money, money, blah, blah, blah (Oct. 2010)

In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m well aware my post titles are vague and that in the years and years I’ve been ‘blogging’ I largely keep writing about the same things, so I’ve begun trying to remember to add some sort of time/date/specific to the titles, so they can be told apart a bit easier. Not sure it’ll help.

Anyway, tonight I was up a bit late, and I tried to read for a while… I got a bit more through the book, but was yawning and as soon as I had to re-read a sentence, decided I’d try to get to sleep. At 2AM, after brushing my teeth, I lay down in bed and …. …. …. yeah. Tossing, turning, thinking, thinking, thinking… I simply was not able to sleep. In the last year or two I’ve tried to give up on trying to sleep by laying in bed after a solid hour of it. I’ve about got the hang of what “still awake & struggling to get anywhere near sleep after a sold hour” feels like, and when I stood up, frustrated, and pushed my iPhone’s home button to see what time it was, it was 2:57AM. Ugh. So, I’m up. As I begin this post, it’s after 3:45AM. (I’ve been twittering, doing bookkeeping, et cetera.)

Most of what’s keeping me awake deep into the night (and no, it isn’t strictly the crazy, though that’s certainly a contributing factor, and it isn’t just because I woke up at 11:30AM…) is that I’m stressed out (not entirely in a bad way) about money. Again, for emphasis: things aren’t bad.  It’s not like a month or two ago (vague in my head, I’m sure there was a definite moment in time, I just don’t recall how long ago that moment was, and don’t feel like doing the research necessary to calculate it), when I realized that, due to forgetting to adjust the size of two automated payments in the Spring, the cumulative effect had effectively put our bank account into negative numbers. That was a different sort of “stressed out about money.” That was “Ooh! I sure don’t want any bills failing to pay, late fees or overdraft fees or, really, any other sort of fees being tacked on to my already-not-good financial situation!” Right now, we’re fine. The corrections I made a couple of months ago worked and everything (as far as living paycheck-to-paycheck goes) is peachy-keen.

Note: I probably shouldn’t be posting this here, since I haven’t yet had a chance to speak to my wife about the details to follow. Just out of propriety, and courtesy, I feel it would have been better to talk to her about this stuff before posting it for all the world to see. Alas, she is fast asleep, I did these calculations after she went to sleep, and I probably won’t be able to sleep until I finish writing about this stuff. So, here we are:

We’re in debt. You possibly already know this. I don’t recall how much I’ve posted about it (& don’t feel like going back to find out), so I’ll just map it out roughly. I don’t have fully rounded-out figures, but back in March 2008, when I left my “day job” and we were first looking at my becoming a “full time creative” I crunched out the numbers. I did it again 1/31/09 and 1/31/10, and tonight (most of it between 11PM and 1AM) I put together a spreadsheet that gives me a good guess at how the numbers will look for the next 3-6 years. Part of the reason for tonight’s spreadsheet is that (Good news!) Mandy got a performance bonus applied today, the bulk of which (after taxes) we’re putting toward paying off her car (the worst chunk of debt in our ‘portfolio’ – this January, after paying on it for 3.5 years, she still owed twice its value, partially because we’re paying 19.99% interest on a car loan), just as we did with the bulk of our tax return earlier this year. So, now knowing how much of the bonus actually came to us (it’s so hard to guess what will go to taxes on a bonus), I can calculate how it effects paying down all our debt. Here are the historical figures, along with future projections, with auto loans included in ‘Consumer Debt’:

  • Date: Consumer Debt / Student Loans / Total Debt / Reduction
  • March 2008: $49,210 / $42,398 / $91,608
  • Jan. 2009: $46,209 / $41,646 / $87,855 / $3,753
  • Jan. 2010: $43,571 / $40,750 / $84,321 / $3,534
  • Jan. 2011: $30,683 / $39,954 / $70,637 / $13,684
  • Jan. 2012: $21,084 / $39,159 / $60,243 / $10,394
  • Jan. 2013: $10,198 / $38,320 / $48,518 / $11,725
  • Jan. 2014: $0 / $35,111 / $35,111 / $13,407
  • April 2016: $0 / $0 /$0

The leap from paying off ~$3,500/year to over $10k/year is a nice one to see, and reflects that thing I figured out in the Spring of this year which shuffled numbers around and resulted in “we don’t run in the red every month any more.” I mean, I have no idea how we managed to literally bring in less money than we spent every month from March 2008 through Spring 2010 and still pay off $3500+/year in debt (okay, I know: literally by the grace of God), but getting out of that situation means as of right now, today (no projections needed), we’ve already paid down $11,984 of our debt since January 31st of this year. It would have been lower, but by putting our tax return and Mandy’s bonus toward the debt, we’ll be making a huge dent this year. My projections don’t count on any tax returns (I think I’ve got all the numbers right, finally), or any raises or bonuses (you can never count on a bonus (unless you’re in the financial services ‘industry’, or a CEO)), or any other windfalls, but I expect we’ll keep putting them toward the debt if any show up, just as we’ll measure the cost of any big purchases or vacations (or increases in the actual cost of living) against extending our debt payoff dates.

