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Posts tagged with: student loan debt

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?

 

 


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!


Ashley’s June 2016 Debt Update

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I’m really excited about this month’s debt update! I’d originally hoped to put a solid $4,000 toward debt this month and, although we didn’t quite hit that number, we did put a full $3,500 toward debt!

I know I’ve said this before, but moment of silence for that huge, astronomical number!

((((((silence))))))

Thank you! I just like to acknowledge that $3,500 is a ton of money!

If the average American household income is $55,000 (source), then this represents roughly a full month worth of net income for the typical U.S. family. Craziness!

See for yourself…

PlaceCurrent BalanceAPRLast Payment MadeLast Payment Date Original debt, March 2014
Navient$698266.55%$2955June$74218
ACS Student Loans$85966.55%$20June$8215
Balance Transfer Student Loan #2$68500% (through April 2017)$500June$7650
Medical Bills$57860%$25June$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$91058 (May balance = 94,292)$3500Starting Debt = $145,472

Two things excite me about our debt update this month:

  1. We’ve dipped into the $60,000s for my Navient student loans! I know we still owe a ton, but it’s SO exciting to finally hit a new first digit! The entire time I’ve been blogging Navient has been up in the 70,000s range, so this is a huge deal to me! To be fair, it’s only within the current calendar year that I really started tackling the student loan debt-mountain! (note – I was paying toward student loans all along, but not at a very aggressive rate, as I had prioritized other debts first). I can’t wait to continue seeing this number drop!
  2. We’re super close to hitting a new first-digit of our overall debt! At $91,000 currently owed, we should definitely but down into the $80,000s range by next month! EEEK!!! Again (I must emphasize this for newer readers), I know this is still a disgusting amount of debt. But when I started blogging I had nearly $150,000 of total debt, and it feels like just yesterday when we broke the $100,000 barrier, so the last $10,000 has gone in basically the blink of an eye (ahem – it’s actually taken 5 months, but whose counting?)

I’m really feeling the momentum now and it seems like the debt is just melting away! We still have a LONG way to go, but I’m feeling refreshed and rejuvenated! We’ve had great pay in June (budget update coming soon!) and expect to have great pay in July as well. That really helps as we’re working on pounding out a lot of these student loans.

Also, I’ve grouped all my Navient loans together just for ease, but I’m actually paying them one-at-a-time (first I targeted the highest interest loans, and now that all the remaining loans have the same rate I’m targeting them by smallest first – the snowball method). I’ve actually paid a couple in full lately and it feels SO SO good every time I log into Navient and see another loan with zeros all the way across for amount owed and upcoming payments. These are just the kind of emotional “wins” I need to really feel like we’re on the right track. And it feels GREAT!!!

Next steps – build EF and buy a freaking house!!!

 


Why I Have So Much Student Loan Debt (And Why YOU Should Avoid It Like The Plague!!!)

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A few weeks ago I posted the latest in my student loan drama.

A reader asked if I’d write a post explaining why I ever borrowed so much money for school in the first place. What was my thought process like when I took out the loans? What were my plans for a repayment timeline? And, just generally…what was I thinking?

I will speak only for myself, as every person is in a different situation.

First, if you’re a new(ish) reader, I recommend checking out my debt story to explain how I acquired so much debt in the first place (I haven’t always had debt! It all came while I was in grad school). And if you are curious, I’ve broken down all my Navient student loans in this post (keep in mind, that does not include loans from ACS). My latest debt update (with all debts) can be found here.

Why did you take out student loans in the first place?

