If I could tell the me of two years ago how happy I would be right in this moment, she would be shocked but so relieved. You know you are happy when you drink rum and Black Cherry sparkling soda and you are overcome with gratefulness. I’m just sitting here staring at the empty space that will eventually be my living room. It needs furniture and wall hangings. It needs sweat and elbow grease. It needs color and warmth. It needs memories. It’s a work in progress, but I am so happy that it’s mine. Charlie is being annoying and needy, but we are in our home. He is literally putting his face in my coat to go outside (even though every time I take him out he stares at the yard like “this is not what I expected”).
–Also side note: I’m listening to Lonely Eyes by Chris Young on repeat, and for some reason, the chorus is just so uplifting that I’m not even thinking about lonely eyes. —
Tonight I looked at my loan payments and savings account. It’s so relieving to know that even though I’m not living an extravagant life, that I am paying my bills and getting ahead of my student loans. Even though I’ve change my lifestyle a little bit, I’m still okay. I’ve been eating out a little too much, but I’m cutting back so I can focus on my student debt again. It’s crazy what a little raise can do. I’m so used to saving money and accounting for every penny that I think I can go a few more years putting all I have towards my student loans and have them paid off by 2020 just like I hoped. According to an online calculator, I actually should be able to pay them off in May of next year!
Honestly, at that point, I don’t even know what I would do with all that money when it isn’t going toward the loans. Maybe I would roll the snowball into my mortgage. Maybe I would put new siding on my house. The possibilities are endless. Just a little while longer watching all my money pay down my degree. It’s so close; I can taste it.
… and I haven’t written in awhile. I almost asked myself why even bother sharing my thoughts with the ether, but I know how much it positively affects my mental state. So I am back here.
I think the thing I miss most about logging on and putting my thoughts down in words is reflecting on my goals and weaknesses. I use a daily planner for every day To Do lists, but I don’t take the time to think about myself as much as I used to.
Part of that is because I’m not as worried about “making the right decisions” anymore. I know that life is not about making the right decisions but rather about finding your way day by day.
I had knee surgery. I had an accident with Charlie. I gained some weight. I went back to work and picked up another part-time shift. I currently work 40 hours plus an additional 3 shifts at the Knights. I got a raise at my day job – the one I asked for a year ago. I’m going to close on a house soon.
Life is happening to me.
My most important goal was paying down my student loan debt, but then I started to like my job and started to hate my living situation. I recognize that I’m so lucky to have to home I have now with my sister. We just can’t live together and be happy. It never worked when we were little. It hasn’t been working now.
So, I got excited about the idea of having my own place, and my mom – with her newly earned real estate license – starting looking. My budget was small, and I know that means a lot of paint and a lot of patience until I have a home that is modern and mine. I found the house that I was looking for. I have plans for an office and a shop room and a guest bedroom with a screen projector for movie nights. I will have room for an additional freezer for the game I harvest. I will have a garage to put a canoe. I will have little view of the river. I will have my own bathroom!
I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my jobs. I’m grateful for my family. I know I’m single and 25 all alone in a house, but I have my doggo. I have my parents and grandparents within ten miles. I’m scared and worried and a little disappointed that I’m taking out more loans rather than paying them off, but mostly, I’m excited.
I have been thinking about my short-term financial goals for a few weeks. I want to shake up my current plan of attack and I finally decided to write down these new goals. I loosely base my financial plan on the debt-snowball. I love Dave Ramsey’s “Baby Steps,” but there are a few reasons why I don’t follow his plan religiously. First of all, I don’t make a lot of “extra” money each month ( I refuse to say “I don’t make enough money” because that’s a lie – hashtag grateful). Additionally, I successfully use a credit card and pay it off every month. I plan my splurges very carefully – I just swipe for them rewards. Even though I don’t follow his plan religiously, I had been taking his “throw everything at the loans” approach to the extreme. I pinch every dollar out of my pay check and end up leaving almost nothing in my regular account. This just doesn’t make sense for my situation. Since I just don’t generate copious amounts of income, it’s going to be a few years before I really beat down this debt.
