I’m going to be honest, I am having difficulty mustering the same level of vitriol for Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) that I had for Private Student Loan 3 (PSL3). While I wouldn’t classify any student loan as “friendly,” PSL4 had the “friendliest” terms of my private student loans. I don’t know that I would still be planing to pay this loan off next if the Pennyfolk hadn’t voted to send it to the chopping block.
Minimum Payment: $245.40 Balance as of 7/4/2019 (blog start): -$13,280.33 Balance as of 8/1/2021: -$9,486.04 Current balance: -$9,103.61
There isn’t really much more to say… In terms of my motivation, I am looking down the road a bit and I am far more interested in getting my overall student loan balance to under $90,000.00 by December 31, 2021 than I am singularly interested in dispatching this loan. However, I will try to remain focused on short term goals, like earning an additional $1,000.00 of gig income this month, and know that if I do what I am supposed to do, this loan will be felled.
I have logged into my AES account, the servicer for Private Student Loan 3 (PSL3), at least eight times today. Generally, if the payment is authorized prior to 1:00PM CST on a business day, the payment begins processing by 5:30PM, and is credited to the account by 8:30PM. (Yes, I know how incredibly sad it is that I have devoted grey matter to that bit of information.) Well, today AES decided to undergo “regular site maintenance” for general “security” (yes, I’m being cheeky) which meant the balance didn’t update until 10:30PM EST. But it finally did, and it was glorious.
And that’s all she wrote folks. PSL3 is official dead and gone. Well, maybe not all there is to write…
Private Student Loan 3 Payment Recap
This student loan was targeted for repayment after the Pennyfolk weighed in and because I hated it for so many reasons. Unlike PSL1, a little luck, a little hard work, and a little momentum were on my side and I was able to start chopping away at this student loan pretty aggressively from the start.
Minimum Payment: $153.82
-$11,207.28 – Balance on December 4, 2020 when I began targeting it for repayment. -$10666.59 – January 1, 2021 balance -$9646.94 – February 1, 2021 balance -$8454.39 – March 1, 2021 balance -$6136.07 – April 1, 2021 balance reflected a portion of my tax refund and an increase in my monthly payment as a result of the generosity of my parents letting me to stay with them, rent free, after my apartment flooded. -$4307.78 – May 1, 2021 balance -$2466.86 – June 1, 2021 balance -$2325.63 – July 1, 2021 balance reflected only a minimum payment in June as a result of me needing to pay off my month long gallivanting with my best friend in May. -$847.07 – August 1, 2021 balance reflected a return to disciplined spending in July and my foray into the world of gig apps. $0.00 – August 2, 2021 balance; will be reflected in student loan balance update on September 1st
Within the span of one week I have celebrated making it under $100,000.00 in student loan debt AND paying off PSL3. It has been kind of amazing. When you have as much debt as I do, weeks like this are often few and far between. So I am just trying to take this moment in and enjoy it…until tomorrow when I will turn my attention to the next student loan up for aggressive repayment.
Abject pleading apologies. I know I’m getting this post up in the waning minutes of August 1st (for folks in the EST) but forgive me, I accepted a last minute gig and got home not too long ago.
Now, for my first student loan balance(s) update where my overall balance is below $100,000.00…TO. THE. NUMBERS!!!
Private Student Loan 1
Private Student Loan 3
Private Student Loan 4
Private Student Loan 2
Federal Student Loan 1
Federal Student Loan 2
Federal Student Loan 3
Federal Student Loan 4
Federal Student Loan 5
Federal Student Loan 6
Federal Student Loan 7
Federal Student Loan 8
Federal Student Loan 9
Federal Student Loan 10
Federal Student Loan 11
Federal Student Loan 12
University Student Loan 1
University Student Loan 2
University Student Loan 3
University Student Loan 4
Personal Student Loan
July 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$101,626.31
August 2021 – Student Loan Balance(s): -$99,935.49
Total Payments: $1,788.62
Net Difference: $1,690.82
July was not my best month ever in terms of student loan debt payments but it will certainly be a month I remember. In addition to finally making it below $100K in student loan debt, it also feels like I’ve turned a corner in other ways…
As of July 31st, thanks to some persistence and gig income, Private Student Loan 3 is barely hanging on…more about that tomorrow.
