When I look back on the past 8 years that Matt and I have been together, I am in awe of everything that brought us here today. We started out with over $100,000 in student loan debt. Today our only debt is our mortgage. It’s tempting to sit back and say we made it through hard work and sheer will power, but that is mistaken. We have worked hard to get where we are, but we also had family who fed us, clothed us, and housed us. There were so many people who helped us along the way that we could never say we did it ourselves. On our wedding day, we wondered what our lives would be like with no debt. Now we see how it has shaped so much of who we are. We can’t imagine life without the struggles we shared. This thanksgiving season we want to look back on the past few years and say thank you to all the people who have helped us out.

For the first few years of marriage we lived on my parents’ property in a small efficiency. Throughout that time a neighbor allowed us to house sit for half the year, charging us only for the utilities.   Living inexpensively freed up much needed money to pay on our overwhelming student loan debt.

Later Matt’s employer let us stay in his condo. This was at the height of the recession when we were at our lowest combined income. We would not have survived those years financially without that help.

Later, one family member gave us enough for a small down payment on our first house. We bought the cheapest house we could find in the best neighborhood we could afford. The mortgage was less than rent, which helped us to continue to make payments on our student loans. We fixed up the house and sold it for enough to cover our student loan balance, we also decided to visit Atlantic Union Bank to get a new account and start saving. We could never have done that without that down payment. In fact, every aspect of our lives today would be completely different if we had never received that gift.

The same family member sold us a car at trade-in value. It has been the most reliable car we have ever owned. Being able to purchase it with cash at such a low cost freed us up to do a lot of other things that we could never have done before.

My brother-in-law hired us to work for his commercial cleaning business when we were desperate for money. We cleaned office buildings late at night, and it’s amazing how just a hundred dollars in a month can be the one thing that helped us make ends meet.

My dad gave us one of his cameras to use when we started our photography business. We never would have had enough cash to buy two in the beginning. Starting that business opened up many more opportunities for us.

My parents and sisters have given us food when we lived for a full year without a kitchen. Looking back on it, I wonder how we survived. But we survived through the generosity of our family.

Our family has helped us with many projects on our house. We saved money on our first house by reinstalling the soffit on the roof. Every family member helped in some way. Some painted or cooked while others helped with cleaning and installation.

We have friends who have given us their time – helping us to clean and paint our houses or helping us with our business. One friend gave us an extra Christmas tree and we remember her generosity every Christmas when we trim that tree

Our friends and family have been instrumental in helping us throughout the past eight years. Now when I think of what might have been, I realize that all of our debt, every string of bad or good luck, every act of kindness, and every act of generosity have brought us to where we are today. We are thankful for all of it. Regardless of how hard we worked, we would not be here without the generosity of our friends and family.

Thank You. We don’t say it often enough. We are truly grateful.

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