Slow down for a month (or two)

July 10, 2012 at 2:56 pm (paying debt)

Decided to take a little intermission for the next month or two and catch up on my debt and savings plans. I’ve been running pretty close to the edge the last few months. I get greedy to pay down my debt, pay a lot a bit too early, and by the end of the month have to borrow a bit from savings or put some expenses on my credit card. Of course, I always want to pay these back and off immediately so there’s never any finance fees, but it does derail the following month a bit and I use money earmarked for debt to pay off my credit card or pay back my “temporary loan.” This then also skews my budget on the dates I pay for things.

I decided that this month I will scale back my debt payments, consolidate, pay off, top up, and the like. What that means is that I’ve reduced my autopayments to my debt to $300 for the month (down from $650). I’m going to see where I am at the end of the month, and pay that towards my road bike loan, the GE Capital. I want that close to paid off by the end of the month. Next month I’ll then be free and clear. I hate having that 0% credit reduce my regular-debt-paying momentum.

Of course, I always seem to forget that I have to pay an annual web hosting fee for my main real-life photography website, and I also get whammed with my SBA annual fee, both of which are $150, both of which occur in July. So here’s the score for this month:

July SBA debt payments: $300 ($200 on the 1st paycheck, $100 on the 2nd)
Road Bike loan: $200 ($500 left to pay)
Car Loan: $253.11 (minimum payment)
Web Hosting: $150

It makes me sad that I can’t pay $600 towards my SBA loan. I feel like I’m treading water this month. Next month I’ll be able to pay off my road bike fully, and that will bring me back to normal for September – I’ll be back in fighting debt trim.

Oh, and I updated my stats on the right. I used up a lot of my car fun to get a bunch of work done, oil change, some engine work, and of course the timing belt. Totaled about $900 in 2 visits. Now that that major repair is over and done with, I’m gonig to scale back my car fun savings to $100/month for a while (down from the $150-$200 I had been socking away).

debtmaven out

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Update on budget revision/musings on food frugality

April 11, 2012 at 8:58 am (Being Frugal, groceries, paying debt) (, )

This is the first month with my revised split payment budget plan in effect, and I have to say, so far I love it! Previously I had to pay rent, bills, save money in my mini-funds (car maintenance, EF contributions, etc), and had precious little left over. I then wasn’t able to pay debt until the end of the month. It was always a big “Hmm, I wonder how much is left over to pay down debt” and, because it was the last thing I did, it felt like the least supported and least likely to happen item in my budget!

I get paid twice, on the 5th and 20th of each month. Because I work for a small company, we don’t have full direct deposit – instead we are allowed to direct deposit $300 automatically each paycheck maximum – I then have to physically deposit the rest of my paycheck at a BECU ATM.  

Well now, I’ve restructed my budget to pay rent early, on the second half of the previous month. This has had the ripple effect of letting me pay things I am most serious about spending money quickly, at once, at the beginning of every month’s budget. Once the first paycheck is deposited, I now top up my mini-funds (pay yourself first, right?) at the beginning of every month’s budget, and I make an immediate payment to my SBA loan (which comes out of the $300 direct deposit). I then allow enough time to deposit my paycheck before making a smaller second debt payment. I repeat this process for the second paycheck of the month, but instead of paying towards savings, I pay rent instead. I’ve actually automated my debt payments, so it’s scheduled regularly in 4 smaller chunks, I don’t have to plan for it, but rather around it! I’ve set up $750 in payments over 4 dates each month. Here’s what I’ve set up to occur each month:

6th: $200 (comes out of my $300 direct deposit)
10th: $150 (sufficient time to allow 1st paycheck to be deposited)
20st: $100 (comes out of my $300 direct deposit)
24th: $300 (sufficient time to allow 2nd paycheck to be deposited)

So far, so great! I love automated payments. Right now I have $249 left in my checking account until I get paid on April 20th. That’s enough for food, restaurant spending, and gas. And that’s it! I am constantly checking my checking balance, and being vigilant and thinking about every penny I’m spending. Having such a small mount available, and being really strict about not letting myself use my credit card is forcing me to really think about my spending. Which brings me to some musings on my biggest spending area: FOOD.

