Before I joined the team at Greater Impact Ministries, I once saw on Nina’s blog a comment that said “The Respect Dare + Dave Ramsey = happy marriage”. This may be the simplest way to express the biggest personal growth opportunities in my marriage. But they weren’t easy and I still work on them.
When my husband and I decided to approach our debt with “gazelle-like intensity” and to “drink the kool-aid” (both phrases, Dave Ramsy, The Total Money Makeover) we were looking at four long and hard years. We were (and still are) a one-income family. I wasn’t a great budget-er. And no one likes the idea of cutting back all the time for the foreseeable future.
But I had the desire and my husband had the will-power and sometimes the best way to overcome something is to use everyone’s strengths to your advantage. And that’s what we did.
Now I want to back up for a second and say that we weren’t digging ourselves out of a huge spending problem. When we got married, we were given everything in our house as hand-me downs. We lived in a nice apartment, but in a small town so it didn’t cost us very much. I had a nice teaching contract and before we decided which job to take, we ran the numbers on as much as we could think of against my paycheck – rent, insurance, groceries, phone, internet, gas, car maintenance, etc. I didn’t know much about budgeting and I had never paid all of my own bills. There were a lot of unknowns.
Thankfully, my husband had experience I did not have. And together we were able to not go into debt, even though our spending habits weren’t great.
Another thing we did right was that we never budgeted on getting 26 paychecks in a year (which is how I got paid). Instead we budgeted based on our monthly income. Then, twice a year, I got paid three times in one month. That money went to our student loan debt.
We had a “budget” but we didn’t monitor it. If something went over, it went over. That’s just the way it was. We did agree on the amounts and on any purchases, so when something was over it was on both of us. We also set limits of gift-buying.
We never had cable. We got the lowest package of internet and Netflix. We bought appliances from Craiglist and fixed them when they broke. We drove the cars we had all through college.
And we didn’t live together before we got married even though that would have saved us money. My husband just lived in the cheapest place he could find.
So from when we got married in 2010 to our debt-free conversation 2012, we had managed to pay off $18,000 in debt. We sold a car and were gifted a new-to-us one. My husband’s business was growing. Our honeymoon was a wedding gift from all of our guests. We threw “extra” money at the hole.
Why do I tell you this? For a couple reasons. One is that you may already have better habits than you are aware of. If the debt you have already is a priority, as is not going into debt further, then you are at least ahead of the hole.
Another reason is that I want you to know where we stood. Every debt-free story I read, I thought “I wish I had a whole picture” so that’s what I’m trying to give you.
And I want you to know that we are and were not perfect. We made bad money decisions. We had to learn from our mistakes. We still are learning. But this time in our lives set a ground work that is really important to where we are sitting now.
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Check out the rest of the series here.