Not that long ago I was introduced to Dave Ramsey‘s Total Money Makeover. It changed my life. I’d never kept a budget. I had a few credit cards. My wife and I had two car loans. Then, of course, was the mortgage.
It didn’t happen overnight, but before long I’d paid off all but one credit card. I took on a second job. I identified waste in our monthly spending. I made a budget. Finally my wife joined me on the journey to financial freedom.
Eventually we paid off one car, and refinanced the other to a lower rate, and a shorter term, and were able to do so without increasing the monthly payment.
That’s when things took a change. My wife’s father began falling – often. We soon realized that he wasn’t safe in his own home, and his petite wife wouldn’t be able to help him when he fell. We talked about selling the house and having them move into a smaller house (all on a single level). That was considered and declined.
We talked about an assisted living apartment – a new facility had just opened up down the road. They had a very long waiting list, but finally they agreed to put their names down. When their turn arrived they declined the offer. After another fall we’d have the same discussion, and again put their names on the waiting list. When their turn came around, again they declined.
We finally realized that my father-in-law didn’t want to leave his home. Who can blame him. We asked if they wanted to build a house with us. They could have their own “apartment” aside from the rest of the house (and the chaos of children), but they’d be close enough that we could be there to help whenever they needed it.
They jumped on the idea.
We’d already been looking for rural property on our “Sunday Drives”, but hadn’t found what we were looking for. Finally we saw it. Five acres on a hill overlooking a reservoir. We took them on our next drive and they fell in love with the location. We signed papers with plans to build on the property the following year.
Just when we were settling on house plans, my in-laws backed out. I didn’t understand why at the time. As it turns out, his health was failing a lot faster than he let on. Though he never said it, I think he wanted to spend his last several months at home.
We took the money that we would have used to continue paying off our debt to sink a well on the property. I never realized how much a hole in the ground costs – let alone the pumps needed to get the water out! Yikes!
We also negotiated the price of the property down, basically in half.
Although we weren’t paying off debt as quickly as we’d hoped, we weren’t going into debt any further.
Last week my wife paid off and closed her last credit card. Today I closed my Discover Card!
I called the 800 number – and was hung up on.
I called the 800 number again, this time able to speak with a very energetic (and polite!) gentleman named Drew. He transferred me to a woman named Diane.
Diane was polite and professional, but it was obvious that it was her job to convince me NOT to close my account. She offered me more “reward points”. She offered me 0% balance transfers.
I said, “Hey, Diana, unless you will let me carry a credit balance – essentially use my Discover account as a savings account and pay me 14.99% interest on it – you know, the same interest that you charge me – then, no. There’s nothing you can say to have me keep the account open”.
That didn’t stop her from trying.
- “We can offer you a lower interest rate…” Nope, unless you can pay me the same 14.99% that you charge me, I don’t want it.
- “14.99% is actually a really good rate.” Zero percent is better.
- “We can offer you 0% interest…” My savings account pays me.
- “We pay you in rewards points.” Only if I use your card and go back into debt.
- “You can keep it open just in case of emergencies…” I have a cash emergency fund.
- “You can use it just like a debit card…” I use cash.
Then she turned to guilt.
- “If you close your account today you won’t be able to reopen it. You’ll have to reapply.” Fine with me.
- “You won’t be eligible for any more of our exclusive offers.” That’s okay.
Finally, finally my Discover account was closed. The weight of that debt lifted off my shoulders.
Had I paid only the “minimum amount” each month it would have then 29 years to pay off this debt. Twenty-nine years! Now I’m free from the debt, and free from the $264/month minimum payment!
One vehicle left to go, then we’ll be down to our lot loan and our mortgage.
How’s your debt snowball coming along?