May 2014: Back on Track!

I love having good news. Last month was a great month. Despite paying some hefty bills, our prior planning paid off and we were able to manage those payments with cash and without feeling the pinch. We’ve rolled over all of our old and dormant pensions into awesome Vanguard funds. We made a sale with our side business. We did better than break even with our income. Aaaand … we have put our excess income towards a student loan. How much? Read on …

There was a brief moment in time when our net worth hovered around -$80,000. Mr. Stapler’s old pension had rolled over into an IRA and I glimpsed this wonderful sight in Mint:

Mid-April 2014 Net Worth

Then we paid our taxes and our annual disability insurance bill. Womp womp.

The upside is that these big expenses didn’t really hit us too hard in the net worth department. Why? Two words: Automatic deposits. Every month, we pay about $380 to an “Annual Savings” fund, which pays for our disability, life, and auto insurance; vacation; and Christmas. The payments are automatically deducted at the beginning of the month and we don’t touch that savings account until one of those bills are due. To save for taxes, I simply take 25% of the side hustle or freelance check and deposit it into an account called “Save for Taxes. I do all of this with Capital One 360, which makes it extremely easy (formerly ING Direct, which I have used for over a decade and love).

I met all of my April goals, which may mean that my goals weren’t ambitious enough but that’s OK with me. Achieving them has made a big difference.

April Goals:

  • Make ends meet with my income. SUCCESS! Last month, I had a lot of deadlines for my freelance litigation job, and gained a handful of clients seeking advice on student loans. Not only did we make ends meet, but we netted $2600!
  • Make a sale with our business. SUCCESS! We made our first sale. We expect the first payment next month.
  • Put $5,000 into our 2013 IRAs or a student loan. PARTIAL SUCCESS! April 15th came and went, without us making our 2013 Roth IRA contributions. That was sad, but we didn’t have the surplus funds until closer to the end of the month. We took our surplus and emptied our checking account into a student loan. Our checking account was at $0 on April 30th. We also have a $2,000 student loan payment slated to go out today. Our Emergency Fund remains stocked with just $3800, but we also have a savings account (reserved for annual insurance payments, vacation, and Christmas) that can back us up in a true emergency. It was time that we got back on the wagon with repaying those student loans, and it feels AWESOME!

Student Loan Progress:

Loan Type Interest Rate Sept 2013 Balance Current Balance Current Payment Difference
Federal Consolidated Loans 5.38% $75,288.58 $73,428.27 $448.58 $1,860.31
Federal Consolidated Loans 4.25% $77,069.85 $75,183.76 $504.97 $1,886.09
My Private 2.19% $10,310.18
My Bar Study 3.19% $5,904.40
Spouse’s Private 3.50%* $12,843.50 $12,359.13 $97.12 $484.37
Spouse’s Private 3.25%* $12,664.95 $12,079.20 $96.20 $585.75
Spouse’s Bar Study 3.55%*  PAID stamp by Naypong $0.00 $0.00
TOTAL $194,081.46 $187,813.12 $1,323.21 $6,268.34


Net Worth Status:

May 2014 Net Worth at Stapler Confessions

Cash: -$7517.95That’s just a little bit less than the taxes we had to pay, so in many senses our cash is up — because we paid over $8k in taxes and almost $1400 for our disability policies. But later today, $2k will go to a student loan. In other words, I’m not stressing about the cash drop. We were never counting on the $9,400 as spending cash anyway; that was always earmarked for annual expenses.

Credit Cards: +$925.29I have no idea why our credit cards are $1,000 lower than last month, but I don’t mind!

Loans: +$609.05OK, so zeroing our checking account didn’t actually result in a huge student loan payment. But next month this is going to be awesome to report!

Investments: +$10,593.35This is mostly because we rolled that old pension into a Vanguard account, although the Dow’s all-time high definitely helped! Now Mint is keeping track of it. Now we can start tracking every penny of our investments.

Net Worth: +$2,759.16YEAH!!! It feels great that our income increase last month directly translates into an increase in our net worth. Even better, it will contribute to our net worth even when $2,000 leaves the checking account — because it’ll be reducing our debt! It feels great to be on the wagon again.

 May Goals:

  • Make ends meet with my income: I’ve projected our upcoming expenses and my income next month, and we are on track to net $500 next month. Now I just have to execute that plan.
  • Make an extra payment on a student loan: I need to keep my focus and put the $500 excess income towards a loan. Right now, an acquaintance is selling a nice piano for $100 and it would cost $400 for piano movers to get it to our second floor living room; Little Stapler really wants to learn how to play and I want to play again. But I’m going to have to say “no” and focus on getting that debt down.
  • Begin negotiations with another buyer: We have reached out to other potential buyers, but no one has yet responded with serious interest. I have a few other businesses on my list of prospects. Now I just have to figure out how to connect with them and convince them that we have a product that they could really use.
  • Start working on salary: This goal isn’t quite within my control, but I can try. Months ago, I mentioned that I got a job offer from my current boss who hires me on a freelance basis. We discussed starting April 1, but then he decided the firm’s finances weren’t ready for it then. We decided to revisit the issue for May 1. I mentioned it last week, and he said he would get back to me. But the workweek had already started, so if I start on salary, it won’t be until mid-month. With the way my side gig has been going, though, I’m not sure I want to give up 70% of that income in lieu of the steadier paycheck.

I’m wondering how others pay infrequent but predictable bills and expenses. Do you have a “Christmas savings” account? An “annual savings” account? 


PAID stamp by Naypong

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  1. That’s some awesome progress! We use YNAB to track all of our spending. It’s a lot more manual than Mint but I find that it forces me to be proactive.

    Whenever we get a new item in the future we weren’t planning on (graduation gift, wedding next year), we figure out how much we will need and divide if by the number of months. Really helps spread out the damage. For routine, we do a similar system. YNAB is just like an electronic envelope system.

    1. I have heard great things about the You Need A Budget software, but I’ve never tried it. I have heard that it’s good for predicting your expenses, whereas Mint is good for knowing where your money went. For bill-paying, and keeping track of upcoming expenses, I use an Excel-type spreadsheet in my Google Drive, so I can access it anywhere.

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