Debt & Friendships

So one of my friends told me he has $30k in credit card debt. This is the same one who recently financed close to $30k for a new car and has a TCO of almost $1600/mo. He makes a good chunk more than I do annually but wow. Considering the average credit card is about 13% interest, he’s paying close to $4k in interest each year. My friend also tends to spend rather extravagantly compared to my $10-25 dinners out.

I value our friendship, but it makes for an interesting point.

Don’t take money advice from broke people. Especially if they’re going further into debt to impress people they don’t like. Don’t take fitness advice from fat people. They may be good intentioned but the fact that they haven’t been able to make the plan work for them is proof that maybe they aren’t the people to go to for sound advice.

Started cutting back some carbs in my diet yesterday. Eating a whole sweet potato instead of the 1.5-2 servings of oatmeal/cereal I would normally have because it never really filled me up. Understanding more and more that all calories aren’t created equal. And certain foods have way more calories than I would’ve ever imagined. My ‘Wheat Belly’ has really made me start thinking about the impact of what I eat on my body.

Off to go enjoy the outdoors now…

iPhone 6 – Yes I Pre-Ordered One

Flashback to 2012, I purchased the then-new iPhone 5. Why did I upgrade?

  • The device was able to store twice the amount of files as my iPhone 4. 16gb vs 8. Was running into issues not being able to keep enough of my music files on it.
  • Crack-prone. Broke the screen on it twice. Once while taking my bag out of the trunk on the way to work. Again while at a bar, tipsy and a friend slapped it out of my hand.
  • Slow – Moving from single core to dual core. iPhone 5 was and still feels way more responsive than the old phone. It’s rare the the 5 slows down other than when I’m running out of space.
  • Screen size – Bigger is better when trying to fit a lot of information into such a small form factor as a phone. As long as it still is the size of a phone and not an iPad.

What are my reasons for wanting to upgrade this time?

  • Size of screen. A slight bump up would be nice. A friend of mine has a 5.2″ phone and I thought that was too big. How can you sit down with form-hugging dress pants, have that huge bulge in your pocket and act like it isn’t bothersome. Even worse with a case… So no Plus for me.
  • Timing – I have an unlimited grandfathered plan with at&t. The phone I picked out, the 64gb $299 plus a $40 activation fee. My old phone should get close to $180 from Gazelle. I can tolerate an extra $150 for a phone. Buying the phone I want out of pocket from T-Mobile would be $749.91 vs $299 for a 2 year contract. Then the 5gb plan (equiv of my ‘unlimited’) would be $70/mo plus ~20% in fees / taxes. So round that to $84. I pay $87 now. Not a huge amount of savings. $Also 450 over 2 years is an additional $18.75 a month extra.
  • Newness – I use my phone probably over $100 times a day each and every day. I got the battery replaced for free recently as part of a recall program. I would like something more cutting edge and able to use more modern technologies like H.265 encoding / decoding. The Pay system I’m not so jazzed about. Just because it takes out the process of consciously thinking about payment decisions. A beep and cha ching your account is debited. I use this with one of my credit cards and it can be scary. One could argue the phone is actually safer than that. A malicious person couldn’t just beep your phone and have your credit card number.
  • Camera – I take a lot of pictures with my phone. Better image quality is a huge plus. The 5S was already much improved. The 6 offers some nice touches that will make it easier to take great pics and video.

Other than that I didn’t really need a new phone. It’s definitely a want and most of the things I’ve been complaining about are ‘first-world problems’. Think we’re all guilty, I see folks make the biggest deal out of the smallest issue and I just want to tell them to get a grip…

Last but not least the world / internet can be a vile place. I won’t go into detail, but it sickens me how some can profit off violence or exposing people in the worst possible manner. Some things cannot be unseen… A certain level of ignorance does bring about bliss.

Month 29 Update – Sallie Mae – 28,473.08 NMAC – $16,482.84 Total = 44,955.92

Making progress:

Down to $28,473.08 on Sallie Mae. Last month I was at 29,377.51. I will be under 28k in no time at all. I may not make my target of paying this off before my 33rd birthday, but I am ramping things up quite a bit. Thanks heavily to the budget my bf and a friend helped me put together. I know it’s irony that two people who don’t have blogs about getting out of debt helped me stay on path.

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I got a bonus at work this week. I wasn’t expecting much, but including my retirement contribution over it was a couple hundred more than I had otherwise so not complaining. My bf also got his bonus and wrote me a check out for $1000 (415 went toward home repairs) toward my debt pay down efforts / long term savings. He didn’t have to do that and I’m quite appreciative. For September staying on target for the $1k toward Sallie Mae goal I set some months back. Might go over actually. If I paid $452 for the month, then add $500 I was given plus $500 extra I intended to pay anyway.

