Browsing posts in: Debt

Car Repair Bill

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As if we don’t have enough bills to worry about between our normal debts and the new tax debt, I’ve got another new bill to foot this month as well.

Remember when I wrote about my power steering suddenly going out without any advance warning (and in the absence of any collision or other obvious cause) while I was driving home from work?

Well, it’s been quite the inconvenience over the course of the last 2 weeks. It happened on a Tuesday night (2 weeks ago). It took probably 4 hours out of my day on Wednesday for me to sort everything out. I had the car towed to the dealership, arranged for a rental company to come pick me up and get into a rental, and then had to talk to the dealership about the repair issues.

In the end, the car had two separate issues. One was covered by the Ford dealership as a safety recall (this is what actually caused the power steering to go out), but there were some secondary issues covered by my extended warranty I had purchased.

The problem is, the extended warranty only covered a maximum of 7 days in a rental car and they had my car for a full 10 days to do the work. I was able to talk Ford into covering the other 3 days of my rental, but it wasn’t just easy-peasy, because I had to return my current rental and switch into a different rental (the Ford dealership said they would only cover Ford-brand rental vehicles). So the following Wednesday I spent probably another 4 hours dealing with the car drama. Dropping off the old rental, switching to a new rental, trying to arrange the first rental to be covered through my warranty (phone calls to them, phone calls to rental company), and to get my second rental covered through the dealership (phone calls to rental company, phone calls to Ford). Just a lot of busy-work that took a ton of time.

Last time I had work done through my extended warranty, they had only charged a $250 deductible, but this time they were trying to charge me $300. It took a couple phone calls to clear that up and, in the end, they agreed to come back down to the $250 price (the problem is that they only charge $250 if the work is done at the place where the warranty was purchased – from CarMax. But CarMax had a 3 week wait for them to even look at my car, so I had to go to the dealership because I couldn’t go that long without a car!! In the end, the warranty company did honor the $250 price).

BUT – while at the dealership, the service people called to say I needed new tires STAT! My husband has said the same thing and I’ve just been brushing it off, but then the service folks sent me pictures showing the threads in my tires and saying they could not allow me to drive it off without signing a waiver to remove any legal responsibility from them. I guess it was bad. Another $400 added to the bill.

Add tax, and our final bill came to $679.00.

If you think about the fact that we don’t have a car payment (we own the car outright!!!), it doesn’t seem too terrible. But on the back of all our other April-related bills I’m just like, GEEZE!! Cut it out, April!!! No more surprise charges for anything, mkay?!

Oh, and then here’s something fun. Remember how literally the month after I paid off the car this random little piece of it broke off while I was driving? I wrote about it here. It ended up costing a couple hundred bucks to fix. WELL, the same piece flew off the day after I got my car back from the dealership. It’s been over a year, so I don’t think it’s still under any warranty of any kind, but isn’t that just some crap!?? Last time I fixed it pretty quickly but this time I’m not in any big hurry. I’ll just deal with a piece of my car missing. Money is tight right now and we can’t just be shelling out hundreds of dollars for something cosmetic that doesn’t impact the actual functionality of the vehicle. It just sucks.

Man, oh man, I’m on the countdown for summer! For the first time ever, I’ll actually have a bit of a break from teaching. In the past, I’ve been teaching year-round for my part-time place so even if I’ve had a break from my full-time place, I’ve always had at least 2-3 classes from my part-time place still going strong. But not so this year. I’m leaving my part-time job at the end of the current semester (recall I had to sign a noncompete for my new raise to go into effect). I do teach one summer class for my full-time work place, but it doesn’t start until July. That means I’ve got a couple weeks in May and ALL of June “off” of teaching! OHMYGOSH I cannot even express my excitement! Don’t get me wrong, teaching is my passion. But my load the past 2 years has been so heavy that it’s been hard to keep up with my administrative responsibilities and there has never been a time where I’ve felt truly caught up and on top of things. I mean, I do my job. But I’m excited to be able to dedicate myself more fully toward some of the work-related projects I’ve just had on the backburner and to revamp some of my old course materials for the Fall. Plus, just a chance to catch my breath! I just cannot wait!

I’ve got so much more to share – summer plans, Easter-related stuff, fun/cheap things we’ve got up our sleeve. But the time is short so that must wait for another day.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately? When is the last time you had major car repair work done? Our last time was almost exactly a year ago, so I guess we were “due.” Ugh!


