Saturday, May 7, 2011

It's All in the Timing

Last week after I posted my blog about debt, I received several private messages. It seems there were a lot of people out there who understood where I was coming from. Two of the messages really caught my attention, because they suggested the same book- "Total Money Makeover" by Dave Ramsey. One of my friends even went so far as to send me a copy. They both said it had changed their lives, and I anxiously awaited my package from Amazon.

But when it arrived, something crazy happened. My husband read a book.

Don't get me wrong. My husband is extremely intelligent and extremely literate. He just gets bored easily. But something about this book captured his attention. I was a little irritated, truth be told. The book had been sent to be. Not to mention, I became a book widow for an entire weekend.

By Sunday evening he emerged from behind the book really fired-up. "We need to do this" he said. I told him I would have a stronger opinion about that when he allowed me to read MY book. And so I did. And my opinion is.... we need to do this.

Dave Ramsey's book outlines a step-by-step method for getting out of debt. It's rough, it takes sacrifice, but it works. And we're not just talking about those pesky credit cards, either. (As ours are minimal. If that's all we needed to do, we could do it on our own in a few months.) We're talking car payments, student loans, even mortgages. And then it outlines planning for retirement and college and just general wealthy living. As freelancers, this is stuff that just seemed out of reach.

After reading "Total Money Makeover" and starting to work out our plan, I highly recommend it to anyone who's ready. In fact, if you decide to get it and read it and follow his plan, I'd love to work on it together. (I've already had several conversations with my friend who sent the book. It's a lot to process, emotionally, and having a strong support system is key.) However. It's all in the timing.

This book suggests radical life changes, and it has to be the right time. Fortunately for us, it is.

You need to be really angry about your debt. Angry enough to make huge changes. Obviously, I was angry enough to write a blog about it. So. Anger. Check.

You need to be willing to sit down and figure out a really specific budget and follow it. We've been doing this in our household since January. We write down everything- every cup of coffee, every toll, every load of laundry. Every penny is accounted for. So. Budget. Check.

You need to give up using your credit cards entirely. We haven't used ours in years. OK, it's because they've been maxed-out. But still. No credit cards. Check.

You need to be willing to "live like no one else" and not try to keep up with the Joneses. We live in one of the wealthiest cities in the country. We have no hope of keeping up with the Joneses. And when it comes to living like no one else, well, currently my fingernails are painted with a fishnet pattern. So. Comfort with living like no one else. Check.

You need to be willing to give up expensive fun for a while. Have you ever gone to a restaurant with a two-year-old? Have you ever gone on vacation with a two-year-old? Have you ever gone to the movies with a two-year-old? On the other hand, have you ever spent a Saturday afternoon at the park with a two-year-old? Suddenly this doesn't seem like a sacrifice as much as just good common sense. We're choosing to give some things up during the one time in our lives when those things are difficult anyway. So. Give up expensive fun. Check.

You need to be willing to drive an inexpensive used car. Uh... check.

We were ready, that was clear. But the first step is getting current on all debts. Frankly, I didn't even know what was out there. And there was one loan- my student loan from NYU- that scared the bejeezus out of me.

And then yesterday my phone rang. A few hours after I had finished reading. It was from "Unknown." I took a deep breath. We're going to have to do this eventually, so here we go. It was from the company representing our very biggest loan. That really scary loan from my Not-Quite-Ivy-League graduate degree. My loan had just gotten to this guy's desk... yesterday.

More on my conversation with Mr. So-And-So later, but the point was the timing. Just as I was feeling angry and confident and ready, God gave me the opportunity to face the scariest part.

It's all in the timing, and for us, the time is NOW.

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