Christina Walker is Doing Better and this week she’s sharing the part two of who she’s re-writing her financial history and changing her family tree. Missed the first part of Christina’s Story? Check it out here.
First steps to freedom
In 2007/2008 I got my head together again. Thanks to some sage advice, I moved my money from a traditional bank to a credit union and sat down with a financial adviser to talk about cleaning up my credit and becoming debt free. In 2009, I met my husband David Walker Jr. Early in our relationship, we talked about working jobs that we loved and having the financial freedom to change our family trees and travel the world. We both had a mindset of not wanting to be in debt before we met each other so there wasn’t much fighting over money. We did have one struggle that led to our decision to merge our separate bank accounts. We once took a trip and it was a hassle trying to see who would pay for what and out of what bank account so shortly after we had to figure out a new and better system. Today everything comes out of one account. It’s so much easier with tracking and accounting. His money is mine and mine is his. We even have wiggle room in our budget for our own personal ‘blow’ money.
We then started reading books by Suze Orzman, Dave Ramsey, Robert Kiyosaki and other personal finance gurus to develop a strategy to become millionaires. With the help of our friends, we projected our goals for the next five years. We jotted that information down in a notebook that we called our “Goal Book” and we have worked to meet those goals every year since. But the major thing we did was put ourselves on a budget for a whole year and kept track of everything we spent money on. By everything, I do mean EVERYTHING! We kept receipts for all purchases, small or big, for a whole year so we could see exactly where our money was going. Each receipt was kept in its own envelope and in categories which helped a lot with our taxes and our knowing where we spent too much so we could ultimately cut back.
Mine + Yours = OURS
David came with his own baggage but not much. He had student loans, bills and a car that just broke down on him. But he lived in a family house that was paid for and didn’t use credit cards anymore. So most of his overdue bills were small things like a doctor’s bill, which was easily payable. But since the universe likes to make things interesting, he got laid off and my car broke down, forcing us to shop for a new/used car. Now, I was strapped with a car note again.
But we were determined and we loved each other very much. We also both really wanted to see each other be successful. So with the help of our credit union, lots of financial books and reading financial blogs, we devised a strategy. We wrote down every debt we owned, from smallest to largest, and decided to do a debt snowball. We redoubled our efforts to cut down on unnecessary spending and put any leftover money we had each month toward bills. David worked really hard to get back in school and to find employment. I worked two jobs at one point to pay down bills. He’s now working two jobs to pay down bills while I take a break.
Real sacrifice, real reward
There have been a ton of tough moments. When we first started all of this, we stopped socializing when the events required us to come out of pocket. Now, we can afford to eat out and go on trips but that’s not what our goals entail. Our goals require us to be frugal and sacrifice so that we could do the things we want to do later. Once a friend of ours said when we declined yet another invite, “Y’all ain’t broke. Why don’t you come hang out?” We stuck to our guns. In our minds, we were broke. Not poor. Being broke, for us, meant we had bills to pay off and life ahead of us. It mattered that we stop spending thousands of dollars on trips every year or eating out for every occasion or having a lavish wedding.
We paid cash for our wedding. We only had 20 people in attendance because that’s all we could afford. People were upset, especially family, but no one offered to pay for a bigger wedding so we made due with what we had. It was better than we expected and it was classy. We are always complimented on our wedding photos and we’ve even had friends use some of our ideas to plan their own small, inexpensive weddings.
Paying it forward
Throughout the entire process, I have encouraged my friends and family to jump on the “freedom bandwagon” many times. Some got really excited and started their own plan and some didn’t. In the end some relationships fell to the wayside because it was either their time to end, or maybe we differed on how David and I were now living our lives. But we were serious when it came to being financially sound and we wanted to make sure our lives reflected the walk we were talking.
Some of the best moments so far have been paying off our new $18,000 truck — yes, it was too high but we needed a truck to carry around our two dogs and other equipment. It took us less than three years to pay it off because we paid bi-weekly and made extra payments for two years. All of that culminated in us being able to make a final $5000 cash payment to pay the sucker off. We got David’s student loans out of default and paid back my four 401(k) loans. We paid off an old overdue but significantly high energy bill from David’s family house, paid off all credit card debt, increased our credit scores by 100-plus points and reduced the interest rate on my loft from 6% to 4%.
Envisioning a beautiful future
Since 2009 we’ve paid off a little over $67,000 in consumer debt. That may not seem like much and we still have a ways to go, but it’s been cash since then and we’re completely free from a lot of the burdens we use to have. Having each other first and foremost as accountability partners helps a lot. Writing down our goals in our notebook and creating a vision board also keep us motivated. We know that ultimately we want to open our own business and have children, and we want to make sure we are financially ready to do those things before making those big leaps. So the beautiful future we envision keeps the fire going…
Want to know Christina’s secret to slaying debt and saving for the future? Check out the last installment of her story next week!