Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our 'Adventure' to get out of debt:

Here is the short version: We finally paid off our last CC account yesterday!

Here is the Long Version:

I want to write this in the long version because I think there might be somebody out there that this can help.

I will skip some of the details of the lead-in, but suffice it to say, that we were spending too much. Through choices of our own, We were spending way more than our income. (sound familiar? I hope not) At our peak, we had $27500 in Consumer debt. This was racked up from a car, and a few credit cards. Even though we knew better, we put a few Mortgage payments on our credit cards. Before we ever missed a payment on the house, we tried to negotiate with the bank. I won't get into the details of that. The short answer, is they didn't really want to help us out. (after 16 months of 'working' with us.)

In early 2010, I was thinking about starting my own business. We went to the temple to pray about it. When we were there both Sarah and I felt like we needed to have another baby (despite the whole 'not being able to afford it' excuse.) Sarah soon became pregnant with Tatum. I began my own business shortly thereafter as well. Sarah was working at Wells Fargo part time, with enough income to pay most of our 'needs' and also receiving benefits. This did take time out of my being able to work full time, though, as I stayed home with Walker and Parker. In late 2010, due to a mistake on Sarah's part, she was terminated after 6 years of working for W.F. At this point we spoke with the Bishop and started getting food at the Bishop's Storehouse. Soon thereafter, Sarah and the boys got on Medicaid (to pay for the baby etc.) to get the health, though, you also need to be on Food Stamps. Of course, we (well, I) didn't want people to know about it. I am a hard working person, and don't like being known as one of "those" people that lives off of government welfare for their entire life.
I had been thinking for months about foreclosing on the house, moving in with Mom and Dad, and getting back up on my feet. Mom's re-diagnosis of cancer shifted everything. I didn't want to talk to mom or dad (or the rest of the family either) and weigh any of them down with our personal problems. We had enough on our plate to worry about. It seemed that any time something would go our way, 3 things would jump in to pull us back in. (Like a week after I spent a bunch of money to get my car painted etc., I backed into it with our other car) Everything kept adding and piling up on top of us.

I begrudgingly took my car to a consignment lot (I won't post a picture, but it was a 2006 Infiniti G35).

As Christmas drew closer, my mom slowly slipped away.

One day, I decided to figure out how much we had paid in Interest throughout the year. It made me sick to my stomach. I don't remember the number exactly, but I think it was somewhere around $8000 in interest and bank fees of one kind or another. (late fee, overdraft fee, etc. etc.) I knew I couldn't do that any longer. My father-in-Law suggested a get a 'real' job, instead of working for myself. Even if I could come up with a decent paying job in this economy ($40,000), it would take me 30-35 years to pay off the debts I had incurred. That was assuming that there were no 'surprise' expenses for 30 years.
I decided that I wouldn't accept that. I would rather declare bankruptcy and lose everything I owned. It would be much easier to start over with nothing than to meagerly survive for my entire life. Tatum was born in January and spent 2 weeks in the NICU (Thank heavens for the medicaid). That same day, I went to the car consignment lot to pick up a check for $10,500. The guy that sold the car had known Sarah from WF, and didn't charge us the consignment fee. This may sound lame to you, but I almost started bawling at the car lot when he told me that. I know, I was an emotional wreck. He normally would have charged almost $1000 for the fee. (9% commission)

My little sister gave me a Dave Ramsey book for Christmas. I had time to read while Sarah stayed in the hospital with baby Tatum. I read most of it in 2 nights, and took it in to her to read. Just about the time I was ready to talk to my dad, and ask if we could move in with him, another emotional tragedy struck. My nephew Benjamin was born. (I won't get into it) He only lived for 2 weeks. Again, I didn't want to heap extra stress on others, so we didn't talk to my dad about it.
Finally, when the bank gave us the ultimatum of of paying everything we owed, or foreclosing (we had our tax 'return' in the bank so we could have paid what we owed) I convinced Sarah that I wanted to get out of the house. By getting out of the house we would be able to drop our budget by almost $2000 per month (mortgage, utilities, insurance, internet, etc. etc.) Assuming Dad would have us.

