Last week I posted a video of me cutting up my credit cards on Facebook and the response was surprising. Hubby and I completed Dave Ramsey’s nine-week Financial Peace University program last fall and now we’re laser focused on getting out of debt. Currently, we’re on Dave’s baby step number two out of seven. We were glad to hear shout outs from several friends who already embraced Dave’s way, but a few friends inboxed me questions asking why we were doing such radical things. So in response, I thought I’d blog about it!
Hubby suggested we take the course over a year ago, but I didn’t think we needed any help with our finances. We don’t have any consumer debt, have a savings account nicely funded and own our home. So we’re good, right? Oh boy did I learn how wrong I was. I thought that the more “good” debt you have, like student loans and mortgages, the better. So what changed for me? This summer our church studied stewardship and the series primed my heart to be open to changing my behavior towards money.
In the the second or third class Dave Ramsey talks about how having a good credit score is not the number one financial goal. In fact, he turns credit scores up-side-down and offers a perspective I’d NEVER heard before. He believes that credit scores are not a measure of wealth or prosperity, but just a measure of how well you manage your debt – which means you have to be in debt to have a credit score. Dave claims he does not have a credit score because he has no debt. Can you imagine, he’d probably have a hard time renting an apartment based on his non-existent credit score, meanwhile he could buy the entire apartment complex using cash. Ha!
He goes on to teach that the ultimate goal is to be debt free so you can live and give how you want. That is a motivating vision for me. Imagine what your life would be like if you were debt free? Hubby and I latched on to this vision to remove all debt from our financial picture with what Dave calls “Gazelle Intensity.” This term comes from the fact that gazelles can out run the cheetah, even though the cheetah is faster, but only because the gazelle is running for its life while the cheetah is just trying to catch a snack.
As we looked at our financial snapshot and where our debt was coming from, we kept our focus on eliminating as much as possible in 2014. We started with Dave’s quick list of 29 ways to get out of debt and took several of them to heart. Some of the items we were already doing, such as no cable, borrowing books and movies from the library, and sharing a bank account. However, there were several new behaviors on Dave’s list that we were not incorporating such as budgeting and using the envelope system. Honestly, Hubby and I had never used a budget and tracked our expenses. We started using cash envelopes for the categories that were out of control before taking Financial Peace. For us, food spending was massively out of control, so now we take out cash for food twice a month, and when it’s gone, it’s gone! This has forced me to bring lunch to work and greatly reduce the amount of times and caliber of place where we eat out. Now, I’m not saying we don’t eat out anymore, but now it may be once a week instead of all weekend in addition to a few times during the week.
The big catch for us was #10 on Dave’s list of 29 things – sell the car. The first time we heard this discussed during the class I’m pretty sure we both brushed it off as a universal given that a two parent working household needed two cars. Period. Even if that meant having one or two car payments. Dave’s philosophy is that having a car payment is not the way of life. In fact, he says that while most people think that’s the normal way of thinking, when it comes to money, “normal is broke!”
We took our 2011 7-Seater Hyundai Veracruz to Carmax the next week and sold it on October 15, 2013. We no longer have a car payment and now can take the money we saved including gas, oil changes, tags, tolls and insurance and apply it towards accelerating our student loan payments. The number one question we get is, how can we manage five people’s schedules with just one car. Well, we’ve had to simplify life A LOT. There are a few main reasons why this works for us, and number one is that all three children go to school within walking distance of our home. Even though Hubby works about 32 miles (yes, I’m counting) from my job, we are making the sacrifice to get out of debt. The main reason this works for us is that we are in agreement and are working together. I can’t stress enough how important this has been for us.
At times, it’s a little embarrassing and definitely uncomfortable to whip out the cash envelope or “carpool,” but ultimately the bigger picture remains in focus for us. Having one car has meant that I can’t run errands whenever I want, the kids cannot be in several activities, and we have to actually communicate and plan our schedules each week. At the end of the day, we’re glad that our finances are aligned to the Word and in a few years we’ll be free of student loan debt. Woohoo!