<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: December, 2012
 

Archive for December, 2012

Thanks for 2012!

December 31st, 2012 at 02:42 pm

Thanks for reading my blog in 2012. It's been quite the journey with saving snowflakes for Christmas and as well as adjusting financially with the move. I appreciate your comments of support very much!

I think 2013 will be another awesome year here on CreditCardFree. I expect to do another year of Snowflakes for Christmas. I will have some updates on that very soon. If you stay tuned in 2013, you will hear about our final journey paying off the truck loan. I expect there will be more savings goals. I also foresee discussion about paying for big ticket items in cash, such as a teen car, a vacation and maybe another round of braces.

Anyone have any burning financial questions for the CCF household? I'll consider blogging about them in 2013, if you want to ask in the comments section. Have a safe and relaxing New Years Eve!

A Review of Our 2012 Goals

December 30th, 2012 at 07:40 am

Here are the goals we had for 2012, along with how we did. We did very good considering the first half of the year involved DH living on the east coast and then we moved this summer.

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

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. Completed

3) Contribute 7% to TSP. This was on autopilot and easily accomplished.

4) Contribute maximum amount to our Roth IRA's for 2012. Preferred deadline December 31, 2012. Final contributions made last week. We each contributed $5000.

5) Contribute something to college. $500 each minimum. Also completed last week.

6) Save for a Free Christmas. Goal $700 or more. Saved up over $1400 out of non income sources, called snowflakes on my blog. Spent over $900 on gifts and sent the remainder to the truck loan!

7) Increase emergency fund by $3,000. Or at least end the year with the same amount we started the year with. We started the year with $17K in our emergency fund. We dropped below a few times this year, but when I look at our cash accounts and money I set aside for furniture, we actually have over $20K. So in some ways we have met the goal, but in reality some of that money may get spent. We definitely didn't back track in a big way, so for that I am counting this complete!

8) Pay extra to truck loan. Get the balance under $8K would be ideal! Yep, we did get under $8K. Current year end balance is $4500.

Goals really do help you accomplish big things. I know without some sort of road map for our finances we wouldn't be where we are today. How did you do with your goals in 2012?

Overwhelmed

December 29th, 2012 at 02:59 pm

I sat down to try to estimate our taxes for 2012 and I'm overwhelmed. I think it is because there are documents all over the place because of the move.

We cannot deduct state income taxes withheld because DH income is not taxable in our state. Therefore, we are eligible to deduct state sales tax. Ugh...I don't know how to figure that. The program I used must have estimated it last year. ETA: I did find a calculator on the IRS website, but it is only good for 2011

I did do a rough estimate this summer, and that calculation shows we will owe $262. However, I noticed that I didn't include our state refund from 2011 in that calculation. And that refund was $2,309...I would think that would make a difference.

It also looks like we don't have enough itemized deductions to exceed the standard deduction. Darn. This will be the first year that has happened to us. All because of low interest rates!! I guess the government can use the money more than our bank.

I think the main thing I'm coming away from is that this tax return will be different this year. I just need to expect that we will owe money. I will wait to do the actual calculation once all the forms come in and a program is ready to do the calculations for me!

Year End Truck Loan Balance

December 29th, 2012 at 08:31 am

Our January 1 paycheck has arrived in our bank account, so I have paid bills and made an extra principal payment to our truck loan.

I planned to send in $291.40, but rounded up to $293.00, to make our year end balance a nice even $4,500.

We began the year of 2012 with a balance of $12,412.06 on this loan, which means we have paid off $7912.06!!

Darn...didn't realize I was so close to an even $8K in principal payments, otherwise I might have added in some more.We WILL pay off this truck loan in 2013. Hopefully really, really soon!

How much debt (include mortgage if you want) did you pay off this year?

Sold A Book & Found Coupons

December 28th, 2012 at 01:43 pm

We sold a book on half.com overnight. Net profit only $0.83, but I'll take it. The book is already at the post office on it's way to the new owner.

We made another trip to Target today. Our youngest daughter wanted to buy a Wii game. She had a pajama shirt to return that we gave her for Christmas. She also returned a gift from a friend that she received for her birthday back in July. Both items netted her $24.32 in Target credit.

The game she wanted was $49.99, but noticed before we left that it was $16.09 on Amazon.com. In the end we left Target empty handed and ordered the game online. She decided to pay another $8.99 to have it delivered tomorrow. I would have completely discouraged this normally, but the price was so good on Amazon and it will arrive with plenty of time to play before school starts again. And she did buy it with gift money.

