Monday, January 31, 2011

Monthly Student Loan Debt Roundup

Wow, January flew by. Snow, work, snow, fun, life, snow.

All the while, reducing my student loan balance. As of today, I owe $122,218.97!

Here's hoping 2011 means the end of the Perkins loan! It's getting smaller and smaller!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Budget 1/19 - 2/01

Woo hoo, my paycheck is $16 higher than the even higher paycheck I got last time. Still not sure why they decided to reduce Social Security contributions when they probably need them most, but that's not for me to decide.

And....we booked a trip to Mexico! Mexico here I come, baby! We have a family member's destination wedding to attend, and I'm excited because I've never been South of the Border. To go, however, we need diligent budgeting. Luckily, with this paycheck I should be able to pay the balance of our must-pre-pay room for four nights. We got a suite for a great price! It even has a jacuzzi and was only $20 more a night than a smaller room.

So far we can only afford to go for four days but the airfare may make more sense for us to go for a whole week. Still, we have a few months to figure that all out. Here's my budget with Mexico on my mind:

Starting Balance = $1268

Perkins Loan - 200
Mexico - 630
Credit Card - 200
Health - 85
Misc. - 153

I've already paid $500 towards Mexico today, plus the credit card and the Perkins Loan. The challenge is to not exceed $153 in two weeks of miscellaneous spending. I think I can do it! It will be worth it when I'm on the beach. Also I have $25 in my wallet from last paycheck (hee hee).

Where it Went 1/05 - 1/18

I am happy to report that in addition to joining a new gym, I joined Weight Watchers a little over a week ago and am already seeing positive results.

The ongoing process of getting rid of clutter in my apartment yielded an additional $80 this pay period, which helped subsidize the membership fee (I paid for three months in advance I think). It didn't help all the overspending as I really wanted some household stuff too. The challenge of living in a small space is sometimes you have no place to stash stuff but I hung up some shelves and bought those special space saving hangars (they work!).

In addition to my January charitable donation, I also made a political contribution of $28. Speaking of giving, Nicole over at The Budgeting Babe has also pledged to give to 12 charities in 2011! I've been a fan of her blog for years so I'm excited my post caught her interest.

So that's how the cookie crumbles. Here's how I did compared to the budget I set out two weeks ago:


Sallie Mae - 407/407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260/260
Sprint - 74/74
Credit Card - 200/100
Health - 85/65
Charity - 50/78
Gym - 33/33
Weight Watchers - 0/65
Misc. - 148/227

I plan to post a little more on my weight loss journey and hopefully share some tips that have helped for me. Right now all I can say is track everything you eat and get to the gym as much as possible and you will see results.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

January Charity: The Smile Train

I just made a $50 donation to The Smile Train, which will be enough to cover the medication for one cleft palette surgery. In case you've never heard of The Smile Train, here's a statement from their web site:

Unlike many charities that do many different things, The Smile Train mission is
focused on solving a single problem: cleft lip and palate.
Clefts are a major problem in developing countries where there are millions of children who are suffering with unrepaired clefts. Most cannot eat or speak properly. Aren’t allowed to attend school or hold a job. And face very difficult lives filled
with shame and isolation, pain and heartache.
The good news is every single child with a cleft can be helped with surgery that costs as little as $250 and takes as little as 45 minutes.
This is our mission:
-To provide free cleft surgery for millions of poor children in developing countries.
-To provide free cleft-related training for doctors and medical professionals.
Until there are no more children who need help and we have completely eradicated the problem of clefts.

I admit that I first heard of this charity years ago and felt very moved by what they do. Trying to choose which devastating problem of the world to send your money to is intimidating. I like how they isolated one very fixable problem and really make a profound impact in these children's lives.

Here are pictures of a girl named Angelica from the Phillipines, before and after she received her surgery at two years old. Thanks to donations from people like me, she is able to eat normally and is starting to talk. And what a nice smile she has!

Although I was only able to give a small donation, I still feel like I am helping kids like Angelica out there get the care they need.

And just because you always have to be dilligent when picking a charity, I was pleased to discover that The Smile Train only spends 18% of their budget on fundraising, 1.3% on management and 80.7% on program services.

Click here to like them on Facebook and spread the word about The Smile Train!

Budget 1/05 - 1/18

A new year means a fresh budgeting slate. You may have noticed I took a little hiatus from regular budgeting towards the end of the year. But as the saying goes, "when you fail to plan, you plan to fail." So here's me getting back on track,

Starting Balance - $1252 - even though I opened a Flex Spending Account and my federal taxes went up, my paycheck is only $5 less because the feds (for some illogical reason) decided to take less money out for Social Security.

Sallie Mae - 407
Defaulted Student Loan - 260
Sprint - 74
Credit Card - 200
Health - 85
Charity* - 50
Gym** - 33
Misc. - 148

*My first charity of 2011 will be announced soon!

**I'm rejoining the gym. Call me a Resolution Maker. Just don't call me unmotivated to get fit!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Financial Goals Review

2010 was a year of saving and planning, all resulting in a beautiful (and paid for) wedding. But I managed to accomplish some other goals last year too. Here is my review of the goals I established for myself:

1. Get married without going into debt. Pass (sort of). Okay so we made it to the big day with everything paid off - rings, dress, photographer, flowers, music, transportation and accomodations. This was no small feat and really was a lesson in savings for us both. And then that lesson was briefly ignored on our fabulously unfrugal Hawaiian honeymoon.

2. Increase 457 Fund contributions. - Fail. I did increase my contributions for a while until I decided to focus on the Roth instead and lowered them. Overall, I contributed about 5% of my salary this year to the 457.

3. Max out Roth IRA. In progress but likely fail. I didn't start this goal until October since I was preoccupied with wedding stuff and have only contributed $1000 so far. I still have until April to make 2010 contributions and hope to double that number.

4. Buy back pension credits. Pass! Well I got the ball rolling and in 15 more pay periods I will have paid off my old time - just in time for vesting.

5. Eliminate law school loan. Pass! Finally done after being on my to-do list for two consecutive years.

Challenge: Twelve Charities in 2011

I don't give to charity nearly as much as I could, or as some would say, should. Although the "rule" of giving ten percent of my net income ($5k, yikes!) or 1% of my networth ($0, yay!) sort of gives me an out because I'm in debt, right? Nah, I'm pretty sure the rule is whichever is higher.

In 2010 I think I gave about $200 to charity - and $100 of that wasn't really "charity" so much as it was a donation to my alma mater. This year, I want to give more. Not neccesarily $5k (sorry!) but more, know what I mean? And I want to use the blog to raise awareness of charitable giving.

So I will be picking one charity each month this year and give what I can and encourage others to do so too if they are so inclined. I'll announce the first charity soon, but in the meantime here's a bunch of info on charitable giving from

budget planner –