March 2015 Net Worth Update & Q1 Update

networthupdateMan oh man, March came in like a lamb and roared out like a lion, financially speaking! My February update was, in retrospect, remarkably blasé about my prospects for March — I was confidently predicting I’d shoot past my $20K net worth goal. Uh, not so much.

Regular readers will recall, because, you know, I just talked about it last week, that I had a major setback in March, to the tune of [OH GOD HOW MUCH?!?!] for last-minute plane tickets. This included the original cost of tickets, plus a substantial stupidity tax related to having to make even more last-minute changes when I realized I’d book the wrong date [every time I mention this, a sad accordian goes “womp womp WOMPPPPPP” in my head, like I have a TV music soundtrack to my thought process.]

However, mama said there’d be months like this, and like I said last week, you know, things are actually OK. I kept up my e-fund and retirement contributions, so at least the basics got taken care of, you know? Continue reading “March 2015 Net Worth Update & Q1 Update”

OK, I’m Debt-Free. What’s Next?

This is also not my 2015 goals post, although my thinking here may end up informing some changes to that.

Technically, I’ve been “debt-free” since early December, when I put through a $287 payment to my credit card. But I still had almost $900 in business expenses waiting to be reimbursed. This is what my accounts looked like on December 14, with the business expenses plus what I’d spent on various (budgeted!) stuff in early December.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 10.06.54 AMUgly, right? $2000 less than my last published net worth update, between having paid rent, withrdrawn my grocery cash, other early-December expenses, and all those business things.

It got better the next day when my first December paycheck hit, followed by my reimbursement check, and I could pay the card down to zero at last. Woo! Meanwhile I was getting things transferred over here (one of the December expenses I had to pay off was the domain purchase) and processing my feelings.

To be completely honest, my very first impulse was…to buy something. 🙂 Not immediately, exactly, and not something totally crazy and frivolous. I’ve talked before about the really sad state of my wardrobe, but one thing I’ve never had, ever, is a pair of nice black leather tall boots with a heel high enough to be dressy but blocky enough to be “sensible” (and that I can walk long distances in and teach/lecture in.) My birthday is in late January, and I’ve been really scrimping lately; maybe I want/need a reward/present to myself. (Downside of being single: no husband to ask for boots for my birthday.) I’m still kicking the idea around, but I may go try on some pairs when I’m home for the holidays — I have three brands (Clarks, Born, and Frye) in mind as decent possibilities — and run the numbers.

This got me thinking about all the other things that are either worn out completely (sneakers with holes) or getting there (jeans I’ve worn countless times over two years, pilling sweaters and dresses, a coat that needs the lining replaced, and, most worryingly, my laptop, which at just over 2 years old is starting to show signs of the intense regimen I put it through — it’s often in use 10-12 hours a day, sigh. I’ll use it as long as I can, despite the obnoxious spinning beach balls it’s giving me way more often these days, but whenever it goes, it’ll cost around $1100 to replace, because I’m not switching away from Mac to PC for a variety of personal and professional reasons.) I’ve been putting everything off, but I’m going to need to do some spending this year, on my wardrobe and on travel; hopefully I can do all that and health/vehicle expenses without touching the EF, but my net worth might not grow as much as I’d initially thought it would.

Throughout the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking of 2015 as my “saving year,” and I certainly intend to make it that — $500 a month to the EF is a must, and I’m not stopping my $1000 retirement fund contributions either. But I’d been kind of thinking of my potential net worth growth as therefore being an average of $2000 a month, and I’m realizing that’s probably not realistic; if I actually spend from my travel fund, buy some clothes, and god forbid need that laptop sometime in 2015, I wouldn’t be able to net $2000/month without some serious luck and/or hustle in the freelance department.

So I’m thinking, now that I’m debt-free, that where I’m going next is: saving and spending. Gee, what a surprise 🙂

100% Completely Absolutely Positively No Doubt About It Debt-Free

Y’all, it’s kind of a big day.

