How it feels to finally be Debt Free!

a bumper sticker I dig

I’ll have to take you back to the beginning in 2008 when my mom encouraged made a deal with Jeremiah and I that if we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University for 12 weeks that she and my dad would help pay for Jeremiah’s seminary education. We knew she was serious and who wouldn’t take up that kind of offer? So, we enrolled in the class at a local church with $45,000 in Debt– credit cards, student loans, 2 car payments, and more. During our first class, we found out that our debt surprisingly lined up with the average American’s debt.

Throughout each week, Dave Ramsey’s principles blew our mind. We started to see where we had been foolish and honestly hadn’t been living by God’s word in the area of finances. We started with the lowest amount of debt first and worked our way up. We cut up our credit cards (scary but it felt great!), Put $1,000 in our emergency fund as Dave says to do and starting building our savings. Most importantly, we got on a budget/spending plan. Even though we failed at it at times (and still do), we had a target to shoot for and we finally had control of our finances, rather than our finances controlling us.

We ate out less, didn’t really buy clothes, had a grocery limit, sold stuff, held garage sells, sold a car, didn’t buy unnecessary stuff and before we knew it, we were chipping away at our debt incredibly fast. We even had a baby and didn’t go into debt doing it because we saved, saved, saved!

Now two years later, we are proud to say that we are DEBT FREE!

The feeling is surreal still because for so long we weren’t truly free in that area and it impacted our marriage. But now we are and it’s our desire to encourage others out there who feel like it’s impossible. So many people encouraged us along the way and most importantly, God gave us the grace we needed to persevere and follow his plan.

I wrote a few posts a while back about our journey here and here and here and several more under the Finance category on this blog if you’d like to check those out.

While we’ve actually been debt free for about 3 months now, I can say that managing finances will always be a battle and we will never arrive, but I’m so thankful that our eyes have been opened and that above all, we are learning to better steward what we’ve been given because all that we have is a gift from God in the first place.

Thank you for sharing in our joy today!

Marriage: Built to Last #2

marriageI used to think I was perfect- until I got married. Okay so not perfect, but maybe close to perfect.

And it’s hard to believe in December we’ll be celebrating four years of marriage. It’s truly a gift from God and today, I respect and love my husband more than on the day I committed my life to his. He’s my best friend and soul-mate, and I couldn’t live with without him. But I’d be lying if I told you that our marriage isn’t hard work. And that it doesn’t require living intentionally and loving biblically.

Well for a while now, at Bluefish TV, we’ve been working on a small group bible study series called Marriage: Built to Last that I wrote about a few posts ago. We got the kit back from the manufacturer last week and I’m blown away by how well the stories, teaching, and spots have come together.

What I love most about what we’ve produced is the stories from real-life couples. They are transparent to the core and share about real life issues like expectations, communication, conflict, and sex and intimacy. I also say “to the core,” meaning that these couples get down to the dirty, ugly details of their marriage. Some of them expose their pride, anger, pornography, past baggage, affairs, control issues, spending habits, unhappiness and more.

I’ve never really seen such brutal honesty. But it’s so neat to see that through that authenticity, God can really work and it’s evident He has in their marriages. He can replace that pain and brokenness with joy and life and put couples on the path that leads to a marriage built to last.

Head on over to Bluefish TV and watch the trailer to get a sneak peak into the series. Thank you also to my friends Zech and Kim Lumpkin and Chase and Elizabeth Hammon for sharing your stories with couples across the country.

Marriage: Built to Last

marriageAt Bluefish, we’ve been finishing up our upcoming marriage DVD driven Bible study series called Marriage: Built to Last. We’ve interviewed 20 real-life stories of couples for the series, shot incredible teaching from Pastor and Author Chip Ingram, and have some great interviews from 2-time MVP Quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda and financial guru Dave Ramsey and his wife Sharon.

I’ve been connecting our producers to some marriage stories of my friends, assisting in writing the host copy, and editing our Leader’s Guide along with writing an article inside the guide called I Signed up For What? that helps answer some of the tough questions when it comes to leading a group.

I’m so excited about the content and stories in this series. The marriage interviews are so raw and candid and I think every marriage will relate in some way. Chip’s teaching is engaging, relevant, and hope-filled. I was also encouraged to see that I’m not alone in my own struggles to love and respect my husband to the fullest or crazy in striving to have the most abundant, Christ-centered marriage that I can.

