Christmas has come early! ($104,498)

Okay, so not really, but payday has! I guess this happens when your payday is a holiday? I’ve got another check coming on Friday too.

I’ve got a million blog ramblings in my head, but nothing really coherent–but I did want to post my foray into the ($104)s. I’ll even be in the ($103)s for a hot minute this weekend!

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I Confess! ($105,967)

I wasn’t always the responsible young lady (ha!) that I am today.  I was pretty good about paying my minimum on my credit cards in college, but my balances were damn near the top of my limit.  I always had a job–that’s one thing I’ve always been really good about.  i’d never leave even a part-time job without having something else lined up.  When my seasonal retail job didn’t get converted into a non-seasonal one in the winter of my freshman year of college I think I had a month or so when I was looking for a job to replace it.  I’ve never gone to the gym so much in my life!  So much free time when you don’t have an employer to visit!

I digress. Once I graduated college I got even more irresponsible.  It wasn’t just that I was at my credit limit.  I got a “real” job in October after graduation, and bought my new/used car in November.  My payments were over $400 a month, and if a given month was tough (because I spent too much), credit card payments were the ones taking the hit.  I’m sure Capital One wasn’t terribly upset.  I’m quite sure they were happy to charge me late fees and more interest!  I had one debt that got sold to a collector because I had the mindset of “if I ignore this, surely it will go away!” I continued with this irresponsibility for a while until my March 2007 bonus.  Don’t get me wrong, I spent a LOT of this irresponsibly (how can you give a 24 year old a bonus on or about St. Patrick’s Day? That’s just mean), but I also tracked down whomever owned this debt at the time and paid them off in full.  Maybe I could have negotiated to pay them less, given how much they probably paid for the debt, but I settled it cleanly credit report-wise.

Since around that same time I started to really get that credit reporting agencies keep track of my tardy payments and “wow, I just paid $49 or whatever in late fees” because I couldn’t be bothered to pay attention to when my bill was due.  My realization that my credit usage is also important didn’t come until the past two years.  Or maybe it did, but I didn’t really feel there was much I could do about it with my job situation.  Looking back I know I could have done more, including not spending more when granted magical credit line increases, but I can’t change past behavior. I can only change what I do now and look ahead.

Which brings me to my point.  Delinquency in credit card payments stays on your credit report for seven years.  That’s a long time to be punished for your mistakes.  I’m not trying to say it’s too long, or making any kind of qualitative judgment whatsoever here.  But when you’re trying to improve your behavior, yeah it sucks to see that your past behavior is still dragging you down.  But, alas! Hard work does pay off. There is still negative history on my report, but it’s been 76 months!  Over six years! I’m so close to seeing this completely drop off:

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The oldest credit report I have access to is from January 2012 (I’m pretty sure I had a subscription before that, probably in 2007 or so, but January 2012 is probably when I started my current subscription).  In said 2012 report, I was using 46% of my credit. Don’t go thinking I was all that responsible–almost all of my unused available credit was a CareCredit account from when I had Lasik.  Technically it’s revolving credit, but I didn’t have a physical card, and I think you can only use it for medical-type things.  Either way I saw it as essentially a closed installment loan.  I also had 3 accounts ever late, and was only a little over 4 years past my most recent tardiness.

Now I have less than 1% of my available credit utilized, with the balance paid off every month so I’m not paying interest. The only reason I use the cards at all is to show utilization to improve/not lower my credit score, and to earn rewards.  But I don’t ever use it when I don’t have the money to pay it off sitting in my bank account.  That one late account (and about 50 installment loans*) is the only red mark on my report.  And it will be gone in six short months!

(Not) Free Credit Report has a “Score Planner.”  I’m not positive on how accurate it is, but I guess we’ll see.  With no late accounts on there it estimates my score will improve 13 points and move me into the “very low risk” category.  Reducing the number of installment loans to a reasonable number will help a lot too, and my average age of accounts will only keep increasing over time.

Are you tired of reading my ramblings yet?  Now is the time for the moral of the story: it takes a damn long time to remove past indiscretions from your credit report, so it’s better not to make them.  But if you did make them, there’s no need to lose hope.  If you keep plugging away you will start to see improvement and light at the end of the credit score tunnel.

