This is going to be one of those teenage pregnancy stories with a happy ending for both of us who are now happily married with a darling son.The path that takes us to where we are today was not paved with gold, it took hard work and we created opportunities. I hope our story inspires, motivates and encourages other teenagers to take a step forward, challenge themselves and make a change.
My Story, Our Life
I grew up in suburban Winnipeg in your typical middle class Canadian neighbourhood although I never really felt middle class. My parents separated when I was 3, and divorced when I was 7 years old. As common as divorce is, it certainly didn’t feel that way to me.
My mother did the best she could to provide us with the necessities and we never went hungry. It just felt that we did because everyone else had so much more, like a car or a microwave. It always felt like it mattered to me not having the best of everything which others all had. I soon realized that it didn’t, after all, how many dolls does one kid need?
School and Work
School was always easy for me and in my circle of friends I was always the “smart one”. We hung out together, partied, went shopping and tried to stretch our allowance, our “spending budget” to last the entire weekend.
My teenage friends dreamed of meeting the perfect man, buying the house with the white picket fence and having many children. Not, me. They all wanted someone to take care of them and didn’t envision a fabulous career for themselves. I wanted a career with a 6 digit salary because I believed money bought happiness, and I was going to get it.
My working years started as soon as I turned 16 years old. I was a teenager on a mission as I didn’t want to waste any time missing out on making money. I applied to get a part-time job at 36 organizations and only three called me for an interview. Out of the three interviews, one gave me a job.
I was a dishwasher at a pizza chain, not my dream job by a long shot. As soon as I was offered another job, I moved on in hopes of something brighter. I generally worked throughout high school spending every last cent on clothes and gas for my car without keeping any money back in a savings account.
My Future Husband
My school-work required very little effort on my part since it came easy to me so I had plenty of time to work and party. It was my second trip to the bar after turning 18 that I met “him”. He caught my eye and I caught his. We exchanged numbers that night and I never thought he would call but he did. We talked, went out and got to know each other which brought us closer together.
During our conversations I learned that he moved to Winnipeg from Thunder Bay after getting kicked out of his house. He worked for a guy doing foundation work and liked to go to the gym in his spare time.
He was also taking correspondence to get his General Equivalency Diploma (GED). We spent a lot of our evenings together distracting each other from our homework. I almost didn’t graduate because I slept through an exam after spending a late night at his place.
After graduating, I moved on to University in hopes of continuing my education but did not pay for it as someone on my father’s side had saved the money for me. University was a lot harder than I anticipated especially since high school was a breeze for me.
It seemed like I was going to have to put in an effort that I wasn’t used to. I didn’t last long in University and soon dropped out as I wanted to be with my friends who were still in high school. Soon after dropping out of University I found out I was pregnant.
I was going to be a teenage mother, we were going to be teenage parents. I told my boyfriend of 9 months and he was very supportive. About 3 months into my pregnancy, he moved in with my mother and I.
When I was about 4 months pregnant I was able to get a part-time job making phone calls to customers in a call-centre. I was working 8 hours a day and as the summer progressed I worked about 2 hours a day. I worked right up until the day I gave birth to my son. I did not qualify for maternity leave as I did not have enough working hours but I was fortunate that my boyfriend actually stuck around and that we actually liked each other.
My older brother also had a child when he was a teen so I borrowed a lot of items such as the infant car seat and crib. I was given a high chair. I did pick up quite a few things at garage sales, like a wonderful playpen, toys and clothes.
I never had a fancy $300 or $400 transportation system to get my baby around in. I borrowed car seat from my brother and bought a $10 umbrella stroller. Our son never slept in his crib until he was about 8 months old as he slept in the $10 playpen from the garage sale. When we went on a trip when he was 2 months old he slept in a drawer on the floor for the week.
If somebody offers you something take it, even if you don’t end up using it, it’s free. You can always pass it along to other new parents if you don’t end up using it. We didn’t have internet at the time but I feel like people ask for more money when they put baby items for sale on Kijiji than what they would at a garage sale.
