It’s that time of year again when we make New Year’s Resolutions and then ditch them by the middle of January (if not sooner). Why do we make them? I am (cough, cough) 30 years old and I can’t name one single New Year’s Resolution that I have actually “stuck” with in its entirety. I can make resolutions and set goals all day long, but the second I “fall off the wagon“, I’m done and back to my old ways. Yet, I still seem to make them and I’m ashamed to say, they are usually the same ones year after year. I’m not only boring, but obviously unrealistic when it comes to making resolutions.
You know the ones I’m talking about because they are probably yours too…lose weight, eat healthier, spend more time with God and less time on social media, not drink as much soda, exercise more, complain less, be more thankful…yada yada, blah blah.
At the end of 2011, I read Dave Ramsey’s book, “Total Money Makeover” and decided that I would forgo all of my usual “resolutions” (I wasn’t keeping them anyway) and resolve to pay off our debt in 2012. We have never had credit card debt (thank goodness), but we did have Daniel’s student loans (mine were already donzo), and our Saturn Vue had two years left before it was paid off. I wanted ALL debt to be cleared by the end of 2012.
In January of 2012, I planned out the “perfect” budget and I did awesome in regards to sticking to it in January, February, and March…but then April came and I fell off the wagon. I threw my hands up in the air and let that resolution die along with all of the others in previous years passed. I will even admit that I actually gave myself a pat on the back for even making it three months before “quitting”. I mean, seriously? How many people actually “complete” their New Year’s Resolutions? I at least made it to Spring (and this was in the midst of paying for IVF! Anyone who has gone through fertility treatments KNOWS how hard it is to keep budgets during this time).
However, January 1st, 2013 rolled around and I decided it was time to revive the old resolution to pay off all debt (remember, I am boring and I do the same resolutions from year to year). As motivation, I took “Total Money Makeover” by Dave Ramsey off the book shelf again and read the first few chapters in hopes it would spark that same fire I had in the beginning of 2012. It worked! I was motivated! I was determined! I was ready to “DO THIS!” I created another “perfect” budget, shared it with the hubs to get him on board with the plan, and off we went to making this resolution stick. My goal was to have all debt cleared by July 2013.
January came and I did awesome! February was also successful and March was still looking good. But then hit April. What is up the month of April?! In April, the hubs and I went to Florida to visit his family and even though I knew about this trip MONTHS in advance, somehow I failed to plan it in our budget. (slap forehead!) By the time I realized this, I had already taken our extra money for that month and put it towards his student loans so this meant the trip would have to go on our credit card. No biggie because I knew that I would have it paid off even before the credit card was due. However it turned into a “biggie” in regards to meeting my July deadline because this created a snowball effect and I wasn’t able to put as much extra money on to the next student loan payment. This small hiccup pushed our “pay off” date into October. GUH-reat! (slap forehead!)
As a perfectionist, and not being able to meet my original goal of July, I thought about just going back to paying the minimum payment on the student loans and car payment. I was getting kinda tired of being on “house arrest” and not able to venture to the mall when I wanted or randomly go out to eat if I didn’t feel like cooking anyway; but I came across this story in the Bible during my quiet time and it lit another fire to keep on, keeping on.
“…Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.” Then he said, “Go, borrow vessels from everywhere, from all your neighbors–empty vessels; do not gather just a few. And when you have come in, you shall shut the door behind you and your sons; then pour it into all those vessels, and set aside the full ones.” So she went from him and shut the door behind her and her sons, who brought the vessels to her, and she poured it out. Now it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said to her son, “Bring me another vessel.” And he said to her, “There is not another vessel.” So the oil ceased. Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, “Go sell the oil and pay your debt; and you and your sons will live off the rest.” ~2 Kings 4:2-7
After reading this story, I felt God telling me to persevere on towards my goal of clearing all my debts. So I reworked another “perfect” budget and got back on track. I was doing great all summer and most of fall (slight pot hole in August with a trip to Target and Hobby Lobby…eek), but I hit a major road block at the beginning of October. We took another trip to Florida because the hubs’ best friend was getting married and once again, I forgot to incorporate this trip which had been PLANNED for months in advance into our “perfect” budget. (slap forehead…again! I must be a slow learner…)
Once we returned from Florida, I contemplated on giving up again. I convinced myself that we had dramatically reduced our debt and I could “start over” (again) in January 2014. No biggie, right? Wrong. That little voice inside my head wouldn’t shut up. It kept saying, “Keep going! Pay your debt”. So I listened to this voice and it seems like the moment I got motivated again to “keep going”, I also got smacked in the face with Christmas. Can you say “budget buster!” By the end of November, I was REALLY ready to just throw in the towel, wave the white flag, and give myself a pat on the back for coming this far. But God wouldn’t let it rest. During another quiet time with God, I randomly came across Romans 13:8 which says, “Owe nothing to anyone–except for your obligation to love one another…”
Not willing to have another resolution fail and because I was too scared to ignore God, I reworked the budget (again), and in order to save money, we lived off lots of cheap processed foods such as cereal, chicken fingers, and frozen pizza (don’t judge…my New Years Resolution was to pay off debt, not eat healthy. hehe).
Today is December 31st. The last day of 2013. Where do I stand with my resolution of paying off all debt? I stand free as a bird! I owe no man anything except to give them the love of Christ. Yippee! Whooo Hooo! Happy, happy, happy!
This is the FIRST New Year’s Resolution I have ever kept! It would have been easy to give up when I first “failed” in April and again in October, and Christmas would have had more gifts for everyone (sorry to those who got the shaft), but old ways won’t open new doors. I am ready for new doors to open for us financially and I know that God is pleased with my obedience and perseverance. I didn’t accomplish my July goal…or even my October goal…but I never gave up. I learned that if I set my mind to it, I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength and the motivation when I need it. I also learned self-discipline and self-control when it comes to spending which my hubby is probably most excited about. It feels good to not start the new year off with the same resolution as the year before. (Can I get a virtual high-five? Anyone?!)
Friends, I want to encourage you today that as you make one or even ten New Year’s Resolutions for 2014, do not beat yourself up or throw in the towel at the first, second, or even third fail. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and persevere to finish what it was you started. Old ways won’t open new doors.
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