Friday, October 7, 2011
The Great Recovery
Christmas of 2007 my brother and sister in law gave us Dave Ramsey's book The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. I read it and was very excited. At that time we were significantly in debt. We didn't NEED to be so much in debt, but we liked vacations, taking the kids to their sailing regattas, eating out, shopping, etc. and all of that took a toll. At the same time we were paying on debt. And it never ended ... I'd pay on the debt, but then use a credit card to go out for dinner. Brilliant. We were stuck in a rut. That Christmas I wrote down all our debts, expenses, sources of income, etc. and came up with a plan (I wrote it on envelopes, which I still have and love to look back on). And that was pretty much the end of that. While we did pay more attention to our spending and became thriftier we never followed Dave Ramsey's, or anyone else's, plan for financial "health".
Fast forward two years. I could not make ends meet. Period. I had the same house payments, same debts save one, same expenses, same kids (actually, one more), etc. and significantly less money than had been coming into the house before. And I was beyond panicked. It was not unreasonable to think I'd lose the house (from what I hear, most women get the house in the divorce and too many can't afford to keep it) or have to declare bankruptcy.
I picked up that Dave Ramsey book. And I read it, twice, very, very carefully. I also read a Suze Orman book. I started reading personal finance blogs. I knew I didn't want to live week to week or day to day forever and I knew that the only person who could work to fix it was me.
I got to work. I wrote an insanely tight budget. I got rid of all credit cards, keeping only my bank debit card. I came up with a plan. I very slowly built an emergency fund. I started working on paying off my debts.
At one point I wrote a letter to Suze Orman begging for help. How was I to begin paying off debt when I couldn't make it through the month? I didn't know what to do, but things sure were hopeless. I never heard back from her, but that's ok.
I was blessed with an opportunity to pay off the first debt on my list. And that's when things started to look up. Less than two years later I now owe significantly less on credit card debt than when I started. Sadly, I owe a lot of money because of something else, but I see light at the end of the tunnel (years long tunnel). I also owe for my house, and am not dealing with that right now.
This is a very slow process for me. Some folks are able to pay off their debt in no time at all once they get started and get serious. Given where I started financially I'm happy with it taking a long time. Yes, I'm antsy to be debt-free, but the reality is that that won't happen tomorrow, but that I've made real progress.
What I'm saying here is that if I can do it anyone can. And it's worth it. It stinks sometimes to not have a fancy new screened patio like I'd like or new clothes, but in time I'll be able to pay cash for that. I don't dread the bills coming in the mail (in fact, I get more coupons and free samples in the mail than bills now!). I sleep at night. I most certainly still struggle a lot, but I know that a part of that struggle is because I'm putting money to debt so that, in the long run, the kids and I will have more financial stability and less worry.
Again, and I do believe this, if I can do it most anyone can.
Recently, Dave Ramsey presented a webcast with his plan, The Great Recovery, summarized as:
The Great Recovery is a grassroots movement spread by people who are tired of looking to Washington for answers. The truth is that the government can’t fix this economy. It’ll be restored one family at a time, as each of us takes a stand to return to God and grandma's way of handling money.
Together, we’ll bring this country back on track—one family, one church, one community at a time.
If you have an hour, listening to the webcast is a great starting point - it's very inspirational. If you don't have an hour, but want your financial future to look different than your current financial situation, check out his regular website or similar programs. Financial Peace University offers seminars and classes at churches for a fee (I think around $100).
I don't get anything out of trying to "sell" this to you. I just believe in it because it's working in my life, and getting this financial monkey off my back (or at least tamed) makes my life better. And I don't think Dave Ramsey is the only one out there with a good plan, but his is what got me motivated and is one I've seen work for other people.
If you're interested and you need help, questions answered, support, suggestions, whatever, I will do what I can to help. I can be e-mailed directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.