Gig Income Goal for August: $1000.00
If you have read any of my recent posts, then you know I have joined the slightly less brave new world of gig apps and have decided to use them as a way to generate additional income, without committing to a fixed schedule. Each Friday, I will post the additional income I earned since the preceding Friday (so Friday to Thursday). I have been using the apps for about two weeks now and I really like them thus far. I feel like their is enough flexibility with scheduling for me to earn $1000.00 for the month of August without stressing myself out (this is prior to the 30% I set aside for taxes et. al. You can read more about my decision making about this amount here). I think $1000.00 is ambitious enough that I will have to push myself, but not too ambitious as to be paralyzing, AND would make a huge impact in my ability to pay off my debt.
Ya’ll, I almost missed it! I was so focused on chipping away at Private Student Loan 3 (PSL3), and getting that balance below $1,000.00 that I didn’t initially notice that the gig app payment I made on Monday brought me under $100,000.00 in student loan debt.
I’m going to be honest, I’m in shock right now. I don’t know how to feel. And I can’t even call anyone because I have never told anyone exactly how much student loan debt I have. I guess it will have to be a solo turnup at home this evening. I’m smiling so hard my face hurts.
While writing this, I did a cursory search of the internet to see if there were posts from other folks celebrating making it under the six-figure mark. I haven’t really found anything so I went and read an oldie but goodie from Double Debt Single Woman.
I’ll leave the long breakdown post for August 1st where my balance should be a few dollars higher, due to interest, but still below six-figures. As I get paid monthly, August 1st will also be the day to celebrate finally paying off PSL3, and moving on to the next student loan.
Until then, thank you all so much for your support throughout this journey. Because of you, I had some place to come share my excitement.
Let’s get one thing straight: Gig apps, like traditional staffing agencies are far more lucrative for those who run them than for those who work for them. This is perhaps true of all businesses, but I think most business have a bit more skin in the game than staffing agencies/gig apps who are middle men in the truest sense of the expression. While the idea that someone else is offering my labor for up to 40% more than they are paying me certainly bothers me, in this instance, it is the “cost” of doing business. For that reason, it is really important that I treat gig work like a business. Unlike my work at University B, gig work is not a career, there is no room for advancement, not benefits, no personal or professional development, and no other perks beyond the occasionally free staff meal. The relationship I have with the gig app is entirely transactional and it is important that I do my best to determine the ongoing value of the transaction on my end as they endlessly do for their end.
When I decided to join the gig apps, I initially created this gig tracker. I wanted to track the projected shift vs. the actual shift (this helps with determining whether or not to accept a gig if a client consistently cuts staff early), the rate of pay, billed hours, the distance from my home to the event location, and the actual payment. I then planned to use this information to determine my vehicle costs (billed to myself at the IRS rate of $0.50/mile), uniform costs (if the requested uniform required a piece of clothing I did not already own), and taxes (most gigs hire workers as 1099 independent contractors and do not take out taxes; however, Instawork in particular has quite a few clients for which W-2 documentation is required). I would then use these “costs” to determine whether or not it was worth it to accept a gig.
It took me exactly four gigs to figure out that long term this level of tracking would become both tedious and discouraging. However, that realization did not give me the right to not account for these costs (reread spiel up above about me evaluating my gig work like a business). Instead, I have decided to withhold a flat 30% of my gig earnings to account for these costs. While this is perhaps an overestimation on the tax side of things (I always receive a tax refund and it is likely that my refund would cover any taxes owed), I still want to play it safe. Further, the wear-and-tear on my car is a real cost and this money will help build a sinking fund for things like oil changes and tires.
Moving forward, I plan to do a Gig Work Income Report each Friday that accounts for money earned from the previous Friday through the immediately preceding Thursday. You can check out my Gig Work Income Report for the week ending 7/23 here. This explanation should help make it a bit more clear as to why I reported earning $113.26 at my first gig but only making an extra student loan payment of $79.28.
