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A Peek Into My Personal Debts

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Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve done a full debt update post. It was interesting, as I was able to look back on my old posts while drafting this one to compare my debts and see how far I’ve come (and also where I’ve backpeddled). It feels vulnerable to lay out all my debts  for anyone on the internet to see. But maybe this is the exact thing I need to kick my rear back into gear and finally become debt-free once and for all!

So without further ado, here’s my July 2022 current list of debts:

DebtCurrent BalanceOriginal BalanceAPRMinimum PaymentJuly Payment
Carmax$16,084$20,539 (10/2021)3.45%$374$1,000
Aidvantage$26,561$96,020 (2014)0% currently$0 currently$0 paid; $1,000 saved
Total$42,645$116,559$374$2000

 

Notes and Explanations:

General:

The payment/amount saved is higher than normal. July is a 3 paycheck month so I budgeted for extra-high payments. Just wanted to give this general caveat so that when you compare to future debt posts, you know that the average month’s debt payments are typically lower than this months’ were.

 

Carmax:

I was SO EXCITED when I paid off my last car in 2016. If life had all gone according to plan, I would’ve been out-of-debt by now and would have paid for a new-to-me car in all cash.

Life did not, in fact, go to plan (does it ever?)

I loved my trusty Ford Explorer and vowed I’d drive it until the wheels fell off. Well, when exactly is that point? No, the wheels never fell off. But the car slowly started breaking down. Repeatedly. In the past three years, I was in-and-out of shops repeatedly. A quick glance through my budget shows the lowest I’d spent at these visits was $550. The highest was just over $1600. The average was close to $1200. I was spending about as much in car repairs per year as the vehicle was worth. I took my car to three different shops at different time points in the past 3 years, as I continued to have similar issues and I’d pay $1,000+ to get “it” fixed, only to have the problem return a few short months later. No one seemed to be able to figure it out.

Worst, I now considered the car to be unreliable. I didn’t feel safe driving out of town with it since it would randomly break-down on me (in fact, it did cause me to be stranded in El Paso at one point when I was trying to get back to Arizona). I stuck with it for a while because I was hardly driving once the pandemic hit and figured I could limp by. But the fact is that I like to visit Texas family once or twice per year (usually in summer and winter) and we drive to see them. I needed a reliable vehicle.

Let the car shopping begin…

And so in October of just last year, I traded in my old Explorer, just shy of 200,000 miles on the engine, and bought a new-to-me used car. Full disclosure – this is NOT a great time to buy cars. The costs are UP and there are almost no deals to be found. I didn’t end up with the car I really wanted (which cost another $20k than the car I ended up with!). Instead, I picked the car that fit all my “must haves” and that fit the budget. I was determined to stay at $20k or below (which is shockingly difficult, if you haven’t been car-shopping lately). Truth be told, this car was closer to $30k, but I was able to provide a down-payment and traded in my old car, so the amount financed was right at $20k.

I don’t “love” the new-to-me car. And it already had 50,000 miles when I bought it, so it probably won’t have the longevity that the Explorer had (which I owned for just shy of a decade!). My hope is to have it for the next 6 years, at which point my girls will be of driving age. Maybe at that time I’ll gift it to them and get myself a different vehicle. Hopefully with cash. Though I’ve learned that we make plans and God laughs, so we’ll see…

 

Aidvantage

Aidvantage bought my student loans (formerly owned by Navient). I doubled down on loan payments when interest was initially paused. I was making large monthly payments and was able to knock out my only student loan that was still accruing interest (most fell under the Covid-19 Loan Payment Pause and 0% Interest, but I had one federal loan that did not meet required criteria).

When Biden came into office and there was chatter of potential loan forgiveness, I wondered if I was making a bad financial decision by putting so much money into my student loan debt. I read financial blogs recommending to invest that money instead, for example.

So in February 2021, I decided to open a high-yield savings account dedicated to student loan savings. At this point, I am not making payments directly toward my student loans. Instead, I’m putting money into my savings account. My goal is to have the money sit, accrue some interest, and once I have enough to make a payment large enough to knock out an entire loan, I’ll transfer it over. At this point, I have four student loans in the approximate amounts of: 5k, 6k, 7k, and 8k (just using round numbers for ease).

Some months I save a lot (like this month – I saved $1,000!). Other months I save very little (e.g., $200). To be honest, I haven’t had a big focus on the student loans given that they are currently interest-free and I now have a car payment to contend with. I’d rather knock it and its 3.45% APR out before turning my attention back to the student loans.

 

What are your thoughts?

Now that its all laid out there, I’d love to know your thoughts, especially in regard to the student loans. Am I foolish not to be making direct payments toward the loans? Or should I take the money from my savings and throw it directly at my car loan, given that its currently accruing interest? Or some other approach all together?

I obviously don’t love the backslide here with gaining a car payment (especially after not having one for nearly 6 years!). But life happens. And I’m still pretty proud of where I’m at. No credit card balances or medical debts. No furniture store accounts or legal fee debts (all of which were things reported on my initial debt report when I started blogging back in 2014). I may have backslid a bit, but I’m still leaps and bounds ahead of where I started. <3


20 Comments

  • Reply Alice |

    What would the interest be on the student loans if they were accruing right now? If it is more than the amount of interest on the car loan, I’d take the money and pay the student loans. If you have an emergency fund aside from this special savings, I would do this now as opposed to waiting. How much longer will you be without interest accruing on the student loans? If they enter repayment soon, you may need to plan on making those monthly payments.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I *think* the interest rate for the student loans is 6.55%. I may be off (it’s difficult to determine from the Aidvantage site), but I know for-sure the student loans have higher interest than the car. Of course, the interest is 0% currently. My understanding is the pause on student loans goes through the end of August, but it’s been extended multiple times in the past, so who knows what Washington will do. You’re absolutely right that if/when they enter repayment I’ll have to make those payments rather than continuing with saving as I have been.

