Debt Repayment High

Thanks to everyone who commented on my e-fund post the other day. I’m thinking it over and I’ll probably talk more about it in July, after the student loan is paid off [WOO!]

And speaking of which….

I’ve been thinking a lot about the emotions we have (or rather, of course, I have) around money. The satisfaction at looking at my net worth rising every month, the mild depression when my tiny retirement account loses a few dollars on a bad stock market day…. These two examples are opposites of each other not only in that one is positive and one is negative, one is strong and one is mild, but also in that one is pretty rational and the other is irrational (the satisfaction comes from being pleased with my behavior, the depression for no good reason at all since I know market movement in small sample sizes is just noise). But they are equally “present” emotions.

The strongest emotion I’ve had in the last few months around money has cropped up when a paycheck’s come in and I’ve been able to make a payment on my student loan, though. I really experience that — logging into the website, entering the amount, hitting “submit” and then, a few days later, seeing the new, lower balance after the payment has been made — as a kind of physical high. I get frustrated when a weekend intervenes and I have to wait two whole extra days to see the new balance; I want to jump up and down at various points in the process. It’s actually fun.

There are two possibilities here:

1) There’s something really really wrong with me

2) This is a pretty normal reaction to successfully doing something that’s difficult and satisfying. There’s a reason why people liken debt repayment to weight loss and running marathons!

While I’m not discounting #1 entirely <g>, I think #2 is more likely. As weird as it sounds, I think I’m going to actually miss making student loan payments. I still have to pay down a credit card after the loan is gone, so it’s not like I’ll never make a debt payment again. But I don’t think that will be quite as satisfying. And after that…well, will having money automatically deducted from my paycheck for retirement give me that thrill?

I guess I could start losing weight.

Do you get debt repayment high? Or, if you’re debt-free now, do you generate that feeling in other ways?

Emergency Fund Musings

My e-fund currently stands at a grand total of — wait for it — $51, after an automatic end-of-the month transfer from checking to savings.

Yup, that’ll get me through anything!

Meanwhile, I’ve been directing massive amounts of incoming cash at my student loan, because I was/am bound and determined to get it paid off by the end of this contract, almost a year to the day after I defended my dissertation. I could easily fund a $1000 e-fund at the end of this month (or could have done it anytime in the last few months) by simply delaying debt repayment, and since interest on the student loan is now down to about $13 a month, I don’t know, maybe I should do that. Damn it, that’s $13 that could go somewhere else, though, like, say, to an e-fund, so….

Here’s my reasoning:

1) My e-fund-like efforts in the past have always disappeared quickly; I’d get them built up to a few thousand dollars and then either be unemployed for a while (I was a freelancer) or spend the money on a few trips or credit card payments after I ate out too much or bought new clothes or whatever. I am committed to budgeting more responsibly now that I am, oh my God, 35, and not 22 (not that I should have been doing that when I was 22, but water under the bridge) but I’m still worried that if I put together an e-fund I’d be tempted to dip into it for less than emergency expenses, and meanwhile the remainder of the debt would still be sitting there. If I kill the debt first, however, it’s killed.

2) I’m single and have no children or, for that matter, pets. That is, other living beings are not relying on my steady income (and a good thing too.) So, if a serious, big-time emergency strikes (I get hit by a bus) I at least won’t be putting anyone else in danger.

3) Meanwhile, for a minor emergency, I have an ungodly amount of unused credit — over $30,000 available on the four major credit cards that I have open.

3.5) Also, since I don’t own a house, the number of minor emergencies that could come up are reduced (no random exploding boilers or whatever.) Pretty much it comes down to unexpected car repairs and unexpected medical bills.

4) I could also call on my parents — I would never do that for anything less than a true, serious emergency, and I wouldn’t be likely to at all. Like, say I needed a plane ticket for a funeral: I’d rather put it on the credit card and pay it back in pieces. If I do end up asking my parents for help, it’s more likely to be in the form of free housing, should my tenuous hold on an academic career finally slip away. However, at the end of the day, I could ask them for an interest-free loan and get it, if I really needed it for some reason.

5) There is basically no chance I’ll randomly lose my job during this coming year. I have a guarantee of 13 months of income, so while I do want to guard against being unemployed in the future, I don’t need to worry about it in the imminent way I might if I worked in a normal job.

So the upshot is that I’m afraid of my own past bad habits and I’m not that afraid of handling emergencies with the non-cash resources I do have. I want that debt gone though — because one thing I really am afraid of is potentially entering a period of unemployment (13 months from now) while still in debt.

