My husband and I have been on the Dave Ramsey plan since we married almost eight years ago. We took the Financial Peace University course through our church. We were engaged at the time. We were excited to get married. We were not too concerned about finances. Love is all that matters, right? But we took the course at the urging of our pastors (one of whom is my dad). Looking back, I cannot imagine where we would be right now had we not been actively working through the steps.
I graduated from a private college, so my debt was considerable. Our first year of marriage, we lived in a small apartment and we both worked. I was working as a teacher and he was making caskets. We didn’t make much, but we managed to live off of his paycheck alone. Every penny I made that year went toward my student loans. We had them more than half paid off by the time we found out we were expecting.
I knew that I wanted to be a stay at home mom. That was the whole reason we were intent upon living off of my husband’s paycheck.
At this time, the housing market was about as low as it was going to get. It was a buyer’s market to be sure. We bought a spacious home for under 100k. It needed a little work, but was definitely livable. It was not the best area of town, but it wasn’t the worst, either.
We moved in and had three children, one right after another. We had to slow down on the amount of money that was going toward my student loan debt each month. But we were still working the Ramsey Steps. We were still paying higher than minimum. We were still living off as little as we could.
My husband was given an opportunity to move from woodworking to car sales. We followed God’s lead, and we were blessed to find ourselves with a little more income. I continued to substitute teach one day per week and continued to put all of that money toward my student loans.
We still shopped Aldi and second hand. We rarely ate out, except for the occasional date night. We were happy. We knew we were working toward financial freedom, and we did not feel that we were missing out.
Around this time, we managed to get my student loans completely paid off. At this point, we had only the house and one of our cars to pay off. We do not recommend getting into a car payment by any means. Ramsey would not be happy with us for doing so. But in our case, it had to do with my husband’s job and the fact that we were given an opportunity for him to drive what he sells for far below fair market value. But that is besides the point. We were ready to pay it off. We had a substantial emergency fund. We had very little debt.
Then, came the bad news. We found out that our children’s lead levels were higher than what they would have liked to see. It was not an immediate emergency, but it was not good either.
We applied for the city lead program. After months and months of waiting, they finally came to do the inspection. A few weeks later, we found out that they rejected our home. It was more expensive than what they were allowed to spend per unit. So we were on our own.
This was a major setback, but because of the Ramsey plan, it was not altogether devastating. We have to get all new windows. Because of the age of our home and the size of the windows, it is particularly expensive. It will use up our entire emergency fund. But you know what? That’s what it is there for. It’s an emergency fund for times like these. And if it hadn’t been for doing the Ramsey plan, we probably wouldn’t have had an emergency fund. This would have been more than a setback. It would have been devastating. We would have had to refinance, take out a huge personal loan, or sell the house at a huge loss.
I hear a lot of people in my generation complaining about not being able to make a living wage. And while I sympathize and understand the frustration that finances bring, I also cannot help but notice that the same people who say they cannot make a living wage are also driving new cars, have the latest smartphone, by new clothes, and go to the coffee house daily. The people claiming they cannot make a living wage are often the same people paying $17 for a kale and egg sandwich and a mocha nearly every morning of the week. Financial stability has a lot more to do with your money choices than your income. You could make six figures and still barely be making ends meet if you insist on having the newest and the best of everything, taking on the highest payments you are approved for, and living in a home you can barely make the mortgage on. There is a better way to live.
Financial stability comes with education and self control, not a bigger paycheck.
I hope our story will encourage you that making smart money choices will be life-changing for you. Even if you run into a major setback like we have, setting yourself up for financial freedom will allow you to live free, not enslaved by your things and your debt. It will allow you to give to the cause of furthering the gospel. It will allow you to bless future generations.
It only takes a few months to form a habit. Once you get used to cooking at home instead of eating out, finding great second-hand deals on clothes, and paying off debts aggressively, you will find that you don’t so much miss your old lifestyle. You will find that those things were never making you happy in the first place. The freedom that comes from working the Ramsey steps is totally worth the self denial it will take to do it.
So let this encourage you that your financial success is, at least somewhat, in your control. You can make smart choices now. You can set yourself up to be financially free.
Why wait? You can’t control what comes at you in life, but you can apply godly principles to your money management.
Ecclesiastes 5:10- Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless.
Romans 13:8- Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.