As we continue to make adjustments and provisions to respond to the adversity, uncertainty, and restrictions in this season of pandemic; one thing that keeps resonating with me is…STEWARD WELL; especially in terms of money management.
My Money Story
As some may know from my testimony, I left my former job in May 2019, due to unforeseen circumstances. After I stopped working, I made a conscience effort to mind my spending. I’ve never been a frivolous spender, per se; but I would from time give myself little gifts and bonuses, whether they were in my budget or not. In fact, I never really had a budget.
I had become comfortable with the bi-weekly payroll checks, as well as my monthly benefits check. Honestly, the benefits’ checks covered most of my personal bills to the point that my work check was just extra. I had been in a position like this since around my late 20s. I’ve never carried a lot of bills. I started saving and investing early. As a single mom, I was able to become a homeowner before I was 30, basically because I had a perfect credit score. I had always been intentional about paying my bills on time, and just being smart about money.
Though most people would think I’m a big shopper, I’m not. I’m quite frugal honestly. My biggest spending has always come in traveling. I like experiences over things. Things get old. Experiences last forever in your memories.
When I stopped working, I knew I was gonna have be intentional about my spending and discipline myself as much as possible. Because even though my benefits money covered most of my personal bills, I had become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. The missing part of this story is my husband, a retired Command Sergeant Major who continues to work. Of course, he has my back. But I try to be very intentional about ensuring that we can gauge the household budget from month to month with no surprises. So again…learning to steward well.
When I stopped working, a conversation came to mind that I had with someone about two years prior. I was talking to Sachia James.
Talking Money with Sachia
Though at the time, Sachia was a military spouse and stay-at-mom, she had worked off-and-on for several years in the banking industry. Sachia was known to be very frugal and disciplined with spending. For all the time I had known her, both my husband and I worked and did well. We had experienced some challenging times when I first transitioned out of the military. During that time, I stopped actively investing and had to tap into my savings a few times, just because we had been accustomed to a two-income lifestyle. But after that adjustment and a shift in roles of me taking care of the household expenses to my husband now doing them, we were to eventually get to a good place; especially when I got another job.
I’ll admit that after shifting roles with my husband, I became a little desensitized to the concerns of the household budget. I did that mainly to avoid disagreements about money.
It was in a conversation with Sachia, however, heading to the Atlanta airport, that I realized…”Man! She really has a gift in financial management!”
The things she shared made a lot of sense, whether someone was on a budget or not. I thought to myself, these are things I could probably put into practice to just put myself in a better financial position again. The issue was…my husband and I had never been on the same page when it came to finances. He had his thing. I had mine. We managed them both at a safe distance from each other and came together when needed; but for the most part, we’d always been in two separate worlds with our money. This was something I didn’t necessarily like, but because I was more of the miser between us, I was more ok with it than not.
Long story short, it would be two years later before I would remember my conversation with Sachia…when I wasn’t working. Now was the time I REALLY needed to put some of her tips and practices in place.
Sachia had shared that she’d picked up some of her practices from studying Dave Ramsey, but she had adjusted his practices for what was more realistic for her family; expressing that Dave’s methods, though good, don’t leave much wiggle room.
Now without a job, immediately my first thought was pay off all my bills. How was I gonna do that? I needed a strategic plan.
According to Sachia, having a plan was absolutely necessary. BUT FIRST…PRAY.
Pray & Plan
Why was praying important? Because, asking God for guidance and discipline through this process is vital to its success. Jeremiah 29:11, says, “ I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.”
This scripture doesn’t just hold true for life and career aspirations, but for EVERYTHING…and that includes finances.
Apart of the planning, not only includes praying, but it incorporates including the entire family in the process. Everyone in the household must be on board with the courses of action, otherwise the outcome won’t be as successful. This concept includes the children too. They need to understand the goal for the family as a whole and be included in ways that they can contribute to the overall cause. This means that parents have to be good examples for the children too. So, all in all, this holds everyone accountable. AND everyone can see and appreciate the end reward.
Plan Your Strategy
Now, once we’ve prayed and brought everyone on board, the next step is WRITING DOWN THE PLAN OR STRATEGY. So, I wrote down all my bills and transferred them to a spreadsheet. I put them in order lowest balance to highest balance.
Most of the bills were doable, but I had one that was gonna be the death of me. HH GREGG. It was an appliance and electronics store that had come to Augusta for a brief moment. I had taken out a line of credit to buy a washer/dryer and an entertainment package for the house we built. I would later buy some other items (computer, refrigerator, microwave, etc.) for my son to take to college.
Where I went wrong was, though I bought my initial items on the so-many-months same as cash plan, my second purchase conflicted because I hadn’t completely paid off the first purchase before I made the second one. So, part of my first balance lingered, which caused the interest to hit. An interest of 32%. Talk about what’s in the fine print?!?! This bill became one that never seemed to budge. It literally haunted me. I’d pay $200 each month and still owe $5000. It came to the point that I owed more on the bill than what I had originally borrowed.
Choose a Method
So, this brings me to the next step of CHOOSING A METHOD to achieve your goal. I chose to use the slow ball method to pay my debts. I added up all my minimum payments for each bill. That gave me my monthly payment expenses. I paid only the minimum payment on all the bills except the lowest balance and paid the remainder of the total on that one. Which basically paid it off. The next month I used the same concept but took the amount used on the first bill and shifted that entire amount to the second lowest bill…included that bills minimum payment and paid that bill. In two months that bill was paid in full. I then took the full amount of that bill’s payment plus the minimum payment of the next bill and paid that amount. In about 3 payments that bill was done.
