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Archive for February, 2009

Home Equity Loan - Under $9K

February 28th, 2009 at 10:05 am

I made a principal payment to our home equity loan today in the amount of $615! This is extra money we have available this pay period to apply to the loan.

The new balance of the loan is now under $9,000!!

New Balance = $8,800

My original goal was to get this loan under $7,000. I think we will actually get it paid off at the rate we are going. That makes me soooo happy!!

Next week, I will send in my ebay challenge money!

Again, it falls....

February 27th, 2009 at 02:39 pm

The interest rate on our money market has fallen for at least the 3rd, or maybe the fourth month in a row. We are down to 2.4% APY.

Is everyone else experiencing something similar?

I wish the rate on my mortgage or home equity loans would go down without me asking!! One can dream, right?

Bread Update

February 27th, 2009 at 06:40 am

Yesterday, I baked homemade bread. The recipe is here.

Output: 3 medium loaves
Texture: Too doughy
Edibile: Yes
Taste: Yummy!!
Errors: Possibly too little rising at the end, or not enough whole wheat flour

I will attempt this again. We are eating it and overall it was successful. It may require trying another recipe. I also need a bigger bowl...that's a lot of dough!

My Dough Is Increasing!!

February 26th, 2009 at 09:22 am

Yep, there is dough sitting on my counter. I'm baking bread today!! This is the first time I have ever baked bread with yeast. The recipe seems simple enough, so I'm giving it a go.

I'm attempting bread making for several reasons. The main one is to get away from bread that comes in plastic bags. Along with reducing our plastic consumption, I'm looking to find healthier alternatives. Bread without preservatives is healthier, right? I haven't calculated the cost yet, but it may be slightly less expensive. I'm okay if it is not.

This particular recipe will make three loaves of bread!! I will update you all later with the results and the recipe if it turns out okay.

Wish me luck!!

Gold Sale

February 25th, 2009 at 06:40 am

I sold my gold. Gold jewelry. Two rings, only 10K gold. One was my high school class ring. Does anyone ever wear these after high school?

I decided with gold prices as high as they were, I'd rather have the cash than the jewelry. Both rings have been sitting in my jewelry box for 15 years or more.

Oh, you want to know how much cash I received? $31.50. I'm glad I waited because back in October or November I was quoted $25. So, it paid a little bit to wait.

I actually had to wait in line and they had three people working. All but one person was in there selling gold jewelry. All women, too! One woman was quoted $777! Another received over $250. They had some nice stuff, too. But, if you don't wear it, what is the point?

I also had to sign a police report and show my driver's license since I was technically pawning my gold!! Good thing mine wasn't stolen. Smile

I will add this to the Ebay Challenge money.

February Total = $66.50
January Total = $4.95

Ebay Challenge Money

February 24th, 2009 at 01:54 pm

I guess I'm impatient. I decided to take the items I had on half.com to the used book store. I sold it all for $13.

The items I had were generally going for $.75 a piece on half.com and there were hundreds listed. My chances of selling them at all were slim.

I'm not sure how many items I took because I threw in a fair number of recent magazines at the last minute. I'm sure it was less than $.50 an item, but I feel good about it.

I feel good because I have decluttered, put items back into the economy for purchase, kept items out of the landfill and best of all received a little cash.

I also went for a walk on this glorious day and picked up 15 cans/bottles that I can take in for redemption. That will add $0.75 to my wallet.

February Total $35.00
January Total $4.95

I do have three things to list on ebay, but they will have to be added to the total in March.

$66.70 More Per Month

February 23rd, 2009 at 02:55 pm

I did some digging at the irs site and found this pdf file of new withholding rates and calculations for the most recent enacted tax credit.

This is the credit that we will see over the next year as an decrease of federal taxes withheld from our paychecks. Working couples should receive $800 and singles $400.

