What to do when you've maxed out 3 credit cards and have $14 left in your account.

Photo by  Alice Pasqual  on  Unsplash

January 1, 2018

I know the title of this post just seems like a quippy and click-baity (that's a word, right?) headline, but it was actually my reality a little over 3 years ago.

3 years ago, I was at rock bottom with my finances. I was being paid once a month with a great full time job, but was spending way more money than I had. Halfway through the month of August I found myself with only $14 left in my checking account...and that was supposed to carry me through the next two-three weeks. 

On August 14th, I was volunteering with a woman that I hardly knew, when she made a comment about how Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University had changed her family's life. (You can actually read one of the very first posts I'd ever written in the beginning of this journey here.) I'd heard of Dave Ramsey, and recently tried to read one of his books, but that was about the extent of my knowledge on the topic. I nonchalantly told her that I had heard of Dave and I could really use some help. By the end of the evening she told me her church was hosting one of his Financial Peace University courses and that she was going to pay for me to go. (Cue me crying in a parking lot with a woman I barely knew.)

That was the beginning of my financial turnaround. I went from overspending every single month by at least $400 to living comfortably within my means AND paying off debt at the same time AND still having fun. To date I've paid off $20,000 with about 9,000 to go. It's been a long and rewarding road, with quite a bit more to go and I wouldn't change a second of it. 

So what do you do when you've maxed out multiple credit cards and only have $14 left in your account? Go volunteer for a local organization and ask every other volunteer if they know anything about Dave Ramsey! Jkjkjkjk. 

Obviously my story is unique, but yours is, too. Here are 4 action steps you can take to start getting in control of your money.

1.) Get a plan. The best thing I can ever tell someone to do is to go through Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey's FPU is not the only get-out-of-debt class out there, but it's definitely one of the best known. He gives you practical steps to follow to learn the ins and outs of stewarding your money well. So much of what he covers in class is kind of common sense and basic knowledge, but what he really helps you do is change your behavior. You'll be changing your habits which means you'll probably be fighting off years of bad habits with money. Attending a class also places you in community and helps you see you are not the only person struggling with this topic. You can find a class near you on Dave Ramsey's website. (Check them out here: https://www.daveramsey.com/fpu)

2.) Get a budget. So many of us spend our money without ever knowing where it's actually going. I can't tell you how many times I used to look at my account at the end of the month (or in the middle!) and wonder where all my money went. Having a budget allows you to tell each and every one of your dollars where to go. A budget is crucial to paying off debt so that you're not overspending without realizing it. There are so many tools for this, but my favorite is using a trusty Microsoft Excel file. You can actually get your own budget here: https://www.katiebivens.com/get-the-budget-1/

3.) Step 3 is what I like to call - Get an accountability partner...or in my case - Get a Loni. Loni is the woman that sent me to Financial Peace and she became my budget accountability partner. Every week I would meet with her to go over my numbers, make a game plan for how I would build my savings account and how I would pay off debt. This person has to be someone you trust enough to truly and vulnerably open up to as money is such a sensitive subject. If you're married, this person will be your spouse, but if you're single, you'll need to find your own Loni. It seems scary to ask someone to help you with this, but I promise there are so many willing people that have also had their lives changed by getting in control of their money.

4.) Pray Paying off debt may seem like a pretty factual and practical journey, and it is...but it is also a spiritual one. At the end of the day, you're working hard to be the best steward of your money that you can be, because it's not actually YOUR money, but God's money, as He's the one that has gifted you with the job and income you have. The enemy will hone on this time and time again and try to get you to spend money on things you do not need or things you cannot afford, just so you can feel like you're keeping up with everyone else. Pray for strength to stay the course and do what is best for you. It's going to look a lot different than your friends, but the journey is a temporary one. Dave's famous line is "If you live like no one else, later you can live and give like no one else." Keep that in mind as you continue to work hard.

By simply reading this post, you've taken a big step toward getting in control of your money. But don't stop here. Your financial freedom is worth so much more than you can imagine.