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Oh my gosh, I had forgotten how awesome it feels to have a real “payday!” Since I’ve been working contract/adjunct jobs, my pay schedule has been weird. I get paid once monthly for the online teaching job and hubs gets paid as work is completed (always at odd intervals). It’s been years since we’ve had a routine every-other-week Friday pay day and….it feels good!

I totally forgot this past Friday was my first pay day! Probably because I was a little consumed with other things. But then on Saturday I logged into my bank account and saw an extra $XXX (several hundred dollars) and realized – I got my first paycheck!!! It was only for half my normal pay because I started in the middle of a pay period. But still, it was very exciting!

Just wanted to share the fun news! Perhaps more exciting is the change in mindset I’ve had since starting to blog. If this were 2 years ago and I got a full-time job, my first paycheck would have probably been blown on some type of “reward” for myself. Now it’s sitting safely in the bank, waiting to be allocated in August’s budget (We live on last month’s income, so income from this month doesn’t get spent until next month). Instead of impulsively spending on some new clothes or a massage, I’m going to have a chance to really look at our overall income, assess our debt and savings goals, and make an educated/informed allocation of the money in a way that really feels much better long-term than the short-lived pleasure of a massage or new outfit.

Ashley’s July 2015 Debt Update


And, just like that, it’s time for another debt update!

This month has flown by! I think between our trip back to Texas the first week of the month and starting work in the middle of the month, I feel like I’ve barely batted my eyes and the month is nearly gone! But I’m happy to report that even with as fast as the month feels like it’s gone by, I’ve still made some decent progress on my debts. Keep in mind, I haven’t received a paycheck yet from my new job and we live on last month’s income, so there will be a month lag behind when I start receiving income and when I’m able to really bump up my debt payments. So this debt update only accounts for our regular income (from hubs’ business and my part-time job).

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$36638.25%$266July$4687
ACS Student Loans$210397.24%$77June$21035
Navient - Dept of Education student loans$666146.55%$257July$63254
PenFed Car Loan$136652.49%$1000July$24040
Balance Transfer student loan (Former Navient 1-01)$48370% (through April 2016)$500July$5937
Medical Bills$60610%$25July$9000
Totals$115,871 (June balance = 118,051; May balance = 117,815)$2125Starting Debt = $145,472

Do you remember how last month I complained about my student loan balances going up, in spite of the fact that I’d made extra payments?? I’m still so confused about the whole situation (and, take this as another reason why you should avoid student loan debt like the plague!) because I had the same thing happen with BOTH of my loan service providers. That indicates to me that this is not an error on the part of my student loan company, but on the part of the national government (since my loans are government-backed). Does this even make sense? I must admit ignorance in that I don’t know how all the backchannel stuff works between governmental agencies and the student loan companies. But regardless, last month BOTH of my companies reported that my balances had gone up. This month, it looks like whatever error existed has been corrected because now both balances have gone DOWN more than they should have with just this month’s payments. It looks, to me, like whatever interest was added last month (which shouldn’t be added to any subsidized loans since I’m on Income-Based Repayment), has been removed and I’m back to the normal sized balances. So I guess that’s a sigh of relief.

You’ll also notice that I’ve made higher payments to my Navient loans – particularly the Federal loan. The federal loan is my highest APR loan. The minimum payment is only $16, but I’ve routinely been paying $116 for months. This month, however, I decided to really bump it up a bit more – to $266 (that’s the $16 minimum + $250 extra). I maintain primary focus on getting rid of the car debt (sooooo close to being at the half-way mark with the car debt and it’s going to go quick from there!!!), but I also wanted to beef up my Navient federal loan payment a bit, too, given the low balance and high interest rate. Forward progress!

I can’t wait to see what progress we can make once my new full-time job paychecks start rolling in! Wahoo!!!

And last note related to the job – I still haven’t been able to meet with the department head to ask about keeping my part-time job. A new department head has just taken office (so it’s not the same person who hired me anymore), and we were supposed to meet this week but I was emailed by the administrative assistant and told we’d have to push the meeting back to mid-August. I haven’t even met the department head yet (I think she’s working from home this summer because my office is right down from hers and I haven’t seen her), so I’m waiting to ask about it until we meet in-person. In the meantime I continue to work both jobs (doing the part-time job early morning and late evening). When I was hired I was currently teaching online for my part-time job and everyone knew about it so I’m assuming that my summer teaching is okay, though I’ll feel much better once I get official approval (fingers crossed) that I can continue teaching future semesters, too. I don’t expect my fall part-time contract until August, so the timing should work out in terms of asking permission and officially committing to continue teaching part-time.

