My name is Whitney Sparks and I am a mother, wife, Christian, teacher, song-writer, singer, coupon queen, pianist, and penny pincher.
I have worked since I was 15 but I have also spent some time at home with my children. I have learned, though, that I am not fit to stay home ALL the time. My mind is healthier when I’m out of the house. I will say, though, I have the upmost respect for women who work inside the home. It’s a tough job and not for the weak.
I have taught for over a decade and I’m starting to run into the kids that I taught when they were kids. Most of those kids are either graduating high school or in college. That can make a person feel really old!
I mentioned that I do play the piano which I have done since I was 8. It is just a hobby, but it sure is fun! I have never had any formal training in singing, but I love praising the Lord any way that I can; especially when it comes to using the talents that He provided me with.
And yes, I have been deemed a coupon queen. I had never thought of myself as extreme when it comes to using coupons but I’m slowly finding out that I’m pretty “weird”. I almost won’t pay full price for anything. I learned these frugal ways from my dad but I also learned how to save money when my husband lost his job for 7 1/2 months. You have to be quick on your feet when you make the commitment to live on cash and not debt. Saving money is what helps me stay within our cash parameters.
Out of all my accomplishments in this life, none will compare to the fact that I am a child of The King. I came to personally know Christ at the age of 19 and haven’t stopped loving Him. God has blessed me so much and it’s fun seeing my life start to make a full circle. I often look back at my life and I’m able to see why He took us down that rocky road.
If Greg and I had never faced owing $53,000 in debt then we wouldn’t be able to reach people like you. I would have never learned how to pinch a penny and I wouldn’t have cared much about saving money. But now God has used those hard times to help me show others how to face their finances through A Fearless Heart.
Let me introduce our family. I have been married to my wonderful husband, Greg, for over a decade. He is a great man of God and a wonderful Dad to our children.
I have two young children, Eli and Drew, who you will hear about often because I am a proud parent.
I consider ourselves to be your average middle-class American family. We love to go to the movies, play games, compete with each other on the Wii, and just hang out.
I love to come home to my family every night. They fill my heart with so much warmth and laughter. I love my summers when I’m off from teaching and the boys and I just lay in the bed together all afternoon reading books.
Those moments are times that I cherish the most. God has truly blessed Greg and I with two healthy, wonderful children.
My husband and I met in September 2000 and were married by May 2001. The reason I start off with this story is because that is so typical of Greg and I. If we see something we like then we just go after it. That has proven, at times, to be a good thing in our marriage and an almost detrimental component to our marriage.
Our wedding was so beautiful! We had a small, outdoor wedding in a garden. Everything was taken care of and our families didn’t even have to lift a finger. That was the best part of all. The flowers, cake, music, reception – was near perfect.
The only problem was that we were getting married when my husband had just lost his job. Since we were both impulsive, we also accrued a lot of debt very quickly.
I said earlier that we are your average Middle-class family and debt is included in that scenario. 70% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and Greg and I were always one of those couples. Although at the time, I felt so alone. It seemed like we were the only ones going through hard financial times and that nobody could understand how we felt.
All of that debt created a lot of distance in our marriage and I wasn’t sure we would survive the first year.
Fortunately, God showed both of us that we were making some serious financial mistakes and now He has taught us how to talk out our financial problems along with other problems in our marriage.
Our marriage is in no way perfect, but I believe that our imperfections allow for God to work through us. God has brought us so far in life, and I can’t wait to see how much further He will take us.
And by the way, please pray for Greg. He is a self-published author and he’s loving it!
I Love Saving Money!
Well, it’s true. I absolutely love to save money.
My mom often tells the story of when I worked as a full-time waitress. Did I mention I was a waitress? I probably didn’t mention that part of my life because I was never very good. I have the personality to be a waitress, but I am very forgetful. This was just a way to make money. I knew it would never turn into a career.
Anyways…I would choose not to eat supper at the restaurant to save money. I might not get off some nights until 10 or 11, but I had a plan!
When I was asked to work by myself, after school of course, I would make $5/hour. Back then that was the full minimum wage.
