Has reason abandoned me? Being reckless…

Recently I lamented that I have been suffering a bit from debt repayment boredom/fatigue. It feels like more than fatigue because it’s not that I am tired of paying off my debt. Before I got my new job, figuring out how I was going to pay off my massive debt before I turned forty felt like a real…challenge. My paltry salary at University B meant that it was not possible for me to pay my debt off in this period of time without strategy and hustle. I lived leanly and took every sid gig I could to shovel just a bit more money at my debt each. However, my new job, and a wealth of opportunity afforded by my ever-expanding network, has meant that paying off my debt by the time I am forty is no longer really a challenge. I felt gross writing that. But, as long as I stay employed and put at least $2,000.00 towards my debt each month, it will happen. It seems like the knowledge of this, my receding shame, and my slow returning financial self-confidence should find me in a good place. Should. Instead, I find that I am bored and idle hands…

Yesterday, I submitted an application for a lease on a commercial property for a business idea I have had for some time. I KNOW! Despite how it all went down, which is a story for another post, the end result is for the best and my appreciation for this is growing. However, at the time it sucked and I consoled myself with Chinese food and Ben and Jerry’s; the latter of which I came to sincerely regret after my body reminded me of my longstanding lactose intolerance…

I know. Despite writing in jest, I am heartily ashamed of myself. I allowed my temporary boredom to lead me to make a decision that could have had extensive financial consequences and possibly eroded much of the progress I have made over the past three years. To own it, I almost didn’t write of my almost mistake but I decided that it was necessary for posterity. One day, perhaps someone else trying to pay off a massive debt will also feel…itchy…and make an impulsive choice from a place of boredom. I want them to know they are not alone.

But it’s more than boredom. It’s more than fatigue. It’s FOMO (fear of missing out). As I have worked hard to pay off my debt and learn of other ways to make money, I have increasingly come to feel as though paying off my debt isn’t enough. That while it isn’t possible to make up for all of the time I have lost not earning a decent income or investing, I owe the AfroPenny of four years from now more than to just be debt-free.

I would like to say that this incident scared me and that my reflection here means that I am unlikely to take such a risk again. I would like not to lie.

May 2022 – Life Update

I have wanted to write for a couple of days now but nothing felt significant enough to warrant its own post so…general life update it is.

A Tale of Two Workplaces
– My new boss continues to grind my gears. During our weekly 1:1, he passive-aggressively complained that another staff member and I take notes during the virtual staff meeting. What? He said it means that the staff member and I are, “Looking down at your screens and typing instead of looking at me.” Okay, really? I have never been to a staff meeting where taking notes was discouraged but…okay. I could try taking notes by hand instead of typing so that I can look at you while you are speaking. So, the next staff meeting happens and I am taking notes by hand while this man sends emails, while other people are speaking, which I know because he sent an insignificant response of “thanks” to an email thread on which I was included. Beyond this casual passive-aggressiveness and hypocrisy, he is also exceptionally entitled and treats many of our funders like “atm machines.” That is a direct quote from a conversation with our largest funder.

I am passively job hunting.

University B is currently convening a search for my replacement and I have been told that the applicant pool is strong, but there are significant differences between who my former boss and my former colleague, to whom this new hire would report, want to hire. They are both right in their own way. I have been somewhat saddened by my impending departure from the role but many of the challenges that I highlighted are still there. My former boss said he is committed to seeing changes but I have little faith changes will manifest. My boss is still recovering from a medical event and is now expecting his first child. I think the long-term, strategic thinking that would be necessary for changes to happen is not something he is fond of doing and is even less likely to happen given all that is happening in his personal life. I wish him and the organization the best.

$$$ Out – This has been a weird month with money where sometimes I am unsure of exactly what is happening. First, I paid a fine for the lapse in the registration of my vehicle. This was entirely my fault. I most recently lived in a state where car registration was for two years and after I purchased my lease in December 2020, I assumed my registration would need to be renewed in December 2022. Wrong. It needed to be renewed in December 2021, and in March I got a ticket for my registration being out of date. At the registration office, they said they had sent me a reminder to my home, however, they send it to the address listed on the current registration, which was completed by the car dealer, and listed the apartment that flooded. Ugh. So now a $25.00 registration cost me $25.00 and a $160.00 citation AND a $13.00 credit card processing fee. Ugh.

