[-$86,895] A Huge Debt, a Small Pay Raise, and a New Spending Plan for 2017


I finally, FINALLY, found out my new compensation numbers today, after my promotion a couple of months ago. First, a bonus.

Year End Bonus: ~$4,300

I got a 2016 annual bonus! When it hits my account in a couple of weeks, this is where it will go:

Emergency Fund: $1000

Health Maintenance: $1750

  • I expect doctor visits, diagnostic tests and treatments this year relating to some chronic health issues. I’ll be paying out of pocket (HDHP). I may also need some dental work this year. Hopefully this will be enough.

Opportunity Fund: $1250

  •  Most of this will be saved for gifts and travel to see relatives during the 2017 holidays. I didn’t get to see them during the holidays last year.

Checking Account: ~$300

  • I’m not entirely decided about what I will do with any money that remains. I’ll likely keep it in my checking account to cover unexpected or annual charges.


2017 Salary Increase

Guys… (Sigh)…  I tried.

I tried my best to keep my expectations looooww. I did not even entertain the thought of a raise above 5% even though I just got a promotion in job title.  No matter how low I set my expectations, my employer somehow found a way to come in below that. My big, grand salary increase for 2017….?    3.4%

Yep… That’s it.

I can’t lie. I was hoping for at least 5%. The fact that I had to wait so long to find out made it sting even worse. My manager, who is great, sounded really apologetic while telling me that my increase is above average for my team given my excellent performance last year.

I was so stunned that I couldn’t even pull myself together to ask any questions, let alone voice any disappointment. It wouldn’t have done any good anyway. My manager does not control my salary. It’s all determined by senior division executives and HR. Once I’ve composed myself, I’ll talk with my manager to learn more about how that number was determined. I’ve heard other employees complain now and then about how impossible it is to get a significant raise for great job performance. Now I understand. It’s true.


It’s been demotivating, but I’ll be okay. This will limit what I had hoped to accomplish financially this year, but I’m not going to spend any more time complaining about a pay raise of any percentage. #FirstWorldProblems.

I’m going to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t do, so this is what I’m setting up this year. Once I get my February paychecks I’ll have a more accurate assessment of where things shake out after taxes and mandatory deductions. In the meantime, take this as an estimate.

2017 Pre-Tax Contributions

I should be able to max out my 401(k) and HSA for 2017.

  • 401(k) – Set to max.
  • HSA – Set to max.
  • Public Transit Pass – $100/mo.  $1,200 year total

2017 Net Monthly Spending Plan


Unless my math is off, and it may well be, I should bring home about $4,000 each month. By increasing my student loan payment to $2650, I will be out of debt on 12/15/2019. This will shave 6 months off my debt sentence! If I can keep up the payments, that is…

The cost of this accelerated payment will come at the expense of Roth IRA investments for 2017. I will not be able to contribute to the account this year under my new spending plan. I really want to get my debt down to a more manageable level by the end of the year. I will still have time at the beginning to 2018 to contribute to my 2017 Roth IRA if something changes in my finances.

The Food + Personal  category is my monthly allowance. It includes all food, clothing, toiletries, entertainment, etc. This category will be a big focus for me this year. I struggled and failed to keep within my $600 limit for 2016, so I need to come up with some tactics to help me stick to this.

It will be a challenge, but if I can pull off this spending plan, I’ll be in a much better place, debt-wise, at the end of the year.


Student Loan Interest Rate

My interest rate is now already 3.76% (up from the original 3.42%) and due to move up even more quickly this year. It may be time to refinance into a fixed rate.

Thanks to blonderbetterfasterstronger for suggesting that I look into refinancing with First Republic Bank, however, I don’t think they will work for me right now. There are requirements that would be quite a hoop for me to jump through, including having to maintain a direct deposit checking account with them and hold a $3,500 min balance at all times. And if you slip at any point in meeting all the requirements, you lose the low interest rate.  They also appear to not offer forgiveness for death or disability (need to fact check this), or forbearance for unemployment.