When I do the math ($66.70 * 12) it does equal $800.40. Of course, this probably won't start until April on our paychecks. That's only 9 months of withholding ($66.70 * 9) which is equal to $600.30. The rest is a refundable credit that we will most likely see next year when we file our tax return.

So, I could use these extra funds to the home equity loan...OR I could up DH's retirement another 1% of his basic pay. I'll need to discuss with him!

Weekend Update

February 22nd, 2009 at 03:56 pm

We spent $66.67 on groceries this week. That is really good. That is for all four of us, too! We had several things in the cupboards and freezer that we can make for dinner.

I made the girls friendship bread from a starter I had in the freezer. This is a replacement for prepackaged preservative laden sweets. They will take a slice in their lunch each day this week.

Only 5 more days until payday! We have about $60 left. I will need to use a bit of it for a haircut! It just can't be put off any longer.

I'm going to use the rest of the week to start looking ahead to March. We have a birthday, school spring break, and a small out of town trip planned. I may also be purchasing some living room blinds since they are now on sale. These things will effect how much I send in to the home equity loan at the beginning of March. I'm sure I can get the balance under $9K!!!

Good Mail Day

February 22nd, 2009 at 08:20 am

There were only three things in the mail yesterday. No junk mail. I love that!

Item I ordered online arrived (Quick)
$3 Pinecone Check
TSP Year End Statement

The TSP statement showed a 45% decline so that is not exactly good news. Oh well, we are still young enough to make it through this! And we are buying tons of shares at rock bottom prices. Can't beat that!

Pinecone check will go in savings account for now. Eventually, I will put this money towards the home equity loan.

Today, we need to get groceries for the week and buy bedding for our pet mice and hamster. This is the most expensive part of having these types of pets.

I wrote a check for DD2 yearbook. It was $16! She's only in 3rd grade. I don't think that younger kids really need yearbooks, but it becomes an emotional issue if they feel left out by not having them. I found that out last year when I didn't buy them. We can afford it...so it will be purchased.

That's the news from here. Make it a great day!

How I Do It

February 20th, 2009 at 03:48 pm

I was talking to my sister today about how I budget and pay bills and find money to send towards our home equity loan.

We get two paychecks a month on the 1st and the 15th. They are virtually equal.

I first pay all bills and investments that are due during that time frame. Many of these are automatic, but I record them all in the checkbook.

Second, I mentally pull $700 from the remaining checkbook balance. This $700 is for auto fuel and groceries. We use it to pay clothing, kids lunches...whatever comes up during that pay period. Sometimes this isn't enough. I'll explain that later.

Finally, the remaining amount after bills, investments and our $700 is the amount I should have available to send in to our home equity loan.

This is the basic plan each pay period. We have a second checking account that holds our escrow funds (see my page on the right about that) and a small cushion of cash. This small cushion is not more than $500. Right now it is actually $250!

So, if the $700 runs out we attempt to curb spending or dip into the cushion in our 2nd checking account. We also can dip further into our emergency fund for large car repairs, ect. If we do borrow from the EF it gets paid back with the extra funds we get the following pay period, or as many pay periods as it takes.

If we know of expenses in the future, we simply put the cash aside ahead of time. For example, I expect to purchase a new sink for our kitchen at some point. When the time comes I will reduce the extra principal payment to the home equity loan by the amount I need for the sink.

So, clear as mud? Does that make sense? I hope it helps someone out there. It works for us. I already have a handle on most of our spending so that helps keeps things working smoothly.

Feel free to ask questions!

Life Insurance

February 19th, 2009 at 06:04 pm

I received the annual bill in the mail for my life insurance. Same amount as expected!

I think it may revise sometime in the next year or two. It was a 10 year term policy. I kind of wish I bought a 20 year policy, the premium is pretty reasonable.

I pay money towards the premium each paycheck and put it in our own personal escrow account. So, the money is alreay to go. I decided to pay through bill pay to save the stamp and a trip to the post office to purchase one. I so rarely use postage stamps anymore.

