Diving into debt free

There’s no easy way to learn how to dive. Well, at least there wasn’t for me. There were countless belly flops and water up the nose. Over the course of the summer, and what felt  like ‘forever’ in the mind of a child, I overcame. Once I mastered the skill, I could dive, dive, and dive again. It was a dually amazing and effortless feeling to reach my goal.

Similarly, there’s no easy road to debt free. I’ve ‘belly flopped’ through high food expense weeks, hell months(!). I’ve had ‘water up my nose’ every time an unexpected emergency expense occurs. But, I’m proud to say I didn’t give up.

This Friday I’m officially diving into the Debt Free pool… Continue reading “Diving into debt free”

2017 Debt Reflections

 

Excited to announce that I entered 2018 with approximately $8,761 of student debt to go. Debt Free Day is becoming R-E-A-L!

First, the numbers:

-Total Debt paid in 2017 : $18,706.  

-Extra Debt payments beyond monthly payments: $15,625.

-Monthly Debt payments Feb/March 2017 vs. January 2018: $228 DECREASE. $376 was required monthly payments after all loans came off of deferment between Feb. and March 2017. Now, heading into the new year monthly payments are down to $148.

-Average Debt paid per month: $1559 [for reference, that’s almost one biweekly paycheck, meaning about 50% of take home pay has gone towards Debt].

-Month with HIGHEST $$ Debt $$ paid: June $4111, followed closely by October $3941

-Weeks ‘til Debt free: Modest goal , 20 weeks. Stretch goal, 9 weeks. That large discrepancy due to unknown amount I’m getting back for taxes, plus annual review at work coming up in a few weeks. The stretch is a REAL stretch, but anything is possible!

Second, the reflection behind the numbers.

Numbers are great, but hey they don’t tell the whole story. In the last 10 months I have made some aggressive strides in improving my financial well-being. Although this was a peaks and valley kinda year (what year isn’t?!), I like to think the debt piece was a peak ;).

Blogging about debt pay off is rewarding and a great way for me to track progress, but I’m trying to catch myself from turning this into a ‘Highlight reel’. On that note, there were some “behind the scenes” expenses that deserve a shout out–

  • Moving (most costs were incurred at end of 2016, but some did linger into 2017, or at least that dent in the wallet lingered)
  • Weddings (3!) This was by FAR the biggest additional cost of the year, given that all were destinations. Looking towards 2018…only one is a definite. Love to see my friends in love, but ahh a sigh of relief :).
  • Household: Due to some unforeseen circumstances there were a few months particularly during the Fall where I shouldered additional household expenses including rent, food, and supplies (e.g. paper towels, detergents, etc).
  • Hurricane season: Irma (personal, only travel/supply costs) & Maria (family, monetary donations for recovery)

I mention these other expenses, as a way to demonstrate that it wasn’t always a smooth ride. I’m not special, I’m actually quite lucky and acknowledge the privilege I have to even attempt paying off this debt. But, I am proud of myself for not giving up. Before I committed to the debt free journey, one or 2 of these events would have completely derailed me. Now, I give myself grace as I fall down, brush myself off, and try try again ! Same approach for my spending tracking, and all other things personal finance related.

On the personal front, this was a big transition year in my career. I moved out of academia (as a former graduate student) and into the non-profit sector. Although I have been gifted LOTS more time since finishing my degree, I did not push as hard as I could have in getting a side hustle. I’ve unsuccessfully applied to freelance stuff on UpWork, but other than that did not make much of an effort. Thus, relying on my income alone to get to debt free is working just fine, but definitely makes the process a bit slower.

Finally, the Debt-free bug appears to have worn off on my fiancé ! He is documenting his spending daily (which he says works best for him). In addition, he has created spreadsheets that document projected expenditures and earnings for the upcoming year. It’s nice to feel like this is turning into more of a team effort and to have an accountability partner in the household.

2017 was my wake up call. It was the start of my debt free revolution! It was a year of creating goals, educating myself about personal finance, and dreaming about the future. There’s always more to grow in this new year, but actually visualizing the numbers and the progress I made feels pretty gratifying. However, I’m wise enough to know (see what I did there ;), that the feeling is fleeting. In 2018, I hope to better articulate how this debt free journey has helped me to live my best life going forward.

Total Money Makeover?

