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New Year, Clean Slate

New Year, Clean Slate


And just like that 2020 is over. A year defined by COVID, murder hornets and Tiger King.

What a strange year it’s been.

I can’t say I’m too sad to see 2020 in the rearview (but am I missing a hindsight joke here somewhere?!)

I hope 2021 is all the things 2020 was not. I hope the world returns to normal, I wish health and happiness for everyone.

Most of all for you, my friends, I hope 2021 is the best year yet.

Seriously 2021, please, please, be kind.

Now that the calendar has officially flipped over, it’s time to see how I did with the goals I set for myself at the beginning of 2020 and set some new benchmarks for the new year.

And in typical fashion, things didn’t go as planned.

In case you don’t remember, my 2020 goals were:

1) Get renovation related debt below $5,000. Hm. Ok, so kind of? This one is tricky. The problem is my renovation debt kept ballooning on me so I ultimately decided to refinance my mortgage for a lower rate and combine it all. So not really, but maybe I should get some credit here because I was making good progress when I stopped keeping track of this because the number wasn’t realistic anymore? No? Fine, that’s not how it works. First failed goal.

2) Accumulate savings of $3,000. This one I actually followed through on! As of yesterday, I had $3,500 smackaroos saved amongst my savings and investment account. I’ll be honest, I did so well in this category because I bought some stock right when the pandemic first hit and things plummeted. 

3) Pay off that pesky smaller student loan. So technically I did do this. I paid off my smallest student loan and I paid it off a few years early. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I added more student loan debt along the way. The upside here is that I really think I’m done with student loans (I know I’ve said that in the past but this time I really mean it!)

4) Get my total debt balances below $160,000. Ha! My grand total is currently dangerously close to $185,000. Things didn’t work out the way I had imagined here and my renovation overages certainly didn’t help. But I think I should be on the right track now. But still, this one was a massive failure.

Well, that’s depressing. At least I met my savings goal.

But since I know what went wrong this year, I’m hoping I can learn from my mistakes and meet my goals for this upcoming year.

Again I’m trying to find the balance between pushing myself and setting realistic goals. It’s not easy. After two years of failure I really want to see some results.

Now for the unveiling! Here’s my 2021 list:

1) Accumulate savings of $4,500. Adding $1,000 to my savings might be a little lofty. But I did just that in 2020. I don’t think that capital gains will help me as much this year but it’s time I actually start actively saving.

2) Get my most recent student loan under $1,000. The loan I took out for the Fall semester is hovering around $2,300 right now. I’d like to get it to under $1,000 before the end of the year. 

4) Get my total debt balances below $175,000. I’m not happy that my debt balances are north of $180,000. Paying off nearly $10,000 in debt this year will be a challenge but I’m up for it. I’d really like to see some real progress.

That’s a wrap folks. Another year and another blah attempt at meeting my goals. Hopefully next year I’m writing a much happier version of this post.

But that’s the good thing about the New Year, the slate is clean. There’s another chance to make good on promises.

How’d you do with your 2020 goals? Did the pandemic throw a wrench in your plans? Have you set new goals for 2021? Tell me about them!

Happy New Year!!
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Broke Dolly
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2020 - The Year End Recap

2020 - The Year End Recap


It’s the last day of 2020. Hallelujah, amirite?!

2020 has been an awful, sometimes insufferable, year for everyone. The pandemic has effected us all - I think we’re all ready to move on from the fear, the uncertainty, the isolation, everything.

And on top of it all, it’s been wrecking havoc on folks financially. I’ve been lucky for the most part but it hasn’t been a great year for me. 

Despite my inability to consistently blog, I’ve been at it since the end of 2018. I really can’t believe it’s been two years since I wrote my first monthly progress report on 12/31/18.

Sometimes I’m not the best blogger and I get lax. But I’ve continued to write my monthly progress report every month and track my progress - good and bad. 

I’m happy I’ve stuck with it and I plan to continue doing so. It’s been helpful to see my progress in black and white. It’s encouraged me to slog through at points I’ve felt like it was impossible. 

It’s also helped me realize the importance of effort - sometimes the result isn’t what I’ve hoped for but the fact I’ve tried and continue doing so should count for something. 

In the past, I’ve been too hard on myself for not doing something right the first time. Sometimes it takes a time or two (or five).

With that being said, I think it’s time to look back at the progress I made during 2020. 

If you’d like to check out how I was doing last year at this time, here’s the 2019 Year End Recap.

And for the heck of it: Here's November's progress report.

