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Archive for January, 2012

Finally a Roth Contribution

January 31st, 2012 at 01:10 pm

We haven't contributed to our Roth IRA's since August. We have to catch up by April 17th! We each need to contribute another $2,083.31 to meet the maximum amount for 2011.

Last night, I made a contribution for each of us in the amount of $83.31. So now, we each need to contribute an even $2000. Once the federal refund arrives, it will all be a done deal.

I heard on the news this morning that early filers may have their tax refunds delayed by about a week. We are one of those. We filed on January 23rd. I originally expected the refund by February 1. I checked the IRS website this morning, which stated we should have the refund by February 7. Either way it will work out, but my fingers are crossed that it arrives tomorrow.

Anyone else an early tax filer? What does the IRS website indicate for your refund?

$50 Amazon Gift Cards

January 30th, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I have accumulated $50 worth of Amazon gift card this month through Swagbucks. Yipee!! That brings my snowflake money up to $205.23.

I have spent $318.84 on my CitiDividend card. I need another $181.16 to meet the $500 minimum to obtain a $200 cash reward. Getting close. I expect gas, groceries or a trip to the eye doctor will help in meeting the goal. If I get the charges built up before February 17, I should be able to redeem soon after the statement closes for the month. I hope anyway!!

State Tax Refund Arrived

January 30th, 2012 at 02:03 pm

Imagine my surprise when I checked our online account today and realized that our state tax refund arrived in our account on Friday!

We are saving most of the $2,309 refund in our emergency fund until after our move this summer. It makes me feel better to have that money in case something big comes up along the way.

I believe the federal refund will arrive on Wednesday this week. That money is for our 2011 Roth contributions.

Other Snowflakes to Fall

January 28th, 2012 at 01:54 am

By snowflakes, I'm referring to small amounts of money that will make up our 2012 Christmas fund. I have enough points at MyPoints for at least a $10 gift card to about any department store on the site. I have enough rewards at MySurveys to cash out for $10, but I'm waiting until I have enough for $20. I think I'm halfway there.

I had to report the 'buyer' of my ebay item that sold as unpaid. I will wait until that is final to relist. I hope to sell for at least $10.

And at Swagbucks, I have over 2400 points. I redeemed my limit of 5 $5 Amazon.com gift cards this month already. If I can get enough for $25 card to Amazon or Paypal, I will redeem by the end of the month. If not, I'll start over with my five $5 cards in February. Those are cheaper anyway! I have done quite a few surveys in the last few days and the points have really added up.

It will be interesting to see what other snowflakes fall my way in the next month to come!

Snowflake Christmas Earnings

January 26th, 2012 at 09:03 pm

I've been saving snowflakes for Christmas! That is what I'm calling the small amounts of money that I'm adding to the Christmas Challenge.

Here's what I have so far:


Wow! That's a lot of snowflakes and it's only January. If you are collecting and saving for Christmas, how are you doing?

Almost $400 Per Month More

January 25th, 2012 at 05:39 pm

My ebay buyer still has not paid. Newbie or in the area of recent tornados. Not sure. I'll wait a bit longer to relist.

I was able to see my husband's January paystub (LES) today. Our exempt status for our state was processed correctly which means no withholding for state!! With the slight increase in pay and the state tax exempt status we have a net increase of $393.74 per month.

I want to set up our Roth IRA's to draft for $150 each per month. That will give us a head start on maximizing our Roth's this year. However, part of me remembers talking to the DH about holding on to as much cash as possible until the move is complete. I might have to just stick with that.

Either way it's all good and we are pleased with the positive financial events.

$300 Rewards = Tire Payment

January 23rd, 2012 at 08:42 pm

I received my rewards check in the mail from my Chase card. I only had to make one purchase to receive $300. I made a couple more, so the actual rewards check was for $305.02.

It's been deposited, and I have made a $300 online payment on our Goodyear Tire account. The new balance is now $300!!

I will save the other $5.02 towards the Christmas fund. I hope to have an update on my total later this week. What is your current Christmas Fund total?

Sold An Item On Ebay

January 23rd, 2012 at 03:39 pm

I sold the item I listed on ebay. I'm now waiting for payment. The buyer is new to ebay, so fingers crossed they can figure out how to pay me. The item sold for about $10, so I'll net a little under that with fees.