Ashley’s March 2017 Debt Update

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March was a whirl-wind of a month! I was gone for a couple days in Texas, the girls had an entire week off school, and it felt like we were being pulled in a million different directions by all of our disparate responsibilities. I’m glad to be back in more of a routine this month and am already looking forward to May. For us in academia, it signifies the end of another academic year and the beginning of a MUCH NEEDED “break” in terms of course-load, etc. (working at a university, I’ll probably always talk about “years” in terms of academic rather than fiscal or calendar years, lol). But May is important for another reason, too. For the past 3 months (including April), I’ve been paying these HUGE payments toward our medical debt. I did so in exchange for a debt forgiveness of about 33% of our medical debt. So come May, we’ll have an extra $1200 that can go towards other debt and we’ll have one fewer debt to report in our debt spreadsheet. It always feels good to knock a debt off, and I can’t wait.

Here’s where we stood as of April 1st, after all of March’s debt payments had posted:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,0925.8083March82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025March
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85136.5534March
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72126.5529March
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63856.5525March
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85146.5534March
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$97926.5569March
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$10000% (through Sept 2017)$400March$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$44440% (through October 2018)$150March$4594
Medical Bills$31540% (must be paid by April)$1216March$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$68,714 (Feb balance = 70,444)$2065Starting Debt = $145,472

Navient Payments

With our recent IRS tax trouble, I’ve been making lower sized debt payments in an effort to try to save up for the upcoming IRS bill. I’m paying minimum payments on all of my subsidized student loans and only an extra $50 above the minimum for my two unsubsidized student loans. As a quick reminder, I’m on the IBR repayment plan so my unpaid interest is forgiven on subsidized loans, but not for unsubsidized (which is why I’m prioritizing them a little). I was concerned when my balances had increased a little this month for the subsidized loans so I called Navient and they explains that the government subsidy (which covers any unpaid interest) is only paid once per quarter. So it looks like the balances have increased a little, but that capitalized interest will be covered at the end of the next quarter. Feels kind of scamy, but nothing I can do about that.

Balance Transfer #2

I’ve reduced the amount I’m paying on Balance Transfer #2 down to $400/month. Continuing at that rate, it will be gone by June. At that point, I may try to initiate another balance transfer to move some more debt away from Navient. That being said, I’ve noticed that my recent balance transfer offers have had a bit higher transfer rate than in the past year, so I’d only do so if it’s still a good savings overall. I’ll wait and see when we get to that point. I also wanted to clarify something I’d had wrong before. Originally when I created my debt table I had listed that this bill was due earlier (based off a 12-month timeframe), but I had conflicting notes in YNAB because there I had it listed as being an 18-month timeframe. When we were hit by the IRS taxes, I called for clarification (otherwise, we were on track to pay it off within 12 months, but I wanted to know if we had the extra 6 months wiggle room). Turns out the special offer IS good for 18-months, which is why I’ve been able to decrease my payment amounts. I’ll still have it paid off well before the special 0% APR promo period expires. Sorry for any confusion to anyone who may have noticed!

Balance Transfer #3

This is my newest balance transfer. I paid $150 last month, but only have $75 scheduled for this month. Again, I’m paying less so that I can try to scrounge up cash for the IRS.

IRS

Everything financial is now tainted by the whole IRS tax issue I’ve talked about previously (see here or here). I’m embarrassed and feel a bit ashamed to be in this position, but I have to say that the tax debt has officially INCREASED our debt and will be setting us back in our progression. At this point, I’m honestly too embarrassed to even give the total amount (though we have finally finished everything with our CPA, so we now have official numbers). I was thinking it would be right around 10k and, if so, I was really trying to scrimp, save, and hustle up any funds and try to pay them in full by the April 18th deadline. When confronted with the true, final amount that we owe, I know there’s no way we’ll have the money together by April 18th. Instead, I’m going to have to set up a payment plan with the IRS and will officially be adding a debt to our list of debts. I’ve been dreading discussing it here because it’s just SO stupid and was 100% our fault. There’s no excuses. We just messed up and now we owe Uncle Sam the big bucks.