Month 29  Auto Loan Update - Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation

Month 29 Auto Loan Update – Nissan Motor Acceptance Corporation

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The idea of having debt outside the mortgage until 2019 is quite unsettling. Even though it’s 0%, if I were to lose my job tomorrow I’d still owe that money to NMAC.

Also want to cover my retirement as of now:

$4206 in my 401k
$445 in Roth

$4651 total. 14 months ago I didn’t have a penny in retirement. I differ with Dave Ramsey’s philosophy of not putting any money toward retirement when paying off debt. Especially if you waited until your 30s (or later) like me to start the process going. You can’t turn back the years or offset a company match you might have made. I’m still paying extra toward it.

Earlier this month I had this strong desire to get a fancy road bike saying I work hard and deserve it. The one I wanted was about $500. It was also Labor Day so sales were in full effect. I talked myself out of it after getting the electricity bill in the mail and remembering I already have both a road bike and a mountain bike. I also tend not to ride when it’s above 90 degrees. These numbers need to keep going down, not up…

Therapy

I started seeing a therapist to address issues I’ve been having with Social Anxiety and some depression.
She charged $125 for our first visit, each one thereafter is $100. A little expensive yes but I think it’s worth it. I was in denial for the longest time.
What I haven’t mentioned on this blog is that I’ve spend over a year looking for friends online and the past 3 trying to make friends in general (with mixed luck).

Labor day weekend was particularly hard for me. One part because my mouth has been hurting and two because I felt such an intense feeling of loneliness. I laid in bed most of the day yesterday, only going out to walk the dog. On social media I saw friends post pictures having fun on the water, at barbecues, etc. I was wallowing in misery inside the house wishing someone would just ask me to do anything.

Today was much better though. Got a decent amount of sleep. Actually took a lunch break at work. Immediately after work I walked / sprinted 3.67 miles for an hour at a pace of 16:21 min/mi. Then I went shopping at Tom Thumb. Boyfriend made some delish matzo ball soup.

Last week our plumber came and fixed the downstairs shower. $250 later you can actually take a shower in warm water instead of ice cold. Bf wants to redo our bathroom upstairs and to do that we need one functional bathroom. Tomorrow a new handyman is supposed to take a look at some work we need done to the house. Minor work, like fixing doors that don’t close all the way, hanging closet that is dangling from the wall and sliding closet doors that don’t actually slide but instead get stuck and frustrate the hell out of me when all I wanted to do was pick out a pair of pants…

The old handyman I tried to have come by on two different occasions and no followup on his end. On top of that, the work he did to fix our showers didn’t hold up. So money down the drain figuratively speaking. Hopefully the local guy I found online is better.

So I’ve learned a few things about myself the last week:

  1. I have to take a break at work. If I don’t, I feel like I’m losing my sanity. Start to tread work and literally feel like a slave to money / the job.
  2. Plan things with friends. Things don’t happen with a plan for me. They used to, but not here. Not with early-stage friendships.
  3. I don’t like being alone. While I am introverted, the feeling of being by myself really takes a toll after a while. Especially on the weekends. I dreaded the weekends / not going into work for the longest time because of that.
  4. I need exercise. Without even maintaining my health, I start to feel down pretty quick.
  5. I don’t need to eat meat all the time. Could go 85% vegetarian and not really care. It can be significantly cheaper as well depending on how you plan it. Not to mention I feel more energetic without having to digest a huge portion of meat.

That’s my random post of the day. Hope you enjoyed. :P

Month 28 Update – Sallie Mae: $29,377.51 Car: 16,762.21 Total: 46139.72

The last month I started doing what Dave Ramsey refers to as a Zero-Balance Based Budget. Every dollar gets a name. My bf does a lot of number crunching in Excel as part of his job. I do too but not nearly as much. A few months consecutively I’ve always had more month than money. I thought I had all the answers. There are some nasty habits I was getting into.

Amazon.com shopping – I love shopping on Amazon and get some really good deals. However some of my purchases were non-essential and I would spend $400-500 or so over the course of a month on things that were nice. Since July 24th I haven’t made any purchases on Amazon. 

Credit Card – I fell into the trap of thinking because it’s earning points I should put every single item I want to purchase on the card. The problem is it’s ridiculously easy to underestimate purchases and make a silly justification about the points. My Chase Freedom card gives me cashback (right now it’s 5% back on gas plus the always-on 1% offer). My big bills I’ll put on the card but small things like food, movie tickets, it’s not really saving me much.

