Money Mayhem!

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Since I’ve fully embraced this as my personal blog, I may as well mention my money goal for the year. At the beginning of the year, I had the vague notion that I should have some solid money goals. I had been hired on as a full time permanent employee six months before the new year, and I was finally starting to level out. It was time to begin working earnestly on getting out of debt, having an emergency fund, and having savings. I needed to begin contributing to my 401K and start working towards having something for retirement. I was poised for greatness, financially and otherwise.

Well, what a difference a year makes! The year didn’t go anything like I planned for it to go. I was so far behind for most of the year, I couldn’t think about doing anything I’d set out to do. All I could focus on doing was getting back to even. I was drowning rather than swimming.

One thing I did manage to do was get my 401K started. My company’s 401K is unique because it matches 200% of up to 6% of your income. So if you contributed 6% of your income to your 401K, my job would contribute 12%, giving you a total of 18% of your income in your 401K. I’m 100% vested in my 401K from the first contribution; the only thing I coudn’t take with me is if the company made a lot of money and put in bonus money (you have to be here for 5 years to be 100% vested in that; I can’t remember what they call it. You know what I mean right?). I received my first statement I was impressed with how much I had in so little time. I started contributing in June and only contribute 3%, but I plan to go up next year.

I have the opportunity to catch up on several of my bills and begin paying on my student loans again by the start of 2011, so this year isn’t completely lost. I will be current on my car (hopefully), car insurance, phone, cable & internet, and may be able to pay off a few one time bills before the clock strikes 12 a.m. January 1, 2011.

One of the things that has been a strain in my relationship with MensHealth is our financial situations. He wants to see me making more money and being on a more equal footing to him (he makes nearly twice my salary currently), and to significantly reduce my debt. He is working on the same goals himself. He owes more in student loans (he has an MBA) and his everyday expenses are higher than mine (rent, car payment, etc.). He is more concerned with having his debt paid off and making a lot of money than I am. I would be fine with being able to pay everyone I owe for the month and pay 20% more than the minimum on my debts. I believe that slow and steady wins the race (and would allow me to build savings and an emergency fund to ensure my steady progress a bit more).

But this money goal of mine is about more than MensHealth and/or positioning myself for a future husband. I’d like to be able to answer my phone every time it rings and not have any numbers that scare me or that I avoid answering because I know it’s a creditor. I’d like to be able to budget for fun and travel. I’d like to be able to submit to writing contests with entry fees and magazines with reading fees, and possibly get my MFA. I need money to achieve the dreams I had before I had anything else.

I don’t have credit card debt. Mainly, it’s student loan debt. Then, a library fine, a dental bill, a hospital bill, and a person I need to pay back. I’m hoping I can pay back the dental bill and the library fine this year.

As for next year, I have no desire to try and make any grand plans just yet. My most expensive month is usually February, as I have to get my registration, possibly pay to have my taxes done, and many other random costs of getting one year older. I have no idea what random excitements await me, like tires or car stuff, or the cost of heating and cooling going up, etc.

How do you pay off a tremendous student loan debt on a minimal salary? I owe about $8,000-$10,000 more than my annual salary. I don’t have several thousand dollars a month to throw at debt. I’m getting taken advantage of by a hug APR on my car payment as well. I’m open to suggestions.

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