Life update: job, taxes, and debt (payoff)

Hey, y’all. As you might’ve noticed, I didn’t post on Tuesday. I was in LA enjoying quite a lovely birthday weekend trip and was too busy spending Monday evening at the beach in Malibu to write. Ditto for the previous nights on being too busy. I brought my laptop with me to LA on the off-chance that I’d find some time to write (or spend time on the plane doing so). Nope. Didn’t open it even once, and you know what? That’s fine. That’s called having a life and enjoying my vacation, which was my first visit to California and my second visit to the West Coast.

I got back to DC late last night and I don’t want to write tonight. I don’t have the energy for it and I’ve got things to do like unpacking and cleaning up my room so I can hear myself think in there again. I need to cook so I’ve got food for the rest of this week. I’m tired and I need to go to bed at my normal time to get back to my East Coast schedule instead of staying up late writing. Essentially this evening should be me getting my life back in order, which has been a losing battle these last few chaotic weeks.

I want to be back in LA—sun and beaches and mountains? Yes, please!

Blogging is a labor of love and it’s certainly not sexy; it’s not going to earn me enough money anytime soon to quit my job, or even any money at all. And since I’m not getting paid to do this, I have leeway to not write when I’m on vacation or when I’m having a crappy day, despite the posting schedule I’ve set for myself.

Today has honestly been a pretty crappy day with a hefty dose of post-vacation blues, and that’s absolutely contributing to the feeling that I have nothing to say tonight. But I’m writing. I didn’t want to go the full week without writing, despite wanting to do anything but sit here with a blank Word document. So it’s especially a labor of love tonight.

I’m consciously working to build a life I love, but sometimes I have a day like today, and it’s important to me that I talk about everything as honestly as I can. So, on days like today, when I’ve got nothing else, I’ve at least got enough for a life update post. If you stick around until the end, I’ve got LA pictures for you.

Interminable waiting

On the job front, more waiting. I’ve got an interview at the end of this week for the new position, but the longer I’ve thought about it the less excited I am about the prospect of the overtime that position entails. Right now I get home right at 5:00pm and liberally make use of some of the five hours of lunch break during the week for things that are not lunch, like leaving early on a Friday to drive to NC (or when I just cannot be bothered to stop snoozing my alarm and get to work on time instead of 15 minutes late. But the thing is no one cares right now because I don’t have a direct boss ?‍♀️). Do I want to give up that flexibility and my decently fun side hustle in favor of getting paid overtime (at likely more or less my current salary. I suspect this will be a lateral move, although one with a better title) and for a change of scenery in terms of responsibilities? Honestly I’m not sure I do. And that’s disheartening.

And in the meantime I’ve heard nothing back about my request for a raise/title change for my current position. The interview does not invalidate that request by any means and I’m getting impatient. The second half of my interview is me talking with HR and I don’t know if that’s an appropriate time to bring up that request.

I’ve also known for a while that I’d be moving out of my current office (a newly-created position will be in my office instead) and into another location as a stopgap for when I at some point permanently move to some other desk in some other office in my department at some undecided time, maybe when we figure out what in the hell my position will become. Surprise, that’s happening all of a sudden at some undetermined time on Monday so I have to start cleaning and decluttering my office! Oh yeah, and there’s the fact that I’m interviewing for a different internal position so may be moving desks soon after anyway. All of this is deeply exhausting on top of the exhaustion of an entire year of not really having a position and waiting for this reorganization to happen.

Add in a healthy dose of office politics on my first day back at work after a four-day weekend and I’m beyond done with work right now.


Filed before I left for LA and now I’m waiting on my return! It’s a big one—approximately $1,600. I’m getting almost $400 back from the Feds and about $1,200 from DC.

To be fair, $940 of that DC refund was my Schedule H property tax credit. I’d be getting a fair amount of that back anyway even if I adjusted my withholding and didn’t get much of a refund, although getting paid more each paycheck would eventually shift my numbers so that I potentially wouldn’t be eligible for as much of the Schedule H credit. I’m not going to do the math to figure out where that line is. I enjoy the hell out of getting enough money back so that I more or less only paid 11 months of rent last year, so there’s certainly an argument for leaving my withholding exactly where it is so that my AGI is artificially low.

So then there’s the matter of the additional $600 I’m getting back.

I know and hear the arguments for adjusting my withholding and not getting a refund. I know, and they make sense. But my money situation means I’m chipping away at my goals $100-$200 at a time; it’s fairly slow going. Getting $1,600 at once is an incredible psychological boost, and one I intend to make good use of.

Additionally, I’ve been sending 1/3 of every paycheck I get from my side hustle to a separate savings account for taxes. Perhaps, based on how the numbers work out, I’ll owe money on that for 2018, and that’s why I have that savings account. But for 2017 my second income just reduced my federal refund amount by about $250, so in theory every bit I put aside in 2017 is officially mine, and I can move it from that savings account to do something more useful with. Maybe I’ll send it to my Roth IRA? Stay tuned for what is likely to be an absolutely thrilling decision (I’m absolutely a boring personal finance nerd and that’s just fine with me).

Debt payoff

I’ve got a zero balance on the credit card I’ve carried debt on since I opened it back in 2016. The intro zero interest rate promo expires sometime in March but I don’t have to worry about when that is or risk getting hit with all the accrued interest on my balance. Zero balance, y’all.

