Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After

Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After

by Cherie Lowe


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Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After by Cherie Lowe

Are your finances getting out of control? Have you made mistakes with your money? Are you in more debt than you’d like to admit?

Cherie Lowe has been there. She and her family found themselves $127,482.30 in debt (did your jaw drop?). They hadn’t bought a yacht, blown it on designer clothes, or purchased a mansion. The small, everyday expenses of living just added up—until suddenly, the Lowes were being threatened by one dragon of a debt.

But through hard work and with God’s help, Cherie’s family vanquished this foe, one bill at a time. And you can too! In Slaying the Debt Dragon, Cherie shares how her war on debt made her financially free, strengthened her marriage, taught her children valuable money-management skills, and brought her whole family closer to God and one another. As you read her battle tales, you’ll be armed with the weapons you need to fight your own financial foes. With God, all things are possible—and your inspired happily ever after can begin today.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781414397207
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers
Publication date: 01/01/2015
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Slaying the Debt Dragon

How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster And Found An Inspired Happily Ever After

By Cherie Lowe

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2014 Cherie Lowe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4143-9720-7



Change is painful. Few people have the courage to seek out change. Most people won't change until the pain of where they are exceeds the pain of change.

DAVE RAMSEY, The Total Money Makeover

ONCE UPON A TIME ... every great story has one. No matter the "happily ever after" or the many details in between, it simply wouldn't be a great tale without a "once upon a time." This is my family's once upon a time. Honestly, though, our story is fairly ordinary rather than fairy-tale extraordinary. However, I often need to answer the "How in the world did you end up with $127,000 in debt?" question before I dive into the methods we used to eliminate it. So without further ado:

Once upon a time ...

Fresh out of college and married for only a month, Brian and I moved to a new city so he could begin law school. We were both unemployed and incredibly clueless about finances. We were living on love and chips and salsa from Chi-Chi's, which was the restaurant nearest to our less-than-luxury apartment. I landed a job working full-time for a church while Brian went to school, clerking whenever his schedule allowed. For the next three years, most days seemed to follow that same pattern: Work. Chi-Chi's. School. Repeat. We didn't live recklessly. We didn't buy a million-dollar home. We didn't wear designer clothes. Due to the hectic nature of higher education and church ministry (okay, we were also lazy, and I really liked seafood enchiladas), we had a serious dining-out problem, but overall we weren't wild with our resources.

Our main plan for our finances, though, was not having a plan. Chalk it up to newlywed ignorance or a lack of financial literacy or that we were still living more like children than adults. But that lack of a plan was our first big mistake, and after a while it caught up with us. The brakes would go out on the car. Pull out the Visa! When we didn't have enough cash to go out with friends for dinner? Well, hello there, my little plastic compadre. Doctor's visit? Guess we should charge it. I mean, we have to go, right?

Eventually, Brian finished law school and found a good job. A couple of months later, I gave birth to Anna, our amazing first daughter who turned our hearts inside out. I quit my job to stay home with her, so we never even got the chance to fall into "the two-income trap."1 We bought a house. In the eyes of the world, we were living the American dream. Graduated from college? Check. Married? Check. Law school, baby, home owners? Check, check, and check. These were all things that we were supposed to do as young adults. We were nailing this grown-up thing.

Then the student loans came due. We deferred them.

They came due again.

It seems a bit astonishing to me now that we continued to live without any real financial planning for the next five years. We celebrated birthdays and anniversaries. We wished each other Merry Christmas. I went to graduate school, and when Anna was a toddler, I took on a part-time job at a different church. We went on vacations. We bought a new car. Life moved along as it often does, in the day-to-day of grocery shopping and laundry, holidays, and weekends.

Don't get me wrong. Brian and I weren't living in a stress-free, la-di-da world. While we loved each other and even enjoyed our lives as a small family, there was this underlying tension that I can't quite describe. There were no big blowup fights about money. But there was an occasional angst-filled, passive-aggressive moment or two along the way. Did we really need that? You bought what? Brian and I rarely discussed how much was in the bank, let alone any goals for our finances.

