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Conquering Debt (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly
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August 4, 2022 6:00 am

Conquering Debt (Part 1 of 2)

Focus on the Family / Jim Daly

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August 4, 2022 6:00 am

Brian and Cherie Lowe discuss their lackadaisical attitude toward finances during their first nine years of marriage and the moment they realized with horror that they were in over $127,000 in debt. They share the sacrifices they made, the determination they developed, and the challenges they faced when paying off their debt. (Part 1 of 2)

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Here's Brian Lowe describing what being dead felt like it was scary. There is no doubt about it was like an albatross around you and your really prevented the feeling of freedom.

There were things that we were not going to be able to do in the future if we And that and really I couldn't proceed without even going deeper and you'll be hearing more from Brian and his wife Sherry as they talk about how they paid off more than $127,000 in consumer, that's our program today for Focus on the Family with focus, Pres. and other Jim Daly. Thanks for joining us I'm John Fuller, John, that is a big number hundred $27,000 of unsecured debt, and that's not even counting their car.

Even their home for the lows it was credit cards and other things like that.

That's amazing and probably stifling for most people, you might be in that place right now and you're thinking, what do we do.

We have hope for you today here at Focus on the Family. Our goal is to help you thrive in your family and one of the top things people contact Focus on the Family for is their finances. According to Ramsey solutions, the average American family with credit card debt owes over $14,000 but in addition to that student loan debts average another $38,000 and for those households with the car loan. That's another $31,000 and that doesn't include any medical better home mortgage payments or rent, so I hope our conversation here will inspire you to take control of your finances no matter what your situation is. And it's true that with hard work and determination, and I would say a plan you can begin making better financial choices. As you learn from our guest today.

Yeah, Brian and Sherry Lowe have two daughters and a Sherry is the host of very popular blog called Queen of free and she's written a book called slaying the debt Dragon how one family conquered their money monster and found and inspired happily ever after we got copies of that here. Stop by the website or give us a call. They recorded with us here in the studio a few years ago and there was a terrific response to the programs were coming back to it to help you out with your finances here now is how you began the conversation on today's episode of Focus on the Family Brian and Sherry, welcome to Focus on the Family you so much for having thank you very much. Let's get started take us back before that day and describe the early days of your marriage and what were your attitudes toward finances going into marriage. It sounds like, like most of us there wasn't much attitude about your finances, you know, I think we just never really paid attention and we took everybody else's advice. So if someone said you need to have a car payment Re: that's the way life and who told you, you need to have a carpet many many have a car idea that you would have a car payment attached to it with just part of anything or anybody said you can save up and pay cash for a car just never really donned on me at least, and have a habit you did you I was right there along with her together and that is that I went to school and then I went on the grad school and there were some of the smartest people that I still know in the room and loan documents were being passed around this huge U-shaped conference room and everybody else was signing it. So I went ahead and did to as a student loan student loan and so many kids young people are coming out of college with deep student loans and that's one of the big problems is that it is so you woke up one day and how much debt did you have before you realize maybe this isn't the right way to live. We had over $127,000 in consumer debt so that that's not attached to a major asset, and we kind of went over it and was this moment where I had been trying to cast the vision was Sherry that we needed to take steps to get out of that.

But that was such an ambiguous term and so we put it all on a legal pad and remember Sherry and I standing together and going through each total together and just the overwhelming feeling that this seems insurmountable. Help us in the beginning when you're married both of your coming into marriage without you. Kind of a budget education. I guess I would say it that way. How many years or months did it take before one you are both of you, went wow what we up to visit a year later for years in your marriage. We had been married nine years 911 and just kind of functioning on that day today and I was handling paying the balance, making sure that we had groceries in their refrigerator and kind of the day-to-day short-term operations and Brian had sat down and really began to crunch the numbers and realize how much we had in total silence making as minimum payments. Thinking while we are so stretched right now. We can barely make it when he first came to me and said I really think we need to pay off all our DAC that's impossible like we have no extra money to spare when you know you were saying as if it's unique you guys are at that point, your living pretty much like most people in the US lives and that's from paycheck to paycheck and without a lot of savings, it's people aren't surprised.

