Student loans, repayment, and high cost of living

Mark, I am paying $450 a month to live where I am now, and it’s not a ghetto (well there is some Section 8 around but it’s not dangerous and I feel safe outside at night). I have trouble believing that I found such a good deal here, some days. $600 a month would not be an improvement.

Thanks a lot for the link, Mines. I am looking into consolidation options. One of my loans is in default but the other 6 are not. This is kind of a PITA because I know I can get the loan back into current standing but it will take 9 months of regular, minimum $50 payments, and I’m worried that while bringing that loan current the others will go into default. I cannot afford to pay both the defaulted one and the standard loan payments at the same time, even if I do not eat. So hopefully I can find a company to help me consolidate the defaulted one along with the others and make one easier payment every month. But there is a glut of information with too little organization online; it’s very daunting.

Can’t get to work without a car. Can’t pay my bills, loans included, without a job. Also can’t pay my auto lender the difference between what I owe and what it’s worth if I were to sell the car right now. Your suggestion would royally fuck up my life and my tenacious finances, just so you’re aware. If you don’t have a car then you are lucky as hell to be living in an area that is so accessible. You shouldn’t make the assumption that everyone is so lucky.

I also work second shift. No public transportation options exist for me that late here. None. And I’m not biking to work in sub-zero snowstorms. Are you really so insulated from the real world that you don’t see how a car might be necessary for someone other than yourself?

Yep. This is what I was thinking about. I know that a LOT of the bus lines around here cut back on busses after 6 PM, and I think they quit running for the night not long after six. So anyone who works second or third shift is SOL, as is anyone who works Sunday. And there’s whole areas of my city which are not served by the busses or light rail. While we rarely have subzero snowstorms, we do have EXTREMELY hot summers, and people can and do faint from the heat. Selling a car, and going without one, just isn’t practical in some areas. And bicycling isn’t always practical, too. Not only is there weather to contend with, but many places aren’t bike friendly, and in fact it’s dangerous to bike. Plus sometimes people are not physically capable of biking several miles a day.

If there was a million dollars waiting for you, and the only way to get there was by bike, I bet you’d find a way to make it work. You’d probably find a way for $200,000. $20.00 would depend on how broke you were. You wouldn’t bother for $2.00.

I’m not saying anyone should take public transit, or that it is better, or anything. I have zero stake and really don’t care.

But I think people should be keenly aware of the difference between “I do this because I have no choice” and “I do this because it’s the better than the alternatives.” If you are not a quadriplegic or in prison, you almost certainly have tons of options. You could go to the bus stations and turn tricks in the bathroom. You could decide to hitchhike to Cancun. You could decide to spend the next month speaking only in pig latin. Life is full of options. Don’t tell me you don’t have choices. You are making choices every day- including the choice not to go do the things above.

The trick is, when your choices are no longer working for you, you gotta take a good look at why the choices you are making work for you. “I get paid more to take night shift” is a good reason. “I hate smelly people on the bus” is a good reason. “I don’t have enough money to move closer to work” is a good reason. All of these give you a better idea of what is important to you, and potential ideas on how to solve the problem.

“I caaaaaaaaaan’t” does nothing. It just makes you into a victim, which may be satisfying but is not going to be useful if you actually do need to change something in your life.

Don’t take this personally, because it’s not. Do what works for you. This is just stuff that has helped me in my life.

Responses here would seem to reflect having hit a nerve on the car front. So sorry, not intended.

Nor, did I say it would work for everyone in every instance, so dial back the ‘screwing up your life royally’ crap.

I simply offered up the very first things I’d consider. People who choose the expense of running an automobile, do not appreciate being told it’s a choice. Car culture is very pervasive, once you have a car you simply cannot imagine life without one. Because once you acquire one, pretty soon, your life depends on it. Access to your job, where you live, shop, etc are all reflected in your owning a car.

But the hard facts are, for anyone crying poor who’s supporting a car, it’s a choice, and many, many people hold jobs, shop, and have homes and lives, catching lifts where they can, biking when possible, taking the odd cab, car pooling etc. Not by choice, because they cannot afford a car. What they can afford is to pay their rent and their debts.

Even selling a car you’re upside down on, will immediately improve your cash flow large. No more payment, no more insurance, parking, gas, plates, maintenance, if you did the actual math it’s a big chunk of change. You ought to be able to quickly (especially if you can couch surf with friends or move in with Mom, for even two months) pay off the remaining loan with the realized savings.

