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Archive for February, 2010

Two Notes About 'Bucks'

February 28th, 2010 at 02:04 pm

I received 10 bucks in the mail yesterday from NFO MySurvey. It arrived very quick considering I requested it on February 13th. Two weeks.

I haven't been attending to my SwagBucks account. I had an email about their anniversary with a code to obtain 10 swagbucks. When I redeemed it I noticed that I already had 30 points in my account. Last time I logged in I used all my points to donate to the Red Cross for Haiti relief. Turns out the 30 points came from people who signed up under me. So, if you at one time signed up under me...thank you! As a result, I decided to add the swagbucks banner back to my sidebar.

I'm going to try to use Swagbucks for my searches along with MyPoints. Maybe I will earn enough to buy Christmas presents off Amazon this year! If you want to try to do something similar, click on my sidebar for a link to the program. I'll let you know how it is progressing from time to time, too.

Progress: 2010 Financial Goals

February 27th, 2010 at 10:49 am

Our basic goals for 2010 break down like this:

1) Max out our Roth IRA's = $10,000
We make monthly contributions that are automated
2) Save 7% of basic pay in TSP
Automatically taken from paycheck
3) Pay off home equity loan
Only $199 plus interest to go!
4) Save money for college = $3,300
We are scheduled to start contributions in March. I hope to automate these as well
5) Add money to emergency fund = $7,000
I expect we can start adding money in April Smile
6) Pay off van beginning balance = $19,444
Balance is now at $18,579.87 from regular contibutions only. We will begin adding extra in June
7) Convert IRA's to Roth IRA's
Approximately 65% of our IRA's were converted in February. May not convert the rest until later in the year.

I'd say we are on track so far in meeting all goals. Yipee!!

Only 1.25% Interest

February 27th, 2010 at 05:44 am

Our money market account is now only paying us 1.25% interest. Last month we earned $11.39.

The money market holds our emergency fund and savings for our real estate taxes and homeowner's insurance, so it really isn't money I'm expecting a large return on.

I'm just disappointed that the rates are still so low. I look forward to the day when they start to rise again!!

I read an article about saving today in our newspaper. The most important thing is to start, if you haven't already. Even a few dollars a month that you save for a goal can add up. Just don't dip into those funds until your goal is reached!! Trust me. It is much more satisfying to reach a goal than drink a mocha or eat a hamburger.

The interest on your savings is a bonus, even if it is a small one right now!

Closer to Zero

February 26th, 2010 at 05:51 am

Yipee!! I made the $1,800 principal payment to our home equity loan bright and early this morning. Obviously, I'm very anxious to get this thing paid off. Smile

New Balance $199.00

I like that we are getting closer to zero.

No Spend Day

February 25th, 2010 at 02:13 pm

No spending for me today. I spent more than enough the last few days!

I started some spring cleaning today. I washed two bathroom shower curtains and bath mats. Tomorrow, I'm washing comforters.

It doesn't seem that much like spring when snow is everywhere. However, it is getting warm enough for a little melting. Primarily off the roof!! I'll take it.

I can't wait for tomorrow when I will make an $1,800 payment to the home equity loan!! Smile

Found Some Deals

February 24th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

I wasn't really looking for them. I was at Target anyway! I bought only things we use and would normally buy, even though a few other items were tempting.

Here's what I got:

4 pack Edge shaving cream $4.24*3 = $12.72
30 ct Swiss Miss hot chocolate $1.88
2 pk Market Pantry apple juice $1.48*2 = $2.96
2 pk Soft scrub $2.48
Total spent = $20.04

Target had a section soon after the first of the year where you could buy in bulk, like Sam's Club and Costco. These deals were in those sections and were primarily marked down 50%.

Prior to my purchases I returned two items equal to $40.45!! Now to convince my husband to lug 12 containers of shaving cream overseas....

Home Equity Loan Plan Details

February 23rd, 2010 at 11:05 am

This post is primarily for my own needs, however I know people like to read this kind of thing.

Current Home Equity Loan Balance: $1,999

On Friday, February 26 pay $1,700 towards principal from paycheck.

On Monday, March 1 pay $118.01 regular payment (last one of which $116.20 will go to principal payoff!) and a extra principal payment of $100.

Edit: I'm going to make a $1,800 payment first, then the regular payment.

