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Ashley’s September 2015 Debt Update

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Full disclosure:  I have intentionally put September’s debt update off (which is why its now October and just barely going up). Anyone who has had some serious debt to repay (like me!) knows it’s a road full of ups and downs. One month I’m flying high! Another month I’m down in the dumps. September was a down in the dumps type of month.

First, I’m so over Navient. Over it! I’m considering doing a loan consolidation just so I can get rid of them as a loan service provider. I don’t want to rush into anything impulsively just because of frustration. Overall, I prefer to keep my loans separate because I enjoy knocking them off one at a time. Plus, I don’t know how it all works when you consolidate if I’ve got some subsidized and some unsubsidized loans. And I’m currently on income-based repayment and I think consolidation companies don’t do that (right? Because aren’t they independent companies – not government backed anymore? I have no idea, clearly I haven’t researched it). I’m just SO OVER Navient I’d do just about anything to get rid of them! Tips/thoughts on consolidation? Right now I’m still waiting to hear back from the mediation company (I referenced in Monday’s post), so no immediate plans for consolidating, but definitely something in the back of my mind.

Second, hubs had another rough month at work last month. Again. This year has been a down year for his business. It’s depressing for him as well as for me (and our budget!) So a lot of my income has had to go to pay bills instead of being all this extra gravy that I thought could be thrown toward debt. Overall we still did have a higher debt payment this month than most months, but it wasn’t near the mammoth-sized debt payment I was hoping for (for comparison:  most months we’re around $2,000ish. This month was over $2500. So we did good, don’t get me wrong! But I was hoping/planning for closer to a $5,000 month).

And third, the car. I had a secret goal to get our car loan under 10K this month. Remember my overall goal was to get it paid in full by the end of the calendar year. But when hubs checks weren’t as much as we’d hoped, my planned debt payments got diverted elsewhere, and I wasn’t able to swing a large enough payment to drop us below $10k on the car loan. To me, in my mind, that’s basically the last nail in the coffin which assures me that there’s no way we can pay the car off in full by the end of December 2015. To be fair to myself, that goal was always a bit of a stretching goal. I still have full confidence we’ll be 100% consumer debt-free by the time we go on our cruise (in April 2016). But I so, so wanted to have it paid in full by the end of December. To start the new year consumer debt-free. I want it so bad I can taste it, folks! It causes me physical pain (like an upset stomach) to know we can’t make  that goal. But we just can’t. We’d have to pay $3,333/month just on the car, alone, to make the goal. Not gonna happen. (tear).

So, that’s why I’ve put off this debt update.

I hate that so many of my posts have been Debby-Downer status lately. I’m really sorry about it! I don’t mean to be a big bummer and all “boo hoo” but it’s just been a tough month.

So, to turn a new page, let’s look forward and not behind. I LOVE October! One of my favorite months of the year! I love the Fall weather, I love the fun festivities and community activities that are offered (many of which are free!)! I love spending so much time outside and playing at parks with the kids (also free!). I love that as my girls are getting older we’re able to do so many fun things! Remember, I missed Halloween last year (it was my friend’s wedding day), so I’m SUPER pumped for Halloween this year (and already got them cheap costumes from Costco)! Basically, a lot of good GREAT things to look forward to! Debt payments are just one of them.

So here’s how our September debt payments looked:

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$159318.25%$256September$4687
ACS Student Loans$86326.55%$31August$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$666556.55%$263September$63254
PenFed Car Loan$107302.49%$1500September$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$42120% (through April 2016)$500September$5937
Medical Bills$60110%$25September$9000
Totals$112,171 (Aug balance = 113,894)$2575Starting Debt = $145,472

One thing to note, my “beginning” debt balances are all out of whack now for my student loans since ACS sold one of my loans (approximately $12,500) to Navient. I need to try to adjust it to account for the loan transfer but I just can’t be bothered right now. Seriously, every time I think about Navient I have this terrible visceral reaction. But I’m not going there right now. Focusing on the positive. So, yeah. Just a heads up about why that’s all wonky.

1. What do you think about consolidating student loans? Pros? Cons? Personal stories or experiences welcome!

2. When you’ve failed to reach a big goal or milestone (whether related to debt or not), is there anything you do to try to get over the disappointment? Any tips to pick up my spirits a little?

