First of all…the strangest thing happened. My laptop stopped working, and I took it Best Buy, where they declared it dead. They asked me if I wanted to look at new laptops, and I declined, saying that I needed to talk it over with my husband first. I threw the computer into the backseat, and just left it there. We had a pretty crazy weekend.
Yesterday, I had wanted to write a blog post, but could not for the life of me figure out how to 1)find the blog admin url, and 2) remember the password (it was some randomly generated letters/numbers. I was a hopeless mess. Theo calmly says, “I’m just gonna try your laptop one more time and see if we can get enough power to find the link”. I scoffed through my tears, but let him try.
And voila! My laptop is working again!!!! So, the moral of the story is two-fold: Never give up, and don’t trust Best Buy.
Anyways, on to the real reason for this post.
Exactly a year ago, on Saturday, May 4th, I walked across the stage at Cedarville University and received my diploma. After four years, I was finally a college graduate, with a degree in Early Childhood Education, a husband, an amazing amount of friends, and a significant amount of debt (Let’s just say less than $20,000, but more than $12,000)
Exactly one year later, Theo and I paid off the last of those loans. We feel this is an INCREDIBLE accomplishment, and are so delighted that we were able to pay them off BEFORE the baby arrives. However, we realize that we did not arrive at this accomplishment on our own. Here is how we did it…
1. First off, we were incredibly blessed to have only one person’s debt to pay off. Theo graduated from Cedarville with no debt. This meant that we had two incomes working to pay off one person’s debt. I know that is not the case for everyone, and that is the main reason that we were able to pay off my debt so quickly.
2. We have a budget. Theo is incredibly faithful with money. Sometimes I tell him he is ‘frugal to a fault’, but this has obviously benefited us greatly in the past year! We made the largest chunk of our budget go towards loans. Theo decided the systems that the loan companies establish and encourage are stupid and not beneficial to getting out of debt. For example, we could simply have paid the $200 a month for the next 10 years, but we would have gained almost $4,000 in interest just to pay off those loans. So our strategy was to pay them off as quickly as possible in the largest chunks possible. This means that our savings account is currently depleted, but we have no outstanding debt.
Another part of having a budget is that we chose to sacrifice some *ahem: many* things. We go without air conditioning in the summer and kept the heat turned down in the winter (until I got pregnant and cried every morning about how cold I was…but that’s another story). I shop for our groceries at Aldi, and only buy the necessary foods to keep us healthy and going strong. For example, I have bought steak maybe twice since we got married. It’s nice, and tastes wonderful, but it’s much more expensive that buying ground beef. We have chosen to not turn our noses up at trash-picking, garage saleing and hand-me-downs. I can’t recall the last time I have bought an item of clothing brand-new at the store. We haven’t taken long trips or excessive vacations, although we have been able to travel quite a bit.We eat out about 1-2 times a month, and don’t buy ready-made meals from the store. All of these things are little things that you might not think would make a difference in the grand scheme of things, but they really do.
3. Theo came up with a loan payment plan that was only possible through a wealthier family member. We would not have been able to have our loans paid off it wasn’t for this system. We borrowed the entire chunk of money that we owed for loans from a family member, and paid off the loan companies with one big check (see up top: the whole deal with interest). Then, we have spent the last several months paying off that family member interest-free. This turned out to be an excellent strategy, but I understand that it is not possible for everyone. However, if you are looking to pay off loans that have massive amounts of interest, and you have a family member or friend (that is financially able to help you) that you have established trust with, I suggest this as the way to go.
4. Let paying off loans/dealing with finances be a learning process. Sometimes, finances are completely out of our hands. It seems that every month there is a new, unexpected expense. It might be a medical bill, or a car break-down, or buying a dog, or having a laptop break down. We have learned so much through the past two years of our marriage about trusting in God for financial provision. I am often reminded that no matter how hard we work, and how “smart” we are about our finances, they are still in God’s hands, and often completely out of our control. It also works the other way around, too- sometimes we don’t even know where the money is going to come from to fill up the gas tank, or to buy the groceries for the month. And then suddenly, there it is…in the form of a gift card, or some groceries or an unexpected bonus at work. Always be open to learning, and not just focused 110% on the goal of ‘paying it all off’.
5. The grace and goodness of God. Neither of us could be here if it was not for Him. The fact that we were able to be married, with Theo working while I was in school, was a huge blessing. During that first year of marriage, we were barely making ends meet, and I remember several months that our bank account had a balance of under $10 before the next paycheck came in. Yet God was faithful, and we never went into the negatives. Then, God provided BOTH of us with jobs, a wonderful place to live, and the health and wisdom to sustain us through work and all those financial choices. So we are rejoicing and praising him that we have finally reached this point! We are now extremely poor, with almost no money to our name…but we have now begun the journey of living debt-free…and we hope to always be in that place! Praise the Lord!
Out with one debt, just to bring in another BIG life-long expense! But this one will be worth every penny….