| Baby Steps |

Baby Steps: Part 4 of 10

Selling as many of one’s possessions as possible was one of Dave Ramsey’s suggestions to help pay off debt more quickly


May 2016

Nat’s face was a blur as I looked through the bottom of the freshly washed drinking glass.

“Did it work this time?” he asked.

“Almost,” I answered, putting down the cup. “A bit more citric acid next time, and I think it’ll be perfect.” I was playing with a recipe for homemade dishwasher-detergent powder, and I was close to figuring out the perfect balance of ingredients to tackle our city’s infamous hard water. The best part was that making a tub of the stuff would cost less than $5, and last for over six months.

“Science in the real world,” Nat said, smiling. “You should tell your students about this!”

I chuckled.

It had been several months since we’d started aggressively paying off our debt, and we’d turned to some creative methods, like making our own cleaning products, to help keep our expenses down.* There had been some setbacks — like when we forgot about the car registration fee, which threw off our budget in March — but we tried our best to be flexible, and adjusted our spending as things came up.

Beep! chirped my cell phone from across the kitchen.

“Do you mind getting that?” I asked Nat. “It might be a buyer.”

Nat walked over and looked at the screen. “Yeah, it looks like someone will be here in ten minutes to pick up a box of books.”

Selling as many of one’s possessions as possible was one of Dave Ramsey’s suggestions to help pay off debt more quickly. Over the past months, I’d combed through our home, finding unused clothing, books, and household items, then posting them online for sale. I was as glad to be rid of the clutter as I was happy to add more funds to our debt payment at the end of each month.

“Okay,” I said, “After that’s done, I’ll head over to the post office and drop off some tichels, then pick up some groceries for the week.”

I’d amassed an impressive collection of tichels since getting married, but in reality, I only wore about a dozen of them regularly. The scarves in good condition were posted online and were sold off a few at a time, and my closet looked neat for the first time in years.

Within a few minutes, I heard a knock at the door. I traded a box of novels for cash, then filled a large canvas bag with packages of tichels destined for their new homes. As I headed out the door, my phone chirped again.

It was a text from my friend Naomi. Anything new? As the only one who knew about our struggles to have a baby, she made sure to check on me regularly, and I was grateful to have someone to talk to.

Nothing to report, I typed back. How’s the wedding planning for your son?

It’s going well B”H…BTW, the kallah’s looking for a sheitel. Dark, shoulder-length, straight, in case you hear about any sales.

I’ll keep an eye out, I replied, then headed to the car. I dropped the tichels in the mail, then parked at the grocery store down the street. On my way in, I fished the grocery list out of my purse. That was a new habit too — I didn’t go shopping without a list.

“Chickpeas, check,” I muttered to myself as I put a package into my cart and crossed it off the list. Over the past few months, I’d started making my own chummus and dips for Shabbos. Cooking the dried beans in a Crock-Pot was beyond easy, and it helped lower our expenses.


After collecting ingredients for that week’s menu (another new habit — planning all our meals for the week and cooking in large batches), I headed to the check-out line. On the way, a new display caught my eye at the end of the store’s makeup aisle. My favorite nail polish brand had launched their line of summer shades, and the small bottles shined brightly under the store lights.

I walked over, picked up a coral pink shade, and was about to drop it into the cart when an argument started raging in my head:

Do you really need more nail polish? You have the basics at home.

I’ll need to do my nails before going to Naomi’s son’s chasunah, right? A bottle of nail polish will be cheaper than going for a manicure, anyway. I’m doing my budget a favor by buying this.

Who is going to be judging your nails at a wedding? Just use what you’ve got.

I pulled out my phone to settle the internal debate. Pulling up the spreadsheet with our budget (after a couple of months we’d upgraded from pencil and paper), I looked at the category marked “Helen’s Personal Spending.” Nat and I had agreed that it was important for each of us to have a little money to spend on our own, judgment-free. But because we were really focused on getting out of debt and throwing every extra dollar at that goal, we kept our personal spending allotments pretty low — $10 for each of us.

I looked at the price tag on the nail polish. $8. I looked at the date. May 1st. The bottle went back on the shelf.

Nope. No way I’m spending almost all my personal money this early in the month. I thought. If I still want this later, I know where to find it.

I checked out and drove home. After putting away the groceries, I began my Sunday afternoon ritual of batch-cooking our food for the week. Once the chili and minestrone soup (our two dinner options for the week) were simmering away, I started putting away the laundry that I’d done earlier that morning. As I hung up one of Nat’s shirts in the closet, I glanced upward.

A straight, dark brown, shoulder-length sheitel looked back at me, slightly dusty from a lack of use. It was the first sheitel I’d bought when I got married, and I’d stopped wearing it when I discovered that its cap was too small, preferring tichels and my more comfortable fall instead.

A crazy thought jumped into my head. Before I had time to talk myself out of it, I grabbed my phone and messaged Naomi.

So, the kallah’s looking for a sheitel, right?

to be continued…


*Author’s note: Homemade cleaning products are easy, economical, and effective — except for laundry detergent, which is chemically different from the ingredients that can be found in stores.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 861)

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