There has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding my budget with my job ending, so I haven’t been posting much. I’ve just started a new job and should be able to start working on my financial goals again soon. Moving to a new state and renting a new apartment definitely requires cash up front, so I’m glad I had a large savings cushion for this kind of thing!
The new budget is starting to come together. My old rent had gone up to $1195, and the new place is $1225/month for two bedrooms instead of one. The one-bedroom apartments in the area I found that were nice without major problems were around the same price, and it would be nice to have a guest room for friends. My internet bill went from $75 (Comcast monopoly) to $40/month for Verizon, although I did have to buy a special router. Honestly, I would have paid slightly more just to dump Comcast- the way they treat customers in areas where they have a monopoly is infuriating. Waiting to see the actual cost of utilities at the end of this month, but I’m going to budget $150 to start.
It looks like my car insurance should drop substantially now that I have dedicated parking in the suburbs instead of street parking in a major city. It’s already pretty low compared to my friends – I was shocked by what some of them pay without a major accident on their record. Based on the initial online quote, I’m looking at saving $290/year.
My new job comes with a significant raise, but I won’t see the exact take-home number for a while because they pay once a month. It also comes with a retirement match of 5%, which I’ve never had before and definitely plan to take advantage of.
I have some unusual spending planned in the next few months- a few pieces of furniture for the new place and some wardrobe updates, since I need to dress very professionally at my new workplace. Otherwise I am looking to keep spending low and start working on my next student loan target: my only private loan. It had negligible interest for 5 years, but it went up to 6.4% recently, making it similar to the federal loans. It is also by far the most annoying to deal with, as you have to mail in payments by check and address updates, etc by mail. The starting balance is $26,589.54. The monthly payment plan is $222/month for 10 years, but I obviously don’t want to be paying for that long!
Viewing the 'Budgeting' Category
There has been a lot of uncertainty surrounding my budget with my job ending, so I haven’t been posting much. I’ve just started a new job and should be able to start working on my financial goals again soon. Moving to a new state and renting a new apartment definitely requires cash up front, so I’m glad I had a large savings cushion for this kind of thing!
I’m still here and reading the blogs, but took a break from posting for a while because my current job will be ending this summer and I’ve been job hunting. Until I have a new contract, I decided to slow down the extra payments to my student loans and to stockpile some extra cash on top of my current emergency fund instead.
There have been a few expenses related to this -got a new interview outfit and shoes, since I hadn’t bought a suit in years and they were looking a little dated. Looking professional and feeling confident was definitely a good investment though, and I did get it on sale! I’ve also paid $2230 in professional and licensing fees so far this year, which are not negotiable for my position and are required for any future jobs as well. A tax refund of $500 went toward these fees.
Current IRA contributions are at 2,500. I decided to just put in the $150 in side income that’s pending, since they always pay eventually. I’ll pay my savings back when I get the check. $350 to go. Barring unforeseen expenses this month, should be doable! I tried to start doing my tax return this morning to get a sense of whether I’ll be getting a refund (my withholdings are usually appropriate, but the amount of interest I pay on student loans has produced a refund the last few years). My W2 hasn’t been issued online yet, so no success. Need to file taxes as soon as possible to submit my IBR renewal by early February.
Today should be a no-spend day, eating at home and working on a bunch of stuff with looming deadlines. Yesterday I spent about $38 on drinks/appetizer and a show with friends. I don’t feel too badly, since I’ve been too busy to socialize much earlier in the month and don’t want to be a hermit! Don’t anticipate going out in the coming week due to multiple project deadlines. Must be getting old, because I slept super hard after just one mixed drink.
Does anyone have any experience with Xfinity Insights surveys? Signed up after receiving an invitation email, but have only done the introductory survey so far. I do like the idea of taking some money back from Comcast, but not sure if they’ll send enough surveys for me to actually cash out a giftcard (requires a minimum of 50 points, not sure how many you get per survey).
Yesterday was a no spend day. I was going to stop for some over the counter medication, but traffic and parking were terrible, so I came straight home after work and found a little bit left in my medicine cabinet! Brought food and coffee to work.
I also got a check for some previous overtime in December- $260 for retirement savings. Current total before this deposit is $1535, with a goal of $3000. The plan is to switch back to paying down debt after meeting this goal.
Just to put things in perspective, I also have $3195 of unavoidable education expenses coming up in 2018 (required for my career), which I’ve had to save up for.
This has been one of those personally crazy periods where I haven’t been as focused on finances, so today is a catch up day. Unfortunately my freezer and fridge died right after an Aldi’s run, so there was some loss and food waste. I was out of town when it happened, so there wasn’t much I could do by the time I got back and found everything spoiled. This also caused a little more eating from the cafeteria at work, since it isn’t fixed yet and I usually rely on freezer meals I make ahead for lunch.
