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Paying Down Principal

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Can I admit something that may make me sound like a real dummy? (It’s okay, I’m secure enough with my own intelligence in other domains that I’m okay with admitting when I’m totally out of my depth in something.) Plus, it’s something that I’m hoping many of the readers here will be able to educate me on and help me with. Here goes…..

You know how I’ve been making larger-than-minimum payments on my car for several months now (since last August to be precise)? Well, I logged in to check on the status of my balance for my last debt update and realized that it said my next due date isn’t until January of 2016!!!

In other words, instead of applying any additional money toward the principal balance, they were simply pre-paying future payments. I had thought (and was wrong), that they only pre-paid for up to 3 payments, and then extra money went straight to principal. So after discovering this error I called customer service and explained the situation, asking for my extra payments to go toward the principal instead of future payments.

I was assured this would be done, but it would take a few days (so my online account hasn’t been updated yet), and I was told that it wouldn’t actually change my balance at all.

I started thinking about it after we hung up and have thoroughly confused myself.

Aren’t most loans (cars, mortgage, etc.) arranged so you pay mostly interest up front? Toward the end of the loan terms you end up paying more principal, but initially almost the entire payment goes to interest, right? So basically I’d just be pre-paying mostly interest. Sooo, if that money gets reallocated toward the principal, then there’s a lower balance for the interest to be compounded on (or capitalized on? I’m so confused!). Right? Soooo, shouldn’t my balance go down then??? No?? Why not? I don’t understand!

Also, I was thinking about it more and trying to figure out what the actual benefit is of paying more toward principal versus simply pre-paying payments (particularly if there’s no difference in the balance). I’ve always heard that if I make extra payments (for car loan or student loans) that I should request for the extra to go toward the principal. But why? I was so off-put by the fact that I don’t know the answer to this that I started googling…..without much luck. When I googled “why should I put extra money toward principal instead of prepaying a loan?” I received a ton of results related to mortgages and student loans. I’m specifically interested in my car loan, but figured the numbers would be the same so I read some of the articles. From what I could gather, it seems like if you pay the principal first, it basically just shortens your loan term (so if you had a 60 month term, like my car, it may end up getting shortened down to a 48 month term). But wouldn’t this also inherently decrease the amount interest being paid? I mean, you’re paying it off sooner, so you have a lower balance for the interest to be compounded/capitalized on (again – no idea the difference between capitalized vs. compound interest), and then eventually you pay it off and it all just goes away. Right? And it’d be the same thing with pre-paying a loan too, right? You pay it off sooner, meaning less interest gets paid in the end because there are fewer months for which to have interest accumulate. Am I totally off on this?

I almost shudder, knowing that so many of you are probably bonking your heads against the computer screen, shouting at my ignorance.

But, yeah. I really don’t know. And I don’t get it, either.

Please enlighten me! I really want and need to understand this difference, particularly with my huge amount of debt!!

And, relatedly, I’m going to start paying extra on my student loans. My plan is still to focus on other debts first, but I need to at least pay the interest on my student loans so the balances don’t keep growing (remember, my minimum payments are so low that they don’t even cover the interest). In reference to this….when I make an extra payment, my intention is really just for it to cover the interest. So I can just make the payment online and leave it alone, right? Or do I need to call and ask that the extra payment be applied to principal? This whole issue with prinicipal balance, interest payment, and loan pre-payment has really thrown me for a loop! Help me sort it out!!!

Seriously, sorry for my ignorance on this matter! Clearly I do not have a background in finance! But to really take charge of my debt I feel like I need to get my mind wrapped around this better. Do you suggest any good personal finance books? Or any good websites or other resources that have been informative for you?


The Book is Closed on our Old Home

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So I am closing the book on the old house and many wanted to know the final chapter.  There is not much to tell, and this will be the last time I will bring it up here, but I didn’t want to leave you wondering.  So to understand it all, especially if you have joined us in the last couple of months, here’s a recap of the posts regarding my housing debacle.

