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Archive for July, 2021

One Semester Down and Other Updates

July 28th, 2021 at 02:26 pm

I finished the summer semester, and am so relieved.  I definitely need a break, even if it's just for a few weeks until the fall semester starts.  I enjoyed both of my classes, but was moderately annoyed by things both instructors did.  I'm waiting for my official grades, but should be A/A- for both.  Once the grades are posted, I will submit for reimbursement.  Reimbursement funds will be directed to existing 401k loan balance. One semester down, four to go!

Not sure if I mentioned this or not, but I am also getting a bunch of credits via exam.  I took the first two of those exams a few weeks ago, and the credits have appeared in my online degree progress from the school.  Through a non-profit, I was able to get the vouchers for the exam itself for free (normally $89), and they will reimburse me for the test center fee ($30 for remote proctoring x2).  I'm planning to take three more in August - the three subjects I am not as familiar with, so will have to put in a little more studying.  So far, I have tackled one already, and submitted the request for the voucher (takes a few days), and this week, hope to tackle another.  This way I have both vouchers in hand.  I did purchase an external study guide as well, where I think the real meat of the exams will be covered off on.  For the one completed, I didn't do terrrrrribly on the practice exam, but would like to feel a bit more comfortable going in.  I'd like to not waste my chance for free credits.  Later in the month, I will repeat the process for the last one this summer.  Sometime in the fall, I'll take two more, but I am confident in that subject matter, so it shouldn't be a problem to take them while in class.

Hoping that August gives me a small chance to reset and catch my breath before we start all over again.  Work is very busy and I don't feel like I have been putting in my best effort there, because I have been distracted by school.  Need to fix that and get my projects back on a strong track.  I also have a week's vacation as well as a few other random days off.  Hoping I'll be nice and refreshed by September, when it starts all over again!

In other financial news, I got a few more bank bonuses that I have been working towards.  I am still waiting on 3, and then I think I am taking a break there too.  I've kind of run out of banks that are local to me - there are 2 offers I could do, but the bonus seems meh for the amount of direct deposit I will have to direct there, so I'm undecided.  I've been using those bonuses to chunk away at credit card balances (non-consolidated).  Still hopeful to have the majority paid off by the end of the year, with the exception of a furniture store on a fixed promotion.  I'd like to pay it off, but not at the expense of other progress.  

I'm still waiting for a loan decision for the consolidated accounts.  Once I hear that, I can figure out the best path forward there.  If the loan terms (monthly payment and length) are close to to what I will be paying with the debt settlement company, then it's definitely a win and the math checks out.  

Everything is chugging along nicely, and though my spending is far higher than I would like it to be, it's been an abnormal month what with being away and not caring how much I spent on the trip lol.

Chicago Trip, New Net Pay and Other Random Updates

July 21st, 2021 at 04:05 pm

I got back from a long weekend in Chicago the other night.  It was so good to spend time with my bestie, and see her new home (she purchased a condo this spring). 

It was a SPENDY trip though....still waiting for final numbers, but looking like ~$2kish.  Oh well.  It was definitely needed, and I'm going to go ahead and say definitely deserved as well.  We had a great time, and ate some amazing meals, so I don't regret any of it.

While I was away, I received my first paycheck at my increased salary.  My new net pay is $700 more per pay period than my previous pay.  This will be really helpful, not only to shore up some of the gaps in my budget, but will also help me accelerate paying off the last of the credit card debt.  Once that's gone, by the end of the year hopefully, I can focus on savings.   Initially, the pay increase will go towards some sinking funds (grocery, pet, and homeowners' insurance) and big chunks thrown at the credit card balance.  Once it's paid off, I'd like to go back to running normal expenses through there and paying in full monthly since it's a rewards card, but I just need to be cautious not to lose sight of the goals and spend money I don't have.  I've definitely gotten a little too free and loose with spending, especially considering where I was at the start of the year.  I've made significant progress, but not enough where I can buy whatever I want without thinking about the impact it makes on the long term plan.   

I'm in my last week of the summer semester and am amazed at how it seems to have flown by.  Between the two classes, all I have left is some reading, a final project, two quizzes, a few discussion post responses, and a final exam.  I am on track for an A or A- in both classes.  I also took two CLEP exams last week, and passed, so I will get credit for two more classes.  I plan to take three more during my August break, and then two more in the fall.  I also learned about another kind of credit by exam that's accepted by my school, so I am just waiting to hear back from the Admissions department on what courses they can replace, to see if those are in my degree plan.  

