monthly updates, numbers, retirement, student loans, transportation

September Update

It’s that time again! Here are the numbers for September:

Debt payoff numbers update: I put $1,400 towards my loans in September. My balance is now down to $47,646. Full disclosure: I would have been able to put more towards my loans this month, but I wanted to get 100% up to date on credit card payments first. I was not actually “behind” on payments, but during the last cycle I had waited to pay my credit card bills until right before they were due, i.e., I paid them as late as it was possible to pay them without actually being technically late. I’m not explaining this well, but hopefully if you have a credit card you know what I mean. Basically, my goal is to always get my credit card balances down to $0 every time I get a paycheck, rather than letting balances sit there until the moment they are due, which could be more than a month later.

Debt payoff emotions update: I’ve been thinking lately about how much anxiety I used to have about my loans back before I started making payments, and how different I feel now that I’ve paid off about 16% of the balance. I haven’t woken up in the middle of the night freaking out about my loans in many months, and for me that is HUGE.

Job update: I am working two jobs this fall (which is partly why I haven’t been posting much lately). I work at Job #1 for about 45-48 hours/week, mostly during normal business hours, and Job #2 takes up Monday-Thursday evenings. It’s working out ok so far, but I don’t think I could sustain this long-term. Luckily, Job #2 ends around mid-December.

Extra income update: Well, I got paid for both Job #1 and Job #2 in September, and I got a small bonus from Job #1. So to summarize, I made more this month than I’ve ever made during any other month of my entire life.

Emergency fund update: This is now at $1,200 (up from $1,100). My goal is to get this up to at least $2,000.

Retirement fund update: I put $616 towards retirement this month, exceeding my goal of $500/month. As I’ve discussed before, it’s psychologically important to me to save for retirement while I’m paying off my loans. I don’t share my net worth here on the blog—partly because it’s negative and partly because I just don’t want to—but I definitely track it for myself. I have a vague idea that I’d like to have a net worth of $100K by the time I’m 40, a goal that I pretty much stole from C. at The Single Dollar. I don’t know if it’s actually possible, but it’s something to shoot for at least. (Thanks, C.!)

Travel fund update: Currently at $521 (up from $451 last month).

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Ok, now that I’ve gotten all of those positive updates out of the way, I’d like to share all of the personal finance rules that I’m currently breaking:

1. I did not track my spending in September. This wasn’t really a conscious decision. It was more that once I started my second job, my free time mostly evaporated, and manually entering my purchases into a spreadsheet at the end of every day somehow fell from #5 to #392 on my daily to-do list.

My thoughts about this are complicated. On the one hand, I’ve been finding it freeing not to have to complete this task at the end of every day because honestly it does take some time. On the other hand, manually tracking my spending usually (I think) encourages me to spend less, so it’s possible I spent more in September than usual. On the other hand, maybe I’m okay with that: I wrote a post recently pondering whether there might be negative personal consequences to being super controlling about finances and goals, and I stand by that post. (Feel free to unsubscribe from my blog at any time, haha.)

That all being said, I think I’m going to try going back to tracking my spending for the month of October. Then at the end of the month I’ll reevaluate again.

2. I’ve been getting slightly addicted to ride-sharing apps. I found out that: a) my employer is willing to reimburse me for occasional Uber/Lyft rides to work appointments, and b) if you use the “pool” version of these apps, rides can be super cheap. I still mostly get around by bus, train, and walking, but I’m now of the opinion that ride-sharing is a decent back-up option if I get stuck somewhere, am running late, or am just super tired or fed up with the weather. To me, paying around $6 in order to save an hour of my day and avoid having to stand in the cold rain is well worth it. Even if I’m not headed to a work appointment and therefore can’t be reimbursed.

3. I never ever pack my dinner. On days when I work both jobs back-to-back, I am gone from my apartment from 7:00 am to 9:00 pm. I do pack a lunch and snacks, but packing dinner in addition to this (and carrying it around in my already-heavy backpack all day, by the way) is just not something I am currently willing to do. Some days I stop and get a salad at Sweetgreen on the way to Job #2, and other days I just buy a package of Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups. Both are good options, I feel. 🙂

So really, this is not just a list of rules that I’ve been breaking. It’s a list of rules that I’ve unapologetically been breaking. I have no plans to stop using Lyft or to start packing my dinners on two-job days, and the jury is still out on whether I’ll keep tracking my spending long-term. Basically these are all trade-offs between saving money and preserving my time and sanity. These days, time and sanity are pretty important to me. And if they cost a little money, I’m okay with that.

That’s it for now—happy October!

28 Comments on “September Update

  1. Two jobs will make for an intense schedule, but at least it’s only short term. I totally don’t blame you for buying dinner. Hustling for extra income is great, but I always see our other expenses go up. Now that we are taking a year off, I have seen a lot of cost go down just because we have time to do those things. It’s a trade off.

    1. Yeah, some expenses do go up, but overall I’m coming out way ahead, so I’ll take it! 🙂
      (Still, I can’t wait for the second job to be over.)

  2. Congrats on making bank! Working two jobs is hard. So very hard. My first two years of teaching, I also worked at a bookstore 20 hours a week. Couldn’t do it anymore with tutoring and everything else.

