When I got my first real job at the age of 16, working the drive-thru at our local Burger King making $5.25 an hour, I knew that there were certain things I wanted to buy with my newfound wealth. Thanks to my parents, I also knew that the only way to get those things or go those places was to save up my money. So every two weeks on payday I took $30 out of my paycheck and used that to pay for gas (yes, I remember when guess was less than a $1 a gallon!) and any personal items and then I took out $20 that was my spending money. If I wanted any kind of non-essential item, even down to a pack of gum, then that came out of the $20. Once that was gone, it was gone. If I wanted a $40 computer game, then I saved up my money for a month until I could afford it without dipping into my savings. Over the next two years, my savings kept on growing, even after I moved and got a new job where I made almost twice as much as before. By still sticking to my $20 limit, I was able to go on many trips, even to Cape May, New Jersey to see Micah graduate from the Coast Guard, and eventually, to Alaska to spend three months during the summer before we got married.
But then we got married and became newlyweds, and what word is synonymous with “newlywed”? That’s right, “broke”!
This November marks our third anniversary and in those three years, Micah and I have struggled more than we ever could have believed possible. We have our good times, times of plenty, and our bad times, where even lean would have been considered excess. Last spring Micah had a really good paying job and we managed to save up several month’s worth of expenses. That was our saving grace when he lost that job a few months later and my student job ended as I graduated. All summer long he looked for more work, but couldn’t find anything. It was those savings that sustained us. That and the grace of God.
Finally, after much prayer and thought, we decided that Micah would go back to school to work towards a viable career, while I would go to work to bring in a steady income. Yet, even with all our great plans, we still had a mountain of credit card debt that was racked up during those months. And it continued to grow as we encountered more lean months and just-barely-but-not-quite making it.
Right about that time we found out that I was pregnant.
And another boulder goes onto Debt Mountain.
This spring has been especially hard. Knowing that we would closer than tight in our input vs. output, we decided to leave our quiet, peaceful house with the beautiful view and move to a on-the-edge-of-the-ghetto neighborhood. A lot let peace and a lot more drama, but it’s $250 cheaper in rent a month… you do what you gotta do, right?
Since that time, I have cried my tears, hating where we live, but knowing that it’s all for a greater purpose. We want to own our own home within two years, which means making sacrifices now. But I still can’t stand listening to the loud music, cussing, and fights when I just want to sit and cuddle quietly with my son.
June marked the beginning of a three-month struggle for us, one of the darkest times financially as we came within literally $30 of being completely broke. Scrounging up money from every place possible, God blessed us with numerous photo sessions that bridged the gap for us, carrying us safely over to where we are now.
We knew that if we could just make it until the end of August, everything would be okay. Micah’s scholarships would kick in once he started back to school. Last year he barely got anything, this year we received an abundance. That, along with some personal money, money from Micah’s Coast Guard drills, and from several more photo sessions all came together over this past week.
Which brings us to last night. Sitting down next to each other on the couch, Micah and I put on fingers on the mouse together and with one single click, did something that we have been looking forward two for the last five years: We paid off our Xterra!
I first bought the Xterra in February of 2005 and since we got married, Micah and I have lived with the inconvenience of only having one vehicle, many times riding the bus or bumming rides with friends in order to keep from having to purchase a second car. We agreed that this one got paid off first, before anything else.
Last night there was $451 left on the car loan. This morning, there is none.
Ahh… that is such a good feeling!
What’s more, we also paid off over half of all of our credit card debt! And we’re going to try our best to not let it pile back up again.
One day we want to be debt-free. I honestly don’t know what that even looks like or what it would be like to have extra money, free and clear, each month. But one day we will be debt-free.
God has so richly blessed us and has carried us so far through so much. Even though I cried, questioned, yes, even doubted through those dark times, now, looking back, I can see what God has done and how there are so many times where I honestly don’t know how we made it… except by the sustaining hand of God.