Life Insurance: PAID

Insurance Appreciation

February 18th, 2009 at 02:01 pm

Lots of military families gripe about medical care. We have not had a bad experience yet. We are fortunate to have the ability to use local doctors that are on the plans list.

Today, we had to use that insurance. My youngest daughter did a cartwheel in the family room last night and landed her toes on a desk chair. Oops! She complained that it hurt last night, but we dismissed it a bit. The complaining was much louder this morning.

So, she missed school. We went to the doctor and then to another clinic for x-rays. Turns out the x-rays are clear. So, she'll just be sore for a few days.

Out of pocket cost: $0
Expected cost sharing: $0

Can't beat that! I'm very grateful that nothing is broken, too.

Another Punch

February 17th, 2009 at 06:52 am

to the home equity loan. I sent in $504.27 today! I think that will be it for February.

New HEL Balance = $9,415.00

Total Principal Paid in February = $3,437

What a month!

I expect things to slow done a little for the next few months. There's a birthday, and spring projects that will take a bite out of our extra income. But there will still be progress!

How are the rest of you doing on your extra mortgage payments?

Half.com Sale

February 16th, 2009 at 02:20 pm

I've sold a book on half.com!

Okay, the book was only a dollar, so we don't need to get too excited. Since they give a shipping credit, I will receive a total of $3.92. The shipping cost will be $2.23. My net is $1.69. I will add it to my ebay challenge total.

February Total To Date $22.94
January Total $4.95

I will be listing two pairs of girls jeans to ebay this week. I think I have a few more items for half.com, too.

Yes, my kids get an allowance

February 15th, 2009 at 08:18 am

Reading Monkeymamas blog about Suze Orman and teaching kids about money, got me thinking about the allowance we give our girls.

Our girls get an allowance, paid at the beginning of each month, based on how old they are. My 11 year old gets $11. The 8 year old gets $8. It's about to go up by $1 as the oldest has a birthday next month.

They each have a ATM type bank they stash their money in. It helps count the money for them, even though they both know how to count it manually. The oldest has over $100 tucked away. The youngest just under $50. I think they like having large balances. Well, large to them.

The youngest doesn't seem to mind spending her money. In fact, she's donating $10 to a charity later today for a girl scout event. She decided the amount!

The oldest is more contemplative about her purchases. She tends to wait until she feels she has an excess. She's a bit like her me that way. She prefers not to have less than $100. Right now she is saving to accumulate $200. She will open a bank account when she does. She actually wants to start saving for a car!! It sure isn't too early for that.

They do spend some of their money. I've made them pay me back for candy or gum!! Those are luxuries I don't need to pay when they have stacks of bills at home.

Although their allowance amounts are fixed, they are expected to work around the house. They make their beds, clean their rodent cages, make their own lunches, put away laundry, clean up their toys and numerous other daily living tasks. Occassionally, we will offer to pay extra for extra chores. I remember last summer, we paid $2 for the oldest to vacuum out the minivan. She did a great job, too!

It works for us! What works for you?

More Principal Paid Off!!

February 14th, 2009 at 07:05 am

Our regular home equity payment posted yesterday. The principal portion of the $118.01 was $57.73! Last month the pricipal amount was only $37. So, we are making progress in the interest department.

Old Balance = $9977.00
New Balance = $9919.27

I expect to make one more extra principal payment for the month of February.

Oh, and we have nearly paid $3K toward the principal this month. Amazing!! Most of this was due to our tax returns totalling nearly $2K.

Simple Valentines

February 13th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

Our simple valentines day will consist of the following:

1) Girls will get books for gifts. I shopped for them in my basement because they were a previous purchase. I will wrap them in valentine's bags I have used several years in a row. If I give cards, I will make them myself.

2) We will eat manicotti, broccoli, and cresent rolls for dinner at our kitchen table. I will use our white table cloth and light candles. We will eat by candlelight.

3) We will have poundcake, with strawberries and cool whip for dessert.

