Antique Daddy, Money

What Happens When A New Car Kinda Gal Marries A Debt Free Kinda Guy

Go get a beverage, it’s a long one today…

* * *

A week or so ago, I saw on my Twitter stream that Dave Ramsey was looking for stories of people who have been living debt free for 10 or more years.  Since we had just celebrated our 11th debt-free anniversary, I took the time to send him our story in a paragraph or two.

I was really surprised when the producer emailed me and asked if I would talk to Dave on the air on Friday because our story is not all that exciting. It’s not like we were $100,000 in debt, clawed our way out using Dave’s program and now live on a yacht in the south of France.

We have been quietly living debt-free for eleven years because prior to our marriage we agreed that is how we would live.  But to be honest, 99% of the credit goes to Antique Daddy.  He does most of the work and provides the leadership and it has blessed me beyond measure.  Even though sometimes I don’t like it.

Our story starts back in 1996 when I first met AD.  I was immediately and wildly attracted to him, not just because he is hot but because there was just a steadiness about him that really appealed to me.  Beyond being a person who shared my faith, which was of number one importance to me, he was sane and responsible and disciplined — all the things I am not.  The longer we dated, the more it became apparent to me that those things were deeply engrained in his being and not just paint on the surface, so when he finally asked me to marry him in 1998, I squealed and said, “I though you’d never ask.”

AD and I both grew up lower middle class and poor but that experience shaped how we view money in very different ways.

I hated being poor and not having the nice things that I saw that others had, so I worked hard and spent every dime I made on clothes and shoes and cars and other stuff that is probably at this moment in a landfill somewhere.  In my 20s, I got myself into credit card debt (twice because I’m a slow learner) in my quest to have nice things.  I was in my 30s before I finally learned that retail consumption is a monster that cannot be satisfied.  To this day, at the core of my being, even at nearly age 50, is a poor little girl who wants nice things and is a world champion rationalizer when it comes to new shoes.

AD’s story is that his father died unexpectedly when he was eleven-years-old.  He grew up watching his mother sell Tupperware to support him and his two older brothers.  She did well, but there wasn’t a lot of extra money.  He spent many an evening at home alone while his mother went off to give a Tupperware party.  Like me, he decided that he didn’t like being poor and so he saved every dime he earned, which he pretty much still has.  To this day he thinks long and hard before buying even the smallest thing.  At the center of his being is a poor fatherless little boy who is scared of not having any money.

I tell you this to illustrate that how we feel about money and how we deal with money is less about money and more about whatever ancient hurts and injustices we lug around with us.  We don’t just one day arrive at a financial philosophy, it has been shaping and building our entire lives.  But at some point, you have to face it head on and decide if it’s working for you or if you need to make a change.  If you are in debt, you probably need to come to terms with the emotional cues that are sparking your spending habits and fueling your bad choices.

As we were planning our wedding, I read somewhere that the number one thing that people fight over is money. So prior to tying the knot we had a number of in-depth discussions about money and we realized that we had to figure out a way to merge our views on spending and saving if we wanted to stay married more than a week.

I strongly encourage everyone who is thinking about getting married to do this.  It is reallllly important.  You’ll still fight about money but at least you will have some insight into your partner’s point of view.

Before we walked down the aisle, we hammered out what would be our family’s financial philosophy, which is basically this:  If we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it. Period.

Beyond that, the other thing that has served us well is that we agreed that neither of us would spend more than $100 without first talking to the other person.  There is a little bit more to it than that — we live on one income and below our means, we maximize all tax-free or tax-deferred financial vehicles, we never ever ever revolve credit and a few other very basic tenants. But at the core of it all, we agreed that we would not worship at the altar of conspicuous consumption.

This agreement has on more than one occasion chafed me because I really like certain things that might be described as conspicuous, like new cars.

I bought my first new car in 1977 when I was 17. It was a sweet little ride, a 1977 Mustang, black with red pin stripes, wire wheel hub caps and red look-like-leather seats.  To my credit, I paid for it myself – my parents did not help me other than with half of the initial down payment. Their financial philosophy is this:  “You kids are on your own.”  And honestly, that has served me well too.  All that to say, I love me some new car smell.  I do. It is intoxicating.  I am a new car kind of gal and I knowingly married a debt-free kind of guy.  And over the past eleven years, it has vexed me and blessed me all at the same time.