Now you have no car payment, plus the savings of no insurance etc. Find cheaper digs, (yes, they are out there), this time.

And good luck to you, I’m sure it’s not easy.

I’m not a quadriplegic. I can walk, for short distances. In fact, I do walk for up to a couple of hours at a time, though very, very slowly. I have to sit down a couple of times during these walks, which are always in a store, with other people around me who can get help if I happen to fall down or have an attack.

But. I have congestive heart failure. Pay attention to that first symptom. My doctor really doesn’t want me walking that long or that far. He’s OK with me using a Cardio Cruiser, but he doesn’t want me walking that much, and he keeps trying to get me into one of those powered wheelchairs/scooters. Most days I DON’T walk very far, and only use the CC for my exercise. If I tried to walk to a job every day (and remember, there are NO public transportation options where I live, other than taxis), someone would find me dead sooner or later. Sooner, if the weather is hot enough. Even quite healthy people faint in the Texas heat. So no, I probably WOULDN’T bike somewhere for even a million bucks, because I couldn’t spend it if I’m dead. There’s a whole spectrum of health conditions between “can run and win a marathon” and “quadriplegic”, and most people fall somewhere in between.

Also, selling a car will almost certainly bring in less than it’s really worth if there’s still a loan to be repaid. Catching a cab even a few times a month would cost more than the upkeep on a car.

As for people who say to move…most people sign lease agreements, and are responsible for the rent for the entire term of that agreement. So by moving, a renter could be paying for TWO places to live instead of one. Sure, if the lease is going to end soon, look around. But the OP has stated how much she’s paying in rent, and you just can’t get much cheaper than that. And moving itself isn’t free. There’s first and last month’s rent, there’s the deposit, there’s the time and effort and money of physically moving, there’s setting up new utility accounts (sometimes). And getting the deposit from the old landlord isn’t always easy. Unless there’s a great savings in rent and/or convenience, moving is more trouble than it’s worth.

I think that to a large extent people create their own luck - good or bad.

In downtown Chicago the bike messengers ride no matter what the weather. Oe month’s car payment would buy you some gore-tex layers, plenty of reflectors and LEDs, and a nice helmet.

And I do not believe tenacious is the word you intended to describe your finances. Perhaps tenuous?

You say change would royally fuck up your life and finances. Seems to me your finances are already pretty fucked up. Your life - sounds like you are young, employed, reasonably healthy, reasonably educated, and living in America. A lot of folk have it a lot worse that you.

But it also seems you want to get out of your current situation, without making any significant changes. Yu want someone else to do something, by restructuring or excusing your debt or otherwise subsidizing you. Sorry you got yourself into your current situation, but you may have to make things even worse for a while before they will get better.

I am trying to figure out this.

$13 x40hr - 520 before taxes. 25% tax bracket = $390 per week after taxes x 4 = $1560 after taxes.

Your rent = $450

$1110 after rent

I’m not sure what your insurance is, but when I had a car in New York City it was $800 every 6 months, or $133/mo. Surely your insurance cannot be higher than that in a small-urban or suburban area., where you aren’t parking on the street. If I paid monthly, it would be $145.
Let’s add $20/week in gas - that’s what I was paying when I drove my car 25 miles to school and back daily.

$965 after car insurance

$885 after gas

$300 for food – this I think is very generous for groceries for one person and would allow you some small luxuries like going out with friends once or twice a month.

$585 after food

Is your car payment more than $500? Otherwise I simply cannot see how you can’t afford a $50 loan payment.

Do you know where your money is going? Do you really really know where every penny is going?

In any event if you can’t lose the car (and I’m not going to argue about that) you need a second job. The best kind of job is one involving food service like waitressing in a diner, or working prep in a deli because they usually feed you, and that cuts out part of your grocery bill, so you actually “make” more than your straight pay in budget savings. I had this part time job at a Deli that was closed on mondays, and on sunday night me and the other closer could split up any rotisserie chickens that hadn’t sold and sometimes left over perishables like tuna salad. On top of that the grill cook would make me a burger or chicken sandwhich for lunch as long as I could wait till it was slow in the store. lunch and the take-homes was a HUGE budget boost, especially since it is protein that is usually the hardest to buy when you’re down to the bone. At that time I was living on about $20/week in groceries.

Not that I know your whole financial situation, but if these are accurate numbers, there must be something else that is keeping you paycheck to paycheck that you haven’t mentioned. I don’t know what your car expenses are, but your yearly rent is only 1/6 of your annual (pre-tax) income.

