As promised in my previous post that discussed why it’s SO IMPORTANT to get out of debt, below are the steps Matt and I actually followed that have led us to our financial goals of being debt free. Woo hoo!
- Put God first. There is good reason this step must be a jumping off point. You see, everything we have comes from our Creator. Everything. Money. House. Cars. Jobs. Breath in our lungs. It’s His. When trying to get out of debt, it only makes sense to start at the beginning and welcome God into your finances. We prayed daily that He would take over, help us to make wise decisions, and above all teach us how to honor Him in our work lives and with our finances. Tithing and giving was never a question, so if it meant we would never get out of debt in order to give, so be it. True to His name, He showed us that you can never out give the God of Heaven and Earth. The more we gave, the more He gave—not just financially, but richly in ways that words cannot describe. Invite Him to be not only the God of your heart and mind, but also the God of your finances—and then step back and watch Him work!
- Think outside of the box. Sometimes the choices we make won’t make sense to others. That’s okay. They don’t have to. We wanted to get out of debt fiercely. We knew we would have to make sacrifices (more on that in a moment), but we also had a few things we weren’t willing to sacrifice: yearly trips to Maine to see family, little B&B couple get-aways here and there, date nights, and just the ability to enjoy life in general. We didn’t want to live four years with no fun, so we had to get creative. We didn’t have more man hours to give; goodnight, between the two of us we already had four jobs and a growing family! So, we began to pray and brainstorm about ways to creatively pay off debt that might not be your standard, run of the mill plan. Side hustle anyone?
- Be willing to make sacrifices. Yes, I stated above that we weren’t willing to go four years without fun—but let me add here that our date nights revolved around Groupons and our grocery trips began with piles of coupons. Our phones haven’t been updated to newer models in over four years. We don’t have cable. We rarely eat out. With four kids, we hardly have the square footage that we “need”, AKA want, but this is a prime time to mention the vast difference between needs and wants anyway. Getting out of debt requires being able to say no to some wants that your mind and heart may try to trick you into believing are needs. We cannot have it all. Decide today what you are willing to sacrifice to reach your goals, then cut the cord and don’t look back!
- Budget. This should go without saying, but it’s a principle that is easily forgotten in our current, instant gratification culture. Folks, if getting out of debt is a goal, following a budget is going to be part of reaching that goal. There are countless online tools that can be used for budgeting. I used a combination of Mint.com and excel sheets each month. Lots of monitoring and calculating and fun—as in it’s fun to be in control of your money instead of letting it control you. For real. Make a budget and live within your means!
- Find a niche. So, back to that side hustle. Once upon a time, before I ever committed to be a therapist, my first major in college was Interior Design. Although I’m no Joanna Gaines, I’ve always had a love for all things aesthetically pleasing and an eye that could see past what something was into the realm of what it could be. As my husband and I explored each other’s strengths and desires, I realized my little hobby could go well with his strong interest in real estate and his brilliant business mind. We put our gifts together and, voila! We found a little niche that worked well for us. It wasn’t quite flipping houses, but more like refreshing homes. Everyone is good at something, so take inventory of the skills and gifts you have at your finger tips and find a niche that will put them to work!
- Work unto the Lord. Our niche, oddly enough, became a sort of ministry. Here’s how our home refreshing ministry worked; we looked for good deals on houses that needed a little TLC—nothing too major– just floors, paint, lighting, décor… you know, the little things that make a house a home. We discovered that many homes sit on the market for months and months because there’s just too much clutter or the home just hasn’t been properly cleaned. We knew how to clean! And alas, we began to buy these homes. We didn’t have the income to buy these homes as investment properties, so we bought them as primary residences. Which meant lots of moves. Although moving frequently wasn’t always fun, meeting our goals together and getting to see houses transformed was. We lived in some beautiful homes; we lived in some simple homes, too. Each time we lived in and “made over” a house, we had great joy in knowing we were leaving something better than we found it. We would pray for the next owners to be blessed tremendously at their time in this home we felt we had prepared for them with such care. We weren’t just making money as we bought and sold, we were preparing safe havens and forever homes for future owners. Colossians 3:23 says: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” Find a way to work unto the Lord in whatever line of work you do!
- Make connections. We have made connections with wonderful people who have helped us on this journey of getting debt free. Two realtors have been extremely patient and hard-working; Debi Murray from Murney & Associates found two homes for us and sold two homes for us. Doug Collins with Remax Solutions sold three homes for us and found two homes for us. Adam Swenka with OakStar Bank has closed countless mortgages for us. Getting out of debt is a lot of work, so make connections anytime you can with those who can assist you along the way.
- Give God the Glory. Here’s the deal, we know our situation could change at any moment. Life is full of the unexpected– injuries, medical bills, demotions and hard times can happen to anyone at any time. We are where we are financially (and otherwise) because of God and not because of our own human knowledge. Ultimately, real estate is a risk, getting out of debt is a risk, and life is a risk. Proverbs 21:19 says: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Know that He directs your paths. When your hard work finally does pay off, don’t be tempted to pat yourself on the back too much. Glory to Him alone!
We are getting ready to close on one more new home March 1st. It’s with this final move that we will be completely debt free! We are moving to a home in the same neighborhood as the one in which we currently live; a home that’s pretty much the same size. It’s what is termed a parallel move. We understand that to a lot of people that wouldn’t make much sense—perhaps getting out of debt is not worth all this trouble to some. For us, however, when we lie our heads on our pillows knowing we will now be raising four kids debt free, we’ll know the get outta debt dance was well worth it. What kind of dance are you willing to do to find financial peace?