My current lender, offers death and disability forgiveness and a 3-month ‘forbearance’ of sorts in the event of job loss. I don’t want to give those up. I think First Republic might be a good deal for those who have smaller balances relative to income. For me, right now at least, it’s too risky. I plan to shop around – including potentially refinancing with my current lender. If I’m lucky, I may be able to lock in a fixed rate in the neighborhood of what I have now (below 4%). I’m going to look at a variety of options, even other variable rates if they are low enough.

That’s it for my 2017 plan. Short and sweet.


“Debtor’s prison is real, and opportunity cost is a bitch.” (DDSW)


  1. networthnegative · January 31, 2017

    Very inspiring as always! I have just moved this year from a Flex Spending Account to a HSA. My employer matches dollar for dollar up to $250 (big whoop, but at least it’s free money). We are supposed to have performance reviews in February, I’m thinking we might get a 2% raise at that point, which will basically be a cost of living adjustment dressed up like a performance review. Again, first world problems right? I can’t wait until I can get to the point where I can max out my contributions! All I’m going right now is contributing enough to HSA to cover my projected medical/dental/vision and 401(k) to get the match.

    Stay motivated! Can’t wait to read more from you.


    • Double Debt Single Woman · January 31, 2017

      Thanks! Hey, don’t sweat it. You are still young. You have plenty of time for your income to grow. And it will.


      • networthnegative · February 3, 2017

        I just got an email regarding the upcoming performance reviews: “At this time, this is ONLY a review and will not have any bearing on pay rate” ::insert giant eye roll here::


        • Double Debt Single Woman · February 5, 2017

          Heh! Well, at least they are being upfront with everyone. I guess they figure it’s good to manage expectations early.
          But, really? ::insert even more giant eye roll here:: Sigh.


  2. zeejaythorne · January 31, 2017

    How many good employees do they lose because of lack of reward for excellent work? I’m sorry they are not meeting your low expectations. That’s frustrating.


    • Double Debt Single Woman · January 31, 2017

      Indeed. It’s very common in larger companies at least. Let’s just say I’ve learned a very valuable lesson about the power of negotiating your salary well when hired. I’m already 10-15% underpaid relative to my peers, so not being able to do anything to close that gap, even after a ‘promotion’, is frustrating. I’ve heard co-workers say that the only way to increase your salary here is to leave for another employer and then come back. It’s true. I know of a few who have done it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • zeejaythorne · February 1, 2017

        That’s such a waste of human capital. How many employees do they lose to this?


        • Double Debt Single Woman · February 5, 2017

          Apparently not enough to justify the expense of paying thousands of employees market rate wages. It’s cheaper to do it how they are doing it now. I agree, though. It is a waste.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Maria · January 31, 2017

    Yeah, like zeejaythorne said, sorry your employers aren’t meeting your low expectations. 😦 But any raise is better than no raise at all (or no job at all, iiiik!). And your bonus must have been nice to get. 🙂

    So, you’ve basically decidde to prioritze paying down debt over retirement savings? I can understand that.



    • Double Debt Single Woman · January 31, 2017

      I agree. Something is always better than nothing. I was unemployed before I got this job, so I don’t want to come across like an ingrate. It’s just a moment of disappointment and frustration. Yes, my bonus is just what I need to help me prepare for the year! I realize how fortunate I am to get it.

      Oh, how I struggled with the decision of what to prioritize. In the end, so many things hinge on my ability to get this debt paid off sooner rather than later. I plan to catch up missed investments with any extra funds that come my way.


      • Maria · February 1, 2017

        For sure, you’re allowed to be disappointed.

        For what it’s worth, I think I would have made the same/a similar choice as you’re doing now, that is, focusing on paying down the debt. I think it would have been better for my peace of mind, especially considering what would happen if I were to loose my job, the rent would increase significantly etc. Not saying I think those things will happen, but as you know, you never really can know.


