Tag Archives: money

No One Tell The Student Loan Company

1 Feb

I logged into to my student loan account page this morning, prepared to do battle. I had my paychecks from January, my carefully planned out February budget, and I was ready to present my meager $200 offering to the interest gods.

Then I noticed something strange. My loan balance wasn’t what I expected it to be. On January 6th, it had been $73,333.05. I had paid $200, which I expected to just about cover the monthly interest.

Today, my balance is $69,140.73. I have no idea where the extra $4k credit came from, but for the love of interest forgiveness, no one tell the student loan company about this.

In other financial news, I’m almost done paying off a credit card bill. I’ve been working on this balance for about a year now, ever since the Great Tax Miscalculation of 2013 (still bitter about this one.) I expect to pay the last bit off next month. It’ll never have a $0 balance, as I use the card for business travel as well as personal use, but at least it won’t be my own spending driving up the balance.

After that’s done, I get to move on to paying off a medical bill. This one stemmed from my vertigo testing in the second half of 2013, and it has been a pain in the you-know-where to deal with. My insurance company and the billing department can’t agree on who owes what, and I’ve had very tense calls with both. If they can’t sort themselves out by March (& find the $167 in payments they lost track of), they’re going to hate me even more than they do now, because I’ll have that much more time to sit on the phone with them, reading them back the terms of their contracts.

If there’s one piece of advice I can offer, it’s always read the entire contract. You never know when you’ll need to close a loophole into a noose to get someone to honor the terms.

Once these two bills are gone, I’ll be back on track with paying off my student loans. However, if this $4k mystery credit stands, I’ll only be $1100 off my goal for all of 2014.

Seriously, no one tell the student loan company.

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On Buying The Couch

27 Dec

I bought a couch today. This is blog-worthy as it’s the first piece of furniture I’ve purchased on my own, and also because couch-buying turned out to be more of an adventure than I expected.

I’ve been in the market for a new couch for about six months now. The old one is still functional (doubly so in fact, as it’s a sleeper sofa), but it’s second hand and has seen more than it’s fair share of bodies, both human and animal. It’s also small, and the only couch I own. It was time to go for something newer, bigger, and just generally more conducive to having more than one friend over at a time.

Cue the planning stage. There was the financial planning, which was easy enough. I added a line item on my budget to save a little bit each month. A bonus from work helped greatly in this area. I was aiming for the $500 range, which my research said would allow me to get a nice non-leather (because of rabbits. Or actually, because of just one rabbit who loves to chew leather) sofa that could accommodate 2-3 of my friends, depending on how much we liked each other at the time.

There was also the spacial planning. Anyone who has heard me tell the story of the time I slammed my thumb in a drawer in front of the district manager knows that I have issues in this area. (Read The Bureaucracy Strikes Back if you want to hear that story, and also find out why I’m not allowed to fill out accident reports anymore.) I can visualize what I want a room to look like, but furniture always seems to grow or shrink in size in my imagination, resulting in rooms that don’t work nearly as well in reality.

My plan was to move the old couch into the office to turn it into a guest room/library. In my head, the furniture already in there could easily move to allow for the 73-inch wide couch.

I was wrong. Very wrong.

Not only would the couch not fit, I had forgotten that the chosen wall for said couch turns about 20 degrees halfway along it. The couch also wouldn’t fit along the opposite wall, which is split by a 4-inch recess. This left me with one wall, which would have been fine, except for the sleeper sofa part. The couch couldn’t sit in the corner and still be extended into a bed, due to the aforementioned wall angle, but offsetting the couch meant the desk would not longer fit in the opposite corner. On top of all of this, three side tables and a bookcase needed to be removed from the office altogether.

Like I said, I have definite spacial processing issues.

After several hours of organizing and staring blankly at walls which refused to move to suit my whims, I managed to clear off the one bookcase and all three side tables. Even more amazing, all that stuff fit nicely onto the other two bookcases left in the room.

Once I got the couch into place, I realized that I could reduce the amount of space in the room blocked off from the rabbit (who likes chewing cables almost as much as leather) and allow her access to the rest of the room.