I've been in talks with my debt settlement company lately.  I received a notice that a lawsuit had been filed against me for one of the accounts in the program.  Fun, but we are actively working with the law firm to come to a settlement agreement on this, so it shouldn't be too upsetting.  I do need to go to the courthouse this week to formally respond (basically go to the window and fill out a form).  I tried to see if they'd let me fax it in or do it over the phone, but apparently I don't live far enough I'll do that on Friday.  The settlement company did receive two settlement offers from the law firm handling the debt, and we are trying to see which to choose.  At the same time, I have an opportunity to transfer the debt placed with them to a partner of theirs who offers loans to customers in good standing - if approved and the terms are appealing, this loan would pay off all of my balances with the settlement company, and effectively end my program with them two years early.  I'm not sure how the terms will be, assuming pretty high interest rates, but it is attractive to know that my credit score will improve much faster because those balances will all have been paid off, and my DTI will drop drastically.  I applied yesterday and my income verification is with underwriting now, so we shall see.  If the payment is in the same neighborhood as what I pay to the debt settlement company, then I'll go for it.  Plus, since it's a loan, I have the ability to increase my payment to reduce total interest paid.  More to come on that!

June 2021 Spending and Summary/Q2 Goals Progress

July 1st, 2021 at 04:10 pm

My favorite post of the month!  This will be a longer than usual one, since I am also including a midyear update on my 2021 goals.

June spending was almost double any prior month this year.  There were a few one off larger purchases though, so it doesn't indicate a trend I'm worried about.  This is why I track it by category as well as overall.  My spending does not include any bills - this is all "discretionary".

Category - June spend/YTD spend - context

Alcohol - $185.58/$279.80 - welp.  I guess I don't really have any good excuses here haha.  I went on a run to an expansive liquor store to pick up something for a co-worker (not captured here, she reimbursed me) and started shopping for my sister's birthday (captured in gifts).....but they had such a great selection that I ended up buying a bunch of stuff for myself, too.  Oh well.  

Car/Gas - $40.15/$279.93 - one gas fill-up, and a parking meter.  Most of the towns in my area have switched over to using an app for parking.  If I were just using change, then I wouldn't bother tracking it, but since it ends up being a charge that I have an email for, it's easy enough to pop in.  

Clothing - $257.95/$409.62 - getting a little too loose on this!!!!  I'm returning some of the items purchased this month, but the returns will be reflected in this month's spending.  I will say that what I am keeping are things I needed, and there's nothing overly frivolous.  Still, I'm not yet at the point where I can go willy nilly and start breaking rules.  

Dining/Entertainment - $151/$549.62 - better than last month for sure.  I think this month was mostly takeout spending....I was a bit off the rails when it comes to my diet for a while there, but this has mostly gotten back under control.  I'd say I am hoping that this category sees minimal spend in the next few months but realistically, I am traveling in both July & August so here's hoping for September lol.

Education - $650.23/$857.61 - this was for the laptop I needed for my classes, and MS Office for that computer.  It's a big chunk, but not expecting any major expenses here for a while.  I've been stashing money aside for various education expenditures since I started this journey, so thankfully none of this went on a credit card. 

Gifts - $55.06/$422.93 - started shopping for my sister's birthday gift.  I'll add more to this category for her this week (her birthday is next week).  

Grocery/Household/Toiletries - $443.81/$2815.65 - always a big 'un.  Less than last month (high due to purchase of some apartment necessities like a hamper), but a touch higher than I would like.  Not too bad, though.

Medical (Planned) - $90/$309.13 - a few co-pays.  

Miscellaneous - $7.56/$240.02 - I bought plastic sleeves off of Amazon for vaccine cards.  Wasn't sure where to put them so here they are haha.

Office Supplies - $19/$106.92 - needed ink for my printer.  This should last me a while.

Personal Care - $57.15/$251.15 - a desperately needed pedicure!  I'll probably start setting aside money in my budget to get these monthly now that we are in the warmer months.  

Pet - $105.65/$$534.90 - man these monsters are expensive lol.  This was food, litter, a brush, and of course some toys found their way into my order, haha.

Subscriptions - $52.98/$257.38 - Monthly iCloud storage, plus I paid for a year of an additional streaming service upfront, but in return bartered a log-in on this for a log-in on another one that I've been interested in.  Right now, I think I am covered with all of the major streaming services except Apple TV+.  Living just fine without cable (and this YTD amount also includes some print subscriptions as well)....the cost for all of the subscriptions plus my monthly internet cost ($62.48 a month) is still far and away less than having cable+internet would cost me.  

Travel - $728.30/$766.21 - this month, I booked a flight for a trip to Chicago, using a credit from a cancelled COVID trip (but the new flight was more than the credit).  Plus, I pre-paid for a hotel for a trip in August, I'll eventually get half of that back.  I think there may be some small expenses in there from a day trip to our office in another city....small items I bought at the train station, etc.  

Grand Total - $2844.42/$8080.87 - yikes but as mentioned earlier, this included a few larger one time expenses driving this cost up.  When I subtract out the computer/software/travel costs, I'm still around $1465, which juuuuuust ekes under my highest month YTD (by a dollar haha).  The increased clothing and alcohol spending don't help.  Oh well.  

Onto my summary of debts & savings....

