I currently have a high paying desk job, but want to live free and make art. Should I save my money or aggressively pay down my student loans?
At the end of graduate school, my art career finally started to take off. But after finishing my M.F.A., I came out penniless, and with moderate student debt from my undergrad years. This debt is both Canadian and American and amounts to less than $20k. However, I come from a family that is very debt-conscious, and any debt hanging over my head feels weighty. So my good-souled parents basically insisted that I stay with them to save money, maybe find a job in the meantime and pay off my loans.
I now have a contract position. It is a desk job. It pays incredibly well for entry level. I hate it. It's incredibly depressing, and hindering the very artmaking I wanted it to subsidize.
My parents, however, think it is a God-given opportunity to pay off my student loans. I want to live free and make art; they want this for me too. But they think I should use this opportunity -- maybe the only time I'll make this much money in a good while -- to get my loans completely paid off so I can live without debt. For what it's worth, I also don't have any retirement savings.
However, because of the length of my contract and the fact that I've applied for art residencies, PhD programs and such for later this year, I won't have paid off all my debt by the end of this. I will have made a sizable dent, but won't have knocked it out entirely. And, when I leave this position, I will have a small amount of savings -- but not much.
It struck me this morning, as I flung another fistful of money into the abyss that is my federal student loan, that it might be a better idea to pay one of the two loans off entirely, or almost entirely, and bank what extra I would have put into the other loan so that next year I can travel and research the project I'm working on, or have enough money to live on should I be awarded an arts residency or be admitted into one of the postgrad programs I've applied for, or realize my dream: move to a mid-size town, live in a Tumbleweed House
, and make art on the cheap. I'd still have a monthly loan payment of ~$100, and my total debt would be around $6000.
However, I know my parents would discourage me from doing this. Also, I worry that not paying off this debt would lead me into further debt, or just force me to take another shitty job, much shittier than the one I have now, to pay this off down the line -- or worse: I'd mismanage it, and spend it all. But $6000 would go a long way for me, day-to-day living-wise.
What's the better plan of action here? Paying off the loan, or saving the money? And how can I guarantee I'll save that money instead of frittering it away? I've got a TFSA, which is good for locking money into, but could do with some other strategies.
One other thing to note: I've started to make money -- a meager amount -- from my art. Should I be admitted into any of the things I've applied for, I'll make more money from teaching art and possibly selling it. So I'm not intending to go jobless forever.
Also, I realize that I'm very lucky to have this job right now and don't want to sound ungrateful for it. I want to make sure I do the best thing -- the right thing -- with what I've been given.