3. Tell me something YOU look forward to in fall! (Our town does a huge Fall celebration thing. We went last year for the first time not expecting too much and were blown away by all the fun, free activities – from face painting to a petting zoo to inflatable bounce houses, to a trick-or-treating thing for kids hosted by local businesses. There was live music, door prizes, horse-drawn carriage rides and s’mores.  All of it totally FREE! The only thing NOT free was dinner-type food – they had food trucks for that. But you could always eat before you go! I cannot wait for this year’s festival! It was seriously one of my favorite events from all of last year!)


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!!!


Teaching Pays the School Bills

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We had open house at our homeschool co op this week.  As of today, I have 16 paying students registered for classes.  I am so excited!!!

As this last month of summer break has dwindled towards the end.  I have been filled with remorse at having committed so much of my time to teaching especially spread across the week so long weekends won’t really be an option.  But I knew it was the right decision financially as it truly will pay the way for all my kiddos classes and that is a HUGE financial burden lifted.

But as I got to mingling with the other mom/teachers I could see the passion in them.  And as the families and kiddos started trickling in, I felt that passion rise in me.  I am so excited to get to be a small part of these kids lives and teach something that I truly LOVE.  And I’m really grateful for the support this particular co op gives to the teachers…complete control over our curriculum and our classrooms.

So while I have spent hours this summer prepping my classes and content, now that I have met most of my students I will spend this weekend revising my expectations and class schedule and assignments.

I won’t make any money on this per se, but 1) the tuition from my students is fully covering the cost of my kids’ co op classes and 2) I will have 3 full prepared classes if I ever chose to teach these classes again – Multi-level Geometry, Intro to Computer Programming and Advanced Computer Applications.

Classes start next week!


Over the Hump!

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In spite of some setbacks personally  and professionally, things are still progressing nicely in terms of our debt payments. And I’m happy to announce that as of this month, we are officially over the half-way mark with paying off our car loan debt! Wahoo!!!!

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We still have a way to go (over twelve thousand dollars!!!), but remember when things were tight and we stayed in a holding pattern for what felt like forever (literally 5 months where we were in the fifteen thousand dollar range)? We’re finally making good progress and it feels GREAT to get to see the car debt thermometer every time I walk into the kitchen! Yay!!!

And in other financial news, I spoke with the business office in my department and had my paycheck corrected to be paid over 9 months instead of 12.  There were a lot of comments from teachers who said they much preferred a 12-month cycle of pay if it was possible. So, initially I was thinking maybe I’d keep it as-is.

But then others pointed out that (1) we’re very used to dealing with irregular income; we’ve been living this way for years! And (2) my car loan is accruing interest NOW! It’d be better for me to get this money up front and try to pay off our debt ASAP (the goal is still to be consumer debt-free before 2016), rather than to get a lesser paycheck every month in exchange for having summer pay. Also, don’t forget that hubs still draws an income and he’s been the main income-earner in our home for years, so if I don’t get paid over summer and we have to rely on his income for those months, we’ll still survive just fine. It would certainly mean lower savings and/or debt payments during that time, but it wouldn’t cause us to go into debt or not have enough money to survive. Additionally, I have one more piece of good news to report….

I (finally) spoke with the department head and officially received permission to continue working my part-time job (adjunct teaching online)!!! YAY!!!!! So I’ll still get paid, at least from my part-time job, and possibly from my full-time job if there are teaching needs next summer. (Side note for those who’ve asked: now that I’ve received official permission, I plan to continue teaching my part-time job as long as possible. I know I won’t be able to continue forever, especially as my job duties and responsibilities increase with my full-time job. But for now I’m planning to continue at least a year – meaning Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Summer 2016. From that point I’ll reassess to determine if I feel I can continue teaching part-time. I routinely teach 2 classes, but one is much more grading-intensive than the other. So it may be that I ask to drop 1 class but keep the other one for as long as I’m allowed.)

Taking all these factors into consideration, I think we’ll be just fine with the 9-month pay cycle, even if it means I’m double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring and we have to be a little more careful/cautious with budgeting for summer months.

With some of the bummer things I’ve shared lately, I’m really happy to be able to report some good news!

