Good News/Bad News (2017 Main Goal Update) ($17,981)

As indicated the title, I have good news and bad news. First, the bad: I don’t think that I’ll ever be able to complete my puzzle. Because I’m fairly certain one of the puzzle pieces has disappeared into the abyss of my house and/or has been eaten by a baby. But I’ll at least get close.

I learned this sad news while prepping the pieces for this update. I’m now up to 400 puzzle pieces. That’s over $80,000 paid off reflected in the puzzle. Here’s the breakdown:

$19,805– remaining balance:

  • $2,625 $0 (freshman year – undergrad)
  • $8,500 $0 (1L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $0 (1L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 $0 (2L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $0 (2L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 $7,805 (3L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 (3L unsubsidized loan)
  • $3,500 $0 (Grad Plus Loan – bar fees and prep)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #1)
  • $2,500 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #2)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #3)

At the beginning of this year, I set a goal of paying off $30,000 in principal. That goal was $10,000 more than my 2016 goal. I did say that I’d see how things went and reevaluate. In the last quarter, I decided to go for a stretch goal of $35,000. I’m thrilled to report that as of my last payment, I’ve paid off a total of $35,408.93. I should have no problem meeting my goal of paying off all of my loans before my 35th birthday.

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Cutting the Cord ($19,071)

We’re finally venturing into new (to us) frugal territory–we’re cutting the cable cord.  We thought about it when it was time to renew our contract last year, but didn’t pull the trigger.  As we’re getting closer and closer to student loan debt free, and looking at future large purchases including a car and a new house, we’ve really been trying to get in a better place to make these things happen as soon as possible.  And paying $140 a month for cable that we barely use wasn’t helping.

So I called last week about terminating our contract.  At first they offered me other options for keeping cable (slightly cheaper, better internet for slightly less) or doing another “bundle” package (internet and phone).  I said I’d call back.  I talked to the man* about it and we decided against keeping cable at pretty much any price.  So I got a different rep the following day who offered an even better cable package (slightly cheaper, better internet and HBO for slightly less) or another bundle package.  He offered to call me back the following day.  The more I looked at what they offer new customers, the less I wanted to settle for one of these offers.  When he called back, I said I’d rather pay an early termination fee one time ($110 or so) in order to save $80 a month for a year.  I wanted to do an internet only package, and see that they offer this to new customers for $40 a month.   Their main competitor in the market also offers a similar internet only package, so if my current company won’t give me the same deal as a new customer, I can find someone who can.  So after he started processing  my cancellation and new service, he discovered that not only could he switch me to the better offer, but he was also able to waive the cancellation fee.  And I already have the router/equipment needed, so no need to pay a monthly rental fee to use theirs.  So huge success in saving money there!

In the last three months, we’ve successfully cut our wireless bill from $120 or so (I think) down to less than $8.  Now we’re also saving $100 a month on cable and internet.  Starting in October, I may try to add $100 of this savings to my monthly “extra” student loan payment.  At this point, I don’t think additional payments will help me pay it off any earlier, because I expect it will be paid when I get one of two lump sums next year (bonus or tax return), but hopefully I can reduce that final payment a bit.

Any suggestions for great shows or movies on Amazon Prime or Netflix?  We’re also considering adding hulu.  I should still be able to feed my addiction to The Bachelor franchise with my antenna.
* the big man. The little man only cares that he can stream PBS kids.  Just kidding.  He just cares that he can throw blocks over his baby gate.

Finding Milestones ($25,775)

I've been working on paying off my debt for about five years. For about two of those years, I feel like I was consistently paying off a loan every few months. Now that I have only one loan left, I feel like I need to find small milestones to feel like I'm making real progress.
As of my next payment, less than $50 a month will be going towards interest. This is awesome because it means that over $1000 of my monthly minimum payment will be going toward principal. It also means that my principal balance is right around $30,000. The breakdown is:

$30,052:

  • $2,625 $0 (freshman year – undergrad)
  • $8,500 $0 (1L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $0 (1L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 $0 (2L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $9,552 (2L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 (3L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 (3L unsubsidized loan)
  • $3,500 $0 (Grad Plus Loan – bar fees and prep)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #1)
  • $2,500 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #2)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #3)

Now that it's August, we should be done with our summer overspending. We got back a week or so ago from a trip to the west coast for a combined wedding/vacation. It was pretty expensive, but the good news is that I don't expect any similar expenses in the next 12 months.
My goal has been to get my loans paid off by my 35th birthday. As of today, that's exactly one year away. So long as I don't plan another one of these trips, I think I should be able to accomplish this.

