Monthly Archives: January 2014

No student loan interest deduction :'(

So I got my W-2’s back and was really excited about doing my taxes. My coworkers thought I was nuts. I usually get a big refund, that’s why I’m excited! But. Then. This may be the year I owe big. Huge sad face. ūüė¶ ūüė¶ ūüė¶

On the plus side, I’m making more than I ever have. On the other hand, it bumps me into a new tax bracket. More than the $75,000 threshold where you can deduct any student loan interest!!! Wah!

So….I have yet to punch in the numbers officially (I’ve always done my own taxes) but a simple online tax calculator estimated that I would owe $2300 or so. Wah! I hope it’s wrong!!!

Anyone do their taxes yet? Getting a refund or owing money??

Over Here, Undercover Boss!

Mr. Bacon LOVES his reality shows. He watches anything from redneck series like Duck Dynasty and Lizard Lick Towing, to Shipping Wars, Million Dollar Listing, Bar Rescue, and…the one that actually holds my attention span, Undercover Boss. I get extremely envious (kinda) of the employees that they manage to wrangle up on Undercover Boss. Well, maybe not really their background, but their good fortune at the end of the show. The producers of the show always seem to find the SADDEST stories. Like the young single mom with three kids who lost her own mom to breast cancer, doesn’t have a reliable car, and works overtime while also going to school. The guy who went to college but has to support his father who got paralyzed in a car wreck, and now works two jobs while paying off his student loans. Of course these star employees are also the nicest, most loyal and hardworking kids at the fast food joints. At the end of each episode, the undercover boss is all like ta-da! It was really me, the CEO of your huge fast food corporation! Here’s $50,000 for a down payment on a house, a brand new car, and $25,000 to pay off your student loans! And…I’ll give you your own franchise! Or pay tuition so you can attain your dream of going to culinary school!

And I’m like…wait…hey…where’s MY undercover boss offering to pay off MY student loans?

Well, obviously it would be too obvious because the two owners of our really small company are very conspicuous looking. But are there secret video cameras around? Because they would show I’m a really hard worker who cares about our clients! Well, I think they already know that without the secret cameras. ūüėé

The promotion update…as suspected, Employee X got fired, or rather technically “resigned” by not showing up for 3 consecutive days of work. This became official 2 weeks later, on Tuesday when I last posted. I did, BTW, get off work sorta early, at least everyone else got to go home before noon if they came in at all, while me and the supervisor discussed “What next???” in the office and then out at lunch. (Note to self: the little red car does NOT like driving in the snow!) He wanted to know what made me tick, in terms of making me work harder, i.e. was it for the money or for climbing up the ladder?

I blurted out, “I’m motivated to pay off my student loans!” and mentioned the possibility of having the owners pay off the loans instead of giving me a raise. Then I told him how much it was ($86k!) and he was like WHOA. He also thought paying for the loans and giving me a raise were kind of the same thing, as they wouldn’t just pay the loans completely outright (yeah, we all know that $86k is a FAT LUMP O’ DEBT). If they paid Sallie Mae, they would still have to pay tax on it, so it’d be the same as me getting my paychecks taxed before sending off the money to Sallie Mae.

So, taking over the position of the ex-coworker (Employee X, see what I did there??) would supposedly give me enough of a raise that I could pay off my debt in 2 or 3 years (according to the supervisor). What he doesn’t know, is that the aggressive version of my current “Game Plan” has me paying it off in 3 years ANYWAY (by Jan 2017). Well, 2 years is certainly better! Maybe it’d be 2 years, and enough savings for the wedding fund! The other option (as they are in the process of hiring some fresh meat), is to stick with¬†the original plan of me opening¬†up a new office in downtown DC and being in¬†charge of that one. But it may not happen until this summer.

The Tuesday discussions didn’t really have any conclusions, and if anything, he wanted to give me time to think about things. We parted with him saying “I know there are more questions than answers right now.” Either way, it seems that I’m in line to get a promotion one way or the other, I just have to decide which I’d want to do. I’m leaning towards staying¬†at our current office and helping to¬†get that much more organized and efficient, as I’ve already got good relationships with the people there, rather than start from scratch. AND…it’s also what I’ve been already doing for the last 3 weeks!

