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Can I make this work? Budget help, please!

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

I'm trying to figure out my budget. I am going to college full time starting this fall, and my two kids and I will be living in family housing. My entire income is coming from grants and student loans.

 

After paying tuition and bills (rent/utilities/insurance/cell phone/internet) I will have $210 per month. My bills are pretty fixed, there is nothing I can reduce. (The internet is $108 per semester, and I really need it so that I can avoid spending hours in a library and needing care for the kids, the cell phone is a pay as you go plan that is $30 a month. If I can't afford it one month I am okay with skipping it for that month, it will be my only phone though.)

 

I am hoping to get food stamps. I am REALLY hoping to get child support, but I don't know if that will happen, either. Can a person live on $210 per month after bills? Can I make it work? I think I can, because I have lived on just slightly more than that, though with one additional adult. But am I forgetting something?

 

Gas, of course, although I do hope to make use of my bicycle and the bus system to avoid spending a ton on gas. Toiletries, I'll need a few things. I rarely buy the kids clothes except at Christmas and birthdays, maybe a few things here and there. I rarely buy myself clothes until I HAVE to. I already have Christmas money stashed away. I really feel like I'm forgetting something though! If I can't get food stamps I am really going to be in trouble.



ETA:  I am really feeling that the hard thing for me is looking at my bank account and knowing I have $1200 in the account, but realizing that it has to last for 6 months. How do I make that work?

post #2 of 35

Honestly, it seems impossibly tight to me. Is the $1200 savings that you currently have, PLUS $210 leftover each month? Either way, once you're down to $0 in 6 months, how will you continue on?

post #3 of 35

Books ... Are they included in your budget? Bus pass? The bus is free for students in my neighbourhood. If it is so in yours, perhaps you can put the car on blocks, stop paying insurance and rely entirely on bus and bike?

post #4 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Honestly, it seems impossibly tight to me. Is the $1200 savings that you currently have, PLUS $210 leftover each month? Either way, once you're down to $0 in 6 months, how will you continue on?

I have about $600 in savings, plus the $1200 left over from financial aid that I will be receiving soon. My ex SAYS that he will pay child support, but I'm not holding my breath. I will be applying for food stamps, and they will help me get child support from him. If he pays what he is supposed to, that will be $400 per month, and $600 after bills/food seems much more manageable. But I feel like I need to plan only on the $200. I have NO IDEA how I will continue on if I get down to zero.

 

If my ex is reliable on taking the kids when he is supposed to, I will see about getting a job on my off weekends, but I don't know how much I can make in just two days doing...waitressing? Bagging groceries? I don't really know.

 

Quote:
Books ... Are they included in your budget? Bus pass? The bus is free for students in my neighbourhood. If it is so in yours, perhaps you can put the car on blocks, stop paying insurance and rely entirely on bus and bike?

 

I have already bought this semester's books. I will sell them to help pay for next semester's books. I always get a little money at Christmas time, and I think that plus what I get for selling the books should pay for the next books I need. The bus is free for students (although I can't figure out if it is also free for my kids.) I have to keep my car because I am responsible for meeting my kids' dad halfway for visits, which is a 60 mile round trip, and no bus service is available.

post #5 of 35

You will be fine. You sound determined and that is good and what will make it work. 

As far as not blowing through the 1200 ... ha, I was never good at that, I was better when I had none to budget. When I was at school I had 60 dollars a week (from babysitting earnings) to spend frivolously. If your bills are covered and you have food stamps, well, you gotta make it work - 25 bucks a week for yourself, save the rest for emergency! Also, if your kids are in daycare during the day, you may be able to squeeze a few hours of work in during the day, in between classe (there are always temporary campus jobs to be found)

post #6 of 35

It sounds like you're really on top of things. Although I think you're wise to think through the worst-case scenario, I can't see how you wouldn't get food stamps bringing in so little money, although I have no personal experience with that. As for jobs, what about things you could do here and there on campus? A friend of mine cleaned professors' houses. Editing papers for non-native English speakers? Tutoring a certain subject? Occasional babysitting for another family or a babysitting trade to "buy" you some time for studying or working (or in case ex flakes)? Or are there campus jobs? It sucks working while you're in school, I know. I did it all the way through undergrad and all but the semester I had to write my master's thesis, but then I didn't have kids at the time.

post #7 of 35
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone. It helps to talk this out. I fake a lot of bravado in my real life to all the doubters, because I don't want to let them think I that I think I can't do it.

 

My kids are in school full-time, so I've completely avoided the need for daycare. I have my schedule set just perfectly to allow for taking them to school/picking them up. There isn't a ton of time in between classes for working. I have a few hours a week, (like maybe 6)  but I really wanted to dedicate them to studying. (I'm determined to have a 4.0. I need to get into grad school after this. I really want to go to grad school at the same university, and it's very competitive.)

 

I was kind of thinking about cleaning office buildings on the weekends or something. Is that something that's hard to get in to? I figured it would be a breeze on my off weekends, and doable to take the kids along when I had to. I don't know how hard it would be to find a job cleaning a bank/library/office or something like that, though. I have zero paid experience cleaning.

 

Editing papers for non-English speakers (or really, anyone) sounds right up my alley, especially if I could do it on my own time in the evenings or something. How would I go about finding something like this?

 

 

Quote:

25 bucks a week for yourself, save the rest for emergency!