So then, in 1995, the year before I met AD, I bought a brand new off the lot Jeep Cherokee.  I have not bought another new car since and probably never will again.  In 2003, five years into our marriage, the Jeep had seen better days and it was time to replace it.  AD found a super deal on the car I drive now. It was three years old at the time, had low mileage and was just like new, although a little short on new car smell.  I took it for a test drive and agreed that I could be happy with it.  We paid cash for it, drove it home and I have been driving it ever since.  My little old car is 10- years-old now, but it gets me around in a reasonable amount of style, if not conspicuous style.

In the interest of honesty, because Antique Mommy is nothing if not honest, I will confess that sometimes I see my friends driving new cars and I feel an itsy bit sorry for myself because I want to drive a new car too.  But the thought of taking that kind of cash out of the bank, which is the only way AD would go along with buying a new car, makes my stomach turn.  And it makes my paid for car look pretty darn good.

The real benefit of living debt-free these past eleven years has become most apparent in this past year when the economy seems to have gone to hell in a hand basket in a hurry. The unemployment rate is supposed to be something around 10% but it seems to me that 20% of the people we know have lost jobs, including us.  But because we have been savers and not spenders, we have insulated ourselves as best we can against the uncertain ebb and flow of the economy. We expect we can ride out this storm and the storms in the distance that we hear but do not yet see.

My final point is this:  A lot of stress comes into our lives that we cannot control, but the stress that comes with debt is a very often a choice (obviously there are extraordinary and extenuating circumstances which I am not trying to address here).

If your circumstances are not extraordinary or extenuating,  you have the choice to eliminate the stress of bill collectors, living paycheck to paycheck and worrying about making ends meet by taking baby steps towards systematically eliminating debt, living within your means and a instituting a methodical savings strategy. And you will get there. It won’t be easy, but you CAN make it happen. And that would be an awesome gift you give yourself and your family — much better than anything you drag home from the mall.

If you are not there yet, or don’t know how to get there I encourage you to check out Dave Ramsey or Crown Financial Ministries. And then make an agreement with yourself and your family to work towards becoming debt free.

Living the good life means living the debt-free life.


63 thoughts on “What Happens When A New Car Kinda Gal Marries A Debt Free Kinda Guy

  1. Our philosophy is very similar to yours and AD’s. Sigh, it sure would be nice to be able to buy REAL clothes, not just stuff from the thrift store and Walmart! But when a decent shirt is over $50 and I could better use that money elsewhere . .

    * * *
    I hear what you are saying, although I can spill coffee down the front of a $50 shirt just as easily as a $7 shirt.

    One time when I was in my 20s I was running with a crowd of folks about 6 steps above my economic level, silver spoon kind of kids. I was at a cocktail party in a $20 dress and someone looked at my dress and said, “Ungaro?” (which is a crazy expensive designer label which I had seen in the pages of Vogue). I tried not to laugh but I thought I was going to choke on my drink.

    So you see, — it’s not what you wear, but how you wear it. Wear what you have with confidence and a smile and you’ll always look like a million bucks!

  2. I love your picture. 🙂

    We got on the Dave Ramsey bandwagon almost two years ago. I always tell people that what he has to say is nothing new, but the way he says it is more convincing, somehow. We are far from perfect in our financial discipline, but we have made big strides in how we use our money. I’m a lot like you, except I don’t care about cars, but I do like new things. I am constantly having to fight my spending impulses, but it has gotten easier. Having common goals and respect for my Husband makes me think twice before I purchase something, at least most of the time. We were able to ride out almost six months of unemployment without adding to our debt or getting behind in any payments thanks to planning ahead.

    Thanks for sharing your story! Good luck on the show tomorrow!

  3. This post just rocks! Terry is the saver. I am not. Although in most cases I certainly appreciate that he is. We live by Dave’s principles too, and are so glad. I have friends who don’t and I see how hard it is on them esp right now with the economy the way it is.

