A Look at Husband’s Debt

My partner is a fabulous, wonderful man who is a talented writer, editor, and makes a mean steak.

But he sucks at managing money or understanding financial jargon. 

Me taking over the money management for our new family has been quite the trip. In one week, I moved our money to a shared checking account and a money market emergency savings account. I increased my 403b contributions by 1%. And as of yesterday, we knocked out Debt #1 of 4 credit cards. All in all, I’m feeling like I can handle this responsibility a bit more as the weeks pass.

One of the hardest things I’ve had to do, however, is look at my new husband’s debts with an open mind.

Before we got engaged in late 2011, Husband and I lived together for a year and a half. Throughout this time, we split our financial responsibilities pretty evenly. I vaguely knew how much he was paying for his student loans and credit cards. But besides a random mention here and there about how much student loan debt sucked, we failed to really address it.

When we got engaged and started planning our 30k dream wedding (budget breakdown to come in later blog post), we had to get honest. We both laid out estimated amounts of what we owed. I was excited to hear that it was a pretty even playing field.

Monday was our first time sitting down and laying everything out on the table with exact numbers. So, for your consideration, I present my Husband’s debt. (You can read our plan to pay it off on my DEBT TRACKER page.)

Credit Cards: US Bank- $3,853

This card kept him afloat when he was unemployed previously for over a year. He has been good at paying more than the minimum off, but had emergencies and financial pitfalls that masked the larger monthly payments

Student Loans: $27,604

In all honesty, he has less student loan debt than I do and this is for both grad and undergraduate degrees.

Total debt: $31,457.

Wow. That’s hard for me to handle. Here, I thought that he brought the most debt to the table. But the numbers do not lie. He actually contributed 46% to my 54%. Mind blown. I guess I’m the one who should be concerned about my partner judging me for my high debt load. I should be at least 8% more guilty than him. Frack.

Time to hide in my debt hole and work on digging myself out!

Goodbye Debt #1

As you may have seen, I’ve been hard at work sprucing up my humble little corner of the web. One of the pages I’ve added is my DEBT TRACKER page which will hopefully help chronicle where we are in paying off all of our debt.

After a long discussion on Monday night regarding where we were financially, we decided that our best course of action is to focus on paying off our credit card debt first with a snowball method. (Side note: I seriously hate Dave Ramsey, but occasionally even crazies give good advice).

So, with inspiration and motivation, we decided to tackle our first debt. 

Part one was easy. We laid out our debts from smallest to largest based on balance. Our smallest debt was my Best Buy store credit card. Early on in my young adult life, I remember hearing that you should never, ever get a store credit card for any reason. Everyone warned me about the high interest rate, stiff penalties, and major hit it would be to my credit.  But then, in 2008, I was a poor, but working, college student with a broken laptop.

I was desperate. 

I will give myself credit and say that I was pretty savvy about the first year not having interest payments. I insisted on paying triple the minimum payment. Doing this for about 6 months, I paid off about half of the debt. But having a $25 minimum payment made this my “forget about it” card. And that’s what I did. I set it to autopay and put $25 in my monthly budgets.  But of course, the balance loomed and follows me today.

Oh wait. Not anymore! 

As of yesterday, Husband and I paid off our first debt. We decided that our saving and checking account balances were enough for three months of emergency funds (rent + minimum payments on outstanding credit cards = $4,500). When we took out our bills due before our next paychecks, we actually had a surplus of about $2k. So, off to slashing our debts we go. The BB card was the easy one to pay off in full (but a pain in the ass to do given that their website has less functionality than the Obamacare site).

Now, that $25 minimum payment will go to paying off Debt #2- My US Bank card. And the rest of the surplus will be squirreled away for Christmas gifts.

I think it’s time for a celebration gif.

An Ode to Geico (Or Why You Should ALWAYS Check Your Insurance)

Given all my financial faults, I think that one of my worst qualities is that I am lazy and loyal at the same time.

