On Being Debt-Free

I used to pay off a credit card, and then, as soon as it was at zero, I'd go out and shop, spending more each time.  When I confessed what I had just done, a wise friend told me I was more comfortable with debt than I was with being debt-free.

I wasn’t comfortable not being poor.  Being poor, I could commiserate with friends.  Research has shown that poor families are happier than rich families.  Poor families give more than rich families.  Poor was good.  Rich was bad. 
A. Sarnoff, artist

This conversation took place 20 years ago.  I took to heart what he said.  My problem in my 20’s was Nordstroms.  After that conversation, I paid off my bill (took about 1 year), and for the first time I did not get back into debt on that card.  Over time, I learned to not be in any credit card debt.  I did this by brainwashing myself:

Automatic Millionaire
Renee Ellisons’s CD on money
Mary Hunt’s newsletters and books
Your Money or Your Life book
Developing a Prosperous Soul, Vol 1 & 2 by Harold R. Eberle
Finding Your Way Home
There’s No Place Like Home
money principles from the Holy Bible ( http://www.biblicalmoneyprinciples.com/verses/ has some of them)

Some answers to prayer from 2005-2009:
Received an unexpected paycheck from unused vacation days (an audit discovered this)  $1500
An unexpected $700 refund from home insurance
Unexpected gift from a relative to cover dental work
An unexpected tax refund check (because I quit working the year before and I had overpaid!)
An unexpected $1000 from a relative’s will
Husband received an unexpected raise
Retirement plan changed so that work now pays more
An old friend repaid a very old loan
We brought our giving into alignment (only 10%) (we were actually giving more than we could afford; Eberle’s book taught me how to figure this out)
We no longer buy the cheapest thing – like tires – but more quality items that have to be replaced LESS often (Eberle also taught us this)
Unexpected gifts of cash – always just enough to cover what we need
Doing odd jobs and getting paid more than contracted for
Pay cycle changed from every twice a month to every 2 weeks – we learned to live on less and the “extra” 2 paychecks paid insurance for the year – just when we were wondering how we’d pay it
Overtime checks
Debts paid off – freed up money to cover living expenses
Rewards on visa card to help PAY the card off each month (not buy another item or get a gift card)
Utility payments down due to good weather, and avoiding peak times when possible

Now, lest you think all was peaches and cream, this is how many of my entries read from my journal:

2/1/08 2:30 am (I couldn’t sleep as usual for fear of not being able to pay bills).  Well, it’s happened.  We don’t have enough to pay our bills.  As usual we are approximately $1500 behind.  I’m going to have to pay a credit card with another card’s check.  We’ll see what the fees are.  Zero percent, but fees.  We’ve been careful this month with putting things on the card.  We’ll see.  Had electrical problems.  Cost $500.  3 installments of $165.  Car insurance due – first time we can’t pay in full.  I’m disillusioned.  I got asked to work.  I don’t want to, but the Lord doesn’t seem to be providing.  What am I to learn?  What is DH to learn?  I’m jealous of others.  I wish we didn’t have a car payment – that would help.  Lord, please help us work out how to live on his income.  I’m cleaning things out to sell on e-bay, and because I think we will have to move (we didn’t!).  Show us how to pay our bills, Lord. 

SAME DAY  2/1/08 9:00 pm  I’ve been reading about God being our provider today.  I’ve been conversing with Him about our bills.  I read that God is slow.  But never Late.  I didn’t have peace about paying a credit card with another card.  Bill is due 2/7.  The Lord just told me to put all my bills on a calendar – pre-write them on their recurring due dates in so I don’t forget to pay them – not just to list my bills on a piece of paper.  Then He said to pay just the bills that are due.  Lo and behold I realized that the paycheck on the 13th CAN cover the house payment due on the first – but not LATE until the 15th!  It’s cutting it CLOSE, but I think it will work if I set up an automatic payment on the 13th.  Putting this off leaves enough money to pay all the bills.  Plus!  Grandma sent money for toddler classes for something fun to do!

3/14  I got a $1 calendar to use just for bills.  Just by rearranging my dates and pay periods we are going to have enough.  I called all the utility companies to move the payment dates to correspond with our new pay periods – instead of being due on the 28th, they will be due on the 3rd.  It was so easy and it solved my dilemma!  I’m no longer behind!  I made the last payment to the electrician today.  But then how will I pay the visa bill?  Ugh! It’s a never ending cycle. 

3/14 PM   DH was invited to Rotary.  They had a raffle.  His friend bought him two tickets and he won $140!  That pays the visa bill!  And buys a new toaster that broke last week!

5/31  He got a raise!  What an incredible surprise!  Every little bit helps! 

3/11/09  Well, somehow we keep making it, in spite of all the things that keep breaking down.  Both cars and the dryer on the same day! Luckily, both cars just need batteries.  We got a great deal on a dryer – the catch – it won’t be delivered for a month.  We gave $1809 LESS than last year, but still gave 10%.  I haven’t been worrying, since we are doing okay.  I’ve been home 3+ years now.  Plus, I just won a $100 gift card (to a seaside town 3 hours away).  The hotel for 2 nights will be $328.  The hotel will give us $25 for gas.  The $100 gift card pays all of our food and the rest of the gas.  I brought in $334 doing typing and proofreading for a friend.  Thank you, Lord, vacation paid for!  First one in YEARS!  Whoopee!

8/23/10  Called phone company to complain about internet charge going up.  Held for 5 min.  They reduced it, and now I can pay for the class for little one!

God is obviously providing for us in so many little ways….we pray about it, and eventually our answer comes.  The only clothes I’ve had to buy little one is pj’s, socks and underwear.  All else come from friends and the free table.  If I was rich, I would miss seeing God’s provision….I would depend on our paycheck only. 

Little one asked if we were rich, and I said, “Yes, we are.  We have everything we need, and I am at home with you.  Our roof doesn’t leak, even though it is 50 years old.  Our car runs, even though it is 15 years old.  Our pantry is full…I haven’t gone hungry since 1999, and you’ve never gone hungry.  Daddy has a job.  You have toys.  We have friends, and our family, and our church, and our health.  We are very, very rich.”   He then asked for something outrageous…and of course I said, “no dear, we can’t afford that.” 

Make a great deal over little pleasures.  People need joy.  ~Unknown

2015:  The kicker is that we live on less than we ever have before, but we have learned to live on less and watch God provide.  We are now out of debt and we seem to never run out of money – we always have JUST enough.  It is simply amazing.  Over this last decade God has taught us so much about finances, greed, jealousy, trusting Him, self-control, waiting on Him, praying things in, grace, giving, compassion. 

When you are in the midst of debt, life is hard.  If you are in debt, and you are a Christian, please prayerfully read the Bible first, then the books I’ve mentioned above.  If you are not in the habit of giving, begin with 1% and work up to at least 10%. 

Before I met my husband, I lived in financial fear.  I began tithing 1%.  I went to 2% 6 months later.  Then   3%, then 4%.Then I paid off a huge debt.  I asked myself how much 10% giving would be and without this debt, I jumped to 10% and my financial problems diminished.  When I married we had plenty of money, but then I came home with little one.  I had to learn to live on one small income.  My post on that tells it all.  

A. Sarnoff
You have to DO.  Read, pray, and DO the baby steps.  Don't just read and wish.  Read how I paid off the car 6 months early for more encouragement to BEGIN.  I want everyone to be debt-free!

That man is the richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.  ~Henry David Thoreau

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