  4. I wish my husband and I had worked out our financial philosophy before we got married, because we came to it with very different mindsets. I was raised with the idea that if you can make the minimum payments, there’s no reason not to charge it & go ahead & enjoy whatever it is. I see the danger in that now, and we’re working our way out of debt, but I do struggle with feeling deprived sometimes. And I hate that about myself – that “stuff” is important.

  5. Our story is pretty similar–my husband is much more savings conscience than I am–I would like newer and nicer stuff, but I am always aware of what I would have to give up. When we first got married we saved everything I earned so that when we had kids we would have more saved up and we would be used to living on one income. I was able to stay home when my kids were young. What I got from that is way more than any paycheck could bring.

    We do have some debt–only house and car, but we make calculated decisions that our money earns more in investments than we pay in interest on the car.

    You are right–it is a decision.

  6. My husband became a Dave Ramsey zealot listening to him on his daily hour ride home from ATL. Boy, has my life changed but for the better. (I think.)Cash for everything. But the more we pay down our debt the less stress on him. We aren’t debt-free yet, but we’re a lot closer to that goal than a year ago. YAY.

    * * *
    Yes! Yay for you! You are on your way! (standing up and applauding!)

  7. Love this! We also live below our means and without debt, and yet sometimes I struggle with it. I will still look around at what I think I’m missing b/c I don’t have the newer car or the best toy, but we are very satisfied with our lives for the most part. Every once in a while I wonder what it would be like to have a little more breathing room under our roof, but other than that, we enjoy our little house. Let’s just say it’s best I don’t watch House Hunters. LOL We’ve purchased ‘program cars’ with low miles off the lot for quite a bit less with the full new car warranty AND SMELL, which has worked out great for us in the past, too.

  8. Another reason I like you.
    We’ve been debt free (paid cash for that car) since our marriage with the exception of our mortgage (and we are really working on that one, but houses up here are beyond the reach of any one income family.)
    AAAANNNDDD, you can buy a spray that gives your car that new car smell. Without the new car price:).
    Great marital advice BTW, we are both savers and I don’t know as if we’ve ever really conflicted over money in 13 years. Everything else, yes, but money, no.
    My little trip to Vicky’s secret last month was my first encounter with conspicuous consumerism in about 7 years. (It was quite fun.)

  9. My hubby and I are living the debt-free life as well. With it comes an incredible sense of peace. When storms have come, and there have been many in our 17 years of marriage, we are not shaken.

    Our way of life is not popular in the area that we live. Most people are far more concerned with trying to impress strangers with their many high-priced possessions. While sometimes hard, it has worked to our advantage. Our local Goodwill is full of designer clothing and high-end appliances. My favorite find is the brand new $300 toaster (yes, that’s the retail price) that my hubby bought for $3.99.

    Our son has already joined the debt-free bandwagon. It is not uncommon to hear him say that, “Buying a new car is like buying a block of ice, parking it in the sun, and watching it melt.” My hubby is so proud.

    Good luck on the show today.

  10. Wow. God is so cool. I’ve been praying that He would change our views on money — because neither of us are good at saving. We’ve racked up debt with the “oh, we’ll pay it off later” attitude and well, later hasn’t come yet. Thinking I need to look into Dave Ramsey. Thanks AM for sharing your story 🙂

  11. We were introduced to Dave Ramsey in 2007 about a year and a half after we got married. On one teacher’s income, we’ve paid down about half of the 54K we started with and don’t ever buy anything on credit anymore.

    Beyond taking control of our finances, Dave has taught us to take control of our relationships too. We learned to interact with each other better, and my husband learned that he had to cut mom and dad off to a certain extent (they did NOT want to let go of their baby boy who OMG had GROWN UP and become a man and had a family of his own!)

    Anyway all that to say, our lives have changed SO much since meeting up with DR. And, though it doesn’t surprise me a whole lot, it’s nice to discover another weirdo! I’ll be listening for you tomorrow!

  12. Love Dave Ramsey!

    Will you be on air with Dave this Friday?