Despite the fact that I’ve been picking up tips on how to reduce our debt months prior to our wedding and loss of job, the one that I have glossed over is “Get quotes from different auto insurance companies.

Husband and I have been looking more seriously at our debts and bills lately. You can see my breakdown of what I owe here. So, like all good shell-shocked 20 somethings, I began to research what I could do to reduce my debt.

We have already done away with cable and even cut our Xbox Gold account. We are pretty frugal in grocery shopping. We are cutting our CTA card. This weekend, we bought a space heater and window protectors with our leftover Bed Bath and Beyond store credit to reduce our gas bill. All in all, I think we are doing good.

But the bills still didn’t fall where I wanted them. So I gave in and cheated on Geico. I’ve been with Geico for 6 years. I find their customer service to be the BEST of any company I’ve ever worked with.* The catch is that I am paying $95 in car insurance, for my one car, and that’s not the top of the line coverage either.

I decided to get quotes from two highly recommended insurance companies: State Farm and Progressive. When I got the quotes, I asked for the same or equal level of coverage and I also requested to bundle my renter’s insurance (I currently pay $12.40 a month with Geico’s affiliate).

Background: My husband had a DUI (yes, I know…) 5 years ago so I knew that should receive significantly reduce quotes from what we are paying now. But I also have two tickets in the last two years and we had one not-at-fault accident. We have one car- a 2012 Hyundai Accent leased in 2011 with under 18k miles. We drive maybe 8k miles a year on average. Most of it is for leisure and in city.

Here’s what we got back in quotes:

  • Geico (online): $83.80 + $12.40 renter’s
  • State Farm: $88.29 + 11.30 renter’s
  • Progressive: $59.60  + 14.90 renter’s

Progressive was the clear winner! From what I was paying currently, that was almost a $30 savings per month or $360 per year! Hallelujah! I was overjoyed to call Geico and cancel…

Until…

I actually called them. As soon as I said I was canceling, the sweetest customer service rep practically begged me to let a specialist take my call so that he could run the numbers again. Being the sap I am for good customer service, I said I would be willing to let him try.

The specialist first asked me about my online quote and he mentioned that Geico auto-fills in my old information. So, if you do not update your profile with them from time to time, your quote is inaccurate. We both realized that because of my laziness, my address wasn’t up to date, and apparently in bizarre-o insurance world, living in the city is much less of a liability than living in the middle of nowhere. Also, being married to the second driver also changed everything.

Geico’s second quote: $65.80

Good, but no cigar. This + renter’s insurance would put me pretty close to Progressive, but I was pretty content with moving on.

But wait! He tried again. This time he gingerly asked me if he could look up my credit score as that may get me some more discounts.

He laughed as he said the third quote: $40.30 and my renter’s insurance was now down to $10.80. 

In less than 5 hours and a lot of maneuvering on my part, I saved myself almost $55 a MONTH on car insurance. That’s over $650 a year. I didn’t change my coverage at all. I didn’t beg for him to reevaluate me. I didn’t really even negotiate.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t trust online quotes. Call companies and speak to a human who may know more discounts and tricks.
  2. Clear your cache. I learned this from another blog and it was true for State Farm where my quote was $2 cheaper when I cleared my cache (I had previously gotten a quote from Geico’s online about 10 minutes before).
  3. If you tweet, tweet! As soon as I found out about Progressive’s quote, I tweeted and instantly heard back from a Geico rep in a PM and public tweet asking me what they could do to help.
  4. Leverage, negotiate, and be honest. It’s worth the money.
  5. Any life change is worth making a call with your insurance company. Once I said that I had just gotten married, the specialist kept dropping little hints that if/when I have a baby, to call back and get it reduced a bit more. Ha!

*I was not compensated by Geico or an affiliates to write this post. I just love my customer service experiences!

A Car-Less Future?

One thing that every reader should know about me is that I live in the greatest city in the world: Chicago. I worship at the alter of our inland sea. I brag about the heart clogging perfection that is deep dish pizza. I wear my Husband’s Bears jersey with pride. I live on the steps of Wrigley Field.