I also received my deposit from Paypal today, in the amount of $32.78, for surveys and other ebay proceeds. I'm waiting for nearly $19 from Half.com, too.

The profits will go to the Christmas Fund!

In other news, it snowed overnight. I have to go out and shovel. It will count as my exercise today, since I have the girls home and don't want to venture out on the roads just yet.

It might be a good day to look for more things to sell or earn points on Swagbucks. Smile

Over $6K

January 22nd, 2012 at 05:30 pm

Our tax refunds from federal and state will amount to over $6,000! We have never had such a large refund. I really try to keep things as close to zero as possible. Last year I even had to pay our state $124 and I was fine with that!

Specifically, we will receive $4,063 from federal and $2,309 from our state. This equals $6,372 back into our pockets. That would have amounted to $531 per month if we had been receiving that money all year long.

We had several factors that caused our refunds to be so large. The first was that my husband was in a combat zone for the first four months of the year. This money is considered non-taxable by the federal government and the state. While in the combat zone he also earned 27.5 days of vacation that are also considered non-taxable. He used all of those days in 2011, thus nearly another month of tax free income.

With only 7 months of basic pay taxable we qualified for the earned income tax credit in the amount of $920. We also earned a $400 saver's credit for contributing to our Roth IRA's (lower incomes can qualify for this credit). And we have two kids which qualifies us for $2000 in credits as well. We ended up paying zero dollars in Federal taxes and will get a return of our withholding, the EITC and the additional child tax credit.

Under normal circumstances, we would not qualify for the EITC or the retirement savings credit. But we tax advantage of them when we can.

I posted a few days ago that our state signed a new law this past year that renders federal military pay of any kind tax free in our state. Thus we will be getting all of our withholding returned to us and a small refundable earned income tax credit. I was not aware of this law until the day I made my post. We could have filed exempt back in May and had nearly $300 put into our pocket for the last 7 months. I just didn't know. Now that I do, we have adjusted my husband's withholding to be exempt for our state. Thus about $300 more in our pockets each month going forward. Very excited!!

The plan is to use $4,166.62 to finish funding our Roth IRA's for 2011. The remainder will be saved until after our move. We are trying to beef up our cash as much as possible, once we are moved we will attack our 2012 goals!

I filed the returns last night. It appears we should have this money returned to us by February 1. Have you completed your taxes? Are you still waiting for forms?

Money Money Money!

January 22nd, 2012 at 12:40 am

The money is flowing in!!

I received a check in the mail for $4 today. It was a refund of cash that has been sitting in my daughter's school lunch account for over two years. She doesn't eat at school...ever. Nice to have the money back!

I also gave a winning scratch lottery ticket that we received in another state over Christmas to my parents today. They paid me the winning amount and will redeem the ticket back at home. It was a $3 winner.

All money is going to The Christmas Fund. The four dollars isn't exactly free money, but that lottery ticket sure is.

We received my husband's W-2 and the W-2c (which showed a lower wage!) and can finally file our taxes. We are likely getting a huge amount back because of many factors. It will be nice. I'll detail that information in another post once I have everything complete.

Life Insurance Update and More

January 20th, 2012 at 07:41 pm

Darn. My original quote for insurance isn't going to stand. The montly amount was to be $23.30. They have increased it to $32.90, because of a health issue I have. I'm not entirely surprised really. And it could still change because they are waiting on records from my doctor.

This is still better than the policy that I have now that will be $720 per year if I renew it. This new rate is $394.80. I was told I will hear the firm rate in two weeks or less.

Enough of that boring stuff! I do have other good news. The window pane we had installed yesterday came to $168.44. It turned out to be $65 less than they quoted. And I'm not even sure why, but I'll take it. Of course, the Citi Dividend card I wanted to charge it to didn't arrive until two hours after the window was installed. I was hoping to charge it to the new card to count toward my $500 minimum. Oh well.

I tried to redeem Swagbuck points yesterday, but was reminded that I can only redeem 5 items per month, which I already did. It's all good. I'll just keep accumulating points and redeem something bigger next month!

