If you are a regular reader in our little slice of blogland, then you were able to read the first post in this series, “Our Story.” I talked about my family’s meager beginnings and how we tried our best to steward what little – and I do mean what LITTLE- we had. If you are new to this blog, you might want to start by reading this post right here before moving on.
About three years into our marriage, I FINALLY graduated from grad school and my husband and I thought better times would be in our immediate future when I got a “big girl job” and was able to contribute more to the family finances. But, things didn’t quite work out the way we were expecting. Let me explain…
We were as wise as we could be with our financial choices. We lived below our means, we did not rack up credit card debt on frivolous things, we did not take extravagant vacations, when our cars both died in the same year we replaced them with reliable used cars, we rarely ate out, we bought food and clothes on sales and clearance. The only debt we owed could be attributed to medical bills, car loans, school loans, our mortgage, and two small credit card balances that we used mostly for textbooks.
Our debt was “normal” by most people’s standards.
At some point, I realized “normal” was not for us! I was finally working my dream job, using the degree I had worked so hard to get, and making more money all at the same time. But with those bigger paychecks came student loans and student loans. Oh! And more student loans.
We were drowning in debt!!
When we were first married, my husband and I barely made ends meet. We made sacrifice after sacrifice, knowing that there was a light at the end of the tunnel. That it was only a season. That one day we would be able to better provide for our family. One day, we could give to friends who had more needs than we did. We could bless others with the extra God had given us.
And then that day came! But with it came payment after payment after payment. Car payments and student loan payments. Medical bills and credit cards. We were paying more in debt than we were in living expenses. After I started my career more money was coming in. We weren’t making a ton of money by any means, but we made more than enough to live comfortably.
Only we weren’t living comfortably! That light at the end of the tunnel was quickly extinguished as we realized we had two little mouths to feed and hardly any money left over each month after all these payments. And unless we won the lottery, things weren’t going to change anytime soon. We had worked so hard to get here. But “here,” quite frankly, sucked!
One day, I remember sitting down to pay the bills. It was probably my least favorite day of every month. It was hard not to get discouraged when we worked our butts off, but had nothing to show for it. After checking the balance in our bank account that day, I realized we didn’t have enough money to cover everything. It was either groceries or the electric bill. Feed my family or make sure the lights stay on.
In our tiny house, our electric bill was $82.00. You guys!! We didn’t even have 80 bucks!
Obviously, I chose to feed my family. And it turns out, our power company had a grace period and accepted our payment a week late. They were even gracious enough to waive the late fee since I called. It all worked out in the long run.
But there was something so humbling and humiliating all at the same time, holding my infant in one hand, the power bill in the other. Realizing we had two beautiful babies but we couldn’t even meet some of their most basic needs, I felt like such a failure as a mother! And I was not proud of the example I was setting for them as future wives and mothers. Work, work, work, stress, stress, stress. And have nothing to show for it.
Some of you may be reading this, thinking how silly it is that my turning point was one little late payment. But for me, it was my wake up call!! I never wanted to hold a power bill and not be able to pay it again. I never wanted to have to pray there was enough money in our bank account every time I sat down to pay bills. I wanted to model for my girls what giving should look like as a believer. I wanted to be a blessing to others.
But we couldn’t even take care of ourselves!
Maybe you have felt the same way. Maybe you are trying to steward to the best of your ability, but you know it is just not enough. Maybe you are so behind on everything, you don’t even know where to start. Maybe your finances are so upside down, it seems pointless to even try.
If that is you, please know that there IS a way out! I had a wake up call, a very specific moment in time where I said, “No more. I’m done living like this. Something needs to change.” My prayer for you is that you have one of those moments yourself. A moment where you can look back and know you WILL take back your finances and get in control of your money.
The night after my little wake-up call, I put our babies to bed and sat down with my husband to share my heart. I told him about my “moment” the day before, and explained how discouraged I was. There was no promise of a higher income looming in our future anymore. What we earned was what we earned. But something had to change because I couldn’t live like that anymore.
I didn’t want to work, work, work, only to watch most of our money funnel straight to pay off our debt.
I was content with the life we had, but I knew we needed to better steward our money and make a plan to get out of debt.
My husband completely agreed! He felt the same way. So, we sat down and made a plan.
Next post, I’ll share what steps we took to get out of the mess we had created, and where we are now. Feel free to enter your email in the little box at the bottom to have the post delivered straight to your inbox.
Have you ever had a financial wake-up call? What would you tell your younger self about your finances? Do you have any words of advice to share about stewarding money or debt-free living? Please share your wisdom in the comments section so others can learn from our mistakes.
If you are interested in more information about how we started our budget, check out this series right here.
If you are interested in more information about how to set up an unbreakable grocery budget, read this post right here.
If you are interested in easy ways to save more money each month, click here.