Tuesday, September 06, 2011

our journey to becoming debt-free {part one}

I’m telling this story in the hope that it may help some of you who currently may be dealing with debt or are on the way to becoming debt-free- we were there just a few years ago, and I remember how difficult it was! I just want to encourage you that becoming debt-free will be hard, but with God’s help, it’s definitely possible!

sunrise

Our debt story began back in 2003 when I quit my full-time job to stay home with our newborn son.  I worked part-time for almost a year after he was born, but within a few months of losing my income, we started to struggle trying to keep up with the "normal" lifestyle we'd created- one with a mortgage, car payment, insurances, frequent eating out, and the occasional shopping trip to Target and the mall. 

When I became pregnant with our second son nine months after the first was born, we decided it would be better for me to stay home full-time.

Unfortunately, my husband’s income didn’t quite meet the costs of our lifestyle. Our balances started to pile up as we used credit cards for replacing tires, paying copays, and buying groceries and gifts.

We bought and sold several new cars during this time- only ever considering how much money we would need to pay per month- never counting what the trade-in would actually cost since it didn't affect us on a monthly basis. 

Other than the new cars, we didn't go crazy- in fact, we used coupons and we didn't go on vacations. But all of the little things added up, and we slowly started to sink. We managed to pay every bill on time, but it was a careful balancing act of getting each bill paid with this or that card, as we anxiously awaited payday every two weeks.

When we realized it wouldn't be possible to juggle all of the debt much longer, we sold our house in order to rent and looked for other ways to save money. I went back to college on a scholarship for a second degree, which allowed us to get very inexpensive student health insurance. My husband got a new job, which provided immediate relief to our budget, but we still hadn't "gotten" it yet. We paid the bills easily for another year, without making any headway on our old debt, before we bought another house and again found ourselves spending everything we made.

Our credit-based lifestyle really didn't change until I read Crystal's blog in 2007, where she often wrote about Dave Ramsey, and how he had changed their lives. After reading her story, I ordered The Total Money Makeover and read it in one afternoon. Dave's book practically hit me over the head- I felt like he had written the book just for us! It taught us the Biblical reasons for staying out of debt and gave us perspective on what God wanted for us. I learned that we'd made the same dumb money mistakes that most of America had, and the most exciting thing about reading it was getting the list of practical steps he'd laid out for people like us. He gave us seven "baby steps" to follow, so we didn't get too overwhelmed with the whole process of becoming debt-free.

It thrilled us to imagine that we could actually be free from all of our monthly payments, so we started on his steps the very next month….

…continued in {part two}…

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