* Actually I have eight open installment loans, down from nine a couple months ago.  This is one of the reasons I’m working on paying off my smaller, lower-interest private undergraduate loans before my giant college loans.  Four of the remaining nine are all in one payment/servicer, two in another, and the last two with yet another.  It seems a lot like three loans instead of eight, but I’m actively working on reducing these, although I realize this will take quite some time.  If I kept at my current pace, all but two of these would be paid off by mid-2016, but I can’t keep my second job forever, and that will mean paying for a place to live. There will likely be a serious reduction in the snowball sometime next year, but I’m hoping I get a significant raise, and can work to offset it.

Untitled ($105,965)

Does anyone else remember the Untitled D’Angelo song? What ever happened to him?

I don’t really have much in the way of an update today, except to say that I’ve got over $400 left in my budget for the month, and no more monthly expenses to pay. I’ll need to put more gas in my car–I’m sure Thanksgiving will involve driving all over creation (or the state)–and spend money on dinner and drinks with the family on Sunday and lunch for next week, but nothing major. I’m thinking I’ll come in at least $100 under for the month!

Any suggestions on lunch food for next week are welcome. What can I easily make on Saturday evening that will provide at least three lunches for the week, that I won’t get sick of? And that my unskilled self can cook? (I made dinner for me and my boyfriend this weekend, which resulted in oil splash burns on my hand/wrist). I’ve done so well this month I don’t want to ruin it in the last week.

I’m so excited for Turkey leftovers!! I’m debating getting my own turkey to make with my boyfriend next Saturday so I have my own supply of leftovers. And when I say “make with my boyfriend” I mean watch him make it. Because I don’t know how to cook.

Recipes welcome!

NOW I’m whining ($105,927)

Damn, I really want Wendy’s. I’ve be debating back and forth whether I should go or eat the myriad food I have at home. I’ve decided on going home (Wendy’s is now in the opposite direction of my closet train, as opposed to an exit I’m by anyway) to make some jambalaya business. I’m still a few dollars under my “fast food” portion of my budget, and $250 or so under on all food and drink for the month, but I’m also buying coffee for myself, and possibly a law student, tomorrow morning, and it would be good to make food for tomorrow anyway. But damn I want a spicy chicken sandwich and some fries right now. Number one weakness right there.

Please punch me in the face… ($105,889)

…if I start whining that my student loans aren’t fair!

I’m all for complaining.  Paying student loans sucks!  Okay, it’s a little unfair that some people don’t have to have them in the first place,  and some do, but guess what? LIFE. ISN’T. FAIR.  I apologize if I come off as super…asshole-ish? in this post.  I realize I’m not perfect, but I really want to vent on this.

I read a blog post today that had a few points that left me screaming internally.

1. I’m mad that my grace period is over, and now I have to start paying back student loans.

Did you not know that you had to pay them back when you signed on the dotted line?  Was the language in your loan documents somehow unclear on this issue?

2. The amount I have to pay back per month is too high.

For (at least most) federal loans, if you owe more than $30,000 you can drag your repayment out over a longer period of time.  If you’re not willing to look into this then I think you lose any right to complain.  My federal loans are currently on a 30 year repayment plan, but I’d rather pay the higher amount per month than pay three times over in interest. If you have X amount to pay back at Y interest rate over 10 years this is a mathematical calculation.  I’m sorry that you don’t like math?

3. The contract I signed stated the terms of my loans,  but I didn’t care at the time.

If you don’t read your contract, I’m not going to give you sympathy here.  

4. I needed to take out the loans at any terms…I went to private school.

I went to a private school for my law degree.  I had originally planned on going to a state school as an out-of-state student for the first year, then establishing residency after a year.  The reason why I didn’t do that is because with the financial aid package I received, the costs would have been more comparable over the three years, and the school I chose had a better reputation in the northeast (vs. none for the other school).  Staying in the area also allowed me to continue to work part-time in my professional job, earning way more per hour than I would in, for instance, a work study position.  