Ok, I think it’s time to get down to business!

Here's where I stand with my debt:

Mortgage: $170,000
Car Loan: $3,800
Student Loans: $8,950
Credit Cards: $1,850
Grand Total of Debt: $184,600

My student loan balances

That’s $15,300 more than November and $9,300 more than last December. But the good news is those numbers are excluding a renovation fund shortage!

That’s right, it’s time to post this:

Renovation fund requirement: $0
New Grand Total of Debt: $184,600

Ok, so what went wrong? How did I end up with more debt?

Well, my renovations, as you well know by now, went over budget. I refinanced my mortgage to include the overages and closing costs. I also added to my school loans. 

But there is some good news in there too - my car loan is going to be fully paid in the early part of 2022, the end is in sight! And my credit card balances are doing much better than they were this time last year.

One thing is for sure - I’m pretty desperate for that number to go below $180,000. Ugh, it’s just a daunting figure.

I told you 2020 wasn’t a great year for me financially. However now I’m hopeful that I can make some real progress on my debt in 2021.

Moving on to savings:

Savings account: $2,500
P2P Lending account: $150
Investment account: $850
Grand Total of Savings: $3,500

Since November my investment account grew by $100 through market fluctuations.

Overall, my savings has increased $950 this year. It’s not great and it’s mostly due to my investment account but I’m happy with the progress. 

Hey, at least it’s going in the right direction!

For the second year in a row I somehow managed to add to my debt while focusing on paying it down. I’m hoping this time next year I’m telling you a much different story.

I just wanted to close out this post and say that although I’m not happy with how my 2020 turned out, I have no right to complain. I know some people are really struggling financially right now. I know people have lost their jobs, their businesses, their livelihoods. My heart goes out to everyone who has been negatively effected ❤️

It’s time to put 2020 in the books.
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Broke Dolly
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Rates are Low.. Is Now a Good Time to Refinance Your Mortgage?

Rates are Low.. Is Now a Good Time to Refinance Your Mortgage?


Something has been on my mind lately - interest rates.

Once upon a time I worked in mortgage lending and every now and then I’m asked by a friend or acquaintance what I think about the current rate environment and if now is a good time to refinance.

It sure seems like it might be. But a lower interest rate isn’t the sole reason to refinance. And even if the rate is lower it may still not make much sense.

But we’re being bombarded with the lower rates message. Every time I open the Apple News app I seem to be told mortgage rates are lower than they’ve ever been.

Mortgage interest rates have fallen to historic lows. Rates for a 30 year fixed rate loan are at 2.67% while a 15 year fixed rate is 2.21%. 

A 30 year loan is under 3%! That’s just crazy to me. I’m not ancient or anything but my first mortgage was 5.125%. And I thought that was a great rate.

With my current rate being a little over 4% I decided to start looking into refinancing in October. A few weeks ago I closed on my brand spanking new mortgage (ugh). 

Admittedly, my motivation was not solely based on the rate environment. I’m in the midst on a large (seemingly never ending) renovation and wanted to take advantage of the low rates and a little equity.

Since rates seem to be plummeting, the pandemic is raging on and economic uncertainty seems to be very likely in the near future, it made me stop and think - when should someone really refinance their home to take advantage of a better interest rate?

First, let’s take a look at the reasons you might want to refinance:

1) To lower your monthly payment - refinancing with a lower interest rate or longer term can reduce your monthly payment and make in more manageable.

Contact a lender to see what your options are. I shopped around for the best rate and was surprised to see not only the differences in rates but also the differences in closing costs.

2) To pay less interest over the life of the loan - refinancing with a lower interest rate can save you money by reducing the total amount of money you’ll pay in interest over time.

3) To shorten your loan term - if you’ve been paying your mortgage for a while or if rates fall low enough, refinancing your 30 year loan down to a shorter term may keep the payment manageable while also taking years off the life of your loan.

Just to drive this point home - a $100,000 30 year mortgage at 3% leaves you with a principal and interest payment of $421.60. If you shorten the term to 15 years (I left the rate at 3% for simplicity but presumably your rate would be lower for a shorter term), your P&I payment $690.58.

So yes, your payment will be about $270 higher but you’ll pay your loan off 15 years earlier. That would be the difference between 61 and 46 to me. 46 sure would be a nice age to be mortgage free by!

4) To tap into equity - if your house has appreciated in value or you’ve been paying down your mortgage for some time, refinancing could give you access to some cash.

