February 8, 2013

Happy 2013!

Filed under: budgets,debt,family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 10:03 pm

As trolls and other vermin like to comment, I haven’t updated in a while. Shockingly, life is busy and it’s hard to update something when you know no one is reading. Or at least, no one civil and intelligent. Anyway, if someone wanders along looking for a person who made progress, I hope this little journey is encouraging.

So the big news is that both our cars are paid off completely. We’ve also paid off all credit cards. The only debts remaining are our home equity loan, mortgage and student loan. Once the student loan is paid in full we’ll try to make our emergency fund more robust than $1,000. We’re sort of at the slow slog of debt payoff.

Still, I continue to keep a budget using one of my spreadsheets. I also track the remaining debt payoff with a spreadsheet calculator, and I still look at how much we pay in interest. Last year we paid over 43k in principal and just over 10k in interest. (This year we used a bonus for extra kick, so we’ve already paid over 13k in principal and not quite 1,500 in interest.) We really are turning that around, and it’s very rewarding.

Since I hardly need a table any more, I’ll just go for the big picture. In March 2012 we had $300,029.69 remaining, and in February 2013 we have $266,786.14. Seriously, I know people who owe more than that just on their house (we are near Boston, if you think that’s a ton, look at home values around here).

Anyway, Happy New Year (belatedly)!




May 25, 2012

College Savings… Really?

Ok, so I’m totally not there yet. And I know everyone says save for your retirement, not your kids college. And I definitely understand that. But in the long slog to debt-free, I’ve found it useful to consider where else I *could* be spending (or saving) my money. So I naturally went in search of an online calculator: http://www.savingforcollege.com/college-savings-calculator/index.php (aka World’s Simplest College Cost Calculator).

So – taking the defaults (for a child who has 9 years until college, will attend full time for four years, wish to pay 100% of costs, wish to meet goal by time child ends college, expect costs to increase 6% each year, expect to earn 7% after tax each year in your college savings fund) – plus adding in the little bit we have saved (mainly that my mom saved for them), and selecting the HALF-PRICE* rate of 25,000$ annually – 100% of the total college costs will be $184,771. I will need to make monthly contributions of $885 to meet this cost. For my second son, 100% of my total college costs will be $220,065. I will need to make monthly contributions of $751 to meet this cost. That’s a total of $1,636 per MONTH. Who has that much PER MONTH to save – just for college? Seriously?

Obviously that’s assuming a lot. I have no idea whether they’ll actually choose to go to college. I sincerely hope and expect that they will contribute, and that we will do our best to get whatever scholarships we can. I don’t know how to tell whether they’ll go to public or private, and both the cost increases and the percentage of earnings after tax seem like they’d be a little hard to reliably predict. Still, I’ll tell you this. Those numbers of what I need to save? They seem crazy (885 x 9 years of school x 12 months per year = $95,580 – which is a ton but seriously shy of $185k – $108,144 in deposits for the other child). Holy crap. Those two numbers added together are more than (we are still paying for) our house. And the total costs for both kids for college – that’s two houses! How do people do this? We are not what I’d qualify as poor. Stupid at money management (but getting better), but not poor. If this looks well nigh impossible to us, how does it look to everyone else?

For now, that makes me think seriously about AP classes, Community College courses, living at home during college, and encouraging my kids to save as much as possible. All of which we should do anyway. But seriously? Yikes!

*For 2010-11

Public 4-Year (in-state tuition)
Tuition = $7,605
Room & board = $8,535
Books & supplies = $1,137
Transportation = $1,073
Other expenses = $1,989
Total = $20,339

Private 4-Year
Tuition = $27,293
Room & board = $9,700
Books & supplies = $1,181
Transportation = $862
Other expenses = $1,440
Total = $40,476

May 8, 2012

It’s Official

My mortgage rate (still a 5/1  ARM) adjusted again. I thought it was going from 3.00% to (wait for it) 3.00% – that’s what the letter from my credit union said. But when I went to check my accounts, I noticed that my mortgage rate said 2.875%. Huh? Of course, I need to be sure about these things. So I called my credit union and explained my problem. They said they’d call me back after researching.

