Payoff! April report

While February was a very doldrums sort of month, for this project, March was awesome. And that was because I met my goal.

That’s right.

I paid off my student loans!!!!!!

You might recall that at the end of last month I was tempted to use my emergency fund to pay off the rest. But I did not deplete the rest of my emergency fund. That was because I knew I hadn’t yet done my taxes.

I’ve read a lot of financial advice that says that you should try to break even with your tax withholding. That if you are getting large tax refunds, you should adjust your withholding to get a larger paycheck monthly.

I can see the wisdom in that. But I also know that I love windfalls. And my tax refund–even though it’s my money the government has been holding for me and I haven’t even been earning paltry interest on it–my refund is a very fun windfall. Before the combination of YNAB and a higher salary meant that my monthly budget more or less met all my needs, my tax refund was a time of year to say, “oh good, I can replace my old shoes.” And I always used it for some sort of “treat,” sometimes a smaller treat in the one hundred dollar range, sometimes a large treat, like the computer I’m typing this entry on; which took up a big chunk of my 2009 tax return.

And this year, I knew that my tax return was going to go in full towards paying off my student loan.

So here’s what happened. Mid-March, my usual payment of $103.67 was withdrawn. I got an alert that my April payment will be $112. Due to the graduated nature of my loan, the payment gets slightly higher every two years. But I’m thinking, “If things work out, I’m not going to have to make that $112 payment.

At the end of March I make a good overpayment of $566.17. My initial budgeted amount was $498.67 and then I did not keep track of where the rest came from. Probably Matt paying me for food. That is usually in the $70 range. At this point, the amount left on my loan was $1,378.13.

But I’d done my taxes by that time and I knew my refund was coming. It arrived from both state and federal governments (thank you electronic transfer) and I turned right around and made a payment of $1,190.93 on 3/31. That left a balance of $187.29.

But what else happens on 3/31?  (Actually on 3/30 because 3/31 was a Saturday.)  That’s right!  I get paid. And when I’m slapping my money into my budget categories, I have more than $187.29 in my Goals: Loan Paid by 2020 category. Not to mention the amount I’d already budgeted in my monthly payment category.

So I did the thing that I’ve been longing to do for years. I clicked on the link that said, “estimate payoff amount.”  The amount, due to interest, was $187.36 and so I authorized that payment.

By April 2 my balance was zero.

I love that death squiggle at the end. Take that, loan balance!

I’m so very glad to have achieved this goal. And I’m quite proud of my progress. Since August 26, I have paid $13,537.68 towards this goal. And while $5852 was from my emergency savings, paying $7685.68 in seven months is nothing to sniff at.

Achieving this goal (and so quickly, as I had forecast June or July as the complete date) has given my confidence to go for my next goal which is to rebuild my emergency fund. And I have a yearly financial goal of saving 45% of my net pay. I think I can hit that goal, too.

Mr. Money Mustache says that when it’s time to reward yourself, to buy yourself a burrito, give yourself a pat on the back and set your next goal. I’m going to buy myself something a little bigger: a new computer. Of the list of things not bought in service of this goal (list: New computer,  Instapot, poetry post, reverse loft, emergency savings, tap dance, new slippers) it’s the thing I would like to do first. My computer is nine years old and while it’s a workhorse, it’s starting to falter. I don’t want to be without a computer.

After that, I’m going to set milestone goals on the path to rebuilding my emergency fund.

While all that is happening, I’m going to enjoy being a person only carrying one debt: her half of the mortgage.

Payoff! March report

February started off as a very depressing month, money-wise.  My shoulder was aflame in repetitive-motion-type hurt, so much so that I went to the doctor who referred me to the physical therapist.  This was great!  Except!  According to my insurer, I would first have to pay my deductible of $1,250 before any physical therapy would be covered. Much sadness ensued as I realized that all of the money going toward the Payoff! goal would have to be rerouted to the shoulder project.  But my shoulder hurt a lot, so I made the appointment.

Then, on top of that, I wasn’t going to be able to do my tax return until April 4, at the earliest.  We were in line for a $1,300 tax credit for installing our heat pump, but the documentation I needed was not going to be sent to me until April 4, despite me having submitted my paperwork in late November.  I’m someone who files her taxes in early February, so this was not good news.

