By Lindsey Racz
In a survey published with CNBC in 2017, it was reported that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Not just the lower and middle class, though; even ten percent of Americans who make over 100k report having trouble making ends meet. Debt has become a way of life in our culture. More often than not, accumulating debt is the only way to live up to what are considered cultural norms—you know, shiny cars, vaulted ceilings and pretty Pinterest chandeliers and the like—but I am here to tell you, folks, there really is another way!
The reasons to get out of debt are numerous. For us, following biblical principles, seeking financial peace, being able to give freely to others in need, and teaching our children financial wisdom rank among the very top. This is our debt story—at least part one of it.
When I married the love of my life, Matt, he had 40k in student loans leftover from a bachelor’s he’d received from a private university. I had an expensive graduate degree from the same university and 20k of student loan debt left to repay myself. We both loved the university and our respective experiences there; we both hated the debt. And because when “two become one flesh” nothing is left out, we started our life together with a whopping 60k in student loans that carried payment obligations of over 500 a month. Ouch.
I’m exhausted when I think about where we were just four years ago. We both worked full time; my husband worked a full-time day job and owned his own freelance graphic design firm. I had a good job on staff with a local college. We were raising two children, clocking lots of hours at the office, and falling into bed utterly spent each night. And still, after all our efforts, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We were still working toward our original goals of paying off our student loans, but life didn’t always go as planned. We would pay off our phones only to have a car break down. We would pay off a student loan and then have a child break a foot and add back double the amount of the loan in medical bills. We had a pregnancy that had complications and a baby that requires consistent medical care. It was two steps forward, one step back. Okay, more like five steps back. My dream of working less and spending more time investing in our kids seemed to be slipping further and further away.
It's no surprise that we felt like slaves. God warns us about debt in Proverbs 22:7,
No sugar coating there. If you choose debt, you’re a slave. Simple math. Yes, we had at one point allowed ourselves to become slaves. But by God’s grace and wisdom, He had plans to change all that. It was time for us to roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Thankfully, Matt and I each had goals to work toward being debt free even before we met one another. I had knocked some debt out, he had knocked some debt out, and most importantly, we had like minds when it came to our dislike for debt. We both studied and followed some principles of financial guru, Dave Ramsey. We knew how to work hard and, most importantly, we were ready to take some risks and get creative to reach our ultimate goals of living a debt free lifestyle. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
Fast forward four years. That was then, this is now. Let me paint a picture for you of how things have changed. One month from now we are on track to be 100% debt free (excluding a mortgage which we always factor in as an investment). We will have a three to six-month emergency fund fully funded. I will continue to work part-time—one day out of my practice and a couple of days from home teaching online psychology classes. We will soon welcome our 4th child, and we will be ready to begin saving for future goals of retirement, building our own house, and most importantly, being able to give cheerfully and generously when we come across another’s need.
Please don’t let me come across like this journey has been a cake walk. It’s been anything but! On my next post, “The Get Outta Debt Dance Part II- How?”, I will break down how this miraculous transformation in our finances has occurred. Let me be clear—there was no magic lottery ticket and no massive promotions that came to the rescue. We have never made six-digit salaries, even with our income combined! We know there are some who may shake their heads as we bare this much information about our personal finances, but we know there are even more who are out there drowning in debt and stress and pressure to keep up with current culture. It’s the second group of people to whom we write this post and the next. Take heart and have hope; if we succeeded at learning the get outta debt dance, you most certainly can too!
To read HOW in part 2, head over to Lindsey’s website here or by using the button below.