Jon Acuff wrote this in a Start Experiment email this morning:

I invite you to step outside of ordinary and dream about something audacious. Gone is the practical. Death to realistic. It’s time to hope big.

He went on to ask everyone to spend fifteen minutes writing about what being audacious means.

What is my personal “Hooah!” battle cry? Over the last year and some change, this would have been my answer:

Being audacious sometimes requires making wise (and rather boring) financial decisions in the short-term so that you can dream bigger in the long-term.

Since November of 2010, practical financial concerns had crippled me with tunnel vision. That November 6 was my wedding. My wife and I put some of our wedding expenses on a credit card. Then she finished cosmetology school, and to keep Sallie Mae happy, we had to feed the beast $286 each month. In June 2011 I joined a Mastermind group to the tune of $2500 per month. No, that isn’t a typo.

Small risk, small reward. Big risk…

I stuck with it for four months. Total investment? $10,000. The investment has paid off, but not in the ways that I’d initially hoped.

Conventional wisdom would find no problem with these big expenditures—wedding, education, business development. Yet, I felt like a packhorse harnessed to the cart of our finances, plodding forward with my vision restricted by blinders.

Debt is embarrassing for most men, especially if you are the provider for your family. Debt testifies to a lack of financial prudence. Debt whispers in your ear: “You should have been more disciplined. You should have saved more money. You should be better with money. You should be earning more.”

Debt shoulds on you.

When my wife and I found out that she was pregnant in late June 2012, I began to want more for us. I didn’t want to welcome a child into a world of financial bondage. I didn’t want to make excuses for myself anymore: “I’m just not good with money.” I didn’t want bickering with Megan about money to peck away at our intimacy and love and dreams.

Audacious.

So I starting pulling off the blinders by reading hundreds of pages of personal finance books:

I listened to the Money Girl podcast while I ran.

These ugly numbers were lined up on either side of our debt gauntlet:

  • $1000 (good-faith refund to a client)
  • $3000 (business loan for app development)
  • $3100 (credit card)
  • $6500 (credit card)
  • $7500 (credit card)
  • $10000 (school loan)

We were looking at an additional $5000 for Megan’s insurance deductible when we welcomed Salem into the world.

Making a Plan

Megan and I sat down one night to create a plan. We would put $1000 in savings as an emergency fund. We would tithe a minimum of 10% of our income at church. We would divert 20% of our income to paying off debt.

We would try to live on 70% of our income, even though living on 100% had seemed like a stretch before.

Audacious.

We would meet the minimum payments on all of our debts except for the smallest one. We committed to scraping together another $100-200 to pay that one down one faster.

Audacious.

My math said that we could become debt-free in just under three years.

Sobering.

We had a garage sale. We sold stuff on eBay. We even used “fun money” (birthdays, Christmas, other gifts) to make our payments larger. We paid off one, then two, then three. Momentum felt good, and we made a point to celebrate after each one.

Audacious.

The Happy Ending

Then the strangest thing happened: God opened the floodgates, and we paid off all our debt of over $35,000 in less than a year, two years ahead of schedule.

The beast called Sallie Mae now goes elsewhere for her meals. I tear up Citibank’s balance transfer letters and recycle them. Bright Newt is bursting at the seams, and the cash reserves enable me to plan and execute much more audacious business development projects because I can easily bankroll them.

I hadn’t realized the degree to which debt was crippling my imagination.

It’s hard to run with a limp. I put my dreams on the shelf because I saw no way to pay for them. It’s hard to see what could be if you have blinders on.

By all means, be audacious. Be audacious enough to stick to a plan. Dave Ramsey is fond of saying, “Live like no one else so that you can live like no one else.”

As you work through your own Start Experiment or simply chew on what I’ve written, ask yourself what practical financial blinders you need to address so that you can be more audacious.

Paying off your debts, big and small, will be worth it, I promise you.