I was 35 with $28k in debt, $0 in savings, and under 19k in a retirement account. My boyfriend, who I lived with, was covering rent and most of the bills, while I worked part-time as a freelance writer making $40k-ish a year. Oh, and not to mention I was living in San Francisco, one of the most expensive places to live on the planet.
The thing is, it wasn’t about the money….it was about how the situation made me feel. I felt trapped. I felt helpless. I felt dumb. And I felt anxious about money, all the time, because I hadn’t “figured it out” by now.
I justified making my $475 a month car payment on my 2010 A4 Turbo Audi, since I didn’t have to pay rent—an asset that was going down in value by the second.
I was also basically living off credit cards. Swiping my worries away, only to leave me feeling more worried and fearful for my future.
I knew this wasn’t how I wanted to live.
I knew I was capable of more. I thought if I got a better job and made more money, then I’d be able to save, then I’d be able to contribute to retirement. I felt overwhelmed, but mostly I felt like I should be further along at my age.
The biggest thing for me was having debt. Owing banks money. I felt this dark weight over my soul every time I sent money to pay down a vacation I had already went on, or that outfit I just had to have. Having to pay a large chuck of my income every month to someone other than myself (and lots of it) was something I knew was holding me back from being successful.
Growing up, like most people, I was never taught how to manage my money. I was released freely into adulthood, with little plan or direction for my finances. And I was never taught the importance of a budget. In the back of my mind I knew it was important, but the act of doing it was lost on me. I often questioned why it mattered if I did a budget since I didn’t have a consistent income.
But then one day I heard a podcast that would change everything.
In my efforts of becoming an adult and figuring out this money stuff, I began listening to everything I could and reading all the books. I needed answers and I needed them now. My Mom kept mentioning this guy Dave Ramsey and how she was going to use his “plan” to pay off debt. It must be a scam, I thought. But, the spirit was nudging me to listen anyway. So I listened…and I listened…and I listened. And I heard story after story of everyday people paying off insane amounts of debt. I listened to the advice Ramsey would give others, and to people who were in similar (and even a lot worse) situations than I was in.
So what was the trick? Here’s the kicker: there wasn’t one. It was so simple it almost made it seem like a trick, but any rational person would understand that the Baby Steps Ramsey had trademarked 20+ years ago, was a plan based on something that will BLOW YOUR MIND. Common sense. Yep, I said it. I was overcomplicating things like stupidly.
The Baby Steps are this:
#1: Save $1,000 in a starter emergency fund
#2: Pay off your debts smallest to largest aka the debt snowball. Do this aggressively and fast. Ramsey says consumer debt (everything but your house) should be paid off in under 2 years.
#3: Build a full emergency fund: 3-6 months of EXPENSES
#4: Save 15% into retirement- 401ks, Roths or Traditional IRAs
#5: Save for kids college, if you have kids
#6: Pay off your house
#7: Build wealth and GIVE
This step-by-step plan gave me a roadmap, because I was trying to do a little bit of everything. A little paying off debt, a little in retirement and attempting to save with what was left over. I was doing it out of order and trying to do too much at once. Ramsey calls it “Gods and Grandmas way of handling money”.
While it’s more likely your great grandma’s way at this point, think back to not that long ago when there was no such thing as credit cards. You had to have actual cash if you wanted to buy something. There weren’t a million ads in our faces everyday and there was a completely different mentality about money. You couldn’t buy any and everything you wanted on a payment plan with 18% interest.
Oh, and the God part, well that’s simple too. Not one place in the Bible does God say to borrow from people and take out loans with interest. He is very clear about never owing anyone and not having debts. Ok God, I trust you.
All this to say, I needed to get back to the basics. And that’s just what I did.
I created a budget and stuck to it for the first time in my life. I made sure every penny was accounted for and that every extra dollar I had went to pay off my debt. During this time, I started to feel weighed down by my stuff too. I sold and got rid of everything that didn’t bring me joy. It all felt so freeing.
Because of my intense focus and ability to work 3 jobs temporarily, not go on vacations and stop eating out, I was able to pay off $28k in less than 8 months! It was hard and I was tired, but to have that debt gone and to actually own everything outright—it’s the best feeling ever. I’ve been able to save into retirement and get on a better track all around.
And during my journey I found my true calling.
The motivation to help others feel free too. To empower them and shift their money beliefs and to get free from debts that may be holding them back. You’re the one who has to take responsibility and do the actual work, but I provide you the best information and tools possible, lend encouragement and inject hope.
I’d love to do the same for you too. If you’re struggling financially. If you’re embarrassed, confused, scared or tired of being broke and living paycheck to paycheck, then it’s time to rise up. I’d love to provide you with the right tools to get on track and reach your money goals. Let me be your money coach.