Life on the island is not as great as you might think. Deciding to move off the island was the first step, but how do you make it happen? Because as sure as rain on your wedding day is not ironic, fear will chase after you and remind you again and again about how you’ll never make it off the island. Fear says it’s a dark and scary place out there, don’t go! Fear says you’ll never make if off the island anyway, so don’t bother! So how did we get away? How did we escape the island? Here’s our story.
You are not alone.
Understanding that we didn’t have to walk this journey alone was the first step. Logically, I knew we couldn’t possibly be the only people who were struggling with money issues. Surely there were others experiencing the same problems we were. And if others were facing the same problem, there were probably others that have overcome it. Our story off the island starts by seeking help from God’s people. For us, that was Susan Whited, who had taught a financial course at church several times. We couldn’t do the classes at church, so she sat down with us in her kitchen to begin the journey. We heard things we’d always known, things you’ve probably always known as well. Things like:
- Give back to God.
- Save for a rainy day.
- Don’t buy things you can’t afford.
- Live within your means.
Our problem, however, was not the lack of knowledge, but behavior. We knew all this stuff, we just didn’t know how to practice it. Something had to change in our behaviors in order to create real change in our life. Our soon-to-be-born daughter provided the motivation, now we just needed the discipline and tools.
Live like no one else.
Our first step was to start tracking every dollar we spent. Every time we spent money, we wrote it down. Where did we spend it? What did we buy? This simple act reduced our spending because we could immediately see how much money we were spending on DVDs or eating out. We were doing OK, but we were just scratching the surface.
At the Catalyst Conference in 2008, I heard Dave Ramsey speak on leadership. He then spoke very briefly about money. I wandered over to his booth and found a flier about Financial Peace University. Not long after that conference, we decided to host our first FPU class at church. And it was FPU that really kicked the process into overdrive for us.
We really started gaining traction when we started doing the monthly budget. Dave says you have to decide “on paper, on purpose” at the beginning of every month how you are going to spend your money. You have to tell your dollars what to do, or else they wander off. The budget allowed us to finish the race to debt-free with gazelle intensity. The budget drove us to finish off our emergency fund. The budget drove us to save for car repairs, a new car, a paid-for-in-cash vacation, a new couch and so much more.
And sometimes life intrudes on our plan and the budget slips for a couple days or even a week. Those days—before the budget is finally done—are some of the worst of the month when that happens. It’s like a terrible flashback to life on the island, and all of the stress and anxiety that comes with it.
It’s moving time.
If you’re still living on that island, it’s time to get moving. Pray that God would lead you out. Ask Him to send others into your life to walk with you. Invite Him to shake up your life and transform you. It’s terrifying. I know—I used to live there. But God has a way out. (It might even be Financial Peace University… Click here to find a class in your area.)