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Gainesville couple manages finances from biblical perspective

POSTED: January 2, 2009 11:53 p.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Trevor and Michelle Thomas have been married for 11 years and in that time, they have shared tips on how to live a debt-free life through budgeting and keeping their faith in God.

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Many young couples expect to take on a mortgage and car payments as they start their families.

But Trevor and Michelle Thomas, both younger than 40, managed to build their own home and live completely debt free by sticking to a strict budget.

The Thomases committed to becoming financially stable after taking a Bible study from Crown Financial Ministries. The ministry teaches financial management with a biblical perspective.

"The Bible teaches to avoid debt if at all possible," Michelle Thomas said.

Trevor Thomas said he and his wife don’t believe debt is bad or sinful, but feel that conquering debt can help make people’s lives better.

It was the religious aspect of debt management that really made Trevor Thomas commit to paying off his debt.

"We felt God calling us to live debt free," Trevor Thomas said. "He just led us down that path. We committed to doing that."

After they were married, Trevor and Michelle realized they owed more than $25,000. And though it wasn’t easy, they started living on a strict formal budget and managed to pay off their debt in just over a year.

"It was stressful in the beginning," Michelle said.

The Thomases used Trevor’s salary from his teaching job at Johnson High School to support themselves while Michelle’s income from working part time went exclusively toward paying off debt.

The Thomases pointed out lightheartedly that Michelle ended up paying for her own engagement ring through the arrangement.

The way they chipped away at the large sum was by paying off one debt at a time.

"List your debts from smallest to largest. Put all your income into that first and smallest debt," Trevor Thomas said. "You get to see things checked off. It’s encouraging."

Once the debt was paid off and the couple committed to living a debt-free life, they decided to build a house. So they did that debt free, too.

"Everybody was a bit skeptical," Trevor Thomas said.

Though it took lots of saving and labor and a lot of help from friends and family, the house is finally complete after more than three years of construction.

"Blood, sweat and tears went into this house," Trevor Thomas said. "It was worth it."

Michelle Thomas became a certified budget counselor through Crown Financial Ministries, which helps people get control of their own debt.

The Thomases, who have four young children, hold a financial Bible study at their church, the Gainesville Vineyard, in downtown Gainesville.

They expect to see a lot more interest in their next session because of the state of the economy, especially after Christmas when credit card bills become due.

Michelle Thomas said many are interested in such a program, but few are able to stick to a strict plan.

"Most of it just involves getting people on a formal budget," Trevor Thomas said. "We’ll see if the current economic situation motivates people."

The Thomas’ are so serious about planning ahead and sticking to a budget that Michelle Thomas said they will begin saving money from January’s paycheck for next Christmas.

And they would not want it any other way.

"We don’t owe anybody anything," Trevor Thomas said. "And that is a very peaceful feeling."



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