Throughout these times I basically survived on the support of my family and boyfriend. When I started getting Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) I think it was around $250 dollars/month. I stockpiled a few baby items but was given a ton of diapers when he was born as well as baby wash and wipes so I didn’t really have to buy that stuff. I did however have to buy formula which can be pricey at times. That’s basically what my $250 went to every month for the six months that I wasn’t working.
First Time Home Buyers
When I was about 7 months pregnant we bought a house, kind of. With me only working 2 hours a day and him getting paid cash under the table we knew we wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage. With the support of our families we bought a house that had been foreclosed on in my mothers name.
The house was a tri-plex and almost 100 years old and not in the best of conditions. There were 3 kitchens and 3 bathrooms but no appliances yet tons of work that needed to be done including getting rid of the cat urine smell.
The asking price was only $46,500 and that’s what we paid when we purchased this home. Mom was able to secure a further $20,000 loan to make the place livable for us. My boyfriend planned to put his construction skills to use and assured me the house would be livable in 2 months when the baby was born. That didn’t happen. He gutted the whole place right down to the exterior walls.
The electrical, plumbing and heating all were replaced as was the horse hair insulation. We joined all three suites back into the single family dwelling it once was. Having gotten rid of our apartment and now our new house unlivable we crammed ourselves into my grandparents house complete with our baby. We lived there for about 9 months until my grandpa was hospitalized.
When our son was 6 months old I went back to work for the same company who was willing to give me as many hours as I wanted. I left my son with his great-grandmother every day then went to work. I would go see him across town from the time I got off work until about 10 pm at night.
After the visit with my son I would go back to our unrenovated house to sleep bringing dinner for my boyfriend with me. That winter was brutal and our house was cold so we slept on two couches pushed together for warmth in the back room.
We still had no working appliances so we had to keep our food outside or in a camping cooler and cooked using an electric skillet on the floor. I would buy meat every night on my way home from work so it was fresh. We finally purchased a refrigerator in the 30 plus degree weather of July.
Making Changes To Our Lives
My boyfriend and I both knew we weren’t going to get ahead in life and make a better life for our baby the way things were going. Looking at the help wanted ads was disheartening as no one was hiring for the skills that I had.
Soon after I enrolled in a technical school in a 9 month program as a Medical Administrative Assistant that looked promising in hopes of getting a better job with better pay. I didn’t ask my dad for the money for the tuition I just applied for a student loan, OSAP.
When the teacher would let us go early I would stay until 4 pm and get all my homework done. It was also easier to study with no interruptions. After school it was off to daycare to pick up my son so I could spend my evenings being a mom.
After 3 months of being in school my boyfriend proposed just before Christmas. I was blown away and totally didn’t expect it. The following January we went to a bridal show at the local convention centre where they gathered every vendor that had to do with weddings. We quickly decided that wasn’t the dream wedding that we wanted with all the high price tags.
School progressed and they were getting ready to send all of us students on our practicum. A couple of weeks into my job placement I suggested to my fiancée that we get married now rather than waiting. We planned our entire wedding in about one months time for a very quaint $1500 frugal wedding.
Our son walked me down the aisle in the park by our house and we all went to the Chinese buffet for dinner. There was about 80 friends and family in attendance at our ceremony and we invited 40 close friends and family out for the dinner. Our wedding cake came from Dairy Queen and I wouldn’t go back and change a thing.
After my practicum was over I was offered a casual position at the hospital where I was currently working at. During the summer, I was able to pick up extra shifts. I also applied for and got a second casual position at another hospital. Between the 2 places I was making enough money to pay the bills but things were still tight as no shifts were guaranteed.
Red Seal Apprenticeship
That fall my husband informed me that he would be going to school to train as an apprentice. I panicked at first, where were we going to get money to pay the bills? Very shortly after a position became available at hospital #1 and I got the job. It wasn’t many hours but they were “my hours”. Plus I still picked up shifts at hospital #2 to earn extra income.
After 4 years my husband not only was a red seal certified journeyman carpenter but along the way he received a scholarship and an invitation to the journeyman competition. An elite invitation held only for the top 2 journey man of each class for that year. That summer he got his first apprentice.
