Cost Cutting Update

A couple of months ago, I posted about ways in which I could cut some of my costs.  I wanted to give a recap:

Car Insurance:

We’re now paying $886 a year for car insurance.  I had been paying $790 a year–for just me.  And my hubby had more coverage than me.  So my portion will be about $30 a month less than what I had been paying.  I’ll need to set some money aside because we’ll be paying in 6 month chunks, but for the first couple months it will only be a bit more than I had been putting away monthly.

Cell Phone:

I switched to Ting and have paid one bill so far.  I definitely need to work on not using data by checking facebook during the workday, and googling random things on my train rides.  I have started playing sudoku and bringing my kindle instead, which will hopefully help. The takeaway is that my bill last month was $49 instead of $98.  I’m guessing it might be up to $60 this month due to data use, but again, I’m optimistic I can routinely  get to $45 a month.

The only bad news–my phone has been acting up, and I may be in need of a new one soon.  This might mean going back to a contract, and going on a joint Verizon plan with hubby–since he is adamant about not leaving them (full disclosure:  I love them too, but they’re plans aren’t great for one person).  So while I’ll still be saving over Sprint, I might be paying a bit more per month.

Credit Cards:

Shortly after I posted, I got a mailing informing me I can upgrade my Capital One card to a Quiksilver card–keeping my card number and the age of the account, but losing the annual fee.  That was surprisingly easy!

Still waiting for my taxes to be cheaper–I think that will update in July, but I could be wrong on that.  In other news, I’m down to just the one last  undergraduate loan, and I think it will be gone in July or at the latest early August. Either way, I’ll be down to just law school loans in time for my birthday.



I Made Up This Number ($83,264)

Because I’ve still got some honeymoon spending to do, so I don’t want to post a lower number, only to see the negative number grow.

I listen to a lot of Dave Ramsey podcasts on the train home from work.  I definitely feel like he would tell me I need to pay off my loans on an even faster timeframe than I am.  I am paying for my wedding (in spite of the fact that we’re already actually married) and our honeymoon.  While I think we’re being pretty frugal, we are still going on vacation for two weeks.  But it’s going to be a looooong time before we’re going to be able to do this again.  It’s been five years since I’ve been on an actual vacation — and I think I’m enough on the path to paying off my debt that I can reward myself a little bit.

Should I be feeling guilty about this spending?  After my contract is up, should I be cutting my cable?  Should I be taking the $40 I round up my mortgage, and applying that to my next student loans (even though my mortgage interest rate is actually my HIGHEST–however that’s possible).  Should we stop any grabbing sushi about twice a month?  Should I be bringing PB&J to work everyday? (Full disclosure:  I actually love me some PB&J, as long as the right kind of jelly is involved).  Should I not be contributing to my retirement, even though we’re 31 and 32, and have less than $20,000 saved collectively?  Should I clear out my savings (the stuff that isn’t earmarked for something specific)?

I think it’s easy to follow simple rules, but I think everyone’s individual situation is a little different.  And because I’m making actual progress on my loans and have a drive and plan to pay them off, it makes more sense for me to enjoy life a little, and to address multiple financial goals (savings, retirement) while paying off debt.  I’m happy to pay off interest instead of more personal investing, but I’m not willing to turn my nose up at things like a 401k match.  Does anyone else feel the same?

Cookies! (And Some Things That Are Harder to Swallow)*

One of my friend is having a spa party/cookie swap in three weeks, so I’m planning on doing some test baking today. I actually like cooking and baking, though I can say there’s a whole lot that I’m particularly good at (hence the testing).  I saw two really interesting sounding recipes — both of which used a box mix. That’s just cheating. I’m all about that when it comes to brownies and muffins — I guess I just have higher standards for online recipes.

I’m officially $200+ over budget for the month, with at least $50 more to spend in groceries (including our post-Thanksgiving turkey).  I feel like I’ve said this repeatedly, but I cannot WAIT for bonus/tax return time.

My inability to spend less than I earn (after designated savings) has been getting pretty disheartening, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about where my monetary priorities are.  My mortgage is now the highest interest rate I’m paying (very high for a mortgage these days), so maybe that should be my priority to pay down, so I can refinance.  But will I be able to do this while rates are still low?  Would I be way more likely to accomplish that (or my debt payoff goals generally) if I just don’t have a wedding, or have just a small thing?  The way I see it, it ‘s going to be 25 people, or 125 people — I can cut it down to immediately family and best friends, not do a wedding party, just do a dinner, but then I’ll miss out on the dancing and sharing the time with a lot of my other friends. But if I do something larger, it’s really hard to make the determination of who I want to invite and who I don’t.  Or more accurately “If I invite X, I should also invite Y” and “Well she invited me to her wedding five years ago, but we don’t really talk much now…but I wish we did, and I want her to know that.”  My wonderful man, god bless him, says “I’ll just invite less people, so you can invite more.”  Which is incredibly sweet, but I know I should be making some cuts on the amorphous guest  list in my head.

