The Cost of Real Life

One of my many jobs (current and former) has been to teach financial literacy classes at the college level. While I have mixed feelings on these classes (I’m not sure they actually work, in terms of creating behavioral changes that lift people out of poverty), one thing that has always been interesting to me about these classes is how little most college students, especially the traditional age 18-22 year olds, understand about what a real, adult life costs. When I ask them to draft budgets for what they think life will cost after graduation, most of them anticipate being able to live really comfortably on $25,000-$35,000 a year. I suspect this is part of why student loan debt is so high…most students I know always accept their full loan award, even if they don’t need all of it for tuition. They take that extra $2,000-$4,000 to live on because they have no idea how much their loan payments will be or what adult life costs.

I was thinking about this today as I balanced the checkbook and remembered these charges from this week:

Car upkeep: $916 (for a car that wasn’t even broken. This was replacing spark plugs, replacing brake pads, oil change, etc for 70,000 miles service)

Swim lessons for the kids: $130 (well worth it but yowza)

Diapers, diaper pail liner, wipes: $40

Taking the kids to the children’s museum: $32 (we have an annual membership. This was for lunch and parking)

We are already well past $1000 in one week and this doesn’t even cover groceries, gas, mortgage, and all the other regular bills. Obviously the car thing isn’t a regular expense but when I calculate that someone making minimum wage would have to work over 150 hours to pay for these four ordinary expenses, it just reminds me of how hard it is to be poor and how very hard it is to STOP being poor.

On a related note, yesterday I submitted my ninth and, hopefully, last financial aid application. As a grad student, I’m only eligible for loans, which I plan to use to pay for my last 9 credits of school EVER. I will have taken all the school one can take. My son told his friend yesterday that I’m in 22nd grade, which seems like a good time to wrap it up. Once I graduate, I’ll be looking at paying back a lifetime total of over $60,000 in student loans (undergraduate and graduate). The $60,000 is just the prinicipal though, so the real amount I’ll pay back will be roughly the cost of this house:


The thing is, it is worth it. At least, I think it is. I for sure wouldn’t have my current job without my MA completed and my salary has pretty steadily increased since I graduated in 2000.

But then I consider that I’ll be paying off these loans for the next 20 years and I’m all sad Dawson about it.


But I guess that is still okay too, since I’m not in ugly Kardashian cry zone about it yet.


Poor Kim. She may not have to worry about student loan debt (for, um, more than one reason) but at least I don’t have ugly crying pictures of myself available for public consumption on the internet. So there’s that advantage of being a regular gal with a regular sized ass, I suppose.

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