Monday, March 29, 2010

Slaying the Debt Monster

A new adventure began for us last month. After hearing Dave Ramsey sporadically on the radio for a couple of years, we have finally gotten on board with his financial program. In February 2010, we began our own financial peace adventure.
First step was to set up a $1000 emergency fund. I had some things at the consignment store, so I dropped by to see how they were doing. To my surprise, I was able to pick up a check for $175. Combining this with some monies squirreled away from paychecks, and some unspent Christmas money, we had our $1,000 baby emergency fund within 2 weeks.

Baby step 2 is to payoff debt. We'll be camped here for a while. Especially since we tried to live off credit cards for a short period of time before getting smart and seeking help from other avenues. Some exciting things have happened over the last 6 weeks. First of all, my husband and I are on the same page and are tackling the debt monster as a united force. Matthew 18:20 tells us "For where two or three come together in My name, there am I with them." Therefore, we are not alone. God is with us in this battle.

Evidence of His presence is coming almost daily. When we first began this adventure, we had our home listed with no activity whatsoever (due to previous job loss, we needed to sell). Within 3 weeks of being on the program, we began having traffic almost daily. A little over a week ago, we had an offer, and now we are going through the process of lender acceptance (aka short-sale).

Another evidence is money coming from unexpected sources. We received a couple of checks we weren't expecting and immediately applied them to the debt snowball. That, added to some income from tax returns, cut one year off our estimated debt-free day.

Last Wednesday, we began looking for our next place to live. A garage was on the wish-list, so we only looked at places with garages. Keeping our wish-list low and hopes down, we set out on our quest. Our mission was to find the cheapest place to rent possible so we could apply money to debt and get that monster slayed in 3 years or less. To our surprise, we found a complex that not only has garages, but has nice floorplans with color on the walls, and is in our budget. We were actually headed home, turned up a street, and saw the complex. "What the heck - one more stop," we said. And, lo and behold, the unit had everything we would love to have and dared not hope for. Thank you, Lord!

Would you like to join me on this adventure? Read Dave Ramsey's "The Total Money Makeover", or go to his website and sign up for his on-line program. There are a total of 7 steps in the program.

Step 1 - Get on a budget and save up $1,000 for your baby Emergency fund.
Step 2 - Get out of debt.
Step 3 - Save up 3-6 month's expenses for your full Emergency fund.
Step 4 - Invest 15% of household income into Roth IRAs and pre-tax retirement.
Step 5 - College funding for children.
Step 6 - Pay off home early.
Step 7 - Build wealth and give!

While others have similar programs, Dave's is the most practical. Other programs suggested a fully funded 3-6 month's Emergency fund before tackling debt. I could never get there. With Dave's plan, we are making progress. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and it's not an on-coming train!

What are you waiting for? Join us and slay your own debt monster!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cheerleader, Coach, or on the Front Line

This week, watching my hometown team, the New Orleans Saints, win their division title, I once again began to ponder a question. Where am I in this game of life? Am I on the front lines, pressing through the enemy's defense. Or am I a cheerleader, supporting my team? Or am I a coach - teaching and equipping my players to do battle?

This past Christmas season, I read a book called "The Bean Trees" by Barbara Kingsolver. It's about a young girl (Taylor) venturing out from her home state of Kentucky and landing in Tucson, Arizona. One of the lines in the book is from Taylor's friend and mentor. She says to Taylor, "Some folks are the heroes and take the risks, and other folks do what they can from behind the scenes."

A couple of years ago, as I was teaching a group of high school girls, God revealed something to me that I shared with them. Like many, I've always felt I should probably go overseas to share the gospel. Physical and financial limitations, and just the plain circumstances of life, kept this from ever happening. What God revealed to me so very sweetly one day was that I was not to be the one fighting on the front line. I was to be one equipping the saints to go fight. In gratitude and relief, I have been submitting to the purpose God has given me.

Oswald Chambers, in today's devotion (My Utmost for His Highest) puts it this way - "Many of us refuse to grow where God plants us. Therefore, we do not take root anywhere. Jesus said if we would obey the life of God within us, he would look after all other things." Mathew 6:30

Consider the situation in Haiti. Many people have an ache in their heart. They want to do something. But, consider this. God has prepared so many people for just this situation. The experts are there. Do they need more people, many of whom may not have the skills needed and may just get in the way? Do they need more resources? Do they need your prayers? I submit to you that the most powerful thing you can do is pray. And, then if God lays it on your heart, send some of the resources He has entrusted in You. And if you are equipped and skilled, then go.

Cheerleader, Coach, or on the Front Line. Each has it's purpose. Each is important to God. Let us find our place, and then dig our roots deep and become the best we can be. For His Glory.