Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. -- Romans 13:8 (emphasis added)
In the New International Version, that verse reads "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law" (emphasis added).
Owe no one anything. Let no debt remain outstanding. That's not such an easy concept in today's credit-driven world. Life without a car payment, a student loan, or even a single credit card? Is that even possible? Jeff and I are here to tell you--yes, it absolutely is possible.
For the last two years, Jeff and I have been working diligently to follow a plan put forth by a certain Dave Ramsey. His plan helps people get their financial lives on track so that they can become and remain debt free. Dave's plan isn't rocket science, although it isn't easy, either. It relies on sacrifice and planning to get you through the seven baby steps. Jeff and I just finished baby step 2: the elimination of all debt except the house . . . and since we don't own a home, that means WE ARE TOTALLY DEBT-FREE!!! We paid off the last debt--my student loan--on Thursday.
Here's how we did it: We made a conscious choice to live on significantly less money than we earned, and we made a budget each month to ensure that we were spending our money deliberately in order to keep our expenses low. We stopped using credit cards for anything. In fact, we cut up all our credit cards when we first started the plan, and we closed each credit card as we paid it off. When we first started baby step 2, we listed all of our debts in order from smallest to largest. The smallest ones were the credit cards, then Jeff's student loan, then mine. We made our budget so that we accomplished these things, in order of priority: (1) we gave 10% to God's body on earth, the local church, in order to be obedient and to support God's work on earth; (2) we met our basic needs, including housing, food, utilities, transportation, and basic clothing--just what we needed, not what we wanted; (3) we stayed current on all of our debts, making minimum payments on time; and (4) we put every extra penny we had toward paying more than the minimum on our smallest debt. When we paid off a debt, we weren't finished and we didn't take a break; we started on the next-smallest debt. Then the next, and the next, and the next, until finally, on Thursday, there was no next-smallest debt because we had paid them all off.
Now it's time to move on to baby step 3: increasing our baby emergency fund (that was step 1) to a fully-funded emergency fund, so that even when we have a medical emergency, or the truck needs a new transmission, or the truck dies altogether and has to be replaced, we can pay for what we need with money we have rather than being tempted to go back into debt.
But for now, I just want to enjoy this feeling . . . I don't owe anyone anything, except for the continuing debt of Christian love. Do you know what this means? I'm free. The Bible says that the borrower is slave to the lender (Proverbs 22:7). Think about it. When you owe money, you're not working for yourself--your earnings, at least a portion of them, belong to your creditor by right, just like a slave's earnings belong to his or her master. When you are debt-free, your earnings belong to you (except for taxes, which I don't want to get into right now, because America's current tax structure just makes me mad and I'd rather celebrate at the moment.) For the first time in eight years, Jeff and I are not slaves to any bank, credit union, or financial entity. We are free. I just want to savor the moment.