When they called back, they assured me that it did adjust to 2.875% (that’s 1% lower than the original, something I never expected to see). And today I got the mail, and with it came the letter confirming the rate. The credit union said they’d referenced the wrong index when they sent the original letter, and they have procedures in place now to make sure this doesn’t happen again.

On one hand – hey, less interest! I’ll keep my payment the same (it’s now $925 and change, we pay $1,000). This adds up to nearly one whole extra mortgage payment over a 12 month period! I might just have to add in a couple dollars just to make sure it actually is a whole extra payment. That’s something I wanted to do from the moment I got a mortgage, and I never had the flex in my budget to do so. How exciting is that!  According to this calculator, if I had a loan at 3.875% for 30 years for 210,000, and starting in June I paid 75$ extra per month, the extra payments will allow me to pay off my remaining loan balance 2 years and 4 months earlier. Paying off my loan sooner will save $10,291.60 in interest over the life of the loan. Yow!

Of  course, the fact that I have an adjustable rate mortgage means lots of things: I cannot predict where my rate will go in the future, and I can’t compensate for the payment adjustments I’ve had so far. It’s just a guestimate. Still, it’s exciting! Anyone know of a calculator that you can enter your yearly adjustments to date and predict how they’ll go in the future? Please let me know! At this point, the best I can do is be sure it will never go over 8.875% and it would take at least 3 years to get that high (and honestly, markets are not looking that good for that happening soon).

April 6, 2012

Mixing It Up!

Filed under: budgets,debt,money — by elysianconfusion @ 1:19 pm
Tags: , ,

We are getting crazy over here… hopefully that will move all this payoff ahead more quickly. First of all, we got our ARM adjustment letter again, and it went from 3.00% to …. (drumroll) 3.00%. Our payment officially goes down, but we’ll just keep paying the same (maybe that’ll help if/when it ever adjusts upwards). Right now I’m not sure we have the equity (vile market) or it’s worth the fees involved to refinance. I’m pretty sure we don’t have an option anyway!

So, one thing I’d been resistant to was moving credit card debt to our home equity line or moving credit card debt to another card. I feel like in the past we’ve done that and, well, you can see where it got us. Nowhere. But … taking recent behavior into account, and believing we’re truly reformed, I’m trying again. So – I moved my Upromise to the home equity line. Then of course they offered me a 0% on their (now balance free) card – so I moved the Citibank to the 0% – good through February 2013 – by which time it should be completely paid off.

New table:


Debt Amount Rate Month Paid Off
Visa $0 8.5% February 2011
Bank of America $0 9.9% February 2012
Upromise $10,886.13 0% December 2012
Citi $0 9.15% April 2012
Car #1 $0 4.7% March 2012
Car #2 $4417.30 2.9% May 2013
Home Equity Variable $11,351.26 4.0% June 2013
Home Equity Fixed #71,487.05 3.99% October 2015
Student Loan $17,226.39 2.9% January 2014
Mortgage $181,395.50 3.0% March 2019

So, maybe it doesn’t change the final dates, but it does save interest. And the less I pay to Citi & Bank of America, the better – right?

March 14, 2012

Progress over Perfection

Filed under: budgets,debt,mess,money — by elysianconfusion @ 1:06 pm

Now I’m going to do something (again) I dread doing, even though no one actually reads this blog. I’m going to put out the numbers for the debt and the interest rates.


