Sometimes people ask me how I got this way. HOW did I become such a crazy money-saving lady?
I think all stories start with parents. Most kids don’t learn much, if anything, about financial management in school, so the bulk of their money education happens at home.
My own parents lived a typical life in the 90’s. They had a mortgage, credit cards, little savings and nothing for retirement. So when I got out on my own at 18, I joined the Army. Not long after those paychecks started rolling in, I had a credit card and a big fat car payment. In less than a year, I racked up about $20,000 in debt.
Soon after that, I met my husband, and we got engaged. Our parents helped a little with wedding expenses, but we still put most of it on credit cards. Add to that a new truck, a new credit card, and furnishing our new home (we both had almost NO belongings). We had only been married about 6 months, and between the credit cards, car loans, and student loans, we had about $100,000 in debt.
About that time, I was browsing the internet (on my laptop which I bought on a credit card). I found an article about Dave Ramsey. His debt snowball plan sounded revolutionary to me, but also SO smart. I considered myself an intelligent person, and it made sense. Get out of debt? Of course! Why pay interest? Why hadn’t someone told me this before?!
So we laid out a plan and started paying off the debt. We started with an eating-out freeze. We didn’t eat at a restaurant for a WHOLE year! We also did spending freezes along the way – where we didn’t buy anything except gas and groceries. We sold things. I constantly looked for new ways to cut expenses. We threw our tax return at the debt. Byron re-enlisted in the Army and got a bonus, which also went toward the debt. Even though we were only making about $40,000 a year, we paid off the debt in about 3 years.
Even after the debt was paid off – we didn’t stop there. We started saving like crazy. We opened retirement accounts, investment accounts, and savings accounts. We started throwing extra money at our mortgage. By the time we got orders overseas, we had paid off over 1/3 of the house. That money went into savings. We were determined to pay cash for our next home. We also wanted to travel and see Europe debt free.
Those years were hard sometimes. I would see my friends going out to lunch all the time, their kids’ extravagant birthday parties, the fancy houses and cars and boats and toys that they all had. It took me a long time to figure out that the key to happiness is contentment where you are, not placing your joy in anticipation of what could be.
When Byron said he felt called to enter the ministry – and that he wanted to leave the Army (and thus, our paychecks) for 5 years, I’ll admit, I was scared. But I also felt that we were probably better equipped for this than most people, and this had to have been God’s plan all along. Because of our frugal ways, we didn’t need much for the day-to-day expenses. We had enough to pay cash for a house, with savings left over. I was able to continue homeschooling, and neither one of us needed to work full time on top of kids and school and seminary and life. Byron is still in the Army Reserves, so he does his one-weekend-a-month-two-weeks-a-year, which pays $450 a month, and we also bring in a few hundred a month from other random sources. (I teach tax classes online, sell crafts, and Byron helps a friend occasionally with his tree trimming business.) We wouldn’t be where we are if not for Dave Ramsey, our commitment to living frugally, and God’s abundant blessings.
So that’s how we got here!