So my new savings goals are:
1. Keeping at least the amount of one paycheck in my regular account
I’d like to automate my bills again and in order to do that, I will have to have enough green in my account. It will take some time to get use to this system. I might have to rework how I budget each paycheck since it won’t act like a zero-base in my account, but I truly believe it will relieve a lot of stress.
2. Maintaining a flex spending account of $1000 for recreation
This goal really torments my inner debt killer who says that I can’t have fun until I pay off my debt. “HANNAH YOU ARE IN DEBT AND DON’T DESERVE HAPPINESS.” It’s 2017 and I have been killing debt for 2.5 years. Shut up you debt murderer. I really value experiences over material objects and want to travel and visit friends and family. They don’t have to be elaborate trips, anything will help me de-clutter and unwind. So I’m officially saying that I am willing to let the debt linger just a little longer, if that means that I can have a few more experiences this year.
3. Bumping my emergency fund up to $2000
I know that Dave Ramsey says that I don’t need more than $1000.00 in my emergency fund, buuuuuuuut I don’t purchase pet insurance even though I have a very large dog who occasionally needs things for his greater health and wellness. Furthermore… my car needs a few more repairs before it will be in better running condition. These are things that I know are going to pop up in emergency-like fashion. I prefer to get ahead of my emergencies.
4. Keeping a little cash “savings” at home for special occasions
This one is a new strategy that I read about recently. The author of an article I was reading said she kept cash in her bedroom as a little bonus money. When I get bonus money, I usually put it towards one of my bigger goals like debt or Christmas or I use it to buy something I have been eyeing online. I still think those are good options, but I want to see what happens if the piggy bank piles up to $100 or $200. I’m thinking it might be good if something like a candle party pops up or if a sibling has a fundraiser or if I want to go out to eat with my friends without worrying about my budget or my savings goals. This one may not work for me, but I want to experiment.
I’m having one of those days where I stare at my loan balances and think, “I’ve done so little.” The problem with paying off the smallest loan first is that the biggest one doesn’t budge much. The interest on those loans does its damage. The truth of the matter is that I’m making huge progress on my smallest loan. I must be proud of myself for that and not wish away the days until my next paycheck.
Thinking about careers gives me nausea. I like my job; I like this business. Since I live in a rural area, cost of living is relatively low, but about half of my month’s earnings goes to my student loans. Thankfully, I live with my sister – which is less like living with a roommate and more like an actually family. However, I would like to be able to live a little. I feel like I’m wasting my single adult life worrying about whether or not I have anything left in my checking account to see a movie.
I have several options rattling around in my brain.
- Find a job in PA. It’s close enough to my family to make a weekend trip, and far enough to be out of NY.
- Get a part-time job and never see my friends, family, or dog.
- Find a job I’m not interested in, nor using my experience in, that pays better.
- Commute an hour to the closest city to a job that is either in my field of interest or pays better.
- Get a two year degree in engineering or nursing and change my field altogether so that I can stay in my hometown, perpetually single, with my dog and a homestead.
- Sell everything I own on eBay (plus the promise of my first born) and hope that puts a dent in my loans.
However, my most recent thought was that I should keep looking for and applying for jobs in a variety of places while also studying and reading up on marketing and business. I wouldn’t take any offer. It would have to be a really good move because I really do like what I’m doing right now. I could try to make as much extra income on the side, without going crazy from stress, and keep slowly chipping away at my loans. I have no interest in loan deferment or lower payments because that defeats the purpose.
I need those loans gone because they are weighing me down. They are evil. The government was crazy to give them to me in the first place.
