Author Topic: Mustache Makeover: getting comfortable in the clenched asshole of poorness  (Read 13852 times)

Perpetual_Student

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Help, Mustachians!  We require your bristly know-how.

Here's the deal: we make barely anything at all as a couple, but we want to try to increase our earnings somewhat and live within our very limited means.

I am, as my SN implies, a student attempting to get into professional school. I apply this fall to veterinary schools, and next year I'll be finishing up a Masters degree.  I already have an MA, but it doesn't seem to matter how much education or experience you have in English, finding part-time work that pays over $15/hour can be a pipe dream.  I would find it extremely difficult myself into something full-time, because...school.  Right now I work two jobs as a student lab assistant in animal research labs (the field I am interested in).  Although they only pay ~$10/hr, doing that work is important to boost my application, since getting into vet school is extraordinarily competitive!

Mr. Perpetual_Student (Mr. PS) is a musician by profession, and between teaching, gigging, and whatever else he does he makes approximately $18,000/year. He is great at the work he does, and he is doing better personally and financially since quitting his low-paying day job a year and a half ago.  However, while his days, nights, and weekends are pretty full (oh the life of a musician), we know that he could be seeking more and better opportunities.  His typical week involves teaching lessons a block from our apartment for three or four days a week, traveling 30 miles to Denver to host an open mike on Wednesdays, traveling those same 30 miles to teach on Fridays, then traveling another 35 miles south to teach all day Saturday, returning to Denver to teach and rehearse on Sunday, and driving the last 30 miles home Sunday night to repeat all over again.  To cut down on gas $ and wear and tear, he spends two nights a week with a friend, but it seems ridiculous to travel so far to teach some lessons, when it would make more sense to find closer students.  I have told him this many, many times, but he is adamant that this is a necessary thing.  Most of his lessons are in the town 65 miles south from us, and most of his demand.  (We live where we do because I am a student in a town an hour to the north.  I am able to justify this long commute because as a student, I have a bus pass paid for by student fees, and I am able to travel back and forth basically for free.)

We are already living pretty frugal lives - reading through the MMM blog is an exercise in "wow, yeah, I know!  If we were making 50k or even 100k a year, we'd be retiring in no time, 'cause all this is old hat!"  But I know there's fat to be trimmed somewhere.  My tuition expenses are taken care of for school, which is a godsend, but I have taken a few loans to help with carrying my share of the living expenses.  Over the last 18 months, those loans have totaled about $20,000 - this tells me that we are living a 31,000/year lifestyle, when we are not making that much.

Once I am finished with my degrees, I should be earning quite a bit more than we are used to, and without lifestyle inflation, we should be able to sock tons of that away and get it to work with investing.  So we do have that to look forward to...but that's at least 5 years and a lot of expensive schooling down the line.

Fortunately we have no kids, and no desire or plans for same.  Our only dependents are 3 cats.

Let me see if I can break the numbers down for y'all:

- Rent: $700/mo
- Music studio rent: $220/mo
- Bills, utilities, home costs: $35/mo electric, $30/mo internet, $140/mo cellphones
- Vehicles: 1991 Saab 900 w/ 290XXX miles (my dad maintains it for me, thank goodness, so no real shop bills), early 2000s Honda CR-V with 200000+ miles, annual insurance $1000, annual fuel costs $3600
- Food: groceries: $60/wk, restaurants/bars/coffeeshops/etc: $70/wk (yikes)
- Shopping (clothes, home, gifts, etc.): probably $4500/yr
- Pets: Food/litter $60/mo, pet insurance $500/yr
- Charity giving: $300/year
- Health insurance (for me, we are about to buy Mr. PS some): $3600/yr
- Current debt: student loans $20,000
- Current cash in the bank: ~$9500

That should cover all our major expenses.  The rest is a smattering of parking, bank fees, pharmacy, and other stuff totaling about $3000/yr.

Our thrift-fu is already pretty good.  We already shop thrift stores and craigslist for most of our material needs.  All of our furniture were family gifts, garage sale or craigslist finds - in fact, the sum cost of every scrap of furniture we own was (does math) $215.  I pack my lunches, Mr. PS (who grew up very comfortably) gets mad when I suggest he should.  I did just sell the pretty busted bicycle I have had since I was 12 (antimustachian I know, but it wasn't getting ridden and we had nowhere to keep it).  I also sold my motorcycle for $1750 (bought it 2 years ago for $1400).  I use a rewards card and pay it off every month.

I'm sure we have room to trim.  My goal is to come out of the other side of vet school with little to no debt, even though we may have virtually no savings.  At the very least I do not want to take out any more loans during the next year, while I'm doing this MS program before vet school starts next fall (Inshallah I get in).  My vet school application picks are based on their reputations and relative cheapness, but the most affordable veterinary school will be at least $80k tuition for four years (and the most expensive can be $260k!).

So.  Main goal: take out no loans for the next year and live within our means.  5-year goal: graduate vet school with little to no debt.  10-year goal: have enough financial security vis-a-vis investment and rental income to be able to work part-time, how and when we desire, enjoy our work without panicking about bills, and say fuck you to the haters.

Fellow Mustachians: help us become more comfortable here in the clenched asshole of poorness!

Another Reader

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Have you talked to recent vet school graduates to see what their incomes are?  I know several that could not find permanent jobs that are doing relief shift work and per diem contract shelter vet jobs.  Others are working salary jobs in clinics where the pay in no way justifies the vet school cost.  All while paying off massive student loans.

