February Goals!

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I decided to get my goals for the month out on the 1st of every month.  Since I started posting my goals and budget recaps, its made a big difference in how I get through my month and lets me measure my success which is awesome! Holds me accountable and keeps me on track.  Its like a fresh start at the beginning of every month!

February is going to be busy busy busy for me…and pricy. I have tons of things I need to pay for (vet visit, city stickers, flight to Austin, pay my sister for her work on the blog, and get my taxes done) Not to mention get balances down on my credit cards, my laptop and build up my savings.

What’s been happening…

I’m sure you could probably already tell, but my boyfriend and I broke up. So that means no more England for me. It was super unexpected and I’m shocked at how well I’m handling it. I’m not crying in a corner or crying myself to sleep. I’ve just picked myself up, am re-grouping and trying to really figure out what I want, where I want to be and what I want to do. First things first…I do not want to stay in Chicago. As much as its been my home for the last 12 years, I think its time for a major change. This whole situation has really made me realize that. I’m tired of the weather, tired of how expensive it is (I can’t afford to move into a bigger apartment unless I go waaaaay north and I dont want to do that) and am tired of meeting the same type of guys in Chicago. So I decided that I’m going to get my booty outta here and head south for some fun, sunshine and some nice ass weather.

So Step One is get out of Chicago. But finding a job while you’re currently in another state is proving to be the challenging part. Luckily I’m able to be fairly flexible with everything and I’m not in a rush to find just anything. I want the right job, with the right pay and the right opportunities. I’ve created a plan of action, so if I’m not able to find a job say in the next 4 months, I’ll stay in Chicago over the summer so I’m close by for my Maid of Honor duties in my Sister’s wedding and then head out shortly after, job or no job.

Step two is to make sure I have enough cash to relocate! Luckily I was on a pretty good trajectory to save money and while I wont be selling my car now (as I’ll need it) I should still be able to get enough cash to move, and survive at least a month or two. If I can’t find a job I’m crafty so I’m not worried about finding even a temporary job to bring in some income.

But Back to the Present…

With a plan in action and me working my way towards a Southern goal…I’ve gotta keep myself on point in the now. I want to continue to keep decreasing my budget so I’m not spending so much. So here are my Feb Goals:

1. Shrink my budget even more! I should be able to keeep my shopping budget and my going out to lunch budget low, but I want to get my grocery budget down to $200 and I need to be sure to eliminate the excess spending on the blog/jewelry. I plan on buying some ads, but I do not need to spend $150 a month on it… I would be so thrilled to get my budget down from $800 to $400. Its already dropped from spending over $1300 a month to where I am now, giving myself $800 of freedom. It still varies from month to month, but hopefully I’ll finally be able to get it on track and consistent.

2. Find a way to bring in some extra income. To offset all the spending this month, I really want to figure out some ways to bring in some extra income. I’m not generating any from the blog yet and I can’t count on that as income as my traffic is so low. If I can even bring in an extra $300 for February that will cover my trip to Austin!

3. Get a better social media schedule for the blog. Since I’ve cut back on posting to three times a week it has definitely freed up a lot of my time, but it doesn’t mean I should be cutting back on my social media. I need to get into a good routine with this and really start working out how to build traffic.

4. I really need to start stretching or doing yoga. Not once but twice in January I wrenched my back and was in pain for days. I need to start stretching, doing yoga or figuring out a way to avoid throwing my back again. One solution would be to get a new bed…but I will be holding off on that till I get out of Chicago.

5. Move forward after my breakup. Getting broken up with, with no inclination that it was about to happen and over text is a super hard thing to swallow. Even though I’m for the most part ok, it still really makes me question a lot of things and my already pretty bad trust issues are now full blown. Getting cheated on by two previous boyfriends, and finding out that the last one “just couldn’t handle work and a girlfriend (or whatever his reasons were, he didn’t even really explain…he just vanished)” doesn’t make it very easy to trust anyone…But I’ve gotta find peace with it and move forward. So that is my main goal for February. To work my way through it.

6. Do another big Purge. I have a ton of extra crap in my apartment that just sits in boxes and doesn’t get used. While I go through things pretty often, I really just need to toss a lot of this stuff. When I do move, I want to fill up just my car and thats it. Simplify life as much as possible it makes things so much easier. It is also a great way to relive some heavy emotions that have been hanging around.

 

So what big plans do you have for February!?

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January Budget Recap

January Budget RecapI some how managed this month to really be under budget in some areas…and way over in others. I think one of the problems I’m coming across is I’m not being detailed enough in my actual trips. Like I will go to Walgreens for some grocery items but also pick up makeup…so it covers both shopping and grocery categories. My goal for February is to keep receipts and try to be more specific in my tracking.

Groceries:

Budgeted: $250

Actual: $313

Difference: $63

Another month going way over on budget on this one! I’ve been trying desperately to cut back on my grocery bills but always manage to go over. I’m cooking more at home and finding that I’m always missing something in my cupboard for a recipe. I’ve also been buying more meat products (I bought lots of sausage, chicken and beef in January for some reason). I’m thinking that it may be worth a look into getting a Costco membership for some items that are non-perishable and for meat if I’m going to cook with it more.  Its still something I’m mulling over if its worth it to do right now….

