s just us!
    Also, I go back and forth with the whole paying for college (not that I have to worry about it yet!)
    Both our parents helped us a bit financially, we both worked A TON, we applied for every scholarship would could, and we took out loans. It felt like a good arrangement for us, but that’s not to say it’s the only arrangement that works.
    That said, all of our siblings also attended Christian colleges and I don’t think any of us regret one penny we spent on our education (or life experience). I doubt your children will regret it either!

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    Pixie508 Reply:

    We also feel that a Christian education is important – I work to cover tuition.

    On the college front – I was on the hook for 2/3 of my college. My parents covered about 1/3. I think I worked harder because I knew I had skin in the game. I had 2 jobs, worked 30hrs a week, and carried a full course load. It lead me to not want to mess around.

    My brother decided on a private school, and my parents were able to help him more, and honestly, it didn’t do him any favors. It was partially his personality, but I also think he didn’t feel as invested.

    All that to say, we have decided we will help our kids (when they get there – our oldest is a few months younger than Nora). We’ve got 529s for them. But, we want them to be on the hook and feel responsible in the process.

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    Roxie Reply:

    I totally recognize and appreciate the benefits of a Christian school. My parents struggled to send me to a private school for 13 years (K-12) and as an adult, I can still see and appreciate the benefits. Now as to college, my Mom was fairly strict; she told me that college wasn’t an option and that I WAS going to pay for it myself because she and my Dad struggled to send me to private school. I went to school and worked full time evenings, Monday – Friday – in order to pay for school. I don’t regret it for one moment – although some 30 years later I wonder how on earth I did it all!

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for sharing Roxie!

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    Tina Reply:

    Yes girl! Full time work, full time school and bible study 3x days a week ran me ragged. I quit college at my senior year because it was just too much. Just thinking about going back now at almost 35!

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    Jennifer Reply:

    I’m sorry you are getting heat for sending your kids to a Christian college. You’re doing the right thing. I went a little wild in a public school. My parents didn’t push but hoped I would go to our Christian college, and I did by my own choice. The high price was worth it to them, and I must say that I don’t know if I would have settled down if I attended a secular college. Going to the Christian school straightened me out. It was such a loving, positive atmosphere; and it helped being surrounded by peers making good choices. When my son is older, we’ll do what we can to make sure he attends at least a private school if not Christian.

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  13. Kellie

    05/29/2019

    I LOVED THIS POST! I totally agree with you, Andrea, on being mindful to not overwork yourself just for the sake of more money in the bank. My husband and I were both students living on a tight budget our first 5 years of marriage. What freedom we felt when we finally started making those larger paychecks! Ironically, we found ourselves spending nearly every penny that we had initially planned to save, and had to reel it in fast! Just goes to show that frugality doesn’t go away when your paycheck increases! “Rich” people can still be poor and vice versa.

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    Andrea Reply:

    thanks Kellie! So glad you noticed this sooner than later and “reeled it in” when you did!

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  14. Ruth

    05/29/2019

    Awesome testimony of how you handle your finances!
    I am so curious to know about the requirement that your husband’s job has that he has to send his kids to Christian school if he works there yet they don’t give a tuition discount.

    I am assuming they don’t adjust his salary with additional child he has so that the salary can cover tuition! So what do other families like yours do? Is it a given it’s a two income household?

    Cause with the tuition of Christian schools where I live, the tuition for 4 kids would be an entire teacher’s salary!

    Also, do they allow teachers to homeschool their kids or is that a no?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Ruth!
    And yes, it probably does sound very odd to those who are not used to this system. Dave and I both grew up with parents who also worked in the Christian schools, so it’s just what we’ve always known.
    No, his salary does not increase with each child (that would be awesome though!) and yes, we could homeschool if we wanted — but right now, we have no intention of doing that.

    MOST Christian school teachers in our area have 2 full-time salaries in order to also pay for their children to attend Christian schools. They also get summer jobs or do other things on the side (coaching, tutoring, etc.)
    That said, several Christian schools in our area offer a “sliding scale” so the family gets some discount if they have multiple children enrolled in the school at the same time. There are also many churches that help out with Christian school tuition for their own members. It’s sort of a “community affair” — the schools work with the churches, the churches help the families and support the schools, the families support the schools and churches, etc. etc.
    As they say “it takes a village’ this is very literal when it comes to the Christian school / church / family / community!

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    Ruth Reply:

    Oh wow, everyone helping out is so nice!
    That’s really putting your money where your mouth is!

    I absolutely believe in a Christian education for Christian children heck, I think all education should be privatized, so it’s awesome that you guys have such a supportive community system going.

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  15. laura

    05/29/2019

    Keep up the anonymous gift cards when you can. Several years ago when we were struggling someone sent us a Christmas card with a $500 gift card to a grocery chain (where we could also get gas or other gift cards). It was such a blessing and allowed us to provide Christmas to our children in a very meager year, gas in the tank and food in the cupboard. It meant so much to us. We never did find out who sent it but we try to pay it forward when we can.

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    Andrea Reply:

    We were also the recipient of an anonymous gift card early in our marriage. It wasn’t nearly $500, but it was enough that I still remember it and want to be able to do that for others!

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  16. Casey

    05/29/2019

    Thank you for sharing your family’s story! Very inspiring. My husband and I did not come from frugal families, and we paid the price earlier in our marriage with our lack of knowledge about money. However I’m proud to say we paid off over 80k worth of debt (everything but our home. Most of that was student loans). We hope to continue this path of frugality and pay off our house as well. Money is such a personal subject. I think ultimately people are bold in asking personal questions regarding it because they want the same peace of mind with their finances. We all want the magic answer!

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    Andrea Reply:

    wow — that’s a lot of work, but sounds like you are headed in the right direction. My guess is that your current financial choices will make a big impact on the lives of your children (or future children) as they will see you model such good and practical habits for them!

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  17. Maria

    05/29/2019

    Andrea, thanks for sharing. Your priorities are exactly as they should be and result in a happy, stress free life. Your ideas will certainly help others who struggle with prioritizing their life values and come to realize what is really important in life – God and people (especially family) not things. I believe you have already discovered the key to happiness in life – to be content with what you already have and to give thanks. God bless.

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  18. Trina

    05/29/2019

    Interesting post. My husband and I feel like we’re mostly frugal too, although we do splurge more now that we’re in a later season of life with children grown. I think once you get in the habit, it just feels natural over time. I honestly don’t miss spending money on stuff I used to before I met my husband. I love your anonymous gift card giving. What a great idea! I am wondering what the story is with the kiddos sitting around a tree with a bucket in the branches?

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    Andrea Reply:

    Honestly, I would say that Dave and I “splurge” much more now than we did before — but still nothing crazy (like huge vacations or brand new cars we can’t afford!)
    As for the kids under the tree — that was their little fort (Nora’s idea, of course). They keep chairs under the tree and often just sit under there together 🙂

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  19. Ann

    05/29/2019

    So many people can learn from your habits (me included!) However, I question why it is any of our business what you do with your money now that your house is paid off. I can’t believe people ask! I hope you have strict boundaries in place!

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    Andrea Reply:

    You know… I honestly don’t think they were asking to be nosey (maybe some, but not the majority). I think they were honestly just curious, and used to me sharing so much of my life — it probably didn’t even seem weird for them to ask!
    That said, I don’t see any situation in which I would ask someone else this question! 🙂

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