2014 Goals – $12k in debt reduction

Here we go!  It’s the last day of 2013.  No reason to wait until tomorrow (or the next day since we’re celebrating New Years.  Or why not just wait until the weekend?).  Here’s are my goals for 2014!

Professional Goals

  • Attend a prestigious institute for teaching.  This one is a little specific… I’m applying to a 2-week professional development opportunity in New York.  There’s quite a bit of competition to get in, but I’m fairly optimistic.  Hopefully I’ll be kicking off my summer “break” with 2-weeks in NY learning with a bunch of other young teachers.
  • Find a solid work/life balance.  The two coaching positions I hold are perhaps the most time consuming positions at my school.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – I love coaching.  But in the next two months I’ll need to make a decision.  There’s a part of me that is considering dropping a sport.  I don’t want to do it, but it would probably do my personal and professional life wonders.  The monetary hit is noteworthy, but not significant.  The real question is if I’d regret dropping a coaching gig. This will be a bit of a dilemma, so my goal is to come out with some kind of decision that I am happy with in 1 years time.

Personal Goals

  • Go on 1 trip – keep it under $1k.  Other than the potential institute in NY.  I have a tentative plan for Vegas.  I think I could keep that trip under $800 (with, of course, the small potential to come back with a few extra dollars).  Last year I spent $1200 on a 6 day trip in Denver.  This year I want to scale it way back.  If Vegas ends up happening, I think it can be done for less than $800 and perhaps cheaper.  And just like Denver, I know it would be money well spent.
  • Drop 10 pounds.  It wouldn’t be a list of New Years resolutions without this one, right?
  • Bike more, drive less.  I guess I would call myself a pseudo-biker.  I have a bike, I like using it, but I’ve yet to transition to it as my main means of transportation.  Come spring, I’d like to give it a shot.

Debt Reduction Goals

  • $12,000 reduction in principal.  This is what “The Plan” calls for.  It will be a tough goal to hit.  In actuality, I want and need to exceed it.  That will require about $4k in addition to my regular, monthly payments.  It’s going to be a stretch.
  • Find a new Summer-Income source.  Last year I pulled in about $1,600 in umpiring softball.  This upcoming summer, that gig is gone.  I’ll reach out to another softball league and hope to be able to replace that income.  Otherwise, I’m going to branch out a bit and see if I can find a more steady, hourly gig.  The problem is, I only really have 6 weeks of “free” time in the summer so it might be tough.
  • Hit $5k in additional income.  This is what I’ll need to hit the goal.  Right now I can expect about $2k.  Where that additional $3k will come from, however, is uncertain.
  • Make “the decision.”  To put it bluntly, I don’t know if it is possible to pay down my debt in three years.  I’ll be detailing it in my next post, but I intend to use this year as the “test year” on whether or not I go all in for the following two years.  Sure it would be nice to clear the debt by age 30.  But I have to consider the negatives a little more: could I get a condo if I saved for a down payment?  Should I be growing retirement money?  Should I just enjoy my 20s and head to Thailand for a month (seriously, that last one… tempting…).  One year from today, my goal is to be ready to make that decision.

There you have it – my goals for 2014.  Anyone out there putting together some New Years Resolutions to hit?

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2013 In Review

I didn’t set many explicit goals in 2013.  However, that’s not to say I didn’t have many goals in mind.  In fact, I think the whole point of writing out a review of 2013 is to really set up what I want to do in 2014.  That’s a post for another day (as in, a week from now 🙂 ).  Instead, here’s the big things that happened in 2013.

Blogging – Success!
I started a personal finance blog!  Early in the year I was inspired by No More Harvard Debt to actually sit down and reflect on how I plan to get rid of my student loans.  Since, I’ve went from what I thought was living “paycheck to paycheck” while paying $650 a month to living “paycheck to paycheck” while paying $1000 a month.  That’s quite a spending change.  Blogging has held me accountable to my spending, even if what’s being written isn’t being read by many people.  At the end of the year, I’m averaging around 17 visitors a day.  Nothing huge, but still a start!

progress-barDebt Paydown: $5,000 – Success!
I set the goal of paying down my debt principal by $5000 since April.  I have surpassed that goal by $1,203.12!  A pretty big step towards my ambitious goal of knocking out 62k in 3 years and 9 months.  This initial goal wasn’t set too far out of reach, so while I was happy to hit it, I was more happy to clear it by a significant amount.

