If I had to describe what it felt like to live with a pile of debt it would be this: like constantly wearing a backpack full of bricks.
Could you breath with that on your back? Move freely? Rest peacefully? No. You couldn't.
I know that it isn't polite to talk about money. But I am going to do that today, because I feel like telling our story will encourage some of you.
$36,000. That’s the magic number we were living with. If you added up what we owed on cars, credit cards, students loans and some medical bills this is the number you would get. $36,000. That is a daunting number.
And by making the minimum payments, we were looking at a lifetime of debt.
It felt like carrying around a backpack full of bricks everywhere I went. Jason (my husband) I had no one to blame but ourselves.
Yes, Jason had taken out loans for school, but in total honesty, he had taken out more than he needed. We had put our lifestyle on credit cards. We had taken vacations we couldn't afford, bought a vehicle because we were tired of our clunky old car.
But in 2012 we realized something had to change. We had a newborn. It was time to put aside that lifestyle and change our family’s course.
Before I go any further, I just want to say my husband and I made every financial mistake known to man. So I approach this subject with no judgment toward anyone. If you can conceive a HORRIBLE way to waste money, I probably did it.
We got ourselves into this mess, we had to get ourselves out.
There is no magic formula. There is no get rich quick scheme. It meant rolling up our sleeves, making a list of where our money was going and tackling the problem.
And then we took a long, hard look at our debt.
Car payments - $600 a month
Credit cards- $430 a month
Student loans- $156 a month
That’s over $1,100 a month in debts! No wonder we were so broke!
A few months before my son was born I was in a terrible wreck. Since my car was totaled we had gotten an insurance check. We used that to pay off my husband’s truck, freeing up $300 a month. That got rolled over to debt.
Through the generosity of my parents, we were able to obtain their used vehicle. That eliminated all of our car debt. That was another $300 that got rolled over to debt.
Do you see where I am going with this? By eliminating these expenses and throwing them at our debts, we were able to pay them down.
Of course, not everyone has the opportunity to cut out a car payment and I understand that. (But since I was left with a permanent and painful leg injury as the result of that wreck, it's not quite a fair trade, okay?)
I am sure that when you look at the "correct way" to pay off debts, we did some things wrong, but we were clueless about the process.
We wrote down where our money went. Over $100 for cable. $50 a week eating out at lunch. Our grocery bill could be slashed. We weren’t going to movies because we now had an infant.
Then Jason got six months of living per diem money for taking his new job. We funneled every extra penny into paying down the credit card bills. Then we whittled away at the student loans. We realized we were paying over $500 in interest alone on those student loans.
My husband on the phone with Sallie Mae making his FINAL payment.
It took two solid years and the day we called Sallie Mae (February 24, 2014) to pay off that last debt we almost cried.
“Give yourself a second,” I said to Jason. “Just think that for the first time in eight years of marriage, we have no debt.”
Getting out of debt and staying out of debt is a commitment and a lifelong process and a goal worth working toward. Sending off a last payment on a long, ongoing debt is one of the best feelings in the world. But it comes with sacrifice.
In the future I would love to help my children have a debt-free college education, I want to live without a mortgage one day, and I would like to share the many blessings God has given me with others.
As I told my husband one night at dinner, “you have to sacrifice what you want now for what you want in your future.”
I realized as we were chipping away at the mountain, ours wasn’t a finance issue, it was a heart issue. Our treasures were not in heaven (Matthew 6:20).
I had to learn to be content with what I had. It wasn’t’ always easy, not when I had spend my adult life feeding my wants. But my sister said something to me that struck me and I remind myself of it everyday, “God honors contentment.”
What are some of your financial goals? Are you struggling to live debt free?