On our way out of Target, I noticed some type of coupon on the ground. I went to pick up it up and realized it was $3 off coupon for Target. There were two others nearby upside down.

I do feel bad for someone though. These were 'apology' coupons. They read: $3 off with our apologies. We are sorry for any delays you experienced in our store today. As a token of our appreciation for your patience, please accept this coupon valid for any purchase at any Target store. We hope to see you soon.

In the end I have $9 to use at Target. I think these will be added to the 2013 Snowflake Fund!

BAS, Chase, Planning

December 27th, 2012 at 07:09 am

We had a terrific three day vacation out of town with relatives. We were blessed with useful gifts. I notice as I get older the gifts aren't really that important. It is the time with family that is the best part.

I checked online this morning and found out the BAS rates have been established for 2013. My husband is an officer. That rate will be $242.60, which is up $2.64 per month. The enlisted member rate is $352.27. Also only up a couple dollars from last year.

We have met our $3000 spending requirement on our most recent Chase credit card. The statement doesn't close until January 14, so we will have to wait until then to get our $400 bonus. Now back to cash/debit card spending!!

I will be doing financial planning for 2013 in the next week. I expect to do some posts along the way about our plan to pay off the truck, and other savings goals. I will also be estimating our taxes again.

In January, if not before, I am going to see how much money I can make selling things on Ebay and Craigslist. There are several of us on the blogs here that are going to be participating. As I start rounding those items up, I will be setting items aside to take to Goodwill just before year end. It doesn't hurt to have that extra tax deduction.

As a few others have stated, I love this time of year for goal setting and decluttering. Are you with us? Are you going to be looking into your financial plan for the the next year? Any tips you want to share about how you approach your goals?

Happy Holidays

December 23rd, 2012 at 06:14 am

I'll be off the blogs for several days to spend time with family and friends. I wish all of you the joy, peace, and love of the season!

First Tax Form Arrived

December 21st, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I wasn't expecting it, but we received our first tax form for the 2012 filing season. It is our 1098 for Mortgage Interest from the previous home loan on our old home.

I think I have a 2012 file already established because of donations we have made earlier in the year. I will file this form there, so I will be organized come tax season.

If I remember right, I estimated earlier this year that we will likely owe some tax. My memory is $400, which is fine. I can handle that. I'm sure as the new year rolls around I will be doing another estimate.

Are you ready for your tax forms to start arriving in your mailbox and inbox? It is a great time to pull out a folder or box so your items will be easy to find.

Excess Snowflakes to Truck Loan

December 20th, 2012 at 07:38 am

I've figured out that I have $473.44 left in my Christmas Snowflake fund that will not be needed for Christmas shopping. I know this because I'm done shopping!!

My 2012 Christmas Fund total was $1,429.21, thus I must have spent $955.77 on Christmas gifts. That seems to be more than last year, based only on memory. However, it was all FREE money. Very little came from my husband's salary. I also know that I have been a little more generous with the gifts. The nieces and nephews are getting an additional $5 each. A good friend and her family are receiving $55 in gift cards, but last year I found great deals for them and only spent $10 out of pocket.

I had quite a few Amazon.com gift cards, so much of my shopping was done there, with free shipping with our Prime membership. I think some of the prices are a bit inflated compared to sales I might have been able to find in stores. I would have spent much more time in stores this season and I've enjoy not having to go out quite as often.

The really good news other than free Christmas gifts is that I'm sending the excess funds, $473.44 to the truck loan today!! I actually rounded the number up by $0.23 to make the principal balance an even dollar amount.

Old Balance $5,266.67
Excess Funds $473.67
New Balance $$4,793.00

We are under $5k!! I am so amazed at how fast this loan is going down. Makes me happy. I really don't want to make these payments anymore!! This loan will definitely be gone in 2013. Smile

Bracing for A Blizzard

December 19th, 2012 at 02:35 pm

We don't have any precipitation yet, but a blizzard warning is in effect for us. We are kind of excited here. The girls finished up school today and are now on winter break.

We are looking forward to a cozy day at home tomorrow where we can sleep in, watch a movie, eat popcorn, drink hot chocolate and very likely make holiday cookies with ingredients I purchased a couple weeks ago. I'm secretly hoping DH will stay home from work. For safety reasons, it seems that he should, but last I checked I don't get to decide how the Army works!

