As reported elsewhere (as in, on Facebook, and you should all be my Facebook friends), my divorce became final, official, legal, ding-dong the motherfucking witch is dead FINAL on December 30, 2009. This means I get to file my 2009 taxes as Single, much to my benefit:
- My pathetically small "earned income" (from a couple months as a tax preparer for Jackson Hewitt---bad company, don't do business with them!) is so low that even without kids I'm going to get a chunk of the Earned Income Credit. Couple hundred bucks, in fact. This is what happens when you agree to let your wife support you during your school years then she yanks the rug out from under you.
- Thanks to the Obama administration, there are refundable (read: in excess of taxes actually withheld and paid) credits for education expenses. I haven't looked at the form, but with my tuition expenses running up toward a couple thousand dollars, I'm probably eligible for a fair-sized chunk of the proceeds to come back as a tax credit. (edit: from the looks of it, 40% of tuition and fees paid. So about $600 or so.)
- Not only that, but what little I had withheld from those paychecks is coming straight back because my income exclusive of what the ex-wife brought in is below the standard deduction, making my AGI on line 38 of the 1040 exactly...well, nothing.
I figure there's a sweet tax refund in my not-too-distant future. As well, when I do my application for student financial aid for the 2010-11 academic year? I get to use 2009's income on the FAFSA form. As far as they're concerned, I'm a low-income case with severe financial need. I'll probably be eligible for the Pell Grant at least...although as a white male without any kids, I won't be able to get any of the more esoteric "diversity" scholarships, and I can't document any of my Native heritage (and, as I'm descended from French-Canadian fur trappers, it's a mortal lock that there are more than a few Micmac girls up my dad's side of the family tree, but nobody ever admitted to having taken one as a baby-momma in those days).
Still, between the "poverty" (purely a result of fortuitious timing of my marriage ending, mind) and the commitment the Obama administration (I voted for the guy, it's nice to see I'll get something out of it besides a crushing national debt) has made to education during this economic depression, all of a sudden what had the potential to be a complete financial disaster now turns to merely being a minor financial inconvenience.
I've got my monthly expenses so low that people wonder how the hell I do it---before I buy food, my expenses (rent + Internet + bus fare + electricity and heating/cooling) average less than $800 a month, and my food budget continues to shrink as I adjust to the reality of having to fend for myself. If I keep this up, I'll be able to live completely on my own for less than a thousand bucks monthly and still maintain a decent standard of living (as the delicious cheap meals I make for under $5 a day continue to fill me up and satisfy me.)
Not saying I'm going to live like a 21-year-old (and make no mistake, this is exactly the standard of living I maintained my first trip though college in 1998-2000) forever or even for very long. All it'll take is a part-time job at 15 hours a week, even at minimum wage, and all of a sudden I'm turning a profit and using the excess to save a little or entertain the occasional date for a night of socialization and smiles.
Some may say I'm one cheap bastard, and they're probably right (although my dad DID marry my mom before I was born, so "bastard" ain't quite it, but "cheap" I'll cop to with no fuss), but how many folks try desperately and futilely to save money and never quite master it? I'm very proud of my remarkably high standard of living in spite of what look on the surface to be dire economic circumstances; in fact, it forms the basis of my five-year plan after college to save money aggressively, pay off my student loans, and put myself in position to either start a family or retire at a remarkably young age considering how late I got into the high-paying job market game. CPA by Forty? How about Independently Wealthy By Fifty? It might take a few years of high five-figure salaries and low five-figure budgets, but if I've proven anything in the 14 years I've been living on my own, it's that I know how to keep hold of a buck.