Of the past 4 things I’ve purchased on eBay, 3 of them have had some issue or another. One never showed up and I had to work though Paypal to get a refund. One took over 6 weeks to arrive and then didn’t even fit the product it was specified for. Another wasn’t compatible with the product it said it was. The two that required returns, would have cost more to ship them back then they cost initially! So frustrating, especially when I took all the basic precautions. I bought only from US sellers and checked feedback (on the lookout for fake feedback.

What happened to the days when you could buy nearly everything off of eBay without any thought? I bought my first iPod (over $400!) on eBay from a non-US seller and had no issue. I’ve never thought twice about it. Sadly, individual sellers are more reliable then the stores or power sellers. But now I think I am willing to pay the extra price to be reliable. It’s not worth saving a few bucks when there is a 50% chance that you will be out money, have to pay for shipping back for a refund, or don’t receive the item for weeks. It has gotten too big that you can’t trust it anymore.

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I shouldn’t be complaining, but I have too good of health insurance. Well, dental insurance to be exact. I knew I had a few dental procedures to get done this year so I decided to take advantage of the HSA. I called and tried to get quotes so I could figure out how much to set aside since its “use it or lose it”. No one wanted to tell me a straight answer. So I went online and got some estimates, set the money aside. Now, I have had everything done and apparently my dental insurance got better this year too. I have $750 left in my HSA to be lost at the end of the year. I’m 24, healthy, with good eye-sight. What could I possibly spend this money on so it is not a complete waste?

FYI: I’ve taken an in detail look at the list of applicable items. A lot of stuff I have bought this year but not expected are on it. Including sunscreen, chapstick (provided it has sunscreen), q-tips, etc. I wish I had saved the receipts as it would have added up. I think I will be making a bulk order from drugstore.com by the end of the month to use some of it up. Live.com has 20% cashback through the end of August and it has a separate HSA qualified store. By the way, taxes and shipping CAN be deducted in your HSA.

Any other ideas on what to spend this on that wouldn’t go to waste?

What everyone always fears with 0% balance transfers happened to me after 8 months. A late payment triggered a loss of the 0% promotional interest rate, added a late fee, along with finance charges on one of my cards. Even worse is I imagined this would cascade to my other cards also. In January, I leveraged three of my credit cards to pay off the balance of my car loan for about 22,000.

Back in June, we decided it was about time to start consolidating our bank accounts or at least have them all in one location. This was all for the simplification of accounts and less upkeep in terms of inter-account transfers and overdrafts and so on. Previously my strategy was to save 1/12 of the balance into FNBO Direct account, then have each card autopay the minimum payment from this account. I had my google calendar set up to send me an email alert a few weeks prior to the final due date to remind me to pay off each card. I had everything automated and proven to work.

We decided to switch to mvelopes system for tracking our budget and expenses though, which unfortunately doesn’t support FNBO Direct website. Since the savings rate is ridiculously low anyway, I decided it wasn’t worth the risk to keep paying the minimum and have a $20k credit card debt. I made a lump sum payment to pay off my Amex card with the balance in FNBO (previous post). I then set the automatic payments on the two remaining cards to equal amounts to pay them off a month prior to their due date. Unfortunately, the autopayments don’t start immediate, which I imagine is more of an excuse to try to tag on a late fee rather than an actual need for 6 weeks processing time. Knowing this I set up a reminder to email me on the due date to ensure the card was paid.

On the due date I logged on to Citibank, and attempted to make a payment. The website said I couldn’t set one up because there was a payment pending. I assumed that meant the autopay would work for the day, decided not to call to verify. That was my biggest mistake that could have prevented a lot of hassle.

I checked the account the next day, only to see some finance charges and a late fee added to my account. I called , explained my situation and mentioned their very misleading email which states “your autopay is set up”. The customer service rep told me he would help me get the late fee reversed then forward my case to the credit department to get the finance charges “taken care of.” After speaking with him, I was satisfied, and made my scheduled monthly payment over the phone.

A few days later I get a letter in the mail explaining that my promotional rate has been lost and my purchase APR was being increased from 5.99% to 25.99%. let’s just say, I was more then just angry. So much so that I knew I had to wait a day to call so I could play nice in order get this all fixed. I did not want to get screwed in the end and have more interest to pay, so I immediately paid off the card in full, finance charges in all.

The next day I kindly explained to the lady on the phone how I was mislead by their confirmation email, and I tried to make a payment. Surprisingly, with only 5 minutes of talking she apologized, removed the finance charge, and reinstated my promotional rate. Oh how I love Citibank. Regardless, it forced me to pay off a card and have a scare I never want to have again. A lesson to all with 0% balance transfers:
1. Take all precautions for all payments!
2. Play nice if something does go wrong.