Things got better by the end of the month.  I pulled $1,250 over from my (now very small) emergency fund to use as a deductible and set a goal in YNAB to fully fund it to $1,250 by January 2019.  That way, as I pulled money out to satisfy my deductible, the program would have me pay back a little each month until I was back to fully funded for the next year’s medical crisis.

And then the physical therapy didn’t cost as much as I thought it would. Despite being quoted as around $300 being billed to insurance for each session, when I got the bills, the insurance company would discount them by half and apply other mumbo-jumbo I don’t understand, so the physical therapy was costing me something like $75 per session, not $300.  I hate how complicated insurance is, and though I read carefully the EOBs and also have a spreadsheet of my own to understand the system, I still don’t get it.

So, while I wasn’t able to make the full extra payment of $500 which is my goal, I made a bigger payment this month than I thought I would at the beginning of the month.  Also, my tax form arrived sometime in late February, which meant I could start on my taxes sooner than April 4.

In February, I paid $595.12 which was my usual payment of $103.67 and an additional payment of $491.45.  I was less than $9.00 from my $500 goal!  $5.56 went towards interest and $589.56 to the principal.

My money for the extra payment came from $408 budgeted initially, plus $50 in cash rewards from my credit card. I also had $37.00 because I waited to re-up my gym membership until the month flipped, $10 in unused Dining Out money and $11.28 left over in my Random Fun Things To Do category. That adds up to more than $500, but I had to skim some off to pay for the amount I overspent on groceries this month.  (That was another disappointing thing.)

My remaining balance at this point is just over $2,000.  It is very, very, very tempting to use the last of my emergency fund to pay this off in one fell swoop, but I am going to try hard to stay the course.

Payoff! February report

My total amount paid for January was $655.34 which consisted of my usual $103.67 and an impressive additional $551.67. Of that total, $647.21 was applied to the principal and $8.13 was applied to the interest. I had budgeted $383.25 initially, and then cashed in $11.10 of BottleDrop refunds, as well as my $12.00 in Christmas scratch-off ticket winnings. Thanks to the calendar, Matt paid me twice for food, giving me an extra $147.60. It all adds up.

I added nothing to my list of things not bought to achieve my goal. Truthfully, I wonder if I’ve wandered away from that part of the project. I seem to be buying this and that (things under $40) when I “need” them. It might be good to check up on that.


My payoff estimator has me finishing this project by June of this year. Hopefully I can meet this goal. My remaining balance is $2,633.53.

Payoff! January report

My total payment in December: $1,115.48

It was another very good payoff month, due to something called “Christmas.” In my family, we make or buy a small token for each person (my gift this year: potato focaccia bread and a calendar magnet) and then take the rest of the money we would have spent on presents, throw it in together, divide it up and then each buy ourselves one big present. This year, my present to myself was another chunk of debt paid off.

This month I paid $1,107.68 toward the principal and $7.80 toward the interest. The money for the extra payments came from $393.16 originally budgeted, $37.00 I didn’t use on my gym dues because my gym was closed the last week and I opted to skip the second-to-last week and not pay until the new year. I also had $15.18 left over in dining out, almost $60 left over in my Christmas budget. My Christmas gift this year totaled $460 (that’s $360 from the pot-splitting and $100 because Santa still brings me money.)

I don’t have anything down on my list of things not bought, so it was another good month of not wanting things.  I’m not having any roadblocks right now. It’s getting very exciting to get that much closer to the end of this goal.

I’m also pretty excited that my original budgeted amount was so high.($103.67 for the regular payment plus $393.16 for the goal for a total of $496.83. It bodes well for my accelerated savings plan that I will begin once I get this debt paid off.

Payoff! December report

In November, I paid my usual monthly payment of $103.67, plus an additional payment of $691.67, for a total of $795.34.  That additional payment is a new high point for a non-birthday month.

Of my nearly eight-hundred dollars, $12.51 was applied to interest, while $782.83 was applied to the principal. I did contact my company to see if I could have extra payments go only to the principal, and the answer was a lot of sentences that distilled down to: no.

