Before we got marriaged, we talked about money a lot. We desired to be debt-free so we knew we had to come to the table and be honest about how much debt we were both bringing into the marriage and how we viewed money. If you didn’t know John and I have a very untraditional engagment and wedding story. He proposed to me on a Friday and we were married less than 7 days later. When we got engaged I packed up my car and headed to Michigan for us to get married here. On the ride up, we listened to Dave Ramsey’s podcast on our 12-hour drive. That podcast really solidified our plan towards being debt-free. We were in agreement on what the plan should look like.
When we got married, I had close to $40,000 in debt which included several credit card debts, student loans, and my car note. John had about $40,000 as well, which included student loans, my engagement ring, and credit cards. This brought our collective debt to somewhere around $80,000. With interest adding on our total because we were only paying minimum balances AND me adding $16,000+ of business debt, this brought us close to $100,000 total in debt.
WHAT ARE THE STEPS WE TOOK TOWARDS BEING DEBT-FREE?
We modified the Dave Ramsey plan to fit our lifestyle. We started by saving $1000 in our emergency fund. From there, we consolidated our credit card debts by getting ONE loan from our credit union (because they had the best and lowest loan interest rate). We took out a $14,000 loan to pay off all of the credit cards. By doing that, it improved our credit score and gave us peace of mind. Seeing all of your credit cards at $0 and only needing to pay ONE payment each month gave us a little pep in our step. If you follow Dave Ramsey, he suggests to cut up all of the credit cards and close the accounts. We cut them all up but we didn’t close all of the accounts. Closing the cards would have shortened our credit history which would have negatively effected our credit scores.
This journey to paying off $80,000 in debt came with sacrifice. One major thing being we lived WELL below our means. We lived in a cute but affordable apartment, drove our paid off cars, didn’t buy hardly any new clothes, set a resonalble food budget, and John would work overtime. We still do those things minus the heavy overtime and eating so conservatively. One amendment that we made to the Dave method was putting more money towards our food budget so we could have more date nights. John and I are foodies and love dating each other. Living so ridgitly was negatively effecting our marriage! As a result, we switched things up to make this debt-free journey more feasible for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health.
“This is a holistic life. You have to balance your financial health with your mental health, emotional, and spiritual health.”- John
THIS DEBT-FREE JOURNEY HAS BEEN CHALLENGING FOR ME…
One of the biggiest pain point for me in this journey was dealing with the fact that I added a great deal of debt into our marriage while we were working to become debt free. I added $16,000+ of debt & wasn’t making as much money in my business. I was distraught and thought I wasn’t doing my part our marriage.
However, John thought differently about everything. He has supported me since day 1 of my business and believed in the investments I was making. Since he made more money than me, He NEVER approached my “lack of money bags” as a negative thing. He doesn’t regret how much money we spent on starting my business, and I’m forever grateful for that.
Once we started to make more income and spend less, we were able to pay off over $80,000 in over 4 years. By God’s supernatural power, we will be completely debt free by November 2019. We have $17,000 left until we are completely debt free and I am believing that it will happen with joy, no turmoil, and by continuing to work smarter not harder.
UNDERSTAND THAT YOUR JOURNEY IS YOUR JOURNEY…
Don’t be intimidated or ashamed because your story doesn’t look like another person’s. It doesn’t matter how much debt you have. What matters is coming to terms with your debt and spending behaviors so you can ADDRESS it and map out a plan to get from under it! I have learned a LOT from the choices I have made and I work to help other women overcome the shame, limiting beliefs, and heartbreaking investments that I have made. If you are on this journey and need additional support I created a program, Accomplished Woman Course, where I teach women how to make clear, rational financial decisions so they can get there financial houses in order.
Money is not everything. Give yourself grace and allow some flexibility along the way. Money is a tool, and it doesn’t make or break you but when used properly can definitely add freedom to your life. I pray that God gives you wisdom throughout your journey!
Jená Emily Utley is a Holistic Lifestyle Maven and Possibility Trainer. She helps creative, enterprising, and entrepreneurial women achieve what they once thought impossible by attaining a fit mind, body, and understanding of God promises!