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Before we begin, I have to inform you that we are not financial experts or gurus. This is also not a lesson on how to get out of debt. This is a simple blog on what worked for us. 🙂 I would recommend you check out “David Ramsey” class/videos or talk with some wise sisters or brothers from your local church, which is what we did. Shout out to the Simmons who helped up on our financial journey! Now that we got that settled, let’s get started!
This is the perfect time to have a goal/desire/resolution to pay off debt as quickly as possible. This isn’t because it is the New Year, but because it’s tax season aka extra money. As good as a vacation on a sunny beach or listening to your favorite music on a new iPhone may seem, think about how much better it would be to not be in financial bondage? Dare I say “bondage”? Yes, bondage. Bondage by basic definition is the state of being a slave to something or someone.
When I was single, I was in financial bondage. To be honest, I couldn’t understand where my money was going. I didn’t have any crazy habits or hobbies that sucked up my money. I mean I liked food, paid my bills, had a little fun here and there, but why was I always waiting on “payday”? It was just me! One day I saw my W2 and remembered saying to myself, “There is no reason why I should be living paycheck to paycheck”. Then I took the time to search through my most recent bank statements and realized my money was going “no where”. Meaning I had nothing to show for all the money I was making. I wasn’t getting out of debt or saving a lot. I was just living. I knew it was time to make a change.
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We must change the way we view money
1. God is the Creator of all.
This world, our bodies, the spices, the bricks, everything. Psalm 24:1 says “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” This includes all of our possessions. The Lord created those things and gave them to us, therefore this makes us “stewards”. Steward (verb) – to manage or look after (another’s property). This means nothing I own is mine including my money. It is the Lord’s.
2. We are a slave to our lenders.
When we owe people money, from Target to Sallie Mae, we are a slave to them. Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” The Lord is not calling us to be a slave to anyone but Him. (1 Corinthians 7:22) (Romans 6:18)
3. Lies that I believed about debt.
- Treat debt like a bill.
- It’s ok to have debt because everyone does.
- We won’t ever have fun.
- I’m not that good with money.
- Paying off debt is impossible.
- I don’t have cash, but I can afford it.
- I need debt for a good credit score.
- If I have a credit card, I can afford it.
- Credit cards are for emergencies.
- I don’t have that much debt (comparing myself to others).
- I just need to make more money.
- It’s impossible to be debt-free.
- No one is debt free these days.
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We must change the way we handle money
I did not learn the importance of financial stewardship in college or in my household. I do not have a finance or accounting background. I never saw the benefits of saving and/or paying off debt. What changed the way I handled money was encountering someone who challenged my perspective on money. When I was single, I had to opportunity to meet one of my sister’s friends who was financially intelligent. He showed me the importance of saving and how to balance your money. This was the beginning of my new financial journey.
The first step to changing the way we handle money is figuring out how we spend our money, setting a budget for it, and sticking to the budget. I would suggest having separate accounts for bills, savings, fun/entertainment, etc. to help stick to a budget. Don’t know where to start? This is by no means a blueprint, but this is what we did:
Account Description Examples
Bill Money: Anything that is paid monthly. Examples are mortgage/rent, bills, tithes/giving, debt, groceries, toiletries, cleaning products, etc.
Fun Money: Anything that is fun and not a necessity. Examples are movies, eating out, presents for others, new clothes and shoes, extra beauty products, video games, entertainment, traveling, etc.
Short Term Savings: Unplanned bills and emergencies. Medical emergencies, house or car maintenance and repairs, etc. Unplanned things are not fun, but they happen.
Long Term Savings: Future planning (not retirement). Example: house, car, adoption, or anything large.
In 2015, my husband and I desired to be better stewards over God’s money and be financially free. The first step towards financial freedom is getting rid of debt. We had about $41,000 of debt: $1,500 furniture, $33,000 school loans, and $6,000 car loans. Meanwhile, we had a mortgage and were pregnant with our baby boy. The Lord blessed me with a husband who doesn’t like credits cards so we didn’t have any credit card debt. To aggressively pay off our debt, we adopted the rollover method from Dave Ramsey.
