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2016 Tentative Financial Goals

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Hubs and I are both natural savers (though, admittedly, he would like to save more than me). So it’s been tough to have such a low EF and throw all of our extra money toward debt lately without having much saved for a rainy day.

That’s all about to change, friends.

Hubs and I have been discussing our financial goals for 2016. We’re still hashing them out so this isn’t a definitive 100% set list just yet. And I welcome your input, too. But here’s what we’re thinking.

  1. Save $10,000 for a down payment. One of our big goals for this year is to buy a house. This gets pretty personal (in terms of personal finance), and I’m sure there are strong opinions all around regarding buying a house while still in debt, but this point is pretty firm in both of our minds. Our price point is the mid-100’s. We want to put 20% down to avoid PMI. To do so, we will use $10,000 (which needs to be earned and saved in 2016), and add to it $10,000 I have currently in a money market account. Yes. I rarely talk about it, but it still exists. Our thoughts are that we’re simply moving the $10,000 from one type of investment (money market) to another type of investment (real estate). In addition to that, my mom has generously offered to gift us an amount (I will not disclose) that should tip us over the 20% threshold and still leave us with funds for closing costs, etc. I don’t want to dwell too much on the gift as, again, this gets pretty personal. We are very grateful for her generous offer and feel comfortable with accepting it because this is something she has always told us about. She made a similar gift to both of my siblings to buy their first homes so this is something she has planned and prepared for for many years. One important note is that our current lease ends in August (though our landlord is very flexible and aware of our plans. He has already told us we could go month-to-month if need be when the time comes). Because we’d like to find a home over the summer, we need to save up that money during the first part of 2016. The sooner, the better. So this goal will heavily impact budgeting during the first half of the year.
  2. Save $5,000 for Emergency Fund. Really all of our savings funds need to be beefed up. As a reminder, I use Capital One 360(<refer a friend link) and have separate accounts for all of our different savings goals. These accounts range from the typical Emergency Fund to a health/dental/vision fund, car repairs fund, Christmas/travel fund, and more. Realistically, I’d like to save more than this (again – we’re savers by nature). But I wanted to start with $5,000 and go from there. We need to save room in the budget for debt!!!! Which brings me to our final goal of 2016…
  3. Put $30,000 toward debt. One of our goals for 2015 was to pay $30,000 toward debt. We did SO GOOD and have come SO CLOSE to meeting that goal. I’d love to have upped this figure to something closer to $40,000ish, but with so much of our money being diverted toward savings in 2016, I think $30,000 is still a good number to stick with. Once the house stuff is all situated, I bet debt reduction progress in 2017 will be gangster-status!

That’s it! It doesn’t take a mathematician to see that $10,000 + $5,000 + $30,000 = $45,000 toward debt and savings in 2016! That is such an insane amount of money! We are eternally thankful for our well paying jobs and relatively low cost of living in the state of Arizona. If you were to tell me three years ago that these would be my goals for 2016 I would have laughed in your face! Thinking back to the two struggling people just trying to get by while caring for twin infants makes my heart hurt. We were drowning in debt, maxed out on credit, and just trying to grasp at that next paycheck. It is no exaggeration to say that blogging here has been absolutely transformative for our family! We have accomplished more than we ever thought was possible!

Yes, we still have a long way to go (nearly $95,000 in student loans remaining). But just looking back and seeing all the progress we’ve made in such a short amount of time (less than 2 years) is so heartening. It just fills me with hope and promise for a future in which we can eventually be fully debt-free. I cannot wait!


Weekly Savings Update #2- Savings Setback

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Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving!

Last week ended up being a shaky one for GF and me. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, we both ended up coming down with colds. Instead of traveling to see my family and really enjoying the holiday, we spent most of our day laying in bed and napping. Later in the day, we went over to GF’s mom’s house to celebrate the holiday with her. We brought over some sides and a pie that GF made a couple of nights before, which was fantastic. A week later and we’re FINALLY feeling better.