Read Books – Fail.
I don’t exactly remember if this was something I specifically set out to do.  But I always tell myself I should read more.  And I always fail.  Sigh.  Next year.

Drop 10 pounds – Fail.
I’m in fine shape, but as someone who considers themselves somewhat athletic (or previously athletic), I know I can drop 10 pounds.  I’ve been sitting between 175-180 for 3 years now.  I’d love to get back to under 170.  This would involve running more and eating better.  I hate running and I’m too lazy to make my own food, for the most part.  The good news is I know I can pull this off if I actually make it a goal.  So, I’ll make it a goal 🙂

Make $5k in additional income Success!
I pulled in nearly $5,500 in additional income in 2013.  The bulk of that was teaching an additional class on top of my normal course load.  While the additional income was nice, the extra class has been a grind and had a pretty negative impact on my work/life balance.  I won’t be doing it again.  Therefore, I’ll have to find ways to increase my additional income during the summer in 2014.

Take on More Responsibilities at Work – Pass.
Because of that extra class and the sports I coach, I was already putting in more hours than I probably should have been.  Taking on other committee work or adding a club sponsorship or something like that would have been too much.  Hopefully next year when I’m down to a normal teaching load I’ll be able to look at some options to get more involved.

It’s going to be a busy week on this here web-log!  Tomorrow I’ll be posting my 2014 goals and then on Thursday my “State of Paydown – 2014”.  Get excited!

Anyone out there have any big 2013 goals that they are celebrating successfully achieving?

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Progress Report: December ’13

Day 245 | $16,794.50 paid | $55,281.08 to freedom

Merry Christmas Eve!  And a late Happy Festivus!  Let’s air some grievances!

  • Car repairs.  I hate car repairs so much.  In the last month I have spent $300 on my car.  And the result?  Well, problems fixed lead to new problems I guess.  An estimate of $800 to repair – well a bunch of minor-ish stuff.  If I really do have to invest that much into my car, then say goodbye to my Christmas gift to myself of making a large extra student loan payment.
  • Christmas Shopping.  I loathe Christmas shopping.  And this year I’m not even that excited for any gifts I’ll receive.  It’s just money spent on things that I’d rather have spent on paying down my debt or to put towards bigger things I need, instead of overpriced unneeded things.
  • Winter.  Michigan winters are always a topic of complaining.  I don’t really understand why.  We live in the north.  It’s going to snow.  It’s going to be cold.  The thing I hate is those heating bills!  I’ve finally turned on the heat in my apartment and the result is a heat/electric bill that is $30 higher than my previous one!winter
  • Final Exams.  Believe it or not, teachers hate them just as much as students 🙂

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make that nice bonus payment.  The good news is, unlike the previous two Decembers, I have been able to budget for the wonderfully happy holidays well enough such that I have not dipped into my savings at all.  Ballin’.  Let’s take a look at the numbers:

The Brass Ta(cks)x
– $1000 paid
– Principal reduced by $706.96
– 2013 Annual Goal Surpassed by $1,203.12 (!!!)
– 2013 Complete!

decgraphI’ve made an aggressive pay-down decision: I am not going to count the $1203.12 that I went over towards my 2014 pay-down goal of $12,000.  This is a huge decision that will make hitting my 2014 goal very difficult.  However, my overall pay-down plan (which I’ll have a “State of” post on in the next week or so), is already overly aggressive.  Therefore, I need to find ways to surpass my goals if I am to actually hit $0 by my 30th birthday.

I am under $300 in interest per month!  This is a tiny baby step that is an awesome feeling.  It also makes some of the math easy.  If I pay $1000 a month towards my loans, that’s really paying $700 off my principal per month.  On the year, that would mean $8,400 in debt pay-down, well short of my $12k goal.  Though, that doesn’t account for the interest continuing to fall.  According to my mega-spreadsheet, I’ll actually get to $8,628.  Still about $3,300 short.  That’s a big chunk of debt pay-down that has to come from extra income.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to start the New Year with a $500 extra payment.  That’ll go a long way towards killing that excess $3,300.  That is, if I can figure out my car issues…

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We Won the Lotto!!!

