Sunday, November 16, 2014

My year with Jesus, Mike and Dave....

What a difference one year makes!
One year ago, I received a summons in the mail stating I was being sued for not paying a credit card.  The credit card was for $2,300 and I had no excuse for not paying it, other than I just didn't.  The letter stated that I was being taken to court, and that the creditor was going to put a lien on my house until the bill was paid.  I wasn't sure what a lien was exactly, but I knew it wasn't good.  I immediately called the credit card company, like all good girls in collections do, begged them to work out some type of payment plan with me, and then I asked the guy from the collections department what a lien was and he explained:  "With your credit card debt so high, it's just a way for us to insure that when you file bankruptcy and loose your house, we will still get our money."  
The way this guy used the word "when" in that sentence scared the shit out of me.

All weekend I fretted about the fact I was being sued, and it suddenly it hit me that I was in deep trouble.  I had over 10 credit cards, all with balances on them, most of them maxed out, to the tune of having over $30,000 in credit card debt.  I wasn't making my monthly payments because I couldn't keep track of what was due and when, so I just gave up.  (I know at this point many of you are saying: "Who does that?!  And for you people, the answer is me.  But for those people who are in the same situation, and I know you are reading this because you write me all the time, just keep reading...)  I had hit rock bottom, and I wanted out.  I was tired of being stressed, but I had nowhere to turn.  For whatever reason, I dragged my sorry, pathetic, non-bill paying self into church that Sunday and there I sat not really paying a bit of attention to what the pastor was preaching until I heard him say these words:  "The debtor is always a slave to the lender."  Suddenly my ears perked up like a dog's ears in response to a potato chip bag being opened in the next room, and time stood still.  It was as if that pastor was talking directly to me.  Everything around me blacked out, and I was honed in on every word that man said.  I decided it was a sign.  What is the probability I would get sued Friday, realize I was in deep trouble Saturday, AND show up to church on Sunday (For the first time in forever..) and the topic would be about getting out of debt?!  When you are drowning and God sends you a lifeboat, you GET ON THE LIFEBOAT.  I have re-watched that series of sermons more times than I can count this year, and I didn't just get on the boat, I jumped on with a reckless abandon!

Where we started....  Whew!
Two days after this sermon, I would join a 2 week class offered by the church that helped people figure out their "debt free" date.  My debt free date for my credit cards was something like 2021.  (Gulp...)  There was NO way I was paying off these cards and being this stressed out for the next 7 years.  I took a deep breath, nodded to my ADD, and dug in with "a gazelle like intensity".  (Please note:  The easiest way to make me do something is to tell me I can't.)  From the moment I was committed to paying off $20,000 in debt in 2014.  I immediately went home.  I listed all my unsecured debt on that white board in the picture above, called a family meeting and made a SERIOUS commitment to change our household.

The changes weren't always exciting... But we did it!  
1)  This period of time would fall 2 weeks before my daughter's birthday.  I was determined to stay on track, and made it very clear that where in the past I was a "Disneyland Parent" buying hundreds of dollars in gifts, this year there would be 3 gifts only.  (Something I need, something to read, and something I want was the gift philosophy...)  And, you know what?!  The fact that my daughter was so grateful for the 3 presents she received was proof that I had raised a brilliant young lady.  If she was shocked she only received three gifts, she never showed it.

 2)  We were 6 weeks away from Christmas when we started this project.  Many people thought we were crazy for starting a new budget right before Christmas, and I will admit I was skeptical, but I am glad we started when we did because we would have been further in debt had we waited until after the holiday.  I think this year was actually my favorite Christmas, because we identified the simpler meaning of the holiday.  We only spent $100.00 on the three of us, purchased gifts for only the children in our family, and put up a Charlie Brown-like tree because you can't stuff too much crap under a small tree!  We still managed to give to our favorite charities and help out those who needed help, but we paid cash and didn't put a dime on our credit cards.

Yes, this is really our Christmas tree for 2013!  It had a Charlie Brown sort of appeal...

3)  I found financial counselors through the church and at their encouragement signed up for Dave Ramsey's Financial Freedom class.  It was here that I learned how to budget, "snowball" my debt, and really contemplate my needs vs. wants.  It was not easy, it hurt terribly, but Dave was no non-sense and his methods WORKED!

4)  We paid cash for EVERYTHING and if we couldn't pay cash for it we said "no".  This often times meant eating at home instead of going out with friends, or wait for it...  Saving our money for what we wanted BEFORE buying it.  GASP!  (Totally not a new concept, but new for us.)

5)  We got sold anything and everything that we could get our hands on.  Books, show clothing from last season that didn't fit, instruments, skis that I purchased for $1,100 and only used once, etc....  We sold so much stuff, I am confident people wondered if we were going to sell our dog next.

6)  We got by with LESS.  We cut back on the heat during the winter, the central air in the summer, we turned off lights, recycled, dropped our cable television and Starbucks, and at the end of this year I have to say we got by with less, but we have gained so much more.

We have managed to pay off $23,474.40 in 2014.  I understand our success is not typical, and we were at an advantage because we had enough money to pay our bills, but I was amazed by what even an extra $200 per month could do to help pay off debt.  (You can get rid of your cable and get a 2nd job to make up that amount of money in a month!)  My advice to people who are wanting to get started is to see what type of programs your church offers, enroll in a Dave Ramsey class if possible (He offers online classes too..), make a budget and get started.  A year from now, you will have wished you started today!  


  1. That's awesome! Good for you!

    Also - brave to share.

  2. Good job--and I love that Charlie Brown tree!