Numbers above are based on totals at the beginning of August. Very late I know. Next numbers should be out next week. But those are a little more complicated. I had about $500 in miscellaneous snowflakes this month to bring my debt total down by $3,367. Not bad for one month.

I found an older version of my debt repayment spreadsheet. Prior to deciding to do the 0% balance transfer I believe the last it was updated was November 2008. But according to my estimates then at this point our total debt should have been $178,794.79.

I guess sticking to a budget, and having the balance transfer held over our heads as motive not to screw up really made us kick our butts into gear. Because according to my August update numbers below we have $7,541.55 more paid off then we had anticipated only 9 months ago! I guess things really can change. Hopefully it is always for the better like this! Looking at this versus my plan for the year on my up to date spreadsheet is a difference of $12,270. I am very impressed. I didn’t think my plans had changed that much but I guess they did. All our hard work is paying off, and this only proves that finding areas to cut spending little by little, and other decisions really do add up and make a difference. It is just hard to see unless you take a step back and wait out the time.

In the past year I’d say the main things that contributed to this are:
1. Had the balance transfers drop dead date force us to stay on track
2. We made a budget and stuck to it since January
3. We found much cheaper car insurance (~800 a year savings)
4. Bonuses, tax rebates, credit card rewards, and car insurance checks were sent to loans and not spent!
5. An envelope budget made sure we had $ set aside for non-monthly bills. Previously we would pay the bill in full, and then have no idea what we were really spending for the rest of the month.


So apparently doing balance transfers will boost your score in the long run. We will see if it stays this high in the future. I know the Credit Karma score is not completely accurate in terms of exact number, but there is no reason why the trends should not be consistent across all of the companies. Here’s a look at the results from my Credit Karma account from the last year.

Its kind of interesting to correlate the big jumps with actual events. Starting in September I had an Amex card with 0% purchases for 12 months. I was spending all my regular monthly bills on that, then transferring the money to a savings account. I started doing this mainly in November and December, and you can tell Christmas shopping and everything racked up my balance. I’d say sometime then is when I hit my credit limit on the card and let it be.

This explains the large drop from a maxed out credit card.

Mid-January I completed the (2) balance transfers to pay off my car loan totaling ~$18,000. This was the drop in Jan/Feb creating my ultimate low point around 690. Since at that point I was only paying the minimum (~$125/card) and diverting the rest to savings to earn interest in the meantime, the score remained relatively level and low. With 3 cards maxed out to the tune of $25,000.

Mid-June is when my fiancé and I made a plan to formalize our budget in Mvelopes rather than my 20 or so complicated spreadsheets. At the time, FNBO Direct held all of my BT savings. It isn’t recognized by the mvelopes client (unfortunately), and had a measly interest rate

Another large jump going into August was the result of a 0% BT late payment scare on one card. Instead of waiting it out and gaining interest if Citi didn’t agree with me, I immediately drained the Wedding Fund to pay it off. One less maxed out card, and a Revolving Debt to Income Ratio lowed to around 19%.
In the end, my score is higher than before I experimented with the offers. A raise of nearly 30 points on the credit karma scale. This is likely a combination of
1) Adding nearly 1-year of on time payments on all of my accounts,
2) A paid off car loan which previously was in excess of 25k,
3) A continuous raise in credit limits on my cards (I consistently click the “Increase Credit Limit” button to see if any is given up without a credit check.
Overall, I think this is just a side “bonus” of doing BT transfer if you can handle it. It should never be a driver to take on such risk though. It’s interesting to see the trends, correlate them to an action, then compare how different things work. I’m excited to see where I will be in another 6-months when that last card is paid off. I doubt it will make much of a difference though.

Our lease is ending July 31st and it seems like I just finished the internal debate of to move or not to move from last year. I am not the best at making decisions normally even if its just as simple as what to make for dinner. Let alone making large decisions like this. I guess my method will be to write a few posts to sort it out on paper then decide at the end. I plan on making a few part series since it is too much to consider in one post. Also, I don’t have that much free time after work to write it up all at once. Here is where I stand initially.

Since being in Virginia we have lived in two apartments within the same complex. We have only moved into this particular one mid-September of 2008 so we haven’t been here very long at all. In fact, I feel like I move pretty much every year. I can see that clearly on my credit reports when they list all known addresses. I always have to click the checkbox on forms that says, “Have you lived at this address less than 2 years?”. Now that I count it, I have lived in 5 apartments since 2003. I guess I am not very good at staying in one place!