Another important item came up last Wednesday- I noticed a lump on my dog’s leg that had not been there previously. Our dogs may as well be real children, we love them so much, so to find this lump on his leg really scared us. I immediately scheduled an appointment with the vet for as soon as we could. Fast forward to the vet visit. After getting a biopsy done, the vet couldn’t confirm whether the lump was malignant or not, and the sample had to be sent to a pathologist for more testing. During the same visit, I decided to update his vaccinations and preventions, instead of waiting the additional month when they were due. The cost of the visit tallied $482.29 (most of that being the biopsy and sending the test to the pathologist), and we don’t have the results yet. Adding to my savings over the past couple of weeks has already benefitted me. Thanks to everyone who recommended this option. Here’s hoping for the best.

As stated above, my savings took a large hit. The last paycheck of the month goes to my mortgage, car insurance and few other bills, leaving little to nothing to add to savings. Here are the final totals after the week:

November 17th BalanceCurrent BalanceAdded Since Last UpdateNeeded to Reach Goal
$997.53$917.71($482.29)$4,082.29

I hope everyone has a great week!


Weekly EF savings Update #1- Building Up My EF

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Hey everybody! I hope you’re having a great start to the week!

Today marks the first of my “Weekly EF Savings Updates”, which I will be providing on a weekly basis until I reach my ultimate savings goal. After doing some thinking, I’ve decided that having $5000.00 would leave me with enough of an emergency threshold to continue my student loan debt payoff. If all goes well, I could have this saved up by the end of February. I want to tackle this savings goal with the same determination, discipline and enthusiasm in which I’ve been tackling my student loans. Eventually, I may be even use some of this savings to knock out that last few thousand dollars of my student loans, assuming, of course, that I’m quite comfortable doing so in my professional and personal life.

Below, I will add a spreadsheet my original EF balance, my current balance, savings add since the last update and the remaining portion left to reach my goal. If there is anymore information you would like to see, let know and I will add it.

Holidays. For the last 2 Thanksgivings, I have spent the holidays at home spending the day with GF’s family. It meant sense to do it this way, since I’ve always worked the day before and the day after. This year, even though my work schedule remains the same, we decided we would do some traveling and go see my family. We’re only going to spend the one night and will be having dinner at my parents. We’ll be bring some homemade dessert as a thank you. We will the spend Thursday night with GF’s family here at our house. We have never gone out on Black Friday for any shopping and don’t plan on doing any this year- that day just seems like a nightmare.

I hope all the readers out there have an amazing Thanksgiving, and for those traveling, please be safe!

Here are my savings totals to date:

November 17th BalanceCurrent BalanceAdded Since Last UpdateNeeded to Reach Goal
$997.53$1,400.00$402.47$3,600.00

 


Weekly Debt Update #28- Debt Reduction Postponed

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Hey everybody and happy Tuesday!

There’s been a lot of talk on this blog lately with respect to the the proper amount of cash savings to have on hand in case of an emergency. If you haven’t yet ready my post and the subsequent comments, I suggest you do here. Ashley also wrote some great posts about this topic yesterday, here, and here. Based on the comments on my post, as well as Ashley’s, a case can be made for both:

1) keeping your EF low and paying off the debt as quickly as possible and

2) saving up 3-6 months worth of expenses before tackling at debt.

After doing some thinking and sleeping on it for a couple of nights, I’m going to pursue item #2. Based on my current expenses, 3 months worth would put me at $3,803.31. This is assuming I would cut out my internet service, my YMCA membership, cut back on gas, and cut out anything I could that could be considered “extra”. I think I would feel more comfortable in the $4,000-$5,000 range. However, this means I won’t be paying anything except monthly minimums on my student loans for the time being.

As for a timeline: I feel like I could have this saved up by February. At the point at which I have my target savings in hand, I will do what I need to do to keep this savings untouched for the duration of my debt payoff. As many of you have already observed, for the last few years, I have kept all my emergency funding, short-term savings and long-term savings in one account which has continually gone up and down as I saw fit. I’d like to get better at making future projections, in terms of costs, so I that I can weather them without dipping into my newly formed EF.

