I wrote in an earlier post about our beginnings with debt and debt repayment. We bought the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and as the good little newly wed couple, we read the book together and felt inspired and started trying to pay off our debt. At that time it was roughly $35,000 and we didn’t have a house or kids or anything. Henry worked extra as a coffee shop manager and barista and I worked right up to the 40 hours I was allowed as a medical assistant (unless there was a really late night and we were ok to go over). We saved our $1000 emergency fund very easily from our wedding gift money and we did a few crazy things like getting rid of one of our cell phones and never setting up internet service at our house. We lived out in the country so we didn’t really missing having an additional phone since we reception was zilch out there anyway.
We budgeted, paid cash for everything, and had our monthly budget meetings, hoping every month that we could pay down our debt. We used our resources and found inexpensive healthcare and insurance, we didn’t eat out often (and coffee…oh how much coffee I gave up…seriously, I spent more money on coffee in college than I did on alcohol) and we planned for fun nights out. We weren’t perfect, but we did our best. Both Henry and I needed to continue our education so over the course of our first year we applied for school and both were accepted. Because we couldn’t afford going to school at the same time, we decided Henry would go first and I would follow. Then we started saving to move to Denver and for a trip back to Kansas for a wedding.
And the year continued. We paid and paid on our debts and were so proud when we paid off our smallest loan! Yay! Victory! Dave’s plan worked!
And then we moved. And we couldn’t find jobs. And we used our savings. And we had to take out a loan. I cried and I lost it over and over. No one wanted to hire me. No one. I went to every retail store in the area, I applied at every medical facility I could and even the Recreation Center. Now, I had an exercise science degree. I was well qualified to work at a rec center, right? No. Nothing. We lived with my grandparents and were dependent on them for everything. Oh…did I mention we only had one car? We left Henry’s ’69 Chevy in Kansas…it really wouldn’t have made it in Colorado. We had no money.
And I tried. I can’t remember how many jobs I applied to but I think it was roughly 80 some odd jobs. Almost all of them were returned with an “I’m sorry. You do not meet our criteria. Thank you for applying” email. I even began selling my grandfather’s model tanks and planes and such. I earned 5% commission on each sale so we were able to bring in some money for a few months. Henry and I eventually found jobs (both part-time…that’s all we could get hired for) but we made just enough to tithe, pay our student loans, other debt, cell phone (no texting…that was extra), and then save the rest to pay for Henry’s tuition. And that was about it. Every once in a while we had an extra $10 so we could go out to buy a cheap meal to share. We were miserable. One month, with that $10 we went to Tokyo Joe’s which is usually fantastic. I don’t remember what we ordered, but it was awful. It tasted so bad. I sat at the table and cried, because we just spent our precious $10 for the month to share this horrible tasting meal.
What went wrong? Dave said I would be so joyful living on less and using our money how God intended. I kept praying and asking God what I was doing wrong, what I had done wrong, why was Dave’s plan failing us? We had no room in our budget to buy much food or beer or go out to eat or drive anywhere to see friends (I mean gas was expensive). There was no blow money. There was nothing extra to pay on any debt. And I mentioned earlier we had one car, right? We needed another car. How were we ever going to pay for that? Henry’s dad found us a 1992 Geo Metro that we ended up purchasing with a loan and we’re still paying for it. The car is gone, but we still have the loan.
And then I got impatient. I mentioned I was miserable right? God had seemingly failed us, Dave Ramsey had seemingly failed us, I wasn’t thrilled by my job and I was absolutely crazy. I was jealous and envious and superior all at the same time.
I wanted to go to school and we couldn’t afford it. We still lived with my grandparents and I think all of us were feeling a little claustrophobic. I hated church, I hated happy Christians, I hated Dave’s failed plan (by the way, he doesn’t have a great plan for what to do if you really, really can’t find a job and you use your emergency fund or your emergency fund isn’t enough to buy you a car).
So what did we do? We abandoned Dave’s plan. I went to school and I took out loans. We paid what we could for Henry’s school and took out loans for the rest. I managed to find another job (full-time, thankfully). And we moved into an apartment. And I still feel guilty and angry about taking out loans.