A whole $7!!!

Okay, sorry, I couldn’t help it.  I was talked into chipping into the office pool and we came out with $7.  Not exactly ten bucks well spent.

A guy in Canada won a much smaller, lotto jackpot and he’s giving it all – $40 million – to charity!  I wonder if he would be interested in donating to the Make-Me-A-Not-So-Frugal Teacher charity 🙂

Happy Lotto-Hangover Day!

PS: IF you won the lotto, where would you visit on your first vacation/travel expedition?

Machu Picchu has been atop my travel list for a while, but Thailand is up there was well.

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Spending Report – November ’13: Weathering the Storm

In my little college town of Ann Arbor, rental rates have been a huge topic as a new luxury apartment building prepares to open.  What’s a new 2-bedroom apartment in this swanky building with a Google walkability rating of 95 out of 100 going to cost you?  Try up to $2,875.  Per.  Month.  What’s crazier is they are sold out.  I’m no economics expert.  I have no idea what this means, but it’s a little worrisome living in a city with a huge demand for housing.  It’s a leaser’s market and little old me with my teacher’s salary is certainly not someone that can look at these apartments without laughing.

November and December seem to be the months where spending is the toughest.  Family travel and holidays bring extra spending.  For my fellow teachers out there, a couple weeks “off” can lead to an increase in spending as well.  This past month, I came in about where I needed to: $500 over budget.  “WHAHHHTTTT?!?!?!” You say?  Two big one-offs finally hit the books: A bachelor party in Chicago and a car repair.

spending-novemberBachelor Party & Wedding Costs
One of my good friends was married this past weekend.  For the bachelor party, wedding gift and associated ancillary costs I spent about $300.  That’s not really bad considering the bachelor party took place in downtown Chicago.  Here’s something I realized: Strip clubs are not that fun when on a budget 🙂  Well, strip clubs aren’t really that fun in general – I’d rather be at an establishment with people of both genders having fun than a bunch of creepy dudes throwing away money.  But, bachelor party and whatnot.  It was still a fun weekend overall.

Car Repair
I was thrilled to be told my car needed only $250 in repairs.  I was expecting the worst and not only did I not hit the worst, I somewhat kept my budget alive, because…

I received my last coaching stipend: $500.  This keeps my budget pretty set and means, despite the $550 in extra spending, I didn’t dip into my emergency fund.  Win!  Of course, it would have been nice to put that $500 towards my student loans like I had hoped, but as long as the next month goes well I should be in position to make an additional December payment.

The rest of my spending was kept in check thanks to a gift card from the families of our soccer team.  I was able to pick up some much needed items on black Friday as well as keep my grocery and food budgets in line in November thanks to their gift.

Looking forward, December will be an important month.  While I will again go over in my “miscellaneous” category (Christmas shopping), I should be able to keep some other costs down, including my take-out budget.  I’m currently sitting on about $1000 of non-emergency fund money in my checking account.  This is money from additional income throughout the summer and fall that I’ve yet to put to use.  Once I defeat December, it will be time to consider how much of it I can throw at my loans in an additional payment.  That will be a great day!  Until then, it’s all about keeping that spending down so I can participate in all the holiday consumer craziness while not dipping into any e-fund or loan pay-down monies.

I hope everyone else is off to a great holiday spending start!

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Black Friday Swindles

I had every intention of letting Black Friday slip by, ignoring the extreme stupidity that comes with the idiots that don’t really understand value:

That 60″ TV you’re gettign for $200?  Yeah, it’s terrrrible quality.  Enjoy, though.

But, I made a bit of a plunge.  I took up some offers as Kohl’s.  Now, I don’t want this to be a Kohl’s commercial, but I feel I smartly took advantage of some of their deals.  Considering two of the items were things I’ve needed for a while now, I’m pretty happy beddingwith the money I spent.

7-Piece Bed Set – $50
This bed set isn’t the highest quality.  That I am well aware of and frankly don’t care if you think its crap 🙂  It gets the job done and is a serious upgrade over my old bedding situation.  I minimally needed a new comforter and now I have a full set.  The “retail” price was something like $150.  However, the “sale” price was normally $80, so even there I’m saving $30.  I’m cool with that.

