In 2005, I was introduced to Dave Ramsey through his book, “The Total Money Makeover” while visiting my mother in Detroit. She was attending a work related conference. Uncle Dave (as he’s become affectionately known to the Debt Free Divas) was speaking and passed out his book to the workshop attendees.
My mother and I are both avid readers. Only, I read very slowly and I asked if I could take the book home with a promise to mail it later (we don’t live in the same city). She said NO!
Over the course of a weekend, I consumed the entire book which was timely as my husband and I had been struggling to get a handle on our finances. We’d given a half-hearted attempt at budget building. Nothing seemed to stick. I’d dusted off my library card and immersed myself in the writings one personal finance guru after another. We weren’t making progress.
Uncle Dave and the debt snowball made sense.
It made so much sense that we were ultimately able to retire $107,000 in consumer debt (not including our mortgage) seven years later.
When I pen the above sentence, it almost seems trivial. Something we did with little effort. Seven years … $107,000 … next. Not exactly. Those seven years were long and tedious; filled with distractions, temptations, poor decisions, restarts and sputters. It took over a year before my spouse and I could even agree that Dave Ramsey wasn’t a fanatical nut job with a trendy book-of-the-month to push. Our journey was not a straight shot.
I also don’t mean to imply that once we started, everything fell into place. When I added up our debt in 2005, we had just over $40,000 in debt. Do the math. Yes, even after I’d read the book, drank the Kool-Aid, and made the decision to pursue debt freedom – we still added to the debt total.
Some areas were just dumb decisions – like leasing a Jeep. Some debt resulted from mistakes with our business – a $20,000 tax bill for example. Either way, we’d make progress and then take two steps back.
Through it all, we refused to give up. I believe we grew smarter after digging out of each money mistake. Toward the end the momentum began to build, we learned to work with and not against one another, and ultimately reached our goal.
How did we stay focused during those 7 years? We were intentional about finding ways to enjoy life along the way.
With the belt tightening, cut backs, and sacrifice – all work and no play is no fun at all. Our path out of debt became a lifestyle of choice and not a chore.
We didn’t rebel financially against our intentions because the process was labor of love and not an exercise in misery. You can enjoy life while dumping debt!
1. I love to travel. I did not cut out travel completely, we just found cheaper ways to see the world. I would visit family or friends to cut down on lodging. We explored places within driving distance or became tourists in our own city. I’m still amazed at how many new things I encounter in a city that I’ve lived in for over a decade.
2. Spend more time with friends. I’m a huge advocate of game nights and pot lucks. They are simple to plan, inexpensive to fund, and great for the soul. My favorite game to play with a large group is Mafia or Cashflow by Robert Kiyosaki with a smaller crowd. You need a few hours to play either one, but they are both a blast.
3. Volunteer. When you stop spending loads of cash (that you don’t have) and cleaning up your finances, you might find extra time to burn. Volunteering is a great way to productively use that time without adding to the bottom line.
4. Hangout with community organizations. Churches, universities, libraries, or community centers are a great source for cultural stimulation that won’t break the bank. I’ve been to professional quality productions at local churches. I don’t limit myself to just one type either. The larger organizations generally have great websites with updated schedules and packed itineraries. You can take in a production, attend a seminar – on better money management techniques, or just hang out and make new friends.
5. Take in city events. I do live in an absolutely fabulous place to dump debt while maximizing a budget-friendly social life. The summer is full of family friendly festivals, outdoor concerts, or free days at the museum. I generally pick up a local magazine with a list of all the events around town to plan a schedule. I’m sure most cities have something similar that can be discovered with a simple search. Your tax dollars are already paying for these “free” events; why not enjoy them.
Dumping debt is a challenging, energy consuming process. Finding ways to enjoy life through the process will increase the chances that you’ll stay committed and achieve success.
About Toni Husbands