Category Archives: Yippie

It’s my Birthday too!

Darcy and I are blessed to not only share our Birthday with each other, but we also share it with Paul McCartney. This means that on radio stations across America you will hear “You say it’s your Birthday”, to which the other replies, “Well it’s my Birthday too!”


Unless you are a twin, odds are that your Birthday is yours alone. This gives us all the opportunity to celebrate ourselves and get some love from friends and family. We loved having a summer Birthday, often overlapping with swim lessons, our favorite.

Having recently given birth to my first child, it definitely gives a different perspective around Birthdays. It makes me wonder why we don’t celebrate our moms on our Birthdays. So thanks mom, from both of us.

One of the ingenious things that our mom did was got us to buy into having a bigger party on milestone Birthdays, 7, 10, 13, 16, and 18, instead of doing something big every year. We always celebrated in some way, but this was actually a nice way to make some years more special.
Happy Birthday Sis!

Miel’s Money Stories – Before Marriage

My early money stories are certainly important, but I also feel that those money stories that we live every day and cycle through repeatedly are just as important to break free from as are those that influenced us earlier in life. These are the ones that show up on a regular basis and prevent us from getting what we want out of life.

When I first started out this post I thought I could somehow cover everything in one go. Clearly I wasn’t really considering how much money related history and stories we have together. Here are my primary stories during our first 2.5 years living together before we were married.

