I've decided to start a blogging series on living debt free. So many people believe that surviving without debt is a fairy tale. Well, I've lived it for many years and, I will assure you that like most fairy tales, there is a happy ending.
I promise you, my reader, a couple of things as I begin. I'll not lie to you. It has been tough. It has not all been fun. It has at times been a chore. But, it has been rewarding. I have learned much of God's grace and provision. I have a LOT of stories to tell. I'll be including tips and techniques that will, hopefully, help you on your journey.
Let's start with some numbers:
29: The number of years that Larry and I have been married - since 1988.
24: The number of years we lived UNDER the national median household income
20: The number of years we have survived and thrived on 1 income
19: The number of years we have been completely debt free INCLUDING our home
4: The number of sons we have taken along with us on our journey.
In June of 1988, at the age of 23, I was a blushing bride. I worked in Christian radio and Larry worked as a security guard. We were young, in love, and flat broke. We had no budget, no goals, and spent every cent of our wedding bounty in the first 3 months of our marriage. We weren't going crazy. We weren't out buying boats and BMWs. We were just living like everyone else. We went out to eat a couple of times a week, took a weekend trip or two, and bought cool new stuff for our apartment. We didn't track out expenses. We just assumed it would all work out. But, by September, when I looked at our bank balance, I realized that it was NOT working out!
Then God sent an amazing man into our lives. I want to thank Larry Burkett and shake his hand when I get heaven. About four months after
we got married, the local Christian radio station I worked for began
airing Money Matters, a program all about
financial freedom. On this program Larry Burkett extolled the virtues of saving, spending, planning, and handling money God's way. I came home and excitedly told my husband, “We’re going to
live on a budget and pay cash for our next car.” He thought I was
crazy! We both made $5 an hour!
I got myself a cheap pad of paper and a pen and went to work. I figured out how much money we made each week and where the money was going. The first thing I told Larry was that we needed to move. He stared at me incredulously, "What? Where are we gong to find a place cheaper than this?"
I replied, "Well, I don't know. All I know is that our lease us up in 2 months and we can no longer afford to live here."
I then asked him what he wanted in our next apartment. He explained that what he really wanted was a HOME, not an apartment. He no longer wanted to share some of his walls (and floor) with other folks. So I set to praying for a small home for less rent than we were currently paying. A few weeks later, while on a walk we spotted the cutest little (and I mean 550 total square feet little) white house situated on a triple wide lot just two blocks from our apartment.
A white haired, spry gentleman walked by the house and saw us staring. "You kids interested in renting the house?" he inquired.
"Well, that depends, how much do the owners want?"
"Two hundred dollars a month!" he declared.
Now the man was past 70 and a little hard of hearing. So we assumed he was also a little addled. They could not possibly want $90 LESS than our current rent! We called the number listed on the tiny slip of paper on the home's front door. It turns out that he wasn't quite as confused as we had thought. They DID want only $200 a month!
It turns out that the home had been in the family since the 1920's. The matron of the family very much wanted to keep the home and instructed her children that she would pay to have it completely renovated. New paneling, new ceilings, new bathroom fixtures, new kitchen cabinets, new flooring, stripped woodwork, new vinyl siding, new roof. After they got done, they could not find a renter. I kid you not! They tried $300 a month. No takers. They dropped it to $200 a month. No takers. The owners were flabbergasted. What was wrong with their house?
Nothing. It was waiting for us. God sent us on a walk down that road on that night to find a little old man named Roy who encouraged us by saying, "You kids take the house. You'll like it." For those of you who wonder about these sorts of things (I always do), No, Roy was not an angel. He was a real person and his dear wife, Buella, and he became our good friends.
We lived in the little white house for the next four years and made many happy memories. The owners never raised the rent.
So, what do we learn from this story?
1) First, God always has a plan! Never, never, never doubt that God is on your team and if you seek Him, you will find solutions. We submitted our desires to Him and God came through in an amazing way!
2) Second, live on a written budget every single month. That's how you figure out where your "black holes" are - those vortexes that suck in your money and you never see it come out again. Eating out was a black hole for us. We cut it in 1/4th and to this day we rarely go out to eat. No more weekend trips either for a while. Instead, we took long walks, held hands, and picnicked regularly.
3) When you have believed God for provision, be prepared to believe Him some more! When we found our dream rental house, our praying was not over. The house did not come with a stove and refrigerator. So, we set to prayin'. We had exactly $150 for appliances. Once again, God sent Larry to a garage sale for a 1960's stove and a 1950's refrigerator. We left the stove with the house and the fridge was eventually given to some church folks. That fridge was built like a tank and is probably still purring away in their garage!
4) Practice contentment. Nothing is perfect. That house met our provisions. The appliances worked. The second hand drapes covered the windows. On the other hand, I battled bugs in the summer. In the winter you could see the lined curtains move when the wind blew. The water line to the kitchen perpetually froze solid in the winter. Larry crawled under house on a regular basis and thawed it with a blow dryer! My point is: I could have fussed and fumed about what I didn't like in my house, my furnishings, my possessions. However, choosing to be grateful fills your heart with joy!
Oh! And for those who are wondering about how we did on paying cash for vehicles, we took a $1000 loan on the next car,
paid it off in 6 months, and we have paid cash for every car since then.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series on Debt-free living. If you have questions, I'd love answer them.
Remember, do all to the glory of God,