Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We're Debt Free!

Today, Wednesday April 16, 2008, the Amish Swinneys are

It took us approximately 23 months to complete Steps 1 & 2 of the Dave Ramsey plan.

It took us a while to gather up the starter emergency fund of $1,000.

After that we paid off a total of $30,000 in 20 months. This included our car, all of our student loans, and our credit cards.

Do we make loads of money? No. Levi worked LOADS of overtime, we went by a strict budget and plan which was the "envelope system", God played an important role in providing, and we tithed the whole way through.

Satan was after us from the beginning. The very month we began the Dave Classes we BOTH got speeding tickets. I had never gotten one before in my entire life so that was quite discouraging considering the total damage for both tickets was about $350.00.

But still, we continued on.

We have not used our credit cards in 23 months.

In fact, we cut them up and don't have any.

I know this is scary to think about for some of you but after the struggle we've had for our entire 7 years of marriage to pay them off, well, we are DONE with credit cards.

But what if an emergency comes?

We are starting on step 3 of the Dave plan which is to save 3-6 months of expenses. So, yes, our journey is far from over but we feel confident that the full emergency fund will cover most of our emergencies. If there is an emergency that goes beyond what we end up saving then we are either terminally ill, or one of us is in jail. As far as the jail is concerned the offending spouse will just have to sit it out.

I have a lot to say about our journey but I don't want to distract from this day. Satan tried VERY hard to steal our joy yesterday and it almost worked but I recognized it, rebuked it, and immediately a wave of relief came over us.

What next? Well, cable and a DVR that's what! Levi is about to call this morning to set up an appointment for them to come. We aren't avid T.V watchers but our reception is terrible so the girls will be so confused when they can actually SEE Elmo without white snow all over him.

Actually, Levi and I sat down 3 days ago and have already devised a detailed plan for how we spend our money now. If we hadn't done that then we would have been tempted to go buck-nutty and have a wild spending spree.

This plan includes a car payment with NO car. Yes, we are actually putting back an entire car payment so we can pay for our next car in cash OR Levi will spend it to fix up his beloved rust-tang. That is very exciting to me. We may have to buy another $800 beater if the Buick conks out on us but that's o.k....we ain't shamed (unless it's me...I may suddenly become Hindu and wear a wrappy thingy on my head if I have to drive it).

Are we rolling in cash? Nope. If I were then I'd be in Rio right now. Which leads me to our awesome debt-free vacation we are going to take soon...SO excited. Dave really didn't prevent us from vacationing b/c we had only taken one (to San Antonio for a weekend) before we started Dave and we've been married for almost 7 years, so I can't really blame him, we are just boring.

Our only reason for telling people about what we've done is to inspire and encourage you to do the same. Are we money way. We, in no way, want to come off as bragging or judgmental to those of you who are doing something different or who are up to your eyeballs in debt...we've been there and we know what a pit of quick-sand that feels like and we are telling you today that you can get out of it.

This road (as you've read below) has been not just rocky...mountainous. I've cried, I've been mad, I've been so discouraged, I've gone on spending spree's to Wal-Mart when I shouldn't have. But like I said in the earlier posts....we kept going despite what we were "feeling".

Levi never cried nor did he get mad and really didn't even get discouraged. He has been the emotional rock through this that we needed. I am a girl, what can I say? I can go from happy, to sad, to angry, back to happy just by watching one commercial.

God lead me to Dave Ramsey and I am SO fortunate to have a husband who listened to me and jumped on bored with no questions whatsoever. He is now a Dave junkie and I've created a monster. But if I've gotta be married to a monster then that's the way to go!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Phillipians 4:12-13

Friday, December 21, 2007

Satan is Real.

I am sort of at odds with this situation.

We are not out of debt.

Despite gut wrenching sacrifices and work....we are not out of debt.

Despite the fact that I THOUGHT God wanted us out of debt on November 30...we are not out of debt.

Did I imagine that? Am I hearing voices that resemble God's? Could explain a lot if I am.

I am disappointed.

I feel we disappointed a lot of people.

Lot's of things went wrong the last couple of months.

I sort of feel like we had a big attack by Satan and he won.

Are we so weak?

He took me down. Hard.

I feel like I am waking up from a very bad dream.

I have been living in a fog. A bad fog. Thank God the fog is lifting. Slowly. Lifting.

If you read my other blog you know that my health has been compromised the last couple of months. Compromised in a way that made it difficult for me to do simple daily tasks. As I am waking up from my fog I see that my calendar is still on October. That is when life froze for me. I find if very ironic that it is still on October. That's when I found out I was sick. That's when I quit taking the girls to their dance classes that I already PAID for but couldn't muster up the energy to get them dressed and take them. That's the last time I did our envelope system. After almost 18 months of doing it EVERY time we got paid. I couldn't do it. I did balance our checkbook. At least I did that. I am giving myself some credit.

