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Not Much Spending

November 22nd, 2017 at 09:27 pm

I personally haven't spent much of anything the last three days. I did buy one Christmas gift, but that was paid out of the Christmas budget.

My husband did get his hair cut. I just now sent him to the store to get three food items. While he is there he is picking up the alcohol he wants for the holiday weekend.

We don't have plans to shop in stores on Friday...or likely any other day this weekend. If I know of a deal on something we were going to buy anyway I would likely pick it up online. The crowds are just more than I'm interested in dealing with.

We are having very nice weather, so hope to get out and enjoy the weather and maybe attend a free event downtown on Friday night. Otherwise, I'm going to be very happy watching a couple football games, watching a movie and playing games as a family. Oh, and we will probably decorate for Christmas at some point as well. Who has time for shopping with all of those fun activities?!

It's is my first ever Thanksgiving that I haven't spent with my oldest daughter or my parents! Seems a bit strange, but I'm also glad not to be flying this year.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Christmas Spending & A Raise

November 21st, 2017 at 07:13 pm

I'm not nearly done Christmas shopping, although I have made a pretty good dent so far. Our budget for gifts is $600. I haven't even made the final savings deposit of $50 yet. That last one will cover the check we are likely to mail my mother in law so she can get what she wants. It's hard to buy for someone that is 82!

Spending so far is $225.68. This has primarily been gifts for my daughters and nieces. That means I have just $374.32. I do plan to stay at or under budget. I will say Swagbucks has come to my rescue this year to earn Amazon gift cards to get all the books my daughter's asked for. Retail on those would be $220. So far, I think I have spent just $40 for eight books, but I do have three more to buy.

I hope to share actual costs and what I bought after my shopping is complete. Any extra left over is going to the Big Goal!

I think the President still needs to sign the Defense Authorization Act for this next fiscal year, but it looks like my husband is getting a raise. The best one in awhile. A 2.4% increase of his basic pay. That will amount to $200 per month. I probably should save this towards the Big Goal, too. Smile

Snowflakes & Holiday Shopping

November 19th, 2017 at 09:30 pm

I sold some Box Tops for Education on eBay today. I will net about $7 for some scraps of paper and cardboard. Easy money really.

We received our electric bill this week and finally it dropped significantly. I'm sure primarily due to cooler weather and having one heating and air unit completely off for a week. It was off because the compressor was bad, thus no point in using it. It has now been replaced. The drop was $80!! I'll make a point to put that money towards our Big Goal.

We went grocery shopping today for our Thanksgiving meal. Our meal itself actually isn't too fancy. I'm making Pot Pies, mashed potatoes (daughter's request), a salad and pumpkin pie. Even that sounds like too much food! I did however buy many of the ingredients we need for our holiday baking. And my husband has a meal at work this week he is contributing to. He bought rolls and I'm making cookies for him to take. We also bought some meat on clearance, coffee filters, and cat filter. We spent $200. I need to see how many Ibotta rebates I may qualify for...for a few more snowflakes.

My birthday was Friday and I received a check from my parents for $100. I added it to our Big Goal also.

Snowflakes add up!

Used Miles For Airline Ticket

November 17th, 2017 at 06:55 pm

I just bought my daughter's round trip ticket home for winter break on Southwest Airlines using the Rapid Rewards we accumulated this year on our Southwest Visa. The ticket was worth 20,520 points. Last years ticket cost me over 39,000 points. I think the difference was being able to purchase the ticket further in advance. She has been to a bowl game the last two years, and this year it doesn't look like it will happen. If it does it will be a miracle and I will need to change the ticket!

I still have 13,480 points. I may book her ticket home for spring break with those soon. Although right now the prices don't look so great! Probably too far out for the best deals.

I could redeem 13,000 point for $125 worth of gift cards, but considering I got a nearly $400 flight for 20K points, I think using them for flying is the better deal.

I did have to pay the Federal Airline fee of $11.20 and I did pay $30 for my daughter to get Early Bird check in. This is especially helpful for very early morning flights and when the time between flights is tight. Get a front seat on the first seat so you can get to your gate in time for boarding the second flight. I think she has just 40 minutes from landing to take off on one of the trips. That's worth the $30 cost to us.

Do you use airline miles for flights?

$56 Extra Income & More

November 16th, 2017 at 02:36 pm

I mentioned a few days ago that my neighbor asked me to make 6 more key fobs. A few days later, she asked to add one more on. I was quick to get the work done and yesterday she paid me $56 for the work. This goes towards the Big Goal.

