There is one word, spelled with two letters that can help you achieve a giant financial turnaround. That word is, “No.”
No is one of the English language’s easiest words to pronounce, but can be one of its hardest words to say. Why is it so hard to say? Because we as humans tend to be people pleasers. Many of us have people pleased our way into considerable amounts of debt.
You may have decided that everyone in your family, extended family, and friends lists needed very expensive Christmas gifts. Or that the vacation friends pressured you to go on was a necessity. You may have bought “that” house or “that” car to impress people close to you in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses. A June 7, 2010 post on Dave Ramsey’s website was entitled, “Tired of keeping up with the Joneses? They don’t want you to know that they’re actually broke!” http://www.daveramsey.com/article/tired-of-keeping-up-with-the-joneses/lifeandmoney_debt/
The article states, “…most young couples expect to attain their parents’ standard of living within about five years. Only it took their folks 25 years to get there! It’s a trap. Don’t fall for it.” It is so difficult not to fall into that trap when young couples all around are charging new items left, right, and center. Some of their dogs dress better than I do! But when a financial crisis hits, and it will at some point, the people who are racking up more and more debt will be struggling to make ends meet. And so, for the sake of paying off our student loans so that we never have to struggle to make ends meet again, I will continue to say “no” with reckless abandon.
No to that book I want to buy but would have to charge on the Visa. No to that trip family members are taking but would keep us in debt for years longer. No to that supper out with friends where we would have to finance the fried chicken. No to that weekend road trip that would deplete our gas envelope for the entire month. It is so hard to say no, and it does offend people sometimes. And people will think that those who repeatedly say no to financial requests are cheap or even stingy. But I would rather be seen as cheap or stingy now, knock out all of our debt in a couple years, and be debt free for the rest of my life than say yes and dig my family into an even deeper hole. Saying no now will allow me to one day give with reckless abandon.
What are some requests you’ve had to say no to in order to keep your financial goals on track?
Whenever we as humans make a commitment to change our lives for the better, Satan seems to launch a series of attacks in order to derail our train of progress.
Picture taken by Andy Jeske in South Korea
If we want to meet our goals, we have to recognize these attacks, fight back, and not give in to discouragement. Since my husband and I committed a couple months ago to getting our finances in shape in order to save for an emergency fund and pay off debt, Satan has found ways to assault us. First, our car needed to have a timing belt replaced. Luckily, we were able to use our emergency fund for that. However, we then had to start saving our emergency fund all over again. We were able to start up our emergency fund again with our Thursday paycheck. Saturday, I logged into our bank account to pay our student loans and other bills. I was shocked to see that two payments of $61.95 had been automatically withdrawn from our account. This money was withdrawn by one of our bill payment companies by mistake. This is not the first time they have taken money that is not rightfully theirs, and they are notoriously difficult to deal with once they have made a mistake. By the grace of God, we had enough in our bank account / emergency fund to cover this bank withdrawal, but Satan’s latest financial attack is discouraging to say the least. And it has once again drained our emergency fund. However, I have a choice in how I view financial setbacks. 1. I could let this financial setback upset me so much that I decide that our financial goals will never happen and give up now or 2. I could decide that our financial setback is a small road bump on the journey to being financially fit and continue on my way. I choose to fight Satan’s attack on us and see this as the road bump. Do NOT let Satan’s attacks derail your paying off debt train. Setbacks will happen, so prepare yourself for them and choose to see the big picture instead of what is immediately in front of you. I am confident that you can win your financial battles as well. And the more financial battles you win, the more your train will gain momentum as you attack debt after debt until one glorious day, you can say that you are debt free!
What are some ways your goals in life have been attacked? How have you fought back in order to persevere?
Recently, Dave Ramsey’s team posted an article on his website entitled, “You Know You’re on a Budget When…” http://www.daveramsey.com/article/you-know-youre-on-a-budget-when/lifeandmoney_budgeting/text2/
It was written to help those who are on a budget like Andy and I laugh at ourselves because we have to be frugal with our money. I laughed so hard when I read it. Budgeting and working toward financial goals is not easy, but it is well worth it in the long run.
In honor of Dave Ramsey’s article, I decided to brainstorm reasons Andy and I know that we’re on a budget (and know we're using the envelope system for cash management). We have to find humor in going through the difficult process of paying off debt!
1. Our dog has his own “pet” envelope. He has more money in his envelope than we have. Andy often looks at him and says, “Henry, can I borrow five dollars?” At which point Henry looks away and Andy looks at me and says, “Your dog is mean! Watch this! Henry, CAN I BORROW FIVE DOLLARS?!?”
2. We cut the mold off of moldy cheese and eat the rest
3. Our tent has become our favorite hotel room
4. Our favorite video store is the library, even though a lot of the movies are old or just plain weird
5. We have no cable, which makes us losers among our peers who are always talking about tv shows or the Rider’s games
6. We got rid of our cell phones to save money – I think that officially makes us part of the stone age
7. We used our grocery envelope until it had a hole in it, and my husband gave me the part that fell off and said, “here’s the hole!”
