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Back At It

Debt updates:

Banana Republic Visa  Рpaid off

Discovercard – $50 balance

IRS – paid off

BestBuy – paid off

In May, we’ve reduced our debt by $4323.88.

Since March, we’ve reduced our debt by $7285.98.

I’m happy about getting rid of some payments. It makes everything else so much more livable. We are far from perfect in our efforts but we have come so far, in my opinion. It just goes to show that you don’t have to be perfect to accomplish goals. This is something that was really hard for me to learn – I am a perfectionist by nature, and if I can’t be perfect I tend to give up altogether. I am trying to learn to accept imperfection and to instead keep slogging forward, knowing that mistakes are a certainty. Maybe the mistakes are even essential to achieving the goal.

We had a discussion last night and decided to re-prioritize our debt pay off by interest rate (highest to lowest) rather than using Dave Ramsey’s snowball method. The amount of money we are paying just to owe someone money (“interest”) is absurd. When I did the math, I just felt like it didn’t make sense to use the snowball method anymore. I think we are really on track, and don’t need the psychological boost of small wins so badly now. Also, if work-related things go as we hope (more below), we should be able to throw enough money at the larger, high interest debts that we can get them paid off in four-ish months each, as the biggest single debt we have is $11K though that’s a lower interest one on the bottom of the list (technically, this is two smaller student loans with the same interest rate, but my loan servicer treats them as one for the monthly repayment plan – so I could just throw this statement out the window). The next biggest, however, is $9.5K with a very high (CITI 17.99%) interest rate. So that’s our next target. I think after I make the first large (previously paying the minimum) payment, I’m going to call and see if they’ll lower the interest rate on the balance.¬†

We got married on May 9! Spent about $1300, including clothes, rings, and license/ceremony fees. My generous parents paid for dinner and drinks after the ceremony (unexpectedly! – we had planned to pay for dinner), and my mom paid for my dress and accessories. It was a small courthouse ceremony, only 15 people including us. We had so much fun. I would do it again in an instant. We used a portion of the cash wedding gifts we have used so far towards the debt, saving the rest as an emergency fund and to also partially fund some mandatory family visits this summer. Husband and I both have family in poor health and we need to make spending some time with them ASAP a priority, even over the debt struggle. I know that many people would argue that everything should go to the debt and we should postpone these trips, but for us, that’s not a reflection of our priorities. Money is very important, but family is more important. We don’t feel that this is a misuse of funds, but rather an investment in our lives that we may never get back (due to cancer in both of our families, and increasingly frail elderly grandparents in mine.)

One unfrugal thing is that I’ve joined Weight Watchers. I’ve packed on about 30 pounds in the three years since I’ve moved to the west coast, and I was much chubbier than I wanted to be on my wedding day. My sister had been in Weight Watchers for a few months and had lost almost 40 pounds I think, and just looked great. I wanted to look great too. Nothing I had been doing on my own was getting me anywhere, or at least the accomplishments were short lived. So I decided that I need help for a little while. Husband is going to join me probably starting next week because school is over this week.

Speaking of husband, an opportunity came up where his bosses at his work-study want him to apply for full time work there. Because of some VA benefits requirements for continued support (GI Bill benefits have been used up, he is eligible for vocational rehab benefits but they are very rigid on courses etc.), VA support for him to finish school is not a certainty at this point. He is also feeling a bit burnt out, but then he normally does at the end of spring semester. So we are now looking at him putting school on hold for a bit and instead pursuing a full time job. It would be great to have the benefits and regular income, and I think also good for his self-esteem. I am also up for a possible promotion at work. If I don’t get that, I will at least get a 3% cost of living and merit increase. But if I don’t get this promotion, I am going to start looking for work elsewhere. My boss has been telling me for many months that he wants me for that position so it would be a pretty big breach of trust for me. Even though he is retiring, I feel that the resentment would be too much to continue here for a long time. I want to learn something new and make more money. The promotion would afford me that opportunity, but if I don’t get that, getting a new job would too. So hopefully these work-related things will go the way we want them to, which will serve us wonderfully in getting out of debt faster.

One last thing – I changed my with holdings on my W2 now that we’re married, and it was like giving myself a 15% raise. I expect to get about another $500 in my paycheck each month. We’ll have to keep a decent balance in savings in case there are any surprises at tax time, but I think we should be ok.

Wrangling With the Cable Company

I check my bank account daily to see which bills have been deducted so that I can update my budget spreadsheet. I enter the amount paid and highlight it when it has actually been deducted since some payments take a few days to post. This is how I keep track of how much money I have for the rest of the month.

This morning, I checked my bank account as usual and noted that my payment to the cable company was about $17 LOWER than the normal amount. Subsequently, I logged into my Time Warner Cable account, which confusingly showed the amount due as the regular amount ($77), the amount paid as the lower charge ($60), and the balance as $0. Still confused, I opened the pdf of my monthly statement, which was of no help. Finally, I clicked the chat button to find out from the customer service person that I was given a promotional discount for internet for some magical reason. It occurred to me to ask what my bill would be next month because the promo I had wrangled for the past year should be up soon. Lo and behold, she tells me that next month it’s going to be $97!!

I have kept the cable only so I don’t have to pay a fee to cancel it. We don’t watch it. We watch our Roku or the streaming channels on our smart tv. Now was my big chance to finally cancel cable tv!

Long story short, I agreed to keep the most basic tv package that comes out of the jack in the wall, and I have to keep our internet because we use that every day. The kind gentleman I spoke with in the department that is apparently called “Customer Solutions” was very helpful and got my bill down to $57 for the next six months, after which it will go up to $64. But he said at the end of the six months I can call again to have “services re-aligned with your budget and needs.” Meaning that I can call back and make a stink and they’ll probably work with me. (Not that I made a stink, I was very pleasant, but straightforward. This gentleman was very nice and helpful and did his job well.)

I was actually quite pleased with how easy it was. The voice response system actually gives an option for cancelling services. I feel like I remember in years past they would never mention cancellation openly and it was like pulling teeth to get rid of the damn service you didn’t want or need.

I feel so accomplished! I’ve been waiting to downgrade my cable services and I’m so pleased with myself.