Small Changes Make Big Difference

Last week, I completed the open enrollment process at work. It’s so important to really understand your work benefits. Because I had no idea that my company adds money each pay period into my HSA, I didn’t spend the five minutes necessary to fill out the single-sheet form with my HSA account info. So I missed out on $180 in my ignorant state. That’s nothing to sneeze at. That amount could have covered a couple of annual exams, at least. Oh, well. Lesson learned. I took the five minutes to fill out the form this time.

This weekend, I got a little head start on my quarterly financial review and reviewed my Financial S.M.A.R.T. goals.

  • Bad news: I still have a ton of debt, mostly from grad school loans.
  • Good news: I’m two-thirds of the way toward my emergency/Life Happens fund goal. The act of directly depositing part of my paycheck into savings in addition to putting away small windfalls has made a significant impact.
  • Discovery: Freedom from consumer debt is just 18 months away! Just 18 months! Totally doable!

I was initially afraid of the total balance of my credit cards. On my S.M.A.R.T. goals spreadsheet, I aimlessly wrote “Pay off consumer credit card debt by end of 2015.” The calculator helped me figure out that I could put just $72 more toward those balances each month, and freedom could be mine at the end of 2015. I’ll post a calendar on my fridge to keep me on track.

With all the talk of the government’s new student loan repayment plan, I decided to check out my federal loan repayment plan. I’m on the extended fixed plan. So I have up to 25 years to pay off my loan and my bill won’t change. The plan is to pay more than what’s required each month to chip away at the very, very large balance. It won’t take 25 years to pay it off. I refuse.

I basically use the exact same system to pay and keep track of bills as MoneyNing’s Travis Pizel. Certain bills are allocated to each payday. So I pay my bills on two days of the month. Those two mornings are exhilarating. Really.

A few months ago, I realized that I needed to pay my federal loan bill with the previous paycheck instead of the one I immediately get a few days before payment is due. I’d drown if I hadn’t made that small change. This plan gives me peace of mind until the next set of bills are up. I’m currently on track to make an extra payment this year, which I hope helps out with the interest accrued and eventually make a dent in the very, very large balance.


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