8. We freak out when the price of our favorite Friday night Delissio pizza goes over $6
9. I book my haircuts at the cheapest place in town on “no tax” Tuesdays
10. My current razor blade becomes a shaving experiment to see how long it lasts before I have to buy a new one
11. My gym shoes have holes in them, which you can see if I wear socks that are any color other than white
12. We can only go out to eat with friends if we have a Groupon
13. We have researched and tried every way to cook potatoes because a bag of potatoes is cheap
14. We have taken pictures of tons of things in the house to list them on eBay so we can pay off debt faster
15. I paid for a $0.50 shirt at a garage sale with nickels and pennies
As Dave Ramsey always says, “If you will live like on one else, later you get to live like no one else.” Andy and I are willing to appear crazy while we live on a budget and pay down all of our debt so that we can honor God with our finances and follow His plans for us.
What are some of the humorous things you've done while living on a budget?
For the Jeske family, weekends used to be a time to stay at home and find things to do around the house. Like many people in our culture, Andy and I believed the myth that you need money to have fun. We were always wishing we could go to this concert or eat at that restaurant or attend some festival or other event. One day, when our boredom got the best of us, we decided we wanted to play catch in the park behind our apartment complex, but realized we didn’t have a ball or toy to play catch with. We went on a field trip to the dollar store and found a nifty-looking giant flying disc. That was the start of our free (or cheap) fun adventures.
Soon after that, a colossally fun weekend was approaching in our city, and we were lamenting the fact that we would have to miss out on all of it. Every year, our city has a folk fest. This year, KT Tunstall, K.D. Lang, Fred Penner, and several other artists were coming. The only problem was that tickets were $100 a piece. That same weekend, the city exhibition was happening with food, concerts, rides, exhibitor booths, etc. Yet tickets to the exhibition were too expensive for us as well. We thought we were in for another weekend hanging around the apartment, when to our dismay, someone at Andy’s work told us that admission to the exhibition was free on Sunday morning if you brought a canned good to donate to the food bank. Even better was finding out that there was a free pancake breakfast that day, and we could stay as long as we wanted afterwards. We had a blast eating pancakes, walking around, trying to find the “donut burger” booth to see what one looked like (yes, an actual burger between two sour cream glazed donuts – only an American could have invented that), checking out all of the animals in the petting zoo, and attending a dog sports demonstration. That same weekend, we headed to the park Saturday night and stood outside and heard K.D. Lang play for free. And let me say, her rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah is breathtaking. After that weekend, we became free fun thing finders. We found a free local grassroots news flyer that listed cultural happenings in our city and started scoping out free and cheap events. Every year, the city symphony orchestra puts on a free summer concert in a park as a way for everyone who normally wouldn’t be able to experience their concerts to be able to go. We had so much fun with friends at that event. Between laughing (and taking pictures) as one friend bought and ate a giant pickle from a food vendor and being scared half to death when the RCMP fired a cannon at the end of the war of 1812 song, it was a wonderful afternoon.
We also found out that a local pub has a jazz night and folk night every week, and there is no cover charge to get in the door. We went one evening for our date night, and inhaled a giant, cheap, amazingly seasoned plate of French fries as we enjoyed the eclectic pub atmosphere. It is a myth that you need to have money to have fun. You can still pay off debt and enjoy life!
Have free fun things become a norm in your household? If so, what are some creative weekend events that you’ve enjoyed?
It has become normal for North American families to carry a huge debt load, but is this really healthy emotionally and spiritually? The Bible does not lie when it says, “…the borrower is slave to the lender” –Proverbs 22:7 (NIV). Personal finance seems to be a secret area of life for most people, who feel like they need to “keep up with the Joneses”. We go in debt in order to do so, and then we’re too ashamed to talk about our debt load in a culture where doing so is taboo. We then hide from others to keep our debt secret and live in financial unhealthiness.
Andy and I have started off our marriage in a large amount of debt, due mostly to student loans and one very stupid decision to join a gym without properly reading the contract first. We barely survive on two incomes, and in fact, if I quit my job, we’d be over $500 in the red each month! We’ve decided that we don’t want to live like this anymore. We are willing to be weird and radical in our culture so that we can live a completely debt-free lifestyle in the future. So, as part of this blog, I’m going to jump out of my cultural box and post a list of our debts. This is not easy for me, but here we go!
Jeske Family Debt
Visa: $547.29 in debt ($30 approximate minimum payment per month)
Jenna’s Sallie Mae Student Loan: $4,629.78 in debt ($50 minimum payment per month)
Andy’s Manitoba Student Loan: $2,292.45 in debt ($68 minimum payment per month)
Andy’s Canada Student Loan: $14,849.23 in debt ($233 minimum payment per month)
Jenna’s US Federal Student Loans: $17,573.62 in debt ($148.88 minimum payment per month)
Gold’s Gym: $357.04 in debt ($178.52 minimum payment per month)
So, we are $40,249.41 in debt (not including interest)
We pay $708.40 per month in minimum payments towards this debt. Yikes!
But there is hope. It came to us in the form of Dave Ramsey. I can’t believe how much that one man’s wisdom has helped us in pursuit of our financial goals. I stumbled upon his website a few months ago and decided to read two of his books (Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace Revisited). After I read Dave Ramsey’s books, we realized that we could get rid of all of our debt in a few short years if we were intentional about doing so. We also realized that saving for an emergency fund was within reach in order to prevent us from accumulating more debt in the future. We have since implemented a strict, cash only budget (more on that in other posts) and it has been working very well for us.
If you want to learn how to better manage your finances, check out his website for resources. He even offers “Financial Peace University” classes online or at local churches. It is www.daveramsey.com
Are you ready to be weird with me? Dave lets families scream "We're Debt Free" on his radio show when they've paid off their debt. I don't know about you, but I can't wait to scream.