In my planning November planning for Christmas, I'm making a point to stock up on things around the home. When we were at the commissary, I bought dish soap, laundry detergent, parchment paper, ziplock bags, vitamins, toothpaste and bar soap. I want to be stocked up through the end of the year, so that the only shopping I need to do in December is for food. The more I can stay out of the stores in December the easier it is to keep to the Christmas budget. I did notice I need coffee filters and toilet bowl cleaner, so I will pick those up this week.

Yesterday was pay day. All credit cards were paid off in full. I put $42 in the birthday category of our budget, $50 in Christmas, $940 in college and tuition (normal amount is about $410), and $272 for insurances and auto tags. There was money added to our car maintenance fund. It was negative after a having some recent maintenance done. Now it's back to zero. There was about $200 left, and I just dropped it into the emergency fund category for now. May need it elsewhere later in the month, but we will try without.

I have three items on eBay that I'd like to see sell soon. May need to drop the prices a bit, but a little extra cash would be nice.

A Recipe and Update On College

November 15th, 2017 at 12:27 pm

We had this for dinner last night. It was really good! Lots of chopping, but very healthy. I'm making two other recipes from the website later this week.

The VA Education department has continued to provide us a housing payment of $1112 per month for our oldest daughter. I just made a $200 deposit for next years housing contract. My daughter would like to move off campus, but is having a hard time finding a roommate. There are ways to find roommates, but she would like it to be someone she knows. If we go the on campus route again, she will get a discount for being a returning student. That discount for the fourth years is $1097. She packs her schedule full...18 hours on average, so living on campus saves a lot of time and hassle than living off campus.

Our youngest daughter applied and was accepted to her college of choice. She plans to major in Industrial Engineering. This is in our former midwest state that we are still residents of. We did however have to provide documentation to the school to get her classified as a resident. Luckily, we were approved. They do provide in state tuition for all military members, spouses and children. This college charges a flat fee for 12+ hours, rather than break it down by credit hour. Of course, as an engineering student she will have higher tuition in her junior and senior year.

Specifically tuition and fees for 12+ hours is $4,318 per semester, or $8,636 per year. She did receive two renewable four year scholarships. One is worth $8,000 ($2000 per year) and the other is worth $10,000 ($2,500 per year). Very reasonable in my opinion. It's the housing that adds up! I don't have the details on those costs yet, as we have not picked a housing option. I think housing will be less than we pay for our older daughter, so that is a plus! And she will be applying for more scholarships soon, so fingers crossed there is a little more money to assist.

Bought A Christmas Gift

November 14th, 2017 at 09:17 pm

I bought a Christmas gift for a neighbor today. She is a big nature lover, so I picked up an amaryllis bulb at Lowe's. It was priced at $5.98, and I was able to get $0.60 off with our military discount.

It was just the bulb in pretty packaging, so I thought I'd replant it and get it growing before I present it to her at the beginning of December. I found a dark green metal pot in my garage that is perfect for regifting! I added rocks from my yard to the bottom and then soil.

Simple gift, but hopefully meaningful to her!

Have you heard of the one and done concept? Make one gift and give to as many people on your list as possible. This is often good for neighbors or coworkers. I'd definitely do the amaryllis gift for more than one person but I keep neighbor gifts to a minimum. One other neighbor is getting cookies (she told me she is looking forward to them again, so I'm not going to disappoint).

Coupons Used Are Saved Money

November 13th, 2017 at 12:15 pm

I only use coupons for things I'm going to buy anyway. I do see how coupons can actually suggest to you to buy something that you wouldn't even have bought in the first place!

At any rate I did use coupons yesterday at the commissary. Seven coupons worth $7.25. Three coupons were ones I printed. One was found on the package. And three were on the commissary rewards app. Easy savings.

I also found a Any Item $0.25 rebate on Ibotta, so I claimed that too.

I'm actually going to move money from our grocery budget to our Big Goal savings. It's not much, but small amounts add up.

Did you use any coupons at the grocery store this week?

Socks For Christmas

November 11th, 2017 at 01:03 pm

Have you ever heard the story Socks for Christmas by Andy Andrews? I was given a copy of the audio version probably 15 years ago by a friend, along with a pair of socks. In fact, I think our entire family received socks from this friend. It made an impact, my girls still love to get socks for Christmas! As do I.

In my extended family, we adults have been known to exchange socks for Christmas. Smart Wool socks are a favorite. In the last couple years we have not been together on Christmas and have also ended our required gifts to each other. This year, however, I'm inspired once again to give socks for Christmas. These will go to my parents, sister and brother in law.

I got a very decent deal on socks at Kohl's last night. These are not our traditional Smart Wool socks, but a very nice Gold Toe dress pair for the men and a soft warm Cuddle Duds pair for the women. After three coupons applied, I paid $4.17 for the men's and $4.42 for the women's. I also picked up a new pair of slipper socks for myself for $5.21.

