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Over the Hump!

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In spite of some setbacks personally  and professionally, things are still progressing nicely in terms of our debt payments. And I’m happy to announce that as of this month, we are officially over the half-way mark with paying off our car loan debt! Wahoo!!!!

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We still have a way to go (over twelve thousand dollars!!!), but remember when things were tight and we stayed in a holding pattern for what felt like forever (literally 5 months where we were in the fifteen thousand dollar range)? We’re finally making good progress and it feels GREAT to get to see the car debt thermometer every time I walk into the kitchen! Yay!!!

And in other financial news, I spoke with the business office in my department and had my paycheck corrected to be paid over 9 months instead of 12.  There were a lot of comments from teachers who said they much preferred a 12-month cycle of pay if it was possible. So, initially I was thinking maybe I’d keep it as-is.

But then others pointed out that (1) we’re very used to dealing with irregular income; we’ve been living this way for years! And (2) my car loan is accruing interest NOW! It’d be better for me to get this money up front and try to pay off our debt ASAP (the goal is still to be consumer debt-free before 2016), rather than to get a lesser paycheck every month in exchange for having summer pay. Also, don’t forget that hubs still draws an income and he’s been the main income-earner in our home for years, so if I don’t get paid over summer and we have to rely on his income for those months, we’ll still survive just fine. It would certainly mean lower savings and/or debt payments during that time, but it wouldn’t cause us to go into debt or not have enough money to survive. Additionally, I have one more piece of good news to report….

I (finally) spoke with the department head and officially received permission to continue working my part-time job (adjunct teaching online)!!! YAY!!!!! So I’ll still get paid, at least from my part-time job, and possibly from my full-time job if there are teaching needs next summer. (Side note for those who’ve asked: now that I’ve received official permission, I plan to continue teaching my part-time job as long as possible. I know I won’t be able to continue forever, especially as my job duties and responsibilities increase with my full-time job. But for now I’m planning to continue at least a year – meaning Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Summer 2016. From that point I’ll reassess to determine if I feel I can continue teaching part-time. I routinely teach 2 classes, but one is much more grading-intensive than the other. So it may be that I ask to drop 1 class but keep the other one for as long as I’m allowed.)

Taking all these factors into consideration, I think we’ll be just fine with the 9-month pay cycle, even if it means I’m double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring and we have to be a little more careful/cautious with budgeting for summer months.

With some of the bummer things I’ve shared lately, I’m really happy to be able to report some good news!

Have you hit any big milestones with debt repayment lately? Share a piece of good news from your life!


Bummer Realization

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First, I want to thank everyone for the kind and thoughtful comments on this post. This trip proved to be not nearly as stressful as my previous one. Not that it was a walk in the park or anything, but I think it helped to have both siblings with me and to already have a good idea of what we’d be walking into with the doctor (and our “hunch” of a diagnosis has now officially been confirmed). I’m going to set this topic aside for a bit, though I’m sure we’ll be revisiting it in the future, at least in regard to how these issues have impacted financial decisions. Thanks again for all the support and understanding!

I’ve already said that I love August. But one of the reasons why I’m excited about this month, specifically, is that it will be my first month earning a full month of pay from my new full-time job! Wahoo!!!!

So I guess I’d had it in my head that I’d be getting double-paid this month (from full-time job AND part-time job) and that next month we’d have some KILLER debt payments to make!

Only…..no.

I did the same thing last year, too. My part-time job has an odd interval of paychecks. For my summer teaching (which lasts 3 months), the pay was split into two lump sums paid out in June and July. So although the semester isn’t over yet and I continue working this month, I won’t get paid this month because of the schedule of payments (technically I was already paid in-full, and it just happens that I got paid before the semester ended).

I still don’t know if I’ll be able to continue working part-time in the Fall. I have a meeting with the department head this week where I’ll ask(!!!). I’ve got my fingers crossed for good news but, even so, I won’t be expecting a paycheck from the part-time job until September. And, worst case scenario if I’m forced to leave the part-time job, I won’t have any months at all with double-pay because I’ll have to leave my part-time job before any double-paychecks would occur.

So, yeah. That sucks.

On the bright side of things (a BIG bright side, too), at least I get paid this month! Last year I didn’t get any pay in August at all since my part-time job doesn’t pay during the month. This year I won’t get double-pay, but at least I’ll be getting a full month’s worth of pay from the new full-time job! YAY for that!

I’ll definitely keep you updated on the status of the part-time job. I’ve had a couple commenters ask what the deal is and it’s still up in the air right now. I’m just trying to be positive and hoping for the best, but I’ll let you know once I have my official meeting with the new department head!


Paycheck Blunder

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I was oh-so-excited for my very first 2-week paycheck that was direct deposited into my account on Friday. I was giddy as a child on Christmas morning opening up my bank account information online only to discover…

I got paid nearly the same for my TWO weeks of work as I did on my last check for ONE week of work (in full honesty, this check was about $80 more than last time’s check…but for a full extra WEEK of work!!!)

