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A new twist

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This morning I shared the exciting news that I’ve finally paid off two more of our debts! YAY!!!!

I’m sure many of you wonder(ed) what this means in terms of our order of debt attack. Which debt will we target next?

Financial folks have made a strong case for turning our attention to the student loan debt (due to the super high interest rate). I’ve maintained my opinion that the car loan debt is more personally motivating and, therefore, my favored option.

About a month ago I finally broke down my largest student loan debt into all of its constituent parts, showing you exactly how high each debt is and what its associated interest rate is (see here).

I studied all our debts, interest rates, etc. After much thought and consideration, hubs and I have decided to do something a bit drastic with my highest interest rate student loan that is sure to be a bit controversial.

We decided to do a balance transfer.

Yep.

The deed’s already been done. I called all my credit cards to see whom would do a balance transfer on a student loan (many will not), and found that my Capital One card would be willing to do a transfer at 0% APR for 12 months, with a 2% initiation fee. I sat on it for several days, called back 2 separate times to ask about getting a reduced initiation fee (which they declined), and finally decided to do it anyway. My highest APR student loan is 8.5%, with a balance of $5,820.95. To this I’ve added the initiation fee ($116.42) for a total balance of $5937.37. To pay this in full within 12 months I’ll be adding a $500 monthly debt to my debt list (in addition to my other student loans, the last remaining medical bill, and my car loan).

Being that I’ve knocked out so many other debts, I feel completely comfortable with the 12-month timeline. There is absolutely nothing that will prevent us from being able to pay this loan in full by the time April 2016 rolls around. In the meantime, I’ll also continue paying extra on my car loan, while paying lower amounts (just enough to cover interest) on my remaining student loans.

I like this balanced approach for several reasons:

  • It gives me a smaller, more manageable-sized debt to deal with.
  • It will save me hundreds of dollars in interest.
  • It makes it easy to pay extra toward this single loan (instead of having to call Navient every month to try to apply funds toward this account, I simply apply money toward my Capital One card online, which is super easy since I also have a Capital One 360 account <<refer a friend link).
  • It allows me to continue making big progress on my car loan (which is my personal preference) while also simultaneously making big progress on my highest interest rate student loan (which is the more financially sound decision).

Now, I want to acknowledge that doing a balance transfer to pay off a student loan is inherently risky. Stephanie from Six Figures Under has actually written several posts on the topic that I think do a great job of explaining the pros and cons, and in ultimately defending her position of doing the same thing (she and her husband have now successfully paid off one balance transfer and have just initiated a second balance transfer).

Doing a balance transfer to pay off student loan debt is not for everyone. I’m in a unique situation in that I have a lot of extra wiggle room in our debt payoff budget. Our minimum payments are now down to $478/month (that’s $453 minimum on student loans, and $25 minimum on medical bills; I have no payment due on the car loan until April 2016). My goal is to keep paying $2,000+ toward debt each month. But if we got in a bind, it’d be very easy for me to reduce extra debt payments in favor of getting this balance transfer loan paid off quickly.

So there’s my reasoning and rationale about the topic. I fully understand that some of you will simply be against balance transfers no matter what (and it’s your right to have whatever opinion you want on the matter). But for me and my family, this is the right choice. I’ll finally be taking my student loans off the back-burner to become a bit more of a priority. I’ll simultaneously continue making big strides with my car loan debt and will continue chipping away at our other remaining debts. I’ll also be saving a ton of money on interest. It’s a win-win-win all around!

Have you ever successfully completed a balance transfer before? What was your experience like?


Poof – Be Gone!

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Wow, it has been a loooooong time since I’ve paid off a balance in full! When I first started blogging I was knocking debts out left and right (and, to be fair, some of them were pretty small debts). But for the past several months I’ve just been chip-chip-chipping away at some of the bigger debts.

I’m so glad that I can finally report that I’ve knocked another couple of debts off my debt list! (See last debt update here)

First up on the chopping block, I’ve finally paid off the second of our 3 monthly medical bills. We started off 2014 with 3 separate monthly medical bills: $75/month, $50/month, and $25/month. First I knocked out the $75/month bill (this actually happened this past November 2014). This month I’ve officially paid the last of the bill for the $50/month payment! Wahooo!!!! This still leaves us the $25/month bill (which also happens to be the largest balance = $6136), but its interest free so I have no intention of paying anything extra to it until other high-interest debts are gone. Regardless, I’m excited to be rid of the $50/month payment, which represented our bill for a specialist (neurologist) from when husband had a mystery illness at the end of 2013. See ya later, Dr. Neuro man! Or no….hopefully we WON’T see you later! Enjoy the money, hope you’ve had a nice vacation on us! (I’m being cheeky, but we really are grateful for the doctor’s services, of course. Just glad this bill is finally gone after over a year of paying on it!).

