I’ve mentioned that getting out of debt is hard. You know what else is hard? Staying out of debt. It’s not all downhill and carefree once the debt is gone. We still have to work every week to not make impulsive choices, to trust God, and to stay focused on our budget.
I didn’t expect that. Sometimes I wonder if things really ever do get easier.
But I know, without a doubt, working so hard and paying off all that debt was worth it. Our lives are better, freer, less stressful, and more peaceful because of the journey.
I’ve gotten lots of feedback this week about this series. Much of it has been encouraging and exciting–so many people want to start (or continue) their debt-free mission. Some of the feedback hasn’t been so great–I’ve had people unsubscribe from my emails and felt the grumbles. That’s okay, truth is hard and sometimes it makes us mad. It doesn’t change truth, but, eventually, the truth will change us and I pray you’ll be open to living life honoring God with your finances.
As we worked through our debt-free goals, there were lots of resources that helped us learn, adjust, and grow. For us a budget binder worked well. I’m pretty old school when it comes to paper and pencil and I really like to see things written out. I still use (multiple) paper planners. I do not have a calendar with all my plans on my phone. I like to sit down with some pretty pens and write down my goals, plans, and to-do lists. But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you love a good spreadsheet or money-tracking app. There are a million to choose from–when you want to stick to a budget, find what works best for you and then really use it. Good intentions are great, but not magical. You just have to do the work.
I also read a lot of great, encouraging resources during the years we were focusing on getting rid of debt. I’m still reading anything I can get my hands on because I like to hear how people handle money and steal their good ideas. If that’s your thing, here are some books I’d highly recommend:
Didn’t see that coming, did you? For me, the thing that changed my views on money, helped my attitude, and gave me encouragement was the Good Book. If you can’t get access to any of the other books I suggest, I’m assuming you can read this one. Do it. It’s really all you need.
Too Much: Living with Less in the Land of More by Gary L. Johnson (paperback // e-book)
This book is full of biblical principles you can apply to life today and also practical advice on how to make wise choices as you move forward.
Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After by Cherie Lowe (paperback // e-book)
I’ve shared Lowe’s book before; she gives encouraging and real-life examples of her mess and how they climbed out.
The Financial Peace Planner: A Step-by-Step Guide to Restoring Your Family’s Financial Health by Dave Ramsey (paperback // e-book)
We went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace training before we were married and where the budget binder originated from. Throughout our marriage, we’ve used parts of his advice and it’s smart and accessible. (Um, yes, we were piling up debt as we practiced some of the principles mentioned in this book. MINOR DETAIL.)
We took bits and pieces from the above books and created a plan that fit our family and goals best. We had lots of great advice, listened to Godly counsel even when it hurt, and just stayed faithful to the task. Sometimes it felt like we were just treading water and, other times, I could see the progress so clearly. Sometimes it felt like it was taking millions of years, and, other times, our progress flew by. I haven’t regretted the sacrifices once. I haven’t doubted for a minute what we were doing was right and God was blessing us and keeping us going.
I wish I could end this series by telling you we have millions of dollars in the bank and complete financial security now. But that’s not the case. I’m still learning–even through all of this–that I rely too much on the false sense of safety I get with money. So God and I, we’re still working on that. I’m still tempted to occasionally want things we don’t have the money for and I start scheming about ways I can make it fit in our budget.
Old habits die hard, friends.
But you just keep on practicing what you know is right and just take it one day at a time.
I don’t know if that’s super-helpful, but it’s the truth.
Last thing, I’ve got three copies each of Too Much and Slaying the Debt Dragon I’d love to share. To enter to win a copy of one, all I ask is that you share some part of this series with someone else. Through email, on a Facebook page, text them a link, tweet something–I’ll trust you’ve shared because God’s watching and HE HATES LIARS. So no pressure. If you share something and you’d like to be entered to win a copy of one of the books, just leave a comment saying you shared and your email address. I’ll be emailing winners on Friday, April 22.
What we did isn’t miraculous. It’s just unique because we live in a world that tells us debt and more stuff and instant gratification are the right ways to live. We said we didn’t agree with that and chose a different path. You can do that too, I have no doubt.