monthly updates, numbers, questions, student loans



Hi everyone!

Apologies that I only posted a few times in May. I spent a lot of evenings and weekends working on research deadlines this past month and so had somewhat less time for other activities like blogging. In other words, you could say that I was scheduled up.

Anyway…It’s time for a May update! Super exciting!

Debt payoff numbers update: I would love to say that my debt is down to $51,954 because that’s where it was three weeks ago just after I made my most recent payment. However, the truth is that interest has accrued since then and it’s back up to $52,060 (Aaaaaaaah, interest!! That’s nearly $100 in just three weeks!!! Okay, take a deep breath. Okay.) Anyway, I did put $1,100 towards my debt in May, which is slightly above my self-imposed minimum monthly payment of $1,000. So that’s good.

Debt payoff mini-goal update: As I mentioned last month, my mini-goal is to get my student loan balance under $50,000 by the end of June. You may be thinking “There’s no way she’s going to make that,” but what I haven’t mentioned to you yet is that I decided to sell back a bunch of unused vacation days to my employer, and I should get that check at the end of June. I don’t know exactly how much the check will be for, but I’m crossing my fingers that it will help get me under $50,000. We’ll see.

Debt payoff emotions update: If I’m going to be really honest, this week I’m feeling fairly discouraged by the amount that I owe. I think a lot of it has to do with my age. I feel like having student debt and minimal retirement savings is for people in their early/mid 20s, not people in their mid-30s like me. I’m trying not to beat myself up too much though.

Extra income update: I made $500 from freelance writing and won $33 playing, ahem, a card game, for a total of $533.

Emergency fund update: It’s up to $1,000 (from $516 last month), which makes me feel a little more at peace. But I’d still like to get it up to at least $2,000. Gradually.

Retirement fund update: Once again I hit my retirement goal for the month: $500, split between my Roth IRA and my 403(b).

Extraneous purchase of the month: I got my hair cut. At a nice salon. Yep. And I paid $45 plus tip. I’m well aware of all the personal finance articles out there that suggest that paying to get your hair cut is keeping you from reaching your financial goals, but the fact is that no matter what anyone says, I am simply not going to cut my own hair, nor am I going to let a friend do it. Period. (Fortunately I tend to forget to get my hair cut for long periods of time, so this was my first salon visit since, I want to say, July 2015.)

Huge win of the month: I was totally oblivious to my most recent payday! Here’s what happened: for some reason I had thought we always got paid on the 15th and last day of every month, but it turns out that we get paid on the 15th and 30th, which means that if the 30th falls on a Monday holiday, we get paid on the Friday before, which means that in May we got paid on the 27th. I happened to look at my checking account balance on the 28th, just to see how much I had left after a Venmo payment to a friend, and noticed that, oh hey, someone had deposited a whole chunk of cash in there! Payday had slipped by without my even noticing!

I absolutely love that I was totally oblivious to a payday direct deposit. I wrote a few weeks ago that I tend to be hyper-focused on payday, to the point that I’m almost wishing away the days in between. It is true that many people in the world spend a lot of time focusing on payday for very understandable reasons: minimum-wage workers, for example, may be truly relying on that next paycheck to make rent and buy groceries. However, due in large part to luck and privilege, that does not happen to be my situation. I do not have to be always thinking about my next paycheck, and so my goal is to try to focus less on the future date when that paycheck will arrive and more on whatever is happening in the present moment. And somehow, finding out that I had been oblivious to one payday (even though, okay, it was mostly just because I didn’t understand how payment dates worked) felt really good. The takeaway here is that payday is going to arrive when it arrives, whether I’m thinking about it or not.

Blog update: I’ve been thinking lately that I’m not entirely sure what kind of blog this is or what kind of blog I want it to be. I’m not planning to make any drastic changes at the moment, but I do feel that figuring out the blog’s purpose is important. As I’ve said before, this blog is not really designed to make money. It is also not meant to offer advice about personal finance (or about anything else, really).

So then, what is its purpose? Is it mostly just for me to document my financial progress and keep myself accountable? (And if so, why not just write monthly update posts and leave it at that?) Is it mostly a way to connect with people? (And if so, why not simply read other people’s blogs and comment on them? Why have a blog of my own?) Is it mostly for me to have the chance to write about my random musings? (And if so, why am I sticking to a personal finance theme when I have random musings about lots of topics?) Does it have some other purpose that I haven’t uncovered yet? (And if so, what is that purpose?) I don’t know the answer to any of these questions yet, but I’m pondering them on an ongoing basis.

