30 April 2014

Lunacy Averted?

There has been a lot happening over these last months and I do apologize for not posting as things progress, digress, regress, congress...etcetera-gress.

I'm increasingly excited and fearful as I continue my quest to get off of government assistance altogether and pay off my debts. I will not return to school to finish my degree until I have paid off my student loan debt (or down enough) so that I can go back debt-free.  I believe that God honors our desires to live free and not as slaves to money.  I have finally realized what it's like to serve money.  Not that I've been excited and desiring riches, but making poor financial decisions  in addition to choosing to pay off bills and credit debt before paying my tithes has caused me great distress and has trapped me.

I've also discovered (long time ago...kinda rediscovering now) that in order to get out of public housing, I need to do something drastic.  I mean drastic. Like hit the lottery.  Find a million dollars.  Marry a rich man.  You get the picture?  Small increases in income seem to spike my rent.  There is such a fine line between "help" and "no help" and I've seen it in a number of situations (not just in my own life).  For example: if you make $10,000 per year, you qualify for assistance.  If you make $10,001 per year, you don't.  Understand?  This is the very reason I have been so strapped for money.  There is no savings.  There is no budget for groceries.  There is also no true transition into independence.

My rent is currently double what it was 2 years ago when I made a little bit more money.  I cannot afford my rent today.  Why such a great change?  Well, my kids are no longer on my lease...and apparently I was getting about a 50% discount including allowances for paying for childcare.  Had I kept them on my lease, not only would I be able to afford my rent, but I would also have my debts paid off and some saving built.  I would also be in the running for public assistance fraud charges.  Well, if I can't keep them on my lease, would I get some help during the long stretch of time when they are here (for the summer)?  No.  Why, because they are not on my lease.  Well, isn't that dandy?!  I have nothing leftover as it is with rent and other bills at the end of the month, but I'm also not able to pay for childcare, which means if I can't find someone to watch them for free, I would have to take off work...

Don't get me wrong.  I've never come from the perspective that I'm owed anything, especially from the government.  But doesn't it make sense that if you're offering to "help" someone that I truly helps them?  I'm thankful for having a home of our own, in great times of need.  However, I have had more struggle being here than if I were elsewhere.  So what now?

I'm trying to move out!  I have to get out of here.  Save money.  Pay off debt.  I could even get a second job without the risk of my rent spiking again.  Where do I go?  I'm already paying below-market value in rent.  What could be cheaper?  Especially in this area?  A good budgeting practice is to spend no more than 30% of your income on rent/mortgage.  In areas of a high cost of living, up to 60% is apparently allowable.  This is why I think that people especially in these areas are living above their means.  In order for me to manage a 3-bedroom rental for $2000, I need to be making at least $80,000 per year (keeping with the 30% rule.  80,000 x .30 = 24,000 per year.  Divide by 12 months, you get 2,000 per month).

Since I'm not yet that close to the six-figure income, I will have to figure out how to reduce my rent and other bills.  I could live in my car.  A box near a park bench in the city. Or I could find a cheaper home.  I've done a lot of searching. Praying. Inquiring. More praying.  More searching.  I've found quite a few listings on Craigslist, hot pads, USAA, Realtor.com....and many others.  I've emailed several owners and got a few responses.  Out of all the listings I've scoured, I was responded to by 4.  Only one was legit.  The others were scammers, trying to obtain private information and/or money from me.  And yes, I have reported them. :)  It's really hard to find something that is waaaay less than $1,000 per month (for a studio even).  But I found one and got to see the house with the realtor on Saturday.

I'm currently waiting to hear from this realtor after they check my references, background, employment verification, etc.  Before deciding to apply, not only did I consider the rent amount (that was the first thing), but I looked at how far I would be willing to travel for work, whether or not there would be enough room for when the kids are here with me (at least 2 bedrooms would be nice), who would watch them and how would I get them there, and whether or not I would actually be saving money in this new home.  This home does have 2 bedrooms and a nearly finished attic (which could be a 3rd room).

I have had many questions and doubts about this home.  Let's list them and the solutions that have come up.
  • Problem: It's an hour away, so gas would cost me almost double I'm paying now per month.
  • Solution: There is a commuter bus that costs me less than what I pay for gas now and there is free parking.  Also, it doesn't take longer than if I drove myself.

  • Problem: It's even further from church
  • Solution: I would have saved enough money to cover gas for weekly church services.  Also, Friday night Bible study can be dialed into.

  • Problem: Not close to friends/church family for help with sitting.
  • Solution: Close enough to one family of friends who would be able to watch the kids when they are here. They are on the way to work and live not to far from my boss...we we can carpool when the kids are here.

  • Problem: The house is smaller than the one I live in now.
  • Solution: Less money goes to utilities.  I can get rid of unnecessary things that I've been hoarding protecting from the elements.

There are more.  But this list is long enough...I'll be able to actually start saving. I can't say how many times I've been afraid to venture off toward growth and independence.  Hence, staying in a job that was killing me (until I got fired).  Waiting until I'm in financial distress to get out and do something different.  Afraid to move out of my house because the world is cruel place.  The definition of lunacy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  I don't want to be a lunatic.