  • To put things into context, James and my relationship hasn’t exactly had a conventional track. The quick chronology is that we first dated 22 years ago, we moved in together 10 years ago, were married 8 years ago, and had our first child one week ago.
  • This meant that when we first moved in together we had a long history in many ways, but were certainly learning each other as we went along. We dove into the deep end with our finances right off the bat.
  • After reconnecting, not having seen each other in three years, the spark was still there and I took the plunge and moved across the country from Portland, OR to Washington, DC. It definitely took a financial leap of faith to go, but I felt it would work out. I had lost my job in Portland, so in that way it was easier to go. I sold nearly everything I owned, on the then new Craigslist, and shipped only a few boxes via greyhound. It was a shedding of my material possessions, but given my nomadic ways this came easier for me than it might have others. It also gave me some much needed cash.
  • Particularly having lost my job, I was mounting up credit card debt and knew that I needed to get out fast. I had faith that I would be able to do so, but I can’t say it was easy. I managed to start my first job in Washington 5 weeks after moving here, working several weeks of temp work just to make sure I was able to stay afloat.
  • At the same time as landing my job, I also put a plan in place to pay off my $13k in credit card debt. I researched and found the best card with 0% interest and no transfer fees to consolidate everything and pay it off as quickly as possible. I managed to do so in about seven months, even though I was only making $40k a year.
  • James was very supportive about me paying off my credit card debt. Knowing him as I do now, I realize this was a huge show of love and faith in me. I think this was in part his having had credit card debt as well and having already turned this around and started to move towards better financial management. I do recall feeling a bit like a potential liability and not wanting that to be the case. I very much wanted to maintain my financial independence that I had had since college.
  • James and I developed a household budget, though still kept things separate. We each paid a percentage of the rent 60/40, with James earning more at that time. James paid for going out together, since he enjoys paying the bill, and I paid for groceries to make it easier to shop and buy what I wanted (James was used to a bachelor’s diet).
  • I realize that there are lots of early money dialogues that we had in those early days that still perpetuate. One of those comes around household purchases. James essentially feels that no household items are essential. I realized the strength of this conviction when I bought dishes for our place. I believe he had something like a plate and a bowl, which clearly wasn’t enough for us. Rather than buy a huge set of dishware, I picked a nice classic red German plate and bought four dinner plates, four cereal bowls, and four salad plates. James felt this purchase was excessive and unnecessary. We still have the same set today, now with six plates. I’m of the mind of buying something that you love once and then sticking with it. I still today have to manage whether or not (or to what degree) James will find a basic household purchase in some way unnecessary. This definitely helps in our minimalistic and small home, but also adds stress where it doesn’t necessarily need to be. I am better about delaying or thinking very carefully about how much I want/need something before I purchase, so I suppose I have James to thank for that in part.
  • Around gift giving, James is also always very generous with giving gifts, particularly jewelry. I think during this first period that I write of he purchased me no less than 7 or 8 pieces of fine jewelry. My grandmother taught me never to say no to jewelry (or you’ll never get it again) and I’m ever grateful for James’ generosity. I do recall buying him a watch for our second Valentine’s Day, after I’d paid of my credit card debt, and he absolutely refused this gift. It was something like $150, when the ring he bought me was more than that, but he was adamant that it was unnecessary. So while will only by me jewelry, he pretty much only accepts clothes or money related gifts from my side to him. I suppose we all have our preferences.
  • Meanwhile, we were working selling James first studio apartment within the first months of living together. It was a coop, and thus couldn’t easily be rented, so we put the studio up for sale. The market was climbing at that point, in 2004, and James sold the place for $130k after having bought it in 2001 for $40k.
  • James had also bought his first studio rental a few months before I moved to DC, so he was itching for more real estate. I didn’t have the funds to contribute, but was eager to work on something together. James was interested in something in the ghetto. We did many tours of places in areas of DC that I might never have had the chance to go otherwise. In the end we settled on a place that was in a transitional neighborhood, but still close enough for us to walk to. This made a huge difference in terms of improving the place and selling it.
  • Six months after I moved to Washington we bought a three unit townhouse at 4th & O, NW, in the Shaw neighborhood. I recall thinking about it the night before we closed that we were biting off a lot, but could also make a big difference in getting ahead. We spent nearly every night and weekend there working on it with sweat equity and some work with contractors. We sold the place six months later for about $70k more than we bought it for, but with expenses we probably got more out of the experience than anything else.
  • By that fall I had paid off my credit cards and just kept shoveling any extra funds towards saving for our first placed together. We had a big thermometer tracker on our bedroom door and tracked every penny that went into saving. We both did research studies and random things to make more cash to sock away. It felt like we were really on track and was great to work together towards a goal. Luckily this is still the case today and we just put up our first savings thermometer since then today.
  • We got engaged that fall in Hawaii, but decided right off the bat that we wanted a longer engagement (18 months) so we could buy our first place in six months and then save to pay for our wedding and honeymoon.
  • During our engagement we had many discussions about finances. Like my sister, I also felt that James essentially forgave the fact that I came from a lower income family and had faith in me that I had already set myself on another track.
  • A prenuptial agreement was also something that we did and many others avoid. I read a quick book, What To Do Before “I do”, that was very helpful in considering what was important to protect yourself. We are happily married nearly eight years later, but I am glad that we have the agreement in place.
  • Just before we were married we started a finance blog, DINKs Finance, or Dual Income No Kids. I had never been on a blog before, but it felt like we had a story to tell around money. I was very much at the learning phases of investments, but felt that how you dealt with finances as a couple makes all the difference in both your relationship and your finances.


Darcy’s Money Stories – After marriage, but before kids

Here goes another round of Money Stories, this time about my life between getting married and starting a family:

