Progress Report: Month 4

Day 119 | $57,116 paid | $33,601 till freedom

Today marks the end of fiscal December (Nov 25 – Dec 25). It’s Christmas morning, and I’m eating a bowl of Frosted Flakes in front of my computer as I count my money and my family celebrates Christmas 1,400 miles away.

Visions of Scrooge are dancing in my head right now. Bah, humbug!

Here’s how December played out:

  •  Starting Cash: $3,500
  • Starting Student Debt: $39,773
  • Income: $8,784
  • Expenses: $3,421
  • Cash Paid to Debt: $6,363
  • Accumulated Interest: $191
  • Ending Debt: $33,601
  • Ending Cash: $2,500
  • Total Assets: $52,357
  • Total Liabilities: $33,601
  • Net Worth: $18,757 

 Predicted student debt at end of June: ($5,423)

In other words, I’ll have a surplus of $5k at the end of June at my current rate of paydown. In fact, according to the projections, I’ll be exiting May with my debt completely paid down and a surplus of $955. Anything can happen in six months, of course, so I’m not going to bank on any of these projections for now.

High-Level Analysis
The bad news first: I spent $922 over the budget. The good news: I brought in $1,734 more than the budget (due to selling the bicycle, receiving cash gifts for Christmas from my family, and being capped out on my Social Security contributions for the rest of the year), so I netted out at $812 positive. I can’t keep relying on unexpected revenue to compensate for my poor spending habits during the next six months, however, so like I promised in my November progress report, I need to get more disciplined with my spending.

Also, I’m exiting December with a $2,500 cash buffer instead of the $3,500 I exited Sep/Oct/Nov with. I guess I’m getting a little less risk-adverse on the downward slope of this mission.

Assessment of Cost and Revenue Initiatives
I want to take a moment to assess my spending habits on a line-item basis. Progress-to-date is detailed in the spreadsheet below. Click once to open and once to zoom.

Analysis: Expenses

  • Insurance — $171 — Now that I’ve sold the second car and taken collision off of the S2000, my insurance will be $60 going forward. $171 insurance payments are a thing of the past.
  • Internet — $50 — Fixed and within budget
  • Cell phone — $112 — I budgeted for $85 since my typical bill has always been $85 for unlimited data and text and 450 minutes, and I used to go under 450 minutes every month. But now that I’ve been promoted to a new role, I find myself on my cell phone a lot more and actually exceeding my minutes at 40 cents a pop, so that explains the $112 bill. The company can give me a phone, but it’ll be a dumbphone and the extra complexity it’ll bring to my life isn’t worth it. I just need to keep a closer eye on my minutes.
  • Mortgage — $1441 — Fixed and within budget
  • Haircut — $17 — God bless twelve-dollar Tuesdays @ TGF. $12 + $5 tip = $17. I have a regular haircutter now, and I feel like I get extra attention from her thanks to the 40% tip. Totally worth it. Big spender!!!
  • Energy — $37 — I budgeted for $100, so this is a huge win no matter how you look at it. The past few months starting in September the bill has been $124, $97, and $89. The AC hasn’t been on in weeks, and it’s finally being reflected in the bill. It would have probably been closer to $25 or $30 without the roommates, but $36 is still super-low.
  • Water — $114 — I budgeted for $100 and I stopped watering my yard a month ago, so I’m really hoping this is just a lagging bill. I also had a toilet leak that I fixed, so that should help here going forward, too.
  • Gas — $24 — Basically fixed with a $2-$4 variation. Roughly within budget.
  • Entertainment — $252 — A loss relative to my budget of $50. Oops. This is basically all bar and restaurant activity. I think that I’m going to have to face reality one of these days and adjust my entertainment budget to $200, as I’ve spent an average of $200 during the past few months even though I tried so hard to keep spending to a minimum. But if I took the budget up to $200, would I start spending $400? (By the way, this is still far better than the $1,000 to $1,400 I was spending before NMHD.)
  • Groceries — $310 — A loss relative to my $280 budget. I don’t even know what the heck drove this over-spend, as I was within budget for the first two months of NMHD without even trying. I do know that I bought a huge bottle of shampoo for $20 in December that I haven’t even opened yet, so that explains $20 of the $30 miss.
  • Lunch at work — $26 — A loss relative to my $0 budget. What can I say? I needed to connect with friends.
  • Fuel — $230 — A loss relative to my budget of $160. Unplanned trips to Dallas (~$50) and San Antonio (~$25) are to blame here.
  • Drycleaning — $39 — A loss relative to my budget of $20. I probably need to face reality and take the budget up to $40 here, too. This is the second month in a row of spending $35+ on drycleaning.
  • House — $28 — A loss relative to my budget of $0. This is the excess on the landscaping project here on my house that was not subsidized from the customer’s job Michael and I did this month.
  • Car  — $280 — A loss relative t0 my budget of $0. My tires were completely bald and I needed to get new ones so I didn’t hydroplane myself into oblivion. The new tires grip like a beast in wet and dry conditions.
  • Car — $193 — A loss relative to my budget of $0. This is for getting my car towed. You can read about how I was scammed here.
  • Gifts — $96 — A loss relative to my budget of $0, but that was obviously an oversight on my part during budget planning. The gift for my mom is not included here since something happened with the transaction, so this should really be closer to $140. I’ll be buying the gift in the next fiscal month and the charge will show up there. $140 is a win relative to last year’s spend of $400.

