The Money Story
Every family has one. It consists of the missteps and mistakes we take with our finances. What wisdom we follow and what lies we believe. And, finally, the point when we give up on ever getting ahead or we scream, “ENOUGH! This isn’t working!” and start to change everything, no matter how painful. Let me tell you our money story.
On our wedding day, almost 14 years ago, we were two broke individuals that became one broke family. I had a car payment and some long standing credit card balances. She had some credit cards too, plus a student loan. I have no idea how much debt we started out with. It was a lot for us.
Payment by payment we would whittle it down. A windfall would come and we would pay a debt or two off completely. Almost immediately we’d use that freed up money to get a new debt. We’d say yes to some stupid purchase. An “emergency” would strike and we’d whip out a credit card to pay for it. And bad decisions begat bad practices which begat bad habits.
We’d get a new car, with new payments. We’d buy appliances and furniture on store credit (Same As Cash for 12 Months!). We purchased a #@!&ing time-share. We got a home mortgage when we hardly had a down payment saved and were in no position to own a home. And we put every dumb, intangible thing on our credit cards – restaurants, vacations, even gas for the car – creating debt with nothing to show for it. You name a dumb money mistake, we did it.
Well, we never financed a tattoo.
At least there’s that.
We believed debt was okay, as long as we kept paying it off “quickly.” That was crap. The payments sapped the strength of our income. Plus, we never seemed to pay it off quickly enough.
I told myself that if our income just got big enough, all our money concerns would just melt away. Well, we’ve tripled our household income since we’ve gotten married. Believe me, the concerns are still there.
After more than a decade of struggling, I’d finally had it. We had almost nothing to show for all of the work we had put in. Nothing was going to get any better unless we did something. Anything. Actually, everything had to change, and we needed a plan. Fortunately, my wise and beautiful wife already had one picked out, and my church had a bunch of people in the same boat as we were. So, two years ago our family was formally introduced to Dave Ramsey and his Total Money Makeover.
Today, we have no debt except our home mortgage, and we’re paying a little extra on that every month. We’re building an emergency fund to protect us from unforeseen crises. After that, we’ll be able to invest – something I wish we were doing seriously twenty years ago. What a difference a plan makes.
And, no, it has not been easy.
Last year I put off dental work until I had money to pay for it. That wasn’t easy. We had a water leak that destroyed the flooring and baseboards around our laundry room, and we waited six months to have the money in our hands and a plan how to spend it before any repairs began. That wasn’t easy. We’ve had to scale back to one gift on birthdays and one gift each at Christmas. That wasn’t easy, either.
Eating out a couple nights a week is easy. Fun, too. But you can eat for a whole lot less when you cook at home. It takes planning and work to do that, and that’s not fun. Still, if we even consider eating out these days, our first question is where the money will come from. Good decisions beget good habits.
Then there’s the household budget, and there’s nothing easy about that. I’ll address that in another post, though. I don’t want to scare everyone off.
So, what’s your Money Story? What are the lies that your family has been believing? What mistakes have you made? Have you given up? If you have, it’s never too late to scream, “ENOUGH!” and change everything. It won’t be easy (it’ll probably be painful) but it will definitely be worth it.
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