Texas Gazelle Meet AND Greet!

I recently had the pleasure of gazelling around in Waco, Texas with my sight unseen Dave Ramsey sisters! We’ve supported each other on social media many years but never met face to face. It was a phenomenal experience not only because we were all on a journey to punch debt in the face when our paths initially crossed and ALL out of debt by our meeting, but also because there is NOTHING as mouth-watering as Texas Barbeque (OMG!). As a recovering food addict (maintaining a 70-pound weight loss via Weight Watchers 11 years now), I could have crawled into the sauce and never come out! I reluctantly shared my leftovers with a homeless woman on the way back to the car and it hurt a little! Eventually, I came to my senses and realized she clearly needed the calories more than I did, and selfishness turned into gratitude that I possibly provided her with the best meal she’s had in quite a while!

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Chrishawn (beauty on the far right below in the emerald dress) is the SMARTEST young adult I’ve ever encountered!) and I’ve already adopted her in my heart. She’s intense about life and debt, makes NO EXCUSES (her nerdlike spreadsheets on the wall as a constant progress reminder were proof!), and has a huge heart, opening her home to help with my expenses. She treated me like royalty and politely asked if she could complete a quick Shipt shopping excursion for extra cash offered while we were watching a movie.  My response, “GO MAKE THAT MONEY GURRRRLLLLL”. Erin (in the middle) is as intense about her journey (also an FPU Coordinator), as she is quiet, lol…When sharing challenges her epiphany was that being debt free allows a voice to speak without fear of losing your job. BAM!!!!! I never looked at it that way before but it was always my truth when carrying my mountain of debt. FEAR controlled my tongue, even when valid and there were a few other misappropriations accepted on jobs as a young adult for the same reason.

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There is nothing more powerful than the support of others working towards the same goal while in the process myself. I calculated my journey at 10 years, (thankfully it only took 7 and was reached in 2015) and had it not been for one of these members specifically,  fellow blogger Jennifer Haston (jenniferhastonsays.com), I would have abandoned ship after temporarily losing sight of the finish line several years in. Dave was right when he said working the steps will magnify the true problems in a marriage and could lead to divorce if both partners aren’t invested.  Once stupidity is pointed out in FPU, the partner most committed will want to immediately cease the dumbness but the other will find excuses to continue.  Based on my son’s diagnosis of Schizophrenia (catalyst for getting out of debt), I decided losing my relationship was worth the risk and rolled the dice because there is no cure for mental illness. After wasting energy searching for a quick fix exactly one year, I knew my only option was placing myself in a better financial position. When I lost my footing after losing my marriage, Jennifer put on her uniform and begin to cheer me on from Texas! She held my hand across the miles and is “THE REASON” I got back up. I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel with one income and thought my goal impossible. It’s funny what we can achieve when we are willing to put in the work, have the right mindset, and connect with an unstoppable support system!

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Daily Post/Degree

Degree

I’m extremely proud of my B.S. Degree in Criminal Justice. It’s especially meaningful because I hit the pause button several times and resumed my journey after each life altercation. It took a combined 10 years of fresh starts and one unplanned pregnancy to complete my degree, but mission accomplished! Overall I have no regrets (except the student loan debt acquired), and my critical thinking skills were definitely developed and enhanced from the experience. Later in life, however, I realized I wasn’t fully prepared for the real world and the lessons most relevant to my future (unlike Algebra!) weren’t solved by answers memorized from a hardback book. College didn’t suggest I pay attention to my finances, save money, live on a budget, stress the importance of planning for the future as a backup plan, or minimize the possibility of working my body to exhaustion for survival or to simply pay for healthcare. Life took a chunk out of me, and provided a final exam of epic proportions, which I failed!.

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A female experiencing the abrupt loss of a soul tie will usually compare that sense of loss to the end of the world. You learn your world REALLY only shatters when something you have no control over threatens the future/security of your child. My son’s Paranoid Schizophrenic diagnosis ten years ago shoved me into a sinkhole and evolved into my best instructor. It’s demonic presence forced a reality check that started a journey from denial to feeling the full weight of debt left behind during various stages of life. Credit cards either put a band-aid on a problem or was proof of how much I cared for someone. Once I tallied the cost of decisions made by emotions, my account hit a negative balance. Fear was compounded even more by being totally unprepared to handle medical emergencies which had the potential to bankrupt me. As a mother, I felt like a failure and was terrified not only for my child’s future but mine as well.

