I just got off the phone with the student loan people. It was an odd mix of frustration and resignation.
Now before anyone jumps to any (inaccurate) conclusions, no, I'm not in danger of defaulting on them. I was just trying to explore my options, because the payment is exceptionally onerous and I was trying to figure out if I could get the interest rate lowered even though it's already pretty low and fixed to boot. I was also exploring payment options that included paying twice a month (like I do on my house) vs. the once a month payment plan that I currently have.
Well, they weren't having any of it. They weren't mean about it or anything, but they just really didn't have any options for me other than to take a different repayment plan which, while lowering my monthly payment, costs me more money in the long run. The loan interest rate is as low as it can go and any attempts to change to an every-other-week payment plan would cause me to sacrifice the interest rate I have because the payment is on autodebit. As it stands, when I calculate the yearly amount I actually cough up every month and figured the amount that's actually put on the principal, the percentage ends up being a measly 17.5%. Pathetic. And that's at a really good interest rate, not the 20+% charged by your average credit card these days.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not whining. I made my bed years ago, made choices and now have to pay for them. The trouble is that finances consume my thoughts - and not in the "oh, look how great I'm doing!" way. It contributes significantly to anxiety that I am fighting more often than not these days and creeps up on me at night while I'm trying to sleep which leads to being tired which decreases my ability to think rationally about it. It's easy to point fingers and place blame on this, that or the other thing but it really doesn't address what really needs to be addressed - how do we get rid of it? My natural inclination is to go from seeing that things are not ideal and then immediately jumping to panic and doomsday scenarios which doesn't help much either.
Some would say we need to Dave Ramsey our life but I think that is, oddly enough, too simple of an answer. I know of some people who have adopted his plans to tremendous success, but like many blanket statements, I am not sure that a wholesale application of his techniques would work for us. I just not sure that living as spartan as those kinds of plans require you to live for the length of time we'd have to do it is worth it. Yes, it's important to focus on debt reduction. Yes, it's important to not buy things if you can't pay for them (which was one of the stipulations I had for our California trip - paid for all but a couple hundred bucks of it.) But it's also important to freaking live while you're living and not wind up dead before you get a chance to live. Take away any chance to live and it's a surefire prescription for failure.
Like so many things in life, it's about balance. Looking back, I have not been so good about balance when it comes to things like that. But it's not as if I have stayed stagnant and am still making the same bad choices I did years ago. Even as recently as earlier this year, I had a plan to pay down a set amount on our credit card. And I did quite well until life happened. It's easy to feel frustrated by it, but the truth is that life will continue to happen and try to stymie me at every point. You can get mad about it or you can redouble your efforts.
No, it's not comfortable, but I do take a little bit of solace in the simple fact that I'm supporting three people on one income which is no small feat. But as of today, I'm redoubling my efforts rather than contine down the path of anxiety, even though the stupid student loan people couldn't give me a lower interest rate and I will probably be paying them till I have expired!