There will be some decisions ahead to be made.  But for today at least I will limit my decision making to: Caramel Pecan Snickerdoodle OR Red Velvet Cheesecake?  OR Oatmeal Chocolate Chip OR S’mores Cookie Bars.  OR ALL OF THEM?


* I feel like a lot of my posts are negative lately.  So I figured I’d share something happy.  I’ve paid $735 in student loan principal this month!  And in 2015, I’m hopeful that we can put another $500 or so a month to either loans or the mortgage (or the wedding), depending on what we decide. Screen Shot 2014-11-22 at 11.58.41 AM

September Budget Recap ($94,562)

Let me tell you…I did pretty damn great through 90% of September.  Then it all went to shit.  But I did say I would try to get back into posting more, so here I am, the Prodigal Blogger, returning home to confess my sins.

I’ve said it before–so sorry for sounding like a broken record–but I HATE that my budget tracker doesn’t account for the fact that certain bills are paid at certain times of the month.  I’ve spent about 2/3 of my October budget, and it’s currently the 8th.  But I’ve also received my two planned for paychecks for the month, and I’m anxious to reduce my principal as soon into the month as possible.  Pretty much the only month bills I haven’t paid yet are automatic payments that I can’t change.

Anyway, a digression, per usual.  September Budget!

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These are the categories where I went over budget.

Food:  There are two reasons why this is over budget.  Reason #1:  I just noticed a Cumberland Farms purchase for $27 in here.  This is likely for gas, and not for groceries, though I have been known to buy the occasional milk and eggs at Cumby’s which is how I’m guessing it got miscategorized.  I’ve been seeing a bit of funky stuff with the categorization lately.  Reason #2:  $97 at a restaurant in NY, when we went to go visit my sister- and brother-in-law.  We stayed at their house and ate their food, so I thought it would be appropriate to thank them by buying dinner. No regrets.

The Fast Food Part: This is largely buying snacks and/or chocolate milk at the cafeteria at work.  I need to work on this.  I have this budget for lunches at work, but it’s intended to only cover meeting a friend for lunch, and not being too lazy to pack my lunch.*

Utilities:  Real talk: I have no idea how much utilities cost.  I haven’t had to pay them in two and a half years, and when I did have to pay them, I didn’t have to pay for things like a water bill or the sewage commission.  Whatever those things are.  So those are less expected for me. I’ve since adjusted this category up to a more realistic $200.  My cable and internet bill, as well as my cell phone, are not included in this category. Yes, in addition to Netflix, I also pay for cable.  I blame the Bruins on this one.  Bad personal finance blogger.  Bad.

But anyway, in getting internet, we had to get the compatible cable modem thing (I have no idea if it’s a modem or router or what?).  We could rent it for $10 a month, or pay around $100 for it.  Seeing as we signed up for a two year contract, buying it outright seemed the way to go.  So that gets put on our bill in three installments, the last of which is this month.  So my cable bill should go down slightly next month to partially counteract the rest of my expensive utilities.

Entertainment:  This is the usual Netflix $8, and I bought tickets to a show that a friend from school is performing in.  I bought the tickets for the four of us, so I should actually get $75-100 of this back.

Everything Else:  I feel like this should be further broken down someone, but here are the biggies:

$86 – bought flowers for the ladies I used to live with (which I’m not positive they even knew were from me as I got no acknowledgment that I sent them. Kinda really annoying).

$376 – wedding dress.  This shouldn’t count, because I transferred money over, and didn’t take it out of the money I made during the month. But I still spent it.  Bonus:  I had some kind of PayPal balance that covered $15 of the dress. Thanks mystery shopping!

$78 – paint from Sherwin Williams and some screws from Lowe’s — to put on my new license plate.

$23 – said new license plate/DMV fees.

I also took about $100 out of the ATM this month.  Most of which is actually still in my purse.  Some of my coworkers took me out to lunch the day before the man and I made things legal.  I brought money with me so I could at least offer to buy my own lunch–but the company did so I didn’t even need to offer/feel bad that my coworkers were buying me lunch.

Those are the biggies. There’s also $20 here or there (CVS, HomeGoods), but I’ve yet to buy anything too outlandish shopping-wise.