Three Years, Six Moves – When I wrote this back in April, 2014, I said we were home.  Little did I know how quickly that would change.

The Best Laid Plans

Why I Decided Not to Buy My Home

The Ultimatum

The Curse

The Next Step

The House is in Chaos

I Quit

Oh What a Feeling

The House Sold

Chapter Closed

So now that you are caught, I want to tell you how it ended.  As you know, in December, after several months on the market, I got what I thought would be the best offer on selling my van but the difference between my loan amount and the sales price was more than I had readily available so I had to make up the difference to make the sale happen. Needless to say, time was of the essence.

I had had several brief conversations with my dad without trying to pressure him, asking about the house, and he consistently said he didn’t have time to review it.  This time I called with a purpose.  I let him know the situation and asked if he had time to consider the house monies that he had said several times I would receive as this would be a big help at this point.

His words “well, if I was going to give you money, it wouldn’t be for a car.”  I was shocked speechless.  First, it was never my intent to ask for him to give me money.  I felt and he had indicated during several conversations that I would get some money from the sale of the house since I had paid all related expenses for four years, put the blinds in, paid for all the appliances (which were sold with the house,) added a patio, landscaping, etc. Essentially I treated the home as my own and incurred all relevant expenses including my own renters insurance and his owners insurance, etc.  Ok, you get my point, I was in no way asking for a handout.

He then went on in the same conversation to say that he had been thinking we could open a joint account, where we would both have to sign to get money out and he would match my savings toward a house with the money rather than give it to me.  If I wasn’t still speechless from the “give” suggestion, I was shaking in anger now.  Control.  He still wanted control.

I knew with no doubt that I was not ever going to consider that option and frankly, I let him know what I thought in no uncertain terms.  Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful for what he did four years ago after our two rental homes fell through, BUT my dad has ALWAYS used money to control.  He would take away my car when he didn’t agree with my decisions, he would threaten to stop paying for school when he didn’t agree, and that’s just me.  I am not in any way trying to bash my dad, I love him, respect him, but this is fact.

You see four years ago, when the second rental house fell through I put all my stuff in a POD as we began to travel as I figured out what to do.  The POD would have allowed me to move anywhere, sending for my stuff when I figured it out.  That was my plan, travel around for a while and then decide.  That was when Dad stepped in and offered to help me buy a house here where he and my mom lived. I know he was doing what he thought was best for me and my two kids at the time but it was also a control move.

So back to the final conversation my dad and I had about the house…I told him in no uncertain terms that I would NEVER, EVER get into a financial relationship with him again. And based on our conversation I would assume that he never intended to give me any money from the house.  I also told him that I thought he took advantage of me.  If he had been honest about the house money from the beginning I would not have put EVERY SINGLE extra penny into the house to get it ready to sell as I really needed that money for my family.  I have now totaled the money I put into the house to get it ready for sale plus utilities for the two months after we moved out, and I spent $4000 on that alone.

So no, my dad has never given me a dime from the house and I don’t expect he will.  And you know what, that’s fine.  I learned a very, very hard lesson.  My children have learned some really hard lessons.  And what ever happens next, we did that.  No man will ever have that kind of control over me again.

I am in no way male bashing.  I know there are some great guys, husbands, fathers out there.  I see them all the time with their children, with my friends.  But after my marriage and my brothers and my dad, I’m done, completely and totally done.


Ashley’s January Debt Update

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I pre-wrote and scheduled a couple of posts for today because I’ll be doing my campus interview all day (my itinerary is from 9am-7pm)!!! I probably won’t have a chance to respond to any comments until tonight or tomorrow so I just wanted to give you a heads up on that. Please send me some good vibes, positive thoughts/energy, prayers, good juju, whatever works for you! I am trying to come off as confident (but not cocky), enthusiastic and likable (but not desperate), professional, and articulate. Remember – I’ve kinda got all my eggs in one basket on this one, so it feels like a BIG day for me! Wish me luck!!!

