:::: MENU ::::
Browsing posts in: Loans

More Student Loan Drama

by

Wow! If ever there was a cautionary tale for staying out of student loan debt, this is it!

First, former blogger Adam explained his issues with his loan service provider, Great Lakes.

Next, I talked about my ongoing issues with my service provider, Navient (formerly Sallie Mae).

Now I’ve got a new grievance to add to the list – directly with the central hub of government-backed student loans:  studentloans.gov

For new readers, my student loans are currently on Income Based Repayment (IBR). I talked a little about the decision here.

Well for any old school borrowers, you’ll know that to access any documents through studentloans.gov (such as filing for IBR, or filling out the required annual paperwork to keep IBR), you used to need a PIN that was assigned by them. Apparently as of March 1st, they have done away with the PIN system. Instead, you now get to pick your own login ID and password.

Seems easy enough, right?

No. Just no.

I created my new ID and password and verified the information by answering security questions about myself. According to FSAid.ed.gov everything is good. Now I can go back to studentloans.gov to actually fill out my IBR paperwork. Right?

WRONG!

Studentloans.gov keeps saying my account is currently locked. I go back to FSAid.ed.gov and unlock my account (by going through the same steps of verifying my account information by answering security questions, etc.) and go back to studentloans.gov. Account Locked.

I literally do this back-and-forth for about 45 minutes, thinking surely I’m making a mistake somehow.

No.

It’s past business hours at this point, so I send an email to the help department explaining the problem. The next day I get a reply saying:

“You can no longer use your PIN, you have to create a new FSA ID and password.”

Yes, geniuses. I know this. I did this. Your site won’t let me in! GRRRR!!!!

I let it go for a few days but came back to it today. Same endless loop of verifying my information on the FSA ID website, only to go to the studentloans.gov website and be told my account is locked.

I call the FSA ID number.

It rings. And rings. And rings. Then *click*

Disconnected.

I try again. And again. And again. Five times in total. Every time ends with being disconnected before even speaking with a human being.

So then I call the number listed on the studentloans.gov website. They actually answer but basically say there’s nothing they can do, that they only help with issues once you’re already logged in. For login issues, I have to call the FSA ID people. And I’m given the same number I’d already tried. I explained that no one answers. I’ve called several times and keep being disconnected.

And I kind of get a “tough shit” reply. There’s nothing they can do. The woman assumes that their system is overwhelmed by call volume and simply disconnects after a period of time. Keep trying, she says.

SOOOOOOOO, I have no option but to keep trying. THANK GOODNESS I didn’t put this off until last minute (my IBR doesn’t actually expire until August). If I’d waited until last minute and was unable to log in and get my IBR paperwork submitted, then when my current IBR expires my minimum payments would skyrocket – nearly a thousand a month (instead of the $350ish current minimum).

So for anyone else in the same boat that will need to reapply for IBR or anything else related to student loans (deferment, forbearance, etc.), BE SURE TO START EARLY!

But if you have the option….just avoid student loans all together.

Work for free as an intern somewhere in exchange for paid college tuition. Work nights and weekends as a waiter to cover your tuition. Go to community college so its more affordable for the first couple years. Stay in-state so you don’t have to pay out-of-state tuition. Get a job on campus in exchange for reduced tuition. WHATEVER IT TAKES – STAY AWAY FROM STUDENT LOANS!!!!!!!!!!!!

There’s your little public service announcement and another student loan cautionary tale.

Have a great day! ; )

Any student loan cautionary tales of your own? Leave me a comment!


Ashley’s May 2015 Debt Update

by

It’s that time again. Time for another debt update. Here you go:

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$39838.25%$116May$4687
ACS Student Loans$210407.24%$77April$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$665436.55%$240May$63254
PenFed Car Loan$147012.49%$750May$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$54370% (through April 2016)$500May$5937
Medical Bills$61110%$25May$9000
Totals$117,815 (Last month = 119,170)$1708Starting Debt = $145,472

I’ve rearranged my debts (compare to last month) to be in order of APR (highest-to-lowest). From this re-ordering, it’s interesting to see that the highest APR debt is also currently my lowest balance. Certainly provides a bit of a “hmmmmmmm” experience. Though at the moment I remain steadfast with my current repayment plan:  paying aggressively toward the balance transfer student loan, only an extra $100/month toward the Navient Federal student loan, and all extra monies thrown at the car loan.