For some reason, my 2nd Blogiversary post lit a fire under me with regard to stepping up my efforts to earn additional income. Perhaps it was seeing that I was going to fall short of the goals I had set out for myself at the beginning of the year? Whatever the case may be, I sat down and did the math and realized that if I could make an extra $800.00 each month, I would stand a real chance of paying off Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) this year and making it below $90,000.00 in student loan debt.
Over the past two weeks, I have been incessantly investigating how I could make additional income in a manner that was not wholly stressful when balanced against the temporal oddities of my work at University B. Eventually, I landed in a place that I should have landed a lot sooner: gig apps. Gig apps have existed for just shy of a decade now but have only recently begun to get significant press coverage as many of them have moved out of regional markets to become fully developed national staffing platforms. What is a gig app? A gig app really isn’t that much different from a traditional staffing agency. The app has clients who are seeking independent contractors and laborers for short term (with some recurring) gigs in a swathe of industries. While most apps tend to specialize in one industry (food service, warehouse/light industrial, etc.), several have opportunities across industries.
I completed my first gig Thursday, July 22nd (and was offered a permanent part-time job by the manager) and will write more on that in another post. If you are someone who only reads my blog for the numbers, that post will be up later today. The remainder of this post will be a cursory overview of stuff I could only find out once I joined the apps that seems pertinent to an understanding of my use of the apps to increase my income. (You know, the nitty-gritty stuff I wanted to know prior to joining but couldn’t find a blog where someone had written about their experience).
The Apps: Qwick, Instawork, and Tend
Enrollment/Profile: For all three of the apps I am using (Qwick, Instawork, and Tend), you have to complete a standard application with information about your schedule, gig interests, and experience. You are generally required to upload a photo of your state issued ID and a professional profile photo. The approval process for new profiles can be as long as seven (7) business days, however, across all three apps mine was approved in less than four (4).
Orientation: Qwick and Tend require you to attend a 5-minute Zoom based orientation prior to your first gig. With Qwick this can be incredibly frustrating as after your profile is approved, the app will begin sending you “matches” (gig opportunities based on your experience, interest, and availability) but you will not be able to accept gigs until after you attend the orientation. Because orientations are 1:1 and with Qwick employees, there are only so many offered each day and it can be several days before you are scheduled for an orientation. The orientation was essentially just a way to make sure you are the person you purport to be in your photo. The Qwick employee with whom I met asked me one question, asked me if I had any questions, and then told me I could begin accepting gigs as soon as the next day. In reality, I booked my first gig for the same day as my orientation. I have not attended my Tend orientation yet. It too will be with a live person, however, it does seem as though I can accept some gigs prior to attending. Instawork does not require an orientation with a live person but instead has you watch a two-minute long video (I cannot explain how badly produced this video is).
Certifications: Qwick requires you to have a food handler’s certification and an on-premises alcohol certification. You can complete both of these online, each training taking about two (2) hours. If you don’t have these certificates when you sign-up with Qwick, they will encourage you to enroll with Learn2Serve (360 Training) via their app. I would encourage you to do your own online search. I ended up enrolling in the certificate course with Learn2Serve after an online search of other training platforms, and enrolling directly through the Learn2Serve website earned me a 15% discount on both course (making them less than $7.00 each). I joined Instawork and Tend after joining Qwick and both seemed to accept the Learn2Serve certifications.
Expected Pay and Hours: Prior to signing up for a shift, the apps will show you an hourly rate, any bonus on the hourly rate for accepting the shift, the projected shift length, and the projected shift pay. I used the word “projected” because shift length can vary significantly if the work is completed faster than expected or if the event becomes overstaffed for any reason. Qwick has a shift minimum of four hours if the event is scheduled for four hours or longer. This means that even if you are sent home early, you will be paid for at least four hours. You also get paid for four hours if the client cancels the staff request less than 24-hours prior to the start of the event. This is obviously a double edged sword for all those involved. For my part, I generally decided whether or not a gig is worth accepting, even if the expected income was to drop to the four hour minimum, prior to accepting. This is an important consideration as some events are further away and require drive time (my time and wear-and-tear on my car) and once you have accepted a gig, you are no longer in a position to accept more lucrative gigs that may pop-up at the last minute.