Cue one very confused rabbit, who nonetheless has already claimed the spot under the table as her own.

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With the rearranging done, it was time to literally fill the space with something new. I called my mom and invited her on a shopping trip. She agreed, probably because she didn’t really know what she was getting into with me, and off we went.

The first store was a bust. None of the couches had the proper squishy-cushion-to-price ratio, and there was another couch-tester in the store. It’s hard to properly determine a sofa’s cushiness when there’s someone over your shoulder waiting their turn to have a seat.

The second and third stores were also busts, and I mean that somewhat literally, as both were closing. One store was moving to another location and had 4 ovens and 3 increasingly sad looking mismatched recliners left. The other looked to have a promising couch, but had closed forever a few days before. That took care of the discount stores in town. It was off to the retail chains for us.

After lunch, of course. That wasn’t part of the original plan, but to grossly paraphrase Ghostbusters: when your mother asks you if you’d like to go to lunch, you say yes.

We next found ourselves at a big-name furniture store, mainly because it was across the street from the cafe. And there, tucked into the back left corner of the showroom, I found it. The couch with the perfect squishy-cushion-to-price ratio, in the right color, and in the right size. It was comfy, it was large, it matched my existing decor, and it was under my $500 budget. By $1, but hey, under is under.

Cue the salesman working on commission. After informing me that there was no flex room in the price, he gave me a delivery charge estimate. I’d forgotten to factor delivery into my budget, so there was a bit of an awkward pause while I mentally recalculated my available funds. Seeing my hesitation, the salesman launched into his “interest-free financing until 2015″ spiel. This led to my spiel about why I don’t finance anything (short version- so I can’t lose anything if the bottom falls out of my employment), and a slightly more awkward walk to the register for all of us.

Over the course of checking out, the salesman and I repeated ourselves a few more times, as he tried to sell me on various extras and I insisted that a stain treatment, no matter how cool, would not make an extra $70 appear in my bank account. Throughout it all, my mom sat on an oddly-stitched leather sofa and watched. I arranged for delivery, completed the transaction, and got a high-five from mom for being only $4.53 over budget.

As we left the store, I thanked my mom for coming with me. She responded with, “I feel like I didn’t really do anything. You were making all really good choices.”

You guys, receiving that validation was better than finding the perfect couch within my budget.

Also, the couch will be here on Thursday.

7 Books Til Christmas

12 Dec

Ah, Christmas time. The month of the year when it is not only acceptable but encouraged to eat as much delicious junk food as possible. This tradition used to bring me a lot of joy. Now, as a gluten-free person, it brings me a lot of terror. Homemade Christmas cookies are a minefield of potential allergens, while the non-gluten-free assure me that, “it’s ok to cheat a little. It’s the Holidays, after all.”

My only salvation is the advent calendar, especially the cheap ones they sell at department stores for a few bucks. Made with some obscure chocolate brand from a land where they’ve never heard of wheat, barley, or rye, these slim cardboard boxes come embossed with my favorite design in the world- a gold circle with the letters GF inside. Certified Gluten-Free. It takes a lot of self-control to limit myself to a socially acceptable number of calendars for one person (it’s still 5, right?) when the fear of reaction has been removed.

This year, I have no advent calendar of chocolate. Instead, my advent calendar is decidedly less edible (at least in a conventional sense). This year, my advent calendar is made of books.

As most of you may know, I have a very bad habit of buying more books than I can read, leaving me with an ever-growing To Be Read pile. As some of you may know, this has expanded from a pile to an entire bookcase. The population usually hovers around 36, with new books being added as soon as one or two disappear. Right now, it is at a record low of 25 books. With the coming of Christmas, the shelf is only guaranteed to grow more.

So, I’ve decided enough is enough. The Tsundoku (a wonderful word meaning the act of buying a book and leaving it unread) bookcase must be vanquished, or at least partially vanquished. There are nine cubbies on the shelf. 5 of them currently hold books. My goal is to get it down to 3 cubbies by Christmas, for a total of 18 books or less left on the shelf. This means reading 7 books in 13 days.

