“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” –Mark Twain
The writing prompt in the Be Inspired Journal for this post is the following: What is something that is worth fighting for?
The Short Answer: Becoming debt-free is worth fighting for!
The L-O-N-G Answer:
Maybe you were like me. I was recruited to sign up for a Citibank Visa credit card in college, around 1983. I thought having a credit card was a sign of being a grown-up. Boy, did I use that thing. I didn’t shop so much in college, except for an occasional outfit or hairdo. However, once I was out of college, that card went everywhere. The card paid for dinners, movies, plane tickets, furniture, designer shoes and handbags. I’m not really finished naming everything that I charged on the card; I just decided to stop typing them. When I became a homeowner in 1997, I applied for a new credit card, Discover. That card was used for the same list above and more because I drove an old car. I would pay for home goods and car repairs with the cards. This went on until 2010.
What happened that made me think differently about debt, especially credit card debt? Well, I was planning to get married in 2010 and I thought about how the debt could impact my future with my husband. I didn’t want him to rescue me from the debt I incurred on my own. It was a pride-thing. I was so used to doing everything on my own. I didn’t want to be a burden to him.
Living single meant I had no financial accountability. Honestly, I had read plenty of Christian financial books in my life; I was introduced to Larry Burkett when I joined a church over 20 years ago. Every so often I would think about being debt-free; consequently, I would take a few steps to stop spending or save a few dollars. Eventually, I would go back to my old spending habits.
Once my husband retired from the military, I realized how close I was to retirement. I made an appointment to meet with a financial counselor. After crunching the numbers, I WAS SCARED! The way things looked, I would have to work until I was 90 years old. That was no exaggeration. By 2013, I owned a home I wasn’t living in, those same two credit cards were slowly being paid off, and my school loans . . . (I’m sorry, I just can’t). I lived in a state where teacher salaries were approximately $20,000 less than I was used to making. It made me sick every time I looked at my paycheck. So, I started watching anything financial on television and Youtube.
The one financial influencer that helped me understand the burden of debt was Dave Ramsey. You may be familiar with Dave Ramsey. He believes that “debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as a status symbol of choice.” He hates borrowing money and absolutely despises credit card companies. He reminds his followers this simple spiritual principle: The rich rule over the poor and borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). That did it for me. You may have a different motivation to move towards your goals. However, I find bible verses that address my needs usually get me going. I have tried other debt elimination strategies, but for some reason, Ramsey’s strategies stuck. He calls them the “baby steps” because it will take you some time to pay off debt (https://www.daveramsey.com/baby-steps).
Based on the strategies I learned and used to tackle, here’s what I plan to do for any goal:
- Find the most popular experts who talk about the subjects that matter to me most. I will read books, watch videos, and employ social media.
- Implement suggested strategies with fidelity.
- Implement the strategies for approximately 3 months.
- Put my opinions on pause. If I already knew how to solve my problem, I wouldn’t have sought help.
- After the implementation period was over, assess the results. If the goal was reached, then I will adopt the plan as my own. However, when I didn’t reach certain goals, I’d asked myself several questions to help me figure out what went wrong: Did I cheat during the implementation period; did I get bored; did I feel deprived; was the plan too complicated?
Results, so far:
Since watching and listening to the Dave Ramsey Show and podcasts for about three years, I have paid off the two credit cards and a car loan. What’s left to do? Of course, pay off the dreaded the school loans. I’m fighting this debt with a smaller salary, but the fight is a consistent one. I’ve become quite dogged about it actually. I trust God to bless my plans to be debt-free. His word will not return void.
Burkett, L. (1990). The financial planning workbook. Chicago: Moody Publishers Retrieve from https://www.amazon.com/Financial-Planning-Workbook-Budgeting-Christian/dp/0802425453/ref=sr_1_20?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544731980&sr=1-20&refinements=p_27%3ALarry+Burkett
Ramsey. D. (2013). The total money makeover. Nashville: Nelson Books. Retrieve from https://www.amazon.com/Total-Money-Makeover-Classic-Financial-ebook/dp/B00DNBE8P6