What is this blog about? I have no idea. I know bloggers are supposed to be super specific about their target audience and their intentions, and the truth is, I’m just not like that. This blog started as a business blog, and to share eco tips, and then went toward beauty (a natural topic for a bath and body shop) and then feminism and then radical self-acceptance…and now I’m moving into a new area: Money.
Why? Ultimately, I want to share things that I think will help people live a simple, beautiful, happy life. Money is not a topic I have really broached in the past, but I feel it’s time. It’s an issue that many people struggle with, after all, and it’s important to sort out our financial messes in order to simplify and beautify our lives.
As the Resolve to Love Challenge came to a close in December (though I have some follow-up posts coming!), I started thinking about what I could do for 2013 – a personal goal (though I’m not really one for traditional resolutions) that I could share with others who may be facing similar struggles. Many things vied for my attention, but there was only really one that seemed to need immediate and thorough action: money.
I was taught not to talk about money – that it was both rude and dangerous. But in the spirit of brutal financial honesty, I’m going to air it out!
Here’s the deal: I graduated with an MAT in 2008. Along with the degree came a $25,000 debt. And a realization that I didn’t want to teach middle or high school (which is what I’m licensed to teach). Ahh, the surprises of life!
Even if I had wanted to teach, the economy took a dive that year and I was not able to find any teaching jobs in my area. I subbed for two years and hated it (it was a horror for an introvert like me). In my dreams, I imagined throwing away my license, degree and debt and just starting fresh with a self-defined career and salary. That’s when Five Seed came along – only reality dictated that I keep the degree and an outside job. I found my current job, teaching reading at an elementary school, last year. It’s only an assistant job – you don’t even need a college degree for it, and as such, the pay is not so great. It’s also only 3.5 hours a day. This was ideal last year, when I only needed a little boost and was able to keep afloat with Five Seed.
But as the 2012 school year began, things changed. Five Seed was no longer doing so well and my finances were suffering. The monthly payments on my student loan are enormous – $350, which is almost as much as I pay for my share of the rent. With the drop in sales at Five Seed, I had to find a second job. I now teach afterschool classes at another school, which I do enjoy. But guess what? At only 2 hours a day, it’s still not enough to make ends meet.
There’s more to say on all of this, but the gist of this post is that it’s time for a change. I have been bemoaning my student loan for years now, and am tired of it. I’m tired of being afraid to look at my bank account balance. I’m tired of trying to make every penny stretch. Enough is enough.
I have not been particularly conscious or responsible about money in the past. Umm, not really at all, in fact. Without the safety net that I once had, I’ve been dipping into my savings for the past three years, to pay off that loan, and it has made barely a dent. Some months, I don’t even make enough to pay the regular bills, let alone the loan. I am proud to say that I shaved off about $3,000 of the loan last year and between that and what I’d already paid off, I’m down to $19,000. But it’s still draining me, both financially and emotionally.
Over the years, I have googled “how to pay off student loans” dozens of times. It’s like I’m looking for some magical solution out there that will save me. But the truth is, there is no magical solution. You just have to pay it off. Period. This is not easy, as any who has debt knows. I find that when I make more money, I spend it on something fun for myself. But the whole point of making that extra money is to put it toward the loan!
Last year, I started the Your Money or Your Life program – and promptly quit about three months in. Is anyone else completely overwhelmed by Step 1? And Step 2 got depressing fast. (I believe in the program and the book is amazing – I’m just struggling with my lazy self!)
I was also determined last year to stop all extraneous spending and put every penny toward my debt. That lasted until January 15th. Seriously.
I find it very hard to make goals around this issue for several reasons. For one thing, my student loan seems like a non-corporeal monster, always shifting and changing. It has been passed from one clearing house to another, and just keeping track of how to log in to the new websites has been a pain. Trying to figure out how the interest is being compiled and configured is another issue. And trying to find out more information from the source – nearly impossible! It takes forever to get a customer representative on the line, or on email, and it feels like they read scripts to me and never veer off the page. I can ask the same questions again and again and will not get an answer that makes sense to me. (I can’t even figure out if paying more than once a month will land me with an unwanted fee. Yes or no, people?!)
Further, I never make the same amount of money in any given month. My paychecks are always different, depending on how many school days there were. I can set a goal of putting aside a percentage of my wages toward the loan payment, but it is never enough. There just hasn’t ever been enough to even cover the minimum payment.
And thus, this year, the ugly truth has come out: I just don’t consistently make enough money to meet my expenses.
Thankfully, I ran into help in the form of a book and a blog. I’ve looked at my accounts, finally. I’ve added up some figures. I’ve realized I cannot keep living on the roller coaster ride of Hope & Fear. I don’t want to keep avoiding my bills or praying and hoping for a miracle that will pay off my student loan or scraping by penny by penny. And I don’t want to keep giving up. People have crawled out of worse than this. It’s time for me to do so.
I have two simple goals to start with:
1) Find another job so I can pay ALL the bills
2) Find out whether or not I can make multiple monthly payments on the loan
There is so so much more to say on all this, but this post is already too long. But this is what I’m planning and I hope that blogging about it will keep me accountable.
Are you in? What are your financial truths that you have been avoiding? Or if you’ve already kicked your debt, how did you do it? I would LOVE to hear from any of you, on either side of the spectrum. Please drop me a line or leave me a comment. I’d love to feature you all in guest posts/interviews!