Q1 – 2016

I have recently changed my tack and decided that I will update my accountability post quarterly, rather than monthly because… who are we kidding.

  • $250 bonus at work
  • On schedule for HSA max-out
  • Ahead of schedule for IRA max-out
  • Ahead of schedule (front loading) for 401K max-out
  • Tax bill
  • Bought my cell phone out of installment plan so I can transfer to a cheaper provider
  • Work now requires that I pay for parking
  • Comcast fee… because Comcast is like that
Car Loan  $-6,461 (+$777)
Oh Sh*t Fund (emergency savings)  76% of the way to goal (+$522)
Other Savings  +$446
Savings Rate  61%
Net Worth $52,282 (+$9,804)

Overall, not terrible, but I can certainly do better.

How I paid off my student loans

Between October 2011 and May 2015 I had a singular life goal:

Murder $37,136 in grad school student loans.

My reasons for fixating on this goal were primarily the following:
  • I loathe debt
  • I was secretly ashamed of the fact that I took on significantly more debt than I needed to
  • I felt like I had a psychological anchor that didn’t allow me to take risks or act like the foolish 20-something society said I should be (I now realize that this is something I’m grateful for in hindsight)
  • I couldn’t buy a house (yet another thing I’m grateful for in hindsight)
  • I couldn’t travel as much as I liked
  • I couldn’t invest or save for retirement like I wanted to
Before continuing on, let’s take a moment and check my privilege:
  • I’m healthy
  • I’ve never not had a roof over my head (well except for that short stint as a refugee when I was a kid before immigrating)
  • I currently live in a wealthy nation with a safety net, albeit a modest one
  • I have had uninterrupted access to education since I was a toddler
  • I had a family who loved me, sacrificed for me, supported me, and prioritized my education and future
  • I actually had an undergraduate education that was not only free, but effectively paid me with a surplus of scholarship money (my friends throw food at me when I bring this up).  In fact, I had enough money to get 3 bachelor degrees, travel, and take on free internships.  If you must, please only throw soft foods.
Alright continuing on.  So in October of 2011, I found myself with a newly minted Master’s degree, a $55,000 a year job at a public university, and $37K in debt.  I quickly realized that making the minimum payments was not going to get me anywhere.  I also realized there were ways for me to control this debt’s interest accumulations while I paid it off.  I used a combination of the following tactics to kill my debt:
  • I put ~50% of my post-tax income towards the debt
  • I realized that I could put my subsidized loans into deferment by registering for free classes at the university where I worked.  In fact even if they had not been free, I figured out that I could take classes at the local community college and pay less for those than I did in interest to the US government.  This is something I strongly encourage for people currently wrestling through student loan debt, especially for people running 6-figure student loan debts.  You may find that 6 credits worth of classes at a local community college run you $600 for a 5 month period, whereas the interest for that same stretch of time would cost you $800 or more.*
  • I automated the payments and just accepted that I wouldn’t get one of my paychecks every month.
  • I created visuals to encourage me along.  My favorite was this chart I created that tracked how many months of debt I was saving myself with every payment.
Screen Shot 2016-03-24 at 6.13.02 PM
The blue bars are how many months I saved myself every payment (see left axis).  The red line is the aggregate number of months I had saved myself over time.  By the time 2011 rolled around, I had saved myself 8 years of debt. 
When it was all said and done, I paid $42,694.35 to dig myself out.  That means I paid the United States Department of Education $5,558.25 to rent the funds from them for 6 years.
In hindsight, I know I could have done it faster had I discovered the FIRE community earlier.  I paid off my debt while eating out almost every single day, traveling extensively (I think I racked up 12 national and 5 international vacations in 3.5 years), STUPIDLY buying a brand new car, and not caring about my expenses in the least.
All in all, I’m so grateful to be on this side of the fence.  Currently, I’m the only one of my friends looking back on debt, but I can’t wait until they too find themselves here with me.  If you are in the drudge yourself, my heart is with you.  It absolutely sucks, but just know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
*This only works for subsidized federal loans


I stumbled across a happy surprise this morning.  I logged in to my mint account and saw that I had hit a net worth of $50,000!