Satan knew exactly where to get us and he got us good. We had many unexpected medical bills and prescriptions to fill. My sleeping pills alone are $50/month. The girls also BOTH got sick and had to go to the doctor and get prescriptions. Mia's allergy medicine was $50 and then we had to get them both antibiotics. Jules got sick again and had to get a stronger anti-biotic that cost $50. THEN we had to fix the Buick whose passenger side window got stuck in the "down" position. THEN we had to fix the Mazda wheel b/c somehow it got bent siting in a parking lot while we were in Chicago. This all happened in one month. The month God told me (so I thought) that we would be out of debt.

I am angry. I am embarrassed. I am sad. I am disappointed. I am hurt. I am confused. I am mad at Dave Ramsey. I am upset that I let Satan get me which affected our whole family. I feel like it is my fault. I want to take a credit card and max it out.

Did God give Satan permission to attack me like he did with Job. If so, I failed. I am not Job. Again, I am not a good test taker. I feel this is unfair. It could be worse. I know. I still have my family all intact and in one piece. Praising God for that. But it still doesn't take away my hurt and confusion and disgust, really, with the fact that we are still in debt.

Could I have done more? What could I have done, God? Why did you give us such passion and grow that passion and reward that passion only to allow it to be ripped from us the last month of our journey. I don't cry much but I can't hold back the tears on this one. I have been through a lot. Levi and I have been through a lot. I should have cable right now! That one is a real pisser.

I thought we would be rejoicing right now. Instead I am hanging my head low. I don't want to talk about it and if you have tried I'm sure you noticed that I skated right around the topic. I don't want to spread the toxins that Satan has puked up all over us. I am Debbie Downer.

I don't want anyone to doubt God. I KNOW He is in complete control. I DON'T understand what went wrong. I feel like I have been physically violated by Satan. I don't think it is coincidence that all of this CRAP happened the very SAME month that God had planned for us to accomplish this unbelievable goal. 30K in 18 months. I thought it was insane too but God continually affirmed our efforts. Were they in vain? It kind of feels like it was. I am a goal person. I set a goal which I thought GOD set for us and we didn't reach it. I don't really care anymore. I don't. I am sorry to spread this negativity but I am not going to lie and if you are attempting what we are attempting you must know that Satan can attack and will. Just don't loose. I lost. I am sorry that I can't write an amazing miracle story. I am sorry that I can't inspire you to do the same right now. I will be able to later. Just not now.

God is awesome. I know that for sure. I know He is in control. I'd just like to know if this is my fault. Did I loose? Really? Did I loose to Satan? Maybe. I sure feel like I did.

I know Satan is looking over my shoulder right now. He is here. He is reading my words. He is happy. He is laughing. He is planning his next attack.

Satan, since I know your reading this right now. Screw you. I am feeling a lot better now and your nasty toxic fog is fading. Your hold on me is slipping. You know I have distanced myself from God because of all this. Well, no more. No more of this. I am going back to him. He never left me but you led me astray. You tricked me. You made me sick and took away my desires for everything that was good in my life. Flee from me Satan. Flee from my family.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

This is how we do it. Phase II.

My intent in writing how we do things is not to teach you the Dave Ramsey way of life. Just give you a glimpse into his method. I, of course, hope to inspire and excite you into pursuing a debt free life but in no way want anyone to think that my way is "THE way."

My favorite and life changing thing that I learned during FPU (Financial Peace University) is the "zero based budget." I have been balancing the checkbook forever and when I started doing this I thought to myself.....why on earth have I NOT been doing this. I felt sort of stupid. Naive. Irritated at all the money that slipped through the cracks on things that, well, I don't know what. Junk.

Getting started was a daunting task. To tell you the truth I sort of went on a spending spree right before we went to FPU. That's the thing to do. Let's get even more into debt so that we can make it even harder on ourselves right from the start! It's kind of like going on a diet. You say your going to go on a diet on Monday so what do you do? You eat buffet style the weekend prior b/c you know what is to come. Restriction.

That is the most overused term in regards to a budget. It is not restrictive if done properly. It is freedom.

We wrote down what categories (which would soon become either envelopes or savings accounts) that needed to be filled each month. Here's the kicker. Even if there was no money to put in it we still wrote it down. Your brain will not like this at all. It is necessary though. You have to train your brain to think on those things that you don't have money for yet. That way, when you get a raise you will get SO excited b/c you can begin to properly fill that category that has been left unfunded for so long.