I plan to attach a tag with some words about socks and my memory of giving them socks in the past at Christmas. I told my husband my plan and he had a big smile on his face, because he knows how much fun we had giving each other socks in the past.

Small, simple gifts given from the heart often mean more than an expensive gift. What gift have you received that touched your heart?

Snowflakes

November 10th, 2017 at 02:48 pm

I have some snowflakes to report! The money kind. Small amounts of money coming into our household.

Ebates $6.56
Pinecone survey $3
Swagbucks $25 Amazon gift card
US Bank rewards $7.26 (5% back on cell phone)
Verizon $20 credit (old phone trade in)
Checking interest $0.08
Ebay sales $19.95

Total $81.85

My neighbor asked me last night if I could make six more key fobs. Her husband thought they would make nice gifts for the women at his work. I charge $8 each, so will get another $48 in my pocket next week after I complete them.

Thanks for all the kind words about my blog. I'm still in decision mode, but I know in the long run I would likely miss it. So more than likely I will still be around.

Thinking About Ending My Blog

November 9th, 2017 at 12:31 pm

The idea to stop my blog came to me last night. I'm not exactly sure why, other than I feel like I write the same things. But then again, maybe there are readers (lurkers) who want me to keep writing. If you are truly getting motivation from my blog, I'd love to hear from you, particularly if you are just lurking (not a regular commenter or blogger). What content do you like, what would you like to see more of?

I'm not leaving yet. I will let you know if I do.

Just Under $20K to Go

November 4th, 2017 at 02:50 pm

Wow! The stock market is on fire. Our retirement accounts totaled just over $480K yesterday. We are getting closer to $500K...just under $20K to go. Of course, I know there could be a correction at some point, but I'd love it if the accounts could rise to $500K by the end of the year. Another 4% or so. We started the year with balances totaling $392K...so there has been very nice progress!

I tallied up our interest earned in October. We earned $95.28. Can't complain about more money!

Christmas Planning

November 2nd, 2017 at 03:06 pm

I have aimed to have less stress during the holidays for several years now. The key to less stress is November. Yes, the month of November puts me ahead of schedule to complete the shopping, decorating and wrapping that comes with the holidays.

Yesterday, I printed off free November and December calendar pages to help me mark off all of the holiday activities, wrapping, shopping and planning that comes with the holidays. My first step was to meal plan for the month of November. I still have a few days left to figure out, but getting that task off my mind will help things run smoothly at home.

I'm Christmas shopping online already. My list isn't large and I have time, so I'm keeping eyes wide open to get the best deals. I also have a sewing project to do for a niece, so that will be one of the next things on my list. I want it done before Thanksgiving, so I'm not sewing at the last minute. That is definitely stressful!

Another thing I have learned over the years is to buy less. Buy for fewer people. Buy fewer gifts for those we do buy for. And spend less on the gifts. And guess what? Buying for fewer people doesn't take away the joy of the holiday! It does however save time, money and stress.

I know people will say 'well, I have to buy for....', but that is not true no one is forcing you to buy anyone a gift. It is all optional. Yes, you may need to give a reason, such as we are saving for X, so we need to cut our gift list back this year.

About three years ago, I asked my sister if we could stop exchanging with adults. So we no longer buy for her and her husband and they no longer buy for me and my husband. We give just to the kids. I specifically said, I'd rather you spend the time and money you would use for shopping for us on your own family. It does help that we aren't actually with each other at Christmas.

Our gift recipient list includes my parents, my mother in law, my daughters, two nieces, my husband and myself (my husband buys for me). I have other nieces and nephews, but that side of the family has gravitated away from the exchanges and we also are not there on Christmas anymore.

We will bake cookies and freeze, so if I need some for a work exchange or a neighbor they will be ready to give. This is along the lines of the One and Done concept. Give one gift to many and be done with it. No need to specialize every gift you give. I find nearly any food product to be great for this!

I'd like to hear your thoughts on planning ahead for the holidays and your gift giving plans.

A Sale and A Credit

October 25th, 2017 at 11:42 pm

I made an eBay sale today. It was an item I have been trying to sell for several months. Netted just $6, but I'll take it. I do have four new items to list soon.

I requested to trade in my old cell phone (well, really my daughter's old one) with Verizon. I was offered just $20 as a credit, which is perfectly fine. We got 3.5 years use out of it. Verizon is sending a box for me to mail it in.

I also checked our account and noticed my husband received $48 for per diem on a one day trip. I think he spent less than $20, so we netted $28 at least. I'm counting the full amount towards the Big Goal.

