Jennifer and Brian keep their family finances simple



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Jennifer is a wife, mother, blogger, and reporter for YNN in Austin, Texas. A Georgia native, Jennifer met her husband, Brian, on a blind date while both were in college at Brigham Young University. She was 18, and he was 22, and they fell in love quickly and married in a little over six months. Although they were young, they had commendable foresight into their financial future.

“When we first got married, we didn’t have any debt,” says Jennifer. “I might have had $800 or less on a credit card, but I paid it off right away after the wedding. And every month, we placed cash in individual envelopes to manage sections of our budget and we would say, ‘When it’s gone, it’s gone.’”

Nor did the couple have student loan debt. Brian worked hard to earn a golf scholarship at BYU and Jennifer knew she wanted to go into broadcasting and tirelessly applied for scholarships in that concentration.

“I felt that it wasn’t difficult to find scholarships,” she says. “I kept on applying and it became fun to uncover scholarship opportunities.”

In her junior year of high school, Jennifer’s family moved from Georgia to Arizona, and Jennifer finished school a year early. She attended a community college in Arizona and then transferred to BYU, where she met her husband more than 12 years ago.

“I didn’t know much about finance growing up,” Jennifer says. “I knew that my parents argued about money sometimes, and I didn’t want that. I had a sense that student loans were bad, and I didn’t want that that, either.”

She entered the world of pageants while still in high school, observing that winners earned money toward college. Jennifer says she also worked many hours in various jobs when she was a teenager – movie theater employee, day care worker, fast food server – and she saved her money. Her money accrued, largely untouched, until she started college; she was able to pay for her first semester in cash. Then she took custodial and call center positions to pay her way through school, eventually landing a job at the radio station, practicing for her future in broadcasting.

Jennifer’s career took a step toward the next level when YNN offered her a job and the couple moved to Austin. Her husband began his career in golf retail management when the couple relocated, but he found that he was intrigued with police work and did a “ride-along” with officers on duty and loved it. He entered the police academy soon after, and became a police officer full time. It was a year of many changes – a year after their move to Texas, the couple discovered to their great joy that Jennifer was pregnant. She gave birth to their daughter in 2010, and three years later, their son.

Today, Jennifer and Brian still use an updated version of their envelope method to monitor their budget and try to stay within their means. They set goals and pay extra on their mortgage every month, it’s on track to be paid off in 13 years. 

“We don’t keep a strict budget, but we don’t spend a lot; we are lazy frugal people,” laughs Jennifer. “In some ways, I feel like we should be doing way better. Maybe we spend too much, but we try to stay under what we make.”

The family lives on Brian’s income and Jennifer’s is saved for new cars, vacations to their beloved Disney World, and other expenses. She manages the family’s finances and keeps things as simple and straightforward as she can.

“We want our kids to pay their own way for school, like we did. And we are teaching our kids to learn to live under their means, not over it,” Jennifer says. “It’s a philosophy my husband and I agree on and it has helped all of us.”


Smith Wealth Advisors


Kristin Shaw is a writer, blogger, and marketing professional. She was named a BlogHer Voice Of The Year in 2014 and 2015, and her work has been featured nationally at sites like The Huffington Post and The Washington Post. Her blog, Two Cannoli, is a vehicle for her own personal essays and photos and was named a Babble blog of the year in 2013. Kristin lives with her family in Austin, Texas. - See more at: