Dave Ramsey has made getting out of debt cool. His organization and resources have helped millions of families get debt free. Check them out at www.daveramsey.com. They have a great class called Financial Peace University, and we use his Total Money Makeover with all our clients.
However, during a financial hurricane is not the time to spend your extra money trying to get debt free. It is time to hunker down.
Our advice is to pay the minimum amounts on your debts. Stay current if possible. There will be time to accelerate your debt payoff later.
A few years ago, my family was going through a difficult time, and for the first time in my adult life, I was late on a bill. Not just one bill, but a lot of bills. Not just grace-period-late, but a month behind. Then one month became two months and then three months behind.
I was so ashamed, frustrated, disillusioned, and straight-up mad. Digging out of that kind of hole took every bit of courage and resolve that I could muster up. It seemed everything was caving in, and all I wanted to do was keep our head above water.
In fact, I wrote a book called How to Manage Yourself when there is No Money to Manage that chronicled our experience. (It is available for download on our Hotline for free.)
I remember a very embarrassing conversation with my family where we took a vote about whether to pay our mortgage or keep the lights on. We voted to keep the lights on.
Finally,, we were 3 months behind on some of our bills. And then two months behind. And then 1 month behind. Then 15 days. Then we were current. We slowly clawed our way out of that predicament, and, thankfully, we have not had to experience that again.
We learned a lot about ourselves during that time. We even uncovered a new family financial mantra. God has provided for us again! Every month when we pay all our bills (including our giving), we add another month that God has taken care of us. We have eaten every meal and paid every bill. At 57 years old, that makes 684 months in a row that God has provided for me!
We also learned a lot about how God is very comfortable with allowing us to struggle and, at the same time, takes care of every one of our true needs. He is stealthy about using financial crisis to develop my character.
Lastly, we also learned that taking care of business in the four walls of our home is essential. Not even the freedom of being debt free is worth making my family more vulnerable.