Category Archives: budgeting

Student Loan Forgiveness

My   higher education cost me $66k (plus interest) .

I was happily under the impression that I was eligible for the public service loan forgiveness program passed in 2007 (forgiving loans after 10 years of consistent payments). The program provides loan forgiveness to public/non-profit/educators/health workers, knowing that these public service sectors pay far less than the private sector and yet society needs good teachers, etc.

Since I’ve only ever worked in the non-profit/public sectors, I was excited when I first learned that I may someday vanquish the financial burden of being educated. But now that I’ve been looking over requirements closer, I think  I’m ineligible because my loans are through the Federal Family Education Loans program, not the Federal Direct Loan program. Moreover, you can only consolidate once (without adding more student loans), and I only wish that I had read this fine print a few years ago when I learned of the program.

Here are my basic loan details. I finished graduate school in June 2005, and consolidated my undergraduate and grad school loans shortly thereafter. The total loan amount was $61k (down from the grand total of $66k), since I had been diligently making monthly payments since 2000. My payments for the first three years averaged $500, but after I went back to school I dropped down to the minimum $288 monthly installment.

The loan has a 3.25% fixed interest, which sounds reasonable but really adds up. In the past 25 months, I’ve paid $7,500 on my student loans. Only $2,603.55 was paid on principle, and $4896.45 on interest! So, today after over ten years, I still have a total of $44k in student loans.  This is obviously a financial bummer, because I was looking forward to  getting rid of my monthly student loan payment of $288  by 2017 (still an additional $20k in repayment).

On a side note, I found a site that proposes forgiving student loans to stimulate the economy. I couldn’t agree more.

Do you have student loans?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Changing the Conversation – Book Review

Back to writing after my “spring break“…it was a nice retreat, minus a vomiting and feverish Girly on our mini-vacation to the coast…alas I just hope she’s back to energetic self here soon…

I did manage to finish reading  Changing the Conversation: Transformational Steps to Financial and Family Well-Being . Written by financial planner, Gary Klaben, it was a refreshingly easy and enjoyable read. It was packed with personal anecdotes, and was not overly prescriptive about how you should manage your family finances. Actually, it had more professional/personal success advice than I was expecting, but truthfully all success is closely intertwined. A financial planner who can’t provide advice on how to earn money to begin with won’t be of much help managing any such wealth.

My only criticism of that the book really doesn’t dwell on the early years of family financial planner, which is where my family is at the moment. I would have liked some advice on saving for college…or in my case, paying off my college loans. I would have also been interested to know his thoughts on the financial equation of paying for child care or what he thinks about the trend toward maternal breadwinners

To his credit, Klaben does have one chapter on Financial Awareness where he discusses teaching kids about money, and his own approach to allowances. Personally, I like his approach to allowances. His family had a simple plan, starting at age 6, they gave each child their own age in weekly allowance ($6 for a 6 yo…$12 for a 12 yo.) The only string attached was that every two months the child needed to save $25, which would be matched to put into a mutual fund. He quotes Capitate Your Kids by Dr. John E Whitcomb and discusses how “Basically, a 12 year old is given a $200 monthly budget to buy his or her clothes and other non-essential items. Mom and Dad no longer provide the clothing needs.” He does admit that some hand holding is needed early on, but giving children money is the the only way they’ll learn from it.

While approachable from virtually all stages of life, I think this book would be most useful for those in their late forties and up to retirement age. Klaben doesn’t hide that he’s a baby-boomer, and it’s clear that this is a retrospective about what he’s learned in his life as a financial planner. He has a great deal of wisdom to share with regard to retirement, and I appreciate how he thinks that in order to truly enjoy retirement, you need to find ways to give back to your community (our goal is to do the Peace Corps when we retire!) 

I was probably most surprised to find him spending a chapter on “Whose property do you own?” and the notion that we can easily become sucked into the trapping of ownership, especially land. 

“I’m reminded of a saying that illustrates the power that property has over us: ‘The king fears the man who stands before him with no need.’ It is a very profound statement. During feudal time, the serf could have rebelled against the ‘indentured servant equals food and shelter’ formula. He could have repudiated the system of property rights and refused to become a slave to the system. Arguably he could have lived off the land and put himself out for hire. 

When your think about, a feudal system of property rights still exists today. The difference: The king has been replaced by consumerism. We can do without three TVs, three-car garages, three personal phones, and on and on. We choose to “own” these extras because it makes life easier and more enjoyable. 

Money can’t buy happiness, but is makes the journey more comfortable. So, are you controlling the money or is the money controlling you?”

This quote gives a good example of how Klaben suggests “Changing the Conversation” is some transformational ways.

