I mentioned a few weeks ago that the husb and I are working our way through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. For those of you not familiar with Dave, he's a get out of debt, stay out of debt financial guru. He encourages people to be "weird" because "normal" means debt up to your eyeballs and struggling to make ends meet. His motto is "Live like no one else, so that later you can live like no one else." Meaning that, for now, you might drive an older car, eat beans and cornbread, and buy your furniture at yard sales, but by living on a realistic budget and paying with cash instead of credit, you are setting your family up for a secure financial future. Keeping up with the Joneses is out. Keeping current on your bills and plans for the future is definitely in.
In the three months we've been in the program, we've managed to pay off over $2000 in debt (this includes all of our credit cards (which are no longer in my wallet, by the way), a student loan, and a medical bill), establish a $1000 emergency fund, and set aside enough cash to cover the anticipated medical expenses of our second child's upcoming birth (in about 7 more weeks!!).
Just so you know, we're an average American, single-income family. It's not like we've got loads of surplus cash floating around. We have enough to cover our expenses and to allow us to eat out and see a movie from time to time. Learning to be disciplined with our spending has made all of the difference to us financially. Now, before I buy anything I ask myself two important questions: Do I really NEED this item? Can I afford it (aka - is there money in the budget set aside for this)?
Some may think that "budget" is a bad word, but really it has provided so much freedom. Now, I don't have to worry if there's money in the bank to cover a high electric bill, or if we've got anything set aside for an oil change. Living on a budget has brought with it freedom from stress and worry - and accountability for our actions.
But to be honest, I have to give credit where credit is due. God has been more than faithful to provide for our needs. Sure, it's been in little ways here and there, but I wanted to share a few of the "coincidences" that have made a difference in our family in the last couple months.
I'm an independent Pampered Chef Consultant (which I LOVE, by the way). In the last few months I've gone from having two months with no booked shows to all of a sudden having four shows booked in less than six weeks. My last three Pampered Chef parties have enabled me to pay off both my student loan and a medical bill. I'm thankful for that unanticipated extra source of income. Business has gone from a dead halt to booming.
Our local water company offers rebate for water saving devices. My husband and I were needing to replace an older toilet in our home. We essentially got a brand new toilet for free - something we were needing. We also got a rebate on the washing machine we purchased last year - which means we now have an unexpected $300 credit on our water bill.
Just yesterday, a member of our church generously provided us with beef from a cow he slaughtered, enabling us to save money on our grocery bill.
I just found out that through the Pampered Chef I can save 10% on our cell phone bill which equates to around $240 a year.
Through my blog I've been able to earn over $100 in gift cards to cover expenses like diapers and wipes.
Some may overlook those sort of things, but I've learned not to take even the little things for granted. Every dollar we're able to save puts us one step closer to being debt free. They are little blessings, but to me, they are evidences of God's faithfulness. He has blessed our efforts to be good stewards of His resources. I look forward to continuing this process and hope to soon by completely debt free (apart from our home mortgage which is going to take a LOOOOOONG time). It's going to be a long road, at least a year based on our current situation, but it's going to be a good journey.
My prayer is to one day be able to provide for my children to go to college without the burden of debt, to live in a paid-for home, and to be free to use our resources to live and give freely. Is it going to be hard? You betcha. Is it going to be worth it? Absolutely.