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Archive for December, 2009

The Numbers of 2009

December 31st, 2009 at 07:15 am

Our financial picture of 2009 wraps up like this:

Retirement contributions: $14,147.00
Retirement accounts increased: $33,219.29
Retirement accounts exceeded $100K

Total debt decreased: $17,011.21
Nearly $10K paid on HEL!!

Our net worth increased by approximately $50,230.50, which does not include any increase or decrease in our home's value.

We paid cash for a trip to Disney World and our daughter's braces. Yipee!!

Miscellaneous

December 30th, 2009 at 03:30 pm

I did declutter the other day! I have one small box to drop off at Goodwill early tomorrow morning before it gets too busy!! I meant to do it today.

Payday today. I paid all the bills and went grocery shopping. I bought too much food to celebrate the new year. Oops! I guess we'll have to turn some of those snacks into meals! I will have to shop again for a few things on Sunday before the new school and work week start.

I have a chuck of cash sitting in our account. I'm deciding whether to send it to the home equity loan or buy our new computer in the next two weeks. I'm torn!

I hope to post a wrap up of 2009 tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Decluttering Today

December 29th, 2009 at 01:53 pm

I went roller skating with the girls today. And I actually fell down once! The palms of my hands hurt. We were able to skate and rent skates for $4.50 per person and skated for nearly three hours.

The rest of the day will consist of organizing. The basement has become a bit of a catchall recently. I'm going to set some clear piles for donation, ebay and garage sales. The donation pile will end up at Goodwill tomorrow! I'm also going to take down a few of the holiday decorations. The tree will stay up until Friday.

Enjoy your last few days of the year!

Christmas Brings Cash

December 28th, 2009 at 04:52 pm

Among the numerous gifts we received this Christmas, we received cash or cash equivalents.

$30 Cash
$20 Barnes and Noble
$25 JC Penney
$50 Scheels

We feel very blessed.

We Are Going Shopping

December 26th, 2009 at 07:00 am

Yep, the day after Christmas and we are going shopping. We want to hit Old Navy for an exchange. The store also has jeans on sale, which my daughter's both need. Might as well get a good deal on them!

We will spend the rest of our day prepping for travel. The snow has finally stopped. Our area really didn't get too much, but our destination did. We just need to make sure the roads are clear and safe. Our time away will be less than originally planned, too. So be it.

Less than one week of 2009. I want to make a list of things to accomplish before year end. How about you?

Nice Surprise and a Gift for You

December 24th, 2009 at 02:48 pm

My neighbor called today to see if we wanted any gingerbread dough and icing. Um, yes!!

After I made the pumpkin pie, the girls and I rolled out the dough and cut trees and bells out. We made 26 cookies...many more than if I used our large gingerbread man and girl cutters. I think we will ice as we eat them. I have offered half our pumpkin pie to their family, but haven't heard back yet. Because of the weather, many of my neighbors are home for Christmas. It all makes for new experiences.

I would like to offer each of you a gift. A recipe for Beer Bread. It is VERY good!

3 c flour
1/3 c sugar
1 TBS baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
12 oz beer or soda
3 TBS butter

Combine dry ingredients. Add beer, mix well. Pour batter into greased loaf pan. Pour melted butter on top of batter. Bake 50-60 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool after baking.

Enjoy! Let me know if you try it and how you liked it.

Many Happy Returns

December 23rd, 2009 at 02:09 pm

I returned a gift today that I bought for my daughter. It's just not HER. While I was returning the item to Target, I asked and received a price adjustment on another gift. The result: $22.26 back in our account!!

I've decided after the holidays to return an outfit I bought back in November for a dressy occassion that was cancelled. That return will net us $34.22 to our account! It just doesn't make sense to have it sit in my closet with tags on it. I have no idea when I would wear it.

What I'm Thinking...

December 22nd, 2009 at 09:38 am

Right now, all I'm really thinking about finances is: try not to spend anymore money until payday! We will get paid on December 30th because of the holidays.

December is a spendy month. It's not just the gifts, but the food, the gas for traveling and batteries!

Okay. You know me to well. I am looking ahead financially, too! I'm looking forward to making our next big dent in the home equity loan and updating our final numbers for 2009. The stock market seems to want to go up the last couple days and I want to include any gains!!

On a tax note: I think I will total up the value of our thrift store donations today and enter it into the tax program.

Our Christmas is Changing

December 21st, 2009 at 01:50 pm

Ah...the weather in the midwest likes to change every minute. As a result, our travel plans have come to a near screeching halt. Of course, it is for our own safety, so I'm not complaining.

Instead of traveling on Thursday, we will get to stay home and have our first ever immediate family Christmas!! We can sleep late, or get up early. We can take a nap and stay in our pj's all day if we want.

