During December, we put $2,342 toward our student loans. That’s the highest monthly debt payment in a while, which was pretty exciting!
If you’ve been following along closely, you might notice that the total of debt remaining in the graphic above is lower than expected for the amount we paid this month. Our “debt remaining” last month was $86,125. We were a little baffled by that, so we double and triple checked the numbers and our math.
The “debt remaining” number is calculated each month by adding the individual loan payoff amounts for each loan as displayed on the loan servicer website. We track the payoff amounts for each loan each month. This month, the sum of the payoff amounts was strangely (and wonderfully) lower than expected.
Do you remember back in July when we put $1,762 toward our loans, but the debt remaining balance only went down $14? Because we had been tracking each individual loan payoff amount we saw that four of the loans (with similar balances each around $8,500) had each jumped over $400. Oddly, while before the jump each loan had a different balance, after the jump, all four had exactly the same reported payoff amount. It was frustrating and there is essentially zero customer service to explain anything.
In August I reported that even though my husband had called and written two letters, we had heard nothing and nothing had changed. This month, we saw that the payoff amounts for each of those four loan had decreased by over $400, so while our July payment was ineffective, our payment this month appears doubly effective. It may be that the July issue was finally reconciled. Maybe it was in response to our inquiries or maybe it’s just a Christmas miracle! Either way we’ll take it and hope that it sticks!
Our total net income for December was $5,057. Since we live on last month’s income, this is income that we will spend in January (except for some of the “Christmas money,” which I’ll explain below).
Blog Income– $1,257 This is the income I actually received this month (it takes a month or two to get paid in some cases). I subtract out my expenses (like web hosting, email subscriptions, internet, etc) before coming up with this total. What I haven’t taken into consideration is taxes. I am eager to see how the taxes play out this year and then possibly plan better for them in the future if necessary. We’ll cover that some time in February! 🙂
Other Gifts and Income– $831 This income includes a few thing I sold online and locally. I also got an unexpected check from one of my guitar students that I taught during the law school years. She felt like we weren’t “square” and that she owed me. That was a total surprise. We also received some gift money, some of which we used right away to put toward the Christmas project for the kids (see below).
Each month we budget down to zero using last month’s income. Our spending in December comes mostly from the income we earned in November, but we also used some Christmas gift money received in December that was earmarked for the kids’ gifts. In addition to the debt payment above, here’s how we spent money in December:
Other Giving– $20 Other charitable donations we made
Mortgage/Rent– $0 Even though we don’t pay any rent living in my in-laws unfinished basement, we still keep this category here so that you know we aren’t forgetting anything. Our living situation not only frees up money in the budget to put toward debt, but it provides a constant reminder to keep on track to get this debt paid off asap! 🙂
Utilities– $0 We don’t pay any utilities either. We do pay for extra internet bandwidth, but it comes out as a blogging expense.
Republic Wireless Cell Phones– $22 We both have smartphones through Republic Wireless (you can read my review here). With tax, each phone comes out to $10.89 per month. We have referral credits from back when they had a referral program, so we didn’t actually make any payment this month. I really can’t get over what an awesome deal Republic Wireless is. You will save so much money, without sacrificing quality or technology.
Health Insurance– $114 We have an ACA plan. You can read the details here.
Car Insurance– $97 Insurance for our two vehicles with a $250 deductible. For years we didn’t make any claims, but this year we had two: when when my husband’s car was broken into and a few months later when he hit a bear (crazy, but true).
Renters Insurance– $14 We have our renters insurance through USAA (along with our car insurance and several other accounts). It came in handy to cover the personal property that was stolen from my husband’s car.
Food– $316 I wasn’t very careful this month, and we made a lot of holiday treats, so we went over our $300 food budget.
Gas– $370 Between gas prices going down and taking days off work for the holidays, gas was nice and low this month!
Fun– $0 All our “fun” was either food or Christmas related, so I budgeted it under those categories.
Household– $95 It was a high month for household expenses. Besides toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, shaving cream, Zote (for homemade laundry detergent), and a few other household things, we also renewed our church magazine subscriptions for 2 years and renewed the domain name for our family blog.
Clothing– $6 I found a pair of maternity jeans at the thrift store that fit really well! It’s totally worth $6 to have a pair of pants that fits me in one of the many awkward sizes between pre-pregnancy and full-term.
Law Practice– $69 In addition to the normal $44 for my husband’s law practice management software, he paid a one-time fee of $25 to be able to use the law library after hours. It’s already come in handy on several occasions.
Lawyer Marketing– $22 It was my husband’s turn to pay for breakfast at a meeting.
Medical- $35 My co-pay at the OB.
Gifts & Christmas– $807 This Christmas was substantially more expensive than normal because of a project we did for the kids. My husband built them a triple bunk bed. Up to this point, both our 3- and 5-year-olds were on toddler beds and our 6-year-old was on a twin bed borrowed from a family member who is moving soon. It was time for bigger beds all around. After looking at every triple bunk bed design on the internet, he designed his own version. Between the lumber and hardware (not to mention a serious labor of love), it was a good chunk of cash, but it is built to last! Our grandkids will probably sleep on it someday.
The Christmas money given to us for the kids covered the mattresses for their new bunk bed. I am a second-hand shopper for most everything, but mattresses are one thing I’m squeamish about buying used (especially from someone I don’t know). After lots of research, I found the best deal was this mattress on Amazon. At the time each mattress was $85 with free Amazon Prime shipping. After reading all of the reviews, I was confident that it would be a great mattress for kids. The kids are loving them so far and I’m loving that they are fresh and new. In order to keep them in great condition, I got them each a waterproof mattress pad. I looked around for something that was good quality (not plastic-y) with good reviews, but without a department store price tag. When I ordered, these were $11.50 each.
For those who are curious, other kid gifts included segmented jump ropes (like the ones on the playground), bow and arrow sets(these are awesome and a big hit!), pirate hooks and eye patches, and books and clothes that I picked up throughout the year.
Other expenses in this category include Christmas cards (I designed my own and ordered 4 x 6 prints), stamps (we already had some left from last year), gifts for our parents, and a little cash for the kids to spend at the “jingle bell shop” at school to buy little gifts for family members.
All in all, we are happy with how the month turned out.
How did your finances go in December?
Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links. For more info check out my disclosure page.
Join me back here on Monday for Day 1 of the Frugal Fresh Start Challenge!
Linked to Thrifty Thursday
Let's Do This Together!
We're banding together to pay off some serious debt in 2019! We want you to join in the debt-smashing fun!
When you subscribe, you'll get monthly reminders to report your progress and you'll see how we're doing as a group!
You'll also receive frugal inspiration and financial motivation in your inbox to help you along the way!
Are you ready to smash debt with us?!