 

This sounds like the beginnings of a good plan. I could 1) fill my gas tank every two weeks (about $40) and when it's gone, it's gone. And 2)every week I could take $25 cash for various necessities (toilet paper, soap, chocolate ;) ) and forbid myself from using the debit card. (Ouch, that will be hard!) That would only leave about $30 left over each month, in the worst-case scenario. If I actually get child support, I'm not worried, because I'll have more money than I've ever had. (And I'll carefully save it, because I'm not naive enough to think that it will get paid on a regular basis!)

 

Thanks everyone for helping me to bang out a plan! I've been sort of winging it all this entire time, and now it's coming down to the wire and I need a solid plan in place. I welcome any and all advice!

post #8 of 35

My hubby and I and one and then two kiddos survived as full time students (we had our first when we were 18 and our second when we were 21 and in college full time). We made do with income based housing and usually didn't have to pay, food stamps, WIC, medicaid, and they paid our heat in the winter (South Dakota). My hubby and I both worked part time, but we probably survived off of about $2000/semester. 

 

Good luck!! You can do it!!

post #9 of 35

Re: how to find the editing/cleaning jobs - not sure. Maybe if you put the word out in your department, among your friends, etc. Put up notices on boards - do people still do that? I was in grad school a while ago! If not, maybe electronically. Craig's List? (with due care) I also have friends who have edited curriculum for a publisher online and taught online classes, but I think that might have gotten more difficult just recently with the unemployment numbers what they are (each instructor allowed fewer online classes.)

 

Good luck!!

post #10 of 35
You should be able to file at domestic relations for support all on your own. Also, for toiletries, clothes, and food look at what local churches offer. In my area they have clothing banks in addition to food banks.
post #11 of 35

Look for an on-campus employment office at your campus.  That is where they often post little jobs like those that have been discussed.  When I was in college, I was able to do a few things here and there to supplement my income.  They would post temporary positions to usher large events, tutoring jobs for online courses (I could do it from home), etc.  A little something like that would help!  Good luck!

post #12 of 35

Check into Food Stamps resource limits - the $1200 may be counted against you if it is in the bank.

 

Something that helps in my area is volunteering at the local food bank. Perhaps you could bring the kids (depending on ages and behavior), and they let you bring home LOTS of food!
 

post #13 of 35
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Check into Food Stamps resource limits - the $1200 may be counted against you if it is in the bank

 

Ugh, you are right. What do I do about that? I mean, it's loan money, it's not like it's really even mine. And it has to last 6 months!!! I guess I could use it to buy gift debit cards for myself or something. Would that be really wrong of me? I don't want to cheat anyone, or trick the "system." But I CAN NOT make it without food stamps.

post #14 of 35

I highly doubt the $1200 will count against you, with two kids and no real income.  Talk to a case manager.  What state are you in?  Most states have energy assistance, even if utilities are included in rent.  It can be several hundred dollars over the course of the heating season.  That can be a real help.   For child care, look for other student parents and see if you can trade babysitting, for some alone time or homework time.  Also see about car-pooling if you are planning on using your car for regular things like a commute.  Also, continue to look for other scholarships.  It can be a pain in the neck and time-consuming, but even a couple hundred here or there is worth it.  Another thing is to look into pet-sitting or dog-walking.  You can make some extra cash, get exercise, and its fun for the kiddos.

post #15 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamarhu View Post

Check into Food Stamps resource limits - the $1200 may be counted against you if it is in the bank.

 

The reason I mentioned this is that I applied for food stamps once, and the value of my elderly, beater mini-van was over the limit for resources. I would consider keeping cash under the mattress, as it were.

post #16 of 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by PenelopeJune View Post

 

Ugh, you are right. What do I do about that? I mean, it's loan money, it's not like it's really even mine. And it has to last 6 months!!! I guess I could use it to buy gift debit cards for myself or something. Would that be really wrong of me? I don't want to cheat anyone, or trick the "system." But I CAN NOT make it without food stamps.

 

Well, if it's cash in your house, it won't be counted.  But the amount of assets you can have and still get food stamps really varies from state to state. 

post #17 of 35

My best advice for making that $1200 last is to take it out of the bank.  I have recently put myself on a cash budget and it has really curbed how much money I spend.  (And bonus, it won't be in a bank and can't be held against you when applying for food stamps ;))  I recently went to grad school and lived off student loans, but I also get child support, so I was able to make it work without too much hardship.  

post #18 of 35
Thread Starter 

You revived this thread at a timely moment

 

I was filling out the application online for food stamps, and I just remembered that I have some stock that was purchased by my grandparents when I was a baby. It's in my name, but I'm technically not allowed access to it. (by my grandparents. They have the certificates and I can't get to the money. There is no way they will release them to me for general living expenses.)  The last time I thought about it and saw how much it was worth, it was just under $2,000. Well, the stock went up, and now it's over $4,000. I am totally and thorougly screwed.

 

So now I am not eligible for food stamps, because I have too many "resources." Resources that I cannot use. I have no idea how we are going to survive. I feel sick.

post #19 of 35

Can you put college on hold for a semester or two?

 

I personally wouldn't mention that stock on the application, though. Not sure how they could find out about it, and I'd play dumb if they did. And in what case would your grandparents give it to you? I just wouldn't see it as "my money/resources".

post #20 of 35
Thread Starter 

No, I can't put college on hold. I am living in family housing on campus, and if I don't go to school, I'm out. School is it for me. I have no where else to go. I have to make this work or I am homeless, really.

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