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Mark Strohm has served a Christian School principal, Children's pastor, seminar speaker and adjunct professor.Read more >>
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Struggling with Debt, A Young Couple Shares Their Story PDF Print E-mail

As a husband and young father Russ Watson found himself $245,000 in debt.  With income less than $60,000 per year there seemed little way to retire the debt.  Read Russ' story from denial, to realization to an action plan.

Proverbs 22:7 - The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.

From Russ Watson:
Neither myself nor my wife, grew up knowing how to handle money. Before I met Amanda, at the end of 2004, my car broke down just as I began employment at a job earning $20 an hour.  It was then I made my first mistake and decided to purchase a new car.  I realize now I should have bought a "beater" and paid down my student loans, but instead I took on a $529/month payment.

At the end of 2005, Amanda and I decided to wed earlier than planned to accommodate Amanda’s mom who had cancer and wanted to attend our wedding.

The first week of 2006, as a newlywed couple we made mistake #2 and bought a new car for Amanda adding a $328/month payment to our debt. In addition to our car debt, Amanda's mom went into the hospital, and after a 4 month struggle, passed away. Her extended illness required us to travel from Dallas to Littlerock, often during mealtime.  During this period, we paid little attention to a budget and ran up our credit card debt on food and gas.

At work I was blessed with a raise from $20 to $22 per hour.

When I was single I would avoid debt paying my credit card off every month.  This was easy to do when it was just me. Unfortunately, now married I continued to use the credit card but not pay it off each month adding to my debt.  Despite this obvious increase in debt I was oblivious as to how to get off this treadmill.

Shortly after Amanda's mom died Amanda’s brother came to live with us for 3 months. Now helping to support a third person our debts continued to mount.

At this point, I did not have any answers for my debt problem, but the burden of my $529 a month car payment was a problem.  In an effort to lower this payment I traded the car in for another new car.  While my monthly payments dropped to $389 I found myself with a greater debt.

Despite my budgeting difficulties God blessed at work and due to some interest in my employment from others my company increased my pay from $22 to $26.50 per hour.

At the end of the summer of 2006 we were blessed to find out that Amanda was expecting our first child.  This brought us to realize that our one bedroom apartment won’t be enough space.  We canceled out of our lease and plunged into another mistake and bought a 2,227sf 2 bedroom home for $150,000, which required two mortgages.

The end of our denial about money and our situation came when Amanda’s dad and step-mom gave us a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover audio book and tickets to his live event in February 2007.

After listening to the entire audio book in a 3 hour stint, I was now armed with the information I should have been taught by my parents when I was 10 years old and as I grew up to be an adult.

This was our situation on January 8, 2007, when we first listened to Dave’s book (approximate numbers):
• Car debt - $45,000
• House debt – $156,000 (including taxes+ins for this year)
• Credit card debt – $15,000
• Student loan debt – $27,000
• Other debt - $3,000
For a grand total of $245,000 in debt, an income of 55,000 a year, and a baby on the way – BIG OUCH.

God gave us a wake-up call, ended our denial, and armed us with the knowledge of how to manage His money and be good stewards using Dave’s system. We have learned how to do a budget, together, and tell our money what to do, so it just doesn’t leave.

It has cost us – big time – to get where we are today. I took an extra job for 6 months, working 100+ hours a week, being away from my wife and new baby. We are selling our cars and getting beaters, but we will still owe on part of those loans. We are selling our house. However, our snowball is now rolling.

We have managed, even with over 60% of our monthly income going to debt (AKA interest, AKA stupid tax), to pay down about $20,000 in debt in 9 months, and when we get our house and cars sold, we should be completely debt free by this time next year! If you live like no one else, later, you can live like no one else.

It is my calling to do what Dave does - a ministry to help spread the message of Christ and how we can effectively live for Him without the “stuffitis” that our culture is plagued with.

I recommend the Dave’s website:

And of course, his daily radio show is awesome – FYI, you can download a commercial free mp3 podcast of his show if you are a mytotalmoneymakever subscriber.

Russ, Amanda, and Hunter Watson

Proverbs 6:1-5 - My son, if you have put up security (bible talk for debt) for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another, if you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor! Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.


Mark Strohm -

Mark Strohm has served a Christian School principal, Children's pastor, seminar speaker and adjunct professor.


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