After we figured out our categories and set up our budget this is what we do.....we get paid....we pay each bill, fill each envelope or savings account, anything that's left over (that means ANY AND EVERYTHING) has to be assigned to something. In our case it's debt. All of our left overs gets paid to our debt on the day we get paid. Does that mean that your checking account will be zero? Yes. And that did freak me out at first. The good thing is I have my emergency fund in place and that will spill over to cover anything that might come up that we weren't expecting. It is a weird concept but you know what? If it ain't there and you both know it isn't, then it's not going to get spent on all the stupid crap that we spend our overflow on every month.

My second favorite part of Dave's method is the "blow money" category. Levi and I have decided on an amount that we each get every month for ourselves and we get to spend it however we questions asked. Period. It's not an excessive amount but it's jut enough to where we feel freedom and not restriction from our budget. This is one of the most important things to make your budget work and your spouse happy. There is always a "free spirit" and they need this. Bad. Or there will be resistance all the way down the road.

I am a little anxious in thinking about the next month and half. And, by the way, we have only eaten out as a family at Chili's once and Taco Bueno once in two months. So, that's about $30 total on restaurants. I'm pretty proud of that. The girls and I had a play group at Chicken Red's and split a $7 plate and that came out of my blow money so that doesn't count.

I feel like I'm looking in to a big black cast iron pot and it's whirling around. Steaming. Bubbling. I look into it not knowing what all is going into it. Not knowing what the end product will be. Will it be that we don't reach our goal and have to use our story as one of endurance and not giving up even when things don't go our way? Will it be that God is pouring tiny miracles into the pot in order to make one big, massive, explosive miracle right at the very end? I hope so.

Alice in Wonderland. That's what I'm thinking of right now. Open doors. Some big. Some little. But open none the less. I prayed for open doors. Another one opened this week. I probably have a part time job starting in a week at Mia's school. I wouldn't make loads of money but it's an open door. What other door will God open? Is it right for me to just sit here and expect him to keep opening doors. Yes. I am not asking God to send me a check. I am pleading with him to give us the means to pay all of our debt off by November 30th.

Levi is working so hard I can't even begin to explain. Some think it's too much. To them I say, we know what's best for our family and are prayerfully seeking God's direction. God has blessed us beyond what we could have ever fathomed and to me, that's confirmation that we are doing the right thing. HIS confirmation is the only one we need. I don't need anyone else to approve of what we are doing as long as HE approves.

You know what makes me most happy about this post? I didn't have a typing war with the spell checker on how to spell anything. That is the true miracle here folks. It really is.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Updates and More.

I don't even know where to start on this post. So much to say. So many feelings.

By the looks of it we will not be out of debt on November 30th based on what WE can do.

We have hit a few road blocks again but that's just life.

It doesn't affect me like it use to.

It's just life. Things happen. Go on.

We had to pay two debts we forgot about. A loan from CMA due to pay schedule changes from a while back and a recurring balance on his business-only credit card. We don't know why there was a recurring balance b/c he expenses everything he should and all expense checks go directly toward that card. Who knows? Bottom line is we want to be 100% out of debt so those things had to be paid.

Despite our setbacks we praise God that for 1 year and 4 months we have been able to pay for everything that came our way out of our wee little starter emergency fund. We haven't used a credit card since May '06 except for business expenses which get paid back to us.

This includes car mishaps, Dr. visits, medicine, this, that, life, A CAR....etc.

Praise God for that.

On top of all the life stuff that came up we STILL have thus far paid off about 25k in debt.

This is really big considering we have ONE income and TWO children.

God obviously is showing himself to us through this process.

We have always tithed. Fortunately I was raised by parents who taught me this important principal so it comes easily for me.

Levi is right there with me on this one. We know that if we had not been tithing all this time that we would NOT have made such amazing progress.

I've been praying for God to open doors for us so that we can meet the goal that I know he set for us.

Funny enough, a contest came up at CMA where the winner could potentially win $1,000! This would obviously help us out. And the best part of it is, if Levi wins, he will be physically fit and in better shape than he's been since we got married. Heck, even if he doesn't win he will STILL be in better shape than he's been since we got married and that will be a big burden lifted off of him...literally!

Will he win? I don't know. There are lots of people that could use the money, not just us, and lots of people that are working very hard to win. My point is that God can open doors but they might not have an "easy button" behind them.

Another door opened would be a babysitting job for me. We decided that Mia really needed to go to pre-school and I considered getting a part-time job to pay for her enrollment but God didn't want me to have a job. He did however provide me with two weeks this summer of babysitting that paid for 1 month of tuition and 3 weeks of babysitting this month to pay for another month and a half of tuition.

God will take care of us. God will take care of you. His plan is bigger and better. Just sit back and obey.

