If you are a regular reader in our little slice of blogland, then you were able to read the first two posts in this series. In post one, 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. In post two, I shared my wake-up call when I realized I was done with constantly stressing about money. It was time to pay down the debt and take control of our finances!
If you are new to this blog, you might want to start by reading these posts before reading on. It would be like skipping the entire novel and only reading the final chapter. You might learn what happens in the end, but you won’t really appreciate what it means. (And let’s be real. If you read the title, you know how it ends.) Go on. I’ll wait…….Read me first! Aaaaand now read me!!
After our wake up call, we knew it was time for a change. There we sat. Two frustrated, overwhelmed, discouraged twenty-somethings. Tired of having more month than money. Angry enough at our debt that we were ready to get rid of it. All of it.
Maybe this is something you can connect with! Maybe you, too, are ready to be free from paying off bill after bill only to have another one take its place.
If that is you, please know that it IS possible to be free! By making a plan and sticking with it, you can pay down the debts that are burdening you as well.
When we finally sat down, here was the plan that we followed.
First, we made a budget. Girrrrrrrrrrrrrl, I could talk all day about budgeting. How we do it, tips to stick to it, why cash is king, how to prioritize. I could go on and on. Seriously, the ONLY way we got out of debt was by making a budget every month, and sticking to it. Some months we fell off the bandwagon and messed up. But for the most part, a written budget was the only way to go. When we blew our budget, it made us even more motivated the next month to stick to it!
I’ve already written a whole series outlining how we started a budget, so I won’t bore you with the details. But if you are interested in learning more about budgeting, click here.
Second, we listed our debts, who we owed and how much, as well as how much money we were paying out each month. We didn’t even realize how bad it was! Oh. My. Word. When I saw how much of our hard-earned money was going to debt each month, I was so MAD!! We were literally spending more than what some people spend on rent. Half of our income went straight to minimum payments. It was totally the kick in the butt I needed to jump start this whole debt-free journey.
Third, we figured out how much extra money was realistically left at the end of the month. When we first started, we had less than $100 extra. But we strategically used that extra money for debt. Every month we paid the minimum payment on all of our bills. Then we put the extra money straight to debt. We also did it at the BEGINNING of every month. Not the end. If we waited until the end, there was hardly any left to use! We paid extra on our debt FIRST! We treated it like any other bill.
Finally, I read all I could to learn more about finances. Anything I could get my hands on! I read books about budgeting, books about debt, books about frugal living, books about biblical finances.
Realistically, Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover was a complete game-changer for us. Please buy this book right now!! It will be the best fifteen bucks you’ve ever spent! SO educational. SO inspiring. SO! GOOD!
We followed Dave’s principles (most of them!) and started by paying off our smallest balance first. When that balance was paid off we took the money we were putting towards that loan and started attacking the next loan until that one was paid off as well. This is called a Debt Snowball, because the more you pay off little loans, the more momentum your “snowball” will get, and the more money you will free up to put towards the next loan.
We said no to eating out. We said no to fancy vacations. We said no to pretty much anything and everything that wasn’t in our original budget. It was hard. But it was sooooooo worth it in the long run!
This journey started for us almost four years ago. Four years! It took FOUR YEARS of us being strategic about our money, and saying no to extra things that weren’t in the budget in order to finally be free of our debts.
But we did it!!!! We sent in our last student loan payment this week. And then all day I kept pinching myself just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. We are officially debt-free except for our house!!
By God’s provision and ONLY by His blessing, we paid off over $80,000 of debt. Now, to some of you this might seem small in comparison to what you owe. Or maybe this number seems ridiculously large and oh-my-gravy-why-would-you-ever-borrow-that-much-money?!?!
Please don’t get caught up on the numbers. Our number doesn’t really matter. Your number is the only one you should be focusing on.
The truth is, I am so excited to move forward. To give more, to save for my girls to go to college, and to invest for retirement. But I’m also devastated for those of you who might read these words and be discouraged that you might not be in the same place. I well remember the feeling! For so long, I felt like we would never get here either!
BUT I am standing on the other side of this mountain, screaming for all I’m worth. YOU CAN DO IT!! With a little bit of dreaming and a whole lot of planning, everyone can join me on this side of the mountain. Setting goals, sticking to a budget, being strategic in paying down debt, and saying no is a fail-proof plan.
Saying no gets hard, I’ll admit. But when we say no to today’s pleasures, we are in essence saying yes to tomorrow’s dreams!
Throughout the past four years, I’ve realized one of the most important things. Everything we have belongs to God. Everything we own is really His. He entrusts it to us to be good stewards with what He has given. As soon as I started realizing that, it put purpose behind this passion. We can’t do His will with our finances if we don’t have any!
I would never have been able to give so freely to others if I had no money to give. I would never have been able to help pay for other people’s needs if I couldn’t even meet my own family’s needs.
The story of the Good Samaritan would have ended very differently if Mr. Samaritan had no extra money in his bag. He had to HAVE money in order to use it.
I’m a firm believer in thinking that God puts us through certain things so we can help others. The only reason I wrote this series was to inspire others!
My prayer is that reading this will help you have your own wake-up call, and that the things I have learned will help you in your journey to debt-free living. I want to help everyone realize the peace that is found when they can use their extra money as a blessing to others, instead of just paying off creditor after creditor.
If you are ready to get rid of debt, have extra, and bless others, please let me help! I’ve created a printable to help you get started. The purpose of it is to help you realize exactly where your finances are right now. And to dream big! To prayerfully make goals that would help your family honor God by being better stewards of what He gives. You can download it for free by entering your email address below.
Just think about that for a minute. Where are you today? Where would you like to be in five years? What would you like your life to look like in ten years if your only debt was your mortgage? Imagine never having to say no again. Imagine how much you could give! Imagine what a blessing you could be to others!
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.