When I got to the HH Gregg bill I had only been paying a little over the minimum amount due since beginning the process…I was now able to pay $500 each month toward that balance. So, in about 4 months that bill was finally PAID IN FULL. That was an expensive lesson learned. I won’t “get got” like that again.
Finally, it was time for me to power pay my car note so I could pay it off early. But wouldn’t you know it?! Just when I was about to get my whole life in order, my car took a major maintenance hit that would have cost me tens of thousands of dollars. I had to end up getting rid of it. But because my other bills were paid off, I was able to put a significant down payment on a new car…during a pandemic…without a regular job. God is good!
Pre-Plan for Known Expenses and Maintenance
After focusing on just the monthly bills, Sachia also suggests households consider PREPLANNING FOR HOUSEHOLD AND VEHICLE MAINTENANCE, to avoid mayhem like I experienced. So, oil changes, tires, filter replacement, HVAC maintenance and repair…These are expenses that will come up; so, Sachia advices that households be intentional about planning for them versus reacting to them as a surprise. Sachia says, make estimated projections for these things and put them in the budget. I wish I had had that conversation with Sachia before I had bought that car. Lord knows.
Always buy what you can afford
Speaking of cars, my other lesson learned was buy a car you can HOLISTICALLY afford. I had been driving an Audi Q7 for the past 4 years. Loved the car. I was good with the care payment…but…THE MAINTENANCE SUCKED!!! Before you get into the car of your wants or dreams, know all you need to know about it. Don’t focus on just what it looks like. What’s are the costs for oil changes and check-ups? Does it get good gas mileage? What type of gas does it require? And I get it…because I am a sporty, bells and whistles kinda chick. I like rims, spoilers, sunroofs, leather, AND woodgrain. STRAIGHT BOUJIE! But aside from all those things, over those 4 years I had that Audi, I spent A LOT of money on maintenance alone. Money that I wasn’t used to spending in my world of driving Nissans.
Every few months I was spending $800-$1500 on something. As I mentioned, I like to travel. I’d rather spend money on that versus the status of my car.
Sachia’s recommendation to preplan for maintenance expenses by putting money in the budget up front makes a lot of sense. But the world I had gotten into by driving my Audi was not the world I was accustomed to. Literally the service guy told me on that last visit, “Mrs. Green, your car has close to 140,000 miles on it. It’s lived it’s life.” EXCUSE ME, SIR!? Well apparently, I was living the wrong life anyway. LOL! Because my husband drives a Chevy Tahoe with almost 400K miles on it. And I keep telling him I’m gonna come home one day and find out he has won the JD Power Award for Best New Vehicle, because he keeps fixing that thing and adding upgrades to it like it’s a fresh off the showroom floor.
Lastly, Sachia’s other helpful suggestion was to END EACH MONTH AT ZERO. The benefit of ending the month with zero is it helps you accomplish financial goals quicker and effectively; and breaks you of the habit of frivolously spending your “extra money.” Sachia shares, there’s no such thing as “extra money.” All money should have an assignment and a purpose. So, put the money left in your account before your next paycheck into savings, investments, vacation or Christmas fund, or an emergency fund. Whatever areas you’ve determined to be of need to help you accomplish your financial goals.
Paid in Full
I was sitting in the post office parking lot this past December of 2020 putting a bill in the mail and sending some Christmas packages. Yes. I’m still old school. I know I can pay everything online, but there is a part of me that still likes writing a check, addressing the envelope and putting it in the mail. Something about going through the process helps me to remember what I have paid. But I found myself confused. I only had one envelope and it was just for the garbage disposal company. What happened to my other bills?
They were all paid off IN FULL. Thank you, Jesus!
That feeling was one I cannot describe. It literally brought tears to my eyes and put a little lump in my throat. I had managed to pay off all my bills in a year and a half.
Now, I do still have regular household expenses (groceries, utilities, streaming services, cell phones) and student loan debt. Again, I try to steward well. I buy what my family needs. Ordering grocery online helps me to spend less. The endcap items advertised can’t temp me. I have my list of needs to order; when they’re ready, I drive to pick them up.
Thankfully too, my student loan debt is not as much as most peoples because I only have debt from my doctoral studies. One of my military benefits was full loan repayment of my Bachelor’s. Additionally, the military covered my Master’s; and 40% of my Doctorate. For the time I served, I don’t regret a day. Now the question remains, will I get the gumption to complete my last remaining 12 hours to become Dr. Charleston-Green. I’m not too pressed, but I’m too close to the finish line to just walk off the track.
So that’s my story of how I was able to pay off my debt. And apart from God, I thank Sachia James for that conversation. She without knowing planted a seed that I would eventually need. It took root then but didn’t bloom until later…later when I would (not only because of my employment status, but also because of a pandemic) need to learn to STEWARD WELL. Thanks Sachia!
More information from Sachia James
Lastly, I am excited to share that Sachia has decided to step into her calling as a financial mentor; to take her gift and use it to help other families.
Sachia, along with her husband Kenny, has launched a new business and website called the James Family Journey and has a product described as the 2021 Envision Financial Guide. I had the distinct honor of reviewing the guide when it was still in its draft phase, and it was amazing then. Also, a few of the ladies from the Dawn of a New Day 365 Face Book Group were able to have a private session with Sachia, ask specific questions, and get advice while she was still somewhat beta testing. Her finished product…is remarkable, and promises to be truly beneficial to those who choose to follow it.
Be sure to check out Sachia’s blog, We Tried Dave Ramsey’s and Here’s What Happened: The Journey that led to the 2021 Envision Guide.
I am a witness, Letatia…the methods work. ~Dawn☀
Thank you for taking the time to read the thoughts from my heart. Don’t let your finances dim your light, Sunshine. Take those 5 rays of towards hope that Sachia has shared and continue to shine.
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