My name is Kevin Jones. I come from a middle class family in southeast Virginia. We had times growing up that were very tight, but I always had everything I needed. My parents have never been good with their money and aren’t savers by any means. They are very generous people and I really respect that about them.
Growing up I was always tight with my money. I didn’t have much, so I wanted to keep it. I describe my style as always having money, but never a lot.
In 2006, I was 27 and my wife and I decided it was time to grab a hold of our finances. We were a young family and we had done two home renovations, had student loans, car debt and credit card debt. Almost $20,000 total. That is a huge whole for a small family with relatively little income.
At the time, I was very lucky and got to work on a team of people all around the same age and all very interested in improving personal finance habits. We were all very open about everything including salaries, debt, spending habits, etc. I love openness when it comes to money because you can learn so much from other people. Money is such a taboo subject which is a real shame.
As part of this, we all started investigating Dave Ramsey and his teachings. His concepts weren’t new to me, however, I decided I would try going by his 7 steps. We started accomplishing things so fast which amazed me. In that first year, we paid off over $19,000 in debt. I sold the car I had just finished paying off. I used the money from the sale to pay off my student loans. Then we started attacking credit card debt using the debt snowball method. It was so freeing to see the debt melting away. We cut up all of our credit cards and starting paying for groceries, restaurants, gas and spending money with cash.
After the debt was gone (minus our mortgages), we started to build our emergency fund. This is by far the most boring step in financial freedom. However, it is also the most important for your psychological well-being. It feels so good to know that it’s there if we need it. At first we built up 3 months worth of necessary monthly expenses. We are now working to get 6 months worth.
We are also investing between 15 to 25 % of our gross income for the future. I am putting a small amount away each month for each of our 3 kids educations. We have life insurance and disability insurance covered. All in all, over a 6 year span our family net worth has gone from negative $25,000 to a little over a quarter million (depending on the housing market). All of this accomplishment on a single income and a growing family of five. This is not to brag, but to show that amazing things happen with a little ambition.
When I look back, I wish so much that I had started all of this sooner. I wish that they would teach this stuff in high school. Learning how to handle personal finance and adult responsibilities seems so much more important to everyday life than some of the other things I learned.
I started Free Zero Based Budgeting so that I may pass some of what I have learned on to others. I also want to continue my learning. There is a huge community of folks spreading their knowledge of personal finance all around and if I can help just one person, it will be worth my effort.