Digging out of debt
This is the story of how my wife Jenna and I got out of debt.
In 2008, Jenna had finished getting her master’s degree, and her student loans totaled over $60,000. Our credit card debt had climbed to well over $30,000, and we had two car loans and a mortgage.
Not only did Jenna and I feel trapped by our debt, but it seemed like our money went missing every month after we paid the bills. We were making very good salaries. It didn’t make sense to me why we didn’t know where our money was going.
After reading Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover in early 2010, we decided together to start a budget and start tackling our debt. Our first step was to drastically reduce how often we went shopping and went out to eat. We agreed on a budget for groceries, gas, clothing, entertainment and other items. We started a “debt snowball”, which means paying off the smallest debt first, and then using the money that you were paying on that debt on to the next largest debt, and so on until all your debt is eliminated.
One year later, Jenna and I discovered that simply setting a budget wasn’t making a significant difference in paying off our debt. When we first read Dave Ramsey’s book, we figured we didn’t really need to make major changes in our spending. We thought we knew better than everyone else. But we were wrong.
So we started using a cash envelope system which was outlined in the book. We paid for everything in cash, so that every dollar was accounted for.
It took discipline for Jenna and I to say no to going out to eat with friends and co-workers. We knew it was going to take a number of years of sacrifice to eliminate our debt. What motivated us was seeing each item of debt crossed off our list. Our debt snowball kept growing and we got to the point where we were paying over $2000 a month on a single item of debt, which was way over the minimum payment.
On New's Years in 2012, Jenna told me that she was pregnant. A few days later we prayed that God would help us find jobs that would allow us to spend more time together, because we both were working long hours and felt very stressed at our current jobs. The very next day, I saw a job posting online for The Chapel that fit my qualifications. We praised God that we had paid off a huge portion of our debt, and could afford to take jobs with less hours. The timing was perfect, and we knew it was God’s doing.
It took 4 1/2 years for us to pay off our debt of $132,000 that we started with, not including our mortgage. Throughout the entire process of paying off our debt, we were still able to give to church, other ministries and charities.
Jenna and I carry a new found understanding of what it means to be good stewards. We are confident that everyone can accomplish paying off their debt. We believe it’s important to be good stewards of our resources, because you can point others to Christ by setting an example in the way you spend your money.
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