Debt Repayment Projections 2019

I have decided that I am not comfortable waiting longer than three years to pay off our 253k in student loan debt. Four just seems too long; when we can make some changes and focus in, three just seems more acceptable to me. Two years would be pretty difficult–doable, but I don’t think we are ok with forgoing some travel plans to see friends and family in order to meet that deadline. Traveling to see family in Ohio eats up our budget (as does other fun travel that we are ok with postponing–like our dream vacay to Argentina).

So, three years it is. A goal! I set out to calculate what our repayment would look like by snowballing our debt this year and adding in 600 extra dollars a month to federal student loans fully by September. We actually have another student loan that is set to be paid off in September that we pay 1500 to currently. This is a private loan at a higher interest rate. This frees up 1500 to be put toward our federal loans, which would make it 4000 by the end of September. I’m also setting a goal cut in spending of 300 dollars a month starting now. I will also be getting a raise this year, as will my husband, so I’m adding 300 onto the other 300–although, I think the truth is that this total raise will be more like 1800. The total payment would be 4600 until the end of the year by the end of September–perhaps more, depending on whether or not we decide to travel over the holidays.

If you are interested in playing around with loan amortization based on monthly payments, I use this site. It’s easy to plug in various scenarios, but is there a better one? Please share with me!!

Student Loan Debt Repayment Comparison Projection

With paying 4,600.00 a month after September, this would put us on to paying off in 4.75 years (2025) which is under our goal of 3 years (2023). So, this means we would have to bump up payments significantly—7,000.00, actually–in the next year to achieve this goal. Raises and cutting spending (for example, I’m thinking of switching to a different phone plan) will have to happen. If we don’t bump up at all, it would take us 11 years (which is out of the question! And the reason why I’m analyzing all of this).

I love spreadsheets and creating graphs. However, I am not currently using a spreadsheet to track or calculate student loan payoff or adjust for scenarios. Currently I’m just making little notes in my notebook. Does anyone have a system that works well for this? I have done some searching, but haven’t found anything yet that I’d rather use. I am also not that great at creating spreadsheets with more complex functions other than basic arithmetic (English teacher over here ready to learn!)

What’s your strategy for debt repayment? Share below!

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Adventures in Tracking Phone Data Usage

In an effort to determine whether or not my current phone plan can be cut down (fact: it can), I am tracking my data usage over this month. When I opened my Settings, I saw that my usage was FIFTY GIGABYTES, and I am only halfway through the month! A very big reason for this is because I had a million apps open in the background, sucking data while I’m at work because I turn off the wifi (so I can check Instagram at school…busted). I also stream podcasts a lot, and that streaming uses so much data when I could be pre-downloading them while I’m on wifi.

Why am I so lackadaisical about this, you ask? Well, I have used Virgin Mobile my entire life, and while I really did think that their service worked for me, I bought a new phone last year upon dropping my phone in the toilet. When you switch a phone, you’re not grandfathered into your old plan. This becomes a lifestyle creep if you don’t pay attention to the costs associated with this. To achieve the same plan, I paid 20 more dollars a month, to a total of 54.00 a month for unlimited everything. My husband also has the same plan. So, we both pay 108.00 a month when it used to be 70. Virgin’s prices beats Verizon and ATT, but I am now aware of even lower cost options, thanks to Choose FI. Wondering if I could stomach a data limit of 5 gigs, I have decided to track my data usage to see if this is a good idea. I don’t want to be hit with data overage charges, and I also don’t want to be out climbing or something and forget to download route data on Mountain Project and be stuck because I hit my data cap (if I even get service). I could argue there are logical ways around all of this; e.g., being proactive rather than reactive.

I am not a ‘phone junkie,’ although I can get caught in the browsing trap like the best of them. I really like the idea of saving at least 20 dollars a month (and maybe more), amounting to at least 240.00 a year!

So, I’m resetting my usage today and determining how it goes when I turn off data usage completely and just turn it on when it’s absolutely necessary (example: I have to pull something up in my email while not in a wifi area, or needing more than just the gps function on Google Maps).

I’ll download music playlists I want to listen to from Spotify, and download my maps before heading out. I’ll also download and delete podcasts as I listen to them. And sorry, but no Instagram while waiting somewhere—will be using my Kindle instead!

