Hey There Mr. Tax Man: $49,293.51 Paid, $36,014.56 Till Pay Off

Making it Rain!

Tax season is that time of year when people fantasize about how to spend their tax refunds.  In years past, I’ve used tax returns to fund vacations, cars, tuition payments, and clothes.  My favorite vacation was taking my wife to the Dominican Republic.  It was great practicing our Spanish, walking on beaches, and exploring caves.  It was a much needed vacation, as my wife 7 months earlier, gave birth to our daughter. 

This year, we made the difficult decision to forgo a trip to pay toward my student loans.  Well, it was difficult for my wife lol!  She is such a trooper, thanks for being Bonnie to my Clyde during these difficult times babe.

Big Belly, Small Wallet

Another component to my debt payoff journey is reducing how often we eat out.  After reviewing our credit card statements, I realized we spent over $6,000 last year at restaurants and fast food.  This year has not started off any better, as we’ve spent $600 in the month of February alone.  It seems like the more we make, the more we spend frivolously.  My family and I are blessed having not missed a meal, live in a safe dwelling, and have affordable transportation.  So the following questions boggle my mind: 1) Why must I feel entitled to dine out while having a refrigerator full of food?  2) What if I made a $6,000 payment toward my student loans instead of dining out?

With that being said, my old spending habits will not hold me back from a debt free future.  My last shopping trip included some of my all-time favorites: hamburger patties, General Tsao’s Chicken, and yogurt for smoothies.  There’s nothing like a blueberry/mango smoothie after a long day of work.

Challenge Accepted

The first challenge I foresee with not eating out would be my daughter missing out on pizza, her favorite meal.  Second, my wife and I enjoy trying new restaurants as a weekend hobby.  Cooking on weekends will take lots of time and energy.  Third, managing my schedule to help out more in the kitchen.  Disclaimer: I have cooked twice in the past month.  Thankfully, there were enough leftovers from each meal to last a few days.  Although my wife didn’t eat much of the food I prepared, she was gracious.  Hmmm…  Which leads me to my final challenge, to improve my cooking.

Thanks for stopping by.  Below, is an update of my student loan repayment progress.

What have you given up to help with debt payoff?  Until next time folks, fight on!

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Merry Christmas?: $46,370.77 Paid, $38,937.30 Till Pay Off

Image result for christmas hollyWell it’s that time of year again, Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!  For those of you who are in college or have dependents, remember to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA application was made available October 1st and the submission deadline is June 30th.

In Other News:
There have been current rumblings surrounding issues of: 1) Graduate Student Tuition Waivers, 2) Student loan interest and 3) Student Loan forgiveness.
I will do my best to stay out of politics, since I have a difficult time managing my 1 year old.  In short, law makers as represented by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate considered taxing graduate tuition waivers as income.  Understandably, students were unhappy and protested. Thankfully, their voices were heard.  College students don’t make much and I speak from experience. Click here for more from NPR.

Hard Times Were Fun Times:
During my college days, I worked 3 jobs and enrolled as a full-time student.  Money earned was spent attempting to cover tuition.  My usual meals were Chef Boyardee, Ramen, Ensure, and 99 cent double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s.
However, I was blessed to have some meals provided for by a loving elderly couple.  Also, 3 meals a week were provided at the cafeteria through a job as a Resident Assistant.  Man, college sure was fun.

Paying the Tax Man:
Next, lawmakers considered removing the $2,500 student loan interest deduction.  By what I understand, the deduction is not guaranteed. In fact, the amount a tax bill is reduced is based on the tax payer’s income.  So the higher your salary, the less interest deduction can be used; the lower your salary, the better your chances to use the full deduction.  This is the best I can do to explain this, for more information click here.  This interest deduction greatly reduced my tax bill for calendar year 2012, as my career was in its fledgling stages.  To hear more from the IRS click here.

Generational Debt:
I work in education and student loan debt is a concern for young and old. To my surprise, “seasoned” coworkers disclose more than the 20 somethings about financial issues. What I hear mostly is the shame of still paying school debt while having a child in college.

