Weekly Debt Update #23- Retirement Contributions Past, Present and Future


Hey everyone! I hope you all are having a great start to your week.

After I posted last week of my after debt plans (here), there was some outcry, confusion and wonder over my retirement plan. Here’s the statement in it’s entirety:

“I’m going to decrease my 401K contribution to the minimum (4%) to get the company match. I’ll use a fairly good portion of my after tax income to fund an investment account for a, hopefully, early retirement. I’d like to do between $300-$400 a week. This is a big one, since I want to save up a pretty large nest egg, but there’s a ton I feel like I’m putting off (like home renovations) that I could do with an extra $400 a month.”

After reading your comments and looking back and this statement, I left a lot of my recent activity and thinking on the subject off the table. But before I go into depth on my present and future retirement plans, I want to give you a history of what I’ve I’ve done previously.

  • At the start of my career, in May of 2009 with the federal government (in the Dept of Veterans Affairs), I started out contributing 3% of my salary to the federal government’s form of the 401k- the Thrift Savings Plan, or TPS, for short. I knew up front that the government would match every percent to 5%, but I also felt I needed every penny to pay my rent, utilities, food and looming student loans. At least I knew enough to contribute SOMETHING. What I didn’t realize at the time (but learned sometime after) is that the government will provide 1% of your salary (w/no match) into a separate money market account as a FERS (federal employees retirement system) basic benefit.
  • After a year of service I not only got a substantial raise, but a fellow employee found out I wasn’t contributed enough to max out the government match. I got a good scolding (she was a motherly type) and increased my contributions to 5% for the remainder of my stay with the government.
  • At the point I left the government in January of 2013, I had somewhere in the neighborhood of $20,000 in the TPS account and $1,500 in the basic benefit account. When you leave the government, you can either elect to cash out the basic benefit (which was tax deferred) or leave it with the government if you plan on returning. I elected to take the money, which I used to pay down my student loans.
  • When I started with my new company, they have a policy that new employees need 6 months of service before you are eligible for their 401k program. I started at the end of January 2013, and with my six months plus some waiting time for the next enrollment period, I got into the 401k program in November of 2013. I immediately started contributing 4% to get the company match. The company match, however, is subject to vesting: you get 20% on your 2nd anniversary and an additional 20% for every year after until you are fully vested on your 6 year anniversary.
  • I was in the 401k program for 10 months when I met with a Dave Ramsey endorsed CPA in September of 2014. While I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, I do agree that he’s helped a lot of people get out of debt with his debt free program, so I used his service to find a local CPA (plus I didn’t know how else to look someone up). After giving the CPA my story and financial run down, he agreed that I should cash in my government TPS account and stop contributions to my current 401k. I immediately did both of these (well documented in my first few posts here).
  • After 7 months of not contributing anything, I elected to go back to 4% in May and having feeling this still wasn’t enough, I’m now at 10%. My current vested balance is $6,200.

So that’s my history on the subject. Recently (within the past month), I met with a retirement adviser that my company utilizes to oversee the 401k program. After telling him my history, my financial rundown and future plans (the early retirement/financial freedom) he gave me some advise to stop all but the 4% contributions and instead contribute into a non-retirement investment portfolio (one with minimal fees) once I’m debt free. His logic was that if I want to retire at or around 40 (the age I gave him when he asked) I would want to have immediate access to the money without having to worry about income taxes and penalties that are associated with 401k’s. He also suggested that I could split the investments into a Roth IRA and the investment portfolio. This would give me two pots of money, one for pre-55 and one post 55. So that pretty much sums up the rationale behind my previous post. As a few of you said, my thinking nd history on the subject appears scattered, but I would say it IS scattered. I got some amazing feedback on what to do on my last post (looking at you, Angie), but I would like more. Any help is appreciated- anecdotes, references, tips, anything on the subject would help give me some clarity.

