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!

5 Ways to Fight Consumerism this Christmas

Consumerism is the equation of personal happiness with consumption and the purchase of material possessions (Wikipedia). Consumerism reigns like a proud King in America. He’s captured hearts. Chained families to debt. Caused divorce. And has crept into churches.

But that’s not all. Consumerism is mainly an issue of the heart— the flesh’s desire for more, and a failure to trust in God to provide all things.

Here are five practical ways I’m trying to fight consumerism this Christmas:

1.) Remember former debt. It wasn’t a fun experience a few years ago paying off around $700.00 of credit card debt from Christmas time. (Thanks to Dave Ramsey, we cut our credit cards up so they no longer tempt us).

2.) Pray for a spirit-led shopping experience. Before I went out the other day I prayed that God would help me decide what I needed to get vs. what I wanted to get for other people. I  believe that prayer and being led by the Spirit helps keep me from over-spending.

3.) Accumulate experiences, not possessions (thanks Mark Batterson). I’ve tried to put relationships and time together with those closest to me in my life above accumulating stuff and things that don’t last.

4.) Be in authentic community. I’ve surrounded myself with friends who will ask me the hard questions. And they know our budget. While they don’t ask about this all the time, I know I have to be ready if they do.

5.) Give to those you know who are in need and love on them. This Christmas, we’ll be giving away some of the resources God’s given to us to certain family members who are struggling. Sometimes I think I’m only doing “good” if I give to a charity or other organization, but if a family member is in need- he or she really is who takes precedence.

Above all, the gospel is what transforms our hearts and keeps us from being led away by the desire for more. I’m thankful that as I daily surrender to the Spirit’s control, I can be victorious in the constant battle where consumerism tries to be King.

Have you thought of a plan of attack for fighting consumerism in the upcoming days?

Give me Prudence

1199870_old_style_doryJeremiah and I are facing some pretty important decisions that could impact us financially, relationally, spiritually, and our overall sanity. We were encouraged this morning to hear a leadership podcast from Andy Stanley on decisions and being men and women who are prudent.

We were reflecting on the last three years of marriage and the choices we’ve made that have gotten us where we are today. Some good and some bad. Now, we’ve reached a point where we see potential dangers.  These “dangers” might not necessarily be what you’d think as serious but in the long run, they could very well be. They have to do with allowing margin into our life, making wise financial decisions, putting family time as priority, and choosing to deal with some of our hurts, habits, and hangups that could eventually snowball in the future.

Andy makes the point that many people say, “Oh yeah I need to do that or I should do that.” But when it comes to action, stepping out of the boat never happens. So 10 years later, they can’t believe how they got to where they are. This could involve not getting into God’s word, an unhealthy relationship, a negative habit/pattern, an affair, addiction, our health and well being, entertaining sinful thoughts. The list goes on.

Well, back to this word PRUDENCE. Proverbs, the book in the Bible drenched with wisdom and brutal honesty, says: A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it (Prov. 22:3). Prudence is exercising sound judgment in practical affairs. It’s the ability to have wisdom looking into the future so you can make a good choice for today. It can also involve caution and not taking too huge of a risk. I love the word refuge– it’s an umbrella of protection. Someone, however, who is “simple” and makes rash decisions without counting the cost, could end up in a bed of suffering without even realizing it. And the consequences could be overwhelming. That’s why God has given us prudence to protect us and because he loves us.

I really want to become a woman who’s prudent. Sometimes it’s so difficult when I’m in the midst of a situation to see the future implications.  I often wait for a sign or prodding from God, which could definitely happen, but more often that not God gives me principles to help me make a wise decision. And it’s often that I forget that wisdom is in my pocket, waiting for me to dig her out.

Well, hopefully by the end of this week we’ll be able to say that we counted the cost and will have made a choice we won’t regret!

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!”

Getting Rid of Stuff Part 2

This Saturday, we sold so much “stuff” at  a community wide yard sale on Saturday. We did this last year and sold about $400.00 worth of stuff. For some reason this year we accumulated more stuff again and ended up selling about $300 on Saturday. The funny thing is is that my Getting Rid of Stuff post from last year receives tons of hits still to this day. I’m beginning to think that we (Americans) have an issue with stuff but what is so funny to me is how one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.

I can’t even tell you how much “junk” I think I sold. If familiarity can breed contempt when it comes to “things” than the latter would explain it. There’s just something about wearing the same old clothes day in and day, looking at the same painting or eating out of the same dishes. You grow to hate it because you’re so tired of it- it’s just too familiar. I think this explains much of my own heart. I’m often never satisfied- I want more and I need something to fill the voids. I need the next thing. A different hairstyle, lip stick shade, outfit, piece of furniture, car, and whatever else. It’s when I get back to reality and realize that I can’t take anything with me when I leave this earth, that it all gets back into perspective. God has created me to need Him- not stuff. He’s the only one that can fill my longing heart and I’m so thankful that He does anytime I call on him for help.

Maybe next year we’ll get down to selling $200.00 worth of stuff.

Save, Save, Save

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.

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. 🙂

Cutting Up My Credit Card

 I’ll never forget the day I cut up my credit card. I performed this plastectomy on my baby blue Wachovia card 2 months ago. It was the best feeling ever. Looking back, I don’t miss it one bit.

You see, I used that card as a “crutch.” When I couldn’t afford something at that moment, I would swipe it and always say “Oh it will get paid off.” In reality, the debt and interest just kept building on itself and before I knew it, I was in $1,000 or so of debt in just a blink of an eye. Perhaps you know the feeling.

Dave Ramsey inspired me to cut my card up. I did even before it was paid off and the temptation to swipe no longer exists. I buy only what I have in my account- in cash mainly. Sometimes on our debit card. My husband’s credit card will be paid off this weekend and we will be credit card debt free. We still have student loans and a car payment to go, but we are on our way to being debt free.

I can sum up credit cards in one word: bondage. Just like all debt.


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.

Switch to mobile version