It did for me. I’ve always been one to figure things out for myself.
That’s probably why I became and engineer. After trying unsuccessfully to navigate my way through the wonderful world of personal finance, my wife suggested that we seek help.
Being the macho type I was reluctant to do so, we needed to get out of debt and my plan just wasn’t working (very hard to admit by the way).
We were over $100,000 in non-mortgage debt and needed to eliminate it. Here are some of the problems we were having:
- We tried budgeting for 4 months (Jan 2009 until April 2009). The budget allowed us to see where the money was coming in and were the money was going out. A great improvement for us. The problem was that every month some other expense would come up and only a small amount of our “Debt Money” would be applied toward the debt.
- Even though we haven’t used credit cards in over a year and half, we had a hard time moving away from our spending lifestyle (we are both spenders). The money in the checking account was too easy to use, and too hard to track. Having all the bills paid from the one account was making it a nightmare for me to track. I was using a budget spreadsheet that required me to enter all the transactions and reconcile them daily. It was taking WAY too much time to manage everything.
- It does require a huge paradigm shift to pay off debt. My wife found it difficult to get on board and buy into the whole debt reduction mentality. We were fighting over the smallest things. I was the budget nerd and she was the spending free spirit.
Our first budget: First Budget
As you can see I have a calendar to keep track of the due dates. There are many boxes to track the budgeted categories.
There is also a couple summary boxes to track totals across all the items. The form worked well in capturing all the items, dates, and money spent. One problem was it took way to long to track while the second problem was that we kept go over the budgeted limits.
We didn’t have the accountability loop figured out yet. Look at the the “Summary Box” picture and you can see that the actual total is only slightly greater than the budget total. That’s fine and dandy, no big deal right? Wrong, the result column calculated the amount of spend in each budgeted category.
The red numbers show how much over the actual budget we were ($269) at that moment in time. If you were just able to follow that, you are the Budget Nerd in the family. Following the sheet to figure out what was happening became too complicated. Since I couldn’t explain it to my wife I figured it was just to difficult. We ended up scraping it.
Coach, Coach I need help
After trying to work through our problems ourselves, my wife recognized that we needed help. We logged onto DaveRamsey.com and began our search for a Financial Coach. I looked in the Endorsed Local Provider (ELP) section of the site, entered our info, and found Chad Pennycuff. I called Chad and left a message, within 10 minutes he called back and setup an interview session with us.
The interview lasted over two hours. Chad asked us some tough questions, and some where very difficult to answer. This was the first “everything on the table” talk we’d ever had with anyone.
One of the most difficult steps to take while getting out of debt is the first one – admitting to someone else that you have a problem. After answering all the tough questions, my wife and I felt like there was hope. Hope was something we just didn’t seem to have considering our LARGE amount of debt.
One of the best parts about dealing with a Financial Coach is that usually they have been in the same spot before. The coaches I’ve spoken to have all been in debt before. Finally, someone who could relate to us and provide examples of their process and sacrifices required to “Shed the Debt.”
We left the first meeting with an example budget that we could tweak and tune to our stiuation. We took that example and began to plug our numbers into it. Now I know everyone out there using a budget already knows this but I sure didn’t. The Coach told us we could only use my first job’s take home salary to figure the budget out. Oh crap, I was using my first job and second job combined. Know wonder I wasn’t getting anywhere. Boy did I feel STUPID. That means by changing this part of the equation, all my pizza delivery money could be used to pay off the debt.
We had our next appointment a week later. The new budget was in place but we still didn’t have a good system to handle the money. Again our Coach came to the rescue with a plan, man this guy was good. He said that we needed to break out of the one checking account plan, and move into a more structured system. Using envelopes for some categories, and online banking with multiple accounts for the rest. Structure, I like structure. Remember that I’m the nerd and engineer of the family. With his help we chose the categories for the envelopes and online accounts.
Now I need to stop and remind everyone that my wife was on the fence with the whole getting out of debt process. After Chad showed us the plan, she was driving the bus and pulling me along for the ride. Chad also was able to talk with my wife like I never could. He figured out what she needed from the process and was able to give her a vision of what a debt free life looked like. She was included in all the planning and made decisions on how much money went into each bucket. Again, something I didn’t do during the first budget attempt. I’m so proud of her for being able to express her feelings and get her questions answered. I sure didn’t know how to answer them. Thanks Chad.
Our third meeting with our Coach was to record a video testimonial for him. We had used his help to eliminate over $13,000 in 4 months. We were so pleased with the service he provided us that we wanted to help him in any way we could. We can’t sing the praises of Financial Coaches enough. Our next step is to finish paying off our debt, October 2011 is our “debt free” date. It will be a long ride. Thanks to Chad Pennycuff at Pennycoach, we’ll get to that wonderful place called “DEBT FREEDOM” …yeah baby…