Our lease ends July 31st. We have already signed the intent to vacate paperwork 60 days in advance. Although our apartment is very nice (brand new kitchen, open layout, etc.) it is a little cramped for the two of us. We both have hobbies that require lots of space. We also accumulate a lot of stuff. I downsize and freecycle as much as I can every few months but it doesn’t help at all. There is stuff in every single nook and cranny in the apartment. This includes the end tables, ottoman, under the couches and chairs, under the bed, on top of all of the kitchen cabinets (we made full use of the 11 ft ceilings). I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say everywhere. I can’t even walk into my “walk-in closet” in the bedroom. It is full all the way up to the ceiling and out the door. To get in I must move two layers of things out of the way then put them back when I’m done.

To keep the record straight, I’m not a packrat. Everything is put away. There isn’t stuff on the floors or cabinets overflowing. And 95% of everything we use every few months, if not more often. It is only an 850sq ft apartment.

I probably don’t need to explicitly say it, but I would like more space. But, I am conflicted on just accepting that, looking around at places, then moving on up. Nearly all year I have been eagerly anticipating the end of the lease to move into a cheaper place. I was planning in my debt repayment (and all of my spreadsheets) on a $200 drop in monthly rent. Our housing is one of our biggest monthly expenses, second only to loan payments. We have pretty much already trimmed down the budge in all other areas to the bare minimum. Debt causes a significant stress daily so I figured this was my one chance to make a big difference.

The main problem is the notoriously high cost of rent in my area. This is competing with my huge guilt of high loans which I want to pay off as quickly as possible. Even after almost 3 years here I can’t accept the high cost of living. When we first moved down to VA our rent doubled for half the square footage. Since then our rent has risen every year. To combat this, we are primarily considering areas even farther outside DC to save money. But this has its limits as there is only so much traffic I can accept daily to keep my sanity. Already I have a 40 minute commute (at best). Add that to usual 9-10 hour days at work and there is not much time left at the end of the night.

In my mind, it all comes down to how much is our sanity, relaxation, and overall happiness worth in dollar amounts. How do you put a price on that? And when you assign a value is it valid? Any thoughts?

Hopefully I can go into more detail in a few more posts. Mainly to get it off my mind and hopefully make a clearer decision.

Add me to the statistic. Another unhappy customer of American Express. I got the Blue Sky Card last September when it had advertised 12 months of 0% balance transfers and purchases. I was carrying a balance of within 1k of the credit line for the whole time. I had been making on-time minimum payments every month. Meanwhile I had the money to pay off the balance in a savings account earning interest. Lately, with the measly 1.5%APY rate, I did not feel it was worth carrying the balance anymore. I paid the balance in full on a Thursday.

Friday we left for a long weekend vacation. Card was denied at a small coffee shop. I thought it was weird but it didn’t bother me too much. They still had the dial up machine so I assumed they just didn’t accept Amex. Saturday went to use it somewhere else, denied again so I just figured I’d call later on.

After vacation I call Amex and they inform me that my card was canceled. A “regular check” of my credit report revealed that I likely would not have the ability to repay the card. Trying to stay calm I tell the operator I have just make a 7,000 payment on the card to pay it off. How could I not repay? He says, “Your large payment on your account on the same day is just ironic.” Man, did that line really make me angry! The he continued to read every other line on his cue card. I realize its a losing battle and there is nothing I can do.

They canceled the card immediately (within hours) after the balance was paid. Looking on-line, thousands other have had the exact same thing happen. With the same exact reasons stated. Had I not paid off the balance I still would have the card.

I understand them trying to reduce their risky customers. They have every right to do so. But to make up false reasons? Also, I was never informed of my account being cancelled. I received a letter 2 weeks after my phone conversation. It is ridiculous! They have my phone number and I get email account alerts for practically everything. But not once was I informed. That is just a sleezy way to do business.

Oh, and since it was a third of my credit line across all my cards. It now looks like I have maxed out every credit card I own. Even though I just had paid down 7k+. Good thing I’m not looking for a loan in the future.

It has been 6 months since my last post. I can’t say too much has changed since then. The one major change is my attempts at enforcing a budget to ensure we will meet our payoff deadlines of the balance transfers I took out to pay off my car. No real problems so far. I will probably provide a post later on to detail how it has gone so far. But that’s not for now at least.

I figure I will take a stab at starting this up again for a few reasons:

  1. To get thoughts that would normally drive me crazy in my head, off my mind. Lots of stress and worries these days mainly about money.
  2. To make me think my decisions through a little better. Organize my thoughts on money things.
  3. Have a record to look back on as I progress in paying down my debts. Looking back at the first few posts encouraged me seeing how much I’ve already paid off in a few months. Every little bit really did help I guess, even if I don’t see the difference right away. $5 here and there out of 100+k is hard to stay motivated sometimes.
  4. Who knows, maybe someone in the same boat (tons of student loans) will come across this blog and be inspired. At least they will feel company that they aren’t the only one and things can change.
  5. And this is a long shot. Maybe (I really doubt it) a blog will help my writing skills. Writing coherent sentences and organized thoughts has always been my downside. As you can probably tell already.