So here is what I came up with for a two weeks budget:

      Subtotal
Zero-Based Budget Starting Balance 1600  
  Credit Card -924.67 675.33
  Roth IRA -40 635.33
  “Nothing” -150 485.33
  Check from bf for a/c 250 735.33
  Sallie Mae -453 282.33
  Groceries -100 182.33
  Car Payment -150 32.33
  Haircut -15 -165
  Emergency Fund -50 -65
  Gas -40 -90
       

So you may see the a/c is on there. We had company over the other weekend and they were complaining that it wasn’t getting cold enough inside. I was in denial for a bit, then decided to call in to report it. The technician came to the house while I was at work and replaced the capacitor in the unit. I came home and it was working fine. Did a double take on what he actually did to fix it. $275 and my bf game me $250 back. Could’ve been worse, had the compressor gone on the unit it would run over $3k.

Onto my budget, my $280 car payment is due the 14th of the month and I have $450 set aside in that account right now. Really loving the car right now, gets 30mpg in mixed driving and provides a nice sporty / cushy ride. Doing good on my grocery budget, can’t buy pistachios, walnuts, kale chips or anything like that at $7+ a pop but I manage pretty well without it. My credit card balance will be zero again after my next payment for the electricity / car fill-up. It was -$5 2 days ago and now $235 because of $158 utility bill, gasoline and some other small things.

Off to bed now, still working on the $1k emergency fund. I have it for 5 seconds then a bill comes up or I want to pay them down. Got a smaller raise than I hoped, but good feedback from my boss.

Staying the Course – A Tale of Money & Things

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When I bought my car, I pulled a Bruce Hornsby, said to myself..There are Gonna Be Some Changes made. For anyone born after 1990, here’s the video.

So some of the changes:

  • Only ate out once this week, lunch and dinner included. Went out with a friend, spent $10.82 for dinner. Feel healthier since I eat salad at least once a day and have a ton less guilt. Do need to go food shopping soon though. Savings: Lunch – $40/wk Dinner – $80/week (some weeks it’s more but being conservative)  = $480/mo combined. Still leaving room to eat out on weekends, or go out occasionally and be frugal. 
  • Using Toll Road sparingly. I use a combination of the George Bush Tollway and Dallas North Tollway to get to work in the morning. It it $1.25 each way, I typically only take it to work in the morning and take the side roads back. Due to less overall traffic I end up losing less than 5 minutes commute time. Savings = 6.25/wk $25/mo
  • Strongly considering getting rid of one of the DVRs. There are 2 of us and 3 tvs. The tv in one of my rooms is only used about once a month. My Chromecast or computer can be used to watch video on it. Savings = $8/mo
  • Spotify – It’s $10/mo and causes me to go over the 5Gb of ‘unlimited’ data usage on my phone every single month without exception. XM Radio subscription in car is good for 3 months. I could sign up online but have read horrible things about SiriusXM’s customer service. It is integrated with my car’s stereo, but not sure I’d rather stream or do FM radio..
  • Cancelled Apple Developer Membership. I’d love to be a developer, but I lack the free time to reach the level of knowledge required to become one. There are also plenty of free courses online that I can use to get familiar with the basics, then reassess. Savings = $99/yr 8.25/mo.

All in all that’s about $530 in savings. Just need to make these changes now, less deliberation, more doing. That’s the Home Depot way. Ok I swear I haven’t lost it..

Talked to my friend who bought a fancy coupe recently. I was literally blown away by what he told me. His car gets 20mpg and his drive to and back from work is 30 miles each way plus an additional 250 miles a week in personal travel. So about 100/wk in gas He pays $100/mo in tolls, car payment is $600/mo. Total overhead (insurance, gas, tolls, car note) for his car is $1600/mo, not including depreciation or maintenance. Already in 3 months he put 10k in mileage on a brand new car.  He tried to trade it in upon realizing what a huge financial mistake he made but would only get half of what it was sold for. I couldn’t offer much words of wisdom and it wasn’t the right time / place for I told you so.

Moral of the story is sometimes people have fancy things but a whole lot of stress to keep those things. I could’ve made a similar decision to get a fancy sports car that wasn’t great on gas and not so practical for carrying passengers. Also my new car purchase didn’t boost my overhead much. Insurance went up $5 for 6 months and my payment is under 10% of my net income.

Suze Orman was right: People First, Then Money, Then Things, Now You Stay Safe. People meaning yourself because at the end of the day you are your biggest supporter or biggest enemy to financial security.

