A New Family’s Journey Toward Financial Freedom

By Zack | Debt

Jan 05
Mother With Baby

On a brisk October morning in 2016, our first child was born, and his eyes opened for the first time. He provided us with much more than joy – an opportunity to see the world through a new and unique lens.

We woke up.

Living on autopilot, we were asleep at the wheel with our finances. We had more than $65,000 in debt. Our lifestyle was out of control. We lived on more than we made through credit cards, financed vehicles, and a mountain of student loan debt. This was not the life we had envisioned for ourselves, how had things gotten out of hand?

We felt betrayed.

Sam had an Undergraduate Degree in Finance, so we were not sure where we had gone wrong. We followed the suggestions of those in academia and the professional world. Bought into sophisticated tools and methodologies to build wealth. We enacted leverage to extract the most value from our lives today. When we crunched the numbers, our financial future was circling the drain.

We became enlightened.

The birth of our son forced us to change and adapt. It provided us with the perfect opportunity to get a fresh start. We wished to raise our son well, so we researched what the Bible said about raising children. Proverbs 22:6 (NLT) says:

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

That made sense to us, but what followed in verse 7, caught us off guard:

“Just as the rich rule over the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender.”

In my undergraduate coursework, we had not covered these concepts from this perspective. We looked at our mess. We had been following the advice of the world, so it made sense for us to tune into what the Lord says on the topic.

We sought counsel.

In our pursuit to learn more about what God had to say about money, we stumbled onto talk radio host Dave Ramsey. His YouTube channel and curriculum were phenomenal! His program is scripture inspired and would guide us out of debt. Uncle Dave (as we know him at in our household) would help us build multi-generational wealth.

How to Keep 200x300 - A New Family's Journey Toward Financial Freedom

We pinpointed necessary behavioral changes.

We researched Dave Ramsey’s program, and discovered two changes we needed to make:

1.     Get organized.

Before our son was born, we ran our finances off the back of a cocktail napkin (in other words, we did not do ANY planning). To get out of debt and right the ship, we needed to do a budget. We needed to discuss and agree upon the purpose every dollar would play as we fought to become debt-free.

2.     Align our vision of the future.

At the start of our debt free journey, we were making very slow progress. If we only looked at the numbers, we did not have the same visceral angst about the debt. It was just after we could answer: “what will life look like without any debt payments” that we were on the same page. We needed to dream about life after debt.

The struggle was legitimate.

13 months after our son was born, we became debt free. The journey we opted into was not easy. We cut out most of the lavish pieces we had been enjoying so we could demolish our debt even faster. We canceled services, stopped eating out and brewed our morning coffee at home. We used the cash envelope system to assist in controlling our spending. Sam worked three part-time jobs on top of a full-time job and military service to bring in extra income.

So, what can you do? Three practical takeaways.

If you want to improve your financial picture, apply these lessons to your life:

1.     Allow a budget to become your best friend.

“Budget” is not a curse word; it will provide you with the peace of mind because are in control. You get to tell your paycheck where to go instead of wondering where it went. Be a good steward of every dollar you handle.

2.     Be willing to sacrifice; it is worth it.

As Dave Ramsey says,

“Live like no one else now so later you can live and give like no one else.”

Sacrifice for today. Limit your comfort and convenience. Take leftovers to work, drive beater cars, work more than one job – it will be worth it.

3.     Do not be afraid to be weird.

People will criticize you for cutting up credit cards, working your tail off, and getting out of debt. In fact, 78% of U.S. workers live paycheck to paycheck. If broke people are making fun of your financial plan, you are on the right track. Do not let their opinions interfere with you completing your goals.

We ended up with surprising results!

We followed the debt snowball, stuck to a budget, paid cash, lived a frugal lifestyle, and worked many jobs. In 13 months, we paid off more than $65,300 and are debt free!

Getting out of debt was not easy – it is a daily battle, but there is peace in the fact that we no longer owe anyone, anything. Our debt free journey enabled us to be more generous, and it has allowed us to save and live for the future.

This article is by By Samuel & Jessica Epley of Midwest Dollars and Sense. Check out their YouTube for more help and inspiration with personal finance.

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Also published on Medium.