Update #13 – August 2017

I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I launched Steward and Slave!  After Rachel and I decided we were really going to go after this debt monster last August, I knew I wanted to share our story as it happened, but I didn’t know how that should look.  Should we spam everyone on Facebook with our progress every month?  Should we go old-school and start an email chain?  Should we just go to the mall with bar charts and bank statements in hand, just shouting in the food court to whoever would listen?  Obviously, we settled on a blog.  I was pretty nervous at first.  I had started a couple of these things before, and they never really got past the “hello, world” phase.  And everyone has a blog.  Does the world really need another blog?  It’s even an ugly word, like something you say when you’re trying to get over a cold, but your chest is still all clogged up.  Why would we want to use that as our vehicle for sharing our financial journey?

Despite all the butterflies and what ifs, this has turned out to be one of the best things we could have done!  It’s kept us accountable, it’s kept us motivated, and it’s been so great to plug into the community of all you other people out there, in situations ranging from paying down way more debt than we have to 40-year-old retired millionaires traveling around the country in your RV.  By the way, if you’re reading this and you haven’t checked out the Rockstar Finance Blog Directory yet, you should do that.  They’re up to over 1,200 blogs now!  This has been an awesome ride, and I can’t thank you all enough for joining us on it!

One Year Later: The Site

Last year, I started this site as a test.  If I could keep it going, I’d make it more of a thing.  I never really believed in myself enough to get it to “it’s a thing” status.  I kind of figured I’d write for a little while, it’d fizzle out, and I’d go back to Angry Birds.  I REALLY never thought I’d buy a domain, pay for hosting, and end up running a legit website!  But in February, my wonderful wife gave me some money, sat me down at the computer, and said “Do it, because I believe in you.”  So here we are!  I always enjoy seeing other people’s numbers on these types of posts, so here are some of mine.  I actually can’t get the stats from when I was still hosted by WordPress, so all the traffic stats are from February 13, 2017 through August 26, 2017 (when I wrote this post):

  • Published posts: 65
  • Comments: 409 (though half of those are me replying to people, so let’s say comments from others: 205)
  • Unique visitors to the site: 4,795
  • Total views: 9,729
  • Number of followers through WordPress and email: 87 (thank you all!)
  • Number of followers on Twitter: 975
  • Number of followers on Facebook: 65
  • Countries you all represent: 80 (!! Seriously, who’d have thought that someone from Serbia would stumble across the ramblings of a kid from Kansas?)

  • Top 5 countries, by views:
    • United States – 7,761
    • Canada – 618
    • Finland – 263 (and Finnish reader, whoever you are, I appreciate your almost daily check-in!)
    • United Kingdom – 202
    • Australia – 174
  • Top 5 posts, by views:
  • Top 5 sources of traffic (where you all came from)
    • Rockstar Finance
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Search Engines
    • WordPress Reader
  • Money made from affiliate links and ads: $2.80 (Don’t listen to the people that tell you blogging is the easiest way to make a million bucks.  It’s tough to make any real income and be respectable in the process!)
  • Offers to buy the blog: 1 (seriously, people will buy anything 😋)

 

One Year Later: The Money

I already covered most of this in last month’s update, but I feel the need to re-stress how blessed we’ve been to have come this far.  It’s a completely different feeling when you’re at the beginning and staring down $80,000 worth of debt versus actually seeing the paid-in-full letters roll in.  We no longer have a car payment, and Lord willing, we never will again.  In a country where the average car payment is over $500, do you know how freeing that is??  In just a couple months, we’ll add credit card payment to that list.  I think the biggest effect this blog has had on our finances is the community it’s brought to our thinking.  If you go out and talk to one of the “average Americans,” $500 every month for a car seems normal.  They don’t see a reason to do anything differently, so why should we?  But seeing other blogs where people are doing awesome things with their money reassures us that yes, there is another life waiting for us on the other side of this second baby step, and yes, there is a point in “suffering” through the reduced lifestyle we’re currently living.  This isn’t just something we’re doing, with an end date when we can return to how things were.  This has changed how we see and use money, and it’s changed how we communicate and plan as a couple, too.  I’ll get to the numbers for August in a second, but here’s a few data points from the year overall.  Normally when I do these updates, I leave out interest and only show you the principal reduction from month to month.  It keeps things cleaner that way, and I feel like you’re less likely to go to sleep.  But since we’re a year into the blog, here’s a look at how bad interest can mess with your income:

  • Total paid out of pocket, including interest, toward debt since August 2016: $22,641.34
  • Total reduction in principal since August 2016: $15,973.99
  • Total amount of payments eaten by interest: $6,667.35

In case you’re still wondering why we’re doing this, it’s because we get a $6,500/year raise when we’re done.  Last month alone, we paid over $1,600 towards our debts, and $500 of it immediately disappeared thanks to interest.  Those numbers that barely budge from month to month?  That’s not because we’re being lazy.  And I know all you mortgage-owners out there are saying, “Just wait,” but holy cow is this frustrating!

August: The Numbers

January 2016 (Start) July 2017 August 2017
Car Loan $4,685.88 PAID OFF!! 03/17
Discover Loan $5,511.82 PAID OFF!! 06/17
Discover Card $7,939.49 $2,284.90 $1,299.36
K Student Loans $14,058.10 $11,720.97 $11,540.50
R Student Loans $47,879.41 $45,227.21 $45,005.28
Total $80,074.70 $59,233.08 $57,845.14

Total Change:

$22,229.56 paid off since 1/1/2016
$12,311.95 paid off in 2017
$1,387.94 paid off this month

The Road Ahead

This arbitrary deadline of December 31st keeps drawing closer!  We’re now 98% positive that we’ll be saying goodbye to Discover by the new year, and we might even be able to knock out one of Rachel’s tinier student loans by then, too!  Which brings us to a couple of changes we might be making in how we approach this whole snowball business.  As it is, we’ve been treating our loans like big blocks, even though I’ve got 2 (I think, Great Lakes combines them really well), and Rachel has 7, five with Navient and two with Sallie Mae.  The first change is that we’re thinking about addressing these individually, which actually puts some of the Navient loans ahead of my Great Lakes loans on the snowball order.  The other change is that we’re possibly going to refinance the two Sallie Mae loans into lower interest loans from someone like SoFi.  These are the two biggest loans, and they’re also both over 10% interest, which hasn’t been kind to our payments on them.  A refinance likely would only knock about four months off the projected payoff date, but we’ll take what we can get!  If we can get the $500/month minimum payment on those knocked down a little bit in the process, that’d also help us with liquidity in case my car dies unexpectedly.  I might update the charts going forward to show the new approach, but I haven’t decided if I want to do that much work yet, haha.  Bring on September!

2 thoughts on “Update #13 – August 2017

  1. Hello,

    Thank you for the thank you! I am the Finnish reader, and have to admit, would not have your blog in my bookmarks, if would not like to be part of (or at least kind of) your journey. Never commented anywhere before, but just wanted to say, you’re doing a great job, and remember it’s more about the journey than the destination.

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