Jun 16

A Note on Student Loans

 A few weeks ago I had wrote a post on the current state of interest rates in the student loan market, and right now I wanted to do a follow-up post on that. We are quickly approaching the July 1 deadline for student loan rates (from the government) to all jump to 6.8% if Congress does not act by then.

There are several plans outlined, but I wanted to highlight Elizabeth Warren’s plan in this post. I recently came across a petition for supporting Elizabeth Warren’s plan started by her. At the time of writing this, the petition has over 450,000 (!) signatures on it. While I may not fully agree with her plan, I think her method of attacking it and bringing the issue out into the open is the important part here.

If we can show Congress how important this issue really is by getting as many signatures as possible on this petition, I think it could really spark a debate or at least get the news talking more about this. I know that sometimes online petitions have a bad rap, and many times they are ignored – but in this case Senator Warren plans to deliver the petition to Congress.

You can sign the petition right here:
http://pac.petitions.moveon.org/sign/give-students-the-same

Photo Credits for this post: Mother Jones

Jun 04

Monthly Budget Review – May 2013

This is the fun part where you get to see how exactly I spent my money this month, and how well I stuck to my planned budget. I will also show how much ‘extra’ money I spent outside of my allotted entertainment budget that could have went to my student loans instead.

For now my budget is set to have $0 remaining at the end of the month, with every extra dollar going to my student loans but this will not be an exact science. My student loan payments are due not quite at the end of the month, so it will be hard to be perfect with this but I’m going to stick to the plan and try to throw as much money as possible at the student loans.

This month will also look a little weird as I told you in a previous post, I wanted to completely eliminate one of my smaller, high interest loans. I did this by pulling money out of my sizable ’emergency fund’ as I try to bring it down to a more reasonable level of 6 months worth of income. I’m currently living at home, so I think the amount I have sitting in my savings account is way too conservative for now.

Here is the breakdown for my budget this month:

Item Budgeted Actual Difference
Income $2,800.00 $2,800.00 $0.00
Rent -$100.00 -$100.00 $0.00
Car Insurance -$110.00 $0.00 $110.00
Cell Phone -$20.00 -$20.00 $0.00
Gas -$75.00 -$97.00 -$22.00
Gym -$20.00 -$20.00 $0.00
Entertainment -$100.00 -$100.00 $0.00
Total Income After Fixed Expenses $2,375.00 $2,463.00 $88.00
“Extra” Spending $0.00 -$357.00 -$357.00
Total Income Before Student Loans $2,375.00 $2,106.00 -$269.00
Student Loan Payments -$2,200.00 -$3,900.00 -$1,700.00
Total Remaining $175.00 -$1,794.00 -$1,969.00

I ended up being over budget by almost $1,800 – but this was done on purpose. I took that extra money out of my savings account and extra large emergency fund to completely pay off one of my private loans. I plan on doing this for a few months until I am able to get my emergency fund down a reasonable level, I do not want to actually spend more than I make in a normal monthly situation.

As you can also see the rent, cell phone, and gym payments will not change. There was no car insurance this month as I made my last payment for the ‘year’ last month and now I will have a few months where it will not have to be paid. I think I’m going to have to up the budgeted amount for gas money to around $100. It will end up being higher than my current budgeted amount most months with gas prices seeming to always be going up. With my current drive to work and visiting my girlfriend at college, it was too conservative.

I used up all $100 of my budgeted “entertainment” money for this month, and unfortunately because of the car problems I had this account for a significant amount of my extra spending. I also plan on adding in a $50 budget line item for dining out, that way I can see how much I use on that instead of just placing that into ‘extra spending’ after my $100 “entertainment” budget is all used up.

If you take out the $300 I had paid in fixing my cars, my entertainment budget was out $157, which is only $57 over my budgeted amount. I can’t complain with that at all. I definitely thought I was doing much worse, but maybe keeping track of all my spending helped me remind myself not to throw my money away! I would have still ended up with about $118 left over if I had not pulled extra money out of my savings account for the month. Once I add in a $50 item for eating out, I think that this will definitely be a more realistic budget that I can target going forward:

Item Budgeted
Income $2,800.00
Rent -$100.00
Car Insurance -$110.00
Cell Phone -$20.00
Gas -$100.00
Gym -$20.00
Dining Out -$50.00
Entertainment -$100.00
Total Income After Fixed Expenses $2,300.00
“Extra” Spending $0.00
Total Income Before Student Loans $2,300.00
Student Loan Payments -$2,000.00
Total Remaining $300.00

