A Seriously Bare-Necessities Budget
My take-home pay is a little more than $3,000 a month—and roughly 45% of that goes toward my student loan payments. When that much of your paycheck is eaten up, something’s gotta give.
For starters, my boyfriend and I got engaged, and we realized that if we were going to save for a wedding, we’d have to move in with his parents. When we lived on our own, our rent was $1,200 a month, which wasn’t that expensive, but the $600 I was paying wasn’t chump change either. After the loan payments and rent, I was left with about $1,000 to cover gas, my cell phone bill, groceries and other expenses.
Moving in with my fiancé’s parents allowed me to allot my saved rent money—and then some—toward saving for the wedding. Now my readjusted monthly budget looks something like this: 45% goes toward my student loans, 40% funnels into our wedding fund, and the remaining 15% is spent on bills, gas, food and any other expenses. I pay for necessities and necessities only. I also contribute 3% to my company’s 401(k), but that comes directly out of my paycheck.
I’ll be forever grateful for my education, but something is wrong with the system when a student like me doesn’t get financial aid—even after repeatedly applying for it. And I even consider myself one of the lucky ones: If I were making less, I don’t know how I’d be able to afford to pay for the loans, much less anything else.
My fiancé and I are petrified that we may never be able to get a good interest rate on a mortgage—much less afford a home—because of my debt-to-income ratio.
Even with my decent salary, there are times when I feel like I have nothing to show for it. I get to work at 9 a.m. and don’t leave until 11 p.m. I won’t let myself spend on items as simple as new shoes for work, and I can’t join my coworkers for drinks.
My fiancé and I are petrified that we may never be able to get a good interest rate on a mortgage—much less afford a home—because of my debt-to-income ratio. He’s supportive, but I know he feels the stress of my debt, especially since he has no college loans of his own. There have been months when he’s had to give me his ATM card, in case I really needed cash but didn’t have any.
If there’s any bright side, it’s that I’m definitely in the habit of saving. My fiancé and I have talked about how it would be great to continue paying ourselves $1,400 a month after my loans are paid off. Sure, it’ll be nice to have a little more wiggle room in our budget, but that money could also go toward future goals, like buying a house or contributing more to my 401(k).
And I’m hoping that as my salary goes up, I’ll be able to pay off the loans sooner than my current 10-year window. In the meantime, I’m definitely struggling—and left wondering how many others are too.