May all in the path of the storm stay warm and safe. Do you have any snow day traditions, past or present?

Lower Truck Loan Balance

December 18th, 2012 at 05:22 am

Our truck loan balance is lower this morning after our regular payment of $329.13 posted. The interest portion was $17.29. The principal balanced was reduced by $311.84.

The new principal balance is $5,266.67!

Happy with less debt. I'm looking into ways to get this loan paid off faster. This will definitely include the raise my husband will receive in January, and might include money we generally invest monthly. I would simply prioritize the debt payoff for about two months and make up the difference to investments in later months. I'm still running the numbers and possible scenarios, but I will let you know more details soon!

Military BAH Calculator for 2013 Released

December 17th, 2012 at 08:02 am

The 2013 BAH calculator for military was released today. You can find the calculator here.

Basic Allowance for Housing is non taxable for US military members and is to provide for those of us who do not have access to housing on a military post or chose to live off post. The average increase was to be 4.2% over last year.

In our case, our housing allowance increased 14.67%. That is the first time our increase has ever been that high. In dollars it is an increase of $170. We are actually receiving less BAH in our new town as compared to our old one because housing is less expensive here.

With this new information on our housing allowance I can more closely estimate our paychecks for next year. We will definitely see an increase. I plan to put some towards meeting the new Roth IRA maximum contributions, which for us will be $83.34 each month. The remainder I plan to put towards that truck loan until it is paid off!! Right now that looks to be about $112.

I did base my paycheck calculations on the assumption that the payroll tax holiday will expire and increase our social security withholding by 2%. Not pretty, but at least we know what to expect there!

If you want to estimate your paycheck, look at at PaycheckCity. Have you estimated any changes in your paycheck for next year? Is it good or bad?

Wanting to Do More

December 16th, 2012 at 02:14 pm

I find myself wanting to do more for others...or should I say buy more gifts. I must resist! I have purchased great gifts. More isn't better in this case. I will only save money if I can be satisfied with what I have purchased. That is a good thing!

I'm going to package up the two gifts I'm mailing. Once I get them in the mail, I can't change my mind on those. And again, they are very nice gifts!

All the other gifts are wrapped with the exception of the stocking stuffers. I'm a sucker for stocking stuffers!! But boy those things do add up fast. I can never actually stuff their stockings...since they are pretty large to begin with. I need to know they will be satisfied with anything they pull out on Christmas morning, especially, if they get chocolate. Smile

Thanks for letting me discuss my consumer impulses...I know I can resist. I know I can. Now to enjoy the lights and music of the season. And think peaceful thoughts. How are you enjoying this season?

Last Day for $10 Target Gift Card

December 15th, 2012 at 01:00 pm

Today is the last day this week you can spend $50 at Target and receive a $10 Target gift card. You can get your coupons here.

I spent $50 yesterday buying toiletries, candy and alcohol. The candy and alcohol are Christmas gifts. I used $40 in previously obtained gift cards to help cover the gift portions!

Today we bought a Wii game, a furnace filter, and more groceries. We spent $55 and received another $10 gift card when I gave them the coupon. I used $20 in Target gift cards to cover the game we purchased since it is a gift.

At this point I still have about $30 in Target gift cards in my wallet. We may swing back up to Target tonight to get more of our groceries, since I would need to get there by tomorrow for the week anyway! Might as well take advantage of the gift card deal while we can.

Have fun shopping at Target and don't forget to check the clearance aisles for great deals on gifts!

Another Principal Payment

December 13th, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Frugal in Texas was right I did decide to put the money we received from USAA yesterday towards the truck loan. I added the $48.78 to the planned $61.35 extra principal payment for a total payment of $110.13.

For those who haven't been following, the $61.35 is the amount I expect our payroll tax to increase as of January 1 when the payroll tax holiday is expected to expire. I figured if we aren't going to have it in January then it really isn't money we should have available to spend until then. Thus it goes to the truck loan payoff!

Our new truck loan balance is $5,578.51!! Look for another update next week when our regular payment of $329.13 is processed.

I do hope that I can get this loan down under $5K by the end of the year. I think it is possible. I just need the Christmas spending to stop so I can see how much extra I have in the cash account. This sure will far exceed our goal of being under $8K by the end of 2012. Feels good!!

