things that helped us get out of debt
2019: The year my husband and I are consumer debt-free!! I’ve been listening to / ignoring Dave Ramsey for almost 8 years now and we truly got serious about paying down debt last August.
Although our story really starts 4 years ago, when I quit my engineering job because I couldn’t stand the thought of leaving a 14 month old and a newborn at home while I went back and built someone else’s dream in a cubicle. So I quit, and did literally everything we could do for me to not go back to work - which included taking a road trip, Airbnbing out our home, cashing out my 401k (don’t do that!!), building an at-home business in my spare moments, and some months, it meant living off credit cards for our missing income. It was t o u g h losing half of our household income, and yet looking back, it’s such a gift that my husband and I were able to create this time for me to stay home with our kids.
Up until recently, when I thought of getting out of debt, I would get this tight feeling in my chest and start panicking, because it required a budget, and creating a budget meant facing reality, and the reality was that there wasn’t enough money to cover all of our expenses.
Or so I thought.
Or I was right, a bit, but somehow putting God first in our finances and being intentional about a goal makes a budget all work out.
A part of me feels foolish for still having had student loans at 33, a part of me feels like I’ll be judged for talking about money, and a part of me feels like shouting to everyone who will listen about the power of intentionality, budgeting, Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace, and putting God first in your finances.
So here I am, sweeping aside those feelings + the haters (you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to learn about getting ahead in life and having a better mindset towards money) and creating this post for you… even if it IS taking me a few writing sessions, feeling the fear and doing it anyways, a hurricane, and a car accident that totaled my car to put it together for you.
It’s true - that God works things together for the good of those who love him. Who else could take a hurricane and a car accident and turn it into a blessing?
If it weren’t for my car accident - we’d still have a car payment. If it weren’t for Hurricane Michael that swept through the Panhandle and damaged our rental home in Lynn Haven, the market there would have never bubbled and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do basically an entire renovation and sell it (etc - it was bad but thankfully not destroyed… Water damage can do a lot though, sigh). Y’all… we’ve been trying to sell that house since we left Lynn Haven in 2012. How amazing is it that in the midst of our most trying financial times, that God was able to use it to bless us?
Romans 8:28 (NIV) “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
This verse is so true. We had a lot work out for our good, even when it felt bad - scratch that - terrible - at the time.
So in Rachel Hollis fashion, here’s what’s helped Patrick and I get out of debt:
Learn the Dave Ramsey baby steps.
Find a local church to take Financial Peace University, or take it online, but taking it in person in a group made such a difference. Using Biblical principles, this class teaches the importance of getting out of debt, how to get out of debt, and what to do when you get out of debt (so if you don’t have debt, take it anyway or at least buy / check out from a library the book).
This might sound counterintuitive. Giving 10% to our local church reminds me that it’s not my money to begin with (note that I’m not perfect here, at all, but every time I mess up, I show up again and give). It keeps my heart Kingdom-centered instead of focused on this world, and starts building a legacy by contributing early on. Also - this is hard for me! In the probably butchered words of Tony Robbins, “if you don’t give a dime on a dollar, you won’t give $1,000 on $10,000 or $10,000 on a million.” ouch. So true.
It’s also crazy awesome to watch how God provides as you start putting him first! And if you have a huge philanthropic dream, starting small helps build those muscles as you start earning more money!
Speak the truth.
Speak the truth - words are so powerful! Philippians 4:19 says “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” and Deuteronomy 28:8 says “God has commanded blessing upon my savings and everything that I attempt to do.”
Friends, I prayed every day the same prayer. I spoke these promises everyday, to the point where I knew that somehow, some way, we would pay off our debt, which would have been about an extra $4000 a month over a year. It was literally impossible, but not for Him.
Make yourself a budget.
Make it on paper, in excel, or in a program. I liked using EveryDollar. This can be free, but I paid for it so it links to your bank account. I ended up liking it better than Mint because you can setup budgets by month and in Mint you can’t, but you can use Mint or just plain old pen and paper to get you started. So EveryDollar is a budgeting tool where you drag and drop your expenses and income into pre-determined categories. Every month since last August, I’ve created a monthly cash flow plan aka budget based on our projected income.
There’s never quite enough when I plan it out. Yet somehow, we always end up making a little extra cash, getting an extra paycheck or overtime, or selling something, and the result being we kept getting closer to our goal of becoming debt free - some months it was just not going further into debt which is a total win somehow paying two mortgages, two electrical bills, two utilities and repairing a home on basically one income.
