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How It All Started

CNBC news recently reported that 78% of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. In the fall of 2008, I was one of those people – and then I lost my job. Fear sank in as the monthly unemployment check wasn’t enough to cover the mortgage payment, much less all of the other necessities. Every time I wrote a check, my stomach tied in a knot, knowing it would likely bounce before there would be enough money in the account to cover it. Checking the mail each day became more and more painful, and seeing that oh-so-familiar little yellow overdraft postcard from the credit union further put my stomach in knots. Jobs were so scarce and I became desperate to create some income. Opting to rent all of the rooms in my house and move into the basement to make ends meet certainly helped; but not having a plan each month for the money that was coming in allowed stress and fear to grow.

Fast forward to January 2010. Through an interesting turn of events, an insurance sales position re-opened at an agency that I had worked in previous years. I spoke with the owner and started working immediately. After a few months of steady income, it seemed possible to finally face the financial knots that had formed over the last sixteen months. Gathering the statements (credit cards, student loan, and auto loan); I took a deep breath and totaled all of the non-mortgage debt. After checking it twice, the total was just under $50,000. Something had to be done!

"The peace that comes with having a budget and knowing where the money is going was a totally new feeling and it was awesome.”

Having taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) course in 2008 before being laid off, the principles for getting out of debt made sense. I just failed miserably at applying them to my life. However, March 2010 marked the beginning of applying Dave’s principles, starting with Baby Step One. At first, just staying on the monthly budget created at the beginning of each month was a huge victory. During those first months, it was so tempting to just give up. Constantly having to go back to the budget to adjust it made sticking with it very frustrating. By July 2010, budgeting and taking control of where each dollar was going started to pay off. Worry and fear around money was being replaced with hope and a sense of freedom. Meeting Jeremy (my now husband), also following the Baby Steps to debt freedom with only the house left to pay off, gave me an accountability partner. Real progress each month and the peace that comes with having a budget was a totally new feeling, and it was awesome!

There were plenty of bumps along the way, there always are. Like a car breaking down or a hot water heater needing to be replaced. But as each surprise came up, it was no longer an emergency. I had built-in savings to tackle those situations.

In June 2013, I married the love of my life, Jeremy. We quickly discovered budgeting as a couple was very different than budgeting as single people. We renovated my house and managed to sell it – even walked away with a small profit. This profit allowed me to pay off the remainder of my debt.

By April 2014, paying off the house looked like it was within reach. As I was making dinner one night, Jeremy and I started to dream about what would it be like to be completely debt free – mortgage and all. Was it possible to pay it off much faster than we had been planning? I asked, “How much would we have to save to pay the house off in a year?” He pulled out the calculator and it became quickly apparent that one year was a very aggressive goal…“How about 18 months?” Still being in the get-out-of-debt mode of being on Baby Step Two, we continued to save as if we were both working to pay off non-mortgage debt. Finally, on September 1, 2015; we walked into the bank and made the final mortgage payment!

After coordinating many FPU courses at our church and helping others with: getting on a budget, saving for retirement, saving for their children’s college, or any of the many goals people want to reach; I completed Dave Ramsey’s Master Financial Coach training to take helping others achieve their financial goals to the next level. It is energizing to work with individuals, families, and groups to untangle the knots and provide hope for their financial future.

Have courage, be knot afraid, and take the first step. It’s possible, and I’ve seen many people successfully reach their financial goals. You owe it to yourself to have that kind of freedom.

"Live like no one else, so later, you can live like no one else."
–Dave Ramsey

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