There are certain anticipated events in your life that you think will bring instant enlightenment. For example, I always imagined that as soon as I stepped foot into another country that a light would flash and it would be glorious. When I stepped off the plane in Taipei in 2000, no light, no instant enlightenment, just jet lag. But my month there did change me.
Paying off our last debt was something we had anticipated for 8.5 years of marriage. We had a general idea that we wanted to be debt free when we got married, but we had both made choices that found us in the red. So we started off our marriage by only spending what we had in cash on our honeymoon...and by the end we were eating bowl apetites from Target in our hotel room. But we were on the same page, but we didn't have a very good playbook. We were wanting to live debt free, but our teacher had been a culture obsessed with debt and credit.
In 2007 we read Dave Ramsey's My Total Money Makeover and something clicked. We knew of Dave's basic principles, but this was the playbook. This was how to make it happen. We were excited. We were on board. We were both working full time and had a plan to pay our debt off in two years.
A month later Andrew lost his job. That was the moment we cut up the last credit card we had been holding onto "in case of emergency". Luckily we saw quickly that in times of emergency, a credit card is the last way we needed to pay for things. Instead, we slashed our budget to one income and trusted God to provide, and He did. Two months later, Andrew had another job and we were on our way until...
We were expecting #2. Paying off debt was on hold. We moved to IL. I became a stay at home mom with two kids (never my plan). But we were committed and did not dig ourselves any further into debt. That even meant making the decision to trade in a newer paid for vehicle for an older mini van when we decided we needed the space. Once I started working some we did start to make some progress. All that time we had lived on a budget. We had lived within or below our means. And the biggest benefit is that we were so unified in what we were doing with our money that it made our marriage stronger.
Last December we set a goal. To pay off the last loan...Andrew's student loan. There was about 23K left. It felt impossible. But we wrote it down. We lived on as frugal of a budget as we could handle (I'm the spender, so it was toughest on me). Any extra money we got went to Iowa Student Loan. In August we decided I would be a mostly at home mama, so it looked like our debt payoff wouldn't happen in 2011.
But we stuck with it. God provided some extra hours just when we needed it, and on Dec. 28, 2011 we became debt free (except our home...so some of you may not say truly debt free, but Dave lets us call ourselves that). It has meant driving older cars (both of ours will celebrate their 10th birthday in a few days), not letting Annika take dance, very few date nights, and no new computers for Andrew. But it has been worth it.
Unlike stepping into Taiwan, hitting the "submit payment" button brought instant tears of joy. The kids running around singing "we're dead free" (perhaps a fitting misunderstanding) was icing on the cake. They have no idea what it means, but its something we hope to teach them. The moment of the payoff was glorious, but the journey has made our family stronger and more unified.
In January, I'm going to do a series of posts on fitness...since many of you may have fitness/wellness goals and its an area I have a bit of knowledge in. But thinking ahead, I was thinking of doing Finances in February. I'm no expert, but I'd share some ways that we made budgeting and saving money work in our house.