I have been wanting to share more about our debt-free journey for a long time. I was hesitant to write about it because I never wanted anyone reading the post to think that I was bragging. Our journey to becoming debt-free was full of hard work, tears, and a ton of sacrifice. Becoming a debt-free family and going against the norm was tough; but so worth it.
I want to lay out what it means to be a debt-free family. A little backstory first: Mason came home about a year after we got married and said that he wanted me to read this book called, "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. Back then I was unmotivated and uninterested in goals or getting ahead financially (a blog post on this later). I was very skeptical and told him I probably wouldn't read the book but that he could go ahead and tell me what it was about. He talked about Dave Ramsey and how he had these things called "Baby Steps". Here are the baby steps:
1. Save $1000 for a starter emergency fund
2. Pay off all debt (except the house) using the debt snowball
3. Save 3-6 months of expenses in a fully funded emergency fund
4. Invest 15% of your household income into retirement
5. Save for your children's college fund
6. Pay off your home early
7. Build wealth and give
Here is a link to detailed info on all the steps: https://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps
As I mentioned before, I was skeptical and didn't really think it would work. I told Mason I would go along with him and see what happened. At that time we only had one car payment which was our only debt. We owed $27,000 on a Jeep Patriot (that we will keep until it blows up) and we rented so we didn't have a house payment at that point. Mason and I didn't have any student loans (which I am so grateful for). So here we were with a large car debt and a newborn baby deciding that needed and had to change our lifestyle. We both came to the realization that we did not want to "Keep up with the Joneses" or buy things we couldn't afford. No longer would we live paycheck to paycheck like a large percentage of America. Did you know that according to Career Builder, "75% of all employees feel as if they are living paycheck to paycheck." Full detailed article here.
We were tired of that and wanted to leave a legacy for our family and never have to worry about not having enough money to cover expenses.
So began our adventure towards debt-freedom.
From that day forward we said, "NO" to all extra spending and only used what money we budgeted for the basics. We paid the bills, got groceries, and did not spend a lot of extra money for an entire year. We were determined to pay off our car and become a debt free family before our second wedding anniversary. A whole entire year passed and we paid the final payment on the car in the spring of 2017. It was a very exciting time for us as we were 21 and 22, newly married, and toting around a one-year old baby girl.
That year of simplicity taught me so much about self-control, gratitude, and selfishness. I realized in that time that I was so obsessed with "stuff". Shiny new things to sit on the shelf and gather dust. We justify this spending and wanting of new things by telling ourselves that we need it or it will make us happy. That year of paying off debt really showed me how selfish and prideful I was. I love being debt free but the lessons it taught me mean the most to me. Even though it was tough, I look back and have happy memories from that time because we were together. We had each other, food to eat, clothes and shoes to wear, and a warm home. We never went without anything that we needed yet we realized that we were okay because things don't make you happy. Our long-term goal in the big picture is to be able to give beyond what we can now to help others in need. I want to live and give generously as Dave talks about on his show and in his books.
*Now don't read into this wrong, when you can budget for fun and a new item; do it! I believe that once you're debt free and you can budget for extra "things" that is perfectly fine. However, buying the latest and greatest "thing" just because everyone else is buying it isn't our style. Dave Ramsey always says, "Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses. The Joneses are broke!"
I believe God calls us to be good stewards of our money. That is why we do what we do with our finances. We want to sacrifice now so that we can leave a great financial and spiritual legacy for our family. It is like this quote I came across on Facebook that said, "Instead of eating at Chipotle everyday, I want to eat Mexican food in Mexico! (Unknown)" We aren't interested in only thinking about tomorrow. We want to retire early and be able to have complete time freedom.
I believe that we should prepare for the future and should sow good financial decisions now to reap the benefits later.
In essence, here is what being a part of the debt-free community means in bullet-points:
-We don't finance anything (with the exception of our home).
-We don't use credit cards (only cash and debit cards which are cash cards basically).
-We cash flow large purchases such as new flooring, couches, vacations, etc. This means we save for projects and big purchases until we can pay cash for them.
-We only use Emergency Fund Money for true emergencies that we can't immediately cash flow. (These are the big emergencies such as medical bills, car blows up, etc.)
-We stick to our budget each month.
-We save extra money at the end of the month for savings and/or projects we are currently working on.
-We tell our money where it goes and don't live paycheck to paycheck anymore.
-We put money into retirement every month
We just finished baby step number 3 and are working on step 4! Step 3 was honestly harder than paying off our car debt. However, you can do it too! You don't have to believe the lie that the "American dream is dead" or "You can't get ahead". It is all lies, my friend!
We have big financial goals we fully intend on reaching this year God-willing and the creek don't rise (my Southern is coming out)!
We are currently working on Baby Steps 4 & 5.
You can do it, friend! Go check out Dave Ramsey's website and feel free to ask me any questions you may have.
Go get it, friend!