Hey there! Hope all is well. Today as we hang out, I’m going to break down the journey that my husband (Ejuan) and I began many years ago. This post will give detailed information on our journey to become debt-free. Depending on what time of day it is where you’re located, and your beverage of choice regardless of the time, grab yourself a cup, glass, or bottle and indulge me for a moment.
Imagine already being past the newlywed status when you’re in your mid-twenties and the parents of three boys, (young twins and a toddler). You are somewhat established and currently residing in a home that you had constructed from the ground up a couple of months before marriage. You are content with your income and live a decent lifestyle. Then your husband decides to uproot your family and upgrade to a house almost twice the current size and budget, so that he can learn the home building process for future endeavors. Because you trust your husband’s judgment and support his plans, you go along with it. Now, turn your imagination into my reality. This is how our journey began.
We went through the process of selling the first place we called home. As we prepared to move our family across town to a city where we knew no one, in a community with some of the rich and famous and those that appeared to be older, retired, and more established, someone in our close family had heard about this guy named Dave Ramsey. They shared with us that he was hosting a financial conference in our area and we’d been invited to tag along. Honestly, I wasn’t interested but I insisted that Ejuan attend and let me know what it was about. Being an introvert, I love staying to myself and large crowded events aren’t really my thing. While I will attend some large events, I’m very picky and selective about the activities I choose to be a part of. Being in a large crowd while sitting around listening to topics about money wasn’t really something that I was interested in at that time. Ejuan went to the conference and he came back and told me about what he’d learned. It’s been many years since that time so I don’t remember the exact conversation, but I do know that we began to make immediate changes because of it. Although we were building this beautiful, custom home across town, which was our main focus at that point, we began to change our mindset.
A short time after the conference, we started reading The Total Money Makeover book by Dave Ramsey. We read it together and I became super inspired! Every story of sacrifice and success was so touching. Yep, I cried after every testimony. All I could think was, I want that for my family too! I was super pumped and it was then that our debt-free journey really took off. At the time, I had an SUV that was just two years old and in great condition. I had one of those moments…I’m pregnant with my third child and although I currently own a decent SUV, I need a NEWER SUV with three rows. Now that I’ll have this baby we need more room on the second row for the baby’s car seat and the twins can sit comfortably on the back row in their booster seats. You know how we all do. Whether you’re like me and you’ve grown from that type of mentality or you’re still currently living like this, either way, I know you understand what I mean. We always come up with that perfect reason to justify a purchase we want to make.
Once I understood the principles that Dave teaches, I was ready to make a change for my family. I sat down and had a talk with Ejuan. It started out something like this. “Listen, babe. We are paying around $600.00 a month for my SUV that sits for six days a week.” During this time in our lives we worked at the same location in Dallas, so we drove his smaller car to work five days a week. The gas, of course, is much cheaper in his car than mine. On Saturday, driving my vehicle could be hit or miss. Unless there was a need for it, it didn’t move. Sunday was basically the only day we rode in my vehicle. It was the busiest day the five of us spent together from riding to and from church and visiting family or making other stops. When he took a moment to take in what I’d just explained, he agreed with everything. Then he asked if I was sure about this decision. I had to remind him of how Dave talks about getting all of the stuff back that you let go of, once you have your finances in order. I had come to peace with that and I was ready to start changing our legacy. When he realized how serious I was, we started making the necessary steps to our financially free future.
We sold my SUV, moved into our new custom home and then started a budget. As much as we loved the house, after being introduced to The Total Money Makeover we realized (even more so than I’d already know from the beginning) that it was not a smart move to make. However, we were locked into a brand new contract, so we were going to figure out how to make things work. We started cutting back on things we did not need. Dave preaches eating beans and rice, meaning get to a point where all you’re focused on are the bare necessities of life. Not only did we do that, but we also took the meaning literally and started eating beans and rice regularly. Dave also talks about being gazelle intense and that’s what we became. Although we would have loved some other meal options, we made that simple and cheap combination work for us for a while so we could focus on our financial goals. It also helped that our sons were small and ate very little at that time. Those beans and rice meals would stretch for days. LOL!
After a little time we upgraded and added chicken to our combo, the bag of chicken quarters (legs and thighs). It still kept our costs down and allowed us to add something new to our menu. We would prepare the chicken in different ways so we didn’t get too bored with dinner and potentially start falling off track. We had gotten to the point where our grocery bill was $75.00 every two weeks. Back in the beginning days of marriage, we shopped at the wholesale stores and we spent about $300.00 or more every two weeks. We never ran out of meat and toiletries, but we soon learned that shopping like that wasn’t necessary. It is just the way we chose to live. During that time, we had no serious financial plan. We went to work, paid our bills, bought our groceries and racked up debt. We basically lived like the average American. Since we had learned this new way of managing our money, we could survive off way less and never missed a beat.
After we’d gotten the ball rolling with our new budget, we decided to make another bold and crazy move. Now, we were already down to one car when we moved into our home, but remember we were gazelle intense. Our next move was selling Ejuan’s car. Just so you understand, back in those times whenever we purchased a car for me (whether brand spanking new or gently used), shortly after, Ejuan felt the need to upgrade his vehicle as well. Therefore, his current car was only two or three years old at this time. However, we made the decision to get rid of it also. That change brought us that much closer to checking off the baby steps of Dave’s financial plan. (Click here to get those steps). Once we found a car that we felt would be reliable enough to get us where we needed to go and back, we sold his car too. So here we are living in a fabulous neighborhood, in an amazing house, with a car that was hanging on by a thread. Crazy, I know! I highlighted a statement Dave made in the book that was perfect for that situation. It says, “Will your broke relatives and friends make fun of your junk car while you do this? Sure they will, but that is a very good sign you are on the right track.” WE WERE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!
