In April 2016, I shared a week-long series on how we, after seven years, became debt-free. We paid off our last debt in November of 2015 and many readers wanted to know the details, the plan, and how they could do it as well.
It’s been over two years since we paid off that last bill and a lot has happened. As the new year starts, everyone has goals for their finances, and I thought it would be a good time to revisit that series with updates on what’s happened since then. If you were here for the original series, stick around, I’ve got new stuff to share. If you’re new or never read it, I hope you find this encouraging and helpful.
Also, another reason I’m sharing this series again: 2017 was hard for lots of reasons, many I shared here with you. I wrote honestly about my money worries in this post. But what I learned in the following months was God had prepared us for this moment, this collapse, years before. I often prayed (and still pray) for eyes to see His grace and mercy and faithfulness so I didn’t get consumed by the chaos we were living in.
He answered those prayers daily.
When it came to money, He overwhelmed me with His provision. In October when Chris entered in-patient care, we went down to one paycheck. One paycheck and mounting medical bills. We have insurance, but it didn’t cover the majority of the care Chris required. It wasn’t really optional at this point, so we signed over our lives and said do what you have to. As I sat down to re-calibrate our budget (which I’ll share later), I was scared and overwhelmed.
I witnessed so many miracles in 2017. I don’t have enough time or words to share most of them. But one of them was our finances. As I got rid of non-essential bills (my gym membership, our Audible account, etc.) my paycheck covered every single bill with $100 to spare.
I don’t know how. I don’t know how God took a few fish and loaves of bread and filled us with it. I don’t know how God math works, but I am overwhelmed by it.
The bills didn’t cover things like food or gas, but I told God I’d need some help and I was trusting Him completely. I was trusting Him with my broken, tired heart. I was trusting Him with what little money we had. I was trusting Him to meet every need. I was trusting Him completely.
It felt dangerous and scary.
But when we needed groceries, $100 would show up in an unsigned card in the mail.
But when we needed to fill up the car, gas prices were lower than they’d been all week, and I had just enough in our checking account.
But when we needed dinner, a friend arrived with a meal that lasted for days.
But when we needed Christmas gifts for the girls, people from church showed up unexpectedly with a gift that makes me cry every time I think about it.
It feels weird to say this, but God showed off this Christmas. We serve an extravagant God, and He took care of the Grahams in ways that made me feel unworthy.
I’m not just talking about money–like I said, I can’t even begin to find words yet for what the last month has been for us–but right now, I’m focusing on money because this is a series about, um, money. (Quick word: If you feel like I’m heading toward a lesson on the prosperity gospel a la Joel Osteen, please know I’m not. That is the opposite of where I’m going. God met our needs the past four months, not our wants. Our needs were food, housing, electricity, gas for our car. We stopped eating out, we stopped shopping unless it was an immediate need, we didn’t go many places except the library and to friends’ houses. I no longer paid extra on our mortgage, I stopped all home remodeling plans, I told the girls gymnastics would have to wait. We weren’t getting rich; we were surviving. Also, I’ve written about the prosperity gospel before, and if you’re interested, this is how I feel about it.)
I’m sharing this series again, because I can see where the Holy Spirit’s prompting years ago to get our finances in order led to security for our girls when so much of their world felt out-of-order. I can see how the focus and determination we were given made a tumultuous time a little more bearable. Looking back, I can see God’s hand in this current season because of our obedience when it hurt, when it wasn’t convenient, and when it would have been so much more fun to keep up with the neighbors instead of buckling down to take care of our debt.
That sums up a lot of what following Jesus is: obedience when it hurts to reap benefits later. I got to glimpse some of those benefits recently and it was a great reminder that what we’re called to do isn’t ever easy but it’s always worth it.
With that in mind, here’s some random notes and disclaimers before we get the series started:
-When I say we’re debt-free, I mean all debt except our mortgage. We actually have two houses so we have two mortgages (one is a rental property). The general consensus in the money world is mortgage debt is not a negative thing to have. Sure, we would love to not have mortgage payments due each month, but I’m not really talking about our home loans this week. Those are there, will be for some time, and we’re hoping to pay them off ahead of time, but I don’t really have much to share other than we have some mortgages. (The house we currently live in was purchased in 2017, and the rental property was bought by Chris a month before we started dating. We have renters who cover the mortgage and most of the monthly expenses.)
-Also, I am NOT a money expert. Sometimes I mess up our checking account because I do math wrong while using a calculator. I repeat: WHILE USING A CALCULATOR. So you can email me questions but I’m probably not going to know anything about what you’re talking about. We do have two credit cards: a Kohls card and a Master Card that earns points when we use it. I could argue for and against both of those cards (or any credit card), but that’s how we roll.
-Since paying off our last debt in November 2015, we have had a few financial changes and we’ll discuss those as we proceed.
Okay, let’s talk money. See you tomorrow.
(If you’re interested, here’s the original introduction post to this 2016 series.)