March 2015 Accountability

 

Continuing from February, I’m combining Accountability with the month’s Budget Recap post. This post is broken into two sections: Budget and Debt Eradication.


Budget Accountability for March 2015:

March Budget Recap

 

Woohoo!:

  • Thank goodness we stayed so far under on gas!
  • …and that’s pretty much all I can say. Wait, I can say that it’s good that we stayed right at the budget or under budget on almost everything?

Whoops!:

  • We went over budget. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it ruined my not-going-over-budget streak.
  • The food budget is our nemesis. I’m still considering how we can get the food spending under control. We’re able to stay under budget in groceries when we don’t have any special events, but we had a potluck and a few other social events that definitely impacted our spending. All that being said, this is still an area of concern and we’ve got to fix it.

Thoughts:

  • Since my most recent side hustle ended early this month, I’ve started thinking about finding a new side hustle. I keep revisiting how long it will take us to pay off our loans, and I have come to the decision that we really need to increase (and diversify) our income. I’m starting to investigate some options, but I will probably really start this hunt in earnest this first week of April.
  • Next month, H will be traveling quite a bit, so I won’t change the gas budget line, even though apparently we can stay under the regularly budgeted amount with our normal driving.

Debt Eradication for March 2015: 

March Debt Eradication

 

Debt Eradication:
  • $2800 extra payment sent to Loan 1
  • $413.06 to extra student loans later in the month

YES! This month we accomplished a significant drop in our student loan debt. We spent last month building up to have enough money to make it worthwhile messing with Navient. The whole point was to send them a check in a high enough amount to get Navient Loan 1 down to a similar level to Navient Loan 2 (see the image), then any extra payments we send in the future, we won’t need to give them directions about only applying it to one loan. Then I sent that other additional payment later in the month. We lowered our debt by $3,783! (That total includes the minimum payments and our payment to our Citibank card, which is carrying some of our student loan debt as well.)

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Total Debt Eradication

March 2015 Net Income: $343.82 (This will probably change, as some transactions don’t seem to post in line my blog-writing schedule… hrmph.)


Snowflaking: $649.58 (some of this went towards the big payment we made this month in addition to our minimum student loan payments; some of it was snowflaked after that and will be put towards next month’s additional payment)

  • $378.43 – leftover from our February paychecks (we snowflake any amount over $5000)
  • $50 – American Express Dollars (from our credit card; unfortunately, we also got slammed with the $75 fee…. I need to decide if the benefit from using the card is still outweighing the fee)
  • $100 – from not having to pay after school care for L this month!
  • $40 – H’s side hustle
  • $20 – from consigning
  • $10.80 – extra money from a Mary Kay sale
  • $0.55 – interest income from checking account
  • $50.00 – from my mom for something to buy for L – but I used some Amazon credits we had so I deposited the $50 instead!

2015 Consigning Totals: 
I’m curious about how much we will make in one year by consigning our clothing and L’s old toys at my favorite consigning store (and any other sales if I decide to participate). 
  • $56 (February) – this was unusually high!
  • $20 (March) – woot!

2015 Mintly Snowflaking Goal Progress:

My goal originally was to snowflake at least $50 per month, for a yearly total of $600. As you can see, we’re doing somewhat better than that, so far:
  • $110.01 (January)
  • $929.75 (February)
  • $649.58 (March)

2015 Snowflaking total so far: $1689.34

To see more 2015 Mintly Goals, please click here.

Life Accomplishments this Month:

  • Got to see my parents in VA – we drove up and they drove down and we got to hang out with them all weekend. I don’t know why we haven’t done that before, since we’ve only lived down here for about 5 years or something….
  • We made our wills and even got them witnessed and notarized! More on that in a future post, I believe….
  • I did some sewing to avoid having to replace some items of clothing! Me! WHAT WHAT.

What are your favorite sites to dig up side hustles? I’m looking for online, work-from-home-after-my-kid-is-in-bed side hustles, and I’d be open to editing, writing, instructional design, teaching online, etc. I have a few websites I check out every so often, but I’d appreciate your input!

France Trip Update

H and I are not seasoned international travelers. We’ve each been abroad before (and even once together!), but it’s not like we’re globe-trotters (but that’d be awesome, amiright?). All that’s about to change (at least for this summer): H has an international conference in France, and we’re going!

We decided to save $5000 for our trip (H thought we could get away with $4k, but I felt safer with $5k), and we started diverting $500 a month to a Travel Fund (housed in our Money Market account) to save up. We met our goal in December 2014, and my next step was to get my passport renewed.

Passport Picture: $7.94

Passport Renewal: $110

Then I started really looking in earnest at plane tickets and accommodations. I combed through websites to find “the best time to buy your tickets for international flights” and found basically what you’d expect to find: some people said something very specific, and then others said, “No, there’s no way to know the best time because the airlines change all the time.” So, I put the plane tickets on hold while I searched on Airbnb for a place that could accommodate 5 people (three bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, please!). We were able to find a few that would work, and then we sent links to the others coming with us on the trip.  They weighed in and chose one, and I booked it. We paid for it on our Chase Sapphire travel card (to get the points!).

Airbnb Reservations: $672.40 (total on the card: $1,681 [for 7 days, $336.20/person])

We went back and forth for a while on what our city of departure should be, which turned out to be more difficult than I wanted. At one point, our plane tickets were going to be over $2k each! I was floored – that would leave us about $400 for food for the week and for extra travel costs (not to mention souvenirs)!

