In April 2013, Matt and I made a decision that completely changed our lives. It will also change our future and our children’s lives. You know what it was?
To never charge another item on a credit card. To never even HAVE another credit card. To never finance another item, not even a car, again.
Now, just a little background: Growing up I have always been a saver. My Grandma taught me to always pay myself first. When I lived at home (and clearly before I really knew about the power of interest) I wouldn’t even cash my paychecks. They’d just pile on the table at the top of the stairs, until my mom would say, “If you’re not going to cash these, I’ll take them!”
When Matt and I started dating I didn’t even have a credit card. Honestly, I don’t think I even knew much about them. I also wasn’t a shopper yet, but whatevs. I remember when we were engaged, I was in the bathroom at my mom’s reading Matt’s credit card statement. 1) This makes me feel like a sneaky sneak…I have no idea why I had his statement over at my parents’? and also 2) Whoaaa, do you guys remember reading shampoo bottles and mail in the bathroom before smart phones??! Anyways, I noticed that he was making the minimum payment, which just so happened to be the same as the interest per month. Simple math. My crazy panic set it. The payment would never be gone. So, what would any normal, loving fiancé do? I called off the engagement, naturally… eye roll.
Clearly, we reconciled and got married!
In between that and when we made our huge, life change decision was having two babies, moving to Grandview, living paycheck to paycheck, Matt going to the police academy and starting a new job, and us buying our first home. Phew!
When Matt got hired on at his career job, our mentally was that, wow, we were rich! And compared to what we were making, combined before, it really seemed like we were. We were so excited! We TOTALLY NEEDED a family car now! So, we waltzed right into Denchel Ford and bought ourselves a brand spankin’ new 2010 Ford Escape with free oil changes for a year! And with zero down payment! What a deal, we thought!! The lady helping us fill out paper work was like, “Does $540 sound like it will work for a monthly payment?” And, guess what? It absolutely sounded great, we said! A couple months after that we decided we needed some new furniture. So, to Furniture Row we went, with Brendan and newborn Emmy in tow. We bought a complete living room set and bedroom set! Because if you bought two room groups, you got something like $200 off! Again, another steal! The guy also told me I would need to cancel some sort of insurance if I didn’t want it, but that went in one ear and right out the other. So now, we had a brand-new family car and two new room groups! Fancy! I remember the Furniture Row payments were $100 a month and they were starting to stress me out so I put it on auto pay and never looked at the statement. One day I randomly did open the statement only to find that my balance hadn’t moved in months…like 10 months. Because guess, what, I never cancelled that insurance, which just so happened to be $100 a month as well. So, my payments had been a wash. I thought I was going to puke.
Everything started compounding. My husband having a new job as a police officer, shift work, having a newborn, postpartum depression, and these dang payments just kept coming. I remember very vividly sitting down at the computer to pay bills on payday. I remember we were soooo excited that it was pay day. Well, pay day lasted for like twenty minutes because when I got done paying bills and leaving money for food, we were back at zero, and another two week wait.
Moving along to when we bought our first home. We had managed to save up some money, but still paid minimum payments on everything we owed. Even though we had money set aside in savings, we were saving it for buy STUFF for our new home and doing any remodeling we may need. So, we got ourselves a USDA loan, which handily enough, required a zero-down payment. Fantastic! We had so much fun decorating! We got everything painted, new floors, toilets, décor, and all with cash. Never mind the $150K financing…covering my eyes with my hands emoji.
Matt had started listening to the Dave Ramsey podcast when he would drive around at work. I remember him telling me about it and I kind of just brushed it off. I DO NOT LIKE CHANGE. We kept saying we were going to sit down and talk about finances, but I instantly felt attacked. I liked stuff. A lot. Not super fancy, expensive stuff even, just stuff. And when we finally sat down, there was crying, and arguing, and stopping the conversation, and starting again. I’m not sure why we actually began the journey, but we both committed. I think deep down we both just knew we needed the change. These payments owned us. And the thought was super unsettling.
So, in April 2013, we made a list of everything we owed. I still have the little post it note. We kept it in our junk drawer and crossed things off as we paid them.
We listened to Dave Ramsey whenever we were in the car and sometimes at home. Matt read his books. We followed Dave’s Baby Steps to a T. Do not try to cheat this program!! We didn’t go on trips, we didn’t go out, we had date nights that involved walks around Prosser with strawberry lemonades from McDonalds, we didn’t spend money. We cut every extra out of our budget. For a long time, we shared one car. (THAT FREAKING SUCKED). We sold things. We got on the same page. We talked about money together. We checked in with each other. We sat down and set a budget every two weeks. We never charged another item. Never. Not for the points. Not for the rewards. Never. Nothing. We followed Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step program (GOOGLE IT!!!!) And guess what? We didn’t die!! We lived! And those two years are over! You guys, it’s possible!!
We paid off nearly $34K (started with 40K!) in two years on one income with lotsa babies!!!! WE’RE DEBT FREE!!
And we will live our very best life now. No money fights. No money surprises. No panic when a money emergency comes about. And our kids are learning this, too. We WILL change our family tree.
Money makes everything so complex when really, it’s so basic. Finances are really just simple math. Simple addition and subtraction. How much money do you have? That amount is what you spend. Do you not like that number? Then go make more money.
I’m telling you this because you can live MORE life when you don’t have debt. When you owe no one. The feeling is so freeing and such a strain gone. And bonus, my husband’s whole paycheck is ours to do with as we wish.
There’s so much more I can say (and will later!), but that’s our basic, roundabout money story.
As Dave Ramsey always says: Live like no one else, so later, you can live, and GIVE, like no one else.