Wednesday, June 25, 2014

"Yeah, but how do you pay bills?": A look at finances

You know that moment when you’re on a roller coaster and you get to the top of a hill?  The click, click, click of the gears slows to a stop.  You can see the drop in front of you and you think, “Today, I’m definitely going to die. My harness is not tight enough and I bet I'll fly out of this seat.  I have no idea why I got on this stupid ride in the first place.”  Your heart is racing, your palms are sweaty, and you likely have to pee.

I’ve had this “top-of-the-hill” moment many times in the last several years: joining the Peace Corps, starting graduate school 9 months pregnant, agreeing that my husband should also go to graduate school, and choosing to do international research with my family are among the highlights.  One thing I have always worried about is money: will I have money at all? will it be enough money? what do I do if there’s no money?  So with this post, I would like to share how my family has made things work financially.  When I thought there was no way it could work, we've gotten off of the roller coasters in one piece.

Years 1 & 2:
Income: graduate student stipend and husband’s full time salary

Major Expenses: Monthly Rent = $850-900, Monthly Childcare (1 infant, full time) = $950, Health Insurance for the infant

  •  Employee discount – My husband worked for a company that offers a discounted childcare rate for employees whose income falls below a set threshold. So we were eligible for the discounted rate of $950 (the rate without the discount was about $1200 for infants). 
  • Childcare Subsidy – Based on an application we submitted, we were eligible for a childcare subsidy from the graduate school, $5000 over the academic year 
  • Health Insurance – We added the baby to my husband’s health insurance.  It was a better, and more affordable coverage plan.

 Year 3:
Income: graduate student stipend and husband’s student loans

Major expenses: Monthly Rent = $850-900, Monthly Childcare (1 toddler, full time) = $845, Health Insurance for the toddler ($200 per month) 
  • New daycare – We noticed that employees were able to send their children to this particular daycare.  We asked if there was financial assistance available for families and the owner worked with us on the price (regular tuition: $1030). 
  • Childcare Subsidy – We were still eligible for a $5000 childcare subsidy. 
  • Health Insurance – We added the toddler to my graduate student insurance plan.

 Year 4:
Income: graduate student stipend and husband’s student loans

Major expenses: Monthly Rent = $850-900, Monthly Childcare (1 toddler, full time/1 infant part time) = $845 + $695 = $1540

  • Childcare Subsidy – Because of changes in our family's situation, we were eligible for an $8000 childcare subsidy. 
  • Health Insurance – The cost of adding both children to my policy was about $500 per month. We could not afford this, so we applied for Medicaid which provided health coverage for both children. 
  • Food – We were also eligible for the federal SNAP program (food stamps) which provided funds monthly to be used at grocery stores and at our local Farmer’s Market.

Summer Before the Move
Income: small summer fellowship

Major expenses: Monthly Rent = $850-900, Plane Tickets = $1500, No Childcare (kids are home with us)

  • Student/Personal Loans – A family friend loaned us money for the plane tickets, and a small student loan was helpful for household expenses since my grant funding doesn’t start until August. 
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