I have sat here for the last 10 minutes wondering how in the world to begin this post. I’ve been looking forward to it for so long but now…nothing. How does one begin a blog post with stunned silence followed by a huge sigh of relief?
For the past 13 1/2 months we’ve been attacking our debt. We got inspired when my friend Jenny (Hi, Jenny!) got to call in to the Dave Ramsey Show for her family’s debt-free scream. Financial freedom sounded pretty darn appealing, so we got on the wait list for his book at the library, and shortly thereafter began our own Total Money Makeover.
These 13 1/2 months have passed incredibly fast yet painfully slow. The process was a lesson in hard discipline, sacrifice, and commitment – but also surprisingly easy. And it was full of God’s grace and blessings.
I lieu of screaming on the radio, I’m blogging our story today. We paid off a total of $36,968. Here’s the breakdown:
- Credit Card: $1,200
- Undergrad Student Loan: $7,180
- Grad School Loan: $10,433
- Car Loan: $18,155
We won’t disclose our full income here, but it is more than enough. We are thankful that we are very blessed, but let me be clear – we do not have an income that regularly gives us a surplus pushing $40K a year. We turned off our cable TV, cell phone data plans, and saw one movie in a theater this past year. I can count the number of times we ate out on one hand. I won’t say that we never spent a single discretionary dollar over the past year, but we certainly didn’t spend mindlessly or unintentionally. We worked at it. Hard.
Still, to accomplish this goal in this amount of time feels like nothing short of a miracle.
Which is funny, actually, because we prayed for a miracle. We were never in trouble. We were never reckless or lived beyond our means. We saved money. We just didn’t see how we could ever achieve financial security.
So God answered our prayers and gave us a miracle. And the most miraculous part of the miracle is that He did it without changing a dime of our income. I had budgets and spreadsheets and projections and…it didn’t matter what those things said. Once we started exercising more financial wisdom, He blessed us unexpectedly – and worked impossible miracles with what we already had! I have lots of examples of all the little miracles that added up to this one big miracle, but I’ll spare you for now. The bottom line is that there was nothing radical that happened in our lives other than discipline.
By far the biggest miracle was not in our money, but in us, in our family, and in our contentment. It can be so discouraging to watch our house value fall and feel stuck in a teeny home. It is frustrating to read articles about strategic defaults or think about the house we could afford if only we didn’t have this one. But instead we have learned gratefulness and contentment in what we have been given, trusting that God has us where He wants us right now. We won’t compromise our integrity or try to creatively (foolishly!) squeeze ourselves into a blessing that He hasn’t seen fit to give us yet. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t want a larger home, but we’d also be lying if we said we weren’t happy and content in the one we’ve been given.
And so, we rejoice! We celebrate that we are off the living-expenses-go-on-the-credit-card-and-get-paid-off-every-month-so-we-can-get-points treadmill. It’s ironic. I’m not a fan of the treadmill, but we did get a pretty sweet bathroom scale with our points once. I digress.
I am relieved that I finally own my education. I got a chuckle out of the payoff letter they sent me: “…[We] hope your educational experience has been a good one.” Why yes, it certainly was. ELEVEN YEARS AGO. Thank you for your concern.
I love that my car has been paid off 3 1/2 years early.
And I love that I’m not throwing money away in interest.
For those of you not familiar with Dave Ramsey’s plan, this declaration of debt freedom does not include our mortgage. We still have that, and sometimes it takes my breath away to think of the mountains still ahead. Then I remember the impossibly high mountain that only took a year to climb, and I remember that miracles do happen. Over the last year we paid off $37K in debt, have been paying cash for Rusty to take college classes, and found an incomprehensible peace and contentment. So we will begin our ascent up the next mountain, trusting that if we persevere with all that we have, God will carry us the rest of the way.
Proverbs 22:7 says, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Following their payment plan we would have been indebted until 2022. Slaves no more, today we celebrate our freedom.
WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!