There is a bid on my ebay item I have listed. That means I have a sale in the near future. That money goes to the Free Christmas Challenge!

If you didn't see my previous post, check it out. It is very exciting financial news. I emailed and texted my husband about it, but no response as of yet. I hope he is excited, too!

Just Found Out!!

January 20th, 2012 at 02:17 am

OMG!!

I was working on our tax return. I input wage information even though I'm waiting on the W-2. It turns out all military income earned in our state is now exempt from state income tax, retroactive back to January 2011. This also means all income earned going forward is exempt from state taxes. This is huge!

Right now we are having $291.22 withheld each month for taxes. That is now money back in our pocket. Wow! I wasn't expecting that. I guess I'm not listening to the news close enough. This bill was signed into law on 5.11.11.

This also means our tax refund this year will be about $2300 or $1200 more than I expected. Nice!!

Oh, and you got to know I just online with DFAS to change our withholding to exempt. That will be effective February 1. Yipee!!

Now...I've really got to make sure this counts.

I Caved

January 19th, 2012 at 05:00 pm

...to the desire for Girl Scout cookies.

My daughter's friend is a girl scout and she asked if we wanted cookies. Really, who doesn't love a GS cookie? Why do they hve to have so many flavors we like? I bought 5 boxes! At $3.50 each. The math on that is $17.50 for cookies. Eek.

They come around once a year. It's for a good cause. The cookies will taste fabulous. I'll likely eat less since I'm on diet. Oh my I'm on a diet with GS cookies in the house!!

In good financial news, I earned enough Swagbucks to redeem another $5 Amazon.com gift card. I'm up to $25 now! Did I mention how it is a bit addictive? Would you agree?

Some Great Deals Today!

January 19th, 2012 at 03:29 am

Today is probably the nicest day we will have all week. So...I did a little shopping today in the stores and online.

I went to Target to get kitty litter. I planned to purchase two of the Arm and Hammer litter for $10.39 each to qualify for the $5 Target gift card. I ended up finding some on clearance for $7.62. I decided that this was the better deal, even if I didn't get the gift card. But, I did get the gift card!! I might go back for more, since it was such a good deal. I used my Mastercard gift card on this store purchase and will withdraw $20 in cash for the Christmas fund.

I bought two birthday gifts at Hobby Lobby. I used a 40% off coupon and left the store paying only $8.25 out of pocket. I like gifts that are inexpensive!

Since I shopped with Shutterfly this past holiday, I was sent a $20 credit to shop with them again. I bought 4 8x10's, 2 5x7's and 14 4x6 prints and paid $2.58 out of pocket to cover shipping and tax. I hope to use many of the prints around the house to slip into family photo frames when it comes time to list the house for sale. The prints are primarily shots of flowers and outdoor scenes.

I also shopped at iherb.com for lotions to give as gifts and stevia for my tea. I had to throw in a bar of soap for $0.68 to bring my total to $20 for free shipping. I had $14.06 in rewards credit, thus my out of pocket cost was only $6.23 for $20 worth of items. Have you checked out iherb.com? If not, you can use coupon code FIN012 for $5 off your first order. And remember, free shipping on a $20 order!!

It was great to get so many good deals today, especially on things I needed to get anyway. I'm guessing the next few days will be spend free, since we are getting more snow and I would just rather stay inside where it is warm and dry.

Truck Balance and More

January 18th, 2012 at 02:13 pm

I received another $3 Pinecone survey payment yesterday. This money will be added to the Free Christmas Challenge. I'm also pretty close to redeeming another $5 Amazon gift card on Swagbucks. It's a bit addicting. I'm not sure I can keep up the pace!

The truck payment posted yesterday, with $35.79 to interest and $293.34 to principal. Our new balance on the loan is $12,118.72. Less debt always makes me happy.

It looks like our new window pane will be installed tomorrow. That will be an outflow of $232.04. I have my fingers crossed that the Citi card I applied for might arrive in the mail today, so that I could use it for payment. That would make a nice dent in the $500 minimum I need to get the $200 bonus.

It's cold here and it looks like we'll be getting snow every other day for the next week. I shoveled yesterday, but I need to see if the snowblower will start up for this next round.