  • Kevin and I are coming up on our 12 year anniversary this August. So much has changed, yet so much has stayed the same. We still seem to have more or less the same financial goals, and thankfully we have reached many along the way.
  • Our honeymoon was very much a budget trip. We had really wanted to take a train trip to Glacier National Park, but when we were in the process of budgeting (i.e. seeing how expensive it was) we went out to dinner with a work associate of Kevin’s. She graciously offer for us to stay at her rustic little house on Lopez Island in the San Juans. We practically jumped for joy at the offer, and spent a lovely week completely unplugged. It was located on Mud Bay with sweet view and deck as big as the tiny house, where we slept in a loft (not unlike our Camp Cabins!) We made most of meals, and walked down the road to pick up fresh eggs. We ate out mostly at brew pubs, as we still do. We rented bikes, did some sea kayaking and did a day trip over to San Juan. Free rent aside, it reinforced our belief that vacationing doesn’t have to be an expensive affair, but it is important to getaway and unplug.
  • In our conversations leading to marriage, we decided to combine our finances. We both knew that there might be times when we each wanted our autonomy back, but we also felt that it was important to form a true partnership. After two years of living together, the process was pretty seamless and we kept pretty much the same financial arrangements (Kevin was paying more of the rent since he had the higher income, I was paying all of my student loans and some of the utilities, shared food/dining, etc.)
  • Returning to Ashland we were already starting to itch to move. Ashland is a lovely tourist town, but not a place for young professionals. I had certainly hit the meager ceiling of my non-profit position. I started researching graduate school. I applied for Tufts in Boston and Bard in upstate New York, while mentally making plans to move the next summer. Eventually I was accepted to both schools, but before I had a chance to make up my mind the tuition bill came. I can’t remember how much it was then, but it was more than I could stomach to lend (it’s $46k per year for tuition now). Plus, I was legitimately worried that Kevin was going to have to leave his full-time job, and we’d have move ourselves across the country not knowing how long he’d need to search for work. Knowing how quickly Miel had racked up credit card debt while between jobs, I was very intimidated by the idea of taking such a financial risk for the sake of higher education.
  • In the process of deciding we went back up to Portland for an engagement party. Being back in Portland reminded us of how much we missed Portland, and got me dreaming of returning. I started to research graduate school options and realized that I could attend Antioch University Seattle from Portland (traveling up for four days of each month). The tuition was slightly less expensive, but the real deciding factor was knowing (planning/hoping!) that we could buy our first starter home before I finished grad school, instead of being faced with another cross country move after just two years. The graduate program, a Master’s in Environment & Community at their Center for Creative Change, was truly a much better match for me.
  • In the end we still ended up deciding to take a cross country road trip, but just for the fun of it. As newlyweds planning to start a family after I finished graduate school, we figured that it would be our last chance where we would both have more than 2-3 weeks of vacation together (between jobs!). So, we packed up everything and moved our belongings to Portland before heading out on the road.
  • Backing up a moment, I was really getting burnout on earning $15 an hour at my environmental non-profit job. So, after a misunderstanding with my manager, I gave my notice. I was planning to just take a couple months off before moving. Yet, serendipity stepped in when I happened to join an anti-war march down main street Ashland (Yes, there many of these during the Bush II wars to help us liberals feel connected and little less powerless). So, I started chatting with the woman who I was walking next to through the little march. It turned out that she was a faculty member at the local community college, and the head of their diversity program. She happened to really need someone to help organize an annual conference, and by the next week I was on payroll as faculty on a contract basis. It was simply easier and quicker for her to hire me as faculty, and it was my first job being paid $25 an hour. It was a great gig…I loved everyone I worked with and felt truly confident about my skills and the service I was providing. I was no longer learning, but knowing. I felt very professional and very valuable.
  • Then we packed up everything and headed on our cross country road trip. We backtracked along the Lewis & Clark trail, visiting a ton of national parks along the way. We spent two weeks traveling East, then two weeks on the East Coast and then two weeks back again. It was a wonderful trip in so many ways (minus one burnt afternoon driving across Ohio and Eastern PA). I remember while we were visiting Kevin’s family that they had lots of questions about our camping set up (we even demoed our backpacking stove for them!). We also tracked virtually every penny on the road, and we averaged less than $50 a day for food, gas and lodging. His family could barely believe it.
  • Returning back to Portland felt great, minus the fact that neither of us had a job. We were planning to live with Miel until we found a place, figuring that it would take a few weeks. It turned out that as soon as we got into town we met up to head out to dinner. On our walk there, just a block and a half away from her apartment, we found a beautiful apartment…the second story of a little dutch colonial between Chapman Park and the Stepping Stone diner (where we enjoyed many breakfasts). We moved in the day before our first wedding anniversary, and it was nice to settle into a new home.