Here’s a sneak peak into the sessions:

1. Adjusting to Expectations 2. Learning to Communicate Clearly 3. Breaking Down Walls 4. Resolving Conflict 5. Restoring Sex & Intimacy 6. Striving for a Christ-centered Marriage

Everything is about to go off to the press. When all is said and done, we’ll have over 13,000 Leader’s Guides and over 80,000 workbooks floating around for this series. At this point, we only hope that all the work that’s been put into this series will have an amazing impact on marriages all over the country. And that most of all, couples will really learn what God’s ultimate design is for their marriage.

Marriage Interview w/ Dave Ramsey

Brian & Phil with Dave Ramsey

Brian & Phil with Dave Ramsey

This morning, I walked into my office and to my surprise the book The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey was on my desk. I giggled under my breath because my boss Brian and our VP of Video Production Phil were just in Nashville last week to interview Dave Ramsey himself.

I opened the flap and there it was. Dave’s signature in black ink that said To: Samantha. Romans 12:2: “Transforms!”

For a Monday morning just barely awake, this was the best gift ever. Dave had given Brian and Phil some books to bring back. Brian knew how much I loved Dave and the impact he’s had on me and Jeremiah with finances. Through Financial Peace University, Dave’s helped bring us into the light in understanding money and making wise decisions. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you’ve seen parts of our journey in beating debt. (also more posts under the Finance category).

Dave’s interview will be featured in a DVD series we’re creating at Bluefish called Marriage: Built to Last. Dave’s story along with Kurt Warner and Josh Hamilton are the high profile interviews a part of the series. Chip Ingram is going to do the biblical teaching in the series and we’ve shot around 20 real-life marriage stories. Maybe I’m biased, but I think this series is going to be one of the best marriage resources out there and I think you should get it whether you’re married or not!

I can’t wait to see the rough cut of Dave’s interview and to dive into this book.

Finances, Debt, & Freedom

piggy20bank1It’s been far too long since I’ve posted on finances. Can you tell the very word makes me nervous? Maybe it does for you too especially in our economy’s present condition. Well the good thing is that for us, right now, things are going really well.

Jeremiah and I are down to $1,000 left on his school loan and around $10,000 towards our car. A year and a half ago, we were about 30-40K in debt. Now, we’re $11,000! Jeremiah has mentioned how simple it would be to pay the whole car off in a matter of months but with the season of life we’re in (with him in school, internship, ministry, etc.), it’s best to wait and chisel away at the debt as we can.

We would not be where we are without the help of Dave Ramsey and my Mom spurring us to take his 12 week class- Financial Peace University. Finances is just one of those things, like sex, that not too many people discuss and many families don’t talk about growing up. So the result: ignorance. And it’s bliss. I’ve been there.

I’ll never forget a few months ago when our community group at church sat down and we went through each couple’s budget- every detail from car maintenance to cosmetic allowances. I hadn’t done that with anyone, ever in my life. But something about it was so freeing. There was accountability there and we knew we had each other’s best interest in mind. Our goal was to steward whatever resources God had given us the best we knew how.

Even now, I admit the struggle to constantly be aware of what I’m spending. What I’m saving, etc. It’s not easy or always black and white to know what God would do in this or that situation. But I do know for sure, that plummeting away at this debt is bringing him glory. It’s getting us farther away from bondage and closer to freedom.

We can’t wait for the day to call Dave Ramsey’s radio show to say, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!”

Save, Save, Save

samanthakrieger.com

376-savings-jarI was in conversation with a girl my age this weekend about finances and the economy (as it seems to be the hotbutton of late!). I shared with her some of the research I had been doing about where certain people think we’re headed as a nation. I proceeded to say how much my family and I are really trying to save, save, save.

She looked at me in disgust: “Save? I’m not saving. I work hard. I’m going to spend what I want, when I want. As long as I’m being responsible, I’ll be fine. Who needs a savings account?”

Her expression and gestures kind of made me laugh under my breath. She didn’t care at all about what was going on in our economy. I am wondering if she’s even watching the news. But then I began to think more about her response and the fact I have had the same attitude before. In fact, growing up with a father who was extremely successful and not having to worry about finances, early on in our marriage I would spend like I was still under my dad’s roof. It was scary. My credit card proved it. So in essence I lived out her words in some way, shape or form.

But now things have changed. My whole mindset is radically different. While I’m still far from perfect, I really value saving more and spending less. Last year around this time, we were about $40,000 in debt. Thanks to the help of Dave Ramsey, we’re now $10,000 in debt with just a small student loan left and Jeremiah’s car. We’re so thankful that our mindset and behavior has changed. I know we can all admit as Americans that we love living above our means. I mean, who doesn’t love it? But the  better way is to be wise and to be content with what we have. I wish it was easier done than said.