Lastly, I found it very intriguing to read this book right on the heels of the Energy of Money, because he opens the book by talking about how our relationship with money is a very personal journey, and he devotes a chapter to financial psychology.

Have you read Changing the Conversation
I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Considering Carless

As I shared yesterday, on my “sugar mama” post, we are planning to sell our car very soon…s o, if you are in the market for a well-loved   2008 Subaru Forester with less than $25k   miles, you know where to find me đŸ˜‰  

The biggest reason we are selling our car is because we don’t use it enough to justify the expense…when we bought our car we were using it on a daily basis, our commute wasn’t long, but we were using it regularly. But in the past 2 1/2 years our average use is twice a week. So each time we get in the car is costs us more than $50 a trip! Obviously this is too much.

We are also seriously considering going carless. At a minimum we will do a one month challenge, but if we can at all manage, we’ll stay carless until the fall. We have plenty of other options for getting around that are much cheaper.

Instead of driving, we’ll ride the bus/max or bicycle together. When we decide we do want to use a car for an excursion, we’ll rent a Zipcar. Within a 10 minute walk we have several vehicle options, including a few mini-vans. We also anticipate that we’ll rent a car for camping trips during the summer, but we typically plan these out far in advance and the extra cost will still be less than a car payment. For the occasional festivity, we’ll plan on taking a cab, which will be make the designated driver choice pretty easy. 

So, yes, this is a big experiment, and maybe we’ll fail miserably and decide that we need a car to get around as a family…but I figure now is the best time to try it out…

Is your family carless? 
Could you manage without a car?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

February Money Notes

I’m still trying to digest our expenses for the month of February, because it honestly doesn’t feel like we spent that much money. Once I looked closer at the expenses, there’s actually nothing we purchased the will last longer than what’s in our fridge/cupboard. In fact, w e spent a total of $438.83 on groceries, and another $278.77 eating out. We also spent $170 on charities. But we were frugal in other ways, my $20 haircut and we only filled the gas tank up once (still have a half tank too).

Now I can better see how Hubby’s common saying is that “we are hemorrhaging money!” It does make it seem more real to type it all up and share it with you …here it goes:

Feb 1st

  • $60 – boot camp classes – cash
  • $60 – paid remainder of birthday party expense – cash
  • $4.50 (+ .50ct tip) – Fuego burrito cart – cash
  • $41.17 – Spud –  AmEx Costco card

Feb 2nd

  • $1,954 – Childcare tuition – automatic debit

Feb 3rd

  • $66.90 – Turbotax – debit card
  • $9.45 Hubby’s lunch – debit card
  • $65.49 Electric utility – automatic debit
Feb 4th
  • $47.21 at Whole Foods – debit card
  • $47.91 at Trader Joe’s – debit card
Feb 7th
  • $14.70 Philadephia’s – debit card
  • $12.50 Southpark Wine – debit card
  • $15.00 The Nines Urban Farm – debit card
  • $17.85 Paradise Bakery – debit card
  • $45.81 gasoline – debit card
  • $50.00 Water for People charity donation – debit card
  • $1,624.98 Continental Chase card payment in full – debit card 

Feb 8th

  • $3.75 Hubby’s coffee – debit card
  • $3.99 my lunch – debit card
  • $10.00 OPB member donation – Continental card
Feb 9th
  • $4.38 my lunch – debit card
  • $26.28 Rite Aid – no recollectiondebit card
Feb 10th
  • $2.75 Hubby’s coffee – debit card
  • $9.99 Netflix – automatic debit
  • $146.24 – NW Natural Gas – automatic debit
  • $37.58 – Spud –  AmEx Costco card
Feb 12th
  • $21.99 Sparky’s pizza – debit card
  • $103.10 Freddy’s – debit card
  • $34.99 Clear wi-fi –  AmEx Costco card
Feb 13th
  • $18.90 breakfast out – debit card
  • $7.55 overdue library book fines – debit card
  • $15.47 IKEA (meatballs, etc.) – debit card
  • +$48.87 IKEA returns – (wine glasses and shoe rack)
  • +$15.00 Target return (sweater dress for Girly)
Feb 15th
  • $87.83 Allstate Insurance – automatic debit
  • $36.00 Hubby paid for lunch with co-workers – debit card
  • $401.00 Subaru car payment – automatic debit
  • $15.00 2 tickets to Diary of a Worm, a Spider and a Flycheck
  • $125.00 EcoMaids cleaning service – Continental card
Feb 16th 
  • $7.75 lunch out with friend –  AmEx Costco card
  • $10.37 date with kiddos – AmEx Costco card
Feb 17th
  • $47.74 – Spud – AmEx Costco card
  • $11.68 Burgerville – Hubby – debit card
  • $110.00 Church tithe – Continental card
Feb 18th

