Happy New Year!
Still here, same goal for 2020- pay down the student loans! Will post updated totals when the current pending payment finishes processing.
Recently realized that my 401K match vests 100% at 3 years, which is a bummer. I’ve been there 1.5 years so far and don’t currently have any plans to leave, but life is unpredictable.
Today I made a batch of lunches for the freezer using things I already had on hand. I used this recipe (https://www.budgetbytes.com/cheesy-vegetarian-chili-mac/) but swapped out some types of beans and fusilli for the elbow macaroni. Didn’t have tomato sauce but had a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes, so I added that and tossed in a teaspoon of taco seasoning and two packets of leftover taco bell sauce that were lurking in a drawer. It used up the last bit of a bag of shredded cheddar that has been lingering in the freezer.
Viewing the 'Retirement' Category
Happy New Year!
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).
Contributed $200 leftover in other budget categories to the IRA, bringing 2017 contributions to $2140. I have a $150 check in hand to deposit and send in as well, so after that the I’ll need $710 to meet my goal of $3000 for the year. My employer still owes me an additional $150 for overtime, they’re just slow to pay since it comes from a separate cost center. Still need $560 after that. Would love to get this done this month so I can file my taxes at the end of January. That will make it easier to reapply for IBR in February. Really looking forward to knocking the retirement goal out so I can go back to chipping away at my student loans. As a side note, my IRA balance reached $1,000/year of age for the first time ever with how high the market has been lately. It will probably dip down again, but kind of a neat milestone.
Today should be a low spend day. Currently making food to bring with me to work this afternoon. I plan to stop on the way in and get a replacement travel mug (mine disappeared, probably because a lot of us had the same style which caused confusion). This should also help cut down on splurging for coffee on long days, or at least get me the refill rate.
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).
Focused on beefing up my Roth IRA for this year as my next mini goal. My default contribution is $100/month, which doesn’t come close to the $5500 yearly contribution limit. I don’t have any retirement matching or benefits at work. While I would ideally love to get to at least $3000 for this year, this may be a stretch after sending any extra money to that student loan for so many months.
Recently got a check for $200 from a one-time side project, so I sent that in. I thought about holding off because the market is so high right now, but I’m not planning to touch my retirement for 30 years, so ultimately trying to “time” investments at this point probably doesn’t make sense. Also expecting about $160 or so after tax from some overtime earlier this month, but these payments can be slow, so I’ll wait until it shows up in my direct deposit before counting it.
It’s funny how much more emotionally satisfying it is for me to see debt drop than retirement contributions go up, but that’s why managing money requires discipline!
At the end of August I had just enough left over in the budget to pay the final $511 on my high interest loan, which is now paid in full. In total I paid about $15,000 for this loan including principle and interest.
This was a minor amount in the grand scheme of my student loans, but it feels good to kill my highest interest rate of 7.65%. At some point in the future I hope to refinance, but currently need to stay in IBR to have realistic payments for my salary.
My next mini goal is to boost my Roth IRA contributions for the year (currently have been budgeting $100/month for this while paying down that loan). I don't receive any type of employer retirement contribution, although they do offer to let you automatically divert an unmatched % of your salary to a high fee non-Vanguard 401K retirement vehicle. Thanks but no thanks!
Has anyone heard from Ima Saver?
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.
March was a mixed month financially, with some unusual one-time expenses (replacing broken items, etc) and a healthy tax refund.
After totaling things up, I have about $150 from surplus March income and $500 in a tax refund to allocate to my goals. The tax refund will go toward the student loan and the $150 will go toward retirement contributions.
Slow and steady wins the race, I guess. Except for buying some birthday gifts, I'll be trying to keep spending down in April to hopefully break the $7000 mark on the loan next month.
The student loan payment went through, bringing the new balance on the high interest loan to $7767.98. Looking back, when I started this blog in May the total was $13,671.78. I would have liked to see this closer to the $5000s, but the rational part of my brain knows that continuing Roth contributions instead of throwing every extra penny at debt repayment makes more sense in the long-term.
Filed federal and state taxes today. The amount of loan interest paid this year bumped up my refund, so hey, silver lining!
Other frugal things: Used a 10% off coupon code for the online tax prep website (which is only $13 to start with, including filing state and federal), drank free coffee this morning at work and ate breakfast and lunch at home (half-day). Yesterday I hit snooze too many times and didn't bring a lunch, but had a delicious spicy noodle bowl from the convenience store for $1.69 and tea from my teabag stash. The weather is beautiful today, so I have the windows open airing out the apartment and expect great improvement in the electricity bill! I'm also drying some laundry on the drying rack. Finally, I ordered a year's supply of contacts, which is more upfront but carries the lowest cost per lens. This was out-of-pocket because my vision plan only pays toward contacts OR glasses each year, and my current glasses need to be replaced. I tried to remember the last time and realized it was before freshman year of college! I almost never wear them, but feel like I should have an emergency pair that I'd feel safe driving with if necessary. Now that I have a current prescription, I'll need to shop around for the best deal on frames.
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.