You and Mr. PS have dug yourselves a rather large hole getting the education you have now.  In your shoes, I would look to leverage the education and skills I had today into better paying employment rather than taking on yet another expensive degree program that might not pay off.  A couple of years recovering and saving up for future academic endeavors would put you in a much better position.

plantingourpennies

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Love the title-The Clenched Asshole of Poverty!

I have the same experiences with recent vet grads that can barely pay their tuition, but the BLS has this to say about them, so something doesn't match up.

2010 Median Pay:    $82,040 per year or $39.44 per hour
Entry-Level Education:   Doctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in a Related Occupation:   None
On-the-job Training:   None
Number of Jobs, 2010:   61,400
Job Outlook, 2010-20:   36% (Much faster than average)
Employment Change, 2010-20:   22,000

Two humble suggestions...

1.) Get Mr. PS on the same page financially. My wife did this by having me sit down every sunday night with one of my favorite beers and take a peek at Mint. If he's squeamish about packing a lunch now, I can foresee problems down the road when things get really tight.

2.) Consider thinking outside your current career path. You appear intelligent and focused with good communications skills; why not something in sales? They money is way better, and if you and Mr. PS are serious, you could probably pull off an ERE-style retirement in 5 or 7 years and spend THE REST OF YOUR LIVES volunteering for a vet, running a charity or who knows what.

Thoughts?

Mr. Pop

amyable

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With a Master's in English could you pick up a few part-time teaching gigs to help you through vet school?  The money is not great, but community colleges in my area are always looking for solid adjuncts to teach introductory composition courses. 

Again, definitely not glamorous work or great money, but while I was in grad school, I substitute taught on Fridays--I made about $80 for a full workday. 


MEJG

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Hi Ms. PS :-)  and Mr. PS too!
     
Please take everything I say as intended with kindness, because it is.  If you need to be a Vet, go to vet school.  If you do not NEED to be a vet, I'd urge you to reconsider.  I know some individuals who went to vet school because they like medicine, and animals, and it seemed like a good idea.  I also know people who have known since they were three they wanted to be a vet, really feel called and CANNOT imagine, though they have tried, doing anything else.

If you are not one of the latter please think about your choices.  Starting salary for a SA vet in the north east is about $65,000.  The recommended new grad salaries have shrunk over the last 3-4 years.  The reports, like the one Mr. Pop is quoting are seen as spurious by many business owners.  I know many people who had a very difficult time getting a first job- if they did not want to work for banfield.

If you NEED to be a vet :-D well good for you! and good luck.  Expect to budget $5-10,000 for applications yearly.  Expect to apply 2-3 times before getting in.  The $5-10,000 is for the application, all the supplementals and travel expenses for interviews.  Once you are in vet school find a CHEAP place to live and if Mr. Ps follows you right away to your new digs- STILL share a place with roommates.  Expect not to be able to work while in school.  Some very dedicated people can handle 10ish hours on the weekend, but don't expect to be able to.  Vet school can be all consuming. 

I would look into school where you meet the requirements, and that allow in state tuition once you are there for 1 year- like Ohio.  Not sure of any others.  I would also start applying for scholarships AS SOON AS YOU ARE IN.  There are not many for vet school- but there are some.  You should apply to every single one that you qualify for.  If you have to take out more than Staffords you're digging into a deep deep hole. You should be able to keep making payments on your current SL while in vet school- those are expenses you cannot put off.  Mathematically it will kill your finances to defer and have interest accumulating.

In school you should focus in years 3 and 4 on getting externships and doing awesome placements.  Focus on job hunting once you hit year 4.  If you have a job lined up for right after graduation you can kill those SL prior to repayment.

Please get on the same page as Mr. Ps.  If the two of you can work it out so he makes enough to cover cost of living for the 4 years and you go to one of the less expensive schools then getting out with $150,000 or less is doable on $65,000.  Hard work, but doable.  The Veterinary profession is NOT one where your salary will make up for your SL without thought and prep.

If you decide to pursue vet school you must live like your hair is on fire until you get out and then until your SL are paid off. 

If you want to chat more in-depth PM me :-)

and Good luck!!!

Nancy

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I agree that you should take time to work full-time between getting your MS and even applying for vet school. You already have an undergrad degree, an MA and soon an MS. You will actually be more employable if you have work experience (granted not as a vet). You may also benefit from taking time and working in the field that you want to pursue to see if it is actually right for you. Otherwise, you might be going for another degree that you won't use.

For your current situation, have you considered getting a full-time job at the university where you are getting your MS? Many universities have tuition remission programs for employees, where you essentially get your degree for free (although, you will pay taxes). This route takes longer, but saves you a lot of money, while you are simultaneously earning money.

As for your budget: $4.5K is a lot of shopping, especially if you only spent $215 furnishing your apartment. Try cutting this down to $1K a year to compensate for Mr. PS's upcoming health insurance. I would also take a hard look at that $70/week on eating/drinking out and the extra $3K/year that you've been spending and think about switching to a bank that doesn't have fees, bringing your own coffee, etc.

Lastly (I promise), stop taking extra loans to cover you costs of living (other than health insurance if need be). That way you won't have the money to spend. Good for you for being cognizant of your situation and trying to get your SO on board. Good luck!


bogart

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Hi Ms. PS :-)  and Mr. PS too!
     
Please take everything I say as intended with kindness, because it is.  If you need to be a Vet, go to vet school.  If you do not NEED to be a vet, I'd urge you to reconsider.  I know some individuals who went to vet school because they like medicine, and animals, and it seemed like a good idea.  I also know people who have known since they were three they wanted to be a vet, really feel called and CANNOT imagine, though they have tried, doing anything else.


I'd second that:  my sense is that it's a pretty tough career.  Multiply (the tough part) by a factor of 10 if you're even considering large-animal practice.