    As for not packing dinner, I’m in the same boat sometimes. I’m teaching a teacher class and have other commitments that will keep me at work until 8 or 9 a handful of nights this week. A sandwich or salad to go is bound to happen once or twice. And peanut butter cups 😍

    1. yayyyyy peanut butter cups! I’m seriously obsessed with them these days.
      Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever worked two jobs before, so this is a new experience for me. I’m impressed with anyone who can do it for a sustained period of time. I want my evenings back! 🙂

  3. On tracking daily spending – I used to do that religiously as well but over the years I’ve come to relax it a bit knowing that I will spend a little more freely sometimes and less so other times.

    Two job days sound tough to this old bird 😉 but your decisions make sense. Sanity!

    1. Ah, interesting. I always feel like tracking one’s spending is touted as the cardinal rule of personal finance, but it does take time and perhaps its not necessary for me to be too strict about it. I’m going to keep thinking about it and see how I feel.

  4. I mainly track spending because I like to geek out about the overall numbers later (here’s how much I spent on X for the year…) Data. I like the data. Oh, and I always approve of PB cups for dinner. I only can’t get away with that now because I have kids and I “love them too much” to let them eat candy for dinner! Ha!

  5. You sound busy and naturally a lot of stuff is going to fall down the list. Packing dinner is hard. In the instances where I should have done it and did, somehow my lunch got bigger and I still ended up getting something else too. You’ll find a good balance, or you won’t. It only goes to December.

    Hooray to less debt anxiety!! Hip! Hip!

    1. Haha, I believe you’re referring to the phenomenon where packing both a lunch and a dinner means I end up eating most/all of my dinner along with my lunch? At least that’s what always seems to happens to me! 🙂

  6. I’ve been doing the same – working 2 jobs back to back for a few years now. For me it equates to funding 20% to retirement, and spending money. Good luck. I can only pull it off 2 days in a row, otherwise my mental health takes a beating. What I found out what works for me is rather strange, but would love to share.

    I buy take out for lunch, and only eat half. I eat the other half as dinner. In my mind, I’m splitting the cost of take out over 2 meals. So a 8 dollar mexican meal with chips is now 4 for lunch and 4 dinner. It saved my sanity by not having to figure out how to pack lunch and dinner. While this might now work for you, it might give you some ideas of what could work, bringing 1 big lunch.

    I agree, my priorities are much different on the days I work a double at two jobs. What should be important isn’t important, and what isn’t important for some reason becomes important. Good luck! and Remember to breathe.

    1. Ah, interesting strategy. Unfortunately I would never be able to only eat half of a takeout lunch! I get way too hungry during the middle of the day for that, especially since Job #1 requires a great deal of walking. I think I’m also resigned to the fact that the amount of food I consume for lunch and dinner is simply too heavy for me to carry around all day along with everything else I have to carry around. Ah well! Different strategies for different folks. 🙂 Thanks for the suggestions.

  7. Sounds like you are a busy girl right now it’s awesome to see you are making progress on your goals, good job I can’t wait to see once you’ve paid off your loans the lessons you’ve learned!

  8. I understand what you meant explaining your credit card. I do the same thing. I usually wait until the last day of the month to pay it off and its due a couple days later. It doesn’t really bother me I wait because I always pay it off in full. Btw, I eat Justin’s dark chocolate PB cups for breakfast far often than I’d like to own up to. They’re great with coffee. Congrats on your progress!

  9. Nice update here Sarah! Good to hear from you, sounds like you’re reasonably hectic although doing well

    Keep up the great fight and where do you plan on travelling? 🙂

    1. Thanks, Francesca — I agree, rest and taking care of yourself are important too! I’m trying to fit those in on weekends. 🙂

  10. It’s really hard not to subsist on takeout (and chocolate) when you are working 2 jobs. While I haven’t been in that boat in years, it wasn’t too many years ago that I was getting my MBA while working full time. I picked up a lot of Whole Foods sushi for dinner those years.

    On the plus side, 16% of your debt gone! That is awesome, Sarah!

  11. Oh my gosh — you’re working so much of the time! I hope December gets here fast so you can drop job #2 and regain some time to relax! I know it probably sounds like I’m not one to speak, because I work a lot of hours, but I usually have at least some flexibility to decide when I need a break or an evening off — your situation sounds super nonstop. Anyway, sending you lots of love to get through the last few months of this arrangement!

    On the tracking your spending point, I think of tracking as being exactly the same as dieting. It works for some people, but for those of us with a rebellious streak, feeling too constrained for too long leads to bad things. So I totally back you up in not tracking — you are already so money conscious and frugal that I can’t imagine you going off the rails just because you’re not entering every expense!

    1. Omg, there are so many parallels between saving money and dieting! As a former extreme dieter, I can’t get over how similar these two endeavors feel. They’re basically exactly the same thing. I’m sure someone somewhere has written an excellent article about this.

      Yeah, it’s hard to know what happens to my spending when I’m not tracking it because, well…I’m not tracking it. 🙂 I’ve been tracking it in October so far though. I think I’ll revisit this again at the end of the month.

      I do actually have a little more flexibility in my schedule than I implied in the post…I teach Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and so I’ve elected to spend Monday and Wednesday evenings planning. But I certainly could switch this around. I just don’t want to give up my weekends!

  12. Great job tracking your finances so meticulously — and it’s great to see that you’re making awesome progress! Keep it up and I’m sure you’ll have debt paid off in no time, while still having ample for retirement.

    Awesome blog and I look forward to reading more.

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