Everything. It has everything to do with every decision you will make from now until it's paid off, at least that's what we're learning.
Zac and I were not totally honest with each other about our financial situations when we got married. A few months later when we started combining our bank accounts, the truth came out, and it wasn't pretty. Between the two of us we had upwards of $45,000 in debt. Two car loans, credit cards and student loans. Plus we had just bought a house ten months earlier. We were totally overwhelmed and had no idea what to do…so we just kept working, and living the same way we had been. Guess what, nothing changed. We were accumulating more debt and only making the minimum payments on the existing debt, so the mountain continued to grow.
After one year of marriage we had made a small dent in the debt, we had somewhere around $40,000 total, not including the mortgage. That year we decided to do our own version of the debt snowball, Dave Ramsey's approach to paying off debt. We read bits and pieces about the debt snowball and put together a plan. We didn't want to pay the hundred dollars to go through the full Financial Peace University program, because we "didn't have the money." That excuse seems so ridiculous now.
We did ok with our little debt snowball considering how easily we were sidetracked and so often distracted. By our second anniversary we had about $30,000 in debt, not including the mortgage. But now we were expecting a baby. We kept paying off the debt, but we also had to save for maternity leave, so we saved up $2,600 to cover the time I would take off of work. At least we knew not to put maternity leave on a credit card! We were incredibly blessed to have minimal medical bills for Finn and extremely generous friends and family who bought us enough diapers and baby clothes to last four months, in fact, we still haven't had to buy any clothes.
A baby changes things. All of a sudden it matters how much money is going out each month because there are real needs...like baby food, doctor's visits, strollers, carseats, bottles, formula and countless other "necessities." If there's no money left at the end of the month it doesn't mean you can't go out to eat for a couple weeks; it is a problem, a real problem. Enter Financial Peace University (FPU).
Because of the generosity of a friend, we were given the FPU Home Study Kit. We watched the nine-week program in a matter of four weeks and did everything Dave said to do. We cut up ALL the credit cards. We made a budget, and we stick to it. We use cash. We tell our money where to go, and we make sure it gets there. Since March of 2014, our third anniversary, we have reduced our debt from $25,655 to $9,561. We've paid more toward debt in the past six months than our entire first three years of marriage.
The story isn't over, in fact it has only begun. When you don't have debt, you are suddenly free to go where God wants you to go. What will happen to the kids who graduate from college with $100,000+ in student loan debt and feel called to missions? Or volunteer work? Or need to care for a sick family member? It puts limits on everything.
Since we have started handling our money the way God calls us to, we've gotten a pay raise, a HUGE one. The craziest part? We've given more money to our church in the last year than we ever have. God will honor you when you handle money his way. He will open doors to go places, he will allow you to impact lives, and he will take care of your every need. Yes, it was scary, there were months when we shouldn't have been able to pay the mortgage. The bank account did not add up, there was a positive balance when there should have been a negative one. But we wouldn't change it for anything.
"Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, “I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!"