Tuesday, March 29, 2016

First Quarter Check In

Since, it's pretty much the end of the first quarter of the year, I thought I would give an update on how I am doing with my 2016 goals.

1. Pay off student loan-DONE

I paid off my final student loan in January!!

2. Increase emergency fund to $15,000- DONE

I increased my emergency fund to $15,000 in Mid- February!!

3. Save $2,000 towards a new vehicle- IN PROGRESS
I think I have saved $100 towards my new car.

4. Begin retirement contributions and save $5,500 towards retirement- IN PROGRESS
I have saved $1,500 toward retirement this year.

6. Begin investing in mutual funds- FAIL
I haven't started investing yet.  I plan to wait until I get my ROTH funded.

7. Maintain a $1,000 (work) travel fund- IN PROGRESS
I have around $700 in here. This ebbs and flows though because I travel for work and it takes 2 to 3 months for reimbursements.  I just received a reimbursement for December travel this week.

8. Build a $1,000 car maintenance fund- FAIL
I have been focusing on the Roth and saving money for new furniture. 

9. Build a $500 home maintenance fund- FAIL KIND OF
I have been focusing on the Roth and saving money for new furniture.  I tend to think of my new furniture fund as a home maintenance fund.

10. Build a $750 medical fund- FAIL
I have been focusing on the Roth and saving money for new furniture. 

11. Build a $500 pet fund- FAIL
I have been focusing on the Roth and saving money for new furniture. 

12. Lose 30lbs!!!!- IN PROGRESS
I have lost 3 lbs.  I've been sick and have not been able to exercise lately.  Should be able to get back on my routine soon.

13. Read 24 books- IN PROGRESS
Behind on this goal- I've only read 4 books.

14. Travel somewhere cool!- FAIL

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Financial Spring Cleaning

Today is the first day of Spring!  I love this time of year.   It's warm, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming and plants are growing!  Since I don't do a Spring cleaning in my household, I figured a financial Spring cleaning is in order.  Below are the things I considered as part of my financial spring cleaning.

1. Check for unnecessary expenses.  Do you have any recurring, automatic charges that you no longer need? Magazine subscriptions? Credit card protection plans?  If so, cancel them.  The only thing I have is a pet plan that I need to cancel.  I can't cancel it until July for 1 cat and December for the other 2 cats.  I need to get on the ball about this and start saving for their medial expenses.

2.  Check for ways to save money on your monthly bills.  Is the contract up on your cable, telephone or internet service?  Maybe you can call and see if the company is willing to offer you a new lower rate.  If the company is unwilling then maybe you can check out other companies to see if they offer lower rates.  I need to get on finding a way to lower my cellular phone bill.  I have the added problem of my sister being unwilling to make any changes to the account.  I need to speak to her, again, about finding a way to lower this bill. It's almost $400 a month!

3.  Check on your retirement.  Did you know you can fund your 2015 IRA until tax day in 2016?   I am seriously going to consider this.  I don't know how to do it yet, but I really plan on looking into whether I should add my paltry retirement savings into my IRA for 2015 and then adding another $5,500 into it for 2016.  There is less than 1 month to get on this. I really need to catch up on my retirement savings.

4.  Check on your savings.  How much money are you saving?  Do you have enough for emergencies? It's important to make sure that you have enough money put away for a rainy day.  IF you don't have enough, you should be adding to it to make sure that one day you will have enough.  Also, check the interest rate on your savings account.  I have one "high yield" online savings account that pays 1%.  I previously had one paying 0.75%.  Make sure you are getting all the interest you can from having your money sit in a bank.

5. Check on your debt.  Do you have any small debts that you can get rid of quickly? Do it! It will be a mental boost to get rid small little debts that have been hanging around for awhile.  Otherwise it's time to make a plan for your money.  Make a plan to pay off a debt this year.  Make a plan to become debt free. You have a lot more power when you are debt free.

