Climbing Debt Mountain
I have never climbed a mountain, I’m from Kansas we barely have hills, but I can tell you I have definitely climbed Debt Mountain! I think everyone knows what I’m talking about because we all have debt. Okay, maybe not everyone but let’s be honest those debt-free people are one in a million.
Growing up you dream of what your life is going to be like and it’s always a fairytale because you have no idea what being an adult is really like. Plus, if you were like me and most other teenagers we didn’t listen to our parents anyways when they tried to tell us.
If you think about it before you even have a chance to be out on your own and be an adult most of us start out adulthood in debt right away! We apply for student loans before we even leave the house for college!
Then at college, we work crummy jobs that barely pay anything and of course, we work little hours because we are going to school full time. So then, it’s all just a risk with the hope of reward. Hoping that all this debt we are accumulating will get us a job that pays well enough to start paying off all this debt!
Or worse, you do what my husband and I did and drop out of school and get no degree but still have student loans. My husband went to school to be a commercial pilot and that required A LOT of money that he didn’t have. And he couldn’t keep racking up more and more debt because the beginning pay for a pilot out of school was so low until you built up in your career. He knew people that finished school with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and that were working at Target to pay their almost 1,000 a month minimum student loan payment.
So it was a decision we both made and we decided we will just work and I’m not going to say it was the right one or not but God is in control so we just move forward and trusted Him.
I stopped going to school because I wasn’t a very “good” student. I tended to enjoy my free time too much and not enjoy my class time at all so I was just wasting money. This was all before we were married and we were going to schools 90 mins apart. We wanted to be closer and to be together so I quit school and moved to be with him.
Where did this mountain come from?
Of course, after dropping out of school we got married, had a baby, bought a mommy car, bought a house, and I decided I wanted to stay home with this new baby! Sounds great right?! But it wasn’t until it all caught up with us did we think what were we thinking?! We bought a house and a car and had a baby then went to one income?!…..we took on a lot of debt….and lost part of our income. This all happened in 2009 and it is now 2017 and we just now seeing the top of Debt Mountain.
You maybe thinking well you should just get a job and that would help! Well, I did. I have had different jobs but my husband’s job has always been so demanding that it was all on me to raise our daughter. We have tried different things throughout the years but it always seems to work best for us for me to be home to take care of our daughter. Being home makes life run smoother and my husband always prefers it. I can take care of life so he can do what he is great at and that is providing for our family. I make sure his clothes are cleaned, foods cooked, bills are paid, etc so he can just focus on work.
Although, now that our daughter is older and goes to school all day I have been able to work at the Church Preschool during the day. This brings in some extra money to keep chipping away at debt and works out great for her schedule. It was when I was working an hour away and trying to drive through thick traffic and still not making it to her by 6 when aftercare closed, being the only one to take off work when she was sick, and still being the only one that cooked and cleaned that was killing us.
Now if life was easy, which it’s not, then we could have gotten a lot further up Debt Mountain by now but life is mean and it likes to knock you down. For example, when you have a chunk of money to pay off a debt then your dryer breaks and you have to get it fixed with that money instead. Just like climbing a real mountain sometimes you are trucking right along and then slip and fall back down to the ledge you were on months ago.
Many things will happen to knock you back down. We tried for years….7 years to be exact….to have another baby….and all that brought was A LOT of tears, pain, confusion, let downs, miscarriages, surgeries, shots, sickness, doctors appts, blood work, and you guessed it….debt.
We finally just waved the white flag and decided we can’t do this anymore. It’s been one of the hardest facts to accept but it’s come to where we feel we are taking away from the precious angel we are lucky to have so we have ended our 7-year battle to have another baby. Now we just need to pay off all the debt we have added to our mountain.
Preparing for the climb
To climb a real mountain you have to have a plan first. To climb Debt Mountain it is no different. You need to have a strategy before you start. That’s where Dave Ramsey comes in. Reading Financial Peace was a huge help to me! It puts so many things in perspective and gets you going in the right direction. For example, he says you need to have $1,000 in savings first. To climb a real mountain you have to be in good physical shape first. To climb Debt Mountain you have to be in good shape as well and by that I mean the $1,000 Dave is talking about.