Side note- this is a decidedly more fun goal than paying off student loans. Why didn’t I buy 60,000 books instead of going to grad school? I’d very happily spend ten years paying off that debt.

The list of books to be read by Christmas is below. You can also follow my progress on GoodReads, which is a great site for readers if you’re not familiar with it. My username is Kaedance. Look for the “Advent Calendar” shelf. Then feel free to look at the “to-read” shelf and laugh at my inability to stop buying books.

To Be Read By Christmas:

Alice In The Country Of Hearts, Volume 1 by QuinRose & Soumei Hoshino
The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
Vacations From Hell by Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Claudia Gray, Maureen Johnson, and Sarah Mlynowski
Pet Robots by Scott Christian Sava, Diego Jourdan, and Villagran Studios
Peter & Max by Bill Willingham
Megatokyo Volume 1 by Fred Gallagher & Rodney Caston
Eclipse One, edited by Jonathan Strahan

Three of these are novels, three are graphic novels, and one is a collection of short stories. All of them have been on my shelf for more than 6 months, and some of them have been there for over 18 months. Hopefully, they’ll all soon be promoted to one of the “read” bookcases.

With that, I’m off to read. I mean, I’m off to work. And then read. No reading books at work. I’ve never tested it, but I feel it’s probably discouraged in favor of reading spreadsheets and reports.

Gotta make money so I can buy more books.

Starting Over

4 Dec

Well, it finally happened.  They found me.

The graduate student loan company.

My Income-Based Repayment plan for my Master’s degree came due in November.  This meant I had to drag out my 2012 tax information and reapply. (Boy are there some bad memories associated with that pile of paperwork. The HR company that handles my paychecks made a clerical error that led to a $4,000 tax bill.  I’m still not over this.  I actually Googled how much a kidney sells for these days.)

The good news is that I made more in 2012 than I did in 2011.  The bad news is that the loan company took that as a sign that I could start sending them money. $158 each month, to be exact.

So, after a year off of student loan payments, I’m back on the treadmill of never-ending interest.  My current loan balance is $73,296.75.  My initial loan amount was for $60,000.  We’re not here to get into the bad financial decisions that led to that initial amount, but yeah.  2009 wasn’t my best financial year.

Fun fact- students pursuing a degree in a medical field are allowed to borrow over the legal student loan limit.  Funner fact- students can override the legal student loan limit with one click on an online survey. One click. By a 22 year old kid. Suddenly the student loan crisis makes a lot more sense, huh?

Anyway, my goal is to pay off these loans by the end of 2020. (My current balance is 6 times higher than my undergrad balance, therefore I get 6 extra years.) There’s also a failsafe built into this plan- since my loans were issued after 2007, any remaining balance can be forgiven after 120 consecutive minimum payments. If I don’t make it by 2020, at least I know the loans will be gone by 2024.

Rather than go all out like I did in 2011, I’ve decided to set yearly goals. After all, this repayment is going to be a marathon, not a 12-month sprint. So, for my goal for 2014 will be to get the balance under $68,000.  For those that hate math, that means a monthly payment of $458 per month, for a total of $5,493.87 to be paid by the end of 2014.

You guys ready to dive back into the agnst-inducing world of student loan monthly payments?  The posts will be just as weird as 2011, and on a more regular schedule than 2012.  Beyond that, I make no promises.

How Much Are We Really Saving?

29 Nov

Remember back in April when I wrote a post called The True Value Of A Penny?  No?  Well, you should go read it.  It has Ryan Gosling in it.

In the event that you’re opposed to clicking links that promise Ryan Gosling (do you also hate puppies and life?), then just know that the post contains the fact that it costs the US government 2.4 cents to make a penny.

The US Mint made just under 5 billion pennies in 2011.  At 2.4 cents a piece, that’s a total of $120 million dollars spent making a coin that is more likely to be used as a bingo marker by your grandmother than actually be spent.

$120 million dollars.  People trample strangers in line on Black Friday for less than that.