Month 27 Update – Sallie Mae: 29,719.74 Car: 16,762.21 Total: 46,481.95

IMG_5264 IMG_5257 IMG_5229 IMG_5004 IMG_5174So as I mentioned in the last post, I now have an automobile loan. The current balance is 16,762.21 at 0% and the payments are 280/month. Next payment isn’t due until 8/14 which is almost a week after my 31st birthday. As a proactive measure I am putting $75/week a separate savings account.

 

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Cutting back my student loan payment of $1,000 / month to $720 / month. I may be getting a raise next month. Assuming I receive it, my estimate is $30 / week, $137 / month $1650 a year. So that and eating out less at work ($40/wk savings) I may not have to cut back on paying things down as much as I think.

Have some household expenses coming up over the next few months that we are not looking forward to.

  • Plumbing work. The pipe running from house to the main line on the street has tree branches growing through it. This has resulted in sewage being backed up into our downstairs shower about 5 or 6 times now. We are working with a plumber to get it repaired who said the cost could run as high as $5k. He later mentioned the city would do the work for free. I e-mailed him asking him what I should tell them, went to the city and they basically said that the expense would fall on the homeowner. E-mailed my plumber back and am still waiting for an answer. Our downstairs shower also won’t get hot. It was working at one point, most likely due to a washer or bracket of some sort, but not any longer.
  • Shower – Both bf and I want a new shower. The upstairs one has mold growing in the crevices, no matter how much we clean it. Also the tub is showing wear. No idea how old both are but my gut tells me at least 20 years. I’d guess around $10k for the job.
  • Driveway – Roots pushing up on the driveway from the two trees in the front of the house. The driveway is sticking up a few inches. Have contacted the homeowners association for advice on both issues. They have been of very little assistance. Guess I shouldn’t expect a whole lot more for $99 / month. I expect this will run around $2k.
  • Dining Room – Dining room table is shot, it’s at least 8 years old and has travelled across the country. We checked out some new furniture at Haverty’s & Freed’s Furniture. This will happen around Labor Day as the sales get more competitive.

So here is an update on the Sallie Mae situation. Making progress. Want to keep it going at the same rate I have been for the last year. Momentum is power. I think worst situation is it takes me an extra year to pay things off.

 

Our cruise trip was amazing. 7 days, got to experience Roatan, Honduras, Belize City and Cozumel Mexico. A much needed break from the 8:30-5:30 shift I was working on too little sleep, and self-imposted lack of taking breaks. Too much of that cycle just made me miserable with life in general. Didn’t have the energy to go workout, to socialize, to cook diner. Just ended up feeling like a slave to work. I realize we all have crises to deal with, but making time for yourself is essential.

Here are a couple of pictures. Before this, I never left the US and was afraid of travelling. Now I’m starting to fall in love with the experience, minus the stresses of flying or dealing with unforseen occurrances.

So I bought a new car?

The New Car Purchase

Come the end of June I was faced with a dilemma. A dilemma that everyone who owns a car faces at some point in time. Do I keep my aging vehicle with unforseen maintenance costs or replace it with something newer.

I did a rundown of the costs for keeping my 2008.

I took a considerable amount of time  something newer or get a new / newer one.

Spark Plugs $150.00
Tires $400.00
Struts (Front, Rear and Alignment) $1064.23
Total $1614.23

 

KBB Value for the 2008 was about $9200, with an annual depreciation of $500 per year and additional losses as mileage increases. Once over 100k miles the resale value plummets around 16% / $1500 compared to current day. After 6 1/2 years, a squeaky brake pedal, rattles, a bunch of scratches, a bumpy ride, no Bluetooth and mediocre 25mpg MPG. So I started doing research. I was very close to getting Mazda 3 hatchback, but the lack of incentives, distance of the dealerships from my home and road noise were all concerns. Our Honda Accord is not much fun to drive, KIAs aren’t built well, Toyota reminds me of old people, I don’t trust GM, VW reliability is still sub-par and the premium makes are either bad on gas or I can’t afford them. So I decided to get a newer version of the vehicle I owned.

Spoke about it with my boyfriend, told him and the dealership the trade-in value would heavily influence my decision to buy or get car fixed. In 2008 I traded my 2003 model for $6000 and saw the car online for $10k. All because of timing and letting emotions grab the best of me.

This time things would be different. I wasn’t going to get screwed over by a dealership. Here are some of the things I did:

1. I chose the last day of the month and last day of the quarter to buy. This gave me the greatest amount of negotiating leverage

2. I picked last years model year. 2014 vs 2015. The ’15s are almost identical yet a few thousand more. The car I bought is one of the best MPG non-hybrids for its class.