However, I didn’t grow up here. In fact, I grew up about 90 miles south of the city in a rural farming community of about 250. Cows outnumbered residents, corn harvesting was celebrated, tractors were a practical mean of transportation, and commutes to and from school would be over 60 minutes on a good day.

Yes. 60 minutes.

So, of course I grew up thinking that it was 100% necessary to own your own vehicle (be it tractor, truck, or John Deere Lawnmower) once you reached adulthood or had a full time job.  Even when I ended up in dorm rooms out in the Chicago burbs, I still believed that having a car was a God given right.

Then I moved to the city. My first full year here, I took a shuttle bus to work and paid for parking. Over the last several years and with the purchase of our first “couple” car in 2012, I have forsaken the ample public transportation for the personal vehicle. My only explanation for my reliance on the car is that I am lazy.

I actually enjoy taking the train. I like being able to read a book, turn on my music, and zone out for an hour. I dont even mind the crazies that are a natural part of the true Chicago public transportation experience.

Out of curiosity and the future sake of my wallet, I decided to break down the costs of owning a car vs. commuting. Here’s my conclusions. All are based on my current living situation. *

Time to commute:

Car

Public Transportation (Train)

Distance to parking: >1 minute

Distance to station: 10 minute walk

Distance to work parking: 45 minutes

Distance to work station (from home station): 45 minutes

Distance to work from parking: 10 minutes

Distance to work from work station: 10 minutes

Total time: 56 minutes

Total time: 65 minutes

Costs:

Car

Public Transportation (Train)

Insurance: $94/ month

Per ride: $2.50 each way or $5 per work day or $115 for October.

Gas: >$120 (September costs)

Reloadable, unlimited ride card: $100/ month

Car payment: $300.14/ month

Upkeep and city parking costs per month: $17.12

Optional work parking (currently do not pay for): $45/month

Total actual costs: $531.26

Total costs: $100

The cost difference is obviously points that the best investment would be to get rid of the car ASAP. HOWEVER, there are some social notes that I must mention. My Husband and I do a lot of transportation of animals as per myvolunteer work. That kind of work requires that I have a car available at all times and for the inevitable emergencies that arise. I also commute to my home town (with my dog to save boarding costs) about once a month. There is a train (about $9 each way) that can get me home, but not having a car in my town basically means that I am at the mercy of my relatives to get me places. Not a good trade off.

Another option we have is to use a car share program like Zip Car. Given that we use my car for non-work related purposes for about 3 hours a week or 15 hours per month, my best bet would be to purchase the $125/month plan which includes gas, insurance, 180 miles per day, and 17 hours of prepaid driving. After that 17 hours, it costs $7.43 per hour. If we continued to make a trip to my hometown once per month, the cost to rent a car per day (and usually we stay about 36 hours per visit) is $66.60 or $133.20 for roughly two full days of rental.

Total for Zip Car membership + CTA unlimited pass: $358.20.

Now the difference between owning a car and public transportation is $173.06.

There are some more pros and cons of car ownership in the city that I should include:

+ Easy access to the car. When I have groceries or large bags, I do not have to drop my car off and schlep my item to my house or drop my items off, drop my car off, and then walk home.
+ Ability to store frequently used items for my volunteer work in the car (seriously, my car has about 20 leashes, a bag of dog food, a metal crate, dog beds, dog bowls, and an endless supply of treats at all times).
+ Opportunity to travel on a whim without having to hunt down a car or find a parking depot for a rental car.
– Hit to my credit by having a car on lease (next time, we’ll buy with cash instead of a loan or lease)
– Unpredictable costs, including depreciation.
– Daily parking costs in the city when we have to park on main streets
– Environmental impact

Conclusion: While using public transportation and car share would be doable for our lifestyle and would save us money in the long run, the car gives us a freedom that we currently do not want to part with. In the long run, we will consider changing to the more sustainable lifestyle, but for now, we’ll stick with the car.

