My husband and I recently did something really exciting and really humbling but most of all, really purposeful. We moved in with my parents. These pictures are of our room. We really like our space. Especially the view out the window of all the trees, and their dog Maggie! She’s such a wiggly goofball and we adore her.
But, the move was humbling because it felt like I had just rewinded my life. Back when I first graduated from high school, I was obsessed with the idea of becoming an adult. At the time, I thought moving away from home and being independent would magically grant me that title. Six and a half years later, married and with a college degree, I am realizing that adulthood isn’t about living on your own. It’s something else entirely.
But, why is living with my parents exciting? Because we are currently attacking student loans like crazy people. Why is THAT exciting? Well, I didn’t used to get all pumped up about dumping debt. In fact I would just gripe about it instead. But that doesn’t make it go away.
In order to explain my excitement, I need to get a little vulnerable with you. When my husband and I first got married, we were blind swipers. We would swipe our debit cards until we had to transfer money from our savings. Then the savings would run out and we would panic until the next check. It was a vicious and stressful cycle.
Then I heard about something that totally scared me. BUDGETING. Ahhh! The B word! Scared or not, we decided to try it. So, I naively gave myself a measly amount for groceries. But the problem with that was, we never had enough to last us the whole week and I felt defeated, so we said “the heck with the budget, let’s do whatever!”
Do you know what happened later? I looked at our monthly spending and it brought me to tears. We needed to get serious about budgeting. We were spending stupid amounts on going out to eat and other random things. Even though budgeting still scared me, our current spending habits scared me more. Since I didn’t quite understand the budgeting thing, I made up a system that made sense to me. I gave myself a much more generous amount for groceries, and we would take money out for the week and put it in labeled envelopes. For a whole year, all we used was cash, no debit cards.
At the time, we we’re driving a hand-me down van. It had a cracked windshield, an odd odor, a broken AC, stained carpet, chipped paint, and an ignition that took several attempts before it would start. Since we didn’t want to be stuck with the van forever, we started putting leftover cash from the week into a jar. If felt good, so we started looking for ways to spend less, just so we could save more. Several meals consisting of black beans and rice bought in bulk went by and we got to pay cash for the car we wanted.
It was such a thrill! We had never saved for anything in our lives and it felt so amazing. I kept thinking, “wait, I’m not a saver, I’m a spender!” But things had changed. And I was a believer in planning, budgeting and saving.
You see, for the longest time I would complain about our car and get all sad and mopey because I felt like we were never going to be able to replace it. Well, DUH! Of course I felt that way. I wasn’t doing ANYTHING about it! Once we started saving for a car, we started driving the van with a purpose. We were choosing to drive it until we had enough for something better.
Driving home one day in our cool new/used Subaru Forester we were listening to a talk radio show called The Dave Ramsey Show. When we pulled up to the house, we found ourselves unable to get out. We just sat there and listened to the story of a couple in their thirties with two kids and a car payment and a bunch of debt. Sounds pretty normal right? Well, then came the shocker. They were living with their parents! What? And they had paid off half of their debt in about a year. It was a life changing driveway moment. We looked at each other after the segment was over and didn’t say a word. Brian just turned off the car and we stared at each other. We were astonished. That couple was older than us and they had kids and they had twice as much debt as us. IF THEY COULD DO IT, why couldn’t we do it too?! Did we think we were too good to approach my family and see if they would take us in for a time? Well yes, of course we did, but that was silly! They only lived 30 minutes away. Brian could keep his job and we could still hangout with our friends. So, we asked and they granted.
It’s only been three months since we moved in and I’ve had several moments where I think, what am I doing? I want my own house, my own kitchen, my own living room, my own yard. I want a dog and I want to have kids and I want, I want, I want. There is nothing wrong with any of those wants, but I feel them really big at times, because delaying gratification isn’t easy or natural. All those lovely things we want, will come in time. But right now, we are waiting and actively fighting to pay off our loans as fast as humanly possible without going insane and punching cute puppies and egging someones house.
The way we see it is similar to the way we felt when we were saving for a car. Instead of feeling mopey and unhappy because we want what we want now, but can’t have it now, we are doing something about it. One of the things that keeps me excited instead of dramatic is this pennant banner we hung in our room. Every triangular pennant represents a portion of our debt. On the first of each month, we get to paint stripes on each pennant we paid off. It will take us the rest of this year and all of next to paint all the pennants. But for now, each pennant painted is a small victory. We celebrate them, because it means we are one step closer to being able to pursue our dreams.
Even though what we chose is right for us, it’s not the right thing for every one. Sometimes it’s just not possible. But it is possible for every family to choose to live with purpose. Our pennant banner is a daily reminder of that purpose, but it goes beyond getting the things we want. Even though it does make our lives better, we are realizing that when our responsibilities are being taken care of, we are free to meet the needs and wants of others. And that is even more exciting than filling our pennant banner, being debt free and moving into our own home one day.