Thursday, March 22, 2007
Okay, so I'm not *completely* immune to psychological effects.
The leading digit on my consolidated Federal loan, by far the largest balance (and lowest rate) of all my student loans, has just dropped by one.

I know this is not as important as, say, improving the ratio of interest to principal for each succeeding payment.

But still. It's nice to see that tangible sign of progress.

Tomorrow, I am off for my much-needed long weekend with my grandparents.

When I return, I get to do that stuff I said I needed to do ten days ago.

And then I get to look at carnival submissions for the Festival of Under 30 Finances! People have until April 4 to submit, but people who send things in early will make me smile.

People who send in entries that have only a tenuous connection to the festival topic (it's "under 30" finances, not general personal finance, investing, or other consciousness-raising) will NOT make me smile. I reserve the right to ignore any submission that doesn't meet the submission guidelines.

At any rate, have a lovely weekend. I fully expect to.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
U.S. Dept. of Education Sued for Overcharging Students on Student Loans
A math teacher claims that her consolidated loan under the Direct Loan program had improperly capitalized interest between her June payment and June 30.

Apparently repeated requests to fix this went unresolved.

I've held my loan consolidation at the Direct Loan program since 2004, and have not noticed this personally. (I did pay more in interest in July 2005 than June 2005, but my payment cycle was longer from June to July than from May to June because of business day constraints.) I've never had any other problems, either.

I certainly hope that this situation is resolved quickly and appropriately. No student should be paying interest on interest if she is making her payments as agreed.


Monday, March 12, 2007
I am behind on everything.
I owe NCN a congratulatory shoutout.

I owe Michael and Jim posts.

I owe myself about four educational finance book reviews, because I owed the library a bunch of money to hang on to them. I have notes, just not posts.

Unfortunately, I also owe my bosses an article and some historical data reports this week. And meeting my deadlines for LAST week involved pushing those back. [sigh]

So I'll probably be MIA (er, more MIA than usual) this week.

But in response to English Major and NCN, here's a short rundown of my cashflow management.

I'll just get this out of the way: I force budget. So a LOT of category funding comes out of my pay via direct deposit.

I get paid biweekly, and base my "budget" on two pay periods per month. (For those months in which I have three, I do some different things which I'll explain below.)

  • Gross Pay: 100%
  • Automatic Pension Deduction <1%
  • 401(k) Style Plan 10%
  • Taxes 25%
  • Life Insurance, Health Insurance, and Flex Spending <3%
  • Charitable Deductions <1% (I REALLY need to improve this for next year.)
  • Savings Allotments: 9.9% (of which: 22% overdraft fund, 39% condo fund, 39% emergency fund. ETA: I've moved this to 14% overdraft, 43% condo, 43% efund, as I hit my $500 target for my overdraft fund. I'll sweep the extra from my overdraft fund to my efund periodically.)

So my net pay, the amount that actually hits my checking account, is about 51% of my gross.

On payday, I usually log in to each bank to check that everything was deposited properly. I move $15 from my overdraft fund to my vacation/holiday account (I can't get my HR system to do this automatically).

If it's the paycheck before the first of the month:

Over 90% goes to my rent. Whee. I'm left with around $100 for my renter's insurance bill and groceries for those two weeks.

If it's the paycheck in the middle of the month:

It covers EVERYTHING else. I make electronic payments either through automatic withdrawal or online billpay. My student loan payments come due at the end of the month (or the very beginning of the next month). My utility bills are due between the middle and end of the month. (My gas and cable/phone/internet bills don't vary by more than a dollar or so a month, so the only point of contention is my power bill [usually between $20 and $45].) My car insurance is due around the same time. My credit card bill is due the next month, but sometimes I'll send a partial payment early to make sure that I don't overestimate my reserve. (I always pay in full.)

This usually leaves me with $175-$225 in unemcumbered funds. From this I take care of food, gas, and entertainment. Most of this goes to food.

I manage, despite buying lunches as often as not, because:

  • I get a transportation subsidy from work that covers my bus and rail fare. So I only buy gas for personal trips.
  • I have a relative who works for a major cell phone carrier, so my cell phone bill is $10 a month.
  • I rarely buy alcohol. I enjoy the occasional drink, but I don't buy wine or liquor to bring home. If I'm out, I may buy ONE drink and then switch to water.
  • I rarely buy clothes. This is easier than it sounds because I hate everything. [grin] In all seriousness, I have fairly plain and sober taste in clothes, and most of what ends up in the stores doesn't tempt. When I do shop, I try to hit the sales or Tarjay.
  • I try to use coupons or visit the local second-run movie theater for my flick fixes.

I do have to restrain myself from buying tickets for a lot of concerts and club shows, however. And sometimes I'll find things a bit tight and focus a bit more on staple foods for a few days.

Finally, in those months (usually January and July) in which I have an extra pay period, a large portion usually goes to paying off travel/gift expenditures (my holiday fund doesn't cover everything), another piece goes toward savings, another piece goes toward extra debt repayment, and then I allow myself a little fun money (for clothes, shows, and such) with the rest.

It's not a perfect system. I do occasionally take money back from the overdraft fund to keep my checking balances in line (hence the name). But I keep my fingers out of my other savings pies, and my financial picture has steadily improved. So I think I'll stick with it.


Monday, March 05, 2007
February/March Net Worth

I've been busy this past week. Between a major work publication approaching, and my grandfather's 90th birthday celebration, I haven't had much time for blogging. But better late than never.

As always, I update on the second of the month for the balances of the previous month, due to my loan payoff schedule.

Personal Items

February is one of the months in which I arbitrarily drop the value of my computer to account for improvements in market products. With Vista now widely available, it makes even more sense. I (and KBB) left other valuations alone.

Cash and Cash Equivalent

Overall, my cash balances rose by a decent amount in February. My bank savings improved due to reimbursements from friends (I'd already paid off the credit card bill for our outing, so I'm leaving these amounts there). My online accounts improved from normal contributions; my tax refund (which went to my emergency fund) and my ING account liquidation (which went to paying off my plane ticket) basically offset each other.


Hi, China! My retirement account weathered the stock fallout well enough, but my mutual fund took a bit of a hit. I'm not particularly concerned about the blip.

Loan Balances

I continue to make my scheduled payments on my loans. My Perkins loan actually shows the impact of my scheduled payments for February and March, because I updated my last statement after January's large extra payment rather than my normal closing date.

Other Debt

Because my credit card balances are generally low, even a slight bump in expenditures looks like a big percentage change. In this case, my statement bill for my main card is lower than usual, and my second card is at a balance of zero.

The Month Ahead

March is a heavy birthday month for my family, including my aforementioned grandfather. Between that and my trip, I'll be spending a bit more than usual. During the trip, I'll be staying with my mom's parents. So lodging and meals will be covered, but I will still have incidental purchases. Despite there being a number of intriguing plays and films coming to town, I'll be ramping down my entertainment expenditures in expectation of these expenses.