Next up on the chopping block, my personal favorite (and hubs’ too)….we’ve finally paid off the last of our remaining license fees!!! We had ignored this debt for a long time, and even when payment plans were arranged, the initial amount due was over $10,000. At the time I was a grad student making $500 every other week, hubs didn’t make much more, and it felt like these fees would NEVER be paid off. Oh man, I could go on and on about all the things I WISH this money had been spent on, how foolish we were, etc. Suffice it to say the lesson has been learned many, many times over. These fines represent mistakes we will never repeat for the rest of our lives.

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 2.41.19 PM

This is just one of 2 pages of fees. Love seeing those zeros!

 Oh the euphoria of paying of these debts (but the license fees, in particular)!!!

Now we’re officially down to only 3 categories of debts: the remaining medical, the car loan, and (dun dun DUUUUUN) the monstrous student loan debt.

To this end, I have some news to share with you later today. Be sure to check back this afternoon!

Can I get a “Wahoo!!!!” for these paid off debts? Feels oh so good! What’s your latest debt to pay off? What was your most psychologically-pleasing debt to pay off?


Weekly Debt Update #10- Moving Forward

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Thank you everybody for your thoughts on my emotional post from last week concerning what I felt I was lacking in my life while paying off debt (read it here). After all the comments and some thought, I’ve decided that starting in May, I’m revising my budget to reflect a few items:

1) I want to send my sister a small gift every month to help out their young family- I’m thinking a $25 gift card to Baby’s R Us. I’m going to contribute $25 a month into a 529 plan for my nephew.

2) $50-$100 in misc money to use if and when I want to go have some fun with friends, family and/or GF. Looking for some input on this one- too high/too little?

I’m still fighting an internal battle between paying off my student loans as fast as humanly possible and not alienating everybody in life while I do so, so I’m hoping this is a stepping stone to finding a balance between the 2 options. To be completely honest- it’s a little unnerving to see my my debt reduction schedule slip a couple a months, but it should all be worth it after it’s all said and done. And for some more honestly- I never thought I’d see myself in this position. After years of reading debt blogs, I’ve been determined to do what so many seem to struggle to do (cut theirs expenses) that I swung all the way to the opposite side of the spectrum that I’m hurting myself in much different ways than financial. Like so many said last week- I need to find balance, and this is my (attempt at a) solution to it.

Edit (Because I just thought of this story): This isn’t actually the most determined I’ve been to get out of debt. Back in September, despite already working 50-55 hours a week, I sent out a bunch of resumes for part-time work. I got an interview to deliver pizzas at night and on weekends for a local pizzeria. I was upfront with them and told them I was only looking for a job to help get out of debt while I worked full-time. Thankfully (THANKFULLY!) I never got a call back. I stopped pursuing part-time work after this interview. I couldn’t imagine how out of balance my work/life situation would be had I worked part-time over the winter. Two words come to mind- not. good.

There’s something I want to do that are not budget related- I want to start talking with my friends and family more. I’ve been in rut for some years while paying off debt that I would love to get out of, hopefully completely out of, by time I’m debt free. A lot of you told me to give my time vs. going out and I thought that was a great idea, and that is what I’m going to strive to do, a little bit at a time. There’s quite a few people I haven’t touched base with in years, so it’s going to take some effort and patience as I don’t see this being an overnight deal.

Also on the subject of what I will be starting in May:

I’m going to re-start my contributions into my companies 401K plan!

I have my sights set on 4% of my income which will allow me to get the maximum match (they match .5% for every 1% up to 2%). Even though I’m not currently in the company plan, the company gives 2% in profit sharing to every employee regardless of their contribution status. I don’t feel right about missing out on the 4% I could be saving and the 2% in match now that I’m passed the 50% marker in debt payoff.

In my day-to-day life:

On Monday 3/30, my girlfriend turned the big 2-7!!! So…this meant birthday plans and birthday gifts.

