Friday, October 29, 2010

Monthly Student Loan Debt Roundup

I realize it's not officially the end of the month, but I assume you the reader want to read a blog post on Halloween as much as I want to write one. And I was excited to write this roundup as it's the first ever with a zero in a "amount owed" column due to the glorious fact that I paid off one of my student loans earlier this month.

And I wanted to share something I probably should have looked into earlier as it has previously taken me about 30 minutes of research to determine how much of my federal loans were applied to each year of study. Well, apparently if you go to the National Student Loan Database you can find all this info in a nifty little chart like this one that shows how much you borrowed each year:

It's small but organized and you can get your very own at the Department of Education website (minus the ghost). Anyway, it reminds me that nearly two years after writing the post about still paying off my freshman year of college that I am still, in fact, underwater on my federal student loans. I am going to calculate how long it will be before I am above water but I've already done a lot of math today. It's not like I'm snowballing the loans by year of study since I am paying the highest interest rate first, but still I want to know these milestones.

So here are this month's totals, knocking out over $1200 in debt:

Happy Halloween everyone!

P.S. if you are looking really closely, yes I made a math error in last month's post, which frustrated me all day long as things weren't adding up. I'm working on fixing it now. :-)

Trading Vacation Days for Cash

First: a warning. I know I'm going to sound like a whining whiner who whines, but I realize this and write anyway.

One of the great perks about my job is the generous amount of paid time off I get. And a lot of this time can be carried from year to year and used for a dream vacation, a maternity leave, or cashing out at retirement. I currently have 16 vacation days saved and that's after taking nearly three weeks off for my wedding and honeymoon in July. I accrue a new vacation day every two and a half weeks (or 4 weeks a year to be exact). On top of that I get a week of Personal time come January 1 of the new year. And I have 28 sick days accrued. There's more (overtime) but I'll stop bragging.

Anyway, I've always really appreciate this about my job and the fact that we aren't discouraged from actually using our time like so many Americans apparently are is something I don't take for granted. Sure, time off has to be approved but I've found as long as it's not during our crazy busy time of the year it is usually approved.

So when I got a notice saying that I could exchange 3 vacation days for $500 towards my my share of the health insurance premiums, I had to think about it.

First, I did the math. I make $1861 a pay period pretax. Out of that amount, $110 is taken out pretax towards my health insurance premiums for DH and I. $1861/10 = $186 a day x3 = $558.

Then, I thought, it's not like I'm actually earning more money if I'm working three more days a year for it. In fact, after taxes this will only net me like $10 a year if I consider the extra time worked. And isn't a vacation worth more to me than $10 a year?

I told all this to DH. He said I was using fuzzy math and I should take the money. When I pointed out that I could save up a lot of time for a potential two week African Safari in 2012, he told me there was no safari in our immediate future. :-(

Bubble bursted, I submitted the form to H.R. today.

I still want to go on that safari though, but DH is right that we have other financial goals we need to focus on instead.

Sorry lions.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Budget 10/27 - 11/09

Sometime in the next two weeks my sister will be giving birth and I will become an aunt! Yay! I mean, it's projected to happen soon, but who knows. This is the first sibling of mine to have a child so it's all pretty exciting. This has nothing to do with money really since I've already given plenty of loot to my unborn niece and nephew but I thought I'd mention it. :-)

Although I guess once it happens I may have to hop on a bus if DH can't come with me to visit my family. I'll think about that more in the days to come.

Exciting news - I opened up a new Roth I.R.A. last week. I know as part of my 2010 financial goals I listed maxing out my Roth, but I neglected to mention that I no longer had an active Roth account. Like the impulsive idiot that I was back then, I had opened up an account 5 years ago or so and started putting $50 a month into it. When times got tough, however, I drained all the money. :-(

The good thing about my new Roth account is that I opened it with the same firm my financial adviser works with so I have to actually mail him a check in order to make deposits, thus making it a whole lot harder to withdraw the money in a moment of weakness.

