Friday, March 20, 2009

Then Life Happens

My husband and I have financial counseled young couples for many years. No matter how much you tell people what they need to do, unless they are committed to making hard changes to their spending habits, there usually isn't much progress.

As much as I'd love to do the work for these couples, they ultimately hold their own futures in their hands. Getting in debt can happen overnight. Getting out of debt takes years of hard work and discipline.

Although we aren't in a counseling relationship with Say Anything and her husband, I've been cheering them on from the sidelines for several years as they have tried to eliminate their debt

This past fall, they decided to kick the process into high gear and attack their debt since they could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then life happened. Say Anything's dishwasher died and there was no money to replace it.

Now most of us would say that the dishwasher wasn't a need, so we'd just suck it up and wash our dishes by hand. After all, we're focused on paying off debt. No problem, and that's what Say Anything did.

Then life happened. Say Anything's oven went out. And there was no money to replace it.

A dishwasher is one thing, but an oven is another. After all, the family has got to eat so surely an oven is a need. Well, not in Say Anything's eyes. She was determined that they weren't going to go in debt to buy an oven. They would just make do without one until they could save the money for a new one. Did I mention she doesn't own a microwave?

So for the next 3-4 weeks (I lost count), Say Anything fed her family three square meals a day using nothing but a crockpot, a stove top and a borrowed toaster oven. She even hosted and cooked Christmas Day dinner.

Then life happened. And Say Anything's refrigerator died. But there was no money to buy a new one.

Say Anything borrowed an army of coolers and became even more determined that she wasn't going into debt to buy new appliances. Her husband cried "uncle" and begged for a few modern conveniences. But she held her ground and carried on caring for her three children with no dishwasher, no oven and no refrigerator.

A few days later, they called a repairman who declared the dishwasher and refrigerator definitely dead, however, he was able to fix the oven. The repairman also sold refurbished appliances and gave them a great deal on a refrigerator that didn't break the bank. They still don't have a dishwasher.

Now don't get me wrong, this was an agonizing 4-6 weeks for Say Anything and her family. They were pushed to their brink of sanity and questioned everything they were doing and why God wasn't moving faster to answer their prayers.

But sometimes the lessons of life come through the trials of life and in just a few short months when the Say Anything family pays off another credit card, they will look back on those weeks as a turning point.

In the end, God did provide an inexpensive repairman who was able to sell them an inexpensive refrigerator. More importantly, they learned that they have the discipline it takes to stay debt-free in this world of excess.

I'm proud of them. Most of us would've folded as we became increasingly uncomfortable. In this day and age, we think TVs in every room are necessities; we really don't know what it means to sacrifice. But I saw a family put into practice what it means to have laser-focused dedication to a goal. Amazing things can happen when you sacrifice for the right goals.

It can happen for you too.

If you are struggling financially, I urge you to seek financial counseling or take a course that can help you learn to budget and spend responsibly. With our crazy economy, it is important we get our financial homes in order. It's important we identify what truly is a need or a want in our life, make financial goals, and then work as a family with perseverance to meet those goals.

You can do it.

4 comments:

Krazy Klingers said...

It is a tough thing to do but a great reward for doing it. Mr. Clean and I are doing the same thing and we just paid off a huge credit card from our basement remodel. And now we are saving to buy the carpet.

Say Anything said...

OK everybody,this is Stretch (Say Anything's husband). This is my first blog response and I have something to say: I cooked one and a half of those three square meals a day, and I wash alot of those dishes too. Seriously, I am thankful for a bride who keeps me in line when I want gluttonous things like a new refrigerator. And I'm also thankful for friends like Natalie who support us and put all our dirty laundry out there to read. Thanks Nat!

Natalie said...

Stretch,

Hey, there is no dirty laundry. I would wager that 99% of the people who are reading this have some type of financial issue they're dealing with. I think your story shows the really tough decisions that have to be made when you are serious about beating debt.

Honestly, I would've folded the day the fridge went out. But she (and you) stuck it out and should feel really awesome about that. What a valuable lesson you taught your kids and what a great example you are to those of us who know what the right thing is to do, but often don't chose it because we are so short-sighted.

You guys are awesome and I know that God is going to use your days in the "appliance wilderness" to impact others.

Despite all that, I still can't be friends with you!

Nat

Promises Fulfilled said...

I finally read this post - this is a great post! I am also cheering for Say Anything and Stretch! You guys are awesome! My husband and I also got out of a HUGE mountain of debt during the first 2 years of marriage - it was not easy and at times was a sacrifice, but it was so worth it!!! Since then, we have saved and have been able to buy things with cash - even our new-to-us car (and we were down to one car for over 9 months...but we refused to go into debt to get a new one).

What you guys are doing is awesome for you and what you are teaching your kids is amazing.

I know for me, I am now trying to learn how to save/invest - maybe I should talk with Natalie and Jim about that...