  • +32.98 Costco return of wine glasses
  • $156.04 Costco purchase – AmEx Costco card
  • $91.91 doctor’s bill – Continental card
  • $136.37 doctor’s bill – Continental card
  • $18.00 Milagro’s – 3 cloth diaper liner rolls – Continental card

Feb 20th

  • $28.75 Cup and Saucer breakfast – debit card
  • $14.00 Oregonian Fri/Sat/Sun home delivery – Continental card
Feb 22nd
  • $0.40 Parking tab – debit card
  • $7.50 Hubby matinĂ©e – debit card 
  • $10.75 Kettleman’s bagels – debit card
  • $46.91 Safeway – debit card ($40 cash for Hubby)
  • $800.00 Costco American Express (early payment) – debit card
Feb 23rd
  • $5.47 snacks for co-workers at mtg – debit card
Feb 24th
  • $48.35 Spud – AmEx Costco card
Feb 25th
  • $17.90 Lunch date for Hubby, Big Guy and I – debit card
  • $28.50 Mississippi Pizza night out – debit card
February 26th
  • $5.99 ice cream ($40 cash back) – debit card
  • $20 haircut – cash

February 28th

  • $13.97 – healthy work snacks – debit card
  • $288.00 – student loanautomatic debit

February total = $6782.76 (credit cards paid off from previous month = $2,424.98)

Cash = $145
Check = $15
Automatic debit = $2,952.55
Debit card = $2,345.79
AmEx credit card = $383.99
Continental credit card = $505.28

Have you written out your expenses lately…or ever?!

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.

Groupon and Living Social Hiatus

I’ve raved before about the great deals I’ve found on Groupon and Living Social, but since the new year I’ve been taking an intentional hiatus from online deals.

Sometimes the bargains seemed too good to pass up, and I got caught up “saving” money…all the while spending too much!  Thankfully, I can truly say that the majority of the deals were at local places where we already enjoy going, and I think that we saved some money eating out. 

But Groupons/Living Social deals are tricky for budgeting because you spend the money sometimes long before you ever use the service.

Then there’s also the issue of expiration dates, which has been the biggest hassle for me. I find myself strategically planning our weekend around where we need to use a Groupon. It’s certainly not a stress I need in my life.

In full disclosure, I felt the need to tally/share all the Groupons I’ve bought in the past year. Like I suspected, the expense really does add up. It shows how easily a well meaning budget conscious person can spend a lot to save a little. 

Current Groupons:

  • $40 Soluna Grill – paid $20
  • $80 Fish Window Cleaning – paid $40
  • $25 Pistils Nursery – paid $10
  • $60 Pixie Project – paid $30
  • $25 Hash Restaurant – paid $12 –                                                  Subtotal=$112

Past year – used already:

  • $50 Nordstrom rack – paid $25
  • 3 Santa photos – paid $10
  • Pumpkin patch Oregon Maize – paid $7
  • $10 SuperDog – paid $5
  • $15 Pizza a go go – paid $7
  • $15 Habibi Lebanese – paid $7
  • $25 Ukiyoe Japanese Restaurant – paid $12
  • $15 x2 Elephant’s Delicatessen – paid $15
  • $8 x2 Wayne’s Chicago Red Hots – paid $8
  • $25 Concordia Ale House – paid $12
  • $13 Posies Cafe – paid $6
  • $10 Cafe Brioso – paid $5
  • $45 Strut Salon – paid $20
  • $35 x2 Chameleon Restaurant – paid $30
  • $15 x2 Bella Faccia – paid $14
  • $25 Pizza Fino – paid $12
  • $50 Spud – paid $25                                                                   Subtotal =$220

Living Social current unused:

  • $30 – Cup and Saucer – paid $15
  • $20 – Homebrew exchange – paid $10
  • $35 – One hour massage at Ruby Violet
  • $25 – Brow shape – paid $12.50                                                  Subtotal=$72.50

Already enjoyed:

  • Skamania Lodge – $169
  • Hot Stone massage at Written on the Body – $30                         Subtotal=$199

GRAND TOTAL=  $603.50

As you can see, it really adds up over the course of a year. I’m not planning to abandon these deals altogether. I just need to use more discipline. So I’ve developed a set of criteria for purchasing any online deals:
  1. Must be in our neighborhood or a favorite place of ours.
  2. Must have/make plans to use within the next month – not just by the expiration.
  3. Must truly save us money on something we would regularly buy.
  4. If in question, check with Hubby – he’ll almost always tell me not to buy it…unless it’s someplace he can’t resist either…

Lastly, while I’m little scared to sign up for it, the site Mind. Body. Green is supposed to be the new Groupon for Greenies…

Have you become addicted to Groupons?

Sustainable Family Finances 
The story of a family creating an abundant and sustainable life.