I’m going to share how Dave Ramsey changed my life. If you don’t know who he is just use Google to find his website, podcasts, YouTube videos, books, etc. I have listened to his podcasts for a couple of years before I actually started the baby steps. I was one of the typical “normal” people he talks about. I had a house loan, car loan, credit card debt, at one point I did have student loans too, but those were minimal and paid off. I always believed as long as I was paying the payments on time and keeping a “good” credit score that I was doing fine. I’ve always been a one income household because even when I was married my husband felt that working was “optional” and when you live with someone that has a drug and alcohol addiction issue there really isn’t a lot of extra money after you pay just your normal household expenses and buy groceries. But I was making it.
My parents taught me a good foundation in finances when I was growing up. About how to make a budget and not spend money you didn’t have. Although they were “normal” in that they had a home loan and a couple car loans. My dad had student loans. They had credit cards, but they were very responsible with them. Balances were not carried or if they were it was only a month or two. When I was 18 my mom co-signed for me to get my first credit card. I moved out on my own, not long after, which was the beginning of many bad decisions I made in my life not just surrounding money. My ex-husband was a spender not a saver like I was. When Dave Ramsey talks about the #1 thing that will break up a relationship being money he’s correct. We had so many issues, but the main one was money.
I was working sometimes two jobs just to pay our rent and utilities plus food to eat and gas in the car. The rare times he actually had a job that was “his” money to blow on whatever rather than contribute to the household. When you are living with someone that is abusive and controlling you will do whatever you can to keep from rocking the boat. I look back on it now and think if I had just been more firm about putting my foot down then I wouldn’t have been in such a financial mess. But it just doesn’t work out that way. I don’t think someone can truly understand until they have been in that situation. You will do whatever you have to do to survive. Even if it means buying groceries or paying the electric bill with your credit card. This cycle went on for years. My credit score going up and down during this time. There was a bankruptcy in there too, but only because he totaled a vehicle and they were going to sue us for it.
It took me a very long 20 years, but I finally walked away for good. In the process I was saddled with all the debt. It took me about 2-3 years, but I managed to pay it all off. Once again I fell into the “normal” trap where I believed all the talk about needing a good credit score. After researching how to get a good credit score I followed the information on the Fico website and myFico forums. It talked about having 2-3 credit cards open and installment loans (car loan). So then I would charge a few things and pay them off. There were even people who literally had dozens of credit cards and 800+ FICO scores. They would sign up for the free cash bonuses and rewards programs for using the cards. (like airline miles)
There was all this prestige in being able to be approved for certain specific credit cards or with certain banks even. I was lucky that I was eligible to join NFCU (Navy Federal Credit Union) because that was one that was a really sought after institution. As my score was getting better I just kept getting more things and found it hard to say no. I take all the blame. It was completely 100% my fault, but at the same time I think the banks should hold some accountability. There was no way I should have been approved for four vehicle loans based on my income. I was working a lot of overtime at my job. I was making all the payments fine. I had a little extra to spend on my favorite activities—dog sports.
Things were going along okay or so I thought. My dad kept telling me you can’t count on overtime, but it had been mandatory at my job for so long it was a given. I mean for YEARS. Even when overtime wasn’t mandatory it was always available and I always worked it. If you listen to Dave Ramsey he will tell you that you can’t out earn your stupidity which is what I was trying to do. Everything was great until it wasn’t. My boss took a job in a different department and my team was put under another manager in a different state. Everything changed. There was a tiny some overtime initially. Then it went away. I thought it was temporary as that had happened a time or two in the past, but it was not. It just stopped. I did not alter my “lifestyle” I had grown accustomed to. By this point I had too many dogs, too many cars, etc. Foolishly because I had always been told how important my credit score was I was more concerned about being sure I paid JC Penney on time than if my electric bill was paid. I was spiraling out of control and about to hit the bottom. (not just financially either as I had many other issues going on in my life too)
I’m not even sure when or how exactly I found Dave Ramsey, but it was definitely a Godsend. I listened to his podcasts obsessively every single time I was in my car going anywhere. In fact I still do. I learned about the baby steps, heard the debt free screams, read about it all online. It made sense. People were doing it, but I just couldn’t seem to get started with it myself. I’m not sure why exactly. I was familiar with budgeting. In fact when I was doing a budget I was in much better control of my money/spending. In order to even start BS1 (baby step 1) you had to be current on your 4 walls which I was struggling with. I finally got caught up in January of this year. I was finally able to start the baby steps. But it was a very slow process to get through BS1. I wasn’t eating out, I was down to just one vehicle, and I rarely bought anything. In fact I still have the same couch that I filed bankruptcy on more than 20 years ago! There was not anything I could sell to jump start this process. After a lot of scraping together I was able to push into BS2. (baby step 2) I will be here for a while as I have a lot of debt to work through. Currently I’m also losing about 35% of my paycheck to a wage garnishment for one of the vehicle loans which is slowing my progress.
A lot of days I feel ready to give up. A lot of days it is a real struggle just to put one foot in front of the other one. I refuse to give up. I’m just not made that way. I’m not afraid of hard work. I don’t care how many jobs I have to take to fix this. I’m glad that I finally have a plan to follow. I’m glad that I’m done worshipping at the altar of FICO. The only reason you have a good credit score is you borrow money which is not the way to build wealth. I plan to be debt free. I will not ever again borrow .01 for anything. I’m tired of paying all my money out on debt. I finally learned that’s why I’ve never had anything and as long as I kept doing that I never would have anything. I’m still living just barely paycheck to paycheck, but I finally have my 4 walls in place. It’s nice to actually open my fridge and there is food in it. There is food in my freezer. There is gas in my car. My electric and water bills have been paid already (early in fact). I have my BS1 in place if anything major happens. I have paid off one bill from my BS2 debt snowball. I’m half way done with my second debt. I can do this.
Who knows maybe I haven’t waited too long to be an “everyday millionaire,” but if I have I will be as close as I can be. And I will be debt freeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!