This is Jake.

Jake is my husband. If you’ve been around me long enough, you know a couple of things to be true: A) I do not gush about my love for him on the internet, and B) Jake likes Dave Ramsey.

So, in honor of Valentine’s Day weekend, I’m going to gush. He deserves it. He’s the brains and brawn behind our financial success and I never brag about him.

Here’s the Overview:

I graduated university with student loan debt. Yay. I had maybe $200 in my bank account. My job right out of college was an assistant manager position in retail. Jake’s job when we got married was in landscaping. He had more money in his bank account because he’s the “nerd” and he was definitely more prepared for married life.

We bought a townhome at a great point in the housing market, but then had a mortgage…yay? We had zero car payments because we owned our cars outright and drove them until we saved up for an upgrade, for which we paid 100% at the time of sale (thanks Dave).

Eventually we both landed better-paying gigs and settled in at that company (yes, the same company) for several years. During the final years we were with that company, Jake also worked another job part-time on the weekends. We had a kid. Jake left the company and completely switched careers. We had another kid. I moved to a part-time, work-from-home position for two years. Our budget didn’t like it, but I felt blessed to have that time with my baby boys and I wouldn’t change that part of our story. Eventually I re-entered the workforce with a new, full-time job.

For almost the entirety of our marriage, we worked on that debt snowball. First the student loan, then the mortgage. Jake threw every spare penny at that snowball and we slowly chiseled it away. All that to say this: we are not special. We didn’t come into money or win the lottery or find a genie. We worked, plain and simple, with normal jobs and normal lives, and we still found financial peace.

For the Record…

I was not on board with the whole “Dave Ramsey thing” when Jake first mentioned it. I was a relunctant participant. Thank goodness Ramsey is funny otherwise I’m not sure I would have ever been convinced to sit through Financial Peace University. “Live like no one else so later you can LIVE like no one else.” That sounded nice. I wanted that. I didn’t believe it would happen, but I wanted it and thought it was a neat idea up there in the clouds, as us “free spirits” do.

We fought, Jake and I. We knew that fights over money were grounds for creating some serious issues between us, so while we fought we were mindful of the fight. We learned how to argue better, like real grown-ups with healthy relationships. We learned that we were raised with different views of money and we learned to be understanding. We had “family meetings” about the budget while we fine-tuned it into something that worked for both of us but still tackled the debt. We may be a success story now, but I hope people don’t look at us and think it was easy for us, because it wasn’t. We sacrificed A LOT. We bargain-shopped, we clipped coupons, we didn’t eat out but once a month for a whole year, didn’t have Netflix or Hulu, didn’t have smart phones for the longest time – anything that wasn’t a necessity was a luxury.

And all the time, my ever-loving, ever-trying-to-be-patient husband kept repeating his mantras: It’ll be worth it. We can buy things we want when we’re debt-free. Pizza every day (lol he wishes). We can save faster for our dream home when we’ve paid off this one.

He’d give me monthly updates on our progress. Only $30,000 to go! became only $15,000 to go! It was at $6,000 to go that I finally felt like this was a real, achievable goal. I could never see the end or the big picture, but Jake did. The whole time. Every day. He was planning our financial path with precision and determination while I struggled to give it a second thought.

Until $6,000 to go. Then it was me who was throwing every spare penny at the mortgage, and I liked it. I started taking more interest in our financial plan (not overnight and not 100%, I’m still the free spirit, after all) and we started talking more realistically about our future plans (they are finally plans, not dreams). Somewhere along the line I realized we grew. In our marriage, in our faith in God’s provision, and as individuals.

So yes, we did this. We paid off our debt and our mortgage and we as a couple are debt-free.

But really, Jake did this.