An Extra $48.78

December 12th, 2012 at 06:04 am

USAA deposited $48.78 into our account today! It's an annual thing...something to do with our auto insurance or just because it is a member bank. I don't really care why...I just know I like cash back. Smile The longer you are with them the bigger the distributions generally.

I knew this was coming and was looking forward to it, but now I'm not sure what to do with it! I should put it towards that truck loan, but part of me just wants to keep it in savings. I think its because my savings account looks smaller now that I moved money to our Roth IRA's.

I will be making a principal payment soon, so I'll let you know what I decide. Ideas and opinions welcome!

Scored More Deals Today

December 11th, 2012 at 03:03 pm

Today I was out shopping for my 17 year old niece who we usually give money to, but was put into the adult drawing this year. So I decided to skip the cash and find some things to wrap up!!

Her mom said she could use jeans, so I looked at Old Navy, and Kohl's. I finally scored a pair of jeans off the clearance rack in her size for $9.90. After tax $10.60!

I went back to Old Navy to find shirts which her mother mentioned she needed as well. I found two shirts marked at $2.47 each, and a third shirt marked at $1.97. I threw in two pairs of gloves (one without finger tips), and a scarf for another $5. My total with tax was $12.74. However, I had a $10 gift card scored from Swagbucks earlier this year, thus only $2.74 out of my Christmas cash!

My niece asked for an iTunes gift card. Luckily, I had scored one of these earlier in the year from Swagbucks as well. She will get $25 to spend on her favorites songs!!

It's been fun to find deals with the cash and gift cards I've earned this year. I'm pretty sure I am way under in the Christmas spending, although I have not added it up yet. I will soon, so I know how much extra cash I have stashed away to send to the truck loan!

I think I'm 90% done shopping. How far along are you?

$1650 Roth Contributions

December 10th, 2012 at 12:33 pm

I made our final catch up contribution for 2012. We didn't contribute to our Roth IRAs for the first six months of this year because of my husband renting an apartment for school on the East coast.

We started up again in July with our regular contributions. I have been making some rather large lump sums lately to catch us up. I made a $825 contribution for each of us today.

It makes my bank account look lighter in funds, but hopefully it will boost the retirement account!! It does seem things are on the rise again. Maybe. Overall, it has been a good year for the stock market. Do you agree?

Our final Roth contributions will be made in about 10 days to bring us up to the maximum amount for the year. Next year we get to bump that up to $5,500 each! Do you have a retirement plan? Could you start saving $50 a month into a Roth IRA? Make it a goal for 2013 to start investing for your future.

Snowflakes and Festivities

December 8th, 2012 at 07:21 am

The $25 PayPal cash arrived in my account two days ago. That was the last redemption of 2012 for me with Swagbucks, since I'm taking a break for the Christmas holiday. I have yet to move it to our bank account. I think I will leave it there for now.

I have been participating in the Smoothie Challenge. My goal is 15 smoothies this month. So far, I've had three. I need to stock up on more greens today so I can make more!

I have spent all of my Amazon.com gift cards earned from Swagbucks. I actually had to pay for something out of pocket yesterday! That hasn't happened for months. I'm definitely grateful for those earnings.

I received a $10 Target gift card yesterday when I spent over $50 at Target. The offer expires today and you can print a coupon here. I'm going to be using another coupon today to get another one. I might just use these gift cards rather than saving them for next year. We shop Target for groceries, so I expect that we will have extra holiday food expenses and that the gift cards will be helpful in that regard. Or maybe a couple extra stocking stuffers. Either way we will use them. Keep your eyes open for other offers from Target. They did several of these type of deals last year.

Today I will print out the gift cards I earned on Swagbucks that I will be giving as gifts. I will put them in an envelope and have my artistic daughter put a little festive something on the envelope. My nieces and nephews always appreciate cash or gift cards.

I could just about start wrapping, but I will wait until more of my Amazon.com packages arrive. I will use wrapping paper and gift bags I have on hand. We have plenty. The only thing I may need to buy is tape.

I hope to end our evening today with all the lights out except the tree, listen to our favorite Christmas music and drink some hot chocolate by our fireplace. Are you doing anything festive to enjoy the season?

Best Deal of the Day

December 6th, 2012 at 04:36 pm

I was out shopping in the stores today. I went to Old Navy and found fleece pullovers for my husband in the clearance section for $4.99 each!! I picked out three in different colors.