Real Estate Creeping

So my husband and I currently own a two family house.  It’s pretty awesome, because after rent from our tenant, we pay about $650 a month for our mortgage, over $500 of which goes to principal.  We also think it’s appreciated in value a bit since we bought it almost three years ago — over and above what we’be put in (which includes taking OUT the dilapidated barn and paving the driveway). That said, it has some negatives — like that our living space is pretty small.  We only have two real bedrooms (plus a small office space) and ONE closet.  In my last place, I basically had five closets to myself, so having one closet is not ideal, to say the least.

So we occasionally like to creep on open houses for houses that we have no possibility of buying.  Today we checked out a four bedroom house in a cute neighborhood with a really nice yard.  It was really nice (I liked it more than he did).  We are definitely not in the market to buy now (largely because of the $1,050 minimum payments on my refinanced student loan), but it’s nice to get an idea of what we collectively like and don’t, and what we’ll be looking for when we ARE in the market.   I’m currently hoping that we can pay off the student loan by this time next year, at which point we’ll start saving pretty seriously for a down payment on a new place.  Not that we’re not already motivated, but thinking about being able to move to a bigger, nicer home is a pretty good motivator for getting my debt paid off.   Until then, we’ll continue to creep on open houses.

May Update ($29,793)

It’s been a while since my last post (over three months, actually).  I keep meaning to post an update, and it just keeps not happening.   That’s what happens when I draft puzzle updates when I’m away from home.  I won’t be doing too many more puzzle updates, because the brackets on the back of the frame are breaking one by one, and soon I won’t be able to hold it in.  So this update is 324 pieces, and will probably be the last one until late this year (although with how lazy I’ve been with updates, it probably wouldn’t have been much more than that anyway…).

I’ve been able to make TONS of progress this year, even since my bonus, thanks to (1) almost $1000 of my minimum payment going to principal (only a few more thousand* more to pay down before it’s a full $1000 a month) and (2) all of our tenant’s rent payments going straight to principal.  We also took a big chunk of tax return and put it towards the loans.   I’m feeling good about my goal to be free from student loans by my 35th birthday (I’m not-yet-34 now).


$35,141– remaining balance:

  • $2,625 $0 (freshman year – undergrad)
  • $8,500 $0 (1L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $0 (1L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 $0 (2L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $6,141 (2L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 (3L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 (3L unsubsidized loan)
  • $3,500 $0 (Grad Plus Loan – bar fees and prep)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #1)
  • $2,500 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #2)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #3)

And just like that–I’ve paid off my first year of law school completely, and I’m well over halfway through my 2L loans.

A few smaller thoughts:  As part of my super awesome student loan refinance, I needed to move my “primary banking relationship” to the new bank.  When I did this, my friends at Bank of America started charging me $12 a month, because my direct deposit of $100 a check wasn’t big enough.  So I’ve since said goodbye to BofA, and I’ve opened up a new Fidelity account.  This should make it a lot easier for me to transfer to my IRA and to the baby’s 529 account.

I’m also looking into going back to Ting.  I definitely use a lot more data than I did when I had Ting two years ago.  The nice thing is that my Verizon bill has gone down $20 a month now that I’m out of contract.  

I am hoping to get back to being more vigilant about bringing my lunch everyday, for financial and health reasons.  I’ve also been  buying way too many fancy coffees from Starbucks.  
* It’s crazy to me that there’s such a thing as a “few more thousand.”  I think the first loan I paid off (in my set of private loans) had an original amount of $2,800.  And I had that took YEARS to pay off.

Post-Bonus Post

Another quick update, because I’ve made my largest loan payment to date — $10,000!  I’m not positive if all $10k will go to principal, but the most that could potentially go to interest is less than $100 (since less than that accrues every month now!).  The puzzle will remain the same either way – 276 pieces.  Over halfway there!

