The SENATE passed legislation a few weeks ago to raise the debt ceiling through early December. Most people weren’t paying attention. They’ll do it again in late December when most people again, aren’t paying attention. STARBUCKS already raised their prices this year and this week announced they are raising the pay for hourly workers to an average of $17 an hour. Which means more price increases to consumers will follow shortly. Again, most people aren’t paying attention. (Insert yawns and eye rolls here.)
Most people don’t care what the US Senate or Starbucks does. But when your BIG MAC is about to have a big price increase, that starts hitting a little too close to home. (Can I get an “Amen!”?)
Well, get ready for it. Because McDonald's just announced across-the-board price increases are coming to their menus.
Is the price of everything going up? Looks like it. Whether you’re at the grocery store or getting gas for your car, the prices are insane. For example, one year ago here in Texas, we were paying $1.85 for regular gas. Today we are paying $3.05.
DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION YET? You don’t need to be alarmed, at least not yet. But you should be very concerned. So what can we do? I’m not saying you need a financial planner, but you definitely need a financial plan and you need it NOW!
In December 1999, my family decided to do something about our finances. We were fed up with money problems, bothered by endless bills and perennial payments on stuff that was falling apart, in need of repair, or already in a landfill. We didn’t go to a financial planner. We went to the Word of God.
We figured the One who created everything and owns everything could give us the guidance we needed to clear up our financial mess. Early on, I found a verse that became absolutely life changing for us: “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom” (Proverbs 17:16, NIV/1984).
We were tired of living check to check, week to week, month after month, and doing it year after year. We realized God wasn’t going to give us any more, since we were living like fools with what he’d already given us. It was time for a change. (Ironically, tightening our financial belts helped loosen our physical ones.)
On the outside, we looked successful. We lived in a bigger house, drove nicer cars, and wore nicer clothes than ever before. But the reality was, we were living way beyond our means, and every year was getting worse.
It’s been said, “People don’t change until the pain of the present outweighs the pain of the change.” That was certainly true for us. The pain of change was less than the pain of not having any change left every week when we tried to pay bills. We had two kids who would soon go to college and knew there was no way we could afford that on top of our current financial mess.
We had a number of “come to Jesus” meetings with our family as we attempted to follow God’s Word and figure out a way to get out of debt. We began by making some pretty painful, life-changing, lifestyle-altering decisions, which, over the next several months, helped frame the strategy that would enable us to get where we wanted to go.
The changes included canceling cable, taking sack lunches to school and work, foregoing vacations, new clothes, movies, and eating out. We even stopped watering our yard. We came up with almost 40 different things we could do immediately to start saving money to pay off our debts.
It doesn’t take discipline or determination to get into debt, but those two things are absolutely essential if you want to get out of it. I mentioned our “come to Jesus” meetings. We had a few Jesus didn’t come to—we’d just get together and yell at each other. Seriously. It wasn’t fun or easy—making sacrifices, going without, radically changing the way we were used to living. We came up with ways to reduce our spending so we could spend what we had on what we owed. Every extra dime and dollar went to pay bills. If we got birthday money or something similar, the windfall went directly toward what we owed.
We began paying our smallest bills first and as we began eliminating debts, one by one, we began to build momentum. I remember when we were able to pay off the note on the first of three car loans. We actually had a car note burning ceremony. Looking back, that was a turning point that seemed to motivate our whole family to embrace the idea of getting rid of every debt we had. When we burned the second car note, one of our kids said, “We’re doing this, Dad. Aren’t we?” YES, WE WERE!!
I decided to share with our congregation the struggle we were facing and the strategy we were using to get completely out of debt. (I can see now it was an incredibly ambitious goal since we were so far in debt.) So, in January 2000, I presented four messages I called, “The ABC’s of Financial Success.”
There were a few in our church who decided it was time to do something about their debt, too. But the majority heard the messages and went back to the same old routines, not believing there was any urgency to getting out of debt or that life could actually be enjoyable without debt.
“I’m not saying you need a financial planner. But you definitely need a financial plan and you need it NOW!”
On November 15, 2001, I walked into the local branch of Chase Bank and made the final payment on our last debt, which was the mortgage on our house, and we declared, once and for all and forever, our financial freedom! We went to DISNEY WORLD and spent a week celebrating our financial freedom, made possible by the blessing of God and the fact our family was willing to make sacrifices. Since that initial trip in 2001, we’ve been back to celebrate at Disney three more times—our fifth anniversary of paying off our debt in 2006. Our tenth in 2011. Our fifteenth in 2016 and in a few weeks, we’re going back to celebrate our twentieth anniversary of being completely debt free. And the celebration gets better every time.
Once we were out of debt, lots of people wanted to know how we did it and how they could do it, too. I started going to different churches to share our story. It’s been absolutely amazing to watch what God has done over the past 20 years. I’ve had the privilege of speaking in over 200 different churches and have shared our story with tens of thousands of people.
The greatest reward has been hearing from people who have applied the same biblical principles, adopted many of the same strategies, and have been able to declare their financial freedom. Our church, with its 150-acre campus and facilities now valued at over $100 million, was able to declare its financial independence on November 9, 2008. Everything we’ve done since then, including a 30-acre sports complex, children’s building and youth building, for over $40 million, were done without a dime or dollar of debt.
What would it take for you to get debt-free and declare your financial independence? Most people have become so accustomed to a debt-based lifestyle they don’t see any other way to live. They just keep raising their debt ceiling like the government does. But that's not the right answer. It doesn’t merely postpone the inevitable. It makes it worse.
So what can you do? Maybe now would be a good time for a “come to Jesus” meeting with your family (and your church) to share the urgency and need for getting your finances in order.
The Bible says God will take care of his people: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25). But it also says God is not obligated to fools or those who are poor stewards with what He gives them. Remember Proverbs 17:16.
If you’re looking for wise counsel, look no further than Scripture. James 1:22 says, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
That’s where it all begins. Ask God for wisdom and guidance, and follow His principles daily and faithfully until you get to the place where you can finally declare your financial freedom.
Then, maybe you can go to DISNEY WORLD and celebrate!
© 2021. Barry L. Cameron
[If you're interested, check out “The ABC's of Financial Freedom,” “Contagious Generosity,” “The Financial Freedom Workbook,” and “The Road to Financial Freedom.” These are available on Amazon or in our bookstore, The Disciple Shop.]
Barry Cameron is a devoted father and husband, bestselling author, dynamic communicator, and Senior Pastor of Crossroads Christian Church. Crossroads has a gorgeous, 150-acre campus in Grand Prairie, Texas. More than 8000 people call Crossroads their church home. Barry’s latest book, The Road to Financial Freedom, came out in the fall of 2020 and is available on Amazon. It’s another game changer for individuals and families who want to fix their finances once and for all.
Barry and his wife, Janis, have three children: Katie, Matt and Kelli. A daughter-in-law, Lindley and a son-in law, Johnny. They also have two grandsons, Will and Levi. Their family has been completely debt free since November 15, 2001.
Crossroads Christian Church has been debt free since November 9, 2008.