>Now that we know more…

>Aaron enlisted in the US Army a couple weeks ago. He will be shipping out for Basic Training in April. His further training will be in Arizona at Ft. Huachuca. We have decided after a lot of discussion that I will stay here and work through next school year (2010). After that, who knows, but we figure in these uncertain economic times it’s wisest for me to keep a job I know I’ll have so we can pay down more debt. We’ve done long distance before… we’re not thrilled but we know if we make a sacrifice now we can live in peace in the future.

We’re still doing well with Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey! We have “Baby Step 1” done which is putting away an emergency fund of $1000. We also have our “debt snowball” going and are on our way to paying off another credit card this week! If everything goes well, a year from now we will have thousands more paid off. Thanks to different stipends we’ll be getting from the Army and great healthcare, almost my entire salary will go to paying off debt.

Just thought I’d leave you with an update! The weather is beautiful so go enjoy it!

>Debt is dumb!!

>Aaron and I have been taking a class through our church called Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. You can check out the hyperlink for more info, but basically this is a Christian financial advisor that is all for getting rid of any and all debt and only living on cash. There’s an envelope system, a detailed budget for every month and a “debt snowball” worksheet. Once you’ve paid off one card or debt, you roll that minimum payment over to another card or debt, and eventually you’re using all of your monthy payment amounts to pay off debt pretty quickly. He also has a plan for retirement savings and college savings for our children (we want three).

I’d like to keep everyone updated because this is HUGE for us. We have about $60,000 worth of debt right now, and that’s about how much we’re bringing in per year. We’ve been barely able to pay monthly payments since my loans have ended their grace periods. We owe my parents thousands of dollars – basically they took out loans in their name and I’ve been paying on them for the last four years. We want to get out of debt so that we don’t have to just “get by”. We want to be good stewards of God’s provision and blessing in our lives.

We’ve been so blessed by our church family with our trip to Honduras and Aaron’s car getting paid off almost a year ago. We just received a good amount back from the IRS because we purposely claimed zero with no exemptions. It was hard at the time to not have that extra income, but now we’re thankful since Aaron’s been laid off.

So, this is a snapshot of what we’ve paid off so far:

MY CAR! A 1997 Toyota Camry I bought with loan money two years ago with my parents cosigning. We paid the balance of $1,876. We also just dropped $715 yesterday at Sears Auto (which comes highly recommended) to get new struts. A month and a half ago, my parents unexpectedly paid for $500 of repairs, including belts and bearings and alignment…

BP GAS CARD! I’ve had this account for probably no more than a year or so but I’ve used it these past six months a lot when we haven’t had extra money for gas. My daily commute to work is 30 miles one way so I use about two gallons of gas everyday, plus any other driving I do going to Washington for church or Pekin to do laundry for free at my parents’, Aaron’s parents’ or Scott and Anessa’s. So we just paid a balance of $251!

Praise God for people like Dave Ramsey and our church for this class – I have to say though that this can’t be done without major commitment. “You’re not hardcore, unless you live hardcore…”

We can’t wait to pay off all our debt. Even with Aaron’s new job starting soon (pray and cross your fingers! more info soon) we should be able to pay off this debt in less than five years. We’re hoping to pay it off before we have children, so don’t be hoping for grandbabies, nieces/nephews, second cousins, etc. any time soon! 🙂

I know this sounds extreme, but once you change your thinking about money, it all comes together.

Feel free to leave comments, questions or suggestions!

God bless!

-Elizabeth
xoxo

Here’s a parting gift – here’s a picture of our kitty, Isis:

>It’s been a crazy month!

>I can’t believe it’s almost February already! These past few weeks have flown by. Good news: Aaron has a job prospect. I will post more when we know more! More good news: my cousin and his wife (Bryan and Michelle) are going to have a baby, due in August! This will be the first great-grandbaby on both sides of my family. It’s interesting though, because Bryan and I share two sets of grandparents (our moms are sisters and they married brothers).

