Not Quite Working As Expected

The past few months have been a bust financially for a few reasons:

  1. I decided to sign up for my next grad school class.  I am regretting the class not only financially but also for the time commitment.  I should have waited until later in the year when I had more debt paid down and more free time.  Now I am stressed out. My company will reimburse 80% of the course as long as I get a B. I will easily get the B, I just have added pressure on me to put as much time as I can into the course to get my return on investment. Even the 20% that I pay on the course is hefty!  I have decided to postpone the second course I planned to take this year until late Fall.  (Cost $1000+)
  2. We put our dog through obedience training.  Our lovable, big dog was getting hard for me to control and had started to nip at me.  We were recommended an obedience school by a coworker and we decided to put him through training last month. His behavior has improved 100%. We are able to take him through all of the basic commands.  Occasionally, he reverts back to his old ways but then we correct him.  Overall, I think it was money very well spent.  If we had the time to train him that would be the preferred approach but due to our travel in the past month and my course, it was easier although expensive to work with a professional. (Cost $1000+)
  3. I can’t stop traveling.  I mentioned in a previous post that my New Years Resolution the past few years has been to not travel.  Well, it turns out that is impossible for me.  We had two weddings in the past month that required flights, hotel, and food costs.  The second wedding involved the added costs of shoes, hair, and accessories which were purchases I had sworn to avoid.  The crazy thing is that I use points and miles for almost all of our flights yet associated travel costs take up such a significant portion of our budget. Beyond the weddings, we also booked a trip to South America in the Fall to attend a conference on wealth and happiness.  It’s totally up our alley and we planned on hitting our debt payoff goals and using this trip as a celebration.  If we don’t hit our goals, I’ll be embarrassed to be around the other participants who I perceive to be so much further along than we are now.  It’s motivation! (Cost $1000+)

 

My Debt Snapshot:

Type Balance Rate
Student Loan $1,177 4.25%
Auto $24,638 1.90%
Store Card $2,974 0.00%
Total $28,789.00

 

The above totals do not include my grad school tuition, the trip to South America, and the associated wedding expenses which I still have on my credit cards.  It stinks because we will have to work on eliminating that new debt before we hit any of the debt we had outlined in our goals for the year. I can’t complain though because we did this to ourselves. I stand behind our spending decisions, it’s just unfortunate that we put ourselves in a situation that will jeopardize our long term goals.

My plan is to payoff the credit card debt first, then attack the auto loan, then payoff the store card, then lastly payoff the student loan.  It seems weird to keep the student loan since its the smallest amount and the highest interest rate but I read somewhere that it can help your credit score to keep debt like that open.  The interest comes out to $4 a month. I’ll continue to research but for now, my plan is to attack my debt in that order.

I have not included Mr. Debt Albatross’s debt because he has not made much progress beyond the minimum payments in recent months.  We restructured our expenses (I am now paying more in utilities, food, and mortgage costs) to help him have extra money to pay towards his debt.  He is not spending very much money at all yet he doesn’t have any extra money to put towards his loans.  We’ll have to re-evaluate our spending and optimize our approach for the coming months.

Side Hustle Update

  1.  We Need More paying clients.  Mr Debt Albatross lost one of his paying personal fitness clients due to injury. We need to step up our marketing so he can get more clients. It seems easier for him right now to write programs for pay versus actual one-on-one coaching. We need to evaluate our options.
  2. We have roommates for now.  We secured two roommates in the past few weeks.  One was for two weeks, one was supposed to be for the entire summer.  The second roommate was offered a family friend’s home to stay for free for the summer which screws that plan up.  We do bring in a bit of income and its been entertaining to have people to talk with in the past week.  Truthfully, I’m relieved. We have a bunch of family and friends visiting this summer and it’s tough to share a house for a long time. We already were notified by our HOA because one of the roommates parked his car literally in the street versus pulling to the side of the road.
  3. We want a rental property.  Still looking for that ideal rental property.  Not finding the $20,000 gems that Paula Pant from Afford Anything seems to find in Atlanta.  We’re interested in a second vacation home rental property but can also see how that could be a bad idea. We’re also interested in multi-family properties as well.  Although we love our current home, I feel like we locked up too much equity in this house.  We should have went for a less expensive property and secured additional loans for rental properties.

