Figuring out how grace plays a role in getting out of debt is tricky. In the big picture I understand it, but I don't want to twist scripture into something that looks good on paper.
As I go through the steps to get where I need to be, I know everything will come full circle and make sense in the end. It's another part of this journey I'm looking forward to.
I've purposely taken stock of my bad habits over the last couple of weeks, thinking a bit about how I built my own debt mountain.
Of course there are student loans and a car loan and lots of charged business expenses for my main business on top of the debt from two businesses that haven't brought income. (One no longer operating.) But there are also a lot of little things that have added up over time.
Fear of over-drafting. I can pull into a gas station, knowing I have $20 to get gas in my checking account, but still use my credit card, "just in case" I need that $20 for something else. Do that three times for the same $20 and even if you haven't used the $20 and can make a payment, you've got $60 on the card to pay off. I will do anything to avoid a $32 overdraft fee from the bank... even pay 27% interest on the charge, apparently.
Bad planning. I would have called it exhaustion before. It is easy to spend $40 on pizza or $30 on Chick-Fil-A when the kids are hungry and I'm just too tired. But the fact of the matter is, dinner happens every day of the week. There are few instances where kids are hungry and I didn't know that I had to feed anyone at some point that day.
Subscriptions. A few weeks ago I spent 2 hours turning off every subscription I had... most of them not even being used. Ancestry.com, Audible (I use it, but not fast enough... I had to use 6 paid book credits before I could shut it off!), Spokeo (used for a search for a family member and forgot to shut down), Amazon music, etc... I turned off $75/month of recurring charges for things I didn't even need and rarely used.
Giving. I know. This one will be difficult. I have a hard time not justifying giving to others with the knowledge that God wants us to be generous and will make up for whatever I give. I may still continue to give as much as I have been, I don't know. This is something I have to consider, at least questioning myself each time.
I don't doubt other bad habits that will come to light too eventually. I'm taking it one step at a time.
Some will tell me that I have to work hard to pay off these debts. I got myself into this mess, I should get myself out. Do the work. Make the sacrifices. Many will hear me talk about grace being what gets us out of this mess, and assume that means I am not planning to do anything different.
Really, it's a little bit of both.
It would be easy for me to ask God for a miracle and expect one through grace, all while continuing
my bad habits, or to rely on my husband's income to get me through while I continue paying down debt. But I know that doing those things does not help me learn how to handle money better and won't keep me from making similar mistakes in the future.
For me, a huge part of my thankfulness to God for helping me get out from under this debt mountain is making sure that I learn from my mistakes so that I don't end up in the same place again. Do I think I could turn things around and then make big mistakes and God would help again? Yes. But I don't want that to be the cycle my life follows. I believe He has better plans for me (and my money!) than that!
And by taking responsibility for my debt issues and asking for grace each day to help me not use the same bad habits over and over, I'm stretching my faith and bringing myself a step closer to those better plans.
In the same way, instead of relying on a huge miracle of a windfall to pay everything off, I need to make smart choices that open up the streams of income God uses to take care of and bless my family. I mean, I have two businesses for goodness sake. I definitely have the capacity for an increase in income that will help pay off these debts and give us future stability.
But, I'll save that to write about for next time.