Overall, still moving in a good direction.  Priority debts are up slightly, due to a moderate increase in non-consolidated credit cards and the addition of the new private student loan for the summer semester.  While student loan debt doesn't bother me, this one has a high interest rate due to being private and is co-signed by my mother, so this will be a priority to knock out once all of the funding for my surgeries are handled.  I am planning to have this one paid off before I graduate, and have to start paying back my federal loans again.  Non-priority debts are down just via a function of regularly scheduled payments.  My overall debt is not significantly changed from 6/1, but down 9% from 1/1.  

Savings are constantly in flux, but overall, cash savings/sinking funds are up significantly when looking at both time frames.  401k is doing very well, also (and as always does not include contributions/loan payments from yesterday's payday).  This should only continue with increased contribution amounts due to my pay increase.  Total savings are up 12% since 6/1 and 35% since 1/1.  I couldn't be more pleased with my progress. 

Onto progress against this year's goals!!!!

Consolidated Balances:  At the start of the year, the consolidated balances left to be tackled were 9 of the original 12, with a balance left to settle of just over $30k.  The goal was:  stay the course and hope that the balance was down to around $20k by the end of the year.  As of today, there are 3 left to be tackled (when I say tackled, I mean settlement agreements made, not that the balance is fully paid off, that's a separate calculation that I will probably switch to for next year, but switching midyear is annoying) with a balance of just over $14k.  That's pretttttttttty good haha.  Of the 9 balances that have been settled, 4 have been fully paid off, and 5 are in repayment.  I will complete payoff of one more settled account this year, 3 more next year, and one final one in 2023.  I'm assuming that of the 3 remaining to be settled, one of them will extend to 2022, and the other 2 into 2023.  This goal is far ahead of where I had hoped to be.  

Non-Consolidated Balances:  These are my credit cards that did not go into the program.  At the start of 2021, there were 5 accounts with balances.  My goal was to pay 3 of them off by the end of the year, and bring my starting balance of $11k to around $5k.  I didn't originally state this at the start of the year, but did mention in my Q1 goals review that a sub-goal of this was to bring my main card (with the highest balance) down to 75% utilizatiion or better by end of year.  As of today, there are 4 accounts with balances, for a total of $9.4k.  This is up from the low, where I had 2 accounts with balances and around $8k, BUT with my pay increase YAY, coupled with some irregular chunks coming in, I am projecting that I will only have a balance left on one account of <$2k.  The card with the largest balance is projected to be at 0% utilization.  This goal is on track but projecting to blow past the goal for the year.  

Mom debt:  the goal was just to begin repayment on this.  I started paying her back in February.  I will increase the amount I pay her next year when other debts have been paid off.  This is scheduled for payoff sometime in 2023/2024.  On track.  

Non-priority debts:  This includes my mortgage, car loan, 401k loans, and federal student loans.  The goal here was just to continue servicing these as scheduled.  My federal loans are deferred indefinitely, initially due to COVID, and now as in-school deferments.  I will be adding to these over the next few years, but the cost isn't anything unmanageable.  By the time I need to start repayment, I should have a lot of other debt paid off.   On track.

Grow savings:  I started the year with just $50 in cash savings.  The goal was to be somewhere around $2k in cash savings by the end of the year.  Not nearly enough to serve as a comprehensive emergency fund, but enough to cover a major oh sh*t moment.  As of today, my cash savings, which includes some sinking funds, is just over $2200.  By the end of the year, I am projecting that it should be over $4k, barring any unforeseen issues (but that's what it's there for, if that's the case be it).  Ahead of goal.  

 Bump retirement savings:  I started the year contributing 10% (not including company match), and was hoping to bump this to 12% by the end of the year.  While an actual % increase may not be on the table for this year, my recent promotion increases the $ amount being contributed.  I decided to change up my strategy a bit and before increasing my contributions here, try to fully fund a Roth IRA.  Not sure if, amongst all of the other financial goals going on, I'll be able to start this year or not, but I will definitely be building it into next year's budget, even if I am not maxing it out.  Once IRAs are fully maxed, as I am able to continue increasing retirement, I will return to my 401k and increase as able until maxed.  Goal revised but considering the spirit of it on track.

Investments:  The goal was to increase my small balances in robo-investing accounts as able, without any set goal.  Ultimately I decided that I am not yet in a position to start investing in taxable space yet, and need to handle my debt, and savings, and retirement first.  Goal removed.

Get promoted (this was a financial goal as well as a personal goal):  BOOM - done.  Coincidentally, my new title is in effect as of today.  I'll do a separate post on how the increase from my promotion is going ot be allocated in the overall plan, it's changed slightly from where I thought it would be, but I think the new plan is good.  Goal completed.

Other non-financial goals:  Stay focused on weight loss journey - no measurable goal set, but this is on track again even after a few ups and downs.  Start taking steps for plastic surgery post weight loss - on track, maybe could be considered completed (considering that I have a surgeon, have met with hims everal times, have figured out timing and funding, I just gotta get to my stupid goal weight lol).  

Overall assessment of where I am mid year vs Jan 1?  KILLIN' IT.