Updates to come. Hopefully this helps me focus on other non-phone related things…like writing, painting, reading.

Have you switched your phone plan, or are you thinking about it, to save on monthly costs? Comment below!

Helpless Millennial Series: From Helpless to Empowered

I wish there was a little fairy that sat on my shoulder when home-buying, whispering in my ear how much having a house that is over 100 years old (and not a well-remodeled one, mind you) was going to bring on some real life lessons.

I was quite blind back then, wanting a house so, so badly. At 27, I was ready to just have my own house, one that I could paint, hang stuff on, and garden (let’s never mind the fact that after a year and a half here, I’ve barely done any of that!) I will run the numbers someday about costs for repairs versus appreciation, because I do think that it’s something everyone needs to consider when buying a house. But do any first-time home buyers walk in with clear eyes? I doubt it. Maybe my experience can provide some insight, so helpless millennials like myself can walk into the home-buying process a little less helpless.

We’ve spent money on things that we didn’t need to in regards to our house, but didn’t have the time/energy/knowledge to make the fixes. We are not naturally handy; my husband is an electronics/computer dude (and a doctor), so his skill set doesn’t lie within home repairs. He literally spent about 11 years of his life in medical training. I am afraid of power tools. As in, I haven’t hung multiple things for weeks that needed a power drill because I don’t want to ‘mess up.’ I know this sounds so silly; I can’t be the only one, right?

We hired an electrician to install a chandelier; this was roughly 200 dollars. It was a simple install, as far as I can tell. But I was afraid of installing it incorrectly and blowing up the house. I don’t know if this is irrational or not. I do know that this could be learned on Youtube.

My husband also recently hired someone to clean our gutters. Our house does have a 2nd story, so this is understandable. It was 125.00. I am wondering if we could have done this ourselves, with the right equipment. After all, we are rock climbers. With the proper safety precautions, we are able to do something like this.

Now that summer is here, I have the time to dig into all this. So, I’m going to start something called “Helpless Millennial Series” in which I, a helpless millennial, tackles some things that I could do myself by watching Youtube, researching it on the Internet, and taking a good ol’ trip to Ace hardware. I’ll be tallying the costs (time and money) along the way, stacking it up against what it would have cost if I hired someone. Who’s with me?

Here are the projects I’ve got on my agenda:

  1. Retiling our entry way floor. Due to weathering (and presumably just crappy installation), the tiles flush against our entry door in the kitchen are completely loose. It’s quite embarrassing. It needs to be fairly warm outside for this to happen, so I’ve been waiting until it gets drier and warmer.
  2. Filling in holes in grout in bathroom. Due to another crappy recent installation (are you sensing a theme here?) there are holes in our tile grout in our bathroom. Needs to be fixed ASAP to avoid damage.
  3. Fixing carpet that has torn away from doorway. Our dog has severe separation anxiety and got trapped in my office twice and completely ripped the carpet up from the doorway where it meets the hardwood. It is possible we have to hire someone for this, but I’m looking at options.
  4. Replacing the storm door hinge. That thing is b-r-o-k-e and old. This should be fairly simple, right?
  5. Planting privacy trees and xeriscaping the front yard. Whoever thought it was a good idea to plant all grass and NO trees or shrubs (our former owners) and install a very expensive sprinkler system, should be charged with our fat water bill from July. It’s wasteful, not to mention expensive, and just irresponsible, to water grass you don’t use for play or dogs (our front yard backs up to a busy-ish street). We will be in the process of removing sod and planting Colorado-friendly plants this summer.

What have you learned to do yourself? What do you hold back from doing yourself? And if you’ve got resources, send ’em here please because I’ll be trying to read all I can (especially about the tiling) before diving in.

Some Actionable Words About Financial Privilege

I teach high school and have only ever taught in ‘alternative’ programs, i.e., schools that are focused on engaging students for whom a traditional high school experience is not working. Throughout my career, I’ve spent time with all sorts—homeless kids, white kids, black, brown kids, rich kids, privileged kids, under-privileged kids. This experience has provided me with the understanding of my own privilege and how I came to have it, being a white upper-middle class woman (albeit with a lot of student loan and mortgage debt), but in a financial place that is more than enough and with a foundation, due to the sole fact that I was born to white, middle-class parents who paved the way for me.