Debt Amount Rate Month Paid Off
Visa 0 8.5% February 2011
Bank of America $0 9.9% February 2012
Upromise $0 11.15% March 2012
Citi $12,756.39 9.15% January 2013
Car #1 $0 4.7% March 2012
Car #2 $4417.30 2.9% May 2013
Home Equity Variable $11,638.20 4.0% June 2013
Home Equity Fixed $72,050.76 3.99% October 2015
Student Loan $17,226.39 2.9% January 2014
Mortgage $181,940.65 3.0% March 2019

In November, we were at $319,589.11 – today that is down to $300,029.69. That’s $19,559.42 lower in four months. I just paid our minivan off yesterday – woohoo! In February we paid off a credit card, then moved another to our home equity line for two reasons. First, the rate is less than half, saving us LOTS of interest. The second reason is that we can deduct home equity interest from our taxes, whereas credit cards do nothing for us there despite all the money we send them.

I wish it went faster. I know I should be pleased to see zeros in that table, and I know we are making progress, but it just feels eternal.

November 3, 2011

It’s been forever…

Life gets in the way. But I was reminded by some asshole today that my blog sucks, so even if no one is interested, I’m going to post something just to piss it off. HA.

So – my home equity loan – easy to refinance last November or so – then I noticed rates went down so asked if we could get the new rate? YES! So it’s at 3.99 and that cost us NOTHING.

My 5/1, which arguably was a huge mistake, now has an interest rate of 3.00%. Every year that it has adjusted, it’s gone down. Crazy. It’s certainly working for us right now. For these rates and many other reasons, I love my credit union.  Find one for yourself! http://www.findacreditunion.com/

What else… last November we were at $352,211.05. Now we’re at $319,589.11. That’s $32,621.94 and I guess that’ll have to be good enough. Our car is almost paid off, so that’ll help quite a bit. For now I plan to throw that payment at debt, then I’ll start saving for the next car.

There really is something to using those debt snowball spreadsheets – even if you’re doing an avalanche or whatever. Just seeing that it’s possible for ALL the numbers to go to zero is really empowering.

At our current payment rate, it looks like everything but the mortgage could be completely paid off by March 2015. That’s not so far away. And maybe it could go faster if we work out our snowflakes.

Maybe I’ll do another update soon to see where we are on reducing specific debts (credit cards, car loan, mortgage, student loan).


December 22, 2010

Oh December, why do you cost so much?

Filed under: family,money — by elysianconfusion @ 12:23 pm
Tags: , ,

December, December. It’s so busy and stressful, I can’t think straight. I have no progress to report this month except for rolling my home equity lines together for a lower rate — it’s done, we’re happy & hooray.

Is my money perspective all screwed up because of my family? Here’s the basics:

1) My dad made good money but didn’t talk about it and accumulated painful credit card debt and is terrible at managing money and has nothing.

2) My mom never made that much and now they’re apart manages her money much better, but I didn’t grow up with this example.

3) My older sister is a surgeon with a couple of multi-million dollar homes.

4) My younger sister is semi-sane thus far (and better with money, partly I think because her husband is seriously debt-averse other than medical school loans). But next year his salary plus bonus & signing bonus will be more than I’ve made in my life.

We’re not poor, me and my husband. But my goodness, you’d think we were! My older sister had a gift shipped here for her husband for Christmas. It’s a $6,000 Rolex. Yes. That one gift cost more than four times my entire Christmas budget. Crazy!

I hope to have lots of lovely news in the new year though. Happy Holidays!!!

November 24, 2010

Asking Always Pays

Filed under: budgets,debt,money — by elysianconfusion @ 4:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Well, I finally bugged my darling husband into calling our credit union to see if they could do anything for us. We’re in the lovely position of being at least not underwater on our house, but certainly not at 80%, which makes it really hard to refinance at lower rates (or fix already low ones). And our credit union services our loan (good), but that means it’s not a Freddie Mac or a Fannie Mae (bad, because then there’s no Making Homes Affordable for us).

I mentioned my distress last week, but now I have excellent news! The bank is sending us paperwork, fixing the home equity loans (together) at 4.99 (down from 6.5 on the big one and 4 but variable on the low one) for 10 years. This reduces our rate, our interest and our term. It does increase the payment by 54$ a month, but it’s TOTALLY worth it!