File Taxes for Free

January 17th, 2012 at 04:14 pm

Did you know many people are eligible to file their federal and sometimes state taxes for free? To see if you qualify, go to the IRS website.

I actually checked our state's website to determine that we could file our state and federal taxes for free using the TurboTax Freedom. If I hadn't done that, I likely would have spent $13 to file with the company I used last year.

I have entered all information in except our main W-2 and a 1099-INT. I expect to receive those within the next week.

Once I file, I know there will be a refund. A refund large enough to complete our 2011 Roth contributions and then some.

Are you filing online or with snail mail? Are you eligible for free file, if not how much are you paying to file?

ETA: Don't forget to Google for free tax return filing if your income is above the IRS thresholds. Ours is below this year because of combat pay. Also, the 1099-INT was available online today!! One more to go...and I just hope it is correct.

2012 Goals...Kind of

January 16th, 2012 at 05:03 pm

Our 2012 financial goals are still not entirely flushed out. But of course, I have ideas. So, I'll write those out here. The problem I have getting these goals firm is that we are likely to move this year and my husband is still living in another state until at least May. We are starting to spend some cash on home repairs in preparation for getting the house sold. There are just a few unknowns! Ugh.

1) Complete 2011 Roth contributions. Used tax refund money. Deadline April 15, 2012.

2) Pay off tires. Remaining balance $600. Use $300 Chase rewards and $160 tire rebate. Remaining balance out of pocket $140. Deadline March 31, 2012.

3) Contribute 7% to TSP. This is on autopilot. Yes, something easily accomplished.

4) Contribute maximum about to our Roth IRA's for 2012. Preferred deadline December 31, 2012.

5) Contribute something to college. $500 each minimum.

6) Save for a Free Christmas. At least this is started. Goal $700 or more.

7) Increase emergency fund by $3,000. Or at least end the year with the same amount we started the year with.

8) Pay extra to truck loan. Get the balance under $10K would be ideal! Oops! I checked the amortization of this loan. We'll be under $8900 by the end of the year without extra payments! So, I'll make it my wish to be under $8K by the end of 2012.

I plan to re-evaluate all goals when we move. Because everything changes. In the meantime, we are in status quo mode. Don't add new debt. Pay the bills we have. Keep as much cash in our pockets as possible.

There you have it. What do you think?

Christmas Fund and More

January 15th, 2012 at 03:50 pm

I was able to redeem Swagbuck points for another $5 Amazon gift card yesterday. I will be up to $25 with those. I accumulated all of those in the last three weeks, maybe two weeks.

I received a $5 rebate check in the mail yesterday. It has been deposited and added to the Christmas fund as well.

We went out to our local Botanical Garden yesterday. Nice to see so much green and take in the wonderful smells of flowers too. Spent $16. I decided to look at the expense as supporting a local business.

After the garden experience, we used a $10 Groupon for frozen yogurt. The $10 was absoultely free, with a coupon Groupon offered at the beginning of the year. At checkout, I paid $2.89 for four people to experience a flavor treat. An excellent deal!

DH heads back to school later today. It has been awesome to have him home for a month. Even with parking fees we will have broke even for the month. We stayed within our regular budget for spending. I'm interested to see what his utility bills are since he unplugged everything, but left the heat at a very low setting. I'll know in a couple days.

Two Weeks of No Soda

January 14th, 2012 at 06:26 pm

I have gone two entire weeks without drinking diet soda!! It's my new years resolution not to drink diet soda in 2012. I haven't had any regular soda either. That's pretty easy for me since I don't want to drink most of my calories.

It will save me money, about $5 per week. And I will save time, since I no longer have to return the cans for get my deposit back. Yipee! Oh, and I think it is good for my health, too. Smile

If you made a new years resolution, how are you doing on it?

Another Vinyl Floor Quote

January 13th, 2012 at 10:55 pm

We went to another store today to look for vinyl flooring. Our first quote was $2,367.43 for the vinyl, installation and all the extra charges that it entails. With the exact same product, we were able to get the quote down to about $2,000 with the second store.

