Dealing with culinary student loan debt and still work at a line cooks wage

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Here is my situation.  After cooking for years, I decided to go to the Culinary Institute of America for four years.  At this point it is a regret.  At least doing the four year program was.  I am grossing about $750 a week and taking home under $600.  I work anywhere from 60-75 hours a week.  I have no problem with my pay rate or the amount of hours I work.  I love what I do, but given those restrictions, I can't really get a second job.  So, now that my student loan payments have gone into effect, I am paying over $1,100 a month in student loan payments.  Add on my rent, utilities, car insurance for a car that I always have to fix and is currently not working, cell phone, etc. and I am as broke as could be with a take home of $2,300,  Anyone else out there been through this?  I don't know how I am supposed to continue doing what I love when it is such a low income compared to my debt.  Any recommendations on dealing with these huge loans?  I can reduce a small portion of my federal loans, but it won't impact my private loans and is just a short term fix.  How have you dealt with this problem?
 
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Move back home.

Give up the car and take public transit, if it's an option. A top of the line, unlimited, regional pass here in Los Angeles is around 80-90 bucks. A lot cheaper then car ownership. I have to pay a tradeoff though. Sometimes it takes a a bit longer to get to where I'm going, but I use that for my reading/thinking time.
 
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Your rate of pay is impressive for being a line cook. I agree with tin, give up the car, and there is never a better way to save money than to move back in with your parents, or get some roommates. Sorry to hear about your situation, but that is a really great culinary degree.
 

nicko

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Your problem is an income crisis. You can't work a job that only pays your 2,300 a month with 1,100 in school loans a month. You will have to increase your income plain and simple. It is sad to say but you will probably have to leave this job and go and get another job that pays better. In similar situation I have heard of people who have their masters in social work and ended up cleaning homes for $80.00 a pop because they made more money. Your other option is to get your school loans put on hard ship deferral until you get yourself a better paying job. Remember school loans are NOT bankrupt-able so you can't file bankruptcy to get rid of them.

Here are some things to consider
  • Read "The Total Money Maker Over" by Dave Ramsey this will help you get a solid plan.
  • Do you have a car payment? If so sell your car and get a 1,000 - 2,000 beater with no payments and drive that till you get this paid off. 
  • Face the fact you will probably have to get a different job that pays better or get a second job to deal with this. It is a mess no easy way out.
  • How much other debt do you have? Credit cards, health?
  • Cut your lifestyle to rice and beans. If you can move in with your parents for 1-2 years to get this taken care of then go for it.
Beating a dead horse, you need to find a more realistic income. If you are working 75 hours a week your are working 300 hours a month and at 2,300 a month your making about 7.60 an hour. In short you are working too hard for what you are getting paid. It is great if you love what you do but in this situation you need to get a plan and get out of debt as fast as possible. Staying at a job that pays you 7.60 an hour makes no sense even if you love where your working. Sadly you could make more at McDonalds. 

The reality is that someone should of counselled you a bit about the reality of taking on so many loans and the ability for your career choice to pay them off. 

My wife and I were in a very similar situation $65,000 in school loans, two car payments, and 4,500 on credit cards (little over 100K) when we got married. We read the Total Money Make Over and with a ton of hard work and sacrifice we were out of debt in two years (everything but the house). If you have more questions I am happy to help talk you through this. We lead a Financial Peace University class and deal with similar situations all the time. 

Hope that helps you.
 

chefdave11

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This thread is a very repetitive one and indicative of the complete lack of basic research tons and tons of culinary students are not doing before enrolling.
 
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This thread is a very repetitive one and indicative of the complete lack of basic research tons and tons of culinary students are not doing before enrolling.
More indicative of the fact that the schools tend to misinform students of what awaits them after graduation.
 
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Actually, a student loan is somehow attractive for many reasons. That is why it is a great business for debt collectors and investors. Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. The debt can also be be paid for with wage garnishments and other forced payments that are simply not available for most other types of debt. There are trillions of dollars of student loans currently in the US market, and $67 billion of that debt is in default. Though there are programs to help loans in default, federal debt collectors may not be providing those programs to struggling lenders.
 
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I knew prior to checking out culinary schools, that if I was lucky I was going to be making $12.00-13.00/hour. I was talking to our Executive Chef the other week about this actually. I think one of the benefits of attending culinary school in my mid/late 20's was, I was more mature than I was after graduating high school and planning on attending culinary school. I had already worked as a dishwasher, prep/pantry cook and talked to several veteran Chefs about my long term goals, within the culinary industry. So, I knew if I was going to attend culinary school, the reality was that I would not be making much to start. So, I think it is really all about researching prior to enrolling into any culinary school.

I have a few friends in the industry, who all share a place together. All Cooks/Chefs. I think this is personally a great idea. Not only does it help out everyone financially, but it also brings together several different heads..all in the same boat and all a passion for this industry.
 
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Uhm, that's 60-70 hours a week.
750 dollars divided by 70 hours, that's still almost 11 dollars an hour. I have never made that as a line cook, or now paid my line cooks that much. Must be in a higher cost of living area, I suppose.
 

squirrelrj

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$750 gross is going to be around $560 after taxes, take that by 70 hours a week and that's 8 dollars flat.

I'd much rather work a 40 hour job, then get another partime job for the other 30 hours, you're sure to make more money somewhere.

There is plenty of money to be made in this business, even as a line cook, trust me.

Private dining clubs, private country clubs, etc.. all pay more money, even for cooks.
 