My jaw dropped when I saw the deposit.

IMMEDIATELY I logged into my school account to view my paycheck and find out what happened.

And, as it turns out, it’s a combination of things.

First, I hadn’t elected my benefits yet in time to have them withdrawn from my last check. The only withholding it contained was the mandatory 401(a) contribution and my taxes. In contrast, this check had OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS of deductions (not even including taxes)!!! Ouch! I elected for a LOT of things to be withheld, including: my mandatory 7% 401(a) contribution plus an additional contribution to bring me up to 10% withheld; all our medical, dental, and vision insurances, taxes, and the BIG one is the FSA for dependent child care to the tune of $500/paycheck. That one will serve me in the long-run because it allows me to pay for childcare with pre-tax money. But it still hurts to have that all added up to be over half my paycheck!!! (also, side note: the max I can contribute to the FSA is $5,000/year. So this level of withholding allows me to use $5,000 pre-tax toward childcare in 2015, then I’ll start over again in 2016. Once I hit the $5,000 max limit these withholdings will disappear and I’ll have to pay remaining childcare costs with after-tax money)

Only…those deductions shouldn’t equate to half my paycheck!

After a more careful inspection of my paycheck I realized I’m getting paid the wrong amount!!!

I’d been hired at ($X) over a 9-month contract. That way I can either take summers off or, if there’s additional work, I can get paid extra to work over the summer (essentially securing a 25% “raise” by working over the summer). When I was hired the business manager said that most faculty members prefer to have their pay spread over a full 12 months so they don’t go without pay over the summer. She could show me how to do that. I said thanks, but never pursued it. In my own mind, I’d rather get my money up front within the 9 months. Hubs still gets paid over summer, we could set up some type of “savings” to set aside some money for summer, or I could just hustle and try to teach over the summer for additional income. But, no, I was not a huge fan of just letting them keep my money and divvy it up over 12 months. I want as much as I can get now, thank you very much.

So when I calculated what was going on it was easy to see. Apparently I’d somehow been opted into the 12-month pay cycle instead of getting paid over 9 months as I’d intended. That essentially makes my income drop 25% (since it’s being spread over an additional 3 months).

Soooo, what would you do?

My knee-jerk reaction is to go to the business office and ask them to correct it. I want to get paid over 9 months, not 12. But are there any great reasons to keep my pay over 12 months? Anything I’m overlooking?

One additional piece of information is that if I opt for 9 months of pay, then I get double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring semester (in order to cover the unpaid summer months). If I stick with the 12-month cycle then the payments stay the same year-round.

Thoughts?


Ashley’s July 2015 Budget Update

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Happy August! Despite the terrible heat Tucsonians experience in August, it’s one of my favorite months of the year. My husband and favorite (only) sister both have birthdays this month. My girls’ original due date was this month (I ended up having them 8 weeks early – at the end of June – but they were due in August). And we get the most incredible monsoons in August. I love the sound of an afternoon storm raging on outside the window while the girls nap and I busy myself with work, cleaning, or even a little afternoon reading. : )

Now that it’s a fresh month, let’s see how last month shaped up:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 209
Water 68
Natural gas 16
Sprint (2 lines) 115
Cable/Internet 103
Car Insurance 155
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1378
Gift-Giving 60
Restaurants 109
Entertainment 15
Groceries 537
Gasoline 70
Household Goods 39
Clothing 52
Parking 96
Postage 10
Savings 1209
Debt Payments 2125
Total 7850

 

Explanations:

Most of the budget is in-line with summer spending. Here’s a little commentary on specific categories of spending:

  • Preschool ($1378) went up this month because the girls started going full-time on July 13th.
  • Gift-giving ($60) accounts for $45 worth of gift cards for our preschool teachers for their last day of school ($15 gift card each), + a $15 charitable donation to a children’s nonprofit organization we like to support. This specific organization also qualifies as a tax credit (basically – instead of paying state taxes to Arizona, it’s like directing those taxes directly toward the organization we support). We like to donate $400 (the max allowed), so you’ll see additional donations in the future.
  • Gasoline ($70) is lower than normal (despite increased driving) because I’ve been taking advantage of Fry’s fuel rewards program. In my area Fry’s grocers give points (generally $1 spent = 1 point) that accumulate and can be used for cheaper gas (100 points = 10 cents off per gallon). This summer they’ve been doing double points ($1 = 2 points), and I’ve been racking up the points! My last fill-up I got 70 cents off per gallon!!!
  • Clothing ($52) accounts for a new pair of nice work pants and a work dress both from Banana Republic. Both were on mega-sale earlier in the month (marked down + an additional 50% off!). I needed a couple new work pieces, and these were a killer deal!
  • Parking ($96) is from all my daily parking + the prorated summer parking pass I bought for work.
  • Savings ($1209) is a bit deceptive. $484 went toward car repairs (so…I put it in our car savings account in Capital One 360, and then I withdrew it for some repairs we had to deal with earlier in the month). The rest of the savings were allocated as follows: $500-cruise 2016, $100-annual fees savings account; $100-Roth IRA savings; $25-girls’ college savings*.