While the focus of my blog is not opportunity equality or wealth redistribution, I am aware of and am learning about how to use my position as an educator and citizen of my community to advocate for the financial well-being of people who otherwise may not have the financial privilege I or others have had.

Instead of just recognizing privilege, I want to use my privilege to make real paths for people to have hope and a way to have enough. Obviously, my experience as a teacher frames all of this, as I believe the earlier you start educating a child about these systems and how to ‘game’ them, the better.

Ways I do this are:
  • Donating part of my income to organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU
  • Creating and teaching lessons about financial literacy with our Social Studies teacher, focusing on basic concepts like interest rates and budgeting and providing resources for students to locate once they leave high school
  • Creating lessons that involve community partners conducting mock interviews with my students, as well as a job and career fair
  • Advocating for teacher pay as part of our Union
Further plans include:
  • More reading about how teenagers can be exposed to the FI (Financial Independence) movement and build their lives around the principles of FI
  • More education about teaching students about investing
  • More political involvement to change wealth inequality in our country

Mindful and Unmindful Spending This Year

Tuesday afternoon trail run in RMNP, thanks to microspikes!

I have gone through waves of mindful and unmindful spending in my life. It usually will revolve around ‘survival mode.’ If things are busy at work or we have visitors coming to stay, or are traveling, I go into ‘survival mode.’ Or, if I have a problem, I think I can fix it with spending (this can be true…sometimes). The feeling of spending money is kind of like blacking out; you don’t even realize how much you’re coughing up when handing over the credit card is so easy and so ‘necessary.’

Here is a list of Mindful and Unmindful things I have spent money on in the last year (I’m not including my husband on his own purchases that he has, because it’s not my spending story to tell šŸ™‚ )

Unmindful:

  1. An 89.00 a month Pilates membership for 3 months (when I already climb at the gym, so I pay for that 70.00 membership too) that was actually really hard to cancel and I didn’t even use all of my punch passes. I had a minor shoulder injury/irritation this winter, and I thought Pilates would help. While it was a nice change of pace, it was not worth 89.00, especially since I rarely even used it! I also lost my credit card one night and forgot to tell the Pilates place what my new card was, so I got hit with a late fee because my payment didn’t go through. Lesson learned.
  2. Unlimited Tanning for 100.00 a month for 5 months. Please don’t shame me! I like a spray tan every now and then (and I have to admit, the warm feeling in the dead of winter. I’ve replaced that habit with a hot bath.). This went on for about five months. Yikes. When your husband’s a doctor and you’re willfully exposing your Scottish/German skin the UV rays, the cognitive dissonance is real, y’all. He definitely gave me major side-eye whenever I came back from the salon. Will now only reserve spray tanning for special occasions.
  3. Buying grocery food without a plan. I don’t really even have any data on this, but I’d say at least 20.00 worth of food per month is wasted in our house. I really dislike going to the grocery, thinking about going to the grocery, etc. Being part time nowadays helps; I can go in the morning or early afternoon so it’s not too bad. However, sometimes I’ll just waltz in there, thinking that some divine inspiration will strike, grabbing some ingredients that sound like they’ll go together. Often, this ends up in unused raw vegetables sitting in my fridge (and sometimes meat). Big waste of money and a waste for the environment.
  4. Sephora free shipping membership renewal. In a true holiday shopping blackout last year, I signed up for free Sephora shipping. It was 15.00 and renewed in March of this year. Um, who’s going to remember that unless you put it in your Google Calendar to cancel, which I did not? So now I’ve got free shipping. I guess if you want something from Sephora and don’t want to pay for shipping, hit me up…with my revamped view of spending, I doubt I’ll be buying anything from there anytime soon.
  5. Fast fashion clothing. This is probably at least 200.00 for the past year; potentially more. I have a TJ Maxx problem. I’ve actually banned myself from TJ Maxx. Then broke the ban, once, this year…but didn’t buy any clothing, I swear! I will sometimes buy seasonal trends that cycle out of style pretty quickly. Nothing crazy, but definitely not mindful. For example, I bought a topshop shirt from Nordstrom (a crop top) that I know just isn’t going to fly once I’m in my 30s. Can you say quarter-life identity crisis purchase?

