We First Perfected Debt
To figure out where we are going, first we need to look at how we got here.
Kevin and I met when we were in high school and began dating his freshmen year in college (my junior year of high school). We were married 5 years later, while I was still in college. We were 21 and 23, and absolutely clueless on how to manage finances (Problem #1). I had embraced the 1980’s with great zeal — amassing over 15 credit cards (mostly of the store variety) by time I was 20 years old (Problem #2). Kevin was unaware of most of them (Problem #3). We were both hard workers but underemployed (Problem #4).
The snowball effect that is so popularly touted for getting yourself out of debt, is sort of how we got into our debt mess — just in reverse.
Let’s recap: We had a wedding – charged whatever our parents were not able to cover. This was added to my already large debt that I came into the marriage with. We rented apartments we could not afford. We bought brand new cars – without considering depreciation, sales or excise tax, or insurance costs. If there were money left in the account (or that old joke about checks left in my checkbook) – we spent it (*correction and to be perfectly fair: I SPENT IT! I am going to try NOT to throw poor Kevin under the bus too much during this blogging our finances series. Although he did have culpability in some of it, ultimately he trusted me. I am the one who abused that trust to get what I wanted / when I wanted it until we were drowning in debt).
Kevin and I took weekends away – all charged. We were eating out constantly (as I despise cooking), and Christmas was always lavishly celebrated. One year I gave 34 people gifts – generous to a fault. It was very Santa-like but without the income to support this expense, it was not very wisemen-like. Although it would be almost 7 years before we welcomed children into our family, we failed to use that double-income lifestyle to rid ourselves of debt and build a nest egg. This would lead us to even more poor decisions in our desire to provide for those kiddos when they came. More on all of this as the weeks progress.
2018 Goals … as we plug along
These were our top 5 take-aways from the book from 2016; along with how we have and will continue to move forward in our financial goals here in 2018:
- We’ve been too proud to ask for help. Step One: Seek Counsel; we’ve chosen to participate in the Navigating Your Finance’s God’s Way Small Group Study from Compass Catholic Ministries. **Please Note** we choose this program first, and then Jon & Evelyn graciously agreed to supply it in exchange for sharing my blog posts — this is NOT an advertisement but will be an HONEST assessment of getting control of our financial disaster of a life using this tool. 2018 Update: BUY THIS BOOK and gather your friends! We were blessed to journey through the workbook with another couple. We recommend bringing others along for the ride for accountability. In fact, 2 years later we still meet regularly to keep each other on track to a debt-free life! Kevin and I lied to ourselves before without adult supervision I am sure we’d find ways to fall back into our spendthrift ways. In fact, I AM sure of it!
- Step Two – start tracking where every penny goes. We had absolutely no idea where our money was spent each month. We’ve set-up a shared google doc – more on that in coming weeks! 2018 Update: This was probably the hardest step to implement. I am not an organized person. My ministry, home and not work life fill my days with important (and exciting) tasks – trying to then make time each day to log expenses was not one I wished to add. I fought this for almost a year!! Once, however, we got in the rhythm, finding the system that worked best for us, tracking became a game changer. Honestly, what an eye-opener to see how much we spent on eating at restaurants and on little ‘trips’ to Walmart (or Amazon! yikes).
- We have no money set aside for retirement with only 16 – 18 years left before we reach this mild stone. 2018 Update: Um, yeah. Kevin is good as long as his company (dear Lord we pray) stays afloat, I am still going to be working until I’m 100; however, we are making progress to at least not retire with debt!
- We lacked CONTENTMENT in what we have aka all the blessings GOD HAS bestowed upon us or has allowed for us to possess! Which is a lot! We are blessed with a home, cars, comfy furniture. More importantly, we have good health, a wonderful marriage and amazing kids! This need for contentment is paramount in overcoming our debt crisis and becoming good stewards of our time, treasure and talent. 2018 Update: We’ve learned to be very grateful!
- We’ve made A LOT of big money mistakes!! Such as co-signing a loan for our son, buying brand new cars, refinancing our mortgage to pay off debt, and using credit cards like income! 2018 Update: You can NOT go back into the past so beating yourself up over those decisions or mistakes is not helpful. All you have control over is today and the days going forward, and the Lord has promised to be with you through each of those. The greatest addition to our financial undertakings has been prayer!! In just 2 years, with the help of the Bean’s advice, a very generous friend and even more generous family, as well as sacrifice and discipline, we have been able to cut our debt in more than half. We are confident we’ll be at least credit card free by the end of 2018! This is a grace, as St. Therese says, “Everything is Grace”.
All rights reserved, Allison Gingras 2016; 2018.