The day has finally come where Dustin and I can say...
WE'RE DEBT FREE!!!!!
We have been following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps ever since we got married and are now moving on to Baby Step #3: Saving 3-6 months worth of expenses until we can start putting 15% of our income toward retirement (aka Baby Step #4).
Before we got married, Dustin and I heard that 50% of marriages end because of financial arguments. Neither he nor I knew a lot about money and we knew we needed help. So while we were engaged, Dustin and I took a Financial Peace University class offered by a local church.
(Fun fact: It was a biker church here in Wilkesboro. We knew no one. And we were the youngest couple by probably 15 years!) :)
Nevertheless, we took the class and let me tell you:
it was one of the best decisions we could have made as an engaged couple.
If you're engaged and reading this... find a class near you.
If you're single, take this class.
If you're married, TAKE. THIS. CLASS.
I can't even imagine how many arguments this has saved us... to be on the same page about how to handle our money.
Now... let's also be real.
This has not by any means been easy.
And Dustin and I certainly did not do everything right.
But before I get into what we did right and what we did wrong, I want to show you where our debt came from:
$ 12K Dustin's student loans (my parents paid for my undergrad)
$ 2K leaving my nursing jobs in SC (I broke my 2 year contract by moving to NC 6 months early)
$ 1.2K Doula loan
$ 7K Bought Used Car
= $ 22.2K
Plus, the $15K we spent moving/buying a home and the other $7K we paid in cash on the car along with other small life emergencies.
Now, here's what we did RIGHT.
1. Dustin and I always gave 10% of our income back to God.
This is a biggie and it is why I put it as number one.
Y'all. Tithing- giving God 10%- is in the Bible; however, it is not in the New Testament as a command.
Instead, the Bible says to go above and beyond the tithe and to give generously!
Dustin and I have done so as we felt God lead and have used the tithe as our starting point in giving back to God.
We hope to increase that percentage as we grow older- dare I say, I would love to live off of 10% and give away 90%!!
We fully believe that our blessings have been related to our generosity.
"Bring all the tithes (the tenth) into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test 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 [so great] a blessing until there is no more room to receive it." Malachi 3:10 AMP
2. We have never owned a credit card and never plan on it.
Debit cards are tempting enough! I can't imagine the kind of self control it takes to have a credit card.
And yes, I've heard allll the arguments FOR one but here's the thing: it is statistically known that people who have credit cards spend more money than people who don't.
It doesn't matter if you pay it off that month, if you didn't have a credit card, you may not have bought that piece of furniture and said "it's okay, i'm getting points back."
3. We always had money in savings (we try to keep at least $5K)
Here is where we deviated a little from Dave Ramsey's plan.
Dave Ramsey says to have $1,000 in an "Emergency Fund" and then to start throwing everything you have at debt.
Dustin and I just didn't feel comfortable with having only $1K in the bank, so we always tried to have at least $5K in our savings in case of emergencies.
4. We lived below our means!
This is another biggie, especially because of social media.
"Keeping up with the Joneses" is so tempting because we see what everyone else has and it makes us discontent with what we have.
But we said "No" to new things a lot.
At times, Dustin and I have had $2K extra per month that we were able to put towards debt. Instead of using that money to buy things we wanted or to get a nicer apartment, we practiced self control knowing that being out of debt was better than trying to impress other people or use things to make us happier.
Now, I will confess we have not been perfect with this, ESPECIALLY since owning a home. We have chosen to buy new furniture and spent 1K on our landscape among other things when we could have said "no, not yet".
All that to say, we could have been out of debt WAYYY sooner if we would have practiced even more self control.
5. We both had jobs that paid well. (I know my mom will love me saying this one).
I know this one can't always be controlled, but I do believe that our college educations have helped us get higher paying jobs.
But not just college degrees... CAREER degrees.
I studied nursing. I became a nurse. That is a direct career out of school.
Dustin studied Spanish Education. He could have become a teacher- i.e. a career- but he didn't. Instead, he followed what he felt like God was telling him to do and that was to be a worship leader.
We didn't settle, though. In both of Dustin's jobs, we made sure they were full-time and had benefits. #wedon'tplay
Now, you ready for the fun party? Here's what we did WRONG.
1. We ate out a LOTTTT
Neither Dustin nor I grew up with families that taught us to cook so we really struggle in this arena. And still do to this day.
Meal planning seriously stresses me out and so does grocery shopping. Prayers appreciated! ;)
2. We got greedy
There was a time when we had 20K in our savings, but still had like 8K left in debt. We clearly could have paid off our debt, but we didn't want to lose the money we had in the bank.
Thankfully, that 20K is what allowed us to buy a house once we moved to NC sooooo I guess it is good and bad that we had it.
3. We never stuck to a budget
When Dustin and I first got married, we got into a huge argument in Walmart about buying applesauce that would put us "over" in our weekly grocery money. We weren't using cash envelopes- tried that once, didn't work for us- but we were adding things up as we went along.
After that, because maintaining peace is more important to us, we took a more fluid approach to our budget.
We knew what was coming in and always made sure to look at what was going out, but if one area went over, we knew we could just limit ourselves in another area that month and be okay instead of fighting about every last penny.
In summary, here's what we did right and wrong:
1. We gave generously (used tithe as starting point)
2. We never owned a credit card
3. We always have money in savings
4. We live below means
5. We have well-paying, career jobs #nobrainer
1. We ate out a lot
2. We got greedy
3. We never stuck to a budget
I hope this post encourages you on your debt free journey and gives you hope for the future.
God never intended on his children being bound by debt. That limits our giving potential. So the faster you can get out of debt, the faster you can live and GIVE like no one else. But that takes sacrifice now.
Comment below with how much debt you've paid off and how much more you have to go!
Let's cheer one another on!!