However, what was far, far more annoying was the tango I had with my car insurance company. So when I was pulled over for the lapsed tag, the officer also stated that I didn’t have insurance. Ummm…I most certainly do. He then said I needed to contact my insurer because they had failed to register it with the secretary of state. So I called them and had to keep calling them while trying to get my car registered the next day because the state would not allow me to register my car until the insurance binder was sent to them. Finally, this was taken care of and I assumed all was well…but no. You’ll remember that I recently refinanced my auto loan. Well, as a part of the refinance, PenFed asked to be listed as a lienholder on the policy. Totally reasonable. Unfortunately, this is not a change you can make online and I had to call my agent to get them to make the change. And, I needed to do this rather quickly or PenFed would insure the vehicle themselves and make me pay for it. It took more than a week for my agent to finally get back to me with a quote. I responded immediately and said, “Great, please send me the updated binder.” Nothing. I had to call and call before the administrative assistant sent it to me. Fine. Once again, I thought all was well…again, no.

On April 28th, I receive a bill for a very small amount instead of my usual policy amount. I sent an email to inquire why I was billed for this amount. The administrative assistant then emailed me back to say that on April 6th, someone had placed a note on my record stating that the vehicle had been “junked” and that the policy needed to be suspended. What? I spoke to you on April 18th when you provided me with my insurance binder. How could you have done that for a policy that had been suspended? Have I not had auto insurance since April 6th? Who placed this note? How was there no obligation to contact me by phone or in writing about this change? Her response, over and over, was, “I understand. I don’t know.” She offered to call underwriting but I thanked her for her time and told her I would just get another agent. I called another agent with the same national agency and they helped me formally switch agents. He is still trying to figure out what happened and how much I will owe on my previous and new policy. Hopefully, this is resolved this upcoming week.

Dating – Dating has been wild. My current dating experiences probably warrant a separate post but I will share here that I believe that Gentleman Avery and I are at our final impasse…for me. We can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. At different moments, I find that I feel like the worst sort of female cliche. Another post…

Home – I am growing increasingly itchy to find a place of my own. I think this feeling has been exacerbated by time spent with my best friend in her own house and the cooling housing market (it was ridiculous in my city but we are finally starting to see houses sit on the market for a bit longer and price reductions). I am very reluctant, and have yet, to turn my attention away from aggressive debt repayment toward saving for a down payment.

While some of this feeling is definitely that I live in a 10X11 room and want more space, I think some of it is debt repayment boredom. When I was hustling back in the day (so…last fall), each gig I worked served as a reminder of what I was working towards and it helped to keep me focused. Now, I am still hustling but it feels different and I only see progress once a month. Before I turn my attention away from aggressive debt repayment, I am going to try and find inspiration to stay on track…

$$$ In – The specialized extracurricular activity that I have previously mentioned is resuming this summer. I have been offered an evening educator position with a camp and will take this on for two weeks in June. I have set the camp start date as the deadline by which I need to have completed all of my reporting work for University B. I will still technically be employed by them until the end of June, and will likely work for them a bit, but juggling my full-time job, active work at University B, and this part-time camp role is not something I am prepared to do at the moment. The camp role definitely pays more than I make at University B for two weeks so if I don’t work for them at all during that period I would still be further ahead financially.

May 2022 – Student Loan Balance Update

Nothing to see here. To the numbers…

July 1, 2019 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$128,663.26

April 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$79,347.41

May 3, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$77,585.35


Total Payments: $2,000.00

Net Difference: $1,762.06

Yea. A bit of a dud. I am really trying to be grateful for this because there was a time when $2,000.00 was a significant stretch. However, coming after my massive March payoff, it feels particularly pathetic. I spent most of April out of state (which is why this update is getting up late), hanging out with my best friend. April felt more spendy than it actually was because I had savings set aside for my travel. This meant I avoided the post-travel financial hangover and my May 1st payment put me back on track to meet my 2022 financial goals.

I am headed home today and I expect a return to disciplined spending this month. In fact, I am really hoping a bit of frugality in May sees my student loan balance dip below $70,000.00 after my June 1st debt payment. Fingers crossed.

Dating and Debt: Would you date someone in debt?

