Once upon a time there was a little girl who couldn’t understand why her clothes were bought at Value Village and Walmart, and why Santa didn’t bring the right brand name items on her Christmas list. She hurriedly rushed out to spend every cent of her meager allowance on the cheap thrills of a 12 year old- comics, make-up, earrings and the like. She believed that having an income of her own was her ticket to financial fulfillment.
And so, at the age of 12 her working days began. First as a casual babysitter, then as a regular sitter with a M-F job before and after school, and then as a concession worker at a local baseball field. As soon as she turned 15 (the legal working age), she applied at every local fast-food joint, and soon received a part-time job at her friendly neighborhood McDonald’s. Here she continued until the summer after graduation, as well as holding down secondary part-time jobs at Blockbuster Video and Pizza Hut during her 12th grade year.
Although a somewhat carefree spender, her parents taught her to open a savings account to begin to save for university and a car. So she began to conscientiously save half of her income, while continuing to enjoy the remaining half as she pleased.
At long last, she packed up her belongings and moved south to begin university at the tender age of 17. With enough savings for one semester, and some scholarship and bursary possibilities, she delved into the life of a university student, accompanied by her very first student loan.
Quickly realizing that living on her own and attending an expensive private Christian university was to be a costly endeavor, she set about obtaining student work on campus, in the school cafeteria. Although her minimum wage job helped ease the financial burden somewhat, it was nowhere near enough, and so she continued to rely heavily on her loans.
Working full time each summer was the plan, with hopes of setting aside vast sums of money (ok, so she was a little naive) in order to pay for the upcoming school year. While traveling cross-country to move to her summer job (selling books and educational materials door-to-door on commission- what was she thinking?), she was in a terrible car accident. Only 4 weeks later, she asked her parents to fly her home at a loss, and spent the remainder of the summer working at minimum wage and saving next to nothing.
The following year, despite a better part-time off campus job, the loans racked up even faster. And still faster the next. While an accident insurance settlement and continued school year and summer vacation jobs helped somewhat, there was no stopping this runaway train. She was deeply in debt, and now it was no longer limited to her currently interest-free student loans.
Along the way, someone had told her that every young adult needed to be establishing good credit (oh, this is such a tragic lie!), and she was so surprised at how easily the bank handed her a student Visa card. Initially, she would immediately pay off each purchase online when she got home from shopping, but was then told that this wouldn’t help her credit score, and so she waited each month to pay it off. But somehow the balance on the card grew, and paying it off each month became more and more of a strain.
It wasn’t that she didn’t try to be careful with her money. It was just that no one had ever taught her how to set a budget, or that even if you felt that you “needed” something, if you don’t have the money, you just can’t buy it.
She graduated university deeply in debt, and then spent a difficult 3 months seeking employment with only a very small part-time salary to live on. She still needed to buy gas, and groceries, and have a little bit of fun with friends once in a while. And so the credit card balance grew…
Through the sheer kindness and grace of God, the story does not continue like this. He intervened, through the man that she would soon marry and the realization that by budgeting and managing her money more carefully she did not have to live this way perpetually. Stay tuned for the next chapter of this frugality story…