Back in January I wrote a letter about our journey to becoming debt free. I've read it at the Leadership Team Meeting one month for Building a Better Future but never published it. When I sent it in to Dave Ramsey the events team asked for a photo of our family and permission to quote from it at live events.
Below you find my letter to Dave, for safety sake I've removed names because I am becoming a little more paranoid for the kids safety online. But I wanted to share it with you. We will be starting another Financial Peace University Class in August. Contact me if you need info. Hope you enjoy!
January 18, 2010
This letter has been many years in the making. I grew up in a “tight” family. As a child we lived on the envelope system, only ate at McDonalds if we had a coupon and always took our own cheese for our burgers. Mom never taught me to use the envelope system but she did teach me not to buy if you didn’t have the cash. We used credit cards and paid them off each month.
My husband’s family was just the opposite. His father owns a construction company and they live from house to house often using draws on the business for living expenses.
When we married in April 1998 our financial knowledge, or lack of, collided. We financed furniture for our first home which my husband spent five months building. Then we financed our first computer. Both payments were no interest if paid on time and paid off in a certain number of months. We had the money to buy both with cash and didn’t. We needed to establish our credit right? Stupid we know now. We both were working, spending, and living paycheck to paycheck with not much to show for it.
Five years later we had sold the first house, built a second, had a one year old and pregnant with a second child. The war in Iraq started and my husband was deployed. When Turkey closed its borders to our military personnel, his unit was sent to England to wait with most of the other units. Fortunately, he was home in six weeks. During those six weeks away, he had a lot of time to read, listen to the radio, surf the Internet and think.
We both knew that God had called me to stay at home with our children. My husband was full time with the Air National Guard with a big desire to finish college and take over the family construction business. When he returned home he wanted nothing more than to use a budget. We had tried in the past but always gave up. This time though we knew it would be different.
In June of 2003 we decided to take a huge step, our families thought we were crazy of course. My husband had learned about you and Crown Financial Ministries. We started the Crown 13 week Small Group Study on our own. It took us five and a half weeks. At the same time we were reading and studying your books. We did both because we wanted a Bible study that we could do together that gave us the Biblical reasoning behind what we were doing. But we also knew that we needed to apply your principals to really stick to it.
Fortunately the only debt we had was our mortgage. I was a public school music teacher and hated the thoughts of having to return to work in the fall. Our second child was born in October and then I returned to school after Christmas. I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I knew that it wouldn’t be much longer and I would be home full time.
We learned to live on his paycheck and save mine. Every three months we would pay a chunk on the principal of the house and reamortorize. Our mortgage began to shrink and I could see my next career a little clearer.
Our oldest child was three years old and our second was 17 months old when our only son was born. He was born into a debt free family, with a stay at home mom and a dad who at the age of 31 had returned to college while working fulltime. It’s took him six years but he will graduate from Carson-Newman College in May with a Bachelor in Business Administration. We had paid our mortgage off in three and a half years, had an emergency fund of nine to twelve months, and even paid cash for a used, reliable minivan. Fifteen months later our fourth child was born and we knew that our family was complete at this stage in our lives.
During these years we had taught the Crown Small Group Study at church because honestly our church just wasn’t ready for Dave Ramsey. We often had friends over for dinner and conversation usually led to money. I always felt and still do feel guilty talking with friends who have so much debt when we don’t have any. But then I look at the cars they drive, their home, their clothes, their children’s expensive activities and the fact that both of them work to keep up with their lifestyle and I realize I shouldn’t feel guilty. I should feel sorry for them.
In December of 2007 three couples had dinner at our home on separate nights. Each couple had the same mission when they invited themselves over, seeking advice with their money. By January we had registered a new Financial Peace University class for our church. The first class had 17 families. Another couple and I provided childcare free of charge. In the fall of 2008, he taught his second FPU class before being deployed through the holidays.
During his deployment I began promoting the next class. Worried and afraid I would let my guilt get in the way, I prayed and started the class as he returned home. We finished in April. This time he provided childcare.
We met last spring with one of your ELP’s to discuss our retirement and wealth building. He said we were on the right track. Although it had taken us 11 years we can live comfortably when the housing market bounces back, he retires from the guard and begins building houses. Thanks to you and a great military package offered through the Shades of Green we took our then seven, five, four and two year olds to Walt Disney World for the first time last summer.
Friends often ask me if I will go back to work when all the kids are in school. I don’t know, I want to have a flexible schedule so I don’t miss out on anything. What I really want to do is counsel other families and help them with their money, time, and family management skills. But I want to be available where there is a need and I feel led by God. I believe that I will be able to do that thanks to your teachings, our sacrifices and God’s grace.
To close I have a couple of stories I would like to share, the first about our now seven year old daughter. When she was five the compact disc player in the van always played the cd’s from Financial Peace University. One day she heard you talking about the bridge that Jesus built. She began to question her daddy about that bridge. She prayed that day to accept Christ as her Lord and Savior. For our family, Dave, you not only taught us how to manage our money but also encouraged our daughter in becoming a Christian.
The other story is about our six year old daughter. She has had the hardest time with you Dave even though she has known no different. She often makes comments about you when she is upset about not getting something she wants. Our family favorite was during a weekly trip to Dollywood last summer. She wanted popcorn and coke during a show. I told her no that I didn’t bring enough money and she could eat a snack that we brought. She replied with, “I guess Dave Ramsey won’t let me have popcorn, huh?” Sorry Dave, but at least she got it.
Last spring my husband went to church to watch the Town Hall for Hope, I put the kids to bed and turned on the radio. Our second oldest daughter’s asthma was acting up and so she was lying on the bed with me. As we listened, she asked, “Why does Dave Ramsey know so much about money?” I told her that at one time you had a lot of money, then you owed and didn’t have much money and now you have a whole bunch of money. She told me she was just tired of us always talking about money and Financial Peace and Dave Ramsey. I turned and looked at her and said, “You know, because of Dave Ramsey and God, Mommy gets to stay home with you. If we hadn’t listened to Dave Ramsey I would take you to daycare every morning and go to school to teach.” I stopped to let it soak in for a minute. Before I could say anything else she replied, “Sh, Mom, Dave Ramsey’s on the radio.” Thanks Dave. We lived like no other, so now we can began to live like no other.