Mindful Purchases

  1. The Roomba. Pricetag: 600.00. Oh, the glorious Roomba. The only robot (who am I kidding, smartphones are basically robots) I’ll allow in my house. It was my husband’s idea; I balked at the price tag, but the thing really is a time-saver when you have two dogs and like to keep the floors clean. I would say this saves me at least two hours a week. Now I can clean other things (yay?).
  2. Microspikes for Trail Running. Pricetag: 80.00. We’ve had a snowy winter here in Colorado. I really dislike skiing (dealing with the ski crowds) around here. Makes me want to up and move to Montana, except for the fact that I’d freeze. So, I realized that the thing I love to do (climbing) cannot be done (it can, I just don’t have the resources or stoke to ice climb right now), but I can do the other thing I kind of like to do, which is run longish distances in nature. The freedom of moving through the mountains at the warp speed of 20 minutes per mile is invigorating—and even more so when you’re about to slip on frozen snowmelt on the north side of the trail. Microspikes saved my sanity this winter. The cover image for this post is from a Tuesday afternoon in April up in Rocky Mountain National Park; just me, my husband, and our microspikes, about 3 miles into the snowpacked trails. They inspire much confidence; I can’t wait to break em out again next winter.
  3. Firewood. I have the privilege of having a wood-burning fireplace in my home and a fire pit outside. Growing up in the country makes you yearn for an evening by the fire; I have fond and annoying memories of having to get up early and put wood in our wood-burning stove to heat the house (and convincing my younger sister into doing it for me—perks of being the oldest). The fireside makes me feel so much better about pretty much anything—while it can be expensive around here, it really does help the seasonal depression.
  4. Paprika Meal Planning App. I found out about this app from Choose FI. It is magical. You create your own meal planning database with the ability to save any recipe accessible on the internet, converting those meals to meal plans, grocery lists, menus, etc. This is making me far more mindful about my grocery time, and is actually providing me with systems so I can avoid decision fatigue around meal planning. The planner in me is hooked. I love it.
  5. Used Outdoor Apparel. I have a slight addiction to outdoor apparel. Climbing pants and jackets and fleeces are my jam. My justification is that I live in Colorado, I do outside things, so I should have outside clothes. The best moments of my life have happened while on a climbing trip or by a lake. The right layering system can make or break your experience in the elements. It is not a place to skimp on. I’ve tried. However, you don’t really need to ever buy a piece of clothing brand-new/full price. Have you been on the Internet? Lots of great ways to find things. Lots of great second-hand stores to buy things. One of my favorite sites is Poshmark. I’ve sold and bought on Poshmark, and their cut is 20 percent; cheaper than most consignment shops, and more direct. The only downside is that you cannot return the item if it doesn’t fit. So get the measurements right, or if you’re like me, you gotta resell that Patagonia fleece. (I sold it for 25 dollars more than I bought it for though…so I actually made money off the transaction). REI has a wonderful used part of their website, where you can buy things that people have returned but REI can’t sell for full-price. This includes all types of gear. So, you can buy tents, sleeping bags, packs, etc. If you live around Denver, Wilderness Exchange is amazing for this. I rarely buy anything brand-new if I can help it now.
  6. A 90.00 Carved Wood Armoire that would easily be 1000.00 at an antique shop. I go through points of motivation where I own Craigslisting. I scroll, scroll, and bam—perfect score. My ‘big’ pieces of furniture are all from Craigslist, except my bed. My couch, tv console, bedside tables, dining table, dining chairs, are all from Craigslist. The rest of it is that we couldn’t find on Craigslist is from Ikea. The armoire gives some character to our dining room, but most importantly, it’s a storage place for toilet paper and extra blankets (#oldhouseprobs). I love it, and it was 90.00 (160 if you include the Uhaul I had to rent to transport it…and you should!) Finding furniture on Craigslist is the perfect frugal hack. A year into buying our home, and we’ve got all the furniture we would need, thanks to Craigslist.

What are your mindful spends? Or unmindful? Please share! And your spending hacks, if you got ’em!

About the title of this blog

I know the word ‘ignorant’ has negative connotations. People who are ‘ignorant’ are uneducated, lazy, easy to be manipulated. When someone calls someone else ‘ignorant,’ it can often be in a pejorative way. However, the dictionary definition is: lacking knowledge or awareness in general; uneducated or unsophisticated (obtained from a good ol’ Google search).

