Final Progress Report: Month 7

Day 214 | $90,717 paid | $0 till freedom

Today’s the day where I pay down the remainder of my student loan debt! Three months early…hard to believe it.

Here’s how March played out:

  • Starting Cash: $2,000
  • Starting Student Debt: $23,211
  • Income: $26,094
  • Expenses: $3,278
  • Cash Paid to Debt: $23,348
  • Accumulated Interest: $132
  • Ending Debt: $0!
  • Ending Cash: $1,469
  • Total Assets: $57,243
  • Total Liabilities: $0!
  • Net Worth: $57,257

The thermometer: complete!

The student debt spiked down nicely three months early.

High-Level Analysis
I spent a whopping  $779 over my March budget, mainly on entertainment, car fuel, and groceries, but I also took in close to $7,000 more than I expected, so it’s all relative. I’m not saying I get a pass on the overspend, and frankly, most of it is very frustrating, but it’s going to be hard for me to get too upset about that when I’m ending this challenging three months early.

The cash buffer of $1,469 represents $1,441 for my mortgage due on Monday, so really, I’ll have about $28 in savings after I pay my  mortgage on the 1st of the month, and I won’t get my next paycheck until the 12th. Yikes! I remember wanting to have a cash buffer of something obscene like $3,500 when I first started this challenge. Man, I really wanted to be fat and happy back then. It’s funny how high my threshold for risk has gone since then.

 Assessment of Expenses and Revenue
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 — $109 — after paying $0 in January and February when I should have actually been paying something, I got hit with a  $109 catch-up payment. Odd. Anyway, it’ll go back down to $72 in April–far better than the $171 it used to be every month prior to selling the Murano and removing collision coverage on the S2000.
  • Internet — $57 — This is typically $51. I can’t explain the $6 jump right now, but I’ll look into it if it happens again in April.
  • Cell phone – $86 — I budgeted for $86, so this is in-line with expectations. I’ve been monitoring my usage and have been careful not to exceed my minutes.
  • Mortgage — $1441 — Fixed and within budget.
  • Haircut — $0 — I get haircuts every six weeks and this turned out to be an off-month.
  • Energy — $30 — Same story as last month: I budgeted for $100, so this is a huge win no matter how you look at it. This is due to the colder months and the fact that the energy-sucking AC hasn’t been on.
  • Water — $57 — I budgeted for $100, so this is a win.
  • Gas — $35 — A loss relative to my $22 budget. This has gone up due to the cooler winter months and is being offset by a lower electricity bill since I haven’t been running my AC.
  • Entertainment — $312 — A loss relative to my budget of $50. Some of this is due to the $25/night parking at SxSW, which I attended for three nights. I never really did get my entertainment spend under control during this challenge, but I vastly improved from the $1,300+ I had gotten used to spending prior to NMHD. My worst month was the first month at $525, and my best month was the month right after that one at $157. Otherwise, it hovered at a $300 or so average.
  • Groceries — $444 — A loss relative to my $280 budget. Very interesting that this is exactly what I spent last month–to the dollar.
  • Lunch at work— $24 — A loss relative to my $0  budget. This was comprised of three on-campus lunches to catch up with friends.
  • Fuel — $214— A loss relative to my budget of $160. I found myself driving downtown a bit more than usual this month between SxSW and runs around Town Lake. The increased cost of fuel didn’t help, either.
  • Drycleaning – $52 — A loss relative to my budget of $20, but that $20 assumed I’d be ironing my shirts during NMHD, which I’ve so far refused to do. I also took the opportunity to go through my closet at the end of winter and get everything drycleaned that I wouldn’t be wearing this spring/summer due to higher temperatures.
  • Car – $10 — A loss relative to my budget of $0. I had to buy some oil to top off my car.
  • Unbudgeted — $410 — This is comprised of $255 for my traffic ticket that I got a year ago, $5 for the cashier’s check to pay the ticket with, and the $150 security deposit refund for Sarah when she moved out.

My expenses for the past six months averaged $3,129, while my expenses during the 15 months prior to NMHD averaged $7,754. I’ve been spending $4,625 less per month, on average, since I started this challenge.

Analysis: Revenue

  • Salary/Bonus — $23,694 — A win relative to my budget of $17,006. It should be noticed that this includes three paychecks as well as my annual bonus, which turned out to  be much larger than expected.
  • Tax Return — $1,872 — A win relative to my budget of 1,292. I made a guess what my tax return would be when I started this challenge, and not surprisingly, I was off by several hundred.
  • Roommates — $400 — A loss relative to my budget of $850, but that’s because the roommate paid for April in March, and I recognized the revenue in that month.
  • Escrow Surplus — $112 — A win relative to my budget of  $0. I definitely wasn’t expecting this.
  • Lottery — $16 — A win relative to my budget of $0. This was earnings from my scratch-off stocking stuffers that I finally cashed.

