A penny saved is a penny earned. This saying has been floating around for years, and its meaning is simple. Money you save is no less valuable than money you earn. Shoppers these days are getting serious about saving those pennies. Coupon clipping and bargain hunting is all the rage. What started as a hobby for many has turned into a way of life. Cries of freedom can be heard across the nation, as people get serious about dumping debt.
From blogs to television shows, a whole new lingo has emerged. BOGO (buy one, get one) and stockpile are common terms, and you can see shoppers using coupon binders in grocery stores everywhere. If you've ever tried to take advantage of an advertised deal only to discover the shelves empty, then you've seen the results of people who are serious about saving money.
So, what's the big deal? Is it really all about saving a buck on your laundry detergent? Is a shelf full of toothpaste really the end goal? Maybe, for some, that's what it's about. For many others, however, it's about freeing themselves from debt so that they're free to live out the gospel. Many people fail to acknowledge money's spiritual implications, but the reality is, when you're in bondage to credit cards and car payments, you're limited in your abilities to feed the hungry and clothe the poor. Just ask Cherie Lowe.
In the blogosphere, Cherie's known as the Queen of Free (queenoffree.net). Like many families, Cherie and her husband, Brian, had accumulated quite a bit of debt. An unexpected pregnancy, however, gave the couple the motivation to make drastic changes in their lifestyle. Their precious Zoe Natana was just the incentive they needed. Together, Cherie and Brian paid off $127,000 in debt, mostly from student loans, in four years. Cherie's blog chronicles the couple's journey to free themselves from debt.
For many, the idea of paying off thousands of dollars in debt is overwhelming. How does one begin a "debt-slaying journey?"
Face Your Giant
The Queen of Free has some hard-won wisdom to get your family started down the road to financial freedom. Cherie gives three simple tips for debt-dumping beginners.
- Get a handle on what you make and what you spend.
- Read good books and talk to people who are intelligent about finances.
- Make gradual changes to scale back your lifestyle.
A simple task Cherie suggests to get started is to collect your receipts for 30 days. Take a look at where your money's going. It may be shocking to see how quickly the fast food lunches add up or how much you're really spending at the grocery store. It may seem like common sense, but in order to shed some debt, it's important for a family to spend less than they make — "way less," Cherie adds.
The next step is simply to commit to paying down your debt. Cherie is quick to admit, "There's never a good time to begin paying off debt. You simply have to dive in and begin."
For married couples, Cherie says it's vital to be "united and communicating on a regular basis about finances." She admits that, for those not used to discussing money, this can be awkward. Just keep at it. Scripture is clear that "two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts" (Ecclesiastes 4:9).
You may have heard the saying, The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Cherie suggests viewing debt as a common enemy. "Probably one of the best things we ever did was to personify our debt," Cherie says. In one of her blog posts documenting their family's journey, she explains why she and Brian "named their dragon."
"When you give something a name, it becomes much more personal. I know it's a common practice for those who are undergoing cancer treatment to name their tumor. Likewise, the disease of debt — though not physically life-threatening, but certainly emotionally and spiritually life-threatening — in our eyes has a similar sinister form. And so we named it. So we could kill it."
Be united in the fight. Make it personal. Tips like these make debt-slaying seem possible. It's certainly one of the reasons the Queen of Free has become such an inspiration to many readers.
Break the Chains
For the debt-slaying journey to be successful, it's important to know the benefits. What good is waiting on the other side of debt? Cherie gives a few great benefits to living debt free.
On day seven of her 31-day series on dumping your debt, Cherie addresses the spiritual side of financial bondage. "Sometimes it's hard to admit to a loving Creator that you've made mistakes with your finances," Cherie confesses. "You can't give like you want to because you're simply stretched too far. You don't have peace that the Bible describes because you're overwhelmed with the what ifs of life."
Most people would love to give more. They just don't have it to give. One huge blessing of being debt free is having the ability to help others.
Most people living in debt, if they were honest, would admit to having little peace in their lives. They have anxiety, stress, and sleepless nights. But peace? Not so much. The reason is simple: There can be no peace in bondage. Scripture states that the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). Christ came to set the captives free, but unfortunately, some people don't even realize they're still captives.
Fight as One
Having healthy finances also contributes to a healthier marriage. "Getting into debt? That can tear a marriage apart," Cheri admits. "Make you fight. Make you resent. Make you stop communicating. Make you annoyed at every penny spent by your spouse. Cause tension. Overwhelm you both, causing you to be angry at each other for no reason at all."
It's common knowledge that problems with money are huge contributing factors to marital discord and divorce. The good news, according to Cherie, is that overcoming those money problems can have huge benefits for marriages.
Getting out of debt takes hard work and commitment. It means telling yourself "no" every now and then. The relational results, however, are worth it. In her blog post "Royal Ramblings on Marriage," Cherie describes how it feels when spouses work together.
"Getting out of debt together? It becomes a battle against a common foe. You fight it together. It takes two to conquer. It pits the two of you against the world. And it kind of makes me feel like we're spies ... going into hostile territory ... back-to-back ... with our weapons — whether they be the budget, coupons, extra jobs, intentionality, focus, and intensity instead of swords or guns — drawn.
"Safety and serenity is being gathered in the arms of each other at the end of a day of heavy battle.
"It's given us strength, individually and together."
Seek Abundant Life
Being in debt is stressful and difficult. Why does it feel so wrong? Because it isn't the way God intended for His children to live. Christ came so that people could be free. He came so that people could have, not just life, but abundant life (John 10:10). Stressing over bills isn't freedom. Having more month than money isn't the abundant life.
So, if you're among the many who desire financial freedom for your family, you can begin the journey today. Cut the cable. Shop the sales. Let your kids eat free pancakes at a local restaurant one day a week. It's all good. No one will think you're crazy for carrying your coupon binder into the grocery store. Oh, they may sigh when they end up behind you at the checkout, but that's OK. Just smile and think about your financial freedom.
Freedom is a huge incentive. It's why Cherie Lowe's story makes people want to clip coupons and pinch pennies. She's shown that it can be done. It's possible to slay the debt dragon and be free from the chains of credit card bills and student loans. It's worth the work to be free.
This article is courtesy of HomeLife Magazine.