Enter the part of me that wishes I could sensationalize our story for you. I once was asked if I had bought something I loved in every color and maxed out our credit cards on designer shoes. That's simply not me. I wish I could tell you that we went on some killer vacation with beautiful ocean vistas and a pricey, high-flying skydiving experience. Didn't happen. Did we buy a yacht? Nope. How about an RV? Nope. Did we take our kids to Disney World every week? month? year? Nope, nope, and nope. Did we have awesome computers and smartphones and amazing technology in our home? Uh-uh. Was our house a McMansion? Pbfft.

Aside from the mortgage on our home—a small and very modest 1950s brick ranch—our debt consisted of what most people would consider run-of-the-mill expenses. Oddly enough, approximately ten months before we launched into our debt-slaying journey, I was contemplating returning to work full-time. In my mind, employment would help us "get ahead" financially, and Anna was ready to begin kindergarten anyway. We could relieve some of the pressure we were feeling and maybe be able to afford a few of the extras so many friends seemed to regularly enjoy. Then unexpectedly I discovered I was pregnant, and everything changed. God had blessed us with new life.

He'd also given us another reason to think seriously about how to dig ourselves out of debt, which was comprised primarily of four large obligations. We owed close to $89,000 in combined student loans, including my husband's undergrad and graduate school debt as well as a loan from one semester of my collegiate experience. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for covering the other seven semesters!)

Then we owed over $16,500 on one major credit card. Again, I wish we had something to show for it. But there's no killer house addition, no walk-in closet filled with stylish clothes, no four-wheelers or vacation photos. We simply nickeled-and-dimed our way into five figures of debt-spent to cover household repairs, groceries, small gifts, dining out, new brakes and tires for the car, all very boring stuff.

We also had a car loan to the tune of about $12,000. Our vehicle was quite modest by our reckless standards, so we'll call that one a grace-filled "oops."

The final piece was the medical debt. In mid-March 2008, our second daughter, Zoe, made her arrival. She brought life, grace, and energy into our lives. She also brought a big heap of medical bills amounting to $5,700. We hadn't planned on that either.

On top of these four major obligations were a few minor debts like a $2,200 root canal for me (that was no fun and expensive), $1,000 in furniture we had purchased on a payment plan, $100 on a department store card, and interest paid along the way.

While not so glamorous, these debts totaled well over $127,000, a figure that typically makes people's eyes bulge bigger than Homer Simpson's when I share it with them.

I nearly passed out myself when Brian first showed me the bottom-line debt total. It wasn't during a serious moment at the kitchen table or even during a budget meeting in our living room, where eventually we would bury our noses in a laptop, crunching numbers and trying to figure out what we could cut from our already simple lifestyle. Instead we were standing inches from each other in our bedroom. In many ways, though, our hearts were miles apart at that moment. Motivated by the pressure of one more mouth to feed and one more child to put through college someday, Brian had begun some serious number crunching. Poised next to his dresser, he stared down at a white legal pad. On it was scratched out how much we owed and to whom. The list seemed very long and the numbers very large.

Inside, I was trying not to completely freak out. I'm not of much use in high-stress situations. I actually ran around in circles once after accidentally setting something on fire in our oven. Seriously, I waved my hands in the air like a lunatic and repeated, "What are we going to do?! What are we going to do?!" while Brian calmly put out the fire with baking soda. He handles crisis moments with much more grace than I do.

While the ball of panic built up in my gut, I resisted the urge to repeat my "the oven's on fire!" theatrics. I realized I hadn't ever thought about our debt in its totality. I was merely functioning month to month, making sure the bills were paid and there were groceries in the refrigerator. Sure, I occasionally did a little "creative" financing, paying a bill just a bit late so we could make ends meet until the next pay period, but I was simply clueless as to the size of our debt.

While seeing that enormous total on Brian's legal pad was my wake-up call, he had first begun strategizing our debt-slaying journey two years prior. His moment of clarity came as we were sitting in a large-chain bookstore on a low-key date. While browsing, Brian pulled the book The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey from a shelf and walked it back to the overstuffed chairs where we had been sitting. I can't remember what I was reading that night, though I'm sure it was—ahem—significant at the time.