That’s right, work stress has at an all-time high as I find myself working longer hours which leaves little time for much else. I feel like I’m hard-wired to work hard (having been one of those nerdy overachiever Asian kids with a Tiger Mom and endurance junkie) and I don’t mind working so much as I honestly do enjoy what I do, but it’s the not having time for enough sleep, exercise, and my relationship that take a toll. I haven’t exercised since Tuesday (the half snow day), and while¬†me and Mr. Bacon are out of town right now,¬†I did bring my work laptop to catch up on paperwork. ūüė¶ It never ends and while I feel bad for being a workaholic, the new fianc√© is being as supportive as possible since he sees how stressed out I am. ūüė≥

In the meantime, I’m hanging in here, trying to get my socializing and exercise on during the weekends. *sigh* Am I going to become one of those “weekend warriors”?

SO…any reality TV shows you can relate to? Do you watch Undercover Boss???

Work Changes in 2014… already?!

So it’s 7am and they are calling for 6 to 10 inches of snow today in the DC area. Schools are officially closed, as is the federal government, but today I’m working in our private office instead of the government one. SO…I don’t think I’m getting the snow day phone call since work typically starts at 8. ūüė¶

What would I love to do on a snow day? Jump on my bike (even if it’s indoors) for a couple hours, take a nap, and catch up on blogging like last time. ūüėÄ What should I do on a snow day? Catch up on all this office paperwork, bleah! I brought my work laptop home for the 3-day weekend but am pretty terrible about catching up on work during weekends and holidays.

Work-wise, 2014 has started off with a BANG! And by “BANG!” I mean one of my coworkers at the private office went AWOL the first Monday of the year for two weeks. He is having a meeting this morning with the bosses and his fate looks grim. I’m not sympathetic as he was¬†extremely inconsiderate to the rest of his coworkers and all¬†the clients¬†he personally worked with. We didn’t hear from him for almost a week!¬†The bosses have said his latest shenanigans (he actually left the country and lied about his whereabouts) are probably the best thing to ever happen for my career. I’ve been crazy busy the last couple weeks that he’s disappeared, covering all of his work on top of mine.

Previously I’d been working in both offices (private and government) and both have their pros/cons, but¬†I didn’t like the bouncing back and forth so much. Working in the private office I actually have a better sense of ownership over my work, but we get to do cooler stuff in the government office. So it seems they are transitioning me to the private office full-time (or rather…it just happened). This should also mean a promotion for yours truly, once the dust settles, as the inconsiderate coworker had a higher position than mine, and I’ve been doing both of our work.

In the meantime, maybe I’ll go into work this morning and they will send us home before the snow gets heavy. Cross your fingers!

Anyone got tips for negotiating a salary or promotion when stuff like this happens at work?

2013 in Review, 2014 will CRUSH IT!

Hello, January! (Again.) I was so proud of myself for all the blogging I did last month–a whopping 6 posts. Then again, there was the Christmas holiday and the snow day. I know there are awesome bloggers out there who do at least 3 posts per week (and I once had a triathlon blog I posted to every single day) but for as busy as my work schedule’s been, averaging one post per week would be a pretty darn good goal.

Well, before January is completely over (is it already half over?!) I better do my 2013 in review and put my 2014 finance goals out there!

So on New Year’s day of 2013, I moved to DC and lived in a hotel (paid by work) for a few days before my new apartment was available. I started my new job on the 2nd, which was about a $12k raise from my previous job (although it’s kind of the same after you take into consideration the much higher cost of living and taxes here, grrrrg). My previous savings account was depleted from buying new furniture as I didn’t have any of my own.

In May, Mr. Bacon and I went from having a long-distance relationship (about 100 miles) with the associated expenses (road trips and travel on the weekends) to moving in together (he came to me! aww!) and learning to live together, budget together and split up expenses and share a small space (600 square feet!). We quickly learned to cut down on happy hours and dinners out (in our expensive frou-frou neighborhood where there are 5 bars and restaurants on every corner).

January through September, I really worked on paying off my credit card debt. I reached my goal before Labor Day in September! That journey was chronicled in an old blog hosted on a different website. In September, this blog was born when it was time to focus all my financial energy on the battle against Sallie Mae.

