Thursday, September 6, 2007

Flying Without a Net

Today I have to come up with just under a thousand dollars for my granddaughter's first semester tuition and books for college. While this is a far cry from the $40,000 the folks in my last post are paying for their daughter (God bless community colleges!), I am finding it annoyingly difficult to cobble together these funds.

And therein lies what I hate most about (relative) poverty.

It's not like I don't have assets. Or a sufficient income. Or even lines of credit or credit cards that I could access (provided, with the latter, that I unfreeze the block of ice where I currently keep them). But the debts I carry make sure that my cash flow often doesn't flow like it should.

Writing an $800 check for tuition or $180 for books should NOT be that big of a deal! And yet it is.

I'm trying to gather up the college funds without looting my $1000 emergency fund or adding additional debt. That means raiding other parts of my budget. The most flexible budgetary lines are, of course, those pertaining to food and entertainment. Unfortunately, I've already cut them about as far as I really want to--without resorting to Dave Ramsey's "beans & rice" diet. So I am figuring out which bills I can carry another month without damaging my credit rating. Comcast doesn't report payments less than 30 days late, so they can wait. The newspaper will let me go a couple of months before I get rather gently worded reminders to pay. The garbage company gives me a free ride for an extra thirty days. The water company? Forget it! They start adding fees if I'm even five days late. And the credit cards? Don't ask.

All of this means that next month, I'll have to pay double on several bills. But at least I won't have to worry about the tuition again until late January. Maybe, by then, college will have its own line item in my budget.


Anonymous said...

Why are you paying for your granddaughters college? If you are trying to determine which bills not to pay so you can come up with the money, it is obvious you are not in any position to do so. Why has the granddaughter not been told that grandma doesn't have the money and she will have to get a j.o.b to pay for her books and tuition?

You need to help yourself first.. so later you can be in a position to help others...

I'm Grace. said...

For the explanation, check back to my post on "The Grown-Up Kid Conundrum."

My granddaughter does have a job. She will be commuting 45 minutes each way to college. We talked about it, and decided that she would use her earnings to pay for her car, insurance, repairs and gas while I would take on college tuition and books. She's a smart kid and actually ran a budget to see which of us is going to have the larger expense, and then she chose that one.

This most recent post is more about cash-flow and less about not having the money anywhere. What I am trying to do is to NOT use my emergency fund nor any credit to pay this bill.

But unlike the truly poverty-stricken, which I know I am not, I could do either of those things if I had to.

E.C. said...

There may be a better way to handle this sort of thing in the future. Clearly, saving up between now and January would be best, but there are other options. I know my college offers the option of setting up a payment plan that lets you pay in installments throughout the semester. There is a set up fee, but I think it's around $30 so likely not much worse than a slew of late fees. That might make the budgeting easier than if you get hit with the expense all at once.

I'm Grace. said...

Thanks, EC. I'll have to check that out. The book cost will be there each term, but it would be nice to make payments on the tuition.