We decided to sell everything we possibly could. We sold our 2 year-old high efficiency Washer and Dryer. Our X-boxes. The Wii. The couch. Our Sleep Number Bed. A couple of kid's beds, car seats, lawn mower, etc. etc. We kept the piano (Sarah's mom gave to her), our table, and our 2 couches. We went from a walk-in 10' x 12' closet to a 2' x 3' closet. For both of us. We sold most of our kitchen stuff. We did get a storage unit for about $25 per month that does hold the little bit of stuff we didn't get rid of. (some kid's clothes, some camping stuff, food storage). Our bedroom was a gigantic master suite. (I don't remember, but close to 30' by 14') These purchases had been made when I was earning quite a bit more.
We were able to make several thousand off of selling our stuff. We had gotten behind on paying tithing, so most of it went to tithing, and the rest went to paying off debt.

After selling the car, selling most of our worldly possessions, and a big tax return, our debt was down to about $10,000.
During all this time, I was still running my business. I was no longer able to work from home. I was blessed to find somebody to sublease a small space in their office for $100 per month. (including internet and utilities) Dr. Karen Erickson, who is our naturopathic Physician.
I was blessed with some very good customers. (large jobs) One of them (my biggest job so far) saw me at a trade show, and 'felt good about me'. He wasn't in the market for the services that I offer, but for whatever reason 'felt like he should have me come out'. There were a couple other customers similar to this.

Kyle (my brother) and I talked several times about the possibility of my coming out to Washington D.C. to sell pest control. He obviously wants what is best for me, and was able to offer me some good incentive to go out for awhile. I was able to schedule many customers in June, and go out for about 5 weeks to sell. Sarah went with me for a week (free housing) and we spent most of that time on vacation. I did work in the evening some of those nights, but it was nice to be able to take some time off to enjoy ourselves. We needed it.

I was able to make about $10,000 in the month I was in D.C. (Due to the nature of pest control, it is not all paid up front. I waited until this month for a large part of my earnings, and will receive more of it in the next several months)

When I came back from D.C., I put my business back on the front burner. I put in a bunch of time, and built my own website. I was able to do some Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to get on the front page of google. The past 2 months have been incredibly busy. Apparently nobody likes to be cold.

In the mean time, we have been able to discipline ourselves. What do we NEED? (vs how much do we WANT. For example, instead of using our tax return on an older van, we purchased 2 new car-seats, that would fit in our Nissan Sentra instead)

I finally had enough Cash in the bank, (deposited over the Christmas weekend) to pay off the remaining balance ($4832), but we REALLY wanted (borderline need) a van, as Walker's legs don't fit in the car right now.  Too short to bend down, but too long to NOT kick my seat.  (Or Sarah's)  We decided we could survive a few more months without one.

The past few years have been a MAJOR learning and growing experience. We have WANTED to follow the prophets' counsel of getting out of debt.  I found that it really is a form of bondage.  What we want the most, we spend the most time on.  If we really desire something, we will obtain it.  The feeling of not owing any money to the BANK is very liberating.  I am super excited to be able to own myself.
We have been very blessed along the way.  From the car dealer, to my dad, to Kyle and Heather, and especially my wife Sarah, who has gone without more than anybody in our family.
This is not to say that we are 'independent' at all.  We still owe our debt society (for the food stamps), and we  are indebted to all those who have helped us.  We are indebted to our Heavenly Father who has helped us humble ourselves, and blessed us with some wonderful people in our lives, and so much support from others.
I plan on renting a small home, and saving up to be able to purchase a home with cash in the next 2-3 years.  (there are some homes selling for $25K right now that need lots of work.)

I know I probably rambled most of this out, so I apologize if it isn't my best literary 'work'.  Feel free to leave your comments or question if you have any.


Dee said...

Congratulations! Love Dave Ramsey! You are doing great.

Amy K said...

Congratulations! That's awesome.

Martin Messages said...

Jason Matt and I went through the exact same situation not long ago. So I totally understand your feelings of "Freedom". Way to go. You are a great example of faith. Thanks for sharing your story!!

Micheline said...

Thanks for sharing Jason - and way to go! You and Sarah both sacrificed a lot.

Teri's Life said...

Yay! This really is inspiring - thanks for sharing! It does take a lot of sacrafice and I think it is great that you have been able to get out of debt. And we know all too well that something is there to suck you back in.

Kate C said...

Hey great job- debt is a huge problem for so many people! We did get rid of credit cards(and LOTS of debt) about 20 years ago and don't regret a moment. If you can't afford it, don't buy it is our motto ( real emergencies are an exception. New "stuff" is not an emergency :))

rothana oum said...

thank you for your sharing..!