On the positive side, I had my yearly eye exam recently. The exam and 1 year supply of lenses cost $380, but insurance picked up $240, so I only paid $140 out of pocket. I also qualified for free shipping for the 1-year supply (a $15 savings) and just submitted a $20 rebate request to Acuvue. Every little bit helps! This prescription is also good for 2 years, and she said my eyes were very healthy, so I may skip my exam next year if I’m not having any issues. Given how stable my prescription has been, yearly isn’t really necessary, and it’s $85 plus a $55 lens fitting fee. I won’t change providers though, since this place offers weekend and evening appointments.
Roth contributions are at $1150 for the year so far, but I’m behind on balancing my budget, so I expect to be able to beef that up significantly once I total up the extra funds left over in other budget categories the last couple months.
It’s time to start thinking about Christmas shopping. I’ve had a Discover card forever that I rarely use except when traveling, but I got a notice that they are offering 5% cashback for Amazon purchases all December, which is where I buy most Christmas gifts. Awesome! (I pay the bill in full each month).
The most recent payment to the high interest loan finally posted, bringing the balance to $972- finally under the thousand mark!
Just submitted a $455 payment:
$104 overage from July parking category
$24 overage from July phone category
$126 from raise #1 (2015) in July
$146 recent raise July (2017)
$55 August loan payment difference
Did some calling around and decreased my phone bill by about $8 by removing insurance I don’t need on my 5 year old phone (I buy these in cash when they need to be replaced since I found out the “free” phone on most plans is just billed to you in monthly installments). I also bought a router/modem for $100 that will remove a $10/month modem rental fee from Comcast- wish I’d done this years ago, it would already have been so cost effective!
Disputed a fraudulent $99 charge I noticed this week successfully- it pays to read your statements!
Today I got out of work early and actually paid $10 to get my eyebrows done (I usually do this myself, but when I neglect it for too long it is hard to shape them correctly, so it was worth it. Plus sometimes it’s nice to get a little self-confidence boost from looking your best). Picked up milk, yogurt, and noodles at the grocery store, where I resisted the spray-on olive oil because I know those cans are terrible for the environment. Luckily the dollar store next door had a spray bottle I’m going to try using instead, plus ear buds, two packs of pens, and a USB/phone charger cord (can’t beat this place for electronic accessories, and the quality is the same!).
On the earnings side, a raise became effective this July and will net about $148/month. Also completed a side job that should pay around $200 before tax- will have to wait to see the final amount when the check arrives, but it’s going to be thrown at debt.
The current high interest loan balance is $1156. I am sending in $130 left over from the June parking category and $55 from the July loan difference category, so it should go under the $1000 mark!
June is a great time to pick up used furniture during moveout if you live near a college or grad school- I got a few pieces I’ve been contemplating for a while this way, and kept the total under $50. I had actually already checked Ikea, but found a used version of higher quality that matches my existing furniture better for less than half the Ikea price!
Workwise and personally June was extremely busy, but the up side to that was I didn’t have time to spend much. Sent a $557 payment to the high interest loan. The total should be around $1200 after the payment clears.
In other good money news, a small raise should hit my paycheck in July and I’ll be able to update the budget. This should hopefully offset an insurance increase of $143/month. I also have a potential lead on a small side project, but won't be counting any chickens before they hatch.
Has anyone heard anything else about Ima Saver?
Current balance on high interest loan: 2614
(Interest rate 7.65%-woof)
A lot of expenses hit recently, though nothing unplanned. Ordered more contacts ($120), yearly renter’s insurance renewal (about $150), 6 month car insurance bill, etc. These expenses come from designated budget categories.
A pending direct deposit showed up today for $411 for some recent overtime. As soon as this clears will send a loan payment for $491:
25 cell phone category difference (May)
55 IBR loan payment difference (May)
I signed up for more extra work later in the month- these opportunities don’t come up that often, so I try to jump on them!
Frugal goals for the next couple weeks: Cooking meals at home, AM coffee at home, bringing lunch to work, using my fan instead of turning on the AC.
Loan balance after the last payment hit: $3569
Today I caught up some later-billed budget categories from March and sent in another payment of
160 from extra work hours
25 cell phone savings April
55 IBR savings April
68 parking category savings March
225 other misc categories/snowflakes March
Once the balance gets under $2000 I’ve been considering loaning myself the money from my EF to just pay it off and save on the interest difference. It makes senses mathematically and my savings are honestly probably higher than need be given my debt. On the other hand I’m usually a worst case scenario planner and messing with the EF category doesn’t strike me as a good habit to get into. Still thinking about it.