Gas & Transportation:

Budget: $50

Actual: $0

Difference: $50

Didn’t have to spend anything on gas or transportation. But come February I have to renew my city sticker…definitely NOT a perk of living in Chicago.

Shopping

Budget: $200 ( I lowered it this month!)

Actual: $98

Difference: $102

I am SO proud of myself this month for shopping!  I not only lowered my budget but was super under budget! I even went shopping a few times and didn’t find anything so I didn’t spend! The few things I did end up buying were online and I started using ebates for the rewards! But now that I’m not going to England, I’m still planning on moving out of Chicago so I want to save up as much as I can so I can buy some nicer furniture and really decorate when I move and have the space to! I’ve already made a pinterest board of all my decorating ideas for my next place!

Food/Entertainment

Budget: $100 but flexible

Actual: $41

Difference: $59

My one week of No Lunches and my one week of No-Spend really made it happen. I can 100% attribute my success in this budget because of it. It also made me spend a little more in my grocery budget but I’ve decided to keep it up, and try to stick to no going out to lunch, or if I do, just once a week.

Beauty

Budget: $50

**I rarely get my hair and nails done so this budget will be as needed.

Actual: $0

Difference: $50

Blog Expenses/Jewelry Making Supplies

Budget: $150

Actual: $101

Difference: $49

I got this idea in my head that I was going to make jewelry and sell it on Etsy. So I went out and bought a shit ton of stuff over Christmas and then awhole bunch more crap this month. I really like making the jewelry but my skills are not so hot. So instead of buying more crap…I’m going to try to use what I’ve got first. Next month I’m hoping to FINALLY get my blog re-launched (My sister showed me the sneak peek and it looks awesome!) So I’ll be buying some sponsorship on some blogs and finally figure out a free printable/guide for when you subscribe to the blog!

What would you want to see from me?!

January Budget

Total Budget: $800

Actual: $546

Difference: $254

Additional Income: $86 + Year end bonus! 

I sold an item on Poshmark and sold a bed frame I had laying around my apartment. In February I’m going to try to do some more clearing out of things (I have a standing mirror/jewelry cabinet and couple laptops to sell and yet again…more clothes) 

Despite my really awesome job this month on things like shopping and going out to eat. I still definitely was over budget. I had some extra expenses in January, my poor puppy had to go to the vet. And Next month will be the same, vet visits, city stickers, taxes and a trip to Austin are all on the books. So February has some BIG goals!

I’m doing my Goals Post on the 1st of the month! Just to share my February Goals and some updates on my life…if you couldn’t tell there are some things a happenin’!

 

5 Tips to Avoid Student Loan Debt BEFORE you get it! (and a little after…)

So this past week I did a brief interview (ok maybe not so brief, because I ramble, even when I’m typing out my answers) with another blog Debt Free Divas and I was talking about my absolutely INSANE mountain of student loan and medical debt (all and all around $90k) and how I haven’t really started to tackle the loans…yet… I was doing a little calculating on all the ways I coulda, shoulda and looking back woulda saved myself (and my parents) a whole shit ton of student loans…yeah…a whopping $60k give or take. So I figured, why not expand on some great ways that Future, Current and Parents of College students can avoid massive student loans! Take it from me and learn from my big fat $60k mistake…student loans are awful.

Now I can’t go back and change the past, as much as I would like there are definitely a few relationships that I would have pressed the skip button and a lot of stupid young 20 something mistakes that I made, but if I can look back and give someone else maybe a few tips and tricks to help them avoid making my mistakes I’m all for it.

So here are my ____ Tips for Avoiding some student loan debt!

1. Don’t take out the full amount.

Oh.My.Gosh. Dont do it. Its soooo tempting. Its sooooo easy to do. Its sooooo nice to have a $1500 refund check after disbursements.  But don’t do it! Just run away from taking the extra! There are obviously circumstances which may require  you to…maybe you don’t live on campus and you’re in med school and you’ve gotta take out the full sha-bang to get through school since you can’t work. I’m not going to lie, those refund checks got me through some really rough patches financially…they paid my rent on more than one occasion. So let me break it down for you *note these are rough estimates based on what I vaguely remember getting…

I was in school for a total of 7 years, for two bachelors degrees. Each term I’d get a refund check for around $1200. If I would have NOT taken those extra loan dollars over the course of my education, I would have saved around $16,800 in student loans.

$16,800.

Yeah. $16,800.  Plus at the end of it all (at say a 6% interest rate) an additional $1000 in interest.

I worked full time throughout my education. I had roommates for a few  years and ended up finding that living alone was much better suited for me. While those refund checks did help me financially pay my bills there was a lot of times where I just spent them…on crap. Bought a new car, got a new computer, went on vacation. I relyed a little too much on the loans for survival, when I really could have figured out a better budget or tried to cut back in other areas and made it work in other ways.

You have to REALLY evaluate your needs and your situation when it comes to the refunds. There were times where they literally saved me from getting evicted, and got me out of a lot of tight spots.

