Student Loan Update #6 (and a confession)

Student Loan Update #6 | Journey to SavingI am way overdue on updating you all on our student loan situation! It’s actually been over a year since I posted about them in any detail. I can’t believe that!

It’s for good reason (mostly), as I haven’t made any substantial progress. I always find it much more fun to look at the updates of those that can put thousands of dollars toward their debt. That’s just not us.

If you’ve seen my monthly budgets, then you’ll know we’ve been chugging along, paying the budgeted amount, and maybe a little more.

Why the lack of focus on our loans?

I mentioned in my affordable dream wedding post that we have a few different priorities right now. Well, back then, a wedding wasn’t one of them! To some extent, it still isn’t, but more on that in a later post.

Both of our cars are getting up there in mileage and years (2001 & 2002), and R has declared that if anything else goes wrong with his car, he is not fixing it. He doesn’t want to put more money into it.

Ultimately, it’s his car and his decision, though I’ve said if the repair is minor (less than $100), he should consider going through with it. Sadly, he’s just had a bad history/experience with this car, and he’s looking forward to getting rid of it.

I’m not at that point with my car, and I’m hoping very much to get a few more years out of it, but there’s no telling what will happen. R’s car is over 100k miles, and mine is creeping up there at 93k. I’m worried that something major will break, costing me thousands, and at that point, I’m not sure it’s worth it.

We both agree that we would feel a lot better if we at least had one super reliable car between the two of us. I’ve also mentioned that we’re not against becoming a one-car household, simply because if I can work from home, there’s no reason we can’t work around that.

In short, this is very much something we’ve been thinking about, and I want to keep some money aside in case we do need to make a new purchase next year.

Student Loan Update #6

Student Loan Update #6 | Journey to SavingI pay our loans around the end of the month, and this time, I decided to do a little poking around. I haven’t in a while, as things have been on auto-pilot. What I really wanted to do was see how much interest was killing us.

As you can see, between us, we have 4 loans at 6.8%. Ouch!

As our payments just went through, I actually noticed R’s balance is sitting at $16,900 now! I always love getting down to the next thousand. It’s a little motivating.

Anyway, I think we all need a refresher from the last time I updated, as many of you weren’t even reading yet!

The two loans at the bottom in purple are actually one loan, it’s just that one is unsubsidized and one is subsidized. I can only pay toward it as a whole, which sucks. R can pay each of his individually as they’re in “groups.”

L1 was part of the same setup, but I paid off the unsubsidized loan portion a few months ago. That loan was also at 6.8%, which is why I chose to go after that set first.

However, I’m rethinking my strategy, and want to target L2&L3. It now has a much higher balance, and I’m paying much more in interest. To give you an idea – I usually pay $80 toward L1, and around $9 goes toward interest. That $136 I pay toward L2&L3? Around $47 in interest.

Because I paid so much extra toward L1 when I was originally going after it, I’m paid ahead by a few years. I was thinking of ignoring it, and paying the full $220 toward L2&L3.

Confession time

Now, I realize that letting the interest accrue is not ideal (and I’ll probably pay something toward it to cover it). This whole situation really isn’t ideal.

To tell you the truth, I haven’t been posting updates on my student loans because I’ve been paying the minimum, and I sort of feel ashamed about it.

When I made the decision to try freelancing, I went into “ultimate saving mode.” Every dollar spent counted more than usual, as I wasn’t bringing in much to start. We’ve mostly been living off of R’s income and our savings.

Again, not ideal, but I made this decision and I knew what would come with it, so I don’t want to complain. I realize we are very fortunate that we had the foresight to save so much, and that I don’t have to worry about income for a bit.

Thankfully, things are finally starting to look up, and I am hoping by next year, we can ramp up payments. November and December look like they’re going to be a little too expensive to start right away.

However… being that I saved so diligently anticipating our move, and being that we haven’t had to dip into our savings as much as I thought, I am very much considering plopping at least $2,000 down toward the loans.

Originally, I was going to use this toward my loans, as the bulk of our savings came from my bank account. But I gave up that entitlement when we got a joint account.

Now that R and I are engaged, I feel like we need to be in this together. We had briefly discussed that we would probably continue to pay our loans separately even when we got engaged, but since we’ve merged bank accounts, that doesn’t feel right to me.

Plus, wiping out one of those pesky 6.8% loans R has would be nice. We have just over $28k in student loans together, and that number is unnerving. It was a lot easier to stomach my $11k balance alone, but I think those days are gone.

What do you think we should do? How do you approach student loan debt in your relationship? 

