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Ramen Noodles Aren't So Bad

What if you didn’t owe anybody a dime? Everything you had was ACTUALLY yours. This craziness is what we just entered into last night, March 6th, 2018 around 9 pm and I will never forget it. Thank you for wanting to hear this, I hope it inspires you to move and live differently. All that I share is real, raw and authentic. No tricks no gimmicks. Just me bearing my soul, being vulnerable about the past 430 days:

There is nothing extravagant about us or what we did, but we do live for an extravagant God. First I will say that none of our journey was and still is not possible without faith to the One who goes before us. This was and is His will for us and we are simply his disciples. Our story is more a story of patience, discipline, perspective, and faithfulness. It involves 1 career change, 1 move and paying off $149,415.67 in debt over 1 year and 2 months.

We are a regular couple who live a pretty regular life. We both work full-time average jobs, Cory as an analyst and myself as an office coordinator and part-time wedding/portrait photographer. Our annual income combined doesn’t break 6 figures. So breathe and find hope in your own situation. It doesn’t matter how much you make or what you do, it matters that you’re determined to accomplish a long-term goal instead of short-term gains. To catch up any new followers or readers, my husband and I recently finished Financial Peace University paying off first our 2 cars, then both of our student loans, and finally selling our house which helped us cross the finish line. We did sell our home which was 58% of our total debt and downsized to a 1 bedroom apartment in Kansas City, where we felt called to live.

This blog won’t really go into the core teachings of FPU but it will explain our experience with it. I’m going to break it down into 4 sections to really highlight those areas of struggle and success. However, I want to make sure I’m heard loud and clear that I am in no way an expert in this area. We are not suggesting nor teaching anything related to debt freedom. We are simply sharing our experience with the hopes it can inspire or motivate others to begin their own journey.

The nuts and bolts to our strategy are our own variation of everything taught in Financial Peace University. FPU gave us the foundation from which we could then build out of. It gave us some much-needed education and groundwork for how to start. We HIGHLY recommend completing this program with a small group of people like yourselves for accountability. Having other couples going through the program really helped kick us into high gear!

But really for us, it came down to this:

  • Living Off of 1 Income

  • Budgeting

  • Making Large Payoffs Instead of Snowballing

  • Persistence + Patience + Perspective


First, you should know the backstory of why this is SO impactful to me. I did not come from money. But before I dive in, upfront I want to say I have some of the most loving, intentional, and encouraging parents out there. They were never perfect and their role was never intended for perfection but man did they do an incredible job with the cards they were dealt. I am so incredibly proud to be their oldest child but the older I get the more proud I am of them. They have shown me year after year what struggle looks like but how overcoming it feels; what a messy marriage can seem as but how true love perseveres. They've shown me how a relentless spirit acts and I am forever grateful for that example. The story I will tell below is all true but I resent nothing. I had a wonderful childhood and through the struggles, we became a stronger family.

I grew up in a smallish town in mid-Missouri, I’m the oldest of 5 super awesome kids to the best parents a girl could ask for. While we appeared to have the little “American Dream,” we didn’t. At the age of 14, I watched my parents weather some serious financial storms. I understood my role of keeping things together and my siblings blissfully unaware. I wore a lot of weight on my shoulders; from my parents’ marriage to our family’s mistakes. I don’t think they put anything on me intentionally nor did they know how it would affect me. All 5 of us kids went to private Catholic school because my parents believed in investing in our education and our faith. We had to look the part even when we couldn’t afford it. We were a middle-class family trying to be part of the upper-class crowd and we lost. I remember fights, arguments, struggles, threatening letters and phone calls. Feeling angry, shameful, and frightful. When I was 18 I moved out and decided to be roommates with my nana. I still worked for both family businesses and helped our family get out from under this seemingly impossible debt mountain. Money was always a looming subject. It made me uncomfortable, I shied away from conversations about it and I brought bad financial habits into my relationship with Cory and eventually our marriage. ​

This all changed in December of 2016 when some of our small group friends suggested Financial Peace University as our next study. Our close friends TJ and Richelle had recently completed the program and their lives were totally changed by it. They were in the process of building a house and paying by CASH!! Who does that?!?! Naturally, Cory and I wanted to see what all the buzz was about. Being recently married and somewhat new homeowners, the idea of lowering our payments was pretty exciting. I don't think we would have been able to complete the course and the journey without our small group. These people are our world. They are family. They encouraged, prayed, and spoke so much life into us. They helped us see that Cory and I were being called to a life where financial freedom was part of our story.

It took me a long time to accept what was the truth. And truth is, the Bible is very clear on how we should live when it comes to money. Not only giving or tithing, but how to be successful stewards of all the finances in our lives. There are so many teaching points on finances in the bible and all of those are so intentional. Money, debt, bills, salaries etc.: all of these things can control lives. They can break marriages, lead to a life of deceit or depression, cause heartache and greed. But we have a God who loves us so much that he taught us exactly how to treat money so as to spare us from the chains it can have. Once we accepted that our finances were also part of our faith, our hearts began opening to scripture and taught us some much-needed lessons.

Stick with me friends, I have so much more to share. But until then think on this for me: What is Peace? - Is it a place? Is it a sound or a person? Would you say you have peace and control in your life? I didn't. That's why I needed a change.


Jill Caren

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