And why am I bringing this up? Well, I looked to see what the stats were on some of my blog posts over the years, and lo and behold, it seems like the ones where I talk about money or some other personal finance topic, tend to get the most views. Is it because we have this voyeuristic impulse to find out what others are doing when it comes to money? Do we think someone else has the secret key to unlocking all the answers to the problems we’ve experienced or hesitations we feel about money?
I know I’m always willing to talk about money and I’m fine with discussing some of my details on here. But I know people who would rather have hot lava poured onto them than to do so. Hell, I’m even related to some people like that. They’ve just never felt comfortable discussing it, and I think it’s partly in the way that they were brought up. That’s okay, I won’t judge them and I know they don’t judge me.
I was brought up by a single mom that was pretty open when it came to money. We didn’t have a lot of it, and we didn’t pretend we did. In fact, I remember ducking down to the floor of the car on several occasions as I was mortified to have anyone I knew possibly drive by and see my car pulled over to the curb so my mom could check out what someone else was getting rid of. Nowadays, I think doing that is cool, because you never know what you might find! As they say, one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure….
So here’s some numbers from me. When I was a librarian, living in a big city, I made over $84K/year. These days, I live in another city but make roughly $24K per year, not counting my freelance work. Back in Boston, I paid $1100 in rent for a studio. Here, my roomie and I split $550/month for a one bedroom apartment with a fenced in yard and half of a two car garage. Oh, and I am saving 7% of my meager salary into a 401(k) and $100/paycheck divided among a few accounts.
Here’s a look at my average monthly expenses, with a disclaimer that our gas bill will definitely be higher this month due to heating costs, and our last electric bill was around $140 since we erroneously thought using two space heaters would be cheaper than paying for heat via the furnace. D’oh!
Rent = $550 (split by two) so $275
Electric = $33 (split by two), so $16.50
Gas (household) = $27 (split by two), so $13.50
Private student loan = 162.11
Car loan = $141.42
Internet = $47.23 (but my roommate is paying for all of it via his going back to school through the GI Bill), so $0 for me after reimbursement
Gas (auto) = $50 (only tend to gas up 2-3 times/month)
Food = $200 – ish (this has definitely fluctuated)
Entertainment (eating out, etc., and yes, it includes coloring books and materials) = $40
Car Insurance = $60
Renter’s Insurance = $20
Savings for Travel = $50
Savings for Emergency Fund = $70
Two Credit Cards = $120
Cell Phone (Cricket Wireless) = $35
TOTAL = $1253.53
Take Home Pay for One Month (we get paid bi-weekly) = $1356.78 (after taxes, 401(k) and insurance deductions)
Full disclosure: These expense numbers don’t include my vet bill at work which is about $1200 at this time because I plan on paying it off I get my student loan money for the semester. My work charges 18% interest (ridiculous since we work there), and the student loan will be at 6%. I will also use some of the excess to pay off the credit cards, because again, the interest rate is much lower. Then I’ll pay the accruing interest on the student loan and not use the credit cards. Into the freezer they will go!
Looking at the nunbers, you will notice that there is a bit of wiggle room. That wiggle room will help me when it comes time to pay our heat bill. And when it’s not working to pay bills, into the savings it goes! And two months per year, we get that bonus third paycheck which I will use to pay down debt (or go into the tiny home/condo fund.) Editor’s note — oh wait!! I forgot my pet food expenses!! They barely have me breaking even!! Yep, not so much wiggle room left over. So that tells me that I need to keep a better handle on where my money is going. I’ve started writing in my planner at night what I spent during the day.
In case you are wondering, my other federal loans are currently in deferment while I’m in the master’s program and when I start paying on them again, it’ll be at the IBR (Income Based Repayment) rate, since I know I will never be able to pay them completely off unless I were to go back to my same job at Harvard as I had in 2015. Yes, I will end up paying them for 25 more years, but the amount of my monthly payment will vary depending on my income, and at the end of that time period, the amount unpaid will be written off.
WARNING — SIDE TANGENT: Some of you might get upset at the idea of my loans eventually being written off. But here’s the thing. I have paid back those federal loans’ principal balance AND THEN SOME over the past two or so years. I really have. And the balance has barely moved. Paying again for the next twenty five or so years – trust me — they WILL get THOUSANDS more out of me before then! So, in my mind, I will have paid and paid and paid them some more when it’s all over and done. I just don’t want to be paying and receiving social security at the same time. (Of course, assuming social security still exists by the time I get to that ripe old age.)
OKAY, SIDE TANGENT/RANT OVER.
My roommate is in the process of paying me back for a few months over the past year when I was carrying the expenses for both of us. So, as he pays me, I’m paying off my debts or putting the money into savings where/when I can. (And no, I don’t feel comfortable sharing that amount on here because it’s a debt of someone else’s, not mine. I don’t think he’d be comfortable with my sharing that.)
My roomie and I live pretty frugally. Mainly our entertainment is watching movies/YouTube videos or taking the dogs for walks in the Bosque, and in my case, reading and coloring. And writing here (and soon, again, for school), or in my journal or elsewhere. Things that don’t cost much in terms of money.
I wish I had known when I made so much more money, what I know now. I speak for a lot of us when I say that, don’t I?
I can’t beat myself up for the money mistakes I’ve made. All I can do is learn from them, listen to my heart and follow my priorities. I share my mistakes and financial numbers on this blog so that hopefully they can help someone else in some way. Maybe you’ll feel better about your salary when you see how low mine is. Maybe it will help you to see areas where you can cut out expenses you really don’t need.
Or, maybe you will feel sorry for me or disgusted at the thought that I could have thrown away such a good paying job. I hope that last sentence isn’t the case. I don’t want pity. And if you are disgusted by it, maybe take a look inward and try to figure out why you are having that reaction. My experience as a librarian at Harvard Law will always have value for me in so many ways. I just no longer felt that it and Boston were right for me. (And seeing the winter blizzard and freezing cold that they have right now, well, I just shudder at the thought of experiencing that again!)
This post has been a lot longer than some others, so if you’ve stuck with me to the end, thanks for reading. Please feel free to hit like, share, comment or even subscribe to my blog if the feeling so moves you!