I’ve had a lot of people ask me recently about our journey toward being debt-free. Here’s a little bit of background, with some of the steps we’ve taken in the past year.
Jake and I started attending Abundant Life Church in Lee’s Summit in January of 2017. Shortly thereafter, Pastor Phil preached a series called “Imagine” (http://abundantlifels.com/sermons/imagine/). Part of the Imagine campaign dealt with Financial Freedom. I remember driving home from church that Sunday, and Jake and I had some intense fellowship about our finances. We got home, added up the debts we had, and we were faced with a decision. We were happily on the road to achieving the American Dream. We had two pretty, new cars, a mortgage, all kinds of nice stuff, plans for buying a lot of other nice stuff, and on-and-on-and-on. But deep down, we knew that our lifestyle was not honoring God and that we were not being good stewards of what God has blessed us with. Not that nice things were wrong – but we couldn’t afford the lifestyle we were living (Live your wage! as Dave Ramsey would say).
So we looked at that (obscene) debt number and decided to make a change. It was very exciting for us, and even though we are deep in the journey, almost a year later, we haven’t lost motivation or momentum. This journey has drastically changed how we spend, save, and invest. It has changed our entire lives, actually.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21
*Note: I don’t count our mortgage in this! One day, we do plan to own our home. But the debt we are eliminating does not include the mortgage.
Here are some of the lifestyle changes we’ve made.
- We listed all our debts, smallest to largest. And started paying them off, one-by-one, by using everything extra in the budget.
- We re-budgeted. As in, made a budget. Yeah, we had a budget before. Kind of. But this was a written out (in Excel) budget with numbers that we agreed to and could see in front of us.
- Our budget had ZERO wiggle room. We did not budget for anything fun! No “allowance” or “fun money”. We had an “etc.” line item, and that was for Archer’s diapers and clothes. That’s it. And we cut all the unnecessary spending out (like Sirius XM in the cars, my gym membership that I literally never used, etc.). This can be controversial. I can definitely see a benefit to budgeting for some “fun”, so that you don’t get burnt out. Jake and I just too hardcore for that 😉
- We left $1000 in our savings account, and put everything above that toward debt. This is kind of controversial as well. Jake and I really debated if we should keep more than $1000 for our emergency fund. This is really a personal decision!
- We went through the house and found allllllllllllll the cash we could. We still had all the cash we’d gotten at our wedding that we were “saving for a raining day”. We also had some cash we’d pulled for a project around the house. And we found bunches and bunches of cash in pockets, purses, wallets, etc. That went to debt right away too.
- ALDI!!!! Last February, we stopped shopping at Price Chopper for groceries and started shopping at ALDI. If you are an ALDI shopper, you know how amazing the ALDI life is. Seriously. It’s a lifestyle. I want to have a secret handshake with other ALDI shoppers. While we do have to run to Wal-Mart sometimes for things we can’t find at ALDI, it is totally worth it. We immediately dropped our grocery budget from around $120 a week to $60 or $70 a week. This was a huge and quick win for us.
- Work bonuses and tax refunds did not go toward anything fun. Every dime went to debt!
- Jake sold his truck, getting us out of a very large payment, and we bought another sedan that we financed for a much smaller payment. This also saved us in gas money and car insurance.
- Tithing! This is not a change for us, actually. Jake and I have tithed (given 10% of our gross income to God through His church) since before we got married. I (we) firmly believe in God’s promise of blessing when we are financially faithful! To God be all the glory for how He has blessed us during this journey. Even when looking at that line item, and seeing how much could be going toward debt if we stopped tithing… we would never do it. Paying God first and foremost has been the biggest blessing for us, and we will be tithers for the rest of our lives.
Malachi 3 says, “Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, ‘In what way have we robbed You?’ In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation. Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,” Says the Lord of hosts, “If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. “And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, So that he will not destroy the fruit of your ground, Nor shall the vine fail to bear fruit for you in the field,” Says the Lord of hosts; (v. 8-11).
I can’t recommend Dave Ramsey and his Baby Steps enough. Our plan doesn’t follow this exactly, but it’s a great resource, and I think his principles are spot on. https://www.daveramsey.com/get-started/debt
I would say that this hasn’t been the most fun journey in the world – but honestly, it has been kind of fun. Putting together a goal and a plan as a husband and wife team, then dedicating everything to it has been challenging, yet rewarding. Jake and I have each made individual sacrifices, and we’ve sacrificed together.
Right now, we are on track to be debt-free in 2018, hopefully sometime in the summer! I would love to hear if you are also on a journey to Financial Freedom. And if you’re already debt-free, I would love to hear about your successes!