I know this is a special topic for many people. Everyone has their opinion as well as experiences that influence their choices. I will share a bit about my history, and how it has influenced me.
Growing up, we were poor. Poor enough, that we always had free meals at school and even got food from the local food pantry occasionally. We also ate the weird cuts of meat since there was a local butcher in our tiny town, and he would sell the meat very cheap. Then there were the times we were given half a deer, or cow or whatever just because people had extra.
Even though we were poor, I never really noticed. Sure I knew other kids had nicer clothes and shoes without holes in them, but I would wear my shoes without really caring, hiding my self behind a wall of bangs, or silence. Its a lot easier to be ignore d by people when you don’t talk to them.
As I got older, my mother decided to continue her education. My mother was never dumb, but taking on school full time with 5 kids 10 and under is a bit daunting. My youngest brother was the first and only one of us to go to daycare. The daycare was paid for by some program at the local university. Yet another thing that we were poor enough to qualify for.
I remember getting special permission to rent “Stanley and Iris” for my mother. She watched it many times for some paper she was writing for school. I don’t even know how she decided on that movie. I personally thought it was horribly boring, plus it had swearing. How could she watch that? Ironically several years later when I began college we had to write a paper on a movie, a critique I believe. I choose a movie I was familiar with, and owned. I only watched it once, and then completed the paper. I am not trying to put down my mother, that is just the facts. For all I know, her class was given a list of movies and she choose Stanley and Iris randomly. Or it was assigned. Who knows.
Anyway, college proved to be really difficult for my mother. Learning Spanish after the age of 40 as well as taking on school full time is hard.
This was also when my parents started getting in debt.
You see, student loans, while they are considered “good debt” can be very tempting. You get money and you don’t have to start paying it back or paying interest until after you are done with school? Sweet! Graduation seems far off, and if your scholarships and other funds only cover tuition, you need money for the books.
I don’t remember the exact reason why my mother stopped going to school. I think it was a combination of the stress and the fact that she had all sorts of kids running around.
After she stopped, she took a CNA course, and started working. The debtor will always get his dues. With no experience in the health care industry for almost a dozen years, and no recent work history, my mother got the pick of jobs. Overnights in the local nursing home. I don’t know if this nursing home was corrupt, or good. I do know that my mother didn’t do so well working nights. She would come home and all of us children would be there, just waking up. Needing rides here and there. That summer my mother got into 4 car accidents. That cost money of course.
I remember the summer we found out the house we had been renting was sold. It was going to be tore down for new apartments. My parents began looking into buying a place. They found a smaller home that was honestly dirt cheap. It needed work, but it was livable, and since it would cost them $200 less per month than renting it seemed like a good thing. It was pretty cramped living in a 2+ bedroom home with 7 people. Sure the attic had been converted into an efficiency apartment, but it was still close quarters.
I was 15, almost 16 at the time. My parents bought it saying that in 2 years my twin and I would be graduated from high school and move out. Then the house would be a good size. Imagine that. I got an eviction notice at the age of 15. Sure I had 2 years, and it seemed really far off, but hearing those comments doesn’t make you feel welcome and loved.
Also, even though my parents house payment was lower than the previous rent, the utilities were higher. My mother got a job as a school bus driver, and after a couple of accidents, she was given a job as a bus para. Pretty much, she entertained the little kiddies, and helped out with the handicapped bus. She could have this fantasy life where scores of preschoolers would love the bus lady. She could also use her (minimal) Spanish skills and talk with them. Lets face it, most kids that are entering school and come from immigrant families speak their native tongue at home. The knew little English, and the fact that she tried to speak some Spanish was exciting. I grew to hate all things yellow and school bus related. But I digress.
Even when I graduated high school and decided to go to the local state university, my parents encouraged me to live in the dorms. For some reason sharing a room with my sisters seemed far better than a slightly larger room with 3 other people. Plus, living in the dorms was pricey they cost much more than my tuition. It was far cheaper to live at home and walk the 2 blocks to campus. I made the smarter financial choice as a senior in high school and choose to give up some independence and live at home.
Things don’t always turn out how we plan them though…
(Keep an eye out for Part 2 of the Why I want to be debt free. Lets just say my financial education was no where near complete.)