We also had the store show us some less expensive flooring that might work. Instead of $1.79/sq ft, we found another one at $1.34/sq ft. That helps, but the labor seems to be the most expensive part. The approximate quote was $1,759.54. That's a difference of $607.89 from the first quote. And they only charge $95 per toilet to remove and replace!!

The second store gave us their quote based on the square footage the first store measured. However, we still need to have them measure for a more accurate quote. We already found an issue with the first quote. They measured all the metal transition pieces at 35 feet. When we measured we came up with 15 feet. I sent an email to the first store about that!

Our next in home measure will be Monday. Clearly, we are looking around for the best deals we can find. We might need to hit the home improvement stores again for another quote...if we can find anyone to assist us. We been to two and there is no around. Ugh.

We have to at least do the bathrooms, laundry and entry. The kitchen could be skipped, but then we would still have two different vinyl patterns in the house.

We'll get there. This is just another example of getting more than one quote for big purchase items. How many quotes do you usually get?

Redeemed Chase Rewards

January 13th, 2012 at 04:14 pm

The statement cycle for my Chase Freedom card ended yesterday. Today, I received notification that my new rewards balance was 30,502. This is the card that is giving 30,000 point for making one purchase. I made two. One very small one at Old Navy and a donation to the Red Cross, since charities were 5% cash back last quarter.

I redeemed all the points for a check that will amount to $305.02. Can't wait to see that nice bonus check in week or so! And of course, the account balance is zero.

In other credit card news, I applied and was approved for a Citi Dividend Card. I will need to spend $500 in 3 months to earn a $200 bonus. I likely will just use the card to buy regular purchases during the next month and be done with it.

DH is not interested in opening any accounts in his name. If he was we could double these rewards. Oh well. It's his choice.

The Vinyl Floor Quote

January 12th, 2012 at 01:47 pm

It's freezing here! I can't wait for the wind to stop blowing. The furnace is definitely getting it's winter workout.

We received our first quote for new vinyl flooring. My original estimate was based on the wrong price per square foot and I didn't know what the extras would be. Total quote $2,367.43. Whoa. A bit more than my original $800 estimate. I was really hoping for less than $1,500.

We will get another quote or two. This one includes our kitchen which may not really need to be done, but we were hoping to get all the vinyl to match. Right now we have three patterns.

The extra costs included $150 per toilet. We have three. Moving 4 appliances was $120. Removing and replacing quarter round is another $139. It all adds up. I could likely move appliances and handle the quarter round, but not the toilets. Wish DH could be here to do those, but he won't be.

Again, we'll get another quote and consider dropping the kitchen vinyl. I think we'll head out to another store or two today...but I don't really want to when it is so cold!!

Did it get colder where you are?

More Sales!!

January 11th, 2012 at 10:14 pm

Ugh...wrote this post, forgot to right click and copy...thus I lost it. Frustrating. Why is this a problem on the blogs?

I sold the last item I had listed on ebay today at the Buy It Now price. We also sold a book on half.com this morning. Both items are in the mail and I settled my ebay fees as well.

It looks like I netted $23.33 on the ebay sales and $9.91 on the half.com sales.

I plan to pull the Paypal balance to my checking account (which has $15 in Pinecone Survey money in it). Once the half.com money arrives in my checking account, I will withdraw all of it in cash to save for the Christmas Fund.

I actually have a $9 rebate in my checking account as well. It will also get cashed out. If I figured correctly, I should be able to withdraw $57 for the Christmas Fund!

Preparing to File Taxes

January 11th, 2012 at 01:38 pm

It's just around the corner. Time to file our tax returns. I have pulled out my 2011 file and I'm starting to collect things we need to complete our return.

I have already received our interest statement for the mortgage. A 1098 I think. I also made a list of all the documents we need, with a box to check off once I have it in the file.

I also valued all of our donations to Goodwill this year. Just under $1000!!

We are running into a possible issue that could delay our filing. My husband's last paystub (LES) does not correctly reflect year to date state wages. It has been correct every month until December. He has a call in to the pay office, but they are very slow in responding. It could turn out that the W2 will be fine, but we don't know that yet. I know what the number should be, but I assume I can't file that number if it doesn't show on the W2. Right?

We will also be waiting for an interest statement from the SDP we invested in while DH was deployed and another W2 for the moving incentive we received.

