The Foundation of a Life Stoked


Where do you start when you want to build an awesome life? What’s the first thing you should do? What’s the key to building a solid launch pad? I could argue a number of different starting points, but one in particular sticks out as crucial to me. One thing in particular is the linchpin of your future.

Money. It’s simple. It’s measurable. And whether you like it or not, money touches every aspect of your life. Manage it poorly and you’ll be a slave to it (or lack of it). Learn to manage it wisely and it will take you anywhere you desire.

And as you start to look around you’ll notice that people who are good at managing money are also good at managing their lives. It’s not a coincidence.

So how do you make the most of your money? One simple philosophy: live debt-free*.

How It Changes Your Life

The only way I really know how to talk about the importance of living debt-free is from my own experience. So here are a few of the most awesome things I’ve experienced on the debt-free side of the hill (everything but the house, coming up on 4 years now).


I always wanted to work for a startup. I don’t mean a glamorous venture-backed “startup” flush with cash. I mean an in the trenches bootstrapped startup on the ground floor. To be part of something from the very beginning is quite an adventure!

With no payments and ten to twenty grand in the bank for emergencies, I felt free to try out the roller coaster that is a seed stage startup.

Could it fail? You bet! That’s the fun and adventurous part! But with such a strong financial position I knew a failure wouldn’t be fatal for my young marriage.

I got to live one of dreams without bringing along a lot of extra stress! How cool is that?!


Perhaps the greatest benefit of getting your finances in shape is the positive effect it will have on your marriage.

I think Larry Burkette teaches it best. He says that when you agree on your spending, you agree on your future, your hopes, dreams, goals, and everything else. Getting (and staying) out of debt will require you to work together and make some life decisions. Together.

And as you establish your emergency fund you’ll multiply the positive benefits on your marriage.


Because now that you’ve got no payments and three to six months of expenses in the bank the world is a much nicer place. You’ve been released from worrying if the transmission might go out or if your kid breaks his arm.

What used to be stressful financial emergencies become minor inconveniences. Speed bumps.

It will change your life to reach this step. You won’t go back. Ever.


And a funny thing happens when you’ve got your money under control. You seem to find more of it.

I couldn’t tell you the scientific reasons behind this, but most people increase their salary as they progress through these steps. Maybe they’re more effective at work without worrying about money. Maybe they’re just lucky. But it happens over and over and over.

My wife and I used to laugh about the round about ways we were blessed with extra money when we took care of it.

Is Debt Free For You?

In a word, yes. Although I’ve heard every reason in the book that people keep it around, I’ve never heard a single person regret taking the plunge.

Will it be hard? Probably. Will it be worth it? Undoubtedly. And as Dave Ramsey always says, “If you don’t like being debt-free, you can go back.”

Like it or not, money plays a significant role in how far you can go. And when you’re in position to weather some storms and pounce on some opportunities you’re set up for success.

Big success.

Great, but how?

I won’t get off in the weeds in this post about how to get out of debt, but I can tell you of all the ways to do it there is one that is head and shoulders above the rest. Dave Ramsey’s plan. If you do it, it will work.

And I don’t mean read it and understand it. I mean actually do it by the book. I’ve helped a lot of people with this stuff, and the only people that say it doesn’t work or that don’t make it are the ones that edit the plan to suit themselves.

*Debt Free Defined

There are two stages to becoming debt-free: 1) Pay off everything but the house. and 2) pay off the house! Why are they separated? Because paying off the house can take long enough that we do some other important steps in between (retirement investing and savings to name a couple). As long as your remaining mortgage is a fixed (preferably 15-year fixed), and you’ve paid off everything else – consider yourself debt-free!

You can hear more about my own debt-free story here.

So what do you think? How could being debt-free impact your life?

Contact me to chat about how you can take on this important journey!

(photo credit)

  • elizabethbarone

    Ah, money. It can be your best friend and your worst enemy.
    The only debt I currently have is a student loan. I can afford the monthly payments, but with the interest it sort of feels like I’ll never catch up. I’ll get there, though. Besides, the tax break it gets me is pretty nice, so it’s not all bad. 😀
    I’d love to own a house someday. Someone once told me that the best way to build up your credit is to shop around for the credit card with the lowest rate you can get. Then, you <em>only</em> use it on small things you know you could afford in cash right away, like gas or a CD. You pay it off as soon as the bill comes in a month later (you have to let a small bit of interest build up). After you do this for about a year, you call the bank and say, “Such-and-such competitor bank offered me a lower interest rate. Can you match it?” Rinse and repeat. I want to start once I’m in a better financial position — AKA not a complete slave to the student loan.

    • deaconbradley

       @elizabethbarone I’ve got a challenge for you Elizabeth: Read Dave Ramsey’s “Total Money Makeover” book. That’s it. Just read it. You will be amazed at how his insights into personal finance will impact you. I guarantee it will revolutionize your personal finances just to be taught by Dave through that book.
      Oh, and it’s a super easy, fun, and inspiring book too! It will for sure get your vision juices flowing!

  • Jon White

    Deacon, I think you laid it out better than I ever could. Having interviewed 20 (including you) on the Debt Free Living podcast I can tell you that getting out of debt is the only way to go! The funny thing is that not one person I have interviewed yet has told they wished they would have been in debt longer or is tempted to go back. Like you said, money impacts EVERY part of your life and it has been great to hear others stories of what they have been able to do now that they do not have any debt.
    It it like I tell people, try getting out of debt, if you have it you can always go back!

    • deaconbradley

       @Jon White It’s frustrating when every single person who’s done it LOVES it, and yet people still think it’s not the way to go. 24 months of pain – hundreds of awesomeness! Keep fightin the good fight Jon!

  • croyseniles

    Great post and important lesson, Deacon!  Being debt-free is such an amazing feeling, and it’s enabled us to “give like no one else”…we’ve adopted two teenagers, gone on mission trips, sponsored kids around the world, supported missionaries, etc.  If we had house payments and car payments and credit cards, none of these things (or only one or two) would be happening.  
    The only baby step we’re behind on is college savings…we “got” our girls at ages 12 and 14, so we’re “gazelle-intense” on that one now!

    • deaconbradley

       @croyseniles Ooooooo! How could I forget “give like no one else”?! That’s such an important and fun one!So far “Step 5″ has been n/a for me, but that will change soon… 😉

  • Amy Turner

    Yes, Deacon People who are good at managing money are equally good managing their lives. Maybe because they are using their intellect to an enormous degree, I mean, these are the ones who really think hard and plan their moves based on long-term goals. I believe if we can be like them if we decide to control our life and our finances.

    • Deacon

      Totally agree Amy! From my experience, discipline begets discipline. Two of the biggest areas you can start that process are with money and fitness. Both are easy to measure, and results will spill out into other areas of your life. Thanks for stopping by Amy!