We are just two months until Christmas. Time to start saving and making a budget now. In fact, I've learned November is the best time to shop and prepare for the holiday. The more you get done before December the more enjoyable it can be.

Since My Last Post

October 23rd, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Since my last post, I donated $100 to the daughter of an Army family we are friends with. She is raising money for a diabetic alert dog. She was super excited to receive the donation. I hope she can get the funding soon, as I know it will provide peace of mind to her and her mom.

I sold a Wii workout game online and made a couple dollars. After that transaction, I sent the profits from recent sales to our Big Goal. It's just $15, but it counts.

We spent Saturday at an RV show. Paid $30 to get in the door and $5 for parking. We also needed a snack before we left for lunch, easily over $10 at those concession prices. This activity was a picked as a birthday outing for my husband, so the money was budgeted. My husband is very interested in traveling in an RV after we retire. My biggest concern isn't the money, but the size of these things. They are huge, not that we would get the largest ones. Most likely the travel trailer versions. But I dislike interstate driving in my van, why would I want to drive something so large?! Truth is I probably would not be driving it at all. Only in an emergency situation. But all three of us really enjoyed checking out all the options and features of the RVs. Oh, and we drove 1.5 hours each way to check it out, so it was an adventure!

I recently had my wedding ring repaired. The main reason for the repair was it was cut off last time I was pregnant and ballooned up overnight and it was painful on my finger. The ring needed a new claw to hold the diamond. And I had to add gold to upsize it. In the end my repair cost me $172. If you are paying attention at all, yes, my youngest child is 17...so this is long overdue! I'm so happy to have it done though. It feels like a brand new ring.

Our entertainment budget has ballooned in the last couple weeks, as we have been attending away football games and competitions. I think we have just two more games and two more competitions. Admission and usually money for our daughter to get a snack add up! My husband and I are doing better about eating something before and holding our expense to a water if needed.

We are probably saving big on electricity this month. The weather has cooled considerably. Enough that we needed to switch to heat for a couple mornings. That switch to heat made us aware that our lower unit is not working at all. In fact, even with the thermostat on the wall off, the outside unit fan was still running! I turned it off at the main panel as soon as I noticed. Our landlord is aware and this is after a recent visit by professionals who have said the compressor is out entirely. So I think we are now waiting for a compressor to be ordered and then schedule. In the meantime, weather is mild and our electric usage should drop. At least I hope so!!

We've started digging into our stash of hurricane supplies. The season officially ends December 1, but I feel pretty confident our area is not going to be impacted this year. So this will help the budget a bit in the coming weeks as I make a point to use it up.

And finally, I purchased a new cell phone. Originally was leaning towards an iPhone, but decided the one I was interested based on price, the SE, was simply too small for my over 40 year eye sight! I ended up with a Motorola Z Play Droid from Verizon. Price was $335 or $14 a month. I will get a 5% discount each month on that portion ($0.70) by using my US Bank card. I made my last phone last 3.5 years, so If I can do the same with this one it will be well worth the money.

Busy month, plenty of spending, but it's all good.

Sold Airline Drink Coupons to Buy Books

October 18th, 2017 at 06:56 pm

I sold some airline drink coupons that expire at the end of the year on eBay. We aren't going to be flying before the end of the year. If something changes we can forgo an adult beverage anyway. In my entire life I've only had one on an airplane. I used the funds earned to buy a used book that my daughter's want for Christmas. Zero out of pocket for that one.

I also used $35 worth of Amazon gift cards, earned on Swagbucks two purchase two other books the girls want for Christmas. They want this series of 12 books that cost $20 each brand new! Amazon does have them discounted, and gift cards earned make them zero out of pocket!

I found a fourth book today at the used book store. It was new, but I had a $13.70 credit, so it only cost me $7+ out of pocket. This present is working out to cost very little!

I'm not sure if I will get all 12 books, but I'll do my best. I figure they are likely to get Christmas money from relatives and can buy them if they want to add to the collection. Amazon can have them arrive in two days. I also think Amazon has been known to have a special in late November for $10 off a $25 purchase of books. So that would be helpful also.

Do you drink alcohol on airplane rides? Have you started Christmas shopping?

Snowflakes

October 18th, 2017 at 12:52 am

A few snowflakes to mention.

I returned some fabric binding I didn't need and received $2 back on the credit card I had used.

I used $2.50 worth of coupons at the commissary on Sunday. I also redeemed another $2.50 in Ibotta rebates on the same day.

I have an old Wii game that looks to sell in a couple days on eBay. I'm always concerned with the bidder is a new buyer with zero feedback, but it could workout. I will only get a couple dollars.

I listed two other items on eBay...not sure if they will sell or not. One is new and does have demand. The other has been listed before without much luck. Trying one more time!

