Lessons I Learned While I Was Poor That I Re-visited On My Debt-Free Journey

Growing up we were almost always poor. My mom was on disability and my dad struggled opening multiple failed businesses and when he wasn’t doing that he jumped from job to job. Even if we did have money my father’s narcissistic behavior meant he spent it on things that made him look good like a lease on a nice car rather than buying clothes for his kids or giving us money to do anything.

Then in college, after my parents split up I was on my own financially. I worked for minimum wage which I believe was $6.25 at the time, part-time during college to feed myself and pay my bills. I really struggled to make ends meet.

When I got into debt, ironically, I was finally making decent money, but I got used to using the money to de-stress. Incidentally, the more debt I had the more my stress increased. At some point, I realized that I could go back to some of the lessons I learned and used to survive when poor to get me out of debt.

Here are some of them:

  1. Nobody will notice the difference between a professional hair cut and me cutting my own hair: When I was poor I couldn’t go to a fancy salon for a cut and color. I found that the cheap salons never gave me a cut that I felt good about. At some point, I decided that if I was going to get a cut I hated I might as well do it myself and save the money. Turns out I liked my hair a lot better when I cut it myself. On my debt-free journey, I went a year with cutting my own hair again. I also got comfortable with my gray hairs lol and stopped getting my hair dyed.
  2. It is totally acceptable to wear the same clothes over and over again: In my freshman year of college, I gained the freshman 15 and afterward had only 1 pair of pants that still fit me. I didn’t have enough money for a little bit to buy a new pair so there was about a month where I wore the same pair of pants every single day until I could afford to buy two more pairs of pants. Nobody seemed to notice. If I could go for a month wearing the same pair of pants then, I could go without buying any new clothes while on my debt-free journey.
  3. It is okay to go out with friends without buying anything: When I was in high school and college I rarely had any money for eating out. I would still go to lunch with friends after church or on the weekends I just wouldn’t buy anything. My friends were super understanding that I didn’t have money like they did to buy food and would let me eat the leftovers off their plates if they had any. On my DF Journey, I realized the only thing stopping me from going out with friends but not spending any money was me and my pride. It was okay to tell my friends I would love to hang with them but I needed to not buy anything so I could pay off my debt.
  4. It is okay to not travel, your time will come: Once I started making money the world was my oyster and I wanted to travel all over. And I did, but it went on a credit card. I had to take a break from traveling until I could afford to do it without going into debt. If I could live without expensive vacations before I could do it again. Then once debt-free I was able to travel to 4 different countries within a year without having to use debt.
  5. I have the ability to get creative to have fun and de-stress: When I was in college whenever I would visit my mom and stay at her apartment I would walk to the local Rite Aid when I wanted to get out and have some fun. I would buy one of their $1 ice cream cones and sit on the floor in the magazine section for an hour enjoying my ice cream and reading magazines. I wouldn’t buy any magazines. None of the employees ever bothered me or seemed to care.  If I had a little more than a dollar, say $3 I would buy a nail polish instead of an ice cream cone and after my magazine time, I would go home and do my nails while watching TV. On my debt-free journey, I got familiar again with at-home pedicures and cheap/free fun.
  6. I don’t need a credit card to live: I didn’t have a credit card until I was making decent money. If I could survive without one then I could certainly survive without using one while on my debt-free journey.

Every time I am working to reach another financial goal I revisit these ideas and see how I can apply them to reach whatever goal I am working towards at that moment. Now that Brandon and I are living under one salary you can bet I am cutting my own hair, doing my own nails and going out without spending any money.

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