We racked up that debt. We doubled it. $70,000.Now, I mentioned earlier I applied to 80 jobs when I was looking. Dave recommended that to help pay for school you should apply for scholarships. I did. Henry did. We got a few scholarships and am thankful for them since we didn’t end up with $75,000, but our mountain still seemed giant.
During all of this I was so overwhelmed every time I looked at the growing amount. It made me angry and bitter and many times unreasonable about our finances. We weren’t going to pay off the debt with our incomes for years. So angry. I felt like it didn’t matter how much I worked and how many shifts I picked up, we were never going to make a dent. And eventually we would buy a house and be in at least double that debt. It is pointless. Dave lied.
Then baby came and I became a nurse and Henry soon finished school and there we were. I was still bitter, still angry. We couldn’t afford most things in Denver. Going out to eat was so expensive. Doing anything fun seemed to cost so much. We needed to move. We still budgeted but we didn’t have budget meetings often and we fought about what we spent and sometimes went over. We did have extra planned to pay off debt so we could cover our overspending, but it still made me crazy.
So we did. Right out here to the Charlotte area. We saved for that too. We blew our budget. And we overspent the first few months we were here. Nothing extra toward debt.
But then second baby was coming and for sure we needed a house. Still had $40,000 or so to pay on student loan debt, but we needed a house. So we saved for that…didn’t have a big downpayment so now we have mortgage insurance and all that jazz and student loan debt. And the “dream house” that we had talked about and planned for is not what we bought.
I am still bitter. I am still angry. I am working to pay off this burden that we have dragged through numerous states and every phase of my adult life. I want it gone. It makes me furious with Henry sometimes and furious with myself that I should be working more or blogging more or selling more things online instead of laying on the couch to chill for an hour.
And I’ve screwed it up. Dave’s plan has good points and it misses some key areas as well. God didn’t fail me and my finances. I didn’t (and still don’t) trust Him with this. And should we have chosen something different? What would patience have changed about this? What would prayer have changed about this? Right now, it’s still hard for me to realistically say it would have made any difference, but I know that I may not have had such a bitter and angry heart if I had. And now prayer and belief are still a struggle. Compassion during my extra nursing shifts (or even sometimes during my regular shifts) quickly dissipates and I feel like a fake customer service rep. I was once that crazy girl who woke up early to to to cross country practice and was thrilled beyond belief to be up running and loving it and enjoying nature and watching the sunrise. Loved it. My body craved it.
I am most thrilled by my children (when they’re behaving) but I don’t know that my extra shifts make me a better mother. Or the anger and bitterness towards our choices and the extra work along with being pregnant make me the honorable, respectful wife that Henry needs. My family can’t tell that I care about them since I live across the country from most of them. My friends don’t get my heart either since I am envious of many of my them and have discovered I rarely ask and pay attention to what is going on in their lives.
This debt-free journey has made me hollow. I don’t feel I have the freedom to spend money to actually enjoy life or to help others because we ourselves are in a mess. And Dave says get out of debt before you can spend more in your budget on things you enjoy and give freely. And now as we are facing either getting a new vehicle or three new carseats to squeeze into our car (as long as there’s only one baby in there), I feel like I’m facing one more obstacle to debt freedom.
And what if something happened to any of us? Seriously. What would happen? I want to plan for all of these instances, but it’s so stressful and so overwhelming. I listen to the podcasts on the His and Her Money Show and read Making Sense of Cents and I used to feel encouraged, but now I feel defeated. I don’t know where to turn anymore. God talks about the rich having the hardest time getting into heaven and I’m not rich, but I want to be. I am seeking the wrong thing. I have believed the lies that society tells about “what you need in your normal life” and I’m paying for them. Why should God care?
But if I try to follow the Dave plan, I get so obsessed and angry when we screw it up. We are still at baby step #2 and have been for 8 years. So. Stinking. Defeating. Especially since our debt (mortgage and loans) is now $155,000. Dave, cash spending isn’t getting us out of this one with three kids and one stay-at-home parent. We have so little in our house that is actually of value that trying to sell it is a joke. I am so exhausted that working more than I am (and doing so well) is nearly out of the question. I want the bitterness gone, I want the anger gone. I need to discover the person that’s there with compassion and love and understanding and fun. Where is she?