Debt Freedom

This is a more personal post than most.  Other than my job as a police officer allowing me an income, this is not a LEO-specific post…but I’m hoping you’ll find some hope and inspiration in what follows.

Please to enjoy.

28 months ago to the day, the Wife and I began a journey that would forever change our lives.  We started Dave Ramsey’s program, Financial Peace University, FPU for short.  In a nutshell and as Dave likes to say, it’s God’s and Gramma’s way of handling money.  The core of FPU can be summed up in the Seven Baby Steps:

1. Baby Emergency Fund ($1000 in the bank)

2. Debt Snowball (Pay off debts, excluding the house)

3. Fully Funded Emergency Fund (3-6 months of expenses saved)

4. 15% of income into retirement

5. Kid’s college

6. Pay of house early

7. Build wealth and give it away

Before I go any further, let me tell you a very simple truth: there is no magic recipe/pill/solution to doing these things.  It is Very Hard Work.  You will not get out of debt or get rich quickly.  Get-Rich-Quick schemes are a fantasy (or probably involve crime of some kind…hey, I had to throw in some LEO stuff!).  One doesn’t get into debt quickly; conversely, one won’t walk out of it quickly, either.

The Wife and I are about to wrap up our third experience of facilitating FPU at our church.  Being able to walk with people through some incredibly difficult and scary times is a blessing like no other.  To give you an idea of what FPU can do when you are focused and intentional with your money I offer the following results:

Our first two classes were made up of six families each (including my own) for a total of 12 families.  FPU lasts for 13 weeks.  In that 13 week period, 12 families (both classes total) paid off a total of just over $150,000.  In 13 weeks.  It is amazing what you can do when you have discipline and are sick of living paycheck to paycheck.  At the beginning of our current class (today is our 12th meeting), we had 12 families total and a cumulative debt (not including homes) of $635,000.

Look at that figure: $635,000.  That’s 12 families.  Two of them had no debt at all.  That means only 10 had that much.  Our share was $5,500.  Nine families owed $629,500.

Know what though?  They are on fire to climb out of the hole they dug for themselves.  It is incredibly inspiring.  Facilitating FPU has kept the Wife and I motivated, accountable, and intense.

How intense?

We just sent our last payment to Sallie Mae in the amount of $2,119.29.  We paid off $77,232.88 in two days shy of 28 months.  We are a single income family.  I am (obviously) a police officer.  I’m not an engineer or a doctor.  During the 28 months, we had two more kids.  How did we do it?

The two simple answers are 1) Budgeting and 2) the Wife and I being on the same page.  The number one cause of divorce in this country isn’t infidelity, it’s money fights/money problems.  When the Wife and I had our premarital counseling, we scored 100% on everything (Religion, Kids, Communication, etc) except money.  We were diametrically opposed, but we forged ahead.  We’ve always had a great marriage, but it wasn’t until we started FPU that things came together in a way we never dreamed.

The funny thing about getting your financial ducks in a row is it really becomes easier to get other things in one’s life together.  We found a home church (where we now lead FPU) and our marriage is stronger than I ever could have imagined.  Our kids will never know debt.  They will never owe a dime to anyone.  They will know hard work pays off.  We are going to teach them things we either never learned or steadfastly ignored.  They are not going to be “normal”.  “Normal” is broke.

We are forever changing the way our family will handle money.

We are not special.  We didn’t receive any inheritance or win the lottery (don’t get me started on the travesty that is the lottery).  We worked our asses off, stayed committed and dedicated, and pushed through to debt freedom.  The thing is, we’re not done.  Baby Step 3 will be complete by March.  We will always budget and live by it.  We will never borrow money again.  We live on cash alone.  We’ve closed all our credit cards.  We will no longer be, as Proverbs says, “slaves to the lender”.

The freedom I feel is incredible.  The joy I feel in answering MClet the First with “Nope” when she asks if I’m working OT is indescribable.  I get three days weekends.  Consistently.  That is something I haven’t had in over five years.  I’m tired.  But, I’m beyond satisfied.

Are you struggling with money?  Do you have too much month at the end of the money?  FPU can help you.  There is no time like the present.  You are not too old.  You are not too far in debt.  There is no circumstance that this program can’t walk you through.  This is for the married, the single, the divorced, the young, the old, the self-employed, the unemployed.  It will give you hope where there was none.  It will give you strength when you are at your weakest.  It will give you courage when you are immobilized by terror.

It works for us and we are on our way to winning with money and being able to provide for our family, our church, our community, and beyond.

I am so very proud of the Wife and I for getting to the point at which we find ourselves.  And so, it is with great pleasure, that the Wife and I yell through the vacuum of the interwebs:

WE. ARE. DEBT. FREE!!!!

If you have any questions about our journey or how to get more info about FPU and/or Dave Ramsey, don’t hesitate to send me an email or leave a comment!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Snark is encouraged. Being a prat is not.

