November 23, 2017

Robbing Peter to Pay Paul: Climbing Out of Debt


One of my goals of Balancing Beauty and Bedlam is to embrace life’s beautiful moments, many which don’t cost a cent. You can read pages and pages of my thoughts on finances, but one thing I know for certain, when families finances are in order, there’s room to breathe and think and plan, so when Melissa from Creating Change asked to share a piece of her financial journey, I was more than thrilled. They are scheduled to have their debt, which equaled half their annual income, paid off by Sept. 27

Imagine that the money you earn actually works to bring you peace instead of stress, anxiety, fear, worry, frustration.

Imagine never having to worry about having enough money to meet basic expenses.

Imagine that you have enough cash on hand to cover an emergency.

Wouldn’t all that be nice? Do you think it could happen to you?

I am here to tell you that it CAN! It happened for us. We no longer imagine what it would be like to have peace with money. Oh, I remember what it was like being all stressed out about my income. I had all those feelings for 22 long years. Living paycheck to paycheck, “robbing Peter to pay Paul” and using credit cards for emergencies.

All of it. I will never forget that.

Twenty two years is a long time to have the same habits. It also makes those habits very hard to break. That’s why “get rich quick” schemes don’t work. You don’t take the time to establish a firm foundation, then build a plan and then work the plan to fruition.

Four years ago, we began work on our Financial Foundation thanks to a course called  Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey .At that time, our “financial house” was built on a foundation of stress, anxiety and fear. It was mortared with lack of vision and goals.

Our financial house was falling apart and no amount of minor renovation was going to fix it. It needed to be torn down and rebuilt. This “house” that had been a part of my life for 22 years.

It required a complete renovation from the foundation up.

It has been a slow and steady process. It takes time to build a firm foundation, to change bad habits, to completely change our entire thought process about money.

Becoming Debt Free - you can do it!

We started with a budget, on purpose and on paper. The money was spent on paper before we had it in our bank account. We learned to take control of our money instead of the money controlling us. We made plans for the money, short term and long term.

We set a date to be debt free, for this strong foundation to be complete.

Throughout the process, some important and life changing things happened. Of course, there were “construction delays” along the way. Things like having to refund the emergency fund a few times and living in limbo for over a year in regards to my husband’s job.

Despite these things, we changed. First, my husband and I now have discussions about money. No more fighting or arguing or “you spent how much!?” moments. Secondly, the entire process had such a profound impact on my life that I decided to become a Financial Peace University coordinator. I also started my own business as a financial coach and graduated from Dave Ramsey Counselor Training.

The most important impact is that, our boys (ages 8 and 7) have literally learned these new habits with money right as we were. They were 4 and 3 when we started. They will NEVER have to go through unlearning bad habits, relearning new habits and completely renovating their financial house. (5 Tips for Helping Children Learn the Value of Savings.)

THAT is truly what is most important.

As Dave Ramsey says, “Changing the family tree”.

Have you taken that first step?

Melissa Thomas is a wife, mom, dog rescuer, FPU graduate and coordinator and entrepreneur as a  financial coach.  Her business website is


  1. How do you do this when there have been NO RAISES for 5 years? When things all around you are slowly inching up and up and you have less and less stretch in your paycheck. I already bring lunch, make my own coffee, don’t buy the newspaper, etc. I already do all these little things that add up; I’ve already been thru two finance courses. Without an occasional raise, I don’t see how you can do anything but live hand-to-mouth. Any suggestions?


    Megan D Reply:

    I really don’t mean this to sound harsh at all….just real. If you’ve changed all the little things that add up, it might be time to do more radical “big things.” Cut the cable, move to a smaller home/apartment, trade in your car for a cheaper one, cut out outings with friends, etc. I don’t pretend to know your situation but in general, I think that a lot of people see things that are actually luxuries as necessities. Think back to when you were younger and didn’t make hardly any money but still you survived. If you had to live on what you did then, could you? What could you change to make that happen?


    Melissa Reply:

    Hi! I’d be happy to help you,Pam. Please email me at so we can set up a FREE 30 minute phone consult.



    Janet Reply:



    Here are a few suggestions that might help.
    Look at the big money wasters.
    Food – Eat in Season, What is on Sale, All Free food you can get. Shop the sales on all of the basics for your family and get rock bottom price. We go through a lot of butter ( I make a lot of food from scratch) butter is rock bottom in my area at $1.88 lb. I stock up at this price for 6 to 12 months and I don’t buy it ever at the higher prices. I do this for almost everything! I buy what I can in bulk and I always accept everything that is offered.
    #2. Thing that I do is I list 2 items every week on craigslist and two on ebay.
    I never let an item that is not being used but that was just purchased sit. It lands in a bag I have for returns and gets returned right away so that it does not end up a garage sale item years later for sale for next to nothing and I paid a lot of money for it.
    #3. Barter Barter Barter what ever you can Barter


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