We had a goal: completing our college education debt-free.
As a high school senior, I received a scholarship at the university and planned on living the first year away from home. I wanted to get experience living with people other than my family and knew I needed to work in order to do this. After the first year I intended to live at home with my parents so I could focus on my grades because the scholarship would cover tuition, books, transportation, and a little extra. I had never been a big spender. My parents paid me a little money for good grades and I would usually save my earnings to buy birthday or holiday gifts for friends and family. I had never set a financial goal. My father was still paying off loans from his master’s degree and I knew I did not want to be doing that. I figured I would be set to finish my degree without having to take out loans and I was content.
Then I met my husband. He had just returned from a two-year service mission in Argentina. Rather than return to his hometown, he arranged to live with his sister so he could attend the university. The day he arrived, he spent his last dollar. All he had was an old Chevy S10 pickup and whatever clothes he brought from home. He was not sure how he was going to pay for college, but he knew he needed a job. Meeting him was not the problem, but having to change the next five years of my life with his proposal was a challenge. My plans flew out the window and we started discussing our shared future.
We were married my sophomore year. My mom and several friends from church helped make our day very special. One of the wedding gifts we were given was a book written by the finance coach Dave Ramsey titled The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. My husband and I studied this book together and saved our first $1000 as an emergency “baby fund” because sometimes things do not go according to plan. We made goals together. We both agreed we did not want to take out loans and understood we would need to bring in money somehow. We both believe strongly in abstaining from work on Sunday because it is the Lord’s Sabbath. We were able to individually secure jobs that would not require us to labor on Sunday. We also pay tithes—ten percent of what we earn—to the Lord. We feel doing this consistently has helped us be blessed and successful. Though people may argue we would be able to spend that 10% better ourselves, we have learned how to live on less than what we earn and that is a priceless skill. We also submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid before the priority deadline every academic year to ensure we received the best aid possible: grants. This did not obviate our need to work; we continued working through the semester and summer to achieve our goal.
I was able to graduate debt-free last fall with my Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences in Physiology. I also graduated with the distinction Summa *** Laude. We worked diligently but did not have to sacrifice our GPA or time we spent together. We set aside $40 each month to eat out; this settled to about one frugal date night a week. I clipped coupons from the mail and subscribed to restaurant clubs online to stretch our dining budget. It involves creativity and self-discipline, but we are on track. My husband is expected to graduate with his bachelor’s degree this coming spring. We are still formulating goals together. Our next target is his master’s degree. We hope to hit the bullseye.