A little over three years ago, I married my now-husband, Patrick. We did what most engaged couples do and went through premarital counseling. We felt that we had all the right conversations and talked to all the right people. In addition to the normal marriage preparation, we also knew that, as a couple, our financial situation needed some attention.

Although it’s somewhat naive to think in our culture, I had grown up thinking that you only spend money you actually have. Why did people need credit cards— your money is connected to a debit card, right? Realizing that the majority of the world did not follow that same school of financial thought was new to me.

My financial story didn’t include debt—I was fortunate enough to get a full ride to college and drove a paid-for vehicle. Patrick’s story, however, looked a little different. He had to pay his way through college—relying mostly on student loans—and was responsible for all of his own bills and expenses. While I knew that student loans, some credit cards, and a car payment would be a part of our marriage, sitting down and putting the balances on paper made it way more real.

We had received Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University kit as a wedding gift thanks to my money-savvy brother. Patrick had talked about listening to Dave’s radio show a couple times and my brother knew this would be a hit. Despite how much Patrick talked about it, I dragged my feet a little on starting the course, knowing that if we sat down and made a budget, I could no longer go buy all the cute things at Target that I just needed.

About six months after we got married, Patrick’s plea to start the class was finally met with a yes. We watched the videos and sat down for what turned into a couple hours of doing our first budget. It was painful. We followed all of the steps. Every single thing that Dave (yes, I feel that Dave and I are on a first-name basis) was teaching us to do, we did. We were frustrated, tired, and looking at a real number for our debt that seemed way too big to be true.

We learned that the only way we were going to get this debt behind us was if we stuck to the plan and encouraged each other along the way.

I wish I could tell you it was all  smooth sailing after that first budget meeting we had, but it was hard. It required a lot of prayer and sacrifice from both of us. It required us to say no to fun things our friends were doing or trips we wanted to take. What happened in the process though was what made it all worth it. Our communication through the entire debt snowball, as Dave calls it, kept improving. We learned that the only way we were going to get this debt behind us was if we stuck to the plan and encouraged each other along the way. As we completed each month, that initial number got smaller and smaller, and the weight on our shoulders was feeling lighter and lighter. It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy, but each month felt like a little victory.

We gave up birthday gifts for each other a couple years in a row, had to start saving for Christmas gifts in June each year, and we’d sometimes get weird looks from the Publix cashier when we’d ask to take an item off because it would put us slightly over the grocery amount for that week. But now, being on the other side of it, I can tell you it was all worth it. We still sit down at the end of every month and write out our budget for the next month—a practice I hope we’re still doing when we’re old and gray.

Last month, exactly three years after starting, we made our final debt payment! It was an event; we both clicked the mouse to give Nelnet the very last penny we owed them. The excitement, relief, joy, and pride that washed over us was unexplainable. We did it. As Dave says, we changed our family tree.

 

 

The 9-week class, Financial Peace University, will help you achieve your financial goals by showing you how to eliminate debt, save for the future, and give like never before. For dates, times, and registration, click here.

Virginia Schultz is the Communications Manager at Summit Church. If you have any questions for her about her experience with Financial Peace University, would like to know what other celebrities she refers to by first name, or just want to say "hey, congrats on being debt free!", you can email her at vschultz@summitconnect.org.