Month 3 – Spending Outta Control

Well, we fell off the bandwagon.

monthly spending update

We didn’t make much progress this month due to a few factors:

  • A trip to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, FL  (Great trip, huge nerds)
  • Booking hotels for friends weddings on Priceline ($600)
  • Car Insurance for the next 6 months ($750)
  • Excessive Food & Dining Spending due to travel/weekend activities

Oops.  It’s just a major bummer since last month we were *ahead* of our goals. Now, we put ourselves in a situation where we need to payoff nearly $9000 in debt next month to stay on track – yikes!

My New Years Resolution – No Travel

The biggest obstacle to our debt payoff goal this month was travel. We always try to save money when we travel.  We use miles and points for 90% of our flights and hotels. We use coupon codes, Priceline, and shop around for discounts when we can’t use points.  For our latest trip to Universal Studios, we even received discounted tickets to the park since we were going with our friend who is an NBC employee.  Despite all of our attempts to save money on travel, we still ended up spending major moolah due to eating out and other costs.

In 2012, I received the Southwest Companion Pass which allowed Mr. Debt Albatross to travel with me on any Southwest flight for free for two years.  I learned travel hacking skills on blogs such as boardingarea.com and even attended Frequent Traveler University to learn tips. I learned about gift card churning, manufactured spending, mattress running, credit card bonuses, online shopping and cash back portals. With a little bit of effort, we earned hundreds of thousands of airline miles and hotel points in a very short time frame. Thus, we traveled almost every few months during those two years (with points and miles) but still spent more money that we needed to spend between eating out, resort fees, airport parking, rental cars, etc.

While I don’t regret those trips, I know that avoiding travel is best for my wallet in the short term. For this reason, my New Years’ Resolution for the past two years has been to NOT Travel. I made it decently far this year – late March – but then I got the itch and the Orlando trip happened.

We have some weddings coming up where we need to travel but besides those occasions, we are not traveling.  Let’s hope I stay strong in this goal – this is a hard one for me.

Month 3 Spending Struggles

As mentioned above, it wasn’t a great month for our spending.

Category Spending
Home $2,673
Food & Dining $1,233
Travel $774
Auto & Transport $1,494
Bills & Utilities $627
Pets $315
Uncategorized $257
Health & Fitness $158
Education (Loans) $369
Gifts & Donations $75
Total $7,974

On the Bright Side – Our Income is Increasing

My annual raise kicked in April 15th which was nice. I also received a verbal job offer for an internal promotion!  This promotion would mean greater responsibility, more money, and the possibility to relocate to an area with a lower cost of living. I took a lesson from Sheryl Sandberg and am now waiting to hear back tomorrow on my negotiated offer.  Don’t be afraid to #Ask4More, Ladies!

Month 2 Kicking @$$

I can almost say bye-bye to my student loans this month.  Due to a hearty bonus and some other factors that worked in my favor, I was able to pay nearly $17k towards my student loan debt.  I have a little over $1400 dollars remaining – and it feels GOOD.

 

2015 Debt Albatross – Debt Payoff Progress

Month 2 spending update

 

Our discretionary spending increased a little bit this month. We spent significantly more on travel, arts & entertainment, and pets compared to last month.  We’ll have to cut back next month to make up for it.