Taking a page from her handbook from my birthday celebration (see here), I made a goody bag of all her favorite things and I baked her a cake! I NEVER bake, and as you can see by the results, the effort was there, but the skill, unfortunately, was not. LOL.

IMG_3553

But I have to say- she loved it! Maybe not the cake, so much, but the time and effort I put in to making it. And she also loved her goody bag, which was filled with things I’ve remembered over the years that she loves: grape tomatoes, Tim Horton’s gift card ($5), a gift card for pop at the corner store ($5), salted popcorn, salsa, various varieties of salt. Overall, it cost me about $70, including the all the ingredients to make the cake (which were also in her bag). I also gave her a bunch of “love” coupons- for back rubs, uninterrupted naps, a night in with a movie of her choice, etc… which was her favorite part of the day! In previous years, I’ve bought flowers, chocolates, spa gift certificates as birthday gifts but this year I got the best response. I’m so glad I was able to make her birthday really special this year.

As for my debt reduction update, here are my current tallies:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$24,224.78$3,612.46
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$19,006.27$3,190.75
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,570.60$2,779.58
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$3,192.92
$2,903.11
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$53,994.57$56,593.09

Since my last update 2 weeks ago, I’ve been able to bring my total on Sallie Mae 05 down $1,100.

I hope everyone has a great week!


March Budget Update

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We had a lot less income to work with in the month of March than in our typical months. Because of this, I had to get a bit creative. Some things (like some savings) were eliminated; other things (like debt payments) were reduced.

There’s always room for improvement and this month is no exception. But at the end of the month we had a balanced budget (meaning, we didn’t spend more than we made – using YNAB has really helped me in that regard), so I’ve got to be happy with the end result. April will have a bit more wiggle room, so I’m excited about the new month.

Here’s how March shaped up:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 116
Water 69
Natural gas 26
Sprint (2 lines) 114
Cable/Internet 99
Car Insurance 58
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1030
Gift-Giving 40
Personal Maintenance 62
Restaurants 108
Entertainment 10
Groceries 388
Gasoline 38
Household Goods 7
Toddler purchases 53
Postage 10
Work Stuff 62
Rainy Day Savings 0
Savings Goals 300
Debt Payments 603
Total $4677

 Most of these items are in-line with expectations. But I do have a couple comments…

  • Preschool ($1030 spent): This month was a normal charge, but I referred a friend to our preschool facility, so I’m excited that next month I should have a referral credit. I’m not sure how much of a discount I get, but any amount saved will be great!
  • Gift Giving ($40 spent): This was a $20 gift for two separate people (both baby presents).
  • Personal Maintenance ($62 spent): This was $35 for a hair cut and eyebrow wax, $12 for attending a yoga class, and $15 for new eye cream and face lotion (I got cheap grocery store stuff…not sure if more expensive stuff works better? I’d love to hear others’ opinions on quality versus budget eye cream and face lotion – that stuff is $$$!)
  • Gasoline ($38 spent): Gas was so cheap this month because my husband ended up filling up the car for me while I was on my not-an-interview trip. I generally only have to fill up twice per month, but this month I only filled up once!
  • Work Stuff ($62 spent): I made a new category called “work stuff” for expenses that are related to work and can be 100% tax deductible. This month these expenses stem from my not-an-interview trip, including food the night I got into town, gasoline in the rental car, and parking costs. I’ve saved all the receipts for everything, but having work expenses as their own category in my budget will make things easier for tracking and tax purposes, too.
  • Rainy Day Savings ($0 spent): With the tighter month, I didn’t put any money aside for any of our rainy day funds (which include: 3-6 month expenses, car repairs, toddler birthday, travel/Christmas, dental/vision, annual expenses, and vet expenses). This is not ideal since many of these categories are non-negotiable anticipated expenses (like my annual expenses for car registration), but skipping one month won’t kill us either.
  • Savings Goals ($300 spent): I put $100 toward my Roth IRA fund (and then I promptly withdrew all the money I’d saved to actually open a Roth), and $200 toward my Cruise 2016 fund.
  • Debt Payments ($603 spent): Discussed more in my latest debt post. This figure represents $50 toward my car payment, $453 toward student loans, $75 toward license fees, and $25 toward medical debt. One side-note about medical debt (and the reason for the discrepancy between this figure and the one I reported in my debt update)…I was supposed to also have a $50 medical bill to pay, but I never received the bill this month. When I called the office to inquire about it, it turns out they’d processed my last payment late, so it looked like I’d skipped a February payment and already paid the March payment. It was a clerical error on their end so nothing negative was reported to my credit and no late fines or fees were assessed, but it means that my next bill is not due until April (also…my April bill will be my LAST bill for the $50/month payment! Eeeeek!!!!)