I was so lucky to have parents who were financially able to help me through my undergraduate degree. For my first year (living on campus), they paid for everything – tuition, books, room, board, meal plan, etc. I worked part-time for fun money. Over time I took on more responsibility for paying my own bills. By my senior year of college they were still helping pay all my tuition and books, but I had been working a lot more to pay for my living expenses (rent, utilities, car, food, etc. etc. etc.) This worked well for me because I was able to gradually take on more responsibilities associated with “ adult life” instead of having it happen overnight when I turned 18. Not everyone is so fortunate and I am forever grateful for the gentle scaffolding I received in that regard. But one thing I always knew is that I would hit the end point of financial assistance once I graduated. My parents knew I wanted to pursue an advanced degree (I’ve always wanted to be a college professor, which requires a PhD), but we had all discussed it and I knew I’d be on my own in terms of paying for the degree. Perhaps interestingly, my stepdad (who married my Mom when I was 16, but has been in my life since 14) has a Ph.D. But things were so, so different when he’d received his advanced degree. So we never had a talk about how to avoid student loan debt, or the best way to minimize student loan debt. I don’t want to bash my parents – they did the best they could with the information they had (they really didn’t know how much it could cost to earn a Ph.D. today). But I do wish someone had pulled me aside and had a financial conversation with me about student loan debt. Instead, I simply viewed student loans as the only logical way to pay for my advanced degrees. There was never a question of doing anything differently.

But why so much student loan debt? How did it get so out of control?

Most of my student loan debt was incurred in my first two years of graduate school while I was living in Florida. I talk more about it here. Basically, tuition was insanely expensive for an out-of-state graduate student and I didn’t receive tuition reimbursement from the university. I racked up nearly $50,000 in student loans those first two years, alone. It all happened so quickly I never really wrapped my brain around it. At the time I had a good friend pursuing a medical degree (which we know is $$$$), and we talked about student loans one time. She talked about how she mentally compartmentalizes the money so she doesn’t stress about it. She actually made some metaphor of the money being “fake” – like Monopoly money or something. It made her feel better psychologically and it was easier to cope with racking up the kinds of loans she was taking out. I basically followed suit with the same strategy. The common (mis)conception I’d always been told was that “education is always valuable” and “student loans are ‘good’ debt.” Note, these are two things I vehemently disagree with now, but I bought into the myths at the time (along with all my grad school buddies).

So education isn’t always good? What do you think now?

I’m in higher education, so obviously I’m pro-college (I teach college courses so I’d be out a job if no one went to school!) BUT I know so many people who went to college just because that’s what they’d always been told to do. My belief now is that education just for the sake of education is a LUXURY. There’s nothing wrong with it. I love to learn! But unless you can afford to pay cash, it should be in the same category as a luxury vehicle. You don’t need it. Just going to school blindly with no plan for the future (in terms of career, projected earnings, etc.) is not wise in my opinion. Instead, high schools should offer prep courses or parents should sit their kids down and think about costs of college versus projected salary. They need to be in-sync. You wouldn’t take out $100,000 of student loan debt for a degree in German Polka History (Dave Ramsey’s example). You need to be sure that you’ll be employable after graduation! Are there jobs in your degree area? What is the starting salary? What is the average salary? How much is your degree going to cost? These are questions that young people should be examining before selecting a major and enrolling in classes. If you’re unsure, it’s not the worst thing in the world to wait a year before going to college! If parents are okay with helping a child financially and the kid wants to take general courses while they figure out what subject to major in, then that’s fine. I’m not going to judge anyone else. But for me and my children (when they reach college-age), we’re going to have some serious financial and career-oriented discussions prior to ever registering for that first college hour.

When you were taking out student loans, what did you think would be the timeline for repayment?

Honestly, this is a subject my grad school friends and I talked about frequently. And you know what the common thought is? “I’ll have these loans forever.” When you graduate you’re put on a 30-year plan, the same as a mortgage, and you just assume they’ll be around forever. Maybe not everyone thinks this way but this was the overwhelming majority of opinions that I have experienced (that goes for grad students at both universities I attended, so it wasn’t limited to a specific place). I really didn’t think specifics in terms of payments and interest while I was in school. I never even knew the full amount I owed until after I graduated as I was doing my exit loan counseling. I knew I owed a lot, but I’d never had it all added up before in a single place until then. I had no idea that my monthly payments (before applying for IBR) would be over a thousand dollars a month, and that over a third of the payment would be going straight to interest. It’s incredibly overwhelming and scary to find yourself newly graduated, no job yet, and to discover you are responsible for a mortgage-sized debt.

Million dollar question…. Would you do it again?