No other words of wisdom on that one. 

Two cost-cutting places stand out to me in your budget: 

I have a Consumer Cellular cell phone "plan" (it is ongoing, but I can cancel or change it at any time with no cost for making the change -- imagine that!) that costs me ~$25/month for 300 minutes, and even higher-count plans are much cheaper than what you're paying.  Get a cheaper phone (there are other suggestions on these boards for good ways to get cheap phone, so look around.  Mine works for me.)

$~480/month on "Shopping (clothes, home, gifts, etc.)"???  Really???  Stop that (or stop complaining about "the clenched asshole of poorness" if you persist in doing it.  Particularly if one of you doesn't have health insurance.).  That's, like, my budget for the year for those items (OK, not quite -- but pretty close). 

grantmeaname

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Does Mr. PS drive the CR-V? You may be well served by trading it out for something little like a CRX or a Civic if all the gear will fit in one; 20-23mpg is pretty bad for something that just needs to move one person and a little stuff around. You are using a thousand gallons of gas a year, which is a whole lot of money. Or, since you mostly bus to and from school, could your household get by on one car and a bike? That would be gas and insurance savings!

Why do you consider pet insurance necessary?

Would you consider giving your time instead of your money to the charities you support? You have more time than money, as you may have noticed. Cutting the $300/year of charitable giving and replacing it with 20 hours of volunteering would help your budget out and could connect you more to the cause. As someone working at a nonprofit, I know that it's at least as appreciated as monetary donations in many circumstances.

AJ

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I apologize ahead of time that this will be harsh...but I guess you did ask for that :)

Your husband needs a big punch in the face. I'm sorry, but anyone who wants to be a Musician (read: not a real job) doesn't get to complain about brown-bagging it. I have dealt with more than my fair share of entitled musicians in my time, and I have a sore spot there. People grossly over-romantacize that profession, including the vast majority of musicians themselves. The dude needs to man up and get his shit together. You don't want to work a real job? Fine, but at least take the lifestyle changes that come with that (rice and beans, $0 beer budget, and head-shakingly obviously brown-bagging lunches). Seriously, he is being a baby.

arebelspy

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With a Master's in English could you pick up a few part-time teaching gigs to help you through vet school?  The money is not great, but community colleges in my area are always looking for solid adjuncts to teach introductory composition courses. 

Again, definitely not glamorous work or great money, but while I was in grad school, I substitute taught on Fridays--I made about $80 for a full workday.

This.  The wife and I are both teachers, and while teachers don't make a ton, we still each make a bit more than double MrPS. That'd be a nice income boost, or savings boost if you stay at the same standard of living.

Is the vet change because it's what you really want to do, or because you think it's a good financial decision?
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, spent some time traveling the world full time and are now settled with two kids.
If you want to know more about us, or how we did that, or see lots of pictures, this Business Insider profile tells our story pretty well.
We (rarely) blog at AdventuringAlong.com. Check out our Now page to see what we're up to currently.

CeciliaW

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Our local Vet has mentioned in the past that he made more money as a house painter than he does as a Vet.

One of our other friends worked very hard for years to get through Vet School, living states away from his family. After 2 years he is doing substitute work, on both coasts, still trying to find a "Job".

Seriously, unless it's something you're willing to cut back on Everything else for, save yourself the deeper hole.

Perpetual_Student

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When I wrote that post I was so optimistic, and now I'm incredibly depressed and disheartened.  Whither my juicy Mangoes of Opportunity?

Another Reader
, you make a good point about working and saving for school, but I'm afraid I'd rather front-load the loans and pay them down once I have work as a veterinarian.  With a minimum 60k/yr on top of Mr. PS's 18-20k/yr, and a lot of frugality, we could knock out 80k in loans within two years or so.  That is, if we HAVE 80k in loans...my goal is to get that down to 60 or even 40k.

plantingourpennies, your suggestions are valid.  Especially the Mint idea.  I appreciate your gentle suggestion to abandon my veterinary dreams, but while I may not make 200k doing what I love, I only get one life.  I'm not sure 5-7 years of work I detest can make up for ditching the opportunity to do what I enjoy for the rest of my life.

amyable and arebelspy - those are good points about teaching!  I think I may try to get some tutoring students, they can be scheduled around school.  There are a lot of well-off suburban families around here with students with godawful writing abilities, and I have previously tutored towards the SAT, ACT, and crafting great college admissions essays.  I could probably get $35-40/hr.

MEJG - you write like someone who has a ton of experience.  I appreciate your words of wisdom.  I'm currently primarily interested in research and laboratory medicine, which is not as hard to break into as SA medicine right now, and does generally have higher pay.  This is my second year applying.  The current tenuous plan is to attend my #1 choice, NCSU, which does allow in-state residency after the first year (that's where I get the $80k tuition figure I keep throwing around).  We hope to buy a multi-bedroom, multi-bathroom condo or some other especially rentable property and pack it with roommates, covering mortgage with luck and turning a small profit with double luck.  I've spoken to many vets about the grim debt situation many new grads find themselves in, like a friend of mine who just accepted a non-sponsored slot at CSU...even though she is a state resident!  That's like $250k down the drain, and her husband earns nothing - I think he is studying bible studies or something equally inane.  I wouldn't want to be her coming out on the other end with all that debt.

