When Things Got Financially Real

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Check out why the Frugality household had to face the financial music. Plus stories from 27 other phenomenal personal finance bloggers.

I’ve always been pretty financially responsible.  I don’t spend more than I can afford.  I chose not to go to college the traditional route because of the debilitating debt it would have put me in.

But that’s not to say things have always been peachy.  For a long time, my lack of a post-secondary degree held me back.  I had to work in order to live, but wasn’t making enough to afford school.  I reached a certain point where I was flat out resigned to my fate.  Making barely above minimum wage, working weird hours.  I had a great credit score, but no assets to speak of.  At one point I had wanted to save for retirement.  At one point I had wanted to own a home.  But at some point, I had given up.

And then I took a pregnancy test.  And things got financially real.  Real fast.  My boyfriend (now husband) and I were making enough to support ourselves, but not enough to raise a family.  We crunched some numbers and figured out we couldn’t live on one income long-term, but if I continued my employment I’d be doing it purely to put our one child at the time in day care.  (Plus I think we were going to owe something like $24 on top of that.)

So my kids forced me to get financially real.  They also opened up the doors to grants and scholarships I wasn’t eligible for prior to having children.  I was able to return to school not only debt-free, but after the difference between tuition and financial awards, I was getting paid to do it.

The next couple of years were a struggle financially.  I look back now and wouldn’t know how we did it, except I have this blog to document much of that journey.  Now I’m in my field, and while my career is still young, I’m making enough to give my husband the time to go back to school, too.

This is likely one of the most stressful periods of our lives.  School.  Work.  Young children.  Their school.  We are working insanely hard.  And we’re just starting to see the fruit of the labor we put in in those early days.  But we’re seeing it.  It wouldn’t have evidenced itself today if we hadn’t gotten started yesterday.  I’m hoping the results we see five years from now will allow us to finally slow down and enjoy all the things we are working hard now to achieve.

I’m now contributing to a retirement plan.  We’re saving for a home.  I’m working in something I can call a “career” rather than a job, and my husband is studying to do the same.  We’re at a point now where we can not only save, but give according to our means. When things get financially real, you can fall into despondency or work your tail off to make things better.  We’re living proof that the latter is better.  It’s hard work up front, but seeing it pay off is one of the most rewarding things we’ve done.

The most rewarding thing far and away has been becoming parents, with all the ups and downs that come along with that uncompensated, 24/7 job.  Or maybe it’s a career?

Either way, we owe 100% of where we are today to them, the motivation they lit underneath us, and the opportunities that they opened for us that allowed us to progress not only to where we are today, but where we will be when the front-end work of establishing new, higher-earning careers is over.

This post is a part of The Financial Literacy Awareness Carnival.  Head over to The Heavy Purse to find contributions from other fabulous personal finance bloggers!

 

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34 thoughts on “When Things Got Financially Real

  1. Brian @ Luke1428

    “…And then I took a pregnancy test. And things got financially real.” Haha…not laughing at the situation…just completely understand how kids cause us to think differently. Our first definitely brought an “ah-ha” moment and made us re-evaluate priorities.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality Post author

      Lol it’s okay…in retrospect I’m laughing, too! And that was exactly it: complacency was fine when all we had to think about was the two of us, but adding a kiddo to the mix changed things real fast!

      Reply
  2. moesly15

    My real moment came when I opened up my foreclosure notice on my home. I paid off almost 80K in under three years and never looked back. Every time I write an article I write with this in mind – how best to communicate how real you’ll need to get if you’re serious about getting out of debt. Kids make lots of things real. I wish my daughter made it real for me but almost losing my home did make it real as I wanted to make sure she had a home. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Engineer Cents (@engineercents)

    Awww, I absolutely love this! Kids really do have a way to kick you in the pants one way or another. I hope your future continues to be bright and that sometime, hopefully soon, you’ll be able to slow down a little and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

    Reply
  4. financiallyblonde

    My dad used to always joke that “children are the death of net worth” and while this is certainly true, they also bring us an endless amount of repayment usually in the form of lessons learned. We did not get financially real when we had my son, but after a few years of living with our heads in the sand, we finally made the change and now I’m happy that I can raise my son in a financially real household.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Haha I can see that! We’re so odd in that ours actually went up after having kids, but I guess when you start at 0… Kudos for changing things around! I’m sure your son is reaping so many benefits from it!

      Reply
  5. Joyce

    We continue to have some sort of financially real situations when it comes to our kids its called teenagers. Teaching them that you just can’t pick any college you want because it sounds cool! JK. Now we are in the face of teacher my girl about finding affordable college and creating a financial plan for her and us. I think my children continue to force me to get financially real.