Budgeting

Related to everything going on, we’ve really been trying to plan ahead and think about what our family budget will look like in the coming (academic) year. Hubs’ is still currently drawing a (very) small income from his business, but it will likely be gone in the next few months. By mid-summer my big raise will go into effect at my full-time job. Though at the same time, I’ll be losing my side-income from my part-time job. Our kids are starting kindergarten in the fall so our childcare bill will decrease in a couple months (note, in our state kindergarten is only “free” for half-day and we still need full-day childcare so our bill will not be eliminated, but it will be reduced a bit from our current spending). Basically – there are a lot of financial pieces to the puzzle and a lot of things to consider. It’s hard when we don’t have exact numbers, either (e.g., I’m trying to estimate what my net take-home pay will be once my raise goes into effect, but there are many factors involved since a mandatory 7% goes to retirement, and then I also contribute to an HSA and FSA, etc). I think we may have some financial growing pains on the horizon as we figure things out and try to make a path moving forward. I think our path will likely include tightening up our purse strings quite a bit from what we have in the past year. Not that I think we were frivolous in the past year by any means, but I think things are about to really be getting TIGHT. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s definitely disheartening given all our progress in the past year (which, now with the tax thing, feels like a lot less progress has been made since we owe all this money – ugh! So mad at myself!)

Anyway, that’s what’s up in my world.

Oh yeah, and the car situation. That’s still going on. Turns out my car had 2 different problems. One was a Ford issue (covered by Ford) and the other is a warranty issue (covered by my extended warranty). But it’s been a HUGE fiasco because I HAVE to have a car to get to-and-from work and it’s now been over a week with my car in the shop and it still isn’t fixed. But my warranty only covers 7 days max in a rental, so I’ve switched to a Ford rental vehicle and am trying to get Ford to cover the remainder of my days in a rental due to their issue (the Ford issue is actually what rendered my vehicle un-drivable). It’s been a whole mess and is taking up way too many hours in my day. And it will likely end up costing me some money after-all, not only for the warranty deductible, but if I end up having to pay for the rental (if Ford won’t cover it, etc.). Big pain-in-the-butt. But there are worse things in life and, again, I’m thankful no one got hurt and that we had the warranty, etc.

Gotta run for-reals now. I’m drowning in work so bad it’s not even funny. So to bring this post full-circle (as I mentioned in my opening paragraph) – I cannot wait for May!!! Is it the summer yet?? 😉

Hugs,

Ashley


Focus

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With so many disparate goals for this year, some that focus on debt-reduction and others focused more on savings, I felt a bit like we’ve been playing a game of tug-o-war. We want so many different things and, like a child, we want them all NOW!!!

Ugh. Why does adulting have to be so difficult?

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 1.51.03 PM

 

Source – Someone, buy this for me! ; )

When we got hit smack in the face with our looming IRS debt, it forced me to take a step back and re-assess our plans for the year. Some changes I have already implemented (which will go into effect in April) include:

  • Reducing my retirement contributions. My university requires a minimum 7% contribution. I had been investing an additional 3% of my salary (for 10% total), but given our need to get some liquid cash for the IRS (and for debt payments, as well), I called HR and reduced my contributions down to the minimum 7% required.
  • Eliminating extra mortgage payments. Though we closed in November, it still feels like we just barely got here! When I set up our mortgage auto-payments, I set them to include an extra $300 to go directly toward principal. Our required payment was $950, but we’ve been paying $1250. I called the bank and removed our extra principal payment, reducing our auto-draft down to the minimum $950/month that’s required.
  • Practicing patience. I already talked about how my daughter lost her water bottle. Instead of immediately replacing it, I’ve made her start using my water bottle as her own. Unless her old one miraculously turns up (no idea where it is – it’s been lost for 3 weeks now), she won’t be getting a new water bottle until the start of next school year. In the past, I would’ve just immediately purchased a new one. But now I’m examining every purchase and really making an effort to practice patience anytime I’m thinking of buying something that we don’t immediately need.

All of these changes are in an effort to FOCUS on one thing at a time. Dave Ramsey talks about the power of focus (which, I believe, helped motivate the way he designed the Baby Steps so one “goal” is being focused on at a time).