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I think RJ's got it right. Go where the money is. I've been working at a country club for the last 16 years and would never go back to a regular Restaurant. I'm paid very well and rarely work over 40-45 hours. Golf, for free, when I want and get to work with the best of the best ingredients. Also your always doing something different, weddings, line service, golf events , BBQ, etc.... Follow the money
 
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As much as i love to cook it, unfortunately it isnt always a high paying job. In fact very rarely is even after 8 years or so cooking im only making 1300 every two weeks and im working on average 120 hours during that pay period which is ok but when you have a wife and child, and your living in an area where the average cost of a 3 bedroom family home can cost anywhere between 1400 to 2600 a month. Things can be very difficult i was just fortunate to find a deal on a very nice 2 bedroom condo for my family while at the same time still enjoying the smaller things in life. My point is for aspiring culinarians would be; if your looking to make money fast this isnt the career for you. It takes years and years of hard work and stress and well... bullshit... lol, 
 

squirrelrj

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I think RJ's got it right. Go where the money is. I've been working at a country club for the last 16 years and would never go back to a regular Restaurant. I'm paid very well and rarely work over 40-45 hours. Golf, for free, when I want and get to work with the best of the best ingredients. Also your always doing something different, weddings, line service, golf events , BBQ, etc.... Follow the money
exactly, I love being in clubs.

52 hours this week was the longest i've worked since last year, by a long shot. There's always something going on, and you get plenty of downtime in the offseason.
 

chefdave11

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This thread is a very repetitive one and indicative of the complete lack of basic research tons and tons of culinary students are not doing before enrolling.
More indicative of the fact that the schools tend to misinform students of what awaits them after graduation.
It is solely, completely and unequivocally any potential culinary student's RESPONSIBILITY and personal OBLIGATION to educate him/herself about the industry BEFORE even applying  to culinary school.

That means working in a restaurant and speaking to chefs and cooks and culinary school grads in the workforce - NOT necessarily people associated with the culinary school as it is their job to enroll you and take your tuition money.  Many people will be straight-up with you, but not necessarily so.

Darwinism at its finest. If you're too stupid to do proper research about this industry that you want to enter, you're too stupid to work for me.
 
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my advice take it for what it's worth I've been out of school for 6 years and have an Exec job and the pay is decent but I still have loans... i love the comment about the "Total Money Makeover" my dad gave this book to me and I just started reading it and realizing some things I've done wrong and some I've done right. I still have student loans and the help I've seeked is to defer, with the economy the way it is it's easy to defer and I pay what I can each month without going to garnishing wages... it's not ideal but neither is the cost of a good culinary school (which after 6 years I'm still not 100% sure it was my best investment, I went to a Le Cordon Bleu school in Pittsburgh, PA)

I also am married to a wife that doesn't work but the trade is we have a almost 3 year old child so we don't pay daycare expenses.... money is a touchy subject and you have to figure out what's best for you.

I currently lean more towards increasing my 401K, savings account, mutual funds, and childs college fund apposed to paying off student loans, again just for me personally.
 
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Just a comment for "ChefDave".... you obviously did not go to school, what culinary school does for you is give you that peice of paper that large, high paying employers want to see, it does not promise you anything but also gets you places and money faster than not going to school. Not to mention if you are in my boat of finally realizing being a chef is not a great job for someone with a family you have the opportunity to apply and accept other positions such as a sales rep.... which is what I'm currenty in the process of just to be able to spend more time with my family!
 
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I am glad in one respect that I am not young anymore. In this day and age it is harder then it was in mine.  There were many more jobs , your money purchased more value. It was a different world. There were no credit cards. If you could not afford to buy it then ,you didn't except major purchases which was credit not credit card. The country was not trillions in debt. A few politicians wer crooked not almost all.

        I went to a movie for 25 cents and have old menues that that nothing was over $1.00.

  Today to rear a child cost the average couple about 150 to 200000. over a lifetime. First rent I remember paying was $70.00 a month 5 rooms walk up railroad  flat style....Things today are made so easy that no effort is involved, this curbs initiative and the go getter mentality... I sometime think I was lucky to be born when I was.
 
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Just a comment for "ChefDave".... you obviously did not go to school, what culinary school does for you is give you that peice of paper that large, high paying employers want to see, it does not promise you anything but also gets you places and money faster than not going to school. Not to mention if you are in my boat of finally realizing being a chef is not a great job for someone with a family you have the opportunity to apply and accept other positions such as a sales rep.... which is what I'm currenty in the process of just to be able to spend more time with my family!
How can you say it doesn't promise you anything, but turn around and say it WILL get you places faster? Not true at all. If a company turned down an educated person in this industry who knew the ins and outs of the entire business over a person with a piece of paper at hand, that would tell me they run a kitchen full of employees with no real hands on experience. They just spent a lot of money to meet people and get a couple good books. I'm not trying to put down culinary students or people who have went to culinary school. However working with a lot of people who have and will be in debt for a REALLY long time, they really don't even know where to turn to on the line during a busy Saturday night dinner rush fresh on the job. 

I think if any person is serious about making this a career, they should go to college for business, and get a job in a kitchen where a chef who knows a lot can teach them so they can learn about the business while getting real experience. If someone has spent years and years in this industry and is still at the bottom, that is their own fault for not giving it their all and outsourcing. Like a few have said, there are high paying places like clubs and what not. If money is a problem and you want it bad enough, what will you do to get there?

Would I want a culinary degree on my resume? Of course. 

Will I pay thousands of dollars and learn a few techniques when I can get a job with a renowned chef who will teach me more in 6 months than anyone will in 2 years of culinary school and pick up the same exact books culinary students read? More than likely not because I can take advantage of all of the ''free'' education around me. By free, I mean I am getting paid to work, but learning at the same time and taking everything for what it's worth. Also I am using that money to buy the same books and other things that will give me knowledge. 
 
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