During my five years as Chaplain at Simmons, the stress caused by finances and money has constantly been a recurring topic of concern for people. Financial stress not only causes tension in the bank account, but it often directly affects marriages, work performance, and can lead to depression and anxiety as well.
Though I am married to a smokin’-hott accountant, I don’t claim to be a financial adviser by any means. What I have learned about finances has come through learning from others through stressful circumstances, as well as through our own journey. A few years ago, I reached out to a close friend who had gone through financial struggles and came out on the other side debt free. He directed me to Dave Ramsey’s book, Financial Peace. I was curious to know more for my personal life, and hopefully use it to help those who were coming to our Chaplain team for help in the area of finances.
Dave Ramsey has become a household name due to his biblically-based philosophy on finances and how to manage money. He is especially geared towards those who are seeking to be better stewards of their money, how to get out of debt, and how to better manage their money in a way that honors God and sets them up for future success.
Before I was going to recommend his books, budgeting tools, and other resources to others, I wanted to personally use it to see if it made a difference. I’ll be a bit candid with you, my wife and I entered marriage with a considerable amount of debt, mainly student loans. Just to be transparent, our student loan debt after graduation was just over $67,000. We accepted the belief that we would be strapped to this for the next 20 years. We had been good about credit card debt, but it was also on the verge of getting out of control as well.
I went back to Dave’s book, Financial Peace, and began reading about budgeting, using cash envelopes, and the snowball effect in eliminating debt. At the time, it felt as though our lives were subject to our debt. We felt strapped. Our debt owned us. As we began the process, it was painful. Especially the part where we begin to identify where our money had been going. Those little purchases (Starbucks drinks, buying a Dr. Pepper every time I was on the road, grabbing fast-food for lunch throughout the week) - it all added up.
In our budget, we cut back quite a bit. We sacrificed cable, eating out often, and other things that we felt we needed to do without for awhile. It was important to us though, that we still enjoyed life. We created a Date Night fund, where money was specifically designated for us to be away from the kids 3-4 nights each month. Since we were only using cash, we saved our change and used it as our vacation fund. We ended up paying for a weekend trip to St. Louis this year just on loose change.
What we found in the budgeting process was that there was margin between what we needed to live on and what money was coming in from our jobs. We established what percentage of our income we were going to live off of (including expenses, tithes/giving, etc.) We decided that we didn’t want to live under the stress of debt and were willing to sacrifice to make it happen. It has taken us four years since this decision to pursue financial peace, but it has been worth it. Back in November, we payed off our last and final student loan.
In the beginning, financial peace seemed like a daydream. Debt and financial stress seemed to be part of normal life. But I disagree that it has to be that way. Granted there are circumstances that cause financial stress that are completely out of your control. But there are far more decisions that are 100% in our control.
- What would it look like if you ferociously attacked your debt in 2016?
- What if you were able to say that you own your money instead of being owned by it?
- What if you and your family could experience financial freedom?
I guarantee you - when we come to the end of the year and look back, you will not regret it.
As we begin a new year, I want to encourage you to begin the process of owning your money, not being owned by your debt. It is a process that takes time and energy. Our process took us years before we met our goals. But now that we are there, we are not mastered by our debt. You don’t have to be either. Having personally gone through the process, I want to encourage you that it is possible to experience financial freedom.
In the next few weeks, I am going to cover three areas of financial peace that I have learned from Dave Ramsey: Budgets, Debt, and Savings.
In the meantime, there are some great videos available on RightNow Media@Work that I would highly recommend you to check out this week! Check out this link to Dave Ramsey’s series called “Life. Money. Legacy”.
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