I take all the small wins along with the big ones! They add up.

FAFSA Time

October 16th, 2017 at 10:26 pm

It's that time of year to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, if you have a student or you yourself will be attending a college or university in 2018. As of last year, the application comes available October 1 and you use the previous year's tax return. In this case, we will use our 2016 tax return to provide information. In the past, FAFSA's were filled out in the early months of the year after you had filed your tax return.

We haven't ever received any grants, but have always been eligible for unsubsidized students loans. As you know we have not taken the government up on that offer yet! This next school year there is a small possibility we will, so we will apply again.

We also will be applying for both of our daughters. I will need to make note of what I report on one so that I report the same for the other. Maybe their is a way to transfer that information and save time. I will find out!

$80 Side Hustle

October 13th, 2017 at 12:09 am

I had a mini job fall right into my lap. My neighbor asked me to sew a fabric key fob/lanyard, like the one I had given her. She wanted to give them as teacher gifts this Christmas.

I figured she just needed one or two! No, she requested ten. And I charged her $8 each. They don't take much fabric, but I did have to go buy more than I had on hand. And I definitely wanted to make it worth my time.

This was about a month ago that she requested them. I got right on it and she paid me this week! I could get used to this kind of side hustle.

I've added the money to the Big Goal!

Various Money Updates

October 7th, 2017 at 01:11 pm

I'm not sure why I haven't been posting! Everything is on auto pilot I guess. I have been around commenting and reading your blogs. I'll give you some various updates.

I did the first half of October's budget without my husband. I still have over $400 to allocate, so I will get him involved this weekend to figure those funds out. It seems like a lot of extra money for the first half of the month.

Retirement accounts are up big time with the recent stock market surge. Since January balances are up $80,000. That does include contributions. The more you have the bigger a 1% increase makes.

Interest earned on our cash in October was $92.04. Close to $100 a month in interest isn't anything to complain about. I did notice one bank increased their interest rate slightly (0.05%) again. We have $131 automatically deposited from my husband's paycheck to a savings account. I need to roll a couple months worth of those deposits into one of the CD's we have that is paying 2%.

My cell phone completely died on me this week. It is 3.5 years old, and some things have been failing so I've been working around them. In the meantime, I've switched my SIM card to my daughter's old cell phone. I have a VERY hard time deciding on phones. The newer ones Verizon offers seem so expensive!! I'm also debating moving to an iPhone since I have a Mac. Those are also expensive, but coming down a bit with the new release coming up. I would like the phone to have a good camera, too. I use it for my main camera. I have $195 in my cell phone replacement category and could easily find more money if I go with a more expensive phone.

I returned two pairs of shorts to Kohl's last week. That put $30 back in the budget which helped cover some new shoes we purchased for our older daughter.

We have saved quite a bit of money on high school football games recently. My husband and I have been volunteering in the concession stand for the band. This allows us to get in free (saves $14), and we get a free drink at the end which would cost us $4 if we have purchased. Last night even our daughter skipped buying anything to eat. Saving at least another $3. There have been four scheduled home games, and just one left. Overall savings is over $100. I wish we did this last year too. We will still have plenty of competition admissions this month, so the savings helps!

I've been purchasing some things recently too. It's part of my Getting Things Done series on my Organized Friends blog this month. Just yesterday I purchased two picture frames (both 50% off ) at Michael's for $29. This is something we have wanted to do for awhile, but I've put it off to avoid the spending. It feels good to get it done though. The amount spent is minor in comparison to our overall budget.

That's the money news!

Money Inn

September 28th, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Ha. Ha. A typo in the title that I decided to leave. I would like to be the Money Inn, where money comes to stay for as long as it wants.

I received a $5 rebate on some vitamins I bought last month.

I redeemed Swagbucks for $25 Paypal cash. My Swagbucks added up fast after buying some Gillette razor blades. It was a money maker!

We received $1,112 from the VA. That's the monthly housing benefit we are receiving from the GI Bill. That money is going in savings to pay us back for making the upfront housing payment.

And tomorrow is payday, so that is pending in our account as well.

100 Days Until Christmas!

September 16th, 2017 at 05:50 pm

Christmas is just 100 days away!

We have saved some money already. We spend just about $600 a year, and simply save $50 a month. It's nice to know the money is there. I don't include money for gift wrap, baking, or the occasional new decoration. The amount we spend on that is very minimal.

I wanted to bring this up now for anyone that often finds themselves scrambling at the last minute to find cash or pulling out the credit card. Remember now, how disappointing it is to get that big credit card bill in January.

