New Job & Less Loans

This post could be more accurately titled: “How I got lucky and was offered a job that offers free housing (because I am suddenly ineligible for the loans I was using to pay for it,” or, “How $3750 of my student loan debt disappeared in a day.”

Some back story. Beware, this story is full of dumb mistakes and wasteful spending. Read at your own risk.

Warning - Warning - Warning

I was admitted to the institution I am currently attending with a full scholarship and then some (raking in $1500+ a semester in extra cash after housing & tuition & fees are paid off). I ended up squandering that money on Chinese food, digital cameras, a computer, and feeding myself and a lazy boyfriend at fancy restaurants – plus expensive gifts (leather jacket, anyone?). I felt rich and careless…and acted as such. At the end of the day I have nothing to show for this time period. The computer is horrible (I had to replace it), the digital camera just broke, and the majority of it was just squandered away. The summer after my sophomore year I worked and brought in a few thousand dollars…which was spent on Rockband and food (squandering). Next year, same as freshman year. That spring I lost my scholarships and had to take out my first loan. This was June of 2009.

Remarkably (and luckily I might add), I was given a scholarship from my mother’s workplace and continued to receive another that covered my tuition. I could have made it without loans. Alas. Instead of getting and keeping a job, I lived off of loans. Infinite money. Thousands of dollars. This continued until my senior year, when I got my current campus job (which I have been at for 1 year – record for me woot woot!!!). Horror suddenly gripped me as I decided to take a fifth year and go to an internship in Canada. I was suddenly taking out loans to pay for my passport, to pay for my plane ticket, and then, how was I going to pay for next year?!

Loans. And a bit of what I made this summer. I started this blog in July 2011, when I was still in Canada. I had been reading a few personal finance blogs and was about fed up (and completely ashamed) of my bad habits.

So here I am, in my fifth and final year as an undergraduate. I took out $7000 in loans for this year, $3750 a semester. This pays for all of my residential housing (I live on campus as a stipulation of a leadership position I hold), and I still hold one scholarship that pays for my tuition. The rest I cover from my aforementioned job. I was anticipating nearly $17,000 in student loans by the time I graduate (much of that unneeded, but you learn I guess).

Not to further overuse this image, but truth.

Then, new job offer! I was offered a job last Friday as a resident assistant, a job I had applied for in March…one of the perks of this job is that it pays for your housing!!! Woot! I now didn’t need my loans for the spring semester ($3750). I planned to cancel them. Planned a dance. Party. Celebration. But. Apparently I was not the only one to reach this conclusion, although the federal government reached it by other means.

I am apparently not making satisfactory academic progress. Not that I’m graduating in May mind you. Really, what it boils down to is that one of their requirements is you complete your degree within 133% of the credit hours of your degree, a cap of about 160 hours. As of last semester, I hit 164, for a lot of reasons. Mainly because I switched majors, went to summer school for 3 summers (taking many hours), and took the max nearly every semester. So, even if I wanted to keep my loans, I wouldn’t be allowed to. No looking back now.

I just think, of how lucky I am, because I’m not sure what I would have done without that new job. Tis the seasons indeed. This drop in my debt has made my goal of paying of my student loans by the time I graduate from graduate school (May 2014) a complete reality. Although this has really been a blessing in disguise (as much as it would have been a horror story otherwise), I’m really thankful for all of you out there that are helping me budget along. I’m a completely different spender (in that I know there’s no magic “free” money) now, and although I look back with shame, I learned a lot.

So for those of you making those bad choices, stop! And for those of you rectifying your decisions, congratulations and hats off to you!

-L.

 

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Budgeting as a College Student

It’s really difficult to budget as a college student, especially if you happen to live on campus (as I do). Most of my bills are paid during 2 months: August & January. This is when my tuition is paid, my rent is paid, my books are bought, and all those additional fees like parking tags are taken care of. So, it’s really difficult to budget out your money (some of which you don’t have yet) in a manner that satisfies your needs and leaves you with a little bit of a buffer.

Pic. source

I initially started my budgeting ventures for this year by making a fall budget and spring budget, but after a bit of reflecting, I decided that it doesn’t really help me in the long run this way. I can’t see patterns in my spending and adjust for them, I can’t really set aside X amount for my Emergency Fund (EF) every semester, and it’s just difficult to keep things in perspective when you’re looking at categories of spending over the span of 5 months. So today, I listed all anticipated income and expenses (everything from haircuts to taxes), and made official budgets for every month in Excel. It’s pretty basic, no fancy calculations or anything, but I think it will be something that I can keep to a lot more easily than I could a semesterly sheet. So, what are the items I have to budget for?

  • tuition
  • rent
  • fees
  • books
  • food
  • haircuts
  • Netflix
  • Gas
  • gifts
  • applications to grad school
  • standardized testing fees

Those last 2 will really hit you for doozy (almost $900…ridiculous). Aside from my main, on-campus job, I am also working an internship during the semester and plan to sell my body sell plasma. Every cent of that money is going to my Emergency Fund/Savings Fund. Yeah, I know you’re supposed to have both, but my plan right now is to build up one “do not spend” account and then split them later. Does it make sense? Yes. To me at least. Right now, with my bank, I have a checking account and savings account. My savings account will be my “do not spend” account =). I’ll be keeping track of how well I keep to my budget on this blog (y’all will hold me accountable, right?). I’m hoping to increase my net worth by a bit as well, so I’ll post about that every once in a while. I’m really excited, because I’m hoping that next semester I’ll be able to split my account into the EF & SF (because without the test aps & ap fees, I’ll have another $840 to put in my budget!!! Plus I’ll be able to have a smaller present budget [no Christmas!!! – is that something I should be happy about?])…

-L.