If you’re in financial distress, these 7 steps to financial freedom are a great place to start to begin crawling your way out.
This is a story I haven’t shared before. Not only because it’s embarrassing, but because I’m a little ashamed of the way things used to be. Ashamed that I let things get out of control, that the downward spiral we were on only got worse and worse before I noticed we were in trouble.
But, lets get to it.
My husband and I have been married for 11 years now. During the past 11 years as a married couple, we have learned so much about each other, about life, and about money.
When my husband and I first got married we were broke, y’all. Like really broke. He was working a contract job with a computer company that eventually went out of business, and I was working as an office manager at a custom home builder not getting paid nearly enough, which also eventually went out of business.
Shortly after, we found out we were expecting our first child, and he moved on to working as a night manager at a local grocery store, which landed him the job he has now. I hated that job (and I’m sure he did as well), but I’m so thankful that the job I hated opened up the doors to the job he holds now. Since I was expecting and knew that I wasn’t going to join the workforce again, I worked a temporary job until about my 6th month of pregnancy or so.
We were young and dumb and we made plenty of dumb decisions with our money. We really had no concept of the future and lived moment to moment, day to day.
When we got married, I already owned a home, but because of past decisions which greatly affected our financial situation, we decided to sell the home, move in with my parents, make a plan and get back on our feet. And that is exactly what we did. The fragility of our financial situation early on in our marriage shaped our future into what it is today. Things are bright, focused, and on track for an even healthier future.
But it didn’t come without sacrifices.
We lived with my parents for two years. While we lived there, we made a plan, saved our money, and started planning for our future together. We were able to buy our first home together and things have looked up ever since. There were a few curve balls thrown our way, but with a better understanding of where we wanted to be, we made decisions together and toughed it out.
We decided together, as a couple, that the lifestyle we were living just wasn’t working and we wanted freedom from credit card debt and the dreaded white envelopes that filled our mailbox. And we began the long, hard journey of financial freedom. Here’s how we got there.
7 Steps to Financial Freedom
Be honest and lay it all out there. Gather up all your debts: house, cars, credit cards, student loans, etc. Anything that you owe money on is a debt. Write it all out on a sheet of paper so that you can easily see how much money you owe to others.
Decide your future, right now. This is the time where you sit down with your spouse and you have a heart to heart about the future. You’ll need to discuss where you want to be, the sacrifices that will have to be made to get there, and the plan for getting there. It’s definitely not for the faint of heart, but it will change your future. Decide that you will no longer use credit cards and purchase beyond your means. If you have to, cut up the credit cards to ensure you don’t use them. To get out of debt, you have to stop accumulating debt.
Pull Rank. Just Kidding. Sort of! Start with all your credit card debt and put them in order by interest rate. Put the lowest interest rate credit card on the bottom and the highest interest rate credit card on top. Start by paying down the credit card with the highest interest rate first. Pay the minimum due on all credit cards, except for the one with the highest interest rate. For the credit card with the highest interest rate, pay as much as you can each and every month. Once you have paid off the credit card with the highest interest rate, move on to the next one.
Check on credit cards with no interest on balance transfers. This honestly saved us so much money. I’m not sure if the financial experts would agree with me, but I feel for us, this helped us so much. Sure it was another card, but since we had already decided not to use credit cards for purchases, I felt this was better for us in the long run. I found a credit card company that would allow us to transfer our balances all on one card, with no interest for 18 months. During those first 18 months, I paid as much as I could each month and watched as the balance got lower and lower. After those 18 months, I again transferred the remaining balance to another credit card who offered no interest on balance transfers for 18 months. Just like I did the first time, I paid as much as I could each month. We did this three times. That’s over three years that I didn’t have to pay interest on our outstanding balances. I’m sure you can imagine how much we saved in interest charges.
Refinance house and/or cars for lower interest rate. As you clean up your credit you will be able to secure credit for your house and cars at a much lower rate. If you have a mortgage or car notes with a high interest rate, search around to find a better rate. If you have a good repertoire with your bank or credit union, start there.
Call around and try to negotiate rates with your other monthly service providers. You might be surprised that just with a simple phone call, you can lower your monthly payments for things like internet, cell phones, telephones, cable, etc. Call your provider and ask if they are offering discounts for loyal customers.
Stick with it, no matter what. This process is not an easy one and at times will be more difficult than you imagined. Especially when that Coach bag you’ve been coveting goes on sale for 30% off. Don’t give in to the allure of a sale. Your future is more important than the latest Coach bag. There will be a time when you’ll be able to enjoy luxury again. But you’ll have to sacrifice in the meantime.
I can happily say that I’ve never been in a more comfortable place than I am right now. We have a nice home, drive nice cars, I give freely and excitedly to my church, I support the fundraising efforts of my friends and online acquaintances for things like cancer and autism research, I have a healthy cushion in savings, my husband is putting more in his 401K and I’m putting money into an IRA, and the most satisfying part, we are not living from paycheck to paycheck anymore. Financial freedom is all it’s cracked up to be y’all!
I’m not bragging in any way, in fact, it was so hard opening myself up to share my past failures. Having money troubles is embarrassing. But it was because of those failures that I am who I am today. So I guess in reality, it wasn’t a failure at all. It was a learning experience that shaped my future. My financial freedom may be different from your financial freedom. Figure out what your financial freedom is today and begin taking these steps to financial freedom!