Dear Penny: I’m a Broke Law Student. How Do I Catch up on Bills?

Dear Penny,

I’m in legislation faculty and I’m solely allowed to work 20 hours per week. With the job I have, I usually get between 10-1/2 to 15 hours per week on the federal minimal wage. 

I receives a commission as soon as a month, normally a little over $260. I survive on scholar loans. I took out sufficient at first of the semester to pay all of my payments and have the ability to eat and pay for fuel and about $300 for emergencies. 

Last month, my automotive had a lot of surprising points that value me about $three,000. I’ve already constructed up about $2,000 of bank card debt paying for meals and fuel and a few of my payments. 

Now I have two months left of faculty, about $1,350 of payments, and $200 to my identify. I can’t amend my scholar loans for subsequent semester, so I’ll have the identical approximate sum of money with $2,000 in bank card debt. 

I really feel in over my head. How can I pay for my payments this month and subsequent month and never put myself in the identical state of affairs subsequent semester?


Dear B.,

You have two objectives right here: The first is solely to outlive the subsequent two months. The second is to keep away from sinking additional into debt subsequent semester and past.

The very first thing you need to do on each counts is make a date together with your faculty’s monetary support workplace ASAP.

Your faculty could have choices that may get you the short-term assist you want to survive the subsequent couple months.

Some colleges have emergency funds that give small, one-time grants to college students coping with surprising bills. It’s unlikely that these grants would cowl $1,350 value of payments, however they could present some aid.

Schools additionally typically supply emergency loans to college students. These will normally have to be repaid in a comparatively quick interval, but when that is an possibility, it might purchase you a while to catch up.

Your monetary support workplace could possibly make it easier to with some longer-term fixes, as nicely.

While you’ll be able to’t reapply for support at this level, you could possibly get what’s referred to as a skilled evaluation, the place you ask the monetary support workplace for more cash based mostly on your circumstances, in accordance with Leslie H. Tayne, a New York-based debt aid legal professional who’s founder and director of the Tayne Law Group

Keep in thoughts that a skilled evaluation is extra more likely to be granted after a life-altering occasion, like a loss of life within the household, job loss or main sickness, however it’s nonetheless value a shot.

“Getting a professional review for these less extreme circumstances will be more difficult, but it’s certainly worth bringing the situation to the attention of the financial aid office,” Tayne mentioned. “You’ll never know if they can do anything for you if you don’t ask. Be prepared for how you’re going to ask and bring supporting documentation to help make your case.”

Another resolution could also be taking out a non-public scholar mortgage. You can take one out midyear, though Tayne cautions that receiving the funds might take a number of weeks or extra.

Yeah, I get that non-public scholar loans include main downsides. But if you happen to’re falling deeper into bank card debt and are only one surprising invoice away from catastrophe, there isn’t a good resolution.

After you’ve explored your monetary support choices, take a look at your finances for any areas you can reduce on. It doesn’t sound like there’s a lot fats to trim. But perhaps you can go to a meals pantry for groceries and take public transportation to avoid wasting on fuel.

Ultimately, chances are you’ll want to make use of your bank card to remain afloat on payments whereas solely making minimal funds for a couple months. That’s not one thing I say calmly. It’s additionally not one thing I’d counsel until it’s the one possibility. But doing so needn’t doom you to long-term bank card debt.

Try maxing out the 20 hours you’re allowed to work and/or discovering a job that pays greater than the minimal wage. Find a paid internship or job through the summer season. Put your additional earnings towards what you owe.

It sounds such as you’re being appropriately cautious about taking on an excessive amount of debt. But once you apply for support subsequent 12 months, take into account taking out a little extra so you’ll be able to face up to an emergency. Taking out a scholar mortgage doesn’t imply you want to spend it.

Stay centered on borrowing solely what you want, even when that quantity is a little greater than you first anticipated. Then you’ll be able to put your energies towards your No. 1 job, which is ending legislation faculty.

Robin Hartill is a senior editor at The Penny Hoarder and the voice behind Dear Penny. Send your questions on debt to [email protected]

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