Being Grateful: Forty-Ninth Edition

Hey everyone! I’m back with our weekly post featuring the things I’ve been grateful for this week. I hope you’re ready to join in, as there’s a lot!

Being Grateful | Journey to Saving

Our engagement

Obviously, I have to list this one first. =) If you missed my announcement on Monday, R decided to propose this past Sunday as we were hiking in the mountains surrounding Asheville. It goes without saying that I am being grateful he finally popped the question!

No, I’m only kidding (or am I?). Apparently he had been trying to think of ways to propose since August or so, but he couldn’t settle on a good one. He was afraid of disappointing me. I felt bad after hearing that!

I have to be honest and say I wasn’t completely surprised for a few reasons – one being that we’ve been talking about marriage for the past year, and two, I figured the day trip would be a good opportunity for it. It only crossed my mind for a second, though, and as the day wore on, I didn’t think it was going to happen!

Family & friends

I was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support we received upon announcing the news via Facebook (of course, so classy). We Being Grateful 49 | Journey to Savingtold my parents first, and then let the cat out of the bag (even though she’s in a bag here).

It made me so happy to see others happy for our happiness (woo), and I loved reading all of the comments on Monday’s post!

I have to admit, though, it is times like these where I really miss everyone back home. I know if we were still there, we would probably be going over my grandma’s house this weekend, having dinner with everyone. We probably would have went out to celebrate with our friends, and we might be making plans for an engagement party.

Instead, we’re here just celebrating with ourselves, no plans for parties except a pity party joking, joking. We’re visiting my parents this weekend!

Our trip

I’m also really grateful that we decided to take the day trip. At the beginning of the month, I wasn’t sure if our budget would really allow for it, but we ended up spending next to nothing (except for gas), and we had a great time.

R used to run in the mountains back when he was on the cross country team in college, and he got a little nostalgic being “back in nature.” It was refreshing, and both of us would really like to travel to more state parks in the area.

Being Grateful 49 | Journey to SavingMy parents were not the outdoorsy type, so growing up, I didn’t get to experience the joys of hiking, or even parks. Now that the weather has finally gotten cooler, I think we’ll take advantage of the fact we’re only an hour or two away from some fantastic places.

My mom has a job!

You might recall that I posted last week about my mom’s interview. It turns out, she got the job! So she is officially out of retirement and back to being busy. Her first day was yesterday and she really enjoyed it. Her coworkers are all very nice and pleasant, and apparently really enjoy baking, as their break room was filled with sweets. Thank goodness I don’t work there!

My plan for this visit is to get them set on a budget, which they both agreed to! I’m definitely not forcing anything on them. I’m grateful they’re willing to listen to my advice, because the income my mom will be bringing in can all go toward debt.

We’re basically going to be formulating a debt payoff plan for them, as well as figuring out where their spending leaks are. My mom was too funny, saying she doesn’t spend on anything outside of groceries (not true based on daily talks I have with her!). They don’t track their spending as they only use cash, so I’m going to try to get them into the habit of doing that.

Instagram challenge

I don’t know if any of you have heard of Create As Folk, but for the month of November, Laura (the founder) is hosting an Instagram challenge called #thedailybon. It’s focused on being grateful, so I thought it would be perfect for me to join in! If you’d like to join as well, or follow along, then add me on instagram – @journeytosaving.

I’m looking forward to being reminded on a daily basis to seek gratitude in the small things. While I write these weekly posts, it’s often after a whirlwind of a week, and I could do better in enjoying the present moment.

What are you being grateful for this week? Have you enjoyed nature lately? 

Day Trip to Asheville Recap (Plus a Surprise!)

Day Trip to Asheville | Journey to SavingHi everyone! I hope you all enjoyed your weekend. I know I did, which is why I couldn’t wait to update you guys on what happened!

If you’re dying to know what the surprise is, just scroll down. =) Otherwise, enjoy my recap of our trip to Asheville, our adventures with hiking, and pretty pictures. I’ll be trying to get together a slide show of all the pictures we took.

South Mountains State Park

I referenced a handy map from this website to see where waterfalls were located around Asheville. I’m a complete sucker for how beautiful and majestic they are, and was excited to see there were quite a few!

Some parks required admission, so I searched around to find ones without entry fees. This was supposed to be a frugal day trip, after all! I was not disappointed upon finding South Mountains State Park. It was a little over an hour to get to, which broke our trip up nicely.

We headed out at around 9:30am, and I was giddy with excitement as the weather had cooperated nicely. It was cool and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was the perfect day to explore nature.