Maybe you’re like me and thought a giant renovation while the economy teeters and unemployment is scary high is a good time to spruce up your home? Before you think I’m terribly irresponsible and stop reading, I decided to do said sprucing in 2018! (Yep, I definitely added that last bit to convince myself I’m not totally irresponsible. Sometimes a girl needs a little pep talk.)

Now, let’s take a look at when at when it might be a good idea to refinance:

1) You can save lower your interest rate by 1%. Here’s a good old rule of thumb. I don’t know who determined the 1% benchmark but when I mentioned to my dad I was thinking about refinancing he asked me right away if the rate was at least 1% better. 

I didn’t know this was a hard and fast rule until I did some more research on the topic and kept seeing 1% pop up

2) You’re planning on staying long term. It makes no sense to refinance if you’re planning on putting a for sale sign in the front yard tomorrow. 

You’ll want to make sure you plan to stay in the house long enough that your savings on your payment is sufficient to recoup the cost of refinancing.

3) You’re ready to ditch the adjustable rate. Ok, I’ve worked in lending and I understand why folks get adjustable rate mortgages but I’m a risk adverse chicken. Refinancing to a fixed rate mortgage when rates are low takes away the uncertainty of rate resets.

4) You’ve cleaned up your credit. Listen I get it, ish happens and you fall behind or you simply forget to make a payment or two, then your credit score takes a hit. It happens to the best of us. But things have been going well and your score has been creeping up. Now might be the time to refinance and take advantage of a better rate.

5) You can eliminate PMI. If you’re currently paying private mortgage insurance but you believe your home has appreciated in value you may be able to refinance and kiss PMI goodbye.

Unfortunately, if you’ve only been in your home for a short time this may not be an option. Many loans have a seasoning requirement that makes you wait two years before you can refinance to get rid of PMI.

I’m certainly not an expert and I recommend you talk to someone who is if you’re thinking about refinancing. But I hope that this list helps you decide if refinancing may be a good option for you.

I understand the idea of refinancing can be a bit daunting but remember to weigh the pros and cons. 

Does it really make economic sense? Will the money you save make up for the money you need to lay out for closing costs? How long until you’ll actually realize the savings?

In the end I was able to lower my interest rate and monthly payment while also taking some cash out for my renovations. Which significantly lowered my stress levels. 

Why did no one warn me that renovations can be so dang stressful?! Did they and I just didn’t listen? I’m not sure, but I’m counting down the days until I’m done.

Whether or not you decide refinancing is right for you, I wish you the best of luck.

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Broke Dolly
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Monthly Progress Report #23

Monthly Progress Report #23



Oh my goodness, it’s December. We’re past Thanksgiving and BAM! it’s now the holiday season.


You know what really brought that home for me? Christmas music in the grocery store.

It’s been a weird year. I’m still working from home. I didn’t go Black Friday shopping. I shop for Christmas gifts throughout the year. Like I knew it was coming but it seems so very abstract to me.

So yeah I knew Christmas was nearing closer as I planned on putting the tree up and pinning down the perfect date to bake cookies but the grocery store Christmas music is what really made me think... holy $&!@ it’s Christmas time!!

And I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself, I have everyone on my list done but my mother and my grandmother. But I know what I’m going to get them for the last few things so I’m relatively stress free!

It’s a good feeling. First because not knowing what to get someone as a gift stresses me right out. Secondly, the money that Christmas costs stresses me out. No matter what I do and how good I do during the year my credit card balances always seem to be a bit high this time of year.

I’m not complaining about the money. I love giving gifts. Especially when I know I nailed it and the person is going to love it. 

Talking about money seems like a good segue to get into the nitty gritty of my debt doesn't it?

I certainly don't have many opportunities to use the term segue. What a fun word though!

Maybe you’d like to catch up with all my going ons by taking a look at last month’s progress report?
 
All good? Ok, here we go!

Let’s take a look at my debt:

Mortgage: $145,000
Car Loan: $4,100
Student Loans: $9,200
Credit Cards: $2,700
Grand Total of Debt: $161,000

My student loan balances
 
Including my renovation fund:

Renovation fund requirement: $8,300
New Grand Total of Debt: $169,300

That’s a $550 reduction from last month. Meh. Not great.

As you see my renovation fund has remained unchanged. Work has continued and so have cost overruns. But man does everything look so dang amazing. I can’t even be too mad because ultimately the overruns have resulted in amazing results. 

And as I told you last month, I’m planning on refinancing to get a lower interest rate so we’ll see how things play out with that.