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Oh, and in case you’re wondering about the header photo, yes that is a random turkey strolling down the sidewalk! They can occasionally be seen wandering around various parts of Boston. I took this photo down the street from my apartment.

I don’t have a specific comment prompt today, but comments of course are always welcome. 🙂

52 Comments on “Oblivious

  1. First, let me say this: I understand the feelings of discouragement. I felt them myself. But, you are on the right track, and you are killing it. The more progress you see (smaller loan balance, bigger savings balances) you’ll start to feel like you’ll be fine, even though you’re “starting” in your mid-30s. Feel that discouragement now, so you can use it later to measure how far you’ve come.

    Next, I want to say this: I’m sending you an email about blog direction. A few other bloggers and I are having similar feelings, so it might be fun to brainstorm together. I happen to think your voice is necessary in the personal finance world, so keep it up. One thing I like about personal blogs is that you see process. You see that nothing is an overnight success. You see mistakes and misdirections as well as triumph and success. If nothing else, your blog can exist for that:)

    1. Thanks, Amanda. I do feel like I’ve made some progress, and that feels good. I’m definitely farther along than I was a year ago, for example. It can be hard not to look back on my 20s and wonder what on earth I was thinking, but really there’s no use in that — all I can do is look forward from where I’m at and make the best decisions I can going forward. So I’m trying to do that.

      I’m definitely interested to read your email!

  2. I live in an admittedly-less-dense area than you do, but we have wild turkeys EVERYWHERE. For some reason I just never noticed them in previous years, and now this year they’re all I see, and I am the opposite of chill about it – I think it’s so cool!

    Because of course, that was the point of this post, right? Turkeys? I got pretty good reading comprehension scores in school. (I think you’re doing an amazing job on all your goals! Seriously, kudos on everything, especially the emergency fund and forgetting about payday! Yay!)

    1. OF COURSE this post was about turkeys. I am kind of obsessed with city birds these days; I am tempted to publish a whole post that is just photos of birds in Boston. Honestly though, I have never been able to figure out the turkey thing. I’ve spotted them in three totally different neighborhoods, and I have no idea where they are sleeping, what they are eating, or how they are managing not to get hit by cars (they’re usually walking in or near a road). It’s a big mystery.

  3. Nice progress! How cool that you can sell back your vacation days, I didn’t know that was a thing! I am also mid-30s with student (and a car) loans and very humble retirement savings, so I feel you…Just wanted to give a shout out to chains like Super Cuts. For about $25 (with tip!), I can feel like I’m saving money, but also avoiding cutting my own hair which sounds terrifying. I know that doesn’t work for everybody, but I am generally sufficiently pleased with the results 🙂

    1. I didn’t realize that vacation buyback was a thing either until very recently! I think normally I would be inclined to take advantage of my vacation days for rest/travel, but I haven’t been at this job very long and so didn’t feel the need to take time off yet, and since our fiscal year ends June 30th, I either had to use them, lose them, or sell them back. So I figured I might as well just take the cash. I’m glad they offered that as one of the options.

      Ah yes, I think I have heard before that Super Cuts is a decent/cheap option. I should probably check it out sometime. 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!

      1. I would be care of such places. I am not saying that such stores as Super Cuts are horrible. But I think that they are not always a good idea with people with long hair or specific wants. I think that they are ideal for men and kids (not women who know their hair.) I admit that I had a horrible experience. And then found out later that that a lot of the people in these places are just out of school with not a ton of experience. They are also under a time crunch. (Like wash/cut/style in 15 minutes.) Please research.

        On the flip side talk with hair people, and find a person that you trust. Then barter with them for something that you are great at and that they could use. (Obvisouly, they need to own their own chair.) I love my hairstylist. I see her every few months. Like you, she isn’t cheap, but her quality is great. She doesn’t mind that I only see her every few months she understands the situation.

        1. I’m sorry that you had a horrible experience there! It sounds like perhaps it can be hit-or-miss, depending on who you get. It is definitely nice to have a stylist who you trust (and I really liked the woman who cut my hair last week).

  4. 1) Sell back unused vacation days?! What is this magic?!
    2) Your blog should be for you! It’s beautiful that it helps other people and puts some good vibes out on the worldwide web, but I really like that it’s more general musings. Keep up all the excellent writing!

    1. Haha, yes, I was surprised to learn about buyback as well! Normally I’d probably be inclined to use my vacation days, but I’ve only been at this job for three months and just didn’t feel like I needed a vacation yet.

  5. I’m also one of those people in their mid 30s with student loan debt and minimal retirement savings. You’re not alone! I just have to keep reminding myself that slow and steady wins the race!

