Paying Down A Chunk Of Student Loans

Last December, I reported that my grandmother had passed away.  She was 95 and lived a great life.

I miss her dearly.

She was kind enough to have left me an inheritance.  She and my grandfather (who passed away in the mid-1990’s) lived modestly, but were able to save a little bit.

My grandmother had told me of the fact that I was to receive some money at a couple of different points over the past few years.  Even so, I never ‘counted on’ this money, because I knew that expenses she might have for medical or housing issues might necessitate dipping into her savings.  If that would have happened, I would have been perfectly OK with that because her happiness and comfort was more important to me than any amount of money could have provided.

Things played out, though, where I did receive some money after her passing.  I’m holding onto some, and not including it our net worth, because I haven’t decided what to do with it.  I have often heard that the best thing to when coming into money is…..nothing.

We did make a decision to take some of it and apply it towards paying down the student loan balances that exist as debt.  Our goal is to pay these off by the end of 2012, so we applied a portion of the monies towards that.

I sent off the payment this morning!

I know that my grandmother would approve of this choice.  She and my grandfather were among the first people to instill in me, at an early age, the belief that carrying little or no debt was the best way to go.  From as long as I remember, my grandparents owned what was theirs.

The payment we made will take out a big chunk, around 40%, of the first of two student loans.  In addition to applying 25% of our expected tax refunds when those come in, we should be on track to be near a zero balance by the end of 2010.  Once that’s paid off, we’ll ‘debt snowball‘ the amount we’re paying on the first loan into the second loan payment.

I would much rather have my grandmother back, but I’m thankful that I do have thirty five years worth of memories of her, and a lot of good values and things that provided me happiness. Paying down our debts will make us very happy, so even though she’s not here in spirit, part of her is along the journey with us now, and I’m very happy to have her on our side!

Other great reads

Here are some additional posts I’ve read recently by other great, hard working bloggers.  Give them a read if you have a few minutes:

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Letting Things Soak

I eat oatmeal pretty much every day at breakfast, at least at work.  It started a few years ago when my cholesterol tested above what it should have been.  I made some changes to my diet and have been exercising more, and have been in the normal range for quite some time, but I still stick with the oatmeal breakfast.

It’s healthy.  With a few raisins, it’s very tasty, and it keeps me from eating worse breakfasts.

It’s also fairly cheap, which is always a nice bonus.

But, one thing I’ve noticed is that cleaning up after eating oatmeal can be a difficult task.  Or it can be an easy one.

How both?  Let me explain.

Inevitably, I eat my breakfast and I put the ceramic bowl that I use for my oatmeal aside.  After an hour or two, I’ll get up for something and I notice that my bowl is sitting there, and the little uneaten chunks have now melded themselves to the bowl.

There are two ways of handling this.  The first is to take it to the kitchen, work and work and work, and hopefully get all the chunks off.  It takes a huge amount of effort and the results aren’t even 100% as I’ll usually find some uncleaned portions later on, and have to go back and re-clean the entire bowl.

The second option, though, is much better and works out a heck of a lot easier.  I simply fill the bowl with water and let it soak.  Ten minutes later, all the chunks have fallen off and now leave, and a simple wash gets me ready for the next day.

Now, you may be wondering, how is this relevant to a personal finance blog?  Well, I think the analogy works pretty well with financial decisions: It’s simply sometimes best to let things soak.

I find that ‘letting things soak’ is something that I do quite often when making a financial decision.  When we want to purchase something big (over $100), I will often look at it, and then ‘let it soak’ for awhile. Whether that’s a few hours, a few days, or whatever, I find that waiting often makes things turn out better.  Many times, we’ll decide that the purchase isn’t necessary, or if we do decide to make the purchase, we’ll do our homework to make sure it’s the best possible price and that it meets our goals, as well as fitting into our financial goals.

When we don’t let things soak, we’ll often find that we’re plagued with similar problems to not letting my oatmeal bowl soak.  We’ll find that we’re rushing, that we’re working harder, and that we may not have ‘finished’ making the decision in the best possible way.

In short, letting things soak has proven to be a valuable strategy.  Both in cleaning out my oatmeal bowl and in making financial decisions, it works more often than it doesn’t.

Other great reads

Here are some additional posts I’ve read recently by other great, hard working bloggers.  Give them a read if you have a few minutes:

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Net Worth Review: March 2010

It’s time for a monthly check of our Net Worth.  As always, I don’t give ‘real’ dollar amounts, but the trends in percentages are worth a look.

