Death and student loans

Ok. They really need to stop putting “death” right there on the options of ways to “cancel or discharge your student loans.”

I mean, the least they could do would be to include some type of warning, like “please do not attempt to do yourself” or you know, SOMETHING.

But no, it’s just listed there. Right under, “School owes you a refund” and above, “public service employee loan forgiveness.”

I’m just saying, $51,000 is a desperate amount of debt at 26 years old, and people might take the “death” advice the wrong way.

Not me. But other people.

Me – I’ve just decided to live on whatever is cheaper than ramen noodles, thank you very much.

Here’s the thing, I haven’t um, well, I haven’t really been paying off my loans, mostly due to the fact that I enjoy eating. Daily.

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to work with these people, but they’d be all “we need $600 a month” and then I’d be all “I can’t afford that. How’s $50 sound?” and they’d be all “No. We need $600.” So I would pretend like I was all on board and that I could magically get the money.

But I couldn’t.

I’m a journalist. We don’t even make money. We just get free pens and stacks of post-its for our work.

So I wouldn’t pay them anything, and then well, that was kind of like two years ago.

My one friend who knows all this, has been telling me that I need to deal with it. And I knew he was right. I knew the loans were just sitting there like bad Mexican food in my stomach waiting to be vomited up.

But I didn’t know what to do.

Then, I grew up, and talked to my loan company. Which is actually my “whatever the name of the company that takes over for the loan company when your loans are in default” company. And by “grew up and talked to my loan company” I mean, they called me at work and I can’t be having that, so FINE I WILL TRY TO WORK WITH YOU.

I was all on board when the woman was explaining that all I had to do was make nine monthly payments on time and Viola! The loan would come out of default and it would be like it never even happened on my credit report.

But then she told me the payment amount.

“We just need $1,000 today and then a monthly payment of $728.”

My jaw disconnected from my skull and dropped right onto the tile floor.

“Umm, I just explained to you that I have $170 in my checking account.”

“Well that’s what we need.”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“Well, why don’t you just call us back on Tuesday and let me know if your finances have changed.”

Seeing as how my scratch ticket was total crap, and that I didn’t manage to marry a wealthy anything on Saturday – they didn’t.

Actually, I take that back. They did change. I spent about $80 on gas and food. Leaving me a solid $90 in the account.

I called back to tell them the news.

“Oh. Yes, well I do realize that $728 was a little high.”

You think?

“How about if I ask if you can do our affordable and reasonable plan?”

I like those words.

“That would be just $364 a month.”

Wait, what do affordable and reasonable mean to you?

“Fine.”

And then she’s all, “OK. Now I just need the first payment and we can get things rolling.”

So I start post-dating my debit transaction over the phone with this woman and whatnot and she’s all “OK, so we’ll charge $728 to your account on Monday then.”

And I’m all “Can’t breathe. Need air. Help.”

“Ya. That’s not going to happen. My take-home pay is about $890 every two weeks, and I have a car payment and a car insurance payment, and a medical bills payment, on this check.”

Five more minutes of her supposedly negotiating with her supervisor go by, and finally I’m told that, LUCKY ME, I can split the first payment in half over a month’s time.

Yay.

I guess.

So that’s my plan right now.

My, “life sucks, and I’ll never have any money ever, and holy cow $51,000 was a lot of money for a couple stupid diplomas that I could have made myself on Photoshop,” plan.

Pretending that – seeing as I how I have no savings at all – I can somehow, after making each of the first two payments, live on $145 for the first two weeks (do-able. ish.) and then, umm, $16 for the next two weeks (less doable), let’s break down how this payment plan will affect my monthly finances once I’m JUST paying the $368 – shall we?

I make $1,820.50 in take-home pay a month.

Subtract: Rent, car payment, car insurance, $17 for Jazzercise (it’s actually $37, but my company pays $20), $100 a month for medical bills and $10 a month for a prescription I take and you’re left with:

$926.50.

Then take away $368 a month for this loan payment.

$558.50.

Then take away $50, fine, $40 a week for gas.

We’re down to: $398.50

Divide that by four, and I’m left with $99.62 a week for food, and um, everything else. Clothes, car repairs, random medical things, tithing, spending money on church activities, buying toilet paper.

Everything.

Maybe I should be embarrassed that I apparently can’t get my crap together enough to either a. somehow get enough money for pay for this or b. live on $99.62 a week. And, maybe I shouldn’t go around broadcasting this for all the Internet world to read.

But it’s there. It’s sitting on my brain all the time as I drive around, or look at Facebook, or pee.

It’s there like a big shining spotlight that reaches every section of my life.

So now it’s here too. Feel free to judge away if it makes you feel better.

As for me, I’m looking into my options, praying every three seconds and hoping the money fairy would just get here already.

Here’s to ramen noodles. And college.

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Comments (6)

  1. Jill

    So, I’m not sure now is the right time to bring up the plight of unemployed law school graduates, but a high school friend recently posted this on fb complaining about student loans.

    http://esqnever.blogspot.com/2009/12/federal-student-loan-program-it-seemed.html

    I think a lot of people struggle with student loans :(
    I know you’ll get through this.

    Reply
  2. Heather

    Hi Crystal,
    First of all, you have a great blog here.
    I can completely relate to the insane burden of student loans. Between the my fiance and I, people could buy a small house with what we owe combined.

    I don’t know if you’re aware of it (as banks aren’t advertising this & often offer income-contingent plans to distract you), but Congress passed legislation last July which implemented a new income-based repayment plan for federal student loans. It is a plan that helps keep your payments down to an amount you can afford (up to about 10% of your income, though even less than that for people with low earnings).

    If any of your loans are federal (and I’m guessing at least some are), this program might be able to help you. You can find more info at http://www.ibrinfo.org.

    Just keep focused on where you are headed, not the muck you are stuck in right now. Remember, two years ago, you weren’t able to afford a Christmas tree and this year you could. Two years from now, you will probably be looking at student loans as an inconvenient nuisance, rather than something that interferes with your grocery bill. A lot can happen in two years.

    Good luck, and I hope this helps!
    Heather N (from high school/ jr high)

    Reply
    1. admin (Post author)

      Hey there. Thanks so much for the heads up on the program. But actually, as far as I can tell, that only applies to loans that are not in default – and mine are. :(
      And OF COURSE I remember you Heather. Dork. I even wrote this post about you and me and that time we went to fright fest for your birthday – http://sevenlayerburritos.com/archives/1215

      – Crystal

      – Crystal

      Reply
  3. Summer

    Well, on the bright side, you are actually graduated. Here I sit, 29 years old, eating a baked potato and working on homework to get my freaking associates degree. Guess I should have listened to Mom when she told me I’d regret not going to college right after high school.
    Just wanted to say that I loved your post and can completely relate to being broke. I’m still in cheap community college mode so I am making monthly payments. Fortunately I have a BF who keeps me fed a lot of the time. Without him I am pretty sure I’d be reduced to sharing my cats food.
    Best of luck to you!

    Reply
  4. admin (Post author)

    @Summer I’m not going to lie, my whole mess of a financial situation makes me kinda hate college. But that’s my problem.
    Good luck to you on your associates though! And your homework. :)

    Reply
  5. SCVegan

    Wow… i know this was a while ago but i have to say that you are pretty tough. i admire you a lot, really. Also, your crap is more together than you realize. you’re a good, GREAT person and you’re going to be alright. Now go get some hugs!

    Reply

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