"We're all just fragile threads, but what a tapestry we make." – Jerry Ellis

Financial Peace

This past Tuesday, Darrell and I attended our final Financial Peace University (FPU) class. If you’re unfamiliar with FPU, you may recognize the name Dave Ramsey, the man behind the class. He is a nationally-known financial advisor, who teaches finances from a Biblical perspective emphasizing living debt-free and saving. He breaks the plan into seven steps with regards to saving and spending. You can find out more about these steps and Dave Ramsey at the website www.DaveRamsey.com. One of his mantras is to live like no one else, so later, you can live and give like no one else. I wish we would have taken this class twenty years ago.

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with Dave Ramsey other than we took his course, but it has made such an impact on us, I feel like I have to share it with other people. In fact, when we started this class nine weeks ago, Darrell was pretty reluctant. What was it that this guy could teach us? We already know we’re supposed to spend less and save more. What else was there to learn? Turns out, there was quite a bit to learn, and more importantly, discuss as a couple.

Darrell and I had never had many conversations about money. We earned it, we spent it, we always wished there were more of it to go around. We grumbled when the bills piled on and life had its unexpected expenses. We rejoiced in (and spent) any bonuses. We never had arguments about how we spent it, but we never really had a plan, either. Consequently, while we didn’t have problems paying our bills, we were generating a lot of them and were not big on sitting down to crunch the numbers to come up with a real life budget we could live within. As Dave says, we thought we could out-earn being stupid about money. The first few weeks, we certainly cleared the air with how we felt about our spending habits. I have to tell you, it was a little uncomfortable. But necessary for us to be open and honest about how we were living, and more importantly, what we were teaching our kids about money.

What Dave Ramsey teaches is not anything new or unique—spend less than you make and save the most you can as early as you can. One of the things that is so beneficial about his program is he addresses the emotional side of budgeting and saving money as a married couple, as well as to singles. Similar to dieting, it’s easy to know what you’re supposed to be doing to accomplish your goals, but our emotional responses seem to get us into trouble. He especially focuses on getting rid of all debt by living within your means and saving towards those big purchases. In the lesson focusing on debt (especially credit cards), he really opened my eyes to how much we, as a society, are comfortable with taking on debt. I’ve started paying more attention to how things are marketed, especially the financing of large purchases. Yikes!

Nine weeks later, we are diligent about working together on where our money goes. Officially, one would call that a budget, but the “b” word sounds so harsh. Whatever you want to call it, it involves the two of us sitting down together and looking at numbers and making it so we’re not doling out more than what’s coming in. We’re putting money aside for the big expenses—planned and unplanned—so that we don’t use credit cards for them. Basic Money 101 sorts of things.

In addition, we’ve completely changed our insurance coverage on our home and cars so that it matches what we need. In doing so, we’re paying less than we were before and we’re getting the amount of coverage we needed. The lesson on insurance was another one I wish we’d known twenty years ago! It was so valuable to hear an honest explanation on various insurances and their benefits from someone who was not going to be earning a commission.

If you ask our kids about it, you may see some eye rolling, but they “get” it. In fact, Tyler had to give a persuasive speech for his class at school, and he touted why starting to save money while you’re young makes sense. He spoke of compound interest and making sacrifices in order to save. It remains to be seen if he will practice what he’s preaching. I know he’s doing everything he can to not take out any student loans for college and will not be getting a credit card, which is a very good start.

While I can’t predict if we’ll be this purposeful about money in another nine weeks, I will tell you this: We will never go back to how we viewed money before. It sounds like an exaggeration to say something like a class was life changing, but that’s really the truth. I have much more confidence in the way we’re handing our finances—together—than I ever have before. I think we benefitted by attending an actual class (we took one offered through our church), but you can find out a lot on the website or by reading his book. You can also search for Financial Peace University classes offered near you. Many local churches offer these. Take it from a former spend-a-holic—your wallet will thank you, even if your credit card company doesn’t!

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