Dave Ramsey, a syndicated financial columnist and radio host, espouses a plan to get out of debt and accumulate wealth that he calls “The Seven Baby Steps.” They include paying off all of your debt using the “debt snowball,” starting by paying off your smallest line of credit and working your way up to pay off larger and larger debts. Ramsey says, “You need some quick wins in order to stay pumped up about getting out of debt! Paying off debt is not always about math. It’s about motivation. When you start knocking off the easier debts, you will see results and you will stay motivated to dump your debt.”
I can’t tell you how true that is. If I’ve accomplished one thing since getting divorced, it’s getting my money straight. I’ve spent the last two years paying off my debt little by little and now I’m virtually debt-free.
I still have student loan debt and a car payment, plus one credit card that I’m paying off on a very low-interest payment plan that I arranged with the company. Other than that, I’ve paid off all my retail cards and paid my mother back the money I borrowed from her after my divorce (something Sasha Miller of Daily Worth described as single-mom start-up debt). It feels GREAT. And because I’ve been budgeting for two years to pay off my debt, I now feel like I know how to budget for future spending to avoid winding up back in debt, something I plan to avoid.
My parents never taught me much about money. My Dad always spent money freely, and was never shy about showing his family a good time. We splurged on simple pleasures like dinners and trips to the mall; we only really went on one family vacation, but we didn’t need to go to Florida since we had a pool in our backyard. My Dad built that pool and the home my mother still lives in with his bare hands. What he didn’t build was a financial legacy for my mother to be able to take care of that home now that he’s gone. Now that I’m a single mother, my financial health is of great concern to me, and I look forward to building a sound financial future, one that teaches my daughter how important it is for her to take her own economic power seriously. One of the reasons my ex-husband was able to embezzle funds without me knowing is because I wasn’t invested enough in our economic life. I looked to him as the older, wiser partner and figured he’d make sure everything would work out. I’m an artist – until now, I never really took money seriously. Getting divorced and having to finally be completely responsible for myself – and someone else – has taught me to respect the power of wealth, and driven me to want to earn it.