*Note: One of my goals this year in respect to “the year of becoming adults” was to open up college savings for our girls. I haven’t actually opened up ESAs yet, but I’ve earmarked that $25 as the first contribution. I hope to set up the accounts this month and start depositing money more regularly (initially in very small quantities) as our debt continues to decrease.

I’m so excited for the coming months as I start to get paid at my new job! I already got one paycheck (albeit a smaller one given I started in the middle of a pay-period), so August will be my first month will full-time regular pay. We live on last month’s income, so it still won’t really impact our budget until September, but I’m already itching to make some really big debt payments! Can’t wait!!!

How did you do with your budget in the month of July?


PAYDAY!!!

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Oh my gosh, I had forgotten how awesome it feels to have a real “payday!” Since I’ve been working contract/adjunct jobs, my pay schedule has been weird. I get paid once monthly for the online teaching job and hubs gets paid as work is completed (always at odd intervals). It’s been years since we’ve had a routine every-other-week Friday pay day and….it feels good!

I totally forgot this past Friday was my first pay day! Probably because I was a little consumed with other things. But then on Saturday I logged into my bank account and saw an extra $XXX (several hundred dollars) and realized – I got my first paycheck!!! It was only for half my normal pay because I started in the middle of a pay period. But still, it was very exciting!

Just wanted to share the fun news! Perhaps more exciting is the change in mindset I’ve had since starting to blog. If this were 2 years ago and I got a full-time job, my first paycheck would have probably been blown on some type of “reward” for myself. Now it’s sitting safely in the bank, waiting to be allocated in August’s budget (We live on last month’s income, so income from this month doesn’t get spent until next month). Instead of impulsively spending on some new clothes or a massage, I’m going to have a chance to really look at our overall income, assess our debt and savings goals, and make an educated/informed allocation of the money in a way that really feels much better long-term than the short-lived pleasure of a massage or new outfit.


Ashley’s July 2015 Debt Update

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And, just like that, it’s time for another debt update!

This month has flown by! I think between our trip back to Texas the first week of the month and starting work in the middle of the month, I feel like I’ve barely batted my eyes and the month is nearly gone! But I’m happy to report that even with as fast as the month feels like it’s gone by, I’ve still made some decent progress on my debts. Keep in mind, I haven’t received a paycheck yet from my new job and we live on last month’s income, so there will be a month lag behind when I start receiving income and when I’m able to really bump up my debt payments. So this debt update only accounts for our regular income (from hubs’ business and my part-time job).

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Capital One CC-17.9%-Paid off in March 2014$413
Mattress Firm-0%-Paid off in May 2014$1381
Wells Fargo CC-13.65%-Paid off in May 2014$7697
BoA CC-7.24%-Paid off in June 2014$2220
License Fees-2.5%-Paid off in April 2015$5808
Navient - Federal Student Loan$36638.25%$266July$4687
ACS Student Loans$210397.24%$77June$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$666146.55%$257July$63254
PenFed Car Loan$136652.49%$1000July$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$48370% (through April 2016)$500July$5937
Medical Bills$60610%$25July$9000
Totals$115,871 (June balance = 118,051; May balance = 117,815)$2125Starting Debt = $145,472

Do you remember how last month I complained about my student loan balances going up, in spite of the fact that I’d made extra payments?? I’m still so confused about the whole situation (and, take this as another reason why you should avoid student loan debt like the plague!) because I had the same thing happen with BOTH of my loan service providers. That indicates to me that this is not an error on the part of my student loan company, but on the part of the national government (since my loans are government-backed). Does this even make sense? I must admit ignorance in that I don’t know how all the backchannel stuff works between governmental agencies and the student loan companies. But regardless, last month BOTH of my companies reported that my balances had gone up. This month, it looks like whatever error existed has been corrected because now both balances have gone DOWN more than they should have with just this month’s payments. It looks, to me, like whatever interest was added last month (which shouldn’t be added to any subsidized loans since I’m on Income-Based Repayment), has been removed and I’m back to the normal sized balances. So I guess that’s a sigh of relief.

You’ll also notice that I’ve made higher payments to my Navient loans – particularly the Federal loan. The federal loan is my highest APR loan. The minimum payment is only $16, but I’ve routinely been paying $116 for months. This month, however, I decided to really bump it up a bit more – to $266 (that’s the $16 minimum + $250 extra). I maintain primary focus on getting rid of the car debt (sooooo close to being at the half-way mark with the car debt and it’s going to go quick from there!!!), but I also wanted to beef up my Navient federal loan payment a bit, too, given the low balance and high interest rate. Forward progress!