All that said, I do think I should have a bigger e-fund. I’d like to aim for $1000 to start, then maybe gradually ramp it up to $3000. But I don’t think I’m going to make it a priority over other savings goals. I couldn’t possibly get it large enough to really live off for six months or a year, so there doesn’t seem much point in having a relatively huge one when instead I could be directing money towards other priorities. I’ll talk more about this in July when I have a better sense of what exactly I’m going to make every month, though. Until I get my first paycheck I only have a ballpark idea of what it’ll look like after taxes, insurance, retirement contributions, etc.

What are your thoughts on e-funds? I know most people are making it more of a priority than me so I’m afraid I’m overlooking something.

Being There: A Single Finances Post

So, I’m the middle of a trip to California that I sandwiched between the two parts of my move. I’m here mostly because my best friend is here, along with her husband, her dog, and her daughter — my goddaughter, who is not quite 3 and a half.

The baby was born while I was in graduate school all the way across the country, and as far as I know, for the foreseeable future we’ll live many many miles apart. Being 35 and not interested in signing up for solo parenting, I’ll most likely never have children of my own; although she’s not my child, she’s more to me than just the random child of a random friend, in all sorts of ways.

Given the projected state of my finances (I’ll make a low salary until the end, unless something changes radically in academia), I can’t expect to do much for her in the way of financial help. (Although right now she’d be the beneficiary of half my tiny IRA if I died, with my brother down for the other half.)

But what I can do is to be there, as much as I can. Laundry, diaper changes, going to the beach with her, reading books, putting her to bed when her parents are at work, cooking, dishes, taking her to the park…. I’ve done all that and more in the last few years. And it’s all free, except for my plane tickets. It’s the kind of investment I can make — so I do.

Waiting for Guffman

It’s time for the monthly ritual of sitting around waiting for my paycheck to hit! This time’s a little better because, while I normally get paid on the 25th, the 25th is on the weekend, so payroll goes out on the 23rd. It turns out this means they actually send direct deposits out on the 22nd. I split direct deposit this month, with 1/3 of my money going to one account and 2/3 to another. (Complicated, but it’s because of a rewards thing.) And one account actually got paid already! But the money’s apparently in limbo on its way to the other one.

Sooooo…. I made a student loan payment. $1447! God, that feels good. Only another $3553 to go (plus interest, blah blah.) Too bad the current amount sitting on my credit card is exactly the amount I’m putting towards student loans this month. There’s something poetically hilarious about that.

I am a person who has had a retirement account for two months

This is the two month anniversary of my taking the *enormous* step of moving some money from savings (accessible) to savings (non-accessible, which means they won’t get spent). As I wrote a few days later, this was something I hadn’t felt so bad about not doing — until all of a sudden I felt really, really bad about it.

I feel like a different person than I did at the start of the panic attack that impelled all of this change. I’m still plenty worried about my income (present and future) and I’ve taken only small steps towards reining in daily spending, but I have taken those steps and once my complicated multi-state move is over and I start my new job, I’m going to take more. I’m excited to see what happens next.

The week that was: expensive travel edition!

This week/weekend was very, very busy: I moved out of my apartment ($$$$$$$$$$$$) and returned to Very Large and Very Expensive Grad School City to walk across a couple of stages in fancy robes and shake various hands. It was a lot of fun, but it reminded me why I’m pretty glad to no longer live in VLaVEGSC, even though it is fun to visit. In four days I’ve packed in a museum visit (free!), spent hours on public transportation (not free!), and, uh, a large amount of money on food. (Though to be fair I didn’t normally eat out three meals a day when I lived here.)

Blogging is going to continue to be pretty light this week as I’m still traveling, but here’s the wince-inducing weekly update:

*First, the good news, to make myself feel better: I put together $250 and bought another round of Roth IRA shares! I’m up to $620 in Roth funds since late April, go me.

*Uh, now the bad news (everything else):

Moving expenses: $1225 (OW)

Public transportation: $30.50

Gas: $54.08

Food: $131 [not as bad as I thought; I guess my parents ended up paying for a lot of stuff this week. As usual, this doesn’t include cash spent on coffee and the like, which would probably add another $20-ish]

Student loan payment: $108

Personal care: $128.75. This included a haircut, some waxing (I am in VLaVEGSC after all — catching up on stuff I haven’t done in nine months), some drugstore purchases, and expenses related to an eye infection I picked up yesterday. Who doesn’t love wandering around looking for an optometrist who’s open and taking drop-ins on Sunday morning? Thank the lord for Orthodox Jews; I found one who’s closed Friday after sundown and all day Saturday, but opens Sunday morning. And he only charged me $30 for the visit, plus I paid another $16 for antibiotic eye drops. Fingers crossed that they work and I won’t have to visit someone else in CA.

