Paying Off $26,000 in One Year

4:47:00 PM

This past year Drew and I were in a leadership class at church.  As a part of this class we took a money management class from Steve Strickland.  Most of his teachings are similar to Dave Ramsey.  At the end of the class we were given the Money Management CD's.  Drew first listened to then he put them in my CD player in my car to listen to on my way to and from work.  It took me about 30 days to listen to all of the CD's, but this is what spawned our excitement in paying off our debt.

Ok, so what kind of debt did we have?  (This is about to get personal.)  We had very little, if not any credit card debt...thankfully!  I went to school out of state for undergrad which was around $20,000 and Drew had to take a certification program in Chicago that costs around $25,000.  We just bought a mini-van in 2014 which we paid part cash for and that was about $10,000. When we started 2016 we had around $46,000 in debt.  (This does not include our mortgage.)

Every month we seemed to spend exactly what we were making, but we had no idea where all of our money was going?  This is where Dave Ramsey says you tell your money what to do, not your money tells you what to do.  (Or something like that...)  There are baby steps you take and the first one you do is put $1000 in the bank.  This is called your emergency fund.  We were lucky to already have this, but we don't per say use it as we should.  Although, it is there, "just in case" we need it.  The next step is to set up a budget.  This is so you KNOW where all of your money is going each month.  There are plenty of budget resources out there, but I made a google sheet so that Drew and I could both see the accomplishments and fill in where needed.  Here is a COPY of Budget.  If you are unfamiliar with Google Drive, it is about to change your life, but click file, and make a copy.  Then you can edit.  I have set up the formulas to add and subtract off monthly expenses.  There are two pages: one for the monthly budget and one for allocations such as debt.  Once you do this for a couple of months you will see the consistency in certain bills and the budget will be easier to fill in.  Dave Ramsey points out the first few months of doing a budget is not easy and it will hurt, but it will be better in the long run.  I can personally say he is correct!

When you are making a budget you allow for all expenses.  If you look at my budget I have a monthly allowance for food, car, gas, spending, etc... At the beginning of the year I looked at our online bank account and I saw roughly what we were spending monthly on these things.  I then put them in the budget and added and subtracted where necessary to fit in our budget.  This is where the first few months are pretty difficult.  Your entire pay check is spent, but not literally it is just going towards different spending accounts.  You are telling your money what to do.  For example: I knew we would need around $500 for our property tax on our mini-van, at the end of the year.  I took this number and divided it by 12 (months).  I then added money for oil changes and possible extra repairs we take about $55 a month and move it into a car fund.  This way when something needs fixed on the car we have the money.  (If it is something serious then we have the $1000 emergency fund.)  When we plan in advance and we know we have the money then there is no questions on can we change the oil this month?  In the past, I know we would spend haphazardly and at the end of the month we would not have money for the things we really needed.  We do not do the cash system suggested in the Ramsey program except on our monthly spending money.  We have set up savings accounts for missions, car fund, savings, emergency, and house funds.  Monthly the money is moved out of our checking account automatically to the allotted savings depending on how much was determined by our budget at the beginning of the year.  I also set up automatic payments for everything, including tithe, except what we pay in child care.  This way I do not have to carry around large sums of cash in my purse.

So what everyone is wondering is where did we get an extra $26,000 in just one year?
1.  Whenever our children do not go to daycare we do not pay.  With me being a teacher there are plenty of days off.  We take this money and put it directly onto our lowest debt.  This is probably the biggest way to get money from your budget when you need some extra cash.
2.  I tried to allot for a certain amount on each bill and when it is under this allotted amount I use the extra money on debt.  For example: when we set $75 as the amount for the water bill and this months bill was only $67 I take the extra $7 and pay on our lowest debt.  Seems like not a lot but it truly does add up.  It also makes you conserve more water.  WIN/WIN...
3.  Ramsey suggests paying off the smallest debt and snowballing your way up.  This truly works.  I will never forget when we paid off our first debt which was under $200.  We felt like we could take on the world!!  Once you pay off the smallest then you take what you were paying there and add it to your next smallest debt and eventually the debt will get hacked away monthly by a large sum.
4.  We were lucky to have a large tax return in 2016 and my husband bonuses two times a year.  We do not rely on this money.  We do not assume we will get anything, this way when it comes we do not already have it spent.  (This is hard!)  When we get the bonus or tax return we tithe and put almost everything that is left over towards our lowest debt.  It is very difficult to not be selfish during this time, but we continue to pray over the money and pray to put our pride aside and know that one day we will be able to use our money to glorify God even more than we are already able to today.
5. Last, we have been very diligent in updating our budget almost every two weeks.  Drew is paid bi-weekly and I am paid monthly, so the budget has to be updated quite often.  When the budget is not updated our funds seem to be lost and we do not pay off as much debt for that month.

I am a true believer that when you pray over the blessings God gives you he will continue to bless you.  NO, this does not mean he will make me a millionaire, but ever since our family started realizing our money and blessings are not our own but His we have been provided for in so many ways.  Feel free to comment with any questions and I will do my best to answer any questions.

I am in no way an expert on this topic just hoping someone can be inspired by our journey, and hoping writing about this will continue to motivate us to become debt free in 2017.


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