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?

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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:

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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.

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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?

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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.

No Net Worth Today…

I don’t have a net worth update tonight.  My loan is showing up as paid, but I don’t think the money is out of my account yet, and a very large credit card charge hasn’t reared its ugly head yet.  And I’m too tired (and it’s too close to my bed time) for me to make the necessary mental adjustments. 

I don’t have much to say tonight, but I don’t get to post from a computer as often as I’d like, which means less opportunities for pretty Mint.com pictures.

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I’m so very happy with my month so far–hopefully that isn’t spoken too soon.  I’m over my $0 budget on coffee shops this month–I went to Dunkin prior to a house thing, to the tune of $5 and change.  Not a life ender or a budget killer for that matter.  I haven’t made $1,200 in planned student loan payments yet–I believe one is pending for tomorrow and the other for Wednesday.  There’s one more for tomorrow that kills my second undergraduate loan. This is already showing up as paid in my loan tracking, but not in my bank account.  That bit is a little over $600.  Moral of the story:  I expect “education” to take up 75% of the pie by month-end. (Here’s the educational lesson kids, don’t take out loans to go to law school)

There’s a lot of spending here on “health and fitness.”  I don’t have new insurance cards yet, and instead of getting harassed when my old insurance backdates its cancellation, I told the man at the Consumer Value Store to treat it as though I didn’t have insurance.  It took him a really long time to understand this concept. So once I get the new insurance information I’ll be the one doing the harassing, about getting reimbursed.

Things are going swimmingly on the food front.  I have a two leftover mac and cheese meals, and three chicken stew meals in the fridge.  I’m planning on work lunch (maybe paid for, maybe not) on Tuesday and going out for trivia with the manfriend on Tuesday and Wednesday.  But so far I’ve spent $0 in my Restaurants and Alcohol/Bars budgets, so I should still be within budget after the week.  I’m hoping to bring plenty of snacks and food with me for my commute home, so I don’t feel the need to order a full meal while we’re at trivia. We’ve got more dinner plans on Monday, but that’s to use a long-held gift card.  (Free food!)  So far I’ve spent less than $130 on groceries this month.  I will be buying more milk from Cumbies on my way home tomorrow, but other than that I’m holding strong to my once-a-week grocery shopping commitment.

I’m too tired for further thought tonight.  If only I could find a way to be too tired to spend money.  Good night all, and happy budgeting!

December Recap! ($103,396)

Ugh!  I did an extraordinarily bad job budgeting this month. Or, rather, staying within said budget.  Here’s my spending breakdown from the month (ALL THE PRETTY COLORS!):

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Education and Fees & Charges are (rightfully) big chunks of this not-so-tasty pie, but they should account for over half–they don’t.  I spent a tiny bit less on principal and a tiny bit more on interest this month–should just be reflective of when the payment was made in the month (I wish I got paid semi-monthly instead of bi-weekly, so these could always be the same):

Principal Payments:

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Interest Payments:

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That makes “Shopping”, “Kids”, “Personal Care” “Auto and Transport” and “Other” the big spending categories.  Some of the shopping was Christmas presents, but, um, not most of it.  I bought $160 Uggs at the beginning of the month (I love them, but I don’t know if I love them $160 worth), and about $150 at Old Navy that was for myself.  Damn you Black Friday.  Toward the end of the month I spent $325 on eBay–I bought two purses to celebrate the new job.  I’m also thinking about buying a Spin bike, but if that’s all I do for celebratory purchases, and don’t inflate my lifestyle too much, I’ll consider this a victory.

I spent $600 at Babies R Us.  The stroller and pack-and-play my sister registered for were both on sale, and didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to save over $200 (again–Damn you Black Friday!).  I would have spent this money (and more on the shower and smaller baby gifts) eventually, but wasn’t planning for it in December.

The $120 on getting my hair did [BLONDER — and way shorter] was planned, but sadly fell in with a month of crazy spending.