Brian read the entire Dave Ramsey book. He put it back on the shelf. Our date ended. As we headed back to our car, I had no idea that my husband was already considering battle plans.

He soon became an avid fan of Dave Ramsey's radio show. Inspired by what he was learning, Brian began to cast the vision for us to pay off all of our debt. He asked me to read the book. He encouraged me to listen to podcasts. To help us dream big, he began posing questions like "What could we do with all the money we'd save if we weren't paying so much interest each month?" He never demanded. He never dictated. He was patient and kind. He never forced me to do anything.

Brian can talk a good game. He asks questions for a living. His words and thoughts were definitely compelling. However, what spoke volumes to me was the way he began to change his own personal habits with money. Again, he did this without coercing or even convincing me to do the same. I began to sit up and take notice.

In early 2008, Brian stopped using the one major credit card we had. I tried to use it only for reimbursable work expenses. Unfortunately, I rarely made a payment from the check I was given for those expenses. Not only that, but I felt like a heel for using my credit card when my spouse had stopped using his—even though he didn't say anything. (Keep that in mind if you are praying for new financial direction in your marriage. Change begins with you. Not your spouse or anyone else.) So in February, I used the card for the very last time.

At some point in March, we jointly made the decision to get serious about beginning what we would eventually call our "debt-slaying journey." It appeared to be a less-than-optimal time to begin such an undertaking. Our younger daughter was due to make her appearance any day. Babies are so adorable, but they are ridiculously pricey. Medical bills, diapers, gadgets and gizmos you never knew you needed, as well as drive-through dinners on the nights you're too exhausted to cook—the expenses are limitless and typically unexpected.

It was probably the worst time to begin paying off debt. But honestly, is there ever a good time to start? There will always be an unexpected illness or a car that explodes, a birth, a death, a washing machine that goes bonkers. There is no good time to begin paying off debt. There is only today.

I am thankful our situation hadn't spiraled out of control to the point where we lost our house or our car. Looking back now, I know that both were very real possibilities. Had Brian lost his job, had illness struck our family, or had we encountered a significant repair or tragedy, we could easily have folded, broken, and shattered—financially, emotionally, and spiritually. Fortunately, our internal unease prompted some serious self-examination before we hit a crisis point.

Even so, our situation was sobering. By Brian's best estimates, it would take us fifteen years to pay off all of our debt; nine if we really hustled. He adjusted his withholdings at work, which freed up an extra $100 per month. That meant we would no longer receive a refund, but we wouldn't have to pay anything extra at tax time either. It wasn't a whole lot compared to what we owed, but it was money we weren't using to live. On April 2, 2008, away we went, beginning by tackling our smallest debt first.

I rarely vocalized them then, but I had multiple fears in the early days. As I stared at the columns of figures Brian had scribbled on his legal pad, a number of terrifying thoughts tumbled through my troubled soul: How did we end up in this mess? What if we never pay all this off? What will we do if another major unexpected expense comes up? Will we ever have fun again? (I know, the last one is a very noble fear, right?)

Then again, continuing on our current path didn't seem much better: What could happen to our family if we kept the same spending patterns, persisting in our non-plan plan?

While it might seem wishy-washy and semipathetic, before we began the process of getting out from under debt, I had to face those fears and ask for forgiveness. I'm not talking about debt forgiveness in the financial sense, but in the emotional and spiritual sense. After pondering all the self-condemning and "what if?" questions, feelings of guilt, remorse, and insecurity gushed into my heart and brain. How could I have been so stupid? How could I have made so many unwise choices with money? Why was I so selfish in needing one more thing?

Don't get me wrong—remorse is a good thing. It made me uncomfortable enough to realize, What we're doing now isn't working. Why not tackle paying off all our debt? However, if guilt paralyzes you, it is unproductive. So at some point, I had to shake it off and rub some dirt in it (or at least that's what the coach and my dad always advised), to move on to the next step.

For me, this was a two-step process of (1) admitting to myself, Yes, I was wrong, and (2) realizing that we had to begin where we were right then. To get out of debt, Brian and I needed to change our behaviors that stemmed from our poor judgment, trusting God to provide avenues for us to follow to clean up our financial blunders.