ETA: or, what Hello Again said.

When my husband was in high school, he had a job at a pizza place that had a lunch buffet. Each day when he got to work, his job was to clear off the pizza buffet tables. He put all the leftovers in one big pan, put that pan on top of the oven, and just grabbed a slice or two each time he was able to take a minute or two between bussing tables. Plus he got a meal if he worked more than a certain number of hours a day. He was a typical scrawny teenage boy back then, with a truly astonishing appetite, and he was able to eat as much as he wanted every day. He wasn’t paying for his own meals at home, but he WAS paying for his own snacks, and working at the restaurant helped keep him fed.

When I was in college, I used to work for a catering service as both a server and as cleanup crew. We were allowed to eat the leftovers (not stuff that had been left on the plates, but the food that hadn’t been served), and I think that some of the workers took leftovers home, too. And some of those leftovers were pretty good eating.

It’s not about you.

It’s not about the specific actions of ditching the car or moving to a new house.

Lots of people have changed their lives for the better by realizing their lifestyle was unsustainable and looking for what they can do to change. Exactly nobody has changed their lives for the better by convincing themselves that they are well and truly stuck and spending all day coming up with elaborate litanies of excuses for why they can’t possibly change a single a thing as they deftly shoot down each and every suggestion Opal-style.

if your life sucks that bad, if you truly have no single option for change, then you know what? I feel bad for you. Because you are among the handful of people that comprise the unluckiest humans on this earth. That is well and truly a bummer.

But the OP is not among those people. You are not among those people. So by getting all defensive and indignant about how you can’t possible change a single thing, you are only hurting yourself. Do I really care what you do? Of course not, I don’t even know you. Do whatever you want. I’m just offering some hard-won wisdom that has helped me.

I was stuck when I was about 23 years old. I had graduated college and was living in a way-too-expensive town with no career prospects beyond my minimum wage job. My mom saw this and tried to get me out. I, too, had a million billion reasons why I couldn’t possibly change a thing. I went on and on about them, rejecting out of hand every suggestion she had. Finally, my mom staged a bit of an intervention, and said if I didn’t move within the next 30 days, she was renting a U-Haul, breaking into my house and doing it for me. Well, sure enough I found a way to make it work. I moved to a cheaper town with more jobs. Amazingly, change didn’t make me die. I found a better job and a cheaper house. Best thing I ever did.

I know it sounds harsh, and I’m probably getting close to piling on, but it really sounds ike the OP wants things to change, but doesn’t want to do anything significantly different/harder herself.

Thanks Rachel**** re: the income contingency plans, I actually have heard of those. I do want to make small payments on my loans, I just can’t afford the $200+ a month that I’ll be owing…I’m sure it will be fine though, I’m going to call them today actually (keep putting it off, ugh).

I don’t mean to pick on you, this is a serious question, but you make about $10,000 more than I do and your rent is $600 less, but even I don’t think I would ever have to default on a loan barring losing my job or some catastrophe. I live very frugally though…I have a nice apartment, but I also hardly ever shop for clothes, eat very cheaply, rarely see movies, don’t really go to bars, etc. and when I do do those things I always take advantage of sales, happy hour, etc…I have no idea what your budget is like, but cutting back on “small” things like that can make a huge difference in your budget.

A couple of quick things. If she is under 25 her insurance very well could be higher than that, especially if she has had an accident in the last 3 years.

Also, I don’t see health insurance on your list which could cost anywhere from $100 for an emergency only, no real coverage policy up to $500 per month depending on what policies she may have had available through her employer at the time and whether or not they contribute to the cost of her insurance coverage.

Those couple of things could quickly take a budget with some real breathing room and squeeze it to a near breaking point. This is not to say that she can’t change some things to free up extra money. Shopping around for insurance, reducing grocery budgets, etc. would probably free up that extra $50 for her payment even if her budget is stretched to the breaking point.

Money issues can be addressed in one of two ways, either earn more or spend less. If you are at a point where you really can’t spend less you have to work on the other half of that equation and see about maybe finding a better paying job or a second job to supplement that income.

Oh, I missed the part where the OP had congestive heart failure- that really does change everything.

Health allowing, there are even things like getting paid for donating plasma (relatively fast and easy) to donating eggs (long term, complicated, but lots of money possible). If you live near enough to a decent-sized university or research hospital, you could participate in studies for pay - and working second shift is great, because other than sleep studies, most studies need people during first-shift hours.