I have a nice long list of this and that that added up to nearly seven-hundred dollars. There was extra money coming into my life: Matt paid me twice for food, I cashed in Fred Meyer Rewards, I found a dollar.  That added up to $155.96.  My original budget was $180 for this goal. To that I added the $185.34 that was left over after things had been budgeted for.  Plus another $30.00 for biking and walking to work. Then, at the end of the month I swept unused money from budget categories: groceries, joint bills, dining out.

I didn’t add anything to the list of things not bought in service of this goal.  It was a happily frugal month.  My only roadblock right now is being caught up in the idea that I will get a bonus from work.  We didn’t get bonuses last year, but because I pay the bills at work, I could see the profit and loss wasn’t going to support bonuses. This year is much healthier, P&L-wise, and so I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about something that might not happen. And I think at this writing (12/13) it’s not going to happen.  I think if we were getting bonuses, they would have announced it at the holiday party.  So I need to stop thinking about it.
Onward to December!

Payoff! November report

October was another stunning payoff month.  My total amount paid was $1148.49!  This includes my new regular monthly payment of $103.67 and an extra payment of $1044.82.

How much I paid toward the principal and how much toward the interest.  In October, I paid $12.59 to interest, the rest went to the principal. I still have not figured out how to have all the extra payment go only to the principal.

Where the money for my extra payments came from. I was able to make a $1000+ payment due to something called a “birthday.”  Though I did have a birthday list going in my head, no one asked me for it, so I got mostly cash, and some fun things like Junior Mints.  I used the cash to buy an awesome new clothes drying rack and the rest went to the Payoff! project. In addition, I had initially budgeted $297.61 in the Payoff! category.  Matt paid me $70.37 for food.  I cashed in my cash rewards balance on my credit card and got $103.67. I found a quarter. There was a leftover student loan allocation of $85.67.  I found an extra $1.50 matching my credit card amount to my credit card budget in YNAB, my budget program.  Due to my Thrifty Food Project, I had $98.97 left in my grocery account, and $5.81 leftover in dining out.  (It would have been more, but I got roped into overpaying for pizza by $19.)  I also had $35.27 leftover in my Random Fun Things To Do category, which is my miscellaneous spending.

A list of what I didn’t buy in order to put more money toward this project.  I had thought about buying some new slippers with my birthday money.  The slippers I currently have are cheap, and every time I put them on, I think fondly of the quality sheep’s wool  of my previous pair of slippers.  Those lasted three years.  These have already passed their prime after one year.  But I decided I could carry on.  In the spirit of the Payoff project, I can be happy that the $60-$70 I spent on my loan instead of new slippers, brings me that much closer to my Payoff! goal.

Any roadblocks I’m having toward this goal.  I haven’t had any roadblocks in October (no wonder!) but am, as usual, worried that I will grow bored with this project this month.

Debt Repayment Calculator

Accelerating payments is kind of boring.  It’s a lot of cutting back on this and that on a daily basis, and then eventually, once per month, you have something to get excited about: WHAMMO! Extra payment.

But here we are early in the month, with September’s extra payment made and all of October left to go.

Today I found a Debt Repayment calculator that cheered me a little.  The one I used is very no-frills and is found at Debt Repayment Calculator. The site even says in the upper left hand corner “You can deal with it” and has a very calming rainbow/banner thing.

I typed in my amount of debt, my interest rate and my current monthly payment. Then I added an additional monthly payment of $500 and the site told me that if I just made my monthly payments I would be paying this loan off for 72 more months and would pay an additional $543.14 in interest.

But!  If I make an extra payment of $500/month for 12 months, all of my student loan debt will be GONE!  Twelve months! So exciting!  Then I can put all that money into savings/investing and retirement.

That’s good news!

Payoff! October report

Much to report this month!  I made a big decision.

What I paid toward the loan in September. $6567.25.  That includes my regular payment of $189.37, plus a payment of $5852.00, plus an end-of-the-month payment of $525.88.

How much I paid toward the principal and how much toward the interest. Principal: $6567.25. Interest: $23.20.

