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Weekly Debt Update #10- Moving Forward


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In my day-to-day life:

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

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


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

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

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid Off
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$24,224.78$3,612.46
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$19,006.27$3,190.75
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$7,570.60$2,779.58
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$3,192.92
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

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

I hope everyone has a great week!


  • Reply Theresa |

    I am glad that you are looking for more balance. Connecting with people does NOT have to be super costly. You can meet someone for a walk, a cup of coffee or invite someone over for a few beers (or lemonade). Your married with children friends might really enjoy a kid-free get together at your home. They are already on the hook for the cost of a sitter so a low cost activity might fit the bill.

    • Reply Matt |

      Yes, very true, which is going to be to plan. I want to continue paying off my debt, while allowing myself to meet friends, so budget friendly options like coffee, or a walk would be perfect. Or like you said- a get together at our home.

  • Reply Walnut |

    I love these adjustments. The 401k match is important – that’s free money on the table!

    As a funny story, my family one year came to visit on my birthday and stopped by the grocery store on the way to pick up all of my favorite things. The brought things like a gallon of chocolate milk, cheese sticks, a platter of taco dip, a bag of bing cherries, cinnamon toast crunch, a package of bacon, pudding packs, bakery fresh crusty bread and a random assortment of other stuff. It was the best gift! They knew how stingy I was at the grocery store, so to be gifted with all of these “splurgy” items made my day! It’s amazing how excited I was for pre-mixed chocolate milk!

    • Reply Matt |

      Yep- couldn’t agree more because that’s what it is- free money. We have a saying where I work that we “trip over dollars to pick up pennies” and that’s what it feels like by not getting that match.

      +100 points for the pre-mixed chocolate milk. It’s the little things that count 🙂

  • Reply TPol |

    Your adjustments are very smart and I believe you will be happy with these choices. I must say I envy your GF a little. Very thoughtful gifts. Kudos to you in all departments!

    • Reply Halle |

      Hey TPol! I’m Matt’s girlfriend, and I have to say I am one VERY lucky girl 🙂 Thanks for all your contributions throughout his journey. I know he really appreciates it!

  • Reply Mysti |

    Good for you for finding a better balance. If you do send your sister gift cards…I wouldn’t do it for Babies R Us unless you are sure that is where she shops. Most people buy diapers, formula, etc at Target or Walmart. Plus those stores allow her to get whatever she may need…food, baby supplies, pet stuff…whatever. BRU tends to be very expensive for the day to day stuff.

    • Reply Matt |

      Thanks Mysti, but there’s been a change of plans. Just talked to my sis about what I wanted to do for her and she decided that my $25 would be better in a 529 plan for my nephew, so that’s what I’m going to do!

  • Reply Courtney |

    In regards to your sister…I think helping her out a bit is a wonderful idea. A practical bit of advice as a stay at home mom of littles…I would do a target or walmart gift card. Babies r us is great and will have everything she needs….but it’s expensive. She would get more out of the gift card somewhere else. Also, it limits her trips. Target/ walmart are a one stop shop. Instead of having to take a baby to one store for baby things and another store for groceries/toiletries/etc. just my 2 cents 🙂

    • Reply Matt |

      Yes, thanks for the advice! But… after just talking to my sis, she felt the money would be best in a 529 plan for my nephew, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to contribute $25 to that account every month and send them the deposit verification and a card.

  • Reply debtor |

    i second the babies r us comment. Target might be more universal – check with her.

    I think $50 is a good amount. Test it out for 3 months…then see if you think you should increase. What i do is i have a separate account for this type of money – and if i don’t use it all in one month, it carries over. That way, you can kind of save up for when the one $50+ event comes up (maybe a buddy’s bachelor party or a concert or something) and u can spend it absolutely guilt free. It’s also easy to just look in the account and see how much you have available for fun.

    • Reply Matt |

      I just checked with her and we’re going to contribute to a 529 plan for my nephew instead of doing the gift card.

      I was thinking the same thing about the carry over. $50 should be a good amount and if I don’t use, the it can carry to the next month and carry a growing balance if I don’t spend it. The goal is to def. spend it every month, but the option would be there, if needed.

  • Reply AT |

    How about $25 a month into an investment account? I did that for a couple of nieces instead of birthday gifts. Their parents were strapped, not saving anything for college. The girls never noticed the absence of gifts with so many other family gifts at those times, but the money added up and compounded fast.

