One of my favorite bloggers, Melissa at A Familiar Path, has started writing the story of her family's finances. This is fascinating to me... the idea that your finances can be a story and not a list. So I've decided to run with that idea and start our story too. Maybe some day when my girls read this blog they'll have some insight to our family's financial history and be able to use that information to make wise choices. Hopefully.
When husband and I met in college, we had each already established ourselves in some ways with our finances (in other words, we were both already locked into student loans). Since my parents split up when I was a senior in high school neither of them had the financial stability to provide much in the world of tuition assistance. Being a 'first generation' college graduate (my dad has an associate's degree, but did not come by it as a traditional out of high school live away in a dorm student) there wasn't a lot of knowledge or support on how the whole system worked either. The way that I made my choice of which college to go to was that I picked the one that was giving me the most scholarships. With my ACT score and half way decent GPA I had secured a half tuition scholarship and additionally my dad's membership in a men's fraternal organization through church got me an additional $500 per semester. I showed up for freshman orientation and was informed that as a first year student I didn't qualify for enough loans to pay my entire tuition and room & board, so I called my dad crying telling him that classes were supposed to start the next day and I couldn't go b/c I didn't have any way to secure the rest of a loan for my bill. He took the afternoon off of work and signed a parent's loan in his name, immediately paying it off by borrowing against his 401K. I was so grateful, but at the same time clueless as to how to manage any finances from there. I had been working as a cashier at a lumber company in my home town and retained that position, coming home to work on the weekends. I had a $6200 loan from my bank for my car and made just enough to pay that payment each month along with gas and a few groceries in my dorm fridge. My dad gave me a $100/month allowance which paid for my car insurance. That was basically my story for the next 4 years. After my parents divorce was settled (not reflected until the next year's taxes), I could claim just one parent's income on my FAFSA which helped me obtain a government grant to take the place of my freshman year daddy bailout. I worked hard at school, won a few other scholarships, but basically continued on this way for the next 4 years. My last car payment was made by my little sister as a gift for college graduation. I graduated college with about $500 worth of graduation money, an engagement ring on my finger, an offer to live at home with my dad until I got married, $10K in student loans, and a stack of resumes to start looking for a position using my new Theology degree. I was set!
Husband didn't have much financial support coming from his mom going into college. She had just purchased her first house and was trying to get out on her own for the first time. He had several scholarships like I did, and very supportive grandparents who bought him a car and opened a small joint credit card that he used when he needed new clothes or school books. He received grant money coming from a single parent household but for the most part he lived modestly and saved as much as he could from working during the summers. When he graduated, a year before me, he had already been offered 3 full time positions, took the one that was closest to visiting me, and additionally secured an extra full time temporary position for the summer at a camp. His master plan at the time was to save all of his income from one of those positions and use it to buy me an engagement ring. He lived on his own for a year while I finished school and while he occasionally allowed himself a few luxuries (like the supreme cable package with 800 channels), he lived very modestly through that year. Part of the way through he was able to move out of a 1 bedroom apartment and started renting a 3 bedroom house from the parish where he worked, paying the same in rent he had paid for the apartment.
In August I secured a part time youth ministry position in the neighboring town to his. In September we were married. We had over $20,000 in student loans, a run down country house, and I had big dreams...