The numbers are in and here’s how my debt has been shaping up this month…

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date (original debt, March 2014)
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March ($413)
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May ($1381)
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May ($7697)
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June ($2220)
License Fees$22082.5%250January ($5808)
PenFed Car Loan$159782.49%1000January ($24040)
Navient - Federal Student Loans$44448.25%16January ($4687)
Navient - Dept of Ed$722318.25-6.55%260January ($69191)
ACS Student Loans$210407.24%77December ($21035)
Medical Bills$64110%75January ($9000)
Totals$122,312 (Last month = 123,667)Total: $1,678Starting Debt = $145,472

Maybe it’s just because we’ve reached the 10-month mark so some of the newness and excitement has started to rub off a bit, but I’m just not as enthusiastic about my progress as I was early on in the debt-repayment process.

On one hand, we put over $1,600 toward debt this month! That’s great, right?!

On the other hand, my student loan balances went up. Again. (my minimum payments don’t cover the interest, so the balance keeps slooooowly growing).

And my total debt ($122,000+) is still so out-of-control. I cannot WAIT for the day that I break the $100,000 barrier and dip into the $99,999s.

Hubs ended up making an extra debt payment toward his license fees at the end of last month. So if you were to compare the balance this month to the one from last month, that’s why there’s a discrepancy (the table says $250 was applied this month, which is true, but hubs had made a payment of just over $250 at the end of last month, too, so it’s gone down by $500 compared to last month’s beginning balance).

Can I make a little confession that will become pretty apparent anyway real soon (when we talk about how the budget went this month)???

I ended up going a bit over on a couple categories this month. I think some of the holiday-spending spilled over into January and I was just a little too loosey-goosey on my spending. Nothing crazy or extravagant. Mostly just up to my old tricks again….spending too much on groceries and crap that we don’t really need because its oh-so-easy for me to justify grocery purchases as a necessity, even if they aren’t.

Anyway, my plan at the beginning of the month was to pay extra toward my student loans (above the minimums) so I could pay the interest in full and not have a growing balance. *Sigh* Having gone over on my grocery budget (by a lot, I should add), I re-allocated those funds to cover my frivolous food expenses and, alas, the student loan balances continue to grow. Very discouraging.

I will do better next month!

Another confession, since we’re on that train now…

Hubs and I have fallen off the wagon with our monthly finance talks, too.

For long time readers, you’ll know that hubs and I have a unique financial relationship (I talked about it here when I first started blogging). Some of it is changing (e.g., we’re adding each other to all of our accounts this month), but one of the big things is that I’ve always been the one to sit down and actually pay the bills. When I first started blogging we started loosely following a Dave Ramsey-esque type program where hubs and I would have a monthly budget discussion to decide exactly how to allocate that months’ funds.

Over the holidays we’ve sort of slipped back into our old patterns where hubs has simply given me money and I’ve put it where I think it should go. To be clear, I really am doing what I believe to be best with the money (in terms of debt allocations, etc.), but I do think it’s important for hubs to actually be in on these decisions rather than simply letting me handle the funds how I see fit. Things seemed to be moving faster and progress seemed to be better when we were working together. So that’s coming back at the end of this month as we discuss our plans for February.

Hopefully in the coming months we’ll see some stronger progress!

How’ve you been doing with your debt payments? How do you and your significant other handle finances/bills/etc?


Failure to Pay – Hope

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My biggest client pays me pretty consistently every two weeks.  It’s not like clockwork, but I can generally count on getting paid on a regular basis.  But last month, well, I didn’t get paid.

I expected it to arrive the week of Christmas, and I thought, “Great, just in time for me to do a little Christmas shopping” But no payment.

In previous years, they’ve always asked for my year end invoice early so they can get it paid before the new year starts (I always assumed for tax purposes, but never asked.) And I’ve always enjoyed getting those monies early especially with the holidays, etc.  But again, not this year.

