On March 31, my husband received his monthly paycheck, and it was $510 less than usual. We were not surprised, as we had been anticipating this hit for awhile, but it still hurts our budget. We will be on reduced salary for the next several months until we can raise our ministry budget. That same week we found out that our tax refund would be significantly less than the previous years, and received an unexpected $400 medical bill in the mail for some routine blood work. When a family member mailed us a $25 Visa gift card in the mail, we had to use it for a long-overdue oil change. I was disappointed and discouraged as I looked at the numbers and realized that it would be nearly impossible to be debt-free by August as I had hoped.
How can you find encouragement, when the road to debt-freedom can be long and painful? When you look around you and see all of your friends buying bigger homes, dining out, going to the movies, buying name-brand clothes, and taking expensive vacations it can be hard to stay optimistic. I won’t lie to you–it’s hard. The road to debt-freedom is an uphill climb, and you’ll probably want to give up more often than not. Here are a few ways I find encouragement in the journey:
1. Take Action–When you are at your lowest, turn your frustration into motivation. In the past 2 weeks I’ve made $118.57 on eBay, $2.38 on Recycling, $21.48 on Amazon, $29.79 on Rewards, and I’ve substitute-taught 5 times for $90-$110/day. So I’ve made about $672 in the last 2 weeks!
2. Count Your Blessings–Today as we drove by a local church distributing food to the homeless, my kids had a lot of questions. As I explained to them how sad it is for some people who have no home, no food, and no job, I was reminded how much we have to be grateful for. I told my children (and myself) that we should always thank Jesus for giving us a place to live, food to eat, and a job we love.
3. Talk About It–You may laugh, but this blog is great therapy for me. Not everyone has the patience to sit and listen to me share our 4 year road to debt-freedom. Talking about our struggles and triumphs here helps me to stay accountable, reach out to others, and look for the good in what has been a difficult journey. Thanks to my blog, I now have random people stop me on the street to tell me about their debts. It’s so encouraging to me to hear that my words have helped someone else in their journey!
4. Find Some Frugal Friends–One of the things that I loved about my church when I moved here was that our pastor’s family knew more about Dave Ramsey and debt-freedom that I did. My church is now on their second year of Financial Peace University, and it’s fun to have more and more friends “get it.” They’ve just recently started a support group for FPU Alumni, so that they can continue to support one another after the class is over.
5. Celebrate Big and Small Accomplishments–As you pay off your debts, keep track of your progress. Post a chart in a central location, and update the numbers each month. Set goals for yourself, and then celebrate when you reach them! When you feel down, remember how far you’ve come from when you first started. Also imagine how you’ll feel when you accomplish ALL of your goals!
6. Budget for “Fun”–You can try to go for years without spending money on anything fun, but it will just make you miserable. Eventually you’ll long for the old days when you could binge on whatever you wanted. So budget for fun. What makes you happy? What makes you laugh? How do you like to relax? Make sure that you and your spouse both receive a small allowance to splurge on whatever fun you like. Just this week I used a $5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks and $1.56 of my “Fun” money to purchase some contact paper to decorate our bathroom medicine cabinet. Sprucing up our house always makes my day brighter.
7. Find Spiritual Encouragement–I try to read my Bible and take time to pray every day. I also like to read books that encourage my faith in Jesus Christ. It is rare that I do not walk away from my Bible feeling encouraged. Lately I’ve been working my way through Nehemiah, Esther, and Job. I love reading about these heroes of the Bible, and I so am inspired by their examples. The Bible is also jam-packed with wisdom on the topic of money, so you’ll learn a lot while you’re studying!
I know that the road to debt-freedom is not easy, and may take longer than you want. I know that you may wish your life looked different, or that you could spend your money differently. However, when you look back on these years you will be so glad that you pressed on toward the victory, and achieved your goals!
How do you find encouragement when you are discouraged by debt?