After the above payments the principal balance will be $82.80. I will call the mortgage company for a final payoff amount. I expect this to be $83.30. I will request a certified check from our bank. This check will cost me $5 to obtain. I will have the check mailed to us to send with the payoff letter. Once I mail the final check I expect payoff to occur within one to two days, since the payoff address is just blocks down the road from our house.

I wish I didn't need certified funds. Now, it is possible I could simply pay it off online and they would write off the little interest that is owed. However, the website and an email response confirmed that certified funds are required. They will even return personal checks if received.

That is the plan. I'm excited that we are so close.

Twice This Month

February 22nd, 2010 at 12:11 pm

I have eaten out in restaurants twice this month. Once with a friend and once with my husband. I ate out with hubby today. He arrived back home yesterday!! I only get him for another day. Then he has training in another state. Frown

Today we went to TGI Friday's with a coupon. I will just say he picked a more expensive meal. However, with the coupon my meal was "free" and as was my water.

We then went shopping!! He needed a new backpack. The one he traveled with was starting to tear...and not at the seams. Ugh. And he needed a new toiletry bag, toiletries and shower shoes. I'm glad I set aside some cash for these things.

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I signed up for paypal payments for my Pincone surveys. Those are quick! I took a survey on Saturday and was just paid today. I'm glad I made the switch.

My College Education Expenses

February 21st, 2010 at 06:31 am

My parents paid for nearly my entire college education. There was a year where we did qualify for Pell grants because my Dad had been laid off from a job the prior year and he had two kids in college! We did take out student loans. I remember paying my loans off within the first year of graduating. I'm guessing the amount was less than $2,000. It's hard to remember now.

I did work part time for at least 2 of the 4 years I went to college, but I believe this was for things like food, entertainment, clothing, auto fuel and all other expenses. My parents paid my rent, and car insurance.

Honestly, at the time, I took the amount my parents paid to send me to college for granted. I probably still do. I do have the appreciation for the cost of college, as we did have to pay some of my huband's college expenses. Luckily, the Army and his full time job paid for a large portion. Those student loans were paid off several years ago.

My parents had saved some money for my sister and I for college in UGMA accounts, invested in mutual funds. I remember pretty distinctly, writing a letter every semester requesting a certain amount be withdrawn. When I received the check, I used it only for tuition. I never thought to pull more money for myself. I knew that it was for education expenses only.

I know of several people my age who took out the maximum student loan amounts every year. The used part of it for tuition and books, but the remainder was "fun" money. Guess what? They are still paying their student loans! Ugh. Of course, for all I know my parents are still paying on our student loans. I sure hope not!

I bring all this up, because I was talking to my sister about the fact that my oldest daughter will be starting college in 5.5 years. And it doesn't feel that far away. Yikes!! Yes, we have some money saved. Both girls get good grades, so may qualify for some scholarship money. I really need to start crunching some numbers to see how much more I might want to save, or be able to save.

I have thought all along that the girls should have their hand in paying for some of the expenses. I think they should also work some, part time at least. I also think we can cash flow part of it, as well.

Any insights? How was your college education paid for? Are you currently paying for a child's college education? How is that going? I'd love to hear!

Quick Clothes Shopping

February 20th, 2010 at 12:01 pm

I had an offer to join JC Penney rewards in my email inbox this week. I would get a $10 coupon good towards any purchase. I signed up and we went shopping today.

My oldest daughter needed a new dressy shirt for her band concert. Found one originally priced at $36, which was 40% off. After the coupon was deducted and tax was added, I paid $10.59.

It was a quick shopping trip. She looked, picked one out, tried it on, we paid and we were on our way back home. I love those types of trips!!

Paying HEL off....

February 19th, 2010 at 10:27 am

next week!!

I mentioned last week when I made a $1000 payment to our home equity loan that I hoped the Army would pull through with some money so that I could pay off the loan before April 1. The good news! Yes. The money I was hoping for will be here next week.

I peeked at my husband's pay stub for next week. They are not withholding taxes and have paid us the Hazard Fire Pay that he is due from being in the zone this month. (I expect him home Sunday. Happy Dance!) This is an extra $780!!

I already have $917, okay let's round that to $920, that I plan to pull from the regular paycheck funds.

