This weeks guest contributor is Rebekah Marenda Burder of Honeysuckle Life. She acquired over 20K in debt, got arrested for bounced checks, managed to pay off her debt, quit her day job, moved to Nicaragua for a year, and is now working as a freelancer in her dream position! Erm… amazing!
And, isn’t that the goal after all? To be able to live a life that’s truly TRUE to you? I think so!
Please help me welcome Rebekah!
My life in debt started a few months after turning 18. I signed up for my first credit card after being offered a free t-shirt and bag of Skittles. By the time my sophomore year approached, I was over 5K in debt, in a combination of credit cards and student loans. My debt grew to include a car loan, and by the time I turned 25, I was over 20K in debt. Many of those debts were turned over to collections. Along with that debt, I had a complete inability to balance a checkbook, resulting in a lot of bounced checks. I, literally, had no idea how money worked.
My breaking point was a few months before I married my husband, when I was arrested, while renewing my driver’s license, for a bounced check. I had a million excuses, but the bottom line was that all of my bad choices caught up with me. Thankfully, my husband understood, having made a lot of not brilliant choices himself, and we immediately took care of the issue.
My husband and I made a commitment to pay off our combined debt of 23K and live debt-free. We stayed on budget for our wedding, thanks to a lot of contributions from my parents and help from my best friend with DIY projects. After marriage, we sold my car and commuted to work together in our paid-off car. We packed lunch every day and didn’t travel as much as we wanted to. I started listening to Dave Ramsey and read a lot of Suze Orman books. We bought clothes from thrift stores. I stopped purchasing books and started using the library. It became a game for me to see how much I could pay off each month. Within a year, all of our debt except for my student loans were paid off. We continued making minimum payments while focusing on savings so that my husband could quit his job at a car dealership and start a design company. After a few months, we realized that we both had an intense desire to work internationally and because we had so little debt, we were able to save money, raise part of our salaries, and move to Nicaragua for a year. We paid off our student loans the month we moved to Nicaragua, exactly 28 months after our wedding. The year in Nicaragua taught me so much about money. Mostly that it’s not that big of a deal not to have as much as your friends. In Nicaragua, everyone shares what they have. From a street kid who has one set of clothes and a small bag of chips, to wealthy women who support multiple family members.
Right now, I work for our design company while my husband works for the missions organization that sent us to Nicaragua. We both work from home, which keeps our costs down dramatically. We still share a car and rent a house owned by a family friend. She gave us a great deal because we want to buy the property. She’s putting our rent towards the purchase price.
Our biggest challenge now is saving for future purchases because it can be overwhelming trying to predict everything. Health insurance takes up almost as much as our rent. On top of our regular expenses, we have irregular expenses like propane, car insurance, and travel. So I now have a savings snowball instead of a debt snowball. I set big goals, like a bigger emergency fund and car replacement fund, and then smaller goals, like upcoming insurance payments and travel plans. We put every extra penny towards the goals. We use a credit card for rewards points, but pay it off weekly.
I’ve become obsessed with saving and planning, just like I was obsessed with spending money. I still get nervous when dealing with money, but I’ve learned to acknowledge the feeling and then switch my focus to meeting our goals. We’ve built up a lot of trust with each other over the past five years, and work with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m honest with him when I feel like I’m spending too much. He reminds me that I’ve changed and I know how to handle finances, and then tells me that money isn’t the source of happiness.
My advice to anyone who is struggling right now is that you absolutely can do it. I know it’s hard, but you can. Make a plan. Stick with it. Get help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Rebekah of Honeysuckle Life •THANK YOU• for being a part of And Then We Saved!
If you have something to say on a topic related to personal finance or getting out of debt send me an email at: Hello@AndThenWeSaved.com to be considered as a Gettin’ Guesty columnist. xo Anna
P.S. Ready to get out of debt ASAP? Check out the Spending Fast Bootcamp! SpendingFastBootcamp.com