A Story About Paying Off Debt and the Obstacles Along the Way

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Fixed Expenses! (So Fun)

This summer so far has been hot (thanks to high temps and no A/C), smoky (thanks to nearby forest fires), busy (thanks to high season at work), and very, very frugal. That last point is thanks in part to our participation in the Frugalwood's July Uber Frugal Month Challenge, which offers daily suggestions for living more thriftily. The challenge came at a good time: instead of losing steam after three months of budgeting and saving, we're more inspired than ever to cut out the excess, pay down debt, and squirrel away what we can. 

Catching a cool breeze (and some bugs) on the lawn

We've been carefully evaluating our budget to see what we can adjust and what we can't do much about. In some cases, items that we treated as immutable are more elastic than we first realized (for instance, we've managed to cut our monthly phone bill by more than $20 by reducing our data plans and taking advantage of a military discount). In other cases, we've had the epiphany that we can just... spend less. Crazy, I know! Case in point: last week we managed to painlessly reduce our grocery expenses from $225 to $200, and I think we can do even better this week.

But then there are other big-ticket expenses that just aren't going to change, at least not in the near future.  These fixed expenses include the following:
  • Rent. We live in a rapidly-growing city with rapidly-inflating housing prices. Compared to the midwestern U.S. - where we paid $500/month for an entire house - rent here is bordering on exorbitant. We shell out $1445/month (up ~$30 from last year) for our two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment. Given its excellent location, beautiful views, and responsive staff, that's reasonable compared to similar rentals in our locale. One frustration: included in the rent is a $35/month pet fee, which we see as completely ridiculous for one lazy feline who destroys nothing but her meals. Nevertheless, she's family, so we deal. 
  • Health insurance. I'm extremely lucky in that my employer offers a comprehensive health insurance package that covers medical and dental for our entire family for $300/month. We've had few health problems, knock on wood, but coworkers who have spent more time at the doctor's office and in the hospital say that it is nothing short of outstanding - especially when compared to what the United States generally serves up in the way of healthcare (I won't get started). 
  • Car payment. We pay $300/month towards our auto loan on our only car, which I am thrilled to say WILL BE PAID OFF by the end of this year! We're crossing our fingers that it will run for the next several years so that we don't have to deal with car payments at all. One reason our current auto expenses are so high is that we made the mistake of purchasing our car new back in 2012. That is never happening again. New was not worth it. Used cars all the way from here on out, and if we can just pay outright, we will do that.
  • Debt repayment. We allocate $1400/month to debt repayment on our student loans and credit cards. That's a hefty percentage of our total income, and yes, it makes me feel slightly sick to throw it at our past mistakes. We could pay a little less on some of our cards, but we're determined to lose this consumer debt within six years (more on our repayment plan in a future post). 
What about you? What are your fixed expenses, and which ones eat up most of your budget? Have you found ways to reduce the cost of your fixed expenses without incurring drastic changes to your living situation?


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