    1. You’re right, Ernie — slow and steady! Progress is progress. And I do need to remember that I’m not alone in this. Thanks. 🙂

  6. Your comments about not sure where or what this blog is supposed to be about or going struck a cord with me. I think that you are overthinking it. The saying, why fit in, when you were born to stand out comes to mind. I really enjoy reading this blog for a few reasons:
    1.) Its relateable. You aren’t working with extreme sums of money. Lets be realistic about the people who talk about paying off debt yet make 6 figures. People like to see that they aren’t the only ones who cherish the small accomplishments, my ef fund isn’t 3-6 months, but hot diggity, i’m at $750. You talk about the things mean something to you.

    2.)I don’t remember seeing a ton of click my ads/buy this item/etc. Which is nice. I get so over those posts, especially sponsored posts. I remember one from another website that was titled “healthy summer snacks” and the 1/2 of the snacks were from this one company. I didn’t even have to get to the bottom to find out. (And they weren’t healthy. ::Cough::)

    3.) Sometimes, people just like to be vouyuers and know what’s going on to know that they aren’t weird.

    4.) How many people have you educated about the the style of life you live?

    I say thank you. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog. Good luck with all your decisions. But my parting piece of advice. Trust your instincts.

    1. Thanks so much for this encouragement, Sarah. It means a lot. I think that with blogging, the easiest thing to do is to try to fit your blog into a certain type of existing blog genre (recipes, beauty, personal finance, etc.). I guess what I’m trying to do is to figure out if it’s possible to fit into the personal finance blog category while still writing about everything I want to write about. But it really helps to know that you find the blog relatable. And I think “trust your instincts” is probably a very wise piece of advice. 🙂

  7. Sarah, mid-thirties is still very young! Plenty of people younger than you and much older than you are in the same boat. Just keep moving in the right direction. Good for you for even knowing you can sell back vacation days AND for making the responsible but difficult choice to sell them back in order to meet your goal! You are doing great. Be kind to yourself.

    1. Thanks for giving me a little perspective, Cynthia. And you’re right, of course. I think I just see so many blog posts that are directed towards people in their 20s and have messages like “If you don’t save now, you’ll be sorry when you’re in your 30s!” and since I’m already in my 30s and already sorry, they just make me feel worse. But obviously I can’t change any decisions I’ve made in the past, and I do believe that I was doing the best I could at the time. All I can do is move forward, and sell back my vacation days! 🙂

  8. I think it’s okay to mix random musings in with documenting your financial journey. I know this might break a “rule of blogging” but lots of people mix the personal in with the personal finance, and I think it makes it all the more human and interesting. No one needs to read another article about why you should cut your own hair (I will never do that either!).

    1. Oh yes, “the rules of blogging” 🙂 I think I’m at the point where I don’t care about those anymore. And I agree that it’s nice to read posts where people mix the the personal in with the personal finance. 🙂

  9. I can’t remember where I first heard this, but the sentiment is basically: You wear your hair every day, every moment. It’s okay to spend money to have a pro make it look its best. I see other people cut their own hair and think, “Maybe I’ll try that when we’re retired, but for now I need to look to my clients like they’re not overpaying for some unprofessional borderline homeless-looking person,” which is what I’m convinced I would look like if I tried to cut it myself. That’s a long way of saying: I think haircuts are a necessary expense, and you shouldn’t give that another thought!

    On topic, I just wrote a big comment back to you on my blog! I agree with Amanda that you have an important voice in the community, and so I hope you’ll find a direction that gets you excited to keep going with your blog. Your observations are so thought-provoking, and that’s a major service!

    1. Hahaha, yes, it’s probably for the best if your clients don’t think you’re an unprofessional borderline homeless-looking person. Lol. I too would likely fail completely at cutting my own hair. And yeah, I DO wear my hair every day — might as well pay someone occasionally to make it look decent.

      Thanks for your encouragement — I did see your comment and want to respond to it soon!

  10. Thanks for sharing. Don’t beat yourself up, you are making progress and it doesn’t matter what other people your age are doing. It is your path, not theirs.
    I’m with you on the haircut (and I get mine coloured too, costs $180 – eek!!!) but it is just for me and makes me feel good.
    I often wonder why I blog too. I feel more connections if I’m actively participating and contributing rather than just passively reading and ‘lurking’. But it is time consuming and I wonder could I be spending my time more productively. But it does give me a sense of belonging. Keep writing and I will keep reading 🙂

    1. Wow, I totally thought I was the only pf blogger who paid to get my hair cut, but it seems like that’s not the case! I think feeling good about your appearance is important and can do a lot to boost confidence, so I think it’s worth it.