As for my current debt balances, here you go:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,719.92$4,117.32$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,604.04$3,592.98$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$4,045.23$6,304.95$410.45
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00

I hope everyone has a great week!

Cheap(ish) Birthday Day-Date


It feels like months have already passed, but hubs’ turned the big 33 the first week of August.

I don’t talk a lot about our relationship on the old bloggy, but given the celebration over his birth I just want to brag on him a minute.

First, he’s a worker. Always has been. When, in this day and age, it seems like everyone is trying to avoid work in favor of the next big “get rich quick” scheme, hubs actually enjoys working. Instead we have the OPPOSITE problem – it’s hard to get him to take a day off!

With all my Dad’s health issues, my last minute trips out-of-state for doctors’ appointments, and starting back to work full-time, hubs has stepped it up BIG TIME! He’s never once complained when I’ve asked him to grab the girls from preschool so I could stay to work late, or when I’ve left him by himself to care for the girls while I’ve flown to be with my Dad. He’s helped out with cleaning and laundry around the house. A little secret is that I’m a terrible ironer. So hubs’ faithfully irons all my work clothes for me so I’m looking pressed and sharp at the office!

I could go on, but we’ll leave it at that. The point is that I really wanted to do something to make hubs feel extra special for his birthday this year, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money to do it.

A few months back I started thinking of ideas for hubs’ birthday. What could I do that he really enjoys that doesn’t cost a ton of money? He’s not a big “dinner and movie” type of guy. There’s nothing he really needs right now – no clothing, no cologne, etc. I’ve done the homemade picture/craft gifts before. Then it hit me.

Hubs has a small collection of guns. Me, on the other hand….I’ve never shot a gun. In fact, they kind of scare me. Ours are all locked safely away but I’ve made comments before about how if we ever did have a home invasion, I’d be more likely to shoot myself than the robber! Hubs has tried to convince me to go to the gun range with him, but it’s just not something I’ve really cared about and I’ve never made it a priority. Before having kids it would have been easier, but now it requires special planning, paying a babysitter, etc. And I just didn’t think it was worth the effort.

Soooo, why not schedule a little day-date to go to the gun range so hubs could shoot his guns and he could show me a little about gun safety/handling/shooting, too?

So that’s just what I did!

I started off by lining up a babysitter (which was the most expensive part of this date, by the way).

Then a few days before the date I decided I needed to tell hubs what was going on. He loves surprises so I hated that I’d have to tell him in advance, but there are different shooting ranges for different types of guns and I wanted to let him pick which gun(s) to use and I needed enough time to be able to go buy some ammo for whichever gun(s) he selected. So to try to still make it fun and exciting I decided to make a scavenger hunt. I wish I would’ve taken pictures of the clue cards but I didn’t even think about it! Basically, I had everything set out so he saw the first clue as he walked in the front door. All the clues were about things related to going to the gun range (e.g., one clue said we’d need to wear casual clothes and directed him to go to where he keeps his casual clothing for the next clue). The final clue lead him straight to the gun safe and directed him to select which gun(s) he wanted to take to the gun range! He was surprised and very excited for the weekend!

When the weekend rolled around, I had a babysitter come first thing in the morning. We went to the gun range while it was still early so it would be a bit cooler. As it turns out, we already had enough ammo so I didn’t have to buy anything in anticipation of the date. At the gun range I paid for targets and ear plugs. It was a whopping $7 per person. We spent a couple hours there, then went to a good brunch restaurant to eat. After everything was said and done I spent:

$14 – gun range

$26 – brunch (including tip)

$40 – babysitter

Total:  $80

Granted, eighty bucks is the most I’ve spent on a gift (I believe) since we started our debt-reduction journey. But, as I mentioned, the babysitter was the most expensive part. For someone with willing family in town or if trading childcare with someone else was possible, the total gift would have only been $40!! I feel like that was a pretty good price, considering the enjoyment hubs got out of the gift and the quality time we were able to spend with each other (a true rarity now with me back at work full-time!) And, really, we didn’t have to do brunch. So really we’re talking about a birthday gift that was under twenty bucks (considering just the cost of the gun range).