Anyway, with that explanation in mind, here is my projected budget for the next two weeks time:

Starting Balance = $1285

Roth I.R.A. - 500
Perkins Loan - 200
Credit Card - 200
Groceries - 150
Health - 45
Misc. - 190

I doubled my usual payment on the Perkins loan now that the Law School loan is gone.

I'm leaving some flex room in the budget in case I have to pay another doctor's co-pay or buy a bus ticket to see my sister.

Luckily (and not so luckily) Halloween is already taken care of courtesy of the spending spree.

It's pretty doubtful I will be able to come up with the entire $5000 by April 15th to max out my Roth...but I am now 1/10th of the way there so I consider that some progress. :-)

Here's hoping I can pull in some additional income in the next few weeks - more on that later.

Where it Went 10/13 - 10/26

Boo for this budget report. Not fun "boo" as in ghosts and Halloween but boo as in "boo hoo, I''m broke" or "my boo boo costs what?!"

After declaring I was gonna go out and spend some money, well, spend money I did. Then...I had a bit of a health scare, resulting in the following charges:

Urgent Care Center co-pay - $20
E.R. visit co-pay - $70
Prescriptions (including those not related to the health scare) - $20.
Grand Total = $110, which puts my total health care expenses at $180 in the PAST TWO WEEKS if you count the random $30 I owed my OBGYN.

Seriously boo to all of that. The Emergency Room is definitely a spooky place to spend your Saturday. And I don't even know if I will be charged a co-pay for my followup appointment today. Plus I went out and got some OTC things to help with my condition after the appointment. (Note that expenses today don't count towards the budget report, it's just aggravating.)

Anyway, the good news is I'm okay. And really considering opening up a Flex Spending Account since open enrollment season is coming up.

So here's where it went:


Sallie Mae - 407/407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Sprint - 74/74
Health - 60/180
Event Tickets - 60/60
Charity - 30/50
Groceries - 100/100
Clothes - 150/0
Misc. - 144/289

Booooo! Totaling everything up is scary. A lot of the miscellaneous is household stuff as I went on a kick of sprucing up our condo. But reality has set in and I'm done with shopping sprees for now. And I didn't even get any clothes!!!

I was able to earn $50 for consenting to take on another court assignment. I'm excited that these are coming in more frequently now as I definitely enjoyed spending the last $500 I earned. There may be more news in the area of additional income soonish so stay posted.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

State of State Pensions Funds and an Update on Mine

I'm playing catch up on my 2010 goals and finally submitted the paperwork to buy back my pension credits. It wasn't so bad, I had to log into the site, print out the relevant form and mail it (yes snail mail) it back to the state.

The form required me to know my exact starting date at the job at which joining the pension system was optional (which is kinda b.s. because I know for a fact our H.R. director can pull up this info on me in the state's database already). So I called my former employer and got the exact dates.

And I happen to remember my exact salary even though they didn't ask for it. I did the math and 3% of 8 months should cost about $660 (go ahead and do the math backwards and find out my crappy old salary!).

Two weeks later I received a letter in the mail from the retirement system. I'm excited because I think it is going to give me instructions on how to buy the credits (the jury is still out on whether I can pay with pre-tax money). Nope. The letter acknowledged the receipt of my application and stated that they would begin an investigation into my prior service and determine the cost of buying it back. It estimated that this investigation would take five months.

Five months?!! What the heck?! Call up my former employer and ask if I worked there, for how long and how much did I make? Crappy salary/12 = Y x 8 = (Yx8) x 0.03 = $660. I barely survived high school math class and I was still able to figure this out in less than five minutes.

So it looks like this goal may not be achieved within 2010. Oh well, I guess I tried. I usually defend the state when people complain about bureacracy having seen the other side but I cannot even fathom why this inquiry should take so long.

At least New York's pension fund is currently in good shape unlike 11 states whose funds are in danger of running out. I *think* New York's will be okay since they recently enacted some reforms requiring newer (before me!) members to continue their contributions for the entire length of their employment (I only have to contribute for ten years).