      And yes, I totally hear you that both writing posts and commenting on others’ posts can be time-consuming. I too think about this a lot — I like blogging, I like reading other people’s blogs and commenting, but at the same time I remember that before I started blogging I used to read all sorts of other things (like books!) that I don’t currently seem to have time for. And I do miss that. But on the other hand, as you say, it’s nice to feel a sense of belonging.

  11. This post made me feel way better about the current state of my finances – it seems reasonable, especially considering I don’t pull in huge sums of money.

    I think of your blog as a personal finance blog (sorry?), but I also think of it as my favorite such blog, as I usually prefer blogs about simple living and minimalism. I think the best thing about what you are doing is focusing on the more important, human element behind the talk of finances.

    And I wish turkeys would walk down my street! All I’ve seen is a squirrel carrying a bagel, and I had no time to get its picture.

    1. Haha, don’t be sorry, it’s definitely in the personal finance blog category. 🙂 And, oh my gosh, I can’t believe you saw a squirrel carrying a bagel! It reminds me of Pizza Rat! The only reason I was able to get a picture of this turkey was because it was totally fearless and just meandering around. I really cannot imagine where these turkeys live and what their story is. I would estimate that I see about two per year, so it’s not a common sight, but they are definitely around!

    1. It’s true — this isn’t the end, and change is possible. And you guys have had a huge amount of change recently! Watching you sell the big house was inspiring for sure! 🙂

  12. I really need to work on the haircut thing myself. I pay (brace yourself) $90 (including tip) every 6 WEEKS because my hair is short (and I’m on camera a lot). I would never in a million years let some random person cut my hair, but I really do need to just take the plunge and try to find someplace cheaper. It’s just insane! But I’m terrified. Anyway, on to you! It’s hard to see the numbers go back up I’m sure. 🙁 I’m really impressed with your diligence though! Oh and PS, I don’t care which direction you take with your blog. I just like reading the personal stories and that’s what yours is to me. It’s engaging, not matter what subject you talk about. I have given up on so many affiliate-driven PF blogs. I just can’t anymore..

    1. I totally get it, Tonya — being on camera must take hair requirements to a whole new level. 🙂 And it’s tough to take that risk of looking for a new stylist, because you just never know who you’re going to get! I just went to a new person and she was great, but she wasn’t random — a friend recommended her. Maybe you can get a recommendation from a friend with short hair?

  13. I just let my partner’s mom cut my hair. I get my hair cut once a year, but this time it was free. Congrats on the debt progress! I think you’re doing great. In regards to your blog, I felt direction-less for a good six months, until I came up with the dear debt letter project. It’s been kind of weird, though, to have a blog about getting out of debt now that I’m not in debt. But I’m still committed to the cause. Do what makes YOU feel happy. Blogging is too much work, otherwise.

    1. Ah, I actually assumed you had been doing the Dear Debt letter project since the beginning! In any case, I can understand how starting a specific project on your blog would give you more direction. I guess I just need to keep thinking about what I want to do with mine. And, yes, blogging IS a lot of work, isn’t it? 🙂 So it makes sense to make sure you’re doing it in a way that is enjoyable to you.

  14. I am also way too excited about payday.
    What happens for me is that I get all excited when I get paid. Then the excitement wears off.

    Then right before I get paid again I get really excited, then get paid, then the excitements wears off, etc…

    Something I want to work on!

    1. I can definitely relate to that, Elle! For me the excitement doesn’t last long, which is why I’m trying to spend less time throughout the month focusing on it.

  15. Don’t get discouraged! All it takes is some dedication and a few opportunities to start crushing that debt. I used to think my debt was insurmountable but I just paid off $53k of mine and $36k of my fiancé’s. I honestly never imagined that I would be able to pay off my debt let alone his. You got this!

    1. Thanks, Julie. It’s definitely going to take me a while to pay these loans off, but I am definitely doing my best and will keep on going!

  16. I can definitely relate to the discouragement with student loans. I pay an extra $1,000/month on top of my regular payments and it’s still depressing to see how much goes to interest. The interest is killer. Still, you’re making progress and that’s what matters! Great job!

    1. Thanks, Jen. I won’t say I’m “glad” you can relate, since I don’t want anyone else to have to deal with interest either…but it is nice to know that I’m not alone in this.

  17. Awesome updates here Sarah! Would love to say that you should really give yourself a pat on the back here for the progress your making 🙂

    As for the blog, you’ve got heaps of engagement with what your doing, so I’ll say the sky is the limit for you 😉

    Nice Turkey btw ha!