I finally read Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey and my oh my was it inspiring! Love him or hate him, I have to say I was impressed by Dave Ramsey’s Baby steps and the amazing success stories featured in the book. When I realized that I in fact already had enough for Baby Step #1 $1,000 emergency fund + Baby Step #2 Pay off all debt using snowball approach (except house), I was almost ready to make a huge leap and just get it over with. But, I hesitated. Ultimately, here’s what stopped me from going all in and pursuing my own Total Money Makeover:

Very little buffer room : I do think I have “gazelle-like intensity” as Ramsey describes it in pursuing destination debt free. However, if I get to 0 balance today, I’ll be left with a little less than $5 K in my emergency savings. That’s doable, but it makes me antsy and nervous. Again, this is all relative and for others I understand if I sound foolish. Rather, I feel more comfortable chipping a way at it bit by bit every month or so. In fact, I should be achieving or even exceeding the goal I made in the Summer to pay off $7-8K by year’s end. I’m even proud to be at the point that I will far exceed my goal of end of 2018. I’d say by the time I get my tax return, I’ll be done for good!

Finally, once I get to Debt Free Day I want to celebrate! With Champagne and strawberries and friends and I definitely don’t want to be thinking about what little I have left in my bank account…

Experiences > Debt/Money: 2017 has been a year of experiences by far! More about my summer adventures here . I’ll be rounding out the year with a trip to Orlando for a friend’s bday celebration at Epcot + a work party at Universal. Theme parks are always a grand time, but they pack a punch to the wallet. Since I don’t go very often and have the luxury of driving as opposed to flying, I can make it well worth the admission fee. Paying off all my debt now, could mean sacrificing some of these experiences. Now, I don’t mean to sound like an entitled snowflake, but I do think as a young professional sans kids I have the personal choice to relegate some of my money towards fun experiences (AKA “Funtivities” as we call them in my house).

Partner’s job: Currently, my fiancé works at a commission based job. Although this stuff tends to balance out in the end, it makes most sense for me to keep my emergency savings a bit more padded should a “rainy day” occur.

Fear of the unknown: This one is the hardest to admit. Clearly, I’m just not ready to take the dive. What will I do with my money once this is done? How will I invest my money? What the hell is a Roth IRA? This and many questions like this tumble through my little head.

Paying off debt has become rhythmic. It’s easy. It doesn’t require much thinking, honestly and truly. I’ve scrimped and sacrificed (again a very relative experience!), but I still feel SO SO behind in my money knowledge. I’ll always remember this quote from Breaking Bad in which Gus is speaking to Walt, “You are a wealthy man now, one must learn to be rich, to be poor, anyone can manage”. Now, I should have prefaced this by saying the context of this does not apply for me. I’m not a meth drug dealer, nor would I consider myself “wealthy” or “poor”. But, it struck a nerve. We are always comfortable with what we know. And to scrape by becomes natural and normal. Debt becomes the norm.

Now, I’m not silly enough to stay in debt just because I’m accustomed to it. That would be the antipathy of everything I’m currently striving for. But, I am a bit relieved that I have a little time on my side. Time to learn to budget my spending better-a HUGE work in progress, especially when it comes to food! Time to research the best options for retirement. Time to dream a bit on how I will achieve my goals AFTER debt.

The funny part is that I thought this blog would be a time bound project—documenting my journey from in debt to debt free. However, since so much of my financial development was stunted by my imaginary shackles of debt, this journey, I am now convinced will extend far past my date of debt free.

I may lack the guts to get my “Total Money Makeover” the Dave Ramsey way. I will get there though and it will be on my terms. I can’t wait to look that girl in the mirror!

Debt Organization Part II

Back in July, I committed to a number(ish): $7000-8000. This is the range I decided would be feasible for me to pay off before the curtain closes on 2017. And so far, so good…

I have paid off $4,508 since the summer. This means I have less than $4K to go to reach the highest point of my goal. I have eliminated 4 loans in their entirety since 2017 began and ONLY have 3 loans left [All $4-5K]. In total, I have $13,455.61 before being officially debt free! Woo hoo!

Saying the goal ($7,000-8,000) is the easy part. To my surprise, the other easy part is paying the loan. I find it oddly satisfying to see that number dwindling away, bit by bit. Anyone else feel the same? Now the HARD part has been actually tracking my cash flow…

Continue reading “Debt Organization Part II”

Summer 2017: It’s a wrap!

 

Now that it is officially Fall, I figured I better jump my butt into gear and tie up all my Summer loose ends.  First up, personal life, followed by $$$$$! Disclaimer, this post is a ‘hodge podge’ of sorts and much heavier on the personal stuff than money.

Personal Life: 

August was a high point of the summer. There was 2 weddings + Vacation!

The first August wedding took me near my hometown and alma mater up in the Boston area. I took off Thursday and Friday in order to have ample time to visit with family and childhood friends. On Friday, my mom threw a casual get together with our close family friends and their “kids”. “Kids” because they are definitely not children anymore. In fact, one of my friends is expecting her first baby this upcoming winter. I’m so excited for my friend and her husband <3!! The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind of fun. We saved some $$ by bunking with one of my college buddies in the hotel and off we went to seriously one of the most beautiful weddings. The weather was iffy with clouds and a few sprinkles, and I kid you not that after their first kiss… the sky opened! How romantic! We danced and drank the night way and less than 24 hours later we were back in Tampa.

