- DH = Dear husband
- DD3 = Dear third daughter
Our debt-payoff progress to date
For a quick re-cap, my husband and I began our journey out of debt just about 5 years ago – in June of 2012. After years of maxing out, followed by years of job uncertainty and financial distress, we were in a good place income-wise – and we didn’t want to blow it again. Enter Dave Ramsey and his book The Total Money Makeover. The rest is history:
- A grand total of $257,400 in debt in June of 2012
- $21,000 in consumer debt – GONE by the end of 2012.
- $80,800 in business debt – GONE by the middle of 2015.
- $155,400 mortgage – down to $77,200 as of this month.
- Emergency fund (to see us through 3-6 months) – SAVED
Our financial reality has radically changed. We’re in much, much better shape than we were five years ago.
What is the “Why?”
The only way to keep up a long-term effort is to have a compelling reason for it. At first, it was compelling enough for us to imagine an absence of debt stress. Just the thought of removing that weight from our lives was beautiful! A negative “Why?” is not enough though. Sure we didn’t want debt stress, but what did we want?
“Freedom” has always been my answer. The freedom to work or not work. The freedom to travel, to give generously, to develop talents and interests, to support great causes and movements … To tap into abundant living. It takes more than financial health to reach that level of freedom, but I’m convinced that financial health is an essential building block for it.
Self-published children’s books
One of the things I’d like to pursue more is writing. I’ve always written – from the time I received my first diary at age 10. When our first two daughters were young, I wrote and self-published a children’s book for each of them. One was published in 1998. The second was published in 2002 – at which time our youngest (DD3) was 3 years-old. “In another couple of years, I’ll write one for her too,” I thought.
But in 2003, DH’s six years of under/unemployment began, and after years of working part-time, I was launched into full-time work. No time to write. No energy to write. And not enough money for the costs of self-publication.
Last year, DD3 – aged 17 – asked me, “Are you going to write a book for me before I die?” Ugh! I HAD to make it happen. I decided not to teach summer school last summer, as I had been doing the 4 summers since our journey out of debt had begun. I didn’t know how I would manage with the costs, but I had an idea for a theme, and it was percolating …
Trump’s “wall” talk
In the spring of 2016, the American election dominated the news, and Trump’s “wall” talk was all over the place. I found myself latching onto the concept of walls as the foundation for my story. I shared my idea with DD3, and she liked it.
Walls are complicated. There are times to build walls, and there are times to bring walls down. It takes a finely tuned level of discernment to navigate the walls we encounter. I wanted to write a story about one child’s development of this discernment. I’d use a school yard bully, karate lessons, a mentor, and a friend. I’d call it Ella Builds A Wall.
What about the money?
But how could I justify the expense of self-publication? How could I convince DH that now was the time to spend thousands for a children’s book?
Last summer, we approached a very significant milestone in our debt-reduction. The consumer and business debts were gone. We had adopted a steady pace of savings and ramped-up mortgage payments. And we were nearing the $100,000 mark.
It was DH who suggested it: “Why don’t we give ourselves something awesome for getting out of 6-figures of debt? Is there something you really, really want?” I knew what he wanted. DH wanted the dream guitar he’d recently discovered (a Taylor 810 CE). It took a while for it to dawn upon me that this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for. This was my ticket to the money I needed to self-publish!
August to May is enough time for a baby to be born. And it’s been enough time for my story idea to become a children’s book. The illustrator for Ella Builds A Wall is a young woman who graduated 3 years ago from the high school where I teach. I love the work she has done.
The printed pages will be in my hands within the next week or two. I don’t know if I’ll manage to sell the thousand copies I’ve ordered, but I do know that I feel great about this book. Its message is important to me. The fulfilled promise to my daughter that it represents is even more important. And the fact that it was made possible because of our efforts towards healthier personal finances – well, it speaks volumes about that freedom, that “Why?”, that tapping into abundant living that debt-freedom promises.
If you have a minute and 20 seconds, please check out this book trailer for Ella Builds A Wall.
Have you had a taste of the “why?” behind your efforts towards debt-freedom/financial freedom? Your comments are welcome.