Something has to Change

This summer we squeaked our way through our normal and expected financial crunch. It is never fun, but it is expected. We prepare the best we can and hunker down. This summer was particularly tight, draining our savings. Finally, in the fall, the income picked up again and we had a little breathing room. Then Wham!
We took hits from every side. We lost a renter, had bizarre plumbing issues, household appliances revolted, and of course there was Christmas. Without having time to rebuild our savings, you can guess where we took many of these hits; in our credit card balances.
I spent the months before Christmas very angry and frustrated about our financial situation. Over the last six years we have cut back. We make do and go without. We clip coupons, raise our own food, and buy used. I do not mind this life style, but the lack of progress to getting out of debt is downright disheartening.
Then I had to face an ugly truth. We've been in denial. Even when we feel like there is a little breathing room in the budget, we are falling behind in our debts. There is this rather large elephant in the room called Student Loans that we are trying to ignore.
Our student loan payments are roughly the same as our house payment, and growing. Student loans are oh so easy to rack up. We did not borrow wisely. Student loans are also so easy to put into forbearance. We qualify for an economic hardship forbearance, and we have been using it.
It is not a wise choice. The interest on the loans continues to be charged and capitalized. The payments do not have to be made, but the principal balance is ever growing, ever becoming the crushing weight of more debt. We can not go on like this.
So, the next question is where is that money going to come from? Even if we were only making minimum payments on our other debt, there would not be enough to pay the student loan. Cutting expenses would be the next logical step. We have already cut and cut, and though I can think of a few small things they do not come even close to meeting the monthly requirement of the loan.
The next place to turn is to try to increase our income. My husband has a decent paying job that he loves. He would consider switching jobs for better pay, but what is out there? Not much, especially right now. Should he take a second job? He already is teaching a class once a week during the school year, and is looking at taking on a few private students too. His time is stretched, especially in the fall, and there is a small farm to help care for.
Should I go back to work? Let's put aside that I feel very strongly about being home for my children, and that homeschooling is the best option for our family. Going back to my previous career would require a few college classes (and more student loans) first. I would be working the same hours as my husband, requiring us to pay for childcare for two, even if we put the others into public school.
Could I work in the evenings? Perhaps I could work in retail or restaurant on the weekends or evenings when my husband was home. The pay would not be as much, but we would avoid childcare costs. I'm not sure that I could keep our expenses as low if I were working. Would I still have time for all the coupon and sale shopping? Would I have the energy to cook everything from scratch? Would I be able to tend to a large garden? After gas and the clothing I would need for work, would we really come out ahead?
Could I work from home? Doing what? I am not sure. Writing (much to my surprise) seems to be the direction I've been heading the last few years. Pursuing that, or anything else from home, would require a lot more thought, planning, and time on my part. Would it pay off?
Then there is bankruptcy, an option I never thought I would consider let alone mention publicly. It has come up several times in our discussions about finances. I know it is not an easy fix. There are consequences. It would not take away the student loans. They will remain, but perhaps with out the other debt we could actually pay off the student loans. I'm not so worried about my credit score, but I do feel responsible for our debts and do not take bankruptcy lightly.
These are hard times. As I said in a previous post, no one likes hard times. I am no exception. My emotions have ranged from anger to depression while trying to think through this situation. But hard times do force change. There are no easy answers, and every choice has consequences I do not like. Though I am not sure how, I do know at this point something has to change.

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