Good-bye, November! I paid my first hefty “extra” payment to the evil Sallie Mae this month, a solid $1000 in addition to the $224 minimum (on the 20th…remember the other $242 minimum on the 6th was already included in last week’s belated October report).
The current balance as of 12/5/2013: $92,608.80.
That’s a $996.73 decrease since the previous month, another nice dent in the total amount, to go with the one I made in September, and apparently “only” $227.25 of that was interest. And since the birth of the blog, that’s a huge $2,418 decrease in the total amount!
The big thing in November was our trip to California, which was about a 9-day trip. This actually kept the grocery budget down significantly since we were only home for 2/3rds of the month ($300 in groceries out of $550 allocated, yeah!).
So how to keep a 9-day California vacation for two on the cheap? We had procured the flights back in April, using frequent flier miles from when I used to travel a lot. Me and Mr. Bacon got to fly first-class both ways, which was both of our first times doing so, and very nice since my man has uber long legs and the flights were 5+ hours long. We stayed at my parents’ in the San Francisco area for the most part, and Mom Bacon let us borrow her car when we needed it, eliminating the need to rent a car or stay at hotels. We did a mini road trip down the coast to L.A. for a few days, so the 3 nights not spent in SF were on the road. We paid for hotels for 2 of those nights in Big Sur and Ventura Harbor, and the 3rd night my sister graciously hosted us at her apartment in L.A.
Food wasn’t a huge expense as we mostly ate with family and friends, or at home with Mom’s cooking (mmm mmm). Many of these times, our meal companions would pick up the tab since we had come from so far to visit (ah, the Chinese art of fighting over the bill), which was never assumed but certainly appreciated. Me and Mr. Bacon also tend to eat on the cheap when road trippin’–after all, he had to have his first In-N-Out burger experience!
Free things we did: the many beautiful beaches along the Pacific Coast (yep, we did the scenic drive all the way to L.A., seeing wharfs and sea lions and elephant seals). In L.A. we saw the Hollywood sign, checked out the stars on the Walk of Fame, and managed to get free tickets to a taping of the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
The most touristy thing we did that wasn’t free, was the “Ride the Ducks” ride in San Francisco–and it was totally worth it! Mr. Bacon even managed to get us the locals’ discount, completely inadvertently. (The salesgirl asked where we were from, and he mentioned I was from the area.) So they were $27 each instead of $35 (and no processing fee when paid on-site instead of online)!
The most crazy expensive part: a night at the Big Sur Lodge. This was the first night we headed down the coast on our side road trip; we had a late start to the day and took our time stopping by so many beaches and vista points for pictures! We had originally looked at places to stay in San Simeon, where there were multiple cheap motels, but it was 1.5hrs further south, AND it was Daylight Savings weekend. So it got dark earlier than we had expected, and when it got dark, it got DARK. Highway 1 down the coast is not well lit and full of twists and turns. (We were also full of East Coast jet lag and not fit to drive both tired and in the dark.) There was also no phone reception! We couldn’t just call up different hotels in the area, we actually had to drive back and forth on a 2-mile stretch of road and knock on doors of the different lodges, rustic motels and campgrounds. We didn’t have any camping gear, so our cheapest option was talking down a $200 room to $180 at the Big Sur Lodge–promising not to use the second bedroom with the twin beds. Which ended up being about $200 anyway with taxes, more than twice what we had planned to spend at a cheap surf motel on the coast. But it was a nice, clean and warm room (though Mr. Bacon did grumble that there wasn’t even a TV for all that we paid for!) and we were happy to have a safe place to rest.
I also had my belated stash of Chinese New Year red envelopes waiting for me at home (since I haven’t been home all year), along with an early Christmas gift from Mom of cold, hard cash (the Chinese favorite), so this helped offset some of our trip costs. Thanks Mom!
Once we got back, the rest of November went pretty swimmingly, budgets were stuck to (or like the grocery budget, went way under, whoop whoop), which allowed me to throw $1000 at Sallie Mae. I plan to continue these $1000 (or more) extra payments each month, and there is rumor of Christmas bonuses at work, which I’m crossing my fingers for. It’s my first year at this job, so I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it sure would be nice! Would I be able to even get my balance under $90k for the first time ever? Now that would be really nice…
Coming up in a near future post, for the runners and triathlon nerds…planning next season’s races, i.e. throwing some money at entry fees before they go up in price on Jan 1st!