Wednesday, February 4, 2009

How Did We Get Here?

How exactly did we end up in debt? Well, quite honestly we made a lot of bad decisions. We were trying to live at a much higher standard than our income allowed for and when our income went down, our spending didn't.

Student Loan: Probably one of the debts I don't regret. I should have taken out less in student loans and tried to pay some of my school expenses out of pocket, but I was just so determined to get out of college quick once I made the decision to go back and finish that I didn't want any obstacles in my way. I was in school for 18 months and it ended up costing about $18,000. The upside to that was that I was able to complete my bachelor's degree through a graduate studies program with Cornerstone University and I love being an alumni of a Christian college.

Credit Card: Where to start? I've had some element of credit card debt since I moved away from home. It started out small, just a Target credit card and a few small things out there. It sure didn't take long for things to escalate though. More bad decisions on our part and now we have taken our lumps and are chipping away at it. The 2 big chunks of debt came from lawyer bills for my brother (which he never paid us for) and for living expenses when Nicholas was born. It sounds so much better to say that we needed to live off the credit card while Matt was home with Nick, but I can own up to the fact that we did charge quite a few "therapy" items like eating out, but there was also a lot of things we charged like groceries and gas that were true necessities. About 2 years ago we consolidated all of the credit cards we had out there into one and it was about $12,000 worth.

Car Loan: When we moved to Wayland from Detroit, we needed another vehicle quickly. My sister was moving with us and she needed a vehicle to get Nathan to and from school and to be able to get around with the kids. So, we rather impulsively bought a brand new Toyota Matrix. Nothing like piling $18,000 onto our shoulders to worry about on top of a sick child, a new job, a new house. Total recipe for disaster. Even better, I unexpectedly got pregnant before Nick's first birthday and we weren't even going to be able to fit all 3 kids into the car. We managed to pull it off for quite some time before we ended up trading the Matrix in for a minivan (more on that later).

Church: Our church was embarking on a very ambitious capital campaign and I was part of the group that went out into the congregation and asked for pledges. Matt and I decided to pledge $2000 over the course of 3 years towards the campaign. Not a regrettable decision, but probably a little more than we should have done considering our finances at the time.

In the spring of 2008 I went on maternity leave when Lauren was born. We saved a considerable amount of cash so that I would be able to take the full 12 weeks off with her allowed with the Family Medical Leave Act. I was excited because I had never had the luxury of actually taking all that time off after a baby, I had always gone back to work at 6wks. I am so glad that I did have that time home with her as I was already struggling with the emotions of having a baby and having to leave her during the day to go to work.

So how did we screw that up? Let's see: We bought a Wii, a lawn tractor, and of course when I am home I find things to buy online....Oy!!

I had been hearing people talk about this Dave Ramsey guy and his debt elimination plan, but I wasn't buying it. PRIDE--My deadly sin. I had it under control, I didn't need some guy telling me that I didn't know what I was doing. DENIAL--it's not just a river in Egypt folks, it's a way of life! But God laid it on my heart that we were not in control of our finances and that we needed to step back and look at things.

Shamefully I admitted that I was not allowing God in my financial life. That was mine, not his. Again, PRIDE had reigned his ugly head and started creeping in. How can I lay my sins at the foot of the cross, pray that God watch over my children, pray that he bless my marriage, but tell him "thanks but no thanks" when it came to money. How greedy was I?

I knew that there needed to be a change and I spoke of it during my women's open share group on Monday evenings at church. Again I heard more about this Dave Ramsey guy, and he was a Christian, so I thought I would give it a shot. It couldn't hurt right? In the spirit of being frugal, I reserved his book at the library and thought I would see what it was all about.

So I go and pick up my borrowed copy of Total Money Makeover and was blown away. He's real, he's got good things to say, and it MAKES SENSE. I was trying to think of creative ways to recruit Matt into the concept when much to my amazement, he just picked up the book and started reading it! He was fired up and on board! I didn't really know what to do next because I was really gearing up for a struggle and a fight on it, I really didn't think it was going to be such an easy sell to him.

So it began.....


Matt W. said...

I'm interested in reading your next post and I already know what happens :)

Jean said...

Thanks for your comment, because now I know you have a blog! ;) I need to borrow that book (from the library) and place in a spot my hubby will pick it up and read it . . .hmmm.

I do appreciate your thoughts as related to my current fertility issues right now too! I'm leaning that way . . .today. :)