  • Reply Lisa M |

    I think you’ve done great! This isn’t bad at all in my opinion. Since the car loan rate is relatively low, I would probably continue with the savings approach for now, just because we’re in a time of economic uncertainty. And you shouldn’t feel bad about the car – you drove the explorer as long as you could and made a smart choice with your new one. The progress you made from before to now on your student loans is impressive too!

      • Reply Cwaltz |

        Biden has said he might write off $10,000. I would go ahead and make sure I put the money to pay the remaining $16.000 into that savings before the pause ends. Overall your debt level seems pretty reasonable. Our household has a car loan on one of its cars too. It’s less than ideal but reliable cars are not super cheap and laying out tens of thousands is not always easily done without losing a good portion of liquidity in the bank if you are most people.

  • Reply Klm |

    Honestly, this isn’t that bad. Based on how you’ve written your last few (new) posts, I expected closer to 6 figures.
    Car loans happen—maybe once you’ve paid it off, set aside part of the payment to a replacement car fund for a few years down the line.
    I have mixed feelings about the loans. I think you’re smart to save a “payment” while interest is frozen. But who knows how long it will actually take IF forgiveness happens and what that would actually mean in amount, means test, etc. At a certain point, you may just want to pay and be done and get that weight off your shoulders.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I 100% agree regarding the uncertainty of forgiveness. Also, all my student loan debt (at present) is from graduate school (I’ve paid off undergrad). I’m not sure if/when forgiveness happens if grad school debt would even be included or if only undergrad debt would qualify for forgiveness. I’m fully on board with not waiting forever and just getting out from under the debt when I am able to get the weight off. I may speed things along if/when the 0% APR hold is lifted. So difficult to tell with all the uncertainty coming out of Washington.

  • Reply Cad |

    Why not do PSLF? The waiver allows for prior payments to count! Mine go back to 2007

    • Reply Ashley |

      I didn’t realize the waivers allow for prior payments to count. I’ll have to look into this, but I only started my current job (which qualifies me for PSLF) in 2015. Is it 10 years of on-time payments? or 20 years? I wouldn’t want that debt to hang around for 20 years. I’ll do some research – thanks for the tip!

      • Reply Mary |

        PSLF is 10 years (120 payments) while working for a qualifying employer. Definitely look into it and get your “ducks in a row” before the waiver expires on 10/31/22 since they’re allowing a lot of different things to qualify. I received forgiveness in February thanks to the waiver. I had FFEL loans (been paying since 1998) so the waiver allowed those loans to count for PSLF. I’d been paying through Covid since those loans didn’t qualify for the pause/0% interest and was laying extra as I wanted them paid off (plan was to pay them off by 4/2023). I’d borrowed just under 50k (Bachelor’s and Master’s) and had paid 80k with interest. I had just under 24k forgiven and am so grateful as it had been 23 years of payments. I’ve been working as a social worker for 24 years and it wasn’t for the money for sure so I was happy to have my public service be rewarded. Good luck.

      • Reply cad |

        You just have to have been on a qualifying repayment plan and qualifying employer. The waiver extends the time so you may qualify already. $0 payments qualify too. 10 years of payments.

      • Reply Jen |

        It’s 10 years of on-time payments. I was doing PSLF at the beginning of my career, but moved into a non-qualifying industry.

  • Reply Angie |

    I definitely wouldn’t pay extra to the student loans until the interest is lifted. I think they will keep talking about loan forgiveness as a happy carrot that they never actually give out. But I think they could extend the 0% longer. I like your idea of saving the extra payments in a payoff account.

    I’m so lucky not to need to buy a vehicle in the last 2 years. Your choice seems necessary, and by the relatively low loan amount you seem to have chosen sensibly and gotten a good rate.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks, Angie! And I agree that I have a feeling the student loan forgiveness being proposed/promised may never actually happen.

  • Reply Walnut |

    From a formatting perspective, I’d break out the exact student loan amounts if you can track it that way. I don’t think it hurts to hold onto the cash while rates are frozen – there’s so much uncertainty right now and cash helps me sleep at night.

    I don’t remember if you’ve mentioned an emergency fund, but I also don’t think it hurts to keep a little more there right now as well.

    If student loans will be higher interest than the car, then I would redirect your extra to the student loans savings account. Consolidate your efforts to one loan at a time so you can knock them out.

  • Reply Kate |

    So glad to see you back. I’ve been thinking about you! Seems silly since we have never met, but anyway. I think you are in a great place and your overall approach is much smarter than when you first started. $1000 in the bank is not enough with kids and a house. Much better choice to have more savings and a little bit of debt. If I were you I’d probably keep doing what you are doing with the loans. We also have a small loan for solar panels that I’d like to pay off early. I’m doing the same, putting extra money into an account earmarked for that, but keeping the cash around until then.

    • Reply Ashley |

      Thanks for the kind comment, Kate! I do the same thing with some of the bloggers I read! 🙂

  • Reply Cad |

    Why not apply for PSLF? The waiver (open till October) allows for more time to qualify. Grad school qualifies as long as you have the right loans.

So, what do you think ?