If you are following along, you know that equals $1700 to put toward the loan payoff next week.

I'm also scheduled to make our regular payment of $118.01, which at least $116 will go to principal, if I make the big payment first!

It seems I will be about $183 short of paying this loan off. I'm now looking for some extra cash. In the end I think I'll pull it from some emergency funds. I can pay us back when my husband gets paid midmonth!

We are so close. Yipee!!

Do You Calculate For Fun?

February 18th, 2010 at 06:19 am

Yes, I do. I calculate things for fun. It can be inspiring and upsetting, but it is mostly just for fun.

Recently, I decided to calculate how quickly we could pay off ALL of our debt. This would include the home equity loan, our van loan and our mortgage.

I made some assumptions in our calculations. That we wouldn't save for college. That we aren't moving. That nothing unexpected would happen. Remember this is just for fun. I also assumed we wouldn't sell the car and purchase my husband a truck.

So, how long? You want to know, right? Just under 4.5 years! OMG! I couldn't believe we could achieve that so quickly. Turns out that would be just before my oldest daughter graduates high school and heads of to college.

The calculations get you thinking. Would this be a worthy goal? Is it possible? Do we want to have our mortgage paid off while we put two kids through college? It sounds like a nice idea.

I highly recommend calculating for fun. It opens doors of possibilities. At least for me!

Our Van Loan: Under $19K

February 17th, 2010 at 05:58 am

The first entry regarding this: the loan on our Honda Odyssey.

We bought it used 1.5 years ago. The interest rate is 3.9%. We borrowed $26,955. I don't like writing that number, but I do LOVE driving my van. It's the most expensive vehicle we have ever owned. Prior to this, the most we spent on a vehicle was about $12K. The plan is to keep it as long as possible, which could be a long time. It's a Honda.

Today our current loan balance is $18,579.87. I just made our regular payment and $433 went to principal.

This will be the next debt we attack once we finish up the home equity loan. It's almost like starting over again with the home equity loan. In fact, it is MORE money than the home equity loan was.

And in case your curious. Our only other debt is our first mortgage on our home.

Today's Van Maintenence

February 16th, 2010 at 09:59 am

Went to the dealer for an oil change on our Honda Odyssey. They have changed owners and no longer price match competitors. Darn!

Turns out I need a couple filters, tire rotation and alignment. I let them change the filters. They were pretty gross! I don't think I want to comment on how much they were. I only wonder, if I could have picked them up cheaper elsewhere and changed them myself. The van is still new, so lot of the parts, are not available elsewhere. We had it happen with the rear windshield wiper blade. I will look into it, so I'm better prepared next time!

I will definitely get the rotation and tire alignment, but probably next month. I need to get through winter and stop running into pot holes first! This will cost just under $250. Ugh! Apparently well worth it to extend the life of our expensive tires. The van is on its first set, makes me wonder how much the tires are!

Sales: Time Out

February 15th, 2010 at 07:57 am

I'm taking a break from selling on ebay. It does become a bit of a chore at times. I also have a lot going on here at home with my husband out of town. In fact, I had to get up early and shovel the driveway! I'm volunteering some of my time up at the elementary school book fair, as well.

I have more things to sell, so I will get back to it in the next week or two. How is everyone else doing with their sales?

My Valentine

February 14th, 2010 at 06:32 am

My valentine is in another country and I still got an email wishing me a Happy Valentine's Day! I'll take it.

We don't usually go all out on this day anyway. Some cards and a few flowers are given. This year, I bought the girls each a card, and one bag of candy that I divided up for them. I snuck a few pieces for myself, too. Tonight we will have pasta for dinner by candlelight, which is also a tradition.

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I requested a cash out from My Survey last night. I will get a $10 check in a couple of weeks. It seems they are awarding fewer points for each survey.

Last week, for Super Bowl Sunday, we opened a block of Kraft cheese to find mold on the sides. Eww! We threw it out. I ran to the store for more (picked another brand). On Monday, I emailed Kraft about the issue. Kraft responded with an apology. They are also sending me a $2 check to reimburse me for the purchase. Kraft is good!

We Need Certified Funds

February 13th, 2010 at 08:05 am

Since we are getting very close to paying off the home equity loan, I decided to check in to the payoff procedures. It looks like I will need to mail certified funds. Our bank will charge us $5 for the check, which I can request online and have them mail for us. No charge for snail mail.

