Author Topic: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!  (Read 1812 times)

WellBehavedWallet

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
From my intro post - Mid-30s, Single, never married.
A $15k student loan standing between me and debt freedom.
I’m currently roomies w my momma in the house I grew up in northeastern NJ. She’s aiming to sell sometime within the next year or so… and she's also anticipating some sort of change in job situation in that time frame, too.

My history:
From 2008 - 2010, I got rid of $15k in consumer debt and a car loan.
In 2010, my student loan was $30k.
At this rate, it would take about 8 more years to knock out. Not good enough. Want it GONE in 2019!!!

Goals:
I’d love to be married (Nov ‘18 - currently dating a fabulous fella*!)
*Feb 19 update - Fella has fallen the grid! He’s got his own stuff to work on - successful developer workin' on an app, who has done his own stuff before, working on more stuff now… His absence has made me realize that i need to take care of my own business. Maybe he’ll reappear, maybe he won’t… but I want to be cool on my own either way!

I’d love to buy a house (of my own…)
I’d love to potentially raise a few kiddos.

Long Term Goal:  to reach Financial Independence by 50s or so!

Tactics:
+Raise my income.
+Lower my expenses.
+Save like crazy!
+Side HUSTLE!!!

CURRENT STATUS - Side Hustling like CRAZY to knock out this student loan!!!

So they say: A year of sacrifice can make all the difference! Only debt = Student Loan.
Current balance = $14,699.34

Savings at present = $1000
Income = roughly $55k per year.

*Edited to add the numbers* Here’s how it breaks down monthly… And it’s kind of frustrating, but here we are.
I feel like I’m working super hard just to keep afloat.
I live in northeastern NJ. Cost of living is fairly high. 
I’m managing, but just barely. This isn’t every month, but this is a pretty accurate snapshot of what my budget looks like over the course of 6-8 months.
I drive a 2004 Toyota Camry with 175k miles that is paid in full.
I’m proud to do it but it does mean that I am prudent to keep a car repair/replace fund set aside. 
I also teach music lessons on the side, which helps make up the shortfall in my monthly expenses.
Any forward movement will have to come from my side hustle.

Any advice welcome!

Total take home = $2800
Occupation = Marketing Account Executive
I have a few IRAs, etc from past jobs but no major assets to speak of at present. 

$1000 = Housing = $1000 (I split the mortgage w. my mom)
$300 = Tithe
$300 = Utilities = $300
$200 = Additional Housing Costs (seasonal, eg - lawn care, etc…)
$200 = Immediate Savings 
$130 = Student Loan (minimum payment)
$50 = Phone
$30 = Gym (Retro Fitness)
Total = $2100

Variable
$200 = Groceries
$150 = Gas
$100 - 200 = Personal Care (contact solution, hair care, etc.
$100 = Transportation (Car Expenses, tolls, etc.)
$75 = Food Out
$150 = Additional (insurance, medical expenses, any outings, etc.)
Total = $775

Grand Total = $2875
« Last Edit: February 03, 2019, 06:52:17 AM by WellBehavedWallet »

MrThatsDifferent

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1131
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #1 on: February 03, 2019, 02:34:52 AM »
Congrats on your achievements so far. No one can help you until you post a proper case study with your expenses so people can give you guidance on how to kill that loan in a year. $15k for someone living with family and making $55k shouldn’t be too hard but we need to see the figures. So, have at it

waltworks

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2980
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2019, 12:42:30 PM »
It may be worth considering how much more you could tithe over your lifetime if you could get out of the financial hole you're in - because at the current rate, you will be paying off that loan into your 40s. Your housing/utilities/tithe is eating over 60% of your takehome pay - that's clearly unsustainable if you want to be saving money/paying off debt.

That said, I'm guessing you are LDS and the tithe is not really optional. So other stuff that stands out:

-Roommate(s). $1000 a month is a ton of money for one single person for rent. Sounds like that situation may change soon, though. If/when you have a chance, move into cheaper shared housing.

-Personal care products $100-200 a month?!? A bottle of 99 cent shampoo and a bottle of 99 cent conditioner should get you through a month along with maybe $5 worth of soap/deoderant. Contact solution is pretty cheap too even if you're getting fancy stuff. You should be able to cut this expense dramatically.

-You are not wealthy enough to ever eat out, not even once a month. Period.

-$200 in groceries is a lot for a single person. There are a lot of good threads here about inexpensive eating, do a quick search when you have a chance.

-Is there decent public transit in your area? Could you ride a bike to work? You are spending a ton of money on transportation, and you're really not wealthy enough to be owning a car unless you really have to.