  • However, being between jobs was stressful. Kevin really was set on landing a great job, not just a lateral move, but it took patience. He got tons of interviews, but in the end it took a few months. We still had a savings/safety net, but as the holidays drew near, he was almost in panic mode. He even applied for a temporary job as a delivery truck driver. This was first time that he/we ever stressed about money together. Of course I felt pretty responsible, since I was the one who really pushed the move to return to Portland for graduate school (and felt it necessary that we take our cross country adventure, even if it did leave us with barely enough of a safety net). But I still felt it critical to keep the faith for him and us, and looking back now I can see that that’s become our pattern: he feels scarcity, while I do my best to keep the faith.
  • I had also landed a part-time job just before Kevin, but it was just enough to supplement my expenses through graduate school (similar to my Ashland non-profit wages). I was doing meaningful work, organizing and marketing inspiring environmental lectures, but I wasn’t all that financially sustainable. I was earning enough to pay for my college loan repayment, my phone and basic expenses. I felt like a poor student waiting for my professional life to really begin, and as I was ready to bust out of the non-profit poverty cycle.
  • Once we were just starting to get into a groove with our new life back in Portland. I ended up tearing my ACL (the second run on a lifetime ski pass for Mt Bachelor!) (I had torn it in high school…so I knew the pain/routine all too well, thankfully this time the recovery was much faster). I felt very fortunate to have health insurance. Growing up my Mom’s insurance was so good that it covered me until we got married. But between jobs we didn’t have any insurance for a few months. Kevin had just landed his new job, and I had just gotten coverage again just a week before I blew out my knee. Again, I felt very lucky to have good health insurance.
  • Unfortunately, karma wasn’t in our favor that winter, and the same week of my accident we were given two weeks notice that we needed to move out because our landlord’s son wanted to move in. They gave us a week extension, but I was still packing boxes on pain meds. This turn of events did inspire us (piss us off!) to resolve that we would save every penny for a deposit on our first home. Kevin did the math and calculated that we could afford to buy after another six months of renting. So, we moved, but didn’t truly settle in, knowing that we were ready to move as soon as we could manage it.
  • Even though I don’t remember particularly sacrificing, somehow we saved up enough for a downpayment by the next summer. We ended up closing on our first home days before our second wedding anniversary. Yippeeeeee! In case you haven’t added it up, our first home was our fifth place in four years! It felt awesome to finally put down roots.
  • We finally had a place of our own to invest our love and energy (even if it would mean unexpected repairs and plenty of obligation). The market in Portland was really hot at the time, and the median sale price was $195k. We bought for exactly that price, and the place had just been completely flipped and needed very little work. The yard/garden was in sore need though, and that’s where we put most of our sweat equity.
  • Our first home was a 1920s cottage with lots of charm and light. It’s was pretty small, but perfect for a couple. Plus, it was across the street from the Arbor Lodge Park, and the neighborhood was pretty up-and-coming in a working class family sort of way. It felt like our envisioned life was coming to life.
  • I was still busy with graduate school and pinching my meager non-profit paychecks, and had one more year to go before I would be able to restart my professional career.
  • Somewhere along the way I started feeling less confident with money. At times when I was younger, I remember feeling really frustrated about being told that I was like my father with money; i.e. irresponsible, frivolous and eager to spend. While there was some truth to it, I am passionate in the way I use my resources, I also felt/feel like it was a story about the past and an unhelpful label. It somehow condoned my bad financial habits.
  • Plus, by this time, Miel was starting to earn some serious bank in D.C., while I still struggling to save much. I didn’t have a retirement fund to speak of, and Miel had already socked away a good sized nest egg. I’ve tried not to compare us in this way, since after all D.C. is not comparable to Portland for earning potential, but it’s hard not to when you see your identical twin reaching her full potential. The only consolation was/is that she’s always been so generous and so emotionally supportive and kind.
  • As for Kevin, he’s also been very supportive and wants to see me succeed. Yet there is an undertone of male chauvinism. Partly because he’s seven years older than me, he’s always been forthright in admitting that he thinks he should be earning more than me and that it would be a big bruise on his ego if (when!) I ever earn more than him. We’ve had friendly and not-so-friendly debates about gender equality, and we’ve agreed to disagree (although he doesn’t believe that he should earn more than an female counterpart or superior, but there’s something in him that believes he should earn more than me).
  • One of my big life/career goals that I set my freshman year in college was that I wanted to earn my Master’s before starting a family. I knew I wanted to learn more than college had to offer and advance my career as much as possible, but I also felt like it would be too challenging to do this with kids.
  • But with my thesis coming along and graduation on the horizon, I started thinking about starting a family. We were back visiting Kevin’s family for the holidays (the same place he had proposed to me), and I went to bed on Christmas Eve knowing that I was ready for a family. Low and behold, the weekend I wrote my thesis I got pregnant, and announced that I was pregnant at graduation. A very effective way of ending one chapter and beginning a very new one…

