Tim and I have been carrying substantial consumer debt for about ten years. It began as a failed business idea many years ago, and has carried on from there as something we just couldn’t get ourselves out of. To see the profile of our debt you would see a lot of up and down as we either made some headway or lost ground yet it has a relentless upward incline as the years progressed. I hate debt and would sometimes become so overwhelmed at the hopelessness of it all I would spiral down into complete despair. Tim’s perspective was that since our equity was greater, the debt wasn’t a really big deal but my despair was a big deal and that put a lot of pressure on him.
We had tried so many times over the years to get a handle on it, but inevitably the huge emotion I carried made it impossible for me to approach the topic objectively, and since Tim was already doing everything in his power to make it better, he was only defensive. And so we carried on… stuck… sometimes making headway, more often losing ground… always stuck.
In September of 2009 we received one month of free cable as recipients of our cable company’s “Customer Appreciation” promotion. (I know, I know. They just want us to see what we’re missing and sign us up at the end of our freebie.) During that month, as Tim flipped through the channels, he came across the show, “’Til Debt Do Us Part.” We saw a couple on the show who were similar to us and it got me wondering if perhaps God could bring freedom into this part of our life in the same way he had so incredibly brought freedom to other facets of life over the past year.
I noticed it was different inside of me as I considered what to do with this thought. My perspective and emotions were much more objective. It was also the topic of constant conversation between my Heavenly Father and me for the next 2 days while I considered what I should do.
Well, the short version is that within 2 weeks Tim and I had talked about our finances like never before, I had compiled all of our spending and income numbers, Tim had shown me how he had Quicken set up, I was keeping track of our finances instead of Tim doing it alone, my own personal bank account was now included in our joint finances and we had a solid plan in place for debt reduction. We were talking honestly with each other and finally came to be working together rather than Tim managing it all alone while I lay curled in the fetal position, helpless to do a thing.
One of the immediate blessings was hope in a situation that had been hopeless for a long, long time. Of course the long-term blessing has been seeing our debt decline steadily for 6 months. This month will see us cross the $10,000 paid off mark, of the just over $28,000 of consumer debt we carried in October. We’ve reduced our spending and increased our income so we can be aggressive with getting it paid off together. For the first time in our 23 year marriage we have opened an RRSP account to begin long-term savings.
I still find it mind-boggling. Freedom again, where there had been only chains and shackles. Hope in the truest sense of the word, where there had been no hope at all for close to 10 years. These words from Psalm 62 reflect my thoughts well:
- 5-6 God, the one and only—
I'll wait as long as he says.
Everything I hope for comes from him,
so why not?
He's solid rock under my feet,
breathing room for my soul,
An impregnable castle:
I'm set for life.
7-8 My help and glory are in God
—granite-strength and safe-harbor-God—
So trust him absolutely, people;
lay your lives on the line for him.
God is a safe place to be.
- If you’re interested in pursuing some practical resources yourself, these are some of the most helpful sites we found:
- Help to create an honest, workable budget: www.gailvazoxlade.com/resources/interactive_budget_worksheet.html
- What payments need to be made to get rid of the debt in 3 years or less:
- General good financial advice: www.daveramsey.com, www.gailvazoxlade.com