So here I was, the last two weeks of the year, no income, no extra money and I didn’t panic. I had the little bit of money in my EF but I was firm that the was not an emergency.

So we ate up the food in our pantry, which would probably have just lingered, went to the movies with gift certificates received as Christmas presents and really enjoyed some down time at home. We spent no money, not a dime the last two weeks of December. What a blessing this was!!

That gets me started in January.with double the money I would have had. They’ve paid me for my 1st December invoice now and I expect payment for the second one any day now.  Christmas came late this year by helping me avoid the temptations to spend over the holidays and giving me a kickstart on my debt payoff journey for the new year.  Who knew that not getting paid as expected could be such a blessing!


Gifts to Myself – A Mental Break

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You are right.  I am overwhelmed, I am stressed out and I don’t trust my own judgment right now. So currently, my financial life is just trying to stay afloat, not make any big decisions and get a little ahead.  But I have this week decided to gift myself two things….

  1. We will be going out for Thanksgiving.  Despite the hardships of the last few months, we have much to be thankful for and I do not take it for granted.  What I did take for granted was lots of counter space and a kitchen that more than one person could stand in.  So we are going out…I’m not cooking.  I’ve decided on Golden Corral.  We will all be able to eat our fill at about $66 for the 5 of us.
  2. I am going to pay $50 for the younger two to go to a “school’s out” camp at our martial arts studio.  I just need a break  So Wednesday I will have a whole work day with no interruptions…I’m already compiling lists of the things I will get done.

I know that’s $116 I could put toward debt, but right now I just need the mental break.

 


The Year of Becoming an Adult

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Hubs and I have been talking a lot about different life things lately.

This year has been a big turning point for our family. We’ve really committed to the decision to get rid of our debt and we’ve made huge improvements in this area (yes, we still have an enormous amount of student loan/medical debt, but we’ve eradicated all credit card debt and drastically slashed our license fee debt, while also lowering our interest rate and making big progress on our car loan debt).

And as the end of 2014 draws near, we’ve been discussing big goals for next year. After some  discussions, we have decided to declare 2015 The Year of Becoming Adults!!!

Now, this may sound strange. Yes, husband is 32 and I will be turning 31 soon (my birthday is on New Years Eve!), so if you look at age you would certainly think of us as “adults.”

But you guys know all our dirty little secrets. You know we’re not full-fledged adults yet….at least not from a financial perspective.

In 2015 we’re hoping to change that!

Right now (and through March 2015 – one full year of blogging), I am going to stay steadfast in putting every extra dollar toward debt. I’ve talked before about how at that time I might reassess things and move at a bit slower pace. We have decided that with at least some of our “extra” money (currently put toward debt), we are going to make some big strides toward becoming more adult.

  1. First, we’re going to make a will. This is not going to be fun and I am not looking forward to it. Part of the reason we decided to make 2015 the year-of-adulthood is because I don’t want to deal with this type of paperwork as the holidays approach (maybe not an adult way to handle the situation but, hey, I’m working on it).
  2. Second, husband will get life insurance (hopefully!). I have my life insurance all in place, but we have had a LOT of struggles with getting him insured. After some talking, we’ve decided to put it on hold right now. Hubs’ medical mystery illness (discussed here) occurred at the end of 2013 so we want to get past the 1-year mark, hoping that this will make a difference and improve our chances of getting him covered. We’re also probably going to go with a different company than the one we’ve been dealing with, but we’re still looking into options.
  3. Third, we’re going to open retirement accounts. You may recall that after we paid off our last credit card I created a new savings category called “savings for Roth IRA.” So I already semi-started this by at least setting money aside on a monthly basis. In 2015 we’ll actually open an account and get this all started on an official basis.
  4. Finally, we’re going to open college savings accounts for our girls. We haven’t talked exact numbers yet (regarding #3 and #4), but at least some money will be set aside monthly (probably in a 529) as a college fund for each of our children (we have 2).

I know this all flies in the face of a Dave Ramsey-eque model of debt eradication.