I can hardly believe how the stories keep coming…thanks for your patience and interest. I can only hope that you’re getting something out of my reflections and perhaps dredging up your own stories to forgive and release.




Miel’s Money Stories – The Bachlorette Years

We have come to the final section of our Money Stories series, though readers are bound to hear more of our stories unfold as they follow this blog. Money is one of those illusive things that isn’t static, means something different to everyone, has considerably different value depending on both where and who you are, and there is always a story that goes behind it. Whether or not we realize it. Taking this time to look at our money stories, even after eight years as a finance blogger, has been illuminating for me.

I can definitely see a significant evolution with my money stories in my adulthood. We’ll divvy these out into BJ and AJ (before James and after James), since whether your finances are mingled or separate having a significant other or spouse makes a significant difference.

The early years, aka BJ:

  • After college I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana, West Africa for just over two years. I in lived the quintessential Peace Corps village, with no running water or electricity and scorpions and termites infestations. My housing was donated by my village, but do to rapid fluctuation of the local currency, my living allowance was just under $3/day or $85 a month. Volunteers in Ghana in the 70s were making $175/month in current currency, so clearly we’d seen a dramatic decrease in pay over time. While there was very little available on the local market to buy, it still took diligence to stick within such a small budget. I recall several older volunteers could afford to splurge with money they had in the bank, but I also felt proud that I could live on so little, like a badge of honor or travel war story that is hard to top. I recall my best friend spending $100 a month on parking in downtown Portland and finding it crazy that I could live on less than that.
  • I left Peace Corps gainfully employed as a co-leader on a semester study abroad trip to Australia, one that I had done as an undergrad. I had the smokin’ hot deal of all expenses paid (hotel, transport, per diem, and an allowance during two break periods) as well as $1000 a month. I was making bank! And I was living the dream. The exchange rate was also phenomenally in my favor, so I felt like I was living the high life. At the end of the day, with the Peace Corps return stipend of around $3k, I returned stateside with what felt like a healthy bank account. Most of my friends didn’t have that much to show a couple of years after graduation.
  • I bought my best friend’s car that her father had bought her when she got her license. I was a Civic gal and it was a perfect fit and the best car I’ve ever owned (which has only been three thus far). It felt great to be able to afford a nice looking and reliable car, and pay for it upfront as well.
  • After spending a month in England, with my boyfriend at the time, I opted not to work for the summer since my twin sis Darcy was getting married late that summer. I did end up working a few temp jobs while living at my parent’s place, since I couldn’t resist some extra cash and something to do with my time. I was offered a job at every place I worked, but had dreams that were bigger than that.
  • The Monday after my sis’ wedding I started working at the Tiller Fires camp, where a forest fire had struck the prior month. I was very aptly positioned in their Demobilization Unit, essentially scheduling travel and departure plans for a camp of 2,000 fire fighters, about 200 of which left every day. I worked 16 hours a day for 14 day on and 2 days off. I stayed 8 miles away at my folk’s place and enjoyed their jacuzzi as my only reprieve aside from what sleep I did get. The hours were brutal but I couldn’t have been happier. I also socked away a nice chunk of change to get me started in Portland.
  • I arrived in Portland at the New Year’s Eve and had found a great little one bedroom apartment in the trendy NW 23rd area of PDX (before NE was on the map). I paid $675/month, which was pretty top market for the time, but I knew that I wanted to be in a place that would set myself up for the success that I envisioned. How can you get what you want out of life if you don’t live in the best place?
  • I started pounding the pavement for a job right away. I was adamant that I would get my first real job for a minimum of $30k/year. My friends were making in the low 20s at the time and thought I was crazy to expect this in Portland at the time (this was during the internet bubble bursting). I ended up getting a job in two months flat, with a starting salary of $33k with an 6 month review that took it up to $35k.
  • I did my best managing finances during the year I was in Portland, definitely learning how to budget in the real world. I even started my first 401(k), but I didn’t save a safety net that would be much needed in the fall when I would lose my job. This is definitely both a money story and a lesson, in that I feel more secure having a back up plan to prevent issues.
  • During my year in Portland I also sold Mary Kay products, something I’d gotten into through my Aunt. In the end I don’t know whether I came out ahead or behind in terms of finances, but I do believe that the business lessons I learned were priceless; professionalism, sales techniques, marketing, business management, etc.
  • By the end of the year, as I was getting ready to move to Washington, DC, I had racked up $13k in credit card debt. Without a paycheck I was suddenly forced to put basic living expenses on my credit card and it added up quickly. I knew this wasn’t how I wanted to live and was very quick to correct this behavior. I was embarrassed to have the debt, but also knew that I could overcome it.