But there is good news.  It seems the US Mint has finally realized that they’re losing money on this deal, and’they’ve set out to fix the problem.  They’re going to change the metal composition of pennies*. (Surprise- those little copper coins are actually only about 2.5% copper.  The rest is zinc.)

The US Mint estimates that changing the composition of the coins will save them $75 million per year.  Subtract that from their current production expense of $120 million, and you get $45 million.  Then, divide that by the 5 billion pennies the US Mint will, um, mint, and you’ll see that the government will be paying about 1 cent per coin.

Sounds like a good deal, huh?  Almost makes you like the penny again.

But wait, this story doesn’t end here.  You see, the US Mint is also changing the composition of the nickel, since those five-cent pieces cost 11.2 cents per coin to make.  So, doing the math on that one, we get the following:

Roughly 1 billion nickels x 11.2 cents a piece = $112 million dollars spent for coins actually worth about $50 million.

$112 million for nickels plus $120 million for pennies = $232 million for one year’s production of coins with a face value of $110 million.

$232 million – the $75 million savings the US Mint estimates = $157 million.

Divide that $157 million by the 6 billion nickels and pennies the US Mint will spit out, and adjust for the fact that it costs nearly 5 times more to make a nickel than a penny, and you get the new values:

1.57 cents to make a penny, and 7.22 cents to make a nickel.

Ooh, so close to balance, and yet so far.  Because even with the lowered cost, the US Mint will still be losing $56.4 million per year in production costs.

On the bright side, the US Mint makes 13.9 cents per quarter they produce, and 4.35 cents per dime.  The down side is that there aren’t enough quarters and dimes made each year to balance out the deficit from pennies and nickels.

Of course, we could solve the problem entirely by eliminating pennies and nickels from the US currency.  We’d save $157 million a year.

But then we’d have to find new bingo markers for Grandma… Hmm.  There may be no winner here.

Oh, and one final mind-blowing revelation: nickels are actually 75% copper.

*source: http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2012/03/28/treasury-to-cut-costs-by-remaking-coins-replacing-paper/

What November Brings

1 Nov

Here we are on the first day of November.  For some, the first day of a month is revitalizing, a chance to shrug off the struggles of the previous month and start anew.  For others, it’s a scary new frontier, full of unknown possibilities and a fair dose of fear.

For me, it’s a little of both.  On the good side, November is one month closer to paying off my undergrad student loans.  This month’s payment will be $9 short of my $1,334 goal, but next month’s (FINAL!!) payment will only be around $900, so it will be easy to make up this month’s shortfall.  When I started this process in January, I was sure that I’d have given up by April, especially since my loan balance actually increased in January (the interest was higher than my payment.  I was not yet the budget master that I am now.)  I figured the pull of the blog would keep me in it for a few months, but eventually I would fade out well before the end of the year.

Now that I’m two months and just $2,205.35 away from my goal, I can assure you that no one is more surprised than me.  I’m thinking of turning this past year’s blog into an ebook, if only to have something to remind myself of the fact that I did it.  In January 2013, the quest becomes paying off grad student loans, and that will be a multi-year (or multi-decade if we’re being realistic) project.

But good side aside, November is going to be a very busy month for me.  While I don’t mind being busy, as it helps me not turn into a ball of anxiety by keeping my OCD-brain occupied, this month’s schedule goes far beyond my usual level of busyness (random observation: busy-ness, busy-busi, busi-ness, business. Word origins. Ok, back to topic.)

Here, let me give you a rundown of the month:

  • 1st: Budget rollover and bills due, plus meeting for secret project (another week or so, and you’ll be hearing all about this, I promise.)
  • 2nd-3rd: Out of town. Not far out of town, but an overnight stay still requires some coordination.
  • 5th-9th: Business trip #1. I leave early Monday morning and return late Friday night.
  • 13th-17th: Business trip #2. I leave even earlier Tuesday morning and get home even later Saturday night.
  • 21st-25th: Black Friday weekend.  Since one of my part-time jobs is a retail sales job, it’s pretty clear what I’ll be doing all weekend.  Oh, and Thanksgiving is on the 22nd and that means family in town.  So there’s that too.
  •  26th-30th: Apartment hunting.  Since I’m moving in January, I need to find an apartment this month so I can put a security deposit down in December to hold it.  Also included in this activity is taking inventory of all my possessions so I know what I need to get before January (#1: a bed).