So for now I’ll keep the renovation fund unchanged.

Moving on to savings:

Savings account: $2,500
P2P Lending account: $150
Investment account: $750
Grand Total of Savings: $3,400

My investment account increased $100 due to market fluctuations.

I’m really looking forward to a time where I’m done with renovations and all the stress that comes along with them and I can add more to my savings.

One day. 
 
Hopefully sooner rather than later.

How’s everyone else making out with their holiday shopping? Anyone already done and wrapped? Those are the folks I’m always a bit envious of. I mean, who has it all that together?! I’ll be wrapping presents until at least the week of!

I hope everyone has a safe and healthy holiday season. 

As always -

Remember, we will get through this ❤️

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Broke Dolly
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Monthly Progress Report #22

Monthly Progress Report #22



And once again I’m a day late and a dollar short. Honestly I somehow totally forgot yesterday was the last day of October. So I’m once more posting my progress report a little late.

Maybe one day I’ll get my act together.

Probably not. But maybe.

October has honestly been a pretty rough month and I’m glad it’s over. 

We had to put one of our beloved dogs to sleep. She was 14 and a half and unfortunately it was becoming more and more obvious her time was coming - she was completely deaf, her hips were going, her joints ached, accidents were becoming more frequent. But all of that comes with the territory. 

Then all of a sudden we woke up in the middle of the night and she was gasping for air. She was a fighter until the end.

This is the dog I’ve had my entire adult life - she’s been with me through everything. The big birthdays, promotions, the death of loved ones, buying a house, a marriage, a divorce. Everything. 

I’m going to miss her like crazy.

The worse thing about having a dog is having to make that choice. I thought I’ve been prepared for a while now that it was coming but there’s really no preparing.

Ok enough sad news. 

If you’d like maybe you want to check out last month’s progress report.
 
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty. 

Let’s take a look at my debt:

Mortgage: $145,200
Car Loan: $4,300
Student Loans: $9,250
Credit Cards: $2,800
Grand Total of Debt: $161,550

My student loan balances

Including my renovation fund:

Renovation fund requirement: $8,300
New Grand Total of Debt: $169,850

Overall, I increased my debt by $2,500.

So you might have noticed two things. 1) I added another student loan and 2) My renovation fund is unchanged

I told you last month I was thinking about taking out another student loan. I ultimately decided to do so because this has been a crazy year and if year end bonuses don’t happen I didn’t want to dig myself a hole.

As for the renovation fund, cost overruns have happened and that number is probably a bit higher than that. But since I’m looking into refinancing with the crazy low interest rate environment we’re in, for now I just decided to leave it as unchanged. 

But since I’ve been talking about it forever and haven’t so much as offered any details. How about I give you a sneak peek of a little project that’s been done?


That’s our old front walk on the left versus the new front walk on the right. The disintegrating, weedy mess of bricks I called a walkway for many years was replaced with beautiful bluestone. 

Shout out to my dad for going through the bluestone piles to find the ones with the most character for me. He didn’t get why I cared about character but he killed it.

Now, let's take a look at my savings:

Savings account: $2,500
P2P Lending account: $150
Investment account: $650
Grand Total of Savings: $3,300

I gained $50 over the month after having to shift some money from my P2P lending account to the stock market. Unfortunately, Lending Club is retiring their notes platform as of December 31, 2020.

I’ll be sad to see them go. I never put much money into my Lending Club account but I always reinvested my principal and interest and enjoyed picking out new loans to invest in over the years.


How was everyone’s Halloween? Unfortunately I didn’t have any trick or treaters but one of the neighbors set up a haunted house for the kids and did a surprisingly good job encouraging social distancing and pandemic safe fun. It was truly great to see.

And I got to see all my friends cuties dressed up on Facebook. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to see them in person!

And one more thing - vote, vote, VOTE on November 3rd.

As always -

Remember, we will get through this ❤️

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Broke Dolly
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Wendy’s Is Giving Away Chicken Sandwiches!

Wendy’s Is Giving Away Chicken Sandwiches!





Disclosure: This post may contain third party affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link within a post Broke Dolly may earn a small commission which helps support the blog and content (at no cost to you). Please check the disclosure and privacy policy pages for more details. Thank you so much for your kindness and support. 

Hey y’all! I’m here to spread the good news that I stumbled upon deep in my News app yesterday. 

Anyone else read all the Bachelor articles despite never seeing the show?

No? Fine, that’s just me then. 

