Fighting the Debt Beast

“For your own good, for the good of your family and your future, grow a backbone. When something is wrong, stand up and say it is wrong, and don’t back down.”    ―      Dave Ramsey, The Total Money Makeover
To kick off my first real post since Advent (I promise – they’re going to get more frequent), I thought we’d get a little bit vulnerable, make a confession and add a “tab” to the ole blog.  We have a fight on our hands.  We plan to go toe-to-toe and knock the teeth out of something that plagues many families in our country, including ours.
In one corner, we have this monstrous Beast o’ Debt.  With fangs of “want” and “need,” and an insatiable hunger to consume our future, this beast has literally been sucking the life out of our home for years.  In the other corner, we have family, our legacy, God… and Dave Ramsey.
Not quite sure why it took us 12 long years to get this through our thick skulls & get our rears in gear, but we thought we were in control…and then, shockingly “hind-sight” obvious, life happened.  Let’s just say it… we’re slow learners.
In 2009, while living in Colorado, we realized as our children, taxes, grocery bills, etc. grew, and our ministry-sized paychecks did not, it would behoove us to sell our house, move in with my in-laws in Wyoming, save money for a year, pay off all debt, and save the world with our frugality, philanthropic-awesome and new-found financial freedom!
Um, yeah.
Within the first 2 months of living with the in-laws, we realized that – ahem – we loved them WAY too much to live with them, and soon rented a house of our own.  Just a month after that, we found out we were expecting baby #4!  Very exciting…and even as exciting as it was, we realized that our health insurance was, well, not going to cover a baby-powder-covered cent.  Baby Boy F was born – healthy and completely to-die-for cute – and I swear they handed us the bill as I laid in the hospital bed choking down my $40 Advil.  This baby quickly proved to be the. most. expensive. child.  Though he was healthy and deliciously adorable (did I mention that already?), he was born with a small ear tag, which of course had cartilage in it, which of course required surgery…and HAZZAH! Yet another glorious array of bills to behold.  Add that to the 1.5 years of health complications I had after the pregnancy, 10 ear infections, a sprinkling of strep infections, a New-Year’s-Eve-Sledding-Trip broken collarbone, one awesomely bad croup attack that landed our already-pronounced-most-expensive-baby-ever in the hospital, and the cherry on top? Yet another surgery to place tubes in said-child’s ears.  We are totally BFF with the medical billers now!!  Or – more accurately – they are the master…and we are the slaves.
We are now feeling completely exposed with all you faithful readers. All 5 of you.  Exposed and vulnerable enough to tell you that we are in debt…
A few years ago, we purchased Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University.  Brad was far too busy traveling for work and we were never able to participate in the classes.  However, a few months back, my doctor (also a self-proclaimed “slow learner”) began advertising for an upcoming class.  Upon my excuse that we had already read the books and “knew everything,” he told me that it is a world of difference in reading the materials and watching the DVD’s, to participating actively in the process, attending the classes, and interacting with others in the process as well.  That seemed convincing except that there was a cost to signing up.  Ugh.  Living paycheck to paycheck was really hampering my process!!  Yet, God – in all His fantastic wisdom –  prompted me to call and inquire anyway “just to see.”  Lo and behold, there was no cost at all since we already owned the materials. Score! Plus my in-laws (who are probably still glad we don’t live with them and want to see to it that that never happens again) agreed to watch our kids for 13 weeks.  FREE BABYSITTING!!  As a friend recently quipped, if Dave Ramsey and I were in the same room – we would’ve high-fived.
We are now at week 12 in our classes and our perspective has done a 180.  We want to be free to give more money to the poor, the Church, pay for our kids’ college (or seminary education :)), finally visit Hawaii, not eat Alpo and work our retirement greeting people at WalMart, and maybe – just maybe – buy a Nanette Lepore dress.  We will do this in BABY STEPS… aka the little things.  And really isn’t it about the little things?  A small shift in the way we do things.  So, I, Joia, will pass over the super-awesome granola bread that has been fashioned in the organic oven of awesomeness and go for the bread that’s a dollar cheaper.  I really want to be debt-free, people.  I really love that bread.
And so, in the immortal words of Twisted Sister, we say “We’re not going to take iiiit….anymoooore!”  (you’re welcome for getting that little diddy stuck in your head)  And away we go!!  In 2012, we will be sharing our journey in fighting debt.  Stay tuned…because you all will be the greatest source of accountability for us, plus….you get a front row seat to watch us punch that ugly beast right in his ugly fangs.  And I’m sure it will hurt…just a bit.  Punching beasts always does…
“Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”  Romans 13:8



  1. yay, Dave. Here’s a list I made when I took FPU a few years ago:

