“Once in debt, interest is your companion every minute of the day and night; you cannot shun it or slip away from it; you cannot dismiss it; it yields neither to entreaties, demands, or orders; and whenever you get in its way or cross its course or fail to meet its demands, it crushes you” President J. Reuben Clark Jr., in Conference Report, Apr. 1938, 103
Let me preface this by saying that it may not necessarily be provident living to some, but it is a huge change in my families spending habits and a change in our mindset of how we want to handle money in the future.
I also need to give a little background on our family. We made the choice some years ago to be be a one income family, though there may have been times since then that both of us have worked, we’ve never relied on daycare or outside systems to take care of any of our kids. We also had gotten ourselves into some bad habits, like using credit cards to supplement our income and by the end, racked up quite a bit of debt. I won’t use exact figures, but it was sufficient to finally make my wife and I sick of the situation and decide to make some changes. We still struggle, but we are making it.
So let’s roll back the clock, to the beginning of 2010. Lots of stuff changed for my family, with my wife being pregnant, getting a raise, having to move and enjoying a nice car, things were a little overwhelming in different ways. We finally landed a rental and couldn’t believe how we could afford all the stuff we had: a rental house, our nice Honda Pilot and we were still only one income (we had a little help from my wife’s sister living with us). But in all reality, we were one incident away from ruin and there were some tough decisions coming…and soon.
But at the beginning of the year, we really hadn’t made any real choices, we had stopped using the credit cards because, well it seemed like there was enough money every paycheck – and I think we had kind of gone over board with Christmas (like we seemed to do every year). Then my wife’s sister decided to move, and that was the catalyst.
Now I don’t think of myself as that stuck on things of the world, I mean I like things don’t get me wrong – but never quite realized how deep it was. When I was younger I bought the vehicles I wanted and I liked my vehicles. After I got married it slowly went away though I was still quite proud and stubborn about them. Though eventually after years of driving beaters and vehicles that some might consider to be less manly I’ve come to a point where I thought I didn’t care. Then we bought our Honda Pilot in a moment of weakness – well I say it that way, but that’s usually how we ended up with a car, go and look at usually bought the first thing we saw. So here we are with a pretty hefty payment, with a really nice car – one that I felt pretty good driving. It was shiny, powerful, had fancy gadgetry and awd drive.
If you ask me now, I’ll admit I never was happy with the Honda, and not for any reason other than I was always too worried about it. Like every new sound I heard I would have a mental break – How much is this going to cost me, how do I find the money to fix it. etc, etc, etc. But I wouldn’t admit it back then. I liked having a nice car.
But here we were, a loss of about the same amount of money per month as our car. The choice seemed easy, but the execution was not. I fought it tooth and nail saying I needed a car for work, we’ve had two cars since the day we were married. Also, there were legitimate times of needing a second car – like when I commuted over an hour each way to work. But my excuses for keeping the car were petering out and I finally gave in to my wife’s wise counsel. We put the car up on an internet site to sale it and to make a long story short, sold it within a week or two – and here’s the miraculous part, sold it for about $40 dollars less than we owed on it! As we look back on this we know that the Lord helped us sale this car because we needed to make choices, we needed to start a ball rolling that will ultimately lead us to financial freedom.
So now we’re down to one car. A 13yr old minivan. The talk was that at tax time this year we would look at buying a car for me, but now it’s changed – and I’ll get to that in a minute. But we’ve been sharing the van since the summer and while it’s not an awesome solution it has worked.
So here we are at the beginning of a new year. We look at last year and look at the debt savings we’ve made. We removed a vehicle from the equation which really freed up a nice little amount of money per month. We haven’t used any of our credit cards last year so they are going down, albeit slowly – they are going down. And we’ve got an initial amount of tax return that as our habits have changed, our use of that money has also changed. Our plan for this year is to start off with a bang, and by bang I mean using some of the tax money to get some work done on the van, put together an emergency fund and then pay the rest onto one of the credit cards.
You can look at this any way you want, but a snowball starts with one snow flake, however small that snowflake is it does grow over time. Personally I can get very focused on seeing results and when you’re talking about something the size of a snowflake it’s hard to see the results. But with a good woman at my side, support from various sources and strength from the Lord this year is going to make a bigger snowball and the effects are going to be very visible.
While I haven’t been very specific on somethings, these are some of the things we’ve been doing. We’ve been talking more – my wife and I about our finances. While I still struggle with sitting down with my wife and going over the finances. I talk to her more about it and we discuss most of our purchases. We also employee some rewards here and there. One of bad habits is going out to eat, and so we’ve been trying to change that habit into a reward system – it works, but sometimes it’s hard to stick to it. We listen to Dave Ramsey also, not so much for advice but to hear the people that call, both success stories and the people who are worse off then us. Because nothing motivates better than knowing how bad it can get. The most important thing to remember is the Lord, He is a big strength to us in trying to do this. We’re all human and subject to weakness – but with His help we can over come. We’ve been counseled to pray always, on everything and so this might be a helper to remember. but be warned it’s long Alma 34:18-27 – but the gist is simple, pray always. If you have serious spending problems pray over that candy bar at the check out isle, for me it’s more about impulsive big purchases like a car – but sometimes it’s about being weak or tired and saying let’s just get a pizza.
So while this may not be the provident living post you were hoping for, this is my experience with debt, finally getting sick of it and making changes. The changes may not be great, they are making a difference. However slow they start out as, they do grow, just like debt continues to grown, the snowball can also grow and eventually you will be free.
I caught a post on facebook from Dave Ramsey that mentions a police officer (I don’t remember where, but the numbers a probably close) that said about 80% of the domestic dispute calls he gets are based around money. Couple that with this article linking financial arguments and debt and you can see that you should do what you can now, however small it is.
“If there is any one thing that will bring peace and contentment into the human heart, and into the family, it is to live within our means. And if there is any one thing that is grinding and discouraging and disheartening, it is to have debts and obligations that one cannot meet” (Heber J. Grant, Gospel Standards, comp. G. Homer Durham , 111)
Now realize that the article was written in 2009, though we as LDS were told about the problems even back in 1941…
I leave you with a testimony of living within your means. That if you follow the counsel of God and pray to him for help and strength that you to can work your way out of debt and release yourself from that bondage.
Quotes pulled from a General Conference address given by President Gordon B. Hinckley in the October 1998 Priesthood session entitled “To the Boys and Men“.
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