During school I took less than than the max amount of student loans every semester and worked part time jobs to help supplement living expenses. The financial aid office would send you a summary of the charges for a semester and how much you could get in loans, then you could go in and manually reduce the amount you were requesting before it was submitted. I don’t remember how much I adjusted it down back then, but I’m curious how much my balance would be today with interest if I’d taken the full amount possible.
Sent a $715 extra payment to the student loan yesterday- $400 from a tax refund, $25 difference from cell phone plan, $289 from prior raise category last month. (Every time I cut costs for a recurring bill or get a raise I leave the budgeted amounts the same on my spreadsheet, then send the difference to debt or savings.) Current balance is $4280 before this payment.
Tomorrow’s paycheck will include $160 from picking up extra time at work for the pay down along with an extra $80 savings from some other budget categories for April.
The weather is nice enough to avoid any heating/cooling utility costs and I’ve been using the drying rack for laundry. This weekend I need to replenish my stash of homemade frozen meals for work lunches, although I have some odds and ends to take tomorrow.
Still here and lurking around! Can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted!
Recent financial events- this month has already been pricey due to some necessary car repairs. Grateful that 1) they were able to fix everything and 2) had the money for this in a special account and wasn’t trying to scramble to come up with $840 out of one month’s budget. Still, it will be nice to start replenishing this fund!
Since last posting I slowed down loan repayment to divert money toward my Roth for 2016, so the balance is $4780 on my high-interest loan (7.6%). My new goal is to knock this out next! I have state and federal tax refunds coming and picked up some overtime this week, so should get a good jump on it in the next couple weeks.
Lately I've been reading this "Money Diary" feature: http://www.refinery29.com/money-diary
Women in different geographic locations making different salaries share every penny they spend during a typical 7 day period. Very interesting to see how different people prioritize their spending, and definitely makes me more aware of little purchases during my own day. It's also an interesting read because this is not a personal finance-oriented website, so the approaches can be very different than you'd see here.
Just a quick mid-month update. My last paycheck contained $290 from overtime, which went to the Roth IRA. This brings total contributions for the year to 1320/5500.
Trying to minimize spending for the rest of the month to stay on-budget, but I did need to get some groceries today. I know I’ve said this before, but ethnic groceries are AMAZING for value in the city. I stock up there about twice a month. Today I spent $31 and got:
8 kiwis (on sale!)
1 large cabbage ( 4.7 lbs)
8 oz mushrooms
3 small tomatoes (89 cents/lb)
2 sleeves of garlic bulbs
1 lb fresh ginger
2 bunches fresh cilantro
4 16 oz bags of rice noodles
1 16 oz package of regular noodles
4 10-oz cans of vegetables
2 small cans of water chestnuts
1 dozen eggs
1 bottle seasoned salt
I looked for chickpea flour to experiment with socca, but didn’t see any. Plans include lots of stirfry with egg for protein, grilled cheese with tomato, egg fried rice with veggies, cabbage with noodles, pesto pasta, spicy lentils with garlic, potato, and green peas, and delicious kiwi for snacks. Will need to pick up more yogurt and a few other odds and ends.
I watched The Big Short on Netflix, which was pretty interesting. It's about a few investors on Wall Street who caught on early to all the mortgage fraud that led to the 2007-2008 housing collapse and bet against the big firms like Goldman and Lehman Brothers. Based on a true story. I had kind of forgotten how ridiculous lending used to be- no money down, bad credit? Mortgage approved! It just goes to show you that if you don't think you can afford something, don't let anybody talk you into going against that instinct.
Last month in addition to regular debt and retirement payments (scheduled retirement is at 100/month), $83 extra went to debt and $380 went to retirement. The Roth IRA only has $930 for 2016, with a goal of hitting the 5500 max. I’m switching the focus from debt repayment for a while to beef this up. I figure that it’s important to take advantage of the time value of money by investing now while it has 30 years to compound. The fund also pays dividends quarterly, so investing early on will result in higher payouts from that. I’m in a relatively low tax bracket, so the Roth IRA is a good deal long term. My student loans are on income based repayment, so paying down the smaller high interest one instead won’t result in any freed up cashflow to put toward retirement. My job doesn’t offer any retirement match, and the company-offered plans are significantly less attractive fee-wise than a Vanguard IRA. Was hoping for a little dip with the Brexit hoopla so I could buy shares at a discount this month, but no such luck.
A small raise at work should be reflected in my next paycheck- will adjust the budget when I see the exact numbers, but last year it worked out to about $135 extra take home pay per month. I’m planning to put it toward retirement/debt repayment goals. I also nabbed a little overtime, but it usually takes a while to pay out.