Ugh, I think everyone is sick of this cold weather. A couple weeks ago we had three snow days in a row at my school, which evolved into a six-day weekend. It was more than welcome since we really didn’t get a lot of rest during Christmas break. Aaron still worked, of course, but it was nice to spend time together during the day. That Saturday night our three-year-old niece Zaia came to spend the night with us and that was fun. She and I made pizza and cookies. Here are a couple pictures:

A goal Aaron and I have is to be healthier, but it’s not necessarily a New Year’s resolution. We’ve been really working toward this goal by working out regularly (we joined World Gym on University in Peoria) and eating right. It seems that all we have in the apartment is “healthy food” but I guess that’s a good thing! So far we’re seeing results – we’re slimming down a bit and feeling better overall. We both have a history of heart/blood pressure/diabetes issues in our families so starting early is key! We’ve also found that buying more fruits and veggies, lean means, and whole grains is really not that much more expensive than normal. It’s a little pricier, but if you cut out soda, chips and other things, it comes out about even. Needless to say, we’re excited about creating new and healthy habits! Don’t worry; we’re not becoming health nuts. Just the other night we rewarded our good “behavior” by going to Coldstone!

We’re also finding cheaper ways of entertainment. If we go out (which is definitely not as common as six months ago) we go during lunch hours on the weekends. Or we don’t order a drink, just water. If you order two sodas or tea plus tax and tip you’re adding about $8 to the total bill! We got lucky last time we went to see a movie (Gran Torino, it was amazing) we paid the matinee prices at Willow Knolls. We’ve tried to downgrade our Comcast bill, but they won’t let us just get rid of cable and keep Internet. It’s probably cost us more to switch at this point, so we’ll just suck it up and live with it.

Just wanted to provide you with an update and maybe a reason to procrastinate, haha. Have a good evening and thanks for reading!

–Elizabeth
xoxo

>The Christmas Extravaganza!

>I can’t believe winter break is almost over. Aaron and I both go back to work on Monday, and these two weeks have been a whirlwind! We have been trying to “make our rounds” as far as visiting family and I feel like central Illinois roads have been our best friends lately. Here’s how things went:

Christmas Eve – bowling with Aaron’s family and then dinner with my parents and grandparents
Christmas Day – hanging out at home in the morning and then spending the whole day with Aaron’s family (all four boys were home)
December 26 – going to see my other grandparents in the morning and then my aunt, uncle, and cousins in the afternoon
December 27 – dinner with my grandma (we saw her on Christmas Eve)
December 28 – going to see my aunt and cousins
December 29 & 30 – watching our nieces and nephew for two days and one night
December 31 – I had coffee with a friend and then we had New Year’s Eve fun with Aaron’s family
Today – We went to see his grandparents
Tomorrow – Rehearsal dinner for my friend’s wedding
Saturday – I’m a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding
Sunday – church in the morning and then NOTHING!!!

Goodness gracious, we’ve been busy. It’s been really nice getting to see everyone. We’ve been to Peoria, Pekin, Atlanta, Normal, Kankakee, Farmington… see what I said about the road being our best friend??

We’re still in the midst of making decisions about jobs and finances. I have decided not to go back to school for my Master’s. We’re not really sure if we’ll even be in the area next fall and although the program was going to be all online, I didn’t want to start something I might not have been able to finish. Also, we’d have to add on more loans to the tens of thousands I already have from undergrad. Just not a financially sound decision right now.

These past two weeks have been wonderful but also hard on me. I broke down a little bit when we put the Christmas decorations away. This apartment (very nice, by the way) has finally started to feel like home. We have our furniture and dishes and everything the way we like and sometimes it’s sad to think that next year at this time we may not be here.

This economy just isn’t lending itself to our settling down in this area of the country. Actually, nowhere is better, but there may be different opportunities for Aaron right now. We decided when we got engaged and were both looking for jobs that I would follow him to where the work was. I’m a certified teacher so I can really find a job anywhere, especially with my Spanish degree.

