How to Live Debt Free?
How many times have we rolled that question over and over again in our minds wondering if it was at all possible?
I remember when some friends came to us years ago and said they were going to get out of debt… I’m ashamed to say I thought it was the stupidest, most impossible thing I had ever heard. I wrongly assumed they had it easier than us. A better job. More opportunities to make it happen.
Cause that’s what we do with debt. We make excuses for it.
I didn’t believe it was necessary, I didn’t believe it was possible and so… I decided that the idea was stupid and we dug ourselves deeper and deeper into debt.
I’ll tell you what. To get out of debt you have to be so sickened by it. You have to be shamed by it. And you have to want it more than anything else. At least that’s what it took for us to wake up.
Each of us has a story attached to our debt. Some are victims.
Victims of real tragedy. But the truth is that most of us are victims of our own stupid decisions. Our own desire to keep up with the Jones’, our desire to project something about ourselves that isn’t true, our desire to live in a fashion we don’t deserve… you get the picture.
That’s a HUGE problem today don’t you think?
There is a huge variety of income ranges out there and yet we are all running around trying to project that we’re in the same class. And it simply isn’t true.
But it’s soooooo easy in this day of mass produced crap, easy to get cell phone plans, “no income no problem” car loans and more. In this day where three credit card applications show up in your mailbox like love letters from the devil.
Love letters from the devil indeed.
I’ll dial it back before I rant further.
Years ago we found ourselves with the desire to be debt free.
The day we realized we were “sick and tired of being sick and tired” was painful. It was excruciating. And for many of you, it will be the same.
We came to the cold, hard, conclusion that we were one huge car repair or one broken leg away from being totally financially ruined. We realized our desire to get out of debt wasn’t going to going to come without some major life changes and attitude adjustments.
It was a looooonnng, grueling process and probably took us about five-plus years… but here are some strategies we employed…
How to Get Debt Free:
1. We finally wanted it bad enough.
Yep. We were done. Debt is a monkey on your back. It ruins the fun of any good-sized tax return, It haunts any exciting purchases you make, It follows you on every vacation and it rides along in that car you’re still paying for like an uninvited hitchhiker.
2. We finally allowed ourselves to feel the shame.
Paradigm shift. We decided that if being debt free was the right thing to do… then being in debt like we were was just, plain, wrong. Shame isn’t something we invite in this culture. We excuse everything.
3. We submitted to a plan.
For us, that plan was Dave Ramsey. The man you love to hate. We followed his Total Money Makeover. We didn’t do anything fancy. Nothing online. Just his book and a bunch of copies of his budget filled in every month with pencil marks and chicken scratch.
Our paychecks were different every week which made things “fun”… Not. We started to pay cash for everything. I remember saving MONTHS for a new mattress and shopping like a mad woman for the best deal. If you’re not convinced… If you think I’m being proud – I’m sorry. That’s not my intent. Tune into his radio show. Listen. Get converted. Allow your thinking to change.
4. We gave up what we could not afford.
OUCH. Over the course of those five+ years… We sold our beautiful, black, Silverado. We quit drinking COFFEE for a time. I got rid of my cell phone. Hubby kept his corny, outdated flip phone for $30 a month. We cancelled cable (which coordinated with how we were looking to raise our growing family), We cancelled our water delivery service, We shopped at Aldi (a HUGE step for me). I cut out my BELOVED expensive haircuts. We dialed back our travel. Like NO vacations and limiting gas spent even driving around town. I even had to give up family traditions like homemade applesauce. The truth was… I couldn’t afford the apples, I couldn’t afford the ball jars. And when all that and more wasn’t enough we put a for sale sign in the front of our beautiful home and ended up, a little over a year later, practically GIVING it away.
This pain was lessened by finding our little rental farm (and the fact that we wanted to move). It was the Grace of God. But nonetheless, we left our neighbourhood in embarrassment… this process has not been a painless one. Hardly.
5. Hubby did what it took.
Our business had taken a nose dive. So my hubby sucked up his pride and took a job he did not want delivering groceries in Chicago… nights. In his spare time, he took every side painting job he could. He was always busy, our stress level went thru the roof and there was still never enough money but the backward momentum began to slowly cease.
6. I dove in to help however I could.
I learned to grow food, I learned to can, I made soap, I had garage sales, I sold whatever I could and I conceded to driving a 97 rust-bucket of a Suburban. With pride. The backward momentum continued to slow down.
7. We got our kids on board.
Yep. We confessed the sin of our mismanagement to our kids. Little as they were. Now, these years later they are total converts. They love to make money, save money, they laugh at car commercials (when they see them) and are thrilled to find a quality, gently used item, fully understanding the concept of depreciation. My little nerds.
So… we’ve been a little over three years with no debt. It was painful. There are still scars. But our heads are above water and we are getting ahead. Finally.
I shake my head when people whine about debt with their iPhone in their hand and their new car in the drive.
In my heart, I wonder if they are really ready for what it takes. (If we’re friends and you’ve got a swanky phone and a new car… I’m not passive-aggressively singling you out! It’s just so common these days it’s a relevant example!) If they are really sick and tired of being sick and tired. If they are really ready “to live like no one else does today so they can live like no one else does tomorrow”.
How are we going forward?
1. We are committed to living without credit cards and driving vehicles we can pay for.
I’m now driving a 2002 beast of a truck, complete with mid-west rust and hubby is driving what we lovingly call his 97 rickshaw.
2. We keep our ear out for opportunities.
Which is how, after many other opportunities we decided together upon my Essential Oil biz. It’s been a total blessing for our family and is how we are saving for our “big farm” which we plan to buy God-willing either late this fall or early next year. We’ll see what He has in store.
3. We still work like fools and try to make the best decisions we can.
I spent a year and a half writing a book (while launching my oil biz), we drive vehicles we hate, we say no to vacations we really, really want to take but know we shouldn’t. Overall, it sometimes kind of sucks. Really. I’m just being honest. Sometimes it’s hard to watch people “living the life”. But that’s just coveting and stupid. We’ve been blessed with a beautiful life and Disney vacations and Paris will be in our future again but they are going to be based on hard work and probably a lot of sacrifices… not off plastic.
4. We try to make wise decisions… even if they are more expensive at first.
Most recently we bought a top of the line water filter (our well water is horrible and we were buying 3 gallons a day). It was terribly expensive but thanks to my oil income we can finally afford to not be penny wise and pound foolish.
5. We are still learning.
We live in an expensive, crazy culture and anytime you try to swim upstream it’s going to take every bit of energy you have. But it’s so worth it. After all the pain, I feel very blessed indeed. And I pray we can pass this baton on to our children and save them from a world of hurt in their lives and marriages.
Are you ready?
Can you be in it for the long haul?
I wish you well and pray God’s hand for your success.