Every day I read stories on how people are working their way out of debt, or paid off thousands of dollars of debt in two years. While I’m extremely happy for these people that decided to get out of debt, I understand my financial story is a little boring. Why? Because I never accrued thousands and thousands of dollars of debt. I graduated with no student loans, no consumer debt, and no private loans. My parents were not rich. Actually quite the opposite. I come from a very modest, lower income family. My parents make no more than $30,000 a year and that is working more than 40 hours a week, and maintaining side hustles when the opportunity rises.
I learned from a very early age the importance of a dollar. I actually understood why I couldn’t have the toys on TV, the latest make up, or the latest clothes. I didn’t even get internet at my house until I was 15 years old in 2005. I had to save up to pay for 50% of my laptop, back when laptops were at least $1,000. I would do my research at the library an hour at a time, because your time slot only lasted an hour, and you then had to get in line to get back on the computer.
I worked hard through school because I realized school was the only way I would be able to improve my future. But I also understood higher education was extremely expensive, and I knew I did not want and could not get into debt while going to school. So I worked my butt off during high school. While many kids remember high school as a care free time, I remember it as sleepless nights of homework, exams, and long term papers & projects. This is how I ended up graduating at the top of my class, valedictorian, and earning a full ride to university. Note: I was an extremely grumpy teenager due to not being able to sleep enough.
Once I started college, I realized I could take more than 15 hours a semester, take summer classes at a community college for some of my basics, and graduate in less than four years. I could then use the fourth year of my scholarship to pay for my Master’s degree. So, I accelerated my undergraduate studies, started taking graduate courses when I was a junior, and finished both my bachelor’s, and master’s in four years. By May 7th 2013, I will also have my MBA. And I would have graduated with no debt.
Maybe some of you may think I got my scholarships because I’m Hispanic or come from a lower income class. I have heard a lot of people argue that they don’t qualify for scholarships because they are not a minority or poor. But in reality these arguments are just excuses. All of my scholarships were merit based, which means I had to have an extremely high GPA, along with extra curricular activities, and top notch recommendations.
I, also, understood I could not spend more than what I had in the bank. I have always been really careful with money, and thankfully I have never had to worry about paying my bills. Granted it has always been a pretty tight budget, but I had friends who would be in the negative numbers before the month ended, and had to borrow from multiple friends to carry themselves over to the next pay check. This is a never ending cycle because it is very hard to catch up.
Some people may choose to live life paying off monthly debt bills. I am not one of these people. It’s simple. Save before you spend.