On a more personal note, I’ve prescheduled this post because TODAY is my out-and-back trip to be with my Dad for an important doctor’s appointment. I’m not sure everything the appointment will entail (likely just a review of all previous tests and ordering one final additional test), but there’s a slim chance we could receive an official diagnosis. You may recall that I’ve said before I feel fairly confident I know what the diagnosis will be so this is just a matter of having it confirmed (side note: he was given a preliminary diagnosis already by another doctor, but this is a specialist, so we’re very interested in what he has to say). I feel like everything is “on hold” until we get the diagnosis and then the world will feel like its been turned upside-down, but at least we can start moving forward with the next steps and making a plan for the future.  I’ll have a lot more to say on the future financial implications once we know for sure-sure what the diagnosis is. So send happy/comforting/diagnosis-finding vibes my way : )  Not getting my hopes up for receiving a diagnosis just yet, but it sure would be nice if we get one today!

Happy Thursday, friends!

Giving Myself Some Grace


When I wrote about my first week of work and the changes I was adjusting to (specifically the looooong days), I had several people comment to remind me to take care of myself and allow a couple weeks to get used to this huge adjustment in my life.

I’m definitely taking those comments to heart and although I don’t want to make long-term budget changes yet, there’s one in particular that I want to make at least for the short-term:

Increased grocery budget.

Prior to starting as a blogger here, I spent a TON of money each month on food. Between groceries and eating out (including $$$ drinks), we easily spent a thousand a month!

When I first started blogging, I set a grocery budget of $400/month for our family of 4, and a restaurant/eating out budget of $75/month (which I later increased to $100/month). So I’ve essentially cut our food spending in half!!!!

But it hasn’t been all daisies and roses! I have notoriously struggled with the grocery budget, in particular. I’ve written several times about how if I lose even a bit of focus that it comes out in my grocery spending. I’ll pick things up all willy-nilly at the grocery store just because it looks good or sounds good at the time. I’ll stray from my list and get random things that are really unnecessary or convenience foods I could make myself from scratch for cheaper. So it’s not like I’ve been operating at 100% this whole time but, in general, I’ve done a pretty good job of sticking to about $400/month in groceries for our family.

With this new job, however, I’m already finding it challenging to have the time to make all the from-scratch foods I like to make. I’ve tried to help myself by doing rollover meals (example: one night I made ground beef tacos and I browned some extra beef so the next night I could make a beef casserole dish), and I’ve done food prep once a week where I wash and cut up fruits and veggies so they’re ready-to-go. But I’m still finding it to be a bit of a challenge.

So I’d like to start buying a few prepared/frozen foods that I can just pull from the freezer, heat, and eat – especially on those days I’m feeling particularly drained. I don’t want to eat this way all the time (I still prefer fresh foods, myself), but I can see how the convenience is worth a little extra money at the grocery store – especially when the other option I’m considering is take-out. Frozen, prepared grocery store foods are still cheaper than take-out! So I think maybe 1-2 grocery store convenience meals per week might be a new thing for the next couple weeks.

I’m also going to try to beef up my own freezer stash. For example, in regard to the beef casserole I mentioned above, I made enough for 2 meals and froze half of it so we can eat at a later date. But until I’m fully stocked on my own homemade freezer meals and while I’m still trying to transition to my new roles both at home and the office, I want to offer myself a little grace in the form of an increased grocery budget. I don’t know what exact numbers will look like long-term, but for right now I’m thinking an extra $25/week (extra $100 per month) will really help ease the burden a bit during the evening rush to make food and feed the kids before other evening chores set in.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear some of your favorite work-night recipes, websites, or blogs that you frequent for quick, healthy meal ideas and kid-friendly foods!

Parking Wars


Anyone who has ever attended a large university knows that parking is typically pretty pricey. To give you a sampling of some of the universities I’m familiar with, the University of Texas parking is insane. My college roommate parked at a far-off satellite spot still about a mile from her classes and she paid $300 PER MONTH to park there! PER MONTH!!!!!!

