A long time ago, when I was still single, I had a good amount of credit card debt that I racked up in college. Wanting to get out of debt, I took a course at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic Church – it was called “Crown Ministries“. I learned a lot, got out of debt, and ended leading a teen Crown course and co-leading an adult Crown course a few years after that.
Then I got married. I literally made the last payment on my last credit just a few weeks before asking my wife to marry me. “No sense in saddling her with debt from my past mistakes,” I thought. “We’re about to start our own lives together – best to do it with a clean slate!”
Then we got a house. Then we had to buy all kinds of things for the new house (e.g., lawn mower, ladder, furniture, etc. – all the stuff nobody tells you you will need for a new house.) Then we bought other, less necessary (and more foolish) things. Then my wife quit her job and went back to school. Then I got laid-off. Then I got a new job, but it paid less than my old job. Then my wife needed to do no-pay or low-pay internships for her new career.
Yeah, I forgot all the lessons of Crown. (Or, at least, I forgot to implement them and let my wife know about them. I just assumed she was better with money than I was, since she had a higher credit score and only had student loans.)
Eventually, a new parish opened nearby that was less of a drive. Within the first year, they started offering Crown Ministries, so I volunteered to help lead a group. My wife and I both learned (and re-learned) a lot, especially facing the finances together.
We started making some progress, but things really kicked into high gear when we got a couple of Dave Ramsey‘s books from the library: Total Money Makeover and Financial Peace. Those 2 books provided, not just Scriptural lessons on how to handle money, but game plans, strategies, and mile-markers for how to get to be debt-free by “living like no one else [bare bones budgeting], so later we can live like no one else [debt-free, with significant retirement funds and able to give much more than just the required tithe].”
My wife followed Dave’s plan almost to the letter, including putting us on “a year of necessities“. Dave talks about eating nothing but beans & rice and rice & beans – my wife almost did just that: she got real creative with couponing, planning meals for the entire week, and fasting twice a week on just bread and water (for both the religious and the economic impact it would have on us). [Note: "bread" includes slices of bread, crackers, and pretzels; "water" means water and/or ice. We did not make our children fast with us, although sometimes they wanted our pretzels more than the $1 frozen pizza that my wife made for them.]
We took a bit of a break from the severe austerity measures of last year, mostly out of… well, necessity! I needed a new car, our house (especially the lawn) needed repairs, and several other things came up that didn’t necessarily blow our budget (because this time, thanks to Dave’s plan, we were prepared for them). “Emergency fund” does not mean “spare credit card” – it means actually setting money aside ahead of time.
Now that those big expenses have been addressed, it’s time to get that “gazelle-like intensity” that Dave talks about and really pay down the remaining debts. That means another year of necessities, but this time, my wife is blogging about it at: http://ayearofnecessities.blogspot.com/
So, getting out of debt and staying out of debt is a family affair: my wife is blogging about saving (spending on necessities only), I am keeping my spending under control while working to keep my salary increasing (I heard there’s a recession going on – I just refuse to participate!), and our daughters are doing chores around the house for commission, not allowance. In this way, our “domestic church” is living by Biblical principles, not just in prayer, but in finances as well.