Oh, and somewhere in the midst of all this, I need to a) continue to work 40 hours a week, b) plan Christmas lessons for Sunday School, c) write 50,000 words because it’s NaNoWriMo and I need the drive to get back into writing daily, and d) find time to eat, sleep, shower, and do all the other little tasks that keep me presentable to the public.

So yeah, November is going to be a busy month for me.  Even with a jam-packed schedule, including back-to-back business trips, there’s a lot of room for anxiety.  What if a flight is delayed?  Or what if my car breaks down (like last month, when I had to empty out the car maintenance fund and pull from the emergency fund to cover the cost of new brakes)?  Or what if I get trampled in the Black Friday hordes (last year, I got elbowed twice. Once in the face. Protip: if you abuse the employee, you don’t leave with a Playstation)?

The good news is that once I hit “publish” on this post and open my budget tracking sheet, I’ll be far too busy for the rest of the month to worry.

Maybe.

Possibly.

Potentially.

While I go stare at my massive budget spreadshee (an example of which can be found here), why don’t you let me know how your November looks? Will you be super busy? Super relaxed? Sick of Christmas music by the end of it?  Throw in your two cents (hehe, puns on the blog name) and let me know.

Oh, and a huge WELCOME to all my new readers.  Over the two days I was on Freshly Pressed, I ended up with almost a thousand extra hits and 48 new followers. So, welcome, and I’m sorry there were no zombies in today’s post.

Oh wait, there’s one.  Spoke too soon.

October

1 Oct

It’s October!!!

I love October.  It means cooler weather, crunchy leaves, hot apple cider drinks, and enough rainy days to keep my angsty writer’s muse happy.

It also means there are three loan payments left this year.  Three more chances to meet my goal and pay off these loans.  As of today, there is just $3,523.91 standing between me and a full pay on the B.A. degree I earned four and a half years ago.

My October payment is scheduled for today, the full ideal payment of $1,334.  Since I FINALLY got my paycheck issues sorted out (it was a months-long process, and I didn’t talk about it much on here since I try not to whine to all of you… more than twice a month), I recieved a nice-sized check last week.  It covered six weekly timesheets, some dating back to May, a reimbursement from travel, and my first official full-time-job salary.

After a not-so-brief and furious mental battle, my practical side won out and I ended up saving most of the money.  After all, I’ll be apartment hunting in the new year and I’ll have graduate loans to start paying back.

Ugh. Graduate loans.  I don’t even want to think about how much those are.

Actually, I should probably go check.  Hang on.

.

..

….

Hmm, I’ve forgotten my password.  It’s been a while since I’ve logged into the site.  Where’s the reset button?

.

..

You know, it’s surprisingly easy to get access to my account without a password.

.

Ok, as of today, my graduate student loans have a balance of $68,769.72.

I knew I didn’t want to think about it.

I don’t even want to talk about it.

I was young. I was careless.  I fell victim to the promise of a stable economy.

But that’s a story for another post.

Today is a happy day, because I am $1,334 closer to being free of my undergraduate loans.  Just two more payments and that degree is paid off.  No more will I hear from Nelnet about the status of my loans.

Which is actually kind of sad, because they keep sending me letters like this:

Great Lakes won’t be sending me congratulatory letters like this. Great Lakes will be sending me vaguely-worded threats as to the location of their money. This has already begun, in fact.

I’ve gotten a letter like that each time I’ve paid off a group of my loans (three so far).  With October’s payment, I’ll pay off one more group.  I’ll be down to just Group E and its sinister interest rate of 6.8%.

I wonder what kind of letter Nelnet will send me in December?  Maybe one with a cat gif?

Maybe even this one?

I like this one.

So dance on, crazy cats.  It’s October and we’re that much closer to the end. :)

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