Happy New Year! The perfect time for reflection, goal setting, dreaming, vision casting, purging, check-ups, tune-ups, reality checks, and organizing. I find myself doing a little bit of all of that. A major resolution or goal that comes up yearly is finances. In my goal setting for each year, I have to be mindful of budgeting and finances. I could write a book about money… but for now just a simple blog post.
We must start with the background story. Hi! I’m Pam, and I am a spender. I love to spend. Spend. Spend. Spend. Shopping and traveling to be specific. I love makeup, purses, shoes, clothes, home decor, jewelry, food, and vacations. Don’t judge me; I am being raw here. In the midst of my great love affair for a mall, I went into debt. Blah. It’s normal right? Everyone does it! Then I married the love of my life and we traveled hundreds of miles away from home and careers to start graduate school. One of us spent a whole lot of money on education. We were living on love and racking up the debt. It’s normal right? Everyone does it!
No! It is not normal. Who cares if everyone does it? If everyone jumped off a bridge… I think you know where I am going here. In our lovely American culture we have convinced ourselves that debt is okay and spending more than our income is just a way of life. Gray graduated from dental school in 2010 and we moved back home to North Carolina, full of dreams and expectations. The reality was, we moved our family of three (us + an 8 month old + a dog) into my parent’s house and had no jobs. Amazing graduate degrees and no jobs. I quickly went on staff at my church and moved into a ministry position and Gray took some side jobs until he could land a position as a Dentist. That whole process took us six months. Six months of limited income and bills constantly adding up.
In 2012, our church offered a Financial Peace University course. We knew we needed to sign up. Little by little we began to tackle the baby steps of financial freedom. At the beginning of class we had to write down our total debt load. I wish I remember that number, it was scary! We had car debt, credit card, mortgage, and student loan debt. The debt weighed on us so heavy. For Gray (as our provider) it was a point of anxiety and deep stress. It consumed his thoughts. Month by month we chipped away at our debt. To date, we have no credit card debt and no car payments. We have paid off four student loans. We are on a plan to be completely free of all student loans in ten years.
We know that people assume because of Gray’s career path money just falls off trees. It doesn’t. Together we made a decision to maintain a lifestyle of financial discipline. We are not perfect. Sometimes we overspend. We know our goals and dreams. We desire to leave a financial legacy for our children. We desire to be debt free while here on earth. We desire to travel and see the world. We desire time with our family. We make sacrifices in areas that aren’t important to us. For example, we choose to not have a car payment. We choose to not have cable TV. We choose to invest a portion of our salary into a retirement plan.
Friends, I remember nine years ago paying for childcare and asking my friend to hold my check for a few days before cashing it. I remember not being able to afford Christmas cards. I remember going to the grocery store and my debit card being denied because the money hadn’t cleared the bank. I remember asking for family to help pay our bills because there was no income. I also remember the moment we paid off our credit card. The moment we paid off one, then two, then three student loans. The moment I paid months in advance for preschool tuition. There is victory in financial freedom. There are Godly principles at work when we choose financial freedom over being a slave to debt. In the next few weeks, I will be sharing more specific steps towards financial freedom. Meanwhile, if you desire this in 2019 and years to come be real with yourself. Here’s Step 1: Stop denying where you are financially. Literally pull out all the bills and receipts. Make a commitment to get rid of the excess. Ask God to show you where you need to be a better steward.
*Each Tuesday a new blog is published! Be sure to follow during the month of January 2019 for more financial freedom steps!