Overall thoughts on March budget

Honestly, March was tough on me psychologically. I feel like I’ve just been making tiny little baby steps lately, where I’m used to the “rush’ that I felt when I first started the debt repayment process and was making huge strides monthly. I still stand by my previous statements that I think having a lean month from time-to-time can be good for us, force us to examine how every single penny is being spent and use the opportunity to try to reflect on true necessities versus extras.

That being said….I’m ready to have some more income to toss at debt. I’m not going to lie. It hurt to only put $603 toward debt when I’m used to paying between $1500-$2500/month!! Six hundred dollars doesn’t even move the needle of what I owe – its like just treading water because it only covers interest without any extra! It made the month feel long as it draaaaagged on with its relentless 31 days (and coming on the heels of a 28-day month!)

And I wish I could say that April was going to be an awesome month, but it won’t be (we live on last month’s income, so the money we have to spend in April is from income earned in March). It will be better than last month, as we have almost an extra $1500 in the budget, but it’s not as high as I’d like (for comparison’s sake, our income this March is down nearly $2,500 compared to March of last year). Oh the joys of small business ownership. The good news is that the business has, overall, been flourishing and even when there are leaner months, we can be sure that fatter months are ahead. (Fingers crossed!)

How did you do with your budget last month? Do you have any areas you’re working on improving?


Here’s What’s Bothering Me

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There’s a lot I’ve been thinking about lately–mostly centered on a couple of questions:

1) Am I TOO frugal and/or cheap?

2) And what is this frugalness/cheapness costing me? (Not speaking financially)

Here’s what’s bothering me: I have family that live within a 2 hour radius (immediately family- parents, brother…other family members and grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins) and then I have family who lives an airplane ride away- of course my sister who lives in Orlando, as well as my favorite aunt and cousins who live in Ft. Lauderdale. So is my being, what I deem, too frugal and cheap costing me memories and life experiences along the way with all these people? Hell, I have friends right here in town where it feels like I haven’t seen them in forever. There’s no way it couldn’t be, right?

My sister, who just had her first child, I KNOW could use all the help she can get, so even though I went and helped her out for a few days (if you can consider it help…I did pay for meals, both for myself and her family (sis + boyfriend) and helped drive her around for doctor’s appointments and errands), I feel like I SHOULD do so much more. I wish I would have brought a couple hundred dollars with me and bought them a week’s worth of groceries and a month of diapers. (Note- I did buy them a baby supplies of their registry prior to me blogging here to help them out- still not enough, IMO). So why did it feel like I COULDN’T do this, even though I have the means to? Is it selfish? I think it is. And even though we were never really that close growing up, I can’t help but feel that adulthood is the best time to build a bond we didn’t have as children.

My parents- my parents gave me a fantastic childhood. FANTASTIC childhood. And even into adulthood, even though we don’t always see eye to eye, we’ve become, in a lot of ways, friends. I wish I were in a position to help them out now that I’m a grown man and say “thanks for everything.” I shouldn’t say this- what I should say is I wish I FELT like I were in a position to help them out. Again, if you look strictly at my budget, I have the means do it, so why does it feel like I can’t? Not only this, but I get a feeling that they still worry about me (granted, I’m not a parent, so maybe parents just always have that feeling with their children) since my existence right now is fairly…bare bones. They’ve never come out openly and said this, and I’ve never inquired about it so it really is just a feeling (like whenever I go up to Buffalo to visit them, my mom’s ALWAYS trying to send me back to Erie with a week’s worth of food, lol, which I normally decline unless it’s 1- homemade soup or 2-Sahlen’s hot dogs). For the mom’s out there- is this just a mom being a mom? And whenever something sorta minor comes up down here, my dad is always the first to ask if he needs to come down and sometimes he just comes regardless- again is this just a dad being a dad? Two notes- 1) I’m NOT complaining- I love my parents, I’m just wondering if my cheapness is keeping them worried 2) I’m completely independent of them financially and have been since college graduation. So is my debt payoff plan keeping me from building a trust and bond with my parents that I think we could have?

