The gifts that make a difference

Today’s post is written by my student, Jordan Fryman, who wrote this essay in response to the question, “What are three gifts you’ve received in 2013, and why are they significant to you?”

gift-givingGrowing up I have received several gifts, both tangible and  intangible, but the older I get I have realized that the gifts I cannot physically hold are the ones that make the most difference in my life. This year has been full of many gifts that have changed my life in huge and very important ways, and I am extremely thankful for them. The gifts that I have been most thankful for this year are having more independence and freedom from my parents, the privilege of starting a college education, and my new Ford F-150 truck.

Since turning eighteen this year and having graduated from high school, my parents have started to give me a lot more freedom to make my own choices and do the things that I want. I have always been more of an independent kind of person and like to make my own decisions, so this is a gift that I really appreciate. I can now go out and spend time with my friends and do as I please because my parents trust that I will still be responsible. My parents have always been the more strict type of parents and like to know what I’m doing at all times, so to know that they believe I’ll do what’s right without them making me means a lot to me. They still continue to put more and more trust in me today, and that is something that I am very grateful for.

Graduating from high school was a great achievement that I was very proud of, but I knew I wanted to achieve more to reach my future goals and get a higher education at a four year school. I had plans of moving off to another town like Jonesboro or Conway as soon as the fall started, but the only thing that kept me from that was not having the financial requirements to go. I had received quite a bit of money from financial aid and scholarships that I had applied for, but it wasn’t half of the amount I needed to go to a four year school right away. My parents left me completely responsible for paying for college on my own, so after I realized I wasn’t able to afford moving off I decided to stay here in Batesville and go to UACCB. Here, my financial aid was enough to pay for all of my classes and books with money even left over for me to use each semester. I am extremely thankful for UACCB providing me with the financial aid I needed and the help of my classes and giving me the privilege of a college education.

The first type of truck I ever bought was a 1996 Dodge Dakota, and it was definitely not the best looking vehicle in the high school student parking lot. It cost me a little over a thousand dollars, but it was the only kind of vehicle I could afford at the time. My friends and my brother especially would always kindly pick on me about the truck and how it would always cause me problems. While driving, the headlights would sometimes go out and come back on again by themselves which was a problem no one could fix, and sometimes even got me pulled over. Also the truck was pretty old; it still had a tape player in it, but there was a tape that was jammed into it that we could never get out. Any time I got tired of the radio and switched it to the tape player, it would play the song “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” which is still stuck in my head to this day.

After dealing with this truck for so long, I was ready for a new one and determined to get one by the time I started college. I worked as many hours as I could during the summer and saved up all the money I made until I had nearly five thousand dollars. I looked all through newspaper ads and went to several car lots until I finally found an extremely nice truck for a price that I could afford. It was a 2001 Ford F-150 that looked brand new, and it was for only four thousand dollars. I bought it and sold my old one that day. My new truck causes me no problems like my first one did, and I really enjoy driving it. I am still very thankful for it to this day because of all the hard work and saving I put in to be able to get it as a gift for myself

Whether the gifts are physical or not they still bring joy to my life and help to make me a happier person. These gifts have really changed my life in good ways, and I am extremely grateful to the people who have provided them for me and helped me to get them.

Gaining by losing

After a decade of two failed marriages, a whole lot of enabling and rescuing by yours truly, and poor financial decision making, I found myself in the same sad boat as many people do in America–I’d planned my mortgage, bills, and expenditures based on two decent incomes, and suddenly I found myself with one. Even though I made more and more money as time went on, I found myself on a tighter budget than ever before and wound up filing bankruptcy after foreclosing on my house. I decided then that I wanted things in my bank account–not to mention the rest of my life–to permanently change. I wanted to ensure that I’d never wind up paddling upstream again.

But how?

I thought I was already pinching pennies, and at times, I was. The problem was I’d go for six months without spending money on myself, and then when I got a huge commission check or finally had some expendable income, I’d blow it on new clothes for myself or gifts for my family rather than saving it for the rainy weather I knew would return. I never learned–at no fault of my parents, mind you–how to find a balance between living excessively and being a total tightwad.

Thankfully, with a lot of help from my frugal boyfriend and as a result of my decision to take a job making 2/3 less than my salary at the time and to relocate to my hometown, I learned how to find that balance. I willingly gave up my cute little red car in exchange for an older, gas-saving, more purposeful vehicle. My payment was cut in half, as was the car insurance. I went without Internet service at home for nine months, and I survived. I’d already gone without television for a year, and I made it through that, so I knew it wouldn’t kill me to lose my connection to the outside world. We even went without home phone service (there’s no cell service at our house) for several months, making it pretty impossible to reach us while we renovated our home. And we jointly decided to select a home that provided just what we valued most and nothing more. While renovating, I selected finishes, fixtures, and surfaces based on thrift, not on fancy. I learned that cooking at home really does provide more nutritional benefit while saving lots of money. I sacrificed several habits and indulgences, one by one, and eventually came to the conclusion that I’m happier without all the stuff I had to begin with.

I’m not claiming to be an expert on saving money or a guru for minimalism, but I will testify that when you wean yourself from most of the things you think you need, you realize you never needed them in the first place. And oddly enough, you might find yourself with more extra income than you had when you worked twice as hard and made 2/3 more money.

You might, as I have, gain by losing.