Tuesday, June 16

Is getting deeper into debt ever justifiable?

Photo by Gloria Payne

I think there are some arguments to be made that it is. But it's rare.

There are some obvious cases, such as medical costs, where money is not the most important item on the agenda. And certainly, you can make a case for student loans, although these are increasingly coming under fire. (To be fair, the criticism is generally aimed at students who emerge from graduate school so deeply in debt that their loan payments suck up most of their pay.)

Still, are there other cases?

This is the thought that bounced around my cranium this past weekend. Because we're moving to Arizona.

Not immediately, so don't get up on those soapboxes just yet. But the idea of just saying, "What the hell!" and taking off... It was alluring. Well, for everything except the actual, horrible process of packing up whatever you don't sell and lugging it across the country.

The reason we're considering Arizona is that Tim's skin was nearly flare-up free during the two times he lived there. Rash free, even.

Let me put this in perspective. Whenever we'd meet a new doctor, Tim would mention his eczema. The doctor would glance over and say, "Yeah, I see it's flared up pretty badly right now." Tim would give a small smirk and break the news that this was a good day for his skin. Put another way, every single doctor and pharmacist has told us that Tim's case is the worst (or, very occasionally, one of the worst) they had ever seen.

Meanwhile, as summer creeps on and the humidity rises, Tim's skin is getting worse. And I watch my husband be nearly constantly uncomfortable.

So, as much as I love the Seattle area, I realized we have to get the heck out of Washington. The sooner the better.

Unfortunately, there are a few very compelling reasons why we can't move just yet:

  1. We owe $6707 on our Citi card (yes, I know I need to update my ticker) and $385 on another that was 0 percent.
  2. Tim's rediscovered student loan (link) is still at $4100 -- about $600 of which will fall off once the loan is rehabbed.
  3. We owe parents a total of $5,000.
  4. We'd need a reasonable down payment for a car. Bus is not an option down there.
  5. We'd need first/last/deposit for a new place
  6. We'd need money to cover the move.

Certainly, it's not the best list in the whole wide world. Especially considering that we can only throw about $300-400 a month against it.

But it wasn't this that set my mind on overdrive. It was this fun, circle of facts:

  • Tim's skin is so much better in AZ, he can work with almost no trouble
  • With a full-time paycheck (and the cheaper rent), we could get out of debt quickly
  • But we can't afford to move down there until we're further out of debt
  • And we won't be out of debt for awhile, because his skin acts up so much
  • And that won't change until we move down to AZ.

Talk about maddening!

Don't worry, I'm not going to rationalize a move at this point in time. Even if we could borrow/save up the money for a new place, we'd never be able to get financing for a reliable car. (Since we wouldn't know any mechanics, I'd probably just want to get a brand new one and keep it until it's absolutely dead.)

So we'd need around $1500-2000 for the apartment -- first & last month's rent, deposit and pet deposit -- plus a few thousand for a car downpayment, plus however much it would cost to move. Even being (extremely) conservative, that would be $5,000 we'd need just to get down there. And the cheaper rent would be negated by the car payment.

Still, there's part of me that keeps roving around the apartment, trying to figure out what we could get sell. Wondering if there's a point at which we could rationalize it, so that my husband can be comfortable in his own skin.

Not very smart from a personal finance perspective. It scares me a little, frankly, the idea of going further into debt. But there are times when money is a secondary concern.

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Blogger Mrs. Modern Tightwad said...

I see how it is. I move up to the Northwest and everyone moves away. :)

I certainly understand how scary it is to consider that expanse of a move, especially when you haven't met your goals for where you're at. Within three weeks of being here the car needed a new battery and tire, we have to change apartments because of our neighbors smoke coming inside (we're both allergic) and my husband's company already downsized his department once. Oddly enough, the stress hasn't killed me yet.

The benefits have already far outweighed the potential stress. My husband's allergies have calmed to almost nothing, when he used to wake up with black circles and could hardly breathe in Vegas. I'm doing fairly well too, and have been able to keep my stress level down. And keep your eyes peeled Im working on a series about moving.

I wish you both all the best with this plan, and I just hope I get to meet you before you move. :)

June 16, 2009 at 7:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To make the move happen sooner and easier, you should really really think about a used car. While you don't know a mechanic, you can find one through referral, and if you don't know anyone there, there is always yelp. It just doesn't seem like the time to buy a new car.