Those are the only things I considered for my Financial Spring Cleaning.  Does anyone else have any tips?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Budget Breakdown March 16-31

$240 utilities
$100 groceries
$100 gas
$1000 retirement
$367 pet expenses
$200 spending
$33 alarm monitoring
$250 household items/furniture
$250 Mom

 So the best news of this budget is that I was able to put $1,000 towards retirement! Yay!  Retirement is becoming a reality.  I can't believe I'm actually at a point where I can save money for it.  My intention is to fully max out my Roth IRA this year.  Wish me luck. I also would like to put another $3,500 in mutual funds to save for retirement as well. 

I had some unexpected pet expenses this month, but luckily I had room in the budget.  Hopefully, next month that money will go towards retirement. The faster I reach $5,500 the better.

I am excited about the $250 to put towards my new furniture fund. Once I finally save enough for new furniture I plan to use this money to replace things around the house, a new fence, remodeling, etc.

The last category is for my mother.  My mother is in her late 60s and I am in my early 30s.  My father died at 68, when I was 25 years old.  I wish that I had been able to do more with him and really enjoy interacting with him.  I want the opportunity to enjoy my mom, now that we can be friends and less of the mother/daughter dynamic.  So this category represents that goal.  It also is a backup fund in case she gets sick and I can't work because I need to care for her. I also want to spoil my Mom because she has sacrificed so much for me and my sisters and my dad over the years,

Okay, that's it- 2 weeks of pay all gone. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Am I a Fool?

As you all know, because I have exclaimed loudly, proudly and repeatedly, I finally paid off my student loan debt earlier this year.  It was a huge weight off of my shoulders.  However, I have always wondered if I was a fool for paying it all off.

I have a friend who graduated with approximately $200,000 in student loan debt from law school! She is determined to utilize the Public Student Loan Forgiveness program to erase all of that debt.  She has to make payments on the loans for 10 years and work for, in her case, the State (or some other qualifying employer) for that entire 10 year time period.  She is on a income based repayment plan, which means her payments are about $700 a month.  All and all she had a pretty cushy job.  She makes about $70,000 a year, she has a retirement plan (to which the state contributes a portion) and she receives about 6 weeks of vacation time a year.  Her job is pretty secure.  The only uncertainty is, will the Public Student Loan Forgiveness Program still be around, in the small form as it is now, when her 10 years are up. 

It took me 10 years to pay off all of my debt and I paid over $75,000 back in total (the loans totaled about $61,000 before interest).  I now make $80,000, have 3 weeks of vacation time and no retirement plan (ROTH IRA it is). Oh and I paid back every penny that I owed- less about $3,000 that I received as an employment perk several years ago.

Okay, tell me was I silly to make all of those monster debt payments?  I could have stayed with the State for 10 years and paid, probably, a small payment and gotten the majority of the loans forgiven.  (I promise if I was still working for the State my salary would probably only be in the 60,000s and when I first worked for the State I had so much debt that my discretionary income would have been minimal.) I would not have had to make $2000 payments in order to pay it all off and I could have kept more money for myself in the long run.    

Monday, March 7, 2016

Looking back

Can you believe that February is over and March has begun?  It seems like it was just Christmas.  Time is flying by and I don't know where it has gone.  Two months ago I was frothing at the mouth to pay off the last bit of my student loan.  Now, it's all gone and I'm on to the next hill to climb.  Retirement and it's a big hill.  It's stressful to think about.  I need to save $9,000 this year for retirement.  Less, than half of what I put on my student loans for last year.  It should be easy to do, right? I just need to also save for a new car, pay extra on the mortgage, save for upgrades to the house, donate to charity, etc, etc.   It all seems a bit overwhelming.  I think I'm a bit tired of fighting.

When I start feeling overwhelmed, I start looking back to see how far I've come.  Last year in March 2015, I had no money saved for retirement.  This year, I already have $500.  Last year in March, I had over $20,000 left  to pay on my student loan, this year it's completely gone. Last year in March I had $2,700 in my online saving account, this year I have over $5,100.  My finances are improving, slowly, but surely.  It's hard to see the progress, it's scary to think that I won't ever have enough money or that I won't reach my goals.  And that could happen, but I'm moving in the right direction.  I haven't mastered this whole contentment thing or my desire for instant gratification, but I know that good things take time.