“Finances are the number one thing to break up a union” – Jená

Before marriage, we believed in discussing finances with one another.  When we got engaged and I moved to Michigan, we were listening to Dave Ramsey’s podcast on our 12-hour drive.  That podcast really solidified our plan towards debt freedom.  We were in agreement on what the plan should look like.  My husband always said, “our debt is OUR debt.”  He never separated our debt from each other.  He was very serious about us being unified and being debt free.  When we got married, I had close to $40,000 in debt which included consumer debt, student loans, and my car note.  John had $40,000 as well which included student loans, my engagement ring, and credit cards.  So, our grand total of debt was $80,000.  With interest adding on our total & paying the minimum payments, I also had $20,000 of business debt from when I started my business.  With all of that, we had over $100,000 total in debt.

WHAT ARE THE STEPS WE TOOK TO PAY OFF $80,000?

We modified the Dave Ramsey plan to fit our lifestyle.  We saved $1000 in our emergency fund.  From there, we consolidated our credit card debt by getting ONE loan from our credit union.  We took out a $14,000 loan to pay off all of the credit cards.  By doing that, it SIGNIFICANTLY dropped our interest rate on our credit debt.  If you follow Dave Ramsey, he suggests to cut up all of the credit cards.  We did that but didn’t close all of the accounts.  The reason for doing that is so our credit scores would not drop.  There were some pieces of our debt that we used the snowball method on.  The other pieces of debt were tackled by the avalanche method.  Check out the video below to hear more details on each method and our thought process for using both of these methods. 

This journey to paying off $80,000 in debt came with TONS of sacrifice.  We lived in a small apartment, drove our same cars, switched to a minimalist lifestyle, ate on a ‘rice and beans’ lifestyle, and John would work a lot of overtime.  We still do those things minus the heavy overtime and eating so conservatively.  We are BIG foodies, so this was not pleasing to us during our first years of marriage.  Throughout the first years, we would have fewer date nights.  We hated that because we wanted to enjoy great food and have more fun together.  We definitely had to switch things up to make this debt-free journey more feasible for our mental, emotional, spiritual, and relational health.  We had to prioritize our marriage and spiritual relationship with God.  There were too many strains that happened and we wanted to enjoy the journey of becoming debt free. 

 “This is a holistic life. You have to balance your financial health with your mental health and emotional health with your spiritual health.”- John

Meanwhile, this journey has been challenging for me as a wife who wanted to contribute to her marriage.  When I added $20,000 more to our debt & wasn’t making as much money in my business, I was distraught and thought I wasn’t doing my part in my marriage.  I felt like a burden to my husband.  I felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to our marriage.  It was a rough time for me.  However, John thought differently about everything.  He has supported me since day 1 of my business and believed it was a worthwhile investment.  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.  The most critical part of our marriage is being each other’s greatest champion.  He boosts me.  I boost him.  

“When I started to dedicate my days and business to God, I made God the CEO of my business, and things started to change.” – Jená

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.  I am believing that it will happen with joy, no turmoil, and by continuing to work smarter not harder.

THEREFORE,

From Jená:  You have to understand that YOUR journey is YOUR journey.  However, God shows up for you is your story.  You can’t be intimidated or ashamed because your story doesn’t look like another person’s story.  I have two degrees, graduated with honors, and STILL felt like a burden to my husband because I wasn’t making a lot of money. I felt like I wasn’t self-sufficient.  There were other women who talked about making all of this money, and I felt so ashamed.  I had to learn to accept that my story is mine and my husband was my blessing.  I had to get to a point in my life to stop beating myself up about it.  In the Accomplished Woman Course, I talk about finances, and my story paved a way for that section to be created as I wanted to teach women how to make clear, rational financial decisions.  

From John:  I think it is important to get on the same page immediately.  You have to remain humble.  There are tough conversations needed to be discussed with each other.  You have to make sure that you are not condemning your spouse.  You also have to be transparent about your money story.  Your money story is important because it shows your spouse what you think about money.  Communication is key.  Budgeting is key.  As a couple, each person should try to stick to the budget in the best way that is possible.

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.  Lean into God and ask Him to direct your path on this journey.  If you are a Believer, pay your tithes and offerings to your church.  Lastly, do your best to be a blessing to someone else or other organizations.  Celebrate the small victories along the way.  Enjoy the process.  May God give you wisdom throughout your journey!