What I'm Doing with My Money

A couple weeks ago I asked what I should do with my money. I received several suggestions and took them into consideration when making my decision. This is what I’ve decided to do for now. I’m getting health insurance first. I’m also going to open a Roth IRA and contribute $50 a month. With my surplus money, which should be a few hundred dollars, I’m going to put half towards my emergency fund and half towards debt repayment. When the emergency fund is fully funded I’ll divide the surplus between debt and fully funding the IRA.  I may temporarily put more towards debt repayment to make sure my credit card is paid off before the 0% balance transfer offer ends.

What To Do With My Money?

Now that I finally have a little income I need to figure out what to do with it. There are several things I would like to do with my money but I can’t do them all at once. The things I would like to do are:

  • pay off my credit card (approx. $1600 balance)
  • establish $1000 emergency fund
  • open a Roth IRA
  • get health insurance

Getting health insurance should probably be my first priority, after that it is less clear. My credit card is at 0% interest but that will end in August. The interest rate will then be 11.74%. I know it would be smarter financially to pay off the card then keep $1000 in a savings account earning 5% but I like the idea of having a little cushion in the bank. I’ve already delayed opening a Roth IRA for too long. I am almost 40 and have no retirement savings. That is why I want to get the IRA started soon. So far I haven’t done anything because I can’t make up my mind. Do you have any suggestions?

Borrowing Your Way Out of Debt

You can’t borrow your way out of debt. That saying is true but smart borrowing can speed up the debt repayment process. Moving your debt from a high interest rate to a lower interest rate will allow you to pay off the debt quicker and reduce the overall amount of interest you pay. Of course it isn’t as easy as some debt consolidation companies would like you to believe. There are pitfalls in this process to look out for.

Here is an example of how I switched high interest debt for low interest debt. I have a private student loan with an interest rate of 11.75%. The interest rate is variable so it could go up even more. I took out a Grad Plus loan at 8.25%(fixed) and applied the proceeds of that loan against the 11.75% loan.

The mistake I made in doing this was not immediately applying the new loan to the old loan. The new loan was for a total of $15,200 disbursable in two amounts of $7600 (one for fall semester and one for winter semester). After leaving this in my bank account for a couple months I realized that I had been spending my money too freely and had used part of the new loan proceeds for my current spending. I ended up using about $2000 of the new loan money for current expenses rather than for paying on the old loan. Luckily, I was able to make up the $2000 this semester but it left me with much less money to live on for this semester. Also since the old loan was larger than the new loan I still don’t have it completely paid off. I plan to do that over the summer.
This is possibly the biggest pitfall of trying to borrow your way out of debt. If you don’t use the new money to pay off the old debt you will just end up even deeper in debt. Paying off a credit card and charging it up again is basically the same thng. Another thing to look out for is that you don’t extend the payment term on the debt. If you end up paying the debt off over a much longer time period you could pay even more interest than before despite having a lower interest rate.

These are things to look for if you are thinking about borrowing money to help your debt repayment process. If you’re not sure that you have the discipline to avoid these pitfalls than you should probably not borrow any more money.

My Debts

Since the first step in reducing debt is calculating your total debt I added up all my debts. They are listed below with the interest rate and lender name.

Wells Fargo Private Student Loan

$1978.79

11.75%

Access Group Grad Plus Loan

$15,683

8.25%

Access Group Subsidized Stafford Loan

$8,500

4.75%

Access Group Unsubsidized Stafford Loan

$10,703

4.75%

Nelnet Subsidized Stafford Loan

$8,500

6.8%

Nelnet Unsubsidized Stafford Loan

$10,242.02

6.8%

Discover card

$1663.90

0%

Total

$57,270.71

None of the student loans has to be repaid until I’m finished with school. I’m paying off the Wells Fargo loan now because it has the highest interest rate. The next debt I’ll pay off is the Discover card because the 0% rate ends in August. After that I’ll start paying on the Grad Plus loan. The Access Group Stafford loans are consolidated but listed seperately now because only the unsubsidized one is accruing interest now. I’m saving a lot of interest by having the subsidized loans.

I’m not sure if I should consolidate the 6.8% loans in with my 4.75% loans when i graduate. I’m thinking if I leave the 4.75% loans seperate I could stretch out the payments on them since their interest rate is below what I can currently get in an online savings account. Unfortunately I will need to get one more student loan to finish my schooling. So my debt will go up before it starts going down. I am going to try and at least reduce the overall interest rate and have no debt other than student loan debt. If anyone has any recommendations on how to best pay off or manage this debt I’m interested in hearing them.

Reducing Debt on an Irregular Income

I recently read a couple of blog posts about reducing debt that I found informative.

Reducing Debt-Where did we start? from Blogging Away Debt.  If you need an idea on how to start paying off your debt this post is very helpful.

A Step-by-Step guide to reducing debt on an irregular income from Grad Money [Matters]. This post was especially interesting to me because I usually have irregular income. The post tells how to budget and pay off debt on an irregular income. I still have to get $A + $B < $C but I should be there soon and will start implementing the budget then.

5 Ways To Not Use Your Credit Cards

These tips are for those who are having trouble controlling their credit card spending but do not want to cancel their credit cards. (Cancelling your credit cards can lower your credit score and reduces your leverage if you need to negotiate with the credit card company.)

  1. Don’t carry your cards-If you have to return home and grab your credit card before you make a purchase it should give you time to reflect on whether you really need to make that purchase. I only carry my credit card(s) if I’m traveling or am going to use it for a specific purchase. I’ve found this method very effective in reducing impulse purchases.
  2. Freeze your cards-This is an old trick. Just put your cards in a large plastic bowl or glass filled with water and place it in the freezer. Since it will take a while to thaw you’ll have plenty of time to think about your potential purchase.
  3. Give away your cards-Give your cards to a trusted friend or relative. Having to ask for your card back and possibly explain what you are purchasing should make you think twice before making an impulsive purchase.
  4. Cut up your cards-With your cards cut up you shouldn’t be able to use them, except possibly online. Once you’re confident that you can control your spending you can ask for a replacement card.
  5. Wrap up your cards-Wrap your cards up in a piece of paper like a birthday present. As an added measure write a financial goal on the outside of the paper.

Bonus method-This method is probably not a good idea for those who are having trouble controlling their controlling their credit card spending. Put a large 0% balance transfer on your card. You won’t want to make a purchase after that because you will usually have to pay off your entire 0% balance before you can pay off the purchase and stop the interest charges.

I’ve used a couple of these methods and found them very helpful. If anyone has any other suggestions let me know and I’ll add them to the list.