If you aren’t prepared and in some sort of good shape then it will take you twice as long to climb that mountain. The other major thing you have to remember is that you can not climb a mountain in a day. You can’t train to climb a mountain in a day either. It takes months sometimes years to train, prepare, and climb a mountain.
Just like a real mountain that has Mother Nature that can slow you down, so many things in life can do the same for you on Debt Mountain.
Appliances break, people get laid off, someone gets sick…there are too many factors that can slow your climb just like Mother Nature slows the climb on a real mountain.
Dave Ramsey talks about baby steps to get out of debt. This gives you little wins along the way. Then you see progress. Then you feel the results and the little wins motivate you.
First one is to save that $1,000. This is your emergency fund. You need an emergency kit on a real mountain and you need an emergency fund on Debt Mountain. This ensures that’s when you are chipping away at debt and something comes up you don’t rack those credit cards back up.
If a real emergency happens (not like your favorite boots are on sale) but the car breaks down, then you use that emergency fund.
The next step is to snowball your debt. Pay off the smallest bill first. First win!
Then tackle the next smallest bill. Using the money you saved to pay off the first one. Then so on and so forth. It really works! Sometimes if I have a chunk of extra money to put toward debt I will look and see what I can pay off that will save me the most amount of money.
Let’s say I have $500 to put towards debt and I have two bills to pay off. One is for $450 and I pay $50 a month towards it and the next one is $500 and I pay $100 a month towards it. Because those are the minimum payments they will take. The obvious choice is to pay off the second bill first and save myself $100 a month instead of the first one even though that is technically not the order Dave says to do it.
By saving $100 a month that doesn’t mean I get to go shopping that means I take that $100 I was paying on that bill and roll it over into paying more toward debt each month forward. Each time you pay off a bill you then use the money you were paying towards it to snowball each month. This system works so well!
The main thing is don’t get discouraged when life happens because it will!
We have gone through the baby mess, two job layoffs, moving across the country, and many bad decisions. But we live and we learn!
We have now paid off so much debt and we are so close to the top of debt mountain!
I have followed a budget for years now and that has made a huge difference. Another thing we have done is separated our finances into different categories. We have a spending accounting and a bill account. We have others but those two are the main important ones. This has prevented overspending and ensures all our bills are paid and on time.
Before my husband would be out using his debit card and then overspend and we would struggle to get the bills paid.
Now the bills always get paid and he can’t overspend either!
He knows and is much better now but he is the one that makes bad decisions with money. We laugh about it now but it takes teamwork to make it all work.
It’s hard to focus on paying off debt when your partner is focusing on having the best of the best.
Follow a budget
Following this budget system I created helps me keep track of our bills and paying down our debt.
I write down when my husband gets paid which is every other week and then I see which bills will be due in that pay period. So if he gets paid on the 1st and then again on the 15th, I would see what bill are due from the 1st-15th. Then I know what exactly will come out of that paycheck. The leftover I divide between saving, debt, and spending.
The reason I do it this way instead of exactly how Dave Ramsey says to do it is because most of my husband’s jobs have been commission based or he was allowed over time. He just recently switched to a salary position a few months back.
But before that, I didn’t know exactly what his paycheck was going to be. Sometimes it was bigger and sometimes smaller. I had to be prepared for either way.
Mapping our budget out this way helps me see what is coming and what to prepare for. If I know something is coming up I add it to that section. I am not very good at setting aside x amount each month for each category like Dave says to do. Mostly because if I did that there wouldn’t be enough money to put money in each category.
This way I can plan and prepare for certain things instead of trying to put $5 in each category because that’s all that’s left.
If I know the dogs need to go to the vet soon I put that in the budget, if I want to get my hair done I add it to the budget, I just don’t go too crazy. I space everything out. But I also put a chunk towards debt before anything else.
Extra money to pay off debt
Now that I have started working at the church and I started my blog, all that extra money will go towards debt! Dave always says to sell what you don’t need and find ways to make extra money.
Even though we had to pay a lot of money to find out we aren’t able to have any more children a small weight has been lifted. I now feel like I can focus on other things instead of constantly thinking about that. We have shifted to spoiling our daughter we are blessed to have and that for me is to be able to provide for her forever and always. I don’t want to have to tell her no we can’t afford that all because mommy and daddy aren’t smart with their money.
I want to show her the right way to handle money and to not take on any debt.
Have you struggled with debt? What has been the main thing to help you climb debt mountain?