Calvin and Bonny Hill credit Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University (FPU) with giving them the tools they needed to break the debt cycle in their home. The couple attended Fellowship’s first offering of the video seminar last fall. Calvin was skeptical at first, having attended other financial planning courses in the past. “They were good but there was no application; when it was over, it was … okay, now what do I do?” he says.
Married since 1994 Calvin and Bonny had been in and out of debt during their marriage and found themselves uncomfortably in debt this time last year – a position they largely attribute to purchasing and decorating their “dream home” three years earlier. They also had recently purchased a new car on credit. As they built that new house, the Hills began adding “extras” to its design along the way and then furnished it by charging items on credit cards.
Prior to that time, the couple had been living in a much smaller home for about 9 years with a 15-year mortgage and reasonable payments and no other debt. “If we had taken the Dave Ramsey course (while living in that first home), our situation now would be much different,” Bonny says.
Struggling to pay off credit cards in addition to their mortgage, which had gone up significantly after the first year because of an increase in escrow, the couple found it difficult to pay for life’s necessities such as food and clothing for their family of four. Calvin, who operates a photography business in addition to his 40-hour a week computer programming job, took on additional programming work in an effort to make ends meet. “It kept our heads above water, but it was awful,” says Bonny. “He had no spare time at all.” Calvin adds that the extra job was not that helpful since they still did not have a plan for managing their money.
“That’s where (FPU) helps,” he says. “But, of course, as Dave Ramsey says, ‘I can give you all kinds of plans but if you’re not willing to work it, it won’t work.’” As Calvin puts it, the principles he learned while attending the 13-week FPU “smacked (him) in the face” — something he felt was needed to effect change in the way he and Bonny were managing their finances. FPU’s principle of meeting basic needs – food, clothing, shelter, and transportation – first, then beginning to pay off debt with the “snowball” concept has enabled them to establish priorities and provide for their family while paying off that debt.
As they began their journey toward financial freedom, the Hills had some difficult decisions to make in order to implement the first of “Seven Baby Steps” of FPU. Lacking the cash flow to establish an emergency fund (Step One) and begin the debt snowball (Step Two), the couple put their dream house on the market and a “For Sale” sign on the newer car. The house sold, the car did not. Nevertheless, the sale of the house followed by a profitable garage sale enabled Calvin and Bonny to set up a small emergency fund and begin paying off their debt systematically. Other decisions included eliminating cable television and their telephone landline, making purchases with cash instead of credit, and teaching their sons – Caleb, 14, and Conrad, 10 – about earning, tithing, and spending their own finances.
The Hill family, active at Fellowship for 13 years, contributes whenever possible to a local ministry for the homeless. Also, Calvin will go to Nicaragua with the Fellowship team in October. It will be his fifth trip to the country, and he is grateful for those who partner with him to offer support. The opportunity to support missions more fully is an incentive the couple share as they work toward financial freedom.
Nearly a year after beginning Financial Peace University and making some hard decisions and lifestyle changes, Calvin and Bonny continue working toward that goal. “The challenge is sticking with it,” Calvin says. “It’s a team effort.” Bonny offers these encouraging words, “I would rather live in this two-bedroom apartment (than the ‘dream house’) knowing we’re digging our way out (of debt).” Better still, both are happier and less stressed, and they see an end in sight: the Hills will make their final car payment in September; and if they stay on course, they will be debt-free in two years!
NOTE: Financial Peace University will be offered on Wednesday evenings at 6:30pm this fall, beginning at 6:30 p.m. September 14. Contact Chris Kear at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.