Getting a Handle on Family Finances

Before I tell you what we’ve accomplished and where we are headed, I want to come clean about our financial history. Here goes:

My mom ran the finances in my childhood household. We always had what we needed, but never an overabundance. She used some kind of cash envelope system, which I didn’t understand. My parents had credit cards and I remember when they took out a second mortgage. I understood how to balance a checkbook, but got a credit card in college and admittedly charged too much with no real plan to pay it off.

My husband came from a large family that never had enough money. He grew up on food stamps and the charity of others. He lived for three years without electricity and his parents used the SSNs of the kids to open accounts. He inherited a mess and he didn’t have the knowledge or guidance to improve his situation.

We feel in love and got married. We combined CC and student loan debt, and we didn’t stop there. We bought more on CCs and two houses in retrospect we shouldn’t have and continued to live paycheck to paycheck. In 2009, we were forced to relocate for employment and were unable to sell our home like so many. We ended up filing bankruptcy in November of 2010. As part of the settlement, we gave up the house and all CC debt. We kept the one car that wasn’t paid for and student loan debt. The bankruptcy forced us to come to terms with our spending habits. We no longer overspent but still lived paycheck to paycheck like many Americans. We slowly built our credit back by financing two vehicles, a home, a bed, and one credit card.

I share our story because you probably see pieces of your story in it. I used to be ashamed of the state I was in and the poor choices and weakness that led to the situation. Admitting that we needed to file bankruptcy was rock bottom for me. I want you to hear that regardless of where you are on your financial journey, you are not alone and others have risen from where you are to financial stability and success.

In 2017, my husband and I decided it was time to build new habits. We took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. It changed our financial lives. (If this is an area of your life you want to pay attention to, please look into this class. The program breaks down the overwhelming task of getting your finances, debt, insurance, and retirement in order for the purpose of using God’s gifts wisely.)

Today, we have an emergency fund for the first time ever, meaning we aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. We tell our money where to go using a free EveryDollar App, ensuring all needs are met. We use a cash envelope system (I get it now) to manage consumables like food, clothing, and entertainment. When the money is gone, the spending stops until next month. We save over time for large expenses like HOA dues and car maintenance. We have a strict policy about when the CC can be used and it is always paid off immediately. And since we know our needs and a basic level of comfort are met, we are paying down debt at an accelerated rate. We’re on a plan to pay off everything but the house by February of 2020 (when my husband turns 40).

This did not happen overnight or even in the course of the 9-week class. It takes time, communication, compromise, and determination. And we’re not finished yet. There are 7 Baby Steps to true Financial Peace. We’re on Step #2 but feel more peace at this level than we’ve ever felt at any time in our lives.

If we can come back from bankruptcy to get a handle on our family finances, so can you! What’s your story?

5 thoughts on “Getting a Handle on Family Finances

  1. Chris Austin

    Praise God, dear Wendy! I know that it has been a long and pothole-filled road but the Lord has shown you the steps needed to bring you to the road of stability. Long term disability from arthritis worked against my holding a job back in ’08-’09 and unemployment, filing bankruptcy and foreclosure all hit at the same time…so I know what you went and are going through. I am a work in progress and admire your tenacity and faith. God bless, much love.


    1. Thanks Chris! Yep, it’s a journey. I’m so grateful to have the opportunity to gain some perspective and strategies to change. As ashamed as I was during it all, I now recognize that I can help other people see the possibility of something better. I hope sharing our story and new-found knowledge can inspire and guide others. Miss you, friend!! Blessings in the New Year!!!


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