And then’s there’s my friends- the longtime friends that I haven’t forgot about. How many times does your phone have to ring and you have to say “No” or suggest the “cheap beer thing” before the phone stops ringing? I feel like I’m living this experiment right now. For the out of town friends- how many months and years have to go by between visits and conversations before the friendships are really just good memories? Again- living that experiment. I wrote about being an introvert in post describing my Social Life, and in no way, shape, or form a socialite (still true), but I’m not a recluse, either. A couple weekends ago, my best friend Cameron stopped by on his way through town, which subsequently led to a Moe’s trip. It was AWESOME, and something I haven’t had in far too long. Most of my friends are married with children at this point, and even though that’s probably has a lot to do with us losing contact, I blame a lot, if not most, of it on myself- had I not been so focused on debt payoff, where would we be? And that’s the tough question; one that no one can answer.

Over past couple of years, the only relationship that I’ve felt truly grow and blossom is my relationship with my girlfriend. Since we’re in similar but not so similar situations (I’m paying off debt, she’s going back to school), we really know where the other is coming from and we’ve been able to work as a team to overcome (knock on wood) any obstacle that we’ve come across. And since we’ve both have had to have a frugal mindset since we’ve been together, we have a pretty open relationship concerning our finances and our lives in general (and it certainly helps we share a lot of the same personality traits and interests).

This post has been very hard for me to write. When it’s come to debt and the payoff, I’ve always played the stoic card- the debt and my spreadsheets are just numbers after all. But what I’ve haven’t done is take time to look at what/how the payoff is effecting me in more than just financial terms. It’s pretty clear I’ve made pretty good headway on my debt, so my question is:

What would you do/what have you done if you found yourself in the same situation?

Would you slow down the debt payoff to take care of other, maybe more important things, or would you continue to pay it off as fast as you could and take care of things after it’s all said and done? One note to keep in mind- my timeline for this debt payoff (on my current trajectory) is completion by November ’16, or 18 months.

P.S. I don’t really have anything to share this week on the debt numbers themselves. I didn’t really pay anything, so I’ll save it for next week.

 

 


Weekly Debt Update #9- Over the Hump and Future Plans

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Hope everyone had a great weekend and a great start to the week!

I’ve officially paid off more on my student loans than I owe! I can’t describe just how good that feels (but I can try- amazing!) but I still have a lot of work to do…approximately $55,000 of work. So…I don’t really feel much need to celebrate anything, just take a nice long look at how far I’ve come, then put my nose back to the grindstone.

Here’s what my balances look like as of the 21st (my Navient auto-debit date):

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$24,224.78$3,612.46
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$19,006.27$3,190.75
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,570.60$2,779.58
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$4,276.91$1,819.12
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$55,078.56$55,509.10

Since last week, I’ve been doing some thinking about what I’m going to do after all my (non-mortgage) debt is gone. I know my number one goal is going to save up 1 years worth of expenses. Basing the 1 year on my current expenses, less the student loans, since I’ve lived my entire adult life on a bare bones budget, I have annual expenses around $15,000. If I throw all the money that I put onto my debt into a savings account, it should take me between 5 and 6 months to do this. I also know that after I save this money I want to catch up my retirement that I missed on this past year, which will go to a Roth IRA- roughly $5,000.

So that’s what I know I want to do for sure. After not, I’m not quite sure at all. I developed a future budget that I could use:

Future Budget

Since I haven’t done any spending in the past few years, I’d like to have budget lines for a future vehicle and/or repairs for my current car (which is already at 86K miles), clothing, and some travel. HOWEVER, I also want to pay 2 mortgage payments monthly and continue to save. One of my biggest inspirations to really start hammering the debt was/is Mr. Money Mustache, so I’d really like to continue living a fairly frugal lifestyle while continuing to save as much as possible. Well- I can’t have it all, so I think this budget is a good balance between spending and saving. And the good news is this is all based on my current pay, which, hopefully, I should be making more in a couple years. I also based my income on the fact I’d like to contribute 5% to our company’s 401K plan to get the most match as I can.

I’d like to hear from people in comments on what you did after you paid off debt- were you to worn out from the payoff that you went into spending mode, or did you continue the lifestyle?