Right now, I make all of our payments online, so I find this certified funds a little annoying. Seriously, if my electronic funds have been good thus far why do the last few dollars have to be official? Okay...I do kind of get why, since they are releasing the lien the bank wants to know the funds are good. Right? Just a tad irritating. I'll deal with it.

I plan to pay most of the loan electronically and leave the last $50 to $100 to be sent by certified check. The location for this check to be mailed to is just down the road from me. Might take two minutes to get there if I drove a check down, but I guess they probably don't accept walk ins!

Makes me think I should go get a job down the road processing mortgage payments. That might be fun.

Home Equity Loan Update

February 12th, 2010 at 03:18 pm

I made a big $1000 payment to our home equity loan today. Nearly $200 of that came from recent sales for my ebay challenge. The remaining amount came from earned income.

New Balance: $1,999

We are getting so close. I really hope by this time next month we have the loan paid off!!

Free Snow Removal

February 12th, 2010 at 06:43 am

We have had over 50 inches of snow this year in my city. Normal year is 19 inches! As you can imagine the snow piles up. It especially piles up on the section between the street and the sidewalk. We also happen to live the second house from a corner. As a result, my neighbor and I get a lot of snow dumped at the bottom of our driveways when they plow the streets. So we get our our shovels and snowblowers and add it to the pile by the sidewalks!

The snow pile by the sidewalk was starting to affect my ability to get mail because so much snow was wrapped around the mail box and piling up into the street. It was even getting difficult to lift the snow onto the pile that is over my shoulders! I contacted my city Wednesday afternoon about removing some snow near our driveway and mailbox. I included my neighbor in my request.

The city was out first thing yesterday morning with a plow and dump truck hauling away our snow. There is still some snow, but it looks so much better and will be easier to deal with when the next snow round comes. Turns out that is tomorrow!

I love quick service.

Withdrew Sales Proceeds

February 11th, 2010 at 06:11 am

I withdrew $120 of my ebay and book sale proceeds from my paypal account. This money will arrive in my account in a couple days.

The really exciting news about this is that it will all go to the home equity loan! I think I can get the loan to under $2K once we hit pay day. You know that makes me happy! Smile

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I did get to talk to my husband twice yesterday before his plane left. That always relaxes me. He's probably still in the air...it is a long flight!

He Left Today

February 10th, 2010 at 05:44 am

My husband left today for a 10 day trip to the combat zone where he'll be stationed this year. Yep, one of the lucky ones to be up high enough on the chain to go check out what the mission will be. That means we get a trial run here at home. I'm so NOT excited.

Idea for Your Tax Refund

February 9th, 2010 at 10:36 am

If you haven't already discovered the freedom or escrow account for paying bills, you are missing out. A freedom account allows you to save up to pay for semiannual or annual expenses. You could even use it to save up for unexpected and expected auto repairs.

On my sidebar you can look at 'Our Escrow Account' to see the things we save up for and pay out of our freedom account. Often, it can be difficult to start this type of account because you need to fund it with a beginning amount, so that when the first bill comes in you have the money ready to pay. This is especially true, if your auto registrations are two months away and would only have a month or so of funding available.

If you want to start one, you might consider starting yours with your tax refund. Or part of your tax refund. I find it is helpful to keep these funds in a second checking account. Ours is mixed in with some other funds, but I keep track of our freedom account balance in an Excel spreadsheet.

Just something to think about. It really does wonders for your finances.

Auto Insurance Lowered

February 8th, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Our auto insurance increased six months ago and now has decreased. We will save about $5/month or $30 for six months. It gets confusing when they make changes to premiums even though we did not make any changes ourselves.

When the policy renewal came, it was mentioned that we could sign up for accident forgiveness for less than $1/month. Turns out for us, it is $0.24 per month or $2.88 per year. I decided to sign up. The benefits outway the costs!

We pay for our auto insurance every six months, but save for it each pay day in our escrow account. Right now I put $78 away each payday towards auto insurance and other non monthly bills. You can see our details on Escrow Account page on my sidebar. I'm not going to adjust the savings because of this auto premium change. It just means there will be a little extra available should any other items increase.