I recently decided to not buy a ton of food at once – I’ve been having issues with not using food and having it spoil and be wasted (very financially unwise). Instead, I’m shopping for a few specific meals at a time. This means that I’ve been spending a little bit quite frequently. I keep updating my budget with $18 here, and $20 there. It adds up fast! I previously had this idea that I needed to limit my food psending to $75/month, give or take. but that was never enough. Now, I am quickly surpassing that! However, I have had a shift in my thinking about spending. I’ve revised my food budget to be $350/month (not including restaurant/eating out). That breaks down to about $11.67/day. I’m trying to keep that perspective in mind. If I spend $20 every time I shop and I shop every 2 out of 3 days, that’s too much. If I spend $20 every other day, then that’s awesome, I’m under budget! It’s a hard shift to make, and I’m still getting used to it. This month will be the month I figure it out and see how I’m doing.

I’ve also been paying very strict attention to my “extra” spending category (anything not regularly accounted for), which includes entertainment, bike/hiking purchases, art, clothes, photography expenses, you name it. With my recent road bike purchase, I have to pay about $175/month for 6 months to pay it off, which leaves me precious little extra in my “extra” budget category (currently it is $200/month). So anything that’s not budgetted for is on the chopping block.

I have had offers to go to a spa ($35), which I sadly turned down – no room in the budget! I got an email invite to go along with friends for an acrobatic/dance performance ($22), decided not to do it (I’m sure dinner would also be involved before or after). Had to buy a $30 Discovery Pass for access to Washington State Parks (annual pass) this past weekend on my first hike, so I am having to be extremely tight fisted about every single future April purchase, even $5!!! I don’t think this is realistic to maintain for the 6 months it will take me to pay off the bike, but I’ll definitely not be spending like I have been the last 3 months, that’s for sure! I will probably decrease my debt payments by $50-$100/month occassionally, but I’m going to try really hard not to let that be the first option, but the last (and to not let it happen every month).

So, basically, frugality is still my BFF (we’ve been tied at the hip for about 3 weeks now – maybe we should celebrate our 6 week, 2 month, and 6 month anniversaries? 🙂 ).  Oh, and in the next few days I’m going to update my budget and post it on the sidebar.

Stay strong everyone!
debtmaven out.

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Moving complete, settling in, and passing the 50% mark!

March 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm (milestones, moving, paying debt) ()

Ok. I’ve MOVED. I’m mostly done. Now I can get back to the business of debt paying and budgetting and achieving my goal of becoming DEBT FREE. I am seriously on track to finishing by the end of 2013. For real. In fact, I just passed a major milestone – I have less than 50% of my debt left!!! I’ve currently paid 51% of my starting debt (and that includes having purchased a newer car in that time period, too).

I’ve finished the physical moving. I spent $46 on a rental truck for the weekend (great deal, and I even elected to get the optional $18 insurance). Spent $20 on gas for the rental, and that’s it. I did make several trips in my car throughout a 2 week period, so I’m sure I wasted about half a tank of gas, make that $30. Ate a lot of pre-made food (roast chickens and salad no more!) and ate a lot of take out for about 2-3 weeks. THat’s harder to calculate, but I’m guessing $150 extra? Then I had to buy some extra tools (where are those phillips head screwdrivers I had so many of…?), spackle, oven cleaner, etc. I had to buy some basic things, like a shower curtain, so let’s say I was able to move for $350.

I’ve still got piles of stuff to get put away (I get to move from my temporary storage the landlord let me use to my own personal locked storage this weekend!). I have tons of art to hang, and lots of rearranging ahead, but it’s mostly set up for now. I realized that I needed some specialized things. I have virtually no counter space in the kitchen and a big open area for a small table. It’s not very hospitable to eating there, so I decided instead to get an extra counter. I tried looking at craigslist for tables and realized that what I really wanted was a sofa console table style thing. But everything was either expensive, far away, or 6-10 inches too short (table height, not counter height). I ended up having our crate shop at work help me. One night this week we designed it, cut the wood and in 45 minutes it was ready to go home and assemble! It’s PERFECT (and free!). Now I have to get some primer and paint it.

I did just get my $880 tax return back, whoo hoo, and put $1000 towards debt this month. I didn’t have to pay rent, but I’m recovering from moving expenses. I think I’ll be able to put an additional $300 towards debt in the second half of the month, after my second paycheck, which is exactly what I had hoped to pay this month. I’m on track, how great is that!

I’ve been putting tons in towards my mini-funds for savings. My car fund is getting big fast. But I’ll probably have to drop a grand in repairs in the next 2 months, so that’s exactly where it should be. I’m really pushing to save some play money for travelling. Real travelling, the kind I haven’t done since 2001. An airplane trip somewhere, maybe a hotel, or international travelling… location TBD. I’ve been considering a long weekend to Santa Fe with a girlfriend maybe later this spring.

