Monday, October 13, 2008

Five Steps to Peace in Uncertain Financial Times

You would have to be stranded on a deserted island or in a cabin with no television or radio to not have heard about the financial mess our nation is currently in. I know many are struggling but most I believe are living in fear of the unknown or what could happen. Many are just not prepared. True there are those dealing with foreclosures, layoffs, and difficult circumstances in regards to either financial decisions they made or that were made for them. In my opinion it is only going to become more of a problem if people don't take control of their own futures and live as our grandparents did many years ago. Greed has taken ahold many families lives. It comes quietly veiled in numerous vacations throughout the year, using credit to purchase everything, and not teaching their children the value of a dollar. Of course this problem is on a much larger scale but what if people would have been living within their means for quite some time I can't help but believe we would not have such a crisis on our hands.

There are five things that I think would greatly help in a financial crisis. I know because they have worked for us.

Nearly eight years ago when we married my husband and me decided that we would not use credit cards. The only thing we have used in that time has been cash or a debit card. It was one of the best decisions we made as a new couple. It forced us to save for things and to have an emergency fund. It has taught us and our children a valuable lesson on needs and wants. I think the number one reason many are in dire straits right now is that they rely on their credit cards heavily. CUT THEM UP! We had fears about not having a credit card at first too. My parents worry that we don't have a credit card but we can do anything with cash and a debit card. Let me tell you that when January rolls around and everyone else is getting their credit card bills we are not stressed because our Christmas has already been paid for in cash. We are getting ready to have our eighth cash only Christmas and we can't wait!

It is critical that everyone has an emergency fund. Start out with a goal in mind of putting 1000.00 in a separate fund. We are Dave Ramsey followers/fans. We saw him in person shortly after we married. I had been listening to Dave as a single parent each day as I picked my son up from middle school. I began trying to implement his plan for getting out of debt. When I married my new husband shared my passion in this area. We worked diligently to set up a fund. Sure enough the morning we were to attend Dave Ramsey a storm blew through our town and took off some shingles and blew over our fence. We had money in the bank for an emergency and what insurance did not cover we were able to handle. We had little money when we married and my husband suffered through losing a job. He never went without work. He mowed lawns of which he still has his lawn business that our boys now run. He worked two jobs and odd jobs and we socked away the money.

You have to live within your means. You cannot become successful if you continue on the same path of excess. This may look like different things to other people. For me it meant cooking more at home, OAMC or once a month cooking, using coupons, shopping at thrift stores, not paying full price for anything, and making sure I evaluated need versus want. There was a time when we both stopped at our local convenience store or Starbucks and got coffee every morning. No more! There was a time when I would have NEVER shopped at TJMaxx or Ross let alone a thrift store or consignment shop! Horrors!! Believe you me these are a penny pinchers best friend!

It took us several years but we finally paid off over 54000.00 of debt! We only owe on our home and that is very minimal. We live in a very affluent town that has more McMansions that anything else. We do not buy into the standard "Keeping Up with the Joneses". We bought a home that fit our needs with four children and it was built in 1970! Our children are not giving each and everything new thing that hits the market. If you want to know a way to get out of debt that is precise and has worked for many people look up Dave Ramsey's website The Total Money Makeover and read about his Debt Snowball. It can be done!!!

Do not get discouraged! We know how it feels to be way over our heads in debt. We know what it feels like to be out of work. Be faithful to stick to your plan. Make a budget and stick to it. Being frugal is not a bad thing. Having no credit cards or car a REALLY GOOD THING! WOW! Such freedom!!! I never knew you could have no credit card or car payment. Remember we have three that are driving in our home besides us. Our nearly seventeen year old son was given an old 92 beat up Dodge pickup by his grandparents. We helped him save to repaint it bright red. My husband, father in law, and son's primed the pickup to save money. The pickup now looks amazing! It gets from point A to point B and when he needs to take more friends or his siblings we let him borrow our 2000 Toyota Corolla. We have a 2001 Toyota Sienna Van too. The boys pay their own car insurance. They earn it each summer with their lawn business. We have taught them to be diligent. As parents more is caught than taught. What are you teaching your children about debt, things, wants, etc.?

Before any of the above more than anything for us is to go to our Jehovah Jireh, our Provider, and Savior. For our family putting Christ number one and tithing to His kingdom comes first. We would not be where we are now without His guidance or wisdom. He alone is the total source of our peace.

We live in uncertain times but as for our house, we serve the One that knows our future and for that I am very grateful.


Diane said...

Amen. I've been working on a cash basis for the last four years, and it has really opened my eyes. God can do so much if we simply give our finances over to Him, and stop trying to live the way everyone else is.

Edith said...

Thanks for such an encouraging post. I'm currently working to get back to this point - it takes time and is challenging. But I know it can be done. Knowing that I will be moving in just a few short weeks helps as I go through and evaluate most of what we own.