In the waning weeks of 2021, I joined Instagram as me (as opposed to Afrop Penny) after refusing to join for years. Much as I expected, it is the same fun, interactive, time sink that Facebook was when I joined in 2004; I haven’t been on Facebook in years. However, perhaps that is true of all social media. In any instance, thus far I have enjoyed the mix of information and engagement while doing my best to tolerate the rampant advertising and consumerism. Occasionally, there is a post that encourages me to be thoughtful or write a blog post, and I appreciate that. Today as I was scrolling, I read a shared post from a woman, in which she stated:

I was dating a rich guy and he asked me, “Would you ever consider dating someone who was struggling?” I told him no. That for personal reasons, I would not consider dating someone who did not have their life together. He then said, “Well, for me, you are that struggling person.” He ended the relationship shortly after this conversation.

Unfortunately, as is the case in many parts of the internet, the comments that she received were not…positive. Many folks shared unhelpful, and often misogynist, thoughts that essentially called her a gold-digger and shamed her for her dating preferences. After reading a follow-up post, for the most part, it seems she took the end of the relationship with this rich person in stride, as she feels that everyone is entitled to their preferences, including her rich exes’ desire not to date someone who wouldn’t date him if he were struggling.

As is obviously the case, this got me to reflect a bit about my own experiences and preferences. The answer to the blog title, “Would you date someone in debt?” is a “yes” for me. I think it would make me the worst sort of hypocrite if I refused to date someone because they had debt. That being said, it would need to be made evident, through honest conversation, that we had a shared perspective about the utility of debt in our lives. I once dated a guy with poor credit and significant financial debt. He also had really bad anxiety issues. I told him that developing a plan to pay off his debt and improve his credit might help. He demurred. Years later, we are still really good friends (this is the one instance where I am friends with an ex) and he is still in significant credit card debt.

And then there have been other guys, like Gentleman Avery or the guy I dated before him. Guys who, like the man in the Instagram post, are either rich or are in a really strong financial position. Previously, I have felt insecure and ashamed about my financial position in contrast to theirs and so I didn’t really talk about it. Or I held back emotionally for fear that deeper intimacy would eventually force me to disclose how much debt I had. And I never wanted that to happen because how could someone know of my debt and still want me?

I think shared values are important to the success of any relationship. Given the outsized role money plays in our lives, I think that it is even more important that even if we aren’t starting in the same place, we have shared values and beliefs around our approach to managing money and our long terms financial goals. I’m obviously still not where I want to be with money but I have come a long way from my lowest point, and I am no longer struggling.

All my debt in the world…

Last month I shared that I decided to refinance my auto loan with PenFed. While I still love PenFed, the process for refinancing my auto loan was a bit cumbersome and seemed to take forever. However, US Bank, my previous auto loan holder, finally processed the payoff payment…

And, on the PenFed side of things…

…all my debt in the world is now located in one place. While I like the simplicity this adds to my life (one less place to log in each month) a part of me now feels “itchy” about seeing that relatively low auto loan balance in the same portal as my much larger student loan*. Perhaps I should not change my financial goal from “less than $60K in student loan debt” to “less than $50K student loan debt” this year and should instead keep the under $60k goal and add paying off my auto loan? While my auto loan is only at 2.39% compared to my student loan’s 3.50% interest rate, it would eliminate a $300.00 payment each month. In addition to further reducing my fixed expenses, it would also lower my debt-to-income ratio… Thoughts?



*I used Paint3D to delete my account numbers and student loan balance from this photo. I feel like my student loan balance, and how much I have been able to pay off, is the only thing that keeps my blog interesting from month to month.

What I get for the money…

On Sunday, I wrote a post whining about one of my housemates. While I am going to leave that post up because it reflected the small annoyances inconveniences grievances frustrations of shared living, and led me to disclose a goal I hadn’t yet shared with you all, I wanted to take a moment to express appreciation for what I do have…

For $550.00/month, including utilities, I have an excellent deal living in one of the nicest areas of a large southern city. When I first moved in, my room and bathroom were a mess. The carpeting was deeply stained, the walls were greasy, and the bathroom was disgusting. It made sense. The house is more than 15 years old, has been rented the entire time, and there have been no landlord-initiated cleaning or repairs. However, after some deep cleaning, paint, and flood-necessitated new carpeting, my living space is actually pretty cute.

