Wednesday, August 13, 2014


This past weekend M and I sat down and had a conversation I'd never had before.
It wast he Budget conversation. Big fat capital B.

M and I have never been wild spenders, but we've also had the luxury of not really having to track what we spend too closely. We've been able to pay our bills, save, and have fun while we're at it. I understand how incredibly fortunate we've been.

Last year right before our wedding I had signed up for Income Based Repayment for my student loans. My payment was calculated based on my 2012 income- the bulk of which I was working only half time, while studying for the bar exam. My income was pretty itty bitty, and since M and I were not yet married, my payments were itty bitty as well.

I've had a reminder set that by the end of this month I needed to recalculate my IBR payments and resubmit them. I had been avoiding it in part because I knew it was going to skyrocket. I now made significantly more than when I first reported..and unfortunately (fortunately?) I got married to a man who is doing well in his career so I knew that number was going to go up. I plugged in some simple numbers for an "estimation" and was reduced to hysterics when I saw the number go up by approximately 500%.

This prompted a very serious conversation about our spending.
Like I said, we're not bad by any means, and both decently frugal all around.. but when it comes to dining out, there's significant room for improvement. I won't hesitate to order out lunch, even if I have a perfectly fine lunch in the fridge. M does the same. We both grab drinks, dinners, and happy hours with our friends without even a second thought and some nights will eat out just ourselves when we don't feel like cooking. Food is a huge part of my life, I LOVE trying new restaurants and have a list a mile long of must-visits. Unfortunately for the time being we've made a deal to rope that in and be way more intentional when we DO decide to dine out. We've set a budget for that, as well as reduced our "personal spending" fund that we had been pulling from our joint account.

We put everything into and set estimated allowances for things like utilities, gas, groceries, etc., to see how we do month over month on that.

We also decided to cut cable.

Yep, we went there. Really I don't think it'll be too terribly hard for us since we have access to a LOT of "live streaming" accounts (Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon, Comcast streaming/Xfinity..whatever that one is-- and most are family that have let us use their log ins). We'll have basic TV, so really the only struggle for M will be sports. My cable watching basically consists of throwing on episodes of Big Bang Theory, or any of the Law & Orders in the background or to veg out to. I do love me some food network, but I can always get my fix at the gym if I need to (worst case scenario we can beg M's mom to come over and just lay on her couch and watch crap..haha).

I don't want to give the impression we're super hard up as a result of this increase in my loan payments. We will still have a good sized surplus left over every month (or we SHOULD, we'll see how our budget works!) but we wanted it to STAY that way for the foreseeable future.

We're also fortunate enough in that our only really "bad" debt is my student loans. M has a very small amount left, but mine induces hives. Ohhh law school, the gift that keeps on giving. I won't ever get into numbers on here.. because, well, this isn't a personal finance blog and it's personal to our family. We have 1 car lease and 1 car loan, but that will only last a few more years (knock on wood). We do have a mortgage but know our house has appreciated in value since we bought it so we don't look at that as "bad debt" in the same way we do my loan. We have zero credit card debt- although we both have credit cards- we treat them like debit cards and pay them down every month.. basically just using them to build credit and earn rewards points (we earn travel miles and hope to use them to take vacations in the future more economically).

We're definitely looking at this as a challenge and this is something I've been wanting to do for a long time. I struggle with balance though- I don't want to venture to either extreme and deprive myself of some of life's smaller indulgences. I realize it may come to that if we were ever that hard up but honestly, we could die tomorrow and I don't want to miss out on my 20s because I wanted to save literally every.single.penny. That's not living.

I feel like I should add as a footnote:
yes, we're still going to Italy in a few weeks and yes that's costing us some $$$ but that will be our last "exception" for a little while.

Basically what I'm wondering is, do any of you have any tips, tricks, good blogs, resources, on personal finance, budgeting, creative ways to save/make some money?


  1. Basically exactly what you're doing :) Using Mint to keep track of everything, budgeting, allowing small, planned splurges so you can still have fun while paying down debt. Stay practical, plan for emergencies, save and allow for a few nights out, but mostly keep pouring your allotted and extra $ into your loans. I think you'll find Kitty & Kevin's blog very helpful because not only are they reasonable and share great tips but Kitty is also paying down law school loans :) Here's a link - - she also loves to email/chat with others who are paying of debt so don't hesitate to reach out to her.

  2. You guys sound almost identical to Thatcher and me, spending-wise - down to the "personal spending money", no cable, paying off credit cards every month, etc. Pretty disciplined, but of course there's always room for improvement. I don't necessarily have any advice, but I know some people do a cash system where they have a set amount of cash for purchases each month and when it's gone, it's gone.

  3. I thought B was for babies! Budget stuff is no fun :/

  4. I've found that there aren't many blogs written by people in my (our?) situation - high/high-average incomes + married + childless + high student loans. We're not big spenders but have no desire to be tightwads, either. Most of the pf blogs I've found seem to be written for one extreme or the other. I'm still going to buy lattes and lunch every so often, thankyouverymuch. That said, here are a few ideas I've gleaned from several different bloggers:
    1. Pay student loans and car loans and mortgage every two weeks, instead of monthly, to save on interest. We have a small car loan, but I've already noticed this making a difference in my school loans.
    2. Pay your IBR amount exactly (rather than extra), and then throw any additional money at one loan at a time. We started with the smallest loan and we only pay attention to the balance on that loan and actually get to see it shrinking. (Looking at my total owed is still too frightening.)
    3. Track your spending for 30-60 days to see what you're really spending in each area - then figure out where and how to cut. Also, don't bother with systems that don't work for you - we hate "cash only" so we don't bother. Monthly allowances work for us because we spend less than we used to, but haven't cut out anything specific.

    As for making money, I pick up a weekend retail job during the holiday season, but I know that's not for everyone.

  5. favorite word :) haha. Well all I can do is give you what worked for us!!! Dave Ramsey! Not only are his 'baby steps' super easy to follow and it lays it all out for you, but it actually works. We never took his financial peace class...even though i really want to, but reading his books gave us all the info we needed. The Total Money Makeover is the book we used to learn everything we needed to know regarding his plan. If life doesn't throw us any curve balls...we will be 100% debt free (our house is all that is left) in 5 years or less! To me...that's insane but totally do able for so many people. He finds that many people are to baby step 7 within' 7 years if they follow his plan to a T.
    His plan may not be for everyone...but it's worked for so many over the last 20 years and it's working for us! I hope with whatever you find that works for you guys...whether it be Dave Ramsey or some other ultimate goal is accomplished of having your debt gone!!!

  6. We have a savings account that isn't attached/linked to either of our personal accounts. We have a set amount that we have agreed on that comes right out of our paychecks and into that account. We don't have a check book or a card for that account, so it is much harder to use the money if we wanted to. If we want to use the money, we would actually have to go to the bank to get it. Since the account isn't linked to our other accounts, we don't see the balance as often and its a nice surprise when you do check it!


  7. Ohhhh the budget conversation. Now that we're down to one income in my house, I'm really trying to AVOID the money conversation, but I know it has to happen eventually! I have no tips to offer... we cut cable and I'm trying to cut some other monthly expenses, but really it's going to come down to eating out less :-(