February Goal Recap! ($87,482)

Here’s how I did 2 months into the year.  Just about $1,600 went to principal this month, which brings the total for 2015 to:

Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 12.57.58 PM

That’s about 14.5% of the way there, with about 16% of the year past us.  I’m okay with that–I should  be able to put an extra $1,000 or so toward debt, not counting the rent money from our tenant that is scheduled to go towards loans alternating months.

For for the total debt payoff goal.  I painted the cardboard backing, so it would be easier to actually see the puzzle.  I didn’t actually have a paintbrush, so I used a paper towel, so please excuse the uneven paint job (but hey! more incentive to cover it up ASAP).  And you can actually see the puzzle against the background.

My total debts are $93,802.  It’s crazy to think about how recently I was celebrating being under $100,000. I’m not making the progress I used to make when I had two jobs, and no housing expenses, but refinancing my big loan to a lower interest rate has definitely made a difference.  Even though I was really close to the $93,800 mark, the puzzle only reflects $94,000 – 30 pieces.  My two undergraduate loans reflect interest when they show up in Mint, but I don’t think the others do, so it might actually be that my debts are a bit higher, but if I keep using Mint eventually the interest amounts will be so low that they don’t matter in the calculation too much (in a few years…)



So that’s it for my recap!  Hopefully I’ll have plenty more progress to report in March when I finally receive my tax return, and maybe I’ll eventually even get better at budgeting!


Bigger Paychecks ($87,335)

I’ve been messing with my payroll deductions since the beginning of the year.  In 2014, I had HSA contributions taken out of each paycheck–a decent amount in an attempt to ramp up my account to cover at least the deductible.  This year I decided to move that down to $0 per paycheck, and just have a lump sum taken out of my bonus.  Because I’ve been used to living with a certain sized paycheck, I wasn’t looking to increase my take home pay, but wanted to increase my retirement contributions with the extra money (and largely keep with the theme of pre-tax payments). For my lump sum HSA contribution, I contributed what I had hoped would be the maximum contribution for the year, taking into account my employer’s contribution, and the fact that I’m hoping the man gets a job with better/cheaper health insurance (errr… that the better option is cheaper/more subsidized by his employer than the better option that I have through my work is now), which would render me unable to contribute to an HSA for that part of the year.  Depending on what our family timing plans are, I may keep myself on the high deductible health plan for a year, and keep contributing to the HSA for as long as I can.  I digress…

I had moved my 401(k) contribution up to 10%, then back down to 9%, with $100 going to a separate bank account post-tax, to be moved into the Roth IRA I opened.  The first paycheck I received in February, the 9% contribution was implemented, but the $100 separate deposit had not yet, so this looked like more money in my spendable paycheck.  This paycheck, the separate direct deposit was in place, but my paycheck was still higher than usual.  Could this be my raise? Nope–adjustments from the last minute changes to 2014 taxes (and how much is taken out pre-tax). This change brought me another $90.  I’ll take it!

I’m not sure if it will be in the next paycheck, but I am waiting on a significant raise to show up in my paycheck.  After taxes and deductions, I’m hoping it will be an extra $100 which should reduce my reliance on tapping into my separate savings more often than I’d like (as I have been doing).  I may also potentially increase my student loan payments an extra $50 a month each month, which would be another $450 in principal payments this year.  Every little bit helps me get closer to my goal!

Taxes *

Around this time last year (actually more like around April 15), I filed my taxes and had to pay over $2,100!  This was the second year in a row–for 2012 I had to pay $1,900!  At least last year, I was prepared for it.  Having two jobs in different states, I never quite figured out how to best do my withholding.  But with Job 2 ending in June, the withholding from (permanent) Job 1 would probably be enough that I shouldn’t owe, or shouldn’t owe too much.

But the man and I had our civil ceremony this year, so we can file together.  Seeing as he’s a full-time student, this is extremely beneficial to me because 1) the added personal exemption; and 2) the larger standard deduction.  Add to that some deductions for expenses for our house, and education credits, and we’re very happy with preliminary numbers on our federal return.  A good chunk of this will be paying for our honeymoon.  I also expect that I will be zeroing out UG4 when the return hits my bank account.  The only hold-up is that I’m waiting to receive my W-2 from former Job 2 — though my paycheck/withholding was the same every month, so I have a pretty good (if not exact) estimate in.

After elimination of UG4, I’ll be down to:

  • UG5 (the last one from undergrad!):  $4,410
  • Law School 1:  $6,056
  • Law School 2:  $13,145
  • Former Federal Loans:  $69,468

And with March’s payments, I’ll be under $93,000!  I’m pretty happy with that.  UG5 will soon be getting $225 a month.  It’s a little hard to think that I used to pay about $1,000 to the federal loans (the minimum if they were on a 10 year term instead of a 25 or 30 year), and another extra couple hundred (or $1000!) to my undergrad loans!  Damn I miss having a second job sometimes!  Damn I hate paying a mortgage!  Now it will take me four months of regular payments to get to a $1000 reduction in principal on UG5…but at least that’s an extra $200 a month, instead of just the minimum.  Hopefully we can keep some costs down on the honeymoon (even though I haven’t been on a vacation in FIVE YEARS), so they’ll be a bit more to loans!