Good luck!

-W

Paul der Krake

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4417
  • Age: 11
  • Location: USA
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #3 on: February 03, 2019, 01:07:45 PM »
You're not stable enough to spend $300/month on other people's problems. There isn't going to be a shortage of people in need any time soon, put your charitable giving on hold until you are in better shape.

Phone should be $20 tops. Search for an MVNO.

How on earth are you paying $300 for utilities? Is that $600 total and you pay for half, or do you pay for the whole thing?

You're burning way too much gasoline. Why?

waltworks

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 2980
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2019, 01:16:33 PM »
Yeah, that's gotta be 60 gallons of gas. The Corolla has to get 25-30mpg, so you're driving 1500+ miles a month? 50+ miles a day? That's crazy financially, and it's not healthy to be sitting in a car in traffic that much, either.

-W

MrThatsDifferent

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1131
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2019, 01:23:50 PM »
Thanks, that’s better.  Putting it down should help give you more clarity. You’re spending more than you have, that’s an issue. Couple of other things stand out:

I admit, I don’t get the tithe thing, but I do get that’s its religious and people are how they are with religions, particularly ones that want you to give a portion of your income to them. As someone else wrote, maybe there’s a way you can do this later or maybe keep a log of what you were going to give them and in 20 years, when you’re settled, you can give them a lump sum? I don’t know, but I do know, you can’t afford this now. Sorry.

You can’t afford to eat out really, but you need a life. Try to get this and your grocery bill to half. There’s lots of suggestions on how to do this.

You’re paying $1000 towards the mortgage, when your Mom sells, do you get a portion of the sale? If so, how much?

You need savings. Does your work have a retirement vehicle? If so, start using it. Review the investment order. You’re leaving yourself too vulnerable and being a couple paychecks away from having nothing. Focus on your security. Oxygen mask for yourself first.

CNM

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 449
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2019, 01:35:23 PM »
If you pay $1200 a month in housing costs, not including utilities, I wonder if it would be cheaper for you to rent a room elsewhere?  A quick google search says that the average monthly rent in northern New Jersey is about $1700/mo for a 2 bedroom.  If you split that with a roommate, that amounts to a $350 savings per month.

MrThatsDifferent

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1131
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2019, 01:53:13 PM »
If you pay $1200 a month in housing costs, not including utilities, I wonder if it would be cheaper for you to rent a room elsewhere?  A quick google search says that the average monthly rent in northern New Jersey is about $1700/mo for a 2 bedroom.  If you split that with a roommate, that amounts to a $350 savings per month.

I doubt she’s going to run out on her mom like that.

FreeBear

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2019, 03:39:29 PM »

A $15k student loan standing between me and debt freedom.
...
Savings at present = $1000
Income = roughly $55k per year.
.....
Total take home = $2800

Grand Total = $2875

Hey WellBehaved!  Your hair is on fire!  This is still an emergency.  From a summary of your numbers, you spend $875 more each month than you make and only have a thousand dollars saved.  What will you do when (not if) your car breaks down?? What will you do when you lose your job when (not if) the next recession comes??

I strongly recommend cutting all expenses to the bone, especially housing cost.  You spend $1500/month just on housing; this is way too much for your income.  I recommend that you have a goal of developing a cash emergency fund equal to 3-6 months expenses before consider paying down debt.  Keep most of this in an online savings account like Ally (over 2% interest, FDIC insured-low risk).

You need to think about maintaining cashflow each month even when stuff goes bad (job loss, car breakdown, mom struggles with her part of the bills, house needs new roof/furnace/water heater, etc.).  Once you have several months' cash buffer, you can then figure out the next step. 

What is the interest rate on your student loans??

FreeBear

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 26
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2019, 03:44:02 PM »
If you pay $1200 a month in housing costs, not including utilities, I wonder if it would be cheaper for you to rent a room elsewhere?  A quick google search says that the average monthly rent in northern New Jersey is about $1700/mo for a 2 bedroom.  If you split that with a roommate, that amounts to a $350 savings per month.

I doubt she’s going to run out on her mom like that.

OP mentioned mom's planning to sell the house next year.  It's a good time to prepare an exit plan both personally and financially.



MrThatsDifferent

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1131
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2019, 04:19:02 PM »

A $15k student loan standing between me and debt freedom.
...
Savings at present = $1000
Income = roughly $55k per year.
.....
Total take home = $2800

Grand Total = $2875

Hey WellBehaved!  Your hair is on fire!  This is still an emergency.  From a summary of your numbers, you spend $875 more each month than you make and only have a thousand dollars saved.  What will you do when (not if) your car breaks down?? What will you do when you lose your job when (not if) the next recession comes??