You pay $450/month for rent and you think you live in a high-cost-of-living area? Wow…I don’t think we’ve seen $450/month for rent in MA for 25 years.

Rachel****, I finally made that dreaded phone call to the student loan people and it worked out much better than I thought it would. I have two loans- one through Citibank and one through the government and the representatives on both ends were very helpful and said they’d send me forms ASAP to apply for reduced payments so that I don’t have to defer anything or go into forbearance/default.

I would recommend you do the same…they really just want their money and while some bank/government people are douches, for something like paying back student money, I think they really are interested in helping you, because it is in their best interest for them to help you pay this back.

Do you have family that can help you out in a crunch? I completely understand what it’s like if you don’t- I’ve been largely supporting myself since I was 18 (the amount of my student loans actually comes from the fact that my last 2 years of college- I only went for 3 and graduated early- were paid for in entirety by the govt., loans and grants), but my family will do something like pay my phone bill in lieu of material gifts for my birthday/Christmas, and I’m going to see if they’ll do that for my first loan payments which won’t fall under the payment plans. So if your family would be willing to do that, that would take a load off your shoulders while you get things sorted out financially.

And re: the contingency plans and your statement that they don’t want people to know about it…the woman I spoke to from the govt. said they were already going to reach out to me as a candidate for that…kind of creepy, but they must have access to my tax returns or something, which the bank does not.

If you’d read my post, you would know I have no friends and my mother lives 2 hours south of me.

My car costs me nothing in upkeep except for gas and oil changes every 5000 miles. It’s a very, very good car. I made sure of that when I bought it.

What do you expect me to do for the month after I sell the car and have the next payment to make? That bike won’t buy itself.

The point of this post was to get some advice, yes, but also to vent on the fact that loan officers don’t care if your cost of living is higher.

I need to pay much more than $50 a month in a loan payment. That would be the minimum to bring current my defaulted loan; in the meantime I wouldn’t be paying on the other 6 loans and they would probably go into default, too.

I pay health insurance too. My take home is 850 every 2 weeks. So my rent is more than 1/4 of my take-home pay.

I have tried to find another part-time job but it’s difficult to find places who will work around my availability when they could just hire a desperate unemployed person with fully open availability. (Plus those unemployed people are probably trying way harder to find work than I am)

I investigated both those options in college. My veins are too small for plasma needles, and my BMI is too high for egg donation. I wish, though.

I could look into doing studies, that’s a cool idea. I did a few of them when I was an undergrad in psych class, though of course we didn’t get paid (it was a class req).

I know I live in a high cost of living area. I’m in one of the ritzier Chicago suburbs. I managed to luck out into this living situation. I’m not living by myself, I have a minimum of privacy and more roommates than I’m comfortable with. I don’t know what average rent out here is, but a lot of places are asking for 1k+ for a small single. Which I sure as hell can’t afford. I’ve never been able to afford living in my own place. I’ve had roommates my entire life.

I’ve already moved back in with my mom twice since leaving school and last time she was itching to charge me rent, so I found another option. This is a last-resort option which I’d really prefer to leave in case I were to get pink-slipped someday. Since she lives so far from me (and in the god-damn boonies, she works from home so she deliberately chose to live in the middle of nowhere), I’d have to quit my job and find something that pays significantly less. I’d probably lose my car in the couple months it would take to find employment. She’d probably let me drive hers but it’s a stick and I don’t know how to drive stick yet. So I’d have to learn that. All the while I’d be getting more and more demoralized because I lost my car and the ability to pay back my student loans while looking for work, which I might eventually find at a shitty retail job paying $7.25 an hour because it’s a fucking small town and I don’t have a degree. Meanwhile my mom will be on the verge of murdering me and vice versa because she doesn’t believe in the concept of privacy or knocking on closed doors. Ever.

blah blah blah

I’ve gotten some handy advice from the thread, which I appreciate. I don’t appreciate people trying to nitpick the dollar amounts involved when you have no idea what the full story is. If a mod could lock the thread, that’d be cool. I don’t plan to check back anymore after this post, regardless.

I thought my advice was legitimate. I’m in a crappy financial situation too, so I picked up the phone, spoke to the loan officers, they said they’ll send me the paper work to deal with it, and that’s that. It’s possible that it might get more complicated, but at least for now it’s fine.

Making excuses won’t fix the problem, taking action will.

Hey, she has literally zero options. Why can’t you understand that?