If you’ve hung around me much you’ve heard the highlight (or low light maybe) of my sophomore year of college when I was BROKE. It was a character-building kind of season I suppose.
I was living off of the Eastern Washington University campus, in a nearby little town about 20 minutes away in a mobile home park with my long-time friend since the 4th grade, Renea. We had opted to move off campus because it would be cheaper, and we’d have more freedom to smoke cigarettes outside of our front door instead of having to walk to the nearest fire escape. P.S. This is not a historical detail for my children yet – I’ll tell them when the time is right, which may be never. Do not repeat!
So, we rented this cheap-ass mobile home (that was actually really clean and plenty spacious) and set up house. Renea’s Mom gifted us a Costco trip and stocked us up with macaroni and cheese, rice, peanut butter, etc. all of the college kid essentials. We both worked at the EWU Alumni Office on campus, and I took shifts before and after classes in order to cover my expenses. Winter came quickly and if you’re familiar with the Spokane Valley you know that it gets incredibly cold, especially in a single wide trailer. That first month we adjusted the heat accordingly…until we got our first utility bill – which was far higher than our rent. &*%$ Down went the thermostat, and out came blankets of all varieties, in all rooms of the house.
Soon, I realized that I may have bitten off more than I could chew, but Lord knows I wasn’t going to admit it. Renea and I were diligent about splitting our expenses; we sat down each month and cut all of our bills in half – rent, electricity, phone (ahem – land line), and cable. Then with what was leftover I had; a car payment, insurance coverage, gas and food.
At the time, I had one little tiny credit card – a student VISA maxed out to its limit, thank heavens it was only $500. I paid the minimum on that sucker every month, and then maxed it right out again when I needed another $25.
One particular month I remember well; after paying all of my expenses and budgeting cash for gas to get me back to visit my then boyfriend every other weekend I had a cold, crisp twenty-dollar bill to buy my groceries for the month. Challenge, accepted. I took a look in the cupboards and made my list. I bought a loaf of bread for peanut butter and pickle sandwiches, soy sauce for the rice, a box of cereal, milk and margarine for the Kraft and a box of tampons.
I was a poster child for a broke college student, and WAY too stubborn to ask my parents for any help.
One winter weekend around my birthday my parents came up for a visit and by the end of the weekend my Dad had taken my car to the nearest tire center for a set of new all-season tires – happy birthday to me! That definitely wasn’t going to make it on my budget. That was their way of coming to my rescue without giving me a handout, and all out embarrassing me in my dire situation. I’ve been a loyal Les Schwab customer ever since.
I’m sure that year, nearly 20 years ago was my darkest financially. I was broke, but not broken. Only place to go was up!
I missed out on a lot of things that year; going on road trips with friends to Canada because I couldn’t cover the expenses, participating in taco night because I couldn’t split the grocery cost, eating the right amount of micronutrients in the form of fruits and vegetables…. It’s NOT how I’d recommend doing college; it wasn’t fun but it was educational. I knew that I didn’t ever want to be in that situation again and worked hard to move way past those days.
Maybe college days are everyone’s financial low point; just starting out trying to figure out how to do life and manage money. What was it for you? College days? Newly married life? Baby makes three? In between job seasons?
I wanted to give you a little look-see into one of my low points, and share more about what makes me, well me. I’ve got stories for days; wait until I let you in on some of my childhood farm life sagas. Like the time that we rode in a cattle trough on the back of a snowmobile to catch the school bus, or lived in an airplane hangar apartment while helping to build our family’s log home. Can’t make that stuff up people! Character.Building.
Thank you for joining me on my journey to influence.