For undergraduate I went to my home state school.  I’ll be honest–I didn’t want to.  I didn’t even want to apply, because I figured I’d end up having to go there.  I applied, got a scholarship, and got offered little to nothing at the out-of-state schools I applied. Did I want to go to another school?  Yes.  Was my seventeen-year-old self mature enough to make the decision that it was a bad idea?  Also yes.  Decisions have consequences, people!

5. I’ll never be as financially secure as my parents.

Maybe I’m an optimist (I’m not), but I think that’s a pretty defeatist attitude.  And you’re probably never going to get there if that’s your attitude.

6. I can think of all the wonderful vacations I could take with this money, and now I can’t.

You know who else can’t take exotic vacations?  MOST PEOPLE.

7. I didn’t learn about real life in college.  I learned about [insert non-practical major here].

Again, this was your choice.  

8. Student loan companies don’t care about how tough it is for people to make their payments, or how bad the economy is.

I could not agree with you more.  I can’t really say I blame them here.  The whole “contract” thing.

9. I got financial aid, but needed a few thousand dollars each year.

If you needed another $3,000 per year, and you’re just starting repayment after graduating in the spring, I’m guessing you have less than $20,000 in debt [Full disclosure: I didn’t do any math on that whatsoever].  Sure, that sucks, as does any debt, but it’s manageable (and is actually about what I graduated from undergrad with*).  If you have $50,000 in loans–you didn’t take “a few thousand” a year.  I received a financial aid package for law school that included loans, scholarship, and work study, but that package still didn’t meet the “cost of attendance.”  So I found a cheaper place to live (I couldn’t walk to any bars from my place–the horror!), didn’t use my loan money to buy drinks at said bars (since I was often the DD, due to my aforementioned inability to walk to the bar), worked a job while in school (I think I knew one other person that did any kind of work outside of work study my first year), and generally tried to live as cheaply as possible.  Basically I tried to treat my loan money as though I would have to eventually pay back that money someday…because I do.  It was possible to get other loans outside of my financial aid package, but I made it my mission to live $3,000 or so below the “cost of attendance” each year, and did so successfully.  If your concern was really only “a few thousand more” each year, you should have made choices to minimize that.  And if you didn’t make any effort to do that…because you didn’t care about the terms and conditions of your loans at the time…well…

I’m $110,000 in debt.  My net worth is approximately ($105,889) (but who’s keeping track?).  Does it suck that no one paid for me to go to college or law school? Yup. You bet it does.  Is it unfair that some people have these things paid for for them, by parents, etc.?  Yeah. Life’s not fair sometimes.  Is it unfair that I have to pay back the $130,000 in loans I took out?  Not even a little bit.

End of rant.  Sorry for being so anger-filled and high-and-mighty today.  I just don’t get the “wahhhh….it’s not fair” attitude.

* My student loan balances were about $20,000 out of college.  All private loans with no possibility of forgiveness or income-based repayment, and a maximum in-school deferment for three years (conveniently how long I was in law school).  My balance on these is about $14,000 these days.  In the three years I worked before law school I should have paid more than the minimums, because my balance in 2011 was higher than it was in 2008–it was as though I’d never made a payment at all.  Perhaps I can find someone to blame for this…oh wait, I have to take complete responsibility for my choice to pay only the minimums, and the results of that choice.  

Slow Progress ($105,281)

The last of my student loan payments for the month (unless I decide to do extra right before my next paycheck) should clear tomorrow, and I’ll be able to get a good view of how much I pay in interest versus how much I’m paying in principal.  I was checking/hoping to see if that payment on made on Friday had cleared in my student loan account, and I wanted to see the interest amount.  It’s not there yet, but ECSI does give a good breakdown of interest/principal paid per payment.  I have two loans through ECSI:

Perkins loans–$3,000 per year of law school, original balance of $9,000; current balance of $7,231,04:

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Law School loans–$6,000 per year of law school, original balance of $18,000; current balance of $15,004.91:

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Total interest per month has gone down about $20 since I first started paying on these.  Does this seem like a lot?  No, it doesn’t.  But over time?  Yeah, it’s definite movement. Baby steps!  One thing to note:  these two loans don’t feed into my Mint.com tracking.  I’ve included these loans in as an “other asset/liability”, but I can’t really easily change it.  I currently have it in as $22,900, when it’s actually about $22,200.  Not a big difference, given that I’m $110,000 in debt. I’ll probably update it at the beginning of the year, and leave it for 2014.

