Confession – I have a lot of debt. $60,000 worth of debt to be exact. And maybe a lot of you out there do too. Sadly, I accrued most of this quite quickly over the last 6 years through graduate school and a Ph.D. program. Other sources of debt included my car and hospital bill from when I had my first baby.
To be honest, I was relatively comfortable living with this debt. I mean, sure, there were times when the thought of paying off my student loans would overwhelm me, but overall, I thought I was able to afford my lifestyle. I saw my education as an investment in my future, which is honestly quite stupid since I work in the non-profit sector. I’m over-educated and underpaid.
Everyday, my husband would pray and ask God for wisdom to handle our finances. Really, what I think he was getting at was, “please give us more resources to handle our finances.” Overtime, this started to get to me because I realized how much it stressed him out and how it was affecting our marriage. We didn’t have arguments over money or anything like that, but it’s like there was a third person in our marriage.
There was my husband, me, and our finances.
One day, I saw someone post about Dave Ramsey and how they were completely debt free. A day later, I saw an old friend on Facebook post about how they also got out of debt using Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Once I saw that there was someone I actually knew who used this method to get out of debt, I was intrigued. In both situations, the people seemed to pay off really large amounts of debt in a considerably short period of time! Way less than the 10 years you’re given to pay off your student loans anyway. They referenced a #debtfreescream, and I was baffled at how they got there and could only imagine how liberated they must feel. I thought to myself, I want to feel that – I want to be free.
Signing Up for Financial Peace University
This was around March 2020 and Covid-19 was just starting to spread. I was getting super anxious about the possibility of getting laid off, and if you know anything about me, I’ve had long periods of unemployment. You can read more about that here.
The future was unknown and felt scary. I didn’t feel like I had any job security, and wanted to take control of my financial future. I saw an ad for a free 14-day trial to Financial Peace University and figured, why not? It’s free, what do I have to lose?
The program is broken up into a series of videos that describe the 7 Baby Steps. It’s super easy to navigate and comes with worksheets and discussion questions for you to answer alone or with your spouse. I had a master plan to whiz through all of the videos over the course of two weeks, which I did successfully, and then canceled the subscription in order to avoid the fee.
Financial Peace University – Lesson One
With Dave Ramsey being so mainstream and popular, I assumed he was a successful financial advisor who happened to be a Christian. I didn’t expect his entire program to actually be Bible-based. That might be a turn-off to some at face value, but it shouldn’t. His program is not strictly for Christians, and he presents everything in a thorough and respectful manner. His attitude is basically – here are the facts, you can take it or leave it, but it’s the truth, so it applies to everyone. And in fact, many have been successful implementing these things because they are true, whether they are a Christian or not.
For me, this approach was life-changing because it completely changed my perspective and attitude toward debt! Before, I was comfortable with my debt. It was the third person in my marriage that my husband prayed for and I just let it pull up a seat every night and have dinner with us! Even though I knew I had to pay it off, I wasn’t in a hurry. I mean, I was trying to pay it off. Technically, I was still enrolled in school so my loans were deferred, but I was still making monthly payments. Some would say I was taking action. But overall, I was comfortable. I hadn’t made any major sacrifices or changes in my financial behavior.
Head Shift on debt
When I heard Dave Ramsey share these two scriptures, it changed everything. They pierced my heart like a knife and gutted me.
“The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.” Proverbs 22:7 (NIV)
According to Dave Ramsey, “If you’re in debt, you don’t have the freedom to use your money the way you want.” This helped put things into perspective for me, because I realized my money doesn’t belong to me the way I thought it does. I don’t have the freedom to use it and spend it on whatever I want because I owe Sallie Mae! Meaning, that comfortable lifestyle I’ve been living, the financial decisions I’ve been making, and the lack of sacrificial changes in my spending – they are not correct. It’s all a facade, because at the end of the day, I’m a slave to the lender.
“My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion— and give your neighbor no rest! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.” – Proverbs 6:1-5
In the first video, Dave references this scripture to explain what the Bible says about how to approach debt. When it says, “If you have put up security for your neighbor,” it means, if you’ve guaranteed a loan. Then, he goes on to describe what to do. Scripture literally says, “So do this, my son, to free yourself…” Then it says to free yourself like a gazelle and Dave describes what that looks like. He shared how a gazelle runs from a predator because it is scared for its life. In the same way, God is telling us, we need to have the same attitude toward debt! Debt is coming for me, and I need to run away from it like my life depends on it! You can read more about what it means to run with gazelle-like intensity here.
Heart Shift on debt
These two verses, along with many others, created a huge shift in my perspective. Now, it wasn’t some vague notion about how I should or could manage my finances or pay off debt. Here was the Word of God telling me what God thinks, and what God is actually telling me to do. And now that I know what God thinks and what he’s telling me to do, then I have to do it. If you’re not a Christian, you should probably do it because some godly, divine wisdom is still probably going to get you further in life than whatever the latest book, influencer, or financial guru is teaching. But for me, as a Christian, now it’s a matter of obedience and my personal relationship with God. He told me what to do, so I have two choices – obey or disobey. I chose to obey.
Stay tuned for my next blog post about the behavior shift and find out how much debt I’ve paid off so far.
You can sign up for Financial Peace University here! They are currently offering a free 14-day trial. I highly highly recommend it! This is not sponsored at all, but it’s been life-changing, so of course I want to share it!
Leave a comment below if you end up signing up so we can do this journey together! OR, leave a comment if you’ve already gone through the program and share your success story!