Things were looking up this month after a blah February.  I’m happy on most fronts especially the bottom line!

Assets:

  •  Property – Zillow and CyberHomes is what I use to track this, with a modification based on ‘gut feel’.  Zillow lowered our value a little bit for the month, causing a slight decrease, but overall the value is showing a bit less downward trend over time, leaving me to continue keeping my fingers crossed that the bloodbath worst is behind us.
  • Autos – Kelly Blue Book dropped the value of our cars big time in February, but maybe they realized they went overboard, because the values went back up for the month.  So, unfortunately, I didn’t increase the value of the cars by adding spinner rims or hydraulics.   I’m just following the KBB value model.
  • Investment Accounts – We saw a nice gain for the month of almost 6%.  We haven’t made any new investments, so this figure merely represents our gains or losses with the investments already in the market.
  • Cash – Cash dropped significantly, but this mainly because I subtract our outstanding credit card balances (which we pay every month) from our cash holding.  I have a rather large balance thanks to the $358 $658 for plane tickets (including the $300 stupid tax) that is currently there and will be paid off at the end of the month, so this is not an unexpected amount (except, again, for the $300 stupid tax)
  • Retirement – Our retirement went up 7% putting it at an all time high.  I contribute 10% of my pre-tax salary towards our retirement so the gains were market gains plus new contributions.

Debt:

  • Property – We made our standard mortgage payment.
  • Student loans – I had a little ‘tax refund’ cash account that was added to every month based on our withholding rate.  I allocated some of that money towards an additional debt payment, so we were able to knock a few extra percent off Student Loan 1.  We will still be getting actual tax refunds later in the season that will help us knock this down even further.  Still, being able to pay extra was a luxury we haven’t had in quite a few months, so this felt great!
  • Credit cards – We carry no credit card balances from month to month!
  • Auto – We’ve paid off both cars outright so we have no auto loans!
  • Other – I’m proud to say that we have no other debt, short term loans or otherwise!

All in all, I think we’re moving in the right direction.  When I look at our Net Worth Excluding Property, we have hit an all time high there for five out of the last six months.  I’ll take that with a smile!

Here’s hoping for another good report next month.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Taking The Yakezie Alexa Ranking Challenge

One of the things I recently stumbled across was something that Financial Samurai came up with called the Yakezie Alexa Ranking Challenge.  Long story short, Alexa is a site that tracks other sites all across the web and rates them for popularity.  The more popular you are, the better Alexa ranking you have.

Financial Samurai’s idea was that personal finance bloggers (like Money Beagle) support each other with the end result being that word of mouth will build, networking opportunities will be created, and a buzz will slowly take place that benefits all participants.  Sort of a blogging co-op if you will.

I think this is a great idea and the approach that Samurai is taking is commendable.  One of my biggest frustrations in personal finance blogging is that those bloggers with the most clout, being the most popular, tend to network and build buzz for other popular blogs.  That’s great if you were in that circle, but it tends to propagate the ‘rich get richer’ momentum.

This challenge strives to accomplish the same thing just on a level that makes it opportunistic for personal finance blogs of all shapes and sizes.

According to the site, my goal would be to move up in ranking to 200,000 or above by the end of 2010.  This would mean that Money Beagle becomes one of the top 200,000 web sites out there.

When I agreed to join the challenge, I was ranked 3,250,230.  In other words, I have a long way to go!  Still, early results (some bloggers have been going with this since January) are extremely encouraging, so I think it’s doable.  There’s a little box in the bottom of the right hand column that (if it works right) will keep my ranking visible.  There’s also a graphical link to the Yazekie challenge there that links to Samurai’s page, where he’ll keep updated on how things are progressing.

So, while I strive to keep Money Beagle the type of personal finance blog that highlights my own voice, I also would love for that voice to be heard, and that’s why I’ve decided to enter the challenge.  In other words, I promise I won’t switch to writing the same ‘9 Steps to Doing This and This’ that many personal finance blogs focus on.  While there’s nothing wrong with those type of posts, I’d prefer to give you the rundown on the steps I’m personally taking, simply because that’s the type of posts that will keep me motivated to write.

If you’re a fellow blogger, take a look and see if you might be interested.  It seems like a great idea and it will give personal finance bloggers a network and a team to keep us motivated to writing the best posts and making personal finance blogging more credible on the web.

If you’re a casual reader, all I ask is that you keep reading and drop a comment from time to time to let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.