I wandered through Target with the gift registry in hand; I finally had a few dollars to buy someone a wedding gift but was frustrated that I didn't have enough to buy a nice gift. I settled on a cookie sheet, then purchased some flour, sugar, cinnamon and baking powder. I planned on giving my cousin Mike's sister's recipe for the best snickerdoodles ever. It felt cheap but it felt better than showing up at a bridal shower empty handed.
I walked into my mom's house and was greeted by cousins, aunts, my sisters and mom. I always love when my family gets together, especially when we are celebrating something so special like a baby or a wedding. My cousin, Jessica, was glowing with excitment. There had been some awkwardness between us for a bit as she had asked me to be a bridesmaid and I'd had to say no because I knew I couldn't afford it. It was difficult for me and I tried to explain that with the pregnancy, the three kids, Mike's work schedule and finances I wouldn't be able to. She was gracious about it but I knew she'd been disappointed.
We all settled into our normal family get-together routine quickly. Telling stories, laughing, teasing, laughing, crying followed by more laughing and of course, lots of eating. We ooo'ed and awww'ed at Jessica's gifts, cried and laughed while she talked about how she met Doug and knew he was 'the one' and asked all sorts of questions about the wedding ceremony. My aunt's all cried when my Grandma who had recently passed away was mentioned and as things began to wrap up everyone settled into separate conversations.
I began talking with Marci. She was always such fun to talk to. She was married to my cousin Jesse; he's a pastor and she's a pharmacist. Jesse and I had been close since childhood and I really loved to call them Mr. and Dr. Jesse just to get under his skin. I began to tell Marci about our finances and how finally we had some breathing room. I told her quietly about our mountain of debt we were trying to escape from and how far we'd come since the beginning. I explained that Mike had recently got a raise and that our refi had gone through so we had more money every month to play with and we had decided to add to our credit card payment and to give ourselves a bit more spending money. She listened to my story and expressed excitement at what we were doing.
Then she said something that would change the course of my life and forever alter the way I viewed finances.
"Have you ever heard of Dave Ramsey?" she asked.
"Huh-uh," I replied, "who is he?"
"A financil advisor. He has a radio show and helps people get out of debt. Gen, you have to listen to his show. It's amazing. He has this book that I've been reading, The Total Money Makeover, and it is full of stories of people who make hardly any money and pay off insane amounts of debt. I have seriously cried reading some of these stories. If those people could do it, then we can...and so can you. How much debt do you have?"
"I guess I really don't know. Maybe $10,000 on the credit card. We have a car payment too but doesn't everyone?" I asked.
"Yeah, um...you should get his book."
"Do you really think we need it? I mean, I told you all we've been doing...savings, budget, paying extra on the credit card. What more is there?"
"Dave has Baby Steps," she explained. "You've already done the first one, which is establishing $1000 in an emergency fund. The next one, you're also working on, paying off your debt. But Dave's plan, it's intense. He talks about gazelle's, how the run away from danger. He says we should be gazelle intense about getting out of debt. He says "Live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else." I think it would just ampliphy what you and Mike are already working on."
"Do you have the book with you? Can I borrow it?"
She paused for a moment before saying, "I'm pretty sure my brother has it but I think I have the workbook in my car."
"Well, I could take a peek at it, if you don't need it, and see if I even want to read the book."
Marci ran out to her car and brought back the book. She sheepishly handed it to me. "I've marked it up. It has how much I make and how much debt we have and stuff. Just ... you know, ignore it?"
I laughed as I grabbed the workbook from her. "Do not worry Marc."
I could see other people, watching us, listening to our conversation. I was proud of what Mike and I had accomplished to this point so I wasn't embarrassed, but I could see a few people roll their eyes as Marci talked with excitement about working to get out of debt. Her enthusiasm was contagious to me though and I thought that perhaps this Dave Ramsey would have something to offer us. When people started leaving the shower I walked Marci out to her car.
"Gen, read the book. I mean it. Dave Ramsey...he will change your life. He's changed ours."
I didn't really think our lives could change anymore than they had during the last six months but I appreciated Marci's encouragement so I knew she must have a lot of debt, having gone to the University of Washington to get her degree, and if she thought Dave Ramsey would change our lives, I was apt to believe her.
