After 11 years of marriage, we were up to our eyeballs in debt: a car loan, a personal loan, and a mountain of credit card debt. We had both grown up very differently regarding household finances.
But instead of sitting down and figuring out what would work for our family, I tried to manage around our differences.
All the typical excuses came into our spending: We worked hard this month. We can pay more down next month. We’ll have a better year for our business. And, like many young couples, we wanted to keep up with our friends who seemingly had it all. We couldn’t see that looking like you’ve got it all together and having it all together are two completely different things.
Finally, enough was enough, and we knew things had to change.
The Beginning of the End
That change began when we signed up for a financial class our church was offering. Talk about an eye-opener! Almost everything they said not to do, we had done.
It was a humbling experience for me to admit that, while I am a college-educated, intelligent woman, I had been a complete idiot in my view of our finances.
It was finally time to take ownership of our mistakes and begin making the changes that would put us in control of our own money. While I had been raised with books like The Wealthy Barber and The Richest Man in Babylon, I realized I lacked an important skill when it comes to personal finances: budgeting.
Where to Begin?
Through the class and some trial and error, we patched together a budget. But I didn’t want budgeting or paying off debt to be boring.
We needed some spice—but where could I find it? Well, Pinterest of course! A quick search of budgeting brought up links to spreadsheets and apps. Yawn!
But then I found Debt Free Charts. I was hooked. Heidi had me at FREE, and the planner/organizer in me loved the idea of tracking my progress with a printable template. Plus, the charts are so fun to color! They were the best debt payoff trackers I found.
Getting the Ball Rolling
I printed the car loan, personal loan, and credit card debt sheets and hit the ground running.
Over the summer, when I was able to pay off two separate credit cards and fill in so many squares, I was overjoyed! It lit a fire underneath me.
I began looking for any ways to cut costs so I could color in one more square the following month. Any extra cash that came in went to debt so I could color my charts.
Sticking to a tight budget didn’t seem to bother me much anymore! Having a visual reminder of my progress was key.
The Beautiful Results of Change
What used to be a dreaded process—figuring out how to pay all our various bills—now became a fun and even relaxing activity. Everyone knows my charts are Mommy’s coloring pages and not to bother me when I’m paying the bills. That’s me time now!
When I reached the 25% mark on our chart, I felt a sense of freedom and peace! Freedom from ever having to go back to giving all our hard-earned money to a debt. And peace that I’m not worrying about how to pay everything each month.
When I finish these charts, I plan on framing them to remind me that change takes time, but produces beautiful results.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Now, don’t think there haven't been any hiccups on our road to a debt free life. Any new habit takes time. There are days when I can only color in a square or even half a square. But we’re still moving forward each day—sometimes by feet, other times by inches.
Do I still have moments when I panic? Yes! Do I still want to reach for the credit cards to buy myself something to cheer me up? ABSOLUTELY! Luckily, they are either hidden away or cut to pieces! When I am tempted, I stop and remind myself how freeing it is to owe less, and to have more control.
As you begin your debt free journey, know there will be mistakes. There will be days when you have to go without things you thought you NEEDED.
But also know it will all be worth it. The momentary sacrifices of sack lunches and coffee from home are so much easier to live with when you know the freedom that awaits you.
What are you waiting for? Start coloring—I mean, budgeting!