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Oh, man that will be a conversation! I wish someone had done that with me when I was a teen. I might have actually gone to the school that offered me a full ride rather than the one I thought was more prestigious…and then discontinued attending shortly thereafter because of cost.

      Reply
    2. Jen @ HealthfulSaver

      Thanks for this comment Joyce. Our girl is in elementary school, but we have started talking about the choices we made for college (debt free, no fancy colleges) and how that has been a huge step in our ability to have me mostly at home with her, take vacations, etc.

      Reply
  6. our next life

    Thanks for sharing your story with such honesty! We applaud you for going to college later and putting yourselves in the position to succeed long-term. Know it’s tough right now, but we’re all here cheering you on! So glad that you were able to get scholarships to cover your education, too. Great to know that kind of help is out there for folks with kids. Have a great week!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Aw, thanks so much! You know what, I really need to write something more in depth about the scholarships/grants. Because while a lot of them were there for me because I had kids, I think there’s a lot that potential non-traditional students aren’t aware of. After age 24, a whole lot more opportunity opens up as far as college funding goes.

      Reply
  7. Laurie Frugalfarmer

    What an amazing story. It shows the power of perseverance. And I couldn’t agree more about kids being a huge wake up call. All of our selfish desires left when we had kids. And our journey out of debt has been mostly for them. They deserve our best!

    Reply
  8. kay ~ lifestylevoices.com

    Kids! Am I right? The little goofballs! They make everything worth it. Everything! Loved your story. It made me a little weepy, then came the YES moment, then I just wanted to say that the route that you chose is truly inspirational. Nice role modeling for your children, Ms. Femme! 🙂

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      Thanks so much, Kay! I’m far from a perfect role model (very, very far,) but at least they’ll have seen me work hard to make at least one aspect of my life better! Part of me hopes they find a better balance when they themselves are adults.

      Reply
  9. Broke Millennial

    Wow. This is a great story. I love that your child motivated you to push yourself financially instead of making you feel despondent. I’m sure you and your husband are amazing role models for your children.

    Reply
  10. Shannon Ryan (@TheHeavyPurse)

    Thank you for sharing your story as part of the Carnival. I think so many people can draw inspiration from your story because they too feel like they are stuck and resigned to their life. But you are proof that when you get financially real, you can change your life. As you noted, it will take time and effort, but you’re already reaping the rewards of your work. Kids do change our lives and I’m glad yours motivated you and your husband to reclaim your financial power so you could build a better life for them and yourself. Thanks again for your participation. I truly appreciate it!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      I am infinitely more comfortable sharing the “how” of our story over they “why.” The latter makes me feel a bit vulnerable. And the analytic part of me thinks it’s better to give people the tools over the story. Maybe I’m wrong! Thanks, DB40. 🙂

      Reply
  11. Ms.S

    Great post and appreciate your transparency. This can be so inspiring to so many. The hard times makes us appreciate the good ones even more.

    Reply
  12. joesaulsehy

    The second paragraph makes it sound like your kids were a fountain of money for you. I know they weren’t, but I was laughing reading it, thinking….can I get some of that? My kids were WAY expensive…AND I’m bald because of them. Ha!

    Reply
    1. femmefrugality

      I’m going to be perfectly frank here and it’s probably going to be a little controversial. In many ways, they did provide us with more financial resources by way of scholarships and grants. We would not qualify for nearly all the financial aid we get for school without them. This was not planned, and I don’t recommend people having kids to get college money because doing it all is freaking hard.

      If money and time are competing resources, where you have more of one or more of the other, at this point our kids have robbed us of more time than money. Because we were so low income, it made no sense to hold two jobs where my husband and I worked the same hours to stick them in day care. Because of this our day care needs are limited, and we’re lucky enough to have family close that loves picking up that time for free. I also had kick butt health insurance during my pregnancies, so no oppressive medical bills associated with them. That combined with frugality has made our kid bill beyond significantly lower than your typical American family.

      As we grow in our careers, the financial best solution may no longer match the emotional best solution. By then, they’ll probably be in school 9 months of the year, so it may be a moot point as summer is my slow season. But side from extra money on vacations and other luxuries, we’ve been fortunate that your inference from that second paragraph isn’t totally off base. Extremely lucky and extremely atypical. That will likely change as they get older and we start earning more.

      Reply
  13. Prudence Debtfree

    Great story, FF! It is VERY hard to go back to school when you have children, but you’ve done it, and now your husband is at it. I look forward to the day when you report that he has graduated and found a job. You are laying a great foundation now. Way to go!

    Reply

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