*I should note that I work in the suburbs making my commute and amount of gas used a bit more than normal Chicagoans who both live and work in the city.

Pinching Donation Pennies

In my ample spare time (and often while I have moments at work), I devote a ton of my energy to a small canine rescue. I became involved with my then-boyfriend-now-Husband over two years ago when we decided to foster a dog I found online. I quickly realized that the girls who helped us in fostering were some of the most amazing women I’ve ever met, and I began volunteering even more. Eventually, I was asked to be an adoption counselor, a junior board member, and am now an official board member as the Director of Marketing and Outreach.

In my estimates, I spend about 10-15 hours per week working on rescue duties- even more so if I have a dog that I am assigned to as an adoption counselor. This part time job essentially eats up a lot of my energy, but like most volunteer work- the reward is often much greater than the sacrifice. My ability to care for other living things has grown exponentially and the skills involving leadership, engagement, and outreach are immeasurable (HEY- HIRE ME. I’M AWESOME!)

Time is money. And in that sense, I spend a ton of physical and actual dollars on my actions. Whether it be for gas to an adopters home, electricity costs to run my computer for a virtual meeting, or dog treats and supplies in my car for emergencies… every penny adds up along with that time.

In addition, as with all nonprofits, part of my duty as a ranking leader comes with the understanding that I will invest more than time when able.

 

Obviously, with my Husband’s loss of job, we are not in the state we are to give as much as we can. Knowing that we are not going to be able to contribute to the capital campaigns I’m steering feels hypocritical. And that is the last thing I want to come across. But how can I, in good conscious, ask for money from others when I am not prepared to “put my money where my mouth is?” How can I justify all of the gas to and from an adoption event or the lack of time to take on a second job?

I can’t.

So, this year will be the year of giving less, but it will not be the year of forgoing. It will be the year of understanding how much a crunch an adoption fee is for some families. It will be the season for sacrificing in the name of something much larger than a Christmas gift for my baby niece who will never know I gave her a thing, a trip to a local ice cream shop in the dead of winter, or a holiday themed manicure. Saving my city’s dogs from imminent death, abuse, or neglect is worth so much more in the long run. (And maybe, just maybe, this hard work will convert to real, meaningful employment down the line.)

Today, as I registered my dog for a Halloween costume contest, I felt no sting of guilt over paying the donation fee to be a part of it. The $20 I spent on having my dog parade around in a silly outfit paid for one of our dogs to get necessary blood tests to determine if she is in advanced stages of cancer.

I know that most personal financial advisers would shake their heads at me and remind me that what I can afford today to give may not necessarily what I can afford tomorrow given our circumstances. And it’s true. As I said, we will not give as much as we normally will. We will reconsider the time vs. actual dollars spent. But I am a strong believer that to get through hard times, you have to pay your dues. You have to throw some good energy out there in the world.  You have to make the world you want. And all I know is that today, I made that world a reality.

Stress and Interviews

It’s 11:30am, and I’m sitting anxiously in a meeting from Hell. While my coworkers fight over the meaning of “innovative” in relation to our new mission statement, I’m stealing glances at my iPhone. Still black. Nothing has popped up in hours. My stomach turns. I get sweaty.

My source of anxiety: Husband’s first, in-person interview since being let go. 

Leading up to this interview, I was receiving a barrage of texts from him regarding his own nervousness- everything from his shirt not being able to button correctly to a broken mirror and a missing resume.  Now, his radio silence was even more annoying than having to field questions about safety pins and the nearest Kinkos print station.

Every time my eyes darted to my phone, my coworker would shoot me a knowing look. “It’s ok. He’ll do fine.”

Noon hits and I’m still out of the loop. Now I’m getting paranoid that this wasn’t a job interview at all but some weird ploy to entangle and capture my obviously valuable husband for ransom. But then I remember that these mystery kidnappers are trying to ensnare an admittedly unemployed man with a wife working a job that makes just enough to be somewhat respectable. What do they think they’ll get from me?