For my Master’s degree I attended a smaller university so parking was pretty reasonable – $50/semester. My current university is a larger one and parking here is what I’d consider mid-range for large universities: $600 per academic year.

But even though $300/semester isn’t too bad (relatively speaking), they kill you on the daily parking rates! On my first day of the new job I jumped on the parking and transportation website and there was no information about summer parking permits. The only available info talked about academic year parking permits. So I assumed I’d have to pay the daily rate until the academic year officially begins in a month.

But the daily rates are crazy! I’d been paying $10/day – that’s $50/week just to park on campus. And, unfortunately, there really aren’t options for parking off campus. There are busses, but they don’t run out to where I live (I live in the suburbs, just outside Tucson city limits, whereas the university is located directly mid-town). And if you try to park in the neighborhoods you’ll get towed immediately. So unless I get a motorcycle (for which parking is much cheaper, but we don’t own a motorcycle and I can never see myself riding one), I’m stuck paying for parking.

On Thursday night I started thinking about parking. $50/week; 5 weeks – we’re talking $250 in parking costs until the academic year permit goes into effect! That’s insanity! Who can afford that!?

So Friday morning I called the parking and transportation office and – wouldn’t you know – they DO offer summer permit parking passes. The prorated rate for the remainder of summer costs exactly $56.

At this point I slap my own forehead in disgust of the amount of money I’ve spent on parking, knowing I could have saved myself by buying this permit that wasn’t advertised on the website!

So the moral of the story is ALWAYS, ALWAYS ask! Wish I would’ve asked on day #1 and saved myself $50! A very expensive lesson to learn. At least I’ve kept my parking receipts for tax purposes. Even though it’s a pain, every little bit helps. Moving forward I’ll be able to have parking expenses automatically withdrawn from my paycheck pre-tax so I won’t have to worry about keeping up with receipts, etc. Good stuff.

Do you remember how much you paid for parking when you were in college (also – what type of college: large, medium, small?)

First Day and Family Drama


Hi all! Thank you so much for all the well wishes for my first day of work (it was this past Monday) and all of your comments about our plans to start saving for a house after all our consumer debt is paid off (hopefully by December-ish). There were a TON of great comments and I plan to dedicate some posts specifically to the house topic in the future, but that will have to wait for another day.

Right now, indulge me a little in talking about my first few days of work!

To be 100% honest, the first day was….a little boring. I had to do a lot of administrative type stuff (getting a new employee ID card, submitting key request form to the key authorization office, filling out paperwork, ordering instructor textbooks, etc. etc. etc.).

Here I was ready and rearing to go (with a huge, long To Do list already compiled) and I ended up spending much of the day doing non-job related/administrative stuff. It was fine and I got a couple hours of “real” work in, but not what I’d expected.

So Tuesday I hit the ground running with about a 30-item To Do list and started knocking things out left and right. Wednesday was more of the same (along with several meetings), and now I feel like I’m chugging right along!

I will say that I feel a real struggle in regard to spending. On my first day I bought lunch (even though I’d made and brought a lunch with me), Tuesday I bought a soda, and Wednesday I had to fight the urge to buy a Starbucks on the way to campus. At least I’m aware of the temptation to spend, so I’m trying to psychologically combat the urge. Eventually I’ll build a little stockpile of sodas and snacks in my office so the urge isn’t as strong. Right now I’m in a temporary office so I’ve been holding off on bringing a lot of stuff in just yet. My new office is supposed to be painted soon – hopefully! (The bureaucracy in academia is alive and well because I’ve been told it could take up to a month until the painting is completed due to permissions, other building/maintenance work orders, etc.). After that’s done I’ll officially “move in.”

I know we’re still only a couple days into the new job, but one big surprise is that it hasn’t been as hard emotionally/psychologically to leave the girls at preschool as I’d anticipated. I thought I’d be a wreck driving to campus but – nope! And they seem perfectly happy too, which certainly helps. Right now they’re still at the JCC but we switch to our new preschool in mid-August so we’ll see how that transition goes.

Work stuff aside, I’ve got to say I’ve been dealing with additional family health-related drama lately. I really wish I could just gush all the details to you guys because – as weird as it seems – you do feel like friends in a sense (and I get SO MANY helpful comments!!! I’d love to pick your brains on the health issues). But I want to maintain my father’s privacy so…..yeah. Just…stuff sucks. I hate what he’s going through. I don’t like that I’ve been thrust into the role of caregiver. It’s hard to be someone’s advocate from across state lines. And just the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo.

