$42,000 in debt. How did we ever end up in this kind of mess, you may ask. It's from a combination of several things. For starters - it's "The American Way" to have debt. It's the American way to have credit cards. It's easier to spend what you don't have than it is to have discipline to save up for what you truly need and or can justify spending the money on, and pay the credit card when it comes in the mail later.
This mentality will overwhelm you. I know EXACTLY where my problem started. It began with the military. I was working a full time job, making good money, and the only bill I had was my cell phone bill. While I was in the navy, I got department store credit cards - target, jcpenny, old navy, etc. I had "some" sense and realized I was getting in a little over my head, so when we went on deployment, I paid those cards off, and cancelled them.
However, I still had no idea about Dave Ramsey, or the common sense approach to money. I really had NO IDEA what in the hell I was doing. I had a paycheck, and a cell phone bill. I had no savings in place, I lived paycheck to paycheck. I went to the mall, I bought clothes, I went out to eat with friends, and I went to the movies. I bought DVDs, cds, and a laptop. When I was overseas on deployment, I paid for the experience. I told myself I may never get a chance to visit those countries ever again, and justified blowing my money on "stuff." Rather than having a budget, I spent until it was gone, and then when it was gone, I used the credit cards.
When I got out of the navy, my habits didn't change, but my financial responsibility did. I no longer had free housing and 3 hot meals a day that I could revert back to if I ran out of money. I now had rent, and utilities to pay. I had to pay money at a laundromat to do my laundry (something I also had for free in the military). It got to the point where I couldn’t afford everything I "needed" so I applied for more credit. I was also in a long distance relationship with Jonny at the time, and had plane tickets to buy to go see him. It didn't make sense to spend 18 hours round trip in the car when I could fly and it only is a 4 hour round trip travel. I needed those extra 14 hours.
Before I knew it, I had more credit cards than I honestly can even remember. Jonny went on deployment and was getting paid tax free, and we used some of the money to pay down the debts we had built up. However, when he returned, we built the debt right back up. Swipe Swipe Swipe went the credit cards. We didn’t learn our lesson.
Jonny got out of the navy in August 2007, and we were married in October. He started school, and found a job, but he wasn’t making near the income he had made before getting out of the service. School was important to him, and finding a banking job that was flexible with his school schedule was impossible. In December, after many nights of tears, and the realization that the 1 step forward 2 steps back approach was not working to get our debt down, we applied for a consolidation loan. At the time, we had $18,000 in credit card debt, plus the 2 cars, which was an additional $17,000 or so, so approximately $35,000 in debt, December 2007. We got rid of the department store cards, and kept only the Visa and Mastercards. However, it wasn't enough. Within the next year, we had reverted back to our old ways. The credit cards that we had consolidated were racked back up, only this time, we still had the consolidation loan to pay as well. WHAT was it going to take to make us learn?
Fortunately, I got out of the job situation I was in and found my calling. In October 2008, we moved 2 hours south to Columbus GA and started rebuilding our lives. Jonny left his job in Atlanta to be with me, and started school at Columbus State. January 11, 2009 we were church shopping and were visiting St. Mark UMC. In the bulletin, Financial Peace University was being advertised. By this time, I had heard of Dave Ramsey, but had not attended FPU. I figured God was trying to tell me something. We enjoyed the church, and became regulars (we joined the church in July). In February we started attending FPU, which changed our lives forever. It's a good thing too; due to the economy, Jonny was having a hell of a time finding a job...and that was when we hit rock bottom. FPU saved us. With it, we learned how to live better on 1 income, than we had been on 2.