Dear Nancy: I’m seven years into a marriage that is a financial disaster! I’m working full time and we just can’t get ahead. Our bills are driving me crazy. My husband says he wants to pay the bills, but he rarely remembers to pay things on time. We had a car repossessed a couple of years ago; we’re constantly overdrawn at the bank; and we have credit card debt up to our eyeballs.
I’m at the point where I can barely sleep at nights. I wasn’t raised this way and am not used to living like this. Before I married my husband, I knew he wasn’t careful with money. I thought he’d become more responsible after we got married and had children. Big mistake!
I’m so ashamed. I can’t take many more calls from creditors. Is there anything we can do to change the way we are living?
Dear Ashamed: You are just one of many couples burdened by uncontrollable debt. Much of this happens because no one has taught young couples how to handle money. Today’s philosophy seems to be “Spend and spend; if you don’t have the cash, charge it. If you want it, get it because you deserve it.” People seem to have abandoned the concept of saving in order to buy.
Contrary to the direction society is going. God wants His people to live debt free. The blessings that come with living debt free go far beyond financial freedom. How we handle our money spills over into the spiritual and marital areas of life as well. No one who is financially burdened can be spiritually free. And debt and financial bondage have far-reaching effects on a marriage.
How do you get out of debt? Here are nine steps Crown Financial Ministries* developed to help couples get out of the debt trap:
1. Pray. Transfer ownership of all your possessions to God. Then ask Him for guidance and wisdom in all matters pertaining to how you handle what belongs to Him.
2. Give to God first. Tithing must be your first commitment—give ten percent of your income to the Lord before you allocate the rest of your money. Without faithfully fulfilling this commitment, all other efforts will fail.
3. Establish a written budget. A balanced budget is the primary tool in any family’s plan for managing money. List all of your obligations. Start with all the debts you owe. Include credit-card debt, all payments, and any loans you have. Monthly bills such as the electric or gas bill aren’t considered debt until you are late on a payment, but add these other items to your budget as well. It will take a month or so to write down all of your expenses and realize where your money is going. Keep a log of everything you spend. Write down everything, even a soda from McDonalds, and ice cream from Dairy Queen. Then evaluate this list at the end of the month. What can you eliminate?
4. List your assets. Write down everything you own. Is there anything you currently own that you could sell and apply the money toward debt reduction? Consider items of value that you many not use or need any more.
5. Work out a pay-back plan with your creditors. Most creditors are more than willing to work with people who honestly want to repay them. Make sure that every creditor gets something, but stay within the guidelines of your budget. Decide which debts to pay off first. You should base your decision on two factors: the size of the debts and interest rate charged. In most cases, it is wise to pay off the smallest debt first. You’ll be encouraged as they are eliminated, and you’ll also be freeing up money to apply against other debts. Then that money can be applied to the next smallest debt and so forth until you are debt free. Consider also what rate of interest you’re paying on each debt. Try to pay off those debts that involve high rates of interest before you pay off those that charge less.
6. Consider earning additional income. Whether we earn a lot or a little, we tend to spend more than we make. Could your husband or you earn additional money without harming your relationship with the Lord or with your family?
7. Accumulate no new debt! The only way to accumulate no new debt is to pay for everything with cash, a check or a debit card at the time of purchase. Put away or destroy all credit cards until you’re out of debt. Once out of debt, either never use a credit card again, or charge only what you can pay off within thirty days. Credit cards aren’t evil, just dangerous!
8. Consider a radical change in your lifestyle. More and more people are lowering their expenses to get out of debt by selling their homes, moving to smaller ones or even moving in with family members temporarily until they get on their feet again. You can sell relatively new automobiles for cash and purchase cheaper used cars.
9. Don’t give up! From the very beginning, you’ll think of a hundred reasons why you should delay getting started or quit along the way. Don’t yield to this temptation. Follow through so you can experience what it’s like to live debt free. God wants us to live debt free so we can serve Him to the utmost of our abilities and resources. When we’re in debt, we are bound to our creditors and are not free to serve God to the utmost. Proverbs 22:7 says, “Just as the rich rule the poor, so the borrower is servant to the lender” (The Living Bible). You can become debt free and stay that way if you have the desire, and discipline; you’ll no longer be enslaved to your lenders.
I also highly recommend that you call Crown Financial Ministries* and get yourself into one of their small group studies where you’ll learn how to do everything I’ve recommended plus much more. It’s a life changing experience.
*Crown Financial Ministries, 9 Market Square, Suite 202, Knoxville, TN 37902. Phone (770) 534-1000.© 2002 - 2019, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.