From this moment moving forward we had to start making some really tough decisions. We had about five months until our 5th Wedding Anniversary. We’d only been on a few trips since we married and Ejuan had planned them all. I already decided since this was a milestone year, I would head up all of the planning. I had this amazing trip planned and had even booked some things, but now here we were at the beginning of our new lifestyle, and it did not include lavish trips. To celebrate my birthday, five months after marriage, Ejuan took me to Oklahoma. It was only the third state I’d visited in my life (including the state of Texas that I’ve always lived in). Since then, we created a bucket list of visiting all 50 states together as husband and wife. This anniversary was very special to me because I was going to have the opportunity to take him to a state that he’d never visited before. Unfortunately, we discussed the potential costs of my surprise trip and decided to cancel it and make some less-expensive, local plans so that we could knock out more debt. This was also disappointing for me because we had begun a tradition of taking a trip every other year for our anniversary. The decision not to go was about to ruin something that we had just started, and I will admit that I was a little heartbroken about it.
I was young and inexperienced with planning vacations at the time and upon booking, I hadn’t confirmed that I could cancel anything without consequences or losing money. Everyone that I’d booked and made deposits with allowed me to cancel and also refunded my money, except for American Airlines. I was told that we would be given a credit and had to use it within a certain amount of time or we would lose the flights/money. It wasn’t like our typical Spirit flights that we take today, so losing that amount of money for unused flights was going to be devastating for us. I never expressed to hubby where I planned to go because I told myself I’d have another opportunity to reschedule the trip someday. Being the typical planner he was, Ejuan began to figure out what we could do with the flight credit and a very tight budget. He scheduled a two-day trip to New York where we spent very little money and only had a short time to see the city. Nonetheless, we enjoyed our Anniversary and checked off another state on our bucket list.
Once we returned home from our trip, it was business as usual. We immediately went back to work on our debt-free goals. Our budget was very strict for Christmas. Although we wanted to show those closest to us how special they were, we also had to stay focused on our financial future. Going into the next year, we became more and more intentional about managing our money. We learned how to have fun and still enjoy life for little to no costs at all. Anything free you can name, we probably did it. We enjoyed creating fun outside of our home. We spent more time on our acre lot, flew kites and found games to play on our extremely long driveway. Ejuan and I also created picnic dates and had movie nights at home. Don’t get me wrong, eating out, going to the movies, being at theme parks, etc. is loads of fun, but we brought the fun to whatever we did and wherever we ended up. Those memories are just as good, if not better, and they cost us nothing but time and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
During this process, I mentioned to Ejuan at the time that I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to be available for all of the activities and needs of my sons. He told me there was no way that could happen while we were living out in this costly home. I had to remind him that I was supporting his dream and it was never my idea to move out to the area. He told me if that’s what I really wanted then we’d have to sell the house. So our next move was to put the house on the market. We went through the process to get the house prepared for selling. At this time, we had been in the house less than a year so it didn’t take much preparation. Families started requesting showings and it seems like we were always rushing to leave the house every other day, sometimes literally having to make a mad dash from the back door because their realtor didn’t call until they were pulling up in the driveway.
Finally, there was one family that came back a couple of times after their first showing. Because the area still had open lots, it was tough for sellers at that time. Not only were there comps, but you had the option to get your own acre or more and build just the way you’d like. It was at that moment that I really began to call on God. Although I’m a believer and often take time to talk to God, pray and give thanks, I knew we needed Him more than ever then! I decided to go on a fast for one week. Every night that Ejuan would start to prepare dinner for the kids, I’d go up to the room we had designated to be our theater. It was basically an empty room because we hadn’t started purchasing anything for it yet. I would sit down in a rocking chair and open up my bible to study and pray while they had dinner. During my prayer time, I would tell God how much we needed to sell this home and move back to the area where we’d come from. I’d also explain how it wasn’t time for us to be in that area. Financially, we were not ready. I would say how I was grateful that He sustained us the entire time we lived there, but we needed to go. Shortly after my fast, we got a call about the family that had made multiple visits. They were in love with the house and they wanted to buy it. Unfortunately, they weren’t willing to pay our asking price and THAT’S WHEN THE ISH HIT THE FAN!
Stay tuned for Part 2 as I go deeper into our debt-free journey…
Until then, I’ll leave you with this…First and foremost, never think that it’s too late to straighten up your finances. We learned this life-changing information in our mid-twenties and of course there are times that we’d wish we had known sooner. However, because of the sacrifices we started making then, our lifestyle today is a whole lot smoother and our future is looking much brighter. While you may think 30, 40, 50, etc. is too old, just think about the next 10-20 years that can be better as a result of the changes you make today. Imagine waiting until you’re retired or get to an age where you really feel like there is no hope or time left for change. Regardless of your age and financial status, hear me now, “YOU CAN DO THIS TOO!” If you feel like you’re drowning in debt or living paycheck to paycheck, now is the time to change. I promise you, you’ll look back many years later and be glad that you did. As tough as it can seem sometimes, I don’t regret our decision to change our lifestyle and become intentional about managing our money. I challenge you today to do the same! Dave Ramsey has worked for us, but there are many other financial experts and other money management tips available. Always feel free to contact me for any encouragement or help. You can fill out the form on my contact page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ejuan and I have assisted couples by going over their finances with them and helped them get started on the steps to debt-freedom and building wealth. We’ve also been accountability partners and recently went car shopping to help a couple purchase a nice cash car so they could get rid of one car payment, and quickly start paying off their second. We’d be happy to do the same for you! Don’t wait, get started now! Best wishes to you and in the words of our homie Dave, “LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE SO LATER YOU CAN LIVE LIKE NO ONE ELSE.”