    * * *
    Thanks the plan, but you know how those things go – oft’ awry! So we’ll see! 🙂

  13. This is SUCH an important post. I hope lots and lots of people read it. Because I really believe that, aside from my daughters marrying a fellow Christian, I want my girls to marry a man who is smart about money. Like you, I am blessed with a husband who lives debt-free (we do have a mortgage, but could pay it off if we needed to). It doesn’t always feel like a blessing, but it is. We have rarely fought about money, and that, too, is a blessing.

    One thing my husband has been firmly committed to from the first day we were married 24 years ago has been tithing. I really believe that God has blessed us because of my husband’s faithfulness in this. And I don’t mean material blessings–I mean peace in our home because of my husband’s obedience in this area. (I credit him because my feeble heart probably wouldn’t have been as giving as he has. One of his spiritual gifts is giving. :)) I could go on and on, but you’ve pretty much covered everything I would say. (And I’ve never even heard Dave Ramsey!)

    Just go get one of those “new car” air fresheners. You’ll feel much better.

  14. Your story is awesome…! Thanks for sharing. Like you, I am the spender; and my husband is the saver. We do live below our means, and we discuss together all major purchases….but my goodness, I do have a weakness for purses and shoes (and new outfits, new accessories, etc). I’m just thankful at least one of us has a strong, solid, stable head on “his” shoulders!

  15. I must have been blessed when I met my husband. We never talked about money before we got married but we’ve always had the same philosophy about it. We’ve owned two homes in our lifetime which were paid off early. So were any vehicles we ever bought. We never owe a balance on our credit cards. Owing money just always bothered us. I was a SAHM and never needed a lot of clothes. We are more homebody’s. Not that we don’t waste money some times LOL. In the society we live in, it just seems all these years people want instant gratification which is why the country is in such a mess. This is one of my pet peeves and I could go on and on about this but I’ll stop.

  16. Hubs and I are right there with you on living debt free. We made a plan, it would take us four years to get where we wanted to be and two years into the program we couldn’t be happier. We know we are doing the best for us and for our boys. And yes, like you I some times get envious of my friends that are driving new car or going shopping all the time or buying a new home. But then I think of my “fresh crisp linen” smelling car and my favorite comfy jeans and I smile, because they are mine and I do not have to pay a note to have them. Thanks for posting this. I think we all need reminders, I know I did!

  17. My story is similar to your husband’s. My dad died when I was a young teenager, and I watched how the money crunch affected my stay at home mom and how we were able to live (we went from lower middle class to poor). That’s part of why I kept working after my son was born, and why I’m tight with money: I’m so afraid of what would happen if my husband died and I didn’t have a decent income and career history and credit established in my own name. In my head, I’m making absolutely sure that my boy will have enough to eat and a place to live and clothes to wear until he’s old enough to take care of himself, and hopefully he won’t have to worry about paying for my or my husband’s upkeep either.

  18. When we got married we had the same conversation. We decided to use credit cards, but to write it down like a check every time we use it so we can pay it off every month. If we can’t pay for it out of checking, we don’t buy it. And we don’t spend $100 without consulting either. We’ve saved like crazy, which was depressing to this little spender. And yet, we’re selling our house for a loss right now (have to sell because we moved to a new state). And we’ll be able to pay the out of pocket costs out of our savings. All that saving looks pretty good right now.

  19. Hey, y’all are my kind of people! I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey for a while on the radio. Since listening to him, we’ve paid off two vehicles by mowing other people’s lawns. Sometimes, even the kids pitch in and help. This Christmas season, my husband will be driving horse carriages in Dallas to rake in some extra dough that will go towards paying everything else off with (minus the house).

    Way to Go Antique Mommy!

  20. We live a very similar life. We were married in college so had one semester of college loan when Thing1 was born. One car payment in 21 years of marriage and a mortgage. I, like you, don’t always like it, but I have never had the stress of debt.

  21. Such a great post! Much of it dittos our story except I wish we had gotten smart before our marriage, not 6 years into it. But the last 9 years have been awesome.

    We love Dave Ramsey. Last year we paid off our mortgage and now, at age 36 & 37 are totally debt free. The sense of freedom that gives us is indescribable! It’s allowed my husband to step out of a job he needed to, and we’ve adopted two kids (which is not cheap).

    Today is my last day at a job I needed to leave (for complex reasons). Normally that would scare me. But it doesn’t because we can live on very little and we have an emergency fund in place. Thanks goodness!

