Debt Free!

Last month, I made one last big payment on my car loan and one last big payment on my student loan. Which means… I’m debt-free!!

Paying off all my loans was my biggest goal after I graduated college (besides finding a job, obviously). Not quite knowing what our combined income would look like, I had a hope that Andrew and I could pay off our loans in about a year and a half. We beat that goal by almost a full year!

Andrew thankfully didn’t have any school loans so that was a big relief, but he still had a small loan for his car, so we started there. We paid off his car fairly quickly and by the end of last summer we started working on my student loans.

I graduated with under $10,000 in loans, which I was pretty proud of. I had several scholarships that helped with my tuition, but I also went to a state school which is cheaper. Additionally, I always made sure to at least pay the interest that was accruing each month so that my loans weren’t growing, but usually I paid more. I tried to pay between $50 or $100 each month, but if I had an extra pay check or received some money as a gift (or from tax returns) I would use that towards my loans as well.

I think we were able to pay off all our loans so quickly because we’ve always been mindful of our money. I wouldn’t consider us well-off by any means; we both currently have entry level jobs, but we have both worked as hard as we could right from the beginning. Andrew worked 50-hour weeks as a manager during college – in addition to his double degree – and I always worked part-time in addition to my schooling. My junior year, I even worked two jobs in addition to school full-time (which was absolutely miserable and I entirely do not recommend). I worked less than that my senior year because I learned my lesson, and also just made a bit more at my internship.

That’s not to say that all of our work didn’t come with a price. Andrew and I made a lot of sacrifices to work as much as we did. I wouldn’t say either of us had a typical college experience; I wasn’t as involved as I could have been and instead of going out on the weekends, I was working. I know that to some people, what we did wouldn’t be worth it, and that’s okay. Not  everyone’s situations are the same and not everyone’s goals are the same. My goal has always been to pay off my loans as fast as I can so that we could be financially sound, and that comes with sacrifices.

All that being said, it feels good to look back and see how far we’ve worked and to see it now, literally, pay off. Right now we are just saving that extra money we’re not spending on loans for future big purchases, like a house or a new car for Andrew, and tucking more away into our 401k.

I know that being debt free will be a temporary state for us once we get tied down into a mortgage, but I’m definitely savoring it while it lasts!

January 2017 Reading Recap

The first reading recap of 2017 is here! Yay!

Not a bad start to the year, either. I read 8 books this month, though about half of them have been easy re-reads. I’m still glad to be off to a strong start and to give myself a little padding for later in the year when I inevitably slack off, haha. I am 15% done with my annual challenge of reading 52 books in a year!

Feel free to friend me on Goodreads to see all the books I’ve read and to follow my progress!

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – 3/5 stars

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest TrailAt 26, Cheryl is at a quarter-life crisis. Her mother just died, she recently got a divorce, and she has no money and no plans. On a whim, she decides to hike the Pacific Coast Trail, a trail 2,650 miles long that spans from Mexico to Canada. Cheryl has no experience or knowledge of backpacking or hiking or climbing mountains, but she goes.

I really had a hard time determining whether I liked this book or not. I loved Cheryl’s sheer will and tenacity to go on this crazy adventure even though she’s clearly out of her league, and I really enjoyed learning all the basics of hiking alongside her. It was amazing to see her put everything she needs to survive in one large backpack (and have to carry it!), how she purified her water, how she slept at night and protected her food. All the aspects of the book that pertained to her hike fascinated me because I don’t have hardly any prior knowledge. I’m a newb, too.

The part I had trouble with was her. I understand it’s necessary to include the background of her life which led up to her decision of why she wanted to hike the trail in the first place, but she was so annoying. She made poor life decisions for no apparent reason at all, and then she complained and wondered how she got into those situations in the first place. It was also a little mind-boggling how very little she prepared for the trip. She didn’t research any farther than her nearest REI store and when she got into these horrible life-and-death situations – like where she didn’t bring enough water on a stretch of the trail because she didn’t want to carry it and almost died of dehydration- I just wanted to yell, “What did you expect???” So while I admired her tenacity and spontaneity, she was also incredibly stupid.

I didn’t really come away from this book with a completely new outlook on life, but it was an interesting read. I think it’s worth reading, but I didn’t live up to all the hype.

Little House on the Prairie (Books #1-4) by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House in the Big Woods – 5/5 stars | Little House on the Prairie – 5/5 stars | Farmer Boy – 4/5 stars  | On the Banks of Plum Creek – 4/5 stars

2612801These are some of my favorite childhood books. I have a paperback copy of the whole series that are well-worn because I have read them so many times. I still have some books at my mom’s house that I went over to pick up and I found these in that pile. I hadn’t read them in a long time and when I was flipping through, I remembered how much I enjoyed them and wanted to read them again.

I enjoyed them just as much on this read-through as I did when I was younger. Life back in the 1800s is so vastly different than today, so it’s always interesting to read how they did everything by hand and to view it all through Laura’s childlike wonder. Everything is new and exciting, and while they’re written for children, they’re just as enjoyable for adults. There are actually a few things that I’ve caught that I didn’t fully understand when I was younger.

77769For example, Laura’s father tells her and her sister not to slide down the haystack he’s worked to put together. So when he finds the hay scattered all over, no longer in a stack, he asks her if she slid down it again. She answers no, she didn’t slide down it, but she did roll down it. He turns around and she sees his back quivering. I realize now that it’s because he is laughing at her logic, but doesn’t want her to know

My least favorite of these four I read this month are Farmer Boy and Little House on Plum Creek. While I still enjoyed them, they just aren’t my favorites in regards to the story line. I’ve always loved Little House in the Big Woods, the first book in the series, as everything is just normal every day life before they decide to hitch everything up and move west. I’ve got the first four down in the series, now five more to go!

Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiogrophy by Neil Patrick Harris – 4/5 stars

20170296NPH’s autobiography is everything you think it might be: funny, witty, cleverly unique, and entertaining. He styles his autobiography after choose your own ending books, where you can flip to different pages for different endings and storylines. Some were humorous, like the fictitious chapters about fantastical ways that he dies, and some were more realistic chapters about how certain aspects of his life might have played out differently had he made different decisions.

All the hilarity aside, I think NPH did a great job giving an overview of his life, including his struggles and how they shaped the person that he is today. I’ve enjoyed a lot of his work so it was fun to learn more about him and his life. The book is pretty short, so it’s a quick and easy read that I would recommend to any one who is a fan.

Happy reading, everyone! Have you read any good books this year?


© Copyright Rebecca Smith | 2011-2016