Hearing this nine years in your marriage begin to think maybe the debt we've accumulated is been too much. So what did you do how did you did you try to like lay the pillow wasn't a Dave Ramsey book or something you were trying to get Sherry to read but it was to yell and started back actually are.

Our journey started in 2008. The two years prior to that on on a date night. Believe it or not.

We had gone to a bookstore were both bibliophiles were even met in the library. Yeah, we even had to have ran into each other at a library as part of our story so we both love dogs and I sat and read Dave Ramsey's book at the library and I put it back on the shelf, but I've since bought other copies but but when I read it I thought you this is something that I want to do, but I learned a very valuable marriage lesson in that moment is that you can have a great steak dinner with all the fixings, but if you presented on a trash can lid. Nobody wants that you and that's what I did with the journey is basically said here's what we are going to do that is not how you present something and you should present something with love and II would challenge and admonish listeners out there that any time that you're trying to take a big step or make a big change needs to be presented with love. I didn't present it very well.

I didn't cast the vision well enough.

Did you know that at the time or how long did it take you to re-presented to Sherry in a way that she thought it was kind hearted.

I think what happened is the I change myself because that's the one thing that that we do have some modicum of control over is is how we act and I'd stopped using the credit card I had taken more steps personally to change my own actions and my own relationship with and then I started basically sending destination postcards. No dreaming and saying, what would it look like if we were out of that. How could we be more generous if we routed that where could we go, what would our kids future like what can our future look like together and begin dreaming together again as a couple was very important first step, as opposed to just dictating Sherry, let me ask you this. You talked about the debt being boring that I thought that was really funny. What is boring debt versus exciting that I think I was interviewed by magazine on time again they wanted this sensational story on some crazy vacation where I had boots in every color mapping fund to show for it.

There were no photos from a highflying skydiving experience.

There were no clothes in the closet that were namebrand, literally nickeled and dined our way into that much that we obviously had loans that were car related in school related but we also had no plan for our money. So if one of the kids got sick and we didn't have cash in the bank will we were going to pay with plastic or you we ran out a grocery budget money will we needed food, so we had to pay something now and so it was all very day-to-day sort of dad and you know you talked a little bit about this, but what is that feel like to carry that much load you talked about thinking about the future so wonderfully.

There, but have how does it feel in the moment when you're not thinking about the future actually thinking about the burden and oh my goodness, what is happened and where we go, what emotions did you have.

It was scary. There is no doubt about it was like an albatross around your neck and your really prevented the feeling of freedom. There were things that we were not going to be able to do in the future if we And that and really I couldn't for see it without even going deeper and that once the interest rates took over could've went in a very bad direction and being forced to work just the pay off your bills as opposed to achieve those things that you want to do and live kind of a fun life.

In all honesty and and free from the control of this Dragon is a spiritual component. In this I mean, this sounds like an awareness of the good young couple who comes to their senses. What is God speaking to your heart and all of this you know God deftly spoke to us prior to him stepping into the story and kinda leading us out of that deftly felt alone and it felt very suffocating. In a lot of ways and I would look around on a Sunday morning and I would see everybody else in the appeal and I would think everybody else has their act together, they must love Jesus more than I do. I should've known better. I should have done that I grew up in the church I will have a lot of guilt and shame a lot of guilt and shame and what I found.

That was when I began to share our story on my blog clean and free that I would tell people you now hate this is where were at and what were trying to dear than very best thing that came out of that was that it was fraying and we pulled that darkness out into the light and it began to lose its power over us. Did you talk with your parents about this. Were they aware did you hold back in the beginning I believe we just started to get going, but we had to have conversations with family members about what we were doing and what we were trying to do because there's a chapter in the book about relationships, especially familiar relationships and giftgiving at Christmas time were birthdays or things like that.