My suggestion is to make a list now of who you buy for and what you can afford to spend. Add that up and then divide by the number of pay periods you have left until Christmas. Save that amount going forward. Now if that seems like too much to save, then you need to go back and adjust the amount you are spending on each person or eliminate some gifts. Look for deals while shopping to make every dollar count. The sooner you start shopping the more time you have to find the right item at the right price.

I'm going to do a little better this year buying my baking items on sale. Last year I divided the items up and bought them during two different regular grocery trips. This year I'm going to watch the sales, probably in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

How are you planning for Christmas (or other holidays) to make it fit within your budget? Do you have a budget?

Snowflakes Here and There

September 15th, 2017 at 07:26 pm

Let's see if I can recall the recent snowflakes arriving here lately:

$8.05 Electric co-op return of capital
$6.00 Pinecone Research payments
$0.93 eBay proceeds for a book
$9.00 ATM refunds from our bank
$25.00 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
$8.54 US Bank reward (5% back on Cell Phone)
$9.95 AmEx cable bill reward

Those snowflakes add up to $67.47!

I printed out some coupons for things we normally buy. If I use them all within the next month I will have saved $11.75. Only took me a couple minutes to print.

I've always said that small amounts add up!

No Student Loans Continues

September 10th, 2017 at 07:55 pm

I can't tell you what a relief it is to pay for our daughter's tuition and housing in full. No loans!!

The tuition this semester was officially covered in full by the Post 911 GI Bill benefits my husband earned and transferred to our daughter. I guess part of it was covered by her scholarship...can't discount $7,000! I have to say her University was definitely on top of processing the benefits in a timely manner. I think it helped tremendously that we notified them we would be using them in mid May.

Most of the tuition is being reimbursed by the Post 911 GI Bill as well. So far we have received $370. But we are expecting another $3,892 over the next several months. In the meantime, I transferred that amount from our savings so that I could pay the bill due on Sept 12.

Ah, the relief of no loans. It really is palpable!

Equifax Breach

September 9th, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Probably a good idea to check and see if your credit information was compromised by the Equifax Breach. Here is the link.

Turns out my husband and I are affected. Frown

I'm going to check my daughter's also, but need to dig out their social security numbers.

Next step is to sign up for the credit monitoring service. We are already signed up because of the breach that happened with the OPM (Office of Personnel Management). We will, of course, sign up again! It seems like it never ends!!

Were you affected this time?

Started Christmas Shopping & More

September 7th, 2017 at 02:14 pm

I've started Christmas shopping! One item arrived in the mail on Tuesday and another arrives today from Hungary. I mentioned to my girls at the beginning of August that it was never too soon to give me Christmas gift ideas. And they have done just that. Their lists are not flushed out completely, but I figured these couple items would be good to get now. Later this month I'm going to brainstorm for everyone else on my list and start making a rough plan. We've been saving $50 a month since December, so will have $600 saved for gifts by mid November. Yes, $600 is enough, we buy for fewer people now, and buy less expensive simpler gifts. It really makes for a much nicer holiday season.

We did buy my husband his new speakers for our family room. Out of pocket cost for them, the stands and speaker was $457.88. This was paid for with the per diem he received from his summer travel. He is very happy with his purchase and I'm happy for him as he has wanted to replace our old set (which we received as a gift for our wedding) for awhile now.

For now the remainder of the per diem is in savings. I'm pretty sure it will go to the Big Goal, but next time we have a budget meeting, September 15, we will discuss again. We may use some to fund some short term savings, but then pay ourselves back. But it really ends up being saved either way.

We are prepared for Hurricane Irma heading to the southeast coast. We have water, batteries, a hand crank/solarweather radio and cell phone charger, cash, and plenty of non perishable foods. And yes a manual can opener, although we don't have many cans! The weather radio is new. I found one at Bed Bath and Beyond for $51, after my 20% off coupon. I feel lucky as many of these kinds of radios were not going to arrive until late next week!

I used quite a few coupons at the commissary yesterday while shopping. They totaled up to $8.20! I also submitted my receipt to Ibotta for another $1.50 in rebates. I will follow my own advice and transfer that $8.20 from my groceries budget line to the Big Goal. I'm not moving the $1.50 as that is a rebate I will get in cash once I meet the $20 cash out threshold.

I sold a book on eBay over the weekend. Only netted $0.92, but it is now out of our home.

This weekend our landlords drove nearly four hours to put new mulch down in the landscaping beds. It was so needed. In one bed, they changed it to rock. It was very overgrown and over filled with plants. Honestly it really always looked awful. Now it just has a crepe myrtle tree and three rose bushes (which are new) and it looks much better. They also agreed to leave one large backyard bed without much as it only has three trees in it and all the mulch had virtually disappeared and grass has almost filled it all in. This will be much easier to maintain...just mow the grass, no pulling weeds or spraying chemicals! It will save them money in the long term too.