How often do you pay for auto insurance? Monthly? Semiannually?

5 Ebay Items Sold

February 7th, 2010 at 06:08 pm

My ebay auctions just ended. I sold 5 items for $41.01! Two auctions did not sell. I'm not going to list those again right now.

2010 Ebay Challenge Total
January: $201.89
February: $46.40

Great Coat Deal

February 6th, 2010 at 05:50 am

I've been in need of a winter coat for awhile. In became quite dire, last weekend when my zipper decided to start ripping away from the coat.

Yesterday, I hit the jackpot at Kohl's. Most of their coats are now on clearance, ranging from 60% to 80% off. I picked up a Columbia 3 in 1 coat. The original tag reads $220. It was 80% off yesterday. I had an additional 15% off purchase coupon. With tax, I paid $39.64 for this great coat. You have no idea how excited I am!

It is a little amusing to me that I did get this coat. I tried it on before Christmas when it was on a regular sale of 40% off. At the time, I couldn't justify the expense to myself. On Monday, I was at Kohl's and this same coat was only 30% off. I skipped this one, but looked at others and didn't buy because the sizes were wrong in the others. This led me to another Kohl's on Friday to find the size I wanted in this other coat. The second choice coat was not marked down nearly as much as the one I ended up buying. It just seems to have worked out! I love it when that happens.

I wore it yesterday while I shoveled the driveway. It was very warm. Yipee!

Another Half.com Sale

February 5th, 2010 at 02:37 pm

I made another half.com sale today! I will add $5.39 to my Ebay challenge totals. I have 7 listings on Ebay that end Sunday, so I will have another update then.

2010 Ebay Challenge Total
January: $201.89
February: $5.39

I didn't get the email about the half.com sale until late this afternoon, after the mailman had come by already. I will mail the item tomorrow. If I can fit the item in my mailbox, I save myself the trip of going to the post office. Smile

Roth Conversion

February 5th, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I converted two thirds of our Traditional IRA accounts to Roth IRA's today. It's a bit scary to pull the trigger, when you know it is a taxable event.

I'm have already looked into the tax consequences and they are quite favorable for us as most of our earned income will not be taxed this year due to the combat zone exclusion. Of course, we still have to pay taxes, but not much different than a normal year for us.

I will decide about the remainder of the IRA balances later.

My Paypal Account...

February 4th, 2010 at 07:55 am

is becoming flush with funds! I usually don't hold any money in there, but with the ongoing ebay sales the funds are accumulating.

Yesterday, Powell's books deposited my proceeds from the books I sent them. They did reject one small paperback and deducted $0.50 for it. I'm okay with that.

I also decided to let Pinecone Research start depositing my survey payments in my paypal account as well. I look forward to getting paid more quickly! Now, I just need them to send me another survey. It seems like they have dried up a bit. My last paid survey with them was early January and before that it was in October.

Right now, I'm thinking I will just hold on to my paypal funds. I might designate it the Christmas fund or at some point cash out and send it to the home equity loan. The latter is probably the best idea. We'll see if I need it to make my mid March goal. Smile

Cheap Valentines

February 3rd, 2010 at 01:19 pm

My girls are home early today from school. We pulled out the red and pink construction paper and made heart decorations for the house. The front window is overflowing with hearts now. Smile

My youngest still exchanges with classmates at school. She made her Valentines out of pink and red card stock we already owned. She stenciled on some decor in marker. She is writing each name, as well as her own. We also bought a bag of Jolly Rancher's to attach one candy to each valentine card. I spent about $2!

Did you every think what a 'jolly rancher' must look like when you buy those candies? For some reason I find it a bit humorous!

There will not be any other big spending on Valentine's here. We usually keep it low key with a normal dinner by candle light. The girls think it is fantastic!

Do you do anything special for Valentine's day? Is it frugal or extravagant?

Home Equity Loan: The Wait is Over

February 1st, 2010 at 09:15 am

Finally! I get to report that the balance on our home equity loan is lower.

I made a regular payment on Friday. The principal portion was $93.85. Today, I made a large extra principal payment in the amount of $906.69.

Home Equity Loan Balance = $2,999.00

We are getting closer to getting this paid in full. I hope to finish it off in March if some extra money from the Army comes to fruition. Fingers are crossed!