If you have been following along in our Deep in Debt to Debt Free series, you might be asking yourself how we were so blinded to what we were doing. How did we continue to amass such an unbelievably large amount of debt and not realize that we would one day need to pay the piper – or to state it another way, that we were digging ourselves into such a hole that it would seem almost impossible to recover? We felt this would be a good time to address this question. Not only is it the next article in our series, but with the holiday shopping madness around us, its a good reminder to sit back and consider what we are all doing.
The question we seem to be asked the most often is just how did we allow ourselves to get into this much debt so early on in our marriage? Its a perfectly logical question. Its a question we ask ourselves now and really don’t know why we didn’t ask ourselves the same when we were in the middle of it. As such, we really had to ponder and try to understand how it all happened. We now know there are actually many different answers to this question – and it will be difficult to flesh out the one most significant contributor. As such we don’t even attempt to state that the following list is even the correct order of our reasons either. There were several factors playing into the rationale why we so foolishly spent so much and how we so blindly built up this immense mountain of debt.
Lack of Honesty/Denial
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;
but he that hateth gifts shall live. (Prov 15:27)
Each of these reasons might intertwine together but at the end of the day we weren’t honest with ourselves. We were working so hard that we didn’t keep track of our bills, our budget and seemed to numb ourselves senseless with entertainment! What do I mean? We were so busy enjoying the good life, planning trips or taking them, enjoying our dining out, and playing with all our great toys that we just didn’t have time to sit down and discuss the meaningful things. I still remember the day we received a call from a creditor for a department store card and after making the payment was asked why it was late. When I gave her the answer that we just forgot to pay it, the representative was taken aback. After a few seconds she stated that she had never heard that excuse before and laughed it off. Now when I look back on that call, lets just say I’m not laughing.
It became so easy to numb ourselves to the reality of what we were doing, to lie to ourselves about how amazing we were doing – all because we didn’t want to sit down and admit the obvious. We didn’t want to because it would hurt. Because we knew if we did we would need to change our lifestyle. Whether we were even thinking that clearly is still in question – but looking back on it, this is the best we can remember it.
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall. (Prov 16:18)
How often do I look at this verse and think about those others that through their pride are storing up for themselves destruction, only to not realize that I’m doing it myself. As we mentioned before, we worked hard – very hard. In fact, the one place we will probably always struggle with until death is our temptations towards each of us being a workaholic. But with that came our pride. We were both educated professionals working full time and we worked hard and we deserved what we were buying. At least that’s what we thought. We had a misconception about what the lifestyle and budget was of professionals, as foolish a statement this may be. We both thought, “If we both have a good paying job, then there is no reason why we would have money troubles.” The thought just never occurred to us that we were in trouble. We should be able to buy what we want, spend what we want and not have to worry about our finances.
So why is this pride? Because we thought we were all that. We always thought it was the other people that had money troubles. Surely it can’t be us because we were the picture of “The American Dream” – a couple of double-income-no-kids (DINKs), was in debt to our ears on our vehicles, was in debt to our eyeballs on our home, and in major consumer debt trying to pay for everything else that we were entitled to. Duh! As our income grew we would pay off this debt and we wouldn’t have any more worries! Isn’t that what the bank says to you when you’re trying to buy a home?! At least our loan officer explained it this way to us: “Though it seems like it will strap you down a bit now, you really need to consider that over the life of the loan and as time goes on you’ll be making more money and have the money to pay it off.”
Yes, all this pride and haughtiness that went with our lifestyle started flushing down the toilet when we started to get those phone calls – maybe you know about them and hopefully you don’t – of creditors calling for payments on past due balances. All that pride reared its ugly head when I walked into our first payday loan store to get our weekly loan at over 1,000% interest. Yes, the walls started to tumble down at that point, but the pride and denial up to those point was overwhelming.