You’ll see in my final post about money stories how I paid off my credit card debt in less than a year and managed to surpass the $1M net worth mark in less than ten year. Despite my relative financial success thus far, this doesn’t negate the power of money stories.


~*~*~*~*~*~ Sustainable Family Finances Growing abundance while living down-to-Earth.

Darcy’s Money Stories: Before becoming a Cronin

As I begin to write this next round of stories, I have a feeling that it will be the most complicated as far as emotions go. It’s not so much in the past, but still feels like part of my relationship with money. Hoping it will be a chance to forgive and learn, and that Hubby won’t get upset for me being completely honest.

It’s also complicated in the fact that there are so many daily stories around money. Money is part of our everyday conversations, and an integral aspect of our relationship and life partnership.

  • After dating for barely six months, Kevin and I were ready to move in together. This was obviously a big step, but we felt ready for it and by that time we were spending time almost every day together, and were ready to try out this thing called being adults (Kevin was seven years older than me and worried for some time that I wasn’t ready to settle down yet). During that courting time we were obviously getting to know everything we could about each other.
  • Before Kevin even hit on me (asking me if I gave dance lessons after seeing me swing dance with another guy!), he had talked with every friend we had in common to find out more about me. He had also looked me up in the directory and found that I came from a tiny place called Days Creek, and he then struggled to find it on a map, which is more of a bend in the road than a town. It was obvious that I grew up in BFE, but he was still intrigued enough to want to take a chance.
  • In our early conversations about money, it was obvious that we had grown up in two very different worlds. Kevin grew up the youngest of five in an upper middle class Catholic family. His Dad traveled across the country regularly to court doctors as a high level pharmaceutical rep, and had recently retired. They were snowbirds and went to their second home on Marco Island in Florida each winter. They enjoyed tending to a beautiful Bucks County countryside estate before downsizing. His parents were members of the Doylestown Country Club and had a long standing gourmet group that rotated dinner parties. His mother volunteered as a docent at the Michener Art Musuem (still does), played tennis with her girlfriends on a regular basis, was active in a antiquing club called Questers, and generally had made herself an active and lovely lifestyle. They traveled regularly, and growing up Kevin had never camped. The closest he had been to roughing it was on a fishing trip to Canada staying in cabins. Naturally, he grew up not needing to worry about money, although I think his parents did their best not to spoil their kids (his siblings are all very kind and generous). He was picky about things though (still is!!), wanting only the popular designer clothes and somehow turning down an offer to go to Ireland to meet distant family in high school (I couldn’t imagine doing such a thing!). Meanwhile his parents owned a “hobby farm” where his Dad was very strict about making the kids (especially the boys) do projects like painting and pruning on the weekends. So, despite being catered to, Kevin also felt like he worked hard growing up, and still had a relentless work ethic.
  • Essentially Kevin forgave me for growing up poor. He fell in love with me in spite of my meager upbringing, knowing that I was determined to be successful in life. In turn, despite being frustrated by his finicky standards, I forgave him for growing up never having to worry about money. Our common ground was and is our values, and that we both wanted to create a life together where we could live in sustainable abundance.
  • After becoming Kevin’s “Sugar Mama” during my senior year, we were ready to move in together after my graduation.
  • Serendipitously, we both landed jobs in Portland within a week of each other (moving in together hinged on us both getting jobs in PDX…again, I was in awe that I had managed to land a full-time job as an environmental activist…my dream job at the time!).
  • I was making $24k, plus full benefits and retirement after six months. While it was a pretty typical entry level salary at the time, it was actually more than any of my parents were earning. It felt strange and awkward to earn more than them, even though they were very proud of me. It felt like my college loans would be justified, which I started paying six months after graduation.