Have you hit any big milestones with debt repayment lately? Share a piece of good news from your life!


Bummer Realization

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First, I want to thank everyone for the kind and thoughtful comments on this post. This trip proved to be not nearly as stressful as my previous one. Not that it was a walk in the park or anything, but I think it helped to have both siblings with me and to already have a good idea of what we’d be walking into with the doctor (and our “hunch” of a diagnosis has now officially been confirmed). I’m going to set this topic aside for a bit, though I’m sure we’ll be revisiting it in the future, at least in regard to how these issues have impacted financial decisions. Thanks again for all the support and understanding!

I’ve already said that I love August. But one of the reasons why I’m excited about this month, specifically, is that it will be my first month earning a full month of pay from my new full-time job! Wahoo!!!!

So I guess I’d had it in my head that I’d be getting double-paid this month (from full-time job AND part-time job) and that next month we’d have some KILLER debt payments to make!

Only…..no.

I did the same thing last year, too. My part-time job has an odd interval of paychecks. For my summer teaching (which lasts 3 months), the pay was split into two lump sums paid out in June and July. So although the semester isn’t over yet and I continue working this month, I won’t get paid this month because of the schedule of payments (technically I was already paid in-full, and it just happens that I got paid before the semester ended).

I still don’t know if I’ll be able to continue working part-time in the Fall. I have a meeting with the department head this week where I’ll ask(!!!). I’ve got my fingers crossed for good news but, even so, I won’t be expecting a paycheck from the part-time job until September. And, worst case scenario if I’m forced to leave the part-time job, I won’t have any months at all with double-pay because I’ll have to leave my part-time job before any double-paychecks would occur.

So, yeah. That sucks.

On the bright side of things (a BIG bright side, too), at least I get paid this month! Last year I didn’t get any pay in August at all since my part-time job doesn’t pay during the month. This year I won’t get double-pay, but at least I’ll be getting a full month’s worth of pay from the new full-time job! YAY for that!

I’ll definitely keep you updated on the status of the part-time job. I’ve had a couple commenters ask what the deal is and it’s still up in the air right now. I’m just trying to be positive and hoping for the best, but I’ll let you know once I have my official meeting with the new department head!


Paycheck Blunder

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I was oh-so-excited for my very first 2-week paycheck that was direct deposited into my account on Friday. I was giddy as a child on Christmas morning opening up my bank account information online only to discover…

I got paid nearly the same for my TWO weeks of work as I did on my last check for ONE week of work (in full honesty, this check was about $80 more than last time’s check…but for a full extra WEEK of work!!!)

My jaw dropped when I saw the deposit.

IMMEDIATELY I logged into my school account to view my paycheck and find out what happened.

And, as it turns out, it’s a combination of things.

First, I hadn’t elected my benefits yet in time to have them withdrawn from my last check. The only withholding it contained was the mandatory 401(a) contribution and my taxes. In contrast, this check had OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS of deductions (not even including taxes)!!! Ouch! I elected for a LOT of things to be withheld, including: my mandatory 7% 401(a) contribution plus an additional contribution to bring me up to 10% withheld; all our medical, dental, and vision insurances, taxes, and the BIG one is the FSA for dependent child care to the tune of $500/paycheck. That one will serve me in the long-run because it allows me to pay for childcare with pre-tax money. But it still hurts to have that all added up to be over half my paycheck!!! (also, side note: the max I can contribute to the FSA is $5,000/year. So this level of withholding allows me to use $5,000 pre-tax toward childcare in 2015, then I’ll start over again in 2016. Once I hit the $5,000 max limit these withholdings will disappear and I’ll have to pay remaining childcare costs with after-tax money)

Only…those deductions shouldn’t equate to half my paycheck!

After a more careful inspection of my paycheck I realized I’m getting paid the wrong amount!!!

I’d been hired at ($X) over a 9-month contract. That way I can either take summers off or, if there’s additional work, I can get paid extra to work over the summer (essentially securing a 25% “raise” by working over the summer). When I was hired the business manager said that most faculty members prefer to have their pay spread over a full 12 months so they don’t go without pay over the summer. She could show me how to do that. I said thanks, but never pursued it. In my own mind, I’d rather get my money up front within the 9 months. Hubs still gets paid over summer, we could set up some type of “savings” to set aside some money for summer, or I could just hustle and try to teach over the summer for additional income. But, no, I was not a huge fan of just letting them keep my money and divvy it up over 12 months. I want as much as I can get now, thank you very much.

