Inspiring Money Story: Skipping an advanced degree
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Today we’re excited to introduce you to Jenny! She’s a wife and mom with a career, who's creating many ups after enduring quite a few downs. We think you'll enjoy her story and find some inspiration for your own financial journey.
If you’d like to be considered for an interview or to share your story, send us a note.
Inspiring Money Stories: Jenny
1) Introduce Yourself to the WwM Readers!
Hi! My name is Jenny Carroll. I’m 29 and my hubby, Jimmy, is 27. We’ve been married for a little over 4 years. Together we have one, perfect little miracle baby by the name of Sophia. We just celebrated her first birthday at the beginning of April, and we can already tell she’s going to keep us on our toes. That girl has personality!
We’re both from south Florida and currently live in my husband’s home town of Cape Coral. There is a great sense of community here! My hubby followed in his father’s footsteps and became a firefighter as well as a paramedic.
We met in the hospital where we both worked at the time. Since we met, I have changed hospitals many times but always stuck close to an ER because that’s what I know best.
We figured out a “life hack” of sorts that nearly doubled my income. I took a travel assignment in a hospital about 55 miles from our home. While the commute can be a little taxing with the seasonal traffic, the drive is well worth the increase in pay.
My annual income fluctuates. It truly depends on how hard and how much I want or need to work in a year, but it averages out to about $90,000 per year. This would never be possible without being flexible in my career. Our combined household income hovers around $165,000.
Even with that income, it is still very possible to get yourself into debt. Early in our relationship, life threw my husband and me a curveball. He was diagnosed with cancer. We were fortunate, but even with just a few treatments and surgeries, the bills added up and we were left with a bit of debt.
We were young, didn’t know much about money, and simply didn’t have a plan for something like this. Right when we were about caught up, we were hit with another curveball, and that’s when we started our journey with infertility.
After test upon test, months of trying, and lots of procedures we finally came to terms with the fact that it was the only way we would even have a CHANCE at having a baby. We didn't give up, followed the doc's plan, and tried and tried and tried. This resulted in about $90,000 in debt over about two and a half years, but was worth it to get Sophia finally!
Fast forward a couple of years, and we are now DEBT FREE aside from our mortgage. It seems so surreal and is considered weird in a way. These days it is so typical to have debt whether it be your car payments, student loans, credit card debt, or medical bills. A car payment is something that most of us think you’ll just always have, but I would love that view to change. I would love for what is considered “weird” right now, being out of debt, to become the norm!
2) Did your parents teach you about money as a child?
This is a hard one to answer. I don’t specifically remember my parents teaching us about money, but I learned a great deal from them leading by example.
When I was very young, we did not have a lot of money. My parents owned a marina and poured every dollar they had into it as well as their blood, sweat, and tears. They had taken out a huge loan to buy it, and they knew its success depended on their hard work. We even lived on a boat for a while as they were building up the business.
My mom would hustle in ways you could only imagine to make this marina a success. She did everything from scraping barnacles off the bottoms of boats to selling like no one else. She even managed to sell a boat to a famous boxer (which was really big in the 80’s) and didn’t even realize who she was selling to!
I saw from a young age that if you wanted something you had to work for it. At the same time, my parents had this idea that they needed to give my sister and me the world, even when we didn’t have money.
They took us everywhere. We traveled to Costa Rica, Honduras, and most of the U.S. This is the type of travel I want to show my daughter. We didn’t stay anywhere fancy, never bought anything while we were there, but we had experiences that I will remember forever.
As time went on their business became more successful and therefore profitable. However, they never stopped working hard to improve it. I saw them make some financial investments, they were always saving, and they gave back to those around them because they remembered what it was like to have nothing.
They weren’t necessarily frugal, so I did have to learn on my own there, but they were wise with their money in other ways. They taught me the value of working hard for something you want.
Which is why I’m hustling so hard for this blog. It makes me nearly nothing, but it is something I am passionate about. I know that I can help people by sharing our story, our mistakes, and what we have learned along the way.
3) Describe your post-secondary education.
I got my BS in nursing in 2010, and my first job was in a busy emergency room. Luckily, they had an internship to soften the blow. I’m not sure I would suggest the ER as a place for new grads to start, but it was the right choice for me. I’ve been working ER ever since!
I am currently working a travel assignment in the pediatric emergency room in Naples, FL. It’s only a 7-month contract usually from October to May during the height of the season, and the rest of the year I work doing IV therapy at a hospital closer to home. It gives me a bit of a break from the stress of the season, and it’s nice to be closer to home and to spend more time with my daughter.
I’ve started to go back to get my Master’s degree to be a Nurse Practitioner twice now. The first time was as soon as I was eligible thinking that it was just what was “expected” of me next, and as soon as I started classes, I realized I wanted more clinical experience and less book smarts.
The second was within the last two years. I applied, paid all the application and admission fees, had my background check and signed up for classes. Then, we had a massive change in our lives in the way we valued things and money and decided that if I was only going back to school to improve my income, it was a terrible reason to do so.
I love my job now. I make more than enough money to help support our family. I do something that not only helps people but leaves me with a sense of accomplishment and continually tests my skills. I’m happy.
I have increased my side hustles though. Because no matter how frugal you live, you still need money! When we were paying off our $120,000 in debt I would do anything, absolutely anything to make a little extra money. We babysat, dog sat, house sat, cat sat, cleaned houses, flipped furniture and sold anything and everything we could.
I’m now focusing on a few things that I see more as hobbies than side hustles, but they have been pretty lucrative. I love to find unique furniture pieces at thrift stores, in the trash, or from friends or family and turn them new again. It usually doesn’t take much more than some sanding and a coat of paint, and I can make a decent profit.