    Things you may think of doing if you’re taking Dave Ramsey’s FPU:

    1. When asked in small group, “what prevents you from doing a ‘cash flow’ worksheet” you say… “uh, cashflow?”
    2. Decide you will be running credit checks on all future dates.
    3. Say, Dave, I have NO MONEY TO SHOW YOU.
    4. When you’re out to eat, order ice water with lemons and a mug of hot water and then use the sugar and ketchup at your table to make lemonade and tomato soup.
    5. Eat peanut butter for a week to put that extra $50 in your “blow” envelope.
    6. Push your car to work.
    7. Watch linoleum curl instead of going to a movie.
    8. Move back in with your parents.
    9. Move to Brazil and fake your death. And live debt free.
    10. List yourself on Bet they don’t do cash flow worksheets.
    11. Sublet your closet to an itinerant worker to subsidize your “blow” envelope.
    12. Contemplated buying those food i.v. bags… it must be cheaper than groceries.
    13. Shove coffee creamers in your purse when you see them at coffee bars.
    14. Visit and be completely scandalized by what you can actually make money doing.
    15. Call your student loan companies and ask if you can get a refund on everything you’ve forgotten from college.
    16. Take all your unopened canned goods to the store to see if you can get your money back.
    17. Buy a lottery ticket and instead of thinking of all the shoes you can buy, think, “yeah… this can be the start of a sweeeet emergency fund”.
    18. Wonder if your True Religion jeans are considered “equity”.

  2. Hi guys! my husband and I have also been really on a big kick to get our finances in order. The hardest part is STICKING TO THE BUDGET. At least for me. But my husband got laid off (fortunately for a very short time) two weeks before I had our first child. We just bought a house, now had a baby, and weren’t sure where the next paycheck was coming from. Nothing like life to make you serious, right??? But our first decision was that we were going to be more serious about tithing. We had talked about reorganizing our budget to actually tithe 10% the month before but we hadn’t actually changed anything, but that was our first decision (easy when you don’t have any money!) and a blessed one. He has a job now and we haven’t had a lapse in health insurance (my biggest fear) but we have decided to pay off our debts as quickly as possible and to “snowball” them–when the first thing is paid off, add what you were paying to the next item to pay it off faster and so on–and I think it’s stressful but worthwhile.

    My hardest things:
    1. giving up little indulgences that add up. I want to buy a soda every time I go to the store. Or a chocolate bar. I want to do this every day. or we could save probably close to $100 a month if I would just eat a snack before I left the house!

    2. budgeting gifts. I love giving gifts, but I have learned to expect less and to give less. Studies show that people don’t usually care how much you spend–they would rather get a cheap usable gift they want than somethign expensive they don’t want or need. Honestly, this is a huge savings in our life–because I give $25 birthday and Christmas gifts instead of spending a hundred or more on things I love for someone else and they may not even like.

    The surprisingly easier things:
    1. food! Once I got better at planning our meals (fail to plan, plan to fail!) including sides, the food budget fell into place better. In fact, eating out now throws off what we eat for lunch the next day because I prepare enough food for dinner and leftovers for lunch, no more, no less, and if we don’t have leftovers, we don’t have lunch and that inconvenience trumps whatever convenience eating out would offer so I never feel rushed into eating out.

    2. entertainment. I thought I would die without being able to buy books (one summer when I lived in another city and walking between school and home were 7 used bookstores. I averaged buying A BOOK A DAY FOR THREE MONTHS!!!!) and go to the movies all the time (even with a baby! we love going to the movies!) but we do live 1/2 a mile from the library and Amazon Prime does free instant viewing now (I felt like it was a reward from God for cancelling our netflix!). And we are just more selective about movies. And try to go on Saturday before noon for the $5 matinees. I mean, we’re up anyway and it’s empty so no one cares that we have a baby with us.

    but I agree debt is scary and hard to deal with and it’s frustrating to not be able to do much to add income and have to just be smarter about buying and saving. I’ll be praying for you guys! It’s SOO rewarding to see those bills go away little by little!

    • Excellent insights, Morgan! Thanks for sharing them. We do the Amazon Prime and Netflix (streaming only) thing, too, instead of cable. Not even the kids miss it.

  3. So etexicd about your blog! Just read about you, Joia, on and was etexicd to read about SaintMakers. I have two young daughers and I’ve been on the lookout for good information on the Catholic faith for children and I will defintiely be keeping an eye on this site! I recently started a new series within my blog about people who are following God’s calling for their life. I’d love to feature you both at some time. Brad and Joia, you are definitely inspiring individuals! Also, I can’t wait to check out the music on iTunes!

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