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I met Sara, a ditching debt(er) and silver saver, at a wedding in Montana.
She was the mother of the groom. The groom is Mr. BuLL’s bestie who decided to have a Montana destination wedding. I’m unsure how much was with intent or accident, but Mr. BuLL and I live three hours from the coveted wedding location.
The couple picked a glorious Airbnb where rocky pinnacles crowded a sapphire lake that was dappled with mergansers and baby beavers.
I knew the groom from college, and his bride was an alumnus too.
Clearly, they were destined for this day!
After celebrating the joining of two lives into one journey, I found an empty chair, leaned back, and was ready to sit and stare. I sat with what I hope was a blissful smile of content; happy if someone wanted to chat but finding peace in silence.
Sara (name changed to protect the innocentish) filled the next chair.
I wanted to chat with her. Earlier in the day, she made a few casual comments about her subscription to the David Ramsey philosophy. As a Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) aspirer, I hoped to learn her story and financial journey.
Sara started in debt.
The average American debt totals $52,940. That includes mortgages, home equity, auto, student, and personal loans, plus credit card debt. Debt peaks between ages 40 and 49, and the average amount varies widely across the country.Business Insider
When her two boys were young, they were active in hockey. As with any sport, it was expensive with travel and gear. Sara admitted she was quick to use her credit card for any related expense.
She confessed to trying to keep up with the Jones since they were good friends. What began with a few extra purchases ended with debt.
By 2007, she had enough. The possibility of ditching debt became intoxicating. She started looking for ways to escape the chains of debt. She stumbled upon Dave Ramsey and took the Financial Peace University. Shortly thereafter, she built her first budget.
She adopted the envelope system and paid in cash. She joked that the boys complained about bare cupboards because if cash was lean, the cupboards were too. After years of staying with the program, she is cashing in the results.
Retired or Fired?
Sara and her husband are financially stable, or enough that she has little concern about her husband losing his job.
Her husband works as a landscaper at a company that just finished a merger. There are rumors of massive layoffs.
She admits, she hoped to retire in three to maybe five years. If he is let go, she would adjust her plan. Instead of five years being a maybe, it would be a reality. Which she shrugs off with an air of confidence that only a financially stable person can.
Sara says their financial situation is sound and if he didn’t get another job, it would change little. Between her manager wages and their investments, she has little concern about losing income.
Debit Traitor Card
Credit cards are more of a concern.
She mentioned that she had to change how frequently she uses a debit card. A while ago, she used her debit card to pay for a plane ticket.
The carrier double charged her.
Until the issue was cleared, she sat with an excessive $2,500 charge.
Mr. BuLL, like a moth to the financial flame, was quick to spew his opinion on debit cards. He mentioned that with a credit card, she wouldn’t worry about a large charge cratering her checking account. With a charge card, she could dispute the issue. If needed, it would sit in an investigation while she continued onwards and upwards with a different card.
Mr. BuLL loves his reward points, so he had to mention that many companies pay for using a credit card through a reward program, unlike a debit card.
That point may have swayed her away from his podium piece, since the conversation merged into another topic – the brilliant sunburn the groom was wearing.
As I travel further into the charred world of FIRE, I am becoming sensitive to financial conversations. I am quick to encourage dialogue by sharing my frugal journey and use my superpower – introvert listening skills.
Not that I had to explain our frugalness. When I mentioned where we were staying, everyone had a good idea of how we roll – cheap!
While the rest of the wedding guests were holing up in motels and other Airbnb, Mr. BuLL and I were camping in the forest service campground less than a mile away. We could have reserved a motel, but it’s Montana.
And were frugal.
Our marriage is joined somewhere around a couple of sleeping bags, a tent, and a campground spot that costs less than two big mac meals.
As the wedding group packed up and everyone said goodbye, I made sure to find Sara. I gave her a bear hug and thanked her for everything. She ensured that Mr. BuLL and I left with enough leftovers to fill our 45-quart cooler.
The story of the Silver Saver Sara is yet another reminder why it’s never too late to start or too much effort to make a friend.