Of course, I’m notorious for changing up my order of debt-repayment. So who knows what the future holds? I know this drives people crazy (the opinion being that when a person keeps splitting priorities that nothing ends up getting done). But I’m more of the opinion that any progress is good progress. So for now its progress on the car loan. In the future….more of a student loan focus? Again – who knows?

But, I gotta say, I really can’t wait to be holding my car title in my hands!

What debt are you currently working on?


Nooooo!!!!!!!!

by

That was my immediate thought when I opened my email inbox to discover THIS message waiting for me inside.

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 7.17.53 AM

So there’s that. ACS (with whom I’ve never ever had a single issue) has sold my loans to Navient (with whom I’ve had multiple and ongoing issues). So that’s good.

I’ve got a couple months until the transition is complete, but I’m really contemplating what to do regarding my loans.

I’m still set on my current plan: focusing predominantly on my car loan, while also paying aggressively on my balance-transfer student loan. But, ugh! My passionate hatred for my student loan company makes me wish I could just write a check, pay them all off, and never deal with them again.

My Income Based Repayment (IBR) renewal is on the horizon as well, and once I submit our 2014 tax information I’m anticipating that my monthly payments will be going up a bit. I’m really not sure by how much (side note: one good thing is that they take into consideration income AND expenses…although our income went up in 2014 compared to 2013, so did our childcare expenses. We were paying $600/month when I initially applied for IBR, but we currently pay nearly double that, so hopefully that will help offset the increased income a bit in determining our monthly payment obligations).

Random question (I’m sure I could call and ask but thought I’d throw it out here)… for anyone else who has done IBR payments, when you renew does your payment immediately change or does it not change until the end of the year? I ask because I don’t have to renew until August, but I’m getting emails to renew now. Just wondered if I went ahead and renewed now if my payment would immediately change or if the change wouldn’t go into effect until August.


Celebrating Mini-Milestones

by

Friends – I have a fun mini-milestone to share today….

Remember my debt thermometers?

IMG_1440

Please ignore grease stain on bottom left…the thermometer hangs by the stovetop so it occasionally gets grease splatters. Gross, I know. But the dang thing has sentimental value so I refuse to simply make a new one. 

Well, they’ve continued to hang on my fridge side-by-side: the fully filled-in Wells Fargo debt thermometer, and my still mostly empty Auto Loan debt thermometer.

I love having them side-by-side because I can remember feeling like my Wells Fargo debt was going to take forever to pay off, and its so nice to look back and remember what it felt like to kick that debt’s butt!

For a number of reasons, my auto loan debt hasn’t been going away nearly as quickly. Part of this is income-based (our income last summer was rockin’ and this summer it hasn’t really peaked like it did last year). But the other big reason is because I took my attention away from the car for a few months. I was really focused on knocking out a couple of smaller debts so I could feel some of that psychological boost that I was so desperately craving. So I put the car on hold for a few months until I could knock out the license fees and one of our medical bills. As a result our auto loan debt has been hanging steady just under $16,000 for months now (literally. See debt updates from January, February, March, and April – all of which my car loan debt was between 15,000-16,000. That’s a LONG time to be stuck in that holding pattern!)

ANYWHO…

Now that I’ve officially eliminated those two pesky debts, I’ve turned my attention back to the car loan. And let it be known that May 2015 is the month that I’ve officially busted down below the $15,000-mark!

I still have a long way to go. I haven’t even reached the half-way mark (though its just around the corner!), but getting below $15,000 owed felt significant of its own right, so I wanted to share this mini-milestone with you all!

Some of my favorite comments are from casual readers who happened across the blog one way or another and used it as motivation to get rid of their own debts! One comment, in particular, resonated with me. The commenter said she had seen one of my posts (several months ago) where I announced I was going to tackle my car loan. Obviously I ended up putting it on the back-burner for several months, but this reader did not. She used it as inspiration to kick her car loan’s butt and now owns her car outright – no payments owed to anyone!

I know that feeling (prior to this car, I had outright owned my two previous vehicles). It feels GOOD. And I want it back. I’m coming for my car title, PenFed. You guys better get it ready to mail because it will be MINE before you know it!

MWHAHAHAHAHAHA (<my evil debt-paying laugh) ; )

What mini-milestones have you celebrated recently?


Hallelujah!!!!

by

I know you guys are probably getting tired of hearing about all my Navient issues (trust me – I’m totally sick of it, so I know you all are too).