I spent way more on parking than usual this month–for two reasons.  Reason numero uno:  bought a book of five parking passes for $100 at the new work building.  Because $20 a day in the city is a bargain when I need to drive in.  See: the day I spent $35 on parking when I went in late for a doctor’s appointment last month. I also went out to watch a football game with a friend on Sunday and spent $40 on parking.  I hadn’t seen her in a while, and I’d cancelled on her the previous weekend–but if I’d realized I’d have to spend $40 to park initially, I wouldn’t have made that plan. Lesson learned.

Most of the transactions in the $500 or so in “Other” were planned: life insurance, credit report, phone, (2) TiVo.  It also includes about $80 in Christmas presents…for my dog.  And a doctor’s visit co-pay.  Lastly, it includes $120 at staples, $80 of which is for the biggest piece of crap filing cabinet on the planet. Which is getting returned.

So the budget page looks something like this:

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This actually doesn’t even capture the “Everything Else” category, which is over by about $1,400… Yeah. Though a small point in my defense: about $200 of my food and other random costs were reimbursed from job two.

January should bring more income and–hopefully–less irresponsible spending on my part.  To be continued I guess.

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.

Mint Obsesssion ($107,989)

This morning’s mint.com obsession is Trends – Spending – By Category.  I should first say that I looked at my spending over time and was impressed with my limited spending in May, June and February–around $3,600.  I thought I did so well last month only spending $3,900.

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Oh but then I remember the crazy increase in my student loan payment, and that in at least on of those months I didn’t make my big payment at all because of the transfer.  I also look at the fancy pie charts for last month and over time:

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Last month over half of my spending went towards my student loan payments/attempts to make progress to pay down my balances (pats self on back).  Over the last year it’s only been 32% of my spending (hangs head in shame).

In both cases food is about 15% of my spending.  I. Am. One. Person. I do not need for 15% of my spending to go towards food!  (Full disclosure:  a lot of that “other” is probably uncategorized lunch purchases, which I was too ashamed to categorize, because then my food budget would have clearly been even more over). So far this month (and toward the tail end of September) I’ve been disciplined in bringing my lunch with me.  I’m also hoping to bring my transportation expenses down from around $700 a month to around $500 this month–$450 if I’m being really optimistic, but I have a couple things to be driving to on weekends, so that kind of reduction might have to wait until next month.  But at least for the three months when parking is free that will put an extra $200 in my pocket each month, at least some of which will be saved or go to loans.

I don’t expect to be as disciplined in the shopping category this month–because I need to find some new commuter shoes (or hopefully get the ones I have fixed because I love them so) and because I’ve been eyeing a Christmas gift or two.  The overall goal is for the education category to be a little over 50%, though actual dollar amounts obviously matter too.  Because I’m spending SO DAMN MUCH on my student loan payments I should be spending a much smaller percentage on food–more like 10-12%.  This month’s pie chart will be really skewed by my extra paycheck (and corresponding extra loan payments), but hopefully I’ve have worked on some habit changes when it’s time for November’s chart.

I think writing this crap down is helping.  We shall see.

Month End — ($108,868.07)

We’ve reached month-end and I’ve spent about $250 less than I’ve earned this month.  Not as much in savings ability as I’d like, but I had two weddings this month, and didn’t start getting determined to actually stay under budget until the middle of the month.  WIth that said I did buy a calzone yesterday…and Wendy’s today.  

This month I’ll have three regular job paychecks–Yay! So I can probably have Loan #1 paid off at the end of the month. I’m hoping I can get a little Christmas planning out of the way.

I spent just over $3,900 this month.  This seems excessive, but over $2,000 of that went to student loan payments.  Another $280 to my train pass, $72 in parking and $305 in gas.  I’m hoping I can keep my transportation expenses for the month under $475 this month.  I’m not going to mess with my Mint.com budgets there, but I’ll try to cut down on some others.  I’m hoping I can save at least $700.  Very aspirational for the month.  Let’s see how it actually goes…