Those things had to change because we've always had a generous heart. We just didn't have the money to be as generous as as we were being with a supportive, very supportive, and that was something was more of a feeling of relief when you mentioned to someone we need to back off.

What what it is that were doing and here's why.

And here are goals what we were. We were met with gratitude. In all honesty, because that meant that well they could back off to end and was more about spending time with each other as opposed to spending money on one another. Cheryl miss you this question. You talked about that sense of guilt and shame and feeling like sitting in church you're the only one carrying this kind of burden load, but in reality, many more people are right, they are any of the more I share my story.

The more people come to me and say thank goodness I'm not alone and I think that's the number one thing that been grateful for that.

God has allowed our story to be a source of hope for other people to you that there is a way out that God does care about your finances and you don't have to live trapped like and let's talk about that because it's important that we painted a picture of caring that the weight of that kind of living, undisciplined, that meant. You know, many people are and that's just reality. How did you wake up to that and say okay we got a change.

We talked about how you served it up in a loving way. What did you do today want to say this is going to be different together together we began communicating in one of the things that I always trust the folks is that the death of communication is the birth of resentment and we had a begin communicating about money, which meant that we were communicating which made our marriage stronger and we had this common flow. This enemy one of the things that we did very early on was to personalize it or personify it. We named it the Dragon Sherry have been blogging for a long time and she's the queen of free and we sort of live in this fairytale and so the Dragon was a natural, logical outgrowth of that fairies very creative and and so we were fighting against the common enemy we were fighting for something instead of against something instead of with each other and Internet context you you would talk about it as the Dragon glace that you know and I think their power and names and we see that throughout Scripture that God will give someone a new name or we will learn the meaning of someone's name or even the meaning the different names of God and if I said to you, you note that wants to destroy your marriage that wants to tell you whether or not you can send your kids to college that wants to tell you when you can retire or if you can or can't be generous, he would say that's probably not a very good thing. But if you went back through and I replace the word that with Fred Johnson and I said Fred Johnson wants to destroy your marriage, and Fred Johnson wants to tell you whether or not you can send your kids to college or retire or be generous when you feel called to get you would think. I do not like Fred Johnson simple act of personifying the debt gave us enough motivation and just kind of a little bit of the fire in my belly to take off after it together, and like Brian said it prevented us from fighting with one another because we had a common enemy that we were called to vanquish and eliminate. I think it's a brilliant idea to do that so that you're not on each other's case and we you talked a moment ago Brian about how to enhance your communication nicely yet don't buy that honey, don't spend money on that. That's that enhance communication, I guess, but that's not where you're talking about, not the same thing. No thing is as though if you can spend more than $50, you gotta call me or I got a call you where actually a little bit more tight while you're paying off that it was actually $10 if it wasn't budgeted already rightly not defined at the grocery store thinking about buying, you know, lettuce or whatever I wasn't calling him on the phone things okay if I buy this if it was $10 or more. We spoke to each other and that meant we talk to each other frequently, and it's interesting because I can't even remember a time where Brian said no you can't buy that he would usually say please buy new tennis shoes yours have holes in them.

You never know it was not about controlling each other in that moment it was about just staying aware as to where the money was flowing on a regular basis so awkward at first. If you've never talked about money in your marriage before it feels clumsy and out of sort. There is a distinction that I think it's important to identify the difference between control and accountability.

That's what you're saying yeah how ability is a good thing. Well I get so many questions from people who say how can I get my spouse on the same page financially and my responses. Always you can't only God can do that and you know if we are seeking to control each other's behavior.