He who loves pleasure will be a poor man;
He who loves wine and oil will not be rich. (Prov 21:17)
When I stated earlier that you can’t rely upon our order of these reasons this is possibly the reason why. As we continued taking the steps into our marriage (it didn’t just start at the “I Do’s”) and throughout our marriage we wanted more and more stuff. Our lives became obsessed with needing the best of anything we bought (or at least that our money could buy at the time). We couldn’t just fix an old car, we needed “a more reliable one”. We couldn’t save up our money for a home, but we needed to start “our own home”. We couldn’t be thankful for a quiet life, we needed to travel and enjoy the good life. We couldn’t enjoy a meal at home as a couple but we needed to enjoy and celebrate all the work we were doing. And we definitely couldn’t save and prepare for our future because that was against our lifestyle.
This is really where the rubber hits the road. We amassed such a great debt because we were enjoying ourselves too much. We were selfish and wanted things that money could buy. We especially didn’t distinguish between our needs and our wants. To us, most of our wants became our needs – and then those needs because something we needed now. We self-justified each of them.
- We needed the nicer car because it would be more reliable and help our image for our businesses were were trying to run. Who would buy product from someone that drove a junker of a car?
- We needed the nicer entertainment system to help us save money by not going to the movies. Its funny that we still wound up going to the movies even with that.
- We needed to eat out because we were so busy with our work and didn’t have time to prepare our meals. And we ate at the nicer restaurants because we justified we were making healthier selections.
- We needed to travel and enjoy ourselves because it would round ourselves as people and we needed to do so prior to having children as we would be “tied down” and not able to enjoy those pleasures after children.
Lack of knowledge
My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. (Hos 4:6)
Though we cannot state this as a primary reason for our problems at this point, I can safely say this didn’t help. We just didn’t have the knowledge on how to be wise stewards of our finances. We didn’t understand how to best track our finances. We didn’t know about the true importance of why it was better to save and sacrifice early to buy what we need later. We didn’t know that although “the honeymoon is something you’ll remember the rest of your life” that it didn’t mean we shouldn’t try to spend as much as we can. We didn’t understand that although “The American Dream” is wrapped into owning our own home that waiting and sacrificing early could have led to future blessing. We have sought to urge and encourage other couples entering into marriage that they need to understand this before they enter that covenant – and some listen while unfortunately many others follow right down the path we were living.
This is something we hope to instill in our children as part of their lifelong education – that they need to have a proper understanding of finances and of their family economics. We want them to understand these things, to ingrain it into them so they don’t follow our past example. If we’ve learned one thing so far in our financial lives its the importance of teaching the next generation and training them up to be even more faithful than we (Prov 29:18).
Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:
And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches. (Prov 24:3-4)
When it all comes down to it, we were so entrenched in our pride, covetousness and lack of knowledge to prevent us from seeing clearly. We should have been continually on our knees in prayer and trusting that the Lord would provide all of our needs as we continued to work hard while not relying on our own strength and poor judgement. We were putting faith in our “secure” professional jobs, and the earthly means for our own security. We were seeking after our love for things instead of being thankful for our daily bread and our needs being met. We were relishing in whatever culture says is “The American Dream” while watching our family economics come crumbling down all around us. Does it surprise us that in a culture that states such is “The American Dream” sees itself nearing an economic collapse as well?
But before you think we’re trying to label ourselves as having overcome all of this, please let me affirm the opposite. We still struggle with each of these in different ways. Even now as I write this article I am reflecting on ways that both ourselves and our children need to be on our knees in prayer asking for forgiveness, strength and further diligence as we still wrestle with each of these temptations.
It was a very taxing time in our lives. It was miserable! The financial woes, the stress on both our personal lives and our marriage, the amount of work it took to recover was all something neither of us want to repeat in any fashion – it was a curse we had placed on ourselves. And as we just explained to our son a few minutes ago, we truly reap what we sow. The difficult days lay ahead as we look to the next part of our series.
If you’re new to the series or just want to catch up, please check out our whole Deep in Debt to Debt Free series!