We arrived around 11, and found the park to be mostly empty. There were only a few other people going up to see the falls. The website had classified this as an easy hike, but I have to disagree. I don’t have much to compare it to as my hiking experience is severely limited, but my legs were getting numb after climbing so many stairs! Even R was breaking a sweat.

High Schoals Falls | Journey to Saving

High Schoals Falls!

It was all worth it, though. This is what we were greeted with:

After that, R wanted to explore further, so I let him run ahead while I took a break. I slowly caught up to him, and we stopped for a drink and some snacks. He told me that it looked as though the trail got easier up ahead, so I trudged along.

I’m really glad I did, as there was still more to see. Thankfully there were no more stairs – I don’t know why, but I prefer dirt, even rocks, to the stairs we encountered.

Going down was still difficult, though, as it was pretty steep, and I kept gaining too much momentum. There were times R had to hold me back as he was afraid I’d fall. I kept telling him, “I can’t stop, I can’t stop! Wee!” He wasn’t amused, having had his fair share of trip-ups while running in the mountains before.

Downtown Asheville

Eventually, we made it out, and saw a few really cute dogs along the way (dogs make my day, along with waterfalls). Our rough plan was to get to Asheville and walk around. Normally, I have a list of things I want to check out, but I felt like going with the flow this time.

St. Lawrence Basilica in Asheville | Journey to Saving

St. Lawrence Basilica

Unfortunately, that didn’t work out too well. We stopped for lunch, and made it to Asheville around 3:45. The best thing we learned: parking is free on Sundays. That was great, as we didn’t have much change on us!

We wandered around for a bit, but R wasn’t really feeling up to it for some reason. In his attempt to explain it to me, he said something about getting used to wandering around in the woods with no one around, and not adjusting back to city-life. The streets were bustling with a decent amount of people, and there wasn’t enough space to walk side-by-side most of the time.

Perhaps this is just downtown Asheville. Either way, I really liked it, and I hope we can go back just to explore the city. Trying to fit in hiking and sightseeing might have been too ambitious.

Catawba Falls

Given R’s blahness, I mentioned I had seen another set of trails not too far away. We would be going back toward Charlotte, so we agreed to stop and check it out on the way.

It was quite the adventure! You actually have to wade in some water and cross a few rocks at the beginning, and we got our feet soaked with really cold water.

Catawba Falls | Journey to Saving

Catawba Falls – where the trail stopped.

We were a little disappointed, though. I’m not sure if we went wrong somewhere (although there was just one straight path!), but according to the website I read, it was 1.5 miles to a waterfall from the entrance.

We walked, and walked…and walked. We reached something, but it certainly wasn’t the waterfall that was depicted on the site. There was a lower and upper falls, so we thought that maybe we just needed to go on a bit further.

Eventually, we wanted to give up. It was nearing 6pm, and the sun would start setting around 7. We didn’t want to get so far in that it would take forever to get out. While we both really wanted a nice payoff from continuing on, we at least got to see pretty mini-waterfalls.

Surprise!

And well, the payoff did end up coming, actually.

Engaged! | Journey to Saving

My grandma’s engagement ring that she passed down to us.

R proposed! 

Shortly after we agreed to take a further look down the trail, we found a tiny path leading out to a huge rock overlooking the trails and river. While I was busy taking pictures, R pulled out the ring from the backpack.

I turned around and he was waiting on one knee.

Obviously, I said yes. =D

Looks like my grandma’s nudging worked. ;)

I wish I had a better story than that, but truthfully, it doesn’t feel as though anything has changed. R and I have been living together for over a year now, we’ve combined our finances, we’ve been acting similarly to a married couple, and this was just the next step waiting to happen. We both agreed to wait until after we moved and got settled in, and from there, R has been waiting for the right time.

I preemptively wrote a post on what my affordable dream wedding would look like, so you can have a look at that for now. I have no other news to report, as we’re not really in a rush, and have no clue what year we want to get married in, let alone month. But as we get the details ironed out, I’ll be sure to let you know. Just don’t hold me to any wedding updates until at least next year!

So that was my weekend! On Saturday we celebrated R’s birthday with some cheesecake and fettuccine alfredo (his favorites). We’ll be going out to eat tonight in celebration, as we didn’t spend much on our trip to Asheville aside from gas.

I think it’s safe to say we have a new hobby now! I’d love to go back to new trails in a few weeks, as the fall foliage was lacking due to a rainstorm earlier last week. The leaves are supposed to be turning then.

What’s your favorite part about hiking? What other frugal fall activities have you partaken in so far? Share your proposal story with us!