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A Debt Snowball Celebration

I wanted to tell you about one of the things happening in our household. We’re getting out of debt.

A long time ago I borrowed five times the national average in student loans. Obviously I didn’t know what I was doing or where to get help from so I did what seemed like the only thing I could do if wanted to go to college. This decision has crippled not just my finances but my power to make a positive impact on the world for years. It is the biggest regret of my life at this point.

In January of 2014 we got serious about getting out of debt so that our family could move on to doing things closer to the heart of God with our money. That year we eliminated $6500 in debt. In the first six months of this year we’ve paid off another $8800.

In May I wrote the largest check of my life so far, $2638.71, to pay off the second loan in our snowball. A week or two later we grilled some steaks to celebrate this milestone. It was the most lighthearted I’ve felt in a while. This is starting to get fun and we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Since I’m feeling pretty hopeful and a little reflective, is it ok if I tell you a few things that I think have helped us make progress on these goals?

There is an abundance of opportunity.

I know it doesn’t feel this way when you lose your job or when you’re struggling to make ends meet. But your emotions don’t change the reality. If you start aggressively turning over every stone you will find what you need under one of them. It didn’t happen over night and I’ve had to make some tough choices but working to increase my income and adopting this abundance mentality has now got me to a point where I’m actually turning work down.

You have to accept some pain.

If you want to get out of debt or change your financial situation, you will have to learn to live with a little discomfort. Not buying what you want hurts. Driving a junky car hurts. Not going out to eat or on vacation hurts. So does not having cable, living in the cheapest possible housing, working a second or third job, and shopping at the thrift store. But these are temporary situations where you accept a little pain in order to get to the place of greater possibility and promise. My biggest regret about paying off my debt is that I didn’t accept more pain sooner. If I had been willing to really cut deep while I was single I probably could have finished before I ever met my wife.

You have to let some people down.

If you’re heavily involved in your church or other volunteer activities or if you do a lot of recreational things with your circle of friends and you cut back on any of that in order to focus on other goals, those people may not all understand. It’s just part of it and, again, it’s temporary.

You can’t have it all, so you have to decide what you want the most.

This one is huge. Become a mission driven person, a mission driven family. Make decisions about what matters most to you and in what order you need to do things. Taking the family to Disney World may be outrageously fun and totally worth the money but could it be that saving an emergency fund before you do something like that would make the experience even better? Saving for retirement is vital but if you can’t afford your latest car repair maybe you’re getting ahead of yourself. And maybe volunteering for every possible project at your church is actually preventing you from doing the one thing you would be best at. What I’m trying to say is, decide where you want end up and take the steps to get there, foregoing even the good opportunities that are actually detours from where you ultimately want to be.

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