Continue reading “Summer 2017: It’s a wrap!”

Debt Organization

Alright y’all it is time; Time for a debt pay off plan. With less than 6 months of the year remaining I have made it my goal to shave off somewhere between $7-8K more of my student loan debt. How did I come up with that numbers? Well, it involves discussing a few more numbers…

$22,892.04, that is the amount I will earn for the rest of the year after taxes and 401K contributions. Until now, I have debated whether I should share this type of information with the world, but it is a bit egotistical to think that anyone is actually reading this/would actually care anyway. So there it is! I will stick to my guns about guarding my boyfriend’s and other family’s financial information unless granted permission because I’m of the belief it’s their business to share, not mine.

Continue reading “Debt Organization”

Birthday candles – “Blowing out” another student loan

 

The last year of my 20s arrived at the end of June. Yay for Cancer season! Turning 29 I thought would feel more sentimental, maybe even a little sad? Or at least that was what I thought about 2-3 years ago as I made my way downhill on the 20s train. But now, I feel quite the opposite. The 20s have been full of great memories and milestones, but also nearly a decade in the making. My interests and lifestyle are similar, yet so completely opposite from where I started at 20. As cliché as it sounds, I’m actually getting excited for the next steps… whatever those may be in my career, personal life, etc. Although I will admit that the ‘birthday blues’ came in waves with philosophical thoughts of “What am I doing with my life?” , or “Is this all you have accomplished in the past 29 years?” Fortunately, the self-deprecating thoughts were long drowned out by July 4th thanks to the pool, beers, and sunshine!

The most important event of my birthday was saying goodbye to another student loan to the tune of $3848.80. It was my “present” to myself! And, paying of this most recent loan means I am officially DONE with Navient. This is especially exciting considering I just read a NYT article which discussed some pretty disturbing tactics used by Navient… tsk tsk.

Continue reading “Birthday candles – “Blowing out” another student loan”

Treading water

I have decided this month is just about staying afloat. I WANT to focus on generating more income to devote towards my loans, and budget & save like crazy! The reality looks different. Two personal trips + 3 work trips = Treading water. And well, I’ve decided that it’s ok. These cumulative 4 works leave little ‘extracurricular’ time for anything but the necessities, RE: Food, water, sleep, work, exercise [when I can], travel, repeat. To top it off, the month brings a few ‘extra’ expenses. I won’t go into detail here, but one was certainly unexpected. So to be honest, the cash flow is going to be in the red this month, womp womp.

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Love where you live

Since moving to Tampa from Miami late last year, I have rediscovered the library. Prior, I was finishing up graduate school and could barely get through a few “leisure books” per year. Now with my dissertation (almost) a distant memory, I have found myself with a huge chunk of free time that was previously occupied by writing, reading academic literature, and worrying about what in God’s name I was going to do after I finished my program. Fast forward six months, I am gainfully employed and have become a loyal library member.

Ok, library books are not a sexy topic. However, it is totally in line my debt free mission.—i.e. free books. The Free books + free knowledge = SUCCESS. Even more boring, is my “library routine”. Every 2 months or so, after I renew my 3 books at least a few times, I stop by to pick out my next batch. Usually, I vacillate equally between fiction and non-fiction. But, I’m a total sucker for self-help books and was immediately drawn to Melody Warnick’s This is Where you Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live. I took this puppy home supplemented by my guilty pleasure ‘light fiction’.

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Summer wardrobe + Student debt

The clock is ticking. The unofficial start to summer, Memorial Day, is almost upon us. The Type-A, planning type that I am means that I’m revving up for the season to come. Personally, this equates to a few upcoming work trips, but more importantly THREE weddings of college friends + ONE bachelorette. It’s going to be a great summer!

My clothing spending has been slim since 2017 began. I invested in a new pair of running sneakers and a pair of workout pants in January, and a replacement black cardigan in February (a wardrobe staple!!). Aside from those few things, I spent nothing! Part of this has to do with the fact that I recently started a job where I work from home. I have the luxury of rolling out of bed and wearing whatever I want.  But, to be honest it usually feels good to change into something somewhat civilized. I don’t know what it is, but it just gets my mind in the game for work mode. “Civilized” for me is nothing fancy, a t-shirt, jeans, casual dress, some sandals, etc. Regardless, I’m totally winning in the work wardrobe department.

Continue reading “Summer wardrobe + Student debt”