First of all, if you’re reading this, you’ll have noticed that I did in fact move over to self-hosted wordpress, since Godaddy was having an awesome sale ($20 for domain and hosting for the first year.) I’m hoping that this will resolve the commenting situation — to everyone whose comments blogger has eaten: I’m sorry! — and maybe along the way I’ll creep a little more into the 21st century. You can also now find me on twitter, by the way. I’ll probably keep messing with the look of the site for a while (I’m not sure I’m happy with this theme, and I really want to figure out how to change the default bright-white background for posts; instructions welcome, since google didn’t help) but anyway, here we go. Special thanks to Alicia for the encouragement, technical support, and as long as we’re at it, general friendship over the last few months.

Second of all:

Please ignore the woeful state of my investment accounts (the ruble picked a bad week to fall off a cliff, from a net worth perspective) and concentrate on items #2 and #3. That would be my credit cards and my student loans…both showing $0.00 owed. YES. For the first time since I turned 18 and signed for my first undergraduate loan, I am completely clear and free. Adding up the student loans and the credit card, that’s a total of $23697 paid off, almost exactly 18 months to the day after I defended my dissertation.

Merry Christmas to me! Thank you to everyone who’s been on this journey with me.

settling in for the long haul

As I look forward to the end of my student loan debt, I’m kind of relieved, but also kind of intimidated. I think that years ago when I imagined being out of school, with the loan paid off, and employed, I was also imagining feeling less broke — like I could travel without guilt, for example.

Well, nope.

The thing is, I MUST get serious about remedying years worth of not saving. I’ve committed, beginning in July, to sending 25% of my pre-tax income to a 401(k) and any and all “extra” income to a Roth IRA. This is a rate far above what most people recommend, but what else can I do? I’m not getting any younger, and that’s not even going to get close to maxing out for the year, anyway.

On top of that, I need to put something aside every month in a housing fund (maybe a down payment, maybe just a future security deposit); in a car-replacement fund because I’ll likely need a car within the next 5 years, given the age of mine, and I’d want a decent down payment at least; in a medical-emergencies fund. I need some new clothing pretty soon and I’d like to have the money for that put away rather than have to have everything on the credit cards.

The reason why I’m sounding glum rather than excited about this is that I just decided I can’t go to a friend’s wedding this summer. It’s on the opposite coast, and a round trip flight is over $500, plus lodging and assorted other (transportation from the airport, probably some meals out, etc.) And the friend isn’t a close one; a college friend I always liked and would love to see get married, but I just think I can’t justify the cost of it.

It’s bumming me out though because I wasn’t thinking I’d be more income-restricted as an employed person than as a grad student. When you want/need to route basically all your income to savings, though…. I think there’s just not going to be much extra for a while. Maybe a long while. And it’s kind of a downer.

End of April Update

The end of April, the end of the semester, the time for single people to pack up and head on the road to see their friends who can’t travel because they all have toddlers 🙂 Aside from a massive student loan payment, my biggest expenses this month were all travel-related: lots of gas from driving around to see friends and family and to a conference, and booking plane tickets for a trip to California I’m making next month. This month doesn’t look so awesome from a net worth perspective because of how much is currently sitting on the credit cards (plane tickets, moving expenses) but I’m majorly excited anyway because of one big goal met:

That right there is student loan #1, showing a balance of $0 yesterday! The gory details of its history:

I started making payments on it two months before it came out of its grace period. In total, I ended up paying only $161.88 in interest on a $10,197 loan! That’s even better than I thought I’d done when I ballparked it yesterday for Girl Meets Debt.

To be continued with student loan #2, currently sitting at -$5086.47….

So, April spending:

Student loan #1: $2418.48
Student loan #2: $88.34

Car expenses (gas, oil change, tolls): $482.35: OUCH. Wow. So, uh, I traveled a lot this month. All by car. It added up. Eesh. Luckily about 1/4 of that is reimbursable and I’ve already submitted the receipts and everything.

Rent and utilities: $1061 — this includes buying a new smartphone to replace my four-year-old flip phone and get on a much cheaper plan (if it works) by joining Republic Wireless — we’ll see how this goes; there’s a 30-day-back guarantee so I might end up returning the phone.