Uniforms: Uniform request vary widely based on the client. The most common uniforms are bistro white and bistro black. Other requests have included polo shirts, jeans, brown dress shoes, etc. Generally, I do not accept a gig if I have to buy more than one item to meet the uniform standards. And even then, I give some consideration as to how difficult it will be to track down that piece. I cannot begin to explain how much more difficult it was to find a black short-sleeved polo than I was expecting… Custom uniforms can be be costly so if am unlikely to wear the requested clothing at other gigs or during my off time, I do not accept the gig.
Getting Paid: Like most things, this varies slightly across the apps. Qwick’s embedded payment platform is Stripe. You have the option of being paid “instantly” (30 minutes after the end of your shift) via a linked debit card for a 3-4% fee of your earnings. Or, you can be paid via a linked bank account in 1-2 days for free. As this money is strictly used for debt repayment, I obviously elect for free transfer and don’t have a linked debit card. Instawork pays every Thursday through a direct deposit. I have not yet been asked to enter payment of banking information by Tend and can update this post once I know more.
Ratings: Most apps require you to check-in upon arrival with the specified gig manager; some gigs will have a check-in approval code that the manger will have to give you prior to you being able to clock-in. At the end of your shift, you also checkout with them. At that time, they have the ability to rate you, and you have the ability to rate them, on a five-star scale. With Qwick, a QwickScore is generated once you work ten (10) gigs. The QwickScore is a reliability and professionalism metric and it is important because it factors into the apps algorithm for the order in which workers receive gigs. The better your QwickScore, the higher up you are in the ranking to be offered the best paying gigs. While the ranking and feedback workers give businesses also matters, Qwick is less explicit as to what scoring would result in a business being removed from the app. Instawork takes it a step further and and in addition to giving businesses a ranking, they also allow workers to post “feedback” or “advice” about the gig that can be seen by other workers. As you can imagine, this advice oscillates between being useful for gig evaluation to petty grievances often tied to worker (under) performance.
Gig Snipping: I know, snipping isn’t just for eBay. As explained above, the higher your rating, the earlier you get to see premium paying gigs before other workers. Unfortunately, most of the apps require you to work a certain number of gigs before your rating begins to affect the gig availability algorithm (although negative behaviors affect it immediately). This means you don’t see gigs until after well rated workers have already gotten to see them which means by the time they get to you, you have to be VERY quick as to whether or not you want a gig. Unfortunately, there have been times where before I could even scroll to the bottom of the post to see where the gig was located it would already have been accepted by another worker.
My impression thus far: At some point, some long time from now, I will do a brief update post about the peculiarities of each app and its utility (for me) in generating additional income. For now, I will say that they seem to be as much as advertised. Like any other job, if you show up, and work hard, then the apps work well and it seems like a convenient way to earn additional income.
Okay. I am putting the cart way before the horse on this one (aren’t idioms fun?) and I have a lot to explain but I didn’t want to get a backlog of posts to write and then start procrastinating writing. The short version is that in an effort to pay off Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) this year, I have decided to venture into the world of gig apps. In another post(s), I will explain all that entails and what my experience has been thus far, but for now, I just want to get a past due income report up. Yea, okay, that needs an explanation as well…
Briefly, work through gig apps is generally paid within 1-2 days of the end of the shift (however, there is one app that pays weekly on Thursday). In an effort to keep myself motivated and to drag you all along for the journey, I am going to post a weekly gig income report each Friday that includes money earned the previous week (so Friday through the immediate preceding Thursday).
For the week ending 07/23/21, I worked one (1) shift on Thursday, July 22nd (the day I worked my first gig on any app) and earned $113.26, resulting in an extra student loan payment of $79.28. In another posts (I know, but I already mentioned I needed to write this above) I will further breakdown things like my average hourly rate, the type of gigs I’m working, and why the amount of my gig income is different from the amount of my extra student loan payment.