It's not going to end well and like Brian said he did so many things that spoke volumes to me that were not words, things like leaving the credit card in the desk drawer or he chose while we were paying off debt to go to one half years without eating at a restaurant that was his choice even inflicted on the rest of the family, thankfully, but it was this great shining example as if he was that intentional I could do something else and it pulled me into the adventure and captured my heart, listening to Focus on the Family today were talking with Brian and Sherry low and that their books laying the debt Dragon and this is a great conversation and if you're in that situation, we don't know what to do in your feeling that guilt and you are at a loss as to how to get started. Call us today at Focus on the Family and the talk to one of our counselors talk to one of our folks about how you can get started and will have more details about that. Let me ask you this question so many people do live paycheck to paycheck.

You did something that was really counterintuitive. As I read in the book where sure you actually quit your job in the midst of wanting to pay down the debt and you know a lot of couples that are both working hard. There paying for daycare they're paying for clothing. The girl thanks but what what made you come to the conclusion that you Can actually reduce your income and still pay your way out of that sale counterintuitive right that you would quit a job and be able to pay off debt that I truly began to see my calling within the home to be the CEO word that co-CEO basically the managing operator to make sure that we were spending as little as possible and that man being more intentional with everything from reading the fine print on our bills to see if we could reduce what we were spending there but also your planning meals while in making sure that we weren't ending up in the drive through and everything from household cleaners to you know that things that our children were doing was on the table and I was looking for ways that I can actively reduce what we were spending it so I treated it like a job and got up every morning like it was my job to make sure that we saved as much as possible.

That's a great attitude really is okay, the dirty little word budget that most couples flareup over because they're not quite ready for that discussion talk about the need for how committed do you have to be to that budget. You have to be committed to communicate with one another about how you're going to spend in and we played around with, even calling it something different we call forecasting at home. It doesn't change what it is in anything in life you have to trade one freedom for another and we have all kinds of freedoms is as citizens of the United States where we can go out and buy whatever it is that we want to buy but that prevents you sometimes from doing the things that you really want to do so. The budget is a way to just predetermine what were going to say no to what were going to say yes to its money and and money out and it is a freeing freeing tool so that we can have kind of a hedge or a fence around us so that we don't get out of control and off track for our goals.

Sure, you in fact you had a story in the book, slowing the debt Dragon about placemats and that it was part of your eureka moment. What was to sell it so funny because before we started paying off debt.

I don't think I would ever had said. I struggle with contentment. I struggle with greed. I don't think any of us usually identify that in ourselves very easily and yet is the journey were on, I realized that that was a battle in my soul and I needed to be more intentional and a bargain east.

I love the clearance is now I was actually shopping Christmas clearance, which is one of the best things of the year in January and things were 90% off and I looked down and I found it. These placemats that were $0.19 and their rad day match my kitchen and are easy to clean so that the girls won't mess them up and then I began to really kind of ink about the placemats already had a term which a friend had made for me and they were adorable placemats and I didn't mean new placemats and then it dawned on me that we had paid off $127,482.30 $0.19 at a time because we had learned to say no to $0.19 and if we could say no to $0.19. We could say no to a dollar 90 we could say to now to hundred and $90. We could say no to $1900 because learning to say no is really the most effective way to pay off its that's so important here because I think a lot of people would say that though that's ridiculous by the placement lady but it's true. You're learning to say no to things you're depriving yourself in the right way and you're not trying to fulfill that whatever that is in your heart you know meet that need. I would say it's a void that only Jesus could fail, one via email. Number two really great placemats and I think I don't need this. It's just gonna mean more staff, and the way at home and to be more stuff in the way of our budget. Let's get practical with groceries and food.

This is one for Jean and I we have two teenage boys so I mean I'm always look at the going can we reduce that by a few thousand a month but is it just like the grocery budget seems to just go crazy sometimes. How do you approach grocery and food because that's obviously something we all need. Yes, I can be at beast Friday and especially if you have dogs teenage boys are babies called that one of the things that we did, especially in our marriage was that Brian would actually come grocery shopping with me sometimes. Why was that a benefit.

