In an era of Facebook groups, podcasts, and mom blogs, we share pretty much everything. Families today are dying to reveal what has worked for them. How often do you pump your boobs? When does your kid poop? I feel ease and comfort with questions like this. Quite honestly I get a bit of an euphoric high at the opportunity to share anything about my kid’s poop schedule. Being a parent makes you want to vomit advice about anything and everything. We are comfortable covering just about any topic. Except for one.
We don’t dare ask each other how much money we make, what we do with our money, how much of it we save and how much of it we blow. The nitty gritty details of a family’s finances is an extremely personal and private topic. We are more comfortable talking about poop than our money. And since we don’t talk a whole lot about it, we often find ourselves wondering if we even know what we are doing with it. How much should we be saving? Are we over spending? Is paycheck to paycheck a normal, forever way of life?
And how are we doing with money? Let’s just say the average American needs a suppository.
According to the Federal Reserve the average American household owes $137,063 in total debt.
According to USA TODAY the average American owes approximately $30,000 in car loans alone.
Debt is widely accepted as a very normal part of the American life. We must have a car loan and a mortgage. Hopefully by the grace of God we can pay off those student loans sometime before our own children start applying to college. Until recently I had accepted that debt was a way of life and I intended to stay in it. A few manageable payments a month is nothing different than what the family next door is doing.
Until I realized that there is a whole community of people out there who are living completely debt free. They get paid and don’t immediately start passing out their money to the companies and people they owe. Their money is their money every single pay day. Instead of paying for the past, their money is working for them and their future. My husband and I made the decision that we wanted this more than we wanted monthly payments.
We got to work and so far we have gained these two things; peace and more money.
Here’s how we are doing it.
We Got Unified: The first thing my husband and I had to do was get on the same page about money. There is no, “he takes care of this” or “she takes care of that”. There is no dark cloak covering bills or debts. We take care of all of it and we do it together, every single month. We know what we have, what we don’t have, what we owe and what is left over. Being on the same page takes a constant amount of effort but the bonus we have gained: We do not fight about money.
We know our number: Currently 80% of American’s are in some kind of debt. But what percentage of those Americans know exactly to the penny how much they owe? If we were going to make a plan to become debt free, we had to face the music. I poured a glass of wine, he opened the computer, and we started adding. By the end of it, we had our number. Once we knew what it was, the only thing left to do was make it smaller.
Budget Meetings: Date nights for us look a little different these days. We have made monthly, sometimes weekly, budget meetings a huge part of our process. We each get paid once a month and on that day we sit down and go through every detail together. It’s not as romantic as dinner and movie (and it takes so much more effort) but let me promise you this; being this intentional together with your money, will bring you closer in a whole new way. There is a peace that comes when you have common financial knowledge and plans with the person you do life with. This isn’t always easy and we are certainly not perfect. But every time we do it, it gets easier. And the progress we see over time makes the work worth it.
Cash for Groceries: Consistently food is where we have always spent the most money. Taking out an allocated amount of cash every month for groceries has saved us thousands of dollars. I won’t allow myself to even bring the debit card into the store with me, only that week’s cash. There is something emotional for me about handing over real cash instead of swiping a card.
We Got Educated: Dave Ramsey’s baby steps work for us. We took his Financial Peace class, listened to his audio books, and put his common sense into practice. There is a lot of information out there and this is a resource that started working very quickly for us. His daughter, Rachel Cruze, has also helped me learn how to live in a budget while being a working mom who can wear new clothes and eat healthy half the time. She has great advice on how being frugal does not have to suck.
Debt Snowball: The debt snowball is the most motivating part of this journey. Our debts are listed from smallest to largest and we started by paying off the smallest, no matter the interest rate. Little victories at beginning of this road just feel good and it has kept us moving.
Debt Free Charts: Visuals have helped us watch progress. Debt Free Charts is a website that creates easy pintable progress charts for each type of debt. There is something about keeping the current debt chart on the fridge and coloring in the lines that help us stay focused and motivated.
The Debt Free Community: There is a #debtfreecommunity on Instagram filled with people who are incredibly open and honest about their money. They cheer each other on, give new ideas on side hustles, and will make you want to create spreadsheets to analyze your money. The community’s creator, Amanda from Debtfreeinsunnyca, just made her last ever payment to debt a few weeks ago. In 43 months she paid off $133,763. I love this girl, she’s a huge inspiration and hundreds of people tuned in just to watch her make her last debt payment. She became 100% debt free in July and all her hard work is right there on her Instagram feed to help and motivate others.
Contentment: What I didn’t realize when we decided to work towards debt freedom, is how becoming financially focused would change us as a married couple and family. It’s forced us to really look at ourselves and the choices we make. How we handle money will inevitably be gleaned by our children and we wanted to change what we were proposing. Working away from debt has allowed us to see clearly what we have, instead of what we think we need. Our house has less stuff in it. The air is a little easier to breath. We’ve learned to find a level of happy that comes from a much simpler place. Contentment is priceless and we got it by buying less stuff.
It is not perfect but every month the muddied waters of finance become less complicated and less stressful. Money comes in, we tell it where to go, and slowly debt freedom seems like a realistic goal. At first all the work was difficult. It took a lot of time and sacrifice. But the more we work at this, the more is becomes just like the poop parents keep talking about; a very normal, regular part of our lives.