I started off 2015 with very clear, focused goals: List the house. Increase net worth by $10,000. Pay off student loan. Put $3,000 into retirement account(s). Earn $500 in side income. The first month of 2015 is already gone, and so far, things are going great. Okay, except the net worth thing. But I was expecting things to start off rocky there!
Actually, things started off with such a bang, I’m second guessing what my priorities for this year should actually be.
It all started off with the student loan. I started off the year with a balance of $4,843 and expected that I would probably be able to pay it off sometime this summer. But then I started “finding” extra money. The checking account that I keep exclusively for monthly bills was starting to build up too much slush, so I threw an extra $500 at my student loan, on top of my regular payment and extra payment. I finished my taxes a few days ago, and realized my refund will be larger than expected, to the tune of $1,750. “Sometime this summer” suddenly became May. With a little more tweaking, possibly April.
I’ve been running the numbers obsessively, trying to see how much time I can cut off the student loan. And then my attention turned to the car loan. With a balance of $18, 422 at the end of January, it seemed like it would be forever before that loan was gone.
But did it HAVE to be?
In my obsession/excitement over debt payoff, I started running the numbers to see how quickly that car loan could be gone. It was originally set for the last payment to be in October of 2020, but always paying just a little bit over the amount due has already knocked that date down to October 2019. That still seems so far away! But with the student loan gone, I’ll have an extra $105/month to roll into the car loan. Plus all the extra money I’m putting towards the student loan right now ($480-600 a month). The raise from my promotion adds an additional $80-100 each month towards that. If I sold the house, there would be even more money in the budget to throw at the car loan. And… And… And…
Best case scenario, I could have the car loan paid off by the end of this year. But, I’d have to live really tight for the rest of this year. Like super, super tight. And it’s contingent on several things happening, like selling the house early in the year, and walking away from the sale with at least a little bit of money. It would also mean some other priorities would suffer, like putting $3,000 into my retirement fund(s) this year. Sure, I’d still be putting money away through my weekly payroll deductions, but I’d end the year about $1,200 short of my goal.
Then there’s the issue of life. My sister is getting married this summer; At the very least, that will end up costing me a couple hundred dollars. My other sister may be getting married as well (although, she’s said that with the last 3 boyfriends over the last 4 years, so I’m not holding my breath). And what about the vacation my Mom was hoping we’d all take? We weren’t thinking Disney scale this year, but still, that’s another $500-1,000. And what if Bryan struggles with his career this year?
Maybe I could pay off the car loan this year. Maybe I couldn’t. The question is, should I try? Should I put some of my other priorities aside, and aim for paying off the car loan this year? It would be awesome going into 2016 with $0 in debt. Think of what I could do with all my extra cash! Retirement… Investments… Saving for our future home…
Or, do I keep with my original plan for this year? Sure, I always intended to pay extra on the car loan once the student loan was gone. But, I was thinking it would be a more balanced approach, with some money going towards the car loan, some going towards living life this year (like a vacation), and some going towards retirement. Past, present, future, so to speak.
Honestly, my excitement has me leaning towards paying off the loan. Sure, I may come short; But even if I end the year with $5,000 left owed, that’s still way better than where I started. And I can always slow things down throughout the year for things like my sister’s wedding. But I love the idea of setting an “impossible goal”, and charging at it with everything I’ve got. It’s much more exciting and motivating than just setting attainable goals, and moving along as usual. It may make for a tough year, but what’s one tough year compared to freedom? If I can pay off $20,000+ in debt this year, think of what I can do with $20,000+ next. It gets me one step closer to my dream of buying a home with Bryan. One step closer to financial independence. One step closer to freedom.
What would you do? Live a little (or a lot) leaner, and try to pay off the car loan? Or keep with the original plan?
– Cindy W.