We just have to get out of debt. It’s got to be done. This month marks completion of my third full year of being on this debt-reduction journey. There have been lots of highs and lows and this HUGE tax bill has definitely got me a little down. But, if anything, it’s just made me strengthen my resolve that we need to get out of debt ASAP!!! We had two years of hard-core debt reduction (no frills), one year where we loosened the purse strings a bit, and this year will be a mix. We do have some fun things planned (still doing our first ever Mom-and-Dad getaway sans kids this summer! Eeeeee!!!!!!), but I’m really realizing how much SOONER we can be out of debt if we return to our steadfast FOCUS on the goal at hand. It’s a tough thing going through this journey for SOOOOOOOOOO long. But that’s what the deal is. We started this journey with nearly $150,000 in debt and only making about $50,000/year! Obviously with those numbers it was going to take some time. Things have changed – our income has gone up and our debt has shrunk as we’ve been making huge payments. But it’s time for a renewed focus. I don’t want to be doing this for another three years. That’s too long. I want to try to cut that time in half. If we can be debt-free in a year and a half, I would be overjoyed! I can see the light at the end of a tunnel if we’re only talking about another year and a half!!!

Some of this is just rambling thoughts. I’d like to write up a whole “3 Years Reflections” post with thoughts and reflections on the entire debt-reduction process, to date. But in the meantime, I just wanted to jump on here and say “Hi!!! and let you know about some of the upcoming changes I’ve made in an effort to increase our monthly take-home pay so we have extra cash to throw at debt. It needs to happen. I can’t wait to kick our debt’s butt. Next debt on the chopping block is our medical debt. By this time next month, it will be 100% GONE and then we’ll be on to just the student loans. Can’t wait!!!

Hope you’re having a great month!


Spring Break (+ Feb. Debt Update)

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Hi All!

Last year, my first year back to full-time work, my Spring Break happened to align with my kids’ Spring Break. I remember at the time colleagues mentioning how lucky that was and to appreciate it. So it was no real surprise when this year rolled around and, looking at our academic calendars, I realized our Spring Breaks did not align. Bugger!

But, I think we’re also making the best out of having separate Spring Breaks! This week is my school’s Spring Break (and hubs’ Spring Break as well). I’ll be back in Texas for a couple days to deal with some dad-related issues. But otherwise, hubs and I are looking forward to doing some serious manual labor out in our backyard. When we bought the house, it had nothing but chest-high weeds all through the back. We mowed them all down, but have done very little since then. Hubs has a friend who owns a landscape company and came over to take a look at our yard and offer some practical suggestions in terms of plants, placement, etc. So for the cost of some plants + weed killer + some hard work and elbow-grease, we’re hoping to get our backyard into a more presentable condition. We’ve allotted $200 to the project. It would be a project the girls could help us with…but will probably be easier without the interference, er, “help.” And I like that the couple days I’ll be gone are on days that they’re already in school. Makes it a bit easier for the hubs and makes me feel less guilt about being away (quick Dad update for those who have been following along and are interested – skip this part if you’re only here for the financial -my Dad, who has frontotemporal dementia, continues to decline. His speech is almost gone at this point and he lives in a constant state of agitation, presumably from the confusion and frustration associated with what’s happening to him. He’s been living in an independent living facility but we’ve been touring several assisted living and dedicated memory-care places. It’s a tough move to make but it’s coming up probably sooner rather than later so we’re trying to research and prepare accordingly. Being that the purpose of my trip is for things related to his care, my sister and I decided he would cover the cost of my airfare – something he would have done in the past if he had the mental capacity. I’ll be staying with my mom so I’ll have free lodging, and will only be paying my meals out of pocket which should be minimal. I’ll be there not quite 3 days.)

Next week is our girls’ Spring Break. In the future, I hope that we can plan family vacations (or even staycations) during Spring Break week, but with our looming tax debt ahead, that’s certainly not in the cards this year. Instead, we’re lucky to be able to hodgepodge together some childcare without having to pay extra to a babysitter. Hubs has class Mon/Wed (but is available other days) and I teach on Tues/Thurs (but am available other days), so between us, we’ll be able to always have one parent home with the kiddos.

