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Repayment plan confusion

February 20th, 2016 at 06:19 pm

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!

Costly creature comfort

February 2nd, 2016 at 04:28 pm

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.

Spendy October, misc frugality

November 9th, 2015 at 11:11 am

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

Still here

October 16th, 2015 at 08:33 pm

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!

Extra boost

September 13th, 2015 at 10:24 pm

My paycheck on Friday included the money for some extra hours I picked up last month- $190 after tax. Right now the student loan stands at $9,546.50 before that payment. Should be able to get under $9,000 by the end of October!

Spendy August, Meal planning

September 1st, 2015 at 07:22 pm

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
Grilled cheese
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 : )

New Balance

August 4th, 2015 at 10:41 am

After the July payments finally hit today, the high interest loan is down to $9,741.23. According to the website, the next required income-based payment on this loan is due in November of 2035. Meaningless, but entertaining.

July Budget Totals

July 31st, 2015 at 05:26 am

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.

Parking: 7.75

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.

Water bill, reimbursement

July 29th, 2015 at 05:52 pm

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.

Raise, furniture splurge (unrelated)

July 23rd, 2015 at 08:51 pm

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!)

Payment hit

July 15th, 2015 at 05:19 pm

Of the recent $122 payment, $102.75 went to principal. New principal balance: $10,102.98

A little here and there

July 13th, 2015 at 08:54 pm

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 Summary

June 30th, 2015 at 01:20 pm

June budget totals:

Budgeted- actual = difference
Income: 2874
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.