Get a second job or say yes to the overtime.
Many of my closer friends know that I have struggled with a decision of going back to work or not for some guaranteed income while we’re sorting out our finances, but the thought of going back into a cubicle had me exploring every option BUT that - I believe part of the reason this is happening is to show other millennial mamas out there that there is another way other than the way your parents / society taught you. Sitting at a desk doing unfulfilling work isn’t always the answer. So guess where I ended up 1-2 days a week? At a new brewery in West Palm where I get to meet new people, basically walk for 8 hours, and pay for preschool. Without it, preschool wouldn’t have been an option for our family, and no school wasn’t an option for my sanity. So I got to work.
Reconsider your big expenses or equity.
School and our second mortgage and expenses on our rental home ate up more than a paycheck. Or school and our mortgage ate up more than a paycheck. Or our food bill is astronomical.
Where are your big expenses, and what can you do to reduce them?
We switched preschools to help reduce this cost TWICE. The kids don’t do a ton of extra curricular activities that aren’t free or cheap.
There’s a whole other post about how to spend less on groceries (I couldn’t write it, haven’t figured that out!!).
We sold our rental home to finish paying off our consumer debt and reduce our monthly expenses. In complete transparency - paying off the home paid off the majority of our debt, and paid off the $136k mortgage. On the flip side of that though, I don’t believe I would have ever been prepared for it, if we hadn’t done all the steps above. So if you don’t have something like this rental property, your miracle is waiting. Promise.
And there’s a whole other debate here that has been raging in my head: do we take advantage of our equity in our home to reduce our expenses even further by moving into a less expensive home or area? I’ve been praying that I either gain peace for where we are, or clarity on where to go. And honestly, I’ve been feeling mostly peace, but I wanted to keep this part in here to give you something to think about that could give you a huge jump on reducing or eliminating debt.
It took me years of being exposed to Dave Ramsey teachings before I made a budget and had a conversation with Patrick about it. It took me reading book after book about money. It took me hearing teachings on Sundays about tithing for years before I finally started opening my heart to the way God wants us to handle money.
Now I plague myself with internal debates like, “I should have started this earlier! I should have started this when we were living in Panama City/before we had kids/we shouldn’t have bought a second house/gotten a car loan/insert whatever negative thought here.
And you know what? God keeps nudging me to pay attention to my finances. Pay attention + steward well what we already have. Why would He give us more if we can’t take care of what we already have?
I had a way to abundantly pay for natural healthcare for our family.
There were a few things in our budget that were NOT scratched when I did a spending audit, like CrossFit, grassfed beef, and organic fruits and veggies. One of those things was our natural healthcare - supplements, essential oils, and self care products.
Because I have partnered with a company that plants vision, I knew that becoming debt free and eventually financially free is a more than realistic possibility. I was seeing it everyday, surrounded by people living out their mission of becoming debt free by creating a brand totally in alignment with their purpose, and with doTERRA’s CFO who (again, loosely quoted) said they want to be the company known for getting the most people out of debt - I mean, how amazing is it to feel fully supported?!
How doTERRA made getting all this paid for a reality in these early stages of what felt like survival some weeks - was giving me a weekly paycheck, in addition to a monthly paycheck, that more than covered what we needed in our home. Laundry detergent, shampoo and conditioner, hand soap, body wash, face wash, cleaning products, essential oils, supplements… you name it, and they deliver it to my door. It’s paid for because of the mission I have to create a community of visionaries who desire to do better in their own lives, in their homes, and for their families, simply teaching them what was working for me and my family. You can read more about what that could look like for you here and join me this week for an insta live on this topic over at https://www.instagram.com/annabordner/ Wednesday, July 31st at 8pm.
And while I’m at it, some quick tips on oils I used during this process: diffusing wild orange (the oil of abundance) and clary sage (the oil of vision + clarity). I used whisper on my wrists to stay in the femme flow when I was feeling overly masculine; I have a tendency to stay in my spreadsheets for too long! These oils help bring joy to the everyday, and allow me to provide something important for our family each month.
Now - if you’ve made it this far - congrats! And tell me… did this help you? Do you want more money talk? And one more picture because self-timing with a 4 year old resulted in none of his adorable face!