August 22, 2008

“Live like no one else so later on you can live like no one else.”

So says debt-reduction guru Dave Ramsey of the Fox Business Channel’s “Dave Ramsey Show”, and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Today we paid off the sixth of nine credit cards we once had – credit cards that once had a total of over $60K on them. How have we been able to make such progress? In short, discipline and dedication, and, to be honest, a combination of good income, no children, and no pre-existing car payments (a definite plus!).

It all started shortly after our return from vacation last fall. First to go was one of those tire & auto place cards – sure, in the grand scheme of things it was a mere shot across the bow at our overall debt, but it once had over $2K on it for auto repairs. We needed to prove to ourselves that we could pay something – anything – off, so doing so at least got us started in the right direction.

Next it was nose-to-the-grindstone time, as November, December, and January were dedicated to getting one of several major bank Visa cards – this one with over $16K on it (sigh…) down to something less than 10K so at least I could start thinking about sleeping at night. That was a lot of work, made all the tougher because you never got the feeling any real progress was being made.

But we did it, and I have to admit it felt kinda good to have our largest card down to four figures in size. That set the stage for an all-out assault on one of our Bank of America Visa cards with over $11K on it. From late February through part of May (with a momentary halt for taxes) every extra dime we had went to paying off this card, followed the next month by a second BoA card that once had as much as $5K on it.

(A funny story: after paying off these two cards, when I called Bank of America to cancel them outright, the guy on the other end asked me why I was canceling. When I mentioned Dave Ramsey, he told me I wouldn’t believe how many times he’s heard that guy’s name mentioned by people doing the very same thing I was doing.)

And that’s when we started the white board. Even though we were starting to make real progress on our credit card debt, we needed something in the way of positive reinforcement so we could see the progress we were making. And that’s when I hit upon the idea of a white board. So we now have one posted in my office that lists all our debts from smallest to largest, with a total we can modify on a monthly basis to document our progress.

Since the white board went up, we have paid off three more cards – another Visa card that had once had over $6K on it, a shopping channel Master card that once had nearly the same, and today, yet another Visa card that was once over $5K. So six cards down, three to go.

As yet another cards is paid off, we hold a little ceremony where the card is removed from the wallet of whomever the card belonged to and cut up with scissiors. Then the next day we call and cancel it. And the white board gets updated.

So how does such a concerted effort take place? Simply put, like Dave says, “living like no one else so one day you can live like no one else”. First of all, we are both blessed to make good money and work hard for it. Second, like I said, we don’t have children, so that helps a lot – as does having no auto loans, as both of our cars have been paid off for awhile. Most importantly, however, we’ve severely restricted our going out and eating out, limiting ourselves to take-out pizza once every other week. While we don’t have a strict budget per se, we keep a strict eye on what we spend at the supermarket – like they say, you go to the supermarket to buy, not to shop. There’s a big difference: in other words, we have a grocery list and stick to it. This year, for the first time since we’ve been married there will be no vacation around our anniversary. And, as much as I hate to say it, there’ll be no Goodboys Vegas weekend for me next February, either.

While we’re making good progress, we’re not there yet. I figure we’ve paid off somewhere in the range of $40K in the past ten months, with still around $18K to go. Then there’s a 403-B loan with approx. $30K on it that needs paying off. God willing, if we’re able to stick to our plan and no bad surprises happen, we’re thinking we can be debt free (house excluded) by this time next year. What an accomplishment that would be!

Listen, if we can do it anyone can do it. Both of us have always been pretty free spenders, and we’ve never known a month in out 21+ years of marriage when we haven’t been paying credit card bills. The cool thing is seeing the change in our mail and the reduction in the number of bills we get. I’ve also noticed the number of credit card offers we get by mail has dropped significantly, which is nice to see as well. We used to think that all those offers were proof positive of our great credit record, but we’ve come to see them as invitations to increased debt and a life we no longer wish to live. It’s so true what Ramsey says: taking control of one’s financial situation involves changes in behavior and mindset more than anything else.

For us, we now know that if we want to live like no one else in the future, we have to live like no one else today. It’s rewarding to see all our discipline and dedication is just now starting to pay off.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:36 | Comments (3)
  1. Way to go you two…do you realize that once you have done this you can set up and facilitate the 13 week class for others…I think Dave calls it Financial University??? You’d be an inspiration and motivation for others wanting to be debt free.

    Comment by Jana — August 22, 2008 @ 5:12 am

  2. Hey, is there any way I can get you to pay off MY debt?

    Just askin’.

    Comment by Dave Richard — August 22, 2008 @ 7:36 pm

  3. Thanks for the nice words, Jana. And NO, bro – believe me we’ve got all we can handle here!

    Comment by The Great White Shank — August 24, 2008 @ 7:22 pm

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