The recent graduates I work with are really hoping for student loan forgiveness. Unfortunately, not many of them are taking advantage of the Income-Based Repayment programs. Although I am currently enrolled in an IBR program, I’m prepared to pay off every penny of debt should loan forgiveness is denied.  Here, CNN gives insight on the current plight of the first group of borrowers who are eligible for loan forgiveness.

Help Is On The Way:

I am grateful for my talks with coworkers as they have been very supportive. Below is an update on my loan balance.

Speaking of college, I am excited to announce there is help out there. It is called the Dallas County Promise.  It is a last dollar tuition scholarship for students in attendance of any Dallas County Community College District campus or participating university.  So far, The University of North Texas-Dallas (UNT-D) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) are participants in this scholarship program.  Follow the link for details and spread the news!

 

 

Busy, Yet Productive: $41,507.06 Paid, $43,801.01 Till Pay Off

It Feels Like Forever:

Hi everyone! This post feels long overdue. Work has been very busy and having things to do at work is job security. As stated in the last post, I’ve picked up another teaching job.

When I’m not advising students on career choices, I am grading, and replying to frantic emails at unholy hours in the morning. The emails and office visits from students energize me, so I’m happy to assist in any way possible.

In addition to job duties, I have made the decision to torture myself by returning to school. On top of this, my daughter is crawling now. While I’m studying, she gets into EVERYTHING; so it can be fun finding her, but scary when she hurts herself.

Student loan repayment hasn’t stopped. Check out the updated balances below.

Reminiscing On Love:

My wife and I just celebrated another year of marriage, pray with us for many more. As the years roll by, I realize the importance of not taking her for granted. We’ve been through so much in our little 6 years and can’t believe she has stuck with me this long. I’m awestruck when meeting couples who have been married for 20 years or longer. A long list of joys and sorrows are undoubtedly present when loving someone.

Love Isn’t Easy:

I remember fondly my first job out of college. The pay and benefits were great and the feeling of accomplishment swelled in me everywhere I went. Being recently married, next on the agenda were children and a house.

Then One Day…

I was given the ultimatum at my job, leave or be fired. Being young and dumb I quit voluntarily. Now thinking back on it, I would’ve allowed my employer to fire me, for unemployment benefits lol. Naively I thought having a college degree would exempt me from hardships.

I imagined my voicemail box full from employers offering even higher paying jobs than the one I left from. My next job wouldn’t be found until six months later, washing cars.

No Love Lost:

My wife loved me before I had the high dollar job and she loved me after it was gone. She remained consistent in her affection toward me, and for that I am thankful.

Student Loan Advice:

  1. Expect and plan for hardships along the journey- A friend once told not to worry. Citing a theologian he said, “Worry is interest paid on trouble before it comes due.” So it’s best to do what you can when you can, don’t fret.
  2. Believe-To do the seemingly impossible you must believe in the impossible. Someone had to eventually create the first plane, then came breaking the sound barrier, next was space flight.
  3. Stay Consistent-Learn as much as you can and learn to fail. When you fail, never give up because it is your “First Attempt In Learning”. Things take time to improve, with each payment there’s less interest and hopefully less principal owed.

Feel free to comment below and share your warm and fuzzy memories. The next post will be titled, “House Hunting”.

 

 

It Takes A Village: $38,125.17 Paid, $47,182.90 Till Pay Off

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With A Heart of Thanks:

I want to start this blog entry by saying thank you. I am at a loss for words to describe the generosity my family has received from many people far and wide. Thank you to the ladies who encouraged my wife during the pregnancy, ensuring her she would be the great mother as she has turned out to be. Thank you to the guys who prayed for me, offered Godly wisdom and parenting advice.

My Baby’s Arrival/Health Benefits:

My daughter arrived on Sunday, August 7, 2016.  The experience of witnessing the birth of your child is life changing (and expensive too lol). Right now we are awaiting the final delivery bill to determine how it will impact our budget. One thing’s for sure: I don’t want to add any more debt.

With that said, healthcare in America is costly.  Initially, it was cheaper for my wife and I to have our employer/school provide insurance separately.  With the addition of our child, it has become less pricey for the three of us to be under my employer plan.  Thus, our health coverage will cost $798 a month, but the benefits will be well worth it.