Weekly total: $1677.33. Eesh. Without the moving expenses, that’s $452, which is better but not great. I do, blessedly, get paid at the end of this week, so I’m looking forward to a huge student loan payment and to making a small dent in the credit card debt as well.

ugh life is expensive

Part 1 of the move happened yesterday, so a big chunk of change (hundreds and hundreds and HUNDREDS of dollars) landed on my CC. Ouch. I knew it was coming and was able to budget for some of it, but not all. I’m too early in my journey to have had time to save up for it properly. It is what it is, but it’s hard to swallow when I’m envisioning having to spend a lot of the rest of the year paying it down instead of redirecting that money to savings or whatever.

I may or may not get a windfall that would help — trying to sublet my old apartment right now. If that works I’ll get a month’s rent “free” (it’s budgeted, so if I don’t have to pay it it just frees that money up to be redirected to the CC.) Keep your fingers crossed.

OK, enough of that, off to have tea with a friend and stop worrying for a few hours.

Weekend update

Things are liable to stay light around here for a week or two — moving and traveling. But I’ve stopped long enough to look at “the week that was.”

According to mint.com, over the last week I spent:

$103 on utilities (cell phone, electric)

$66 on food (restaurants, groceries)

$60 in medical (woo! This is because my insurance is paying for most of therapy, after all — I was super worried it would be out of pocket, but instead it’s just a co-pay)

$44 on moving supplies (tape, packing paper)

$17 on gas

For a total of $290. This is good — I need some cheap weeks after all the expensive ones recently (and the expensive ones that are coming up as I go on my big west coast swing.)

I also did something exciting: I bought the first $250 of my side-hustling-Roth shares. On top of that, I’m only $20 away from being able to buy the second $250 worth! And I only started on April 22. Most of this has been from usertesting.com — some from amazon and ebay.

Weekend Update

I’ve entered the part of the month where I have no money in the checking account because it’s all been routed away. It’s psychologically unsettling to have my balance this low even though I know I’m not in danger of an overdraft. (Also, I’m waiting on a reimbursement check and that will sure help ease the ol’ troubled mind if it shows up on Monday or Tuesday, as I expect it to do.)

Side hustle news: sold a pair of hiking boots on ebay for $20 net; didn’t sell any of my more expensive clothing/shoe items though (they’re relisted.) Did more usertesting.com quick hits.

Saving money and budgeting news: I won a free copy of some fun budgeting software, You Need a Budget! I’m happy to own it; it’s a big step up over the excel spreadsheets I’d been playing around with. If anyone’s interested, you can get $6 off by following my referral link.

And I joined the Modest Money list of top finance blogs. I’m pretty far down the list <g>

ModestMoney.com Top Finance Blogs
I’m really glad I guest-posted last week; it feels much less lonely over here with a few commenters 🙂 It’s good to feel like I have some accountability.

And with that, to the weekly numbers (at least via mint.com; I’m not in a position yet to implement to the penny cash tracking, which I’m going to start once my move is finished.)

Spending, April 27-May 3:

Rent/internet: $765

Car related stuff: $286 — gas and tolls from the conference I was at, pretty much. Also my car insurance payment.

Utilities: $20

“Other”: $168. Combo of groceries, moving supplies, what-not-all.

Total: $1260. Not that bad — counting the rent it’s not a big place….

Oof. I couldn’t sleep much last night, stress about work stuff, and now I literally can’t keep my eyes open. This isn’t the world’s most interesting post but I’m too tired to be clever!

The Stupidity Tax

I forget where I got this term from, but it is meaningful in my life. It’s the phrase I use when I wind up paying a fee I shouldn’t have, or paying more for something than I should have because I didn’t do enough research.

In this case it’s (ANOTHER) $20 parking ticket. I just had one last week! They’re both from forgetting to check the street cleaning signs to see where I could/couldn’t park. I did this twice when I first moved here, and then vowed “never again” — and kept that vow until last week when I didn’t check, and today when I didn’t check. I guess I’ve had a lot on my mind, but I’m just so mad at myself for being so flaky. This is $40 I definitely could have spent in better ways.

Including the $20 bill I dropped somewhere on the ground at the farmer’s market earlier this year, I think this brings the stupidity tax total for the year to $60 (two parking tickets, one lost $20). I suppose in the grand scheme of things it could be worse, but…still.

The worst is that I know they do not need to “street clean” this often and it’s not even clear they *do* street cleaning. I think it’s mostly a convenient way to raise a lot of revenue that the city then doesn’t have to get from other sources who would be even less happy about it (businesses, income taxes.) This way the burden falls most heavily not on the richest, but on the dumbest.

Including yours truly, I guess. Sigh.