It’s no secret that youth workers typically live on a pretty slim income. In fact, my first paid youth ministry position earned me $50/month for 10 hours per week even though I spent more than that in gas each month just to get to the church. Another youth ministry position I held paid $250/month for part-time hours. Years later I took a full-time position for an amount that felt like a lot of money at the time, but the higher cost-of-living and later having children quickly made it feel like I was back on my $50/month for full-time hours.
The fact that my wife and I were obliviously stupid with our finances didn’t help much. We “needed” another car, so I put the car’s down-payment on my one of my credit cards and financed the rest. Carrying balances on three credit cards was no big deal. I mean, as long as I paid the minimum each month I was actually benefiting because I was building my credit score, right? And Sallie Mae? Everyone has student loans — that’s just a normal part of life (or so I told myself).
Thankfully, one day in 2007 my wife and I felt like we were done renting a house and sat down with a financial advisor to see how much we could afford to buy one. We showed him an outline of our finances and I still remember watching him run his fingers through his hair with a face of concern. He took a deep sigh, put our credit card statements down and pushed a book toward us from across his desk. “Read this first,” he said, “and then schedule another appointment and we’ll take it from there.”
Huh? I left that place thinking, “That was the most unhelpful appointment. All he had to do was tell us how much of a house we could afford.” I mostly wrote him off and thought I’d talk with someone else who could help us better, but my wife took the book and actually read it. Then she gave it to me and strongly encouraged me to do the same. I was reluctant at first, but it soon became one of the most life-changing moments of my life. Dave Ramsey’s book, “The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness,” revolutionized how I perceived money, finances, work, and even relationships with my wife and God.
We met with the financial advisor again and together we talked about debt, budgets, and our financial future.
In the next 15 months, we paid off $22,525.61 on a combined take-home pay of about $38,000/year. On November 4, 2008, we paid off Sallie Mae and were completely debt-free!
Since then we have built our emergency fund to 6 months of expenses and look forward to finally start saving for a down-payment on a house!
Through the past several years, my wife and I have learned a lot about money, how it works, and how it doesn’t work. We also learned how to make our money stretch almost infinitely further than we ever thought money could stretch. And we learned how our income can increase while focusing on ministry.
I’m excited to share with you guys the four ways we increased our income and how we made our money stretch over the past couple years. And now that I’m working for myself until the Lord leads us to our next ministry assignment, those lessons continue to come in very handy for us.
Since this topic is not specifically related to youth ministry, I’ll be blogging about each of these four ways to stretch your money and increase your income on our other blog at MinistryFamily.com because the content fits that site better than here.
Also, watch this video from Dave Ramsey’s recent event called, “The Great Recovery.” It may impact you the way his book impacted us.
Posted on August 30, 2011