Yes it is disappointing to not be with other family. Unfortunately, it is difficult to argue with mother nature! We hope to travel soon after the storm clears and it is safe to drive. Getting all of my inlaws together again is going to be another act of nature in itself.

Snowed in for three days: should be cheap!

Want a $5 coupon to Kohl's?

December 20th, 2009 at 03:16 pm

It turns out you can sign up at Kohls.com with your email address to receive a $5 coupon. The coupon is valid on a minimum purchase of $5. It does take several days before it shows up in your email. I think I'm going to buy some socks with mine!!

I took a survey with American Consumer Opinion tonight. At the end, it reminded me that my account would be credited with the $4 in a few days. I checked my account afterwards, and I have $4 in my account already for a survey I took in February!! I will cash out my account, with $8, once my most recent survey posts. It is fun to find money you didn't realize you had.

Ready for Taxes

December 19th, 2009 at 07:23 am

Yesterday, on a bit of a whim, I signed up with TaxAct for tax filing. We won't qualify for a free version, but it it appears we can e file and print both federal and state for under $18. That I can handle.

Last year, I entered information as it came in the mail or was available online. I could already add in our donations and real estate taxes. I even looked back to see that our state refund was returned to us on January 30 and our federal was returned February 8. Fast!!

I have estimated our total refund to be $768. I'm looking forward to seeing how accurate I was. If the refund is in that ballpark, it will be less than half of what was returned to us last year. It's not because our income or withholding changed either! The government was withholding too much state income tax per the withholding tables. They finally corrected it earlier this year.

One last miscellaneous item: I redeemed our debit card points today for $25. It's always nice to have a little extra cash. I also need to redeem some mypoints soon.

A New Computer?

December 18th, 2009 at 09:29 am

We will be buying a new computer in the near future. Specifically, a laptop.

We have one now that my husband will take with him during deployment. That will leave me needing a new one. And yes, it is a need.

A computer, with email, and the ability to send and receive videos is essential to our emotional well being during deployment.

Right now, we have a pretty good idea of what we want to buy. The current price is very good at $449, through Monday. I'd rather wait until after the holidays to take on this additional expense. However, I wonder if the price will go up considerably if we wait. Or will the price drop after the holidays. Does anyone know?

We could even wait a couple months. I just want the best price.

Gift Wrapping Costs

December 17th, 2009 at 09:20 am

This year my out of pocket costs for gift wrapping were near zero! Technically, I bought many of the items in the past, so they cost me something at some point.

I wrapped most items in wrapping paper, which I already owned. I save bows from previous years, if they still look good, and reuse them. This year was no different. I also seemed to have a stash of gift tags. I've decided for future years not to buy gift tags, but use red or green card stock to make a small folded card(the size of a business card) to tape on the gift.

I also wrapped many gifts in gift bags! I skip the tissue paper in most cases and close the top of the bag with tape to keep out little hands and eyes! The gift bags get used over and over, too. I have an abundance of these this year and will give my mom a stack so she doesn't go out and buy new ones.

The only thing I bought for gift wrapping was tape...on sale of course. This is a good item to buy with Walgreen's register rewards if you don't know what to purchase.

How do you keep your gift wrapping costs down?

2009 Ebay Challenge - Final

December 16th, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Yipee!! I made another craigslist sale today in the amount of $25. I sold our other rodent cage and accessories.

I challenged myself this year to make $100 per month on ebay, craigslist or garage sales. I did fall short. Here are the final numbers:

Dec Total = $50.00
Oct Total = $87.96
Sept Total = $110.00
June Total = $55.25
May Total = $197.75
April Total = $22.22
March Total = $83.13
February Total = $66.50
January Total = $4.95

Total for 2009: $677.76
Average per month: $56.48

I think I will continue the challenge in 2010. The truth is we don't have a lot of excess junk. So what should my goal be? An improvement over this year? $60 per month? I could keep it the same and really stretch myself. I might have been able to reach it this year, but there was a lack of motivation at times.

I'll decide my goal at the first of the year, but any thoughts and input are appreciated.

Increase in Pay (BAH rates are out)

December 16th, 2009 at 08:22 am

The military posted the rates for basic allowance for housing early by at least a day. The website appears to have been updated yesterday. I wasn't expecting to see the rates until tomorrow. Our housing allowance is going up by $92 per month.

Anyone out there know what the BAS rates are for 2010? I added 3.8% to last the 2009 amount to get an estimated amount based on something I read.

I estimated our net paycheck on paycheckcity.com. If you are military and do this, make sure to only tax the basic pay portion and add BAH and BAS into the net pay the website provides. We will be getting an additional $105 each pay period. That's an additional $210 per month or $2520 per year!!

Of course, that money will help us meet all the goals we have for 2010. Yipee!!

Under $4K!!