 

Month 2 Spending

Education $17,392
Home $2,890
Food & Dining $1,048
Bills & Utilities $549
Auto & Transport $695
Arts & Entertainment $196
Travel $489
Shopping $74
Pets $202
Other $232
Total* $7,095

*excludes extra student loan payment

 

The past two months were easier on us due to sizable tax returns and bonus. Staying on track to meet the year-end goal is going to be very difficult going forward.  We need to pay nearly $8k per month through year-end and we’re not bringing home that much per month after taxes. We need to find a way to increase our income.  The side hustle with AirBNB and VRBO didn’t pan out.  I received inquiries but not serious offers.  We need to make some moves, and fast.

Month 1 Goal Exceeded

I am happy to announce that Mr. Debt Albatross and I exceeded the $8,800 payoff goal that we set for our first month.  In total, we paid $9,405 towards our debt!

What helped us:

  • A nice tax return
  • Keeping to our $110/week grocery budget
  • The pup getting kicked out of doggy day care (poor pup!)
  • Filling up our cars at the same time so we can both use our acquired fuel points
  • Self control

What hurt us:

  • The $675 vehicle registration fee for the new car I bought last year
  • A $68 interest charge on my credit card and the $63 I spent on tax filing
  • The $113 bi-weekly charge for home cleaning services
  • Our restaurant spending

We decreased our total spending from previous months but we still haven’t cut spending enough to meet our year-end goal.  We still spend an exuberant amount of money on bills and utilities and we haven’t cut out some unnecessary luxuries including restaurants and home cleaning services. We did use gift cards when we went out to eat but that didn’t cut out the cost completely.

Month 1 Spending
Home $3,303.28
Auto & Transport $1,279.68
Food & Dining $652.18
Bills & Utilities $582.36
Pets $171.11
Fees & Charges $68.34
Taxes $62.60
Shopping $41.00
Personal Care $21.50
Other $377.00

Although we are not “hardcore” yet, we did change our mindset which in itself is encouraging.  On a few occasions, we turned down plans with friends or suggested less costly alternatives. We stopped ourselves from buying some unnecessary items.  We made dinner every week night and I stopped buying lunch at work, introducing major cost savings but also improving our health and nutrition. Overall, it was a successful first month. It’s inspiring to see our total debt go down and encouraging to know that we are nearly 10% closer to our goal.

A Tale of 8 Student Loans

I did the math this morning and it’s depressing.  Mr Debt Albatross and I have been paying our student loans for years and have made very little progress on the principal balance.  I feel like we’re trapped in a 5th grade math problem.  A frog falls into a well with a ladder.  He can climb two rungs every day but then must drop back one rung.  How long will it take him to get out of the well?

 

Mr Debt Albatross graduated in May of 2008.  Six-and-a-half years later, he has only paid $2,128 towards the principal balance.

 

Loan Rate Original Current Paid
1 4.17% $30,593 $32,610 -$2,017
2 6.55% $3,500 $1,784 $1,716
3 6.55% $5,500 $3,071 $2,429
$39,593 $37,465 $2,128

 

I graduated in May of 2011.  Three-and-a-half years later, I have paid $5,803 towards the principal balance.

 

Loan Rate Original Current Paid
1 6.80% $5,491 $4,415 $1,076
2 6.80% $6,500 $5,391 $1,109
3 6.80% $7,500 $6,437 $1,063
4 4.50% $2,009 $1,454 $555
5 4.50% $2,000 $0 $2,000
$23,500 $17,697 $5,803

 

Depressing.  We’ve never missed a payment and we’ve gotten nowhere.

 

The Game Plan:

1.  My loans automatically went into deferment when I started grad school last year.  I logged in to my accounts one day and noticed that my status had changed automatically.  I never notified my loan servicer that I was back in school,  it just happened.  I’m guessing that the school sends out the notification.  At the time, I was relieved to be rid of the monthly payment but I realize now it’s a bad thing.  Due to the deferment, I am losing out on the .25% interest rate deduction, making no progress on the balance, and racking up major interest. (3 out of my 4 remaining loans are unsubsidized. My one subsidized loan went to 0 interest during deferment but its also my smallest loan so its not worth staying in this status). Mr Debt Albatross’s loans went into deferment during grad school which is one of the reasons why he has made little progress on his loans.  Deferment makes no sense for me right now.  Time to change my status back.