So when I had my most recent Navient processing mistake, I made a single call to try to correct the error and had pretty much resolved myself to give up on it. If it wasn’t fixed I was just going to leave it alone and kiss the money goodbye

(Side note: I wrote about the error in the comments to this post. If you didn’t see there, the error was pretty minor. I was having so many issues with the balance transfer and it took so long to process that I had to make a full payment on the loan before the transfer went through. When the transfer finally went through, they removed the payment I’d made to the now-paid-off loan and applied it equally across all of my loans. BUT right now my minimum payments do not even cover the interest, and unpaid interest in forgiven on subsidized loans, so equally distributing my extra payment essentially means the money is just gone – it went straight toward interest that I otherwise wouldn’t have even had to pay. The total amount was only $30, so I was set to just get over it and move on with my life instead of fighting over it).

WELLLLLLL – drum roll, please – after only a SINGLE call (versus the 7 or 8 calls I had to make regarding my balance transfer), the funds have been ACCURATELY reapplied toward the loan I specified (my lowest balance unsubsidized loan).

I seriously could not believe my eyes when I logged into my account and saw that (1) the change had been made, and (2) it had been made correctly! Cue the angels singing “Hallelujah!” I mean, I know it was only 30 bucks, but it felt like a major “win” against Navient in the face of all my recent Navient struggles. Wahoo!!!!

What’s your most recent minor “win” in the debt payoff struggle?


Ashley’s April 2015 Debt Update

by

Happy Monday! Hope you all had a good weekend!

This weekend was our little camping trip I mentioned in a previous post (couldn’t find the link). Basically, the town where we live hosted an overnight camping thing. It cost $5  for a family of 4 to camp, and they provided star gazing (with giant telescopes), a big outdoor movie screen playing Wall-E, a bonfire with storyteller, and tons of other perks (e.g., playscapes for kids were on-site). Husband and I used to be avid campers but this was our first time to go since the girls were born. This was a perfect “get your toes wet” kind of experience because it was so short (just one night), and had lots of fun amenities for kids. We had a blast (minus my allergies and all), and I expect stuff like this will only become MORE fun as the girls get older! Who doesn’t love some good old fashioned cheap fun!?

Anyway…. let’s get to the heart of this post. It’s time for another debt update. But before we dive into the table let me explain what I’ve done here….

I’ve now added a new loan to the list titled Balance Transfer student loan. This loan amount includes the original balance from my Navient loan #1-01 of $5821 (I used the exact 10-day payoff amount) PLUS the 2% initiation fee, for a total balance of $5937 (if you’re catching up, I wrote more about the decision to do a balance transfer here).

For now, I’ve decided to leave the rest of my Department of Education loans grouped together. When I move onto focusing on a new one, I’ll probably do the same thing and separate just the one new focal loan. Otherwise, for continuity and ease, I’ve left them grouped together. The other thing to note, however, is that I’ve changed the amount in the “original debt” column for my Department of Education loans to reflect a lower amount (equal to subtracting the amount from loan 1-01, which is now separate). I’ve also changed the APR (it used to range from 6.55-8.25%, but I’ve now separated the only 8.25% loan – my balance transfer loan – so all the rest of my Department of Education loans are 6.55% APR.

So hopefully that should explain the changes. Everything else is pretty straight forward.

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%$1119Paid off in April 2015$5808
PenFed Car Loan$154232.49%$100April$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$59370% (through April 2016)$0(balance transfer initiated on 4/2/15)$5937
Navient - Federal Student Loan$40788.25%$116April$4687
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$665566.55%$260April$63254
ACS Student Loans$210407.24%$77March$21035
Medical Bills$61360%$124April$9000
Totals$119,170 (Last month = 120,610)$1796Starting Debt = $145,472

I guess I do have a couple more notes I want to make about my debts this month…

First, you’ll notice another really low car payment this month (last month I only paid $50, and this month only $100). That’s because I really wanted to knock out those two debts I’ve been battling (a medical bill and the license fees). Also, since I initiated my student loan balance transfer this month I didn’t actually make any payments on it yet.

Starting in May, I’ll be making payments of $500/month toward my balance transfer student loan, and will be increasing my car loan payment as well. I’ll continue making minimum payments on everything else, so the size of my car loan payment will fluctuate depending on how much money we have to put toward debt during the month, but my hope is to be able to put at least $1,000 (or more) toward it fairly regularly from here on out until its gone!

