Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Any areas I could improve on?  (Read 2210 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Reader Case Study - Any areas I could improve on?
« on: November 24, 2013, 10:39:29 AM »
Hi all -

It's my birthday, and thus it is time for the "State of the Finances Address."  I'm at the point where I feel like I've trimmed the budget as much as I can without losing my sanity, so it's time for some outside consulting.

I'm 26 (as of today, woo), married, employed full time with no kids.  Spouse is an undergrad (I robbed the cradle a bit), but works part-time as a bike mechanic.  We try to live on my income alone, and I'm working on my Master's part time. 

Question: Is there anything else I can improve on?

~$2200/month from regular job - me
~$300/month from husband @ bike shop (bike mechanic)
~$60/month from coaching Master's swimming @ the Y - me
~$200/month from officiating hs sports, but only 6 months/year - me
~$50/month - babysitting, giving blood for research, etc

Current expenses:
512.70/month - mortgage/taxes
100/month - electric/heat
187/month - HOA/water/sewer/garbage
100/month - car insurance - full coverage for both vehicles
150/month - cc me - gas, license renewals, medical bills, vehicle inspections,
200/month - cc husband - gas, mountain biking trips, bike parts
45/month - internets
125/month - phones
170/month - groceries - I have a massive food allergy to preservatives (EpiPen, anaphylactic shock, the whole nine yards).  We cook probably 90-95% of the time, basically only eating out when both of us have finals and are exhausted.
300/month - savings
320/month - 401k

~28k in 403b - me
~2k in 401k - husband
~17k in investments from bike accident settlement - me
~4k in savings account
~1 2007 Toyota Yaris, a gift for being an RA while at college, 95k miles on it

~63k mortgage on a 2 bedroom condo within 2 blocks of my job - 3.5% interest for a 30 year loan
~10k car loan for a 2012 Subaru Outback - 1.9% interest, 5 year loan.  Currently on schedule to pay off over 18 months early.
~30k federal student loans for husband, currently in deferment while he's still in school.

The car loan was very unMustachian of me, but...we live in Western/Upstate NY, and desperately wanted something with 4 wheel drive.  We also do not have a garage, so we wanted something relatively new that wouldn't require an excessive amount of maintenance.  I walk to work most of the time, and on the rare occasions I drive my job pays my mileage. Husband rides his electric bike to school (5 miles) when there isn't 4 feet of snow on the ground.  His job at the bike shop provides some extra income, but also allows him to employee purchase bike parts for much cheaper.  He's an avid mountain biker, so this is important.
Savings gets depleted at regular intervals to pay for school for the husband, but he is set to graduate December 2014.  He's a chemical engineering major, so the salary prospects for him are much higher than mine.  I'm also on schedule to finish my Master's May 2014, and should receive a reasonable pay increase from that as well. 

Is there anything in this budget that we can reduce, expense-wise? I hate debt, and we are paying down the car loan as fast as reasonably possible.  We've talked about trying to find a cheaper cell phone plan, but haven't seriously looked into it.  The future plan is to use the entirety of the husband's salary to pay down student loans, knock out the car loan, and then pay more on the house, while of course contributing to a 401k.  I feel like virtually everything else is a fixed expense that I have no control over.  Suggestions? Comments? I submit to the tongue lashing.  Thanks for your help!


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Reader Case Study - Any areas I could improve on?
« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2013, 02:02:35 PM »
Do you really need two cars?  Doesn't sound like it to me.  You live two blocks from work -- why do you ever need to drive?  I would sell the Yaris.  That would drop your gas and insurance costs, and you could put whatever you get for the Yaris toward the car loan or student loans, or put it toward a Roth IRA for your spouse.

Change your phones.  No need to pay what you are paying.

Look at your utility usage and see if there are ways to bring it down.  Set the thermostat a little lower, use less water, etc.

$200/month in spending for your DH might be a bit excessive given his low income -- he's pretty much spending more than he makes.  How much is gas and how much the biking stuff?  His job is really more like a hobby.  And you are working side jobs, while also going to school.  Doesn't quite seem fair/balanced to me, and might be worth discussing.  I worked around 30 hours a week while taking a challenging courseload in school, so I'm not all that patient with people who don't do the same.  YMMV.

Overall I'd say you look to be in pretty good shape, though.  Try to avoid taking on more student loan debt if possible.  And look at ways to increase DH's income.  Great to have a job that supports a hobby, but not if it means foregoing other, more lucrative employment that would put him ahead both financially and professionally.


  • Stubble
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Re: Reader Case Study - Any areas I could improve on?
« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2013, 02:39:23 PM »
All good points from lhamo.

Your interest on the car is very low; I wouldn't make this the priority debt to pay off. What is the rate on the SL going to be when your husband graduates?