Looking forward (to now?) October is a weird month because I get an extra paycheck. So this will mean an extra loan payment or two, and possibly a puppy, which will mean adoption fees and probably some pretty big vet bills (particular if the lady we get is too young to be spayed already), but the extra check means I’m ready for it.  It will just look like I spent stupid amounts this month.  I also have to pay bar fees and get my hair did.

That’s all I have for this evening, but I really like re-capping, because it forces me to see the mistakes I made in the prior month, in the hopes that I won’t immediately repeat them (and, more so recently, it helps me see that I’m being unrealistic about some things).  I’ll look to post a debt progress update in the next few days.


* Sometimes this actually means not having lunch food in the house.  Laziness does not come into play too often anymore as the man usually makes my lunch for me in the morning.  🙂

A Change is Gonna Come ($94,990)

Decisions have been made.  Not all completely by me. I will be leaving my second job sometime this summer. This means I will need to start paying about $1,000 or more in rent and utilities.  This also means about $1,300 or so less money coming in each month…so I’m down about $2,300 every month.  Remember that $2,500 I was paying every month toward my student loans?  Say goodbye to that.  And about $1,000 of that is my minimum payments, so I need keep some of it, and make cuts elsewhere.

It’s looking like I may move with my gentleman friend into an apartment owned by one of our mutual friends.  And my dog is coming (back from my mom’s)!  It’s about a mile from a closer train station, so I’ll save some in my train pass, and parking (by walking or getting dropped off) and gas.  Being closer to family will mean less gas use too driving back and forth for non-work purposes.  I think food needs to be where most of my cuts are made.  And savings.  Sigh.

But my life should get markedly better.  Only two hours instead of four in commute time!  Spending time with the man!  Sleeping in more! Minimal responsibilities when I get home for the night!  Being home means it’s easier to make my own dinners and lunches, and enjoy the company of my friends!  Playing with babies!

It may be rough going for a year or so, but the man should be graduating after a year, then we’ll have a better idea of where we want to settle down more permanently.  After making dents in my student loans for the last year it will be hard to see virtually no progress for a full year, but I’m under the amount I had on initial principal.  And my 2014 tax return should be awesome…in a year…. but now that I have a permanent job, I can certainly get by.  We’ll hope for a bonus next year too.

So expect this blog to move over from big hits to my debts, to attempts to become more frugal so I can keep up with my minimums plusmaybealittlebit.  I’ll be saving the next few months or so, to make sure I have a good buffer for when I have higher expenses, but I’m still hopeful that I can pay off UG3 in a few months (balance $1,112), and hopefully about half of UG4 ($3,318).  Maybe the rest of the undergrad loans can go next year.  I guess we’ll see!

Before my battery dies! ($95,854)

I don’t have a whole lot to say tonight, but I’ve been pretty lax about posting lately, particularly since the man usually gets here on Friday nights, which is optimal wind-down blog time.

What I wanted to write about, and solicit comments about I guess, is budgeting and re-budgeting.  I generally set a budget at the beginning of the month and don’t readjust.  This month I thought I might try something new, since I blew my clothing/shoes budget this month.  Somanyflipflops.  I also sent more to my student loans than I planned for–I’m thinking this might be my new standard amount going forward.  I kept the net spending amount the same, but I adjusted some budget items down. This included adjusting down my restaurant budget (which I deliberately bumped up this month because I was taking my sister out to dinner, which ended up being lunch and therefore cheaper), so I’m hoping I can stay within that.  My fast food budget isn’t over yet, solely based on the fact that I’ve been too late for my train to buy numerous pretzel.  I still have my alcohol budget (boozebag), which I may use for trivia in the next week or two, or meeting an old coworker for drinks/dinner.  I didn’t adjust the clothing budget for the amount I went over, solely because the overage amount hasn’t quite been established by my friends at the shoe store.  But I do have $200 still left in my “everything else” budget, and I’ve been really good about not going to Wal-Mart and spending $20-$200 on whoevenknowswhat.  So I might reallocate some of that money to the clothing budget.

The point?  Is it acceptable to break the budget, so long as you’re still within the overall budget?  I’m hoping readjusting mid-month will help to better keep track of where I am in relation to the overall goal. Am I supposed to be really strict with myself and be clear on what all of my expenses are for the month?  I think I’m okay with trying this for a month or two, and seeing whether I can stick within the overall budget. We’ll see.

February Recap! ($97,418)

I think this is the latest I’ve ever been with my monthly recap.  I’m usually so excited to post it, and get started on the next month’s budget.  This is actually still the case, but I was occupied with the man friend this weekend, and stuck at work late last night–getting me home right around my bed time.  Hence no recap, but better late than never, right?


