2 and ½ years ago, I knew I had to change. $20,000 in student loan debt plus $16,000 (half a loan for my family and half my own) was starting to feel uncomfortable. Up until that point I had pushed off serious repayment, in confidence that a very large promotion (Officer Candidate School) was going to happen at any moment. When those plans failed spectacularly, I was left with a much different life outlook that included a much reduced salary.
Given, every penny of what I spent I don’t regret. College, and a bachelors in both physics and English, was a very good investment. If I didn’t get my bachelors degree, my current life plan would be much more difficult. The $8,000 for my family got us some car repairs and saved our dog. I felt incredibly proud and fortunate to be able to provide those crucial things. All the times my family has taken care of me, finally, I was able to do a little something for them. About ½ of the personal $8,000 was furthering my education. I received a personal trainer certification, as well as half a Masters Degree in space studies. The other $4,000 was partially flights for myself and others, but also just living! My life was all academics, starting from 7th grade and onwards. Getting out of that and joining the Coast Guard, I had a list of all the things I wanted to do and learn and become. I had put these things off for 10 years of my life! I took aerial silk classes, ballet classes, private ballroom dance classes, bought tons of high end USA made things, and donated hundreds of dollars to whatever organization asked me for money on the street. I subscribed to the New York Times, Runner’s Magazine, ran marathons and sponsored a child from Children International. It was wonderful, and that freewheeling, caring, super fit, dancing and space studying girl, was the one that managed to catch the interest of the love of my life. For all of that, I have no regrets.
Still, there comes a time in everyone’s life where they have to buckle down and get serious about finances before it gets too late. I always told myself I never wanted to go past the point where my personal debt was larger than what I could pay back in a year. I was at that point. Furthermore, Jesse (the aforementioned love of my life) issued a challenge to me. He wanted me to pay back all of my debt in three years before we were going to move in together, get married, etc. Once my stubborn self repeatedly explained to him that this better be a REQUEST and not a DEMAND, I agreed because… well, I loved him and finances are very important to my man. Thus, about 2 years ago I began this blog and a budget that would forever change how I look at the world, food, and economics.
Today my debt totals $10,274. That’s right, almost $26,000 down and $10,000 to go. Furthermore, with paying $1775 a month, plus the possibility of saving some money and tax returns, I am looking at a possible $10,000 surplus at the end of my enlistment. That would be a net gain of $46,000 (not counting my IRA accounts) in 3 years on a $40,000 per year income. YES, that is including BAH, and YES, I do live in California which has a very high cost of living.
The two single largest factors have been grocery shopping and my current living situation. Before I started my budget, I would spend about $150 a week on organic groceries. That’s $600 a month! Going down to $50/week, over three years, will save me $15,600. Changing my living situation was difficult, but well worth it. Originally, I rented a small studio for $715 a month. After looking around on Craigslist, I discovered that I could rent a large and beautiful 2 bedroom for $1000/month. Though getting a roommate was a bit nerve wracking, my offer to split rent was so low for the area that I had my pick. I now have a wonderful roommate named Dana. With a monthly rent of $500, I have saved $2580 over the last year, and will save another $2580 in the upcoming year. Altogether, those savings amount to the entirety of my student loan debt!
The moral of the story is, where there is a will, there is a way. Also, proper grocery shopping cannot only change the world around you, but can really change your life. $15,600 is no chump change. I am so excited to almost be down into the single digits in my personal debt, and I absolutely cannot wait to start a new life, debt free, with one wonderful man.
This Week in Updates: Robin, fetch me my bat mobile and my apron! To the bat cave!
Home, glorious home, and don’t I know it! For the past five weeks I have not had a single full weekend in my own apartment. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be sleeping in my own bed, and to feel as if I have the time to cook as many of my delicious desires as I wish! This weekend so far has been a flurry of veggie burgers, buns, curry and couscous. After all that I will finally be able to do some service wide studying and prepare another presentation for work. This weekend I am NOT GOING ANYWHERE! Gosh, I love being boring. Now if only I had someone to be boring with. Coffee study parties anyone? I have curry?
In regards to first cake Friday, last weekend I made a banana cake with vegan cream cheese frosting and caramel sauce. It was good, but not perfect. Next month I am trying the same recipe again, with some important changes. When it is perfect, I will share it with you all.
The Recipe: Mushroom Chickpea Curry with Couscous
A simple and delicious, savory curry. Easy to make, full of vegan protein, and perfectly complimented by fluffy couscous! This makes 7 servings. For a heartier dish with less servings, don't add the water and do a half recipe with a full can of coconut milk.
- 1 cup dried chickpeas
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 cups dried couscous
- 2 cups water
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch segment of ginger, grated
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cups mushrooms, chopped
- 2 tbs lemongrass
- 3 tbs curry
- 1 tsp coriander
- 2 tsp chili powder
- 1 can coconut milk
- 4 carrots, chopped
- Spring onions for topping (if desired)
- Cook chickpeas and set aside.
- Saute minced garlic in olive oil until browning.
- Throw in chopped onion, and continue cooking until onions are soft.
- Throw in the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes on medium heat.
- Throw in all all other ingredients except the couscous, mix, and simmer covered until carrots are soft. About 20 minutes.
- While sauce is simmering, cook the couscous.
- Combine and enjoy!