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Friday Night Update – $100 Hair


Hey guys! Jumping in real quickly this morning (on my way running out the door) to tell you the good news. Last night turned out to be significantly cheaper than I’d expected! YAY!

We first went to a total dive bar (The Buffet for Tucson natives) where I got away with buying a single pitcher of beer for the table (for $10, including tip). Then we went to a different place where I got a single glass of wine and a slice of the pizza-of-the-day, fresh fig. We got there during happy hour so the total there was also only $10, including tip. (Tucson natives – the fig pizza from Time Market is life-altering in terms of pizza. GO! TRY IT! TRUST ME!!!!)

So there you go – a night out with friends for a mere 20 bucks. Not too shabby. And I was still home by 8:00pm to tuck my littles into bed. That’s a good night if you ask me!

Oh – and the $100 hair thing….

At the dive bar a guy came up and tapped me on the shoulder, all middle-school-style. He pointed at his friend (seated behind me) who he said was willing to pay $100 to touch my hair. TO TOUCH MY HAIR!!!

I tried to laugh and be polite (but that’s totally weird, yes??) and ultimately turned the offer down. When I got home hubs laughed and said I should’ve gone for it. lol. Then it would’ve been a free night out plus an $80 gain. Sorry, hubs. I’m not into pimping out my hair. I don’t think we’re that hard up for cash right now.

You be the judge – $100 hair??? ; )


Fact: I took an embarrassing number of selfies in order to get this one (still blurry) pic. This is the best it gets. HAHA!!!

Adam and Emily Job Update


Thanks for staying tuned through our personal and financial updates. There are just a couple more topics we wanted to cover to catch you all up on since we’ve been away.

Job Details
After getting forced out of my job in October 2013, I was extremely lucky to land an even better job in town at a company I had worked with before. This job even came with a pay upgrade so now I’m making about 20% more than I was at the job I lost. This company has been a blessing in every way. My manager is one of the best I’ve ever had. I am good at my job and the work environment and expectations are well suited for my style. I have been nominated for promotion in the upcoming review cycle, which should add another 5-7% to my paycheck. Additionally, my new company has a generous stock compensation program that provides a nice boost each year – I am transferring my stock compensation shares into index funds and putting this money straight into savings for retirement – not touching any of it.

When I started this job, I told myself I’d stay here for 5-7 years, since my last two jobs were a total of 3 years. Working in the high technology industry, there is always the feeling of a vortex or a vacuum sucking people in to Silicon Valley / SF Bay Area from all across the country. I said I would never move there because the culture was so different and the cost of living is ridiculous. I was satisfied to work for a technology company with Bay Area perks while enjoying the many benefits of living in Texas. Workers in my industry are contacted by recruiters fairly regularly, and I have become quite adept at thanking them for their interest but politely declining their opportunities to leave Austin.

But in January this year, I was contacted out of the blue by a recruiter from a prestigious Silicon Valley tech company that is highly regarded as a great place to work, with excellent pay and benefits, and a highly selective hiring process. I told the recruiter that although I was happy where I was, I would be willing to listen to what they had to say. (Although you might have some guesses at this company, I humbly request that you don’t mention the name here so that the search engines don’t make an association that might identify me).

At each stage of the recruiting/interview process, I was convinced a had made enough mistakes to end my candidacy. But after 3 rounds of interviews, they made me an offer! Even though it is an awesome opportunity, it was a very difficult decision since we are currently in such a good spot from a job/life/finances perspective. But eventually I was convinced by their offer and I will be joining them this summer. The Bay Area vortex finally sucked me in and we will be moving soon. Even though taxes and cost of living in the area are much, much higher than in Texas, a million revisions of a spreadsheet I put together show that this move will ultimately help us get to our goals (debt free and retirement savings) about 2 years faster than staying at my current company would. This is why it has been so important for Emily and me to have clarified our life goals and vision for the future in recent months. This job decision did not come down to a decision on Bay Area vs. Austin, or because of some career goal I have in the technology industry. It became crystal clear that this move would help me build some skills, as well as the financial foundation, to do more fulfilling and impactful work in the future.

