We've been told we're “crazy” for most of our lives. First, because I quit my job to stay home with my three children, early in our marriage, when my husband made an annual income of less than $30,000. Then again when he got laid off from work shortly after, and I remained home, leaving us essentially unemployed.
Next, after our third child, we decided to stop using birth control (another story, another time) and were accruing debt faster than you can count. All this while we tried to get a landscaping business off the ground.
We were upside down, financially, and breaking every rule of common sense. But we had no idea how our story would end.
Living on a Prayer (a Pizza Delivery Job and Serious Creativity)
Starting a landscaping business after my husband was laid off left us too lean, and we had racked up almost $40,000 in credit card debt just trying to survive.
Credit card debt is suicide to your financial peace. At one point, we were paying around 90% interest which was essentially like throwing money away. When we got fed up enough with the creditor harassment, and the feeling of bondage, we both got busy – my husband took extra jobs and I began a saving-money marathon.
While being in debt and struggling to pay basic bills is one of the least enjoyable things in life, looking back, it probably grew our family in the most magnificent ways, giving us a sense of resourcefulness that cannot be attained in other ways, and a contentment with the simple joys of life. It also spawned an incredible online business/ministry that now supplements our income and allows me to do what I love from home.
Whittling Down the Debt
Our first goal was to throw every extra dollar we could find at our debt. This was rather difficult because our income was already so modest. But we found a very important principle at work: pay the most important things first, and you'll find money for the rest.
Now, of course, we didn't put our food money toward credit cards; but we did propose to pay what we could toward them after the bare necessities were paid. We also negotiated with our creditors and received significant discounts and payment plans.
Paying the lowest debt first is important because the emotional momentum of checking it off the list is crucial to your financial stamina. Write them down, hang them on the fridge, and mark them off when they are paid — it will keep you energized.
Beginning to dig out of our debt would prove difficult, requiring much sacrifice, but we were determined. In the next part of this series, I'll share details of practical ways we earned and saved money during this time.