I’m down to about $200 left on two other credit cards, which, to be fair, is just spending that’s happened this month. Technically I’m out of debt! But I still want to say I have it all completely paid off. At this point I’m just playing a game of trying to reach a total zero balance by juggling the fact that I’m still putting things like groceries on my cards and that it takes a few days for the payment process (so annoying! Why can’t my money magically be moved from my checking account to my credit cards right away?). But one way or another I’m going to accomplish a zero balance screenshot by the end of the month, even if it means prepaying for purchases that are still pending.

This means I don’t have to use much or even any of my tax refund for paying off my credit card debt. That feels AMAZING. I did pull about $500 out of my emergency fund to pay off debt because I knew my refund was coming, so I’ll be replenishing that when I do get that money. I’m going to send a few hundred over to my student loans so that they are paid off ahead of my current schedule, in keeping with one of my goals for this year. But for the rest? I’m going to beef up my emergency fund and then figure out what amount to send to my Roth IRA versus my taxable investment account.

Or maybe I’ll keep some of it to use for a Memorial Day trip I’m considering to see a friend in Florida. Or to go back to LA for five days when it’s warmer and lay on the beach the whole time. Sorry, I’ve got sun and the beach on my mind, possibly because it was too cold for swimming or sunbathing or wearing anything but jeans and a sweatshirt to the beach when my friend and I went.

The point is, by the end of this month I’ll just have $1,000 left of my student loan debt and THAT’S IT for debt. That means I’ve got so many more options with my refund and side income.

Picture time!

I am endlessly fascinated by seeing our country from above and these clouds were cool
First activity upon arrival at LAX? Hiking up behind the Hollywood sign on a gorgeous day
We were going to go to the Getty on Sunday but it was so packed there wasn’t any parking available (and OF COURSE it isn’t open on Monday so I’ll have to see it on another trip). So I got a tour of UCLA’s campus instead
Santa Monica pier at night, and yes I went on the Ferris wheel
Windy and 55 degrees does not a very beachy beach afternoon make, but even sans sunbathing, sitting on a rock and watching the sunset on my last night was amazing


16 Replies to “Life update: job, taxes, and debt (payoff)”

  1. Sounds like you had a great trip!

    It’s times like that which makes FIRE so appealing to me.. why deal with the stress that comes from a full time job when you can enjoy travel and a stress free lifestyle by doing whatever you want once you reach that FI number!

    Just something to keep in mind that we’re all working towards! ?

    1. Thank you! I at least heard back that nothing had been decided yet/HR needs to poke our director about that decision again, so that’s something? ?

  2. I’m glad I’m not the only one who misses posts. I put so much pressure on myself to write epic posts all the time, that I’d rather post nothing instead of something halfhearted. But you might be convincing me to do the opposite.

    The Hollywood sign pic was totally worth it! I’m also bummed you missed The Getty. When I was in LA, I woke up on Saturday at like, 9:30am, and the traffic to The Getty looked clear. When I left an hour later, all of a sudden traffic was crazy. Still, I got there early enough where parking was fine. When I left, though, there were tons of people, so I guess afternoon is the peak time!

    1. I figure my baseline post isn’t epic so I’d much rather produce one epic one every now and then and not set that as the expectation! ?

      Yeah, traffic was fine, aside from the red area right by The Getty. Little did we know that would mean a 40-minute ordeal of getting there, seeing the “parking full” sign, and sloooooowly inching forward to where we could turn around. If we’d taken an Uber it would’ve been fine, but there also wasn’t time to go back, call an Uber, and come back that day. Oh well, next visit!

  3. I still can’t get over how clear of a day it was on your Hollywood sign hike. It may not have been as warm as you would have liked for this trip, but the clear air would be worth every drop in degree to me. And that’s exactly why blogging as a hobby and not a business is so great – it’s completsly okay if you skip a day.

    1. And since that was my first intro to LA I guess now I’m spoiled for life!

      It is completely okay and I try to remember that. But I also don’t want to go too far to the other extreme and just skip posts whenever I feel like it because writing wasn’t convenient that night!

  4. I love ‘life update’ posts like this one.

    Congrats on the awesome progress with the debt payoff, that must be a great feeling. Loving all the pictures as well, that sunset looks relaxing.

    Best of luck with the job situation, I’m looking forward to reading updates on it 🙂

  5. Hope your interview went well Erin. I’m sure you’re going to get a breakthrough on the job front soon.

    And great pics, I haven’t been to L.A. in a long time. I love people-watching at Venice Beach, some classy stuff there!

    1. It went fairly well (although it was technically only the phone screening, which I didn’t know, so the actual interview is the next round), although now I’m conflicted about whether I want the job or not. This is fun! But it’ll all work out in the end.

      I didn’t get a chance to head to Venice Beach this time, but I’m putting people-watching on the list for the next trip!

  6. Your trip looks absolutely wonderful, I’m glad you treated yourself to a great birthday weekend! And I’m keeping my fingers crossed so hard for you… WooHoo refund! You go, you boring FI maven, you.

    1. I’m printing out this comment and hanging it on my wall. “Boring FI maven” is such an awesome compliment! ?

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