This job news actually changes a few things I said in the two previous posts (a bit misleading, I admit, sorry about that). Even with a decent raise, due to the effect of taxes, the new job will not be very much different in take-home pay. But, it will be much, much better in retirement contributions and stock compensation. Our costs of living will skyrocket and our standard of living will almost certainly decrease in the near term. I expect that we will have to put the brakes on the student loan payoff for a year or so, which is very disappointing. (Essentially, a lot of the extra money we are paying toward that last loan will now become rent money). But the net result will actually be a much higher savings rate and acceleration of our plan. A good tradeoff in my book.

The company offered a signing bonus and relocation assistance, as well as up to 3 months of corporate housing while we find a place to live. So even though costs will be going up, I am hopeful we can spend the next few months hoarding cash and come out with a big boost to the savings account by the end of the year that we could then use to finally knock out the student loan, or maybe look at a down payment on a house in California (yikes).  There is some money coming in, but I am holding on to it like an old scrooge until we get through the transition and see where we stand.

By the way, we are planning at the moment to rent out our current house, which will hopefully net us about $800 in additional cashflow per month (which we will plan to save for maintenance purposes).

It was a tough decision but the opportunity ahead is very exciting and should work out profitably for our family. Wish us luck as we transition!

Weekly Debt Update #13- Upcoming/Summer Plans


Happy Tuesday everyone!

I want to discuss what our upcoming plans are for mid-Spring into Summer:

  • The biggest one by far is going to be a week long trip to Disney World in mid-July. It’s always been a tradition in our family to head to Disney World on a bi-annual basis, ever since I could walk. This was going to be the first time that I was going to opt out. While more than one reason weighed into this decision, the biggest reason, by far, was cost. Disney World can be the most magical and amazing vacation you can take, especially with a large group or family, but it is so freaking EXPENSIVE!!! Also, being 28, there was no way I could let my parents swing my vacations anymore. So for the past year or so I’ve been dead set on no expensive vacations for me until I’m debt free- Disney included. And I must have told my mom this 2-3 a week, at least. Well… during a cold night in February, I was up in Buffalo visiting, and being semi-intoxicated, we started sharing stories about our past vacations. One thing lead to another and, just like that, I agreed to go. BAM! The next morning, it was final. I woke up to my mother telling the rest of my family how excited she was to have her whole family going together. So here’s about what it’s going to cost for me and GF to go- 1) We’re driving, since GF will not get on a plane, so the cost of gas 2) my folks are in the Disney Vacation Club so the room is paid for with their membership 3) The Disney Dining Plan (meaning food has been paid for in advance) and park tickets were already bought. 4) Boarding our dogs for the week (GF’s mother has told us she could watch them for the week; I plan on paying her $200) 5) Since my parents graciously paid for our dining and tickets I have a couple of ideas to thank them (pay the tips, buy the booze, etc…) while on the vacation.
  • GF and I have really got into good health and fitness regimens in the past couple weeks. To rewards ourselves for going to the gym 5 or more times a week, we’re going to have date nights every weekend. Every other weekend will be one where we spend money (dinner, movies, etc) and the other weekend we’ll have non-spendy dates (picnics, walks, drives, etc).
  • Me and my brother are going to Cedar Point on May 9th (the day they open). Me and my brother were always extremely close up but had a bit of a falling out, recently. We both love roller coasters and this place is amazing, so I plan to treat him.
  • We’re hosting a couple of family parties at our house to get our families together. Memorial Day and Labor Day are the two big ones. We’ve had great success in the past doing a potluck deal where we buy the hot and hamburgers and do the cooking and everyone else brings a side.

Does anyone else plan out their summer’s? It may just be a northern thing since our summers are so short, lol.

As for my debt totals, my automatic Navient payment was made on the 21st. It didn’t post until the 22nd so it wasn’t on last week’s update:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,996.52$3,840.72
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,830.11$3,366.91
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,420.39$2,929.79
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$2,198.58
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

I hope everyone has a great week!

Adam and Emily Financial Update


Hello! I’d like to continue our update since we stepped away from blogging here in February 2014.   Here’s what has been going on with our real estate and our debt.

