Wednesday, October 22, 2014

How we became debt free in 3 years Part 1: Our financial seminar

I am going to be honest, I almost don't know what to do with myself now that we are debt-free. I realized today I could probably start buying organic food again (something we stopped, for the most part, when we started our debt attrition in April). Yay!

So I am going to try my best to outline how we got out of $86,000 in debt in just over 3 years over the course of a few posts. This post I want to focus on the backbone of our decision and method of going debt free, and that was our financial seminar.

We decided to follow the Jim Sammon's Financial Freedom seminar shortly after we got married. I became interested in it because it is what the Duggar family follows, and I was impressed with how they have been able to provide for their family debt-free for so long. I actually purchased the seminar book and dvd set used on ebay at a discounted price, and we started going through it about 3 years ago.

This financial seminar is produced by the Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP) which is run by Bill Gothard. I do not agree with all of the ideas that IBLP or even this financial freedom seminar espouse. As in all things faith-based, it is important to approach with open eyes and a lot of prayer. I probably agree with about 90% of what this seminar teaches.

That said, I have found this financial seminar to be much more thorough and spiritually based than many of the others I have encountered. What I mean is that the Jim Sammon's seminar is truly based on a total life and faith transformation which is then reflected through your use of money. There are 20 chapters and videos you go through that talk about money, but more about lifestyle choices and changes which will be reflected in your financial decisions. For example, Chapter 5 is called "Choose to serve God rather than money", Chapter 15 is called "Choose a good name whatever the cost", and Chapter 19 is called "Listen to the cautions of your wife".

This seminar really is based on the foundational principle that God plays an integral part of our lives, He will bring about situations in our lives that mold and move us into the people he wants us to be for his glory, He uses our finances as one of several tools to bring about our sanctification, and we need to allow him to do that. The debt-free principle is based on 2 things: 1) Acknowledging that God may put us through times of plenty and times of want, and so promising his future provision via a loan or mortgage can create bitterness and anxiety towards God and his provision (as in, I promised God would provide me with X about of dollars over the course of the next 30 years to pay my mortgage and He isn't providing me enough to meet that obligation anymore!), and 2) Our money is God's money. Throwing away large amounts of it via interest is not good stewardship.

Andy and I choose to live by (most) of the principles we learned in this book. We committed to getting out of debt and staying out of debt so we can be the best possible stewards of God's resources, and also so that we can trust in his provision whatever it may be. We also committed to other principles we learned in this seminar: never loaning money or co-signing a loan, living within our means, never getting involved with business partners, keeping a budget, and paying tithes, as a few examples.

This seminar is different from other debt-free approaches such as Dave Ramsey, because it doesn't come with a "how to" section. There is no "7 step" program for getting out of debt and staying that way. This seminar is much more about theoretical principles which you pray about and apply to your life as you see fit. The seminar defines financial freedom as more than just being debt-free and having a good retirement. It defines financial freedom through the 20 chapters in both practical ways (ex: Financial Freedom is getting the best buy) and theoretical ways (ex: Financial Freedom is learning how to abound and how to suffer need).

This was the perfect system for us, as we have been able to really change our hearts towards money. It has allowed us to see our money as God's money, so we are very careful to spend it carefully. If we see a great buy, but don't have the money for it, we will pass up the deal and pray for the right situation to come about when we have the money.

Living by these principles helped us to get out of debt in 3 years, and we are continuing to live by these principles as we build for our future.

Now that I've outlined the source of our knowledge, let me give my disclaimer on the Jim Sammon's series:

-I found the dvds to be a little kookie sometimes. Some of the stories were a little far fetched, and didn't quite line-up with my understanding of scripture. So some things had to be taken with a grain of salt.

-The dvds are a little outdated. They were made in the 80s, I believe, and it shows in some of the financial figures they give. That said, almost all of the information is still relevant.

-Prayer really needs to be an important part of your life while going through this seminar. Let God move your heart and show you which principles to apply and which principles to leave.

-This seminar takes time. Don't rush it. It took us almost 6 months to get through it entirely, and we are planning to go through it again soon as a refresher.

-Be humble when you go into this. You both have to be willing to take responsibility for your spending issues, your budgeting issues, your debt issues, etc. As one example, I was the one who kept track of our budget before this seminar. The seminar teaches that it is important for a man to be the one to track the budget for his family. As he is commissioned by God to be the provider, he also should be the one in charge of overseeing how the money in his family is being used. This was a sore spot for me, as we live in a time when women are supposed to do everything, right? And at that time I had more time and was better at budgeting. But I decided to try it out and give over the reins to Andy, and he has really stepped up to the challenge. My being humble in this situation has allowed my husband room to lead more effectively.

Have you done a financial seminar/program with your spouse? I have learned that agreeing on a common course in finances is crucial in marriage

Part 2 is coming soon!


  1. Oops, looks like my last comment didn't go through. Hope I'm not double posting!
    I just wanted to tell you that I just found your blog and have really enjoyed reading it. We also did the Jim Sammons seminar and are now debt free! I have been so encouraged reading about your journey because mine is so similar. Thank you for taking the time to write it! Blessings.

  2. Interesting. I'd be interested in the program. Maybe it will eventually pop back up on ebay again one day.

    Finances has always been an area that my husband and I have held two perspectives. I'm a planner and saver. He's a ... "no worries" kind of personality. We've never fought about money though. Early in our marriage, he was in charge of paying bills and whatnot but that didn't work out. We both decided it was better to apply my hyper-organization & goal-orientation to this area. It works. It would be nice to be on the same page though. Yet, I have a hard time seeing his "no worries" personality comply with any kind of structured philosophy. I've read material by Dave Ramsey and Crown Financial. Perhaps we just need a more saturated Biblical perspective.

    Thanks for sharing! $86,000 in just three years is really impressive. I still can't wrap my head around having nearly $30,000 per year just for apply to debt. Hah. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of your posts!!! :)


I love to fellowship with others and hear what they have to say. I would ask, however, that you be mindful of what you write and try to be uplifting and respectful. Thank you for sharing!