Navigating Lifestyle Shifts

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Note: If you came here from NCN’s Carnival of Debt Reduction, here is the post he was talking about: Backbone Growth.

Today I start back to school. For those new to my story, I have a full time job and am also going back to school full time to finish my degree. I’ve had the summer off, which has helped greatly in terms of getting back on my feet financially. However, since I’ve had plenty of time to focus on finances thus far, not to mention getting in 40 hours at work every week, going back to school will be a major shift.

The shifts are not inconsequential and many of them are things that got me into trouble in the first place. First, the sheer amount of time school takes up leaves me unable to easily take time out to handle financial matters. Yes, I can still find an hour on weekends, but things like calling creditors, looking through statements, etc. seem like much more of a hassle when the grades start dropping. It shifts my entire daily schedule forward (since class goes until 11:30pm or so), which forces me to do things like eat at fast food places or the campus food court for dinner, and go into work later. I get in fewer hours of work per week on average, usually 35-38. Not to mention I spend about $50 more on gasoline per month. As you can tell, these little things really add up when you combine it with debt reduction.

However, I refused to be caught by surprise this time! Here are some things I did to keep this from being a major burden on my life:

  1. I thought ahead. Really, this is the only thing it took, but I sat down and really analyzed what each semester costs me in terms of money, time, and sleep. I then re-budgeted all three of those to make things work. I made a new financial budget incorporating food and gasoline costs. It will be more difficult to get out of debt, but at least I won’t be getting in any deeper!
  2. I got supplies on sale. I caught the back-to-school sales along with the high schoolers, and got things like pencils, paper, and printer ink for much cheaper, and tax free! Better yet, I kept it within my budget for July, so it didn’t even hurt me. I may even have enough supplies for Spring semester as well.
  3. I didn’t take a vacation this summer. Because of that, I have enough annual leave left to where I can take 4-5 hours off work each week and not have to worry about losing money! Yes, I sacrificed a week off, but when big tests come up I don’t have to worry about finances on top of studying.
  4. I arranged my classes to be all in two big blocks on Mondays and Wednesdays, at the expense of taking 4 difficult courses all at once. I will probably have up to 4 tests on some nights, but this saves me money on gasoline, and makes the food problem only apply to two days per week. Not to mention, it makes scheduling work and study time much easier.
  5. It is my goal to have a 100 average in every class by October, or at least high A’s. This means that when things get most stressful, I can maintain all my schedules without having to take even more time off. Even if my grades drop a little at the end, I don’t have to worry about it because I’m pretty much guaranteed an A or B by that point. This is so much better than slacking off at the beginning and then having to step up the studying and time later on, when you’re already too tired. This also applies to any area of life; work twice as hard when you still have the energy, and then don’t feel bad about slacking off a bit later.

Most of all, I just had to sit down and think about what was about to happen. The worst mistakes that happen are almost always the result of poor planning, or even no planning at all! I wanted to make sure I had the bases covered. I feel pretty good about it. Not to mention that even though I have 4 difficult classes right now, my final semester will pretty much be History, Music, a math course, and a final computer science course. Like I said, work hard now, slack off later.

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