The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7
After my marriage was over I was left in an apartment I couldn’t afford, massive amounts of maxed out credit card debt in my name, and no savings. None. Zilch. But hey, I had a great credit score. My ex and I were always a single income couple. During our first year he was military and I joined him at his post. The following three years he pursued an ivy league degree with his GI Bill while I worked in non-profit. We recklessly lived outside of our means knowing one day we will be a dual income family and catch up then. We traded/bought/sold multiple cars, traveled, dined, purchased forged art, and always looked good. We had expensive taste but were incredibly foolish. I would like to blame it on our youth. I would like to blame it on my ex. I would like to blame it on our culture. Blame wasn’t going to get me out of this mess.
Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 1 Timothy 6:9-10
After only being back in church a little over a month, a new friend recommended Financial Peace University (FPU). FPU is a nine week course developed by Dave Ramsey: “It teaches God’s ways of handling money… FPU presents biblical, practical steps… to get rid of debt, manage your money, spend and save wisely, and much more!” The course materials were around $100 and I literally paid with crinkled bills and change.
I encourage you to check out the site (daveramsey.com) and I highly recommend the class. There you will find more information and direction. What I’d liked to share is how this was part of my process in building my faith and coming back to God. FPU was a significant part of that path. Ramsey was in debt too and now he blesses others with the lessons God smacked him in the head with. Ramsey does not mess around and I needed concrete advice and hard truths.
Who knew the Bible had the answers… At the risk of being accused of blasphemy, I’m going to liberally substitute a few words from Proverbs 6:1-5. This is how I heard it:
Erica, if you let yourself build debts, if you chose to use credit cards and take out loans, you have been tricked into thinking debt is a normal part of life. *sigh* So do this, Erica, to free yourself, since you have fallen into serious financial debts: GO! – to the point of exhaustion – and give no rest to climbing out of debt!! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. It’s time to get serious! Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler. It’s time to get real and RUN!
So there is was, my life was over. I wasn’t really expecting to have much of a social life anyway. My very best friends were hundreds of miles away, my family even further. The thought of dating made my stomach turn. I didn’t really have choices but I did have hope and wasn’t alone, so to speak.
I surrendered. I got focused. I got disciplined. I chopped up the plastic. I budgeted every single last dollar of every pay check. I sold my wedding rings. I cancelled CrossFit. I cancelled cable AND internet. I lowered my phone plan. I got a library card. When everyone else in class had an accountability partner, I could only pray for guidance. I moved to a cheaper apartment that barely stayed warm in an unsavory part of town. I literally ran for my safety on multiple occasions and would step over burnt spoons and needles when walking my dog. (Truth). This is where I would’ve expected to slump into depression and shrivel up but instead I leaned in on faith.
Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. Proverbs 13:18
Work. Home. Work. Home. Work. Home. Work. Home. Small Group. Work. Home. I treated myself on Saturday. I would walk to the Manchester Public Library to check out a stack of free movies for the week, go buy one cupcake from Queen City Cupcakes, a mocha from Cafe la Reine, and walk home. Sunday you would find me in church. I even managed to work out budgeting in tithings; that’s 10% of my salary off the top. As I became disciplined and sacrificial God started blessing me tremendously. I was being taken care of and He knew just how to do that: Free Theatre tickets to The Producers and A Chorus Line; easily budgeted trips to Newport Polo matches; and my social life flourished thanks to the supports and friendships I found from my Thursday night small group. More blessings and adventures were around the corner. There was also an unfamiliar face in FPU and small group that later I would share coffee with every morning… That’s a later posting.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
I bet you’re a little curious about the numbers… Let me show you.
- February 2014: $72,040.37 (Five Credit Cards, Car Loan, & Student Loan)
- 15 Months Later: $50,651.80 (One Credit Card, Car Loan, & Student Loan)
As of May 2015, I’ve paid off $21,388.57 (29.7%) and I’m down to my last credit card. Next step is going to be selling the car so I can attack Student Loans. I’m still a work in progress. I continue to use budgeting tools like EveryDollar. I now have an accountability partner who encourages and supports me. We prioritize tithing and giving and being prayerful over our finances. One day, I’d love to be able to do a “Debt Free Scream” in the Financial Peace Plaza in Nashville, TN.
God blessed me by putting the right people in my path and using them to speak clearly to me. Friends from church pointed me to FPU. The class leaders and classmates were supportive and encouraging. When I felt cornered, I was shown hope. When I felt lost, I was shown the way. When I felt unloved, my heart was filled.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf…” Hebrews 6:19-20
8/1/15 UPDATE: Today the credit cards are paid off! NO MORE CREDIT CARDS!! *Happy Dance, Happy Dance* Car and student loans… I’m coming for you!
4/15/16 UPDATE: Today I put a check in the mail with a final payment on my car! NO MORE CAR PAYMENT! 60% Debt gone! $43,389.79 of debts paid off! Read about it here: Breaking Financial Chains (New Update)