Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Our Debt Story

My husband and I have been living the debt-free lifestyle from the very start. We got married almost 12 years ago and found Dave Ramsey right from the get-go. We already had about $16,000 in credit cards and loans accumulated, but we didn't have kids yet, so with 2 incomes it wasn't too hard to pay off.



Well, that changed. We lived completely debt-free (no mortgage, no car payment, no debt at all) for 7 years--then WHAM--we were sucked in. We wanted the life everyone else had. We felt uneducated, we felt behind...we felt the pressure. Our lives had been fine, but things just don't move as fast when you're living without borrowed money. We couldn't buy the nice furniture, everyone else gave better gifts (much better), and people seemed to notice that our clothes never changed much.

We bought into the credit cards aren't all bad mentality and 1 card became 2 and then 3. It started slow and then grew into this ugly monster.

All at once the well-he-is-so-I-can, elementary games started. He spent $200 on golf clubs, so why can't I spend $200 on a desk? Mature. Yep-that was us-picture of maturity.

I felt like a queen walking through Walmart putting more than necessities in my grocery cart! A rug for the bathroom. Curtains for the kitchen window would look awesome. Why sure I'll go on a date with you at my favorite restaurant. A movie every week--sounds fun. It truly felt good at first. I think that first couple of months were a bunch of blurred denial!

Then, it was wake up time. The alarm sounded. Our bills were coming in faster then we could pay them. I'm actually thankful for how low our income was at the time because it might've taken longer to notice the change otherwise. But...we ignored the warning signs for a full year. We bought a car, but had nothing else to show for all the debt--about $20,000.

I know it doesn't sound like a lot when so many have a whole lot more, but that was 2/3s of one year's income! And we gathered it in one year!

Next came the scared stage. We could no longer pay everything, even cutting back. We were in a debt cycle, paying the car loan with a credit card, paying one credit card with another and buying groceries on our credit card just to eat. I sat in the kitchen one night with my best friend and told her everything. I sobbed. She had known me for the whole 7 years of financial bliss and didn't ever imagine us being unwise with credit cards. She gently confronted me and advised me to tell my husband how scared it was making me.

I took her advise and to my delight, he had no reservations. We knew we were not handling money the way we should've been. Josh, my hero forever, went straight away and got the two credit cards we owned. He snapped the Master Card in half. I cut both of mine in half, too. We left the Amex alone, but decided to put it away. No more spending for fun--we were done.

We've kept that Amex to this day, but lowered our allowed spending and changed our card to the most conservative we could. We owe nothing on it and keep it that way. (Why we decided on them is another post).

We stood there together...scared. We hadn't looked in our pantry first, we hadn't thought too much about the pain that was soon to come. We just did what we knew was right. I sort-of expected God to reach down and save us--and He did--but not as quickly as I'd imagined.

The following two and a half years were like surfing a tsunami when you hadn't ever seen a surf-board. They were shameful and embarrassing. They were scary and they were hard. There was one two week period of time when we didn't have any money to shop at all and we lived out of our already sparse pantry. People assumed we didn't care because we couldn't make church events because their "cheap" parties still required bringing expensive chips and cokes.

Our salvation came a year and a half after we made the decision to live without any more credit cards. It happened so fast it was dizzying. Josh came home one night and said someone suggested he put in a resume at this oil company. It didn't require a degree, which was unusual for that position. We didn't know if it would be a pay increase, but the possibility set heavy in our minds. We needed more money and fast. On the application we dared to put a number we thought was too high, but it was what we needed. We prayed and prayed for two days. Josh got the interview. I had butterflies. He would know the following week.

I told Josh, "I don't want to bug you by asking every day. If you get it bring me flowers and I'll know". It didn't take a week. He came home two days later with a bouquet of 9 roses. I was so excited I was jumping all over the living room like a kid. Josh was grinning from ear to ear. When I finally settled down he asked me to count the roses. That was how many 1000s of dollars more a year he would be making--it was far above what we had dared to ask! Josh still works for them--they're an incredible company.

It was still another year before we paid everything off and it was still hard, but we had food money and we even went out and had fun. It was such a relief that we could breath that we barely felt the pain. When it was all over and everything was paid for we took a deep breath and said "NEVER AGAIN!!!"

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25 comments:

  1. Hi! Visiting from Between Naps on the Porch linky party. I absolutely love your blog and am a new follower! I wish we were debt free like you. I'm going to read thru your archives for tips and ideas.

