The two began praying and planning, and within 18 months the couple had saved more than enough to cover their travel and even were able to help fund another church member's participation in the mission. How did they do it? The answer is so simple it just might astound you.
First, they cut off their satellite TV service -- a savings in their case of almost $1,000 last year and another $500 over the first half of 2013. Their big surprise after switching to only local channels was the additional channels on each network that had never been accessible through their service provider.
For example, one local station, 13, actually had five stations available: 13-1, 13-2, etc. One turned out to offer a steady stream of great classic TV shows, including many personal favorites of the couple.
They supplemented their TV entertainment by hitting their local library, where for free they borrowed movies and TV episodes on DVD and Blu-ray. The Fulmers also declared a weekly book night, when the couple enjoyed a peaceful evening of reading. While Brent preferred using the $19 e-reader he bought from eBay, Ashley stuck with hard copies. Again, both got their materials from the library at no cost whatsoever.
The pair also switched their cell phone service, purchasing Republic Wireless hybrid phones which operate on Wi-Fi whenever it's available and on Sprint's system when Wi-Fi isn't around.
At $19 a month for unlimited calls, texts and data, the service made a huge change in their cell phone bill. Equally impressive was not having to agree to a contract. The major cost was purchasing Republic's specialized smartphones at a cost of $199 each.
Even with that, though, after changing from a plan that was costing them over $120 a month, the price of the phones was recouped in only five months. After the expense of the phones, they realized a savings of $560 in 2012. In the first half of 2013, they saved another $480 over the cost of their previous provider's plan.
So in 18 months, the Fulmers were able to sock away $2,040 simply by switching their TV viewing habits and changing their cell phone service.
Once they saw how well their phones worked on their home Wi-Fi -- which they were already paying for through their home phone service -- they completely eliminated their home phone and kept only their DSL line. This realized an additional savings of $900 over that same period, bringing their savings to $2,940.
The biggest change in the Fulmers' lifestyle was becoming brown baggers. Instead of eating out at lunchtime and buying snacks and drinks at their workplaces, they started making their own lunches and adding snacks and beverages to their grocery shopping so they could each maintain a supply at their respective workplaces.
Even after allowing $20 a week for this added grocery expense, the couple realized an estimated savings of $4,500 in 2012 and another $2,250 in the first six months of 2013.
They found some other ways to cut expenses, too, but these are merely the top few. The savings from these alone: nearly $10,000 in a year and a half.
So before you write off the idea of taking that mission trip, think like the Fulmers: What am I willing to give up to make this happen?
The Fulmers were part of a life-changing experience for countless Kenyans and, in the process, experienced a life change of their own. Now they're saving for next year's mission trip and a 10th anniversary second honeymoon.
Judy Woodward Bates, an author, speaker and TV personality, is on the Web at www.Bargainomics.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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