“The army took really good care of me. For 10 years, they were like my parents. They provided everything; housing, meals, and healthcare. So, for half my career, I never had to pay for a single thing (besides my own entertainment) and that was amazing.
Problem was I never saved when I was in the army; I was usually broke 3 days after every paycheck because saving was never a priority. And I never had to learn how to be an adult until after I left the army. Suddenly, I went from making good money to nothing. I didn't understand how to manage my money. I maxed out my credit cards. I thought it was no biggie and I bought whatever I wanted and never thought about how I was going to pay it back.
Dating My Way to Rock Bottom
Until a few years ago, when I was living with a roommate who lost his job three months after he moved in and I had to work two jobs to pay our rent. I didn’t want to turn my back on him but it was so hard. I was exhausted at the end of it. Around that time I met this girl and she was amazing — she was a nurse, she was beautiful and she had big dreams.
So, when we started dating it forced me to reevaluate my life. Fact is, dating is expensive! It just added to my stress. If we’re going out in the evening, it meant I can’t go to my second job and that means I can’t pay rent.
It was not a good feeling. I became isolated. And my relationships were failing because I wasn't stable and steady for that kind of a commitment.
Turning Things Around
You know, when you live paycheck to paycheck, you prioritise different things — car, insurance, rent and the other stuff like concerts and fancy dinners were not vital to my living situation. I changed my lifestyle. I had to. I had to ask myself what can I sacrifice now that I don't need. I needed to grow up and change the way I think because that was my problem. I told myself that if I can pay rent and my bills with one paycheck, then I’m doing ok.
That was five years ago. And now I am in a better place. I’m in a masters program, I’m studying to become a pastor, I have a book coming out and, you know what, I’m finally ready to put myself out there.”
— Ryan Duffee, New Braunfels, Texas
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