financial freedom part 1

Oh how I love when a new year rings in! Although I enjoy all the hype of "ball-dropping" and celebration, what excites my spirit the most, is that its a time for GOAL setting, dreaming, and casting vision. I am obsessed with setting goals, making lists for productivity,  and having deep conversations about self-development. 

Last year at this time I was coming up on my one-year mark of working as an oncology nurse, and my husband was entering the last semester of his physical therapy program. Together, we were heading into our 8th beautiful month of marriage, enjoying uptown living in our fun 1930s duplex, and knee-deep in college debt. Our goals at this time were for Brett to finish school, for me to continue growing as a new nurse, and together to embrace/enjoy this season of life as much as possible. Our financial goals were to be faithful in tithing, continue being able to pay all our bills on one income (until Brett finished school), and work as much extra as possible to make our mortgage-sized minimum payments toward student loans every month. 

I realize blogging about the topic of money might seem a little "too personal", but for us- its what this WHOLE season of life we are in right now is about. I have been so incredibly blessed through reading the blogs and stories of other people who have accomplished financial freedom, and share this in hopes that God might use our story to encourage someone else. I also wanted to blog about it so that we could look back some day and celebrate what God has done as we re-read the story He is writing in our lives.

You see, God has called us to radically pursue becoming debt free. Over the course of last year He began teaching us some deep truths about debt. We didn't really have much credit card debt, but the feeling of being "tied up", restricted, and enslaved to our finances was enough to make us DISDAIN them. Everything we did, and wanted to do involved the looming question, "do we have the money?", the answer 100% of the time, was "no"- simply because as long we had massive amounts of debt collecting ungodly amounts of interest, the extra $$ that would come into our lives was just a bandaid over a deep wound. The bible says "just as the rich rule over the poor, so the borrower is a slave (or servant) to the lender"- proverbs 22:7

The overall truth- as long as we have debt in our lives, we are slaves to it. We were fed up with being enslaved so, as many people are familiar with the Dave Ramsey plan, we decided we would try his structure for financial peace. 

About summer time we finally sat down, created a budget and began our baby steps to financial freedom. The first step to the plan is saving a $1000 emergency fund, that way when things come up we wouldn't have to freak out because we don't have the money and end up charging it to the credit card. We worked as hard as we could to scrap together every penny possible to establish this, which took about two months of working overtime, picking up babysitting jobs, and doing photoshoots. Next we developed a detailed spreadsheet for monitoring the "intake and output" of our money (as my nursing brain sees it) and committed to having weekly "family meetings" to go over our spending and touch base with each other. 

The one thing we weren't doing that the plan called for was "the envelop system" where you put cash in an envelope for each category of spending and once the cash is out, you are done and have nothing left to spend for that month.  Be it the wrong or right way, we continued using only our credit card to make purchases and pay bills since we get points towards flights,hotels, etc. and committed to paying off the card right away as we spent. The first month we completely blew our budget- i'm talking embarrassingly blew it. But each month after that from June to December we improved our spending habits. NOW, we have learned that we must go to the cash envelop system because as long as we are using the credit card we are liable to spend what we shouldn't. EVEN when we have every good intention in the world, and are motivated to the moon, its still easier to spend. For the past two months we actually got to a point where we were UNDER budget!!! But starting the new year we have decided to go ahead and join the cash only system just so we can keep things under control now that we HAVE our spending under control.

In August Brett finally passed his boards and got a job. This allowed us to start putting his entire salary towards student loans!!!!! We continued to live on my income alone and as the next step of the plan called for "AGGRESSIVELY ATTACK OUR DEBT!" Now that we had a second income coming in, it felt so exciting to finally see bigger progress each month. Now we weren't just paying minimums, we were tackling CHUNKS of loans one at a time! 

Well, I guess we have become addicts in this game of debt freedom because now we have taken it to a whole new level! Actually- I should probably re-phrase that- GOD has provided a whole new level of faithfulness for us, that we are gladly jumping on board with! As we started making bigger payments on our loans, it gave us so much joy to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel (and i do mean glimmer- we still have a LOOOONG way to go), so we started discussing ways we could attack it even faster than we currently were. The one thing we could think of was somehow decreasing our monthly rent/utilities. That was the only thing we could cut any further because we had already cut everything else to the bare minimum in terms of spending. 

As we prayed and prayed, we decided that at the end of the year we were going to move out and find a new place to live that would be cheaper than our current rent. This was so disheartening because we LOVED our home and community so much. And, as we began looking for other options we really struggled to find something that fit our needs in a safe location that would also be enough of a financial difference to make our move worthwhile. SO, we kept praying about it until one day it hit us both in the middle of conversation and we knew exactly what God was leading us to do.... move in with Brett's parents. 

So here we are, a new year in a new home and so excited to be pouring TWO salaries into paying off our student loans!!! Talk about obsessive aggressive! 

 We couldn't feel more blessed. Although there is always an adjustment that comes with living with other people, the space we have at his parents home is more than we could have ever asked for or imagine. We practically have our own upstairs apartment! The only difference now is that my drive time to work is 45 minutes vs. 5 minutes- but I must say the drive out into the country where they live is so beautiful! 

So now what? Now that its the new year, and a new slate, we are dreaming in pencil and writing God's promises in PEN! As Dave Ramsey says, "Live like no one else so later, you can live and give like no one else"....this is our dream! To be debt free, so that we can really start living. To be FREE. To be in a position to GIVE MORE. to serve oversees without stressing about fundraising, to get closer to our dreams of adoption, to be able to enjoy giving our lives away for the glory and kingdom of God and not be bound by money. There are two verses I am claiming as our "banner scripture" for this year....

The first one is "godliness with contentment is great gain"-1st Timothy 6:6. learning how to be content in our circumstances simply because THE LORD is our portion. HE is the one who give us overflowing joy each day, not the things money can buy. He is the one who supplies our every need. Learning to be content in Christ is the greatest blessing and lesson I am learning!

The second comes from Malachi 3:10...

"Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that here may be food in my house. Test me in this, says the Lord almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it."

Tithing is such a blessing, and my next post is actually going to be about the subject of tithing and how it has changed our lives. But for now, I share this verse because God is teaching me to dream big. To TEST him. To believe that when I bring my best to his table, He is capable of doing much more than I ever could imagine! And THAT He is doing! 

Until next time.... have a blessed week!!!!