I’m still on operation minimal-spending, too. It’s not a complete spending freeze because we still have to purchase essentials like food, fuel, etc. But I have been extra mindful about every dollar being spent. As an example, one of my daughters lost her water bottle for the second time this school year. Last time, I just jumped on Amazon and bought her a new one. This time around, I’m making her take my water bottle as a back-up. I explained that we can’t just get something new every time we lose our old item. It’s been a nice lesson in natural consequences and how its important to keep track of our things. It’s a bit of a punishment because my water bottle isn’t a nice or “cool” as the kid version, but at least it’s an adequate replacement so she’s not going without one. I’m really trying to scrimp and save and see if we can pay our full tax debt ourselves rather than relying on borrowing. I really want it PAID IN FULL by the deadline. I did talk to my sister, however, and if I need to borrow money from my dad it would be an option available to us. I really want to avoid this. It’s such “messy” terrain and I just don’t like the feeling. But I would be able to save the interest + penalties associated with an IRS payment plan. Something to think about, should it come to that (I still don’t have exact figures from our accountant).

In the meantime, I want to share my February 2017 Debt Update. As mentioned in a previous post, the debt payment was less than my originally intended $3,000 payment because I decided to just pay debt minimums toward my student loans so I can try to save up the extra money to put toward our IRS debt. Here you go:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$11,1055.8034February82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86085.8025February
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$84966.5533February
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$71976.5529February
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63726.5525February
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$84976.5534February
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$98056.5519February
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$14000% (through Sept 2017)$800February$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)$0N/A
Medical Bills$43700% (must be paid by April)$1216February$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$70,444 (Jan balance = 72,560)$2215Starting Debt = $145,472

This month (March), I’m putting less toward the balance transfer card – only $400 instead of the $800 I gave in February. I do NOT want to add “IRS” to the debt spreadsheet, so I’m just stockpiling money in hopes we can pay them their money and not move backward in our debt progression. That will mean lower debt payments for the next couple months (March & April). Even small progress is moving in the right direction.

Have you had any financial set-backs lately?

 

 


Well Crap

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It’s been a long time since we’ve had a major financial set-back. A really long time.

In fact, everything has been going rather smooth over the course of the past year or so. Income is up, outflow is down, we just hit the half-way point in our debt reduction journey. Life is good!

Until…..tax time.

We met with a CPA on Friday. Turns out we didn’t have all our sh-t together so we have to round up the last of our documents and get them over to the office early next week. So we don’t have official numbers, but it’s looking like it’s gonna be bad. Like….possibly in the 5-digits level of “bad.” Yeah. We may owe the IRS to the tune of over $10,000. How the f do we owe so much? I don’t even know where to begin.  I  thought my payments through my full-time job would help offset things more than they did. Clearly.

We have a LOT of deductions to claim. We also have tax credits we can claim. We’re not out of hope.

But it felt like I’d been punched in the gut after our CPA meeting. We don’t have $10,000. Not in cash. To owe that much would officially move us BACKWARD in our debt progression. The first backward movement since we started our debt payoff process nearly 3 years ago. We’ve had months of stagnation, but we’ve never gone BACKWARD. Never ADDED to our debt (mortgage not included). But my plan (to have cash or put it on a credit card to buy us an extra month) isn’t going to work if we’re talking about that much money.

We’re scrambling to think of a plan so we can pay with cash and not have to set up a payment plan (accompanied by penalties and interest) with the IRS.

In the meantime, we’ll be having another meeting (or two) with the CPA to figure out exact numbers and the best course of action. I’ve also suspended all non-essential debt-payments so we can pile up some cash. Unfortunately, given my recent agreement with the medical bill place, I’m committed to minimum sized payments of $1215/month through April. That, in addition to my minimum student loan payments, puts us at a minimum of about $2000/month. We’ve only been budgeting $3,000/month toward debt and having a minimum payment of $2000 only leaves us about $1,000/month of “wiggle room” to try to stockpile cash for our upcoming IRS debt payment. It’s not nearly enough. Particularly if we owe in the tens of thousands of dollars. omg. Just saying it makes me sick to my stomach. I hope to God it doesn’t turn out that bad. But, as the saying goes, hope for the best and plan for the worst. So all non-essential spending is DONE. In the meantime, we will hoard and stockpile money as best as we can. We do have an EF ($5,500) and a couple various savings accounts. Though it’s a bit like stealing from Peter to pay Paul. It’s certainly not ideal. But neither is the thought of acquiring more debt. It gives me a headache to even consider the thought.