Exciting stuff!!!

What’s the most recent debt you paid off?

 


Budgeting Decisions

by

Well, folks, the jury was out for awhile but the verdict is finally in. The month of February was a bit rough for our income. Like….ouch.

Hubs and I have a variable income, but in the (almost) year I’ve been blogging our income has ranged from about $5,500/month on the low end, up to over $10,000 on the high end. In general it has averaged around $6,500-$7,00ish/month.

So February officially marks the worst income month we’ve had to date since we began blogging (not in life, in general, but since we’ve started this debt reduction mission). Combined, we didn’t even crack the $5,000-threshold. In fact we were closer to only $4,500.

Yuuuuup.

This also marks the first month in a long time that I’ve actually brought home more than hubs (which makes no difference with our budget since funds are combined, but makes me sad given I only work part-time and he puts in long, physically grueling hours daily. Just feels unfair somehow that he didn’t make more).

Why?

If you’re a long-time reader then it’s for several of the same reasons I’ve discussed before when we’ve had lower-than-average income months. The main thing this time around is that his payroll was super high (he hired a new crew – yay!!!), so he’s been paying out a lot of funds for work that’s been completed, but he hasn’t been able to actually close out the jobs yet (and get PAID on his & his crew’s work) for a few high-dollar jobs due to various reasons (it’s boring, really, but if you’re curious this happens occassionally in flooring….things like they’re missing some transitions that have to be ordered, or there wasn’t enough material and it’s coming from across the country – oh wait – the order can’t come in due to inclement weather in the NorthEast, etc. etc. etc.).

We’re working on some of his business financials to try to change things up so stuff like this won’t happen in the future. In the past, the way hubs’ has run his business is that he’s kept a couple-thousand dollar buffer in his business account, but then anything over his costs for the week, he gives to me as income. But as his business is growing, we’re seeing that a couple thousand dollars is not really enough of a buffer. I’d like to see his buffer grow a little higher (so he can easily cover the expense of materials and labor when needed, even when waiting on his paychecks), and get to a point where hubs is drawing a regular income every month. Any money his business earns above his income would either sit in his business account (adding to the buffer), or he can pay himself a quarterly bonus or something similar. The point is, I’d like to move toward a more regular, steady income that doesn’t fluctuate based on miscellaneous business finances.

The good news is that hopefully March will be a really good income month, what with all his regularly-scheduled jobs PLUS the jobs from February that he’ll finally be getting paid on. Fingers crossed.

In the meantime, you might recall that we live on last month’s income. This means that although February was the low-income month….we really weren’t affected until this month (March). Remember me talking here about how I was scrimping and saving every last dollar to try to make one final $100 (extra) payment toward my student loans at the end of last month? Well, I did manage to save the money! I ended up with about $125 leftover. On Saturday (February 28th), I logged into my student loan account. I was going to make the extra payment but just kept going back and forth between my student loan account and the month’s budget. Seeing how, realistically, I’m going to be unable to make some of my goals that I’d hoped for this month (like finally paying off the license fees), I decided to just let the money sit in my account. I’m going to add it to the income we have in March because, otherwise, there’s just not enough to go around.

I’ve had to make some tough budgeting decisions this month. I’ve had to cut nearly all of our savings and reduce our planned debt payments. Things are going to be tight; particularly since I’ll be traveling toward the end of the month (going for my “not an interview” campus visit), which will cause hubs to have to stay home from work for a couple days (to watch the girls), and I’m sure there will be some eating-out involved.

I was debating whether to withdraw some money from our 3-6 month savings account to use for the month (at least to boost our debt payments), but have decided against it for the time being. This isn’t an emergency and I think that having a little bit lower income this month can serve as a bit of a character-building experience. We’ve taken our income for granted for awhile now. We’ve been lucky to have plenty to go around for all of our basic living expenses + good-sized debt payments. Having a month where we really need to scrimp and save and cut-back on excess will remind us of how far we’ve come and WHY we’re so committed to getting out of debt.

So, just a heads up that this month isn’t going to have as high of debt-payments as I would like (and I’m unlikely to be able to pay off those pesky license fees in full). But hopefully we’ll be able to cut back in all of my budget categories to try to minimize the blow to our debt payments, and with any luck we’ll learn a thing or two about getting back to the basics this month.