Hey blog readers!
Clearly I haven't been blogging once a week, so there goes that New Year's resolution, but we all do the best we can, right?
The good news is I've been rocking out my other two resolutions! I'm planning on posting an update on going sugar free next week, but my amazing husband and I have been paying off debt like it's our job. I couldn't be more proud.
For those of you who are just joining the party, I went to a wonderful university for my undergraduate degree and I really loved every minute of it. However, it is a private Christian school and while I learned to really engage and transform the world (mission statement) I also left with a hefty chunk of debt. Full disclosure: I was very blessed and had more then 75% of my tuition covered in scholarships and I was an RA, so I didn't pay for room for two years. Still, I got a degree in English and while I love my current job and feel so blessed to have a salary, it's not like I'm making enough to take those trips to Paris I'd like to be taking bi-weekly.
SO, JL and I set the goal of being DEBT FREE by Christmas of 2013. Dave Ramsey always says, "Live like no one else so that later you can live like no one else" and that's exactly what we're doing.
Before we got married we attended classes for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University through our church to prepare ourselves for our financial future together. Let me tell you in all seriousness that this was by far the most helpful part of premarital counseling. We maybe don't take Ramsey's money advice as gospel (i.e. I'm in grad school while paying off debt, but we're paying cash for grad school so I'm not too worried), but we're doing really well on his common-sense plan.
While some financial advice can be much more complex and confusing, Ramsey suggests baby steps to begin the path to financial success.
1. Have a $1000 Emergency Fund
2. Aggressively pay off dept
3. Three to Six Months Expenses in Savings
4. Investing 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement
5. College funds for children
6. Pay off home early
7. Build wealth and give!
(For more detail, click here)
To us, this makes so much sense and it has been so encouraging to see how the scientifically proven debt snowball method (step #2) has been working so well for us!
However, as exciting as it is to see those numbers on the Sallie Mae page drop (to the point where we don't pay interest anymore! Yay!) For us, the benefits of doing the Dave Ramsey system have been so much more than financial in three very significant ways:
1. We're less consumer-focused and more producer-focused
Rather than buying, buying, buying constantly to feel fulfilled, both JL and I have found joy, together and separately, in becoming producers. Whether this be growing our own vegetables (starting this spring), creating music or writing, or recycling/upcycling the things we have we've been able to become more self sustainable without having to spend a lot of money. Do we still shop and eat out? YES! But we're not losing ourselves in our purchases either. Life has become so much less about what we can get and so much more about what we can create and give to others.
2. Our priorities are OUR priorities
We don't fight about money because we don't stress about it. Granted, I realize we've been married for a whopping five months, but our finances haven't been a point of tension once; which I think is impressive given our tight budget. We love the fact that we know our perimeters and we're that our financial future is not dictated by peer pressure or impulse purchases.
ONCE a month we sit down and make a budget (using Gazelle software) and separate out our money into envelopes. I understand why some people might not like this system, but I think it is SO much easier than doing a spreadsheet and doing guess work. We love being able to set our priorities, like tithing, saving for a one-year anniversary trip, or even saving for Christmas, so that we don't have to stress out about unplanned bills or other unwanted expenditures.
3. Our marriage is about us, not what we can afford
Living on a budget that we decide on together, we have the opportunity to constantly improve our communication and listening skills by making sacrifices/choices together so that neither of us feels treated unfairly. JL and I are continually becoming better sharers in our items and time by having less. For example, right now I don't have a car and we share his vehicle.
While I realize that this is just not practical for everyone, it really hasn't been that much of an inconvenience and we cherish the time we have when I drive him to work (most days). Between our jobs and school we're both so busy that we love that time to just be together without distraction. Furthermore, sometimes we have to be thrifty on our dates, but we've come to enjoy that our dates are all about our time together and not what we can afford to do, thus putting the emphasis on quality time.
It has been so encouraging to see other friends and family members start to take charge of their financial future--not to become wealth obsessed, but to avoid being ruled by their finances. It takes sacrifice, but while it isn't always easy, it is already proving to be worth it!