Nancy - I did actually work full-time for three years after getting my MA.  I taught English in Korea with Fulbright for a year, then the economy tanked right as I returned and I worked as an admin assistant slash jack of all at a research lab for two years.  That's how I got interested in vet medicine, especially the research side.  It's not the most bitchin' resume, I know, but it's something, right?  I'll continue to work part-time in the labs through this year, which should help with my experience levels.  The rest of your advice is very sound.

bogart - yeah, all the miscellania of life really sneaks up on us, and I was shocked to see how much money was just slipping through the cracks.  Mr. PS and I sat down and figured that we can slash our phone bill in half without having to sacrifice much of how we use our phones.  I considered trying one of those ultra-low plans, but after looking at a dozen providers, I think just putting our shit on one plan and axing data will make the difference.  He needs minutes to call his clients, groups, and students, and it's the best plan for us that I can find.

grantmeaname - thanks for your thoughtful and insightful advice!  I just spent some of my afternoon looking for smaller, better cars available on CL, and I think swapping out the CR-V may definitely be worth the trouble.  Also worth considering getting rid of my car...I didn't get a car until I was 25, and I did okay before then.  It might be worth the savings, though I think my parents may feel hurt since they gave it to me and car maintenance is how my dad expresses love.  Your charity advice is great too - I think I will follow it.  And we debated cutting the cat health insurance, but it's come in handy quite a bit.  This year we have had about 800 dollars in vet bills, and insurance reimbursed about half of that.  I'm going to look at the plans again and make sure that there aren't any sneaky lifetime caps or anything like that, because then it WOULD be a swindle.  I've just spent enough time in emergency small animal medicine to know that when things go wrong, they get spendy HELLA quick.  My cats are my "children," and I have to be able to guarantee good care.

AJ - LOL, love it.  He's the sweetest human alive, very kind, good with little kids, and always cheerful.  But he didn't grow up as frugally as I did and sometimes he gets pouty about food.  He has gotten better over time, so I have hope :)

CeciliaW - he must be an amazing house painter or a really shitty vet.  Kidding aside, does he enjoy his work and seem happy to do it?  Worth considering.  And I'm sorry to hear about your nomad vet buddy.  It sounds like he has it tough.  What field is he in?  Small animal, large animal, etc?  And yeah, when I was working and earning 30k/yr, it felt quite kingly.  If I play all my cards right, cut back on everything like you say, I can make a happy and frugal life from this.

Well, I'll be damned - THE MANGOES ARE BACK!

kdms

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I'd like to offer a suggestion regarding the pet insurance, if I may?

We have three cats as well, and they are definitely a very important part of our family.  We've been forking over $55 a month for around 10 years for pet insurance, and in 10 years, we've had one incident that we've been able to claim back -- around $800 of a $1200 bill. 

10 years x $55 + $400 non-claimable fees: $7000
return on 'investment': $800
net loss: -$6200 that we can never access again

We've cancelled our pet insurance, but haven't stopped paying the premiums....they just get automatically put into a savings/emergency account once a month, at the same time the deductible would have disappeared anyways.  Granted, our three are all indoor cats, so illness and accident are a lot less likely than those that have the freedom to wander outdoors.

We always thought the insurance bought us peace of mind, but really, having the money accessible to pay for their care if necessary is way more peaceful than wondering whether any given particular ailment will actually be covered by insurance once the problem is diagnosed...thousands of dollars later.

Just a thought...be your own insurance company, and make some interest (however piddly, it's better than nothing) on your deductible.  :)






galaxie

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AJ - LOL, love it.  He's the sweetest human alive, very kind, good with little kids, and always cheerful.  But he didn't grow up as frugally as I did and sometimes he gets pouty about food.  He has gotten better over time, so I have hope :)

I used to hate packed lunches (I'm vegetarian, and vegetarian cold sandwiches are awful), but there are some things you can do to make packing a lunch awesome.  I wrote a whole blog about it: http://excellentlunch.blogspot.com/   

Maybe not everything I do will work for you, but you can think critically about what assumptions you make about what goes in a brown-bag lunch, and maybe win back some deliciousness.

Perpetual_Student

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kdms: Sounds like a better plan.  And with luck I'll be a vet anyway in four or five years anyway ;)

galaxie: Nice blog!  I have a little lock-n-lock and was making bentos for a while but it was too much work, because cutesiness was important to me.  Plus, even though my lock-n-lock has dividers, they aren't waterproof, so once I threw it in my bag everything became gross and cross-contaminated.  Ugh.

Talked more with Mr. PS and we're slashing and hacking at the expenses!  We have talked and talked and made some cuts, which I am implementing over the next few days.  Let's look at the numbers remix:

- Rent: $700/mo
- Music studio rent: $220/mo That's over, baby.  He will teach those students from their (nearby) homes, and we get money in the pocket.
- Bills, utilities, home costs: $35/mo electric, $30/mo internet, $140/mo cellphones We are getting rid of data, combining plans too.  Only $70/mo now.
- Vehicles: 1991 Saab 900 w/ 290XXX miles (my dad maintains it for me, thank goodness, so no real shop bills), early 2000s 1999 Honda CR-V with 200000+ miles, annual insurance $1000, annual fuel costs $3600  Still going back and forth on the utility of one vehicle, but a vehicle with better mileage and fewer miles would be better than the CR-V.  Mr. PS insists he gets ~30 mpg from his.  I doubt it, but most of his driving is highway, he says...
- Food: groceries: $60/wk $80/wk, restaurants/bars/coffeeshops/etc: $70/wk $25/mo We have decided to buy non-grocery food once a month, by going out cheaply for our "monaversary" (yes, we are tragically lame).  In addition, there are several small Mexican fruterias and mercados on Main Street here in Longmont, so we'll be checking out their food and prices.
- Shopping (clothes, home, gifts, etc.): probably $4500/yr We are entering a zone of ultrafrugality.  Unless there is dire need, $$$ does not get spent on purchases.  Hoping to at least halve this number.
- Pets: Food/litter $60/mo, pet insurance $500/yr  We are going to make a claim on our most recent visit, and then cancel this puppy.  Hope very much that nothing goes drastically wrong with our indoor cats.
- Charity giving: $300/year  I will volunteer more and save my big giving for my big earning.
- Health insurance (for me, we are about to buy Mr. PS some): $3600/yr  It would be great to cut this down.  I am currently paying for health insurance through my university, but it would be amazing if we could get a joint plan.  We are not married and intend not to get married.  Also, Mr. PS just quit smoking in May.  Anyone have suggestions?
- Current debt: student loans $20,000  Ay.  We will try to pay this down and not take out more.
- Current cash in the bank: ~$9500

The rest is a smattering of parking, bank fees, pharmacy, and other stuff totaling about $3000/yr.  Hoping to chop this in half too.

