April 2021 – Money Diary #1: Starting off strong!

It is May 1st, 2021 as I type this and I’m looking back at my money in April like ‘BITCH, WHAT?!’

April was an insane money month for me. Here’s why:

  1. I worked a lot at my day job. Yay for over time!
  2. I filed my taxes and got my tax returns deposited!
  3. I received a $9,000 grant! This was through the SBA (Small Business Administration). It was given to select small businesses and independent contractors, based in low-income communities, who saw a decrease in revenue in 2020. While I do have a day job, I have also worked freelance as an actress and event manager. When I file my taxes, I put in W2 income from my survival job(s). I also file as a self-employed, independent contractor and input all income I get from my freelance work via 1099 forms. I did book jobs last year up until March 2020… and then didn’t for the rest of the year for obvious reasons. This, and the fact that I live in a low-income neighborhood, qualified me for the grant.

My total income for the month of April 2021 was… $17,669.32.

I have never made this much money in my life, in such a short amount of time. I almost feel like a one hit wonder who’s got the pressure of replicating commercial success on their next single. I don’t want to say I’ll never make this much money this quickly again, but I don’t know how soon it’ll be until I do. It’s crazy that my first month of blogging my finances ended up being so out of the ordinary for me. You know what? It’s actually very fitting for me. I can be such an extremist at times. I’m all in or nothing! And I desperately want to be as aggressive with my debt repayment as possible. This month definitely gave me a head start. I guess this is just setting the tone for the next months to come!

Let’s get right into it. What did I spend my money on this month?

STUDENT LOANS. With all the money I made in April, I knew I had to make a dent in my student loan balance. At the beginning of the month, my balance was an even $50,000. I had $2,091.63 in unpaid interest and a principal balance of $47,908.37.

My student loan balance on April 2nd, 2021.

Once I paid off all the interest, my plan was to wipe out the principal balance on my student loans with the highest interest rate. Currently, there is 0% interest on student loans, thanks to the pandemic relief bill. However, this won’t last forever. I wanted to set myself up for success once the pandemic is over. The remaining 47k in student loans consisted of several small loans with varying interest rates: 6.8%, 4.66%, 4.5%, 4.29%, 3.86%, and 3.4%. How are these numbers even decided?! Crazy. Anyway, I had three loans at 6.8% interest, totaling $6,583.99. By the grace of God, I was able to pay off all interest and get rid of all my loans at 6.8% interest. In April, I spent $8,675.62 on student loans. I also hit a huge milestone: my student loan balance was finally under 50k! Before the pandemic, I was hovering close to 53k. I’ve kept making payments during the pandemic to get ahead while interest’s still at zero. Here is my new student loan balance: $41,324.38.

YAY TO BEING UNDER 50K IN DEBT!

ACTING/BUSINESS EXPENSES. Ever heard the term “show business” before? Well, being an actor is like having your own small business. Every actor should see themselves as an artist and as an entrepreneur. And every business has to spend money to make money. In acting, you have to invest in classes, coaching, headshots, footage, etc. Currently, I am refreshing my business with new materials: reel footage and headshots. And these things are not cheap. Reels can go for $1,000-$3,000 and good quality headshots are at least $300-$500. I personally hired a reel company to film new scenes with and spent $1,850 on it this month. I know, I know! It’s a lot of money. But I have been saving for this for a long time. I’ll be filming my new footage this summer!

As an actor, entertainment costs are also considered business expenses. I recently got Hulu and YouTube Premium subscriptions so I could catch up on TV shows filming in my area. It’s important for me to know what is filming in my market! The subscriptions cost $11.99 each per month. Another random business expense this month: I spent $5 for shipping some footage to an editor. My total business expenses for the month of April cost $1,878.43. It was pretty high this month because of the reel, so this is not an average for me right now. I foresee this number being lower next month. My next investment within the next two months will be headshots. Updates to come!

SAVINGS. You know that saying, always pay yourself first? Every paycheck, I put $300 into savings first. I don’t have a rhyme or reason for this. I just like that number. I heard Kevin O’Leary say everyone should be saving at least $100 a week, and I’m doing $150. It ends up being about 15-17% of my take home pay, depending on how much I worked. If I wanted to save the traditional 10% of each paycheck, I would be putting away about $160 each time, but my impatient brain doesn’t like that. I also put away 10% of my pre-tax income into a 401k, but for the purposes of this blog, I won’t be counting that. I’ll just be focusing on what I do with my post-tax income. My bank also automatically makes me transfer $1 into my savings account every time I use my debit card. Since I was really focused on debt repayment this month, my savings deposits were pretty irregular. In total I put away $1,073.74 into my savings account. Not bad. Things I’m saving for: retirement, a rainy day, my emergency fund, acting expenses, travel, and nice things.

RENT. My rent each month is $687.50. I am very lucky and blessed to have such an affordable rent in Los Angeles. I live in a two bedroom apartment with my boyfriend and we split rent evenly. The total rent for the apartment is $1,375. However, we live in an old, dusty, crusty, building that was built in 1956. We’ve had our fair share of problems here, but overall, I can’t complain.