2.  Pay off the minimums until our high interest credit card debt is gone.  As much as the loan interest is a bummer, it’s nothing compared to the APRs on our credit cards.  We need to get rid of that credit card debt first.

3.  Attack the loans with everything we have.  My car loan and our 0% interest store credit cards take a backseat.  Bye bye, loans!

 

 

 

Week 1 Recap – How’d We Do?

The Good –

  • I paid $100 towards my Nordstrom credit card balance (Remaining Balance: $438)
  • I brought my coffee and lunch to work each day instead of eating out
  • We took the pup to doggy day care only one day last week
  • Gas is still under $2 a gallon

 

The Bad –

  • I had a $68 interest charge on my credit card
  • I registered the new car I purchased last year for a whopping $680
  • We spent a bit too much on dinner and drinks with friends ($65 for the weekend)

 

Overall, it was a good start to Debt Albatross. If you take out the car registration, it wasn’t such a bad week! We can only improve upon our embarrassing spending last year.

 

Our 2014 Spending:

*A few grand in the Travel, Food & Dining, and Auto & Transport categories was spent on business travel.  I didn’t have a corporate card until later in the year.

*The high spending on home included our down payment.

Category $$
Home $49,361
Education $15,532
Food & Dining $18,021
Travel $9,539
Shopping $8,665
Auto & Transport $7,265
Pets $5,373
Bills & Utilities $5,038
Health & Fitness $1,241
Business Services $1,257
Other $3,719
TOTAL $125,010
Merchants $$
King Soopers 6999
Vet 1848
Doggy Day Care 1561
Chipotle 750
Starbucks 834

 

Mr Debt Albatross and I plan to make significant cuts in the Food & Dining, Shopping, Pets, Travel, and Other categories. We set a $110 weekly grocery budget which should land us at $5280 for the year. We will limit eating out to weekends only and will suggest other plans with friends to try to avoid eating out whenever possible. We will stop taking the pup to Doggy Day Care which should in turn decrease the vet costs (he has been misbehaving lately at camp so we think it might be good for him to take a break). We will also cut out unnecessary shopping and travel expenses.

 

Dallas the pup

How can you say no to this little face?

 

I know 2015 will be a different year. I feel dedicated and motivated to eliminate our debt. If we can stick through this for one year, we will have greater flexibility in our future.

 

 

The Debt Albatross

I tallied up the numbers today. Mr Debt Albatross and I are 97k in debt, excluding our mortgage. How the F#%!! did we get here?!

There is one answer to that question – lifestyle creep.  Over the past three years, we transitioned from struggling recent graduates to successful young professionals.  We quadrupled our income through strategic career changes and  promotions.  On paper, we seem like we’re doing well for 25 and 28 years old.  Our bank accounts say otherwise.  In the past year alone, we got a house, a puppy, and a new car.  Our consumption has rapidly outpaced our income and we’ve made minimal progress on our combined $55k student loan debt.

It’s time to change that. The purpose of Debt Albatross is to track our progress on paying down that nearly 100 grand of debt – in 12 months! It seems crazy but so is our current spending.

Here’s the plan:

1. Attack the debt with the highest interest rates first

For us, that would be our student loans. The majority of the loans are at 6.8%.

2. Cut our spending drastically

The $800 we spent at both Chipotle and Starbucks last year is ridiculous. We have a problem.

3. Increase our income

We’re considering rental income or some other side hustle.

What’s our end game in all of this? Peace of mind.  Debt is trapping.  As much as I love my job, I know that I need to go to work every day to support my current lifestyle. I want to go to work because I want to – not because I have to.

Also, after paying down this 97k, we’ll hopefully be free to experiment in this “lifestyle design” that Tim Ferriss is promoting.

Here’s to Day 1!