Daycare, Baby Needs & New Budget:

On another note, diapers, wipes, baby clothes, car seats and cribs may cost you little, or it may cost you lots, but it’ll cost you.  Thanks to the gifts of friends and family, there were only a Baby Budgetfew baby essentials needed.  All my little girl needs is a loving home and I’m sure my wife and I can manage that.

To the left is my family’s updated budget, click on the image for a larger view.  You will notice two new items: Daycare and Baby Needs.  The $2,894.13 featured in Baby Needs is not our monthly budget for her, but is the amount spent for the month of August.  As months go by, we expect to be able to assess a fair budget for our child.

My wife hates giving one thought to daycare, but she understands it’s necessary given our busy schedules. In her own words, “I love having our daughter near and on me”. Sweet huh? Seeing through the warm fuzzies, she understands we must do our best to: 1) pay off my student loans and 2) ensure her graduation this December.

To wrap up this post, below is an update on my student loan accounts as of 08/23/2016. Thanks for following my journey to student debt freedom thus far.

Loan Update

Once again, thank you to those who have shown love to my little family.

 

The Sacrifice of a Father: $37,197.54 Paid, $48,110.53 Till Pay Off

Why So Happy?
Waking up Monday mornings is always a drudgery for our house. But this Monday morning, as I groggily walked to the restroom to wash my face, my wife wore a beaming smile and greeted me cheerily. Her greeting was contrastingly returned with a slowly motioned wave and mummified growl, “Morning.”

Baby PicDespite my groggy state, I couldn’t help but be suspicious about her extra energy boost. While reaching for a washcloth, in the corner of my eye, was a pregnancy test leaning against the wall. I tried to delete the image of the pregnancy test to shield myself from fear and pain.

My wife and I have been married for 5 years and were coming to terms with the possibility of never being able to conceive. I assumed the pregnancy test would read negative, but out of hope, I took a peek at it anyway.

To my amazement and disbelief the test read positive. Then I thought, wait, this is an April Fools’ joke, why would she do something so mean? But this was in November, April was 5 months away. Then my attention was drawn to sticky notes my wife placed above the pregnancy test where she wrote, “We prayed and God answered.”

Still half-conscious, it clicked.
“Wait… we’re pregnant?!”
Almost instantly, the sleep fell from my eyes.
She grabbed my hands and excitedly screamed, “Yes, we’re pregnant!”
I can’t explain the joy in knowing that my little girl will be here in August; I feel alive again!

Sacrifices of Parenthood
Once the initial elation surrounding my little girl’s arrival wore off, the reality of newfound responsibilities rose to the surface. We will lose sleep, time, and maybe even some friends. And of course, as we all know, raising a child can come with a considerable price tag. Half of me is joyful in anticipation of my child’s arrival, and the other half is anxious. I still have student loan debt to repay and sometimes wonder if waiting longer before starting a family was the better option.
But I am proud to have the opportunity and privilege to raise a child.
Fatherhood is the best gift imaginable, especially since for us, the seemingly impossible became possible. Two little eyes will be looking to me with love every day from this point on, and a little mouth will call me “dada”. Why would I not want the gift I have been given after being blessed with it?

With that in mind, I now prioritize savings over debt reduction in anticipation of the costs of raising a child as well as any birthing complications. Although I want to get rid of student loan debt faster, it would be a pity not to provide for my family first.

New Debt Payment Plan
My student loan accounts are paid bi-weekly, totaling initially $425.51 every two weeks as shown below. I have since reduced the amounts made on the debt to an updated amount of $248.76.

Bi-Weekly Payments2

The principal paid bi-weekly has decreased from approximately $304.99 to $137.31, due to reduction in repayment. It’s a little disheartening to see my momentum slow a bit; but one thing’s for sure, my debt is decreasing.

Bi-Weekly Principal Payment 2

What matters most is my beautiful wife and daughter are healthy and strong.
For all the parents out there, how have you tackled the financial responsibilities of student loan debt and parenthood?

Until next time folks, fight on.