    1. Thanks, Jef! I feel a little more optimistic today than I did when I wrote this. Any progress is good progress when it comes to student loans!

  18. I know exactly where you are coming from with regards to the interest and seeing your numbers go back up in between payments. But don’t get discouraged because there is a turning point when the amount that goes to interest decreases. Also, I total can relate to feeling behind on saving for retirement. Even though I am in my mid-20s, I only have $800 for retirement. I am kind of behind but this whole getting my finances in order is one step at a time. You’re doing the best you can and you should be extremely proud of that.

    1. Thanks, Jess! It helps a lot to know that I’m not alone in all of this. I mean, not that I would wish loan interest on anyone else, but…you know what I mean. 🙂 And yeah, the retirement stuff is tough. I’m impressed that you’re getting it together in your mid-20s — ten years earlier than I did! You’re kicking butt with your rapid loan payoff progress, and I’m sure you’ll be able to make a ton more progress in the next few years! 🙂

  19. The hair cut really struck with me. I put money aside for “beauty” which covers things like haircuts, makeup and the like. I think it’s important to make yourself feel good and that’s what I want to spend my money on. Congrats on the progress – any reduction in debt is a win. Keep up the good work. You are exactly where you need to be at this point in your life. Don’t think otherwise.

    1. Oh yes, I should have mentioned that I also spent $31 on my preferred brand of mascara this month (aka the only brand that doesn’t flake off onto my cheeks by 2pm). I only have to buy a new tube every few months, but it’s still an expense. But as you say, feeling good is important, and so I’m willing to pay for it. It’s cool that you actually put money aside for beauty — I record these expenses in a spreadsheet but haven’t really made a separate fund for them. Maybe I should think about that…

  20. Nothing wrong with random musings and financial updates. That’s mostly what mine ends up being. It’s always nice when navel-gazing is supported by readers, I find. Only partially kidding.

    Most people enjoy reading journeys, which happen in more than a financial sense. So write whatever captures your attention really. That might be financial. It might not. It’s your blog, so let it be whatever form it takes on its own.

    I recently had a random reader visit and scold me for talking about menstruation on a money blog. I guess she didn’t realize that I also talk about infertility. And also… um, grow up. Sheesh. Besides, in the sidebar I had links to other posts that clearly ARE about money. But no matter what — my blog, my decisions of what to talk about. Though I’ve promised to keep menses talk to a minimum for a while.

    Congrats on your progress. The EF jump is particularly impressive given all your other financial obligations.

    1. Wow, it seems very odd that a visitor to your blog would feel they had a right to scold you for your topic choices…but this is the Internet, I guess, so all bets are pretty much off. I say it’s your blog, so you can write about whatever you want. (And yeah, I’m trying to take that same advice for myself.) 🙂 I guess the best thing is for us to just write about what we want to write about — if people like it, great, and if people want to unsubscribe, that’s their decision. So right now I’m just trying to make sure that I feel good about what I’m writing, and that I’m writing on topics I really care about. Thanks for the encouragement.

  21. Hi Sarah! Congratulations on a great month! I didn’t know you can sell your vacation days back to employer, I’d happily sell some of mine if my employer offered to buy them back. I go to the salon to get my hair cut too. I don’t regret spending $35 or so to have it done professionally. I don’t trust myself or anyone else I know to touch my hair. I always think that I could end up paying for more if I tried – because I did try cutting my brother’s hair once and it was horrible, the hair stylist was disgusted. Haha!

    I really enjoy reading your blog and I know I’ll keep on coming back no matter what you decide to write about. I hope you’re having a great start to your week!

    1. Thanks, J! I think that was pretty brave of you to try to cut your brother’s hair, even if it didn’t turn out quite the way he wanted. 🙂 I once actually shaved a friend’s head, but that was a lot easier! And yeah, I had never heard of the vacation buyback thing either until I started my current job — I was pretty surprised to learn about it too! It will be interesting to see how much money I actually get.

  22. Congrats on your debt repayment this month!! It is absolutely one of my mini-goals to NOT be counting down the days to payday. I’m sure I will always love payday – who doesn’t – but not counting down will likely mean I’m living off last month’s income, which will mean debt is repaid and my income is finally all mine. Can’t wait to get there!

    1. It’s hard not to spend time focusing on payday, isn’t it? And as you point out, it’s only natural — who doesn’t love payday? But yeah, it would be great to find a way to focus on it less, especially since there are so many other great things to focus on in life. 🙂

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