Why we stopped our debt snowball

debt snowballThe debt snowball is a powerful way to pay off your debts fast! It’s motivating to pay off your smallest debt and then roll that payment into paying off your next smallest debt. As debt after debt gets paid off, the debt snowball gets larger and picks up more speed to pay off your big debts.

Click here to use our debt snowball calculator

Over the last 30 months, we’ve been able to pay off over $40,000 of debts, including medical debts, credit cards, a car loan, and a student loan! We only have about $12,000 left until we are finally debt free! (applause)

But we’ve stopped our debt snowball. We’re no longer paying off our debts fast. And we stopped on purpose.

Why? Is it because we love our debt and want to keep it around and keep feeding it?

No. We stopped our debt snowball for two reasons:

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Don’t Give Up

“Let us not become weary in doing good,
for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

– Galatians 6:9

don't give up

Don’t give up!

Budgeting is hard at first. It takes a while to get it right.
Getting out of debt can be a boring, grinding slog!
Putting money away today for retirement doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.
Tithing can be scary when you don’t have any extra margin.
Writing and publishing your book are daunting tasks!

Don’t give up on doing the right things. You will finally have a lot to show for your efforts if you just keep going!

Sometimes you just need someone to be there to cheer you on and motivate you to keep moving forward, even when the going gets tough. Do you have a coach or mentor to keep you on track?

Who to pay when you can’t pay everyone

When we first made a commitment to NEVER use debt again and started putting together a real budget, we realized we were coming up $300 short of being able to make all of our payments each month!

who to payThis isn’t as rare as it should be. Most Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and have no emergency fund or savings they can go to if something goes sideways.

So when you’re short of funds, which bills do you pay and which ones do you let slide? Who to pay first?

Believe it or not, most people prioritize the wrong payments. And that can really get them into trouble.

I’ve counseled several pastors who can’t pay their rent, but they’re all up to date on their MasterCard payment… You’ll notice that your credit card payment is all they way down at the bottom of this list.

Here’s who to pay first and why.

1. Tithe
Biblically, tithing is not just about funding the church. We return 10% to God as a radical core understanding that God owns everything and we are His managers. This is about prioritizing God and trusting our lives completely to Him. This is also about building a habit of giving and generosity into our characters. For many pastors, tithing is actually a condition of employment. If you don’t tithe, you may get fired. I know that takes the joy out of giving. But seriously, why are we pastors if we can’t get this one right?

2. Food
This is a “necessity.” You need food to live. Buy food.

3. Housing and Utilities
This is a “necessity.” You need to make sure you and your family have a place to live–with heat, electricity, and water. If it doesn’t fit your budget, you might need to live in a smaller place, but you MUST pay your mortgage or rent.

4. Transportation
You probably need transportation to do your job. You may not need the SPECIFIC car you have… But you do need transportation to get where you need to go. If this means you get rid of your car and use Uber or public transportation, fine. But some form of transportation is a “necessity.”

5. Taxes
Taxes and government obligations, like child support, come before your other “debts.” The IRS is notoriously nasty if they don’t get their money, so be sure to pay them on time every time. If you don’t pay them, the penalties and fees are high and they’ll garnish your wages (i.e. you’ll pay them anyway, just more).

6. Secured Debt
Secured debt is anything you bought on payments using collateral. Your home improvement loan may have placed a lien on your house. That means if you don’t pay your debt, they can come and take your house. If you buy a new sofa or dining room set on credit, they can come take away your furniture if you don’t pay. Car loans are also secured debt. If you don’t pay your car loan, they can come take your car away. Pay secured debt BEFORE you pay unsecured debt.

7. Unsecured Debt 
Unsecured debt is the LAST thing you should pay. I know it feels like it’s the first thing you should pay, but that’s because you’ve been using your unsecured debt (credit cards) in place of an emergency fund. So you’re afraid if you don’t pay your debt, they won’t let you use your credit card anymore. Yes. That may be true. But unsecured debt, like credit card debt and medical debt are the safest debts to let slide.

If you find that you can’t pay all of your debts, don’t hide in shame from the debt collectors. Be proactive. Call your creditors before they call you. Tell them you won’t be making a payment this month and why. Tell them what you can afford to pay, if anything.

We were able to work with a credit card company to reduce our monthly payment from $980 down to $422 per month. That gave us just enough wiggle room in our budget to start getting some traction. They shut down the card and we couldn’t use it anymore. But the new arrangement brought the interest down from 24.24% to a measly 2% for repayment.

Let me know if there’s any way Clergy Financial Coaching can walk alongside you and support you in your pursuit of financial wholeness. It’s our specialty. Schedule a FREE 30-minute strategy session and I’ll be more than happy to help you get on the right path with your finances!

A Little Inflation

inflation purchasing powerLast week news came out that the United States experienced 1.4% inflation over the last 12 months. Economists say that’s an indicator that the economy is growing and healthy. In fact, the Federal Reserve tries to create an economy with roughly 2% inflation per year.

Practically, this means is that our dollar buys less today than it did a year ago.

1.4% inflation means that if something cost you a dollar last year, it will cost you roughly $1.01 today. Prices are going up and your purchasing power is going down.

1.4% inflation is not much. And there’s a tendency to look at a number like that and know that’s just the way things are. But year after year, inflationary pressures are real and significant!

My question is this: Did you get at least a 1.4% raise last year? If you didn’t get some kind of cost of living adjustment or raise, you’re actually losing ground. You’re actually getting paid less this year in purchasing power than you were paid last year. A stagnated salary is not neutral. It’s negative.

Churches have a tendency NOT to revisit salaries. In fact, most pastors are getting about the same pay they were getting 5-10 years ago.

1.4% is a tiny pay raise. In fact, with an average $50,000 salary, you’d be earning just $700 more for the whole year. That’s less than $60 extra per month in your paycheck. But you probably can’t afford to be going backwards with your purchasing power year after year after year. It’s one of many reasons pastors feel the long-term squeeze in their pocketbooks.

If it’s been a while since you’ve received a pay raise, you’re going to have to become proactive. You’re going to have to ask for one. There are many things that make salary negotiation uncomfortable for pastors. But it’s easier if you have a standing committee that meets regularly to discuss your salary.

If you need a raise, but don’t know how to start negotiating, sign up for a FREE 30-minute one-on-one strategy session to figure out your next steps

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