Presenting the Queen of Free

As you can see, our "once upon a time" story didn't have a dramatic beginning. Brian and I didn't have a colossal fight followed by a tearful time of prayer, where we resolved to follow God's plan for our money. That's a great story, but it simply isn't ours. Instead, we began by taking small steps of obedience—changing our behaviors, seeking forgiveness, and acknowledging our overwhelming desire for hope for our financial future.

One of my first small steps included reducing our spending, especially in the area of groceries and household goods. I set out to learn how to use coupons and, even better, to score anything and everything I could for free.

I've always loved anything free. Who doesn't? When I was a young girl, I purchased an amazing paperback at my elementary school's book fair. To me, its pages contained the secrets of the universe. Eight-year-old Cherie squealed with glee when she learned that there were actually companies who would send you items absolutely free if you wrote a letter and included a SASE (that's "self-addressed stamped envelope" for you young whippersnappers).

The advent of the Internet brought my quest for free to a whole new level of excitement—particularly once we took on our debt. I began sharing my freebie finds with friends and family via e-mail. More and more people began requesting to be added to my already lengthy list of names. Inadvertently, I left someone out from time to time. After one too many "I wish I had known about that" messages, many punctuated with sad-faced emoticons, I decided to begin sharing my love of all things free on a personal blog.


Excerpted from Slaying the Debt Dragon by Cherie Lowe. Copyright © 2014 Cherie Lowe. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii

Chapter 1 Once upon a Time 1

Chapter 2 Debt-Defying Duos 13

Chapter 3 Starting-Line Strategies 31

Chapter 4 Budgets Are Your Battle-Ax 37

Chapter 5 At the Royal Table 79

Chapter 6 Keeping the Castle Clean 107

Chapter 7 Formidable Foes and Fellow Debt Slayers 133

Chapter 8 Of Princes and Princesses 133

Chapter 9 Joy for the Journey: A Benediction 183

Acknowledgments 201

Slaying the Debt Dragon Playlist 205

Slaying the Debt Dragon Reading List 207

Discussion Guide 211

Notes 219

A Note from Cherie 227

About the Author 229

What People are Saying About This

Erin Chase

I read Cherie’s story with my jaw dropped to the floor. The amount of debt she and her husband acquired is astounding, but the short amount of time in which they put their debt to death is astonishing and inspiring. Through her story and experience, Cherie will give you the practical steps you need to take to walk yourself right on up to the dragon and sling your sword into its mouth. She’ll encourage you, give you hope, and hold your hand as you journey out of debt and into a life of financial freedom and wealth acquisition. Now, grab your sword and raise it with her . . . because she’s about to teach you how to slay your debt dragon!

Holley Gerth

In today’s world, financial choices we thought would bring happiness often turn into chains that keep us from experiencing the freedom that is ours through Jesus. Cherie Lowe will give you the practical tips, tools, and encouragement you need to break the bondage of financial burdens and discover how to live a truly abundant, joyful life.

Margaret Feinberg

The tentacles of debt don’t just burrow into pocketbooks and bank accounts, they entangle our relationships, our attitudes, and our hearts. This fresh look at living debt-free once and for all is compelling, inspiring, and practical. You can’t afford not to buy this book.

Claire Diaz-Ortiz

Cherie Lowe’s incredible story of conquering her family’s debt dragon is inspiring, entertaining, and filled with hope. Through practical tips and her own personal battle tales, you’ll be reminded that financial freedom is indeed possible.

Amy Allen Clark

Slaying the Debt Dragon is an approachable guide to ridding your life of unnecessary debt. Not only are the debt-slaying strategies practical and doable, but the advice comes from a family who truly experienced the journey toward financial freedom. Cherie helps her readers set aside the guilt and shame of living in debt and gives a step-by-step guide to getting out of debt into financial freedom. There is no way that you cannot save money after reading this. For those struggling with debt, this book is filled with hope for a better life ahead. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

Pastor Michael Nave

Cherie has given us two amazing gifts: motivation and direction! Throughout the book, you will hear Cherie’s spunky voice proclaiming, “You can do it!” Many good resources tell you how to “eat the elephant” and even where to begin. But if knowing “how to” was enough, we would all be millionaires! In order to begin, we must believe the end of debt-free is truly possible. Out of the ashes of her family’s own financial mistakes and despair, Cherie confidently says, “We did it, and you can too!” Prepare to be encouraged and empowered!

