I bet the title of this post got your attention. $12,000 is enough money to grab anyone’s attention!
Between the time Bradley and I started Financial Peace University and now – about four and half months – Bradley and I have paid off over $12,000 in debt.
OVER $12,000 IN DEBT GONE!
I am so proud of how well we have worked together toward this goal. I will give some of the credit to Dave Ramsey since his course, Financial Peace University, is what helped us gather our thoughts on finances and establish common motivation. BUT I’m also taking credit for this success. My handsome husband and I have been working hard and are intentional with our money. All of the learning in the world can’t help someone too stubborn to apply it. We decided we weren’t going to be those fools and have kept our focus in chipping away at our debt.
Here’s the truth: if you told me four months ago that we could put this much money toward our debt, I would have thought you were off your rocker. My mind would not have been able to conceive that we would have that amount of money left over at the end of each month to throw at our debts. But that mindset was fueled by the unknown. We weren’t sitting down each month and creating a budget together. We still had separate bank accounts and separate bills. Our goals were loose. Our conversations about money were short and broad. With just a few tweaks, we were able to create big changes for ourselves financially.
- We wrote out all of our debts. No exceptions. We then wrote out our monthly expenses and totaled how much of our income was going toward consumer debt – credit cards, car payments, student loans, etc. If I have to write a check to someone, it is a debt. There is no good debt or bad debt – it all stinks and it all goes on the list. That total amount can be a game changer. When you think of how many hours of your work week are being dedicated to your lenders, you no longer want to feel the weight of that chain. We work hard for our money, and we deserve to have every penny of that income be dictated by us rather than for us. You will not want to do this part. Part of you acknowledges that you aren’t being honest about your total debt. Part of you wants to believe that it doesn’t matter because you can make the minimum payments. For me, that number lit a fire in my heart, and I could never pretend I didn’t know the truth again.
- We attended Financial Peace University together, as a couple. My favorite part of that course wasn’t necessarily when we were with the group. It was on the ride home. After a few seconds of silence, one of us would ultimately speak up and say “What did you think about such-and-such?” “I’ve been thinking about the budget and maybe we should…” Those car rides gave us a chance to reflect on what we had learned and how those lessons could be applied. Had I done the class alone, this would not have worked. There is no “my money” or “his money”. There is our money. Those debts are our debts. We are in this together. You don’t have to take FPU to be successful with your money. But if you are married, you darn sure have to be on the same page and work the process together. I can’t be budged on my opinion about this one.
- On that note, we sit down once a month and work on our budget together. The bones of the budget usually stay the same. We know that the mortgage needs to be paid, the utilities can usually be estimated fairly accurately, and all of those debt payments are the same each month. We sit down to discuss what we want the rest of the money to do for us. Do we need to plan for upcoming vet visits for the girls? Is it someone’s birthday this month, and how much do we want to spend on their gift? Are we traveling this month, and should we adjust our transportation budget to reflect that? How much do we want to spend on going out to eat? How much “fun money” will each of us get this month? How do all of these decisions impact our ability to pay more toward our debts? We don’t leave a penny untouched. We tell our money where it is going before it even arrives. We even budget for “stuff we forgot to budget for” because we will ultimately forget a thing or two. Overall, we think carefully about the month’s expenses and decide as a couple how we can be mindful with our spending so that we are continuing to make progress toward our bigger financial goals.
- This will seem obvious but…once you make the budget, YOU HAVE TO STICK WITH THE BUDGET! If you budget $100 for going out to eat and spend it all by the 15th of the month, then for the rest of the month you can’t go out to eat. You simply can’t. We started using cash for some expenses, like going out to eat, to make it easier for us stick to the budget. If you are consistently overspending in an area, maybe you aren’t budgeting realistically. I will never be able to budget $200 for a month’s worth of groceries in our house. Never. $400 a month is more realistic for us. We have yet to go over that budget. It gives us some freedom to enjoy luxuries like my sparkling water and Cool Ranch Doritos, but stops us from buying steak and shrimp once a week. If we run low on money at the end of the month, then we eat sandwiches everyday or weird cabinet meals where you have Rice A Roni, a handful of almonds, and the heel of the bread loaf. You don’t break your budget for things that are completely within your control. Don’t bother to make a budget if you aren’t going to stick with it.
- The final thing that has really helped us is to be open and transparent with our friends and family. If you have been within five miles of me, you know that we are rocking a budget these days. If you have asked me to try out a new subscription service or told me about a raging new sale at Loft, I have probably answered “Not in the budget.” If I am talking to you about money and telling you all about our financial progress, I’m not bragging. Well, maybe I am a bit. I’m dang proud! But it is more likely that I am searching for your support. I want you to understand why I am turning things down. I also want you to cheer me on, to help me when I’m feeling overwhelmed by the numbers, and to keep me on track when life hurls an expected obstacle our way. Just as I need the help of my husband to make this a reality, I also need the help of my friends to keep me focused. We are conditioned to never talk money. I’m breaking that tradition. You want to know how much debt I have? Ask me. You want to know how we are going to pay for a vacation in May while working on our debt? Ask me. You want to see my budget for the month? Ask me. I am more than happy to chat with you about it. And if you need my support as your start changing your financial future, you can expect lots of love and checking-in from this girl!
I can’t wait to share our progress as we continue to move along. I’ve already started planning for the upcoming year (ain’t no shame in my nerd game) and I’m pretty sure that we can have all of our debts with the exception of the student loans and house paid off before August of 2018. I’m talking zero credit cards (don’t talk to me about credit scores because I’m not listening), no car payments, and hundreds of dollars staying in our bank account each month. As we grow our family – whether by paws or by feet – that extra money gives us the freedom to live our lives in the way that we want to. We can envision a life of ease and happiness for our future selves. That farmland that we have talked about in passing is something that we are now dedicated to achieving. We may have to wait. We may have to sacrifice. But I refuse to believe that I was put on this earth to be a slave to my debts. That is not how I want to spend my precious time.
We hide our worries from the world and it prevents those that love us from being able to help in a way that is genuine and efficient. If you feel trapped, don’t know how to start your budget, or wonder if this plan is right for you, reach out to me! I don’t know all of the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t be in debt! But there is comfort in walking a new path with someone by your side. Let me be that someone.