My childhood shaped my financial future after seeing my parents struggle to make ends meet for our family. I am now 27 years old with a young family (8 and a half month pregnant with a 29-year-old fiancée and a 1-year-old) and we are totally debt free!
As most parents would do, mine never wanted to communicate their financial problems. My mom always seemed to find a way to make everything into a game. She would always bake with us, turn her old clothes into costumes, make play dough, and cover the walls in newspaper and let us color in the pictures!
I think when children are that young as long as you keep them busy in a creative way they don’t mind if it’s costing $100 or its free. On the flip side I remember my dad taking me to kindergarten on his old beat up motor bike that hardly ever started and yelling…hold on tight! The reason was because our car was always broken down and my parents could not afford to fix it.
Along with that I remember in my childhood my mom making it into a game when it would rain. She would have us run and grab a bunch of bowls to put under the drips because our roof needed to be fixed and would leak everywhere. My parents were struggling with financial problems and didn’t have the money to repair the roof.
Again…I think at that age you don’t understand and as long as my mom was telling me it was a game….it was fun! We lived in a small farm town and my dad worked for a small real estate company in town. My mom (who moved to Canada from Denmark when she was 20) owned a Danish restaurant with her mom and dad. The restaurant was doing ok but as we all know you lose money for at least 5 years in that kind of business before you see any return. The restaurant was just getting by and making ends meet.
When my grandpa passed away later that year my mom had to close the restaurant and find other work. That same year my dads real estate company went belly up and things were NOT looking good. My parents needed to come up with an idea that would change our lives for the better.
My mom and dad decided to go into business as a team in real estate. It was the best decision financially they ever made. My dad sold commercial real-estate and my mom residential real-estate. The little farm town doubled in population over the next few years bringing in scores of new people.
In that time my parents bought a piece of land and built a brand new 3 story home (BIG change!). I was going into grade 3 at this time and still didn’t understand what was going on. We changed schools and people were treating me VERY differently now that I had nice clothes !
Over the next few years things only got better and better for my parents with their finances. They were traveling all the time, bought new cars and toys and now owned multiple properties. To me it was still all very strange but I started to understand as time went on.
I moved out when I was 16 with the same frugal mentality I had when I was a child and have never needed anything flashy. I have never owned a credit card or a cell phone… and I pay for everything in cash. I took myself traveling for 3 years overseas (Australia, Bali, Fiji, Honolulu, Hong Kong) just on cash and working along the way. I kept the mentality that if I want something I can have it, I just have to save for it. That was my way of dealing with financial problems I didn’t want to ever have and I’m glad I did.
It takes surprisingly less time to save for things then people think. When I got back from traveling I met my fiancée now who had just got hired on as a firefighter. Firefighters don’t make nearly as much when they first start out but it was his career choice. When I became pregnant with our first child only a few months after we started dating we really had to take a look at our finances.
We decided to make a budget, and cut up his credit cards. Thankfully I had no debt, and he only had $10,000 from fire school and a small credit card debt. He also came to the dark side with me and got rid of his cell phone, this saved a LOT of money for us!
We took out a loan at a smaller interest and aggressively paid off his debt every 2 weeks so that in 1 year we were debt free. Now we have our second child on the way and we are sitting at a much more comfortable place financially. We still have no cell phones just a house phone and no credit cards.
We did however just purchased my childhood home in that farm town last month. We are also setting aside money every month for our children for their Registered Education Savings Plan.
My parents are happy in their own way with all of their stuff, but the debt from having these things now has put more stress on them than ever before. I’m thankful that I was able to see both side of the money coin. This has enabled me to sit comfortably in the middle where my life is not cluttered with stuff .
We have a beautiful little garden, great house, dog and we are getting married next summer. I know we wouldn’t be here if it were not for our budgeting and growing up the way I did. We have made poor decisions along the way don’t get me wrong but you need to make those mistakes so you know what works and what doesn’t for you.
Now my mom is getting into couponing and asking me for help, which is awesome. Between the two of them they have gone from spending $200 a week on groceries to about $60. I make them a little shopping list when I make mine to help them out. My dad is going to help my fiancée build a chicken coop so that we can have fresh eggs every morning. My grandma is a little firecracker and helps me in the garden (it used to be her garden so I think she really enjoys it!). In the end everyone is benefiting with free eggs,veggies,and fruit (cherries, rhubarb, grapes,peaches).
There are many ways to save money in life but sticking to the basics and working as a team helping each other out is what helps us the most. Oh, and of course using a budget!
Story By: Sasha Selby
Photos: Owned by Sasha Selby
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