Boom! Over $1,900 in student loan PRINCIPAL payments in February!  Next month my auto and transport expense will be way down–it will only be gas and (if necessary) parking.  My paycheck should reflect my commuter rail deduction this Friday, since I had money on my computer card to buy my pass this month.  A lot of money will probably go to food this month, since I took my boyfriend out to dinner on Sunday night, and am hoping to take my sister to dinner before she has her baby.

Other than my good progress on student loans, I was pretty bad with the staying within budget thing.  I spent a lot on “other” and paid for a 2013 doctor’s visit.  The good news is I’ve planned for my hair expense this weekend, so I’m more prepared for my “other.”

My other budget overages:


The food and dining overage is mostly the coffee shop budget bust.  I’m calling the restaurants overage offset by being under budget on alcohol and groceries.  But There’s 5% cash back on Starbucks purchases, so I loaded my card with $50 twice.  I’m justifying this with the extra points, and will probably reload before the quarter is up, but starting in April I need to work on making my own coffee way more often.

Additional iTunes purchases–I’ve increased this budget for March, and accepted that I’m not staying within $10.  We’ll see if $15 satisfies my need for new 80s music.


Student loan interest is kind of a crapshoot–how much I pay can really vary depending on when in the month I make my payments.  Daily interest on $70,000 can make for a lot of variation.  The budget underage on gas probably has a little to do with a combination of a short month and timing of gas purchases.  Kind of a similar deal for parking in that I happened to not have to drive up as often–though this is partially due to finding another free parking train station.  In April I’m having $20 put on a debit card pre-tax to pay for parking on an as-needed basis.  This one won’t be a monthly deduction, but I’ll have another $20 deducted when the balance starts to get low.

I didn’t need Proactiv because my skin is clear!  I’m sorry–that was a blatant lie, I just tend to get billed three out of every five months because of my current delivery schedule.  Clear skin–ha!  Also, do people judge me for having an alcohol budget?  It really actually means trivia, which is more of an entertainment expense. Whatever.

I’m getting two TiVo charges this month, apparently. Hence the big buffer in the Movies & TV category.  I also haven’t rented an Amazon movie in a while.

My clothing budget was two pairs of work pants from eBay.  Money well spent. This month’s clothing budget is already blown on two pairs of shoes and five (FIVE!) pairs of J.Crew flip flops.  They’re $22 flip flops, on sale for $12. So I bought three pairs for me and two for my sister–because two separate people paying $8 shipping charges on flip flops is ridiculous. She’ll probably pay me back, but I’m fine with gifting the $25. I’m so charitable.  J.Crew wedge flip flops are kind of my thing.  I hope no one tells me that I’m not a lifeguard anymore and I have to wear adult shoes sometimes…

As for the March Budget, I haven’t broken out my federal loan payment into principal and interest yet (because they refuse to post my payment), but I’ve made $1,750 in payments out of $1804 principal and $676 interest payments budgeted for the month.  Instead of $2,480 my total payments this month will probably be $2,600.  I’m not mad, but I am going to try to stay under $4,000 in spending the month (my actual Mint budget is $3,963).  Or rather, if I go over, I only want it to be because of additional loan payments, and not because of additional spending.  I’m hoping for an expense reimbursement and an insurance dividend this month–both of which I’m hoping to send on UG3.

Goal Tracking (from 2/14/2014 post)

  • May 5: Pay off UG3 (current balance $2,557) – Current balance of $1,110 — Planning on paying off with my April payment
  • June 15: Debt Balance under $100,000 (current balance, about $106,000) — Now I’m around $104,000.  Still waiting for my federal payment to post and my updated balance on UG3 to be reflected.  If I’m paying off another $1,600 in April and have an extra paycheck in May I think this is easily doable, possibly even before May is over.
  • July 31: Pay off UG4 (current balance $3,346) — If I maintain my payment from this month through the summer I’ll pay this one off with a payment of around $100 in July.
  • November 30:  Pay of UG5 (current balance $4,963) — I think getting this taken care of in October is a better stretch goal.

That’s all I’ve got for you tonight–sorry it’s so disorganized and incoherent.  Better my blog posts than my finances, right?

Work From Home Wonder ($99,805)

Quick little post today:  I worked from home today, because of the snowstorm.  I had a call at 8am, earlier than I typically am in, and had something I was working on until an hour and a half after I normally leave, so I worked over two hours extra today–but was home and work-free over an hour early!  Hopefully I’ll be able to do this more often soon enough.