It gets better. I had a $10 Rewards certificate, so with tax my total was $5.23! I couldn't sew them for less than that!

I love finding good deals! The discount doesn't diminish what I will purchase for gifts, only what I end up paying out of pocket. Otherwise, we might end up with too many things with deals like those!

Oh did you hear about the $10 gift card offer for spending $50 at Target? It is a coupon that expires Saturday. You can read about it here. What is the best deal you have found recently?

Spending my Snowflakes

December 5th, 2012 at 12:26 pm

It takes quite a bit of time to accumulate those snowflakes, but in the last two days, I have spent quite a bit of it!

I spent/used $35 in gift cards at Target last night. Today, I used a $10 earned JCPenney gift card to purchase a wallet and paid just over $2 in accumulated cash on it as well. I also made an Amazon.com purchase for $62.71...using all the Amazon gift cards earned on Swagbucks.

There are still plenty of snowflakes available in the form of cash, Target and Amazon.com gift cards. It just seems strange to spend it now instead of accumulate it!!

I took a Pinecone survey today. I expect payment tomorrow in my PayPal account. I guess that will count as the first snowflake of 2013! Smile

Interest Earned

December 3rd, 2012 at 12:29 pm

We earned $34.97 on our money market account for the month of November. It sure would be nice to live off interest, but at the current rates, we would need to have quite a bit more cash stashed away.

I don't save the interest as a snowflake, because I want our savings to grow, rather than use the savings to spend or put towards the truck loan. However, it is a good idea for those who might have an emergency fund and are paying down quite a bit of debt. That small interest payment each month could be added to your debt snowball. Or maybe you could at least save all the coins you receive each month. Cash them in at your bank and put that money towards your debt. We did that in our early years. Now, we rarely use cash!

If you didn't see my previous post, take a look...I reported the amount of snowflakes I saved since January! What do you do with the interest you earn? Save it, invest it, or spend it?

Final Snowflake Tally

December 2nd, 2012 at 06:38 pm

From January 1 through November 30, 2012 I have been accumulating small amounts of money, which I call snowflakes. The final grand total of all snowflakes is $1,429.21!! That averages out to $129.93 per month.

Want to know where I found all those snowflakes? Here's a basic breakdown:

$305.00 Amazon Gift Cards (Swagbucks) $305.00
$140.00 Miscellaneous Gift Cards (Swagbucks)
$137.00 Surveys (Pinecone & MySurvey)
_$75.00 Cash (Swagbucks)
$318.42 Ebay Sales
_$95.00 Craigslist Sales
_$20.00 Garage Sale
_$60.00 Target Gift Cards
_$42.11 Rebates
__$3.00 Lottery winnings
_$23.39 Half.com sales
_$22.77 Gifts returned for merchandise credit
_$35.00 Gift cards from MyPoints
_$10.00 Cash gift
_$40.00 Special Offers
__$9.50 Movie ticket (Lean Cuisine)
_$22.94 Utilities under budget
_$41.00 Unknown!
__$5.02 Debit card rewards
_$24.06 Found on the ground

The special offers were for opening a Serve account in January and some offer from Mastercard which I no longer remember the details for. For three months, I was under budget with our water bill at our previous home and I saved the difference. Yes, we literally found $20 in our new backyard! I think the rest is self explanatory.

It's just amazing to see the money grow as the months go by. The original intention has been to use this for Christmas, however, I know that it will not all be used. Once I'm done shopping the the excess cash will be sent to the truck loan. If I have leftover gift cards, I will use them in our regular spending and then send an equal amount to the loan at that time.

Anyone can do this! We might find our snowflakes in different places, but the cash adds up the same way. I'd love to hear about your snowflake sources.

Chase Rewards Check Arrived

December 1st, 2012 at 07:20 am

A few hours after I made the principal payment on the truck yesterday, our first Chase rewards check arrived in the mail. A nice fat check in the amount of $539!

Today, I'm depositing it into our checking account and modifying the original payment I made yesterday. The payment is still pending so might as well increase the amount while I can.

The truck loan balance is now $5688.64!!

For some reason I'm still amazed by how fast this loan is going down. At the beginning of the year I just hoped to be under $8K by December 31. We will definitely make it under $5400 by then. And I can definitely see that this loan WILL be paid off in 2013!!