Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Three D's

Somewhat similar to Dave Ramsey in both the goals of the program and the spiritual basis. This CNN article describes a church's "Dfree" program.

The three focal points of debt, delinquency and deficit represent the cornerstones of family financial strength.

First, debt: Americans owe a lot of money. The levels of family debt are threatening our ability to develop any meaningful wealth or to pass that wealth on to future generations.

Second, the commitment to eliminating delinquencies means that we, as a congregation, are pledging to pay our bills on time. Late payments lower our credit scores and this causes us to pay higher interest rates even on good debt such as mortgages.

Lastly, to be free of deficit living means to live within our means and thus eliminate the need to close our spending gaps by using high interest credit cards or --even worse -- alternative financial services such as payday loans, pawnshops and rent-to-own schemes.

While, the plan is nothing new. The best part of this program, in my mind, is the goal to popularize debt free living and the community support provided by the congregation.

If you are working on paying down your own debt, think about how you can make yourself accountable by setting up systems and by sharing your journey. My husband and I held each other accountable as we worked to pay off our non-mortgage debt back in 2007. But, we also talked about what we were doing with our parents, siblings, other relatives and friends. While it was a little embarrassing to share the fact that we had $50,000+ in non-mortgage debt, I soon learned that many, many of my friends had their own debt struggles.

I also like the focus on deficit spending, obviously it is impossible to get out of debt if you keep adding to your debt load each month by spending more than you are bringing in. The deficit step is one that I think a lot of plans gloss over. I found that by tracking our spending, using Quicken (but you can use a little notebook, Excel spreadsheet, any system that works for you), for a few weeks we quickly identified and targeted areas to cut. Also, our allowance system, which we still use, is another way to rein in deficit spending. By using an allowance we limited the amount of money available for day to day spending, and by doing so we reduced our spending and made more money available for debt service.

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