Have you ever climbed a mountain? Ran a marathon? Built a house? Watched an entire NASCAR race? Those things all take time and determination, obviously. When we hear of people that have done them, we immediately think of them as “that guy/girl who did x,” because we understand that the commitment needed to complete a task like that involves prioritizing that achievement over many other things in their life. Paying off $80,000 in debt is similar to those types of tasks. It may not be as physically demanding as running a marathon, or make you as dizzy as watching that 381st left turn, but it takes commitment all the same. You know what else it takes? Sacrifice. You only get so much time on this earth, and R and I want to spend as little of it shackled to this debt as possible. The thing is, we can’t just snap our fingers and win the lottery, so we’ve got to make the income we do have go as far as it will go.
Remember back when I didn’t need Dave Ramsey, or his plan? When I knew how to handle my own money, and I had three credit card payments and a car loan to prove it? I also knew how to budget. I used a web service called Mint to set a budget, and even though I never stuck to it, I definitely had one. It was great, I had categories for everything I spent money on, and about halfway through the month, all the green categories turned red because I had overspent in all of them. It looked like a depressing Christmas tree. My biggest problem area was food. I love food. Food is almost essential for life for me, that’s how much I love it. The thing is, I have no idea how to make food. Lucky for me, other people do, and all I have to do in order to get it from those people is pay them. I’m going to throw out a number, and I’ll let you guess what the number relates to. Are you ready? Here it is: $7,847.59. Go ahead, I’ll wait while you put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and figure out what it means.
Are you back with your guess? Good. If you guessed that $7,847.59 is the amount of money I spent on food in 2015, you would be very correct. Now, I was married for two of those months, so let’s pretend that the $1,253.22 spent in November and December doesn’t count, because $600 a month on food for two people isn’t ridiculous at all. That still leaves $6,594.37 for single Kyle to munch on while he’s waiting for his beautiful bride to walk down the aisle. That’s over $600 a month. For one person. Well, kind of two, because I paid for a few dinner dates here and there, but still. The “budget” that I had wasn’t working at all. I was letting my money and my cheeseburgers walk all over me, and I had no idea why I wasn’t gaining any ground when my paychecks came in.
So, when we finally sat down and got honest with ourselves, we realized that something had to give. It was a choice between a) eating whatever and whenever we wanted, or b) being able to pay off our debts, retire comfortably, and use the money we’ve been blessed with to bless other people. We sat down together and actually drew up a real, honest budget, and promised each other we would stick to it. I’ll talk about the actual process of creating that bad boy at a later date, but let me tell you, it has formulas, and it has colors! We decided that $300 every month for groceries for the both of us was plenty, and for those times when we’re not home at mealtime, we set aside another $50 a month for restaurants/fast food. That’s actually done two things for us: it’s cut our spending on food significantly, and it’s helped our conversations. You can talk to someone over a meal in a restaurant, sure. But when you don’t have someone at your table trying to tell you that “no, the moldy cheese sauce is fine with the buffalo wings,” and you aren’t fighting over the jukebox pumping out horrible pop music, you can have real, authentic conversation. As much as I love food, I love my wife even more, and if sacrificing the relationship I had with the old lady that works the drive-through at Panda Express (we were on a first name basis!) means we can finally be free with our money, then that’s a no-brainer. Kind of like watching NASCAR.