I like to remind myself that the American dream isn’t built in a day, as corny as that sounds. I can’t compare my situation to everyone else’s, but it’s hard when people ask me about my career. I don’t know what I want to do for the rest of my life. I don’t know where I want to live. I don’t have the answers, but I do know that I work hard. I know that I’m a valuable employee. I have faith in myself to make a career.
Here’s the thing about living in a small town and working for a small business: it puts a lot of pressure on my wallet. Adult-ing is hard. Balancing my love for my rural hometown and the need to have a successful career and pay off my loans causes me a lot of stress. In an effort to be proactive in this aspect of my life, I’m on a mission to make money on the side. I know I have the spirit of a side hustler, I just have to find my niche.
Pinterest is constantly filling my feed with articles featuring lists of ways to make money online or from home. Some are really helpful, some not so much. There are a few lists that I found extremely helpful. The Penny Hoarder is my favorite so far, but I also really like Making Sense of Cents. Here’s a list of the best suggestions for making money on the side as well as a list of odd jobs that actually bring in a little extra cash for me.
- 6 Online Jobs for College Students by Seed Time
- The 4 Side Jobs That Make Me Over $3,000 a Month by Busy Budgeter
- 103 Ways to Make Money at Home by The Penny Hoarder
- 30 Side Jobs to Make Money & Pay Down Debt by Frugal Fanatic
- Ways to Make an Extra $1,000 a Month by Making Sense of Cents
I also have my own personal suggestions for a busy millennial struggling for pocket change.
- Selling garage sale items/thrift store finds on eBay and Facebook
- Trading in clothes you don’t wear at a clothing boutique
- Completing surveys on Swagbucks
- Starting a band
I’ve made quite a few sales on eBay with items I bought from the Salvation Army. The turn around is relatively quick if you find interesting things. I sold kids snow shoes, a pet barrier for the car, and an HD cable antenna – all of which I found at the thrift store. I also sold a few things I was no longer using, like a pair of Ariat boots and a guitar case. I go through my closet to weed out items I don’t wear enough, and I trade them in at a local clothing shop. I do this almost every time the seasons change. I usually trade my items in for store credit so I can get something new, but they also offer cash in exchange for lightly used clothing.
I started using Swagbucks a couple of months ago. I was primarily using their search engine and only earning a few Swagbucks a week. I didn’t understand how so many people had success with it, but after I started completing the surveys, I racked up enough ‘bucks’ to redeem a $25 PayPal gift card. It only took a week or so once I started doing a couple of surveys every night. I was really impressed with the variety of gift cards available but opted for the PayPal card since I have a couple of small bills that come out of my PayPal account. I haven’t referred anyone yet, but if you find this post helpful at all, use my referral link to get bonus Swagbucks.
If you have a couple of musically talented friends, or family in my case, get together and start a band. It requires some equipment, but a lot of venues have equipment on site. I was lucky to have a family member who had all the equipment already. Booking a gig every few weeks can bring in a good amount of cash (as long as you don’t spend it on alcohol while you’re out performing). Bonus: playing music and getting out of the house can help you unwind and have fun.
I hope to keep expanding my list of side hustles as I continue to pay down my school loans. I keep track of almost all of my bank/financial transactions so I should be able to compile my monthly earnings pretty easily.Maybe I’ll be able to do a “Side Hustle Monthly Roundup.
A Story About Tax Returns
One day, I hadn’t gotten my federal tax return. Then, at lunch, my bank account showed a large deposit. After lunch, I didn’t have my tax return any more. The End.
Why did I use all of my tax return on a loan payment? Because I hate being in debt; I’ve hated it since I signed my loan papers for school tuition. So I decided that as soon as I received my return it was going right on my car loan. It wasn’t hard to let all the return go because it wasn’t in my account long enough for me to miss it. Plus, I absolutely love seeing those numbers tick down on my remaining balance.
I pay my personal loan on my car online through my bank account which is quite handy. Everything goes to the loan as soon as possible. Once I kill the car loan, I’m going to go crazy on those student loans. I might even find a part-time job to really pay them down.