I can’t wait to see what progress we can make once my new full-time job paychecks start rolling in! Wahoo!!!

And last note related to the job – I still haven’t been able to meet with the department head to ask about keeping my part-time job. A new department head has just taken office (so it’s not the same person who hired me anymore), and we were supposed to meet this week but I was emailed by the administrative assistant and told we’d have to push the meeting back to mid-August. I haven’t even met the department head yet (I think she’s working from home this summer because my office is right down from hers and I haven’t seen her), so I’m waiting to ask about it until we meet in-person. In the meantime I continue to work both jobs (doing the part-time job early morning and late evening). When I was hired I was currently teaching online for my part-time job and everyone knew about it so I’m assuming that my summer teaching is okay, though I’ll feel much better once I get official approval (fingers crossed) that I can continue teaching future semesters, too. I don’t expect my fall part-time contract until August, so the timing should work out in terms of asking permission and officially committing to continue teaching part-time.

On a more personal note, I’ve prescheduled this post because TODAY is my out-and-back trip to be with my Dad for an important doctor’s appointment. I’m not sure everything the appointment will entail (likely just a review of all previous tests and ordering one final additional test), but there’s a slim chance we could receive an official diagnosis. You may recall that I’ve said before I feel fairly confident I know what the diagnosis will be so this is just a matter of having it confirmed (side note: he was given a preliminary diagnosis already by another doctor, but this is a specialist, so we’re very interested in what he has to say). I feel like everything is “on hold” until we get the diagnosis and then the world will feel like its been turned upside-down, but at least we can start moving forward with the next steps and making a plan for the future.  I’ll have a lot more to say on the future financial implications once we know for sure-sure what the diagnosis is. So send happy/comforting/diagnosis-finding vibes my way : )  Not getting my hopes up for receiving a diagnosis just yet, but it sure would be nice if we get one today!

Happy Thursday, friends!


Giving Myself Some Grace

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When I wrote about my first week of work and the changes I was adjusting to (specifically the looooong days), I had several people comment to remind me to take care of myself and allow a couple weeks to get used to this huge adjustment in my life.

I’m definitely taking those comments to heart and although I don’t want to make long-term budget changes yet, there’s one in particular that I want to make at least for the short-term:

Increased grocery budget.

Prior to starting as a blogger here, I spent a TON of money each month on food. Between groceries and eating out (including $$$ drinks), we easily spent a thousand a month!

When I first started blogging, I set a grocery budget of $400/month for our family of 4, and a restaurant/eating out budget of $75/month (which I later increased to $100/month). So I’ve essentially cut our food spending in half!!!!

But it hasn’t been all daisies and roses! I have notoriously struggled with the grocery budget, in particular. I’ve written several times about how if I lose even a bit of focus that it comes out in my grocery spending. I’ll pick things up all willy-nilly at the grocery store just because it looks good or sounds good at the time. I’ll stray from my list and get random things that are really unnecessary or convenience foods I could make myself from scratch for cheaper. So it’s not like I’ve been operating at 100% this whole time but, in general, I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to about $400/month in groceries for our family.

With this new job, however, I’m already finding it challenging to have the time to make all the from-scratch foods I like to make. I’ve tried to help myself by doing rollover meals (example: one night I made ground beef tacos and I browned some extra beef so the next night I could make a beef casserole dish), and I’ve done food prep once a week where I wash and cut up fruits and veggies so they’re ready-to-go. But I’m still finding it to be a bit of a challenge.

So I’d like to start buying a few prepared/frozen foods that I can just pull from the freezer, heat, and eat – especially on those days I’m feeling particularly drained. I don’t want to eat this way all the time (I still prefer fresh foods, myself), but I can see how the convenience is worth a little extra money at the grocery store – especially when the other option I’m considering is take-out. Frozen, prepared grocery store foods are still cheaper than take-out! So I think maybe 1-2 grocery store convenience meals per week might be a new thing for the next couple weeks.

I’m also going to try to beef up my own freezer stash. For example, in regard to the beef casserole I mentioned above, I made enough for 2 meals and froze half of it so we can eat at a later date. But until I’m fully stocked on my own homemade freezer meals and while I’m still trying to transition to my new roles both at home and the office, I want to offer myself a little grace in the form of an increased grocery budget. I don’t know what exact numbers will look like long-term, but for right now I’m thinking an extra $25/week (extra $100 per month) will really help ease the burden a bit during the evening rush to make food and feed the kids before other evening chores set in.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear some of your favorite work-night recipes, websites, or blogs that you frequent for quick, healthy meal ideas and kid-friendly foods!


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