Typical American Family: Up to Our Ears and Drowning in Debt

Living the American Dream

We were the typical American family living in debt. You could have called use the Joneses.

We are a two parent household with six children under the age of twelve living on one income. I am a former teacher and have been home for eleven years as a stay-at-home mom.

Being on one income has taken a lot of hard work over the past eleven years in order for me to be financially allowed to stay home with my children.  My husband and I had heard for years how expensive it was to raise children and that babies cost too much money.

We had six babies we brought home the hospital, what, six? Gasp!  Yes, six children.  We have learned what we truly need versus wants.

Needs vs Wants

Needs include food, utilities, gas for the car to get my husband to his job, and clothing to name a few.

Wants include the latest pair of shoes, eating out because it easier, and buying your children the latest video game because their friends have it.  We learned the hard way on what we deemed needs and wants.  This is how we think now.  Rewind the clock back seventeen years and we surely did not.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Then we were a two income family (minus children), a teacher and an engineer making pretty good money. However, we were not even living paycheck to paycheck.

This is where credit cards and loans entered the picture.

  • Weekend shopping trips with store credit cards in hand occupied my time.
  • For my husband it was buying big toys.
  • We ate out often.
  • We were buying like crazy.
  • We did not ever tell ourselves no.
  • We even bought our groceries on a credit card.
  • We financed cars and cameras right on down to trips and toys.

Life was great, or so we thought.

At one time we had seventeen credit cards and probably at least five different loans.  We played the juggling game of debt.  We would get one credit card when another was maxed out. We refinanced our home. We could only pay the minimum each month on our bills. Then we had a baby, followed by another.

Within that two year time span I was on maternity leave, with minimal pay. My husband was laid off from his job numerous times. The lifestyle had finally caught up with us.

Coming Home

It was when my second baby was five months old I resigned from teaching to stay home. It was during this time of me staying home with children, I learned the definition of being frugal. The importance of staying home with my babies overshadowed any want I had previously deemed important or even necessary.

Changes Had to Be Made

  • First of all, I quit shopping every weekend.
  •  I started shopping garage sales and thrift stores for what we needed.
  • We slowed down on the use of credit cards and borrowing from the bank.

I never felt deprived or like I was going without because I was able to stay home.

Dave, Who?

It was during this time that a few friends and family members began talking about Dave Ramsey and throwing around terms like “cash is king” and the “baby steps”.

It was all new to me, so I began to listen to radio station and read his book The Total Money Makeover. It was then that I knew my husband and I were supposed to do this.

However, getting my husband on board was another story.  this will have all the information you need to learn about baby steps and how to get out of debt. You can also download his podcast’s for daily inspiration, too).

The next five years I began to practice what I had learned and prayed for a changed heart on my husband’s behalf. He gave me permission to work the budget anyway I felt necessary but wanted to be left out.

If you know Dave, this line of thinking does not work. It takes two to be on the same page to accomplish a goal. Then one day, my husband came home from work and said he had been listening to this guy Dave Ramsey on the radio and I should listen to him!

The moment I had been waiting for was here.  It took us working together (along with the children on board) twenty six months to pay off all consumer debt.  We paid off $40,000 of student loans, a pole barn, car, credit cards, and loans.  As Dave says we lived on rice and beans, beans and rice during that time. We cut up all credit cards and moved forward.  We had a goal, stuck with it, and were blessed during this time financially over and over.

$40,000 Paid Off!

During this twenty six months of working to pay off $40,000 we were blessed with extra income in the amount of $40,000.  The extra income came in the form of side jobs for my husband, monetary gifts, and selling things.

Life was good.

We were looking at paying off the house in a few short years. Being frugal became second nature to us and I was always on the lookout for learning more.

We made our own homemade laundry soap, clipped coupons, made a menu and shopped only once or twice a month, continued shopping at garage sales, sold anything we could, and went without a lot of things.

However, we had a roof over our heads, food to eat, and beds to sleep in at night. The kids enjoyed this journey as much as we did. We were so excited we were even going to go to Tennessee to do a “debt-free” scream on  his radio show.

You Never Know What is Going to Happen

It was during this time we learned we were pregnant with our sixth child and during the twenty week ultrasound we learned the baby was incompatible with life.  This rocked our world.

We buried our son.

We sold our house and bought another.

We lost my husband’s mother and grandmother, along with other family member’s.

And I became pregnant again. Our life changed. Our priorities changed. All we knew and did came to a standstill.

We went into survival mode. So here we are now with six healthy children. A new big house that costs twice as much.

We are back on the debt wagon for circumstances beyond our control. We do not like it one bit.

Our family has gone undergone some serious health issues in the past three years.  A life flight trip for my baby last totalling over $19,000.  And her hospital bill was more than that. Thankfully, she is fine now.

My husband has had some health scares, too, and its during times like that in which we do not think about money. However, through all of this God is good and faithful. He has blessed us in ways I could never fathom.

I am looking forward to getting out of debt once again and working along side my best friend who happens to be my husband. I will put my trust in God. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man.

Psalms 118:8 (NIV)

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