I would also earn all the tips. So, I didn’t want to see that money wasted on a meal when I could eat at home for free (not realizing that my parents were paying for the food back then – now I realize it. I definitely realize that fact!)
Some people might call me cheap, but I say that I’m frugal. I like to think outside the box for ways to make money or save money.
So, to save even more money I learned how to coupon through our local MOPS group and took off with this concept. It is so fun getting things for free and highly addictive.
I now teach coupon classes and hope to get these uploaded onto my site for you to enjoy. I can show you how I was even more extreme when I was a stay-at-home mom but since most women I speak to work outside the home, I try to show people how to make using coupons easy. You have to make it fit your lifestyle.
You also don’t want to be so extreme that you later burn-out. I have used coupons for 6 years and have saved our family thousands of dollars. I also loved feeling like I could contribute when I was working in the home since I wasn’t actually making money.
I love that my husband supported me in this endeavor and now he’ll always ask “Do you have a coupon for this?” before running out to the store. He really sees value in what I do and I respect him for that.
So, now saving money is a lifestyle change. I save money in so many ways, not just at the store. What helped me save the most was forcing myself to use cash. I’m not sure what it is about debit cards, but Greg and I can accrue overdraft fees like nobody’s business!
Using cash forced me to know exactly how much I was spending at the store. I now know that I can spend $100/week on food (for the humans and dog), make-up, cleaners, razors, etc. etc. etc. I could be spending $300/week but I choose to spend $100/week and put aside the rest. Just like I did when I was a waitress working at a restaurant. Why eat away all your life savings?
Dave Ramsey Who?
My brother-in-law suggested that we all go to see this guy named Dave Ramsey speak about finances in Dallas. I wasn’t sure who this guy even was but we said that we would attend and see what it was all about.
Going to one of Dave’s events is exhilarating. We had good intentions of coming home and getting our finances in order but things came up and we let his principles slip away from us.
God did lay it on our hearts, though, to teach Financial Peace University which we still do to this day. We have taught 6 classes at our church which helps to hold us accountable.
Just like any program, you have to change it to fit your needs. We did some small tweaking but apply most of Dave’s principles.
SAVVY SCHOOL OF SAVINGS
God laid it on my heart to begin a small business called “Savvy School of Savings”. This stems from my love of education, saving money, living frugally, and helping others defeat debt.
I have taught public school for over 10 years and a few years ago God showed me that I can teach big kids, too. I started teaching coupon classes in our local area and enjoyed it so much that I wanted to continue helping others.
Then God opened the door for me to begin helping others pay down debt as a money coach. So many times I questioned God and wondered why we were going through such hard times financially. Now looking back, I realize that He was molding our story into something beautiful that we could share with others. He didn’t leave us there, and now people can relate to our story because they know that we have been in their shoes.
This is what I love about God – He doesn’t leave you where you are (I got that from Max Lucado).
Where Are We Now?
Well, y’all, I just said that I am right where God wants me. What more do you want?
I will tell you that I worry less now about money. I do still find myself having to pray about worrying because Satan knows it is my weak point.
Greg and I have paid off $53,000 in debt, saved 3 months of living expenses in a savings account, and we are putting aside 15% into retirement. The great part? We are bringing home less money now then when we were in debt. Less by about $15,000. God has shown me that it doesn’t take a lot of money to get out of debt, it just takes a lot of strength!
If you would have told me 10 years ago that this is where I would be at this very moment, I would’ve laughed in your face! God is the only one that could have seen this one coming.
It feels good, at the ripe old age of 35, to finally get things right. Is life going to be perfect? Never! Are we going to avoid all the disasters that come our way? Are you joking? No.
The only difference between us now and us 10 years ago, is that we are prepared. We have a plan. And the best part? Our kids have seen us work out a plan and talk about the plan more than they’ve seen us without one. So glad that I can pass this legacy onto them!
I would love to hear from you! There are no dumb questions. The only dumb thing is not asking. Feel free to ask me about advice on money, marriage, or finances. You can contact me via e-mail or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.