When I look at these photos, I feel a bit guilty for wanting to move out before all of my student loan debt is paid off, and think I should suck it up and stick it out*…

An alternative is to temporarily, move back east to live with my best friend. It is something she has proposed several times as we miss each other greatly. She lives in a similar tri-level, style home and I would essentially live on a floor by myself with my own bathroom. While she has tried to tempt me with free rent, handouts make me uncomfortable and I would minimally pay her what I am paying now. Moving is a pain-in-the-arse but it is tempting. We have lived together before, in much closer confines, and survived happily without growing sick of one another. The more I think about it, the more I like it, however, I know that it would not please my parents…or Gentleman Avery.

We shall see…

*Note: Since Mahira is moving out in May, my landlord posted her room for rent on University B’s off-campus housing board. She posted the rent at the same level my housemate is currently paying which suggests she probably isn’t planning to raise rent this year…yay…yea. I don’t know why but this somehow makes me feel even more stuck.

The true “costs” of cheap rent… (PART II)

*sighs*

It’s important to be honest about the challenges of shared living since it is often one of the first things that people mention when discussing strategies for significant debt repayment.

For the most part, my housemates are pretty great. And as I mentioned in another post, I have become extremely close to one of them and I will be sad when she moves out next month. For clarity’s sake, I will refer to her as Mahira moving forward. Mahira is in her early thirties, a psychologist, and a pretty chill housemate. She’s tidy, respectful of space, and very considerate of others. My other housemate, let’s call him Patrick, is a bit different. He is older (late fifties/early sixties), very rigid, and not as considerate. While we don’t have a great deal in common, my interactions with Patrick are generally pretty pleasant and brief.

However, one thing that annoys me to no end is how messy dirty Patrick is. He has every appliance known to man in our small shared kitchen and there is a thin layer of grease and crumbs all over each appliance and the area around them. You would think given his proclivity to be less tidy dirty that he would be a rather chill housemate. He’s not. Unlike Jasmine and I who both work remotely and away from the home, Patrick is an Uber driver (who isn’t currently driving) and spends all of his time at the house. That isn’t a problem. You have every right to spend as much time as you want in a place where you pay rent. However, what is a problem is how “sensitive” he is to food smells. He is constantly complaining when Mahira or I cook anything that might be “aromatic.” We have an exhaust in our kitchen that goes straight out the window and whenever I cook, I make an effort to use it. However, today, Patrick stops me on my way downstairs and out the door to question if I am actually using the exhaust and to complain that food smells are still getting into his room. At first, I said, “Yes, sorry.” Then I said, “Actually, I’m not sorry for cooking in a place where I pay rent.” He continued to talk about how upset he was about the smells getting into his room and complained that he might need to buy a window fan for his room. My response was, “Whatever works for you.”

He seemed upset by this. As I finally made my way out the door, I thought, “Should I apologize?” A half-hour later and I’ve decided it’s not gonna happen. First, if Patrick is so incredibly sensitive to food smells, shared living might not be for him (NOTE: he also cooks “aromatic” things and the scents still make their way to my room…I just don’t complain about it because I accept that it is a part of shared living). Second, I think I would feel more obligated to go out of my way to ensure food smells don’t make it up to his room IF he was a similarly considerate person. However, despite multiple requests that he clean the kitchen counter/stove after using it, or remove food debris from the sink after making food, or not put his moldy-year-old kitchen sponge (seriously, it’s the same sponge since I moved in and he puts it sopping wet on the sink divider…there is a thin film on it and it looks shiny…ick) in the sink, then I might feel obligated to “do more.” Also, despite having a rigid schedule of when he feels he should have exclusive access to the kitchen, he constantly enters the kitchen at times that have been allocated to others just to “do my dishes real quick.” I realize I am entirely chaffed by his whining given he is not a considerate person.

Rant over. Again, I realize that there are far worse housemate situations out there and that I could be dealing with theft or violence but it’s still annoying/uncomfortable and it’s still not something you have to deal with if you live alone.

All of this led to me fantasizing about living on my own and doing a cursory search on University B’s off-campus housing website and Zillow. The prices were significantly more than I currently pay, or am willing to pay, and for a moment I was genuinely depressed. Then I decided that I just needed a number/goal. I needed a number/goal at which I could justify/be comfortable living on my own. I’ve decided that my number/goal is less than $50,000.00 in student loan debt remaining…and I want to get there this year.

