I am happy to say we are debt free. It has not always been that way for us, we bought into the lie that you must have things in life a certain way and in order to do that you must have debt – it’s a way of life. You know. Everyone has a credit card. Everyone HAS to take out a mortgage to buy a house because you don’t want to throw away your money on rent. Everyone HAS to take out a student loan to go to school because that is just how it is done. I don’t know who made up these rules, but I’m here to tell you it does not have to be this way.
We had all the debt. A new car, a house with a mortgage and equity line (I remember the big seller – you could “write it off on your taxes”), student loan debt to pay off, and credit cards. There came a point in our lives when we were so discouraged, we were looking at the “B” word – was bankruptcy for us? I really didn’t think we had THAT much debt, that we had the means to pay it off and not go that route. But it was overwhelming and it seemed like our paycheck was never enough to tackle the mountain of debt.
Not to mention, the Bible has a lot to say about debt. We are Christians and could not ignore some of these verses:
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” – Romans 13:8
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” – Proverbs 22:7
“The wicked borrows and does not repay, but the righteous shows mercy and gives.” – Psalm 37:21
There are more. God has a lot to say about debt, and rightly so. We felt like we were slaves to our debt and wanted to be free.
Then one day, one of my husband’s coworkers lent us Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover. It was enough to let us know we were not going to have to use the “B” word – that we could work hard and make some tough choices and get out of the debt and more importantly STAY out of debt. Don’t get me wrong, it was not easy. We went extreme and sold it all to get things rolling. We wanted to be free of the heavy burden of debt bad enough to work hard at it, and knew that it would pay off in the end!
So as one who had bought into the lie of debt and has paid off over $150,000 worth of debt with my husband, let me offer you some encouraging ways to start your journey to debt-free living.
Get Everyone Motivated to Make a Change
If you aren’t motivated, it won’t happen. I highly recommend getting Dave Ramsey’s book, The Total Money Makeover, to get you started. Dave Ramsey has been a great resources to us for paying off debt. We followed his first 3 baby steps to get us to where we are today. The thing that encouraged me the most was reading the stories of people who were in debt and how they paid it off – stories that it could be done and has been done over and over and over again, and it has been worth it! And if you are married, your spouse has to be on board or it will not work. Read the book together, talk about it together. For us, bill time was STRESSFUL. Once we put a budget into place and decided where money would go and got excited together about selling things to get our debt snowball rolling, bill time was no longer stressful. In fact, making that last debt payment was a CELEBRATION. If you fight when you talk finances, you will be amazed at how this changes things. TIP: If you can’t buy the book, go to the library and check it out. You can’t afford to not do something to get motivated to be free from debt.
Be Prepared to Let Thing Go to Pay Debt
We sold a lot of things to become debt free – we were highly motivated. We sold our house, lots of tools, furniture we weren’t using, a bed that we didn’t want to move when we were moving, anything that we hadn’t used or didn’t really need. One of the hardest things for me was letting go of my new car. I heard on the radio replay of Dave Ramsey’s show just yesterday a woman who was having the same struggle. She was convinced that any car that was not “new” was unreliable and unsafe for her to drive because she had kids. I remember believing that lie years ago as well, ($21,000 in debt later) I bought it hook-line-and-sinker at the car dealership. I sold my new car and that was the last thing we paid off to make us debt free. I now drive a car that we bought with cash and fixed for around $2000 that is a 2000 model and works great – I have no concerns about driving it and breaking down somewhere. I kind of like driving an old car, if the kids make a mess I’m not really stressed about it. My husband has driven his 2001 truck for about 7 year now and it has rarely broken down. You CAN let go of the new car. And save to buy another with CASH. Here’s a video to show you how: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKyV8CTHeJ0
Make a Budget – See Where and How Much You Are Spending
A Budget is crucial to paying debt. I always had a hard time keeping track of it all, even making my own spreadsheet it was a pain to enter everything in and I sure didn’t do it every day. Recently I discovered Mint.com – a free online budgeting tool that pulls all your accounts into one place online so that you can set your budget, track your expenses, and set goals. This has been the best tool I have found to date. It pulls the deductions from our bank and savings accounts and even can link up with your credit cards. I take our receipts and sit down at the computer twice a week or more and put the deductions into categories. Then I click a button and it shows me all my categories and what we have spent and how close we are to our limit to that category. It also will send me an alert email letting me know if I am getting close to going over-budget in a category. If you have a smartphone, you can get the app for android and iphone/ipad.
Pay It Off and Have a Plan to Stay Debt-Free!
Dave Ramsey is known for his quote, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Can you think of anyone who is not in debt to their eyeballs? While there are a lot of different reports of what the average credit card debt for the household actually is – the truth has to be that the majority of american households struggle with some kind of debt. One of the best things about paying off all our debt was that after all that work, we have learned our lesson. We don’t want to go back to that bondage of debt. We have tasted the freedom of not having to make that payment/those payments every month. So it is just as important to have a plan in place to stay out of debt once you reach your goal of being debt free. Emergency funds help a lot. Continuing to use your zero budget is a must. Make a plan to save for big purchases. Yes, you may even be able to buy a house mortgage-free! We are on the road to being there ourselves in the future.
I hope this post will encourage you and give you some tools to get started on your debt-free journey. Stay strong, stay focused, you can do it!
This post is linked up at Christian Mommy Blogger.