I want to fully trust my kids when I give them their inheritance one day
I want to have incredible experiences throughout this beautiful earth
I want my family to know deeply that the best things in life cannot be bought
I want to live detached from stuff and attached to eternity
I want to give generously
I want to host my friends and my family in a beautiful, paid for home, with quality heirloom pieces, full of the Holy Spirit
I don’t want my kids to have college debt
I want my kids to know that life and work is more than earning money
I want to anonymously sponsor missions trips, Christmas mornings for single moms, and the electric bill for someone making ends meet
I want to share our (future) vacation home freely with young couples and ministries for rest and respite at no cost
I want my last days to be comfortable, free of worry and stress regarding the proper medical care
I want the local church to be supported by the Ray household

I want money to flow through my hands to all the right, responsible, honorable places, like a river. I never want my grip to be tight.


All of this is directly tied to how I am handling my money today.

Our Journey
Will and I have been on quite the journey together in regards to our finances. I grew up living a very wealthy lifestyle. I was homeschooled, I traveled all over the world as a kid, I would buy anything I wanted at any point. Private school, Clothes, Summer Camps and Horesback riding, my own horse, College, Prom Dresses, you name it – it was all paid for.

Will grew up with two hard working parents. They lived below their means, sacrificing to send their 3 kids to a private Christian school (where we met!). Will knew the value of hard work, he had to pay for his own gas and meals out, and he valued each dollar he made.

Y’all. We were a DISASTER.

Well, almost. We were almost a disaster. When we were engaged, we were introduced to Financial Peace University – Dave Ramsey’s amazing 9 week financial class – that CHANGED our lives and our marriage forever.

Fast forward to 2012: We freaking PAID OFF OUR HOUSE! We had lived in an apartment together for 2 years with no AC, no dishwasher, no washer and dryer, terrible neighbors, and mice. After saving up a lot for a down payment, we moved into our first home in 2010. We lived on nothing but a tight budget for 2.5 years, and we paid off our home!!

Be sure to read this post and listen to Our Debt Free Scream on the Dave Ramsey Show!


I’m going to share with you the tools we use to organize our money, but I want you to know something very important:

It’s about your heart, not these tools.

Money will reveal your heart more than you know. Living on a budget and denying myself of so many “wants” (after a childhood getting everything I wanted at any moment), illuminated some icky sides of myself. But goodness I am SO grateful for the journey.

As Dave Ramsey says, the problem with your money is the person looking at you in the mirror! It all has to do with your emotions, your dedication to reaching goals, your heart.

But if you can allow it to shape you into a responsible, generous person – goodness, it’s worth it.

With that said, here are 6 ways we have stayed organized in our finances throughout the years:

1. Financial Peace University – We took financial peace university as an engaged couple (highly recommend!), and we’ve taught it 4 times since then at our church. There’s nothing out there like it. It’s only once a week for 9 weeks, it’s comprehensive AND funny, it hits all the major important things you need to know regarding your finances – including investing and insurance. It literally changed the course of our lives and marriage.

2. Eliminate all debt (yes: even your house!) – Reaching for massive goals together as a husband and wife has really unified us more than we realized. Eliminating debt is a huge goal! Living without debt allows us to breathe easy, not be stressed or angry when a car breaks down or an emergency happens, and allows us to dream big when it comes to the future. I can’t recommend a debt free life enough. It’s so freeing!

3. Our budgeting system – We use two tools for our budget: Everydollar.com and our cash envelope system. Several of our budget items are accounted for as we make the purchase (for instance, I enter the amount of every single grocery receipt as soon as it happens), but some of our items are stored only in cash in our envelopes (like clothing and gifts, for example). Early on, we used cash for EVERYTHING and it helped us so, so much. There were times when I’d ask the grocery clerk to take back 10 items because there wasn’t enough cash in my envelope. Do you think I’d be that hard core with a card? Not a chance!

4. Regular financial meetings – We have a budget committee meeting every month, before the month begins. We have ad hoc meetings when big financial moves are in the works (Christmas, buying a car, looking for a new home). We have an annual meeting with our financial advisor to make sure we are reaching our investing goals as well.

5. $1000 – $5000 in the bank at all times – I’m talking about our checking account here – NOT our emergency fund. Our emergency fund is kept in a separate savings account, and it accounts for 6 months of expenses. In addition to that, we keep anywhere between $1000 and $5000 in our checking account. This is the account that we do LIFE out of! It’s nice to know we can cover what comes our way without stressing out, and it eliminates any need for a credit card.

6. Setting big goals – Yes, this keeps us organized. If we didn’t have goals to reach toward, we wouldn’t be intentional with our spending and saving. I wouldn’t be as motivate to make my business healthy and profitable. We set personal financial goals, as well as giving goals.

Don’t forget to read Emily’s “How we do it” post on finances today too!

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[…] Em’s post and Nancy’s post Finances: Em’s post and Nancy’s post Home: Emily’s post and Nancy’s post Personal Life: Em’s post and Nancy’s post […]

Nancy, thank you so much for this post! I grew up / am growing up similarly than you described. I’m currently in the process of finishing up university and will be joining the “real life” without financial support pretty soon. Knowing this has already started a thought process for me that has exposed quite some icky sides of myself that I would rather not know I had. However, I am grateful that I am aware of my financial weaknesses and can start addressing them rather sooner than later. I am currently doing the Contentment Challenge and I must admit it truly is a challenge. During finals I realized that I like to bribe/reward myself with pretty but unnecessary stuff. What a waste of money!
I love the desires that you have for your money and I will make it a goal for February to sit down and write down where I want my money to go. I think it will help tremendously with sticking to my budget.

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Nancy! The way you grew up is similar to how I grew up. We had money. My parents talked about budgeting so, I couldn’t go to like, the Ivy League, but basically if I wanted something, I got it. And then I got a job that made not NEARLY enough to cover everything I “needed”. FINALLY I got my head on straight, and this year one of my main goals is to have financial peace. I’ve started working Dave’s Baby Steps–and I love every dollar! I actually pray, every day, that God will make me intentional with my money–that I will be a good steward. And it’s working. So far. Fingers crossed! I did the contentment challenge last year, too, and that really started moving my heart in the right place. I’m doing it again next month! So thank you so much for all your blog posts and encouragement in this area. It’s been so helpful to me!

So inspiring! We just became debt free except for our house! I can’t at until we tackle the mortgage too. I think we need to bite the bullet and take FPU soon.

We did FPU sometime around 2014 and paid off our house at 29 in 2017. Your financial posts were such an inspiration when we were on that journey to pay off our large Washington, DC area mortgage.

Those desires at the top… that’s what it’s all about! Couldn’t agree more!

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