How My Husband and I Earned Our Bachelors, Got Married, and Had a Baby Debt-Free!
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Debt seems to be the four letter word that pretty much everyone has acquaintance with. Painful as it may be it is extremely common in our day and age to live with debt. In fact, if we are just looking at credit card debt statistics then we learn that 1 in 50 households has over $20,000 in debt, just off of their credit cards! This doesn’t include debt from furthering your education, a mortgage (which is still debt), or a car payment.
In fact, on average a household owes $131,431 to somebody. This includes all kinds of debt, and that is a painful thing to owe. I hate being in debt because I can feel this awful overhanging depression cloud trying to suck up my soul. That is probably a tad overdramatic, but honestly owing debt can really take a toll on you.
Growing up my family never had a large sum of money in the bank, never owned a house, and we were living well below our means for a long time just to pay off debts we owed. My parents weren’t taught from a young age the best way to apply their earnings, and thus were determined to teach their children better spending and saving habits.
I was lucky to have profited from my parents teachings and determination, as were my brothers, but not everyone has the opportunity to learn important lessons like that from their parents. Sometimes parents don’t teach it because they’ve always “had enough” and end up fine. Sometimes parents don’t know the right way to use their money in the first place. Sometimes parents even just avoid the topic of money because they don’t feel that their finances are any of their children’s business.
Fortunately there are a lot of amazing resources for young adults to help them on their early financial journey to not make mistakes that will last a lifetime. I want to give you my story, and explain the decisions that I feel made a huge impact in our ability to spend carefully, save well, and avoid debt!
Don’t Be Afraid to Live At Home
If you aren’t married yet, have some patience and live at home with your parents. Generally parents are more than willing to keep you home living under their roof if you are working hard and proving yourself to be an independent, trustworthy adult. I lived with my parents until about 6 months after I graduated, and my husband lived with his parents until he married me during his last semester of college.
Dual-Enrollment, Scholarships, and a Job
This was probably one of the most important factors in avoiding debt, avoid loans. ESPECIALLY for your undergraduate education. It is not worth the debt. When you get to graduate level work then it is more understandable if you need to take out a loan here and there because it tends to be way more expensive, and to take up more of your time.
Let me put it this way. I graduated from UNLV in three years taking over 18 credit hours a semester. I finished with a high GPA, no debt, and I stayed out of trouble. Honestly, college is not for partying. When I had been graduated for over two years, I started seeing people that had started in the program with me graduating. They had spent an extra two years in school that was absolutely unnecessary! What a waste.
If you get it into your head early that college is for the education and the for the “experience” then you will see success AND less debt. Be careful not to botch your opportunities in high school for scholarships. Generally colleges within the state you reside will offer scholarships to the citizens of that state who show promise. This was how I made it through school
Always file FAFSA, just in case, and apply to all scholarships that come your way. I can’t even begin to explain how many scholarships you can get just because other people don’t apply for them. If you are in high school, or if your child is in high school, look for dual-enrollment programs. This is an easy, free way to earn college credit and high school credit at the same time.
A do NOT forget to have a job. Part-time or full-time works. My husband worked full-time and did school full-time. It is possible. This was only 1 year ago for him, and 3 years ago for me. We’re not from an “older generation” that doesn’t understand “this generation’s” problems. We’ve been there done that, and just made good decisions as we went.
Lastly, don’t be lazy and give your professors good reasons to fail you. Repeating courses costs time and money, and time is money. Focus on your studies and you will be rewarded.
A Place to Learn for Cheap
One of the most ridiculous things I’ve never understood is everyone’s obsession with going out of state for college. I do understand the will to be independent and move out of your parents house, but not at the cost it comes with these days. For most of us, there are great colleges nearby that will be enough to get us what we need, which is a bachelor’s degree. If it is that important to you to leave town for school, wait until you are doing a Master’s. If you do well in your undergraduate degree you can generally find great deals out of state later.
A Frugal Wedding
The average cost of a wedding in the United States is $25,576. That is INSANE. That is a really nice car. I mean, do you know what I could buy with that? This cost doesn’t even include the honeymoon.
My husband and I were married in February of 2016. I couldn’t tell you exactly how much money we spent on our wedding, but if I were to give an approximate, I would say $2000.
The key? Borrow, borrow, borrow. People have weddings all of the time, and believe it or not, people use a lot during their wedding, that they don’t use any other day of their life, and if you’re willing to come and pick it up, they’re willing to lend it to you, or in some cases, give it to you.
Also: friends, friends, friends. Friends are willing to give you a place in their backyard to host, they’ll help prepare food and treats, they’ll offer help in putting together bouquets, you name it. People are happy to help, and there are a lot of resources at our fingertips that we can have if we just ask.
The Car and Home Situation
Be cheap, once again. Find a cheap rent, find a cheap car. I bought my 1997 Toyota 4Runner a few months before my wedding for $2,300 cash. The car has had its ups and downs, but it is going strong. And guess what? A cheap car calls for cheap insurance. That saves you money be the month.
My and my husband’s first apartment was tiny and about $520 a month. Our next, which was a two bedroom jumped up to $690, but it was well worth the price jump considering I was allergic to something in our first apartment (mold or dust) and it made me REALLY sick. The we moved to Utah where we paid $720 a month, BUT we lived across the street from my husband’s school, and we only pay for electricity. Look for ways to save. Sometimes it isn’t the most comfortable, cute, or cozy apartment, but in the long run it is worth it.
A Baby at Home
Baby making is expensive. Once you’re pregnant it can be a difficult ride to the end of your pregnancy. My pregnancy and birth, overall, cost me about $3,500. I paid $3,200 for my midwife, and about $300 for my birth pool. I gave birth at home and the beautiful thing was that we had planned ahead to have “insurance” with a health-share provider that covered most of birth costs. Be careful because most insurance providers do not cover the cost of birth now. We were with Christian Healthcare Ministries for our first child, and now we go through Liberty Health Share since we moved to Utah.
You should always be covered by insurance for emergencies and be careful about your health to avoid unnecessary, costly trips to the doctor.
Hand-me-downs, Ross, and thrift stores are GREAT for baby clothes. Sure we like getting cute new clothes for our babies, but nobody, including your child will really care or remember. Someday when you are in a better financial position you can afford to splurge a little for fun.
General spending? Let me be honest, my husband and I try not to spend a lot. We have our monthly bills including rent, electricity, insurance, and a phone bill, but otherwise we try to stick to cheap groceries and very few extravagant dates. Plan to pay for the things you need, avoid the things you just want.
Pay With Cash
If you can’t pay for something with cash, if you have to pull out a credit card, that is a good sign that you shouldn’t be buying whatever you are interested in. The envelope method words great where you pay off your bills and then split the remainder into portions. When the money is out, the money is out.
The crux of the matter is using self-control and common sense, which seems less and less common in these generations. Sometimes we must go into debt for emergencies and some types of schooling; however, it should always be a last resort, and it should be avoided and paid off as quickly as possible.
My husband and I made it a long time without owing any debt, but this last year we felt impressed to make our way to Utah for law school. At the end of this year we will owe debt on my husband’s law degree. Although that is a painful number to look at, it could have been a lot worse, and I’m actually proud of where we’re currently at.