In the not so distant past, I thought I had it all together, and as outward appearances go, most other people thought so, too. I certainly didn’t shop on Craigslist, much less see why I would ever need to.
Looking back, I probably should have, because during my rock bottom years my financial life was in chaos, and the only thing putting food on the table was a plastic card (several of them, actually). I was a master at juggling “0% for 6 months” offers, but lived in Fantasyland, as I meticulously tracked each account to cancel just in time for the next interest rate adjustment.
I was so stressed out trying to stay on top of everything. I had a bad attitude and a sour outlook on the future – because my present was so messed up.
It took just under two years on that struggle bus to get myself back on track, after a friend invited me to a class taught by Dave Ramsey called Financial Peace University, and I still have a tight rein on my money today – telling it what to do instead of wondering where it went, as Mr. Ramsey would say.
Enter Smart Money Smart Kids, written by none other than, you guessed it, Dave Ramsey, and his daughter, Rachel Cruze. I was shocked when I was chosen to be a part of the book launch team! Talk about full circle!
I’m currently reading Chapter 9 of SMSK and it really hit home for me. The chapter is called Contentment, and it warns against a culture that has a grip on our kids’ hearts, through advertising, peer pressure, and materialism.
The world encourages us to want more, newer, bigger, and better stuff (which is fine if you’ve saved up for it and it’s not putting you into debt) but sometimes we need to ask ourselves if we own our stuff or if our stuff owns us.
Contentment and Craigslist
My former self was all about the opposite of contentment. I was discontent – not satisfied with what I could afford in my life, and too scared to admit it.
I was ashamed to decline a lunch invitation with friends, so I charged it. I took my kids out to the movies anytime they asked – and I charged it. I even bought a brand new chocolate brown Italian leather (I can still smell it!) sectional couch that I knew I couldn’t afford BECAUSE MY FRIEND HAD JUST BOUGHT ONE, TOO. Charged it – all $4000 of it!
I was overspent, overweight, and living a lie. What a terrible message I was conveying to my kids. I began to apply some basic principles to ditch the debt, and then used the intensity and discipline that helped me through the debt situation to tackle a 30 pound weight loss. Little by little life became brighter. Thank goodness I am no longer a slave to my debt! And thank goodness for Craigslist! :)
When I was going through the process of dumping my debt and finding “financial peace”, I knew I had to supplement my income to start gaining some traction. Shoestring budget didn’t even begin to describe my financial state. Try “dental floss budget” and you’d be more accurate.
I started tutoring students for extra gas money, I got a side job cleaning someone’s house to help with my rent, and even became a Beachbody Coach, but by far the quickest extra income and a much needed shot in the arm came from Craigslist.
I had accumulated WAY too much stuff, and cha-ching, I was ready to cash in!
I logged on and began listing things left and right. Old jeans, books, video games, purses, musical instruments, electronics, and pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down was fair game. My kids helped, and we agreed on a percentage for each of us, as long as most of the money went toward the debt. My son even started selling things for friends. Would you believe, they paid him commission?!
A Matter of the Heart
Throughout this process, I found teachable moments to emphasize how out of control we/I had become when it came to bringing more “stuff” into the house. Yes, we were making money with it now, but that was just a fraction of the original cost. Still, the rush of paying down each credit card on our list one by one was awesome!
It was more than just about the math and the money. We were becoming debt free and that was a matter of the heart.
Dave describes three stages of discontentment that could lead to such a mess like the one I was in:
- Jealousy and Envy
- Defining yourself by your stuff
I experienced all three stages, and had my challenges coming out of it.
In my house today, debt is a four letter word. I made a promise that I would do everything in my power not only to never go back into debt, but to model for my children how to be grateful for our blessings.
Imagine how successful our kids can be if we arm them against discontentment and begin to teach gratitude and humility at an early age?
Humility is a valuable virtue because it breeds gratitude, which is unbelievably attractive and bodes well for your child’s adult life. And, of course, gratitude is the best antidote to a lack of contentment. ~Dave Ramsey.
As Dave Ramsey teaches, I no longer act selfishly discontent, putting my family’s future in jeopardy over the importance of “stuff”.
Do I still sell things on Craigslist? Yes, sir! In fact, it’s where I bought my new couch – it’s not leather, but it was a fraction of the price, paid in full, and in CASH!
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