This weekend was AWESOME!!! After learning everything we needed to know in Financial Peace University about how to get ourselves out of debt, and after working for nearly 6 years to get it done, we decided to commemorate this awesome milestone by heading to Tennessee to scream to the world that WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEEE live on The Dave Ramsey Show! It was the coolest day ever. We cried and laughed. Our team of 2 was strengthened. Even though there were (and still are) lots of haters…people who said it couldn’t be done, we were being way too radical, it will never last, you can’t live without a credit card or a car payment, etc…… We drowned all of them out with hope in what we knew could work (you know, common sense and hard work!) And this past weekend, we got to celebrate a big ol’ victory.
But I have to say, talking about it now makes it almost sound almost too simple. Just saying “we paid off our debt” sounds like a one-step process. It was far from that. It was something that had to built up over a long, long time, with many parts that all were equally important. Our debt-free scream wasn’t just a moment in time…it was a thing with structure to it. Bones, if you will. It has anatomy.
So what makes up a debt-free scream?
1. Anger. That’s right. Anger. Everyone seems to have a big fat student loan payment or a payment from a stupid car lease gone wrong or credit card bills hanging over their head. Those things don’t make you special. They make you normal. And when you start to get angry with being normal, you just might want stop being normal. You have to get so disgusted with your own bondage, the fact that you work a job you hate just because you need to pay those bills and buy that stuff, that your blood starts boiling when you think about it. When you think about your $7,642 Visa bill that just came in the mail, doesn’t it get you even a little bit peeved trying to even remember what the heck you even bought with all that money? No? If not, then quit reading. You’re not ready to pursue a debt-free scream journey. Check back with me when you’re ticked.
2. Someone smarter than you. Now I don’t mean actual IQ-smart. I mean you need someone to come along in your life, whether it’s a friend, your spouse, even an author, who can show up and nudge you in the right direction about this money stuff. They don’t have to be a CPA. They just have to be a person who sees the bigger picture a half-step in front of you and can tell you that you’ve got to do something differently. For me, it was my friend Jeff. He’s always been smarter than me about handling money, (and pretty much everything else too, probably.) But he was the one who shoved Financial Peace University into my life by way of a wedding present. If he hadn’t been smart enough to do that, “debt-free scream” wouldn’t even be in my vocabulary. (Thanks, Jeff!! Turns out that wasn’t the world’s worst wedding present after all. You’re redeemed as the Awesome Gift-Giver.)
3. Motivation (aka Dreams). People tell you about new things all the time. If you’re like me, a lot of them seem like cool ideas. Making your own soap. Sewing your own clothes. Skydiving. But that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to be motivated to do any of those things just because they sound nice. There has to be some reason for you to actually do them. My husband and I believe that our motivation comes by what we refer to as dreaming a little. We just sit down, hang out for a bit, and talk about what we’re dreaming of doing whenever we reach our goal.
4. A process. Dave Ramsey says, “goals are just dreams with work clothes on.” We can dream all day about what we’re going to go, but then we have to work through a process of steps to actually do it. To become debt-free, you need a step-by-step process and a commitment to following it. If you’re married and trying to pay off debt, that commitment needs to come from both parties. Otherwise the process will be derailed along the way. Our process was to follow the plan outlined in Financial Peace University, which is the same process found in The Total Money Makeover. This plan was perfect for us because it was no slimy, creepy get-rich-quick scheme in a box. It was just common sense organized into small chunks called The Seven Baby Steps. Turns out that hard work and diligence really do pay off! Which brings me to my next point…
5. Discipline. Yeah, that icky D-word that no one likes, least of all me. But nothing difficult (and worth the effort) can ever get done without the ol’ stuff. So buckle down, decide that the best is more important than the right now, and handle your business. Even when you really, really don’t feel like cooking tonight. Even when you’d really like a new dress to wear to that reunion. Even when everyone else went on a vacation this year. Even when Christmas comes and goes and you don’t open a single present. Even when it’s hard. Even when it sucks. Do it anyway. Because the truth is, it’s so, so worth it. My husband is a beautiful illustration of this. He’s worked so hard to help us reach this goal. He even worked LOTS of overtime the last couple of months so we could meet our goal on time (um, we actually met it a little early because he rocks so much!) He is a freakin’ warrior. And I am so lucky to have a man like that, who will put his own wants aside for the greater good… our future. That’s a man. He defines disciplined. And he is my inspiration.
6. Lungs. Yep, after you’ve worked your tail off, and you’ve held hands through the tough times, and you’ve looked people in the eye who said you couldn’t do it, and you’ve done it anyway…it’s time to celebrate! Take a deep breath and scream to the world: WE’RE DEBT FREEEEEE!!!!! Use those lungs, baby!!! Whether it’s on the air with Dave Ramsey or not, shout it from the rooftops and celebrate! You’ve earned it!!
7. Open hands. What, you thought we were done? Not even a little. Once you’re free from debt, free from bondage, free from someone else telling every dime of your money where it has to go…. Relax and look around for ways you can use what you have to bless others. After all, you’ve been living on way less than you make anyway while you paid off all that debt. You have other goals to meet that need some of that money, I know. Everyone knows. When you become debt-free isn’t the only time that you should be generous…certainly not. But when you have more resources, you have more responsibility. So don’t just use it all for yourself, that would be irresponsible. Help someone. Bless someone. Make life a little easier for someone else just because you can. That’s when your debt-free scream will be heard around the world. And that’s when you know that the anatomy of your debt-free scream is complete.
By the way, if you’ve just read this and you’re ready to start your debt-free journey but aren’t sure how, leave your email address in the comments and I will get in touch to mail you a copy of Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover. I have two copies sitting on my shelf right now that someone else could be using. No strings, no funny business. I just want to get the same information into your hands that we learned so you can start your debt-free journey right now. Freedom’s waitin’.