A few months ago, I was pretty frustrated with our financial situation. Despite my husband having received quarterly raises this year and me getting more jobs through my photography business than I ever have before, it seemed we were never gaining any real traction on our goals. Back in January, as part of my 101 (goals) in 1001 (days) list, I had set a goal to complete our emergency fund (for reference, $10,000 is the number we agreed on there). However, since setting that goal, our emergency fund had only DECREASED, largely thanks to the fact that we had some unexpected car repairs earlier this year (to the tune of about $500) and us deciding to pre-pay Raven’s preschool tuition for the whole year, as we got a discount from doing that (so it ended up costing us about $570 instead of $635).
Looking at our bank accounts online through our Personal Capital (aff. link) account (which is a nifty (free) site where you can categorize all your expenses, see all your financial accounts in one place, and track your net worth), I also realized I had gotten into some bad habits without being super aware of it, like transferring over a little bit of money from savings if we “needed” something but weren’t getting paid for a few more days. Sometimes these needs were valid (like us discovering a couple weeks ago that our car registration had expired a couple months ago and us needing to register it ASAP and pay the citation fee), but sometimes they weren’t as valid (like maybe I wanted some specific fresh groceries for a meal I had in mind, instead of just planning out a meal based on what we already had in the house). Granted, these little transfers didn’t happen with alarming frequency, but it was something that was happening enough so that any little progress we HAD made saving that month ($50 here, $35 there) wasn’t showing up in the final numbers.
So we set a goal–we were going to save $1000 in just 100 days. And I’ll admit, it seemed an impossible goal when we set it, largely because I knew we would be somehow having to pay off around $1600 in medical bills at the same time. There we were, not having been able to save even $100 net over the course of the last year, now somehow thinking that we could save $1000 AND pay off the hospital bills that would be arriving in the mail any day.
Well, we were able to do it, literally almost to the day (and just barely).
Firstly, we knew that we would have to slash our expenses to the bone as much as possible. Seeing as how we already live pretty darn frugally as it is, there wasn’t that much more that could be squeezed out. But I looked at where we could cut more out (such as in our grocery bill), and we made those cuts. (See this first checkpoint post on one way we slashed costs on our grocery bill the first month.)
By and large, we didn’t buy new things, we didn’t go out to eat, we didn’t spend money on entertainment. As much as possible, we kept our expenses low.
But we knew that wouldn’t be enough–even if we cut everything down to the bare minimum and literally subsisted on beans and rice, we still wouldn’t be able to save the $1000 AND cover the hospital bills—it just wasn’t possible.
So we knew we had to hustle a bit when it came to making more.
Luckily, we were going into fall, which is the seasonal darling of the photography world. About 80% of my paid photography work comes from about the end of August to the beginning of November, so I knew if I was able to book a few bigger jobs, that would help enormously.
So I put out feelers–I did some shout-outs on Facebook (my main referral source for photography clients), and I also was fortunate enough to have clients from the past who were wanting to book me again for this year. With what I had booked, it looked like we were going to be able to save the $1000 we’d planned on, mostly just from my photography work.
However, that still left the medical bills (from the birth of our son back in June).
Can I share something with you?
I believe in the power of prayer. I have had so many experiences in my life that have showed me clearly the power of prayers, that I absolutely know for myself that when you pray for something with real faith (especially something very specific, that’s good for you to have), you will often be blessed with exactly what you need.
Matt and I have been praying about our financial situation as a couple for years–we’ve prayed about obtaining employment that would be good for our family, we’ve prayed about being able to save money for a house or for other large things (like medical expenses), we’ve prayed that we’d be able to make ends meet even when the numbers on paper really didn’t look like they were going to work out. (And we’ve also always paid a full tithing to our church, which means that we voluntarily give 10% of our income each year, which I know is one of the main reasons we’ve always been blessed financially to have everything we need.)
And, over the years, we’ve seen those prayers answered–we’ve been blessed with job offers that came out of nowhere at just the right time, with people dropping off food when we had no more money left at the end of the month for groceries, with a house that was everything we wanted that was *just* within our price range.
So we started praying that we would be able to meet our goal of saving $1000 in 100 days AND pay off all our medical bills in full.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you all that the reason we were able to do all that as we desired was because we saw a series of small miracles, one after another after another, fall into place to allow us to do just that–miracles that I absolutely KNOW were divinely sent, as there were far too many to simply pass off as “lucky coincidences.”
First off, the medical bills:
We had saved about $1000 from our tax return earlier this year into a special medical fund, but we knew we’d have to come up with a bit more than that to cover the birth. As of June (when our son was born), we hadn’t been able to save more than the original $1000 and planned to just cash flow it out as best as we could, or to dip into our emergency fund if absolutely necessary. The first couple bills that came up, we paid for directly out of that fund—one for about $150 from my ob’s office, and then the big one (for me) from the hospital (which I was able to use this tip on to negotiate a discount, since we paid in cash).
Then we got hit with a $250 dental bill we hadn’t expected. And then the other big bill came from the hospital (this one for my son’s care)—to the tune of almost $1000 (which was quite a bit more than expected). The fact was, we weren’t going to be able to cash flow this–it seemed impossible that we’d be able to cover these expenses AND save the money.
And then the little miracles started happening.
Matt got two unexpected employment opportunities VERY out of the blue—one from a previous employer who wanted to hire him one Saturday morning, and one from someone willing to hire him on as a consultant (for Amazon listing and fees) for an hour. Boom, $200 we hadn’t expected.
Then, I felt I should call the dental insurance company to see if we could get the $250 covered, since the reason we’d gotten hit with the payment was because we hadn’t met the 6-month waiting period before having the work done, though we HAD paid 6 months’ worth of premium payments (and were just 12 days or so short of having waited the full six months). I went to the highest manager at the insurance company who told me that he “highly doubted my appeal would be granted,” but that I was welcome to file one anyway if it would make me feel better.
So I filed an appeal, explaining that I’d had the work done when I had because I was super pregnant (and ended up having my baby literally the next morning) and that I HAD actually paid the 6 months’ worth of premiums, though I had not (as stated) met the arbitrary 6-month waiting period.
And you know what?
They granted my appeal and covered the expenses 100%.
Then, while I was calling the hospital to see if I could negotiate a discount for paying one of the bills in cash, the financial clerk working with me made the offhand comment that I should check out the financial assistance website and apply for my hospital bills to be discounted on a sliding scale based on income. I hadn’t ever thought about doing that and doubted anything would come of it (since we’d been paying all our bills on time and in full up to this point), but I applied anyway.
And that $1000 hospital bill for the birth?
It got reduced to just $150.
All of a sudden, our goal was not just do-able, but we also had been given enough to not need to slash all our other expenses to the bone (hooray for not having to subsist solely on beans and rice!).
So how did we save $1000 in 100 days?
We cut expenses.
We increased income.
But most of all, we prayed—
And we prayed specifically.