December 15th, 2009 at 06:49 am

I made a regular payment to our home equity loan, as well as, an extra principal payment in the amount of $145!

Our new loan balance sits under $4K at: $3,999.54

We started 2009 with a balance of $13,999. In one years time, we have paid off nearly $10,000 on our home equity loan. I should have sent in an extra $0.54 to make it an even $10K. Oh well. Close enough!

Even though it would have been nice to have paid the whole thing off this year, I feel great that we made good strides. Remember, we paid cash for our daughter's braces and a trip to Disney World. Right now, we are only a few more months away from getting there. I let you know when it happens, of course!

Craigslist Sale

December 13th, 2009 at 04:49 pm

Yipee!! I just made a craigslist sale.

I was browsing the craigslist site a couple hours ago and saw someone wanted a cage for a hamster. I responded to their ad with the cage and accessories we had available. I included a picture and named my price.

The whole timeframe was three hours from my response to their pick up of the cage and accessories. My take: $25!!

So...forget my previous post. We are in the black again. Smile

Dec Total = $25
Oct Total = $87.96
Sept Total = $110.00
June Total = $55.25
May Total = $197.75
April Total = $22.22
March Total = $83.13
February Total = $66.50
January Total = $4.95

Stepped Into the Slush

December 13th, 2009 at 12:41 pm

Not literally. We have two checking accounts. I put any extra money into the second account and call it our slush fund.

Our spending has topped the amount we had in our first checking account for this pay period. As a result, we had to take some funds from the slush fund. A whopping $13.82!! Not bad.

The truth is I don't like stepping into the slush. It's more uncomfortable to me than the real thing. Luckily, tomorrow is payday and our first account will be flush full of cash again.

Kids Away = Productive Day

December 11th, 2009 at 02:29 pm

Wow! I love my kids, but I do appreciate when they head back to school. Today was very productive and so far spend free!

Here's what I accomplished:
Christmas Cards
Vacuumed
Cleaned three bathrooms
Washed kitchen floor
Worked out at gym
Balanced checkbook (yes, I do this)
Made grocery list

We have a busy weekend that I need to prepare for tonight. Stay warm and enjoy your weekend.

I Had a Monopoly!

December 10th, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Guess what? Another snow day for the girls of the creditcardfree household! Our street didn't get plowed until sometime overnight. The temperatures are dangerously cold with the wind chill. I'm pretty sure this is why school was cancelled.

We just finished a game of Monopoly(Disney Themepark Edition). I had a couple of monopolies, including one set with castles (hotels)!! One of my daughter's landed on my property and owed me 550 wishes (dollars). It caused her to go bankrupt! Game over.

They are now painting and I'm going to catch up on housework. Laundry and vaccuuming are on the list for this afternoon. The last couple days have been fun, but tomorrow I'm going to NEED to get out of the house for a bit.

Stay warm!

Snowed In With Money!

December 9th, 2009 at 10:33 am

We are officially snowed in in the creditcardfree household. I think we got 14 inches at least. The snow is expected to blow at blizzard speed until this evening. Even if we wanted out, the 5 foot drift that blocks our garage is standing in the way. I sure don't want to dig it out in this wind!

Luckily, we still have power, heat and internet! I received an email from our bank (USAA) that they paid us $24.55 as a subscriber's account distribution. I think that means we are members and investors in some way. This is more than double what we received last year. The bank had a good year! I think the longer we remain with them the bigger the distributions are. We'll take it!

The snow day is going well. We've made peanut butter cookies, cleaned one bedroom and are about to start wrapping gifts. One child, who can't wait, is tugging on my sleeve right now! It's a good snow day.

Need Side Income?

December 8th, 2009 at 03:26 pm

I was browsing craigslist wanted ads in my area today. Plenty of people wanted, their lot and/or driveway plowed or shoveled. Oh, we are in the middle of a blizzard!!

If you are in the midwest, have a blade on your truck (or a shovel and a good back and heart)there is work for you! Just browse craigslist for those looking for help in your area.

What other winter services could be offered for cash?

No Spend Days Are Coming

December 7th, 2009 at 02:31 pm

I'm thinking the next few days will be no spend days. The snow is about to hit us hard here. We have two inches on the ground as of this morning and up to 12 inches more to arrive tomorrow. Ugh!

In the meantime, we will stay warm inside, play games, address Christmas cards, wrap gifts, listen to music, bake a goodie, drink warm beverages and enjoy each others company.

I'm looking forward to it!

Gifts for 30 People!!

December 6th, 2009 at 06:43 pm

OMG! I just added up the number of people we are giving gifts to this year. 30. I think I'm in shock! I had no idea it was that many.

I've included our immediate family, extended family, teachers, a coworker and friends. The list is pretty typical of most years.