What this all means is that after today I will no longer be providing any “Weekly Debt Updates”. Instead, I’ll post weekly updates respective to me achieving my savings goal. Once my goal is reached, I’ll continue my “Weekly Debt Updates” where it left off today.

I’d love to hear more feedback in the comments.

As for my last debt update for a little while, here you go:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Update
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,063.69$4,773.55$598.92
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,506.00$3,691.02$50.32
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$0.00$10,350.18$0.00
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$41,569.72$69,017.94$649.24

Have a great week!


Savings versus Debt

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Just to piggyback on my earlier post….

What do you guys think about this?

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 4.35.52 PM

Image from this article.

Apparently the image was originally from a poster on Reddit, who advocated a minimum 3-6 months of savings in an EF as well as a steady 401(k) contribution (up to employer match) prior to tackling debt.

It seems to me based on some recent conversations (occurring inside the comments sections of a few posts), that this is the approach advocated by some of our readers.

Of course, for any Ramsey followers (who, admittedly, is one of the first people to get me into personal finance, although I don’t blindly follow all his teachings; I pick and choose what works for me), this is drastically different than what is recommended. Ramsey’s Baby Steps  advocate (#1) starting with a $1,000 beginner emergency fund. His argument is that most unexpected emergencies are about $1,000 or less, so that should be an adequate fund for most people. In my own debt-reduction experience, we’ve had a handful of emergencies (e.g., emergency root canal, emergency car repairs). All of our emergencies except one have been under $1,000. And the one time we had to raid our EF for over $1,000 was this past August. It was not actually due to any large emergency expense, but due to a lack of income! I don’t get paid in August (just due to normal schedule of payment) and hubs ended up having a no-income month that month (he has a variable income). So, really, I would consider this more of a factor related to variable income rather than due to an emergency, per se.

Ramsey’s next baby step (#2) is to pay off all debt but a mortgage, followed by (#3) going back and re-stocking the EF up to 3-6 months expense.

Obviously a very different approach, right?

What other factors do you think are important?

I think for single people, people without kids, people with low monthly expenses, renters, and people with steady/predictable income a lower EF might be sufficient. I also think it depends on the size of the debt (e.g., will it take 3 months to pay off or 3 years to pay off? I’m more likely to be “ok” with a smaller EF for a short period of time rather than a long one).

I’ve also seen some arguments over what debt should be considered high versus low priority. Some people are okay with student loans and car loans hanging around for awhile, though almost everyone is in agreement that credit card debt should be tackled quickly!  I’m of the mind that I want ALL my debt gone. That being said, I’ve still prioritized my debt such that I have paid/plan to pay: (1) credit cards, (2) car, (3) student loans (4) medical bills. To me, our medical debt that has no interest is way less burdensome than my student loans (mostly at 6.5% interest), even though the overall amount of the student loan debt is significantly larger than the medical debt.

Those are just my thoughts.

How have you prioritized debt repayment savings? And, among your various forms of debt, how have you ordered or prioritized which debt to pay first? Do you do the snowball method (smallest debt first), avalanche method (highest interest first), or some other arrangement (such as the most personally satisfying)?

Personal finance is just that – personal. So I don’t think there’s one “right” or “wrong” answer and I think there are multiple different routes to the same end-goal (being DEBT FREE with a good financial security net). Just curious about your thoughts on the matter!


Car Inspection and Winter Hobbies

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Happy Tuesday everyone!