Earlier in the day my oldest daughter has a solo flute performance at school. I hope that we can dig ourselves out of the snow to go bowling or see a movie as a family, too.

What are your plans?

Buying Habits Changing

February 12th, 2009 at 04:08 pm

My buying habits for just about everything are changing. In the past, I have based many purchases on price. The lowest price. It has served us well in the past. And, it will still factor into my purchasing decisions.

I will now factor in the ingredients, looking for natural, rather than chemical and synthetic. I will also factor in the packaging. The less packaging the better, the less plastic the better.

I'm doing this for my family's health, as well as the earth. I would like us to generate less waste. I already use reusable bags when I grocery shop. It has cut done on the usage of plastic bags significantly.

I'm not worried about global warming. Maybe I should be, but for now I'm making the changes because I can. I can afford to spend an extra dollar or two on something with natural ingredients that is better for our bodies.

From now on you won't see any posts from my on Walgreen's savings. Unless, the purchase is a product that meets my new buying criteria. Right now I can only think of a few things I've purchased in the past at Walgreen's that qualify. Sure, I can get makeup for free, but it has so many chemicals that are bad for my skin that it is no longer worth it to me.

In the future, you might find a few posts about the changes we are making and what the financial impact is as we start buying in a new way.

Any one else making these types of changes?

$50 Survey Check Coming

February 11th, 2009 at 05:55 am

I've been a member of Global Test Marketing for awhile. Last night I completed a survey and finally reached the minimum 1000 points necessary to redeem for cash.

They pay 5 cents per point. That works out to $50! I hope it will arrive quickly, but the email states 4-6 weeks.

I've completed at least 500 points worth of surveys in the last two months, so things have picked up for me. I'm also making a better effort to complete them when they send them too.

I'm sure I could have had my $50 much sooner, but I did take a break from their surveys for over a year. Silly me. I could have probably earned quite a bit more had I stuck with it.

It's free to join. I would suggest getting another email account for survey requests, so they don't get in the way of more important emails (like work!).

You can sign up here. I don't get any kickbacks, unless you want to send me your email, then I can get 20 points for referring you. It is up to you!

Ebay Sales Update

February 10th, 2009 at 03:39 pm

I had two items end this afternoon. Both sold!! I have another $13.50 to add to the 2009 Ebay Challenge.

February Total to Date = $21.25
January Total = $4.95

I had hoped to find more to sell, but thus far I am coming up empty. Remember how much I sold last year? That kind of explains it, but I will keep looking.

I'm excited for all of you that are doing so well. Keep up the good work!!

Guess What I Did?

February 9th, 2009 at 01:25 pm

Yep, I did it. I made ANOTHER payment to our home equity loan!!

The payment was $610, which was the amount of our federal tax return. All the money went to principal reduction.

Old Balance = $10,587
New Balance = $9,977

Did you notice we now owe less than $10K? That's only four figures of debt rather than 5!!!

Saving Big Bucks

February 8th, 2009 at 11:29 am

I went grocery shopping today with the girls. We spent $65 for a weeks worth of groceries!!

This is lower than our regular $110+ we usually spend. So, why the drop? DH will be out of town this week. No chips to buy, no excess diet coke, less meat. I also bought some of our regular items on sale and shopped the cabinets before making our list.

I've already planned our Valentine's Day dinner: manicotti, cresent rolls, broccoli and pound cake with strawberries (and a little cool whip on the side). I may break down and buy some wine later.

Window Washing...so worth it!

February 7th, 2009 at 08:25 pm

I spent this glorious day cleaning windows! It was nice to have some fresh air flowing in. I did clean the glass...but that wasn't my goal.

Last spring, we had lots of rain. You may have heard about it...we live in Iowa. SmileWe noticed that when it would rain, the water would come inside the window...on the track where the window slides horizontally. That just didn't seem right to us.