$44,695– estimated remaining balance by original loan:

  • $2,625 $0 (freshman year – undergrad)
  • $8,500 $0 (1L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 $3,695 (1L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 (2L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 (2L unsubsidized loan)
  • $8,500 (3L subsidized loan)
  • $12,000 (3L unsubsidized loan)
  • $3,500 $0 (Grad Plus Loan – bar fees and prep)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #1)
  • $2,500 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #2)
  • $1,200 $0 (Irresponsibility Loan #3)

I’m down to five of my original loans–and should get rid of the second 1L loan in the next two months, I’m thinking.  As promised, I put 6% of my bonus towards my 401(k) (and got an awesome profit sharing contribution), $750 towards my HSA, and booked tickets and a place to stay in California for five days this summer.  The only thing I have left to book for the trip is a rental car.  I also bought a sweet new blender, and I’ve been working on trying to mix up my smoothie game.  

I’ve already filed my taxes this year, and I should be getting a pretty good sized return–thanks little man! I’m hoping to put another $3,500 (minimum) towards my loans once that comes in.  I have not put any rent payments toward my loans – yet.  I have to transfer the money from our house account to the bank account that’s connected to my student loan, and that takes a few days.  But I’ll be putting another payment through as soon as that clears.


(I’m trying to make a border at this point, so that eventually I’ll just be filling in the middle–I realize that right now it just looks very unorganized)

Pre-Bonus Post

Just checking in to say that I’ve received my compensation numbers for next year, including my bonus.  I’m getting a much bigger chunk in added retirement contribution that I’ll be fully vested in right away.

My plans for my bonus are to put almost all of it towards my loans. I’m considering making five exceptions:

1. Mini-vacation.  One of my friends is getting married in California (where she now lives, though her wedding is in a different part of the state).  I’m going to take this opportunity to do a mini-vacation.  The area where her wedding is is not cheap, so we’ll be paying for flights and potentially a vacation condo instead of a hotel room.  I’ll probably try to book that next month, but I’m keeping a watchful eye on flights.

2. A blender.  I currently have a cheap $20 Walmart blender that I got after my slightly nicer one died.  It’s eh.  I’d like to get one that I can easily make baby food with, so I have my eye on a fancy one.  On an unrelated note, I just bought a $30 rice cooker to make oatmeal with in the morning.  Seeing as I’ve been spending $3 a day on oatmeal, this purchase should pay for itself in a couple of weeks.

3.  Towels.  When I lived in my last place I had shared laundry.  Shared with many many people.  The front-loaders always had a bit of a smell to them, which I feel like my towels picked up, and I’ve never been able to 100% get rid of it.  So I’m hoping to buy a new set of bath sheets and towels.  Probably at Target, because I’m still pretty cheap.

4.  HSA.  I’m putting $750 in my Health Savings Account.  The last two years, I’ve put in $3,000-$4,000 to ensure that we had enough to pay for hubby’s LASIK, and having the boy.  I’ve still got a couple thousand in there, and I have been contributing an amount from my paychecks, but I feel like a little extra won’t hurt (and I’m going to get hit with a lot of taxes on the bonus, so I might as well avoid tax on some of it).

5. 401(k):  Like the last two years, I’ll contribute just enough to get the employer match.

Basically everything else will go towards student loan reduction.

I’m also getting a small promotion, and an accompanying raise.  The raise isn’t anything too too crazy, but I’m happy with it, and it’s more than the cost of living adjustment that I generally expect to receive most years.  My 401(k) has an annual increase program, and I’m signed up to bump up my pre-tax contribution 1 percentage point to 9%.  I also contribute 2% on a Roth basis.  I’m thinking next year I may make a similar increase to my Roth contribution.  But either way, I’ve attempted to schedule the increase to coincide with the change in salary, so that I don’t even notice the increase.  I’d like to eventually get up to contributing 15% myself — and the 5% (3% match, 2% not tied to my contributions) from my employer will be icing on the retirement cake.

Here’s 225 pieces of the puzzle–my current balance is $54,695.  If the last two years are any indication, I should be getting my bonus tomorrow, and will do another puzzle update this weekend.