Mary Demuth

Slaying the Debt Dragon is an honest, freeing, and entirely refreshing read. Cherie’s story inspired me to reevaluate the way I view and spend money. Her wisdom is hard won, and is told with bold, witty authenticity.

Emily P. Freeman

If you’ve ever had a panic attack trying to develop a budget, wanted to get out of debt but don’t know where to start, or said the words, “I’m just not a numbers person,” then you need to read this book today. Cherie Lowe is a kind companion for a difficult journey. She helps you make peace with your pocketbook as you learn to see the beauty in a budget, and she does it with wisdom, grace, and a light heart.

Scot Longyear

With flair, candor, and humor, Cherie Lowe offers a field-tested plan to turn your finances around. Her real-life story, strategies, and no-nonsense advice will help you find the freedom you’ve been dreaming of.

Craig and Amy Groeschel

Long live the Queen of Free! Practical, witty and downright inspirational, Cherie’s debt-slaying book will lead you out of the dark pit of debt dragons to a place of hope and financial freedom with “been-there, don’t-do-that” wisdom.

Kurt W. Bubna

A plethora of words come to mind after reading this incredible book: insightful, honest, practical, challenging, wise, and useful. Cherie Lowe tells her saga with humor, guts, and raw transparency. It is a story that will encourage you to face your own debt dragon with hope and determined courage.

Ryan Johnson

The humility and vulnerability revealed by Cherie in Slaying the Debt Dragon are refreshing and inviting. She has invited the world into her life by giving us a “look under the hood” of what it takes for the power of debt to lose its sting in our lives. By the end of this book, you’ll be encouraged to press on to your own financial freedom because of her nonglamorous, authentically simple, and realistic journey that she has invited us to join.

Brodie Taphorn

I’ve known Cherie and Brian Lowe since before they slayed their debt dragons. The freedom they enjoy now comes from employing the principles and advice that Cherie generously shares in this book. They’re not just theories and platitudes but tried and true principles and habits that turned things around for the Lowes. The good news is that the information Cherie offers really works and can make all the difference in your financial future. Follow Cherie on this adventure—you won’t regret it.

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Slaying the Debt Dragon: How One Family Conquered Their Money Monster and Found an Inspired Happily Ever After 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
dons96vette More than 1 year ago
I loved reading this book. It was an easy and fun read, yet it was packed with very practical wisdom on living out the day to day process of defeating debt. There are many books out there that give you a lot of tools and processes and forms for budgeting and debt elimination, but they leave out the typical struggles that come with the process. This book takes you along for the ride and gives you real world advice on how an average American family can face the challenge and win.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You might cringe at the thought of reading an entire book about how to pay off your debt and get your finances in order. It sounds soooo boring and it might even be uncomfortable since you really don't want to face the facts of your financial failings. Slaying the Debt Dragon is an entertaining read that does not hit you over the head with your past mistakes but encourages you with sound, practical advice and above all will give you hope that you too can slay your debt dragon. If you feel like your debt is suffocating you and straining your marriage or even if you just feel like you could be spending your money a little more wisely, this book is for you!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cherie writes an easy to read and encouraging book about how to get out of debt.  Much of the book is her personal story about how she and her husband paid off a large debt using biblical and practical principles.  I really enjoyed all the practical advice and even recipes that she still uses to help use money and resources well.  Great read!!!
Danny_G More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book and it was also very helpful for where I am right now. Trying to pay off some credit card debt is one reason that this book appealed to me. Having said that I found this book an easy read with a lot of good advice. Most of what is in this book is common sense like setting a budget, saving for rainy days, etc. However, some discussion has to be brought to light about tithing and paying off debt. Does one continue to tithe or pay off debt first and then tithe? I feel that Ms. Lowe did a great job in answering that question and brought some light in a way I had not expected. For more info about this book, head over to Queen of Free. It will be well worth your time.