Where the money for my extra payments came from.  I had a $10,000 emergency fund, a goal I finally achieved right before my 40th birthday. It was depleted by about 20% this year when I learned that my health insurance that my employer pays $485 per month for doesn’t really cover that much.  I had been focusing my efforts on getting money back into that fund.  But looking at my loan balance, I saw that there were two loans, one for $5k+ and one for $7k+.  What if I paid off the $5k+ totally?  On the one hand, that would deplete my emergency fund down to a little over one month’s cushion.  On the other hand, I could totally eliminate one part of my debt.  I eventually decided to do it, as you can tell from the above numbers.  My rational is that my job feels pretty secure (knock on wood) and the amount of interest my savings account is paying is far less than the interest on this loan. Plus, the psychological boost.  So I did it.  I had to write the loan company to find out how to apply the entire chunk only to one loan.  It turned out to be easy.  I made the payment, and then sent a message to apply all of the payment to the loan in the amount of $X.  Boom!  When you look at my loan list, that loan is gone.

In addition, at the end of the month, I added to my budgeted amount ($324.07) another $201.81.  That came from my unused Dining Out money ($40.00–all of my eating out in September was paid for by my company, or by a friend as thanks for resume help) and also my unused grocery money ($49.81). I made two lifestyle changes this month.  One was I decided to stop taking tap dance lessons.  I’ve been feeling too busy during the week for a while now, but had made a stink about having an Intermediate Level Tap class, so then had to take the lessons.  At the time, they were running the class with only two people total, so I kept going because I liked it, but also because I didn’t want to be the person who made the stink and then didn’t sign up. There are a few more people in the class now, so I feel like I can take a break.

Also, TriMet now allows you to buy the amount of train fare you need for the month.  I figured if I could ride my bike one day per week, and then also walk one way one day per week, I could pay less than $100/month.  My company reimburses for transportation, phone and internet up to $100/month, so this month I submitted my phone bill along with my TriMet fare purchase and netted an extra $29.50 to put toward this goal.  We shall see how this biking to work and walking once per week goes.  I’m feeling excited about it now, but I was pretty burnt out biking to my previous job. Though that was every day.  Also I wasn’t necessarily choosing it.  I wasn’t really paid enough to afford to bus to work.  (Thank goodness that job is over!)

A list of what I didn’t buy in order to put more money toward this project. To sum up: most of my emergency fund; tap dance class; full monthly TriMet pass.

Any roadblocks I’m having toward this goal.  I’m worried that this will become a tedious, sad task after this month.  I’m down to less than $6k, but I feel as though I have plucked all the low-hanging fruit. I can’t just decide in October to pay the rest off in one fell swoop, because I don’t have another $6k hanging around. Hopefully this will not be the case.  If so, I will have to figure a plan.

Here’s what things looked like at the end of August:

And here’s the graph at the end of September:

Payoff! September Report

We’re only 11 days into this project, but already there are things to report!

What I paid toward the loan in August. By the time the challenge started, I had already paid my usual $189.37 payment, so there’s nothing to report there.  But I did make an additional payment of $554.29, plus one more additional payment of $48.24. This makes $602.53 additional payment, for a total August payment of $791.90.  Take that, student loan debt!

How much I paid toward the principal and how much toward the interest. This month I paid $590.02 to the principal and $12.51 to the interest. (These numbers don’t reflect the regular monthly payment amounts. Those amounts will be present in future months.)

Where the money for my extra payments came from.  My notes say that I had originally put $224.77 into the budget line, so that’s where I started.  I decided cross my fingers that my computer will keep on chugging along, and put the $310.00 I had saved toward a new one into the Payoff! goal.  Once I achieve this goal I can save up for a new computer.  After that, “new computer” will be a regular line item in my budget, allotting for a new one every five years.  In that same vein, I had been saving bits of money up for an Instant Pot, a poetry post, and my reverse lost bed.  That $19.52 was added to my extra payments.  This was part of a practice called a Wish Farm, the concept of which is outlined in this article.  I really like this idea and will reinstate it after I pay off this loan.

A list of what I didn’t buy in order to put more money toward this project.  So that’s what I didn’t buy.  Parts of a new computer, an Instant Pot, a poetry post, and a reverse loft bed.

Any roadblocks I’m having toward this goal. Right now, I’m very excited about this goal.

Here’s the first graph:And here is my progress.