For any who are unfamiliar, Dave suggests having only a $1,000 emergency fund while working on eradicating debt. He also advocates stopping contributions to retirement and kids’ college accounts while in debt reduction-mode.

Honestly, though, the idea of not doing these things (i.e., saving for retirement especially, and putting at least some money aside for college) scares me. We just came up with our grand 2015 vision and haven’t talked numbers yet. Plus, its difficult to talk numbers when our income is so variable and I’m on the job market and could potentially have a big change in income in the coming year. This is something we’ll have to sit down and discuss at length in the coming months.

But numbers aside, I just wanted to let you guys know about our plans. I know these thoughts and ideas are going to ruffle some feathers because the goal of this blog is debt-eradication and switching gears from full steam ahead to a lower gear of debt-reduction is not necessarily a popular decision.

I haven’t decided what I’ll do come March 2015 in terms of blogging. I love the support and advice I get from you all and if readers are interested in me continuing at that point (with the knowledge that debt reduction would be done at a slower pace) then I may continue to write and contribute. But I don’t want to upset readers and/or cheapen the mission of this site in any way by taking sole focus off of debt-reduction.

We’re not at that point today so it’s not as if any big decisions need to be made right now. I just feel like I want to be honest and open with you all, as you have been so supportive of me on this journey. I want you to know where it and I, as a person, are headed.

Do you have any big goals or resolutions for 2015? What financial goals are you currently striving toward?


Car Wreck, Real Estate Agent and Rotten Food

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Yup, the title says it all about how my day went today…not exactly how I’d planned it.

Over the weekend, we discovered that our refrigerator had lost power, and it had been off for at least a couple of days.  Can you say grotesque smelling!!!  How? You ask, could I have gone that long without noticing the power was out?  Well, the kids had said, “Hey Mom, the refrigerator light is out?” and I took that to mean that we needed a new bulb, not that we lost power.  Ugh!  I didn’t cook a lot either since I was the event planner for a large event on Saturday and then Sunday went from church to choir practice to…you see how it went.

So today after I dropped the twins at the FIRST (competitive robotics) team’s weekly meeting, the little’s and I went to Sam’s to grocery shop.  Then I had to head to the bank to get the money to pay my replacement painter…who finished yesterday!  It was raining, there was lots of traffic and we were stopped at a red light…the CRASH!  A large work van rammed into the back of my large van.  Boy, was I grateful we were in the large van and not the little Honda Accord I will be driving once it sells.  So grateful!  But his van is now un-driveable and mine is damaged.

So while I was dealing with the police and firemen and insurance companies and children who were excited to be so close to all this action, my phone rang and I let it go to voicemail.  I’m thankful that the other driver has car insurance.  I am thankful that the police responded so quickly so my new replacement food did not spoil.  I am grateful that no one was hurt (this is really my first grateful so don’t take these as order of importance.) And what I’m really grateful for is that my dad took us to the movies this week to see Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! If you haven’t seen it, you should, and you will understand why it meant a lot after the day I was having.

So got the insurance claim filed, got home with my new groceries, ran the gymnast to his workout, ran back to pick up the twins, walked the dogs in the rain and went back to pick up little gymnast.  It was a crazy full day.  It was hard and full of bickering between the kids, lots of chauffeuring to activities and so much more.

But as I wound down from the wreck, I noticed a voice mail on my phone….

A real estate agent called and has a client who is VERY INTERESTED in my house and wants to show it tomorrow.  So today was Hope’s Stress Filled, Over-crowded, Rain Filled, Over the top Day…and someone who is VERY INTERESTED in buying my house is going to look at it tomorrow morning. (The ad went out today, the website went up yesterday.)

So sorry for the late post, but today I am so grateful for my many, many blessings…money to buy more groceries when the power is out, a cozy home on a rainy day, a big car that protected us from what could have been a very bad wreck, that my kids are bright and engaged and involved and mostly, right now…that someone who is VERY INTERESTED is going to see my house tomorrow.

 


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