Listen, I’m not anti-Bachelor (or anti-Bachelorette) or anything but I just never got into it. I prefer my dating shows with Flavor Flav or snarky Englishmen (the American Love Island just doesn’t do it for me either.)

Ok, back to the real reason we’re here - Wendy’s introduced their new Classic Chicken Sandwich this week. It looks yummy with fried chicken, lettuce, tomato, mayo and pickles!

Even more exciting, they’re giving it away for free until November 8th.
 
All you have to do to get your free chicken sandwich is make an additional purchase at a Wendy’s location or on their app.

No biggie, I haven’t been to a Wendy’s and not ordered chicken nuggets in ages. Honestly, probably not ever. 
 

Admittedly, it’s a problem but is there anything better than Wendy’s sweet & sour sauce?

Just a heads up, if you’re planning to head to your local Wendy’s just remember to download the app first, you’ll need a QR code to redeem.

But there’s more good news! 

Customers are limited to one free sandwich a week which means you can double dip on this offer. You have two weeks (counting what’s left of this one!) and two free sandwiches up for the taking.
 
If you go before November 1st, don’t forget to purchase a Boo! Book! Purchasing a Boo Book for $1 gets you 5 free frosty coupons. For every $1 spent on Boo! Books, Wendy’s will donate 85¢ to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption to help children in foster care.

So what are you waiting for? Download the app and get your free Classic Chicken Sandwich! And don’t forget to get extra sweet and sour sauce for those fries or nuggets.
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Broke Dolly
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Monthly Progress Report #21

Monthly Progress Report #21


 Hey y’all! It’s fall!

The leaves are all sorts of pretty shades and starting to fall. My Facebook feed is nothing but folks apple picking in flannel. Ugh - summer is definitely gone.

So much has happened in September - I turned 31 (yeah, still getting used to that).  Kids went back to school. The neighbors closed their pool. 

September also brought about my much needed staycation. I happily binge watched Married at First Sight through the first four seasons (seriously, does anyone do it for the marriage or just the possibility of being on tv?) then switched to Pen15. Which I thought was ridiculously hilarious and was sad to see filming of the second season was delayed due to COVID. 

I even interrupted my binge watching for a bit and went on a mini road trip with my mom to buy second hand pool floats. Because pool floats are ridiculously expensive.

Then I went back to work and have since been trying to catch up! Ha!

And while all that was happening there’s been an awful lot of work going on around the house. And I’ve been super stressed about every little decision and every check written. Honestly, how do people come out of home renovations okay?

Which brings us to the main event. Unless you gotta go pee and grab some popcorn? Or maybe you’d just like to check out last month’s progress report?
 
Ok, now let’s do this!

Let’s take a look at my debt:

Mortgage: $145,500
Car Loan: $4,600
Student Loans: $7,000
Credit Cards: $1,950
Grand Total of Debt: $159,050 

My student loan balances


Including my renovation fund:

Renovation fund requirement: $8,300
New Grand Total of Debt: $167,300

It wasn’t an awful month. My debt went down $850, $1,000 including money I put towards the renovation fund.

But.

There’s always a but isn’t there?

I don’t expect things to look this good for long. I’m expecting my renovations to be more money than I anticipated (that’s even with me padding the initial estimate) and I’m thinking about taking out another student loan. Just as I’m about to be done with one!

Ugh. Finances are frustrating.

But this is the biggest expense I even anticipate going through. And I’m happy to start seeing some real progress. Even if unfortunately some of that progress is things I didn’t anticipate nor budget for. 

Internally I’m freaking the heck out. Externally I think I’m faking it pretty well.

When all the renovations are done and things are back to normal maybe I’ll refinance if the rates are still hovering around the 3% mark. Maybe I’ll look into doing so sooner rather than later.

But for some good news, last month I fully anticipated the majority of the work to stretch on into next year and now I think only a little bit will be left over. 

Yeah, check me out - looking on the bright side!

Now, let's take a look at my savings:

Savings account: $2,500
P2P Lending account: $200
Investment account: $550
Grand Total of Savings: $3,250

Unfortunately nothing to see there.

Anyone have any advice for keeping my sanity through the renovation process? How’d everyone do compared to my their initial estimates? I can’t be the only one who has had some unpleasant surprises along the way.

Please tell me I’m not the only one!

Here’s hoping the next time I talk to you I’m about done with this renovation mess and I’ll have some progress pictures for you!

As always -

Remember, we will get through this ❤️

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Broke Dolly
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