Anatomy of a Debt-Free Scream

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.

Yes!

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’.

Hey you, fix YOUR economy

So, did that stimulus check fix all of your financial problems? Really, it didn’t?

How about Cash for Clunkers? That was a good one, right? Your whole world was changed because of that amazing, freeing financial idea wasn’t it? No???

Yeah, I didn’t really think so.

See, the truth is, Uncle Sam is not wearing bright shining armor, and he’s not riding in on a white horse to save you from your financial dilemma. If you can’t already tell that our government is not particularly adept at managing its own finances, let alone sitting down at our kitchen table with us to help out when it’s pay-the-bills night, you haven’t paid much attention to things.

But anyone can change. You can start paying attention. Not so much to CNN and the doom-and- gloom that it broadcasts about how awful things are getting and how the whole government is going to collapse if so-and-so doesn’t get off his pompous [fill-in-name-of-hated-political-party-here] butt and sign the newest quick-fix piece of paper that will allow the truly patriotic [fill-in-name-of-beloved-political-party-here]s to fix all the financial problems of the universe. That’s not what I think you should be paying more attention to.

Instead, I think all of us should turn that pointed finger around and look at ourselves. Look at your own financial sitation. Have you, like the government, overextended yourself? Have you, like the government, given into pressures of every voice under the sun spewing in your ears about what it wants, so you’ve said yes to spending on everything? What are those voices telling you to spend all you make and buy all you want,anyway? Is it your spouse? Your kids? Your workplace party-planning-committee? Is it that little brat who lives inside you and shares your name who is always hollering “but I want it!!!”

But, you say, I’m not really an overspender…I’m just the victim of bad circumstances. I got laid off and I can’t find work. I got hurt and I’m waiting for my disability check. I got tricked into a bad mortgage and I lost my house. I hate my job so I quit because I wanted to be true to myself but now I can’t find another one.

I get it. There are some crappy situations out there. Some really, really crappy ones. I am not saying that everything will be perfect tomorrow. All I’m saying is: stop expecting someone else to fix things, stop wallowing in self-pity and hopelessness, and start doing something. DO SOMETHING.

Start with these two things: Do what you can. Do better with what you have.

Do what you can. If you got hurt on the job and can’t chuck boxes anymore, I understand. Do what you can. Maybe you can sit and take orders over the phone. Got laid off and have kids to feed? I understand. You might be depressed and have lost all hope because you can’t find a great job as a computer guru right now like the one you had. That is depressing, I understand. But you have kids to feed, so you can chuck boxes in a warehouse instead. Oh, that’s not enough money? Well then maybe you chuck boxes and deliver pizzas too, until things get better. Like to stay home with your kids, but your husband’s business isn’t doing well and things are getting tight? I get it. Do what you can. Get creative…trade childcare with someone a few days a week while you launch an at-home business or you wrangle up carts or stock shelves or whatever for a while. Do what you can to make things better.

Do better with what you have. Maybe you have a good job already and you’re fine and able to pay your bills right now and spend whatever you want. Good for you. I bet that’s what a lot of people thought a few years ago who are now out of a job. Do better with what you have so that if things change in the future (and what’s the likelihood that will happen, right!?) you’ll be better prepared. Make a budget so you have a clue. (Oh, stop whining…it’s a freakin’ budget, not a straight-jacket) Don’t spend every dime you make. Plan for emergencies by putting back money for them because they will happen. If you’re a stay-at-home mom and your husband does all the financial stuff, help ease the stress by becoming a home economist. Figure out ways to make things go further by clipping coupons, bulk shopping with a friend, sharing meal prep with another family, freezing leftovers…whatever. Just do better with what you have.

All of us have to deal with the lovely mess the government is getting us into, and if not, our grandchildren sure will. But we don’t have to add to it. We don’t have to throw up our hands and just say “oh well, the government’s out of control so why bother…I’ll  just do whatever I want too.” 

Do what you can, and do better with what you have right now.

One thing I can do is to help other people get started in doing better with what they have. Years ago I learned the revolutionary ways to get financially fit… wanna hear the secrets?

Well too bad, there aren’t any dang secrets. It’s just common sense stuff. Spend less than you make. Quit borrowing money. Pay back the money you already borrowed. Save some money. Get it? Common sense stuff. And I can teach you the steps to take to put that common sense into action with your finances. No scam, no get rich quick junk, and no I’m not making money at it. Just learning the same way I did, and applying what you learned with diligence will do the job. It works. So if any of you reading this need help getting started, let me know. Really. I will help you. I coach people all the time who need help making a budget or paying off debt or whatever. I can help you too, even if you live somewhere far away. You can read, can’t you? Well then I can recommend what to read to get started and I can coach you from anywhere. Seriously.

That is how this economy will get fixed…that is how we will fight off all the doom and gloom. We’ll do what we can and do better with what we have. We’ll help each other one person at a time. Then that person can help another person. Then they can help one more…are you getting the picture here?

The government isn’t going to save you from your crappy financial situation. YOU are the only one who can change YOUR situation. So…get started already. One little step leads to another…do something today to fix your own economy.