In the spring of 2007, water came in somewhere and left our daughter's bedroom carpeting wet. We never really knew how that happened. So, with seeing the water, we went with caulk in 2008...on the inside track of the window. The good news, no wet carpet. The bad news, water still came in and filled up the window track. We kept towels in the track all spring and summer to soak up any moisture. This doesn't seem right, does it?

Today...I pulled the sliding window out. Pulled up the window track and the caulk. Cleaned out all the dirt and grime in the lower track and flushed it with water. The deal is: the water is suppose to get in the track and drain through two holes to the outside! I did caulk a couple seams below the track as a precaution, but I think our windows will work great this year.

Silly me...I thought I might need to buy NEW windows. A little cleaning should be well worth the effort. And it will rain on Monday...so I will know the results soon. Can't even imagine how much that probably saved me!!

Under $11K! Already?

February 6th, 2009 at 09:41 am

We are making quite a bit of progress on our home equity loan this month. I just made a payment of $915 to shave the principal balance down a bit! This money comes from extra funds in our checking account this pay period.

Previous Balance = $11,502
New Balance = $10,587

So far, in February, we have made extra principal payments totalling $2,265!! This is fun! And there's more to come next week...stay tuned!

Both Will Sell

February 5th, 2009 at 05:44 pm

I'm excited both of my items I have listed on ebay this week will sell!! They each have bids. One has several people watching, too.

I still have over 4 days until the listings end. I hope to find a few more items to sell and post before the weekend ends.

Good luck everyone!

Tidbits of Info

February 5th, 2009 at 06:26 am

It looks like my Federal refund is pending to be deposited tomorrow...just as expected! That's another $610 that will go to the home equity loan. Smile

Our water bill went down by $7 this past month. Apparently, we are not showering as much or doing as much laundry! Maybe that's not a good thing.

Our electricity usage went down as well by 181 kWh's. That equals a savings of $15. We did intall $50 worth of CFL bulbs early in January and I stopped using our desktop computer as much (it is just too slow). So, I hope that trend continues. That $50 in for the CFL's was a gift...so $0 out of our pocket.

Next week, DH is out of town. I usually save money when he is gone, since all of his expenses (i.e. coke addiction) are paid by the Army. He also won't be driving to work for a full week and one less mouth to feed!

That's all of the tidbits for now!

When to file? Where's my refund?

February 4th, 2009 at 10:45 am

So, you KNOW you will need to file your taxes and you THINK you might get a refund to pay off that credit card, medical bill. It would be nice to get it to them before the next billing cycle, right?

If you check out the link here you can see when your refund will be deposited in your account or when that check might be mailed. This information is based on when your tax return is accepted by the IRS. Before your return is accepted you have to file your taxes.

It's February, you should have just about everything you need. If not, check online with your bank, mortgage company or brokerage firm to see if your tax form is available there. Wouldn't it be great if everyone of us could be done by the end of this short month. Really, why would you want to do your taxes on a warm spring evening, when you could be outside?

Good luck, everyone!

No Spending

February 4th, 2009 at 07:38 am

Monday and Tuesday were no spend days for me. I expect today to be the same. It sure helps to just stay home and out of the stores!

Today, I will clean and keep my eyes peeled for ebay items to sell. After the girls are home from school we will decorate for Valentines Day. They also need to address their valentines for their classmates. We are making our own and using leftovers from other years!! It should be a fun and frugal time.

Here's to a day of no spending!! Do you have the same plan? I'd like to know I'm not alone. Smile

My Ebay Challenge Update

February 3rd, 2009 at 03:58 pm

I sold two of four items on Sunday for a total of $7.75. Those items have been shipped.

Today I added two more items. One already has a bid...within the first hour of listing!

February Total To Date: $7.75
January Total $4.95

My Interest Went Down

February 3rd, 2009 at 01:21 pm

I wish the interest was on a loan, but no, it is with our money market account.

It has dropped every month for the last few months. I think we started at 3.5%, but now it is dropping from 2.8% to 2.6%. Just a sign of the times. At least we are still earning interest!

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