Progress Report: Month 5

Day 165 | $15,732 paid | $72,981 till freedom

24 / 28 Total Days Biked to Work (86%) | 18 Consecutive Bicycle Commutes to Work

I just spent a lovely Sunday morning paying the October bills and updating the spreadsheets. September was a productive month, and a huge $9,400 chunk of the debt got wiped out. This is in thanks largely to my brother, who purchased my Scion xB for $8,000. Some birthday cash and our lowest spending levels so far rounded out the $9,400, even without any real cell phone profits to boost our income (thanks to the second-hand market being saturated with used iPhones once the iPhone 5 was released). I just scheduled the last September snowball payment and it brings us to 17.73% completion of our debt mountain. The ambitious timeline I set in April had us at 20.83% by this point, so we’ve still got some work to do, however, I’m very pleased with where we’re at.

Here’s how September played out:

  • Starting Cash: $200
  • Starting Debt: $82,830
  • Income: $13,521
  • Expenses (Including regular loan payments): $3,940
  • Amount paid to debt: $9,420
  • Ending Debt: $72,981
  • Ending Cash: $200
  • Total Assets: $37,613
  • Total Liabilities: $72,981
  • Net Worth: -$35,368

Predicted amount of debt at the end of May 2014: -$1942

In other words, when we reach our two year deadline, we’ll have a surplus of $1942. Sweet! However, 19 months is a long time and anything can happen, so I’m not going to allow myself to become comfortable with that number and will continue to bust my butt like I have been.

I’ve been wanting to graph long-term progress for a while now, but I didn’t feel it was worth it until several months had passed. It is exciting to see our Net Worth creeping closer and closer to zero! July and August were a little rough, and were characterized by high expenses and lower income. In August, spending actually surpassed our income thanks to  a lack of planning ahead. We had to bite the bullet and purchase two plane tickets to Chicago, supplies to setup my wife’s first classroom, more start up costs for the puppy we adopted in July (pet deposit, vet, etc.), and a huge grocery bill. I’ll actually be refunded most of the plane ticket costs later on, as the orchestra I’m performing with is currently raising the funds to reimburse musicians. Both of those months were also far busier with work than I imagined they would be, and cell phone sales went way down from what I was making in the spring. Regardless of those rough patches, I was bound and determined to get that Honda Civic paid off, and knowing that my side business was going to be slow for a while, I went ahead and ignored the dropping profits, dipped into my purchasing capital, and kicked Capital One to the curb in July. The weight that was lifted off my chest when the 9.4% interest loan was gone, made the sacrifice well worth it.

Assessment of Expenses and Revenue

Here’s a look at September’s spending. This spreadsheet has been a helpful tool in comparing my progress in different categories over time. Click once to open, and once to zoom.

