faith, family, lifestyle, parenting

So you want to be debt free?

We were slaves alright. Slaves to the master of our generation. Student loans. If you’re already groaning and fussing under your breath, I get it. However, there is hope. So let me share with you the path to freedom.

We knew immediately that we didn’t want the stress of that debt looming over our marriage. Both of our families are divorced, and from what we have gathered a lot of it was financial strain. So in an attempt to learn from the past and safe guard our marriage we wanted to pay off the school loans as fast as possible.

Now as a disclaimer this isn’t a quick fix. I will give you some practical tips that we used to pay down the debt, and you can take and leave whatever parts of it you want. This is just what we did and what worked well for our family.

The first thing was we decided together. We got on the same page with each other. In your marriage you two together are a force. This is a good thing when you’re both on a team attacking something TOGETHER. When you sit down with your spouse and make the decision together on what you’re willing to sacrifice you can blow the debt out of the water! However if you aren’t on the same page financially you will have a hard time moving towards your goals of being debt free because you’ll be pulling in different directions.

We’ve faced seasons of this where one of us would rather live in the moment and go on a trip or out to eat, while the is frustrated because the money needed to go to the loan payment or savings. This causes problems, and it’s not fair to the other person in the relationship. Decide what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you’re not willing to sacrifice. Then come to an agreement and create a goal.

One practical thing that helped us to stay on the same page and still does today is to follow Dave Ramsey’s baby steps. Click here to read them. When we were in disagreement about a financial goal or how to move forward we would default back to this as our plan. This helped us to refocus and move forward. It was also a way to help us realize where we may not have been aligning our financial choices in the best ways. Having some common ground will be so helpful along the way.

Now that you two are on the same page. Let’s talk goal setting. Because here’s the thing we didn’t just arrive at our goal of being debt free with no plan. We made a small, attainable goal that we could do every single month. It was non negotiable, and it fell into the brackets of what Colby and I were both willing to sacrifice. Our goal was we would pay $250 to the student loan every single month. We immediately took it off the top like a bill. We didn’t treat it like it was an optional last expense. There were months when we were tempted A LOT. Some months we even caved like around the holidays to use that money to do other things. In hindsight I’m not really upset about it because you’re going to have to find balance along the way between enjoying your life (kids, family etc..) and crushing this goal. I will say though that this did not happen a lot. We were committed to getting rid of the debt and we made the payment faithfully for years.

Speaking of the kids. Colby and I were not willing to sacrifice starting a family to reach this financial goal. We knew that God could and would bless our goals to become debt free even as we grew our family. If you’re thinking that you can’t pay off debt because you have kids that’s not true. And neither is it true that at you have to wait to start your family until you’re in a perfect financial situation. You can honor both priorities, and it leaves a lot of room for God to show up along the way with His blessings.

This leads me to my next tip. If you have kids and live in the US every year you receive extra money at tax time for them. We used our tax returns every year for the first four years to pay large lump sums to the debt. This helped us pay off the debt at an exponential rate. If it weren’t for those large returns we would probably still be paying it off. Now this year, year five, we will get to have our entire tax return to work towards our next goal because we don’t owe anybody anything. YAY!

Colby and I also took on a lot of extra jobs along the way. He would do small remodels for friends after his day job. I found a company that i could work for online. There are so many things you can do to earn some extra cash to pay toward the loan. God was gracious to provide those opportunities along the way, and people blessed us all the time.

The thing is the Bible says we are slaves to the lender. So Colby and I knew it was honoring to the Lord to work hard and diligently to pay off the debt. I truly believe and witnessed God bless us for the sacrifice and hard work along the way. He even would drop little blessings in our mailbox from His people often. So while the number may initially seem insurmountable, don’t forget that God is good at moving mountains when we seek to honor Him with our finances.

So to recap. Step one is to decide and use a financial guideline (Dave Ramsey or Crown ministries) to keep you both on the same page. Second, is to set a goal that you and your spouse agree on that doesn’t sacrifice your priorities such as starting a family. Next is to use any large tax refunds to slay your debt. Finally, work hard and watch the Lord bless you miraculously as you choose to honor Him with your finances.

It took Colby and I four and a half years to pay off a cumulative of about 42,000 in debt. We did this on one income while we grew our family of two to a family of five. We worked really hard and stuck to our minimum goal of $250 a month while snowballing the rest with any extra lump sums from tax returns or extra jobs that Colby and I did during the year. It was hard and a really long process. We got weary and lost heart along the way. BUT GOD was faithful and showed up in the gaps we couldn’t always fill. We learned to trust Him and live sacrificially, which still helps us today!

Choose to work hard and honor Him with your finances, and you can and will reach your goal of becoming debt free.

Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

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