I get my first standard paycheck on Friday.  When I say standard I mean, the one I expect will be the same going forward–will all of my deductions taken out.  Hopefully with the same amount of money to spend each month I can be more consistent with my budget and, more importantly, more consistent with my spending within that budget.

But for now I’m probably going to spend some money on baby shower gifts…but don’t worry, I planned for it.  

January Recap! ($98,670)

Still/back under $100,000!  And I did pretty great this month, if I do say so myself.  This is largely due to an extra paycheck because of the (in name and salary only) job switch.

The pretty picture:

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Student Loans!

I paid off $2,567 in PRINCIPAL this month.  All of the “Fees and Charges” pie is interest paid on loans.  I think this is smaller than usual because of the timing of my payments vs. the payments last month.

I spent $632 on auto/transport this month.  Some awesome things about February:  my auto insurance is split into 10 monthly payments, so I don’t have a payment next month; there’s $84 I don’t have to pay.  It’s a mutual insurance company, which means I’m also expecting a dividend payment of about $150 or so.  My employer also just announced a discount program on car insurance, so I may look into that to save more money (though a friend of mine is my insurance broker, so I may stay where I am, and I kind of like the dividend thing).  I am getting rid of my towing plan–only $20 annual, but I have AAA, so I don’t need it anymore.  Knock on wood, but it’s also been MONTHS since I locked myself out of my still-running car (yes, I’ve done this more than once).  February will also be the last month that my train pass will have to be purchased completely with after-tax dollars.  Probably another $20 in savings each month.  Lastly, I drove to the farther train station much more than usual this month, resulting in more gas and parking spending, which I hopefully won’t repeat in February.

Food: $429 this month, about $300 in groceries.  This is probably the smallest amount I’ve ever spent in this category.  I need to reign in my pretzel purchases (maybe with more snacks for the train), but I won’t beat myself up too much.

It’s pretty rare that I have a separate pie slice for health and fitness.  This is from a doctor’s bill at the beginning of the month, and a prescription that I’ve submitted a reimbursement for (I didn’t have the account number information for my new health/prescription plans).  I have another doctor’s bill that I’ll be paying in early February from the same appointment (one for lab testing and one for the appointment and procedure itself), so the budget there will also be unusually high.

The “Other” and “Shopping” categories are what I really want to work on next month.  I spent $45 at Walmart in the middle of the month, and have no idea what I bought.  None.  I do know that it wasn’t groceries, though I sometimes do my grocery shopping there.  I spent another $40 on Amazon (light bulbs, a lint lizard that I haven’t tried yet, but is pretty necessary for some spaces in the house, and a paper towel holder to mount on my island).  But seriously, what did I buy at Walmart?  OH! I bought an over-the-toilet storage unit for some additional much needed storage space in my newly-organized apartment.  I feel better now.  The phone bill and my Netflix/TiVo are monthly bills, but tickets to a Red Sox game, and a paint your own pottery night added an extra $120 this month.  I might be spending a big chunk on some concert tickets this month, so this category probably won’t be going down too much in February.

In summary, I’m pretty happy with this month’s spending and debt progress.  I’ve already scheduled a loan payment for February, and I’m hoping that moving the money out of my account early in the month will prevent me from spending.  I’ll post more on the February budget this week!

Grocery Lists ($100,026)*

As I had hoped, I limited myself to 4 (okay really 5) trips to the grocery store this month, going only once a week. The first three times I brought a list with me, and only bought things on the list (admittedly, one of those things was often “snacky thing for work”). I spent about $75 each time, including the time I stocked up on paper towels. On Saturday I made a semi-planned stop at Whole Foods–I was by my old apartment an hour and a half away, and there is one right there. I had planned on stopping at the one closer to my house, but since we were there…long story short I like their California rolls (the closest I’m likely ever getting to liking sushi), and they make them fresh in the store unlike the WF by me. So in addition to my intended purchase of bags and bags of frozen strawberries, I bought some sushi dinner.

My last grocery trip of the month was on Monday night. I had a lot going on this weekend and was unable to plan for a real grocery shopping. In desperation (needing bananas to go in my smoothie with all those strawberries), I stopped sans list…and spent $100. I still looked at the circular in advance during the day, but there was no real meal planning.

The good news is I’m exactly at my $300 budget for groceries this month, and won’t be stopping again until at least Saturday. Hopefully I’ll be a little under budget in February.

* One small complaint: this includes both the vested and unvested portions of my 401(k)–I’d prefer to only see the vested, and am debating whether I should remove it from Mint entirely.