Real Estate
If you followed our journey previously, you’ll know that we own 2 rental properties (3 units) out of state, and also have a rented guest house at our primary home. 2014 was not a very successful year for us with our investment properties. One unit sat empty for several months during the winter, and one renter abandoned her unit, which ended up needing quite a bit of maintenance and repair.  My reserve funds just covered the out of pocket payments I had to make on my properties.

However, coming into 2015, all units are rented to tenants who are paying on time and are reliable. We currently cash flow almost $900 per month on the out of state properties and are also building equity both in appreciation and mortgage pay downs. This year could end up being really good for us in that regard, or it could go south if the current tenants decide to leave or any major repairs come up. So far, the investments haven’t returned what I hoped, but it’s finally starting to look like the potential is there for really solid returns this year. As a reminder, I run all the income and payments from the rental properties through a separate bank account and do not touch the money (there’s not much there anyway, just enough to make a couple payments on the properties currently). Even though we had a rough 2014, I still like rental properties because you make money in 3 ways: rental income, property appreciation, and equity building. If we can keep our head above water with tenants on these two properties, we should have a nice value built up in a few years.

On the other hand, it looks like our decision to buy a house in Austin in 2013 is really working out in our favor. Austin is a hot market, and I just saw today that asking prices in our zip code are up 10% in the last year. I also heard that the population in our specific area is growing faster than anywhere else in the state, so our property value should really benefit over the next few years. To buy the house, we had to spend about $20,000 that otherwise would have been invested in retirement, but after only 2 years, I estimate we have about $43,000 in equity in the house, as well as a guest house rental that brings in a bit of money each month. If we hold on to this house for another 5 years, we should be able to walk away with over $100,000 if we sell.

Just a reminder that we chose not to track our mortgage debt on this blog; it’s just too big and too long of a payoff. To provide a little clarity, our house was expensive and came with a big payment. After subtracting the rental income we make from the guest house, we are paying about $1300 out-of-pocket each month on our house, which is very reasonable in the Austin market and for our income level. For each $1300 out-of-pocket payment, we reduce our mortgage principal by about $500, and we should be gaining around $600/month in appreciation on average. Although it felt insane to buy a house so far above our budget at first, I think it’s turning out to be a great choice.

Debt Status
Ok, at long last, time for a debt update! When we left you in February 2014, our debt stood at $92,920 and our savings was at $8200. Due to the encouragement and challenge of the readers here, we made the commitment to pay off the rest of this debt in 2 years and be debt-free by December 2015. At the time, we were putting about $3500 per month toward debt.

I’m excited to say that we have stayed on track with our payoff goals! We have continued to throw as much as we can at our debt and have made great progress. Here is a picture of our progress since last year:


Debt in February 2014
Stafford Loan #3: $15532
Discover Student Loan: $40035
Citi Graduate Loan: $37353
Total: $92,920
Debt in April 2015
Stafford Loan #3: $0
Discover Student Loan: $0
Citi Graduate Loan: $33807
Total: $33,807

Total paid off since February 2014: $59,113!

Current savings: about $12,000.

Since we started paying off debt in 2010, we’ve paid off over $143,000 of credit card, auto loan, and student loan debt!

One strategy I started last year was to exploit my company’s employee stock purchase plan. This plan allows employees to use up to $7500 of salary every 6 months to purchase company stock at 85% of the market price. So I redirected some of the money I was using for loan payment and put $1250 per month into the ESPP. As soon as the shares were purchased, I sold them and pocketed the 15% gain (it actually came out to a little bit more because the shares went up a bit). So, $7500 turned into over $9000 over that period, which helped reduce our debt even faster. Also, it’s so gratifying to make a payment of over $9000 all at once.I also used the majority of my performance bonuses to pay down debt. My company pays out bonuses twice a year, targeted at 15% of my salary. Some of this money was used for one-time expenses like holiday travel and a big veterinarian bill we had last year, but a lot of it went right to the debt. The bonus program, along with other money we were able to save, is mostly how we funded the “Race to $15K.”

Besides the ESPP and bonus program incentives, we consistently paid over $2200/month on our loans from our monthly salary.If our current path continues, with one additional ESPP payout, bonus, and our regular monthly payments, we are on track to pay off the very last student loan by the end of this year! (OK, so it may be January of next year, but who’s counting?) Once the debt is paid off, the majority of my bonus, ESPP, and stock compensation will be saved for retirement.That’s our exciting debt update! But there are a couple more areas to cover, so we’ll be back with another post or two to tie up the loose ends.