I think a large part about being a successful adult is recognizing when you just don’t know something, instead of acting like you do. The truth is that I’m ignorant about a lot. My fancy four-year college degree and Masters degree is wholly un-useful when it comes to, say, anything related to living in a home that’s over 100 years old. Except if you count going to the job that pays for me to live in the house.

The reason I started this blog is to document my progress and learning for myself and anyone else who could benefit from this. I recognize my ignorance in many areas of personal finance, even if I am pretty decent some parts of it. I have some to teach, and lots to learn.

In the words of Vicki Robinson, “no shame, no blame.” It’s not easy for me to not kick myself every now and then about things I’ve done. I don’t like messing up, as I’m sure nobody does. Understanding my areas of ignorance (or areas for growth, if you want a more positive connotation) and then overcoming them is liberating. It helps me move on and be better. So, I hope people can come to this blog feeling kind of like me–looking for more things to learn, and ready to ask questions–no shame, no blame.

-SB

Chosen Ignorance

If you would have told me that I’d be starting a blog* about personal finance last year, I would have probably said something really snarky and possibly mean because a year ago, I was in what most people go through, often—dissatisfaction with my career, lack of direction, and just general feeling of ‘what is this all for?’ Which brings me to the Creed quote, “If I can’t scuba, then what’s this all been about? What have I been working toward?” (all further Office quotes on this blog will not be introduced as Office quotes, because there will be many, and will be used in conversation as I have already introduced my source. Such repetition will be time-consuming). Can you tell I’m an English teacher?

Anyway, last year I don’t think I was a nice person. Maybe I was hiding the fact that I didn’t want to be nice because I was dissatisfied…but the people closest to me could tell something was up. Even my sisters sat me down and said I seemed different: lost weight, focused on stupid things, etc. The truth was, I didn’t know what I wanted in my life. I asked my principal to go part time at my school. I wanted to start an Interior Design program, because I was looking for a career change. Last year was the most rough year of teaching I think I’ve ever had—I was unmotivated, with low pay, overworked, and to top it off, a student brought a gun to school which forced a lockdown and evacuation on our campus. Then, I was re-traumatized a week later by the Parkland, Florida school massacre. I had it with being a teacher—the emotional strength that I needed to do the best parts of it: being fully present in class, and not crying in the bathroom because I was scared. The exhaustion of decision fatigue because I was always running around like a headless chicken, extinguishing little fires both at work and at home. A weekend was not enough time away; winter break was not enough time away; spring break, summer break, not enough time away to feel like a normal person.

I walked into my principal’s office and asked to go part time because she had asked if anyone was interested. I didn’t even think about it before I did it. I just did it right when I walked into school that day. To my surprise, she said yes and we worked out my schedule. I’m so grateful that she was able to tell that it wasn’t just to fill a need in our schedule, but that I was in trouble and I needed it. I realized that I decided to go part-time because I really needed a sabbatical of some sort. Some time to get it all back together. I cared zero about the money, for reasons I can explain later. I needed time. I didn’t realize this, but this was the beginning of how I’d reexamine a lot of structures in my life and our society, most revolving around time and money. But most importantly, time.

I ended up not doing the Interior Design program (mostly because I didn’t want to give up 30 Saturdays…#priorities). By the end of the summer, I had realized that I really used it to its full potential. I took a group of students to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, I went the Dominican Republic for our friends’ wedding, and I climbed for a week in Squamish, CA with my friend and coworker. I painted a lot, and played with my dogs a lot. I got a lot out of my summer, and realized that as a teacher, this is a gift! Who else gets paid to tool around for two months? I know some teachers work (and have to work) during this time, but I usually decide not to work. So, being a teacher in the summer is pretty nice, and I decided that changing a profession is not right for me because of the time I would sacrifice—again, time creeps up. My friend and coworker Matt shared a blog and podcast called Choose FI that he listened to on his commute every day. I am a fellow podcast lover, so I started listening, specifically to one related to teacher retirement accounts from Millionaire Educator.

The podcast outlined all of the options for teachers to invest for their retirement and to optimize their paychecks so they can take advantage and build wealth. Teachers, wealthy? lol. But yes, to an extent, they can have wealth!

