Not long after getting married, Mrs. Broke Architect and I sat down to review our newly combined financial situation. What we discovered very scary, we had accumulated a total of $80,000 in debt. We could not believe that we had this much debt, there were credit cards, furniture debt, student loans and cost of our wedding rings. We were totally overwhelmed. As the “man” of the house I felt totally responsible for my family’s situation, and I was not sure how it was going to fix it.
So I took to the internet and after researching and reviewing various debt payment programs, I settled on Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover”. There are countless other programs out there but this one made the most sense to me because it allowed us to begin paying down our debt with very little money. There was only one problem, I had to get Mrs. Broke Architect on board. Luckily for me I married a frugal woman. She had a few questions, not really about the program, more in regards to my commitment to the program. I hate to say it but I am the spender in our relationship. After swearing my commitment to the plan, she agreed to jump on board.
Over a two-year period, we diligently tracked our spending and cut our expenses by not going shopping for clothing or take vacations. I also started cutting my own hair and took on a side hustle. I was willing to do whatever it took to eliminate the damn debt. And I am happy to say we did it, $80,000 paid off in twenty months.
Figuring that we were on a strong stable financial footing, two years after getting out of debt—we decided to purchase our home. Or should a say the proverbial money pit. It was a fixer-upper. At the time, it was a 12-foot-wide, two bedrooms, one bath home that did not have a working kitchen. In order to obtain a mortgage, the bank required that we provide a $14,000 down payment, which happened to be all the money we had in our emergency savings account. Little did we know that real emergencies were about to begin soon after we signed our lives away to the mortgage and major renovation. Our mortgage came with a construction loan that was to be used to renovate the home. During the one-year construction process, we fired two contractors. One for the misappropriation of funds, which forced us to take out additional loans to make up the deficit. After the construction, a lot of sweat equity and many sleepless nights, we have a beautiful two bedrooms, two and a half bath home and fully functional kitchen. But it came with a price: more debt, $54,000 of credit card and personal loan debt. Several months after the completion of the construction our sewer line collapsed, isn’t that a load of crap! It totaled $6,000 in repairs; we had to place on credit—again!
Just as were just about to start paying down the debt, my mom was diagnosed with lung cancer. She passed away a few months later. My mom passing away totally beat me down, I had no desire or thoughts of paying off debt. I was in so much pain, I would take long shower so I could cry without any one knowing. I felt like I could not take any more problems, no drama! But of course, life had one more trick up its sleeve. Mrs. Broke Architect’s 20-year-old car, our only car, stop working. So, without thinking about it very much, we purchased a new Mini Copper for $20,000 bringing our new debt total to $80,000 again. This number did not include our mortgage!
I could not believe it we were right back we started. I became very depressed but I also became very focus and determined to eliminate the debt and rebuild our emergency fund. Additionally, I was freaking out because the US economy in the tank and many of our friends were being laid off. I kept waiting for the pink slip; luckily, it never came. One again, it took us twenty-four month to pay off the $80,000 and re-established our emergency fund.
I wanted to tell you our story, to give you an understanding of our struggles with debt. It is my hope that this blog may help some of you grapple with your own financial worries. As a community, African Americans have suffered many financial setbacks; many of which were not of our own design. We cannot sit back and allow the so-called system to continue control our finances/life’s. There is no system. We must take responsibility and take charge of our finances; we are the change we have been waiting for.
In order to start the process of changing our financial lives, I recommend we start with tracking were our money goes. I use Personal Capital to do this, but there is also Mint and many other apps out there that you use. I challenge you to track your spending for a month. You may be surprised to find out where your is going.
Finally, I want to hold myself accountable to making progress towards financial independence. I will be posting our net wealth number so you can see our progress.
The Broke Architect