One of my favorite parts of November so far has got to be that extra hour of sleep. It felt life-changing coming off of a very busy month! I got to see my parents, travelled to Seattle for work, went to New Jersey for a wedding, and capped off the month with Bossed Up Bootcamp here in DC. I’ll be writing more about Bossed Up in a future post when I’ve had a little more time to process my experience, but I can tell you right now that I highly recommend it! I came away better equipped to set goals in a sustainable way and bonded with a group of women who are going to do great things.
Spending-wise, I made it through October with very few unexpected expenses or impulse buys. It was the first month since I started blogging in July where I could actually see myself hitting my debt-free goal of June 24, 2020. It feels like I’ve been building up my strength to take on my loans and this is the first month I’ve been able to throw a punch and fight back. It feels damn good.
Victories (Money I Saved):
- More grocery coupons, this time for Harris Teeter. We used 3 $10 of a purchase of $50 or more. Total Savings: $30 off our monthly grocery bill.
- This is more of a “money I made”, but I sold some old books to Amazon and Textbooks.com. Total Made: $110.26. We used the Amazon credit to stock up on household supplies and toiletries.
- We decided to challenge ourselves to cut back on our beer and wine consumption this month. This was a tough one because I love sampling new beers, but the guilt I feel at the end of the month when going over the budget isn’t worth it right now. We typically buy a six-pack every week, at an average of $16 a pop. We only purchased two six-packs in October. Total Savings: An estimated $32.
Defeats (Money I Had to Spend):
- Remember those books I sold? I dropped them off at the UPS store and had to pay for packing supplies. Total Spent: $21.00
Draws (Money I Chose to Spend):
- I really want to visit my family for the holidays, but flights are $$$. I decided to dip my toes into credit card churning (aka travel hacking) to see if I could rack up enough points to cover a flight home. I needed to meet the minimum spending threshold of $4,000 by November 9th to get the points in time to book a flight. My monthly expenses don’t come close to $4,000, so I did some manufactured spending to meet the threshold. I purchased 4 $500 Visa gift cards with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card and then used an online bill paying service to pay off the credit card bill using said gift cards. Total Spent on gift card and bill pay fees: $64 (Not ideal, but much cheaper than a flight to Colorado!)
Student Loan Payment for October: $440!
Not only did I surpass October’s goal of $375, but I got a small bit of good news in the process. Because I made a payment within 120 days of borrowing (I last borrowed in August for the Fall 2017 semester), that payment will be processed as a refund. This means that the $355.34 I was throwing at the accrued interest on my Stafford Loans will instead reduce the principal balance and any interest charged on my payment amount will be returned. This will be helpful both financially and psychologically. Nothing feels more futile than making payments that do nothing to reduce the amount that you originally borrowed. Because I will also need to borrow for the spring semester, each payment I make on the Staffords over the next few months will be processed as a refund.
Goal for November: $500. I’ve cut my expenses quite a bit this month. I’m slowly breaking spending habits I can’t afford and choosing to treat myself to a debt-free life instead. This is where it gets tricky, though. I have room to cut my expenses a little bit further by eliminating things like alcohol, but I think $500 will be my maximum ceiling without growing my income. I negotiated a 12.5% raise and title bump in July 2017 so I don’t see my income at my current job growing within the next few months. I also don’t think I’ll be able to take on a side hustle while still in graduate school. I would rather dedicate my time to finishing strong than putting school on the back burner to pay for…school. Seems counterproductive. So no solutions yet, just something I’m aware of and thinking about.
Remaining Student Loan Debt:
Projected (for Spring 2018): $7,574*
Accrued Interest: $2,061.56
Graduate PLUS Loans:
Accrued Interest: $11.25
Grand Total: $70,201.40
I’m very proud of the progress I made in October. Small behavior changes, like cutting back on beer drinking are beginning to feel less like I’m depriving myself of something and more like I’m taking myself and my dreams seriously. I have more or less plateaued when it comes to cutting expenses. Graduate school is my current side hustle so growing my income may need to wait for a bit. I get a lot of anxiety seeing that accrued interest creep up, but you know what? I’m making payments! Got to start somewhere. November brings a couple big work and school deadlines, to which the cup of coffee I’m drinking right now says “Bring it on!”. The rest of me is much more ready for Thanksgiving to bring it so I can eat all of the food. See you on the other side of a food coma!
*I’ve made the choice to begin paying off my loans with the understanding that I still have Spring 2018’s tuition to pay. While I could put aside the money I’m paying off now for my future tuition, the dent would be small and I would need to borrow no matter what. And I’m not sure that I trust myself to save that money and actually use it for future tuition.