Dorothy Harris

Final steps on the path to financial peace

Financial Peace class has ended and rethinking everything we knew about money management has been a very good investment. We completed the class, surviving an estimated 40 percent dropout rate. For those who didn't complete it, I understand, really I do. It sounded simple. You attend class once a week to watch a video then complete the homework and bring back your budget each week. No one pries into your financial information; you only share if you want to. The homework is where things get tough. Creating our spending plan, Dave Ramsey's take on a budget, took several nights. That's mostly because we were about a thousand bucks short after using all categories available. In order for us to cover everything, we needed another body with a paycheck. Unable to bear putting anyone else through this with us, we chopped and hacked, honing to basics. Dave Ramsey defines these as food, clothing, transportation and shelter. You'll notice it doesn't include lunch out, fancy coffee, recreational shopping or trips out of town. "This is an austerity budget," I mused. "It says you probably won't need to use all categories," my husband answered, rubbing his temples. "Oh, I don't know, I think I'd rather fill them," I quipped. My daughter chimed in, "I guess this means we can't go anywhere this weekend?" My husband looked up from his glasses, replying, "You can go outside." As she huffed off, I voiced concerns over how lean this required us to live. "We are tired of being in the hole every month, right?" he asked. "Oh, I don't know, it's comfortable here and they know us," I insisted. "Let's try to be positive," he reminded, tapping the paper with his pencil.
"Well, I am positive this is the pits," I whined. Thus, losing half the class along the way didn't really surprise me. The worst part for me was paying for gas with cash. I detest walking into a gas station, especially when traveling for work, to pay before I pump. Whether it's the lovely aroma of chicken permeating my pores afterwards, or the creepy feeling of being watched, I hate it. For the first time in my life, however, I can budget how much cash I need for gas according to the projected mileage. Are you seeing how intense this can be? The week focused on insurance review led to hours of pouring over policies to figure out where we should make adjustments. Completing them will take about six months so we can avoid penalties and meet open enrollment requirements. Overall, it's estimated it takes an average of two to three years to finish the first three steps of Financial Peace and another seven years to work through the final steps. In other words, this nine week class is the beginning of a 10-year process of debt free living to allow you to build wealth, become a generous giver and achieve financial peace. Paying cash for nearly all purchases, we came to appreciate what we did buy a whole lot more. For us, it was what we didn't spend that made all the difference. By the end, we paid out one large debt and have a solid plan to sunset another in about a year's time. As Dave Ramsey says, "You can wander into debt, but you must focus on getting out as though your life depends on it." Will we stick with it long term? Only time will tell, but the peace we have already gained has been well worth the effort required.