Travel and entertainment: $392. Not bad for a round trip to Los Angeles, another RT from LA to San Francisco, and a concert ticket. It all has to go on the 0%, cash-back credit card and be paid out of later paychecks because of the debt payment…but I just wasn’t willing to not make this trip.

Food: Well mint.com says $171. Hah! If only! Since I’m not yet tracking every penny (I am going to start in on that once I’ve moved, started my new job, and have paid off the student loans) I have no idea how much went out in cash that isn’t covered by that figure. I’m guessing that the real food costs for the month were easily $400 and that’s what I’m going to count here.

Misc: mint.com says $146. This includes a tax bill, the pharmacy, and some money withdrawn for cash spending. Seems about right.

Totals:

Money applied to debt: $2506.82
Money spent on everything else: $2481.35

Grand total: $4988.17

And…yeah, that’s more than came in this month, which explains the state of the credit cards, currently sitting at -$1794. (Some of that is reimbursable and — I’m reminding myself — all of it is at 0%, so <i>focus on the student loans</i> remains my plan.) A budgeting revolution is definitely on the horizon.

<b>Debt total: -$6834, a change of +$870 from last month

Net worth total: -$3343, a change of +$1177 from last month</b>

This being honest with yourself financially thing is exhausting! So much math!

Doing Stuff About Debt

So, it’s not like I’ve been totally blithe about debt and savings and other personal finance issues all these years. It’s just that…it didn’t seem to matter that much right now. There were more important things, like keeping the rent paid month to month, and I was still young, anyway, right? Plenty of time to do things like save.

But now that I’ve had this abrupt switch flip, not only am I mourning my lack of retirement savings, I’m also suddenly totally allergic to the debt. Realistically, I know that I’ve made big progress, and that it’s pretty cool that I could get out of debt entirely a year out of graduate school. Less realistically, it’s driving me CRAZY that I have to put basically all my remaining cash, after the bills are paid, towards the debt if I want to do that. I mourn the much nicer savings account I could’ve had after this year of full-time employment if I’d only lived just a little bit more within my means while in Very Expensive Grad School City….

That said, I’ve been pleased with some of the debt-reduction strategies I’ve used this year. First of all, I had enough sense to pay down my high-interest credit cards using my first couple paychecks. I’d built some up because of a series of emergency expenses incurred over the previous year (and of course I didn’t have an emergency fund, so.) Then, I paid off the used car I bought from friend who was moving out of the country. And then, around September, I was finally ready to start thinking about the loan…and since my grace period didn’t end until December, I was able to pay $4000 of it before it started accumulating interest. (The 6.8% for graduate loans is extremely annoying, by the way, and a big reason why I’m focused on paying them off before investing more in a retirement account.)

Second, I took a smaller apartment for $750 instead of a larger one for $950. This is kind of a medium win, since I looked at several apartments that were even cheaper, but none of them had laundry in the building and I kind of caved; after a decade of dragging everything to the laundromat, I was done. I feel, in retrospect, like maybe I should’ve been tougher on the apartment front. But at least I didn’t take the even more expensive and nicer option!

Third, while I haven’t been keeping really close track of expenses (I’m sort of afraid to think about how much I spend on food a month; it’s not that I go out so much, although I do probably spend too much on coffee and grabbing a sandwich, etc; but I like really nice ingredients and fresh produce and so on, and that definitely adds up) I have been using mint.com and checking it religiously, and I feel like overall that’s been really good about keeping me on track: focused on the debt but also on keeping expenses to a relatively low level instead of running off for vacations all over the place. Those scary red bars are scary!

I’ve had setbacks — a big tax bill that needed to be paid in February meant that I only put the minimum towards the loans in that month, and December holiday expenses also meant a lower loan payment — but I’ve basically been steadily chipping away, anywhere from $1000 to (this month) $2600 every month. I still hate how slowly the balance seems to drop, even when you throw over 2/3 of your take-home pay at it!