Thursday, May 2, 2013

Conviction and Spending and Debt

Jesus said to them, "Be careful and guard against all kinds of greed. Life is not measured by how much one owns" (Luke 12:15, ICB)

Ahhhh, being convicted of a sin is no walk in the park. And if you are like me, and surrender your life to the Lord later in life (as opposed to "growing up saved") there are obvious sins that you need to repent and ask for forgiveness and change. Some things are easier to change - for me at least - like drinking too much. I just don't do  it. I don't put myself in the position to be tempted and that helps. Some things are not as easy, like cursing. It's something I have to make an effort everyday to watch my mouth. And by the grace of God, I am forgiven. Every. Single. Time.

Recently, I have been convicted big time of my spending. It is this feeling like when you eat too much and just feel gross. When I buy something, that I do not need, for no reason at all, I keep getting this feeling. Then I stumbled upon this blog.


A slap in the face. Particularly this part: " “YOU DESERVE IT DARLING!” 

I almost always justify my spending with, "Well, I work hard and I deserve it!"

Nope. No, no, no.

What I deserve is to live a life free of debt. Because if I am spending, I am not paying off our debt (and even contributing to it <gasp>). I have always suspected I have a teeny, tiny addiction to shopping. The rush of finding something GREAT! and ON SALE! Ripping tags off to put on a new shirt, peeling size stickers off some new pants. All stuff we (I) really didn't need in the first place.

This is The Plan:

Make a list of all debt.
1. School loans - yes, my company footed the bill for my recent degree BUT I went to school - a private college, cha-ching! for 3 years when I first graduated high school. That, my friends, was not paid for. In fact, my mom and I took loans out to cover my tuition. And then those loans sat there for almost TEN years in deferment while I finished my degree. (if you didn't know, you can defer your loans if you are at least a part time student. They give you the option to pay the interest but of course, I chose not to). So now I have some school loans to pay off. Granted the total is nowhere near what the average college graduate would accumulate, it's still a debt and it still needs to be paid.
2. My car loan - I always pay about $100 over the minimum payment so that has helped our balance go down quickly and I am hoping to have it paid off in the next 18 months (it was a 4 year loan and we are 1 year in)
3. Credit cards. Ugh. I gag just writing it. I HATE CREDIT CARDS. HATE. Think of a food you hate. For me it is liver. I hate credit cards more than I hate liver. I know our credit card debt is not even that bad compared to most. But it is still there and it is still a burden and it is still sucking a lot of money a month that we could be using to, oh I don't know, SAVE.
4. Mortgage. This one I am on the fence about. Since we live in a townhouse, we hope that it is not our forever home and that in the future, we can get something a little bigger. With a garage and a basement. 3 people and 3 dogs, can make it feel a lot smaller than it did when we bought it 4 years ago. (On the positive side, it really makes you evaluate what you NEED and what you do not need) So since we do not plan on living in this house forever, I do not know if it is really beneficial to pay off THIS mortgage. Plus, with the housing market as it is, we will be here for some time and hope that we gain some equity back in our home.
We decided to see where we are at when we pay off the school loans, car loan, and credit cards.

Find the proper tools.
Not only did I find this blog. But I found this one too. And they have an app. I love apps. This one lets you enter all your debts, the balance, the interest, the monthly payment and then it shows you how long it will take you  to pay off. Every month, or anytime you make a payment, you enter into the app and it will adjust your balance and time frame. Right up my alley. Plus, both blogs feature posts by others who are now debt free or working on it.

Choose which debt to start with first.
We chose the credit cards. 1, because it seems like the worst. And 2, it is the most burdensome to me.
If all goes as planned, we should have them paid off by January 2015 - less than 2 years!!!
I am estimating that the car loan will also be paid off by then - or sooner.
Then we will throw the snowball at my school loans. I am giving us 5 years for those. It could and hopefully will be sooner, but that is the max.

Figure out your budget.
I redid our budget so that we know exactly where we will be spending our money each month (bills, food, gas). Any extra money (overtime, birthdays, etc) will go immediately to the current balance we are paying.