Now, my wife (Mandy) and I have been looking forward to (you might say dreaming) about applying for the Phoenix Sister CitiesTeach Abroad program in Himeji, Japan. Mandy wasn’t able to apply for this year’s program (2010-2011 school year) because she still only had a ‘provisional’ teaching license in Arizona, but (assuming the program continues) she will be able to apply from now on. The program is designed to assist the teachers (Mandy) with being accompanied by their spouses (me), and even with the “Double Apartment” costs, mandatory insurance, et cetera, we could (technically) afford to go next year; the pay is sufficient to cover our living expenses there and our debt payments here, with money to spare. Even with the weak Yen. It’s a fairly awesome/exciting thing to be looking forward to, for us.

Earlier this year, probably not long after my Springtime calculations, I did some back-of-envelope type number crunching… (except no envelopes were harmed; I did it in my head) …and projected out when we’d be out of debt. It was rough, since I didn’t know how much of Mandy’s bonus would go straight to taxes (or about our 10-day, 2-city vacation at the end of the summer), but it was close. I think I projected we’d be out of (consumer) debt in Spring of 2013, so it would probably be safe to apply to teach abroad for the 2012-2013 school year; we’d be doing well enough that we could afford the (not covered by the program, like hers would be) cost of flying me to Japan, getting me a passport/visa, and any other costs associated with being a +1, and we’d be out of (consumer) debt before returning to the USA. Or in the middle of our trip, if we stayed on a 2nd year (the program allows for this). For the last several months, we’ve sorta been pegging our hopes for this trip on this 2012 date, and vaguely thinking/planning around that idea. You know, like “buying that big, cheap TV now is silly; we’ll be going to Japan in 2012 & won’t be able to take it with us, so let’s wait until we come back in 2013 or 2014 and get a much better TV, with 3D, for the same money!” Or like “only another two years of living ‘minimally’ and then we’ll be in Japan, and then we’ll be (consumer) debt-free, and who knows what life will be like after that‽”

Here’s the stressful bit: Now I’ve got something very close to the “real” numbers, and I was off by about six months. We won’t be out of (consumer) debt until three full years from now, in the Fall of 2013. I’ll have to discuss it with Mandy, but I’d certainly be more comfortable being one or two payments away from being paid off than more than a year from being paid off when making such a big leap as moving to Japan for a year or two. Even knowing that the pay there is better, and the living expenses are lower. It’s just one more year, right?

That puts now-ish at the half-way point between our wedding (prior to which neither of us was doing very well at making headway against our debts) and having our (consumer) debt paid off. (And a bit more than 1/3 of the way to being totally debt free, if we put all the money we’re currently spending on our debt toward the student loans after the consumer debt is paid off.) That’s what’s been on my mind, keeping me up, stressing me out. The changing of plans, the ‘putting things in perspective,’ the long, long, feels long time horizon to paying this all off. That’s also what’s making this not the bad sort of stressed out; the idea of paying down over $49k of debt in a little over five and a half years on a single income is remarkable, and of paying off nearly $92k of debt in only eight years on a single income is astounding – a huge blessing. Did I mention it’s a teacher’s income, in Arizona?

Any money Modern Evil Press makes in the meantime gets to go right back into keeping Modern Evil Press running. If something suddenly takes off and starts making money (ie: J.A. Konrath eBook money), that’ll totally go toward paying off the debt sooner. On the other hand, I think I’m going to just barely keep Modern Evil Press ‘profitable’ this year (projecting at less than $20 profit), which is frustrating and at the same time awesome. (Awesome to not be running at a loss, considering my sales volumes.) I did project that, given nearly 3 more years before we go to Japan, I’ll probably write another 9 books (really, anywhere from 6-12 new books) in that time. With any luck, at least one will be a graphic novel and one will be an epic poem. (Just some ideas I’ve been kicking around, lately.)

Oh, and in my debt-stacking spreadsheet, along with getting my debt paid off nearly as quickly as possible, I calculated for beginning to put some money into savings. Not a lot, but more than $0. I didn’t calculate for things like selling one or both of our cars when we move to Japan, largely because I don’t know what we’ll be able to get for them, but partially because it might be a good idea to put that money into savings for a down payment on a car when we return. There should be some nice electric cars on the market by then, right? I also haven’t fully accounted for all the differences in living expenses between here and Japan, since that’s bound to fluctuate in the next two or three years, on both sides of the planet. Unfortunately, I also have no way of accounting for the differences the new variable rates on half our credit cards will affect things; how much, and when, will interest rates rise in the next three years? Will I be able to negotiate better rates if/when they do? Also: what if the economy collapses / the aliens invade / the zombies / apocalypse / et cetera? Not accounted for.

It’s nearly 6AM, now, and this post is nearly 2,000 words. Anyone think I’ll be able to sleep now? The answer may rhyme with “I can’t fall asleep when I’m hungry.” I hope I didn’t have any plans for today/tomorrow/when-I-wake-up.

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