An update from Adam and Emily


Hello everyone! For those of you who don’t know, my wife Emily and I are former bloggers here at Blogging Away Debt. We handed over the reins in February 2014 while we were in the long, hard slog of our debt payoff. I have really enjoyed reading and commenting on the stories from the new bloggers here. Ashley and Jeffrey asked if we’d like to provide an update for the readers. So, thanks to those of you who’ve asked, and thanks to Jeffrey and Ashley for facilitating the opportunity.

The last 14 months have been very active for us indeed! There are so many things to update on that I’m going to split it into multiple posts. Just a warning, this first post will have very little to do with our debt payoff, but a debt update is right around the corner! I’m going to start off with one of the more fun topics – Goats!

Our Little Homestead
First, for some fun things. We told you in this post and this post about our decision to get a couple of mini-goats in summer 2013 for brush control in our back yard. The goats were wonderful lawn mowers and ate our jungle down to almost nothing, exactly what we hoped for. Billy and Olive also did what goats do, and in March 2014, the goat stork brought us Caper! This was quite the experience, seeing this little furball come into the world and grow up in our back yard. Then, surprisingly in October, we came home to more bleating from an unexpected arrival, P-a-a-a-a-atty Mayonnaise.

Caper   . Pa-a-a-a-tty Mayonnaise

Having the goats was great fun and they served a wonderful purpose ($75 each instead of a $1500 lawn tractor). But they tore up a couple of planters on our patio, and eventually discovered our bedroom window, where they started providing wake up calls about 6 am. On the day that the goats started bleating at 3:30am, I listed them for sale immediately. So we sold our 4 goats for about the same that we originally bought 2 for, and had a year of free lawn mowing in between.

We expanded into chickens last year as well! Our little flock of 5 hens was so much fun! We got beautiful brown and even blue eggs that tasted wonderful! I built my own coop in the back to add room for even more laying hens and even a couple ducks, but we suffered a couple losses to raccoons and our flock became scared of the coop, and decided to take up residence on our back porch. No matter how hard I’ve tried, I have been unable to train them back to the newly reinforced coop. So just this week, we gave the remaining ladies to the neighbor and we will have to start over with new birds. Building a coop was fun, as someone who never had a lot of training or guidance in handy work. I learned a lot, and was able to build the coop for probably around $200. It sounds like a lot, but it’s essentially an 8′ x 8′ shed that will add some value to the property as an outbuilding.

eggbowl ___
coop __ coop3

After 3 seasons, I’ve finally gotten the hang of gardening in Texas. What I finally figured out is that there are 2 short growing seasons, fall/winter, and spring/summer, instead of one long growing season like a lot of the country has. You need to plant in a very specific window for your garden to have a shot at producing well in the right weather. And you have to pay attention to your soil health. 2015 was shaping up to be our best year so far, with abundant salad greens, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, strawberries, peas, potatoes, onions, carrots, and radishes. Until last weekend, a deer got through the cheap mesh fence netting I put out and basically destroyed the entire garden in one day. I have onions, potatoes, and radishes remaining. The pumpkins and squash may also survive. Because we live on top of a limestone bedrock, setting fence posts here is extremely difficult, or expensive if you hire it out. So I made freestanding fence posts and used cheap netting for the deer fence, and I’m regretting my choice to cut corners to save money on this project. I will need to put a more reliable fence up if I want anything to ever come of this gardening.


Barnhearted Life Goals

___ Our experiences with homesteading on a very small scale have also helped Emily and I clarify our long term goals together. We have a vision to run a joyful farm and apple orchard at some point in the future. In the Midwest, it is popular to go apple-picking in the fall, and also get your pumpkins, go on hayrides, and drink apple cider. We’d like to own a U-Pick orchard and pumpkin patch, but expand the operation into an organic fruit and vegetable farm, cider mill, dairy/creamery, petting zoo, and hospitality business with a bed and breakfast, retreat center, and educational classes for folks to come stay, learn, and experience traditional living first hand.