God, My Mom, & Dave Ramsey

It’s been several months since we took the Financial Peace University class by Dave Ramsey. Looking back on the class, it couldn’t have been a more appropriate time for us to be in it. My mom is the one we have to thank because she “urged” us to. We had no idea we would get pregnant during that time either or even that the economy would look a little different six months later. God’s timing is always perfect.

We now have 3-6 months of income saved. Our savings account has never looked so big. It’s almost surreal. Our credit cards are gone and the only debt remaining is about $8,000 on student loans and a car payment. All that to say, we would not be where we are without God, My Mom, and Dave Ramsey! We are no way near perfect in the area of finances but we’re striving to keep growing.

The highlight for me this week was my first guilty feeling of purchasing a pumpkin spice chai frappucino for almost $4.00. Now, I love to splurge and treat myself (I don’t over-indulge too much at all). I’m a big fan of rewarding yourself. But something just clicked and I thought, this is definitely a lot for a drink that was gone in 2 minutes!  My husband agreed it was a huge step for me. I mean it’s Starbucks, come on.

Later on in the day I learned more about the condition of our economy. It’s pretty crazy what’s going on right now. I’m more encouraged now to be wise with the money God’s given us. It’s not always easy but so worth it.

Attacking Our Debt-Snowball

“You’ll always have a car payment,” was a comment I heard from someone a few weeks ago. I really thought about how sadly mistaken this lady was but that I thought this once too (prior to Dave Ramsey). I was amazed at how much my mindset had changed. Her comment was strange to me because we were about to finish paying off our 2002 Nissan Pathfinder. With all our credit cards paid off, we have attacked our next debt: my car. Living on the cash system only plan, and banking everything else, we were able to pay off $5,000 in the past few months.

Well the day has finally come and this morning we were able to pay it all off! My car payment is now gone. No more. Now, we have student loans and my husband’s car payment left and we will be debt free (all this totals around 25k or so). It’s hard to believe we no longer have a car payment. It feels so freeing. Jeremiah said he felt as if a huge burden had been released. I was so happy for him too because he’s been ready to attack this just as much as I have. Getting our finances straight has been a huge blessing to our marriage as well, in so many ways…

I don’t know where you’re at in your finances (there’s probably a reason why you’re reading a post on finances), but always think about where you could be and set goals to get there. Don’t allow anyone to discourage you (because there will always be those kind of people you know who say “You’ll always… blah blah blah).

I’d love to hear ways your mindset has changed in regards to finances. Are you hoping to not have a car payment one day? What things have others told you that you might have taken to heart, but knew that it wasn’t really true?

How it feels to be Credit Card Debt free

After working out this morning and getting out of the shower, Jeremiah rushes in the bathroom with a beaming smile on his face. “We’re debt free of all our credit cards. I just paid all of it off.” I didn’t know what to say but “oh my goodness this is so awesome. We have to celebrate.”

As a married couple, we’ve never known life without credit cards. It’s just so crazy. And we even have a substantial amount in savings for any emergencies.

Since we’re still being intense about the rest of our debt, we will celebrate, but not go all out (We have about $30,000 to go in car payments and student loans but we’re going to attack it). So today, we went to Chick-fil-a and got a breakfast bagel (which we never eat out for b-fast) and today Jeremiah’s going to bring me lunch at work. We’re really going to celebrate together by thanking God for his grace on our life and for helping us learn more about money.

We’re hoping to take a babymoon soon and perhaps then we’ll celebrate with a vacation. And then maybe after that, a trip to Italy (the place of Jeremiah’s ancestry- Sicily). But right now, we must focus on today. 🙂

Sex & Money- Taboo?

  Thoughts on Financial Peace University… I am in my twenties. I’ve talked to many wise people who are beyond my years who said that when they were growing up the two words never talked about were Sex & Money. In this category, I’m not going to talk about the sex part (I’ll save that one for later). But, it is interesting that many people are raised having never been taught how to handle money- let alone how to create a budget. They or their parents never made it a priority.

I know many people are in that category. I am one of them. I was handed many wonderful things growing up which I am so appreciative of, but I never had the desire to learn about money when my parents wanted to sit me down. I was stubborn. Besides we had everything so what was there for me to learn? I wasn’t looking into the future.

If you feel you’re in the same boat of never having learned much about finances. You are not alone. Don’t feel stupid or mad at yourself that you never took the initiative to learn. Learn from that careless decision and move on. It is never too late to start the journey now- no matter if you’re in your 50’s, 30’s, or 20’s.

Break the curse of money being taboo… and begin to talk about it with your friends and family.

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