I strongly recommend cutting all expenses to the bone, especially housing cost.  You spend $1500/month just on housing; this is way too much for your income.  I recommend that you have a goal of developing a cash emergency fund equal to 3-6 months expenses before consider paying down debt.  Keep most of this in an online savings account like Ally (over 2% interest, FDIC insured-low risk).

You need to think about maintaining cashflow each month even when stuff goes bad (job loss, car breakdown, mom struggles with her part of the bills, house needs new roof/furnace/water heater, etc.).  Once you have several months' cash buffer, you can then figure out the next step. 

What is the interest rate on your student loans??

She’s spending $75 more

zoe2dot

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 103
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #11 on: February 04, 2019, 08:16:42 AM »
Welcome to the fray, @WellBehavedWallet !

I work in NENJ and it is expensive.  I saved a lot of money and time by clustering all my errands.  Hair cuts, gym, groceries all bundled together – no solo trips.  It’s the money on gas but it is also the time.

Side hustle – is that the music lessons?  How much do you charge, how many clients, how to get more etc.
If you are working full time, commuting and trying to have any kind of social life you may not have the bandwidth for “forward movement” here.    Job change for a raise might hold more promise; I’ll defer to others here.

Track down the IRA info and post here (amount, who it is with)

“Savings at present = $1000” - everyone will want to know if this is in a high yield savings account like CIT or Ally; is this different than the $200/month you put into “immediate savings”? 

Do the math to figure out how much you need to survive in an emergency month.
This math is a bit different than your monthly budget b/c if you lose your job you are not going to be eating out, driving around as much.

Then ask yourself how long it would realistically take to get a new job.  1.5 months? 3 months? 6 months?
Use that to figure out how much you need in your emergency fund.

So you will have two numbers: your monthly budget # and your emergency fund #. 

Make a list of steps you need to take.

Housing – wow $1,000 is a lot.  Granted, you cannot afford a to buy a house right now.  Owning is a lot more than just a mortgage.  You are also so young to be tied down with a mortgage in one of the most expensive places to live in the NE.  Property taxes will kill you in NJ.  But for that price you can get a lot in a roommate situation; or better yet cut that in half and move closer to your job so you 1) spend less time commuting, 2) spend less on gas (& maybe tolls) and 3) stop bankrupting yourself paying off your mom’s mortgage.  Is there any reason your mom cannot sell the house now? 

Tithe – it’s easy for me to say ditch this and donate your time instead but I know it is important to some people.  You should consider telling your pastor that you are getting ready for some big changes financially and that for the next six months you will volunteer instead of donating money.  If they kick you out or don’t handle it with grace you can evaluate if that’s the relationship you need with God.   

Utilities -- $300 a month – please clarify if that is half and then break down what exactly this includes, with exact amounts.  Do you have internet, Amazon Prime, HBOGo, Showtime, Netflix and Redbox all hiding in here?

Seasonal housing costs – ANOTHER $200 A MONTH???  What kind of palace do you two live in??  See if you can cut this down; post exactly what this is for.

Student loan – what is interest rate? who is the lender?

Phone – you will not die if you switch to Cricket or one of the other low cost carries.  You might think you will die but you will not die.

Gym – not bad.  How far is the drive from work and/or your house?  There a few, right?  Are you going to the one that makes the most sense drive-wise? 

Groceries – omg I feel you.  When I posted my case study I put $400 and my jaw still hurts from the face punches.  I’m a single person and after a year my new average is $100/month on groceries. 

Gas – hmm…post more about how you use so much gas.  Guessing you live far from office, commute all over the pace for your errands, music lessons, friends etc and that this could be cut down if you were able to bundle your errands. 

Personal care – I’d like to see more details.  Nails? Hair cuts?  Hair coloring?  Massages?  What are you spending this money on? 
 
Transportation – is this what you are spending a month or an estimate on future costs like repairs.  Consider putting the REAL number here and start a separate list of sinking funds for repairs, registration, tires etc.

Food out – you are allowed a social life you just can’t afford it right now.  I’m not going to be too harsh on this line item but this needs to be viewed as a major perk rather than something you deserve.   Best I can ask is that you bundle this stuff in with other errands/car time so that you aren’t racking up more miles/gas costs to spend money with your friends.

Additional – ah, good old miscellaneous.  Break this out.  Insurance (car? health?); medical (preventative, prescriptions?), outings (wait on TOP of the $75/month??)

Missing: travel, pets, internet (guessing in with utilities), laundry, so many other things.  Clothing? Credit card?