    • Reply Matt |

      Great idea AT! This also happens to be the route my sis preferred. I’m going to contribute $25 a month to a 529 plan for my nephew.

  • Reply Alexandra |

    I love all these changes! I am casting another vote for Target vs. BRU, but regardless, your sister’s family will be very grateful, I’m sure. Like AT, I contribute to a 529 for my niece & nephew in lieu of physical gifts on birthdays & Christmas. The gift cards may be really handy for your sister at this point though. Giving yourself a little room to nurture relationships will go a long way! Also, I am totally copying this gift idea for my husband. 🙂

    • Reply Matt |

      Thanks Alexandra! The 529 plan is the way we are going to go to.

      BTW- credit for the gifts goes to my GF. She did this for my birthday and I LOVED it. I expanded on her idea by surprising her with a homemade cake, which if you knew anything about my baking skills and my feelings towards baking in general, was truly be a surprise, lol.

  • Reply Meghan |

    Hi Matt!

    I was actually planning to mention a different store than Babies R Us, but I see I am just adding to the chorus. The others are correct, compared to Target or Wal-Mart for the kinds of things she will buy monthly, Babies R Us prices are astronomical!! I think it is incredibly awesome that you want to gift your sister with a monthly amount, but unless she is struggling to make ends meet right now please, please consider the suggestions of opening an account in your niece’s name and sending your monthly contribution there. Not only is that the kind of thing that parent’s do worry about from day one (even when they don’t have the income to fund it) but it is the kind of thing that other family, such as grandparents, can contribute to as well. And AT is correct, it will be the gift that keeps on giving as it grows and compounds for the next 18 years!!!

    Additional kudos on the awesome birthday gifts and deciding that relationships are worth investing in even when paying off debt!



    • Reply Matt |

      Hey Meghan- you are very right about the account. I shared my idea with my sis and she decided the money should go towards my nephew in the form of contributions to a 529. With the cost of college these days (and can you imagine what they will be in 18 years!?!?) it’s the least I could do to help him out starting right now.

  • Reply Jocelyn |

    Just agreeing with everyone else…I’d recommend Target over Babys R Us. Baby stuff is a lot cheaper at Target!

  • Reply Greg |


    Again I feel like you and me are somehow twins separated at birth or something! We have similiar situations and outlooks on debt, working, etc (I posted to you a few weeks ago).

    While I 100% understand the goal of paying down the debt to feel good – you have to take a moment to realize your current happiness, quality of life, and your loved ones near and far. I hate to sound grim, but there are no guarantees – anyone could be gone tomorrow and you may have regretted spending a Saturday afternoon with them solely in exchange for paying part of a loan. I experienced this first hand recently with the sudden deaths of some close people. I was working so hard and so focused on my financial situation that I didn’t slow down to spend any time with certain people. Sometimes you have to make an effort. At first the costs may stick out at you – but people and relationships are the most important investment! Currently I live in another country for my job – which has helped my finances tremendously – but at the end of the day, I would give anything to be able to go out with my friends or take my nieces shopping. Being on the other side of the world from my loved ones (spouse included) has given me some perspective.

    I think the 529 is a great idea! I did the same thing for my niece when she was born – I opened a savings account in her name and put in whatever I can.

    Another suggestion of cheap ways to stay in touch with your friends – utilize the postal system! Me and my friends have always (since college)- mailed each other funny things, cards, clippings, pictures or small gifts (most of them gag gifts). Basically, it’s things that remind us of each other and it definitely brights my day to check my mailbox and have something so personalized that’s not just an e-mail of Facebook post! Stamps are only .49. Try sending some cards or notes to friends and family. It feels really good.

    Thanks for sharing more about the personal side of your story. It’s nice to see other guys in my situation too!

    “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure.”


    • Reply Matt |

      Hey Greg- thanks for sharing. What you describe is exactly what I’m afraid of. I don’t want to lose someone close to me and of all the lost opportunities to spend time together in which I chose my debt payoff instead.

      These are some great ideas for staying connected with friends and family. I’ll have to try these!

      Thanks again!

  • Reply Mrs. Wanderlust |

    I think the amount you are setting aside is a decent amount. It allows for fun, but is restrained, at the same time. My husband and I are looking to set aside $100 each, monthly, for our personal spending money. After graduation. That is the ideal, not sure if it will work out, as I am doing temporary work due to the location we are moving and the time frame we are there. I’m subbing, since we are in a location temporarily for my husbands training and will be moving before the school year is over with.

So, what do you think ?