3. I researched the dealership. It had the best reviews in the DFW area. I was satisfied with the experience. Was probably the lowest amount of stress I have ever experienced. Some of the tactics dealers pull are downright offensive and unethical.

4. Got a price quote from edmunds.com before I went in the door.

5. Negotiated to get the 0% off and have dealer go up on the price $1000 instead of the $1500 that I would have lost.

6. Made sure I got a good deal on my trade. $9000 plus the savings from not having to pay sales tax. This exceeded my expectations and lowered the amount of what I financed significantly.

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I love the way the car drives and handles. I can see myself keeping it 7 years. Didn’t buy an extended warranty on it yet, but have 3 years to make that decision.  I didn’t really want to buy a new car, but think now was as good a time as any to do it. Will post more but that’s my quick update.

Was talking with my friend who bought a new Hyundai this year and his payment is $600/mo. I don’t know what the interest rate is, but he got less than half what I did for his car at trade-in and paid close to 8k more. The car has great performance but the passenger’s legs almost get crushed in the backseat. Guess I’m not a fan of coupes…. :)

Month 26 Update – $30,610.82

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Broke the $31k barrier. This marks about a third of my original balance which included credit cards and student loans. Hate interest too if you haven’t figured that one out. Over $100 each month of what I pay is taking away from the principal payment…

Wasn’t able to pay as much this month as usual due to a series of different bills. Went to a wedding last month in Tampa. Had an great time staying in St. Petersburg. Great restaurants, perfect weather, hotel was mostly nice. The A/C died the last night we were there and the water pressure in the shower was lacking. Rented a Kia Optima car from Budget. Not a car I would recommend. Throttle very jumpy and handling not very good. It was 109.63 total for 3 days courtesy of my Costco discount and some coupons.  My roundtrip flight and hotel were 667.29 which I incurred in March.

Recently found out that as of August my employer will match my 401k contributions up to 6% of my income. There is some 2% retirement plan investment thing I think I’m enrolled in automatically but haven’t looked at that yet. So I have over $2900 in my 401k and up to $200 in my Roth.

So onto the picture below. Plumbing issues again in the house. The root cause I believe is due to someone flushing down a wipe in the toilet. Last time we had this issue I needed to call a plumber and pay close to $300 for the emergency visit. I hate spending money for no reason so I looked up a video on YouTube how to do it and drove down to my nearby Home Depot. The guy there was very helpful in explaining how to use the machine. After a few mosquito bites and lots of sweat in 90° F weather everything was done. Water flowing, toilet draining and only $50 out of pocket.

 

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After looking at some homes (just past the 2 year anniversary in ours), we decided not to pursue further. Seems like a whole lot of work for a place we aren’t super passionate about moving. Higher taxes, more commute time, less sq footage, difficulties in parking, having to cancel contracts and all that jazz.

Going on a cruise soon, my very first one. Looking forward to the experience. I need a vacation from my vacations. It’s usually been going somewhere for someone else (weddings, family, etc), but less so for us as a couple.

Boyfriend Getting It?

So let me start out this post by going to the recent past…When we first moved to the DFW area we were in temporary housing for a month. His employer paid for it and we weren’t really sure where we were going to be moving. Ultimately we chose a 3rd floor 2br/2ba apartment in a relatively happening part of town that was about $1300 a month.

About 11 months later we moved into a townhouse (where we are currently), with a 30 year mortgage in a very very quiet community. Most of the neighbors are retired or pretty close to it. The commute is about 10 miles from my job each way which is super reasonable. The mortgage is a 30 year and we put down much less than 20% through FHA program. Monthly mortgage payment is about $1000 which includes PMI and HOAs are 99/mo. Our closing amount was about $142k

A few days ago our realtor contacted us and said our home could sell for around $170k and she has two buyers. The place needs some work and there is usually some negotiation so I figure that number will be closer to 160. My fear is that if we stay here the cost of repairs will start to get high for a place we like but aren’t totally in love with. Still quite an improvement over the course of 2 years. Much to my surprise, bf wants to move own in size to a 2 bedroom slightly more south. The money used from the sale plus equity to date would go toward the 20% down on a different property and we would move from a  30 year to a 15 year mortgage.

A year ago he was looking at homes over $220k with much higher taxes but now looking at $150k and lower. Maybe my watching Suze Orman every week and telling him how much I want to be out of debt is starting to sink in? He also has been traveling a lot lately and doesn’t want to be house poor. Will see how this all pans out. Could be huge or things could fall through at the last minute.

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