Dress Shirt – $20
tieNothing special here.  I snagged a new white dress shirt in the size/fit/style I like.  Usually a $45 shirt and I got it for $20.  Even if the sale is usually around $35, still a nice deal.

Tie – $18
Ties are one of the few things that are not always on sale at Kohl’s.  Especially the nicer ones.  When I can snag a tie that would normally cost me $36 for just $18, I’m a happy camper.  And seriously, this is a slick tie.

Bath Towels – $12
A couple bath towels rounded out the Black Friday trip.

If your mathematical prowess doesn’t fail you, that adds up to exactly $100 – a mark I was careful to hit on the dot because Kohl’s was offering $15 in “Kohl’s Cash” for ever $50 spent.  Now, offers like this are made because many people fail to take advantage of them – here’s the key in my mind.  I have the exact purchase I need to make in mind for this $30:

pantsNew Pair of Khaki’s – $37 – $30 = $7
This is the big steal – a pair of new Docker’s for just $7.  Bam!  On sale for $37 and with those two $15 discounts, I’ll be able to snag a much needed new pair of work pants for less than the pizza I ordered last weekend.

In total, I spent about $110 for a new bed set (not the best quality, but still), a slick tie, a new dress shirt, a couple bath towels, and a new pair of Docker’s.  And I did it all without getting into a fight over an off-brand TV!

Anyone else brave the Black Friday stupidity?!

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OscarQuest #2

As an aside from my debt paydown diatribes, I’ll give a quick weekly review of the films I watched in the past week.  You can read about the start of OscarQuest and the parallels to my debt paydown at the original post.

thinredlineThe Thin Red Line (1998)

Directed by: Terrence Malick
Writer: Terrence Malick (SP), James Jones (Novel)
Starring: Nick Nolte, Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn
Oscar Noms: Director, Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Cinematography (John Toll), Best Sound (Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Paul Brincat), Editing (Billy Weber, Leslie Jones, Saar Klein), Original Score (Hans Zimmer)
Lost Best Picture To: Shakespeare in Love
Random Fact: Malick’s first cut of the film was over 6 hours long.

4.5 upward tree shots out of 5

4.5 upward tree shots out of 5

Summary in 140 characters or less:

Thin Red Line: “Caviezel’s solemn performance anchors Malick’s visual WWII epic. The birth of Malickean filmmaking. Also, Nolte = bad ass”

4weddingsFour Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Directed by: Mike Newell
Writer: Richard Curtis
Starring: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell, James Fleet
Oscar Noms: Original Screenplay (Curtis)
Lost Best Picture To: Forrest Gump
Random Fact: According to IMDb, Curtis wrote the film after realizing he went to 72 weddings in 10 years.

4 hugh grants out of 5

4 hugh grants out of 5

Summary in 140 characters or less:

Love can be inconvenient.  Fin.

quiz-showQuiz Show (1994)

Directed by: Robert Redford
Writer: Paul Attanasio (SP), Richard  Goodwin (book)
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow
Oscar Noms: Supporting Actor (Paul Scofield), Director (Redford), Adapted Screenplay (Attanasio)
Lost Best Picture To: Forrest Gump

Random Fact: Martin Scorsese, who was born in Queens, New York has the line “Queens isn’t New York!” during a phone call with John Turturro’s character.

4 Scorsese brows out of 5

4 Scorsese brows out of 5

Summary in 140 characters or less:

TV game show is rigged (I’m shocked!), Scorsese has an awesome cameo, Turturro is Turturro.  Very reminiscent of Network, except based on a true story.

crossfireCrossfire (1947)

Directed by: Edward Dmytryk
Writer: John Paxton (SP), Richard  Brooks (book)
Starring: Robert Young, Robert Mitchum, Robert Ryan
Oscar Noms: Supporting Actor (Ryan), Director (Dmytryk), Adapted Screenplay (Paxton), Supporting Actress (Gloria Grahame)
Lost Best Picture To: Gentlemen’s Agreement
Random Fact: While the film dealt with anti-Semitism, the book actually dealt with homophobia.

3 three stars named Robert out of 5

3 three stars named Robert out of 5

Summary in 140 characters or less:

An anti-semite soldier kills a Jewish soldier.  That’s kinda it.

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