So when I calculated what was going on it was easy to see. Apparently I’d somehow been opted into the 12-month pay cycle instead of getting paid over 9 months as I’d intended. That essentially makes my income drop 25% (since it’s being spread over an additional 3 months).

Soooo, what would you do?

My knee-jerk reaction is to go to the business office and ask them to correct it. I want to get paid over 9 months, not 12. But are there any great reasons to keep my pay over 12 months? Anything I’m overlooking?

One additional piece of information is that if I opt for 9 months of pay, then I get double-dinged for insurance payments in the Spring semester (in order to cover the unpaid summer months). If I stick with the 12-month cycle then the payments stay the same year-round.

Thoughts?


Ashley’s July 2015 Budget Update

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Happy August! Despite the terrible heat Tucsonians experience in August, it’s one of my favorite months of the year. My husband and favorite (only) sister both have birthdays this month. My girls’ original due date was this month (I ended up having them 8 weeks early – at the end of June – but they were due in August). And we get the most incredible monsoons in August. I love the sound of an afternoon storm raging on outside the window while the girls nap and I busy myself with work, cleaning, or even a little afternoon reading. : )

Now that it’s a fresh month, let’s see how last month shaped up:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1055
Electricity 209
Water 68
Natural gas 16
Sprint (2 lines) 115
Cable/Internet 103
Car Insurance 155
Health Insurance 394
Trash 35
Preschool 1378
Gift-Giving 60
Restaurants 109
Entertainment 15
Groceries 537
Gasoline 70
Household Goods 39
Clothing 52
Parking 96
Postage 10
Savings 1209
Debt Payments 2125
Total 7850

 

Explanations:

Most of the budget is in-line with summer spending. Here’s a little commentary on specific categories of spending:

  • Preschool ($1378) went up this month because the girls started going full-time on July 13th.
  • Gift-giving ($60) accounts for $45 worth of gift cards for our preschool teachers for their last day of school ($15 gift card each), + a $15 charitable donation to a children’s nonprofit organization we like to support. This specific organization also qualifies as a tax credit (basically – instead of paying state taxes to Arizona, it’s like directing those taxes directly toward the organization we support). We like to donate $400 (the max allowed), so you’ll see additional donations in the future.
  • Gasoline ($70) is lower than normal (despite increased driving) because I’ve been taking advantage of Fry’s fuel rewards program. In my area Fry’s grocers give points (generally $1 spent = 1 point) that accumulate and can be used for cheaper gas (100 points = 10 cents off per gallon). This summer they’ve been doing double points ($1 = 2 points), and I’ve been racking up the points! My last fill-up I got 70 cents off per gallon!!!
  • Clothing ($52) accounts for a new pair of nice work pants and a work dress both from Banana Republic. Both were on mega-sale earlier in the month (marked down + an additional 50% off!). I needed a couple new work pieces, and these were a killer deal!
  • Parking ($96) is from all my daily parking + the prorated summer parking pass I bought for work.
  • Savings ($1209) is a bit deceptive. $484 went toward car repairs (so…I put it in our car savings account in Capital One 360, and then I withdrew it for some repairs we had to deal with earlier in the month). The rest of the savings were allocated as follows: $500-cruise 2016, $100-annual fees savings account; $100-Roth IRA savings; $25-girls’ college savings*.

*Note: One of my goals this year in respect to “the year of becoming adults” was to open up college savings for our girls. I haven’t actually opened up ESAs yet, but I’ve earmarked that $25 as the first contribution. I hope to set up the accounts this month and start depositing money more regularly (initially in very small quantities) as our debt continues to decrease.

I’m so excited for the coming months as I start to get paid at my new job! I already got one paycheck (albeit a smaller one given I started in the middle of a pay-period), so August will be my first month will full-time regular pay. We live on last month’s income, so it still won’t really impact our budget until September, but I’m already itching to make some really big debt payments! Can’t wait!!!

How did you do with your budget in the month of July?


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