Last Friday, the high school football game was cancelled due to a tornado watch and severe storms. They played their game on Saturday but the band was not needed. We would have been volunteering, thus getting free admission, but we saved the few dollars our daughter would have spent at the concession stand. Tomorrow's weather looks good, so a couple dollars for a evening snack is scheduled. This is how the band makes money, so our daughter does benefit when the money is spent at our home team's concession.

I'll wrap up the post to mention I'm making a photo book for my niece that was adopted by my sister and brother in law in December. I had made one for her older sister when she was adopted. I'm not nearby so I've been gathering the photos as the take them and send them to me. I'm about to wrap it up, order it and have it mailed to her in time for her birthday next week. I'm considering it an adoption gift, and sending money and a small item I'm sewing for her birthday separately.

A lot to do, so I must get back to it! Prayers to all in the path of Irma and those that love them!!

Per Diem Arrived

August 30th, 2017 at 11:47 am

Did I mention my husband completed his training, graduated and is now finally back home after a very long summer? On Friday, within an hour of arriving home he submitted his travel voucher for the trip. And it arrived in our account today!

The grand total amount of per diem and some mileage for first trip and last trip came to $5,348.25! A very nice chunk of change.

We will spend time talking about how to handle these funds. I personally just want it to go to the Big Goal, but at a minimum we are going to replace an old set of speakers in our family room. They are going out and we talked about replacing them at Christmas, but then had a change of plans for that money. Now is the time to make it happen.

I'll let you know after our next budget meeting what the plan will be. Smile

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 08:29 pm

We had some good news today on my daughter's University Bill. The school has applied her VA tuition payments. I'm not entirely sure they have received the funds, but they have noted them on her bill, so it appears we no longer owe the money. So now a bill for just $6,073.51. Most of that is for room and board, about $250 of that seems to be additional housing payment for the week she was in her dorm during band camp. I think something else was covered that we didn't expect. It seems they allowed her Honor's book scholarship of $250 to cover books. It didn't count towards tuition, so that was another $250 from the VA that went towards tuition. All done correctly it seems, just not what I was expecting.

There have been a few more school expenses. My daughter needs a conducting baton for her conducting class. We bought it used on eBay. It was about $22. Hopefully we can resell after this class. My younger daughter needed more notebooks and I picked up some printer paper. Out of pocket for those additional items was $4.03.

Other high school expenses I see coming up are $40 for senior dues (these primarily go to Prom I think), and my daughter's year book for $73. The yearbook isn't a need, but we have always bought them...and this is the last year!! We can afford it, so we are buying it.

Not sure how long it will take for the school to start talking about cap and gown orders and so forth. We will likely only order the cap and gown. We didn't do announcements for our older daughter and it was just fine. That will save some money. We also won't be having any big party. My parents, maybe my sister's family, will be in town and we will celebrate simply with them.

And then at some point we need to get senior pictures.

I made a donation to the American Red Cross to help Houston flood victims. I doubled our normal disaster amount. I wish we could do more, but if everyone helps it will make a difference. Consider miles you have or even Swagbucks if you don't have cash you can assist with.

I received a $3 Pinecone payment today. I redeemed $2.50 in coupons for groceries this week. Two were physical coupons, the other two were rebates with Ibotta.

That's the money news for now! I will get another Emergency Fund post up soon.

Can We Talk About Emergency Funds?

August 25th, 2017 at 02:43 pm

I saw a headline recently that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This makes me so sad!

And then I talked to a good friend of mine yesterday who lives in the path of Hurricane Harvey. I reminded her she should have some cash on hand. She had just taken out $50. I told her more would be better. In my mind I had $500, but said maybe $200 would be good. She said although she just got paid, that she didn't have that much money! I said well since you just got paid, don't pay some of your bills you would be paying until the storm passes. Take the cash out and put it back in after the storm and pay the bills. That assumes she doesn't need it.

I'm of the belief that having an emergency fund, even a small one of $1000, is the foundation of financial security. The feeling you get when you accumulate that much money for just in case is palpable. Particularly if you didn't think you could do it. It's a feeling of accomplishment, confidence and security all rolled into one! It's also a feeling of relief when an emergency such as the one my friend is dealing with arrives and you have that money to use.

Saving that first emergency fund changes your mindset to being proactive against the unknown expenses rather reactive. If you can see that emergencies do come along and you will need money for them, then you can also see why setting aside money for irregular bills is helpful. It opens you up to seeing that you can save for other things like a new dishwasher or Christmas. And then you have saved money because you aren't charging the expense and paying interest. A proactive mindset with your money lets you see that you should save ahead for house down payments, college and retirement. Like I said it is the foundation of a solid financial house.