Photo Credits for this post: Charles Rondeau

Jun 03

Weekly Spending – 5/26/13 – 6/01/13

It’s that time of the week once again…let’s see how I did! My weekly spending for this week consists of the following:

Sunday 5/26:
Propane – $6
Camping Stove Hose – $20

Monday 5/27:
None

Tuesday 5/28:
None

Wednesday 5/29:
None

Thursday 5/30:
Gas – $20

Friday 5/31:
Lunch – $10

Saturday 6/01:
None

Total Week Spending: $62

This week did not include any car problems, which is always a good thing after the week I had last week. I also did not make any major purchases and tried to keep my spending to a minimum. I made another purpose for my camping trip that is coming up, buying some propane for the camping stove for $6.

When I went to test the stove, I realized that the shut off valve wasn’t really working. I tried some WD40, but that didn’t solve the problem. The hose and stove functioned fine other than that, but I figured it might be leaking propane while using it – or I’d forget to unscrew the little tank and the next day would be out of propane. I decided the best idea was to just buy the new hose, which cost $20. If you are going camping, it’s always important to check your gear before you leave!

I also filled up my gas tank on Thursday, which once again ran me $20. On Friday we went out for a co-workers birthday. I picked a relatively cheap item on the menu for $10, and just got water to go with it. I’d rather just bring lunch everyday, but it doesn’t really bother me if this only happens once or twice a month. At least I could save my leftovers until today and didn’t have to get anything ready on Sunday night.

 Photo Credits for this post: freeimageslive / baronsboy

May 30

Frugal Tips: Bing Rewards Review

bing rewards reviewI had mentioned in my previous weekly spending post that I had made a purchase off of Amazon, and I had a $5 gift card to make this even cheaper. I’m going to give you a tip on how exactly I managed to get this gift card, and how I keep a constant supply of these coming in while doing nothing out of my ordinary routine and taking only a few minutes or less of your extra time. And we all the know the important part of being financially independent is the fact that your time in life is much more valuable than your money.

Continue reading

May 29

Weekly Spending – 5/19/13 – 5/25/13

It’s that time of the week once again…let’s see how I did! My weekly spending for this week consists of the following:

Sunday 5/19:
None

Monday 5/20:
Charcoal Chimney Starter – $12 – $5 Amazon GC = $7

Tuesday 5/21:
None

Wednesday 5/22:
Gas – $20

Thursday 5/23:
Car Repairs – $300

Friday 5/24:
None

Saturday 5/25:
None

Total Week Spending: $327

This week was everything going really well with my extra spending for the week looking to come in under $50, until the check engine light decided to come on in my car on Wednesday. My car had trouble accelerating at times, and it took a few times on the gas pedal around 20-30MPH where I would have to let off the gas pedal and try again. It would work perfectly fine for stretches on the way home, but then this would happen again and I knew I had trouble.

I took it to Autozone immediately and had them do the check engine diagnostics so that they could get a reading on the error code. It said that I had either a faulty camshaft position sensor or a crankshaft position sensor. They said it would be OK to drive in the short term, but obviously I shouldn’t bring it on the highway or do any long distance driving. I obviously did not plan on doing any of that and drove it straight home.

I did some research with my Dad to see if we would be able to do this ourselves, and it did seem relatively simple but they were both in awkward positions and unfortunately we didn’t know exactly which one was malfunctioning. We decided it was best to just take it to a mechanic. Of course having great luck – the mechanic replaced the camshaft sensor and the car still had problem, it turned out that both of the sensors had gone faulty!

This was some pretty bad luck, but I guess it could have been much worse. This is the first major problem I have had with my car, and I’m around 62,000 miles (bought used at around ~28,000) so I can’t complain. The total cost ended up being just shy of $300, putting a big dent into my monthly spending. I can’t wait until I am able to move out, hopefully to a location much closer to work enabling me to commute with bike and drastically cut down on the car usage.

I also purchased a smaller version of a charcoal chimney starter off of Amazon for my camping trip next month. We already have the larger one, but this one is portable and should pay for itself by eliminating the need to buy lighter fluid. I had also filled up my tank for $20 on Wednesday morning. I’m definitely hoping next week goes much smoother, no major purchases are in the plans.

Photo Credits for this post: Pixabay