Analysis: Expenses

  • Internet – $7 – Because of the whole AT&T fiasco that involved several reimbursements, I ended up overpaying in August, and they were kind enough to subtract it from September’s bill.
  • Cell Phone – $41 – Switching to Ting has been great, as we’ve reduced our monthly bill considerably. However, we still haven’t gotten usage down to the target levels which would net the planned $30 bill. These bills are one month behind, so I already know that October’s bill DID make this $30 usage level for the first time since switching to Ting, but August had some long phone calls that I could have easily made through Google Voice to save some minutes. After factoring in the start up costs of buying new phones and activating, October will be the first month where we’ll actually be saving money when compared to what we would have spent in the long-term with our previous cell phone plan.
  • Rent – $723 – Fixed, and as budgeted.
  • Electricy – $57 – This was well underneath the budgeted $74, and I attribute that to the recent switch of energy companies and the return of cooler temperatures. If this trend continues, I may need to lower the budgeted amount.
  • Water – $82 – I was shocked when I received the water/sewer bill in the mail. I had budgeted $58 based on our average usage at the last apartment complex, yet this month’s amount was $20 higher than any bill we’ve received in the past 12 months. The only difference I can think of, is that our current living arrangement has separate water bills for each apartment, whereas the previous place divied up each building’s total usage. That, and our toilet’s flushing mechanism will sometimes jam and cause the water to run indefinitely. The news caused me to make at least one immediate, drastic change: taking MUCH shorter showers. We’ll see if that’s enough to make a difference.
  • Tithe – $444 – As budgeted.
  • Gym – $32 – Fixed, and as budgeted.
  • Misc – $193 – Some new clothes, bike helmet and gloves, symphony tickets for my birthday and a couple of other miscellaneous items. This is a win relative to my $200 budget.
  • Groceries – $398 – This is a huge win relative to my $470 budget. However, the fiscal month ended one day before a big shopping trip, so I’ll likely see a much larger figure for October. Our grocery bills fluctuate a lot from month to month depending on whether we take 4 or 5 shopping trips.
  • Eating Out – $11 – I am maybe the most proud of this figure here. We committed to spending under $50 a month at restaurants and eating out less. There were zero fast food lunches to be had from either of us, and the one $11 meal was very much a situation where either one of us cooking was just NOT going to happen.
  • Dog – $123 – A loss relative to my $75 budget. Little H should be good on medicine and vet visits for a while, so this bill should settle down into a lower monthly average.
  • Work Expense – $32 – Now that my wife is teaching in her own classroom, we’ve been having to front the cost of some supplies and lesson materials. This is typical of most elementary school environments, and I think it’s unfortunate that she isn’t given some sort of a budget with which to buy things for her room. This spending category is new, and I think in the future we can keep it under $25.
  • Fuel – $133 – A loss relative to my $100 budget. However, we are getting VERY close to having a sub-$100 gas bill. Each tank fill-up costs us a figure in the low $30s, so if we can manage to only fill up three times, we’ve got it made. It’s hard to believe that five months ago we were spending $120 more a month on the stuff. What a waste.
  • Auto Repair – $75 – A fixed monthly amount transferred to an ING savings account. I really enjoyed the stress-free experience of buying a new set of tires this month using money I’ve been setting aside. ING accounts are brilliant for this purpose.
  • Running – $40 – A fixed monthly amount transferred to an ING savings account.
  • Rental Insurance – $15 – a fixed monthly amount transferred to an ING savings account in order to pay the premium in full next summer.
  • Wife’s New Bicycle – $600 – An unplanned expenditure, however, it was a high-qualtiy 2010 Trek road bike for a good price on Craigslist that will save us money in the long run. This was partially funded by the selling of my wife’s Trek mountain bike for $160 to a friend of ours.
  • Out of Budget – $261 – I decided to get some regular service done on the Scion, as well as order a replacement back door hatch. Normally, I would have waited until the ING fund had enough to cover the maintenance, but I wanted to give it to my brother in good condition. Effectively, I sold the car to him for $261 less than $8,000.
  • Student Loan Snowball – $8,420 – I was able to knock out the first post-Civic student loan at $6,156 in one fell swoop, and was able to sock a good hunk of change at the next loan in line as well.
  • Family xB Loan – $1,000 – I still owe my mother for the original price of the Scion. Although she is not charging me any interest, she is trying to pay down her mortgage, so I thought paying off 8% of what I owed her would be a good gesture.

Analysis: Revenue

  • Salary – $4,444 – This amount is typical, and rarely fluctuates.
  • Sale of xB – $8,000 – I maybe could have got a better deal selling this private party via Autotrader or Craigslist, but I was happy to sell to my brother for a few hundred less than the Kelly Blue Book suggested price for the mutual convenience. It took 24 hours of both of us thinking it over instead of weeks of dealing with scams and flaky buyers from the internet.
  • Auto Insurance Refund – $721 – I received this hefty credit back to my account when I switched insurance providers and no longer had to place two cars on a policy. This experience warrants it’s own blog-post in the future.
  • Sale of Bike – $160 – As I stated before, we sold her old bike to one of our friends.
  • Birthday Cash – $120 – It never hurts to receive cash for no other reason than growing older. I also received a gift card that is not included in this total which is bound to come in handy soon.
  • Misc. Deposits – $85 – I sold a couple of other things on Craigslist, and deposited loose cash a few times.
  • Cell Phone Business – $0 – I actually did sell $250 in phones this month, however I am currently dedicating profits to 2012 income tax (which I’ve neglected to set aside in favor of a faster car loan payoff) and building back up my capital reserves for future phone purchases.