Even without changing the car situation, we ought to be able to save ~$12k a year with those alterations.  Fucking awesome.

jpo

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- Pets: Food/litter $60/mo, pet insurance $500/yr  We are going to make a claim on our most recent visit, and then cancel this puppy
For a moment there I thought you were going to euthanize a puppy!

Monkey stache

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For health insurance there is always Medicaid. Where I live your premium is based on what you make which makes it much more affordable. Also, have you applied for FAFSA? Since you don't have a large income then you may qualify for grants to pay for at least part of your tuition. I used those grants to pay for a lot of my tuition and then worked full time to pay the rest. I was able to graduate with no student loans that way.

bogart

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For health insurance there is always Medicaid.

Not in my state, there isn't.  It's available to low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.  An able-bodied adult (who isn't a parent) is not a candidate for Medicaid coverage here.

Daley

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Also, have you applied for FAFSA? Since you don't have a large income then you may qualify for grants to pay for at least part of your tuition.

I don't believe Pell Grants and the FAFSA are set up for educational funding beyond a bachelor's degree, IIRC.

BonzoGal

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Maybe for health insurance for Mr. PS, go for catastrophic coverage only.  He can use a pay-as-you-go clinic for things like strep throat, tough out things that doctors can't really help like colds/flu, and you'll be covered if there's a major accident or something like that. 

We have three indoor cats.  We've never had pet insurance, even though my work offers it at a discount.  I just added up the costs, and even with a couple of vet visits per cat per year, the insurance wasn't worth it.  Do make sure to figure out how to clean your cats' teeth, though-  cat dental bills are insanely expensive, and most of them can be prevented with one of those weird little cat toothbrushes!

Monkey stache

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For health insurance there is always Medicaid.

Not in my state, there isn't.  It's available to low-income parents, children, seniors, and people with disabilities.  An able-bodied adult (who isn't a parent) is not a candidate for Medicaid coverage here.

Really?! After my husband and I lost our jobs we applied for health insurance through multiple companies and were denied for pre-existing conditions (very minor ones that don't require any expensive treatments). We weren't even considered for catastrophic coverage despite neither of us ever being hospitalized in the past. Our only options left were Medicaid or being uninsured.

If Medicaid isn't available for PS then I second BonzoGal's recommendation of getting only catastrophic coverage. There are clinics that charge based on a sliding scale which would work for regular doctors appointments.

Perpetual_Student

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jpo:  Haha!  I see how that crossed your mind!  CANCEL THAT PUPPY

RandR: I did do FAFSA (my school requires it to give financial aid) and I also have earned many scholarships.  I'm starting a graduate degree program this fall, though, and IPD is right that grants and FAFSA are only good for undergrad.  Thanks for thinking on it though.

As bogart pointed out, Medicaid isn't an option either, RandR, but I did learn that many interstate insurers offer family coverage to domestic partners.  I think we are going to go with a Kaiser plan that will cost about $4100/year for both of us together, which will be a slight increase on what I'm paying for myself currently, but a savings when you consider that it will now cover both of us.  We use prescription medications and have some elective surgeries in our future, so that level of coverage will help in the long run, financially speaking.

BonzoGal, the numbers look similar for us too.  As soon as I get my latest expenses reimbursed, it's going.

MooreBonds

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We hope to buy a multi-bedroom, multi-bathroom condo or some other especially rentable property and pack it with roommates, covering mortgage with luck and turning a small profit with double luck. 

Don't recall all facts from your previous post, but what kind of property do you plan on qualifying to buy with yourself entering school, and a spouse earning, what, $18k/year?

A condo will have monthly condo dues of probably $100-$200/month, making a home probably a better bet financially...but either way, unless you are planning on having a 90% down payment, you better rethink those housing plans.

Perpetual_Student

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I know you're right, Moore.  I hate being so fucking poor, but I'm working toward a goal.

How would you suggest going about the housing situation?

MooreBonds

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I know you're right, Moore.  I hate being so fucking poor, but I'm working toward a goal.

How would you suggest going about the housing situation?

I understand that you are coming up with ideas, and that's great...I might have come across a bit harsh. Just trying to steer things from the 'brainstorming area' back into the 'turning brainstorming into reality' direction.

Apart from things like getting rid of the cats ($1,200/year) and possibly lowering your insurance on the car to liability-only (it's only worth a few thousand, so no point in having comprehensive or collision and paying $500 or so a year, since it would only pay you $3k for the car), the only other solution is to increase the income somehow.

There are also ideas like finding someone to housesit for, and just rotating between vacant homes that you're watching. Or try to see if there's a cheap basement apartment you can rent from someone's house off of Craigslist.

It's just that when you might barely be able to qualify for a mortgage somehow, it would mean you would be on the ultimate edge, just literally one paycheck away from losing it all if some even temporary blip happened. Some people will go ahead and push the envelope and some will lose that gamble.