*I’m temporarily excluding my net worth, as I’m shuffling some money around accounts

Cutting Costs ($89,601)

In January I really started noticing my excessive spending. I haven’t been updating my budget like a good Doobie, so I hadn’t included any wiggle room, so I was going way over. I didn’t have a lot of room to expand my spending categories, while still saving what I wanted to, so I decided to see what fixed costs I could cut:
Cell Phone: My contract is up at the end of February. I’m thinking of switching to Ting or Straight Talk, and giving it a shot for three months with my existing phone. I’ve definitely noticed that my phone is slower, and losses battery quickly, but I could spend a lot of my train time reading my kindle (library books or Prime rentals?)
Taxes: Our house is a two family, and the couple we bought it from didn’t live here when they sold it. Our town has a homestead exemption, which reduces your taxes, if you live in the home. Because the sellers didn’t have the exemption for this house, we couldn’t grandfather into their exemption, but we did file as soon as we could this year. I expect the tax portion of our mortgage payment will go down at least $50 a month once the new tax year starts (first payment is due in July). I’ll have to call the mortgage servicer on this to let them know once we officially have the exemption. I will probably continue paying the same amount on the mortgage, with the extra going to principal.
Car Insurance: I haven’t driven my car in two weeks. The reason for this is twofold: 1) My car needs some fixing, particularly new brakes, so I don’t feel too comfortable driving it now, particular in snowy conditions (and it’s harder to do the needed fixing in said conditions, as we don’t have a garage) and 2) My man brings me to and from the train (in his fuel efficient car) to save the $4 a day in parking charges. In spite of this, I still pay over $70 a month ten months out of the year for car insurance! The good news is that the two months I don’t pay are February and March (first and last months of the policy). The bad news is I called the insurance company, and they said they couldn’t reduce my rate any further, and that it was so high because of an incident in May 2012. But that incident will drop off in May. I asked if they could reduce my rate in May, but she said I’d have to wait until the next policy year. Two things I got from this: 1) it doesn’t hurt to ask and get the information, and 2) I will likely be switching my insurance company in late May.
Credit Report: I’m signed up for freecreditreport.com. It’s not free, y’all. But I’ve really liked tracking my progress, and it cost me $10 a month. Lo and behold! The charge was $20 this month. Apparently I had been reduced down to the $10 fee for a promotional period of two years (the last time I went to cancel), and that period is up. So I called to cancel, and thought, “I don’t really need to spend $10 a month on this anyway.” They offered to further reduce to $5 a month going forward for another time period. I gladly said yes, and added a notice in my phone calendar to cancel/renegotiate to keep my rate before it goes up again next time.

Credit Cards: I have a trusty Capital One card that was my first ever credit card. I went to cancel it in college, and was convinced not to because of the potential effect on my credit score. I’ve put another reminder in my phone to call and either: 1) get my annual fee waived, or 2) cancel. I have one charge on this card a month, which gets paid off monthly (so don’t even bother trying to reduce my interest rate instead of waiving the fee, C1), and the card has no benefits to it (no cash back or miles, nothin’). This one will save me the annual fee that surprises me every. single. year.

Proactiv:  Sad news–in spite of the fact that I’m over 30 years old, I still have the skin of a teenager (and I don’t mean I don’t have wrinkles).  I’ve cut this one out before, and my skin immediately started getting much worse, so I’m resigned to using it, oh, I don’t know, FOREVER.  That said, I have plenty of product from my last two or three shipments, that I can live without paying for it for a few month, and sign up again when I’m running low.

That’s all the cuts I can think of now (I’m in a two year contract on my cable, and getting a pretty good deal if we want to keep it), but I’m open to any other ideas! I’d also like to work on my grocery and food budget, but that one may be a little harder to plan, organize and execute.

January Goal Recap! ($90,455)

So here’s how far I am into my 2015 goal to pay $20,000 in principal to my student loans this year:

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This is only 6.5% of my goal after 8.3% of the year has gone by, but I’m really hoping a lot of progress gets made in the last third of the year, so I’m not going to stress about this too much, in spite of the fact that I paid extra from the house account this month.  Aside from that extra $700, I also only made a $150 payment on my UG loans, instead of the usual $225 monthly payments.  So it’s essentially a smaller amount than most months when I’m putting the extra $700 in.

As to my overall goal to pay off all of my student loans (hopefully by the time I’m 35–I’m currently 31 and a half).  This is the puzzle visual. I checked out what my total debt as of today, per Mint, and my grand total of student loan debt is $95,406.36.  Subtracting this from $100,000, I get $4593.64, and dividing by 200…22 pieces into the puzzle!  And really really close to 23!  Next month will likely add another 4 through normal payments, since I’m so close to another piece now.   I may also put a little bit of my bonus money towards UG4, so that it will be paid off by late March or early April.


I’m going to have to work this out so that neither I, nor HGTV, are visible.  But for now, here’s the limited 22 pieces of progress.  I might have to paint the cardboard backing white so that the pieces are more visible, but I’ll start filling in that corner instead of the edges.  You know, so you’ll be able to see actual progress.  And also, because I totally have pieces in the corner assembled in the box…