I just spent about $75 on two pairs of pants and a blouse on eBay.  Both pairs of pants are used.  I usually stick to new clothes only, but I’ll give it a shot, and see how it goes.  I’m not ready to move on to used tops–I feel like someone selling work pants online probably wore them

Are You Sure It’s Payday? ($105,257)

Hooray for every other Thursday!

It seems a bit unsatisfying, considering that October was a three payday month for my main gig, so I had a lot of extra money to throw toward my debt last month.  I also got my check from my other job on the same day as my last payday, so it was a huge hit of money.  Now I look back at my blogs from around two weeks ago, and my net worth was higher then than it is now. What gives?

But I realize that I spent a lot of those paychecks–I don’t get to keep all of it.  Or most of it for that matter.  It really reinforces how nice it will be when I’m not spending $2,000 a month on student loans, and I’m not paying over $500 a month in interest.  I don’t think “nice” is the right word.  Amazing?  I was listening to a Dave Ramsey podcast on the train today, and one woman said that she realized she needed to get a hold on her financial situation when she discovered she spent $750 on interest the previous year.  I pay more than that in two months!  How is it that people can deduct interest on million dollar homes…but I make too much to deduct my loan interest!?  (I really realize that “I make too much money to deduct student loan interest” is probably the most obnoxious complaint ever, but I only make as much as I do because I work two jobs, and commute four hours a day to make that happen–because I don’t want to pay student loans for 30 years. Mini-rant over.)

So anyways, the moral of the story is that this paycheck seemed less fulfilling than the last set.  But I am paying another $450 on my federal loan–about $350 of which will go to principal, and $300 on my loans from my school, with around $200 going to principal.  So I can take some comfort in that $550 of that won’t have a negative effect on my net worth.

Other than to pay off my student loans–a long term goal if there ever was one–I don’t really have set goals.  I’m trying to determine some good ideas for shorter term goals.  According to Mint.com, my debt currently stands at $111,039.  I want to get it under $110,000 by the end of the year, without dipping into–and continuing to add to–my existing (meager) savings (since I’ll likely need a good chunk of come tax time.  But that doesn’t seem terribly aggressive.  That actually seems like a pretty lazy goal.  I have my Vertex24 debt reduction calculator Excel sheet, which says that putting an extra* $700 a month toward my “snowball” will mean my next undergraduate loan (UG2) will be paid off in February, and the one after that (UG3) in June.  So I’m making a six month goal to have both paid off in May.  If I get hired for reals this shouldn’t be a problem–but how easy it would be would depend on the as-yet-unknown pay differential.

And as much as I hate to abandon the snowball when I’ve barely started, I may start trying to save a large chunk of change in anticipating of moving after those two are paid off.  Abandoning the snowball doesn’t mean (shouldn’t mean–please yell at me if this changes) that I’m abandoning my budgeting and attempts at frugality, just a change in where the money’s going. But AGAIN, this is me focusing so much on the longer term.  I should enjoy the small victories of paying off these small undergraduate loans while I can. Right now I can pay off one every four months or so, but once those babies are gone I have much larger chunks to deal with.  Anyway…I’d also like to get my net worth into the negative five figures by June–which sounds like it will be easy, but it will depend on how much of a tax hit I take.  Sigh.

In cheerier news: I looked at the Mint app on my phone when I started writing this, and it’s different!  Apparently there was an update of some kind today, so I’m off to investigate it. I’m really excited for when I get to post my end of month pretty pie chart.  But for now, I give you:  COFFEE!  I’ve now had four straight days of bringing my lunch, and two of coffee.  I’ve spent a whopping $4.76 on coffee this month (With the remainder of the $10 reload sitting on my card).  I used to spend around $80 a month!  Someone give this girl a cookie!

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It looks like I was really good in October–really it’s because I reloaded my Starbucks card at the end of September and my mom gave me a $25 card.  I was still way better than I had been (I’m looking at you February and May), but not as good as the chart implies.

* Really more than $700 a month extra.  My minimums on my federal loans are based on 30 year repayment, but I pay based on a 10 year repayment.  I also round all my payments up to be even.