Anyway, enough talk. Here are some pics from the holidays.


Chris, Grandpa, Dad, Aaron and Nick cleaning off the driveway


My six-month-old cousin Levi


Having dinner at my grandma’s


Our ten-month-old niece, Lena


My cousins Kari and Jamie (Eric is Jamie’s husband) and us, the giants, haha


Our niece Zaia and me

These pictures definitely don’t include everyone, but they’re just some of the ones I took with our sweet new Nikon Coolpix (1o.o mpx!).

I’m sure I will give you all an update soon!

–Elizabeth

>Roll with the changes.

>Aaron has been working at Cat since February of this year. Thursday the company announced that they are laying off over 800 workers at the engine production plant. Unfortunately, this lay-off affects Aaron. February 23 will be his last day, and we’ve been a little stressed out but still at peace about our further job prospects. He could collect unemployment or go back to school full-time, but we’re looking into a secure job for him. I can literally get a job anywhere I go, being a certified teacher and having a BA, but for him it’s a little more difficult, especially in manufacturing, which is where he has experience.

This news comes in the midst of other unfortunate events – his grandparents’ house burned down just a couple weeks ago. His sister-in-law’s father has been diagnosed with acute leukemia. However, despite the unfortunate events, we have been still strong in our faith and amazed by the overwhelming sense of peace.

Needless to say, I no longer suffer from “baby fever”. It’s easy to want a child when so many people I know are having them! For them, it is their time. We are so young still (I am 22, he is 24) and so we have plenty of time.

We are weighing our options and hope to keep everyone up-to-date about our next steps! Despite whatever our plans may be, I still plan on beginning my Master’s in Teacher Leadership at the University of Illinois at Springfield. The program is totally online, so it can go wherever I go. I am taking out loans, but I might as well do this now before we have children.

This coming week is so busy with visiting and spending time with family. Looking forward to it!

>Honduras.

>About Honduras…

We were gone for a week, August 5-12. We visited an orphanage in La Ceiba, which is right on the Caribbean coast. We were able to spend some very quality time with kids from ages 1 to 21. It was amazing, and hopefully we’ll be able to afford to go back next year for a vacation/honeymoon to the Bay Islands, right off the coast of Honduras.

I have starting teaching high school Spanish, and although it’s only my second day, I love it! The staff is great, the kids are great… it will be a great year.

-Elizabeth

>Life has been busy, of course. Last Friday was my (Elizabeth’s) last day working at Yankee Candle. I worked in my classroom this week getting everything cleaned out… I ended up with eight BOXES of junk. Not measly shoe boxes, mind you. Aaron came and helped me on Tuesday, which was awesome. I ended up finishing everything and actually meeting some students on Wednesday. There was registration for the district at my building, so of course there were students roaming the school, even past the “Do Not Cross” tape. *Sigh* Adolescents. Gotta love ’em.

It’s hard to believe we’ve been married almost three months. It’s been great, though. Our apartment is finally starting to feel like home to me. I’m proud of it… especially when it’s clean. 🙂 We actually just cleaned the whole place in preparation for our trip to Honduras. We leave on TUESDAY!

We’re hoping to add a new member to our family soon… a Beagle by the name of Shiloh. We’ll be adopting him from a family at church that just doesn’t have ample room for him anymore. I’m excited… I really miss having a dog.

We’re both planning on going back to school in the spring – Aaron’s going to start finishing his Bachelor’s, and I’ve been accepted to Bradley’s school counseling program for my MA. We were very excited when we filed our FAFSAs and our “expected family contribution” for both of us combined was only $1000. Ah, the joys of being married AND both being in school at the same time.

Today, Saturday, we spent the whole day together. It’s been really nice, and now Aaron doesn’t have to go back to work until the day after we get back. I go back the 14th, and then I have my first day with the kids (that’s what I call them, haha) on the 18th.

Have a great night,

Elizabeth