I think it was a good compromise of not going too crazy with cost, selecting something hubs really enjoyed, and getting to spend some fun time alone together.

And now that I’ve practiced, I feel significantly better about the gun in the lockbox by the side of our bed. Don’t mess with me! ; )

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Buying Clothes


I started my new job in the middle of July. Until then, I haven’t had a job where I’ve needed to have a professional wardrobe since my kids were infants. My last in-person job was when I taught at the community college two days a week the semester after my daughters were born. I taught starting approximately 1.5 months post-partum through 6ish months post-partum. Then I moved to teaching all online.

I give you the post-partum timeframe to put some things in perspective. Basically, I need a full new work-appropriate wardrobe.

My pre-baby wardrobe was much smaller than I am now. I still have all the clothes stored away in the hopes that one day they’ll again fit (because, really, are work-pants going to go out of style???) I REALLY want to get back to that size someday, but I just haven’t been able to make it a priority lately.

Meanwhile, I also had to purchase clothing to fit my barely post-partum body when I was teaching the semester after giving birth. However, I was working much less (2 days a week instead of my current 5 days per week), AND I’ve successfully lost weight since that time, so I’m kind of between wardrobe sizes. Smaller than my immediate post-partum body, but larger than my pre-pregnancy body.

I did buy a nice interview suit that fits well and I’ve got two nice dress shirts that fit well. Back in July I mentioned that I bought a second pair of work pants (so I’ve got two pair:  grey and navy), and a work-appropriate dress.

So although I’ve got some bare-minimums to get by, I definitely need to start slowly adding to my work wardrobe.

This is fun because I really haven’t clothing in the past 18 months that I’ve been blogging here. I think I’ve bought one pair of capris (after mending a hole in the crotch of my previous capris TWICE), but that’s really all that comes tome mind. I’ve just been making do with the same clothes I’ve had for years.

So I’m trying to have some restraint and only buying a couple of pieces per month (my goal is to stay under $100), buying quality pieces that should last a long time.

I wanted to share my most recent purchase with you – moreso because I wanted to show off how long I’ve made my old item last!!!

Enter:  SHOES!

I did buy a nice pair of heels when I was interviewing, but they’re not really practical for classroom teaching. They look nice, but they’re extremely uncomfortable. When I wore them for the full day on my not-an-interview trip, I literally (LITERALLY) had nerve damage to my toes. I couldn’t feel them at all for nearly a week after the trip! I thought it might be permanent but the feeling eventually returned. Anyway, I’ve worn them a couple times on my non-teaching days (since I’m mostly sitting), but I really wanted some nice, professional, comfortable shoes that I can wear while I’m teaching.  Spoiler alert:  I found some good ones at DSW for $40!  But that’s not the point of this brag-post. The point is to showcase the OLD shoes that I’m replacing….



Check ‘em out in all their scuffed up, worn seam, faded black glory!

I’ve made these babies last for YEARS! Wanna know what’s even better? They were free! Yep! I got these as a hand-me-down from my sister. They were already a little worn by that point (the sole comes out of the inside and has to be replace/readjusted all the time), but that didn’t bother me and I was happy to have them! Fast forward many more years (5? 6?) and they’re still going strong. BUT they certainly don’t look professional at this point. I know “it’s not the shoe that makes the (wo)man” and all….but this is just laughable. Check out some more views of this shoe!


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So, as you can see, they’ve had a good, long life. I’m proud that I made them last for so long, but I’m also glad to let a new pair of shoes join the family! With any luck, I’ll be able to make them last just as long!