    Lori : )
    Thrifty Decor Mom

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    1. Thank you so much!! We still sink back into a little debt when emergencies come up, but we pay them off with gusto every time. We're currently debt free except our mortgage. I hope that someday we can make a plan for that as well. We are Dave Ramsey fans if you want to read about the plan we used, but we don't always do exactly what he suggests. We still keep an Amex for things like if the alternator breaks on the car. I'm sorry I don't have a ton of info here yet about becoming debt free--I hope to have more in the future. Thank you so very much for following me. I'm off to check out your blog. -Tabitha

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  2. Love this story! As a Dave fan, I always find these stories so encouraging. Good for you!

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    1. Thanks! We go to some of his events now and just gawk at how big they've become. The first on we went to was held in a medium size church. It amazes me when he comes back here and it's packed to the brim in pretty big places. Do you also have a debt story I could read? -Tabitha

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  3. God is so good!

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  4. Good for you and thanks for sharing. Its so brave to admit it to everyone. We are currently paying off debt. Its hard to say "no" to the htings the kids want all the time, but they learn too, hopefully to never get into debt like we did. LOVE Dave, he's the best!

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    1. Thanks. It's hard, but it is worth it. I learned to tell my kids that it's not that we can't afford it but that we need to learn to say "no" to more stuff than what we need. Then, when I really wanted to give them a treat...it was really a treat. Hugs. It will get better! -Tabitha

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  5. What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it. I've never had much credit card debt (I'm 59, we just didn't do it.) I feel like too many young people think credit card debt is a natural part of life. Keep telling them it doesn't have to be.

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    1. Thanks Grammy! My grandparents were seriously against debt!! My grandpa never even had a mortgage. The thing that bothers me is that it's pure trickery. I don't think anyone steps into adulthood and thinks it's a wonderful idea to get into financial ruin. But most of the "experts" teaching finances are run by companies who get big time financial rewards for selling credit card debt. That's sorta like learning to care for a pet pig from a bacon dealer, lol. Good to hear from you! -Tabitha

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  6. We've followed Dave Ramsey for many, many years. I loved your story. It is so freeing to not owe anyone. All three daughters have followed the Ramsey Baby Steps and are free of debt. thanks for sharing this charming story.

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    1. Thank you! I did't realize until we had credit card debt how stressful it is. I have a soft spot in my heart for those still battling that. -Tabitha

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  7. I'm a new follower and I linked up to your linky party. I admire your story. We're so there right now, but our debt is huge with 1 large income living in an expensive place. But I know I'm not nearly as good about the money as I need to be. It's scary knowing you're living paycheck to paycheck, even if the income is good.

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    1. I know how scary it can be when you really sit down and let reality sink in, but all the computer programs in the world cannot tell you how fast you can pay it all off if you put down your foot and go to war. When you do your part and trust God to make up the difference (even your own personal lackings), miracles can happen! I'm rooting for you, Miranda. -Tabitha

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  8. Thanks for sharing your story. We are struggling right now with so many medical bills from when Garland was born. When we calculate how long it will take to pay off Dustin's college loans and these baby bills it is slightly depressing. I just keep thinking, I'm never going to get cable again. lol.

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    1. I know it's depressing, but don't think those calculators are right in real life just because they're mathmatically correct. They can't calculate things like a big purge garage sale once a year, a raise that comes your way, pinching the daylights out of every penny 3 weeks out of 4, and so forth. Paying off debt is far more organic than a calculator can tell you, so don't let it discourage you too much. Also, if cable is your "one" luxury, I wouldn't turn it off. We've never had cable (actually only 1 year in my entire life, lol)and still don't, but we always decided on one or two luxuries to keep us feeling alive and happy during this time. Mine were nice soap and date nights! If you treat yourself a little (not too much) than you'll be more likely to stick with it and endure. Love, Tabitha

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  9. Hi Tabitha! Thank you for sharing your story. Your words are very encouraging.

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  10. Thanks for sharing at OneCreativeMommy.com. I hope you'll be back!

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  11. What a great story! Everyone should read this. I'm glad for your success of being debt-free. I think being contented is the key when it comes to managing our money. Your story is truly inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

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  12. I agree that the story is great. Stories like that have to be all over the internet. I know so many people who think that it is impossible to become a debt free. Impossible is not an excuse. So they give up without even giving it a shot. That is why stories like yours will have to inspire them. It inspires me. I have been through a sever debt because using no fax loans online irresponsibly which I dearly regret. I thought that it was good idea covering one payday loan by applying for another one. It took time and longtime budgeting to get rid of my debt. Just know that you inspire people!

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