I’m going back next week for another doctor’s appointment. Again – the devils in the details and, unfortunately, I just can’t divulge his personal info. But you can imagine. Lots of stress. Anxiety. And so on.

I don’t believe we’ll be getting an official diagnosis yet – there’s one more scan the doctor wanted to order but its very expensive so insurance only covers it once everything else has been eliminated (and my Dad’s had many, many appointments the past couple weeks). But this is the appointment with the head honcho specialist so my siblings and I feel it’s important for someone to be there. I was elected. My sister will probably go back for the diagnosis, and my brother will likely be the one to go retrieve my father if/when its time for him to move closer to family. So at least we’re trying to share the burden (not that my father is a burden by any means, but you know what I’m saying. We all work, have families, etc. so logistics are difficult).

In terms of finances, I believe that my Dad will reimburse me for my flight expense (like he did last time). This time I’ll be flying in and out in a single looooooong day (flight there departs Tucson at 6:00am, return flight lands back in Tucson at 10:30pm). I know there are businesses people who do this type of commute all the time, but this is my very first out-and-back in a single day type excursion. I’m grateful its worked out this way since now I have a job I’m expected to be at, but I also wish I was going to be there a bit longer. The logistics of what the future holds (selling two separate properties in two separate states; clearing out said properties, etc.) makes my head ache. I know surely others have been in a similar spot before. Words of advice or encouragement? I know its hard without knowing specifics, but you can kind of read between the lines a bit I’m sure.

One thing I’ll say about this new job (sorry to jump around on topics), is that it has made my days feel extremely long! I’ve been waking up at 5am to have time to get a quick jog, shower, dress, make lunches (for me & the girls), make breakfast (for me & the girls), do dishes and general clean-up, wake the girls, get ready, go to preschool, go to work/school, back to preschool, home, cook, eat, clean dishes, do a load of laundry, baths, girls to bed, more work (for part-time job), then bed for me and hubs. I’m definitely not complaining! I’ve been so, so lucky to work from home part-time for the past 3 years with a killer make-my-own schedule so its just an adjustment. Not bad (no “poor me” attitude here! Still super psyched about the job!), just different. One huge perk of working in academia is that we tend to have more flexible schedules than other professions. Right now I’m here all day every day working furiously on prep, but once things settle down a bit and we get into a routine during the semester I think I’ll have more flexibility to run out if I have a doctor’s appointment, or whatever. But for the time being, I’ve turned into a super-planning ninja! I have to be in order to have food for dinner every night (as opposed to ordering take-out). It’s also a good transition, but still a transition nonetheless. Really, I like being back in the world of the gainfully full-employed. There were perks to the work-from-home part-time thing, too, but I really feel this is where I belong. : )

First Day


Today is the first day of school my new job!

I am SO, SO, SO excited and ready to hit the ground running! While I was on vacation last week I made a huge list of things I needed to do starting on day #1. I really think I’m going to thrive in this position and I just hope that everything works out as well as I think it will.

I cannot wait to see my new office, get settled in, meet my colleagues, and get started on all the course prep work I’ve got ahead of me! I have my work cut out for me – 3 courses to prep in the next month (one of which is a stats course for a 200+ person class! Yikes! I’ve never taught a full stats course before, I’ve only substituted. And it was for about a 20 person class. Learning curve much?)

Regardless of whatever challenges lie ahead, I’m excited to face them head-on. What fun would a new job be if it presented no challenges whatsoever? So I’m looking forward to embracing them!

On Saturday night I had the unprepared dream. You know the kind. I woke up late, wasn’t appropriately dressed, forgot the girls’ lunches when I took them to preschool, etc. etc. etc. So to keep the dream from becoming a reality I made sure to get everything fully prepped on Sunday night. I set my alarm extra early to ensure plenty of time for last minute stuff and by the time this post goes up I’ll be on my way to campus.

Send happy first day of work vibes my way!

I hope you’re all having a great start to your week as well!

Job Status


Hi friends! I’m happy to announce that I’ve officially signed the deal and will have a full time job starting July 13th!


