I had the pleasure of sharing my recent financial journey with my MOPS group this morning. I've mentioned Dave Ramsey in a previous post and the title to this blog is a play on the title to his book that inspired my financial overhaul.
The Total Money Makeover is one of his books that encourages people to change the way they think about money and debt. The hubs and I had tried to keep credit card balances low and had already done a little debt reduction - paid off my car a furniture loan with tax return in 2011 - but we were stuck financially between a rock and a hard place, or more precisely and mortgage and a rent payment.
We had listed our house for sale in August and moved to Grand Forks in September of 2011. We would be able to swing both payments for a short period of time and thankfully we had an accepted offer shortly after relocating. However as things go, the buyers' pushed back the closing a few times before eventually backing out altogether, and we were left at square one still juggling both payments.
Throughout our marrige we have strived to keep our financial integrity intact by making payments on time and not stretching ourselves too thin. With little left in savings and a dark cloud of financial doom hovering over our heads we needed to come up with a way to increase our income. After much prayer and consideration, I returned back to the workforce as a server at the Olive Garden that was opening up in town. It was hard for me to do this as I adore my kids and hate being away from them, but the necessity was there and they would be with their dad when I was at work, so that helped to calm my nerves.
With the income I earned, we were able to keep current on both payments and eventually sold our house in May 2012. I read The Total Money Makeover that spring and was anxiously waiting to finally close on our house so that we could start the plan. The day we sold the house finally came and I was thrilled to finally close this annoying, drawn out chapter of our lives. Waiting so long actually made it more satisfying and it felt like God began blessing us for honoring our financial obligations.
To our happy surprise the amount we were required to bring to closing - yes, we had to pay to sell our house - was actually $1000 less than we had been originally quoted. Then we went to pay our final heating bill and they said that we had overpaid on our budget billing plan so they gave us a check for $158. A couple of weeks later I received a check in the mail for overpayment on our escrow fund in the amount of $400. A week after that we received a refund from our insurance company for over $750.
I am a budget freak. I get a sick pleasure out of creating Excel spreadsheets to map our finances, so I had mapped out every penny that would come in and go out. But I had not accounted for these payments to us and it jump started our Debt Snowball.
The Debt Snowball is part of Dave's 7-step process to achieve financial health and Step 1 was to create an untouchable emergency fund of $1000. I was expecting that step to take a couple months and it was covered solely by the change in closing fees. Step 2 is to pay off existing debt. This was going to be a much longer process, but with $1300 (checks from electric, escrow and insurance) we were pumped to get started.
Fast forward to the current time and we have eliminated all debt, except for my husband's student loans. In less than 7 months we were able to pay over $23,000! It's amazing how easy it is to go without the frills when you see the balances going down! We do not have an impressive household income by most people's standards, but hard work and sheer determination helped us accomplish more than we had planned to! We still have a long way to go and are creating our own version of Dave's plan (I'm sure he wouldn't approve!), but we have gleaned some very important financial insights from what we've learned so far.
1. STOP using debt (credit cards, loans, etc)
2. Pay off your debt - once it's gone, it is GONE
3. Think before you spend... You can spend money, you just have to have it first!
4. Budgeting, forecasting and planning help you identify and realize your goals, and make the sacrifices you make totally worth it!!