From my last post, I discussed needing to save up for my car’s state inspection and emission’s test, which I had scheduled for November 9th. Well, that day came and passed and it hit me to the tune of $887.00, which was within the range I was expecting. I needed some work done, which I was told about over the summer, plus I decided to get 4 new tires. Although they passed inspection, the mechanic told me they would have failed given another month of driving. To be honest, I was surprised they even passed at all. Instead of delaying the cost to next year, I decided to get a new set and just take the hit today. But now that this is out of the way, I could either 1) Replenish my EF (or savings, or slush fund, I’m not sure what to call it at this point), again or 2) Start tackling my loans. Personally, I want to see how long I can do #2, before I have to do #1- which should take me into the New Year, at least. I want to get back to paying off my loans as soon as possible (I’m getting very antsy to do so), which could be as early as today, even with only $1,000 in my EF. My goal would be to get below $40,000 before the end of the year, before contributing to my EF again. What are your thoughts on this?

Also, I have some exciting news on the hobby front. After taking a month off from playing guitar in September and half of October, I got back into it, like REALLY into it. I’ve probably put in 2-3 hours a night during the week and 5+ hours per day during the weekend, even spending some time at our city library to try and wrap my head around music theory. A little background: being in a band has been a dream of mine for the better part of ten years. While I have had some jam sessions with other friends who play guitar, they’re mostly just starting out and weren’t as interested in starting a band. Anyway, I put an ad out last week looking for other people who may want to jam/start a band, and I received a reply! We hung out this past week, and I think it looks really promising! The whole experience of putting myself out there and taking action with it was such a rush, as I’ve only played for my girlfriend and those few friends before.

The problem with this whole scenario is that equipment is EXPENSIVE. I have a guitar that is performance quality, but I don’t have anything else that’s up to par. I would need a new amp and speaker cabinets, pedals, and all the other miscellaneous hardware that comes with putting on a live show. But…we aren’t even close to this point, and I’ll likely be out of debt before I worry about gigging. For right now, I guess, it’s just something in the back of my mind.

What are some hobbies you guys have? Has money ever become a factor for them?

I hope everyone has a great week!


3 Financial Issues

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Hi friends!

First, I just want to apologize for the fewer blog posts as of late. I’ve typically been really good about posting a minimum of 2 per Monday (sometimes 3) plus one more on Thursday or Friday. But the past couple weeks it’s been tough to find the time for even one post! It’s not that I don’t have anything to talk about. Trust me – I could talk PLENTY about our finances/budget/etc. It’s just that there’s never enough time! Now that the semester is really going strong it’s like a balancing act to keep everything together. I love my jobs (both of them) and am so thankful for them, but they require a lot of time and between work and dealing with my father’s health issues….well, saying I feel a bit overwhelmed is an understatement. Regarding the latter, we’re hoping to have his move to Texas (closer to family) complete-ish in the next couple weeks. I say “ish” because there will still be lots left at his house in Utah that my siblings and I will have to deal with in the coming months. But as much as we want to get the house on the market ASAP, we’re thankful to be in a financial position where we have the flexibility to let it sit a couple months until we have the proper time to deal with it all. Regarding this – anyone have experience with selling a (still furnished, in need of some repair) home out-of-state? I’m hoping we can hire an estate planner person to go sell the remaining stuff and subcontract out any needed repair work. We’ll also have to hire a lawn company and perhaps a cleaning service to keep it looking nice while it’s vacant and on the market. Any tips or suggestions in this regard?

That aside, I really had planned for the purpose of this post to be about 3 financial issues I’ve dealt with this month.

