"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

How one family dug out of debt

By on November 29, 2017 in Articles with 0 Comments

Mariann and Luke Boyce found that putting cash in envelopes for expected expenses helps them stay on their budget and avoid overspending.

‘We had my paycheck and his savings to live off — but that was going to run out really fast… With all the school loans and the cars, we were a little over $42,000 in debt.’

By Mariann Boyce

When someone gets out of debt — there’s always a happy story.

But before that, there is the not-so-cozy story of being in debt.

I always lived paycheck to paycheck… barely.

My family and I are close — and sometimes we wanted to just “go out for lunch.” I would constantly get that feeling in my gut of “do I have enough to splurge?”

A lot of times I just had to say “no” or say I didn’t have the money to pay. They usually paid but then I felt so silly that I was a grown woman and should have had this figured out already.

Another issue was that I always had friends who fell on hard times. I so desperately wanted to help out. Sometimes I would have to feed the kids and me cheap hot dogs for the next week just so we could give a meal to a friend and her kids.

As my husband Luke and I sat down to put our “becoming debt free” story together, I was struck by how much of our lives previously shaped our thoughts and attitudes about money.

Without the Lord and a firm grip on church and community life, I think trying to even talk about the subject would have unraveled us to the very core.

In 2013 I was a working single mom with two children under 5, four college loans and owed money on my car.

Wanting to learn how to deal with the debt, I attended a Dave Ramsey class put on by Grace City Church that Luke also joined, although at that time we were only friends.

(For those who don’t know, Dave Ramsey is a businessman, author, radio host, television personality and motivational speaker who after recovering from his own bankruptcy, developed guidelines based on the Bible to help others become financially healthy.)

At the time, I really took his message to heart. But it was really slow going when you can only put $10 towards baby step 1 (getting $1,000 into an emergency fund).

At about six months, I wasn’t feeling very successful and gave up. Luke, on the other hand, had already learned to save before the class and had quite a bit in savings.

He also didn’t have any college loans, a wife, kids or any other debt besides his car to worry about. He felt pretty good after taking the course and didn’t really put too much thought into anything else, like budgeting.

Fast forward a few years to our dating and then marriage in June 2015. We had a great start financially mostly because Luke was a saver and he had enough to get us by.

But things weren’t easy after that.

Along with my loans and Luke owing money on his Jeep, Luke’s hours at work started getting cut.

We had my paycheck and his savings to live off — but that was going to run out really fast.

So we sat down and put our first budget together in August of 2015. As we looked over our financial situation, it was not great. With all the school loans and the cars, we were a little over $42,000 in debt.

Talking about it was really hard. Those first few budget conversations were grueling and painful. We had to really believe it was possible. We leaned heavily on all Dave Ramsey said.

Things like, “take baby steps” and “don’t expect to get your budget right for at least three months.”

The first thing we did after that was look at ALL the money coming in.

We both have “side jobs” we do every so often that bring in some extra money. Things like voice lessons, piano lessons, singing for funerals and I help with Stage Kids classes and directing some productions, and Luke gets some overtime and sometimes helps close friends and family with plumbing etc…

Then we looked at our two businesses: L-Bow the Clown/Face Painting and AdvoCare also brought in some money. After much discussion, we both decided that we would only use our regular jobs (teaching and journeyman plumbing) to handle our everyday/monthly budget and every extra dollar would go towards paying off our debt.

Over the next few months, we really began to see our money personalities.

As Dave puts it, there are four basic types of character traits when it comes to money: Free-Spirits and Savers as well as Nerds and Spenders.

Free Spirits usually don’t like being told what they can or can’t do with their money. Savers obviously like to save. Nerds like to see the numbers and Spenders like to spend.

Luke is a “free-spirited saver” whereas I’m a “nerdy spender.”

Instead of looking at the negative side of our types, we looked at different ways we could both shine and still pay off debt. We put him in charge of the two bank accounts solely for saving and paying off our debt and put me in charge of the monthly budget account.

This way, I didn’t see a bunch of money piling up that I might want to spend and he didn’t have to look at all of the various budget items I kept track of and feel like we were not saving enough.

It was really stressful — but I began to see that it was a different kind of stress. The stress I usually had around bills was always there was no “end” in sight. This stress of putting the budget together and getting it going was going to get easier as we went along.

During all of this time, we continually had to re-commit to getting out of debt. We still had to say no to vacations, restaurants and a lot of gifts for birthdays and Christmas.

(Luke: I’ll admit, though, that when it came to a weekend away with Mariann or a gift that put me over the budget, I was the one that caved and spent the money we hadn’t allotted to this because I felt we needed the romantic and restful time away and my heart got the best of me.)

By Sept. 12, 2017 — we had paid off all $42,000 in debt. What a feeling.

Guess how we celebrated by putting another budget together so we could keep going.

The biggest difference now is the new account that we put “extra” money into is now titled “Emergency Fund.”

According to Dave Ramsey, after step 2 of paying off debt, you move to step 3 — stock up your emergency fund with three to six months of savings.

Weird, I know, but when you know how good it feels, you just want to keep going.

Take-aways: You don’t need more money to start getting out of debt.

And, the “envelope system” is a MUST in all areas where you tend to overspend.

The envelope system is taking out a pre-decided amount of cash to put into an envelope for things you tend to overspend on. For me, this was groceries. Because I have to be on a strict diet of certain things, I would tend to buy too much of a “good thing.”

The idea is that it’s harder to give real cash away than to swipe your card. For me — it’s true.

And I still use it. Trust me, even after paying off the debts, I still couldn’t stay under budget without the cash in hand.

Do we get to take it easy yet? According to Dave Ramsey, after step #3 (add to the emergency fund) we still have baby steps 4 to 7 to complete before we can start really living and giving the way we want.

Step 4 is invest 15 percent of income into Roth IRA/pre-retirement, step 5 is create and grow a college fund, step 6 is pay off home and step 7 is build wealth and give.

But, so far, the stress of having to budget has been nowhere near the stress of even shopping for food, Christmas, birthdays, gas, car maintenance, making a house payment and the like when you don’t have the money.

And now, when our family wants to do lunch or our friends need some grocery money — we can say “yes!” and be there to connect.

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