Perpetual_Student

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I don't know how lenders look at things like student loans.  I've considered getting loan money that will cover what tuition needs I have left and a little bit extra for housing.  Would loan income count as income if we tried to buy a cheap condo?

It's a little grim staring down the next five years.  Yeah, if all goes according to plan I should start earning some good money on the other end.  I just want to make the best financial decisions possible in the meantime.

CNM

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About student loans and mortgage lenders, in my experience they are not counted as income.  They are counted as a debt against which your income is compared. 

Perpetual_Student

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About student loans and mortgage lenders, in my experience they are not counted as income.  They are counted as a debt against which your income is compared.

Good to know.

arebelspy

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Would loan income count as income if we tried to buy a cheap condo?

No.

But the payments will count against your debt to income ratio.  I'm not sure how they count it if it's deferred as you're still in school, but in today's lending environment I wouldn't be surprised if they still count it against you.

In any case, it sounds very likely you won't qualify for a loan. 
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Perpetual_Student

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Would loan income count as income if we tried to buy a cheap condo?

No.

But the payments will count against your debt to income ratio.  I'm not sure how they count it if it's deferred as you're still in school, but in today's lending environment I wouldn't be surprised if they still count it against you.

In any case, it sounds very likely you won't qualify for a loan.

Apparently not.

We are blessed with financially secure parents.  Although our folks are good-natured about it, I know they aren't thrilled that we don't plan to marry.  However, this saves them a ton of money, because knowing our parents, a backyard wedding would not be a happening thing.  They would want to do it in style.

We may be able to request a small loan for the down payment on a small condo with a rentable room.  Maybe a 2 bed 2 bath.  Just thinking aloud...my mom has mentioned several times that she would prefer we borrow money from them and put the interest back into the family instead of going out to someone else.

I hate relying on my parents so much when I've been of legal age for nearly ten years now.  But I hope one day to stand on my own two feet and be the person that others can come to in need.

Any other thoughts for affordable housing?  If I'm going to be in one spot for four years, I don't want to just throw that money down the renthole.

arebelspy

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Parents buying and being your "landlord" is probably the best option.

Or even better is if they'll basically let you have the house but their name is just on the paperwork.  So they get the loan, pay the down payment, etc. but you make all the payments and you pay them interest on the down payment itself, so really it's like the down payment is a loan to you, and the house is yours.

You'd basically take it over subject to the existing finacing.. could even put yourself on title after.

To make the payments even easier for you to make, get a duplex.. live in one side, rent out the other.  That will help make your payments and make your cost of living a lot lower, and 4 years from now you have flexibility in turning the whole thing into a rental or selling.
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Ooh - I really like arebelspy's duplex idea.

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My wife's getting her Ph.D right now and I switched careers, in part, to earn more income in the interim.  It's worked out well for us, and may be something for the Mr. to consider for a short 5 year stretch (we're on the same countdown).  In addition to the extra money, a career change potentially gets rid of some other costs, too (gas from driving everywhere for lessons, music studio rental).  Some other ideas:

-My wife's university offers medical insurance to current students but maybe that's not as common as I'd like to think

-Cell phones at $140/month are way too high

-Pet insurance, like any insurance, is going to be a net loss for you on average.

-The cash in the bank is a pretty flush emergency fund given your situation.  Depending on your ability to access credit, I'd put that to work somewhere.

redeyedtreefr0g

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I really need to make a budget and see what kind of money we are making and where it is going.

I love the title of this post, but you don't seem poor to me at all. You are making lots of money, you just must be spending it all, I guess. And if you think you are poor, that really makes me wonder if we are as poor as I think we are?

Perpetual_Student

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Sorry y'all, was out of town for another family reunion.

fr0g, in the grand scheme I know that we are filthy rich.  We already have most of the happiness that money can buy, and Mr. PS and I often look around our comfortable little apartment with its full refrigerator and tell each other how lucky we are.  We are both doing things we love.  We have happy healthy cats to snuggle.  We live in a land of plenty and are never hungry, and we have good health, good family, and many friends.  We make enough money where we do not have to panic about which bills to punt each month.  All of this I put down to our extreme luck in upbringing, location, etc. etc. in addition to our already-frugal choices.  We live very well on an amount that would boggle many of our college-educated, white-collar peers.  So the thread title is certainly tongue-in-cheek, though hearing about all the people (the MM family included) who make a mindsplattering amount of money can certainly make us feel somehow inadequate.

Tanny, my school's health insurance plan is far more expensive than I can get privately, and I'm in the process of getting my own.  It should save me a lot.  We just went yesterday to the cell store and switched our plans and are now paying half as much for pretty much the same convenience.  Wonderful!  I'd like to get those savings working as well.  They are Mr. PS's money, and he's not as enthused about this new ultrafrugal kick as I am, so that make take a little work.

Fidgiegirl, I agree!  I may be counting my chicks, but it has been fun to look on trulia and zillow at duplexes in the university town I hope to move to next year.

fidgiegirl

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PS, you mentioned your family lending the $$.  What would this do to the family dynamics?  Would it be cool, or would it create stress or control issues?

Perpetual_Student

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It's hard to say.  I try to keep the monetary umbilical cord severed, because my mom tends to use money as a means of control.

I can foresee the conversation going a couple of ways.  Mr. PS and I have consciously decided never to marry, so we are saving our parents a fair amount of $$$ on a wedding they will not need to pay for (and they would want to do a BIG, EXPENSIVE wedding).  My mother is obsessed with fairness, and since they would want to pay for big weddings for my siblings, she may decide to help with a down payment instead.