But then the text comes in. “Done.” WTF. I apparently waited anxiously for a “Done” text. Boys. After some gentle probing, he finally says that it went, “fine,” which loosely translates to: “Fitisthenewpoor, it went horribly. Just stop asking me about it, and lets pretend it never happened.”

In reality, I have no idea how it went, but the silence on the end of my husband isn’t very promising. So I’m putting us back at square one.

How am I coping? Freaking out- naturally. My anxiety has sent my motivation to work out (even to do yoga) back at level 0 and has directly compromised my immune system. Every day, I feel more and more tired and sick at the same time. My eye has been twitching. My hair is falling out in large chunks. My skin conditions are acting up. I’m a massive mess. And as we count down to the last paycheck (t-minus 7 days), I find myself growing more and more in state of near panic attack.

Ok. That’s a lie. Yesterday I had my first full, post wedding, panic attack in my therapist’s office. It wasn’t pretty and I don’t want to rehash.

I suppose I should end this on a happy note, but I really do not have one right now. My husband is keeping a relatively stable mood, but I can feel the weight of what is happening starting to press down on both of us. And I wonder how much longer can the both of us keep it together, mentally.

Off Target

Hey! Remember that time when I wrote about how I have gotten only 6 in person interview requests in the last three years of ritually applying?

Well, this weekend was a reminder of just how crushing it can be to go through a life of no interest.

In a way to stave off holiday depression, I decided to apply for a part time, seasonal job at Target. When I was a teacher a bajillion (uh, 4) years ago, I worked at Target as a cashier. It was the perfect way for me to get some extra dollars, a huge discount at my favorite store, and afford to spoil those that I love with material items. Oh, and it helped me afford groceries for four months.

I really didn’t mind that it was menial or that I would run in to students in the check out lines. I didn’t even mind wearing red and khakis (my least favorite combos). In the end, working seasonally at a job that really didn’t take much energy out of me was worth having to explain awkwardly to students that their fancy private school didn’t pay me enough to afford any kind of worthwhile lifestyle.

So, now that we are less than 60 days from Christmas, I am starting to panic about all of the shopping I am going to have to do. The easy solution appeared to be applying at Target again for a seasonal job.

Uh yeah. I was turned down for it. Not even given an interview. 

How crushing is it that someone with a bachelor’s degree in education, a sturdy resume, and ACTUAL EXPERIENCE WORKING AT TARGET DURING BLACK FRIDAY gets turned down for a cashier position at not one, but TWO local Targets? In one day!

…Goodbye self esteem. It was great to know you.

I am just going to pretend it’s because i can only work at night or that they haven’t started hiring seasonal employees yet. Maybe I should go back to working as a waitress like I did during my senior year of college. TGIFriday’s may have a better re-hiring procedure… right? Guys?

Interviews and Interests

Well, a week has passed since Husband lost his job.

It’s been one week since I freaked out, drove home, cried on my couch, picked myself up, and then secretly cried on the couch for two nights straight. Oh, and then had a major argument regarding blame and resentment.

This week has been peachy.

My husband has, in return, lived up to his deal. He has managed to do much of the housework, spent time with our ever needy dog, and has ran some basic errands. Oh, and he has applied for a sh#t ton of jobs. I’m talking 15-20 a day.

There is luck in numbers, apparently, because today he landed his first in-person interview.

I really just wanted to use this gif.

Look, I know that he is lucky. Any unemployed person who happens upon this blog has most likely already x-ed out of here. I get it. Finding a job and landing interviews hasn’t been this easy since 2006.

Don’t think for a second that I’m not jealous either. Part of my anger about this unemployment situation is that I have been looking for a new job on and off for the last 3 years.

Yes, you read that right. 3 years.

I am employed. I have a degree. I am a pretty personable person. I am passionate and extremely knowledgeable about the line of work I want to go in to. I’m a board member for a larger, local non-profit. I have a teaching degree (which essentially means that I am patient, great with kids, and interested in leading and inspiring others). I am not looking for much money. I have been nominated twice for the top employee honor at my workplace. I have graduate credits. I have glowing recommendations from a wide pool of people who have worked or taught me.

