Debt Becomes Her: The Decision

Posted on April 3, 2008 by Melissa 
Filed Under Debt, Education

As a chef I guess I’ll need to pimp my ovenYep, that’s right. We have decided to take on debt.

A large amount of debt.

I know what you’re probably thinking. Why on earth would you take on debt in this economy? Let me explain.

One of my biggest dreams has been to go to culinary school. In fact, whenever people would ask me what I’d do if I won the lottery, my first response is always that I’d finally enroll. The other day Eric asked me why I felt I needed to win the lottery to pursue a dream like that. Good question.

I guess I felt it was too expensive, especially since I already have a bachelor’s degree. The tuition for this 15-month culinary school costs more than the tuition for my 4-year degree. It’s been hard for me to justify spending that amount on an associate’s degree, even if it is a dream of mine.

Five years ago, before I met Eric, I applied to the culinary school and got all the way through financing. When I realized I wouldn’t be eligible for any grants because of my BBA and that I’d owe the entire sum in unsubsidized student loans I just couldn’t do it. I was too afraid to be saddled with that kind of debt and it’s been one of those “what ifs” in my life ever since. You know, the kind that make you sigh out loud when ever you think about it.

So what has changed that makes me think I can do it now?

We are in a much better place financially. Eric and I have learned how to budget and have reached several financial goals together (paying off our cars, buying a new home, saving for an emergency fund). We feel that as a team we can handle taking on “good debt” in order to fulfill a dream and enrich our family.

I have the emotional support now. The first time I looked into culinary school I was on my own. My parents didn’t think it was the greatest idea and I didn’t know if such a drastic career change was the right thing for me. Now, everyone is behind the idea and supportive my decision to go. Especially Eric. I think Eric is more excited about me going to culinary school than I am. It has been a long time since I’ve been in school and I’m a little scared. It’s natural to be nervous, though, and I’m sure it will pass.

With Eric’s encouragement and reassurance (not to mention the fresh dose of confidence from my recent catering gig) I took a chance and enrolled. I’m going through with it this time.

I start next week and my estimated graduation date is June 2009. Tonight is orientation and I will be making the first tuition payment. It marks the beginning of the new debt. More on the financials soon…

Why not just save up the money and go when you can pay in cash?

Sure, I guess I could have done that. If we saved $1,000 a month (lofty goal) I would be able to enroll in 3 years, assuming no increase in tuition (yeah right). The tuition has risen about $5,000 since I first applied in 2003.

Unfortunately, I think if I wait I will end up missing out. We both have a sense of “it’s now or never” and that I might not have as good of an opportunity in the future.

Right now, we don’t have kids or any other debt (besides a mortgage). That means now is the right time. In a few years we might want children and with that comes a big change in priorities. Financing additional school for us would be unlikely to be high on that list.

We also think now is the time because of the sour economy. I’ve been thinking of starting a small catering company but with a possible recession starting a small business in a “luxury” industry might not be the best idea. I might as well ride out the bear economy with schooling and start the business when there is enough discretionary spending power out there to support it.

I still can’t believe I’m actually going to culinary school. It’s been a dream for so long it doesn’t seem real. No more “what if’s”.

I have chosen the early morning schedule so most of my classes will be held before noon. After I complete my classroom credits I’ll be working in the onsite fine dining restaurant followed by a few months of a real-world “externship”.

Eric says he can’t wait for me to start the hands-on labwork so he can benefit from all the new techniques I’ll be learning. He says he fully supports me practicing a lot at home. I think I just figured out why he is so excited…

Image Source: mccheek


26 Responses to “Debt Becomes Her: The Decision”

  1. Kacie on April 3rd, 2008 12:08 pm

    Best wishes! I had no idea culinary school was so expensive.

  2. Marie on April 3rd, 2008 12:09 pm

    I am really excited for you. You have definetly thought this out! My spouse wanted me to get my Master’s more than I did – the support is the only reason I graduated after we unexpectadly got pregnant half way through. We are looking at having me go back in 2 years and get my AS in Math because I need to take through Ordinary Differential Equations if I ever want to go back and get my PhD in Finance.

    Best wishes – I agree with you that the timing is right.

  3. Caryn Verell on April 3rd, 2008 12:41 pm

    education is important and getting the education that you want is equally important. especially if you are getting educated to do something that you want and enjoy doing. you are very fortunate to have a culinary school nearby so already you will see a savings. i hope that you will share some of your lessons and experiences in culinary school with us. good luck and God bless you!

  4. Amphritrite on April 3rd, 2008 2:16 pm

    Lol, this post came up on my Google Reader this morning, and I read “Debt Becomes Her” and saw the picture of the oven and went…wtf?

    Let me explain :) My actual blog’s name IS “Debt Becomes Her”. I did a doubletake, thinking, “I don’t remember choosing that picture for my last post…”

    I’m glad you’ve decided to join us debtbloggers in taking the debt out! Good for you! And thanks for the laugh.

  5. Alison on April 3rd, 2008 2:41 pm

    Congrats on fulfilling a dream! My husband changed careers and went back to school after getting his bachelor’s degree and it did set us back quite a bit financially, but in the end it was the right decision.

  6. Nancy on April 3rd, 2008 4:30 pm

    Congratulations. I know this wasn’t an easy decision, but I think it was a wise one. I made the decision to go back to school to pursue my dream when I had two school age children. How I wish I hadn’t wasted precious time debating the question instead of actually doing it.