I would definitely still earn my advanced degree (Ph.D.) because its required for the type of jobs that I want (and for the job I recently accepted!). Even if I hadn’t landed my new job, I wouldn’t say the degree, itself, was a waste. But if I had fully understood the implications of my sized student loan debt, I would have done everything in my power to avoid them or minimize them to whatever extent possible. Here are some real life things I would have done differently (that may or may not apply to other peoples’ situations):

  1. Work while in school. I did this in undergrad, but graduate school felt so all-encompassing that I didn’t think it was possible. You know what? It was. Eventually I came around while pursuing my Ph.D. and I taught several classes at the local community college. But the whole time I was in Florida (where, again, most of my debt is from), I didn’t do a single thing other than school. What a wasted opportunity to try to earn some money and minimize the loans I was taking out.
  2. Work on campus. Especially in Florida where I did not receive any tuition reimbursement, working on campus would have been invaluable. They paid pretty poorly (I think minimum wage at the time – about $8/hour) BUT they gave tuition reimbursement! At $1,000 per credit hour, that tuition reimbursement would have been worth it even if I had been working for free! I should have gotten a job on campus.
  3. Work (even for free) through any company that will pay for your education. This tends to be less common if you want to go into academia (like me), but I had several friends who worked for places (or interned, where they earned no paycheck at all), in exchange for a partial or full college tuition reimbursement. Think about your career trajectory and see if this can somehow work for you. Even many retail stores offer tuition reimbursement of some kind. You just have to do a little digging and asking around to find out if it would work for you!
  4. If your desired school is out-of-state, move there first! This is a big one that not many people know about. If you move somewhere (out-of-state) for school, you will be considered an out-of-state student for tuition purposes the entire time you stay there (not just first semester or first year). I learned this the hard way when I went to a school in Florida. We lived there full-time, hubs worked there and paid taxes there, we were considered residents in terms of our licenses and for jury duty (I even served on a jury while living there!) But we were NOT considered residents for tuition purposes. The way around this is that if you know you want to attend an out-of-state college, you can actually move there a semester (or year) before you plan to attend! A big secret tip for grad students, specifically… I know more than one person who did not get into their dream university. So they moved to the school’s city and started attending lab meetings and discussion groups on their own time. They even took a few classes as non-degree seeking students. And as long as they made a good impression and forged relationships with faculty members they were always, without exception, admitted the following year. Why? It shows extreme dedication to move cross-country and start attending a school without officially being accepted there! So for any future grad students who didn’t get into the dream program – there’s still a chance! Build those connections prior to matriculation and you’ll (1) likely get in the following year, and (2) be considered in-state for tuition purposes since you moved to the state before starting school!
  5. Look at tuition when determining a school to attend. I can honestly say I never once looked at tuition rates when deciding where to apply to and where to eventually attend. That is so, so, so silly on my part! This is REAL money that is going to take REAL years to repay, not to mention interest, etc. So look for places that are inexpensive and affordable! At the undergrad level, start with a community college (bonus – you can likely work full-time and take classes at night and on weekends). Then transfer to an inexpensively priced in-state university to finish up your bachelor’s degree. This will help minimize the amount of loans that are taken out to cover the tuition.
  6. Get involved in a cause! And apply for related scholarships. Really you should apply for every scholarship or grant known to man-kind. But I’ve found that it helps increase your odds if you get involved in some specific group (often a philanthropy of some kind) and apply for scholarships specifically targeted toward the group. As an example, when I was a grad student I joined an organization specifically for women in academia. I attended bi-annual meetings, mentored an undergraduate girl, served on annual committee panels and even organized a symposium one year for middle-school and high-school aged girls. As a grad student, I found various women’s organizations that offered grants and I was able to win several due to my extensive involvement in the women’s organization at my university. They weren’t huge grants, but they covered my costs to attend various conferences, paid for travel, lodging, conference costs, etc. etc. etc.

Those are my tips. Feel free to leave any additional tips in the comments section.

And if you are a parent or mentor to a young person about to graduate high school, don’t be scared to pull him/her aside and have a frank discussion of the long-term implications of student loan debt (and all the drama that accompanies them). Knowledge is power! : )


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?


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?!?


Ashley’s January Debt Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I will do better next month!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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