I plan to use TaxAct online, but I'm always open to other services, if I can file for free. I'm pretty sure this year we will qualify for free since our AGI relatively low. The IRS will have lists available on January 17 on their website.

Are you getting prepared to file your taxes? Do you file online or use paper and pen?

More Found Money

January 11th, 2012 at 12:44 am

I kind of knew I had a couple of gift cards in my purse, but today I found them and they surprised me! One is for Old Navy for $5.83 and the other to Scheel's (a sporting goods company) $12.71. Both cards were from returning merchandise.

I will keep the cards to put towards the 2012 Christmas Fund. If I end up making a purchase at either store prior to Christmas shopping, I will simply reimburse the fund in cash. I want to be able to shop where I need, rather than only where I have gift cards.

After English Castle mentioned her daughter's lunch account, I remembered that one of my daughter's has a $4 balance in her account. And it's been that way for over a year, since she always takes her lunch from home. The other daughter does the same. I sent an email to the nutrition department asking for the return of the funds. Once received I'll put those towards the 2012 Christmas Fund as well.

Last I heard, small amounts add up!!

Gift Card Received

January 10th, 2012 at 01:21 pm

I received that $20 Mastercard Debit card for the online promotion they had back in December. I'm pretty sure that our phone bill helped us reach the $200 online purchase threshold, because I probably only made $40 in online purchases during the promotion.

I noticed the debit card expires in June of this year. Thus, I can't literally save it for Christmas spending. However, I'll use it soon and pay the Christmas fund back in cash. It works out the same. I'm glad I noticed because it would have been diappointing to lose out!

We sold a book on half.com yesterday. Profit of just over $2. It's all ready to be mailed today.

I will redeem more Swagbucks today for another 2 $5 Amazon.com gift cards. That's $20 that I will have to spend with them. I'd love to rack that much up each month!! We'll see.

And I am tracking my Christmas fund money in a spreadsheet, but I don't like how I have it organized yet. I also have unredeemed money in MySurvey and my Paypal account. I have a personal threshold I put in place for each. Once I meet those, I will redeem/withdraw for cash.

Did anyone else get the Mastercard $20 deal? Make sure you check your expiration date!!

Sold and Redeemed

January 9th, 2012 at 05:41 pm

I sold one item on ebay last night. I think my profit is about $8. The other item has at least five people watching it. I started it at $0.99 which would be like stealing it from me, but I expect the price to rise. I added a Buy It Now option, too. It's possible it could sell before next Sunday.

I redeemed points for 2 $5 Amazon.com gift cards from Swagbucks today. I have enough for two more. I just forgot that you can't redeem more than two things per day! I will redeem the other two tomorrow.

The gift cards and ebay profit money will go towards 2012 Free Christmas Challenge. At some point, I will get a tracking system set up for all to see.

Listing

January 8th, 2012 at 10:53 pm

I listed two items on ebay this afternoon and three books on half.com. As usual, I would prefer they sell fast!

I will add this money to the 2012 Free Christmas Challenge.

Anyone else selling on ebay or somewhere else right now?

Raise In Income

January 7th, 2012 at 03:16 pm

Members of the military are getting a raise this year. A raise of 1.6%. For my husband that is an net increase of $47.08 per pay period. Or $1129.92 for the year.

I need to make a plan for this money!! It would help if I was clear on our goals.

I could set aside each month to put into our emergency fund. Or use it to fund more college expenses. I could also increase his TSP investment amount and call it retirement savings.

Obviously...we have a decision to make! Any other ideas on what I could do with it?

A Rebate Received and More Found $

January 6th, 2012 at 08:50 pm

I received a rebate check in the mail for the Armor All products I bought my brother in law for Christmas in the amount of $8.99. It will deposit to our online bank today with our scanner. I really love that feature. I will add this money to my Christmas 2012 fund. I will need to make a page or spreadsheet to start tracking those funds.

I found $0.26 on the floor in front of the ticket counter where we purchased movie tickets to see War Horse this morning. It was a pretty good movie considering it did contain war scenes.

We are still waiting for a call about our flooring estimate. I need to see that one before I can make decisions on the other repair estimates we received.


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