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Enter Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. After completing the twelve week (now nine) course, I felt like I had earned a Master’s Degree in Life 101 at a much cheaper cost. I now had the knowledge required to transition into a better financial position to help my son (as well as secure my own future), as well as change my family tree. I reluctantly opened my mind to the possibility of life without debt being the only solution one year after my introduction to Dave Ramsey.  I finally faced the reality that a quick fix in anything never works as a long-term solution. I begin to put in the work and eliminated debt completely in seven painfully slow long years holding down three jobs, obviously working more than I slept. That season ended with no regrets and an added bonus of a second son graduating college with an Engineering Degree minus student loan debt that follows most graduates to the grave.  I didn’t even believe that was possible until Dave said it was so! This experience was a reminder that life lessons are equally as important as textbook knowledge, as long as we take the message from the mess and learn from them!

 

Focused Intensity

I’m a lover of all things Dave and have coined his many motivational quotes and passages, Davisms! This one gives me goosebumps at each encounter because it’s a reminder that getting out of debt has nothing to do with how smart you are (if you were doing math, you wouldn’t be in debt) and how much money you make, but instead everything to do with focus and work ethic! Debt doesn’t discriminate, it’s all consuming!

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Daily Post

Minimal

We are nearing the end of my nine-week Financial Peace University course, and some of the gazelles are getting restless! Murphy is on a mission to make them lose hope and give up now that they have committed to changing their way of thinking and transitioning to a cash only system in order to get out of debt.

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According to Dave Ramsey, our income is our biggest wealth building tool. Evidence can be proven by considering all of the things we COULD be doing with our income if it weren’t being eaten up by the enemy, debt/credit card payments/student loans, you name it. I was surprised to learn that the credit card is the most heavily marketed item in society and they have done a fabulous job hypnotizing us into believing we cannot survive without it. I was a victim of that broke mentality when I began my journey as well, having racked up at least ten credit cards and a home equity line of credit that was used to pay for a lifestyle I couldn’t afford. I graduated from that way of thinking and have not used a credit card in eight years! It’s funny what you can do when you have money saved for emergencies.

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I also recently purchased my first all cash car for the first time in my 50 years! It is a beautiful, used 2005 Honda Accord and I am relieved to have bypassed the pressures of a car payment. Another thing I have not missed since starting my debt free journey eight years ago. My favorite bible verse is, “The borrower is slave to the lender”. I was a slave to credit cards and student loan debt, only working to pay bills and not being intentional about where my money was going.

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To help the Gazelles stay focused on the challenging road ahead, I came up with a list of what worked for me on my seven-year journey which included a divorce and graduating a son debt free from college (with his help!), with minimal pain.

1. Stayed connected to our Facebook group, the Gazelles, as it makes a difference when you are around others headed in the same direction. (this group actually work the program, those that are all talk with no action don’t work for me so I avoid them at all cost).
2. Reached out for help as needed to specific members and kept them on speed dial, having private chats for encouragement when I was overwhelmed and ready to give up. I almost gave up during my divorce because I could no longer see the end of the already desolate road with only my income. Thankfully my support group rallied around me and pulled me from the pity party!

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3.Coordinating FPU really helps because since I am now on Step 6, paying off my home early which will take a while so staying connected physically to others headed in the same direction reminds me that I can do this. Dave does all the work, all I need to do is lead the class in the group discussion so it was easier than I thought. I didn’t have to have all the answers, just provide the forum for Dave to make the magic happen and provide inspiration through my own life story.
4. I repeated FPU each year for the seven years it took to get out of debt, glad I had the option to repeat as often as I wanted for free and always gained knowledge I missed before.

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5. I listen to the Dave Ramsey show daily (downloaded podcasts) and enjoy the continuing education as there are always questions that were not discussed in class. Dave’s answers represent new information to apply to my journey.
6. I listen to the podcasts daily, at work and when walking alone
7. I attend every Dave Ramsey event that comes to this state and always leave with a much-needed boost of encouragement. It’s also fun to meet other excited Gazelles that understand my weird label. Everyone doesn’t find saving money fun, especially when they don’t have any.

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8. *****IMPORTANT*****I was careful not to take advice from broke people or others too far to the right (lol). Broke people are good at giving advice, just nod and move on!
9. Budgeted in blow money and an entertainment fund so the free spirit didn’t feel like a prisoner. Being the freespirit/nerd, I also needed to get out of the house and come up for air which I needed to be forced to do before I snapped from the intense focus without any downtime. Others advised against that but I was aware of my need to enjoy life here and there in order to stay focused on the journey. It is true, however, that deeper you cut (sacrifice), the faster you get out of debt so I made decisions with that in mind.

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