The Debt Trap – Part 1 – “Growing Up”

This is a post series I did in 2012 on my first blog.  Sharing it again here in a 4-part series.

My childhood home (left side), and the “town” I lived in. We were on the outskirts next to a field.

I have decided that I want to share the story of my financial journey in life.  I hope most of you reading this have overcome your money issues.  But if you have not and you need support, hope, commiseration, insight…I hope that you may find some here.  This will be in many parts making up different segments of my life.   

I was raised in a teeny-tiny town of 100 total people in a farm community in northeast Missouri.  We were a large family of 5 kids.  My parents started out family life on a small lot in town, living in a mobile home.  For the first 8 years of my life we lived in the trailer, until our family grew too large.

My dad was and is a hard worker in construction.  Years before we were able to move out of the trailer, there was an old 3-story nursing home nearby that needed torn down and my dad took the job with the only payment being the materials he could salvage.  My parents made a plan to build a house for us – with their own labor.  They salvaged wood and bricks.  My mom spent at least a whole summer cleaning the mortar off of 12,000 bricks so we could reuse them.  It took my dad a year to build our house in his spare time, in another lot they bought next to our trailer. So when I was 8 years old, we moved into a home with a mortgage of about ½ of its worth.  It was the first example I remember of my parent’s frugal resourcefulness.

The house my parents built, and still live in today, almost 40 years later.

It wasn’t as if they could have afforded a house like that at full price.  Frugality was not a choice but a way of life.  As life continued, we lived precariously close to that line of poverty or going hungry, but it never happened.  It interests me that both my parents cultivated a true thrift of life and I often think my mom must have pioneered the “green” living idea, because all the money and resource-saving tips I read about in current magazines, she has been doing her whole life.

As far as money-management training, my parents gave us a weekly allowance.  When we were young (elementary age), we were each given 4 quarters every Saturday after finishing our chores.  There were guidelines:  1 quarter goes to the church offering and we were allowed to spend 1 quarter immediately on candy.  Candy bars were 25 cents then, so a walk to the store in town was a Saturday afternoon tradition.  The other 2 quarters were saved up for shopping day-trips.  We lived where even today the nearest Walmart and McDonalds is 45 minutes away.  It was probably about once every 2 months that we made an all-day trip to the nearest city with a mall.  We shopped, we ate out, we shopped more.  Sometimes it was just mom and the kids.  I think my favorite times were when my dad would come and we would all hang out.  And on the way out of town, Dad would act like the car was forcing him to pull over at the donut shop, and he would buy us the day-old donuts to eat in the car on the trip home.  Oh the bliss!  As I got into my teens and managed to collect more money of my own, I lived for our shopping days.  I counted my money and did anything to earn more for my stash.  This ritual of family life was my favorite thing, filled with many happy memories.

So my growing up was filled with many lessons in frugality and living on less.  Some of these lessons were hard and I resented them at times, and some were just lessons of smart living that made good common sense to me.  But it is the happiness and enjoyment and bliss of those shopping trips that would turn on me in the real world.  And so I left the nest…   (to be continued)

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