Growing up, I lived in a large home. I didn’t think of it as large at the time, but anyone from Warner Robins could tell you that you had money (or looked like you did) if you lived in The Brantley or Royal Oaks. Four bedrooms, a study, dining room, play room, kitchen that would make any open floor plan buyer jealous, and a backyard big enough to get lost in. My grandparents owned a gas station in town, and while that didn’t really play into my parents financial freedom, it definitely had its perks for me. I went to Disney numerous times, spent Thanksgiving in Destin, and took many flights to visit family in New Hampshire and California.
For me, while I never had to really learn the value of a dollar (other than the fact that it could buy me four gumballs at the gas station) my relationship with money always meant that I saved every dime I was given. I guess it was an instinct. I would have target gift cards stashed in my Limited Too leather purse and admittedly was way to hurt when my brother recently told me he used to take some of my money to buy pencils at the school store a good 20 years ago (UPDATE: I charged him $15 on Venmo... he paid me back)
I think I was eleven, maybe twelve when I first heard who Dave Ramsey was. I remember my parents taking a class at the Methodist church we used to go to and talking about how they were going to cut up all of their credit cards. Emotionally, there was no affect on me and while it may not have been to case for why we moved to a smaller house, I have a feeling it was a little push. Even still, my parents and grandparents provided everything I could dream, including four years of college. The fifth, for my Master’s degree, was on my own.
When our wedding photographer posted that Dave Ramsey was giving away free 14 day trials of his Financial Peace University course, I thought I’d play “adult” and my husband and I could watch it during quarantine. Maybe it had something to do with a recent conversation with my aunt and uncle about our finances, the very near possibility that Alex could lose his job, or perhaps the very blunt “you can’t afford a home right now” meeting with our financial advisor (aka the pastor that officiated our wedding) that drew us to be gazelle intense.
**I have to be honest. I’m hesitant in sharing our story because I cannot simply imagine the turmoil that 2020 put so many families under. Lost businesses, lost jobs. Homelessness. The effect of this pandemic on families close to me does not go without notice. I share my story with the deepest sense of humility in knowing that our experience with finances in the last year is that of the vast minority.
In one of the the most tangible juxtaposition’s of my life, while some people saw 2020 as a year of financial turmoil, we came to embrace it as a year of financial freedom. Not because we suddenly had an influx of money (though the inability to spend every dollar at Chick-Fil-A, REI and Anthropologie as well as a few stimulus checks helped) but because we learned how to be at peace with spending well under our means for a goal we were both determined to achieve.
One or two courses in to Financial Peace University I completely plundered through our finances. I have to say, realizing that you spend $300 a month on trips to Home Goods and REI and over $1,500 on eating out can bring you to your knees. When we got married, my husband and I promised... vowed... to steward our money well. And to the naked eye, we were. We were giving to the church, giving to dear friends serving in missions, and would be happy to cover the cost of a big dinner out with friends. But our wallet was tightening. Student Loans, Credit Cards, a brand new truck. But all those things seemed like “normal” debt. Everyone had it. It’s just what you do. You just have debt. In the words of Cinderella... I began to embrace the idea that I didn’t want our finances to reflect “the world as it was... but as it could be...” Debt free. A foreign state of living.
We sat down and carved out a plan to tackle debt. We tightened our budget, said no to trips with friends (admittedly easier during a Pandemic...) and planned a way to pay off debt by July 2021.
As a Christ follower, I’ve heard the Parable of the Talents a million times. Never before I have I so clearly seen God’s willingness to provide than in this season of paying off Debt. If you know me, you know I’m a numbers person. A math teacher. My spreadsheets don’t lie and the data presented in them undeniably show where God has provided over and above what we planned month after month. Three months earlier than expected, we are debt free. Free from student loans, free from car payments, free from credit card payments.
While my hope and dream is that Alex and I will never embrace debt like we once did, I have to rely on the Lord to willingly provide just as he has in these past 12 months.
Gazelle intensity is scary. But it’s oh, so worth it. S.
“Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” Proverbs 6:4-5