=====

Please update these items and then we’ll all circle back with more suggestions. 
I found it very helpful to create a numbered to do list when I did my case study so that I wouldn’t lose track of all the suggestions.

I found it helpful to make a list then just cross things off as I got them done. 
E.g. from my case study:
1. Immediately move cash from checking to savings.
2. Investigate money market account
3. Look for cheaper phone plan
4. Google home waxing (ruled it out)
5. Think about storing activity gear in my home vs storage unit
6. Think about moving to a job on my side of the river
7. Save September grocery receipts for analysis of purchases
8. Read investment order link
9. Re-read posts about IRAs


« Last Edit: February 04, 2019, 08:19:36 AM by zoe2dot »

WellBehavedWallet

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2019, 04:24:26 PM »
Just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who has responded so far!
My word, I guess I should have known what I was getting into when I posted my details...

It's always helpful to have another perspective on a situation. I know that sometimes I can get so caught up in the details and the emotional experience that I forget to be rational and practical.

I'm aiming to come back in to respond to the most pertinent suggestions...
(To whoever suggested a $3 monthly personal care budget... Oh, my word, that's adorable! I agree that I definitely don't skimp, but wowza... $3 is another level.)

But completely agree that there are potentially areas where I can cut back.   

Thanks again to everyone!

SunnyDays

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 256
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #13 on: February 04, 2019, 08:23:31 PM »
Wait, you pay for a gym membership every month, drive there, and then pay someone to do the yard work?  Unless this is a condo and you have to pay monthly fees, stop going to the gym and do your own yard work.  Immediate savings of $230 per month plus whatever you spend on gas to get there.  When you move, find a place that's walking or biking distance from work for more exercise.  By the way, recommended percentage for housing is no more than 35% of take home pay. 

WellBehavedWallet

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2019, 09:30:23 PM »
Hello everyone - Another huge thank you to everyone who took the time to post. My word, I really didn't know what i was getting into, but I realize that this is a whole other level of "frugal living".

My student loan interest is 2.32%, which is why I haven't been super motivated to knock it out.
I can DEFINITELY stand to build up my savings. Everything is in a Capital One account and it's not enough to sustain me in any type of emergency.

I'm thankful for all the feedback/input.

Here are my Action Steps: 

1. Track down and tally up how much I have in retirement accounts!
(I know I have about $4k in an old 401(k) that rolled over into an IRA... Potentially some others as well.)
2. Groceries - even though the USDA recommends $50 per person per week, I realize that people on this forum probably keep to half that.
I am cooking for two, so I think that i'm doing OK at $200, but that said, there's always room to trim a little more and every little thing adds up.
I will make a commitment to more intentional with spending (try to keep to appx $160 if possible)
3. Gas - Research cutting down travel (there is a difference between $100 and $150…)
4. Research cheaper phone plans
5. Build up savings!
6. Think about buying a lawnmower and mowing own grass
7. Research possibility of adding a renter for additional income
 
Thanks again, and I'll aim to post back with an update soon!

ATR

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 30
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #15 on: February 11, 2019, 09:59:46 AM »
PTF

Linda_Norway

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4142
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2019, 06:13:35 AM »
Hello everyone - Another huge thank you to everyone who took the time to post. My word, I really didn't know what i was getting into, but I realize that this is a whole other level of "frugal living".

My student loan interest is 2.32%, which is why I haven't been super motivated to knock it out.
I can DEFINITELY stand to build up my savings. Everything is in a Capital One account and it's not enough to sustain me in any type of emergency.

I'm thankful for all the feedback/input.

Here are my Action Steps: 

1. Track down and tally up how much I have in retirement accounts!
(I know I have about $4k in an old 401(k) that rolled over into an IRA... Potentially some others as well.)
2. Groceries - even though the USDA recommends $50 per person per week, I realize that people on this forum probably keep to half that.
I am cooking for two, so I think that i'm doing OK at $200, but that said, there's always room to trim a little more and every little thing adds up.
I will make a commitment to more intentional with spending (try to keep to appx $160 if possible)
3. Gas - Research cutting down travel (there is a difference between $100 and $150…)
4. Research cheaper phone plans
5. Build up savings!
6. Think about buying a lawnmower and mowing own grass
7. Research possibility of adding a renter for additional income
 
Thanks again, and I'll aim to post back with an update soon!

The interest on your student loan is not an emergency.

If you cook for two, your mother? should pay her half of the groceries. The same way you are paying for the mortgage.