Luckily, I've been getting some very good deals this year. For example, I bought three items from Old Navy today and paid only $2.47 out my own pocket! Nice.

Right now, there really isn't a way to trim down the list, unless I knock out the teachers and friends. The biggest part of the list is extended family. I have 10 neices and nephews, age 21 to 6 mos old. I can get away with less than $10 for the youngest ones and spend around $15 for the older ones. In fact, many are getting just that: $15 cash.

How many people do you buy for at the holidays?

It's Going to Be Spendy

December 5th, 2009 at 10:35 am

We haven't headed out yet, but we have plans to spend this weekend. Gas for the vehicles and snowblower, groceries, Christmas gifts and stamps, boots and snow gloves for both girls. The snow starts tomorrow ending with a bang on Tuesday!

I think we are going to see a movie tomorrow, too. Our time with DH is going to be more and more limited in 2010, so we want to get out and do a few outings together.

I'm waiting for a check from my mother in law. She wants me to buy the gifts for the girls. No problem. Just get me the money! The amount seems to vary from year to year making it a little difficult to plan.

I think we are going to see a movie tomorrow, too. Our time with DH is going to be more and more limited in 2010, so we want to get out and do a few outings together.

We went through DH's civilian clothes. I want to get rid of the stuff he isn't wearing anymore now, rather than while he is gone or even after he returns. We did find quite a few items to donate from his heavier days over two years ago. I hope we can do a little more decluttering this weekend. The girls rooms need some help, too.

End of the Year: Donations

December 4th, 2009 at 09:04 am

This is the last of month of the year to make cash and non-cash donations to the charity of your choice. We tend to make cash donations throughout the year, so I just need to dig through closets. I hope to roundup a few more things to make a final donation to Goodwill and/or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

I actually list every item I donate throughout the year. I also take pictures for auditing purposes. I attach my donation list to the charities receipt and stash it in a tax folder labeled by year. This year: 2009!

When January rolls around, I use a paper copy of It's Deductible to value the items I have donated. Yep, I add each item up one by one. I have had years where I have donated over $1000 worth of merchandise. That saves us about $250 in taxes! Those items wouldn't have fetched to much more at a garage sale. Maybe less!

If you aren't the type to have a garage sale, sell on ebay or craigslist this is the best way to benefit financially with your castoffs. Start digging through those closets and cupboards now and make a list as you go. It only takes a few minutes a day to find things you don't need. It helps to have a box or bag ready when you begin, too! Good luck.

2010 BAH Rates (Housing Allowance)

December 3rd, 2009 at 09:00 am

Heads up to all full time military: 2010 BAH rates will be released in two weeks, on December 17th.

The new rates will be effective with January's mid month paycheck. From what I've read the average housing allowance will increase by 6% over 2009 rates.

Go the department of defense website to find your specific rate.

Water Bill Under Budget

December 2nd, 2009 at 01:56 pm

The water bill came today. It was about $20 under it's normal amount. I think they read the meter earlier than usual, which means next months bill may be higher.

I'm going to stash the extra $20 in our second checking account to cover Christmas expenditures.

Shopping with Rewards & Coupons

December 2nd, 2009 at 08:46 am

On my desk, I have 4 seperate $10 coupons for Old Navy, a $10 Kohl's coupon and $5 off a Hallmark purchase. I don't have to spend a minimum to use these, so it's like free money!

I also have a $10 off a $30 purchase at Bath & Body Works. I can used this to buy a nice gift for a sister in law, with only about $20 out of my pocket.

I'm using the $10 Kohl's coupon to buy some items for my sister. I will end up getting $30 worth of items for $11, by using the coupon with their sale.

I don't have specific plans for the Old Navy and Hallmark coupons. I will only use them if the right gift can be purchased for someone on my gift list.

I guess the marketing is working a bit on me!! Sorry, DisneySteve. I know this shopping stuff is wearing you out.

We Have Less Debt!!

December 1st, 2009 at 09:29 am

I made a big payment to our home equity loan today in the amount of $935. As a result, the loan balance is now $4,236.95!
I think we can get to under $4K by the end of the year. Smile

I told my husband I made a large payment to the loan. He said, "What? A double or triple payment?" Umm...our regular payment is $118. That's almost 8 times the regular payment! Can you tell he doesn't pay to much attention to this stuff?

I bought 20 holiday picture cards online yesterday from Kodak. I never send out picture cards, but I took a really nice picture of our girls while we were at my parents over Thanksgiving. I found a 40% off coupon and with shipping paid $11.78. Pretty good! I now need to buy some stamps.

I'm thinking of buying our new digital camera from Amazon. I realized that I can save the sales tax by purchasing from them. The camera I'm looking at comes with an extra memory card if I buy from Amazon as well. I would save about $24 online. It seems worth it. I just need to run it by my husband.