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29 thoughts on “Debt Freedom

  1. What a fantastic piece of news and just before Christmas. You couldn’t ask for a better gift to each other. Well done Mr & Mrs MC.
    Ease back and enjoy those well earned weekends.
    Again great news, congratulations.
    (I’m sure I can just hear the last echoes of that yell coming through cyber space)

  2. This is more than commendable, MC. After spending years paying off a shameful amount of debt, Better Half and I now have an emergency credit card (balance $0) two small car payments, and a house we own free and clear. We still lack the savings and the strict budget, but we’re getting there. And the one “budget item” I won’t compromise on, is a handful of small weekly charity donations; we are giving more than we ever have. Not only does it not hurt, it feels wonderful! Big changes are coming with a huge pay increase (yay) and a mortgage (boo) in our near future, but we’re in a position to make it work. Shout your success from the rooftops. It IS possible to live within your means! Tell it!

  3. For those of us not in debt and desperately trying to stay out of debt… does it work for us too? I was budgeting when I was working full time and it was easy, now I’m working part time and studying part time… things don’t seem quite so clear cut.

  4. Congrats once again MC! I remember when the wife ran me through our bank accounts one night and I noticed she was about to pay off our last credit card balance. It was an amazing feeling. And even though I don’t have the financial resolve you and MrsMC do, I think our continued friendship will help me in that regard.

    Well done Sir!

    -HM

  5. Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs MC! My other half and I have been living these principles for 20 years, and have been debt-free for the past 18. We are both children of children of The Great Depression, and financial discipline was something we learned from our respective parents since we were knee-high to a toadstool. It is an incredible feeling of freedom to be in this position, and I congratulate you and the Mrs.

    We were never a “keep-up-with-the-Jones” kinda people, as unfortunately some of our neighbors are, who are so upside down on their mortgage and in a deep hole that we think they may never be able to crawl out of it. To us, that’s the worst — leasing the latest yuppie-mobile and buying techie status symbols for bragging rights. Nope, not us!

    Keep up the good work, and inspiring more to do the same!

  6. So I typically lurk but I wanted to ask this questions because I could use the advise. I don’t have a credit card and the only reason I have tossed the idea around of getting one (and only one) is to build credit. So far (I am fairly young) the only things that I have on my credit reports are school loans (that I know of). I haven’t been able to check my credit score in a while but do things like utility bills show up on credit reports? How does one build a good credit score without at credit card (I have always heard that paying it off on time is the way to go)?

    • Your school loans will be on there! You can check your credit annually for free at annualcreditreport.com. To the best of my knowledge, things like utility bills won’t show on a credit report, unless it’s bad news (collections, etc).

      My best advice is to live on a budget (an actual written plan) and pay cash. If you can’t afford it, don’t buy it. Our goal is to have a credit score of 0! The only other thing I’d suggest is to read Dave Ramsey’s books (from the library…for free!) or check out some great tools on his website!

      When one gets into using a credit card and “paying it off on time”, it’s like playing with snakes. Eventually, one may get bit. I’d hate to take that gamble.

  7. Great post MC, although you’re being a bit disingenuous when you say “I am (obviously) a police officer. I’m not an engineer or a doctor. During the 28 months, we had two more kids. How did we do it?”. Here in Bay Area, most LEOs make at least as much, if not more than most engineers. There are engineers who make well upwards of $100K, but they tend to work 12+ hours on weekdays and either go to the office or login from home on weekends. Still, supporting a family even on one 100K salary is not an easy job.

    I’ve seen my own dad live paycheck to paycheck, and I don’t ever want to do the same myself. Thankfully, I’m not married and have no kids. One area where I was able to save a LOT of money is housing, since schools are a non-issue for me. I live in a slightly rough area of town, but having a full 1bd apartment to myself for only $1040/month is awesome and it keeps the water out of my beer when it rains outside. Even a $250 difference in rent, can easily add up to a new flat-screen TV or a nice new rifle in less than 6 months.

    • Not sure where you get your figures from, Antelope. Most cops are taking paycuts and don’t make anywhere near $100K (not at least w/o working a TON of OT). What I mean about obviously being a police officer was due to the name of the blog is all.

  8. I just got accepted to our Motors Unit and am really excited about the new position (starting on Jan 1)! I googled Motor Cop and came across this blog. My wife and I have been married for 15 years and have had no big marital problems…..aside from finances. Neither one of us were taught how to deal with money when we were growing up so we have made plenty of mistakes. This is a great post and very inspiring! My wife and I have been talking about going through FPU and I think you just pushed me over the edge! One question I have had about FPU is about getting rid of ALL credit cards. I don’t believe we will ever be able to pay cash for a house. We are currently renting. When we decide to purchase we wll have to have good credit to get the financing…To have a good credit score (which we don’t right now 🙁 ) you need to have accounts in good standing….I have been told that closing accounts and not having any open accounts is actually harmful to your credit score…Any helpful input would be appreciated! Thanks!

