I’m sure this will be fascinating to many of you, and make others want to lay their head down on the nearest pillow and fall directly to sleep. Or maybe somewhere in the middle? Not even sure why I’ve been thinking about this lately. Probably because in reading all of Ilse’s wonderful posts, I’m reminded of how long it’s been since I “met” her and Stephanie online and where my own outlook on money, frugality, simplicity, intentionality, etc. has meandered since.
So grew up middle class in rural MN. Mom and dad never talked about money, well, not the details, but we knew we had enough for everything we needed but not quite everything we wanted. I always had the distinct impression that I should not request designer clothing, for example, which pretty much I didn’t care about – or perhaps I didn’t care because I knew I wasn’t going to have, anyway. But we were able to do all kinds of school activities, and always had enough food and clothes and medicine and books and toys and everything.
When it was time to go to college, I was determined to do it without loans. I went to community college concurrently with high school for free, then an additional year there to finish up an Associate’s degree, which I planned to transfer to a public university where I would finish my degree quickly and with no debt. Until . . . I got overwhelmed by the prospect of that public university and I visited a beautiful private college with its immaculate grounds and super welcoming admissions staff and FREE POP AND WAIVED APPLICATION FEE. So I applied, and got accepted. I was so excited! Then the financial aid letter arrived, with its skillions of dollars in loans as part of the package. And though I’d stated my goal of no student loans for yeeeeeeeeears, my parents were like, “meh, debt’s part of life.” And so I signed and waded into my first student loan.
What I also didn’t know is that I needed an additional year at that private college to cover requirements not accepted from the community college. So. There are a lot of things a family doesn’t really understand when no one’s completed college. Now we know. Transferring doesn’t always equal saving money.
Ultimately I borrowed around $20K in loans, a modest amount to some but an amount that weighed on me. So after college and a stint working abroad, I got serious about actually taking some action to eliminate these loans. I’d also wracked up some credit card debt during a year of underemployment, so I had that on my conscience too. It was at that time that I discovered Your Money or Your Life, and the heavens parted and the angels sang and I drank the Kool Aid and counted all my socks and everything else I owned and was shocked into action.
I started working diligently to pay off all my debt in March of 2006. I documented my journey on a now-defunct website dedicated to tracking goals. By this time I had about $34K in student loan debt (I’d also started a masters program), credit card debt and auto debt (because, since debt bothered me so much . . . I had bought and financed a brand new car. Riddle me that.). I did all these odd jobs, I had a graph (I just recycled that sucker about a month ago, I couldn’t let it go for years because I was sooooo proud of what it represented). Finally, in 2011, all of it was paid off, and in the interim I’d finished the remainder of the masters program on a cash basis and taken several trips including India and Hawaii, and gotten married! Admittedly a dual income definitely helped knock out the last $15K or so.
I’ll bring you my married life journey in a future installment, which I’ll link here when it’s up!