Debt is a horrible thing. It robs us of what is ours, it takes away opportunity, freedom and security. It keeps people awake at night and working around the clock.
I know because my husband and I have been up to our eyeballs in it since we got married.
I handed my poor young husband $22,000 of personal consumer debt the day we got married. And we proceeded to tack on $33,000 more through our early years of marriage. Shockingly neither of us have a spending problem! This debt was all average, run of the mill, everyday living debt. Cars, student loans, and of course children! None of that is an excuse just a description of the picture we were dealing with.
At first neither of us knew what to do. We didn’t know where to begin or who to turn to. Yet the dream of being debt free was the drive behind our fervor.
I remember coming across a success story of a woman with a large family, living on a low single income, and being debt free, AND SAVING MONEY!! I was obsessed with the notion. Part of me laughed at myself and thought
“of course she can do it…..but you can’t”
I had so many excuses for myself. Things like, “we can either be healthy, or debt free, but it’s impossible to do both.”
Or “I think it’s fine once we have things like a nicer car and bigger home, then we can really go crazy getting out of debt.”
These and many more I tried to convince myself of. They were all lies.
I would get angry when I wanted to buy something or update something and we simply didn’t have the money. I always snapped, “where the heck is all our money going?” But it was always going to the same place: Debt
I finally had it with the whole idea of debt. Borrowing to get things we wanted just to be punished for the rest of our lives. Never getting ahead or being able to afford anything of quality. And never being able to move forward with dreams or goals.
So we did 4 things:
First: We Got Our Finances in Order.
We laid it all out. We wrote EVERY blessed thing down. And we made a budget. It started with understanding down to the penny what we made each month followed by exactly what we spent. this was somewhat unknown as we were not keeping track of any spending whatsoever at the time. it was painful and not fun at all the first few times we sat down to talk about finances. However, as time went on and we were incorporating better habits and seeing them work, it became very exciting!
Starting a budget is not easy and I recommend having a lot of patience when you do it with your spouse! A couple things to remember;
- It’s not one person’s fault. -Finances are both your responsibilities and if they need help, it’s up to both of you.
- A budget doesn’t last forever. -You will have to go back at least once a month if not more to change and update things in your budget!
- This is a starting point. -It’s easy to get frustrated at past habits and mistakes but you have to take note and move forward with that knowledge of having control of your money.
Second: We Got Rid of Anything We Couldn’t Eat, Wear, Drive, or Stay Warm With.
I’m talking everything. Magazines, cable, expensive cell phone plans, restaurants, movies. You name it and if it didn’t help keep us alive we removed it from the budget.
Third: We Consolidated.
We took all the different loans, credit cards, and car loans and we consolidated them into one low interest rate payment. I have heard different opinions on this. Personally, I wanted to take all that interest and diminish it as much as I could. I couldn’t think of a smarter way than bringing it all to one place and only having 1 interest rate.
Also, the benefit of this is only having 1 payment and one due date. Resulting in never missing a payment and never paying late fees. There are many consolidation companies that can help you get started with your debt-free journey. They are widely accredited and well known for their quality services. You would be putting yourself in good hands with them. However, do your due diligence and research what is a good match for you.
Fourth: We Put Our Heads Down And Powered Through.
After putting it all down on paper. Getting rid of excess. Putting the debt all in one place. We were set.It was simple, and it was hard. That is to say; it is not complicated but that doesn’t make it easy!
The process was easy, but the follow through took discipline. We put every extra dime toward debt.
We researched and figured out health meals on a budget and smarter ways to grocery shop on a tight budget.
I thrift shopped everything first. What I couldn’t find at the thrift store, I went to the dollar store for. After that the last resort was Wal-Mart or something as cheap.
For food it was the same concept. Aldi first, Wal-Mart second, but I dreamt of the day I could walk into a Trader-Joe’s and Target again. I knew I would, but the days felt long and tiring to get through.
I decided to fall in love with the process. I decided to make it a game. As the debt started to melt away and we could see the end of the tunnel more and more it became exhilarating. Things became less important. Food was just food. It didn’t need to be expensive or fancy, only nutritious and satisfying.
We always kept the dream and focus in the forefront of our minds. It took a lot of “pain now for results later” mentality, but it worked! We turned our dreams into goals and used that as our motivation! This let us discuss our dreams over a nice cup of coffee while having the knowledge of knowing we were working our plan to get there and reach them! It has been a huge challenge and one that has to be done together if you are married!
I am so excited to be able to tell you that if we accomplished this challenge, if we climbed the mountain of debt to reach the top and find freedom so can you!
All it takes is these 4 simple steps, and the courage to see it through to the end!
I wish you all the luck in the world and all the financial freedom you deserve!