I have noticed a trend towards more going out, restaurant eating, and bar visitations. I need to curb that a bit or at least continue to show some forebearance in that regard. Being single and trying to be social with friends has caused me to spend more in that arena than I had been previously. So I’m continuing to struggle with food and restaurant spending (as always!), continuing to really pump some money into temporary savings for car and travelling (go fun!), and I’m back to paying about $950/month towards debt (both minimum payments and principal). I’m back to normal, and more than halfway to my goal! Time to celebrate! Have a glass of champagne everyone!

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February: goal check-in

March 3, 2011 at 6:19 pm (goals, paying debt)

My big goal this year is to pay $10K towards debt, which at the start of the year I thought might be a real challenge. (Not including my upcoming windfall of course!). So how’m I doing so far, now that February’s budget is about over?

Well, in short: I rocked it! I immediately paid $600 once I deposited my second paycheck. Then, at the end of the month, I realized I had enough extra to put in another $250, bringing my monthly total to $850!!!

My initial goal was to pay $750 per month. Now that I’ve gotten my tax return, let’s see if that was realistic:

$10,000 for 2011, minus my $880 tax return = $9120. Divide that by 12 months = $760/month needed to reach my goal!

So my goal is to pay an average of $760/month.

Tax Return – $880
January – $1004
February – $850 paid
2011 total – $2734
Compare Goal-to-date: $2400
Above goal by $334!!!

Wow. I’m awesome. Cue the teacher bestowing a gold star upon me.

Despite my goal-meeting awesomeness, I do have to aknowledge that it may be a little challenging in March. February was a SHORT, tiny-paycheck month. The paycheck that I’m about to get at the beginning of March will subsequently be smaller than usual. So I think March will be a tough month. I’m also looking towards some upcoming expenses that I recently referenced (in my windfall post). I really really need to get my passport renewed, since it takes so long to get it back! I need to get my bicycle ready to roll (ha ha ha, sorry) with some tlc and new parts, PLUS get a new pair of sneakers. All this in March? That may be a little expensive all at once.

As long as I stick to my not eating out much, going to the gym 5+ days a week (which doesn’t allow for time to do anything else, go anywhere else, or spend anywhere else!!!), prepare all my lunches, then I should be relatively ok. I just went thriftstore shopping last weekend and I got a new pair of jeans ($10!!!). I still need 1 more, but other than that, I’m relatively good. Maybe it won’t be so bad!

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Debt paying goals in 2011

January 7, 2011 at 9:23 am (paying debt)

In January 2010, I had $36,479 in debt. A year later, it’s down to $29,289. I have paid off $7,190. That breaks out to an average of $599.17 monthly. I guess $600/month isn’t bad! However, it’s not all that great either! I would love to do $10,000 this year – that’s a nice big round number. I’ve got about $29K of debt left to pay off, and I’d love to do it in 3 years. Not sure I can do that, but maybe if I apply myself I can. One good thing in my favor – the more debt you pay off, the less interest you have to pay, and the more percentage goes towards the principal. So the closer you get, the faster it gets paid off!!

In order to make at least $10,000 of debt payment in 2011, I will have to pay an average of $750/month. That will end up as $9,000, and I expect I’ll get about $800 from my tax return and probably find a could hundred in snowball extra payments to round it off. Hmm. That is a high bar I’ve set for myself, compared to my past track record. An extra $150/month in debt payments? How can I make that happen?

When I started writing this post a few days ago, I realized that in order to make that goal, which in the back of my head I was thinking was a fictional, unattainable goal, I would have to buck up, suck up, and buy less. In other words, I needed to budget like no one’s brother. So I looked at my budget (which I hadn’t been paying close attention to for quite some time) and realized that I could tweak it from my 2010 numbers and probably manage to milk out a few extra hundred per month. So I’m giving it a shot.

If I can follow my new/2011 budget, spending $2,450/month, and with making $3,000 – $3,100 monthly plus getting $400-$450 from J in rent, I should conceivably be able to pay at least that amount, if not more, every month!!!

It’s been a while since I’ve been that strict with my spending, maybe even not ever! Previously I didn’t really care if I went over in a catagory, but I’m going to really have to be careful with that this time around. What, $30 left for groceries for the next week and a half? D’oh! Let’s clean out those canned goods in the cupboard!

Fingers crossed,

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