Well I’ll try again whenever topics come across my mind. We will see how long it lasts.

With that out of the way. Now for the numbers:

So we have made some progress. More or less on track with what I planned for mid-year. This has us with about 25k paid off in the 6 months of 2009, which is more than was averaged per year for 2007 and 2008. I guess the only thing is to keep going and stick to it. As there is still 4-5 years left of this crazy repayment.

All I can do is look forward to the day where the $4,000 out of every month is going in mypocket instead of the banks! That will be nice.

Well I have successfully paid off my car loan. Actually just awaiting the title in the mail right now. And it feels good. Well actually I have transferred the entire balance of $22,000 to credit card 0% offers in order to reduce the amount of interest paid over the next year. I know it is risky but I have carefully thought this over and examined all the risks before making the final decision.

Considerations/Risks
Risk: Credit Report – I have delayed plans to save for a downpayment and buy a house due to the amount of debt I hold. With my repayment plans I have no need for applying for any type of credit since I have a relatively new car, and am not looking for a mortgage for 3+ years. The huge hit to my credit score does not matter to me.
Risk: Repayment – Loss of Job – My job is pretty secure. So I’m hoping I have no worries for this. As a backup, if anything drastic were to happen I could sell my car to payoff the balance transfers. If I lost my job I wouldn’t be able to afford it anyway.
Repayment – Overspending so there would not be enough saved at the end of the promotional offers. This is what I’m most concerned with. As I’ve tried having a budget for the past year, and have never once been able to stay within it for a month (in any category!). If I really need to I can tap my $2,500 Emergency Fund when 12 months is up and then build it up within a month or two. So I’m 50/50 for my feelings on this one.

Well, I chose my car to use the money towards since I can always sell it if anything goes wrong, and not have to pay the back interest. I have a detailed spreadsheet covering the next year of extra savings and minimum payments to ensure I will always have enough money for minimum payments along with the full amount for payoff at the end of the 12 months. With this I’ll be able to sense if I’m heading towards failing and change my habits.

Now I have been thinking about selling my car in order to expedite my student loan payoff. At the moment I am still undecided. Yes, I know its insane to have 25,000 loan for a car when I already have 175k in student loan debt (combined with fiancé). But its difficult to stomach the depreciation in 18 months. And the low-ball values that the guides are giving me. I mean I knew there would be new car depreciate but is a $9,000 depreciation over 18 months reasonable? I think I’ll at least wait out the market a little or wait until spring since it is a convertible and I can get a more decent price.

Also, I’m thinking about waiting to sell until I either relocate for work or move apartments at the end of my lease in August. Then we could move to an apartment close to one of our works and possible downsize to one car. I’d be more willing to sell if I didn’t have to then buy a car immediately after. Time will tell on this one.

I’m sitting here deciding as to whether or nto starting this blog and sticking to it. How much will it help? Are there others it will help other than me?

I’ve been feeling kind of hopeless lately about the amount of debt hanging over my head.

$199,499 to be exact. Of course $102k is in my name, with the remainder to my fiance.

Its horrible to know that I’m starting off with this much debt. Today I decided to look back and see where I was 2 years ago, directly after starting work. To see if I have made progress, if any.

Adding everything together, our original loan balance (after accrued interest through school) was $241,237. Detailed as follows. Note: Some of the balances are estimated, since online doesn’t track past one year. I have estimated the original amount based on the payment schedule.

Hers: Original Loan Balances
Student #1 – $22,034.07 @ 4.875%
Student #2 – $16,500.00 @ 6.5 %
Student #3 – $55,000.00 (Estimate) @variable (current 6.1%)
Student #4 – $5,000.00 @ 5%
Car – $33,100.00 @7.99%

His: Orginial Loan Balances
Student #1 – $26,132.80 @ 5.875%
Student #2 – $58,421.00 @ 8.6%
Student #3 – $2,500.00 @ 5%
Car – $22,550.00 @ 4.9%

Total:
$241,237.87

I knew it was high, but I never realized it was that high. Such an outstanding number. Although buying a car way out of my league, on a whim, didn’t help the figures that much. Anyway, this has us with paying off ~42k over the past 21 months, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But most is due to minimum payments, I wish I had added more.

My goal is to pay off all debt at >5% by YE2013. Possible? Yes. Probable? Depends how disciplined I am. I guess time will tell.