    I hope your post, and your interview with Dave, inspires many!

  22. When my husband and I got married, 28 years ago, we had very little money, and we made a rule for ourselves very similar to yours: anything over 50 buck we had to talk about. I used to never carry cash because it was too easy to blow. (There were times I wrote a check for a dollar!–but not often, since it was so much trouble!)

    But here we are with no debt except for a little bit on our 25th anniversary car (which we bought used). Our house is paid for, our family van is paid for, our business is paid for. And over the years with my husband’s health issues, we have managed to survive just fine on very little income, because we have no debt!

  23. An excellent site about living debt-free, from a very personal standpoint is Interesting and informative. If anyone hasn’t yet seen it, I highly recommend you take a look. In fact, I suggest you even take a quick look at some of the archives. Really good stuff.

  24. Wow! What great motivation! I’m recently married, so we are just figuring out how we want to start out our lives financially. But your story is SUCH an encouragement for me especially… I am the spender in the relationship. 🙂 But we both agree that we want to live debt-free starting now. Hopefully we can look back 11 years from now and say the same statements that you have made. I will consider that an amazing accomplishment!

  25. AD and Donn are twin souls. I’m more like you. It’s driven me crazy, but we have pretty much lived within our means and debt-free our whole marriage.

    * * *
    I know. On one hand it is a tremendous blessing and the on the other hand, sometimes I want to say, “Dude! Quit blessing me so much and let me buy that (fill in the blank) I want!”

  26. “If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.” So commonsense, yet followed by so few. When I see others conspicuously consuming, I think of that commercial about the guy who says he has a new home, a new car, and up to his eyeballs in debt. So many do not live authentic lives.

    I think it is possible to have nice things without paying a lot by buying on sale. I get a rush every time I buy something 75% off or second-hand.

    My family was also poor. We lived week-to-week. Although lack of income was most of the issue, part of the problem was my mom’s spending. Two of my siblings are spenders, two of us are frugal. Interesting how as adults, we choose to either be exactly like our parents or the complete opposite.

  27. This is a great post AM. We haven’t subscribed to Dave Ramsey, but I hear he’s wonderful. 7 years ago, when we first got married, we started off with close to $75k in credit card and vehicle debt. I had also been laid off two months previous to our wedding, from a very lucrative job, so our first year of marriage WAS TOUGH. But bit by bit we’ve worked it off and as of April of this year, we are only in debt with our mortgage. We still have a LOT of work left to do with our financial plans, but we feel a huge burden lifted from that.

    But I will disagree on one thing. Debt is not always a choice. We have seen firsthand accounts in our family that have struggled over deep debt with regards to medical bills. When my parents had my preemie twin brothers, the bill (back in 1982) soared close to a million dollars. That was not paid off until my brothers were in high school and my parents had filed bankruptcy. There are other examples of relatives that have even very good insurance, but cannot afford to pay the out-of-pocket expenses. So what is one to do? They have simplified as much as their lives allow and things are still very difficult. And these are people that have always been very disciplined with what the Lord gave them financially.

    I say for anyone that has not personally been hit with a major medical bill that they must pay out-of-pocket, they don’t truly understand the weight of being in debt over circumstances that are truly out of their control. Because not everyone with major debt has an issue with shoes or purses.

    * * *
    Of course what you are saying is true, there are always extraordinary and extenuating circumstances, although that is beyond what I was trying to address here. I added a qualifier.

  28. Close to a twin history here…and I also def have a love-hate relationship with my husband’s frugality as well. Only my champion lifeskill involves rationalizing new photog equipment & software. Ugh.

    Well. Ok. And shoes.

  29. I as well am a new car gal driving a paid for old-mobile 🙂 I as well lokk at other’s new cars and have a teensy pitty party at times. However I am so blessed to live the lifestyle that I do. My husband is laid off right now and we have not really felt the effects. Through some sound rental property purchases and savings planning we are just fine.

    Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone in the wanting nice stuff boat:)

  30. Living below our means and debt free in the past is what has saved us since my husband lost his job. We won’t stay out of debt forever unless he gets a job soon but we’ve managed O.K. so far. Great post.

