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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Taking Small Breaks to Break Free from Debt

Grace and Peace to You,

Debt as of 06/09/2012:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 09/30/2014:  $11,063.76

Total Debt Paid Down: $81,581.24

We've been needing to get a post up for sometime now!  Since our annual fall break is upon us, Emily and I decided to get something down this week.  In the spirit of breaks, this post is about that very subject.

We are always working hard at our debt goal at every turn.  We look to save money in every budgeted category from gas to groceries.  We look for ways to increase our revenue or extra income.  We do our job.  Come on now, can we take a break?  The answer is yes, but it depends on what your debt goals are.

Of course, no matter what debt goals or budget you have, we promote just that very fact:  have them.  Our goal and pay down system is very aggressive.  It's probably more aggressive than most.  However, it is worth noting that we have met people along they way who are more aggressive than us (try going on a complete Ramen noodle/vitamin diet)!

OK, so you have a budget.  You can build in breaks.  We are currently on a fall break with our education jobs.  Now are we taking a trip to Key West or Destin, FL?  Well, no, but we did set aside some money to go out to eat, take in a movie, and go hiking.  Now could this money help reach our debt goal just a little bit faster? It is true that it would, but this small amount is worth the sacrifice to be able to reward ourselves with some albeit small, but important experiences together.

Back in August, Emily surprised me with tickets to a concert of one my favorite music artists who is playing out of town in November (btw:  she bought those tickets with online earnings).  After looking at the destination and time involved to get there, we decided to make a long weekend out of it.  Again, are we slowing our progress a little?  Yes.  I maintain that it is because we have a budget that we are able to plan for these breaks.  We know where our money is going and therefore can direct it where we want.

Now you can't spend whenever you want or do whatever you want.  If you did that you wouldn't make any progress.  You can look at what we've paid down and decipher for yourself that we've said no to a lot of things in the past two and half years.  There is a famous quote from 20th century music giant Nadia Boulanger that goes like this:

"To study music, we must learn the rules. To create music, we must break them."

For me, you can apply this to your budget and life.  There are times when you can take a break.  Maybe your favorite music artist is in town and they don't come through that often.  Maybe your favorite sports team, pro or college, has reached the championship for the first time in awhile.  By all means go, but if you're going to take a break in your budget you must first have one and learn it's rules.  Have a plan and follow it.  Then when your life presents one of those "once in a lifetime opportunities" you can free the money to make it happen.  Keep paying and saving!

"Wake me up when September ends."

--Green Day

In Christ,
Bryant & Emily

Monday, September 1, 2014


Grace and Peace To You,

Debt as of 06/09/2012:  $92,645.00

Debt as of 09/01/2014:  $14,207.32

Total Debt Paid Down:  $78,437.68!

As the Labor Day Weekend Shows wind down, we are continuing down the debt trail.  Making great progress but pushing hard up against our deadline of debt free by 2015.  Regardless of that outcome, the closer we get the more folks seemed to either be amazed or confounded by our lives over the past two years. We thought we would include some frequently asked questions (FAQ's) and comments we get when we talk to people about our debt and how we're getting rid of it.

1. How did you get started? First and foremost, we made this decision together before we got married. It is so important to be on the same page about this if you are married. If you aren't in this as a team, it will cause arguments and strife about money. We have been in this as a team since the first day and never fight about money. Emily bought "The Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey from eBay. It cost about $3. We have never completed a Financial Peace course. We started following Dave Ramsey's baby steps outlined in his book and that has gotten us here.

2. Do I have to be married to do this?  No. However, you may have to seek out another avenue for the accountability aspect. This could be in the form of the Financial Peace Class or through a trusted friend/family member. Preferably someone who has their finances together or maybe going through the same debt free journey.

3.  You guys must make a ton of money...No, we are both teachers. Enough said. We have just learned to live within our means. For us, that means saying no to a lot of things that we had grown accustomed to before we started watching our money. You can do this whether you make $20,000 a year or $100,000 a year. It all comes down to a budget and how you spend.

4. How hard is it sticking to a budget? Honestly, it can be extremely hard. The best thing we can recommend is writing down your budget every month. Also, use cash all the time. It is a lot more painful to hand over your cash than to swipe your card. Another thing is to add in things to your budget that make it easier to stick to. We budget in date nights each month where we can take that money and spend it however we want. Have we occasionally slipped or gone over budget? Sure we have. However, since we are in control of our money, we are able to afford a special date night out or going over budget once in a while.

5. Will you finish by the end of December? Honestly, we don't know. As of right know, we are on track. However, looking at the numbers, it will be extremely difficult to make that goal. We welcome all prayers from you as we walk through the next few months with that goal in mind. No matter what happens, we are committed to our debt free goal until it is realized. Our plan is for that to be in December. However, our plans are not always the ones that are correct.

6. Do I have to do this as fast as you all?  Absolutely not. Even if you started adding $50 to your minimum payments each month, you are working to get out of debt. We made the choice to do it as quickly as possible. That choice is not right for everyone. We had to face the reality of how much we would pay in interest on $93,000 of debt and we did not want to live that way.

7. I could never do it.... Yes you can. A personal note from Bryant: There was a time in my life that I never could have done this. However, through my faith in God and my loving wife, I am more in control of my money and really my life than I ever have been before. It has changed how I view wealth, success, and happiness. It has also made me appreciate and be thankful for everything that I do have. I used to be that person who said, "I can never do it." I am here to tell you that you can.

8. Has it been worth it?  Hell yeah it has. Some people on the outside view us as crazy. That's fine. Honestly, we don't care. We own our cars. We have no credit card debt. We have not fought about money in our marriage. We have eliminated all but one student loan. We are setting ourselves up to be in Hawaii next year. We are setting up our entire future to be able to do whatever we want and retire at an early age. We will be able to live and work on our own terms.

9. What has been the best part? For Emily: How good it has been for our marriage to lock arms and take something on as a team. To feel a little more freedom with each payment. To be months away from having the freedom to travel the world with no debt holding us back. For Bryant: To be in control. Not living paycheck to paycheck. Having a plan and sticking to it.

In Christ,
Bryant & Emily