OR, because our parents are not particularly thrilled that we aren't marrying, they may say no, or say yes on the condition that we marry, in which case we will have to turn them down.

Mr. PS's parents have already put a great deal of money into his education.  They have been quite successful and are fairly wealthy, and love to demonstrate love through expensive gifts.

I would feel best about asking for a loan of money that we would repay over time, assisted by renters and such.  But our joint parents may wish to gift us with enough to buy a cheap place.  I just don't know how it would go, but I believe that my parents at least would be very interested in loaning us an amount.  I would just want to get it paid down as fast as possible because like I said, my mom seems to like the control it gives her.

I would also keep spotless records, because she tends to forget how much she lent and the amount tends to grow over time in her head.

amr_ve

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Perpetual, where are you thinking of going to school? Your best bet for being able to stick to a budget AND have a lower tuition for vet school is to find somewhere in the midwest. Housing costs are lower, as is the tuition.

My husband and I are in somewhat better condition than several of my classmates, but we're by no means where we want to be financially. He's a PhD student with a research assistantship and I'm a vet student. We're always trying to cut and swipe everything, and yet still after 2 years, I've got 35,000 in loans from vet school after a couple of scholarships and a partial tuition waiver (which unfortunately expired this year). The vet students I know that are in the best financial/mental state are the ones who have advanced degrees already or have taken a few years off and worked at other jobs.

I'm not going to try to dissuade you from going to vet school, but you did mention that you're interested in research animal medicine. I am as well; trying to find experience in the area isn't hard, but to get a decent paying job you have to be boarded, which, for the shortest option, takes a 3 year residency which may or may not pay much at all. After that, you have to actually find a job, and it's very based on who you know. The entire vet profession is swamped right now, and the colleges keep taking more students, which isn't helping the job market at all. But, there are a lot of opportunities out there if you network and keep an eye out.

Something to consider if you're wanting extra income after you're in vet school is to offer pet services to people since you're uniquely qualified to know about animals. There are also a lot of paid summer programs and internships that can add income to help negate your expenses. Several of my classmates have jobs on the weekend (one works full-time on the weekends and skips out on morning classes to catch up on sleep) to help out. However, you have to balance any jobs you want with the classwork you'll be having. It's one of those profealfssions where you stand under the waterfall and hope that you can drink enough in to know what you need to know.

Hopefully this gives you some perspective from the halfway point of vet school. I know the information isn't quite what you were asking for earlier, but there it is.

fidgiegirl

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I would also keep spotless records, because she tends to forget how much she lent and the amount tends to grow over time in her head.

Ooh that right there would keep me far, far away . . . 'cause if they are YOUR records, is she gonna believe it anyway?!

Will be watching to see what happens!

Perpetual_Student

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amr_ve, it seems like everyone I meet tries to talk me out of vet school.  It's really giving me heartburn.  I know you're not TRYING to, but it's all the same stuff I get from the haters.  I'm curious: your friends who are doing better and already have advanced degrees, why are they doing better?  Are they also working, do they have SO supporting their tuition, did they save for school while working, or what?  By the time I get in (fingers crossed) I'll have an MA and an MS.  Don't know if that will help any.

fidgiegirl, we shall see.  I'll keep y'all posted.

arebelspy

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it seems like everyone I meet tries to talk me out of vet school.

To blazes with what everyone else thinks.  What do you want?  What's best for you and your significant other? 

Decide that.  Then go for it.
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kkbmustang

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I'm totally exhausted so this may have already been discussed AND I'm a newbie here, too, but have you considered opening your own pet sitting service to earn extra income? Not sure about your town, but in Dallas these businesses are very profitable.

Their services run like this: spending the night with the pet(s) while the owners are out of town. The sell is the babies aren't in a crate all day, they get fed at home, walked/played with for 20 minutes in the middle of the day, and you spend the night with them in the home. You get the mail, newspaper and it looks like no one is gone. This retails in my area for $65-70 for up to 2 animals, more for extra animals, per night.  Alternately, you could offer dog walking services. Again, in my area this is about $15 per 20-30 minute walk with freshening up the water after the walk and a treat. There is also taxi service for picking up animals at the owner's home, taking them to the vet for care and/or grooming, and dropping them back off at home. Typically $20 each way.

You could do this now and while you are in school. For the overnights, no one but the animals are home, so you could study. You could build your business by word of mouth or by asking local vets to allow you to put a flyer or brochure  in their office near the check-out counter.

Just a thought.

amr_ve

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Perpetual, I reread my post and it does sound pretty negative. For the record, as much hassle as the financial/real world part of vet school is, the learning environment and what we get to do is amazing! I'm having the time of my life right now running around the country visiting different research institutions before classes start back up next week. :). Yes, the job market sucks right now, but like I said, if you can get a foot in the door where you think you'd like to work, there are plenty of opportunities.

Yes, the people who are doing better are the ones who have saved money before they came to school, or as a side effect of being older, have a partner who is making enough money to help offset the tuition costs. Balancing the whole work-life thing gets pretty hard sometimes, too, and it seems like the older students have a bit more of an idea where they'll draw the line on just how much they'll do for an 'A'. I've started listening to them; you don't have to have a 4.0 average and no life outside school to learn and get out of your classes what you need to practice good medicine.

And honestly, the fact that you're here, being frugal and asking questions, is more than a lot of vet students do. You don't get much budgeting/economics/business if you get any at all, so you've got a head-start on figuring out what works for you. :)

I also agree with kkbmustang. I walked dogs for some students in clinics last summer for extra money, and I house-sit for people on the side when they need it. It's not much extra money because I'm only doing it sporadically, but the opportunity's there. There are also jobs for vet students as research/lab techs if you're careful and find someone who will work around your test/class schedules.