In terms of clothing purchases…

This month I bought shoes and a third nice dress shirt (side note: I should mention that I still wear some of my old immediately post-partum shirts, so I have more than 3 shirts total. It’s just that many of them are old/worn out/too big. I make them work for now, but I do hope to update my wardrobe. Just wanted to clarify that I’m not re-wearing the same 3 shirts all the time; I just mean that I’ve got 3 nice/new/fitted shirts). Next month I hope to find a pair of nice black slacks (so funny as those tend to be the FIRST staple in a work wardrobe and yet so far my only pants are grey and navy! Also – side note:  those really are the only 2 pairs of pants that currently fit. My post-partum wardrobe was mostly maternity pants – yikes! – and I have one surviving khaki pair of pants but the zipper is busted on it. It was a cheap pair anyway, so I don’t know that it’s even worth paying someone to sew in a new zipper).

If I’ve got money leftover after buying black work pants, I might try to snag another work shirt or possibly a work-appropriate skirt. I’m trying to buy nicer pieces (no more cotton maxi skirts), so they tend to be a little more expensive, but they also tend to last longer than the cheaper alternatives. Like I said, I’m putting a max limit of $100/month and just seeing what I can get. : )

Fun times ahead as I’m finally allowing myself to shop a little!

When you’re in debt-reduction mode have you cut clothing from your budget?  What is your current monthly budget for clothes?

Happy Friday


Hi, friends!

It’s been a busy week (first week of classes and all)! It’s been crazy juggling everything but I really LOVE my job! I have so missed being in the classroom and am enjoying every second of it (though…..not so much with enjoying our faculty “retreat” which is being held at the STUDENT UNION on a SATURDAY AFTERNOON!!!! What the heck? In comparison, my last department always had the retreat at a fancy-pants resort with catered lunch on a weekday so it took the place of a workday. What kind of cheap stuff is this? I guess they’re just balancing the budget but I say bah, humbug about it!)

ANYWHO, I have a couple half-written posts but they’ll have to wait until Monday. Instead, a commenter (shout out, Brooke!) just left me a link to this Huffington Post article and I had to pass it along to anyone else whose suffered at the hands of Navient! We’re all very familiar with my ongoing struggles with the company! I’m very curious what might happen if they’re sued and what the potential outcome could be for us “little guys” (the student loan debtors).  Interesting stuff. Check it out if you have a moment.

In the meantime, I hope you have a happy Friday and a great weekend! Chat with you on Monday!


Update:  You guys won’t believe this! I decided to check up on my Navient loans just for fun (I check them at least a couple times a month). Remember when I lamented that my ACS loans were being transferred to Navient’s care? Well, the migration has finally happened! Only….now my old ACS loans are being listed as unsubsidized even though they were subsidized loans when I took them out! This makes a big difference because I’m on income based repayment (IBR) and, with this plan, any unpaid interest on subsidized loans is forgiven!!! So – intentionally or not – Navient is trying to screw me out of a few bucks of interest every month, that is then capitalized and increases all the time!!! Are you freaking kidding me, Navient?!? ARGH, I don’t have time right now to call their customer service but if they’re open on weekends they’ll be getting a call from me and, if not, first thing Monday they’ll be hearing from me!

Friends – always be on top of your loans! I’m hoping this was some type of glitch/mistake, but this is not right! It’s why the company has been investigated for years and cited with all kinds of instances of overcharging interest, etc. Debt free is the way to be!!!

