Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Thrift, Horatio, Thrift!

"There can be no freedom or beauty about a home life that depends on borrowing and debt." -Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House

I've been thinking a bit about my future and how heavily I've been borrowing against it in regard to student loans.

Here's how I operate since Todd and I split up last summer:

I bumped up my course load to get done with school faster and, ultimately, get back to work faster. Because this year (2007) will be the first that I will be able to file my income taxes as a single woman with two dependents, the amount of grant money I was eligible for in the school year 06-07 (figured on my 05 tax return- married filing jointly) and this coming year 07-08 (figured on my 06 tax return- married filing jointly) was very minimal and student loans had to cover the rest. Unfortunately, there are maximum amounts a student is able to take through the Stafford program, regardless of course load, and because I take so many classes, my Stafford loans do not cover my course load necessitating additional private student loans to pay for the extra credit hours and the living expenses not covered by child support.

As the student loans rack up, I've been forced into thinking about the fact that my lifestyle has changed because of the divorce and, as a result, I really need to cut back on the things that have been a part of my lifestyle that I can no longer afford (as I get nauseous every time I reapply for my private student loans).

Step one was to get out of the lease on my SUV. The payment is too high, the insurance too expensive, and, despite the fact that I don't need to drive daily and even then not at great distance, gas is killer. I have a year left on my lease but have begun the process of weighing what the average relief will be if I take it to a dealership that will roll the cost of the early turn-in into a car. It's too soon for a pull-ahead, but I need to get out from under this vehicle even though I've grown to love it.

I've recently begun realizing, as well, that as much as I love my house, the rent is too high for a woman in my position. I've lived in a house since Jenna was born and it's strange to entertain the notion of downsizing into an apartment, but that is what I must do, I fear. I put my name on a waiting list for income based apartments in my area. I hate to be a snob, beggars can't be choosers, but, while I've never been rich, I've learned to live a certain way and the demographics of these places make my skin crawl. They say it will be 6-9 months before a place opens up. As that's a long time to wait, I also applied at another place where the rent is a fixed rate, but is still somewhat income based and would save me about $250/mo. I filled out paperwork today and toured the place and it was really nice- but it's so hard to decide what to do when the rent at the "yucky" place would be practically nonexistent. I suppose, on this issue, I'm waiting to see what happens first.

Finally, school at the pace I've been going is killing me and I've not been entirely successful. I have so much to pack in if I'm to start my student teaching as planned in December and the thought of it is becoming very overwhelming. I've begun to contemplate the soundness of my plan to just get it done and wonder if, especially given what this is costing me both financially with the extra student loans and mentally with the strain, it's best for me to stretch it back out to two more years and substitute during that time to (a) network and (b) make some damned money.

If I do that, though, given the tight job market, I wonder if I should be looking right now at where I want to move upon graduation. I feel like if I decide to stretch it back out to my original time line and sub for networking purposes that I should do it in a district that has trended toward increased enrollment. This is, overall, quite grim as well since the economic condition of MI is rather bleak and people are moving away- not many districts are increasing in enrollment. The district I live in has laid teachers off every year since Jenna has been in school (she's entering fourth grade).

It's so much more to struggle with than I ever imagined. Over the past several years, I've thought the decisions I've made (divorce, school) were going to put my family ahead and I'm sure they will, but it really brings on a whole new set of issues.


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