I had been paying into a 403b since I moved to Colorado in 2014. I heard that it was good to save money outside of your pension. In general, it is. But a 403b has costs associated with it. What?? My husband asked me what my expense ratio was. I didn’t even know what that meant. I couldn’t evenĀ get into my account because I hadn’t set up an online access. For four years, I had no clue.

Let me make it clear that I’ve always been mystified about investing. As a person who hates math, I just avoid it at all costs—literally. Chosen ignorance. When I learned that index funds are pretty dang easy to invest in (I actually did sit down with my coworker who decided to open the 457, and he showed me how he did it), and that I could do it with way lower fees than my 403b, I felt so stupid. Why hadn’t I taken the time to figure this out when I started teaching back in 2012? The only answer I have to this is probably: YOLO. For the better part of my 20s, I had made sure not to have credit card debt, but to not worry about other financial things as long as they ‘seemed’ ok, and to spend money on what I wanted because youĀ do only live once, you know. Why run the numbers when it’s good enough? And why face them when they amount to 600k in debt?

A large part of this is that my husband and I are roughly 600k in debt. My husband is a doctor, and has 250,000 dollars in debt from federal student loans. He is 31. I am 29. I have no student loan debt any more, because I paid it off about 3 years early thanks to loan forgiveness and being able to pay more when we lived in a low-cost area in Ohio. We also haveĀ  376,000 left on our mortgage; we now live in the Denver area, a relatively high-cost area. For my entire adult life, I have been in debt due to student loans. I (lovingly) took on my husband’s student loan debt when we married six years ago. Our general tune was to pay what we could, a little more than necessary from time to time, and then just kind of grin and bear it. Through med school and residency, you just have to basically survive and not get into any big trouble. Once residency is over, then forget about it and spend money extra money on other things because we deserve it, right?

I did not (still don’t) have a roadmap for how to deal with staggering student loan debt that is so, so normalized in our society. No one wants to talk about it! Our doctor friends just kind of shrug and accept it, as they have some plan to pay it off once they’re in their forties. Forties! No freaking way. I will not pay Uncle Sam and his crusty purveyors over tens of thousands of dollars in interest just because my husband didn’t have the cash to pay for med school. Neither of our parents went to college. We are in the majority here; who has 250,000 sitting around to pay for med school? We cannot be alone. More people need to talk about this; why would we sit around, knowing full well there are dollars that could be making the difference of YEARs of paying back these loans? Not to mention, YEARs of your life devoted to this payback, when your money can go to investing for the future. You can choose ignorance, or you can choose knowledge.

Being an educator, I’m a big fan of reading. I’m assuming you are, too, or else you wouldn’t be here. I had to get my hands on whatever I could to start wrapping my ignorant little head around what other people do. Books, articles, and lots of spreadsheets (who doesn’t like a good spreadsheet?) There are so many worthy things to read about personal finance journeys.Ā  The first book I read was Work Optional by Tanja Hester. Man, if there’s anyone I can hand it to who can succinctly and passionately explain her path to financial independence, it is Tanja! Her book is about full early retirement. I read it because I heard her interview on Choose FI. She is inspirational and honest. While I got a little bit about early retirement from it (ain’t gonna be retiring soon, sooo) I did get the heart of it—what do you value, and how can you maximize your time on earth? And then, how does your money decision making help you focus on this?

Wow. Using money as a tool to maximize your time on earth? Instead of, I don’t know, a tool to exacerbate your ignorant fumbling along (that’s me)?

Tanja’s book was the tipping point for me. I have spent the last few months digging in to the world of personal finance, getting my eyes and ears on anything I can. That walk into my principal’s office has led me to the point; I needed the time to justĀ breathe and have the energy to read something that wasn’t a student essay. So what’s next?

Here I am, fumbling along, writing on this blog to make sense of it all. To ask questions, to share resources, and to sometimes make fun of myself. And to be less ignorant, particularly in relation to my finances. More on this next time. Thank you for reading, WordPress is telling me this is a 7 minute read, which is long for a blog I think, so it’s time to end this little intro to this little corner of the Internet with a capital I.

-SB

*Go here to read a quick explanation of the blog title,Ā Ignorant Finance.