Have some upcoming expenses for car maintenance, but it should be covered by the balance in the “recurring/long term expenses” category. (Contribute $150/month and roll it over.) I did call around for several estimates. Since I’m trying to make my older used car last at least a couple more years, this is expected.
Continuing to monitor my budget for any unused dollars and apply them to my goals. The student loan is at $6579.56 with an $83 extra payment pending. Don't know why, but five-thousand-something sounds so much more manageable!
I just sent $100 to the Roth IRA for June- if the market doesn't go down before it posts, this should finally hit $20,000 in retirement savings.
Comcast just raised my monthly internet bill from $50 to $80/month without saying anything to me- I'm going to call when their customer service office opens at 8 this morning. They're advertising a deal for new customers to get 12 months at $39.99/mo, so this feels like a rip off.
Now that life has temporarily slowed down I've been catching up on some financial housekeeping. I recently found a little cache of savings from years ago, $74.28, and will apply it to debt. I received some long awaited reimbursement for travel expenses and have earmarked $500 of that for loan repayment also. Finally, I confirmed that the February student loan autopay was never taken out of my account because they put it into temporary forebearance while the IBR paperwork was processing. That's budgeted for, so will send that in as well (386). Altogether that's $960.28 for the high interest loan.
I managed not to spend any discretionary money today, though I did pay some planned bills. Over the weekend I spent some money on potluck dinner with friends I haven’t seen in a long time (worth it!). While I roadtripped home from that visit I stocked up on staple groceries and toiletries in the distant land of Reasonable Cost-of-Living, which should save money overall this month. I'll need to order more contact lenses, but that comes from a catch-all "recurring expenses" budget category.
Haven't done taxes yet- waiting for one last transaction to process so I'll have an accurate retirement contribution figure for the year (was told this should only take three business days). I don't expect a refund, but will hopefully not owe money.
After submitting my income-based-repayment renewal application a couple months ago I finally saw my new scheduled monthly payment on the website today...and it's about $60/month less than last year, even though my income went up by about $1000/year?
I'm not quite sure where this number is coming from- they calculated it from accurate recent paystubs I submitted, and I know I didn't pay down enough principle last year to account for the difference. That said, I always seem to talk to a new person each time, so it's possible that last year they calculated a higher amount than strictly necessary by the terms of the program and I just never contested it.
If this IS my new repayment amount I will benefit by taking the difference left in my current budget and applying it to extra principle payments on the higher interest loan in my account. I'm going to wait until the first autopay withdrawal goes through before counting my chickens though-they may adjust it before then. Meanwhile I sent an additional $160 to the high interest loan today that came from picking up extra hours last pay period. Every little bit helps.
On the spending side, I've been working 90-100 hour weeks lately due to a tough assignment at work, so coffee and snacks spending is up because there has been no time to grocery shop. (I only come home to sleep at this point). On the positive side though, entertainment spending is zero and hopefully the heating bill will be down, since I turn it off completely when I'm not there. Even when I'm feeling self-indulgent I tend to stick to the less expensive food and coffee options at work, and I've been using up some old leftover giftcards for the cafeteria. Ony about 2 more weeks left at this pace before I can downshift to a less hectic schedule, so will try to keep the damage to a minimum!
First update in a while, though I do keep up with how everybody else is doing!
On the debt front, I'm waiting for approval on my income-based-repayment renewal. Trying to be patient, but I'd like to get the new monthly payment numbers to update my budget. Today I sent $260 to the high interest loan- $160 from an overtime project at work and $100 from Christmas. (No matter how often I try to gently remind certain relatives I'm an employed adult and they don't need to give me anything, a couple of them always send me money at Christmas. I feel a little guilty about it, but anything other than accepting thankfully would cause offense.)
As far as cost-containment, been doing a fair but not outstanding job limiting coffee and food purchases at work. Taking advantage of free coffee and breakfast at recent morning meetings has really helped in this category : ) I always cook at home at dinner and on weekends unless it's a social occasion with friends.
Currently I'm working on controlling the electricity bill. I love my place, but the building is quite old (historic) and very drafty. A loft setup also creates a lot of unused space to heat. So far I've covered the windows with that plastic wrap to create a layer of air insulation and bought a small space heater. (Got the one recommended by a fireman acquaintance, and never leave it on unattended!). When I do turn on the heat, I keep the thermostat between 55-57 F, dress in layers, and use throw blankets for extra warmth. Even with these measures, winter has caused the utility bill to shoot up to $170 this month. My last apartment was very well insulated with new windows and wasn't on the corner of the building like this, so it retained heat from the building and I almost never had to supplement that, so this is a new issue. There's a local organization that provides emergency funds for utility payments to people with low income, and the recent blizzard motivated me to start donating there this winter.