At the time he was working for a company started up by three of his friends which soon fell apart and it claimed bankruptcy. Not knowing what to do now my husband and I repeatedly discussed finding another job or starting his own company. We chose the latter. He now frames houses for various home builders in and around our city. Best of all, he was able to keep his apprentice and give him a job.
As bad as things were we are very well off today. We have all new appliances, 2 newer vehicles, savings for our future and our mortgage which is now in our name and we only have $17,000 left to pay until we are mortgage free. When we first transferred the mortgage over it was for $60,000 even after 5 years of payments. I think it was January 2008 when our mortgage statement came and it detailed for us what we had paid in interest and what had gone on the principle.
We weren’t getting anywhere and we barely put a dent in the mortgage that we still owed. We needed to do something. Oh, but what’s that on the corner of my statement, a mortgage tip, “pay extra on your mortgage, and you can save this much”. That year when I got my income tax return it all went straight on the mortgage. I continued this mortgage pay down practice and If I had an extra $100 when the mortgage payment was due, that’s where it went.
For the past few years we have been making full double up payments with every mortgage payment. It made a huge difference to the principle of our mortgage. In March 2013 we put $6000 (the maximum allowable) down as a mortgage pre-payment. It feels good, and I can’t wait for us to be mortgage free. We should be done paying our mortgage around the same time we will no longer require daycare for our son.
There is always room for improvement as we still have no RESP set up and our son needs braces but between our savings and future income, things look fine. The hard part is that all of our friends are just starting to have kids and are buying houses now. I can’t imagine just buying a house with prices these days and being stuck with a mortgage for the next 25 years, but for many that’s the way it is.
The renovations have carried on over the years in our house. We are almost done renovating the bathroom on the main floor and all the plumbing is functional. Last summer the roof, soffit, and fascia got done and we are still deciding on siding for the exterior of the house. The good part is that we have the money readily at hand when needed.
Little things get neglected like flooring for the stairs or baseboards but I don’t mind. If everything was done we would easily be looking at a resale value of our home at $250, 000 or more for our house.
Our Family Budget For 3
We have a very loose budget in our household although we are always striving to improve our personal finances. Basically I have an excel spreadsheet titled “bills” that I use to keep track of how much each bill is, the due date, and what each of our shares of the bills are 50/50 split.
Each of us has our own personal expenses that we keep separate so I add his amount owing to his total as I pay all the bills. We are now just starting to track our spending of groceries as you can see it is not included below. Budgeting is a work in progress but we are aiming to keep our finances on track the best we can.
January 1, 2013
|Due Jan 1||Property Taxes|
Tips For Teenage Parents
- Scope out garage sales to see what bargains you can find
- Budget and track your expenses
- Spend less than you earn
- Budget Cash instead of using Credit if possible
- Work hard to achieve your goals and never give up hope
- Get educated or learn new skills to help with your job search
- Eat out less and learn to cook at home
- Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for help and if you can borrow something you need
- Sort Daycare as soon as possible, even while you are pregnant
- Your baby doesn’t need everything, you might just think they do
- Enjoy your little family!
The one thing we didn’t scrimp on was love. The babies that have everything are no happier than what our guy was or is. Even though I was a teen mom we survived because we believed and never gave up hope. We wanted to make a better life for us and for our son.
I am still a long way away from the 6 digit salary that I dreamed of but I don’t “want” for anything. Everything I need is in these four walls. Looking back, I wish I had the maturity to know that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought or how much they had.
I feel grateful for having our son at such a young age because it taught me so much about life, responsibility and budgeting our finances. It gave both of us the kick in the pants to do something with our lives and has gotten us to where we are today. We grew up together as teenagers and are now parenting a brilliant child at the same time.
Contribution: This story was contributed by Lisa a CBB fan who wished to only give her first name.
Editors Note: Thank you for coming forward to share your story Lisa about being teenage parents and how you both made life changes for your family. Although this story was longer than normal I hope everyone shares it via social media or through email in hopes of inspiring other teenage parents- MR.CBB
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