        • Double Debt Single Woman · February 5, 2017

          Exactly. Peace of mind is important. It’s really hard to stay committed to one direction though. I’d really like to increase my emergency fund faster and put money in my Roth IRA, and… and… Sigh. There are so many things I want to do, but not enough money to go everywhere. Did I mention how much I hate debt today? Yep, I guess I just did.


  4. Fiscally Fit Chica · February 1, 2017

    You rock!


  5. thesingledollar · February 5, 2017

    Sorry about the raise 😦 I’ve also been pretty disappointed in my income situation this year and it sucks not to be able to increase my rate of progress.

    This isn’t a criticism — I can totally see the case for using your bonus as you suggest — but would it be possible to throw the whole thing at the debt and cash flow health, gift, travel expenses as they come up? It seems like it would be pretty cool to get into the 70s by the end of this month (between bonus and normal debt repayment.)


    • Double Debt Single Woman · February 5, 2017

      Hey C!
      No criticism taken. I welcome other viewpoints.

      I’m still debating if I will follow the plan I laid out for my bonus or make changes. So many wants and not enough dollars. One option I have considered is throwing part of the bonus at the debt. I would LOVE to throw everything at the debt, but to be honest I don’t trust myself to cash flow properly from month to month. I prefer to set that health/travel, etc. money aside in a separate account so that I know I’ll have enough in my main checking account to make my set payments every month. Set it and forget it kinda. I also really don’t want to be in a situation later in the year where I have to choose between a paying an unexpectedly large medical expense and making my student loan payment that month. For me it’s more important to keep things simple, even if it means I’ll have to practice more patience with my loan balance. Sigh.


      • thesingledollar · February 6, 2017

        That’s totally fair. And really, even putting the whole thing on the debt would only knock about two months off the total, so the point’s good. Keeping it simple: excellent idea.


  6. Terri · February 14, 2017

    I’m so sorry the raise wasn’t what you are hoping for. I understand that disappointment. I used to work for a university with more money than God, but they hardly ever gave you anything more than cost of living increases, which was a joke.

    I think you have a really good plan, and I believe in you that you can keep up with those debt payments. Whenever you need a boost, just write it here and I am happy to support you.

    I wish I had that much to bring home every month. I’m lucky if I bring home 1400 or so after taxes. Yep, it’s pretty sad, but that’s what you get when you work with animals.

    Keep up the good work. You CAN do this!


    • Double Debt Single Woman · February 18, 2017

      Yeah. I remember when I was in graduate school, our yearly stipends as TA’s (teaching assistants) were like $12,800. I remember the year it went up to $14,000, I thought I was making big bucks! What a fool I was! Instead of wasting several of the most productive years of my life in school, I should have been working and saving money. I would have had a fraction of the student loan debt and would likely be 3/4 of the way to financial independence by now.

      Sorry, I got sidetracked there. Heh. Thanks, Terri. You get to do a job you love now. As you well know, there is value in that. When I slap my alarm clock in the morning in my still dark room, I’m not smiling or in any way eager to get to work. Sigh. One day, I’ll be able to do what you’re doing!


  7. Creditmarvel.com · May 15, 2017

    I remember when my old boss stopped giving raises. When the economy tanked..they used that as an excuse for as long as they could. Meanwhile they were buying vacation houses and a boat. May we all live an “adventure rich” life. I went vegan a year ago and have really transformed spiritually and I find I need less and less to feel fulfilled. This is big for someone who loved weekly mall trips and eating out every weekend. I now enjoy home cooked meals and time outdoors really does the soul good. Best of luck!


    • Double Debt Single Woman · May 15, 2017

      Thanks. Oh I’m sure our raises are small or nonexistent because the executives at the top are getting huge bonuses thanks to keeping it that way. I am under no illusions about how companies work. I like the idea of an adventure rich life. That’s what I’d like to work toward. Congrats on your transition.


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