Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cashing Out 2009

It’s that time of year, time to balance the checkbook and file away the 2009 accounts. Wishing you could start the year “in the black,” but feel like you’re splashing in a sea of red? Longing for a year when you use your money, so it isn’t using you? Ever feel like you’d love to have the freedom to help others, but can’t grab a hold of your bottom line to have something to give? This time of year we review finances to strengthen stewardship in the year ahead. A friend of mine has a victorious story to tell of how she and her hubby let God rule their accounts. These are gold nuggets, and not the kind the commercials are begging you to bring in to trade for cash (like those earrings I have from that old boyfriend …);)

Bridgette shares, "There's ultimately only one way to financial peace, and that's to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Christ Jesus". In an interview with me she offered practical insights for how it can happen as we turn the page of a new account, as we enter 2010.

"And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus," Philippians 4:19.

For the last day of 2009 and the first of 2010, I want to share this testimony to inspire and help all of us who are seeking to make this year COUNT, in our online checking accounts and beyond. Today (the 31st) I’ll share their path to debt and tomorrow (the 1st) their road to financial freedom. I’m thankful for their willingness to share, in hopes others will take steps to peace.

Bridgette and her husband restructured their finances after they … bought a house (with a down payment loaned by grandparents), still owed money on a car, and used a loan on that same car to pay for siding on the house they bought. They also had a few things on 0% interest credit cards like a new fridge. They said that in total they owed over $45,000.

I asked her what toll the debt took on their marriage. "Owing a family member money is never a comfortable place to be. I think that for my husband that was particularly true. We had credit cards that we paid off every month, but we didn’t know how much that total would be each month. When the bill would come it would be so stressful because we would have to sit down and “explain” how each charge got there. I would often act like a spoiled child about purchases. ‘I have a job, so I deserve x, y, and z.’ Overall it put stress on our marriage that I don’t think either one of us recognized at the time.”

A mountain of debt doesn’t usually rise up overnight. She has valuable insights about habits that led them down the road to debt. “Using credit cards did lead us not to sit down and set a budget. We just kind of spent as we went through the month and if we had any money at the end we might save it, or we might just spend it on something else. We never sat down and talked about goals for saving for a house, etc.” When we feel like we are at the bottom of a huge financial mountain, it’s a good idea to search for wise counsel and advice. They did just that.

There are various ministries and programs to help us bring financial peace to our lives; Bridgette and her hubby attended a Dave Ramsey conference. There, they realized credit cards were allowing them to live outside of their means. She shares that, “It was scary to cut up our credit cards at first but now I don’t even think about the fact that we don’t have them.”

“Scary.” A word that describes how a lot of us feel about bringing finances under control, but this is an example of a victory story we can learn from. After attending the financial conference, this couple was “bitten by the bug,” coming home to cut up credit cards, make a budget, and begin purposefully paying down debts (smallest to largest). In Bridgette’s case, they began to follow “Dave’s Baby Steps” to get out of debt. They gave up unnecessary costs, listed all debts regardless of interest rates, and paid minimum payments on all but the smallest debts. Then … “that debt we attacked with vengeance!” They began to see success right away.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 ... the awesome and exciting part of how they found financial freedom, with inspiration for how to use your nickels, dimes, and dollars in the new year!

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