    • New Motor,

      I don’t know what MC’s reply will be, but yes, not having ANY accounts can be an issue with credit as you can be ‘invisible’ to the system. It would be sensible to get an up to date copy of your credit record to see what shows up – you may find that some of your existing bills do.

      What I do with my (one) credit card is to have a dedicated bank account. Each time I use my credit card, I transfer the same amount of money from my current (checking?) acount to the dedicated “Credit Card” saving account. This means that from a budgeting point of view it is the same as if I were making the purchases from my current account. This measn I always have enough money to pay off the card in full, as soon as the bill comes in, so I never pay any interest.

      Obviously it does need a bit of self-discipline, so you are not tempted to ‘dip into’ your credit and not pay it off at the end of each month, but it has worked well for me. It’s very easy as I do a lot of my banking on-line so it is very easy to transfer money from one account to the other, and I have a direct debit set up to pay the bill automatically each month so I don’t risk fees for paying late.

      I’ve held the same credit card for 11 years now, and in that time I have never paid any interest.

      ALso, I’m not sure whether it is the same in the USA – but here in the UK you have better consumer protection if you pay for larger items by credit card, than if you pay cash or debit card (basically, the card-issuer has joint laibility with the seller, so if the seller goes bust, or doesn’t deliver, you can get your money back from your credit card company instead, provided the purchase was for £100 or more) That was the main reason I originally got the card, beacause I was buying (to me) expensive plane tickets and wanted the added security!)

    • First off, congrats! Motor school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my career, but it was worth every second!

      Secondly, I’m even happier to hear you have considered FPU. It has changed our lives forever and we no longer have any issues regarding money at all. I have heard countless stories about marriages saved after getting on the same page with one’s finances. As I said, it isn’t hard, but most things worth having aren’t easy!

      With regard to your credit score, let me channel Dave Ramsey real quick: “Don’t worship at the altar of the “Almighty FICO”. You don’t need to pay cash for a house. The only debt that Dave doesn’t scream about is a mortgage…under certain circumstances. The mortgage shouldn’t be more than a 15 yr fixed rate mortgage and the payment no more that 25% of your pay. There are still places that will do a manual underwriting (Churchill Mortgage is one option and is recommended by Dave).

      We have lived with no credit cards for two years. We live on cash. If we can’t afford it, we don’t buy it. I’d encourage you to read Dave’s books (get ’em from the library) and you can check out his show as well. Go to daveramsey.com and search for a local station or you can d/l an hour of the podcast at no charge.

      Good luck in motor school! Keep me up to date about how it’s going! Remember…head and eyes! Where you’re looking is where you’ll go!

  9. Congratulations! No more required OT to pay off bills!!! So that means your youngest kid will actually get to know you and you will be blogging more (?) ….

  10. Knowing that a Calif. cop makes about $90k a year, and you paid off $78k, you paid your electric, gas, sewer, cable.. on $12k? Plus tithed, $18K (10% min.) which I couldn’t figure into the total amount. WOW, impressed but don’t believe. I don’t mean that I don’t believe you… I just don’t believe it could be done if that makes sense. I spend that much on my lunches while on the beat each year.

    • My base pay is around $6,874 a month. That’s $82,488/yr gross. Net is around $58,000. That being said, I’ll net close to a bit over $100K due to the ridiculous amount of OT I worked this year. We tithed just a bit over $10,000 to our home church. Keep in mind, we paid off our $77,232.88 over just shy of 28 months. We sold our car. We made serious, deep sacrifices.

      It makes perfect sense that you wouldn’t believe it. Sometimes, I find it hard to believe….and we did it. It’s incredible what you can accomplish when you are intentional and committed with a partner.

  11. My blog is based on this entire post. We started TMMO in January 2008, and have $9500 of $100,000 left. During that time, we’ve endured an IRS audit, a job loss, a 2nd baby, 2 replacement vehicles, a new roof (paid in cash @17K), and renal cell carcinoma. 2 of the 4 years, my wife became a stay-at-home mom.

    We’re on track to be debt free at the end of March (see countdown widget at indueseason.net).

    Your testimony to the Dave Ramsey plan is amazing and fuels my fire.

    It is possible. It is a reality.

    Debt is dumb.
    Cash is king.

    You are now “living like no one else”.

    Congrats! Way to kick off the new year!

  12. I know this post is “a couple years” old but hey…good ideas and principles are timeless. LOVED this post (and heck your blog in general) and am always encouraged to hear success stories from FPU. We just went thru our first time and holy moly how eye-opening and life changing. We have alot of work to do but this is the first Christmas we had a budget (yay) and paid for everything within that budget with cash and are totally stress free! Looking forward to living…and giving…like nobody else. It’ll be worth it so thanks for sharing your story~