In bullet-point summary, huge things that happened:

  • Moved to DC and started a new job
  • mid-year Mr. Bacon moved to DC with me (LDR to living together)
  • paid off my credit card debt: $10,777 to zero by September!
  • started hacking at the student loans and paid off $8,247 (Sept-Dec)

What helped with paying off debts:

  • BLOGGING. Even once a month gave me a huge sense of accountability
  • Telling friends and family members…even if they felt uncomfortable talking about it, I didn’t.
  • Saying no to movies, trips, eating out, racing, and even haircuts.

2014 goals:

  • blog here¬†4x/month or 1x/week
  • get under $60,000 in student loan debt by January 1, 2015 (pay off $27k)
  • set up a wedding fund together with Mr. Bacon and save $5k
  • get a raise, or get the bosses to pay for some of the student loans
  • set up triathlon¬†and travel budgets and stick to them!

That’s all! How are your 2014 goals coming along just two weeks in?

BOOM! December goes DOWN!

Happy New Year! 3 very exciting things for December’s update and to kick off the new year!

Firstly, KAPOW! Today’s updated Sallie Mae balance is $86,780.89.

Yes, if you look at the right of the screen or last month’s report, you will see that¬†today’s balance is¬†an entire $5,827.91 less than the previous month! WHOOP WHOOP! The Christmas bonus came through on the last day of the year, was much huger than I anticipated, and I immediately (within hours) put 75% of it into the student loans. In addition to the now standard $1000 extra payment and two smaller minimum payments, that was actually a ginormous $6,120 put towards student loan payments for December, and “only” $292.12 of it was interest.

Since starting this blog in September, I’ve paid off $8,245.98. That’s 8.7% of the starting amount in just 4 months! *patting myself on the back* This is also the first time my student loan balance has been under $90,000…since…EVER! Well, since graduating in 2006 anyway. And it’s significantly under $90k!

Secondly, I just had¬†the first anniversary of my first day at work at my current job. To celebrate, I hassled my supervisor about the bosses’ promise to put me on their phone plan and give me a new iPhone. As it turns out, his response was¬†“Oh yes! We usually make good on our promises, but sometimes we get lazy or forget.” A brand new gold iPhone 5S with my name on it is being shipped to our work and I’ll get it next week.

AND I will now get to save $94 a month by having my number and¬†mobile phone¬†account absorbed into the company’s plan. YAY! That was effective yesterday, and my monthly payment is due on the 9th so I already get to take that off the “fixed expenses” on the budget for January. (Starting in February though, our rent is going up $30. Which isn’t too bad, really.)

Thirdly, I GOT ENGAGED! It¬†became official on New Year’s Day. Such a great way to start¬†2014! ūüėĬ†I’m not quite ready to dive into the wedding planning quite yet and not sure if the wedding will even be in 2014. Maybe early spring 2015?¬†In the meantime, I’m totally going to¬†research other PF bloggers’ stories like Jordann from My Alternate Life (How Much Does It Cost to Get Married? Parts 1 & 2–she did it for under $4500!) and follow how Anna from Are Ya Gonna Eat That is doing with her current wedding planning.

So how’d the December budgets go? I stuck under my $500 grocery budget ($454) and only took out $30 of my allotted $80-$120 cash. But I did go over in fast food ($99 out of $65) and just $4 over the $60 restaurant budget. The total food budget was still maintained though if you put groceries, fast food, and restaurants all together, so I was good! I also stayed within my Christmas gifts budget (by under $5!). ūüôā

As I suspected, the auto stuff was tricky, and not just because of the car issues. The E-Z Pass (toll tag)¬†got automatically replenished ($55), I spent about $100 in gas, and $20 for the Metro (public transit). This was $55 more than my usual auto budget, but then I got reimbursed from work for my travel expenses since October (+$252). But then there were the unexpected car expenses:¬†ended up spending the $326 at the Honda dealership and then $139 for taking the train up before Christmas while the car was in the shop. It seems kind of difficult to predict or estimate how much I should budget for “unexpected car expenses” over the course of the year, so any suggestions on this would be helpful. Since replenishing the emergency fund back in September though, I do always make sure there’s at least $1,000 in there in the event of any car issues.

Moving forward to¬†this month, I should be able to contribute $1400 as my extra payment now that I don’t have my phone bill and MORE IMPORTANTLY,¬†if I stick to my updated budget. I’ll also work on wrangling up some financial¬†lessons I’ve learned through 2013 to wrap it up!