What I have heard from a financial postcast, is that if you want to share housing costs while 1 person owns the home, the not-owner should only pay half of the mortgage interest. Don't pay half of the downpayment on the mortgage. That will only benefit the holder of the mortgage. I think you should sit down with your mother, look at all the numbers of what the house costs. Look at what really are the running costs, including food, and dividing that by two. You should not be paying more than your fair share.

Definitely buy an old, second hand hand-mower and mowe your own grass. Maybe you can find one for free? Don't spend a lot of money on this, as you will be moving out soon. Your mother should pay half of it.

Yes to the renter.

Can you give music lessons at your current house, so that you don't have to drive? The customer could visit you instead.

leavesofgrass

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 33
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2019, 09:12:09 AM »
If you're in the red about ~$75/mo., you're heading in the opposite direction of FIRE.

If you can't increase your income, which is the easiest way to get things moving in the right direction, you should at least reduce your tithing for now. As others have said, this is a real financial emergency for you. You're slowly drowning.

Does your current job offer a 401k? If so, I think you should start taking advantage of that ASAP.


Laura33

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 2193
  • Location: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Mid 30s, F - $15k student loan - Heading towards FIRE - Advice Welcome!
« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2019, 12:01:30 PM »
First, you list $200 in "immediate savings."  Is that building up an EF, or is that like a sinking fund where you pile money up for when larger expenses hit down the line?  If it is true "savings" -- that is, an EF -- then you are at least operating in the black (spending $125 less than you bring in from your day job) -- so you're not making a lot of progress, but you're not falling further behind (at least until a crisis hits).  If it is a sinking fund (like for that replacement vehicle), then you are in the red, and are falling further and further behind each month.

Second:  your student loans are not your highest priority.  At that low interest rate, it is in your best interest to let those puppies ride as long as you can. 

But that doesn't mean you're ok; as is right now, you're on the "retire never" plan.  If you want to make some progress, you have to make some hard decisions -- meaning, make serious cuts to your budget, build up your accessible cash for pending costs (e.g., moving costs, apartment security deposit when you move), and put some money into whatever 401(k)/IRA options you have.*

I think you have a lot of great suggestions above.  But I want to double down on a few of these.

"Other" home expenses.  You can't afford to pay someone to mow your lawn or shovel your snow or pull your weeds -- take that on yourself. 

Same with personal care -- I agree $3 is low, but now is the time to stretch whatever you have as long as you can (half-used bottles of shampoo you decided you didn't like, using up makeup that you decided wasn't quite the right color, etc.), to switch to generic/cheap options, and to skip/postpone anything that isn't necessary. 

Car:  you have a cheap car, which is great, but your gas is very high.  Are you living in an area that requires you to hop in the car to get everywhere?  Or have you just built that habit?  If the former, keep that in mind when you move and build a new life that allows you to walk/bike for as many errands as possible.  If the latter, start walking/biking now.  And can you do other things, like shop around for cheaper insurance, drop comprehensive coverage if you still have it, etc.?

Gym:  sounds good and healthy at $30/mo, but you don't have $30/mo.  Run, bike, buy a cheap set of weights, etc.

Your situation bothers me, because you are making a decent salary, but you are in an expensive area, and you have built a lifestyle that probably feels limited to you but still uses up all of your available income, and so here you are in your mid-30s, out of college for what, a decade, and you still have a negative net worth and no chance of retiring unless you're willing to live on whatever SS will pay out in 35+ years.  It just seems like you are running running running so damn hard to stand still. 

It's time to re-think everything.  Look at every single one of your choices -- in particular the ones you take for granted, like living in a certain area, or owning a car, or getting your hair cut every X weeks.  What can you do for free?  What can you find that is cheaper?  And are you really spending your time in the most productive way?  E.g., if you are scrambling to make a few bucks on music lessons, but have to pay for extra gas to get there and then hire someone to mow the lawn and eat takeout for lunch because you don't have time/energy left to mow/cook yourself, you might be better off focusing on your day job and learning how to exercise your frugal/DIY muscles in your spare time. 

Also, check what is coming out of your paycheck -- your net seems pretty low given your gross salary.  Maybe your withholding is too high, maybe you've signed up for work benefits you don't need (e.g., life insurance), etc. 

I know this feels like a lot of effort to save a few bucks here, a few bucks there.  And when you're so tired from running everywhere to make ends meet, you feel like you maybe deserve some takeout on a Thursday because you're working so hard.  But as MMM has been known to point out, millionaires are made $10 at a time.  You are so close to the edge right now that even a few bucks here or there would make a world of difference -- and likely help you breathe easier, too.  You can do this. 

*Possible added benefit:  if your AGI is below a certain figure, you would be eligible to get a saver's credit -- worth looking into that, because it's free money.