Despite recent events, I am in a much better place mentally, emotionally, and financially, if not physically (working on that), than I was last year. For that reason, pardon me as I fully turn up the Tony! Toni! Toné! and host a somewhat more jubilant celebration of my 2nd Blogiversary. (WARNING: Lengthy post ahead…)
Whoot, what a year. I struggled to figure out what this post should be. Should it just be a reflection on the modest goals I set last year, with new goals for this year? Because July is halfway through the year, should it be a mid-point check-in on how I am doing with respect to my calendar year goals? Also, does it make sense to have blogiversary goals that are different from my calendar goals? What is the real distinction between the two? As I am often wont to do in these situations, I decided to permute and do both…
But first, let’s get to the numbers!
Student Loan Debt Journey
Blog Start – July 4, 2019: -$133,259.74
1st Blogiversary – July 4, 2020: -$119,119.98
2nd Blogiversary – July 4, 2021: -$101,626.31
That is…that is progress. It should also be noted during this time that I saved $5,000.00 in an emergency fund. Given my income during this time period has been just under $50,000.00, this really isn’t bad at all.
Review ofSecond Year Goals
1) Move my blog from Blogger to another platform and improve the overall appearance and readability. – PASS! Like most moves for better digs, the “Ms. Afro Penny” WordPress site is pricier than my “Debt End Date” site at Blogger but the site looks a lot better and posting is a bit more enjoyable. And when I post more, I feel more accountable for my financial choices and every bit of accountability is helpful when your journey will be as long as mine.
2) Post at least twice per month including a student loan balance update post on or about the first of the month. – FAIL! I think I am always worried about posting irrelevant content and never want to post unless I really have something to say. This goal will likely return…
3) Establish an alternative income stream bringing in at least $500.00 more each month. – FAIL! I achieved this early in the year but decided to switch from steady part-time work to more lucrative contract work, which meant the ups and downs of contract work.
4) Reduce student loan debt below $100,000.00. – FAIL! This was a recent fail that should have been a fail much earlier in the year but temporarily moving back home with my parents, due to my apartment flooding, put me back on track….only for this goal to be derailed by May galivanting with my bestie.
5) Refinance student loans at more favorable interest rates. – N/A? The pandemic has meant that there was an interest rate abatement on federal student loans which meant a refinance would not have been a good choice. I could have refinanced my remaining loans but given the lower interest rates due to the pandemic, and the fact that all of them are targeted for payoff within the next year, it didn’t seem like the right move for now. For now.
Ultimately, it doesn’t make sense to me to have blogiversary goals and calendar year goals that overlap. Thus, moving forward, blogiversary goals will be strictly related to blogging/vlogging and calendar year goals will be finance related. Midpoint Check-In on 2021 Financial Goals
1) Reduce my overall student loan balances below $100,000.00 – On track. This should have been accomplished this month but will definitely be accomplished next month.
2) Reduce my overall student loan balances below $90,000.00– Unlikely. While I will easily make it into the mid-$90Ks, it is unlikely I will make it below $90,000.00 without a significant, and unexpected, change in income over the next six months. While I have been flirting with getting a part-time job again, I still don’t know that this would be enough to get me below the $90K mark.
3) Payoff Private Student Loan 3 (PSL3) (-$10,666.59 as of 1/1/2021) –On track. Assuming no unexpected costs, this should happen next month. My balance is currently under –$1500.00 and I’m itching to pay it off.
4) Payoff Private Student Loan 4 (PSL4) (-$9,997.13 as of 1/1/2021) – Unlikely. Paying of this loan would get me below the $90,000.00 threshold but see explanation above as to why getting it done this year is unlikely.
7) Increase part-time/side monthly income to $1000.00 – Not on track. However, I am still willing to give myself a pass on this if I can make this happen before the end of the year.
8) Establish sinking funds – Not on track. I had started this in March to pay for my May gallivanting but it got wiped out by deposits for my new houseshare. I still have time to turn this around.
9) Cashflow final coursework and application process for medical school – I have been on track. More on this is another post.
Ugh. So many words. Overall, it’s looking dicey…but I can still turn it around.
Finally, my Third Year Blog Goals:
1) Blog at least twice a month.
2) Vlog at least once a month.
And finally, finally, a HUGE THANK YOU to all of you who take time to read my blog, and especially those of you who take time to comment. I’d like to think I’d keep writing even if no one were reading but I don’t really believe that to be true. Having to post my debt updates each month helps immensely with accountability and that would be impossible without you. So…THANK YOU!