One of my big 2014 goals is to become financially stable and pay off some student loans! Thus, welcome to my new series called Frugal Fridays! I plan to post at least twice a month on everything from paying off debt, making and sticking to budgets, and living frugally.
Since September I have been using the free online budgeting program, mint.com, to create a monthly budget and track my spending. The first few months I knew I would be off my budget because I started a new job and had to buy an entire new wardrobe. Hello big girl job! I also wasn’t 100% sure about my gas, health and grocery spending and what it was going to look like. The fall months were definitely a trial by error months. By monitoring my spending over the past three months or so has led to some fine tuning of my monthly budget going into 2014.
The largest chunks of my budget were student loans, food and medical. Obviously I can’t cut down my student loan payments, but I knew I could make cuts in my food and medical spending in order to grow my savings account. With my new job I get a company funded HSA to help pay our high deductible insurance plan. Last month I realized that I could use it to pay my chiropractor (since that is my medical spending)! But now that my hip is starting to “normalize,” I don’t have to go weekly. Yay!
Food is a big area most people can cut down on in order to save more money. I use to go to Starbucks a couple of times a week for a latte and a breakfast sandwich. That’s about $7 a time, which over a month can add up to a lot of dough. I will still stop at Starbucks on an occausion, but I’m focusing on making and eating breakfast at home. I don’t normally go out much for dinner so I really don’t have much to cut back there. In the recent months I have been bringing my lunch to work almost everyday to work. Sometimes if I’m traveling for work though I have to buy it and I’m okay with that.
For both my undergraduate and graduate degree, I started with about $44,000 in student loans, which I use to think was really bad, but after hearing about some of my friends undergraduate debt, I don’t feel as bad. However, $40,000+ debt is definitely scary and I want to get rid of it as fast as possible, especially since I would like to go back for my PhD. Over the past few years I have managed to pay it down to about $35,000.
Here are my mini-goals for 2014:
- My goal is to get my student loans under $30,000 this year. I plan to pay off two loans for sure this year: one for $2500 and a second for $1500. If I have extra money in my budget, then I may apply more money quarterly to certain loans to pay them off quicker.
- Saving for a car. I’ve been driving my 2000 Hyundai Elantra for over 7 years and it’s on its last legs. However, I plan to drive her to the grave. My goal is to pay for a new car with as much cash as I can manage instead of completely funding via loans. I also don’t plan on buying a brand new car. I would love to buy a Subaru, but at this point in my life, I don’t want to pay that much for a car. We’ll see though what is available when the time comes. I just want sometime good on gas and can fit my triathlon gear!
- Cutting back on things and sticking to my budget. There are somethings in my budget that I can’t cut from my budget, such as student loans and rent. However, I’m going to make every effort to stick to my budget and make cuts when I can. Recently, I decided to dump my $100 a month Verizon bill for a more budget friendly cell phone plan. I will let you know in a month or so how that new plan is going, but I should be saving anywhere from $50-75 a month!
- Packing my lunch, eating breakfast and dinner at home. One of the best ways to save money on food is via meal planning. Confession: I’m a total Type A person, but not when it comes to food. I rarely grocery shop with a list. That is going to change. I’m also considering a small garden this summer as well.
- Pay myself first. I had built a good emergency fund over the past few years, but the amount took a drastic hit over the past year due to some very expensive car repairs. My main goal is to build this up again to be able to have enough money to cover all my bills for 3-6 months. Hopefully I won’t have to use it, but it will be there if I need it. I also plan to add additional money to my second savings account for potential travel this year or early next year.
- Buy things I only need. I’ve never been a huge spender, but when I want something I will go out and buy it. I have a lot of friends that are very liberal in their spending and I have a feeling a lot of them are in some debt. Most people are in this country, especially in their 20s. I’ve started to keep a list of items that I would like to purchase over time. No more impulse purchasing!
- The Mason Jar Savings Plan – I’ve seen various versions of this running around on the internet and I have decided to do it this year. Frugal Beautiful gives you a good outline of the plan here (plus her blog is really a good read too!). I don’t have a fancy mason jar to put my dollar bills is; I just keep a big envelope in my safe.
So that is my plan for 2014 to save some moolah and also pay down some student loan debt. Anyone have some good advice on ways to save? I’m all ears!
~ Happy Training!