  31. I think also another important point about being out of debt is tied into the income one is bringing in and the circumstances that existed when you first get married. It is easy to save and be debt free if you make a certain amount of money. We are a 1 income family and between mortgage/car payment (our only debts), and the bills, it is hard to save to build up emergency reserve or money to buy a car with cash. We both had student loans when we first got married as well as no car, so that started us off in debt even though we paid them off early, I always feel like it put off somewhat behind the “eight ball”. To help make ends meet, I work ~ 6 hours a week just to pay for those “things” that come up all the time: window breaking, car tags, hot water heater, etc. You name it, something is always coming up. It gets very frustrating when we are trying to do the best we can to save (no vacations unless visiting family and it is free, clothes and toys from consignment, etc. I do feel like we live paycheck to paycheck but really don’t know how to cut any more corners off our budget. I think we would not struggle so much if my husband had a higher paying job. With that being said, we made this choice so that I could stay at home when our children are young. We felt like that was more important than for myself continuing to work at that stage. As my youngest one starts kindergarten next year, our finances will change as I will work when the kids are in school. Then the real savings will start adding up. The cost of living now is so much higher than it was when I was growing up making it hard to live on one income. All this to say, being debt free is not always possible if you are in a certain income bracket no matter how frugal one is.

  32. “All this to say, being debt free is not always possible if you are in a certain income bracket no matter how frugal one is.”

    It is possible although it might be hard. If you couldn’t get anyone to loan you money, it would be possible. It’s not about how much money you make, it’s how you spend it.

  33. I wish someone would have told us this about 25 years ago! It would have saved so much heartache and stress. Hope you let us know when you are on the radio so we can be blessed again from your great story!

  34. My sweet husband told me before he proposed that he would not marry me if I had debt–and then helped me set up a budget so I could pay it all down as quickly as possible.

    What a blessing it has been; I only wish I had learned sooner and so make it a priority that my kids absolutely will!

    BTW, I actually can spill coffee more quickly and directly on a $50 shirt than a $7 one. it’s like those $5 sunglasses that you can keep for years after you bought them to replace the $100 pair you only had for a month.

    * * *
    We too are making it a priority to teach Sean about money. If he gets to college and has no idea how to manage his money then we’ve failed. And he’ll be in a fix, ’cause his mean old mama won’t bail him out. 🙂

  35. Yes!! What a great post! The operative word in debt free is FREE!! It’s freedom! We love Dave and have been debt free for about 3 years. We were never in too deep, but the feeling of relief and peace that comes with saying goodbye to the bills is priceless!

  36. I have a very weird relationship with debt right now. We owe a truly dizzying amount of money – huge, huge, huge debt. But it’s all good debt, or at least it was until a deer hit my paid-for car last week necessitating a very quick car purchase. We’ve got a mortgage and a business loan, both secured, and we’re living below our means otherwise. My monthly payments on those two loans are more than my total monthly income for the first six years of my marriage. Money feels somehow fictional to me – it’s all these numbers flowing in and out and none of it seems real.

  37. Holly, you are making a brave counter-cultural choice. We live in a culture which does not value what you (and we) are trying to do. You can slam down that debt after the children have started school, but there is no money in the world worth what you have given them by choosing to mother them full time during these precious years. Good for you!

  38. Hey Holly…just wanted to say, I am a SAHM mom too and we have always been a one income family. My husband is a TX teacher in one of the lowest paying districts in our city. We had accumulated about 54k in debt in a year and a half into our marriage. Student loans, credit cards for groceries and other stuff, fixing cars and putting that on credit, one car loan, medical bills…goodness, you name it we had debt for it!

    Not only is it possible to live debt free (we have not used debt to purchase anything but our home since February 2007), but it’s also possible to build yourself a little emergency fund and then climb up out of that hole you’re in!! It really is!!!

    I really hope you read this…I’d love to talk to you more!

    (sorry for hijacking your comments AM)

  39. I love to read posts from people who are smart about money. Overconsumption just makes me crazy. I sell scrapbooking products so I see a lot of that, even some ladies who buy crazy amounts of stuff and then lie to their husbands about how much they spent. I hate that.