And it doesn't seem like the time to move, BUT I totally understand why you might not be able to wait for the perfect time.

June 16, 2009 at 7:37 AM

Blogger Meg said...

Sounds like it really would help you two to move! And sometimes you have to bite the bullet, especially when it comes to health. If you could pay $X that it'll cost and get a medicine to do the same, wouldn't you?

Not to rain on your parade, but how are his chances of finding a job there? I don't know what the job market is like or his qualifications or other issues, but that's certainly something you'll want to research thoroughly -- and even have him start looking now, since the job hunt process can take a long time nowadays. I know his skin probably won't clear up immediately after moving, but if he had a job waiting for him that would probably be best (assuming he can swing it physically).

June 16, 2009 at 10:19 AM

Blogger Abby said...

Mrs. MT,

The irony did, in fact, cross my mind. I don't suppose Phoenix has any good offers for your hubby?

But seriously, I don't think we're in danger of anything just yet. And tickets to/from Portland are pretty affordable.

I'm glad that your husband's allergies have calmed down! Apparently Washington is one of the worst for pollen count. How's THAT for my taste in living areas?


You have a point about used cars. I suppose I just feel too awful and overwhelmed right now to consider looking around for resources re: used cars. But it's definitely something to consider as I work on a sell-off of various items. Thanks for the suggestion!


I suppose you have a point about the medicine. It's just also scary because we'd be moving away from our support network. Argh.

As for chances of finding a job, yeah I've suggested he get in touch with his friend Rich post haste. Rich apparently works to help people with disabilities find job placement. I don't know how that would go, frankly, but it's worth a shot. (Also, if he can secure a job, our moving expenses would be tax deductible.)

Meanwhile, I checked and apparently Tim could continue unemployment despite having moved states. Seems really, really weird to me. But who am I to argue with bureaucracy -- especially when it's finally in our favor for once.

I think the one other major idea is to try and get the Dept of Vocational Rehab to help Tim find a PT job here with insurance. Even if he has to pay $200/month towards it, that would nearly double our monthly contribution toward debt. Or help us save up some moving funds.

June 16, 2009 at 11:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you need to go you need to go.
A few things I would look at though are job prospects for Tim with his skill set?
Will you have problems with SS if you move?
You say you throw $300-$400 a month at debt is this above minimum payments?
Could you two possibly live apart for awhile? If Tim can secure a job down there and rent a room and you slash all home bills to just food, clothing, and shelter could you reach your goal sooner and is it worth it to do that?

June 16, 2009 at 3:36 PM

Blogger Abby said...

Anonymous (II),

"Need" is an ambiguous word. Tim grew up here. He is suffering, but it's a suffering he's used to. I'm just not sure it's something I can get used to, now that I fully realize there's an alternative.

As for SS, my guess (I need to call and check) is that my benefit amount will decrease, as living there is cheaper. Still, I am currently not working as many hours of contract work as I'm allowed to, in order to stay under $941/month. ($940 and I get my $881 disability. $941, and that's it.)

The $300-$400 is definitely above minimum payments. Right now, the main debt is at 4.99%, so we're earning about $30 in interest each month. The minimum is about $120, each month.

I should run the numbers on living apart. But my first instinct is that it would actually INCREASE our costs. I'd still need cable modem for work. And I rarely go out, so cable TV is kind of important. (Though for a couple of months, I suppose I'd live.) We pay almost nothing in utilities because we're low-income. Can't say the same for a room he'd rent. He'd have no computer, which is the main way he entertains himself so that he doesn't have to go out and spend money, and no TV, the other major way. I also think food costs would go up significantly, at least on his end. But I think it's still something that I should actually run the numbers on and not just assume. Sometimes costs can be deceiving.

Thanks for the ideas/comments!

June 16, 2009 at 4:11 PM

Blogger Mrs. Modern Tightwad said...

Regarding living apart, there is also a high emotional cost. My husband and I were apart for almost three weeks to maximize our income and it was the most difficult three weeks, pretty much of my life.

And once you decide to make the change, use the internet to create a support network before you go. Find bloggers in the area, get recommendations for mechanics, grocery stores, happy hours and places to live (happy hours being the most important).

June 16, 2009 at 6:38 PM


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