I have to admit that I was the hesitant one. Why would I pay money to learn how to manage money? This was the question I asked when confronted by Diana to take part in a work program. Her employer was offering Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University and would subsidize whoever completed it. I can't remember what it cost, but I had to be convinced to take part. Obviously we completed it, but we were the only ones and they gave us our entire payment back! Great investment! I knew how to manage money. I had never been late on a credit card payment, my credit score was good and our debt was within reason. However, this was not living life to its fullest and I now know that. We learned this through his program and I have to say it has been life altering. At the time, we had furniture debt, Best Buy debt, random debt, and three educational debts. Well, one massage school debt, one business school debt and one school loan that was used to fund an engagement ring, honeymoon and trip to Italy (not too unhappy about that one).
I decided to trust my business school graduate bride, for once, and embark on the journey. We saved the $1000 Emergency Fund, as directed in Step 1 of his Baby Steps, and then began on the debt snowball, as directed in Step 2. We developed allocated spending plans that detailed where our money went and we "told" our money where to go. All extra funds attacked debt and we took care of the small ones relatively quickly.
Then we had babies. While things slowed down on the debt payoff front, we always paid more than the minimum and we have done an allocated spending plan every month since 2006 to tell our money where to go. It is now on Microsoft Excel and details where all of our pennies are allocated. We also got on the other side of payments. What does this mean? With Diana's diligence we stopped finding money to pay car insurance and saved up the money to pay it off in full when it was due. What a wonderful feeling because I can still remember the gut dropping feeling of February and August when I realized six months of car insurance was due and no money was set aside for it. This is not an issue anymore. My car insurance is due very soon, the bill is right here in front of me, and the money is in our account waiting to be transferred to AAA.
It took some time and some hiccups. I think our original payoff date was sometime in 2013 when Diana originally amortized it all out for us. We were not perfect. We bought a time share, which is one of the worst things you can do with your money per some list I read a while ago, right up there with playing the lottery and buying a new car. We also moved back to Michigan. A great decision, but one that inevitably cost us almost five figures of lost income and expenses. With the move, we also had to adjust to supporting the family with only one income so that Diana could stay home. We also decided to get going quickly with Dandelion Hills. The smart thing would have been to kill the debt first, but this endeavor had other payoffs: better food, better health, and better life skills, so we began this process too.
We also made some great decisions. In 2007, we sold a compact car for $750 to buy a sedan for $1000. I drove that sedan every day and hauled it from Utah to Michigan to drive it every day here. I sold that sedan in 2013 for . . . you guessed it, $1000. We sold a very beautiful 2001 S-10 crew cab pickup (I miss this truck) to pay off debt and buy another family sedan for $3000. I now drive this vehicle to work every day almost five years later. With the money from the $1000 sedan and some saved money we upgraded to a very nice minivan for the family. Grand total, $2700. Kudos to Diana and Norm for this huge score.
Recommendations. DO THIS NOW! YOU OWE IT TO YOURSELF AND YOUR FAMILY TO GET OUT OF DEBT! You don't need new vehicles or car payments, you do not need half the crap that we buy to "fit in." Sure, the occasional impulse purchase is fine and can be planned into an allocated spending plan. One cannot build wealth and have freedom while someone else is managing their life through debt. It does not require two incomes. At times we have had two, but for the past five years it has been a team effort on one income.
To do it, first agree with your partner to make a change. Then agree whom to follow. You or your partner is not the correct answer here. Follow the wisdom of someone else. I don't care if it is Dave Ramsey or Suze Orman or anybody else who makes money off of common sense ideas. Just agree to follow that plan together. The Clinical Psychologist and the International Business/Massage Therapist are smart enough to know how to budget . . . but we didn't. It took us agreeing to follow Dave's plan to make a difference. That way we could tell each other that "Dave would not agree" or "That is not what Dave says." It stopped being me vs. Diana and became Us vs. Debt by following Dave Ramsey like he was a Himalayan Sherpa - life or death!
We followed the plan as he detailed for about a year. As time went on we hybridized the plan for ourselves. Diana was never okay with saving zero dollars and putting it all to debt. We maximized retirement matches at companies because the match is essentially "free money." We altered the debt snowball to pay off higher interest rate debts first instead of the smaller ones because we felt we could trust ourselves. We found what worked for us with Dave's help and we still, every two weeks, do an allocated spending plan and "spend" every penny of our paycheck. We just spend it on things like food, car insurance and debt . . . well not anymore.
Overall, I have worked a lot on a number of things and I have worked a long time on a few things. Seven and a half years to marry Diana (still a great choice), ten years in college to get a doctorate in clinical psychology (still a good choice because I can make people call me Dr.)
and now 8-9 years to get debt free in all areas outside of our mortgage. This one is very satisfying. While we had recently gotten back on track and targeted December 2014. February 3, 2015 is not too bad.
As mentioned above, Dave Ramsey has a list of baby steps to follow, which is listed here. It sounds simple, but is actually quite complicated to do. Step 1 took us a few months. Step 2 took us 8-9 years. Hopefully Step 3 takes us a few months and then it's on to bigger and better things by focusing on retirement and getting the mortgage to disappear.
If you want help in any way, do not hesitate to contact us on how to get started. Just remember, the path to financial freedom is not by following the path that everyone else is on, it is the path that only a few people are on. It may seem uncertain, it may seem a bit scary or uncomfortable, but it is definitely heading in the "right" direction.