My (Low) Student Debt Journey, Part1

This post may contain affiliate links, for more information see DISCLOSURES

I didn’t have much student debt or loans.  Here’s why

I feel like in the interests of transparency I need to tell a little bit more of my story regarding my student loan debt.

All the issues with rising student loan debts and if it is worth it or not and all the issues people have repaying it… well, I’m never quite sure what to say.

Set your goals

So, I realized by elementary school that singer (like, preschool age dreams) wasn’t going to work out.  I’m a terrible singer.  In elementary school I wanted to be an archaeologist or anthropologist.  My big “gifted” class project was a biography on Jane Goodall.  So my interests have been in the sciences for a long time.

By middle school, I was still performing exceptionally high.  I didn’t “want” to be anything other than COOL at that point though.  This is when my dreams of being a musician or artist (I was a pretty good writer and more in touch with my emotions then, I think I really wrote some good poetry) and moving to San Francisco or New York and hanging out in clubs came around.

By high school, I realized I was going to have to pay for my dreams of being a cool dresser and consumer of underground culture somehow.  School started to try and reinforce thinking about what we wanted to do when we grew up too.  I was pretty “done” with school, so while I was aware I needed to do something with my life, my main goal was just to get the hell out of school.

But I still had goals, even if the goal was just “to get the hell out of school ASAP.”

I had no friends at school with me.  You may think by “no friends” I’m exaggerating.  Seriously, I’m not.

My first two years in high school consisted of me spending my lunches in the ceramics lab (the ceramics teacher let me indulge my passions on my free time, since my hour a day wasn’t enough.)  In my other classes, since I usually didn’t need to devote much attention to them, I would work on as much of my homework assignments as I could.  My goal was to never need to take home a textbook.  I think I succeeded about 95% of the time.

I also signed up for correspondence courses in subjects I found more interesting, like, psychology and sociology.  These let me build my credits so that I could work towards graduating early.  They weren’t free, maybe $90 dollars a piece.  But I convinced my grandparents (who I lived with during high-school due to home life issues, yes my parents are alive) that it was worthwhile.

Some early money responsibilities and successes

This is kind of a side story, and I don’t want to get into it too much.  But yes, I lived with my grandparents from 8th grade until I was 18.  They got a set amount of child support for me, which they basically passed directly on to me in some way.  I was responsible enough with money that they let me handle things.

As long as I was doing well in school (duh), keeping out of trouble and home by 9 on weeknights and 12 on weekends (until I started college early) they pretty much left me alone.  This also means I wasn’t really home except to sleep.  So it’s not like I was eating all my meals at home and having everything paid for.

I got weekly “allowance” I guess you’d call it.  With that money I bought my monthly bus pass.  Figured out lunches and dinners for myself (honestly, I’m not sure how I managed this, I can’t remember what I ate!).  Bought my clothes from thrift stores (where my love of thrifting began).  For extra things like the correspondence classes, I’d ask my grandparents, and I might have to cut back on my clothes spending for a bit.

But I was basically given full responsibility over my money and what I did with it.  I would regularly save up if there was something I wanted to spend on.  Probably eating crappy food (I was no stranger to discount grocers).  I think I had already learned to “meal prep” and would cook a batch of something that I would eat for lunch all week at school.

More on my first car as well:  my dad (who I wasn’t living with) gave my the first car he purchased, an 80’s stick shift Ford ranger.  He flew me down around my 16th birthday and he drove it back with me home to my grandparents (about a 20 hour drive).  WE DROVE STRAIGHT THROUGH.  I’d never driven a stick.  I stalled out trying to get gas to leave town and hit the highway.  After our 3 am arrival I dropped dad at a motel and went home.

The next day I dropped him off at the airport so he could fly home, and stalled trying to get out of the airport drop off lane.  THEN I had to put the car in park and wave cars around me at a stop light on a hill as I was driving that day because I still didn’t know how to drive stick and was afraid I was going to roll into the car behind me trying to go up the hill from a stop.

Ok, back to the story!

More on high school

So while others were gossiping or sleeping, I did my homework for other classes (or that class).  As soon as the bell rang, I’d be off to the city bus stop to meet up with my older friends and roam the city or be up to some kind of no good.

My first summer, I also signed up for summer classes (they were awful) to get some more credits under my belt.  I could handle sacrificing half a day for 4 weeks to gain some more credits.  Plus, my older friends were either working during the day or sleeping in anyway.  Summer school was getting out just as all my friends started come out of hiding.  The teachers loved me – most of the students were there because they FAILED classes.  I was there because I was over performing and wanted out.

By the time I had my drivers license I really wanted to be done with high school.  I started looking into “non traditional” school options in my area, which mostly meant those designed for kids failing out of traditional schools.  I didn’t think that would look good on a college resume though.

I also started to take a few night classes since I could get myself there and back a lot easier not having to rely on the bus.  I took english classes “thanatology” (the study of death and death practices) and stayed for the second class of the night from the same teacher “myths and monsters.”  I drove across the city for an American history class at another location.  More credits under my belt.

I ended up finding a charter program that let me take classes at the community college and 2 classes that were still “high school” classes (American Government and…? I can’t remember), also in classrooms at the community college with others in my charter.  Best of both worlds. I was getting college credit for all but two classes in a wide variety of subjects and for free because it was part of the charter school!  Also a boon for my ceramics education!  I took all the classes offered.

The charter was designed to fulfill the last two years of high school.  But because of all my extra work over the previous two years, I was able to complete it in a year.  Which meant I graduated high school one year early.

Surprise, I didn’t even go to my own high school graduation.  Didn’t waste the money on the cap and gown or photos.  “It was just high school, big deal.”  Was my thought.  No big accomplishment there.  I’ll care when I graduate college.

Surprise, I didn’t even go to my own high school graduation.

All through this, my loving grandfather who really didn’t believe me that I couldn’t care less about the high school experience bought year books.  For each three years.  I don’t think he even realized that my photo wasn’t present in the mini book from the charter school because I didn’t bother to show up for the photos.

Stay tuned for the next in the series… undergrad onward!

Website | + posts

Regina is That Frugal Pharmacist. She’s a PharmD, mother to a son with cancer, breadwinning wife, personal finance enthusiast, artist, writer, and entrepreneur. Regina’s single-income household has been debt-free, including her home, since she was 28 years old.
Her money approach is “holistic financial health.” She encourages mindful spending, awareness of the non-monetary costs of choices, and aligning personal values with money habits. Regina sees a frugal lifestyle and mindset as an important part of environmental stewardship. As such she’s interested in ongoing efforts towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.

8 thoughts on “My (Low) Student Debt Journey, Part1”

    1. Thanks for checking in to read! It was fun to reminisce a bit. I hadn’t thought about a lot of this in a long time! I don’t recommend most parents put teens in the position to be as independent as I was.. I was probably the exception in doing as well as I have.

    1. I investigated every which way I could to get out early! There are options if you’re motivated. Thanks for stopping in to read 🙂 I liked learning. Hated the school bit. It wasn’t bad. Just boring and I had better things to do. I enjoyed community college when I got to that, with people who actually wanted to be there learning.

  1. Yeah I hate high schools. We have passion that we’d want to pursue, but we still needed to go to high school to learn something we’re not interested in. It’ the oppposite of freedom. Nice writing!

    1. Thanks for looking. There are many more options now than when I was in high school for focused charter school that help you further develop areas of interest. But sadly mostly only in big cities. There are also lots of internet based schools now which weren’t really an option when I was in high school. I think they give you a lot more power over your course of learning and speed.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *