So how did we make it? We really had to plan our finances out the best we could. Our main source of money came exclusively from my husband's financial aid, which comes once a semester, or 5 months.
Let me first explain how financial aid works here in Georgia.
Georgia currently has a wonderful education program called the HOPE Scholarship that pays for its residents first college degree. High school graduates with at least a 3.0 GPA are eligible to have all of their public university tuition paid or $5,000 applied to private universities (as long as they maintain that 3.0 GPA.) The only things this does not cover are books and extra fees. I was lucky enough to have my B.S. degree completely free, due to living at home and my mother's low income, which gave me extra scholarships to cover my books and fees. Now that we're married and living away from home, our living expenses are much higher. So even with the HOPE Scholarship, loans and extra scholarships are necessary to make up the difference.
Financial Aid (including scholarships) are typically paid directly to the university. So, in the case that the student's account is paid in full, money that the school owes the student are released around the first day of school. Unlike the dorms, our residence is partly owned by the school, but still functions like an apartment where our rent is due on the 1st of the month, and not automatically deducted as a lump sum from his financial aid. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, it just requires planning. So for our first semester (August - December), here is what we had to plan for:
Text Books plus 5 months worth of:
Car Expenses (insurance, gas, etc)
Cell Phone Bill
Groceries (food, household items, etc)
Baby items (diapers, etc)
It was hard enough planning out (and sticking to) my bi-weekly check when I was working full-time. We created a super-tight budget, that left no room for error and had to start accepting the fact that I may not be able to stay home with my daughter like my husband promised when I'd quit my job. I began looking for a job even though I hated the thought of leaving my newborn with strangers in daycare (which would be an added expense as well.) I just kept praying that something would come together for us.
Check back next week for the third part of my family's story.
Missed the first part? You can read it here.