(I am also very humble. I promise.)

Over the past three years, I have had 6 in-person interviews. To give that perspective, at one point in my search, I had consistently applied for three jobs a day. A DAY. I have stopped searching for short periods, but I have never fully given up the fight to find a better work place.

My Husband, on the other hand, got his last job (the one he was let go from) within two weeks of looking for a new job.

That obviously brings up some jealousy in me. I know that our job searches are vastly different given our age, background, and job markets, but i still cannot help but feel like there is something wrong with this picture.

But I go on. As I help my husband continue to apply and (now) interview, I solider on. While I search for positions he may be interested in, I stop and check for something relevant for me. That’s all I can do.

INFJ and Networking- Success and Failures

In the higher education world, we talk a LOT about personality. We are constantly assessing and reassessing student engagement and performance based on Meyer-Briggs testing. So, of course I know and will proudly attest to being a strong INFJ. 

Here’s a quick personality overview: 

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life. Those who are activists — INFJs gravitate toward such a role — are there for the cause, not for personal glory or political power.

INFJs are champions of the oppressed and downtrodden. They often are found in the wake of an emergency, rescuing those who are in acute distress. INFJs may fantasize about getting revenge on those who victimize the defenseless. The concept of ‘poetic justice’ is appealing to the INFJ.

“There’s something rotten in Denmark.” Accurately suspicious about others’ motives, INFJs are not easily led. These are the people that you can rarely fool any of the time. Though affable and sympathetic to most, INFJs are selective about their friends. Such a friendship is a symbiotic bond that transcends mere words.

INFJs have a knack for fluency in language and facility in communication. In addition, nonverbal sensitivity enables the INFJ to know and be known by others intimately. –http://www.typelogic.com/infj.html

Many people would label INFJ’s as “shy” or “quiet.” In fact, we are often quite the opposite. We speak when we feel it is necessary, and when we speak, it’s important. We are the thunder to everyone else’s lightning. But, sticking to this poor analogy, it’s hard for thunder to really stand out unless it’s right over you. 

Networking has always been a tough concept for me. And now that I’m re-evaluating my personal successes and failures in the workplace and with my volunteer work, I am noticing that my flaw is my inability to release all humble sensitivities and get my name out there with the rest of them. 

It has been my goal as of late to start networking more and more and to also “brag” about my workplace accomplishments. Today, I participated in an online, professional networking webinar regarding a topic that I am quite accomplished at. I was quite surprised that the internet allowed me to be free in my praises for myself and my successes while also allowing to share in my mistakes as well. While I know people could easily look me up (my name, title, and work place were clearly listed and I shared my email at the end), I didn’t mind. 

Anonymity is like honey for us hermit types, and the internet is our hive. 

But what about when it’s time to get my face out there? Eventually, I do have to actually show my face instead of the selfie from four years ago that is my LinkedIn picture. 

Well, I’m working on it. It’s a resolution. One of my thoughts is to request permission and funding to attend a conference by myself. It’s a certain type of anonymity that I typically steer clear from, but I would most likely benefit from having a wide berth of opportunity instead of having a crutch to fall back on. 

What’s your personality type and how does it play in to networking or advancing in your career? Would you rather be the chat room star or the in-person personality? 

________________________________________________________________________________

Wrap It Up (Tuesday, October 15th, 2013):

Money:

  • Spent: $35 at the gas station (by husband)
  • Method: Venture card
  • Balances of checking and savings accounts: 3,070.39 (2,305.30 in shared checking and 765.09 in personal checking)
  • Bills paid: $0.  

Fitness:

  • Activity: 45 minute yoga practice
  • Breakfast- Peanut butter and jelly toast on wheat bread.
  • Snack 1- Bag of fritos
  • Lunch- Leftover baked pasta with garlic bread
  • Snack 2- Banana 
  • Dinner- Pan tossed chicken with mashed potatoes 
  • Snack 4- Some $2 Only tortilla chips