October was a whirlwind (and very spendy!) month! I just got around to totaling all the categories. After all the damage, I had $225 left over to throw at my goals, so $200 went to the student loan and $25 to the Roth. These totals don't include work expenses that I will be reimbursed for eventually- airline and hotel costs for a business trip. Unusual spending for Oct included finally biting the bullet and getting new work shoes (the old ones fell apart) for $53. I splurged a little because I spend a LOT of time on my feet, and have noticed a comfort difference. Also bought a bunch of extra food to make appetizers for a friend's party, gave a few birthday gifts, ate out much more than usual during my trip, and had to pay a parking ticket because I didn't notice my street parking sticker had expired a few days before - eighty dollars, ouch! The quarterly parking permit renewal itself is budgeted for.
It was a great month, but I also feel the urge to buckle down and refocus on my goals in November.
Frugal things recently:
- Have been planning to get some art for my walls since I moved in, but family gifted me a few pictures from the attic nobody was using anymore. They'll look great in the space, and I already have wall-hanging hooks.
- Have been bringing all my food and almost all of my caffeine to work lately instead of buying something there
- Been wanting to send a particular book to 2 friends and was planning to buy it on Amazon for them, but got two copies of it for free at a yard sale this weekend!
- have been leaving the heat off and using extra layers and blankets at home
- Snagged a few extra hours of work helping on a special project at work. Not sure how much I'll net after taxes, but probably around $100
I'm still lurking around, trying to be frugal and sending little extra payments to the student loans and Roth IRA when there is a surplus in a budget category. So far I've contributed about $1000 to retirement and paid about $4500 extra on the highest interest loan this year. Currently floating a lot of money from the checking account buffer for some work expenses and a big joint wedding gift that a few of us went in on for a close friend. I know this will be reimbursed in the future (very reliable friends, and have done this for work before), but it sure makes my current balance lower than usual!
One area with potential for a lot of improvement is buying food and coffee at work, or on the way to work. I don't go "out" to eat at lunch often, but if I don’t plan and cook ahead I’ll pick up a frozen burrito or a microwave noodle bowl for lunch on the way in, which adds up to a lot of little purchases. Today I managed to eat breakfast at home, brought teabags to make tea at work for free, got a free sandwich at a catered lunch meeting, and resisted buying coffee there. For dinner I rescued the last 1/3 of a wilting green cabbage and some leftover noodles to make haluski.
I also picked up a small one-time side job with the potential to earn maybe $100 or so. Little extra boosts to the budget help me feel like I'm getting somewhere!
The budget totals for August are in and they're ugly. I blew way past my $350/month general spending cap at $588.83. This wiped out the "cushion" category and cut into the parking category as well. Unusual expenses this month included
About $45 in medical costs (visit and prescription copays, dressing supplies)
A friend came from out of state and stayed with me for a few days. I treated her to a couple meals out because she had to buy a train ticket down, which has worked pretty well for us in sharing the cost of visiting. Also got some snacky groceries to keep around the apartment while she was here that I don't usually buy. It's rare that we have any matching days off to visit, so this was totally worth it.
Another close friend got married in August, so that meant traveling out of state, extra gas costs, etc. I wore a dress I already had, so no extra spending there. Again, totally worth it.
Some long stressful days at work that ended with me buying dinner there after only bringing a lunch. This is an area for improvement.
I worked a few hours on a side job this month, but since payments are very slow from these projects, I just count them as snowflakes when they actually show up in my bank account.
Won't post the whole boring spreadsheet, but I have $140.88 to send to debt repayment after balancing the budget, in addition to the $50.50 already sent in from the utility and internet category earlier this month.
It's time to get back on track for September. Today I need to clean out my kitchen/fridge and make a menu plan to limit waste and eat from the pantry. Otherwise it was a low key day off- chores, lots of paperwork for my job (can do online), studying, writing a letter, taking a walk with a friend and catching up.
Meal options from a preliminary look at the pantry:
Halushki (a cabbage and noodle dish, delicious. I make it without onions from personal preference) Have a large head of cabbage that will make several meals
Stirfry with noodles
Vegetable fried rice (have some seasoning mix packets to use up)
Cereal with milk
Potato-lentil Indian curry
Frozen bean burritos
Samosas (use crescent roll dough and fill it with a mixture of spicy garlic mashed potato, peas, garlic, ginger, and Indian spices)
I also moved an extra $100 from the emergency fund to my Roth when I saw how low the market had dipped- love when the stock market goes on sale! As I've mentioned before, my EF is actually higher than it rationally should be, so it's a good thing when I bring myself to put some of that cash to work on investing or debt : )
Personal discretionary spending (food, toiletries, entertainment, household supplies, etc) was $266.61 before table, $ 396.60 with the furniture purchase. Above the budget of 350/month, but could have been worse considering my splurge.