To accomplish these goals, we will need to get our finances and retirement funds in order during the next few years so that we can afford to live on less money as we take the risk of starting up our farm. Being not only debt-free, but also building the foundation for our retirement fund, will be very important goals for us so that we can enable this future together. To offer some details, I think we will need about $2.5M in our nest egg in order to retire on time. My goal is to be debt-free, and also have enough retirement savings by the time we are 38-40 years old that our investments should grow (with conservative assumptions) to be at least $2.5M by the time we are 60-65. That way, if we are never able to save another dime from future jobs or farms or businesses, we will still be able to retire comfortably if we stay out of debt.

Thanks for reading this initial update! In the next post I’ll get into more financial details.

Weekly Blog Post #12- Work Bonus and a Weekend Getaway


I hope everyone is having a great Tuesday!

I want to share with everyone some great news- I got a bonus and a (small) raise! I had my evaluation with my boss a few weeks ago at the end of March. Per company policy, every employee is evaluated once a year. At my evaluation, I was given a 2% raise (which is guaranteed for cost of living increases) and a 3% merit bonus (which is the max you can get based on performance). After a couple weeks, I finally received a check for the bonus on Friday for $1,600 (after taxes). That was a pretty fantastic feeling; It’s nice to just feel appreciated, let alone be rewarded with a check, as well, is amazing.

You may be asking what I did with my check and the answer is nothing. I had the bank deposit it directly into my savings account where it will allow me to feel much more comfortable with a larger slush fund to carry me through (especially now that I have roof problems). And even though my raise is only going to amount to $20 extra dollars a week, every little bit helps, right?

As for this past weekend, GF finally received her Valentine’s gift, which was a get-away to a B&B where we’ve gone in the past (read about my poor V-Day planning here). The place (for anyone who lives in the area- Asa Ransom House) has an amazing old-timey charm and very romantic setting. We’ve been here on multiple occasion, but never for more than 1 night. Here I am in our room:


We decided to wait to go for a couple of reasons- 1) the place offers buy one night, get one night free during the month of April 2) the nicer spring weather would allow us to get out and enjoy some outdoor activities and 3) my mother’s birthday was during the previous week and we could use part of the weekend to celebrate with my parents. And let me tell you- this past weekend was GORGEOUS. We took advantage of the great weather and did a budget friendly activity- we went to the zoo! I personally love going to Zoo’s and so does my GF, so for the $20 it costs, total, it was an awesome and frugal half day well spent. Here we are in the Buffalo Zoo’s new rain-forest exhibit:


As for celebrating my mother’s birthday, over the years I’ve learned one very important thing about my mother- the only gift that she ever wants is to have her family together. This goes for birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s Day, really any holiday at all. I know this will make me sound cheap but I’ve done everything from cards, to small thoughtful gifts, to large practical gifts in the past and they just don’t do anything for her, so this year, instead of a gift, we spent Saturday afternoon and night at dinner and drinking at her favorite hangout. My dad ALWAYS pays, meaning that I/we didn’t, but I know that the time we spend together as a family means more to my mother than any gift or dinner is worth.

All in all, the weekend ending up totaling about $300 for me. I spent $150 on the room (not including a $100 deposit. One night plus fees and taxes for both nights), 1 dinner at the B&B ($90, a stipulation to get the second night free) and $60 in gratuities (I REALLY like it here and the service is top notch). For the $300, if it was a trip that had we taken not a couple months ago, I would have been hesitant to take (hey, it could be $300 more on my debt!) but was very much worth the price tag and very much worth trying to strike a balance in my life.

And, finally, to anyone interested in my current debt amounts:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$24,119.47$3,717.77
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,924.45$3,272.57
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,498.52$2,851.66
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$2,234.10
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

Have a great week!

Poll the Audience


Hi guys!

Quick question – I’ve been working on my debt update post for tomorrow (a little last minute this time – eek!)…would you prefer for me to stick with the “regular” table I’ve been showing you guys (example from last month’s debt update here) OR do you want me to break apart my Navient loans (like I did in my Pandora’s box post, here)?

Now that I’ve opened the box, it’s hard to close it so it might make sense just to do my loan update with all the loans separated. At the same time, I have so many student loans (that are currently grouped together) that it may be a bit overwhelming to look at them all separated out. What do you think? Any preferences??