  • After graduation I headed to Down-to-Earth to buy some kitchen and household goods. I wanted everything to be as sustainable and as durable as possible. The shopping tab was maybe a third more than if I had bought everything at Target, but I wanted to invest in our future.
  • I also picked up quite a few things at a yard sale, and we still use several of the items.
  • We moved into Ladd’s Addition place in SE, which was a converted three bay garage with one bay as the bedroom/bath, and two bays as the kitchen/living space…it was cozy, but located between Ladd Circle and one of the four rose gardens. In the process we thought we had lost the place to another tenet, but it turned out that they had bad credit…another reminder of how important your credit is.
  • Soon enough it was time to buy our first vacuum cleaner. Up until that point I had been very intentional about keeping our purchases separate. I didn’t want to end up breaking up and having the complication of joint ownership. But Hubby really wanted to have it be our first purchase together, so I agreed…little did I know that he actually loves vacuuming…a good purchase indeed!
  • During our first year of living together we were diligent about tracking our expenses. We had a notebook where we wrote down every bill and grocery tab, and at the end of the month we calculated who had paid more and evened the score. It felt very fair and equitable.
  • We also alternated who picked up the bill when dining out. Whoever was paying got to pick the restaurant, for the most part. (We also alternated nights for making dinner, and whoever didn’t make dinner washed up…this only changed once we moved to Ashland and soon-to-be Hubby needed to commute longer and I was working fewer hours).
  • Overall, our first year of living together was about as harmonious as it gets. We both had decent jobs, our expenses were pretty low and we put fair systems in place.
  • Just as Kevin was finishing up his Master’s in Planning, he was offered a job as the planning manager in Talent, where he had served the year before we met in an AmeriCorps program (RARE). This offer put us at our first turning point, and for a brief moment we weren’t sure if we would need to live apart (or break up) because of our jobs. Thankfully, telecommuting was just beginning, and I was working for a national NGO. So, I managed to convince them that I could do my work from Ashland…so with very little time, we packed up and moved south. But not before having an important conversation…I insisted that if we were moving for his career that our next move would be for my career, likely to return to graduate school.
  • We were also both saving up for a trip to Europe, since one of my criteria for marriage was that we travel abroad together (After I had fallen in love in Denmark, but felt the need to break up even though he wanted to get married, I decided that I needed to set my own criteria before I fell in love again: 1) We needed to live together for at least a year 2) We needed to travel abroad together 3) I needed to be at least 25). Thankfully, we both managed to save up enough and meet up in London to travel to Wales and Ireland for two weeks (I had been in Bonn, Germany for a U.N. conference on climate change, and then continued on to visit Miel in Ghana in Peace Corps).
  • After an amazing six week adventure I returned to Ashland, where we had found a newly built apartment located directly across from a quiet beautiful little park just south of the university. Once again, it felt like we were building our dream life…which at the time included a great deal of hiking, learning to play Frisbee, playing volleyball and reading for leisure.
  • The good news was that Kevin was suddenly earning quite a bit more money, since his previous planning consulting position was more on an entry level position and this was the real deal, even if it was for a small community.
  • Then, barely two weeks after returning from my six week trip, 9/11 happened. As everyone, I remember it vividly and we were all in shock in the days and weeks following. It’s economic ripple effects hit me harder than I expected. As the stock market crashed, virtually all foundations gave word to the non-profit world that only the bare bones projects would be funded. Since my project’s funding was up for renewal (combined with the fact that with Bush in office, it had become very apparent that he would oppose any climate policy on his watch), I was told by mid September that I would be laid off by the end of September with no severance.