On a budget note, here’s where I currently stand in March:

Weekly Update #9

 

There’s couple of big items that came up this month (which weren’t all that unexpected): 1) I had a crown put in at the dentist a couple weeks ago. I have insurance, but I owe %50 out of pocket for this type of work. The cost- $397.50. 2) I filed and paid my local taxes. I knew when I withdrew my government retirement account (back in September) I would owe state and local taxes on it when I filed in the new year so I knew this was coming. I paid $700 to PA last month and $310 to the city of Erie over the weekend. 3) I had to take our one dog to vet a couple of weekends ago to have them look at an ear infection and to get her vaccinations. The costs- $132.02, but me and my GF have a plan set up- if it’s “her” dog (the white one, Harlow) that she brought to the relationship, the GF will take care of the vet bills and vice versa for my dog (Bubba, the black one). Since I took Harlow in while my GF worked, she wrote me a check for the visit that I just deposited yesterday and, thus, isn’t reflected in my budget, yet. 4) I had to put down a $100 deposit for the B&B I’m taking my GF to in April to make up for my V-day gift to her (the poorly timed concert tickets :/). I didn’t expect this since I didn’t remember putting a deposit down the last time I booked a room. O well, it just means I’ll pay less when we check out.

I also spent more in the groceries/eating out category than I normally do. I had to go into work for a couple of weekends this month, so I bought breakfast for myself on the way to make it easier to go in. I also had a surprise visit from one of my best friends (who lives in North Carolina) over this weekend. Didn’t spend to much, but I treated him to lunch at Moe’s while he was passing through town. It only cost $25 and he has paid for me more times than I can count in the past, so I owed it to him.

My slush plan is fairly low, much lower than I’d like it to be:

Slush Fund= $1,129.84 (plus $132.02 when the check clears)

I have future plans to fill it back up, but I’m not going to do anything at the moment, just continue staying the course for now.

Hope everyone has a fantastic week!


Opening Pandora’s Box

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There has been a LOT of discussion here about my student loans.

This is predominantly fueled by the fact that I’ve been paying minimums on my student loans while opting to pay extra on other debts (see last debt update here). But since my minimum payments do not even cover the interest portion of my student loans, their balances have continued to grow.

I think this has caused some psychological pains for readers (or maybe even physical pains – i.e., headaches!). Seriously. I thank you guys for being so invested in my debt situation and me, in general. I apologize for getting so many of you riled up over the situation!

I recently had some great comments on this post that I want to copy and paste verbatim:

Debtor said:

I’m going to make one last pitch for you to get those student loans to a reasonable level.

Can you see that in a year, your ACS and Navient loan balances have INCREASED? I know you want to get rid of the car debt but really this is hard for me to understand. At 2.49% why not just pay a little above the minimum car payment – enough so that it pushes your actual due date forward (like you are) but don’t focus on it.

An average interest rate of 7.5% on 72 grand is a LOT of money. But that’s just me. Like I said, this is just my pitch – i know you’ve said you have the emotional thing with the car but really, it’s such a big balance there too, it’s not like you’re going to pay it off this year. In other words, you paid off 8500 of the car in a year but your loan balance grew 3300. If you had allocated that money to your loan, your overall debt would be lower!

Ok, the accountant in me will give it a rest but does anyone else see what I’m saying?

And here’s a comment from V:

I know that loan seems huge, but I’m gonna just comment here that something funny happens when you tackle a really large number. At first, it feels pointless, and you plod a long and suddenly you take a look and go, okay it’s still huge but not that bad, then at some point you go…oh wow, I can totally kill this, and that is the most motivating thing ever!! I guess what I’m saying is avoiding looking at the huge loan is actually taking up more mental energy than you think; it’s like that giant elephant in the room, best to acknowledge it and tackle it head on. Are you really paying off the car first because you care about it more emotionally or because it allows you to avoid looking at the large loan for awhile longer? Just something to think about; perhaps your focus on the car is really just avoidance in disguise.