Budget numbers for July
Budgeted- actual = difference
Rent 1175-1175 = 0
Parking 150-7.75 = 142.25
Utilities 100-35.23 = 64.77 (already paid to loan)
Insurance 64-54 = 10
Phone 112.88-66.34 = 46.54
Recurring expenses 150-0 = 150 (rolls forward)
Retirement 100-100= 0
Student loan 386-386= 0
Internet 80-22.73 = 57.27 (already paid to loan)
Food and misc 350-396.60 = -46.60 (from cushion)
Cushion 206- 46.60 = 159.40
That leaves extras in parking (142.25) + insurance (10) + phone 46.54 + cushion (159.40) = 358 surplus. 50 will go to the Roth IRA, 308 to the high interest loan. I'll post the new loan balance after the payments hit.
Today after getting my first quarterly water bill I confirmed with the landlord that yes, water here runs nearly thirty dollars a month! I pulled out my last two years of utility statements before I moved and I was paying around $8/month in an individually metered apartment. My new building just divides total water bill for the building by number of units, regardless of use or how many people live there, it seems. Oh well- to account for this, I'll be adding $32 per month anticipated water cost to each utility bill going forward, which will build up in the account until each payment comes due.
On a happier note, I finally received a reimbursement check for some work-related expenses totaling $370.99. Since I paid for this upfront a few months ago and haven't missed the money while reimbursement was taking a long time, I decided to use $65 of it to cover the first water bill (prorated from the move) and send $100 to retirement savings and $100 to debt. The remaining money will go back in the general savings/emergency fund.
Stopped at Trader Joe's on the way home from work today to pick up a few odds and ends- I've been craving pesto and ran out of milk for cereal in the morning, etc. I'm grateful that even with an unexpected utility expense, getting near the end of the month doesn't mean not being able to buy any more food until August comes around. Not everybody gets to spend $13 on groceries just because it's a convenient time to go, without thinking twice.
A yearly raise hit my paycheck this period- takehome pay increased by about $60 every two weeks. The difference will go toward retirement saving instead of debt paydown this month. Starting next month I'll update the budget- should be getting the first quarterly water bill soon, so I'll finally know how much to allocate to that.
In other financial news, I finally bought the last piece of furniture for my new apartment. After failing to find what I had in mind on craigslist or at Ikea/Walmart/Target, I spent $130 on a small bar-height kitchen table with two stools from ebay. It also came with free shipping. Not strictly a need, but something I've been planning to get since I moved in May and my old dining set didn't fit in the new space. I'm excited to be able to start having close friends over for dinner or drinks (with somewhere for them to sit to eat now!)
The summer is flying by! Time for a quick financial check-in. The high-interest student loan balance is currently $10,222.84. Should be able to get it down under the $10,000 mark by the end of the month, if everything goes according to plan. So far I've already paid the internet and electric bills for July. The electric bill was $35.23. Since I budget $100/month for this, that leaves $64.77 left over for extra debt repayment. The Comcast bill was $22.73, out of a budgeted 80. Don't totally understand how they arrived at this number, as my new monthly plan is more than that, but it looks like some money was credited back from switching plans midmonth. That's another $57.27, so I'm sending a $122 extra loan payment.
Still doing pretty well with bringing coffee from home in the morning- haven't managed to do this every day, but definitely more than before. I did coddle myself a little this weekend after catching a nasty cold that knocked me out most of Saturday- turned the AC on to 83 degrees, ran a load in the dishwasher, and used the dryer to speed up the laundry process. On the frugal side, no appetite and no energy = minimal spending. I'm feeling better now, so I made a noodle stirfry for dinner which used up some odds and ends from the fridge- leftover red cabbage, the remains of a bag of frozen broccoli, and half a can of sliced bamboo shoots from earlier in the week.
June budget totals:
Budgeted- actual = difference
Rent: 1175-1175 = 0
Parking: 150-20= 130
Utilities: 100-57.23= 42.77
Car insurance: 64- 54= 10
Phone: 112.88- 113.17= -0.29 (last month at this rate)
Recurring expenses: 150-164= -14
Retirement: 100- 100= 0
Student loan: 386-386= 0
Internet: 80-27.38= 52.17
Food and misc: 350-351.18 = -1.18
Cushion: 206- (total negative overages from above 15.47) = 190.53
The utility and internet surpluses were already applied to my student loan as they became available. I made $15 selling some old chairs on craigslist this month. Additional leftover funds are 130 (parking) + 10 (car insurance) + 190.53 (cushion) + 15 (craigslist) = 345.53 for the high interest loan.