Another thing we’ve been doing is buying and selling baby items like toys, furniture, and other baby gear. You can get some fantastic deals at thrift stores and garage sales, clean them up and sell them online.
The fun part is that my side hustles have allowed us to spend more time as a family. My husband is incredibly supportive and willing to help with anything, and the baby hangs out and chews on her puffs (or the occasional –clean- paintbrush) while mommy paints.
And, of course, our newest and least lucrative side hustle has been our blog. I will say it’s the most rewarding though. I was amazed at how many people out there have been too scared to ask for help even if they really need it.
I know that we got a lot of inspiration from others sharing their stories and I’m very proud to be able to BE the inspiration for the next group of people seeking financial freedom.
4) Tell us about your income, career path, and how you manage money at home.
Nursing offers such a variety of opportunities, and you can work as much or as little as you want. Unfortunately, full-time nursing positions, especially in the state of Florida, do not pay too well.
That being said, the greatest thing about nursing is that there is always another job. Always strive to be the best you can be though. I’m continually adding more accreditations to my license. It not only improves your skills, but it makes you more marketable.
My income varies, but I can make anywhere from $32 per hour for my part-time job to $90 per hour during the peak of the season on an overtime day at my seasonal job.
As far as our finances go, starting in 2017, we made a complete transformation financially. We set a goal to pay off our debt, came up with a written budget and worked TOGETHER to achieve that goal.
I’m now still in charge of paying all the bills and transferring funds here and there, but everything is transparent. We have a budget app, the Every Dollar app, in which both of us track our spending in real-time. We know what we spend, where we spend it, and what we spend it on. This has been such an incredible stress relief.
5) What do you think is one of the most difficult career challenges for women?
This is a question I have a hard time with. I think for me it is, as with many other women, finding the balance between your career and your family.
There is a lot of guilt a mother puts on herself wondering whether she’s working too much, if she’s making the right choices, if she’s spending enough time with her children or her husband.
Let me tell you that I have worked 6 days a week and I have worked 1 day a week, and that guilt is always there. I don’t necessarily think it is a career challenge as much as an emotional challenge that we all have to find the balance of.
6) Do you have a big “aha” moment related to your finances?
My “aha” moment actually didn’t come as soon as my hubby’s. I wasn’t 100% on board with the idea of budgeting when Jimmy came home on and said we were going to pay off our 120k in debt in 24 months.
To be honest, I was scared. I was afraid he would see the mistakes I had made while I was in control of the budget, I was worried we would have to lead this life of deprivation, and I was afraid it would cause arguments between us. I was wrong.
My big “aha” moment came the day I paid my car loan off. We had saved up all of the money so that we could pay it off in one lump sum. I called, made my payment, and as I hung up the phone, I realized that that car I was sitting in was MINE. I owned that car!
I knew right then, and there I would never have a car payment again, and it sparked my drive to pay off the rest of our debt.
7) What does your work-life-balance look like?
This is another huge positive in our career choices. Full time for me is three 12-hour shifts and hubby is two 24-hour shifts. When we're at work, we're at work and go full throttle, but when we're home, work doesn't follow us. And we're home more than we work! This also decreases our childcare costs exponentially!
Since paying off our debt, we have been able to focus even more on the things we value. This means spending more time with each other and baby Sophia as well as taking even more vacations and making lifelong memories.
Starting the blog, I am struggling a bit more with balance. We have had such influx of friends, family, peers, and strangers reaching out with questions about their own finances. This means that I could be on my phone or the computer nearly always just trying to help where and how I can.
We’ve created dedicated work and family time, and if I decide that sitting on the floor watching my daughter roll around is more important than returning that email, then that’s what I do. After going through our medical speed bumps and seeing what we see in our careers, we understand the value of time together.
A big thing my hubby and I do to spend time together is going to the gym. Just like budgeting, it’s kind of just become a constant part of my life. Soph gets to play with the other little babes in the kid care area, and we get some mommy and daddy time and release some stress. It seems to not only help my physical health, but even more so, it improves my mental health.
8) What’s your most important piece of advice?
Have a plan. Write a budget. Stick to it.
The hardest part is getting started, and you have to be persistent. Don’t get discouraged by your setbacks and celebrate your accomplishments. This all sounds a bit cheesy, but I promise you it’s what we do and what we tell our friends. It’s the simple things, the easy things that make the biggest impact.
It took us around 6 months for budgeting to blend into our daily routine. Now, it’s our way of life, and we are continually looking for ways to improve our finances. We’ve fallen into such an incredible group of people focusing on financial independence. Their support and a lot of perseverance have gotten us to where we are today.
9) Is there anything else you’d like to share with our Women who Money readers?
Just that everyone’s story is different and our lives would be so much better if we could stop comparing ourselves to others. My favorite quote is actually one that my husband says all of the time “Stop comparing yourself to others and start comparing your today to your yesterday”.
You can find Jenny at Living Life Loving Us, and here are a few of her favorite articles:
- No Sleep? It's Ok Mommas
- 6 Spending Habits You NEED to Break NOW
- How I Saved Thousands on Baby Diapers
The WwM Team’s Key Takeaways from Jenny’s Interview
- Even with a significant six-figure income, life can happen and put you in debt if you don’t have a plan.
- Kids watch their parents and learn so much. Your work ethic matters.
- Going back to school just to make more money doesn’t make sense if it isn’t what you want to do. You might be able to make more money by thinking out of the box!
- Using a real-time budget app made a huge difference in the relationship stress levels over money.
- Put first things first and try to find ways to spend time together that also accomplish other things you need to do – like a workout!
Thanks for sharing your incredible story with our readers, Jenny!
If you’d like to be considered for an interview or to share your story, send us a note.