Floundering a Bit on a Plan – Too Much Going On


I am typically pretty decisive on my plan, but I’m really floundering this time around.  We just have alot going on at the same time.  And I’m struggling with my priority list.  So here I am asking for some feedback from you.  In a nutshell, here are the  things going on in my head that I’m trying to balance along with my debt payoff (these are listed in no particular order other than how they came to mind:)

  • Kids Co Op Costs – As I mentioned last spring I am going to be teaching two classes this fall as our homeschool co op to off set the cost of the kids’ classes.  I had hoped that those two classes would fill and I wouldn’t have to worry about any tuition costs; however, it does look like there is going to be a difference.  Typically, the little’s dad would be helping with this and this would not be an issue.
  • Moving/Housing Costs – When our lease is up next April we are LEAVING.  So I will definitely have some moving expenses or at least storage costs.  Since I HOPE to be buying, I need to seriously consider upping the ante on my savings beyond the EF fund that I add to a little at a time.
  • Travel – One of the places I am definitely going to loosen my financial belt a bit this coming year is on travel. We have two trips planned this fall, both to see family, so not much expense except gas and a bit of food…and we’ve just been presented with the opportunity to spend a weekend in DC and work a marathon which would be fun, but it is volunteer and I would have to cover our costs.  (I’m not thinking beyond April with this, just short weekend trips to see family.)
  • Educational Camps – One thing we really cut back this year was some of the educational camps/experiences we have done in the past.  And with the twins beginning their junior year, I’d really like to get a few more in before they are in the “real” world.  Not to mention, some of them count as a semester worth of credit for classes so they truly are “school” related.
  • Music – We cut music out of our curriculum in the Spring of 2014.  It was one of the first “big” cuts I made.  At the time I knew it would be a temporary move, but I didn’t realize it would be so long.  Princess has been asking when those lessons can resume.  So I would like to consider adding them back in for at least her and any of the boys are would be inclined to really commit to it, ie practice.

So you will see I have a lot swirling around in my head thus making my “debt” payoff plan a bit more challenging.  I really like my new budget…but I have to consider these others things and really make some decisions again.  So let’s talk numbers, here are my estimated costs for the items listed above at least through April based on sketchy ‘ideal’ plans of which nothing has been decided or committed to.  In fact, none of this has even been discussed with anyone other than you now…the sucky thing about being a single mom is having no one to bounce these things off of!

  • Homeschool Co op Classes – Currently the kids are registered for several classes each over 2 days.  The cost per semester will be right at  $2,170, I can get a 10% discount off that if paid in full up front.  Currently, it looks like I will be able to bring in right at $1,600 for the two classes I am teaching.  I do still have openings in them both so if filled, it would cover everything, but I have to plan accordingly for now.
  • Moving/Storage – I have no idea how this will go.  I would anticipate at least $200 for a storage unit to hold everything if we were to hit the road.  And probably a solid $10,000 would be a good place to be if we were to find the right place to buy.  These numbers are just coming off the top of my head.
  • Travel – Right now I am budgeting $250 per ‘family’ visit trip.  This would cover gas, some extra food and that’s about it.  Since we’ve been doing this particular trip forever, I know this is slightly higher than needed, but want to give myself a bit of wiggle room.  Two times this fall and maybe one time in the Spring before April, so a total of $750 for family visits.  And the possibility of DC, I don’t know?  (Little Gymnast’s meets are a whole other story and I will cross that bridge when I get to it and have a meet schedule.)
  • Educational Camps – There is really one in particular that I would like to send both the twins to for a week early next year and Princess to for a day.  The total for this would be right at $1,000.  (Oh, I can predict what I’m going to hear about this one…but I’m telling you, this is a solid educational program that they will NEVER forget and it does require about a month long preparation on their part to be ready for it homework-wise that is.)  Oh, and if I register them in September, we would get a little over $100 off.
  • Music – This one I really struggle with for two reasons.  One I know how important music is both educational and emotionally.  But on the other side, music lessons are expensive and with our currently living situation…practice would be hard.

Ugh, so if you are still reading and have gotten this far, thank you.  I know this is not the most organized post.  But this is where I am at as I try to discern the best path for paying off debt which I TRULY am still laser focused on AND maybe add a bit more life back in and plan for upcoming things.