This is largely due to the recovery in the stock market, but in small part due to good old fashioned saving and investing.

It’s encouraging to hit this tiny (comparably pathetic) milestone at a time when I was feeling discouraged.  You see this is the time of year when everyone I know is planning their summer vacations to India and New Zealand and what have you.  Meanwhile, I am trying to invest that money in the short term to give myself the option of being on permanent vacation one day.

All in all, I’m happy with my trade off and happy with my tiny accomplishment.  I now get to work towards the $100K target.


I’m sitting here in my comfortable bed on the brink of a cold weekend that I will spend warm, fed, entertained, and planning my dream of building wealth to one day buy my freedom.  To say that I am privileged would be a gross understatement.  In fact, I often feel sick to my stomach when I sit and consider my own privilege in life in comparison with those around me.  I don’t have to look very far to see the juxtaposition, and I also don’t have to search very far in my heart to feel my own disappointment in myself for not doing something about it.  I won’t bore the 2 people who may or may not one day read this with my existential angst (that I really have no right having).  Instead I will share what has me thinking this way.  It’s this wonderful documentary I stumbled upon tonight called HUMAN.  The entire documentary can be found on YouTube, and I highly recommend watching it from start to finish, but I especially wanted to share the part that resonated with me.  It just so happened to be delivered by the president of Uruguay.


“Either you’re very happy with little without overburdening yourself because you have happiness inside, or you’ll get nowhere. I am not advocating poverty.  I am advocating sobriety… When I buy something, or when you buy it, we’re not paying with money. We’re paying with the time from our lives we had to spend to earn that money. The difference is that you can’t buy life. Life just goes by. And it’s terrible to waste your life losing your freedom.”


January 2016 Review

Time to check in with how well I did in January!

Let’s start with the negatives and end on a high note.  Below are all of the things I didn’t explicitly budget for but fell under my catch all budget pool.

Expenditure Cost
Gifts for others $85.74
Convenience $6.46
An event I didn’t want to attend $12.89
Worst lunch in the history of lunches $28.63

Most of the discretionary money I spent this month was spent on other people or because of other people.

  • $85.74: spent on gifts for other people.  It’s a lot and thankfully this doesn’t happen every month.
  • $6.46: spent at a coffee shop with a friend because we simply needed a place to meet up and felt awkward not buying something once there.
  • $12.89: spent to attend an event that I didn’t particularly want to attend, but a friend really wanted to attend.
  • $28.63: The one expenditure on that list that irritates me to no end was this lunch.  My lunch didn’t actually cost that much, it’s just that this one awful person who I absolutely cannot stand decided to just not pay.  There were 6 people at this lunch and demanding we get individual bills would’ve been a hassle to the waiter, so we just all sucked it up and let the jerk have his moment.

$133.72 spent on things I did not benefit from in the long term.  

Welp, that’s stinks. Moving on to the happier parts!

I met 100% of my investment goals, 100% of my oh $h*t fund goal, and managed to walk away with $72 leftover from my $250 pot of discretionary money.

All in all?

Saved 64% of my take home!

Not too shabby January.  Not too shabby.

Would this never happen if you weren’t here?

It sounds like the start of a dystopian synaptic misfire, but it’s actually how I keep my housing costs down.

I live in the fourth most expensive rental market in the United States but I pay less than $700 to live in my place with my two roommates.  My living arrangement is something of a struggle for me.  Am I happy here? 80% of the time, yes I am.  But man does that 20% get under my skin.  Don’t get me wrong, my roommates are wonderful people, but I doubt there are very many people who wouldn’t get under my skin if I were living with them.

Our place is next to public transit, includes our utilities in our rent, gives us free parking, with free access to a gym, a pool, tennis courts, etc.  The amenities are great.  The location is great.  The price is great.  The management is great.  Despite all that, at least once a week I find myself trolling the internet for apartments.

