It’s been one month since we made the FINAL PAYMENT on our MORTGAGE!  Here it is 2018 and it seems so EASY, so natural; reason being is because we knew what our goal was back in 2011.  I was the was one on board with making some changes to what we we were doing, so I wanted to share a bit of our journey.  Though I wasn’t the “Reluctant Spouse” I was the “Clueless Spouse”.  I wanted to share just a bit of how I’ve mastered the Dave Ramsey subject matter and just within the last couple of years, have learned of the ChooseFI concept.  Also, the FIRE concept (Financially Independent Retire Early) particularly interests me since my salary with the State of AZ has been the same since 2007.  You heard it.  George Herbert Walker Bush was in office when I got my one and only raise.  Let’s keep politics out of this, because after all, your success depends on YOU!  I think we can all agree with that

Alan and I are several chapters into our our financial journey. Those early chapters were pretty scary for both of us.  Both of us grew up in the 70s, we learned a lot of life lessons, particularly about work….. and that’s where the lessons stopped.  More financial lessons were on the horizon.  If we had known what FI was back then, we would be in a completely different place. Everyone nod their heads in collective agreement!  We both came from small town Nebraska.  My parents had the mindset that you just spend as little as possible, except for cigarettes.  Alan and his two older siblings were raised by a single mom and he is astonished today as to how she did it on so very little.

Our combined story started quite regular.  Roughly twenty years ago, we met, got engaged and married and moved away all within a year and a half. As time went on, we hummed along through life, both of us had very average jobs but we felt like we were “adulting” before it was cool.  We even had a brand new Dodge Dakota sitting in the driveway and made the “investment” of a Timeshare.  I said lessons were going to happen!  We must be doing okay; so society tells us. We had struggles with infertility trying to start a family, but eventually were blessed with one daughter. Time continued to pass. We kept asking ourselves “What can we do better in how we handle money?” and “How can we make more progress?”.  We felt like we were just treading water because the savings stayed the same, the bills hovered as well.

We had about $7,000 in savings at this point in our marriage which was thirteen years in. That didn’t seem like a whole lot for all the work we had done and all the thriftiness we had practiced.  After all, what do you get when you mix Goodwill shopping with new truck payments?  We didn’t take glamorous vacations. We didn’t go out to eat very much. We knew what net worth was and we knew that it was a stagnant concept for us.

Then, Alan came home with DVDs that a friend had let him borrow. My Love Language is Quality Time, so when he suggested we throw these DVDs in and see what it was all about, I was game.  I was all up for snuggling with some popcorn with my sweetie and learning something.  Movie night will never be the same.  I think he even ordered a pizza.  Twist my arm!

Steve and Alan had been talking about Steve and Cynthia‘s journey. Their child had just been diagnosed with muscular dystrophy. What a blow. Life really hit them in the face and living paycheck to paycheck was not a good place to be, considering this new challenge in their life. They had started this process called the Total Money Makeover and had received the Financial Peace University home study kit as a gift.  I wish someone would have loved Alan and I that much. Steve raved about the progress they were making. “Progress”, well shucks, that’s what we were after!  How do you measure that? What does that even look like? The Baby Steps. Now I know. Alan and I were not religious, still are not religious. Yes, Financial Peace University is rooted in the Bible.  Hold on, don’t let that make you run the other way.  Simply substitute your garden variety higher power in there, and allow it to just be if it’s not something that comes natural to you.  We came to find out over the nine week course that there were some pretty good ideas presented in the material. Dave is a dynamic teacher and we were willing to learn.  Heck, what we were doing wasn’t getting us anywhere, might as well change the recipe.  I had a fog about me at this point, but luckily, Alan is the one making things happen.  I just had to show up at the budget meeting and negotiate.  Consider it done!

According to Dave’s teaching, anything above $1,000 should be taken out of savings and thrown at the debt snowball.  $6,000 knocked off several of our smaller debts. You’re kidding me? With that single action, I felt “progress” on steroids. Now we only have $1,000 in the bank, but if something happens, we can cashflow it.  OK, that makes sense. Amazingly, it took us 13 1/2 months to pay off right at $37,000. I couldn’t believe what a difference this method made. It was the measurable, visible, tangible movement of the needle we had been looking for.

That was April 2012 when we finished BS2. As of July 2nd, 2018, yes, about a month ago, we paid off our home. 

There is something that changes in your spirit when that happens.  It is indescribable; and so doable.  As the FI community says, now on to BS 8, 9 and 10.  We are still learning.  Amazingly (don’t tell Dave), we applied for a credit card in order to jumpstart some travel.  So we’re going to need this community of like-minded smart people to help us zero in on the Pillars and open up all that comes from the freedom we’ve yearned for and now savor!  In my novice-to-natural path, I’d suggest a few things to bait that one who may be coming up the rear:

Negotiate the Cash: When we went to a limited amount of “BLOW MONEY”, Alan had to be flexible with me.  Limits?? I don’t need not stinking limits!  We slowly reduced that category as he was able to chart every time we saw the debt go down.  Seeing those numbers made me realize that I could spend even less, and I did.  He lost the battle to win the war.

FPU is a good place to start: Again, assuming that one of you is slow to come to the table, this was a great way to simply get things under control.  Keeping the car out of the ditch is the place to start.  Then we’ll worry about what comes next.  The Steps are foolproof, so even the most nonchalant or uptight spouse can at least see THE PLAN.

Go back to the beginning: love my spouse, I would do anything for Alan. In those big and little actions and words, (pay attention!) true teamwork is solidified. If you have a spouse who is trying to guide you, let them.  That doesn’t just mean the one with the head knowledge.  It means both of you.  In your mind, your heart, and your soul, breathe that in for a minute…… them patience and understanding and truly try to see what they see.  After all, you would do anything for them. Actions and words are deposits.  Make a habit of making lots and lots of love deposits and you can’t help but become an unstoppable team!

Finally, Baby Step 7!!!

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