My expenses for the past four months average $3,253 while my expenses during the 15 months prior to NMHD averaged $7,754.


Analysis: Revenue

  • Salary — $6,517 for two pay checks — A win relative to my budget of $6,200.  I still have my 401k contribution set at 0% and each paycheck is still inflated by $160 since I hit the $107k social security contribution cap at the beginning of November.
  • Roommates — $850 — Within budget
  • Bicycle Sale — $900 — A win relative to my budget of $0.
  • Christmas Gifts – $470 — A win relative to my budget of $0.
  • USAA Dividend – $47 — A win relative to my budget of $0.

January Outlook
Cost Challenge: I already know I’ll be going over the $50 entertainment budget because the New Year’s party will be at least $60, which means I’ll be digging out of a hole for the rest of January.

Revenue Challenge: John is moving out in a week, and I really, really need to get a second roommate for January, otherwise I’ll have a $400 hole on my income statement. I’m interviewing a guy for the room tomorrow, so hopefully that goes well.

Final Thoughts
I’m here in Austin on Christmas Day because the $500 trip home wasn’t in the budget. I definitely miss my family, I’m definitely lonely, and this is definitely the worst Christmas ever.  The loneliness settled in yesterday when I arrived at church last night for 7 PM mass. As I approached the front doors, I saw all of these happy families and couples filing in, and the greeter seemed overly chipper (in my mind) as she welcomed everyone with a very enthusiastic “Merry Christmas.” I slowed my stride a little as I took it all in, then did an about-face and headed back to my car and drove to the nearest RedBox to rent a couple of movies. As I loaded up the  first movie in my DVD player, my family was sitting down for our annual “Christmas stories and cookies” routine.

After I click “Publish,” I’m heading out for an 8-mile run around Town Lake to get out of this funk. It seems like July will never get here.

Here’s the ten-month outlook:


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10 responses to “Progress Report: Month 4

  1. When I was separated from my family, like you are, I would go out to Luby’s and sit in the middle of the dining room and just watch the families. It made me very happy. Get out in a crowd and embrace your path – this is a NO whining zone.

  2. Cheryl

    Hey NMHD, I really respect what you are doing, you have inspired me. I have a MBA student loan that is making me nuts. Not at all like yours as far as school or size of loan but but at $188 a month its pretty annoying and I am not in my 20s, I want it gone. I am sitting here planning my attack in Excel. How did you decide on 10 months?

  3. Cheryl

    And Merry Christmas, this is temporary!

  4. Merry Christmas, Cheryl! Unfortunately, there wasn’t any sophisticated analysis that went into my timeframe of choice. When I was starting this project, I assumed I’d be able to find a decent-paying second job and ten months would be a slam dunk. Well, that nevever happened and I’ve had to sell off stuff to make sure I hit the ten-month timeline. I recommend you set a timeline that puts you outside your comfort zone but is not overly aggressive as that just might discourage you in the end. Good luck.

  5. Sarah L

    Merry Christmas, even though it sounds like it was far from merry. Keep going, you’re halfway there! 🙂

  6. brian

    In regards to dry cleaning, do you dry clean your shirts and pants weekly? I never dry clean my shirts and buy iron-free shirts that I just wash in the washer machine.

    My pants, I rarely wash and not known as a stinky person. I’ll wash if I notice they’re getting funky or I get something on them. I’m sure I can’t apply my same never wash strategy I use with jeans as I do my dress pants but I do go for long periods without washing dress pants.

    • I wear a button-down shirt with slacks the first week, then I throw a sweater over it the second week, and then I get it laundered (not dry-cleaned), so I get two wears out of it. I once tried to wash my shirts myself, but I ruined four of them in one fell swoop. I leave it to the experts now.

      I’m with you on the pants–I have four pairs of slacks and I wear each pair once a week (casual Fridays = jeans), and I get them dry-cleaned monthly. Four wears is about the max I feel comfortable with right now.

  7. Susan

    NMHD – I actually thought of you on Christmas Day, when you were away from family for probably the first time. Hope you’ve recovered by now! Happy New Year!

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