Knowing he needed to make a change, Brandow began to educate himself on strategies to get out of debt. He found several personal finance blogs, the debt snowball technique, and the Dave Ramsey community. With his newfound knowledge, Brandow was able to build a plan for his money — his family’s first budget. For their budget, Brandow simply sat down with his computer and an Excel spreadsheet and tallied up all of his family’s income and expenses. The couple was then able to decide where they needed to cut back.
The couple reviewed and decided on a plan for their money as a team for the first time. They both agreed that it would be difficult to change their bad behaviors, but that they needed to make the change for themselves and their three children. They also decided that they needed to continue to communicate about their money often, setting up periodic check-ins.
Brian and Lynn also spoke to their three children about their bad financial behaviors. They wanted the kids to understand why spending changes would be taking place and why they might hear the word “no” more often when asking for things.
The first few months of Brian and Lynn’s plan were tough. It took time for new habits to form and the whole family to adjust. “We began by paying our smallest debt first — we followed the snowball method (paying off the smallest debt first and then moving up the line of debt). Our total monthly payment for our debt was $2,000 for nearly the entire duration of our debt repayment period,” explained Brian. Over time they became experts at finding novel ways to save money and stretch out their dollars by cutting out trips to the salon, cutting out subscriptions they had, and limiting their travel, but they hit a few bumps in the road too.
Lynn was in a car accident and was out of work for over a year. Brian explains, “Our primary goal was to make sure Lynn was healthy. The fact that we now had a plan for our money, [meant] an unexpected life event like this was easier to manage.” Lynn recovered and returned to work.
Life after debt
Having a clear “why” really helped Brian and family stay motivated during the long payoff. Saving money wasn’t easy, but within the first few months of their repayment, with only a few thousand dollars knocked off of the debt, they began to feel the effects of their progress: less stress in their lives and no bad feelings toward money.
The simple fact that they had built a money plan as a team to overcome their debt helped to strengthen their relationship and marriage. Involving their three children in money discussion brought the family closer together than they had ever been.
“It’s a whole new life and relationship together after debt!” Brian says now.