When I went to college, I had enough money for the first semester, nearly. My Dad pitched in a little for books, and I had something like $2.37 to live on. The college provided meals, so all I had to worry about was laundry, which I did in the sink and line-dried. The college I went to was a small school, like 200 students or so. Most students, myself included, did not have a car. I didn't leave campus much, and when I did, I went with my generous roommate or doting husband-to-be. So, at the end of the first semester, I still had around $0.12.
My mother loaned me the money to pay for the second semester, reluctantly.
I graduated from the one year Bible certificate program and became engaged to my husband. I stayed with his family over the summer before our fall wedding.
I had worked at a chain supermarket, Hannaford's, since I was sixteen. There was a Hannaford's in the town where I was staying with Dan's family, so I transferred and was employed immediately.
My husband had been going to college for a few more years than me and had been doing volunteer work at a Christian camp over the summers. There was no job waiting for him. His family lived in a dying mill town, and most people who worked either worked at the shrinking mill, or at a nearby ski resort seasonally. He spent most of that summer looking for work, picking up any odd jobs that he could.
I got between twenty and thirty hours per week as a cashier at my job. The first $20 of each pay check went to Dan's family to pay for my food and stay. The rest was set aside to pay to my mother. I paid her in three installments. I spent no money besides paying "rent" to Dan's family and sending my mom money. When I say I spent no money, I mean $0. I didn't buy a single candy bar, nothing, because it wasn't my money. It was my mother's money until I paid it all back.
I walked to work, about a mile and a half each way. I usually had a can of vegetables for lunch. Dan's family spent less on my cans of vegetables than they did on everyone else's microwave dinners, so they didn't mind.
There was a store that I passed on the way home from work called the "Free Store." Everything in it was free. If you didn't need something, you took it there so that if someone else did need it, they could have it. I started collecting things we would need, pots and pans and dishes, and Dan's family gave me a kitchen cabinet to put my treasures in. I think every community should have a "store" like this. It took monetary donations for heat and the building was donated by an elderly lady in the community.
This is when I started my first price chart, long before I had even heard of Amy Dacyczyn, who popularized the notion. We had a Walmart, the Hannaford's where I worked, a Dollar Store, and a Rite Aid Pharmacy. I started planning how to feed my husband and I on a $100 per month for a food budget. It was quite a project for me.
Once I made my last payment to my mom, I put everything toward saving for an apartment. My husband finally got a job at the ski resort and was given a year round position. We were married November 19, 2005. We haven't been in debt since.
"But I thought you didn't believe in any debt."
I don't believe in debt. A lot of the things that I now see as wrong are things that I was once guilty of. Is that hypocrisy? No, I say that is growth.