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January 2018 Debt Repayment

January 26, 2018
AUTHOR: Emilie
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Welcome to January’s debt repayment update where I share with you the real numbers and the progress I’ve made over the last month in paying down debt, investing for retirement, and growing my net worth. If you’re new around these parts, thanks for joining me and my part of the web. You might be curious as to why I’d want to share all these real numbers on the blog. You can simply skip to the next section if you’re not new.

Reality kicked in soon after I started college. I tried to build my first budget and found that what I wanted to be able to spend was nearly twice what my monthly income was! Eventually I not only figured out how to start budgeting but also discovered a deep passion for personal finance. If you’re interested in learning more about getting started with your finances, I’ve got the ultimate How to Budget guide for you!

In real numbers, I shared my first debt update in January 2016 when I had $22,128.93 in student loans, starter loans, and credit cards. While I made a lot of progress on my debt over the next ten months, things changed in November 2016 when I bought a car. In January 2017 when all the dust settled, I found myself at $32315.69 in debt, almost $16K of which was the new-to-me car. I ended that year at $17444.89 in debt, totally credit card debt free with just my car loan and one remaining student loan.

I should remind you that I’m not a fan of “gazelle intensity.” There’s a time in your life when it’s possible to travel and, for me, that time is now. In the same year that I paid off nearly $15K of debt, I spent 3 weeks in Brasil, 3 weeks traveling through France, Spain, and Portugal, and took multiple domestic trips, visiting Nashville, Dallas, Orlando, New York, Savannah, Newark, Greenville, Charleston, and many other cities along the way. I have been focused on paying down my debt but not at the cost of living now.

I try to be as transparent as possible in both my successes and failures. I’m not trying to paint a rosy, unrealistic picture. I’m sharing what it’s really like to be working to pay off debt.

January 2018
December January Change Percent Change
Car Loan (USAA) 13036.89 12819.28 217.61 1.67%
ECSI 4408.00 0 4408 100%
Combined Debt 17444.89 12819.28 4625.61 26.52%
Traditional IRA 1722.23 1810.17 +87.94 5.11%
Roth IRA 9079.01 9575.83 +496.82 5.47%
Combined Retirement 10801.24 11386.00 +584.76 5.41%
Not-an-accurate-net-worth   -6643.65 -1433.28 +1162.88 14.90%
Car Value 13324 13035
Still-not-an-accurate-net-worth 6680.35 11601.72 4921.37 73.67%

The Student Loan (ECSI)

Please, friends, join me in doing a happy dance! Goodbye student loan 👋

It took me four years to graduated from college, but only 2.5 to pay off these student loans. Boy does it feel good! I have been wanting to have this loan gone since it hit the 5K mark. It felt so close I could taste it!

Finally, I have that student loan gone!

My 2015 Honda Civic LX in November 2016

The Car

I mentioned last month that there were going to be some car updates that I wasn’t ready to share yet. I’m ready to share now.

On December 15, I was in a car accident. A woman who was driving without insurance failed to yield at a light. Even though I slammed on the brakes and tried to swerve out of the way, I hit her going 50 MPH. Luckily, no one was seriously hurt. She was named 100% at fault for the accident (which even she admitted to the police officer who took the report).

After this whole experience, I am extremely grateful for my insurance company USAA. By December 16, I was in a rental car. After some back and forth between the collision center and the insurance company, this month the car was named totalled. In a luck of bad timing, the car was declared totalled on a Monday- that Friday I had to travel up North for work thing. My rental car expired that Saturday. Unfortunately, that put me in a bit of a time crunch but, I’m happy to report, it all worked out!

At the end of last month, my car loan balance was $13,036.89. I initially considered replacing this car with a much lower tier car, costing six to seven thousand dollars I’d pay in cash. After a lot of shopping and market research, I learned that nearly 50,000 used cars were pulled off the market early in the southeastern United States by individuals replacing vehicles damaged by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey. Instead, I decided what made the most sense was to make the car replacement a wash. I decided that $12,800 off-the-lot was the top of my budget.

That Wednesday, I replaced my totalled 2015 Certified Pre-Owned Honda Civic LX in Space Grey with 27 thousand miles (originally purchased with 15 thousand miles) with a new-to-me 2013 Certified Pre-Owned Honda Civic LX in Space Grey with 25 thousand miles. Yes, you read that correctly- I bought a slightly older car with less miles. The car is even the same color! If I didn’t tell you I got a new car, you wouldn’t even know!

My New-To-Me 2013 Certified Pre-Owned Honda Civic LX

Of course, getting into a car accident (on our anniversary of all days!) is a pain and a headache and a half in itself. I’m walking away from this accident, though, absolutely whole. Other than the $100 deductible I had to pay for this being an uninsured motorist claim, I haven’t spent any money and was never without a car. I feel like my car was very fairly valued by USAA. After they pay off the balance of the loan, I’ll be walking away with a check that will be going towards our wedding fund. My car loan is just as much as it was before the accident, and the car is a solid quality.

The money that I was considering using to pay a less expensive car, instead paid off my student loan, putting me in great shape!

I am very happy with how USAA handled my whole claim process and am pretty pleased with how I’ve come out of this whole situation. The prospect of being debt-free this year, even with the wedding, is preeeeeetty exciting.

A quick shout out to Lyn Salmonson who sold me both of my cars at Bryan Honda in Fayetteville. Buying a car as a woman who doesn’t know much about cars can feel overwhelming. Lyn never made me feel pressured, went above and beyond to help me find the car for me that was in my budget, and was an all around rockstar. I strongly recommend him if you’re looking for a car in Fayetteville!


A little thing happened this month that makes a big difference- we hit a new thousand number. Watching that 10K break 11K is such a small thing,- the numbers only grew $500 this month but breaking a new thousand digit is a milestone. As part of my 101 in 1001 (#16), I would like to see my retirement accounts hit 20K. Now, I’m 55% of the way there!

During the car saga I explained above, it would have been easy to throw away all my progress and just buy a new car. To be honest, though, these numbers are what keep me motivated. Right now, I pay $288 towards my car payment and have been paying at least $300 towards my student loan per month. When those are done, that is less than I would need to contribute to max out my Roth IRA every month. If that prospect isn’t motivating, I don’t know what is!

If you’d like to get starting investing in retirement (or just investing), I suggest getting started with a roboadvisor like Betterment. I keep my retirement accounts invested in Betterment and I’ve made it super easy for you to get started too!


First, I want to mention that the hyperlinked car value from KBB has been updated to reflect my new car.

Second, WHAT A SWING. This is absolutely because of the massive chunk gone from my student loan balance, but WOW! My net worth broke $10K! I have no idea what my net worth was when I decided to start paying off my debt. I can’t imagine what it was, but two years ago I never would have guessed this is where I’d be right now.

Looking Forward

In case you can’t tell, I’m extremely happy with how January went. This was a big month in a lot of ways, not the least of which was the huge financial progress that was made. I have very ambitious financial goals this year and I cannot wait to hit them!

I have a trip to Nashville scheduled for one weekend in February, where I’ll be attending a technical conference with some former colleagues. With a looming PCS, I have a feeling we’ll be spending the long President’s Day Weekend visiting what will be our new home- hopefully we’ll have more/final details in the next two weeks!

I’m hoping that otherwise this can be a quieter month as we start to finalize the wedding expenses. We’re pretty close to funding our wedding completely, which is exciting and only fuels my interest in being debt-free focused. How cool would is be if I were debt-free by or wedding (or at least how close could I get?!). A challenge I’ve definitely accepted.

Celebrate with me in the comments please! Let me know how you did this month!

How did your money do this month?

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