Rollover method: We used the little bit of savings we had to pay off the furniture. We used the monthly payment we had for the furniture and rolled over that money to a small student loan with the highest interest rate. Once that student loan was paid, we rolled that monthly payment to the other student loans. My student loans had a larger balance than my car loan, however the student loans had an interest rate whereas the car loan didn’t. Because of that, we paid off the car loan last.
During this time, we faced temptation to use that money elsewhere, but we adopted Dave Ramsey saying “If you will live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” This helped us make some sacrifices.
- Sold a car. My hubby’s car was completely paid, however it was just sitting in the garage…collecting dust bunnies. We were paying for tags and insurance for a car we weren’t driving for the most part. We decided to sell his car leaving us with one car. We both work full time and have two different schedules so we had to make it work. This definitely helped us work on our communication and praise God it hasn’t been a problem thus far! When we have more kids, we will need a bigger car, but our goal now is to save up for it and pay in cash.
- No big vacations. We didn’t go any big vacations, but we did travel in the US: Chicago, NYC, North Carolina, Virginia Beach, Atlanta, Florida, Texas, etc. We had to remind ourselves that aggressively paying off debt is a temporary feat. So when friends and family would invite us places, we had to remember our goals and that vacations would be so much sweeter later than now with a lot of debt hanging over our heads.
- Got rid of cable. I know sometimes it’s cheaper nowadays to have a bundle vs just internet. I would say shop around for the best deal. There are a lot of things out there. For us, we use Hulu, which is paid for by our job because we joined a fitness program and Netflix.
- Left Verizon and went to Sprint. I guess it depends on what plan you start with and what company. For us, we were paying almost $180 for only 10GB and we both had two unpaid iPhones with Verizon. We used the Sprint cut your bill in half promo and paid off our Verizon debt and left. We like Sprint, however it could be a little better in our area. It isn’t much a difference to pay an additional $100 a month.
- Got rid of iPhone. This sacrifice almost made me cry, sadly. When we went to Sprint, I had to get an Android. I had an iPhone for at least 8 years of my life. I never had an android, but I wanted our bill under $100. Also my husband actually uses his phone for stuff where I just text. I had to ask myself, “Did I need an iPhone or did I want one?” So I sucked it up and got an Android. Man, it was this hard! You would have thought I was selling my dog or something. But our phone bill was under $100. A few months later the Lord blessed us, our job was giving away Fitbits and my husband sold his Fitbit on eBay and use that money to get me an I phone 5S. We ended up paying $60 for my phone vs. $600-800. By that time, I only had the Android for 8 months…but I just wanted the iOS software back and I would have taken an iPhone 3.
- Using our extra money towards debt. All bonus money, tax returns, anything, it all went to debt. Remember this is temporary. Now when we get bonuses and tax returns, we can use it towards our next goal or a vacation.
- Buying vs renting. This may be a personality thing, but we wanted a house instead of a big wedding. Everyone is different, but for us buying a house was financially wiser. As soon as we were married, we were moving into a place we owned instead of rented. Some people may look at that as a sacrifice or it could be just personal desires. The best part is having a house is that it helped us during tax season.
- Credit card usage. I am no expert, but there are good ways to use credit cards. (For smarter reasons refer to David Ramsey) Some people use it to get points with flights, hotel rewards, etc. For us, we have one rewards credit card without an annual fee. We use it to pay all our bills then immediately pay it off to get the rewards and not pay interest. With our credit card, we have the option of having a cash reward. In one year, we got about an extra $1,000 just from paying our bills.
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I hope this helps or encourages you to want to aggressively pay off your debt, treat money like you are a steward of God’s money, and to have a balanced view of money. If you are seeking for further assistance, I would recommend you to check out Dave Ramsey and/or talk to someone with wisdom in the church.