If you’ve got a lot of student debt, you may have asked yourself this question …
“Should I stay here on my own, or should I go home?”
A reader asked whether or not I lived at home and the answer is no, I live on my own. But there are some things that have made this a little easier.
First of all, I live with my boyfriend. To be fair, we share a 2 bedroom apartment, so it is essentially the same as having a roommate. Although, he is going back to school so I make significantly more than he does, and thus, pay more toward rent than I would if I had a traditional roommate.
I’m not saying cohabitation is the answer, but it has been nice because in the past we shared a 1 bedroom apartment and saved a lot of money that way. But we are both slobs and realized we needed extra space.
So, how do we do it? We budget. To the max.
We Don’t Eat Out:
Or rather, we rarely eat out and don’t typically buy convenience food, either. Most of what we buy is produce. I almost never eat meat, so we save money there. And when I do, I splurge on chicken, not steak. (PS: When I want to eat nutritiously and deliciously and meatlessly, I go to Deliciously Ella for yummy recipes.)
We don’t buy new clothes:
Well, we do sometimes. At this age, we’re pretty much done growing so we use what we have. When we do buy clothes, we shop at Old Navy and Target. Sometimes we use RetailMeNot to see what sweet deals are going on nearby.
We don’t drink:
Not because we don’t want to, but because it’s usually inconvenient for us. My boyfriend usually works weekend evenings. Plus, most of our friends live a good 10+ miles away and we don’t want to risk drinking and driving. Sometimes we buy a case of beer for home but at this point we have the tolerance of college freshmen so it lasts a while.
We don’t go on vacation:
Ever. The last time I went on a vacation was spring break in 2009. The last time he went on vacation? Does getting stuck in an airport in Cleveland on his way home for Christmas break count?
We don’t have car payments:
I own my own car (thanks mom and dad) which is pretty old but mostly reliable. He uses public transportation. We also don’t pay for insurance (again, mom and dad, you rock!).
We don’t have cellphone payments:
We’re lucky. Our parents still take care of it. Mostly because if they didn’t we wouldn’t be able to afford it.
Now maybe you don’t have all these luxuries. I realize that not everyone can drive their parents’ old clunker or rely on public transportation. Many of you probably have cell phone bills and insurance payments. But many of you do not pay $500 a month in loans … a cost that will soon jump to $1,000.
So if I’m barely making it now, what’s my game plan for when my loans jump up?
I’m moving home, folks.
But just for a little while! Here’s why:
- I have about $8,000 in medical bills and credit card debt I need to pay off. This takes up a significant portion of my monthly salary as is and I won’t be able to afford it when my loans jump up.
- My boyfriend doesn’t have a car. He needs one.
- My boyfriend is back in college and would like to go full-time. He can’t do that with a full-time job, so he’d like to drop down to part-time. This is something we can’t currently afford.
The first thing they say about moving in with your parents is to have an exit strategy. I’ve calculated that living rent-free (we are still paying for groceries) will allow us to pay off all my debt in a year. I should also be able to get a moderately-priced used car and pay that off in around a year (maybe a little longer) and sell my clunker to my boyfriend (can’t rely on public transportation where my parents live).
After a year or year and a half, we should be able to move out debt-free (except our student loan debt, obviously). Because the cost of living is so inexpensive there, I should be able to afford a 1 bedroom apartment easily, possibly even a 2 bedroom. My boyfriend can still work only part-time and focus on his studies (which will hopefully lead to him graduating early … he’s going back to school and already has quite a few credits). And the plan is, in 3 years or so we should have a pretty solid income and can move back to the big city.
This is a huge commitment on my part and my boyfriend’s. He has never lived anywhere other than a city. He is going to be living with my parents in our not-so-huge home. I am going to be supporting him while he goes through school. Are we crazy? Possibly, but please keep in mind we’ve been dating for five years and would be engaged if we could afford to even think about being engaged (I feel certain I just lost $20 somehow by publishing my wedding thoughts). So this isn’t something that’s a viable choice for everyone.
Plus, my parents are amazing. This was their idea. They’re the coolest and aren’t going to lose it if we get drunk (as long as we don’t drive), accidentally curse, make too much of a ruckus, etc.
So can you afford to live on your own with a ton of student loan debt? Probably. It’s tough, though. We don’t have money for many activities. Going out to eat, drink, visit a museum, shop, etc. is a huge deal. And we savor it.
But you have to spend smarter. You can’t get brand new furniture in the nicest apartment in the best area of the city. You can’t buy so many new clothes your closet can’t hold them so you have to store them in your oven and constantly eat out like you’re Carrie Bradshaw. $2.50 Miller Lights are you new bff and seriously who orders a martini at a bar anyway? You probably can’t live alone and having roommates may mean living life like you’re in a frat house with all the stink and none of the fun. And don’t even think about buying a brand new car (side note: a friend with almost as much debt as me bought a new car, so you probably can think about it but I still advise against it).
Don’t want to make all those sacrifices? I don’t blame you. It’s been real but it hasn’t always been fun. There’s no shame in going home. In fact, we’re both pretty excited about it. We can finally have a real saving’s account. We are going on our first vacation (someone else paid for the house, we just need to pay for our own gas and groceries). We can go to parties again! Maybe even see a movie (the last one we saw in theaters was the Hobbit. The first one. That came out in 2012).
But we’re also glad to have an exit strategy. We have a goal we want to accomplish (be debt-free except for our student loans). We have set a time frame (1-1.5 years). We don’t feel like we’re going home to mooch. We feel like we’re going home to save some money and catch our breath.
It’s hard out there for a hustla.