I think we’ll save about 5k in interest (without including snowball planning). Also, there is no penalty for pre-payment and there are no closing costs.

I was feeling so frustrated, because I already owe them the money, they should want to help me — and THEY DID! Hurray!

So, anyone out there thinking it’s not worth asking — you’re wrong. Even if you don’t get what you want, at least you know you asked!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 18, 2010

Giving Thanks for Every Day

Ok, first of all, today’s grand total is… no drum roll, I think … $352,211.05. Down by $2,274.39.

And what have I accomplished? Feels like nothing much. I did decide to charge $40/hour for copy writing and editing. My husband said $50, another friend suggested $75. The range out there was huge. At the end of the day, I felt like it was my first free lance job and I don’t know how I’m going to do, and it’s my brother in law. So. There you have it.

I’m really wishing I could consolidate my mortgage and home equity loans, but you know what? I really can’t. I don’t have enough equity to be allowed to do it. And because my loans are through my credit union and have no affiliation with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, I can’t do anything like the Making Home Affordable plan. What annoys me even more is that I don’t even want to reduce my payments or increase my terms! I just want to fix the buggers at a low rate so I’m not worried about future adjustments. Seems like I’m totally out of luck on that front. (Can you hear the huge sigh?)

I haven’t yet figured out new 529 plans. I haven’t figured out whether my 401k dollars are going in the right place. I hate trying to figure it out. I’ve read that Index Funds are the way to go but that the ING Retirement Plans have index funds with high associated costs. I also gathered that I shouldn’t look at MorningStar ratings, which is included in my ING account and apparently partly what the people who choose available funds for my account are using. Great.

Anyone want to help me out here?

1164 ING Index Solution 2055 Port Adv:


Gross Prosp Exp Ratio 1.06% of fund assets

Net Prosp Exp Ratio 1.06% of fund assets

Management Fee 0.10%

12b-1 Fee 0.50%

Other Fee .

Miscellaneous Fee(s) 0.46%

Fund Inception Date 03-08-10

They all seem similar.

Still, with all of this, I’m thankful for my family and my life, and I know we are so fortunate in so many ways.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

October 18, 2010

October Falls

Filed under: birthday,budgets,children,debt,money — by elysianconfusion @ 1:36 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

I keep looking at my chart of how much our debt costs us. It’s Painful! My plus is this: though I haven’t had much to snowball lately, I can still see an increase in the amount of principal I pay in relation to the interest. And I think it’s largely due to my mortgage.

I keep paying the same amount, so now I actually am paying more in principal on the mortgage than in interest (monthly). I *wish* I could fix this rate.

October has been tough again. I think I need to save $100 per month just for birthdays. This seems insane, and I don’t know how it’s possibly true — perhaps I just haven’t really dissected what we spent for my youngest son’s 5th birthday. But if I saved it, it would be there, just in case. I like just in case.

Besides the birthday, we have to pay our town taxes (ouch) and our home owner’s insurance (annual) and for wood. Next month, next month, next month. I feel like that’s all I say. But next month, I think it will all be a lot easier and I will have some money to snowball and we will kick this stupid debt.

Right now, our grand total of debt is $354,485.44. Mortgages, cars, student loans, credit cards. Boom. It’s all there.

Here are my puzzles, chime in with advice, if you please.

#1 — We have 529 plans for the kids but my sense is they’re not the right ones. Help me pick! I’m in Massachusetts, if that makes any difference. The financial advisor appears to be useless and only recommends those related to MFS, without analyzing fees and such. (So maddening, what is she FOR?) Also, for those thinking we’re batty for contributing to college when we should be paying off debt, we’re not. That’s where money goes that people give us for the kids. For right now, for the rest, kids will need scholarships.

#2 My brother-in-law called this weekend to say he wants to hire me to do copy editing and copy writing (free lance). What do I charge?

If anyone has suggestions, I truly hope you will provide them in the comments.


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