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Monday, July 28, 2014

Breaking Free Part 1: My Personal Wake-Up Call

It's been two years since Danielle and I started down this road toward debt-free living. It's been a challenge, a fun ride, a ministry, and a blessing, all rolled into one adventure. This week we'd like to look back on our journey, share some of the intricacies of how and why we do it, and hopefully encourage you to gain some ground in your financial battle.

My Personal Wake-Up Call
I can't name a date and time when it happened, but it was shortly after Danielle and I were married, and when it happened it was like a train pulling into the station, towing with it freight car after freight car of realizations and harsh realities.

I realized I couldn't eat out whenever I wanted.

I realized I couldn't spend every weekend at the movies.

I realized my collection of Batman action figures wasn't going to be growing anytime soon.

I realized that I suddenly had a mortgage and a bunch of other financial responsibilities that took priority.

Most importantly, I realized that I had a wife who had this innate need within her to feel cared for, and my going around spending our money all willy-nilly style was going to make her feel insecure. I realized that I needed to step up to the plate of manhood and aim for the bleachers.

I'm glad this all dawned on me when it did, but I just wish it had happened sooner. I tell you guys, you men, if you're not developing good money habits right now the struggle to keep your head above the financial waters is going to multiply when you get married, buy a house, and start a family. If you've got boys you're raising you need to start preparing them for this because the early years of married life are nothing but a time bomb waiting to happen for someone who is completely unprepared to handle the larger financial responsibilities of life.

Thankfully, the Lord put it on my heart to take Financial Peace University about three months after Danielle and I were married, after we had been through three tumultuous months of arguing over money matters, wondering if our differences in this area were going to drive us apart.

Dave said two things that really made sense to me.

Saving money is about emotion

Dave says, "Personal finance is 80% behavior and only 20% head knowledge." If you want to improve your financial situation, you need to change the way you FEEL about money. If you want your sons and daughters to grow up with a responsible approach to handling finances, you need to make sure they develop healthy feelings about it.

There are different ways of doing this, but it begins with getting out of the "credit card" mindset that permeates today's culture. When you pay cash for something, you FEEL the money leaving you. This is not true with credit cards. Paying with plastic develops a disconnect between people and money.

Saving money is about contentment

"Saving money is about emotion and contentment," says Dave. "When you aren't overspending to impress others, you can win."

Comparison is a dangerous trap. It kills contentment, and if you can't model contentment in your life then your kids will never learn it either.

Dave says, "Being content is the spiritual state of not needing something else to feel whole. When you're content, you're not motivated to buy stuff... Don't get sucked into the illusion that you'll be happy when you have that new car, that new home, or $1 million in the bank. Stuff does not equal happiness."

We'll talk more about contentment on Wednesday in "Overcoming the Comparison Trap."

But, for now I'll just say that learning about how Danielle felt about money, understanding how I felt about money, how to be content and less concerned with keeping up with the Joneses was a real eye-opener for me.

What it really boiled down to was choice. Choosing to be content is immediately freeing. You can choose in any given moment to be content or not. Choosing to not concern yourself with what others think about you or your spending habits is a huge leap toward finding true financial peace.

Other posts in this series:
Part 2: How To See Some Hope
Part 3: Overcoming The Comparison Trap
Part 4: The Things We Didn't Give Up


  1. "I realized I couldn't eat out whenever I wanted."

    Haha! This is so true! When my wife and I got married, I thought that we could eat out whenever we wanted (and I wanted to eat out a lot!). And not just fast food, but more expensive places like Red Lobster and steakhouses. At one very low point (before Dave Ramsey), I thought we should spend $100 on eating out each weekend, NOT EVEN INCLUDING money for the groceries. That was extra. I had received a raise at work, but not THAT much of a raise. :P

    Since we couldn't really pay for that kind of spending, we kept slowly using credit cards to cover the gaps. We were living above our means, but I felt that we "deserved" to eat out. We "deserved" to buy new furniture (and finance it). If our TV broke, then of course we should spend over $1,000 for "one that will last" (no joke).

    But all the "deserved" purchases became choking. Each month, after my sweet wife would look at our bank account, she'd inform me we had to stop spending. We were going to be in the negatives. In fact, we probably were in the negatives if you counted our credit card balances. I became angry that the money that I was earning just seemed to "disappear".

    Then came Dave Ramsey and the rest is history. The point is, you are right Jake. Being content is the most important aspect of handling money in a biblical manner. We don't deserve life itself, let alone excessive gadgets and food and furniture. These are all purchased for us by the grace of God, but they can become "dumb idols that break the hearts of their worshipers."

    Thanks for sharing and for keeping this blog going, you guys! It is unique among financial blogs. :)

    1. Thanks for your feedback, Todd! I'm sure our wives would see eye-to-eye on many things. lol Be sure to check us out on Wednesday—we'll talk more about victory over discontentment.