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The 700 Club

No Debt Is Too Huge to Conquer When You Do This

Cheryl Wilcox - 700 Club Producer
Zsa Zsa Palagyi - 700 Club Producer

Former U.S. Marine Aaron Littles met his wife Madelyn in the D.C. area. 

Madelyn says, “I was literally the girl next door.”

Aaron adds, “I see her after a workout. I'm like, ‘Hey, what's going on?’ And she's like, ‘Who are you?’” 

Aaron didn’t give-up, and soon the two were talking marriage and money. Madelyn was worried because she was $90K in debt.

“I was the picture of the consumer lifestyle,” she confesses. “I remember printing out my bank statements and my pile of debts, student loans, and credit card debts and thinking, ‘This might be the end of the relationship before it even gets off the ground.’” 

She didn’t know that Aaron was $15K in the red himself from some rental property expenses. Still, he was confident that the two could tackle their debt together. 

“My mentality was we can get married, we can buy a boat, we can live on the water, no rent,” he smiles. “And so now we're able to pay off this--all this debt quicker. And I said, ‘We'll sell your car and we'll literally eat beans and rice, and we'll be done in nine months.’"

Madelyn responds with a laugh, “I threw my ring at him and I stormed out like a child. I had accidentally fallen into this debt. And so, I thought maybe I could just accidentally stumble out of it, but you can't stumble out of a hole that's that deep.”  

Aaron had been listening to some biblical teaching on money and debt and shared what he was learning with Madelyn. Then during their engagement, the two took a financial planning class at church. It wasn’t easy for Madelyn, but she cut back on eating out and buying things.

As Aaron transitioned out of the Marines and into a civilian position as a project manager at a large bank, the couple diligently stuck to a budget. The savings from that--along with gift money from their wedding--helped them to pay down $35K within the first year of marriage. But they still had $70K to go.

“So, I was thinking, how do we ramp this up? How do we get our debt knocked out even quicker?” Aaron says. 

When they revisited their biblical money management class, they realized what was missing. 

“During the first year we were, we weren't tithing,” Madelyn explains. “We decided at that point, not to do it. It felt overwhelming because that seemed like a lot of money to give when I already didn't have a lot to spare.” 

Meanwhile, they received a challenge at church. 

Aaron shares, “The pastor was actually doing a whole series on tithing and giving, and he kind of dared everyone to say, ‘Well, what's the worst that happens? You can just tithe for a month or two and see what happens.’ So, we did that. I think it was a mentality shift spiritually to say, ‘We're going to trust in God.’”

Madelyn expounds, “And I think at that point is when the fear of tithing subsided, or it was overcome by my faith. This wasn't just my money or my stuff, this was something the Lord had given to me, and I needed to, instead of clenching it tightly with my fist, I needed to open my palm so that the tithes were the first thing that came out, and I gave back to God the first fruits of everything that He had blessed us with.”  

Aaron had opened an event planning business on the side to make extra money shortly after he and Madelyn married, but it had been slow-going. After starting to tithe, that suddenly changed. 

“We got some big contracts with weddings, got a big contract with a nonprofit company,” Aaron exclaims. “So that's where I have to attribute so much to our being faithful and diligent with our tithe, that the Lord honored that.” 

Aaron also got some increases in his project manager salary. And soon, the rest of the Little’s debt was completely paid off.  

Aaron says, “It was definitely freeing. It was like, just felt like you climbed a mountain, literally, ‘Ah, I can breathe now. And that burden's off.’”  

Madelyn adds, “It was so eye-opening to me. And at that point I recognized there was no - I can't trust myself because I'm fallible, but I can trust God to provide everything that we need.”

With no more debt and great money coming in from his main job, Aaron no longer needed extra income, so he closed his event planning business.  Meanwhile, Madelyn left her job to home-school the couple’s two daughters and tutor other children. Today, Aaron is the chief operating officer of a healthcare company.  And as the Littles have continued to tithe and give, their financial situation has gotten better and better. 

“We've got college funds started for the kids. We have an emergency fund for ourselves. We have retirement accounts going,” Aaron shares.

“Now we want to make sure that we're supporting other things that are important to us and helping grow the kingdom of God,” Madelyn contributes.

The couple encourage others who want financial freedom to shift their focus from how they’re going to pay off their debt to what they can give to God, instead.

“Make sure that you are growing in wanting to be generous and being cheerful whenever an opportunity comes to give. It’s just being faithful and living out the principles of the Bible,” Aaron says. 

Madelyn concludes, “It changes you, it changes the way that you view money. It changes the way that you view the blessings that you have. And it allows you to see that it's not yours, it's His.”

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