For the better part of my college years, I was broke. And I’m not just talking about financially broke, but spiritually, emotionally, and physically broke(n) as well. Working minimum wage jobs while juggling a more-than-full courseload, sleeping too little, drinking too much, not eating enough, seeking fulfillment from the wrong boys, and spending too much on overpriced lattes and Blue Moons, semester to semester.
Raise your hands, friends, because I feel like this was the story for a lot of us. If this wasn’t your story, and if you never even came close to failure while growing up in college, please pick up a pen right this second and write a book for all of the future college kids who need to learn from your wisdom and ways. I loved college, really and truly, I had communities and experiences who showed me the best and most beautiful that the world had to offer. But, I was broke, a lot of the time. I’m grateful that we stumble in life, because I believe that we need to, but I’m grateful that the stumbling stops. It always does.
I was lucky enough to land a great job that started two days after graduation, so I thought for sure that there was no way I could fail financially. At that point, I had (#praisehandsemoji) stopped stumbling my way through college. I found a career path in social services that I loved, I learned to get my 8 hours of snoozing per night, I found balance with social life and appropriate drinking, I made better eating choices, and I had a great boyfriend (now husband, double #praisehandsemoji) who respected me deeply and never once made me feel like I had to pretend to be someone I’m not to earn his love. Above all, I reconnected with God and found a relationship with Him, after so, so many years of ignoring any concept of faith and hoping that he didn’t see my bad decisions and desperate failures. I had the man, the faith, the apartment, and even the adorable dog, but, on graduation day, I still had not made peace with my finances. I kept it a secret that I was living paycheck-to-paycheck for months, not because I didn’t make enough (I did), but because I was a poor manager of my finances – the resources and gifts that I did not deserve, but had been generously given.
By the grace of God and by breaking up with those overpriced lattes, I hit rock bottom only to now be experiencing complete and total financial freedom. You can hear the nitty gritty of my story here.
Since those days of stumbling through poor decision after poor decision, I’ve had to give up a lot to have a more fulfilling and meaningful life. I am never for a second claiming to have it all together (I still fail, most days, because I’m human!), but I am able to look back on where I was with all of the gratitude in the world for what it took to be secure in who I am and 100% debt free today.
3 Things I Gave Up to Have More:
- My credit card: This is not to condemn anyone who uses credit cards, but to encourage anyone who may have struggled with being responsible for one, like me. You’ll hear in my story how easily I fell into the lie that it’s okay to borrow, with the idea of paying it off later. Something about swiping a piece of plastic that we don’t have to be accountable for at that present moment isn’t good for the soul, if you tend to be a bit impulsive like me. That $90 dress for the party that I’ll wear one time? I can’t really afford it, but I want to look like I can. Swipe. Or, too often in my case, I know I shouldn’t really spend $4.75 on a drink from Starbucks, but today was tough at work, so I deserve this, right? I’ll just add it to my bill and pay for it later. Swipe. I can’t tell you enough how good it felt to finally pay off all of my credit card debt, and cut up the card. I think I heard angels singing softly in the background when I did it. There are people who will tell you that you need credit cards to establish good credit – but it’s simply not the truth. The cool thing is, even now with cutting up my credit card – I can buy a new dress for a special occasion, and I can splurge on a fancy Starbucks drink now and then. I can even participate in a pay-it-forward line in the drive through because I know the money is there and I don’t have to add up the math. But I can only do those things if I’ve saved, planned, and budgeted responsibly. And that occasional grande soy green tea latte tastes a lot sweeter knowing that it’s not driving me into debt. 🙂
2. Cable Television: The truth is, I’d much rather be snuggled up with a book than deeply engrossed in what shenanigans the Kardashians have found themselves in lately. But, at the end of a long work day, my old, indulgent habits would have told you otherwise. Cutting cable has been wonderful. Not only has it made our monthly bills a bit friendlier to look at, but it’s given me so much more time to do the things that I really want to be doing, the things that matter and enrich my days. Plus, we share a family Netflix and we can still stream football on Sundays. A win-win.
3. Our home: Radical? Yes. Wonderful? Yes. Last year we sold our big, beautiful, stone-front, brand new, cozy townhome. I was so lucky to find Chad, and the fact that he already owned a house practically just waiting for us to build a life in was a joyous bonus. However, we’ve realized that it was simply just “too much house” for us. We only occupied the kitchen, living room, bedroom, and one bathroom on a daily basis. Our two guest rooms, long hallway, two guest bathrooms, and finished basement went practically untouched. Instead of continuing to make huge payments to our mortgage company for a house we don’t need, we moved to San Diego (because financial freedom allowed us to!) and are now renting a modest, smaller home that’s perfectly-sized (and priced) for just the two of us. I’m so excited about the choice that we made…because living modestly for now allows us to save big for something remarkable; a future family home we can live in and love in for years to come.
It’s my sincere hope that if you’re struggling in any of these areas, you’ll be encouraged by the sacrifices and changes that I had to make. And if you are struggling financially, or in any way, please know I’m here to chat and would love to help you along the way. You’re always welcome to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.