But since I'm neither a mind reader nor an economist I am not putting all my retirement eggs in one basket. See more on that (as well as more on my 2010 goals progress) sometime later this week.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Paid Off My Law School Loan!

Only one of them. Don't anybody get too excited! I still have five left to pay off.

I've been waiting to post this for days! As you could tell from my last "where it went" I made an extra big payment to my Law School Loan courtesy of the extra money I was able to earn doing some outside work. After I made the payment I logged into my account for the next couple of days to see when the account would say zero. Instead, I owed $3.11 in accrued interest. And so I paid that and then waited some more. Finally, I am able to share this exciting image:

And as luck would have it, the smallest of my student loans also had the highest interest rate. 8% is wack. I'm SO glad it's gone. This means in addition to paying off the closed credit card account back in April I have lowered my monthly debt obligations by $165 in 2010! Plus I'm about to start saving $35 a month in health care costs, which effectively means I have $200 more a month to work with.

Getting rid of this loan was on both my 2009 AND 2010 resolutions so I'm glad to meet this goal at last. Freedom!

I started paying this loan in November of 2008 and had 60 months to pay it off. By knocking it out in 23 months I saved $286 in interest. That doesn't seem like much but I'll take any victory I can get at this point.
Now time to snowball my Perkins Loan!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Budget 10/13 - 10/26

I've decided to call this budget the "okay fine, I'll admit to buying stuff" version. Instead of trying to spend almost every cent of my paycheck paying off debt and bills, I'm going to let myself plan for some purchases. Hopefully this will actually help the recent credit card problem because I have to use cash to get the things I want and need. Also I'm feeling a little burnt out.

I need new sweaters since, as I mentioned, moths have attacked mine. I need moth balls or moth hangars. I need flat shoes since mine are literally falling apart. I need a new coat. I want better bathroom storage. I could use a Halloween costume.

I'm not going to run out and buy all of those things in the next two weeks but I may buy a few and I"m not going to beat myself up about it. So there.

Here's my very lenient budget for the next two weeks. Most of the money going towards bills of course, but then some for me as well:

Starting Balance = $1285

Sallie Mae - 407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Sprint - 74
Health - 60*
Event Tickets - 60
Charity - 30
Groceries - 100
Clothes - 150
Misc. - 144

*I got a bill from my OB's office stating that I owed them $30 from November of last year. What the heck? This stuff always seems to happen with my doctors - I don't know why they don't bill me during the visit.

Where it Went 9/29 - 10/12

The great news about this budget report is that I was able to bring in $500 in additional income from a court assignment I received. The good news is that I paid off A LOT of debt.

The not so good news is that I also spent more money than I had planned, partly due to the windfall. And the bad news is that I still have a big credit card balance mocking me. I'm just gonna put this out there as I've sort of been evasive about the amount in the past month as I've been trying to attack it: I have $2700 in credit card debt. There I said it. It was actually quite a bit more a month ago. It's "only" at 8.9% interest rate but it's pissing me off and I want it gone as soon as possible.

So without further ado, I will show you how I spent my paycheck plus my windfall the past two weeks:


Credit Card - 700/700
Law School Loan - 200/434
Perkins Loan - 94/94
Health - 65/100
Gift - 60/60
Misc. - 167/180
Beauty - 0/59
Clothes - 0/198

Yeah yeah, I know. It's pretty bad. If I hadn't overpaid the law school loan so much I would have had money for the clothes. AND if I didn't have such a high credit card balance to work off I would have had money for both the loan AND the clothes. I just really wanted to use the windfall towards erasing debt and it did to a certain extent. Look for a big student loan announcement later this week.

Also I showed up at a doctor's appointment to find out that my health insurance decided not to cover my flu vaccination. What the heck? Luckily I think I am going to be able to reduce my prescription co-pays going forward so that will help a bit. It's also open enrollment time for Flex Spending Accounts so I am looking into that as well.

If all goes according to plan, I can have the credit card paid off by the end of the year. Wish me luck!