    Hubby and I were both spenders when we married and we started out with a lot of debt, but I’ve finally gotten to the point when I saw the value in being debt free and started working in that direction. Hubby still isn’t on that page, but he’s getting there and I’m getting better about controlling his spending.

    And I have always been a great saver. That’s the one thing my parents were able to drill into my thick head and now I’m working on teaching that to my sons. I bought the Dave Ramsay tapes and literally PAID them to listen to them. It cost me $60, but it was totally worth it to me if I could teach them this lesson. They definitely pay a lot more attention when you hand them book with a $20 bill taped to the back.

  40. We are still working the DR plan and are almost there – I’m so with you on every level! I wish my parents had taught me fiscal responsibility (we grew up so poor that I think my mother carried guilt later and wanted to ‘rescue’ me — she was always rushing to ‘fix’ things for me if I got into a tight spot, instead of letting me deal with the consequences of my actions), but now that I’m no longer 18, there’s no excuse anymore. 🙂

    My husband and I have resolved not to train our kids that way – they will work for their allowances and they will pay for their cars, etc, — because we’re not doing the future generation any favors if we don’t teach them how to handle their money.

    Great post — and congrats on being featured on Dave’s show!

  41. I totally agree with your financial philosophy. Do you mind me asking whether you have a mortgage on your house? I only ask because I live by the same kind of “if you don’t have it, you can’t buy it” thinking, but our only “debts” are our mortgage and my husbands student loan (which he’s not earning enough to really pay off yet). My husband and I aren’t in high paying jobs, so the only way onto the property ladder was with a mortgage. I’ve always been a saver (hence us having a 10% deposit for our mortgage and money left over) and my husbands learnt from poor Uni days how to live on almost nothing. I some times wonder how people afford larger houses – we only managed to buy our flat because we bought it cheaper.

    I do some times wonder if we’ll ever be able to afford a house with a garden. We want to start a family one day, but the idea of just one income makes me less comfortable.

    * * *
    We do have a mortgage on our house. It’s a very low interest loan which we could pay it off, and might depending on what happens in the economy in the coming year, but according to AD’s spreadsheets (which make my eyeballs cross) it makes more sense not to at this moment.

    It’s hard starting out because of course you want a house and a garden and nice things, who doesn’t? But you’ll get there if you are systematic about saving and thoughtful about spending which it sounds like you are.

    If you are planning to start a family, I’d start trying to live on one income now. That was just a little unsolicited advice from me. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

  42. I LOVE your blog. Good points on living the debt-free life! I just want to add that you can buy those hanging air fresheners that in “new car” scent.

  43. One thing I have to keep reminding myself as we try to get debt-free is that, for me anyway, this is as much about my spiritual life as my financial life. Am I seeking contentment and satisfaction from things instead of from my Creator? I realize not everyone comes at this from a Christian perspective, but it is a huge part of changing my mindset towards money and consumption. Ultimately it is all about discipline, and I’m still learning.

    We are not debt-free, but we have not used a credit card in almost three years now, and even that brings a sense of freedom. And for everyone struggling, don’t let one bad month or bad day or bad purchase get you off track. Learn from your mistake and vow to do better next time.

  44. Great post! We live like you do – debt free. It helped us enormously when my husband was out of work for a year. There was no stress during that time. What a blessing! P.S. He’s the saver. I’m the lover of new car smell as well!


    My husband and I have the exact same upbringing as you and AD. He was raised by a single mom, and pays cash for everything. I also struggled with poor girl syndrome of wantitis. My Imelda tendencies were feeding deep insecurities, and my needs and wants got mixed up.

    It is liberating to live debt free. We sleep at night unaided by medication. I think I also am more appreciative of things when we do buy them, because it is not such an immediate gratification. It is a slow savoring enjoyment.

  46. I haven’t heard of Dave Ramsey, but I did take the Crown Ministries study several years ago, and it was awesome. I highly recommend it to anyone who is serious about getting their finances in order and eliminating debt from their lives.

  47. My small family is also a cash or don’t buy family, though I am the one always saying, “no you can’t get that.” We discuss EVERY purchase, weather it be large or small. Not out of necessity, but out of respect. “Mind if I pick up some books?” etc.