When I got home I got back into the grind; making dinner, bathing the kids, getting on the jammies, putting them to bed. After everyone had settled in for the night I remembered Marci's workbook. I sat down on the couch, turned on the TV, and began reading.
The first page began;
Key Concept #1
No Money ... Is No Fun
I remember the feelings vividly. For several years in my twenties, I faced the end of every month with dread. I had too much month left at the end of my money. I was not having fun.
I wasn't afraid of hard work and sacrifice. I didn't need a secret formula for making money; I didn't need a positive-thinking guru to pump me up and tell me to have a positive attitude. I was simply sick and tired of being sick and tired when it came time to "do the bills." I fet hopeless, as if I were running a financial race with no traction and no ground covered. Money came in and money went out, with nothing REAL to show for my effort or income. (The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey, Ch. 1)
Whoa. I felt like he knew me, like he knew our struggles and what we were going through. I felt as if I could have written that first page. Although we were finally using a budget and able to pay our bills I still felt like there was nothing real to show for our effort or income.
I kept reading. Every page talked to me. Dave indeed used words like "gazelle intensity" when he talked about getting out of debt. He said all debt was bad, even a car payment. I was shocked. Everyone has a car payment, don't they? He said to sell whatever we needed to sell to get out of debt. He said that being "normal" was bad when it came to finances, that we should desire to be completely debt free, to be "weird". He said most people, following his baby steps, could be debt free (minus their mortgage) in two years or less.
I was hooked and got online to reserve the actual book at the library; I was number 347 on the holds list. Apparently Dave was popular enough and knew enough about what he was talking about that other people were listening to him. I ordered the book from Amazon instead and returned to reading the workbook. I finished a 245 page workbook in less than 24 hours.
When Mike came home from work the next night I asked him to read the workbook too.
"It's uh...life changing," I said.
"We already changed our life," he said.
"Yeah, but...this is...different. Really different. More intense, more focused. Just read it. Please?"
"Just tell me about it. Please?"
So I did. I gave him a brief rundown of the book. I told him I wanted to rework our budget, that I wanted to get intense about paying off our debt, that I thought we could pay off our credit card and our car in less than two years.
"Less than two years?!" he cried. "Are you kidding me? Do you even know how much debt we have?"
"Think of how much money we'll have every month if we don't have any debt payments," I pleaded. "Think of it...what, an extra $500 at least, probably more. Wouldn't that be nice? No more wishing for things, no more daydreaming about vacation...we'd really get to do it! Just read the book. Please. Read the book."
He sighed heavily, took the book from me and headed for the bathroom.
He came and found me later.
"Honey," he said, "if you think that we can do this, then get it started. It seems impossible to me, but I'm on your side and I will work with you to get every penny paid off."
"Ok. As soon as the book arrives I'll read it to see if it's more in depth than the workbook and we'll get started. Tomorrow though, I'm reworking the budget. It's only been a few weeks since we increased our spending money and other things, so I think we could go back to where we were. Are you ok with that?"
His eyes widened as he thought about only having $20 to spend every two weeks.
"Remember the $500 you could have if we do this? That's worth it, isn't it?"
"Like I said, I trust you. Rework whatever you need to rework. Just tell me what I have and don't have ... and I'll finish reading the workbook."
I smiled. I knew we were headed into another financial adventure and this time, we were going to be in control. We were going to tell our money what to do. I could not wait to sit down with my budget in the morning.
To be continued...
*As a reward for reading this far...
I'll be doing my first ever giveaway! I will be sending out a copy of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover to one lucky winner. Click HERE to read a brief rundown of the book.
To enter simply leave a comment saying what your biggest hurtle to getting out of debt is.
Entries will be accepted until 9 pm PST on August 1 and a winner will be announced during my Remember When Wednesday post on August 4.
The winner will be selected at random. Good luck!
**Dave Ramsey has no clue who I am and therefore, has nothing to do with this giveway. All costs will be covered by yours truly...well, Mike actually since he's the one who brings home the bacon. But I'll take the credit.
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