Holding my signed contract

Yikes, that’s sneaking up quick! I’ve signed a short-term 1 month contract to work on course preparation from mid-July through mid-August. Then my full-time contract (where the benefits kick in) begins mid-August. Not a lot of time between now and then to tend to things such as: moving girls to full time preschool, buying some work-appropriate attire (I’ll sure miss lounging in my yoga pants all day!), and any other household odds and ends that need to be wrapped up before beginning full-time employment.

I had a handful of commenters ask me to expand on what, exactly, this job is. I’ve mentioned a couple different jobs and I think people were getting confused so I’ll take a moment to give some additional details.

  1. The job I have accepted is for a large public university in Tucson (betcha can’t guess where – wink, wink, nudge, nudge) in a department I’ll call Department A. This job is for a non-tenure track position. It’s part lecturer and part online program coordinator. As time moves on and the online bachelors program really gets going, it will turn into more coordinating and less instructing. Although my dream used to be the traditional tenure-track position, in recent years as I’ve gained experience with online teaching I really see this as the future of academia and I’m excited to have a portion of my salary be administrative (the coordination) while still having the ability to do what I love in the classroom (the lecturing). Plus, there tends to be more money in administration than in the traditional tenure-track career path (at least in my field, may not be true in all fields).
  1. Back in January I had applied for a job at the same university, but in a different department that I’ll call Department B. I did not get that job. BUT, they are the ones that called me a couple weeks ago. I spoke with the department head and she wanted me to teach a couple classes this Fall. She also said that they were trying to get approval (from the college level) to hire a full-time lecturer/undergraduate coordinator but wasn’t sure if it would be approved in time for the fall semester. I got an email on Monday from the dean stating that the position was approved, would be posted soon, and to please apply because they wanted to do a quick (7-10 day) turnaround. This is academic lingo for “we legally have to post the job, but the position is yours.” This is similar to job #1, above, in that it is also non-tenure-track; one part lecturer and one part administrative. The main reason why I prefer job #1 over job #2 is that job #1 pays better. My starting salary (in Department A) is more than many of the assistant professors are making in Department B.
  1. The last potential job lead was/is the most up-in-the-air. It’s for the position that I flew out of state for this past March where I did the whole “not-an-interview” thing. At the time I was told that funding for the position they’d advertised was no longer available, but I was encouraged to apply for next year (starting in the 2016-2017 academic year). I recently received an email from them notifying me that the position has been posted. Applications are not due until September, and interviewing/hiring will likely take place in the November-February time frame for the August 2016 start date. This is the only job of the three that is a traditional tenure-track position.

So where are we at?

I’ve officially accepted job #1. Taking job #1 meant that job #2 was out. There is still a possibility I could apply for (and eventually be offered) job #3 for next year, but I’m pretty unsure about it at this point. With all the family turmoil going on, I don’t like the idea of having to move my family cross-country, have my hubs find a new job (or re-start his business in a new state), and basically start all over again. I like the stability of staying where we currently live and starting to really put down roots. I’m also having a hard time with the actual job descriptions. In my mind, I’d always really wanted a tenure-track position. But now that I’m facing a different option, I’m realizing how excited I am about it. I’ve always loved project management (I have some experience with that in the past), and that’s basically what the online coordination is, but on a larger level. Instead of “project” management its “program” management. Also, research is stressful. I still like it and I often incorporate it into my lectures (and I love teaching!), but do I really love research? I don’t know. If given the option, I think I’d select the administrative side (i.e., online program coordination) over the research side. In terms of long-term growth, I also see additional opportunities for the administrative side. Online programs:  it’s the way of the future! Getting this experience early on could help me have a competitive edge over others in the future and maybe, just maybe, land me an awesome position back by family at some point. The big downside is the lack of tenure, itself. Tenure is the best job security in the world! But I don’t worry about it too much. I think my work will speak for itself and I’ll make myself an indispensable asset of the program. So hopefully I’ll have job-security that way.

I have so much more I want to say and some advice I’d like to gather from readers regarding retirement options, but I’m out of time now so that will have to wait until Monday.

Thanks for your encouragement and support along the way. I’m still a little nervous about the transition back into full-time employment (this will be my first full-time position in the past 3 years since my kids were born), but I’m also very excited for this next chapter of our lives and the implications for our debt reduction!