Many of you had warned that we should beef up our EF now that we’re homeowners. This wasn’t the intended purpose (most commenters were thinking more in-line with needing to repair/replace an old roof or HVAC, etc.)….but now that we’re in this situation, it’s sure making me think about how great it would be to have a full $10,000 EF. This IRS tax problem would be solved (and then the “problem” of re-stocking the EF is much easier and less stressful).

So that’s my “well crap” update. I will bring you a February debt-update (which, as mentioned, is lower than the originally planned $3,000 due to the need to save all non-essential payments for our upcoming tax bill). In the meantime, I’ll just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Hoping for the best. Preparing for the worst. Ugh!


Tax Time!

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It’s that time of year again…TAX TIME!!!!

This year I’ll be responsible for getting the taxes done for two households:  my own and my father’s (side-note: my dad has frontotemporal dementia, as explained here). Last year at tax time, my brother physically went with my Dad to an H&R Block to have his taxes done, at his request. It worked out, but was a whole mess because then my Dad lost all of the tax paperwork after-the-fact and it’s been a huge pain as I am the person who handles all of his finances. I really could use those year-end statements!!!

This year, given another year of progression of his cognitive impairments, my dad no longer cares about his taxes so I can handle them entirely myself without needing to include him (this is always a tricky balance because he cannot be in charge of his own finances, but he still wants to have some oversight and say in how things are handled. It’s totally understandable, but presents a challenge since he doesn’t have the mental capacity to fully think through financial decisions, etc.).

For our own household, we’ve either done our taxes ourselves (in years past) or used H&R Block, too.

This year, I want to do better. I’ve never been a huge fan of the cheap drop-in type of tax places. I want to hire a CPA that we can have an ongoing relationship with. Someone who knows our finances and is knowledgable enough that they can make recommendations (e.g., donate $X or contribute $X to whatever tax-advantaged account, in order to save $x in taxes) and know all the little ins and outs of tax laws. I want to pay what we owe, but also to limit our liability in whatever (legal) ways are possible.

Also, there’s the whole issue that I live in Arizona and my dad lives in Texas. I’m flying back for a couple of days in March to handle some of my Dad’s affairs (I will be scheduling meetings with:  an estate attorney, a CPA, and a financial advisor). I’m assuming my Dad’s CPA needs to be someone physically in Texas, given that state-level tax laws are obviously different state-to-state.

Here’s my issue – I have NO IDEA how to find a reputable CPA. None. So I come to you all, as you are way more knowledgeable about this than I am. How do I find a really good CPA? Where would I even search? Google? Yelp? Help!

And as a side note….I’m pretty nervous about this year’s taxes. Gulp! The past couple years I’d been paying estimated quarterly payments so our tax liability in April was pretty minimal (usually about another $1500ish or so). This year, I haven’t done any estimated payments at all. UGH!!! We have made some hefty tax-credit approved donations so our state tax liability should hopefully be zero (knock on wood). And I’ve had taxes removed from my full-time paycheck so hopefully that will help offset the burden of what we would otherwise owe. But, we’ve had a lot of income that hasn’t had any taxes removed (both hubs’ business income and my part-time contract based job do NOT have taxes removed from checks). Sooooo, pretty sure we’ll end up owing a pretty penny.  I’d like to get our taxes all figured out by mid-March so we have March and April to try to gather up our funds and hopefully pay the IRS in full so we don’t end up having to pay interest and penalties, etc. Worst case scenario, we could pay by the mid-April deadline on a credit card, which would buy us one extra month to pay off everything in full (since purchases made in April wouldn’t be due until May. Note: I NEVER carry a balance on my credit card!! Any purchases made on the card are paid 100% in full by the next month’s due date). That would allow us THREE months to spread the IRS tax bill over. With how high our income is, we should be able to scrape up the funds. But it also depends on how high our tax debt is. NO FUN!!!

Have you done your taxes yet for 2016? Any tips on finding a great CPA?


Ashley’s January 2017 Debt Update

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First, thanks for all the great comments and advice on my Medical Debt Collector Dilemma post!

If you haven’t read the comments, then I’ll give you the update:  I was able to negotiate our medical bill down into 3 equal sized payments to be paid across the next 3 months (February through April), and then the medical debt will be GONE and nearly $2,000 will be forgiven. Some commenters noted how this will ding our credit, but seeing as we’re unlikely to be needing any new lines of credit anytime soon, I’m not too worried about the ramifications. I feel like we’re pretty well “set” with our current debts (great mortgage rate, good credit card balance transfer options for paying off student loan debt) – we won’t be adding any additional debts, hopefully EVER!