This is huge. Why do you think it's easy to try to set the grocery budget but if you've never shopped for groceries. You shouldn't be setting the grocery budget that was the dwelling that the disconnect is I don't know how much things cost and if you don't know how much things cost. You shouldn't dictate how much you were supposed to spend and so it was clear when we when we went shopping that I was moderately out of touch with how much we spent on certain items and so things that we wanted were things that I assumed what that would cause it's hard to have a sum total of you don't know what this individual call star and it's also helpful because just spent time together and we spent time together with a shared vision and shared goals. It seems silly, but if you're at the grocery store, then that's another time set apart where you can spend time together as a couple that in your sling your Dragon together together but what would be some cost-effective ways cost-cutting measures in the grocery store because it seems that you know that whole industry moves to convenience with the cost to get back Gladys yet.

You know things are done for you premade goodies pizzas in the box. All that good stuff that I don't have to work too hard is it that simple that you got a problem or effort in your cooking a little more effort into it. I wanted to pack sling the debt Dragon with practical strategies so not just that you should be paying off debt. Here's what it looks like when you're in the kitchen. One of the things I talked about in the book are my own personal grocery store 10 Commandments and I feel like everybody should have these and these are just boundaries that you put on yourself, they're not hard and fast. If you have a break when it's not that big of a deal, but they'll help you. You know keep from overspending. One of those is I try not to shop after 9 PM. And that's because that's a weak time for me. I know I will put all the breakfast items in the car and I will just wander around the store aimlessly, maybe a little ice cream down for other people.

It might be early in the morning that the more difficult time just identifying when is it most difficult. One of the other things I do is try to look high and look low in the grocery store because marketers are brilliant and they will place the most expensive things at your eye level and if you've ever shopped with the toddler.

They also place them at their high level, so that they you'll want those more expensive items and then finally my favorite grocery store 10 commandment and shopping tip.

In general, is that right before I checked out.

I looked down in my car and identify 3 to 5 items that I need to cut back because something has jumped into the car that we do not need or we can wait until next week and that simple practice will say five to $10 every time you're at the grocery store you don't have to clip a single coupon. It's a very easy thing to do is just a pause that will help you be more intentional. Well we run out of time today to talk about the other grocery store 10 Commandments but sharing Brian with your permission, let's post those for the listeners to see and that there's still more to your story and we want to cover that and I want to start off next time I hearing about how your two daughters responded to this debt sling journey some crazy choices like that you made to pay off your debt very instructive and how you celebrated that when you finally paid off let me say thanks for being with us today. You what you can read more about the lows, inspiring story and get lots of ideas dozens of ideas about saving money and pretty much every area of your budget when you pick up their book sling the debt Dragon you find details about that and other resources in the show notes John throughout the conversation we talked about the need for strong marital communication on this issue of finances. It's a powder keg for so many couples it might be your struggling with finances, and if you need someone to talk to. We have caring Christian counselors right here on our staff there available to talk with you or they can refer you to someone in your area so call us to schedule an appointment today and let me just say that Focus on the Family is helping hundreds of thousands of couples each year to build stronger marriages, offering resources, trusted advice and we can only do this because of your generous support. Every dollar you give today will help us minister to others. So please join our team with a generous donation and will send you a copy of Sherry's books laying the debt Dragon as our way of saying donate. As you can call one 800 K word family or follow the link plan to join us again tomorrow will hear more from Brian and Sherry talk about the need to have a perspective of you can fill your heart up gratitude and began looking around your house and think we have so much stuff that we make a trip to Goodwell to get rid of our staff. Now we have so much already have Jim Daly in the entire team. Thanks for joining us today for Focus on the Family I'm John Fuller inviting him back once again. You and your family thrive in you ever wonder what it was like to meet Jesus face-to-face teaching on the Messiah flash all new novel by Focus on the Family, I have called you by name.

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