Gas spending has been through the roof this month because I've been driving to a different site for work that's an hour away, compared to my usual 5-10 minute commute, so I've had to fill the tank up WAY more frequently. Of that $351.18 personal spending category, $115.51 was for gas! It makes me grateful to live close to work and drive a small compact car. A lot of my coworkers commute from a similar distance every day in a giant SUV, not as a temporary thing. Can't imagine how expensive that is, not to mention adding two hours onto your workday and the hassle of parking a giant tank in the tiny parking garage spaces.
Frugal efforts this week: Had a great time visiting some friends (only costs were gas and home-cooked food I brought) and enjoyed an awesome company-sponsored barbeque over the weekend. Also got coffee and caught up with another friend I haven't seen in a while ($3). Otherwise I tackled some cleaning and organizing projects at home (cost: $6 for file folders).
During a recent grocery run I stocked up on supplies to make a bunch of freezer meals to take to work for lunches. Planning to make vegetarian bean burritos with cilantro, vegetable stir fry with rice noodles and egg whites. vegetable fried rice, and spicy fish stew (the base is a mix, and I add in additional spices, vegetables, and the frozen fish). Each one makes 2-3 large portions. Snacks will be carrot sticks and apple/pear slices with peanut butter. There was a great sale on mushrooms, so I'll also be trying out a chickpea/mushroom burger with Indian spices. I got ground coffee (store brand) and flavored creamer to make at home and have been attempting to curb my coffee buying habit a little. So far, so good, and even cutting down by half would be a good start.
On the utility front, vindication! Got the itemized bill from last month instead of just amount due email- apparently $20 of the $58 last month was a one-time application fee. The electric company ingeniously provides a comparison of your average usage compared to your neighbors (100 similar occupied units in your immediate area) and your "most efficient" 20% of neighbors. Of course it is making me nuts that the "efficient" 20% are beating me, even though I am well below the average user : ) So far I've resisted turning on the AC even though it's been 88 degrees INSIDE my apartment for the last five days. If it hits 90 degrees I'm turning the AC on at night and setting it to 85- I try to be environmentally friendly, but there is a reason this technology exists! I have been making heavy use of the ceiling fan, especially at night, so usage will be up a little anyway. Have been using the drying rack instead of the dryer lately, and I really like it so far.
Car-related spending already totally wiped out the "recurring expenses" category for this month. First I had to renew the registration ($135- ouch!) and it was also due for an oil change- $29. The mechanic told me that the front tires are worn and should be replaced before next winter, and the rear brakes will need to be fixed around that time too. Something something breakpads? He explained the actual process, but I don't remember the details. He said it is all safe to drive with for now and recommended holding out until they have their big annual sale in October. He quoted around $125-150 for each new tire and didn't tell me what it would be with the October sale except to say I could get a better deal. Of course I'll shop around for the tires, but since $150/month for this kind of thing was a total guess anyway, I may need to bump it up. Maybe $175/month? More? These are expected occasional expenses, not emergencies, so I want to budget enough money to cover this stuff.
With a little bit of internet research, I was able to call my cell phone carrier and get them to drop my bill from $113 to $65/month plus tax. $40+/month savings for 20 minutes of my time. May end up dropping to an even lower plan when I have more time to do research, but it's a good start. After that, I googled advertised Comcast internet rates and called to ask why I was being charged so much more. They reduced my monthly bill from $80 to $50 and also credited back a $10 charge for a "home installation kit" I never received when I moved- I just used the old stuff from my last apartment and it worked fine. As part of moving I had to "pay ahead" several weeks, so the balance total for this month's billing cycle is $27.38. The new rate will show up next month.
June internet: 80 budgeted- 27.38 actual = 52.62 extra for student loans. Woo!
I'll leave the budgeted amounts for these services the same and just send the difference to debt repayment.
Otherwise the transfer from my old checking account and the leftover utility bill money for the month both hit the student loan account, plus the usual autopay:
1484.02- old checking account
42.77- leftover utility budget
Current principal balance: 10,563.31
After much internal debate, I did go ahead and transfer 100.00 to my Roth IRA for the month. This is a new line item in the budget. As much as I enjoy the immediate gratification of paying off debt, it will take years to pay off everything, and it doesn't make sense to miss out on after-tax retirement contributions at this age. (If you didn't read my earlier posts, that $10,500 account is just the tip of the student loan iceberg. Professional school ain't cheap.)
Currently on a decluttering kick - nothing like moving to make you look around and think, "Why do I have all this stuff?" Read an article a while ago about a popular organizer from Japan who tells people to look at every item in their home and ask, "Does this bring me joy?" If not, get rid of it. That seemed like good advice. I'm also selling some furniture I don't need anymore online. Nothing expensive, but I'll throw that at the loan if I find a buyer.