  1. Comcast:  In my last budget post I mentioned that I’d been dealing with some cable/internet provider issues. Our bill has typically been around $110-ish, but then I received a bill in August for $150!! I’d called and thought everything was resolved…until I got a new September bill also for $150! No way, Comcast! Not today! You’ve messed with the wrong person! Generally when these issues pop up it’s 100% worth it to go into the store (the local branches have infinitely better customer service than the call center people). But I logistically couldn’t make it happen between work and childcare schedules. So I called and basically geared up for a fight (though, to be clear, I always try to remain respectful when in these types of situations. It’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar!) I did have to ask for a manager, but I explained the situation – basically, last month they said they’d given me a credit and all was resolved, but in fact the current month bill shows that my payment was considered a partial payment. Meaning, there was no credit ever given to my account. So it showed I still owed the remaining balance. I’ve found that it helps when you tell the manager exactly what will make you happy. I mean, be reasonable. But it’s not okay to scream and yell and pitch a fit. No one wins in that scenario. Instead, have some idea of a compromise or solution that will fix the problem and be mutually beneficial for both parties. I already had in mind my solution:  just give me a credit that will take my bill down to $110 (the normal monthly payment). I’m already in a new promo rate so I don’t want to change that, but I refuse to pay the full $150 bill when I’d been told my account had been credited, all was resolved, yada yada yada. So make my bill $110, and we’ll be good. The manager had me hold for a minute and did one better. Gave me a credit so my current month’s bill is $97.02. Even better than what I’d asked for. Next month should be back to the regular rate (about $110ish). This time, I got the manager’s name and took notes of the call so I have them for reference just-in-case. But I’m hopeful that this situation is now fully resolved.
  2. Phone service: A couple months ago we switched phone providers to get a (slightly) better rate and get a free upgrade to newer phones. After canceling we received a GIANT ($250) phone bill from our old provider. But part of the deal with our switch is that our new provider would reimburse us the cancellation fee to buy us out of the contract. Rather than send us a check, they just take it off our our bill. So last month we had a huge bill to pay (to our old provider), but I was hoping it would even out this month when we got our new provider’s bill, showing the $250 credit. Turns out all is good in that area. This month we’ll have a much lower bill (but to remind you so it’s not a surprise with my next budget post – I’d fudged my August budget a bit. I paid the full $250 for the old phone network last month, but I cheated a little and split it half-way in this month. So I’ll still be reporting charges this month in my budget update at the end of the month. But really that was money that was paid for awhile ago). In October, things in this regard will be all smoothed over and we’ll be comfortably paying our new bill.
  3. Navient. Y’all. I can’t even. I cannot. Remember my “best day ever” post where I said my Navient issue was resolved? Ha! Nope! It seriously makes me so angry just thinking about it so I’m going to keep this brief for the sake of my blood pressure and psychological wellbeing. Long story short – issue is NOT resolved. They still have my loan (which was just transferred from another loan servicer, ACS) categorized as unsubsidized. They claim its a valid unsubsidized loan. Many, many hours (literal hours) of my life have been spent talking to all kinds of people – Navient’s customer service, Navient’s escalation department, the loan guarantor, national student loan database services, and on and on and on. We’ve reached a point where I’ve had to contact a loan mediation service (it’s free for me – part of the federal government, I guess). But they don’t move quickly. My last call to them was Friday and they said I wouldn’t hear back for 7-10 business days. So, yeah. In the meantime, I’m being charged interest out the wazoo for this student loan that is supposed to be subsidized (and, therefore, unpaid interest is supposed to be forgiven). So its going to totally mess up my debt totals when I do my next debt update (hopefully coming this Thursday! I’ve been holding off hoping that I’d get this issue resolved so I could report accurate debt totals, but no dice). I swear this issue has taken years off my life due to the stress and headache of it all. I know on my last post many people suggested reaching out to a class action lawsuit attorney (since Navient has so many pending lawsuits against them for wrongfully charging extra interest, etc.). I’m hoping the mediation can help us come to a resolution. I’m just so strapped for time I don’t even know what to do. It’s a huge burden in my life and just makes me wish I could write a check and be debt-free today. It’s just so wrong and it feels like there’s no ramification. No way to hold them accountable. I feel a little bit defeated at this point. But I’m keeping the course with the mediation route and hoping for some success at the other end. I’ll keep you updated.

So that’s the update on my 3 financial issues. As per usual, this was way lengthier than I’d originally intended. heh. Guess I had a little time after all. I’ll try to get a debt update post put together for you guys for later this week (Thursday or Friday). Thanks for your support along the way!!!


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