[As an aside, since you're interested in research, the MA/MS will look very strong on any applications you do for externships/internships/residencies/etc., even if it doesn't seem to come in handy right away, because it demonstrates that you know how to set up a research project and work around a lab.]

Perpetual_Student

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These are all good points.  I currently work in two research labs making the university standard $10.88/hr, and during an average schoolweek I can bring home about $100.  One of the lessons I've learned being an older student and all is that I do not want to be doing work that does not further my skills and career.  I like the dogsitting/walking ideas, but if I have X amount of hours to spend working a week, I'll choose to put them into something that improves my resume.

I think the overnight dogsitting may be more workable, because it can be added onto the time I'd be doing much of the same thing.  Good ideas, all.

Arebelspy, every once in a while I go into panic mode and start evaluating my options, because it's a lot of time and debt that I'm looking at.  But I do always come back to the same thing.  I have one life, and I don't want to compromise dreams for a little more security.

Thanks for all the ideas!

arebelspy

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I have one life, and I don't want to compromise dreams for a little more security.

Good for you.  I'd wager you're a lot less likely to regret following your dreams than playing it safe.
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Perpetual_Student

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Re: Mustache Makeover: getting comfortable in the clenched asshole of poorness
« Reply #45 on: September 23, 2012, 07:57:08 PM »

- Rent: $700/mo
- Music studio rent: $220/mo That's over, baby.  He will teach those students from their (nearby) homes, and we get money in the pocket.
- Bills, utilities, home costs: $35/mo electric, $30/mo internet, $140/mo cellphones We are getting rid of data, combining plans too.  Only $70/mo now.
- Vehicles: 1991 Saab 900 w/ 290XXX miles (my dad maintains it for me, thank goodness, so no real shop bills), early 2000s 1999 Honda CR-V with 200000+ miles, annual insurance $1000, annual fuel costs $3600  Still going back and forth on the utility of one vehicle, but a vehicle with better mileage and fewer miles would be better than the CR-V.  Mr. PS insists he gets ~30 mpg from his.  I doubt it, but most of his driving is highway, he says...
- Food: groceries: $60/wk $80/wk, restaurants/bars/coffeeshops/etc: $70/wk $25/mo We have decided to buy non-grocery food once a month, by going out cheaply for our "monaversary" (yes, we are tragically lame).  In addition, there are several small Mexican fruterias and mercados on Main Street here in Longmont, so we'll be checking out their food and prices.
- Shopping (clothes, home, gifts, etc.): probably $4500/yr We are entering a zone of ultrafrugality.  Unless there is dire need, $$$ does not get spent on purchases.  Hoping to at least halve this number.
- Pets: Food/litter $60/mo, pet insurance $500/yr  We are going to make a claim on our most recent visit, and then cancel this puppy.  Hope very much that nothing goes drastically wrong with our indoor cats.
- Charity giving: $300/year  I will volunteer more and save my big giving for my big earning.
- Health insurance (for me, we are about to buy Mr. PS some): $3600/yr  It would be great to cut this down.  I am currently paying for health insurance through my university, but it would be amazing if we could get a joint plan.  We are not married and intend not to get married.  Also, Mr. PS just quit smoking in May.  Anyone have suggestions?
- Current debt: student loans $20,000  Ay.  We will try to pay this down and not take out more.
- Current cash in the bank: ~$9500

Let's update this sucka.  So we got rid of the studio and have been buried in piles of instruments ever since, but we are gradually finding places to put things.  Mr. PS has picked up more lessons so we have more income too.  I'm not sure how many more lessons, but I'll get back on that.  Our combined phone plan runs ~$73/mo, and we recently began splitting internet with a neighbor, bringing it down to $12.50/mo.  The vehicle situations have not changed.  Once I'm out from under this huge load of school/application work, we will see.  Sadly I got super turned down by two different insurance companies for a pre-existing condition that I didn't think was even a big deal but WTV, I'm not an actuary.  Food has cheapened up considerably, and our once-monthly eating out has become a HUGE treat so we enjoy it even more!  I just bought a 25# bag of quinoa the other day and that will keep us well-nourished for many months for MUCH cheaper than you usually buy at the grocery.

The mercados/fruterias didn't really have amazing prices, but it was fun to explore.  My last big goal is to knock down the unsubsidized loans, which are currently costing us in interest.  I'm okay leaving the subsidized where they are for now, since they are not growing.

Just thought I'd let you know how things are turning out!  Our day-to-day hasn't drastically changed but we are much more frugal.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Mustache Makeover: getting comfortable in the clenched asshole of poorness
« Reply #46 on: September 23, 2012, 08:28:31 PM »
How is your university health insurance so high? When I studied in the US, the plan recommended by the University (and they forced foreigners to have an US provider) was just under $400.

travelbug

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Re: Mustache Makeover: getting comfortable in the clenched asshole of poorness
« Reply #47 on: September 23, 2012, 10:40:52 PM »
Hi

it sounds like you are making great plans, good for you!

Just one suggestion; would your mum/dad be willing to fork out the non-wedding dollars now to pay your students loans? This could be worked in your favour as it's for you only as their daughter, not shared/risked for the "non-husband"... That sounds awful, but if they are not keen on forking out $ for you as a couple if you are not married, I would be suggesting this idea and then graduate with no debt.

Good luck,

fidgiegirl

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Re: Mustache Makeover: getting comfortable in the clenched asshole of poorness
« Reply #48 on: September 24, 2012, 04:41:32 PM »
PS, I love seeing all the changes.  Thanks for updating us.  You have inspired me to try to cut back, too.