  • This was all pretty surreal. I had just moved to a very small town with a limited job market outside of the tourist business. Thankfully Kevin’s new salary could support us, but I was very professional motivated and too young to be a not yet married housewife.
  • In my not-even-mid-life crisis, I joined a rafting trip on the Rogue to consider my options. I remember feeling like I needed to draw on my faith that I could define what I wanted, rather than feel sorry for myself. When I returned I found out that one of the few non-profits in town needed a conference coordinator for their annual Forest Activist Conference. It was full time position, but only for four months. I think the starting pay was maybe $17/hr.
  • I worked my butt off to coordinate the conference, but I was feeling pretty poor and I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do once it was over. I had only one pair of dress shoes that were around four or five years old and truly falling apart. I was sooo very grateful when Kevin bought me a shiny new pair of Danskos just before the conference began. (Another money memory was that one of the keynote speakers was being a real prima dona and putting his stress onto me for something I had no control over…I remember chewing him out “Do you realize that you are earning more in one day than I’ve earned for four months of organizing this whole conference?! I will bend over backward for you, but I will not let you walk all over me.” I was so proud of myself for standing up to him).
  • I ended up coordinating the conference three years in a row, and after the first conference season, they managed to find enough money to keep me as a community project coordinator half time the rest of the year. It was barely enough to get by, even with Kevin paying the rent.
  • I took a job as a hostess two nights a week at Standing Stone Brewery. I really didn’t earn much, but I did get a nice dinner and it felt like I wasn’t entirely mooching off Kevin. I also started making more of the meals on the weekdays.
  • One of the things I loved about living in a small town was knowing the business owners. At the bank the tellers knew my name, even after just my first visit. There was sweet young woman my age named Rose, and I loved when she greeted me by name. But it was also embarrassing that my balance was perpetually low. I remember overdrawing a couple of times, and my Mom bailed me out with a $100, saying that she hoped I could keep it as a cushion, which I tried my best to do.
  • We spent the holidays with Kevin’s family back East, where he proposed to me. The engagement ring was his great grandmother, Mimi’s, and was an elegantly simple platinum ring with a lovely diamond from the 1920s. I had always been afraid of wearing a gaudy ring, and the ring felt both substantial and understated.
  • Two words, simple and elegant, continued to resonate in mind as the “theme” of our wedding celebration, and naturally as sustainable as possible. We budgeted well, knowing that we would need to share in the expenses with my parents. We got very creative and called upon my Umpqua Tribe to create a wedding that was truly a group effort. It was actually quite incredible our friends and family came together to throw us a beautiful celebration. At our 10 year anniversary I wrote a post that described how it took a village to throw a wedding!
  • It’s likely selective amnesia, but I literally can’t even remember a single fight we had about money p rior to getting married, although I know we had minor money squabbles. They were very likely about the same issues we occasionally argue about now: too much clutter/stuff, prioritizing home repairs, budgeting for vacation, and generally trying to manage our finances to best of our ability (and forgiving each other’s minor transgressions).
  • Despite coming from two very different perspectives, we had come into alignment with each others’ hopes and dreams. We both knew that I wanted to go to graduate school before having kids. We both wanted kids. We both wanted to travel, but were happy spending more time in campgrounds than hotels. We both had the dream of owning a small beach house. We both wanted to retire as early as possible in order to enjoy an active retirement. We both wanted to help our kids thrive, and give them an awesome start to life. We both dreamed of being able to give back to our community.
OK, that sums up our courtship period. Once again I feel very blessed to have found a life partner who shares the same sustainable values and is willing to work toward success, but still enjoy life along the way.
What money stories came before your marriage?