    My mother asks why I never get a new car, when my (paid for one) breaks down. I say I don’t want it’s depreciation. She rolls her eyes and doesn’t agree. She also just filed bankruptcy in court today.

    PS: I am not a Christian, but I enjoy reading about your connection with God. Thanks!

  48. AM, I’m a huge Dave Ramsey fan and listen whenever I can to his radio show. I WISH I HAD HEARD YOU.

    We’ve been debt free for about 10 years. I’m taking Financial Peace University because I want to learn more about investing and STAYING debt free.

    Loved this post.

  49. I enjoyed your post, AM. After almost 6 years of marriage, we are still in the thick of this battle, but we are winning the war slowly.

    Our situation is a little different because most of our debt was caused by an identity theft by parent situation, but nonetheless we are responsible for the credibility of our name.

    We made a plan when we got married to pay off that bad debt, but to take student loans to complete my teaching degree. So glad we did so because now we are in the position, with two incomes and no children, to use a large portion of one income to pay off, pay off, pay off!

    There is a light at the end of this tunnel, and it is getting brighter. We have definitely made our share of mistakes along the way, but I also would not trade this experience for anything because it has changed me for the better.

    Thanks for the reminder that we are not alone-among the late 20somethings, we are like circus freaks, haha. Many of our friends make fun of my coupon groccery shopping or discount clothing purchases, but having been on the pinnacle of bankruptcy caused by someone else, I would never intentionally put myself in that situation.

    🙂 Jenn

    * * *
    Thanks for sharing your story. I think I would be hurt and a little bit angry about having to cover the debt of someone else under the circumstances you describe – I admire you.

    You know, sometimes bad debt happens to good people through no fault of their own – medical debt, identity theft.

    And other times bad debt happens to good people who just aren’t paying attention –haven’t made thoughtful decisions about how they are going to live their lives and manage saving and spending. Debt is a powerful undertow and it’s easy to get carried out to sea. I was in the latter category.

  50. Great post, AM! And I love the picture. We are grateful to our premarital counselors who made us talk about money and also plan a budget. Like you, we both brought varying experiences with money growing up which shaped our thoughts. Even reading your post this morning has reminded me that I need to curb my spending, as I am the one in the family who tends to be a quick, thoughtless spender. We’ve taken both the Crown class and Dave Ramsey’s. Ramsey’s helped us practically apply what we were learning, and those baby steps were fun to check off! We are so grateful that we only lived off my hubby’s income all the years before having Brennan so it made the adjustment easier. Thanks for the reminder about my spending and for helping me start out the morning by being thankful for all that we’ve been blessed with, including the knowledge to know how to handle money wisely.

  51. I listen to Dave about every a.m. My husband comes into the room and turns off the radio if he’s on; I think he doesn’t want to think that way. I don’t know when we’ll get out of debt, but my husband recently had his old truck fixed instead of buying a new one. I was proud of him for that because I believe several years ago he would have wanted to get a new one.

  52. We have a similar story, except that I am AD and husbad was you. Anyway…I fell sway to his influence and we managed to get ourselves into a whole heap of debt before coming to the same conclusion as you and AD. We spent five years paying off the credit cards. It’s hard sometimes, and like you, I feel sorry for myself on occasion because I don’t have all the stuff that people around us do. Righ now, I am seriously coveting a nice new living room set.

    But the wisdom of our ways really came to bear when husband lost his job. Because we live in a modest home, and one of our cars was paid for, and we had no unsecured debt…we were able to weather that storm.

    I was hoping this economic crunch would wake people up a bit, but I think that’s a futile hope.

  53. I needed this post today! We started the Dave Ramsey program not long after our 3rd child was born (3 in 3 years KILLS your finances!) We were desperate and everyone had told us to try Dave Ramsey and skeptically agreed to go through Financial Peace University. We really thought there was no way out for us!! When I look back at 2 years ago where we were, I can’t believe how far we’ve come! We’re still not rich by any means! We’re still pushing through the baby steps, but the peace that we feel is indescribable!

    * * *
    Yay for you Katie! Keep going! Keep going! Doesn’t it feel good to be responsible and take responsiblity? You’ll get there!

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