So That’s It
I’m used to this section being titled something like “January Outlook” or “February Outlook.” If I hadn’t gotten the bonus, I’d be writing about my April Outlook. But I guess I don’t have to…

I’m still in shock. This is…a little sad. Bittersweet, actually, at the risk of sounding completely cliché. On the one hand, it was a struggle, a battle that I thought was worth fighting, so I stuck with it. And after completing one of these monthly progress reports, I almost always looked forward to the next month of challenges. Still, I’m definitely glad to be done with my student loans.

For what it’s worth, here’s the full ten-month outlook (click once to open, once to zoom), assuming I were to continue to live as frugally as I have been. I don’t necessarily plan to, but more on that in the next post.


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15 responses to “Final Progress Report: Month 7

  1. Congrats!!! Sometimes after I accomplish something, I just wish that I could feel incredibly elated about it, but usually it’s bittersweet like you paying off your student loans.

    • Maybe that’s normal. I think I got more excited thinking about having them paid off, and there was definitely a moment of OMGOMGOMGOMG as I was confirming the final $23.5k paydown, but it’s been a few days now and I’m back to neutral. I guess that’s another example of how we all adapt to things, including hedonistic things.

  2. Stavros

    Congratulations! What’s next? Apply the same (or slightly reduced) discipline to knock out that mortgage? You can be completely debt free with an extremely high income in 2-3 years I figure if you do. Talk about having it easy for the rest of your life if you do…

    Best of luck, it’s been great reading your journey! Next time you’re in Ann Arbor, let me buy you a coffee!

  3. I have the same question as Stravros- is your mortgage next? Then you’d really be debt free!

  4. NoMoreCornellDebt

    Congrats! I finished paying off my undergrad debt this month, does feel good! Keep the posts coming.

  5. Sarah

    “I’ll have about $28 in savings after I pay my mortgage on the 1st of the month, and I won’t get my next paycheck until the 12th.”

    That plus you paying off 1/3 of your debt in the first month by emptying your savings account shows me that you definitely have balls man. I’m way more risk adverse than you.

    Loved the cheerleader comment on the previous post…thanks! Don’t know if you’re serious or just humoring me because I definitely felt dumb leaving some of those comments like suggesting babysitting….like a Harvard guy MBA is likely to do that…haha. If anything it would have been entertaining blog material. 🙂

    Congrats again on the early pay-off! Re-reading your zen post I probably should have predicted an early pay-off of your loans:
    (from zen post): “and I ended up finishing in 3:36 (8:15 split), 24 minutes sooner than I hoped to…”

  6. Haha…you’re re-reading posts? Now that’s intense! Good to hear from you 🙂 🙂

  7. Osita Arize

    Good response to the other stupid comment. Whether you are making three figures or ten figures is not the issue. The issue is that you achieved a goal and wrote about it, hopefully, to motivate others. I like your humble-writing style, and hope you pay no attention to jealous comments. I guess, he would like you better if you attended no school, whatsoever, and earned two figures and then wrote about paying off 90K. He doesn’t want you to mention your salary, but then he forgets that you gave up a lot priori to reaching that income level. Please advise us on how we can accomplish a million using a fixed income, let’s say the amount you paid monthly to student loans. Where should one stash monies from your perspective?

  8. Alan

    Hey, your blog is very interesting!
    However, couple of notes here. Your Phone and Internet bill are obviously high. Did you hear about prepaid? On Tmobile you could use $30 per month plan for 1500/mins/texts and there’s a 20 or $30 plan on AT&T for internet. Compare to your figures you could save an additional $73-85 per month (FREE car insurance!!)

  9. Farid

    Hey Bro,

    That was awesome man, Congrats from Dubai, I am studying MBA as well

  10. Diana

    Congrats!!!! I loved reading this and you’ve definitely inspired me to pay off my MBA loans quicker too. I don’t think I can make a 10 month timeline, but I can definitely shoot for less than 15 years.

    And I love Austin and go as often as possible (I’m in Houston).

  11. JM

    Super late, but well-earned congratulations! Amazing journey. I’m a visualizer and loved this. Because watching it tip to tip made my own journey more real.

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