Living Debt Free God's Way
I am always amazed at how social media can bring people together and the friendships that can bloom between souls who have never even met face-to-face. Several years ago I connected with Leticia through Facebook and it was like we were long lost sisters who had just found each other despite her living in California and my roots planted in Texas. I am so honored to have her share her story of how her family became debt free through their faith and trusting God with their finances.
Hi, I am Leticia. I am a Christian, wife, and mom... in that order. I crave deep connection and I love smiling and laughter. Budgeting has become a way of life and I couldn't imagine doing life without it- honestly.
Let’s continue the conversation over on
October 16, 2018 is the day we officially became debt free after starting our debt free journey almost 4 years ago. What a ride it has been! You might think attaining this goal would be the end of our story, but in reality it is the beginning of a whole new step forward of living debt free God’s way and setting new goals for our financial future.
Let me back up a little bit and share where our journey began and how we got to this point.
Prior to 2012, we were a dual income household. My husband and I both commuted to work, saw each other in our leftover time in the evenings and really tried hard to keep our head above water while paying our mortgage while trying to keep up with what felt like never-ending, ever-growing debt. We thought being over worked and drowning in debt was a normal part of adulthood. Everyone we talked to seemed to struggle in the same ways as us so we found some comfort in knowing we weren’t alone but it didn’t relieve any of the stress or worry.
After years of trying to save our home to no avail, we found ourselves in the middle of a foreclosure and preparing ourselves for a new beginning. We felt like we had failed ourselves and our dream of being homeowners. On a positive note, this change allowed us to have a fresh start. We decided to move to a new town, closer to my husband’s work and I quit my job to be a stay at home mom.
We both knew becoming a one income household would have its challenges but we thought we knew how to work through them well enough. At first it seemed we were adjusting well. We were able to pay our bills, have fun and we even bought a new vehicle…things were going great, right!? WRONG! We were overextending our finances and it caught up to us eventually.
We didn’t realize how much we were depending on our savings and our credit cards for basic necessities and eventually it all ran out and we were struggling to get by – paycheck to paycheck.
Money problems led to marriage problems. I can’t tell you how many times I called my poor husband at work crying or yelling because I couldn’t figure out how to manipulate the numbers to figure out a way to pay our bills or buy groceries.
These were hard times for sure but then we found out we were going to have another child. What!? We were barely making it as a family of 3 and now we were going to face new financial challenges like medical bills and all of the expenses that come along with a new baby.
As excited as we were to be having another child and the blessings that come with growing our family, we were also feeling overwhelmed, anxious and even more stressed about how to make it all work. We felt like our world was spinning out of control knew we needed God to intervene and show us a way.
We prayed for God to show us a way to be good stewards of our finances, a way to get out from under a mountain of debt and a way to honor and trust Him through it all. God answered our prayers. It started slow, but obediently. Isn’t it amazing how we can feel that God understands who we are, and how he created us. He is so loving, and patient. He knew that I was only going to be able to take this on, one step at a time.
So, He led me first to organization. My first step was to organize my desk, create a filing system and coordinate my pay dates and bill dates so that I could create a visual and practical system of what I had coming in and what I would need going out, to ensure we could pay everything on time without any roll-over to the next month or late fees.
My second step was changing my mindset about money, paying off debt and budgeting. I had read a book by Dani Johnson called “First Steps to Wealth” and it challenged me in ways that were convicting and action provoking. I realized it wasn’t that we didn’t bring in enough money, God was providing us with all we needed but we weren’t managing our money properly.
We had an attitude of entitlement and a lot of times we put our wants before our needs. I decided to pull up my last 3 months of bank statements to see for myself where our money was going. I cannot tell you how appalled I was at what this revealed about our spending habits. Most of our money was being spent on random shopping trips to Target and Wal-Mart, drive thru food, coffee and clothing stores.
Why was I buying food and coffee when I had both at home? Why was I buying new clothes when I had a closet full, some with tags still on them? I was heavily convicted when I saw this because I had been feeling a nudge from God to tithe but I would respond with “we just don’t have the money right now” but after seeing the truth of it all right there in front of my face… we DID have the money, we just weren’t managing it properly.
God was providing what we needed and we were just blowing it. We knew we needed to change things and my husband was on board. We had heard about a program called “Financial Peace University” and we enrolled. We had never put ourselves on a budget per say. We just made sure our bills were paid on time and then whatever was left we usually found a way to spend.
Not this time. We were going to follow through. So, we made a plan to create a budget that we could stick to and a debt payoff strategy that would lead us to being debt free in a few short years.
Putting God first in our finances was a life changer. It really helped us to manage our money better when we looked at our money as His first. Everything we have comes from HIM. Our gifts and talents that lead to our jobs, that lead to our income, that lead to our livelihood. He is our provider, and we want to be good stewards. We discovered our love and joy for giving, along this journey as well.
Not only giving back to His kingdom through tithing, but giving back to His kingdom by volunteering our time, finding organizations to support that help spread His love to those who need it and provide care to those who are struggling with their health and who need treatment. Giving blesses us in a deeper, more spiritual way than we ever experienced before.
If you are on a debt free journey too, keep going. Find new ways to challenge yourself and your spending. Here are my top 5 tips that I hope help you find your budget groove and help you become debt free in a God honoring way.
1. PUT GOD FIRST
Put God first in your life and then ask Him to show you how to put Him first and trust Him with your finances.
“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty leftover to share with others.” 2 Corinthians 9:8
2. GET REAL
Get real with yourself on where your money is going. Yes this will be uncomfortable but it’s a necessary first step. Pull your last 3 bank statements and see for yourself what you are spending your money on. Compare your “necessary spending” (tithe, mortgage/rent, groceries, gas, bills, etc) to your “luxury spending” (dining out, retail therapy, fast food, entertainment, nails, hair, etc) and find what you need to change that is holding you back from reaching your financial goals.
3. MAP IT OUT
Get a calendar and map out your pay periods and your bill due dates. Review this information find what you can change around to better match up your pay days with your bill due days to more evenly spread out your money throughout the month.
It isn’t as scary as it sounds. Trust me. Each pay period, set a budget so you can tell your money where to go versus wondering where it went. That’s really all it is.
5. CASH IS BEST
Once you set your budget, stick to cash for all of your spending (groceries, household items, personal items, pet supplies, etc) We use a cash envelope system (I love this Spend Well Budgeting System from Carrie Elle) and it really helps to keep your budgeted money separate and well organized.
Okay… 6 steps… because a debt free journey isn’t complete without a plan to pay off debt… right? So here is a bonus tip.
6. GET RID OF DEBT
Go through all of your outstanding debts- money you owe people and money you owe creditors (credit cards, auto loans, student loans, mortgage etc.) and create a plan to pay off one debt at a time. We followed the Dave Ramsey approach combined with the Dani Johnson approach and meshed them together to come up with a plan that not only helped us know what to pay off first, but to estimate how long it would take us to be completely debt free.
Having a visual goal and strategy helped us to stay committed to our plan, even when it was hard.
I hope this information is helpful, and gives you some hope to start or continue on your debt free journey. God bless you, and may He lead you as you continually seek Him.