A Total Money Makeover

13 Mar

This is off topic–not exactly about my house and my decorating but very much about how I live my life and why. I’m posting it because I had to speak in church on Sunday so I feel like I did my writing already this week and because it’s a great topic.

Last week our minister, Eric, spoke about the gift of being thunderstruck.  The whole time he was speaking, I was thinking about how I had been thunderstruck. It was a gift.

Eighteen months ago I picked up Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and I was thunderstruck.

This book spoke to me right when I needed it most.

See, in our house, my husband Mike handled the big picture stuff.

He dealt with our long-term finances handling our 401-k choices, life insurance, IRAs, making decisions about mortgage re-financing and any other “bigger” investments.

I struggled to keep track of our everyday bills.

I was in charge of the checking account, paying mortgage and utilities, car payments, credit card bills, debit card spending ($4 here, $8 there) and never really balancing our checkbook (turns out few Americans do).

It overwhelmed me. Mike would ask how our finances were and I would snap. I’m a marketing director with a journalism degree. I don’t do numbers. I’m no good at math. I would try to do a home budget for us but it never seemed to stick.

And then I read this book.

It’s just a common-sense approach to personal money management and paying off debt, but it truly changed our lives

Mike and I signed up for a Financial Peace University class and got on the same page in terms of where we are financially. I was finally engaged in the big picture stuff and he was finally aware of what was happening day to day. It hasn’t been easy but it’s definitely worth it.

I got so excited about Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University that I asked Eric if I could facilitate a class for Countryside (our church).

He agreed and we started in September with 10 families represented. Among those 10 families, we had more than $560,000 worth of debt.

That DIDN’T include home mortgages. It was lots of student loans, car loans, credit card bills, etc . . .

A few of the families had no debt. They just wanted to get organized and learn how to budget, pay for college, buy insurance, and other aspects of personal finance.

The course is 13 weeks.

In those 13 weeks we met every Monday for two hours. We watched a video of Dave Ramsey speaking about different elements of money management. We discussed what we learned and we shared our successes and challenges in becoming debt-free.

We also collected all of the credit card offers we received in the mail. . .

This is only some of them.

The other thing we did in that 13 weeks was we paid off more than $85,000 worth of debt! (applause happened here)

So, how’d we do it?

We got MAD at that debt.

We got seriously organized in looking at our finances.

We learned how to budget.

We learned how to live within our means.

And we supported each other as we chipped it away.

So we’re starting another class on Monday, March 19.

The cost of class is $89. You get a book, workbook, all of the lessons on CD, and the support of your peers. You also get a lifetime membership to Financial Peace University and you can always come back to class for a refresher.

Sign up if you’re interested, or just come to the first class and check it out. It will change your life!

When Mike and I first started doing Financial Peace University, I was a little embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know that we had debt and were doing a video class to help us. I was frustrated that we were in that situation even though Mike works with investments, but it’s like the old saying the cobbler’s kids wear holey shoes.  It was time to put OUR financial house in order.

Some major home renovations in the middle of a job change and a rental house emergency had gotten us there . . . but it wasn’t the first time. We had jacked up credit cards before but then paid them off. And when I say I tried to budget, I really did. It was just hard because our income can be inconsistent.

Reading Total Money Makeover was an absolute epiphany in my life. We’ve made some sacrifices in the last 18 months but it’s made us a stronger family. Mike uses Dave Ramsey’s principals in his work and it really resonates with people. And we have changed our ways. I create a budget every month. We pay in cash a lot more. Instead of the mall, I go to thrift stores when the shopping urge hits. We no longer “have” to take a yearly trip to Mexico (although I can’t wait to get back to that). And I’m thrilled to say that we just refinanced our home to a 15-year mortgage, and it was the first time in 10 years of marriage that I was actually engaged in the process.

The truth is I really like facilitating these classes at church. It feeds my soul to share with others as they figure this stuff out. I enjoy doing my budget each month and think that living more frugally has made me more creative.

Now stay tuned for more of that creativity and simplified living. And meanwhile, enjoy your week!

2 Responses to “A Total Money Makeover”

  1. Cathy March 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm #

    Can’t wait to hear how much debt everyone
    knocks off this time around! Love that stuff!
    Way to go Stacy! 🙂

  2. Monica March 16, 2012 at 9:05 pm #

    Stacy – I am going to “argue” with your first statement. I think financial awareness, “peace,” and intentional choices go perfectly with our “houses” and “decorating.” The move to intentionality with our money, finding more authentic ways to decorate rather than “listening” to what the magazines tell us we should have, and finding ways to “live within our means” changes our houses to homes, from showcases to places where people are comfortable talking and having their children play, I love the angle of the message, as we see how people have lost their homes through the recession and how our planet is being impacted by consumerism got into overdrive. Your new balance didn’t seem to limit your creativity, but actually seemed to make it thrive…it was a challenge to decorate the way you wanted without compromising your goals…you chose to look beyond the show window…and your Valentine’s decorations showed a great balance of using creativity, color, and how it can be done without undoing all the focus of budgeting. Thanks for the post!

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