I’d like to share with you a story that touches my heart as much today as it did ten years ago. I have no doubt that God was orchestrating behind the scenes in what took place in my life and my family’s life.
As I recall, it was tax time, 2005. You know, doing the taxes always has a way of stirring things up, forcing you to take a look at your money, and where it’s going. And that’s exactly what happened to us.
As Susan, my beautiful wife, and I were going through the usual paperwork, an uneasy feeling started to creep over me. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was beginning to see that we were losing control of our money. Human beings have this great capacity to live in denial, and we were no exception. The truth was that we had been living month-to-month for a long time. Not only that, but we had not made any provision for our retirement. We didn’t really know where our money was going.
At the time, we had six teenagers ranging in age from thirteen to eighteen. Susan and I had combined our families — Susan’s three children and my three — when we married in 1996. So we had the usual expenses: house payments, a second mortgage, credit card bills, a car loan, and more. When we met with our accountant that year he lowered the boom. “Dave,” he said, “You know, there comes a time when everything needs to be paid for.” That uneasy feeling just got stronger.
“Human beings have this great capacity to live in denial, and we were no exception.”
I felt carried away by circumstances that were becoming more unmanageable. It took me back to the time I lost my job in 1997. That night at the dinner table, I had to break the news to the kids. I can tell you, it was a humbling experience. And Susan couldn’t help but worry. We had only been married for eight months, and I was keenly aware of my duty to be the ‘bread winner’ of our new family. I didn’t want to let them down. It was an anxious time for us. Thank God, we knew how to lean on the Lord, even when we didn’t know how things would work out. We only knew He would never let us down.
Only seven weeks later, I found a new job. In fact, it was a much better job than the one I had lost. But, I’ll tell you, those were some of the longest weeks of my life.
So after the eye-opening experience with our accountant and the ’05 taxes, I began an earnest search for information – financial information. I had always lived by the old adage, “Knowledge is power.” So I set out to find some answers. My search took me to a local book store where I happened to find a book by Dave Ramsey. Sometime later, Susan and I attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University sponsored by a local church.
We began to use the book and the training as a guide. Susan and I analyzed our situation carefully. We took one step at a time, gradually taking back control of our lives. We started by eliminating some of the more obvious things: Starbucks lattes, cable TV (we used rabbit ears instead, which the kids hated), and the house phone which we replaced with one cell phone between Susan and myself. I began to take my lunch to work, and we cut restaurant dining drastically. The kids were real troopers, too, through all this.
In addition to cutting out the “Wants, not needs,” as Dave Ramsey says, we also used his cash envelope system to manage weekly spending, making sure every dollar had a purpose. Each expense was put under the microscope, even our insurance coverage. Changing companies ended up saving us money. And, of course, debit – no credit, was the rule.
We fit birthday and Christmas spending into our budget. And more stay-cations than vacations actually turned out to be fun. Dave Ramsey’s famous line that, “People buy stuff they don’t need, with money they don’t have, to impress people they don’t know,” became our slogan as we stopped caring what others might think. We were doing what we knew was right for us.
It was difficult at the outset, giving up some of our luxuries, but we found something much, much better. It wasn’t long before Susan and I began to feel an amazing sense of freedom, release from worry, and, yes, financial peace. By living this way we had actually given ourselves a pay raise. Our new lifestyle quickly became very rewarding.
“It was difficult at the outset, giving up some of our luxuries, but we found something much, much better.”
As we lived within our means, life was calm and orderly again. Happily, our financial situation turned around within 10 months. Not long at all to wait for things money can’t buy – like peace of mind.
Today I can say with a heart full of gratitude to our amazing God that we are not only debt free, but happily retired since January. We’ll always live by the lessons we learned ten years ago, “How to live like no one else, so that later we can live, like no one else!”
Please join us for the nine-week Financial Peace class held at Bellevue Presbyterian Church, starting Sunday, January 10, at 4pm.