2. Take Gen-Eds at a community college on your summer breaks or before you even start school (if you can).

Oh how I wish I did this. When I was in High School I finished all my required credits after my first semester of my senior year. I actually only had to take 2 classes that semester. I had a fun senior year, I took literally an entire day of art classes. It was super fun! But the school counselors had suggested I take some college courses at the local community college to get some out of the way. I didn’t listen…of course.  I ended up going to my very expensive art school for ALL my classes. So lets break that down:

At my first school, credit hours currently are $790/hr.  A semester of 12-16 credit hours runs around $11,000. (this just makes my stomach hurt by the way)

At the community college in my hometown, the credit hours are currently $108/hr. So for one semester of 12-16 credit hours would run around $1200.

I could have taken 2 classes each semester in High School, and at least 2 over the summer before I started school and for the summer I returned home. For a total of 8 classes. So 8 classes would have cost me around $3500…compared to $22,000. Thats a savings of $18,500! 

 So are you keeping track? Right now, if I would have done just those two things, I would have saved a total of $35,300 on student loans. And around $2000 in interest at a 6% interest rate. 

3. Do Dorms, but only for one year.

So when I went to school the first time, I stayed in the dorms. The dorms are one of the things that I feel like are an AWESOME way to experience college. I definitely recommend it to anyone who can live in on campus housing. You will have a year filled with new friends, lots of memories and a blast. My biggest mistake? I went into the dorms for 2 years.  Now my school was a little on the unusual side as it was a private school, and incredibly expensive. My room and board fees were $12,000 a year. The first year I didn’t have a meal plan because they had apartment style housing, the 2nd  year I did which tacked on another $3000 in loans. So for two academic years (9 months not 12!) I spent a total of $27,000 on student housing. That equaled out to be around $1600 a month. Rent at the time in Chicago for a MASSIVE one bedroom right across the street from my theater building? $1200. (I know this because I moved into it mid 2nd semester of my sophomore year, yet still paid for the entire year of student housing).

Now I don’t regret this. Not one bit. Some of my greatest memories of college were from living in the dorms, both the first year and the 2nd year. But I could have easily skipped the 2nd year and saved $15,000 on loans. It wouldn’t have killed me to do so, most of my friends lived in the dorms anyways and I still would have lived right on campus (the beauty of attending school in a major metropolitan city).

Dorms are a BIG expense and one that you can avoid if you want to save some money. Both my sisters stayed at home or lived off campus, thats not an option for everyone especially if you go out of state for school.

4. Make payments before you even get out of school.

Another thing I shoulda coulda woulda. Obviously living in Chicago, its expensive. There were many times where I had to borrow cash for rent or to buy groceries. But I also didn’t give myself a budget at all and didn’t track my spending or figure out where I could cut costs at all. I most certainly could have been smarter about money back then now that I look back on it.  So paying the student loan payments would not ever have been possible before I finished school. Shit, I can’t even pay the full amount now…but with a little creativity, budgeting and making it a priority. Even if I paid $50 a month towards my student loans WHILE I was in school (remember I was working) and even while they were deferred, in forebearance (current status) for the 12 years since I’ve moved to Chicago…I would have already paid off $7200. Just by paying $50 a month.  I have a few smaller sized ones (around the $2500-$3000 range) and I look at that number now…I could have paid off two small loans by now. And saved about $400 in interest!

5. This one may be kind of obvious but come up with a realistic plan for repayment.

This is something I’m just now trying to figure out. The earlier you’re able to try to figure out how much you’ll need to pay each month the more you can prepare for it. I actually completed my exit counselling for the few classes that I took for my (attempted and abandoned) masters. According to the counseling, in order for me to pay my current monthly expenses AND the standard re-payment amount I would need to make at LEAST $141,500 a year. I honestly don’t know how they calculated that number….it seems excessivly high and completely unrealistic. Because I mean…shit….if I could find a job that paid me that much I could easily pay off my loans in 2 years flat by sticking to my current budget and throwing entire paychecks
towards my loans.

Now that I am on a budget and know exactly what my expenses are each month, it lets me calculate how much I really need to make to comfortably afford my regular expenses, a little cushion for safety and a full standard payment on my loans.  And let me tell you something…it is definitely not my salary now, but its also not $141,500.  Now that I know what I need in order to be extra comfortable, I can be on the hunt for a position that will pay closer to that and start working on some side hustles!

On a final note, this isn’t part of my 5 tips, but its something I’ve come to realize is just as important as paying your bills on time.  You really need to make saving a part of  your monthly expenses. Even if its $25 a month. Paying your bills is a big responsibility and a very important part of being a grown up. (being a grown up sucks…) but saving is what is going to give you a safety net if things go down the tubes. I used to really believe that I couldn’t “afford” to save. I was living so  paycheck to paycheck that I couldn’t see beyond my present situation. But I should have tried to put away even just little pockets worth of cash here an there, where ever I could, whenever I could. It wasn’t until this past year that I really amped it up and made saving a priority. Now I treat it like a bill. And even when I start paying my student loans, my savings will still be a bill. And in the instance that a crisis occurs I’ll have a safety net to fall back on.

5 Tips For Avoiding St. Loans