I can't save that much money. I will spend it if I see that money in my account. We have too many bills. Those are all excuses that block your ability to even try to start an emergency fund. Nearly everyone in the United States has the ability to save $1000. Now you might not be able to save it all this month, but any income level would likely be able to save that much in a years time. I think that is a little too long (and so would Dave Ramsey) but I would give you the grace to get it set up in that period of time. And if you want the math on that it is $83.33 a month.

And now I'm just going to do a quick brain storm of how I could find $83 each month. And honestly, the first thought that came to mind was Swagbucks! I know many people don't like it and even I get annoyed with it sometimes. But it is definitely possible to earn SB to equal a $25 deposit to a PayPal account each month.

I see my husband pick up a bottled water or soda at the grocery store at least once a week. Okay, I do it too, just not as often. The last time I remember noticing the price it was $1.89. If we could eliminate those five sodas from our spending we would save $9.45.

And at our house you have heard me mention that we spend more on restaurants than I prefer. I like to think we rarely eat out, but we do eat out. If we eliminated one trip to Subway each month we would save nearly $30.

I've been lax about using coupons at the grocery store. I think I could probably find at least $5 worth of coupons to use each month, maybe even $10. In fact, just confirm I'm right, I checked Ibotta and found the following coupons that I would use on things I normally buy. $0.25 on any item, $0.25 on fresh zucchini, $0.50 on cheese slices and $1.25 on a specific brand of bar soap. So in one shopping trip I could have $2.25 in savings. That is savings I could set aside towards my emergency fund. Again, easily $5 a month without changing spending habits, but by just finding the coupons!!

This next one is personal, and I've mentioned it here before, but I invested in a menstrual cup and washable/reusable pads earlier this year. At this point the small outlay (which I think I actually used Swagbucks to purchase) has been recouped by saving an average of $7 a month on disposable supplies. Because of my investment that is $7 I no longer have to spend. If I was consciously saving for my first emergency fund I would set that $7 aside each month.

Another one that has crossed my mind lately as a way of saving in our own home is the food we buy our cat. We've been feeding more wet food. A can a day, which is at least $0.50, often a little more. That is $15 a month. Now we do feed her dry food as well, so by eliminating wet food the amount of dry food she eats would increase, but the cost for that additional serving is far less than $0.50. Probably under $0.10. So let's assume we would save $0.40 a day, that is $12 a month.

And finally, I think I would be looking for something to sell each month while I was saving up my $1000 emergency fund. Things I have sold in the past for at least $5 include DVDs, girls jeans, Bath & Body Works lotions and sprays, kids coats and boots, Box Tops for Education, and tools. I've sold many things over the years, some online, some at yard sales. Of course, the amounts vary based on the item. Most of our homes are bursting with stuff! If you could find 12 items in your home worth $5 to sell, you would have $60 towards your emergency fund. I'm guessing many people have far more than that!

At at minimum I just came up with $94 a month I could save!! It takes effort, commitment to the goal but it can be done. And anything you eliminate for the year can be added back in. Or if you eliminate restaurant meals one month, swap it out with putting your Netflix membership on hold for a month. Be creative with how you come up with your savings each month. It doesn't have to be an elimination for a whole year!

Let me know if you are inspired to try saving your first $1000 emergency fund? Do you think you could do this?

And I'm thinking tomorrow I may brainstorm how I would come up with $1000 in one month! That is usually the best plan. Saving the emergency fund as fast as possible.

First VA Housing Payment

August 24th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

We received our first VA Housing payment due to our college daughter using the Post 911 GI Bill. The amount was $370.67. I guess they counted this month as just 10 day. I think it should be 11 since it is a partial month and the number of days my daughter is in school is 11 for August. But I do know the government does base payments on a 30 day month. We will take it.

Now we are just waiting to see the Chapter 33 (Post 911 GI Bill) designation on our daughter's account at the University. The VA office on campus indicated that it should show up after the first week. And since this is the first week, I'm not too concerned yet. I just need it to show up BEFORE the bill is due on September 12 when the bill is due.

In the coming months we expect a monthly payment of $1,112. For the fall semester we will receive that full amount in October, November and December. In January, we will get a partial payment for the partial days of class in December. Each time these come in we will simply be paying ourselves back for the cost of the semesters housing.

And I've mentioned before these housing payments will cover all but about $1700 of the housing that is due for this school year.

So very thankful that our out of pocket costs are going to be far less this year. We'll still be saving some cash in the coming year in anticipation of future semesters that will not be covered. So this reprieve is very helpful!


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