My income…for now

I just finished reconciling my March 2022 unbudgeted spending and paying my April 2022 bills and was pleasantly surprised. As I explained in my April student loan balance update, I expected my April student loan payment to be significantly less due to unbudgeted spending in March. While this was the case, it was still a very significant payment and something I would have struggled to make last year with any degree of unbudgeted spending. The reason for this difference is obvious, and now that the February rose has withered away (I’m secretly a country music fan), it’s time to talk about it…my income.

I have procrastinated talking about my current income thus far because it has fluctuated so significantly from month to month this year. Between starting work at Organization C in mid-January and transitioning to part-time work at University B in February, March was the first month where I had some idea what my monthly income will be…at least through June when my temporary contract at University B ends.

My March 2022 net income was $5603.39. And that isn’t quite correct because the first pay period at University B was lumped in with my vacation leave payout and I didn’t bill all hours worked for the second pay period. However, this should be pretty close.

This net income is why I was able to pay $4050.00 in March (my fixed and variable costs were less than $1,600 in February) and why even in a month where I spent significantly more, I was still able to scrape together a decent monthly debt payment.

There really isn’t too much more to say. I don’t want to squander this period of increased income so I am really trying to buckle back down for April. However, traveling with others (I’m hanging out with my best friend again) makes that difficult as you are not fully in control of spending decisions. That being said, my best friend is pretty frugal and I plan to be honest with her about my financial goals for the year. I feel like she will be supportive.

April 2022 – Student Loan Balance Update

This update contains no surprises if you read the post where I delighted in making it below $80,000.00 in student loan debt but there is a bit of additional insight. To the numbers…

July 1, 2019 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$128,663.26

March 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$86,645.29

April 1, 2022 – Student Loan Balance: -$79,347.41


Total Payments: $7,537.56

Net Difference: $7,297.88

Yea. March 2022 is easily my best biggest debt payoff month on record. This was made possible by my biggest single debt payment, on March 1st, of $4050.00, and followed up by an additional payment of $3,487.56 on March 14th after University B paid out my vacation leave as a result of the change in my employment status from full time to temporary. After I accepted the new role at Organization C, I knew that my vacation leave was going to be paid out by University B and I figured it would go a long way towards helping me get below $60,000.00 this year. I just figured it would happen when I departed University B at the end of June. Receiving my payout in March was a nice surprise.

That being said, it should be noted that my March 1st payment, which resulted only from my full-time income from Organization C and my part-time income from University B, was an even bigger payment than my leave payout. Because I live on last month’s income, this payment was made possible due to my extreme frugalness in February. Unfortunately, March was a very spendy month and, while I haven’t calculated it yet, I expect my April 1st debt payment, which will reflect March’s unbudgeted spending, to be quite pitiful. It won’t be minimum payment pitiful but it won’t be great. While some of this spending was planned and there is money set aside in my sinking fund for it (like plane tickets for a reunion and to see my best friend), some of it was not and reflected belt loosening that often happens after I buckle down AND reach a significant goal. While April is a month that includes a bit of travel, I am really hoping to get back on track with my spending this month so that I can maximize these last few months of part-time income from University B.

She’s Out of My Life

I’m only being slightly less dramatic than Michael in this video

The week began terribly, stressful, and I whined about it a bit here. But by Thursday evening, I was sipping on a very strong margarita at a local Mexican restaurant, and I was convinced that things had finally turned around for me. It was not to be. Today, while tidying up the kitchen, my wonderful, awesome, lovely, housemate told me that she had just signed a lease for a one-bedroom apartment and will be moving out at the end of April. To say I was bummed is an understatement.

Good friends are difficult to find. Good housemates are even more difficult to find, especially as you get older and people become more set in their ways. Not only was my housemate (we’ll call her the Good Witch) kind and considerate but she was also an excellent communicator. She wasn’t passive-aggressive and had no problem engaging in uncomfortable conversations if they helped to ensure that housemate needs and boundaries were respected. I am bummed.

Although it should not, her departure is causing me to reflect a bit more on my own immediate housing plans. The Good Witch is moving to a one-bedroom apartment in a chic area of town at slightly below-market rent. At $1,300.00, it is still significantly more than I pay or would feel comfortable paying for rent. That being said, I am a bit envious of her. I know that she earns what I used to earn at University B and has about $50,000.00 in student loan debt. While she has every intention of paying it off, she said the pandemic has warned her against “delaying ‘living'”…

I’m bummed.