Other frugal minutia: Started using a drying rack for my laundry when possible, especially for towels. Really liking it so far. Found the birthday gift for a family member on Amazon, so I was able to use a gift card balance to cover it instead of cash. I would have gotten them the same thing either way, but this was a nice cashflow bonus. Just when my current work shoes became so worn they started rubbing my heels raw and had to be thrown out, I found an old pair in the back of the closet that have a few more months of use left in them. The theme for the last couple of weeks has been, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."
Looking at my budget makes it pretty clear that high fixed expenses are limiting my debt payoff, so I've been looking at ways to cut some of those bills. I get paid every two weeks, and ideally I'd like to pay all fixed bills except the student loan from one paycheck.
The biggest expense by far is rent, due to living in a costly urban area. I recently moved, reducing my monthly rent from $1450 (slated to go up to $1500/month if I signed a new lease!) to $1175. Still a lot ,but better. Without adding a long commute and living far from work and friends (or living in an excessively murdery neighborhood), it would be hard to get this significantly lower. As a bonus, I'm also much happier here!
Since my electricity billing cycle falls early in the month, I count this at the time it's due every budget period. The total for this month: $57.23. This is way over previous utility bills at my old apartment, but I'm pretty sure I know why. One reason is that the new place is a much older, draftier building, while my last apartment had fewer windows and was mostly on the interior of a big complex, insulating it from temperature fluctuations. More importantly, it was in the high 80s on several days, and I turned the AC on twice when I had company visiting. Not a regular indulgence, but don't want guests sweating. Will work on ways to get this back down to my goal of under $40 next month.
Still, $100 budgeted- 57.23 actual = 42.77 extra for GP loan
Water is billed quarterly, so won't have those numbers for a while. Should see less variability there though, since my use hasn't changed since moving. Will either cashflow this as general spending or take it from the recurring expenses category.
When I notified the insurance company of my move, the premium dropped $80 every 6 months, for a $13. 33 monthly savings.
You're next, phone bill! Currently paying AT&T the princely sum of $113.17/month for my smartphone plan. (Apparently this somehow crept up about a dollar since I made my budget, which is making my numbers look a little fuzzy.) My last contract should be ending now, so it's time to shop around. Don't need much data since I can connect to the wifi at home and there's guest wifi in most areas at work. Believe it or not, I actually don't have many "extra" features for that price- just unlimited texting, which I use all the time, and a middle of the road data plan.
Freakin' Comcast monopoly. Have tried. Will focus on other bills, maybe harass Comcast customer service again later. Mostly annoying because my introductory rate was half as much, and they obviously weren't losing money on that.
Long story, working on it. Leaving the budgeted amount as-is for now until this gets nailed down
To summarize, definitely some work to be done on the budget
Girl vs Math
This month was unusual financially, with a lot of one-time expenses, so my new monthly budget will really start in June. It's still a work in process, but here is a rough outline of what I am picturing:
insurance (car) 64
recurring expenses (contacts, renters insurance, car tags/inspection) 150
student loan (IBR) 386
food and misc 350
That utility number looks high, but I don't know what it will be in the new place yet. When I called to switch the account to my name, they told me the recent monthly average for this unit has been $130/month; utilities prior to moving ran me 30-40- dollars monthly. Until I see some actual numbers I will keep this at $100 and pay any leftover money here toward my loans.
Internet in this area is a frustrating monopoly. That $70/month is AFTER I called and got them to knock off $10/month. Oh well. Don't have cable or a landline. When it is time to renew my phone contract I am going to see if that can come down a little- what is reasonable to pay for a smartphone plan?
I tend to use my debit card for everything and keep an eye on my spending online, but I have never budgeted strictly in divided categories (Christmas, eating out vs groceries, etc). I saved my emergency fund by just doing all my banking from one account, trying to behave frugally, and letting the unspent extra build up (hence the unbudgeted "cushion" category and brand new “recurring expenses” amount, which is really just a guess).
At least for the first month as I test out the new budget, my debt repayment plan is to use the unspent funds left over in each category at the end of the month as well as any extra windfalls/snowflakes. I was able to do some extra side work recently and should be getting $600 from that, although it's hard to predict when the check will actually be mailed. That will take a big chunk out of my first mini-goal: paying off the roughly $1000 in interest due on the Gradplus loan before payments start being applied to principle. This makes me really impatient to come up with another $400 to get going! Should definitely be doable.
On a different note, thanks to all of the brave men and women who give up their time and personal safety to protect the US! Happy Memorial Day!