From Homeless to Homeowners - The Story of Our Financial Struggles
I haven’t really talked much about our past and what led me to want to start this blog. Honestly, just thinking about it makes me cringe.
Bryce and I went out in celebration of his raise over the weekend, and we were talking about how far we’ve come, God’s provision in our lives, and how sometimes we go through things and come out the other side with a passion and purpose to help other people going through those same struggles.
I very much believe that’s what happened for us. I found a tax return from 2009 a few days ago as I was looking for an important document I had misplaced. When I saw that total income number I froze. All those memories came flooding back and tears began to flow.
“How in the world did we survive on that with two children?” I thought to myself. I snapped a picture and sent it to Bryce, to which he replied, “Wow.”
Ten years later, Bryce’s income alone has increased over four times that amount, and we still have that same scarcity mindset we had back then that keeps us feeling the need to always be chasing money. It’s a mindset that I’m working on to change within myself.
Looking back at that time in our lives brings back some pretty painful emotions and even a little bit of shame, but talking about it can help us get past those feelings, so I’m going to do it, even though I know it’s going to hurt. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
We Can’t Afford That
Those were the four words I heard over and over again growing up. I heard it so many times that it ingrained in me the false idea that money is hard to get. My parents worked hard to provide for us and we never went without, but I was one of those kids who saw all the other kids with the fancy new clothes and gadgets and wanted to be like them. I grew up wearing hand-me-downs from the thrift store. Looking back, I realize that’s not such a bad thing.
I like saving money just like my mom did, but hearing the words “we can’t afford that” made it feel like a bad thing. Sometimes I catch myself wanting to say those words to my kids when they ask for some expensive new toy, and I have to stop myself.
I don’t want to pass that mindset down to my kids. I’m working on using different, more positive words to get the message across to them that it’s not that we “can’t afford it.” Actually, we CAN afford it, there are just other more important things to spend our money on.
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Fast-forward to my engagement to my husband, Bryce. We were told that we would struggle financially because we were young and, well, that’s just what happens to every young married couple, right?
I know now that that doesn’t have to be the case, but we were young and naive, so we believed what everyone told us, and so it was true. You become what you believe yourself to be.
For Richer or for Poorer
When we first got married, Bryce was an auto mechanic working for a major dealership in Tulsa, and I was a teller at a local bank. We lived in a very inexpensive single-wide mobile home (the norm for where we lived at the time). I remember lying in bed one night as a very newly married couple and Bryce whispering in my ear, “This feels like a dream.” Image that for a moment. We both had low-paying jobs and lived in a “trailer,” and it felt like a dream. We had everything we could ever want just because we had each other.
About eight months after the wedding, we learned that we would be adding a new little bundle of joy, and we’d finally be a family — something we’d often talk about when we were dating. The plan was for me to keep my job at the bank and find dependable child care for our baby girl, but that didn’t fall through.
Turns out that God had other plans for us. I was meant to be a stay-at-home mom. We both knew it. Not only did we feel God’s calling for me to stay home, but we did the math and it just made more sense.
A college drop-out like myself wasn’t going to be able to make much more than we’d be giving to a sitter, and that was all the proof we needed to know that was the best choice for us. We knew money would be tight, but we would soon learn just how tight, and it wasn’t pretty.
And Then We Were Homeless
Getting involved with a specific group of people led to a very bad decision of Bryce quitting his job and chasing a dream we thought was meant for us (which I was 100% supportive of at the time) which then led to us having to sell our beloved mobile home and move in with Bryce’s parents.
We lived with them for almost two years, but because two years wasn’t long enough for us to get our crap together, we moved out when we were offered a room in our friends’ home. It was closer to Bryce’s new job, and we felt like we needed to get away and become our own family again.
About a week after moving into the new place, Bryce was laid off from that wonderful new job, and the very next day, we found out Baby #2 was on the way. The next four months was the most painful time in my life. I wish I could somehow erase it from my memory.
Bryce was once again chasing our dream while dealing with some intense mindset issues that were sabotaging his effort, and I was pregnant with a two-year-old, alone. Bryce would be out until midnight most nights learning all he could and trying to build his business which left me feeling incredibly lonely. The loneliness was unbearable.
Then the fighting started and the credit card debt started piling up. We realized we needed help. Bryce found another job (two jobs, actually) and we went to the government for help. We were given food stamp and WIC. I remember going to apply for those benefits and feeling so out of place and desperate. It’s a feeling I hope and pray we never have to experience again, but also, it was a very defining time in our lives.
This time that I wish I could make disappear was actually the experience we needed to become the people we were intended to be. But we didn’t see that at the time. We were introduced to Dave Ramsey during this time, too, but obviously we were too ignorant to heed any advice he could give us.
After Bryce had been working two jobs for a few months, we had saved up enough money and leased our very own apartment. It was right around July 4th. I remember this because a few days after moving in, we went to a nearby parking lot to watch the big firework show in town, and I remember Bryce saying something to the effect of this being our own Independence Day.
That really stuck with me. It WAS our own Independence Day. We were finally on our own again. But that was far from the end of our struggles. We weren’t prepared at all for our newfound freedom. Honestly, we should have stayed with Bryce’s parents for a little longer.
We were so eager for independence again that we did very little research, if any, on what it would cost. We ended up racking up the credit card debt and overdrafting our checking account every week. Not kidding. Every. Week. We were spending much more than Bryce was bringing in.
We ended up having our credit cards charged off (that stays of your credit report for a very, very long time, by the way) and we even had someone from our bank — the one I worked at — call us and ask if we needed help creating a budget because we were spending so much on overdraft fees. It was more than embarrassing.
Christmas was coming up. We had a three-year-old and a two-month-old. Our Christmas gifts to our oldest that year consisted of a doll, one coloring book, some crayons, and a magnifying glass. She had been asking for a magnifying glass because Dora the Explorer had one.
I remember crying because we couldn’t give her more than that. She didn’t know the difference, though. She was so excited about her gifts, and it had snowed pretty heavily the night before. To her, it was magical, but that didn’t change how we felt. It was that moment that we decided enough was enough. We were going to make a budget and stick to it.
The next several months were spent living on a strict budget while Bryce worked two jobs seven days a week.
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In August of the following year, we were finally able to buy our house, and we’ve been living here ever since. We still experienced hard times following the purchase of our home, but each year it got better, and right now I can say we are on the other side of those hard times.
We’ve been faithful to God with our tithes every time we receive a paycheck, and I think that is one reason our income has grown each year. The road to where we are now has been a long and difficult one, but I think it was necessary to teach us the lessons we needed to learn.
Sometimes I have to snap myself back into reality. We have dreams of building a house out in the country, and I often find myself discontent with the home we have now. Then I remember all the times we spent praying for this house.
We prayed SO hard for this house. It’s easy to forget where you’ve come from, but I really want to keep that fresh in my mind. I don’t want to take anything I have for granted.
The Next Chapter
During this time in our lives, we still have some credit card debt that we are working on paying off. Once that debt is paid off, we will be saving to buy Bryce a work truck for his handyman business, and we will be planning a trip to Disney. Hopefully that will pan out by the end of this year. We’ll be doing it all with cash, so we are going to have to cut down on our spending a bit more.
Just this month, we’ve managed to cut our grocery bill by $100 a week. After the Disney trip, we will be working on buying a piece of land to build that dream house on, also with cash. It’s going to be hard, but it can’t be any harder than what we’ve already been through.
I’m curious. Do you have a struggle-to-victory story? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. If our story was an inspiration to you, please share/pin. Thank you for visiting my blog!