  7. TC on April 3rd, 2008 5:06 pm

    This is great. Don’t feel like you have to rationalize this. Very few people get to wake up each morning and make money doing EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT TO DO. Perhaps with this education, you can be one of those lucky folks. Go for it!

  8. Sarah on April 3rd, 2008 7:17 pm

    Congratulations on fulfilling a dream. I hope this will mean that you post more recipes on your blog for your readers to enjoy.

  9. Rina on April 3rd, 2008 11:13 pm

    Congrats on the decision! I’m quite envious…I’ve always wanted to go to culinary arts school.

    Great blog!

  10. Elizabeth on April 3rd, 2008 11:58 pm

    Congratulations, Melissa. I think this is the perfect time to follow your dreams and passions. Best of luck to you!

  11. Kyle on April 4th, 2008 5:13 pm

    That is awesome! Congrats and way to grab the bull by the horns and get er’ done!

  12. fathersez on April 6th, 2008 12:35 am

    Good for you!

    Live your dreams. You have prepared for it well enough.

    Best regards

  13. Frugal Babe » Archive » Some Great Posts I Found This Weekend on April 6th, 2008 2:51 pm

    […] from A Penny Closer is going back to school.  I’m always impressed with the recipes she shares (and the photographs of the ingredients […]

  14. Monday Morning Links « My Daily Dollars on April 7th, 2008 6:14 am

    […] Commentary examines the “top recession-proof careers” in a thought-provoking post. And A Penny Closer decides to take on fresh debt for a career change. Very exciting but daunting (as I should have […]

  15. burnski on April 7th, 2008 10:07 am

    Best of luck! You can totally do it :)

  16. Chief Family Officer on April 7th, 2008 9:54 pm

    Congratulations! I would love to take a couple of professional cooking classes myself (especially one on knife skills) so I am green with envy ;) I hope you’ll write about your classes when you start so that I can live a little vicariously!

  17. Shanti @ Antishay on April 8th, 2008 1:55 am

    I am so glad that you’re living the dream! You should be able to go to culinary school and get the education and experience that you want to much.

    I do have one suggestion though – my friend did this many years ago. When he went to culinary school, he went to a fancy restaurant downtown and came to them with a list of the recipes he’d developed and a long story about his passion for cooking and things and asked if they would finance part of his schooling with a promise that he’d work for them while he was in school and for at least a year after school. They were hesitant but after three weeks got back to him and said they’d pay 40% of his schooling if he’d sign a paper saying he’d work there for at least a year out of school.


    So he did. I always thought he was so clever doing that, but since he had no kids or other job, it was perfect. He worked part time as a line cook for the restaurant while he was in school (I think he completed in two years? one year? I don’t remember) and paid for his living expenses and the rest of the cost of the school with the job. And he ended up working there for three years after school, becoming one of the main cooks.

    It may seem like a long shot, but it would be worth it if you could pull it off. Even paying part of the school upfront will free you up financially to start your catering business that much sooner :)

  18. Make Friends, Earn Money on April 9th, 2008 12:34 pm

    Hope it all goes realy well for you. This year I enrolled on a course that i’ve been wanting to do for a while and it’s amazing how great it feels. I feel like a kid again!

  19. Jerry on April 11th, 2008 11:58 am

    This is so motivating! My family is leaving the country this Fall to pursue an educational endeavor for many of the same reasons. Lots of people think we are crazy, wondering what could lead us to uproot in pursuit of this dream, but we are convinced that it is all worthwhile. The only insurance that we have of achieving our aspirations comes from the willingness to work hard and pursue them… best wishes in your program!

  20. Tom on April 11th, 2008 12:10 pm

    I think that’s awesome. Taking on debt when it comes to school isn’t really a bad idea in my eyes. You just have to look down the long road and see if you can make up the costs with a job.

    YOU only live this life of yours once, I would do everything in my power to make ALL my dreams come true. Good luck!!

  21. Denver Home Refinance on April 14th, 2008 2:38 pm

    I will ask you this: how much is each year of your life worth? If you wait 3 years, you will not ever get those three years back. Your fear of going into debt will own those three years. I think you are making the right decision. Best of luck.

  22. AJC @ 7million7years on April 15th, 2008 9:11 pm

    Interesting, today and yeaterdat I just posted on the opposing methods of making this type of ‘spending’decision:

    1. The rational approach to a spending decision:


    2. The emotional approach to a spending decision:

    The bottom line: While it would be better for us if we could, Life can’t simply be devolved to numbers!

  23. Mike Leonard on April 18th, 2008 6:05 am

    Fairplay to you. Go for it! I love to see people taking calculated risks to go after their dreams. don’t worry about the debt. It is, as you said yourself “good debt” so make the most of it.

    keep us posted

  24. Myfinancebutler on April 28th, 2008 3:14 pm

    Debt sucks, and money’s good to have. However, it’s no good if you’re not using it to do what you want to do. You sound like you have your priorities right, and it sounds like you’re making good financial (and lifestyle choices).

    Enjoy (and send some good food my way)!

  25. Finance News Pro on May 9th, 2008 5:58 am

    This is the first time I am in your blog. I found some good posts there. In this post I found that you have a dream of having a culinary school and I wish that it will be successful in one day.

    It is really sad to have debt. Hope no one will fall in this trap.

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    […] Commentary examines the “top recession-proof careers” in a thought-provoking post. And A Penny Closer decides to take on fresh debt for a career change. Very exciting but daunting (as I should have […]


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