Obviously, that was not going to work. We were either going to have to save more money or figure out how to get our tickets cheaper. Another factor we had to consider was that my parents are watching L, and they asked us to come up to them. That means flying out from near where they live, which will require us driving up there. However, I did manage to find plane tickets for WAY less than what I thought we would have to pay! For a while, they were even as low as $950! By the time I actually confirmed that it was okay with my dad to drive us 2.5 hours to the airport and then pulled the trigger, they were up t0 $1,117.80 each.

Of course, we had been using the Chase Sapphire card to generate points and we had more than 74,000 points built up (which would have gone farther, had we bought the tickets earlier).

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Airfare: $1,300.85

Total France Trip Cost so far: $2,091.19

We’re still waiting on one last person to reimburse us for the Airbnb, so we’re a little short in our Travel  fund: $2,747.52. (It’s still way better than I thought it would be if we had had to pay almost $2k per ticket.)

Coming up: I may have been thinking of purchasing the kind of clothing that travels well… And a pair of black flats that are comfortable but also good for dressing up…. And I may have already purchased those items…? (Until they arrive and I’ve tried them on, I’m not counting that money as spent, though!) We also may need to get a converter for charging our devices while overseas if we can’t find the one we used last time. Anything we purchase for the sole purpose of this trip, even if we plan to use/wear it later on, is coming out of the Travel Fund. (That’s what it’s for, right?)

Anyone have any advice about traveling overseas? Have you ever saved up for a big trip like this and regretted spending all of that money afterwards?

Navient Update

If you’re read my previous posts about Navient (there’s fake-swearing, be warned! – #1 & #2), you already know how I feel about that company.

After I shared my second post via Twitter, @Navient did respond and wanted to help me (by having me contact their social media email address).

I didn’t take them up on it, because I had already gotten a response by more traditional methods.

After the last debacle (again, see my second post about our dealings with them), I did, of course already contact them via email. I am not the kind of person who just complains (on such a vast platform, no less!) without contacting the company to also let them know how I feel!

Here’s what I wrote to them, regarding the most recent issue:

Hello. I made an online payment yesterday (in addition to our regularly scheduled automatic debit payment which went through on March 13th). (I also recently made a large payment of $2800 by check sent through the mail with a letter.) Yesterday, I made an additional payment online. I received the pop-up message that said, “Any payment you make today will be in addition to your scheduled automatic debit payment.” On your website, you state: “If you make a payment online at Navient.com, you will choose at that time whether you want any extra funds to apply toward future payments and, if applicable, advance your payment due date.” My payment was indeed more than my minimum payment; however, the information on your website states that I will be able to “choose at that time whether [I] want any extra funds to apply towards future payments and, if applicable, advance your payment due date.” I was not given that option; instead, I was told via pop-up that my payment would be in ADDITION to my scheduled automatic debit payment (which already went through). For the time being, I was okay with that not having a “choice” (which your website told me I would), because I didn’t want my due date advanced.

However, in checking my account today, I can see that it now states: “Next payment due: 5/13/2015,” so my due date WAS advanced. (It should read 4/13/15).

Perhaps I misunderstood the way the extra payments work. From the wording on your site, it sounds like I should have the option of whether or not I advance my due date. However, perhaps what it truly means is that if I paid TWICE my minimum payment (or more), the site would ask if I wish the extra payments to advance my due date AGAIN. I find this to be a very unclear and frustrating process. (I have screenshots of the website and the pop-up message, should you wish to see them.)

Should I understand from this issue (and the previous ones I’ve had, although I’ve sent very clear instructions with each check and the funds are still handled incorrectly by the company) that I should make my future payments online, and then just send an email the following day to make sure that my due date is not advanced?

I appreciate your timely response. Thank you.

I’ll share the screenshots with you, dear readers, because I can.

Here’s the pop-up I got when I was about to make my extra payment for March:

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And here’s the screenshot of our due date that had apparently been changed from 4/13/2015 to 5/13/2015.

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Navient responded to my email a few days later. I will admit, this response was more thorough than they have been in the past. I was still left with one question, though. Check out part of what they wrote, paying close attention to the part I highlighted.

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Keeping in mind that we are enrolled in Automatic Debit, how do you interpret that section?

I interpret it to mean that while the due date gets advanced*, they will continue to automatically debit our checking account with the minimum payment each month.

This seems odd to me, as the whole point of doing an automatic debit would be that the company would automatically debit your account when you have a payment due. If you don’t have a payment due, why would they automatically debit your account? (If it were a credit card company, I’d understand, but Navient doesn’t stand to gain much by getting our money now – they’d be better off putting off that due date and letting our loans gain even more interest.)

Of course, this is all kind of academic to us, because we want Navient to continue to debit our account even if our due date is pushed off to May. I can see a benefit to this: if we have an emergency and we can’t afford to pay our minimum payments one month, then we’re okay if we contact Navient to cancel our automatic debits – we would have at least a month’s grace period. There may be other benefits, too, that I haven’t thought of, but that one struck me first.

So, what do you think? Did I interpret the above excerpt correctly? I told H that I was so tired of going back and forth with them that I might just wait and see instead of asking for clarification. I also find it odd that if I did interpret what Navient is saying correctly (again, I think it looks like they’re planning to continue debiting our checking account each month, even if the due date has been advanced), then why did Navient go ahead and change my due date back to April? Did they do it just to give me something concrete to sate me, but it doesn’t really matter (because they were going to debit my account automatically on that day anyway?), or is it that I’m completely wrong about my interpretation of their email?

So, while I’m writing this post to update y’all, I’d really appreciate anyone else’s insights/opinions!

H is irritated beyond belief about the fact that “advance your due date” means to push the due date to a later time. He said, “In what world does ‘advance’ mean to go farther away?!” I let him blow off steam about it, but it doesn’t really bother me…. Which side are you on? 🙂