Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dave Ramsey, Lucky Charms & College Tuition

It's official. The first of 4 daughters is heading to college this fall. Ugh.

So we've done a < adequate job of saving for college. Yep, we're pretty much starting from scratch. (which is the stuff of a future post, I suppose) 

So, we're trying to do something, well, a little unorthodox. We're trying to send our kids to college...without going into debt. (You can close your mouth now...there's a little drool...)

I know, I know. You can't do that. Don't deceive yourselves talking that way. I know, we've heard it and continue to hear it. Those 4% government loans are quick, easy and make so much sense. Yada yada...

The only problem is that I'm pretty sure the Bible frowns on debt. It doesn't out-right say it's evil or wrong or not to ever do it. But it does say it's unwise. I'm pretty sure if you run the numbers, debt almost always cost you money (I think Dave Ramsey would agree).

Well, to make a long post longer, we've been praying (oh know, here we go) and asking God to help us do this. Call us crazy but we don't want our kids (or us, for that matter) to graduate with a mortgage-sized loan to pay off on top of their rent for their 1-bedroom apartment. (We also need them debt-free so we can move in when our retirement runs out (don't tell them I told you-they don't read my blog so it's safe))

So, to land this plane, Anita (wife) and Kelsi (college-bound daughter) had already started Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class. (Roll, "Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice" drawing out that last part -Dave Ramsey Show intro)

Couple that with the approaching deadlines from Liberty University (Yes, it had to be a private college) to start making your payments ASAP so that you could minimize them, be illegible for great prizes (like free tuition for a year--riiiiight...), and get that financial aid-in-a-bottle thingy going on.

So last week we made it official. We took the FAFSA Plunge and enrolled her. That meant it was show time! (Note: That cold chill was reading over a link with .gov in it.)

What's so cool is that since we've tightened our financial belt (no debt except mort.; back on a budget; cash envelope system; sold the 3rd vehicle; applying for scholarships is new hobby; (did I say pray?)), we've started seeing a great improvement in our financial situation.

Our income hasn't increased. No raises or bonuses. But we have seen unexpected checks, reduced costs, and a growing savings account for the first time in quite a while.

We have been amazed at God's goodness.

Then there was today.
I prayed with a new friend specifically for God's provision (silly me) and that we'd not worry about this. That we'd be willing to live on much less and still give generously to our church and our East Asia missionary friends.

Then, this afternoon, a friend comes by...she heard we were all taking a vacation day (!) tomorrow and going to the beach as a family. She delivered a vacation day basket. What? Is that legal? (I don't think it is in NJ)

Can you say gift card tree? Food! (nothing cheesy either! (fresh strawberries just gets you started...then there's the Lucky Charms))

Anita comes to tell me. Our eyes leak a little. We're both moved. It's a God-moment. (Anita would tell me "Cha-ching" would be inappropriate here but I would reply that God loves it when we celebrate over his goodness and then she'd agree and say I was right! (ok, except for that last part, anyway))

It's not just that God provided. And through somebody who doesn't really know our financial situation. Today. It's that God is encouraging us. Handling His money (It's all His, that's right) more as He lays out in the Bible than we were before. Kinda like I do when I see my girls doing something right and try to encourage them with an ice cream cone.

It's like He's saying, "You can do this because I can do this through you. Watch me show you what I can do." It was a holy moment for us.

And then, without a beat, I went back to work.


I didn't take a minute to really process. We lived the moment (read the card, oogled the gift cards, smiled and hugged) and then I moved on.

How ungrateful.

But then I did a mental double-take. Well, fortunately, I followed the Holy Spirit's nudge and wrote this post. So it's not polished with lot's of loose ends. But it's from my heart.

"Thank you Lord for your unfailing love! You are the One who provides. Where you guide, you pro-vide! Forgive my lack of gratitude even when you show your glory so plainly and graciously! You humble me with your generosity and attention to detail. We have all that we need for a special family vacation day tomorrow and it won't cost us a dime. Wow. You must, like, love us!" *sniff* Really.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Luke 6:38 (New International Version)