Thursday, December 24, 2015

Digging us out of a hole

I bet you thought that if I hid from the blogging world for months, I'd come back and blog about law school. (The blog is called Taking On Law School after all) But you would think wrong.

I'm going to talk about finances and confess how Fiancé and I dug ourselves into a hole this last year that we now have to find a way out of. Between Fiancé bouncing back and forth across the entire nation due to family issues, unexpected unemployment, one surgery (mine), one significant back injury (his) and the feast and famine aspect of living off my student loan check twice a year, well, we put more debt on credit cards than any one couple should ever have. This last month has been the worst in the seven years we've been together. Fiancé injured his back in November and couldn't work for two weeks. In the almost eight years I've known him, he's called in sick one time. ONCE. Since we were already living paycheck to paycheck to pay back everything from my surgery and me not being able to work for awhile, this knocked us out of the game. For the first time in my life, I had to borrow rent money. We immediately cut every bill we possibly could, stopped buying food and canceled Christmas. I also doubled my work hours two weeks before finals. I had to do what I had to do and I wanted to avoid living in my car more than I wanted good grades. We shall see how that panned out next week when grades are released.

The good news is that 1) Fiance is now back at work and 2) it made us realize that we stopped looking at our finances just because it scared us.

So here is our new plan for 2016 -

GOAL ONE: Stop Eating Out - Now, in a funny turn of events, grabbing Mcdonalds too much last semester kind of saved our butt this last month but not exactly in a good way. In September, I did my normal batch cooking for the semester but rarely had the motivation to actually cook out of it. So when it came time to stop buying things cold turkey, we had over ten casseroles in the freezer, 8 crockpot meals and numerous sides. Why didn't we eat them before? Because I was lazy. However, when I went back and looked at how much we spent on fast food, we easily could have managed to pay our rent last month. So POOF. No more eating out.

GOAL TWO: Batch Cook Easy Cheap Meals - I'm thinking lots and lots of dump chicken meals with enough ground beef meals to keep us sane. If I remember in the morning, I can dump it in the crockpot. If I don't, I can dump it in the oven. Either way, we need to stop treating ourselves with food just because we had a bad day.

GOAL THREE: Work More Hours - This is something we're both committed to. Fiancé just got a second job and will be working 6 days a week, over 60 hours a week. I'm still in school but I'm going to keep my hours higher for as long as my boss will let me. I'm volunteering for every extra assignment I can and it seems to be helping. By working more, we will hopefully be able to dig ourselves out of this debt mess and save for the next big emergency.

GOAL FOUR: Stop Being A Crutch For The Other - One reason we go in this mess is that when my surgery happened, Fiancé was working. So I relied on him to pay my half of the bills. Then when Fiancé lost his job, I had just gotten my financial aid money. We obviously have no problem covering each other (we are getting married after all) but we sort of stopped dividing bills. A big bill would come up and one would pay it without the other having any clue how much we were spending. We used to be pretty good with a budget but this last year has just been so crazy, there was no way to budget so we stopped trying. Now that things are slightly more stable, it's time to get back to it. So this week, we finally sat down and went through every bill we have and taped it to the living room wall. Our goal is to have both of us split all our bills so one, my loans aren't covering two people when it's meant to cover one, and two, my loan money doesn't run out like it did this semester.

GOAL FIVE: Keep Our Bills Low - When we crashed and burned, we went and stopped all the bills that are nice to have but not necessary. Netflix, kindle unlimited, knitting software and my wine club went out the window and I have no intention of getting them back until we pay off our credit cards. Those ten dollars or less a month bills are sneaky. Half of them, I didn't even remember we had! Good grief.

GOAL SIX: Pay Off Credit Cards - Now I'm not sure how long this one will take us but I'd like to at least double our current payment plan. It would be awesome to pay them off in 2016 but with two people making less than 10 dollars an hour, that might not be possible. We will have to see.

Now this whole post is all about the things we did wrong. However, we did do some things right. Right before this latest catastrophe, I applied for a bunch more scholarships and I was just informed last week that I got an additional $5,000 a year scholarship. Added to my previous scholarships, this basically means I don't pay tuition anymore. YAY!! Another thing I did to help avoid this mess was when Fiancé was unemployed, I got a paying job. Yes, I still have my unpaid internship too so it's been a tricky balance but it was really the only thing that kept us going as long as we did. I'm so so glad that I didn't wait until we were broke to do this because by then it would have been much too late.

What do you guys do to cut spending?

EDITED TO ADD - I literally just hit publish and I get a text from Fiancé with the news that they're cutting his hours at work again. UGH. Sometimes we just can't win.

UPDATE: Click HERE to see how I did after six months (or so).

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