Back in January, Cari and I started tithing again at church. And wow, did that feel good.
It had been about five years since we tithed regularly. We reluctantly stopped because we had attended Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University — a class aimed at teaching better money management skills and eliminating family debt. And during that class, Dave encouraged everyone to continue tithing while reducing debt, but also said that in cases of extreme debt, it might make more sense to stop tithing and dig out first.
Extreme debt? How about $82,000 of debt? That was us. And it sucked.
We’d been irresponsible with credit cards going back to the 1990s. We were living well above our modest means. I used credit cards to fund my attendance at eight shows on U2’s PopMart tour, and eight more on the Elevation tour. When Cari got out of retail and started her real estate career in 2004, things got even worse. She wasn’t making any money (almost no one does when they first start out in real estate). We were taking cash advances on Card A to make the minimum payment on Cards B, C and D. Our debt grew each year and reached a high of $82,000 in 2006.
It was ugly.
We managed to get rid of a little debt over the next year or two. And then, in early 2008 (as I recall), we attended Financial Peace University and it literally changed our life. That was the inspiration and education that got us on the road to ending the slavery of debt.
We didn’t follow the program by the book. We should’ve devoted every extra dollar we had to paying off debt — no vacations, no eating out, no unnecessary expenses, etc. But I wasn’t willing to go several years without, for example, getting my kids back east to see and spend time with my parents. So we took a little longer to eliminate our debt than we could’ve.
But we paid off all our credit cards, one at a time. Each one was closed as soon as the last dollar was paid, and then we got to enjoy the cutting up of the credit card.
In early December 2012, the last credit card was paid off. Wow, did that feel great! That was the end of a five-year battle to get rid of $82,000 in debt. Today, the only debt we have is our house payment. That’s how it’s supposed to be when you follow the Financial Peace plan — no debt except your house. And that you try to pay off as quickly as possible.*
We pay for just about everything with cash or our debit card. We do have a credit card, but that’s only used when it doesn’t make sense to use a debit card and we pay off any balances on it right away.
And we couldn’t have done it without Financial Peace University. Can’t recommend it enough. You can visit the FPU website to find upcoming courses in your area. Want to get out of debt and be the master of your own finances again? Give it a shot.
*There are a lot of details about the FPU plan that I’m skipping. It’s basically a 7-point plan, as mentioned below in this FPU video.
(Stock image via Shutterstock.com. Used under license.)