And here’s my response, in a nutshell…

  • I agree 100% that I have got to STOP letting these loan balances continue to grow. It’s counterproductive to be paying down some debts while others continue to rise. In the past I’ve basically ignored the problem because I haven’t viewed it as “new” debt (e.g., like buying a car or TV financed), but it totally IS new debt. That’s exactly what it is! Dave Ramsey says the #1 goal when you start trying to get out of debt is to avoid all new debts!!! I’m not doing this. And the only one suffering as a result is ME. This is going to change.
  • I stand firm with my decision to focus predominantly on my car loan (as opposed to the student loans). Here’s the deal. ALL of my student loans have a much higher APR than my car loan (for reference, car loan = 2.49%; student loans range from 6.55-8.25%). I feel like many of the comments are akin to saying “just pay off the highest APR student loan, then you can go back to the car.” But it’s not like that. Even if I were to do that, I feel like many of you would STILL be upset that I’ve gone back to paying off the car, given that it’s still half the APR compared to other student loans. So then I’d be stuck in this (seemingly) never-ending student loan pay-down that will take years and, meanwhile, be paying minimums on my car for the entire length of the car loan. I mean, my car balance is about $15,000; my student loan balance is about $95,000. That’s a HUGE difference and those student loans are going to be a HUGE mountain to climb. My preference is to pay off the car in full within the year and then throw that $450/month toward student loans. That $450/month is my largest monthly debt obligation. I want to get rid of it asap!

So here’s my solution to this dilemma….

I’ve finally – for the first time on the blog – opened up “Pandora’s Box.” In the table below you will see ALL of my Navient Department of Education Loans. But let me explain a couple things first….

First, this isn’t all of my student loans (I still have ACS loans and Navient Federal Loans, too). Also, you’ll notice that I’m predominantly focusing on the UNSUBSIDZED loans.

You may recall that I’ve signed up for the income-based repayment plan. In this plan, any unpaid interest on SUBSIDZED loans is forgiven. With my ACS loans (which are subsidized), my minimum payment does not even cover the interest, but my balance has remained steady because unpaid interest has been forgiven instead of being added to my loan balances.

While I’m focusing on paying down my car debt, I have GOT to STOP accruing interest on my loans. That means I’ll be paying extra toward them, but only on the unsubsidized loans. I hope this is not a controversial point. I owe all of this money and, eventually, all of it will be repaid. But it just makes most sense to accept the gracious gift from our government (there aren’t a lot!), to have my interest forgiven on the subsidized loans. That means I’ll continue to pay minimums on them and ONLY pay extra on the unsubsidized loans so I can keep the extra interest from accruing. Make sense?

Here ya go…

NumberTypeAmountAPRMinimum Monthly PaymentMonthly InterestDifference
1-01Unsubsidized5612.478.25%$20.42$38.5918.17
1-02Subsidized8762.696.55%$31.87
1-03Unsubsidized6967.406.55%$25.3438.0312.69
1-04Unsubsidized6794.026.55%$24.7137.0812.37
1-05Unsubsidized2215.906.55%$8.0612.094.03
1-06Subsidized860.806.55%$3.13
1-07Subsidized7433.456.55%$27.00
1-08Subsidized6572.026.55%$23.91
1-09Subsidized8762.696.55%$31.87
1-10Unsubsidized17557.996.55%$63.8895.8331.95
Total:260.1979.21

As you can see, my minimum monthly payment is $260.19. To this, I’ll be adding extra payments to cover the interest on my unsubsidized loans in the amount of $79.21, which equals a total monthly payment of $339.40.

Luckily, this won’t really seem like a larger payment, because I’m almost done paying off the license fees (which were $75/month minimum) AND one of our medical bills (which was $50/month minimum). So, thanks to the magical debt snowball, this shouldn’t be a big ding in terms of eating up additional income.

What this does mean, however, is that I’ve got to gear up to face a SERIOUS battle ahead.

Not only will I be facing this horrific monster (aka: HUGE student loan debt), but I’m going to have to spend a LOT of time dealing with my loan service provider on a monthly basis. You see, all of these loans are grouped together online so there is no way for me to pay extra only on certain loans. Instead, if I want to pay extra it is divided evenly amongst ALL my student loans. The only way to correct this is to call in every month to have a representative re-allocate the funds toward the specific loans I’m working on. Every month. Also, I’ve heard horror stories about how difficult this can be. Often times funds are still not applied correctly, causing interest to continue to be accrued. I’m not even going to lie. This is going to suck pretty badly.

But I do agree that I cannot continue to bury my head in the sand and allow these balances to keep going up. No way. So starting next month (April)….I’m waging war. Wish me luck as I prepare for battle!

Anyone have experiences dealing with Navient? How would you rate the ease of specifying extra payments and/or dealing with customer service?

Just for fun, check out this post that former blogger Adam wrote about dealing with Great Lakes. Read the comments, too!! What a nightmare, right?!?