Weekly Debt Update #22- Life After Debt


This past week, I’ve done some thinking on what life after debt will be like once all my student loans are paid for. It’s actually something I think about quite often, well not really think per se, more like daydream. So this past week I started formulating plans of what I’m hoping to accomplish. I know a couple things I want to do for sure:

  1. Take a vacation. Not entirely sure where, yet, but I would love to do a 4 or 5 night stay at Universal Studios Orlando. I’m a big theme park guy and I haven’t been here in 15 or so years. From what I’m hearing about the new Harry Potter lands and all the money Universal is investing, the park is on par with Disney, or may even be better. I’m going under the assumption that for me and GF, it’s going to cost about $5,000, which I should be able to save up within a couple months of being debt free.
  2. I want to save up a larger emergency fund is a cash account. I just don’t know how much. Rule of thumb is 3-6 months of expenses. My expenses are quite low, so I’m looking at keeping $5,000 in this emergency fund. I have $2,000 right now, so having that extra $3K will definitely give me more piece of mind.
  3. I want to increase how much I put into paying off my mortgage. But I only want to do it by a slight margin. I’m paying $150 a week currently to make a monthly payment of $600. I’d like to increase my payments to $200 a week.
  4. I’m going to decrease my 401K contribution to the minimum (4%) to get the company match. I’ll use a fairly good portion of my after tax income to fund an investment account for a, hopefully, early retirement. I’d like to do between $300-$400 a week. This is a big one, since I want to save up a pretty large nest egg, but there’s a ton I feel like I’m putting off (like home renovations) that I could do with an extra $400 a month.
  5. I’ll definitely going to increase our fun having and my week allowance.

It seems like I have more plans than paycheck right now, so I’m going to really look at this and determine what my future priorities are. I’ve felt that I’ve wanted to early retire for a few years now, and that hasn’t changed. Thinking about it, I think retirement may be the wrong word to use here- I really just want to feel that I have options and choices- where, when, how much and if I want to work. Of course saying all this, I don’t have any children at the moment either. It’s easy to sit here and think of all these nice things to do being a non-married, childless adult. All this could change in an instant!

AS for my debt payments made in the last week, here it is:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,719.92$4,117.32$57.03
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,604.04$3,592.98$47.52
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$4,455.68$5,894.50$854.91
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00

Halloween 2015


I know we’re still in August and just doing the back-to-school thing, but I want to skip ahead a bit and talk about Halloween!

Last year we didn’t really “do” Halloween as a family because my friend got married, so I was busy with wedding festivities. As a result,  I’m extra excited about Halloween this year. It will be the girls’ first year to actually trick-or-treat door-to-door (they’re 3 years old). But you know what I’m NOT excited about? The price tag!

Since we didn’t really celebrate the holiday last year I didn’t buy them costumes. Hubs dressed them up in the same baby-bag type ladybug costumes they’d worn the year prior (see post I wrote about it here. Side note: RIP to the beautiful rug the girls were sitting on that picture. It got destroyed only about a week later with the great flood of 2014). Last year a couple of people recommended buying Halloween costumes on clearance after October 31st and save them to use for this year. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that organized and it didn’t happen.

Enter:  Costco!

Y’all know how much I love Costco! Well, they’ve done it again! They got a bunch of costumes in early and they are SO CHEAP!!! I’m talking $13.99 for a princess costume with little accessories (necklace, tiara, etc.). We took our girls and let them pick out costumes – Elsa and Anna (from Disney’s Frozen). We were out the door for right at $30, including tax!

You guys, I’m floored! That’s cheaper than second-hand costumes on Amazon or even the cheapy-type costumes at Party City! And they’re brand new with accessories!

Now the hard part is going to be keeping the girls from wearing them until Halloween (because I already know they’d lose the accessories and it would be a huge ordeal to a threenager). But just in case anyone else is starting to think about Halloween costumes – get on the ball now! Costco gets them in early, but they also don’t restock so once the costumes are gone there’s no more.

Have you started thinking about Halloween yet? How do you save money on Halloween costumes?