Recognize the lifestyle changes you need to make to reach your goal.
On our list of necessary bills are Mortgage, HOA fee, child care, water, electric, car insurance, cable/internet/phone, cell phones, gym membership, food/gas. I think if we were in deeper hot water, there are bills we could cut in half and or eliminate such as the cable bill and the cell phone bill. I budget $150 for food per week and $50 for gas. I am going to try to cut the food bill down to $100/wk and when my office moves closer to home in September, my gas will definitely last longer. Right now I am driving 50 miles a day round trip to work. When we move office buildings it will be about 25 miles round trip. (fun fact: that is an answer to one of my prayers! Hallelujah!) Instead of shopping, I will find other activities to spend my time (go to the gym, Meg) and when I am out shopping and I see something I really like, I will take a picture of it and add it to my list (I actually found an app - see, I told you I love apps - that you can compile a list of "wants". You add a picture, the store, price, website...kind of awesome). Then when Christmas or my birthday(May 29th, people) rolls around, Ryan will actually  be able to surprise me with something I want.

Stay committed.
Any lifestyle change is hard. In a world that is Me!Me!Me! NOW! NOW! NOW! we will definitely be challenged daily. What we have to keep in mind is that we are blessed. All of our needs are met and then some (and more!) This money that we are blessed with is not truly "ours". If we are not responsible stewards of the gifts God blesses us with, how can we expect Him to continue? I know that we have all that we do not because either of us are so smart or hardworking - that we did it all by ourselves - we are smart and hardworking because God gave us those qualities and we make the choice to use them in the best way we know how and to honor Him. I am all about being content with what I have and thankful for all that I have been given. So if you are thinking of it, please pray for us as we make changes in our lives. Please pray for our motivation, determination, contentment, and resistance to temptation that will only keep us in the hole we have dug.

Here goes nothing....



MSDeyle said...

Are you going to use cash envelopes like Dave Ramsey suggests? We don't go quite that far, but do follow a lot of his ideas. I hope you plan on doing an update on how this is going. I love a good success story or even just a progress story. :)

One thing I learned when I quit working full-time and was therefore not around the same people is that who you are around makes a huge difference. My mind frame changed from being "things oriented" to "family oriented" just because of the circle of people I was surrounding myself with. Curious to hear how your life relates to that.

Laura said...

I struggle with this too - living above our means. It always feels good to have nice things and then that conviction comes and you realize that you're doing wrong. What a fine balance. My husband and I were blessed to have a solution earlier this year and pay down almost all of our debt except 2 credit cards and my car loan....BUT we didn't get motivated to save so we're still struggling with spending. Good luck - keep me posted on how it's going.

kerwin said...

I am very impressed and excited for you! This is a tough issue to tackle and you are right in having a game plan and realistic goals. Rick is a big spender and I think I might have lived in through the Great Depression in another life. Between the two of us, there's an average amount of spending. I have found that paying with things in cash helped us greatly keep things in control. For example, we would play "games" (made up by yours truly) where we would say that we could only spend $40 in entertainment/food for the whole weekend. We would get that out in cash, and once it was done, party was over. So we found fun, free things to do. We found out that our local theater has $3 movies for the first showing of the day. We went to the park and the zoo (free here). It forced us to be creative. And then we took it to the next level....If we ever had a $5 bill in our possession, we had to "bank it". This didn't really apply to our weekend game, but just day to day stuff. Then the money in the $5 jar went towards a vacation fund.

I nearly murdered the Target employee that gave me my $20 cash back in all 5s.

Sorry about the world's longest comment.

Kristen said...

Loved this post. I'm with you on the "it's such a great deal I HAVE to get it !!! I've been convicted lately to try harder to spend less and save more.

Also- I identify with the overcrowded townhouse thing. 2 adults plus 2 little boys plus 2 large dogs = cramped. Lately though, the Lord's been incredibly gracious in just showing me how to have contentment and wait on him until that single family is within reach. Here's to waiting and saving! Praying strength and patience for you and I in the mean time!