Like most American’s, we grew up with the standard financial doctrine that the media and other influences in our lives so often give young adults. The advice we received was mixed with the confusion of so many decisions ahead of us. At the time, we were both working and trying to plan our wedding which was fast approaching. Thankfully, we made most choices wisely up to the wedding and were married without any lingering wedding bills. After that, it went downhill pretty fast. We were told that we should live by a budget… we were told that we should always tithe… and we were told that we needed to build good credit so we could finance things in our future. We accomplished 1 out of the 3, can you guess which?
It wasn’t long (like 6 months after we got married) that we were literally putting EVERY SINGLE purchase and as many bills as possible on one of our several credit cards. In the few times that I sat down to review the purchases on the cards, they all ran together so I avoided it. It was always so much easier just to pay off the card at the end of each month and start again. God had blessed us with enough income to meet our needs and then some more, but we couldn’t seem to keep anything in our bank account. Eventually, the entire paycheck was being used to clear last month’s debts. Then we hit the proverbial wall. I’ll never forget it, we were in town and I had our credit cards with us to buy something else and then get some dinner before we went back to the apartment. I swiped the one card (our largest at the time), and it was declined. I thought “that’s weird” because there must have been something wrong with the mag strip or someone at MasterCard put a freeze on it for our safety. I pulled out the Visa, and when I swiped it, it took. We got dinner out at a local chain and headed home, but I had this nagging feeling like something wasn’t right. I logged into our account and my jaw hit the table. Both of our credit cards were within $25 of being maxed out, our rent was high, our vehicle had a 5 figure loan and utilities seemed to keep climbing higher and higher.
Needless to say, I freaked out in my head, but I didn’t tell my wife. I paid as much of the bill as possible (after rent was paid in cash), and the bank account dropped to $9 with credit cards that were essentially full. A couple of days passed, and I talked to Steph about the situation and that I thought that I had a fix. I had forgotten that I had a bank account that had a couple of hundred dollars in it. We decided then and there that we needed to start living with cash more than credit. Oh boy, we missed the mark A LOT even after this, but every day, every week, and every paycheck we did better and took another step forward. Little did we realize that we had a long road ahead of us digging ourselves out, but the lessons that we learned early in life and marriage were honestly worth it. What we hope to cover in the articles to follow are the things that we learned the hard way that we hope can help anyone who reads avoid the dumb stuff that we did. We want to go mistake by mistake and step by step through where we had to go to be where we are at today. A little later this week, our next article in this series will be posted. It will talk about what we had to do immediately after we realized that we were buried in debt.