Getting Out of Debt: Feeling Free
by Regina Gardner

How it All Started: Getting Rid of $37,000 in 2 years and 4 months

My husband and I were thinking things were all good because we were making money that allowed us to live comfortably, but then the economy changed. Our hours of work and pay rate were cut. We found out our high credit scores and on-time bill payments meant nothing to those we owed. This angered me to the point that I felt we had to do something. We had used money and credit cards to travel, buy items we thought we needed, and help family members. We consolidated one set of bills and went and made others. We thought refinancing our home would help put money back into our pockets, but what I discovered was . . . WE NEEDED TO GET OUT OF DEBT!

I was told of a program that would help us rid the debt in 4-6 years. We would just have to pay two percent of what they helped us save. I thought, "Why pay someone to help me discipline myself. Me and God can do this. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me Philippians 4:13 I began to pray, and I asked God to provide the money now that we had less coming in. I wanted not only for Him to deliver me, but to learn a lesson from this experience. I did not want to go back to into debt again! I also wanted to save towards our retirement because we were not financially prepared. God answered prayer. It was amazing!

In the process of time, I saw myself thinking differently about spending money and making bills. The Lord gave me the mind to educate myself on debt and the banking system. The ignorant become prey. We started to make cut backs. I did my own hair rather than go to a beautician. We changed our cellphone service to a cheaper one with the same benefits. Our landline phone was used for local calls only. We lowered our utility bills by unplugging unused lamps, using power savers, less water, night lights, to name only a few things. I put myself on a strict budget of $20 a day. What I did not spend, I saved or carried over to the next day.

There are a number of ways to pay down debt. My strategy was targeting the larger bills with highest interest first. Juggling other bill payments around, I paid the ones with interest, before more interest accumulated. We stopped using credit cards altogether and paid cash for purchases. I shopped thrift stores, clearance racks, sale or marked down items. If I did not have the money, I didn't shop at all. I prayed for grace and wisdom while continuing to and pay my tithes and offerings at church. We stopped taking vacations with money we didn't have and started turning off the phone and shutting out the world, to relax our minds. Enjoying a book or movie and a fine meal cooked meal from my own kitchen was refreshing and helped us recuperate from stressful day. I became more thankful for life's simple pleasures.

As the debt got smaller, I began to feel freer. I remember one day going into the bank to make a payment feeling light and relieved and expressing to the teller how good I felt about making a payment. She assured me that I was in good hands. It was an emotional moment. On our financial journey to freedom there were other blessings. The additional fee we were paying was removed from our debt altogether. This, in addition to the reduced interest rate, allowed us to pay our debt quicker. Looking back, we could have filed bankruptcy, but by choosing to be responsible stewards, it left us in good financial standing, and a load was lifted physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I now can go to work without feeling like an indentured servant.

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

Proverbs 22:7

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