Here's an idea: graduate in less than eight fucking years. Also, how the hell have you only taught 500 students in eight years when the University of Wisconsin has more than 40,000 students at any given time?
...if I had to do my Ph.D. all over again, I'd pick a major with a nice payout - like history. /s
I also don't get when graduate students bitch about how the man is driving them into poverty. My group and my friends all made it through grad school in 5 years or less with legitimate degrees, lived well within our means on our stipends and fellowships. None of us graduated with debt.
The broken car thing is when you know you're scraping the bottom of the excuses barrel.
A 50% RA makes >$21k a year at UW Madison. I was a 50% RA and made about about $16k a year when I graduated in '12. Even after taxes and the part of the tuition she has to pay, she'd be making ~$1400 a month. Give me a break if you can't get by on that after splitting expenses with your partner.
I'm not a financial advisor - but how about $400 for food/dining, $100 for utilities (go ahead, it's $200 split so go for gigabit internet and HBO), $600 for rent ($1200 if truly split), $300 a month for a new Kia Optima leased + gas + insurance. Problem solved. God knows that'd be better than how I lived for 4.5 years.