• Money, Money, Money…

    When I couldn’t sleep the other night, I thought it was a sign that right when I turned on my couch host’s 500-some-channel TV, Suze Orman’s Money Class came on.

    Everyday people from the audience asked her all kinds of questions – When should I start saving for my child’s college education? (Her child was less than a year old. Suze advised the woman to check out savingforcollege.com.) My girlfriend and I are moving in together, she makes twice as much as I do, how should we split the rent? (Suze advise that if he and his girlfriend have different incomes, they should contribute the same percentage toward their rent versus the same amount.) And the good old, I have almost $100,000 in student debt and am thinking of filing for bankruptcy to get rid of it. What do you think?

    Of course, this last question was the one most relevant to my financial situation and to many of my friends’ as well. Suze told the teary-eyed man that even if he filed for bankruptcy, it would not take care of his student loan debt. Rather, interest would continue to accrue and he’d be in even more financial trouble later. (I think this is a common – and scary – myth, people thinking bankruptcy will erase their student loans.)

    As many of you know from this CNNMoney article about my couch-surfing that ran a few months ago, I have a lot of student loan debt. A LOT. As of April, it teetered around nearly $100,000.

    Like the man, I wanted to cry. (I think more from shock than anything else.) But as I figured out a payment plan and solution, instead of seeing the debt as a burden, I saw it as an opportunity. (After all, if I had not lost my job in 2009, I would not have given up my apartment and started couch-surfing, which is an incredibly fascinating/rewarding/too-many-things-to-mention-here experience that I would not trade for anything.)

    When people ask me why I still do not have an apartment, I remind them that I do pay rent – but to a collection agency; the Department of Education is my landlord. (They obviously had no home to garnish, just wages, so setting up a monthly rehabilitation payment plan was my only option, which was scary for someone who freelances, especially at times when my freelance jobs ebb more than they flow.)

    As ABBA’s “Money, Money, Money” song (from the mid-‘70s, mind you) says: “I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay/Ain’t it sad/And there still never seems to be a single penny left for me/That’s too bad…”

    Yes, it is too bad for the millions of us who are under- and unemployed, wondering when we will be out of debt, when we don’t have to worry about every penny, when we will no longer have to work three jobs for the price of one.

    We all know people in this situation: ourselves, friends who have lost their homes or downsized, Boomerang Kids who have moved back in with their families… And as Suze said on her show, we used to live beyond our means and now we are living below our means; our pleasure in saving money needs to exceed our pleasure of spending money; and don’t let one dollar go to waste.

    It’s all about adjusting our attitudes, I think. That’s all we can do, right?

    I know it’ll still take months – years – to pay off my loans, but after doing so for several months now, I have to say it is a very satisfying feeling. Instead of being depressed about the insane amount of money I still owe, I get excited about all the money I no longer owe.

    We just have to make the most of it in this economy, even if the most seems like very little. But if we add up all the “very little”s, they amount to a lot. Someday, to $98,122.30.

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  • Nicky LaMarco says:Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Great blog, Natalia. Keep up the great work!

  • venu says:Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Glad you wrote this article, Natalia! I think people are often embarrassed to share their money woes and that can end up with feelings of isolation and insecurity, neither of which help the situation… I believe that a plan of action is definitely necessary, but it’s comforting hear that there are other educated, qualified people with the same struggles.

  • Natalia says:Reply
    December 6, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    Nicky – Aww, thanks!

    Venu – Thanks for reading & commenting. Yes, I think there are SO MANY of us in the same situation, but many people keep it to themselves… But there’s nothing one should be embarrassed about. 🙂

  • Free Faith for Sale… says:Reply
    December 7, 2011 at 9:35 am

    […] Faith for Sale… December 7th, 2011 | Author: Natalia My Money, Money, Money blog post about my excessive student loan debt made me think of a short story I had published in […]

  • One resolution at a time… says:Reply
    January 2, 2012 at 3:44 pm

    […] until the student loan debt mentioned above gets lower, this is not likely anytime soon. (See my Money, Money, Money entry for more details on this.) (Also, I cannot imagine a non-couch-surfing life […]

  • Money Monday: You & Debt says:Reply
    January 9, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    […] all know how much debt I have (you remember my Money, Money, Money post)… Do you have debt, too? (Don’t worry — you don’t have to tell me how […]

  • Happy anniversary… to me says:Reply
    June 5, 2012 at 10:37 am

    […] the still-unstable job market and my ever-excessive student loan debt (which is where my “rent” money goes each month), taking my sofa out of storage and putting it into a place of my own hasn’t happened yet. Nor do […]

  • Richelle says:Reply
    June 15, 2013 at 1:39 am

    You’re so awesome! I don’t suppose I’ve read through something like this before. So nice to discover someone with a few original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This web site is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!