I am a loner and extreme introvert by nature, so living with two extroverts can be emotionally draining.  This is why I devised this question that I ask myself every time I find myself getting irritated with my living arrangement: would this never happen if you weren’t here? In other words would the dish rack never be packed to the point of near collapse? Would the bathroom floor never be wet? Would the trash never be overflowing? Would the freezer’s contents never come sliding out when you open it?

The answer is always no.  These things would still happen if I were living by myself.  Past me is a notorious a**hole to present me.  She stays up late, rarely turns down dessert, lazes around in bed, puts off important errands, and drinks a ton of water before long car drives.  In college, past me used to crank the air conditioning to an extreme just so the trash wouldn’t stink and she’d get a few extra days before having to take it out.  She used to leave the towel on the bathroom floor and would always hang too many scarves on the back of the closet door making it impossible to open said door if one or more of these scarves fell off.  For crying out loud, past me took out student loans and bought a brand new car when she had no business doing either!

For a little over 4 years now, my answer has not changed.  It continues to tip further and further in the direction of yes, but for now, I will continue to enjoy my cheap (for my area) rent and breathe my way through my occasional frustrations.  This won’t last forever and living alone can wait a little bit longer.  After all, I have a roof over my head, a warm bed, and a fridge full of food.  My current living arrangement is not a consolation prize by any stretch of the imagination.

2016: 56%, $34,000 and 5 books

Happy 2016!

With the dawn of 2016 upon us, I thought I’d share my financial goals for myself over the next year.  In short, my goals are: 56%, $34,000 and 5 books.
I’ll elaborate.


This is the percent of my post tax income that I would like to put towards investments in 2016.  Just investments.  The amount will include maxing out my 401K, IRA and HSA, as well as some additional (variable) investments into a private brokerage account.  The first three are automated and I do not think about, but that last one is where I will need divine intervention.  If I can get $6500 into that brokerage account by this time next year, I will be thrilled.
This number (56%) does not include all of my savings as it excludes my contributions to my “Oh $h*t Fund”, which is what I lovingly call my emergency savings, and my contributions to my transitional/short term savings, which is where I save for things like clothes, new tires, car maintenance, random expenses, etc.  Those collectively will account for ~8% of my income and can be found in the table below.  I opted to leave them out of the 56% because they are fleeting.  This is money I am explicitly setting aside to spend and, as such, I keep entirely liquid.


When it’s all said and done, I should be able to sock away ~$34,000 this year, which would be wonderful considering that this, in addition to my current net worth, would mean I’m 10% to my retirement fund goal of $750,000.

5 books

I read my fair share of FI blogs and fiction books already, but I’d like to move towards reading finance books.  I have the following on my list currently:

  • The Millionaire Next Door
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad
  • Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security
  • I Will Teach You to Be Rich
  • Early Retirement Extreme

I’d also like to do some research and reading into developing other streams of income.  The nature of my job is demanding and restrictive in the ways of non-compete agreements, but I do have some down time that I’d like to commit to other ventures and I’d like to explore what I can do with that time.

 April and September* = 3 paycheck months.


I will reassess my plan once more this summer for a few of reasons:
  • I hope to get a raise/bonus in June (this is why I split up the 56% and $34K goals into two separate goals, as those numbers may change mid-year)
  • I hope to have my ‘Oh $h*t Fund’ goal met by May freeing up $200 a month to drop into investments
  • I hope to get moved onto another project at work that would not require a car, which would then allow me to sell my car, freeing up another ~$450 a month
That’s quite the rosy picture, ain’t it? the truth is I’m terrible with goals and foresee myself messing up somewhere.  But all in all, I’m feeling quite happy with the picture I’m seeing.  The goals are difficult, but not insurmountable, and part of this process is teaching myself to stick to goals and tame impulses.  I just have to keep reminding myself that any effort I make is better than nothing.