There have been times where we got so off track I dreaded getting back on. It's so easy to quit when you get "off track" with anything. Working out, getting out of debt, eating's the same concept. Getting off track is one of the biggest saboteurs of all of these things. I have not had that problem. Even if we get WAY off track I tell myself just to get back on and it will all get better. And it does. What's funny is everyone's definition for "off-track" is different. For me, it's like two days of not doing what I should be whatever that may be. For Levi I'd say it's more like two weeks b/c he's just more easy going than me. Either way, I don't listen to myself anymore. I just start again. Start over. Start over again.

That's just how we've done it. We haven't given up no matter what our mind, emotions, hearts, or people tell us. We keep going. Trudging forward even when there may not be light at the end of the tunnel.

Who knows, there may be no light at the end of the tunnel b/c that's where God put my house that I want SO BADLY.

Friday, September 28, 2007

This is how we do it. Phase 1.

Do you know what makes me feel really good?

Balancing my checkbook, paying my bills, and getting cash out of the bank.

These things bring me peace.

I am not trying to be funny although most of the time that's all I'm trying to be (Levi would emphasize TRYING).

I am here to tell you that having your finances in order is just bliss.

It matters not how much money you have or make.

Just manage what you've been given and you will feel like you've been to the spa.

If you are not the money person in your home then you may not relate to this but I most certainly do.

I "do the books" as they say and so this is just something that I really relate too.

Having your finances all crazy can just get you so down.

It is such a burden on me when I have not balanced my checkbook, made sure my bills are all paid and forget to get our cash out of the bank (we use envelopes so this is VERY important for our budget).

I also like to make sure my wallet and purse are neat and tidy. You will manage your money better with a neat a tidy wallet. I would almost bet that if your purse is a mess and your wallet is sneezing receipts then you and your finances are not in harmony.

I use the Dave Ramsey wallet b/c it has envelopes and that is what I need. We are going for function not fashion but I will say that the weird tan colored part of the front of the wallet is just looks like that's just how the front of the wallet is but when it came in I was so glad that it was just part of the packaging.


Some things you can do to immediately relieve yourself from some stress and tension are:

balance your checkbook
clean out your purse and wallet
make sure all your bills are paid and set them up on automatic withdrawal if you can
pick one thing to get cash out for next month and see how it works for you

I am telling you this is important for your health and your marriage. Get organized. Now.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

eBay saved the day.

I got an e-mail the other day from a bride-to-be who is having Mia be her flower girl. She sent me a few pictures of some pretty little froo froo dresses that she was considering.

The least expensive one was $115.00. Gulp, cough, choke.

The most expensive one was $160.00....laughing hysterically.

Lucky for me this bride is so very nice and has given me some wiggle room on the whole situation.

I found this little number on eBay and paid a total of $25.00.

The dress retailed for over $100.

Do not underestimate the power of bargain shopping, eBay, and God's care for the little things in our lives.

He is like our support system through all of this.

When something comes our way he slaps it out of the way like the beaters do the bludgers in Quiditch. (That reference was just for Levi b/c he thinks I'm a big geek for making any sort of Harry Potter reference)

Friday, September 7, 2007

I have a Confession.

Levi doesn't know this.

He may not ever know it b/c he doesn't check this blog.

It's about our 88 Buick.

I confessed it to a new friend, Erin, the other day.

I drove it to 24 hour fitness about 3 months ago b/c I had an appointment to purchase a membership there.

I did all the paperwork and chit chatted with the salesperson who tried to sell me $80 per hour personal training thank you.

This is so sad.

I was walking out with my girls in tow.

I am a few feet from my car when I notice.....

the same salesperson was leaving for his lunch break at the same time.

I do not know what in the world possessed me to do this.

I snatched up Jules and began walking (dragging Mia) to Hobby Lobby.

I waited in the lobby until he was gone.

Then I RAN to the car and practically drove off with Mia half buckled.

Again, I do not know what got into me.

I am no longer embarrassed of our hoopty (I had to look up how to spell that in the Urban Online Dictionary......funny).

It is so comfortable.

It is so big and the air conditioner gets so cold it's like being in a car-hotel.

We paid a whopping $800 for it.

It only had 75,000 miles on it.

And here is the best part.

It came with an ice scrapper that has a fleece lined hand muff attached to it and some clip on sunglasses.

And as you've probably guessed it did belong to a grandma...Levi's grandma to be exact.

The only trips it ever made was to WalMart, the hair salon, and the Dr.'s office.

We LOVE our new car.

I really don't want to get rid of it even we have the resources to replace it.

I think we will save it for Mia.

By the time she's 16 she will hate me anyway so this will be totally appropriate.