HOME IMPROVEMENT. I’ve lived in my apartment since I graduated college. And until recently, I haven’t had the money to fix up the place. Because my rent is so cheap, I’d rather stay here and put in a few dollars here and there to fix it up. In the past, I’ve spent money on wallpaper to spruce up the kitchen, got new cookware because my pots and pans from college died on me, and most recently, I bought a fridge! In LA, most apartments don’t come with a refrigerator. Over the last 5 years, I’ve been using a broken, yellow (formerly white) refrigerator, that leaked water and formed ice. It’s dusty and gross. My old roommate got it for free off of someone that was throwing it away. When she moved out and my boyfriend moved it, we kept that junk of a refrigerator because we couldn’t afford to replace it. This month, we finally decided enough was enough and bought a new fridge! It arrives in a few weeks and I cannot wait!! I split the total cost of the refrigerator with my boyfriend and my half cost me $565.83. I realize this is a spending category that is not necessary. I could be extreme and be like, NO FRIDGE UNTIL ALL DEBT IS PAID. But what kind of life is that?! I believe I deserve to have a good quality of life while on my debt repayment journey.

UTILITIES. Total paid for utilities this month was $162.79. This includes electricity and internet. I think our electric bill was higher than usual because of the cold in February/March. We used the heater a lot of nights to fall asleep. In the Spring the weather is more moderate, we don’t use the heater at all, and we barely use the AC unit. The ceiling fan is usually enough. I suspect this spending category will be lower next time around.

CAR. I’m currently financing my car at 0.9% interest, which, I think, is pretty good! The total amount I will be charged in interest over the 5 year term of the loan is only about $500. It was worth it for me to take out a car loan. I have to drive around a lot for my job. My monthly car payment is $283.15 and car insurance this month was $249.29. My car insurance is higher than average because my car is electric. But I love it! No oil changes EVER and charging is cheaper than gas, especially in a city like LA where gas is close to $4/gallon. This month, I spent $16.50 on parking, $50.45 on charging, and $7 to wash my car. My total car expenses came out to $606.39.

FOOD. I spent $532.43 on food this month. This includes groceries and dining out for myself and sometimes my boyfriend, too. While this is not a terrible number, I can definitely try to lower this number next month. The weeks I worked several 12 hour days, I found myself stopping at a Starbucks for a quick snack, like a protein bar, because the lunch and snacks I packed just didn’t sustain me for the whole day. I’ll definitely be packing more lunches and snacks next month!

TAXES. I usually file early and take advantage of discounts for filing before March. This year, I literally filed my taxes on the evening of Tax Day. It gave me so much anxiety to try to get it in by the deadline, just to find out later that the deadline was extended to May 17th! I paid $170 to file my own taxes on TurboTax.

PHONE. I spent $403.26 on my cell phone. This was a payment for a cell phone I bought. I’ll be done paying it off next month.

PERSONAL/FUN. I’m not a huge shopper, but this month I caved and finally splurged on some luxury skincare that I had been wanting for months! I felt I deserved it after working so many hours. I spent $199.19 on six products from my favorite skincare line. I know, I know! A lot! But these products should last me a few months and I hopefully won’t have to buy new skincare for a while. I can’t say I regret it either. My skin has cleared and my skin tone has evened out overall. It’s a small thing that makes me happy and improves my quality of life. Some actors actually count skincare and facial treatments as business expenses because our product is our image and this is considered maintenance!

Other personal care purchases: I bought a hair tool at ULTA for $14.24. I spent $45.50 on books and journals. I spent $1.69 at Rite Aid on hygienic products. And lastly, my one pair of good jeans ripped two months ago in the inner thighs (yay for thick thighs!) and I finally got around to repurchasing them at Old Navy, which cost me $43.79. I spent a total of $354.23 on personal/fun/shopping expenses.

CHARITY/GIFTS. I donated to charity and bought a gift for my boyfriend’s mom. The total spent on this category was $212.57.

Total spent this month: $15,322.79. And here is a breakdown of my spending categories:

EMOTIONS. Let’s talk about the emotional aspect of money. This month, I felt relieved and content overall that I was able to make such a huge dent in my student loan balance. I was filled with gratitude that I earned so much money and got my student loan balance under 50k! But the feeling only lasted so long. Despite everything, I still felt it wasn’t enough. I found myself OBSESSING over my student loan debt. I logged on to my account several times a week and even multiple times a day, waiting, wishing, and hoping my balance would go down. I kept thinking, Damn, I still have so much more to go. I put down so much money towards my debt, and yet it still wasn’t enough. I still owe close to 93k, including my mom’s Parent PLUS loans. It’s emotionally exhausting. I get impatient. I want this debt burden off my shoulders. When I get like this, I remind myself that the debt didn’t happen overnight and it won’t go away overnight either. I pray about it and ask for peace in my heart. I trust that I will be debt free one day soon and that I will always be taken care of. I journal my feelings. And more than anything, I practice gratitude for the fact that I am even in a position to be on this journey.

LOOKING AHEAD. Next month, I have family visiting and I already know I’ll be going out to eat at least a handful of times. I’ll try to balance out my food budget by cooking my own food for the entire month, other than when I’m treating family to a good time. It’s important to me to be able to do this. I think if I totally deprived myself of any indulgences, I would lose all motivation while on this debt repayment journey. I also know that my rent and phone costs are going to double. In May, I’ll be paying my landlord unpaid rent from last year. I couldn’t afford to pay my rent last April 2020 because I had been laid off from work and was barely scraping by. Because the future was so uncertain, I tried to save as much cash as I could before paying back the rent. I thankfully found a job over the summer and finally feel ready to pay it back. In regards to my cell phone, I’ll be paying that off in full. I got a new phone back in January and was on a payment plan. But I just want to pay it off already! #debtfree! I anticipate all other categories to stay about the same. We’ll see!

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