I’m kind of excited about being rid of this medical debt. We prioritized it below everything else so far simply because it was at a 0% interest rate. But with the offer to forgive $2,000 of the debt, it had to be bumped up to the top of our priority list (which will change the “debt payment” proportions that I had just posted in our 2017 budget. Oh well, budgets need to be flexible!).

I know there are strong feelings on both sides of the fence regarding whether it is morally “okay” to negotiate down debts as opposed to paying the bill in full. We would have paid the bill in full. That was always our intention. But we also weren’t in any hurry about it with so much student loan debt racking up in excess of 6% APR. The offer to settle for less than was owed was solely initiated from the medical debt collection agency, itself. So I feel like it was a fair transaction. The medical company will receive their payment (much sooner than they would have otherwise, at that), and we will soon be able to cross off one more debt from our  list of debts!!!

One other thing I wanted to mention was regarding credit card balance transfer options. When I realized I would be unable to refinance my student loans away from Navient with one of the big/respected student loan consolidation companies, some of you recommended continuing to do credit card balance transfers. So I applied for a new credit card and promptly transferred another student loan away from Navient. Again – a super controversial thing in the world of debt repayment. I wouldn’t recommend this option for everyone, but I’ve been doing it a couple years now and have had great success with it. I literally only use the credit card for balance transfers (it’s not even in my wallet – it would otherwise be cut up and destroyed because it serves no purpose otherwise). So now I’ve got TWO credit cards designated specifically for doing balance transfers. The balance transfer fees have been low (between 2-3%) and I receive 0% APR as long as balances are paid in full by the due date (which I closely track and monitor and have never had a problem with). So….it works for us. Unconventional? Yes. Would I recommend it for everyone? No. But it’s working for us.

And so with some explanation of our debts (and, specifically, the new credit card balance transfer debt you’ll see), I present to you January’s Debt Spreadsheet:

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient - Federal 2 (unsubsidized)$110985.8042January82433 (all school loans, combined)
Navient - Federal 3 (subsidized)$86245.8025January
Navient - 2 (subsidized)$85316.5525January
Navient - 7 (subsidized)$72266.5521January
Navient - 8 (subsidized)$63986.5519January
Navient - 9 (subsidized)$85316.5525January
Navient - 10 (unsubsidized)$97726.552018January
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$22000% (through April 2017)$800January$7650
Balance Transfer Student Loan #3$45940% (through October 2018)
Medical Bills$55860% (must be paid by April)$25January$9000
Balance Transfer student loan #1$00% -Paid off in March 2016$5937
PenFed Car Loan$02.49%-Paid off in January 2016$24040
License Fees$02.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
BoA CC$07.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
Mattress Firm$00%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC$013.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
Capital One CC$017.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Totals$72,560 (Dec balance = 75,171)$3000Starting Debt = $145,472

When I first started blogging back in April 2014, I had $145,472 total debt.

As of January 31, 2017, with a margin of under $200, we have finally hit our half-way mark! We now have $72,560 in debt.

Oh my gosh, guys! I can’t tell you what a huge milestone this is for us! I’ve been blogging for nearly 3 years and we have JUST NOW hit our half-way mark in terms of debt reduction. We likely have another 2.5 years to go (maybe less), so we’re over half-way in terms of the time spent in debt reduction mode. I just cannot even believe it. All the changes in the past three years, all the sacrifices, all the splurges, all the savings and the spending and the analyzing numbers over and over and over again. It just feels fantastic.

I know some have commented that the second half of debt reduction would just fly by. That as soon as we hit the half-way “tipping point” things would start snowballing and debt would just melt away.

I’ve got so far still to go, but I am hopeful and excited about the future!

And I want the debt gone sooner than our projections have it. I want it gone yesterday. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking of ways to reduce savings categories (temporarily) in order to throw more toward the debt. And there’s still some work stuff up in the air that will impact this whole process. I’m optimistic. It’s hard not to be. I may not be able to quite see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but at least we’ve crested the top of the mountain and are about to make our descent. I can’t wait for the journey downward!


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