October Outlook

The outlook for October looks promising. There are no major expenses on the horizon, and hopefully the trend of lower spending levels continues. I’ve had to accept that maybe the $1,000 a month goal for my cell phone business was a little unrealistic over the long-term, due to the time constraints of my day job and us moving 20 minutes further away from the city (and a higher concentration of Craigslist listings). Regardless, I’m still going to strive to make as much as possible to accelerate the pay-down. It’s hard to believe that 5 months has already passed, and we’re nearly 1/5 of the way to the goal. I can’t wait until 2014 when we have zero monthly payments and have 50-60% of our combined incomes available to invest. Dreaming of that future is what keeps me motivated on a daily basis. I’ll leave you with the full 24-month outlook posted below:


3 thoughts on “Progress Report: Month 5

  1. Enjoyed reading your post. Question – What in ING Savings acct? Water Bill – It sounds like the toilet is your problem. If they are truly charging you only the water you use, your bill should be closer to $35-40, if that. I looked at my bills and prior to the sprinkler system, our bills ranged b/w $36-46/month for the whole house, including sprinkling the lawn. You might try a couple of these tests below and then get the apartment complex to pay for the repair. Toilet parts are not made like they used to be and it is not unusual to have to replace a float or handle at least once every 18 months – 2 yrs. Until you figure it out, you can also turn the water off where it connects to the wall behind the toilet after the tank fills up. I’ve done that many times while waiting for the necessary repair or adjustment. After you flush, turn the valve on until the tank fills, then turn it off again. It’s a pain, but will save $$ while you deal with getting it fixed. The most common cause for a high water bill is running water from your toilet. A continuously running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons a day. This can double a family’s typical water use, so fix toilet leaks as soon as possible. Some leaks are easy to find, such as a dripping faucet or running toilet. You can usually hear a running toilet, but not always. DoItYourself Toilet Assessment First check for the most common leak: a deteriorated or defected flush valve (flapper) ball at the bottom of the toilet tank. If it does not make a tight seal water will leak into the toilet bowl. To check for this: • Take the lid off of the tank behind the bowl, flush the toilet, then wait for it to fully refill. • Put a few drops of dye or a colored dye tablet (available at some hardware stores) in the tank. • Wait at least 20 minutes; longer if you suspect it is a small leak. • If there is any color in the toilet bow, there is a leak. The second most common type of leak has to do with an improperly adjusted or broken fill (ballcock) valve. To check for this take the lid off of the toilet tank, flush, and see if water is draining into the overflow tubes when the tank is full. See attached to view the table showing the amount of water that can be lost (and billed to youraccount) for various size leaks.

  2. I am most struck by your commitment to tithe. I’m new to your blog, but if 444$ is your monthly commitment, you are giving ~5K each year: That’s an impressive commitment.

    I agree with the comment above about the toilet being your culprit for the high water bill. Friends have a water storage tank on their rural property, and ~1000 gallons of water were lost in 24 hrs to a run-on toilet. They had the ability to measure the loss in the holding tank.

    There are some on-line sites where teachers can sign up and anybody can donate to their “wish list.”

    All the best on your path to freedom.

    • There are times when it’s tough to commit that percentage of our income, and that’s why it’s the first check I write every month. I think that trying to achieve this 2-year goal while making such a commitment is pushing us to achieve new levels of frugality and fiscal responsibility.

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