Three years ago, our family was sort of normal when it came to our finances.
We had a credit card that we usually paid off in full every month.
Here’s an infographic that describes the “average/normal” American when it comes to credit cards.
(infographic from creditcards.com)
I wasn’t really paying attention to how much we were spending as long as we had enough to pay our bills and have a “little” extra in checking and savings. Then I had a wake-up call. Nathan announced that we had a balance on our card that we couldn’t afford to pay off that month. It was both of our faults. My fault because I had moved to using the credit card for EVERYTHING because I had not activated my debit card when I got a new one (gahhhhh….. that not a smart choice) and Nathan’s because he wasn’t really that motivated to stay on a spending plan or track our money.
After years and years of not carrying a balance on our cards, we had one. And we also had a car payment. Our situation wasn’t terrible, but I really wanted to make better choices and start spending only money we actually had in the bank and to work at getting our debts paid off as quickly as possible.
So, we worked Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps.
1. $1,000 emergency fund.
2. Pay off all debt using the debt snowball.
3. Three to six months of expenses in savings.
There are seven steps. (I’m just listing the first three for now)
Our family decided to take Dave’s advice and be “weird” because, as he says “normal is broke”. How weird were we? Well, first of all we actually made a specific budget for our money. Funny how that actually helped! We had tried it before and never stuck with it, but this time I decided to take over the implementing and maintaining because I love this sort of thing and Nathan does not! We decided that we needed to make the best budget we could with the resources we had and not get too worried about not being able to fund everything that we thought we should be able to fund. The second thing we did to be weird was to seriously look at where our money was going and see if we would plug those holes.
Here are some “weird” things we did:
- Cancelled dish/cable (seriously, we look back and shake our heads over this. What were we thinking? We should not have been throwing that much money out the window when we didn’t even have a decent amount saved for emergencies.)
- We made sure that giving back to God generously was our first priority.
- Set a strict budget to limit dining out.
- We decided that any tax refund we got was to be used to tackle debt and put more in savings. It was not “go and spend on whatever you want” money 🙂
If you are a normal/average American, you probably don’t do those things. This was hardly a sacrifice in the whole scheme of things. We took care of most of our debts and got a good start on our emergency savings by doing just these things. We’ve sold few things too, but the biggest difference was changing our lifestyle. We stopped living as is we were wealthy– because we weren’t wealthy!
I’ve mentioned this before on this site, but I want to say it again, we mixed up the baby steps a little. Step seven includes increasing your giving beyond tithing. We felt like God was asking us to take a step of faith and not wait to increase our giving. He impressed a percentage on our hearts and we took a step of faith to be obedient. God has provided. Giving has become a very exciting thing for us and something that we want to be a central part of who we are. As for where we are in the “step” process, we are currently working on finishing up our three to six month emergency fund and are so close to funding it!
Two years ago, we moved to Tennessee and Nathan took a job as a web developer for Dave Ramsey’s company. Now, he gets to work to help others find hope when it comes to their finances. Along that way, some people even put their faith in Christ who never had before. And, as Dave says to his team members, “If that doesn’t get your excited to come to work, this isn’t the job for you.”
I have a couple questions and challenges for you as I wrap this up.
Would you share a time when you were “weird” with your finances?
If you are currently having trouble with your finances, what is one area where you could stand to be more “weird”?
Chime in. I would love to hear your thoughts!