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Archive for February, 2014

February Snowflakes

February 28th, 2014 at 10:17 am

I found $638.04 in snowflakes for the month of February. No complaints, however, I did notice it was less than last month by over $84. But I had many more rebates last month. All the money went to pay down the mortgage principal!

As of this month I am at 34% of my goal for the year, which is $4000 in snowflakes. Or money that is not earned from my husband's paycheck!

Here's where all those snowflakes came from:


Did you track your snowflakes this month? How did you do? What did you do with your snowflakes?

I wrote a post on Our Money Blog about some of my thoughts for this pay day, if you are interested.

Snowflake, Repair & College Thoughts

February 27th, 2014 at 08:10 am

The Swagbucks and Pinecone snowflakes arrived in our checking account. Is it me or is Paypal getting quicker at sending money? I have already scheduled this $28 to go to the mortgage principal. Less debt!!

So that washing machine part arrived today. I did a load yesterday and no leaking occurred after. Well maybe a slight drip or two. I'm doing another load now. I wonder if all that dripping the other day was a fluke? I don't want to spend time and money replacing the part if it isn't necessary. We won't get to the part replacement until this weekend, so I have some time to contemplate it.

We are making plans to visit a college in another state over spring break. My daughter has some interest in it. Since she is a Junior this year, it is time to start looking. I attended this institution for two year but transferred to another city, same state and university system to complete. A little looking shows that my graduation, her ACT score (29) and GPA (4.0) might make her eligible for a large scholarship that would easily reduce tuition to the in state amount. My husband also has Post 911 GI bill benefits that could be used for her as well.

I think it would be best to use the GI bill benefits for our older daughter, as you never know when the benefit could be pulled or changed. I think it could virtually make her college cost zero. We then could transfer what we have saved in her ESA to her sister. Right now we have over $30K saved between the two of them. Our youngest daughter won't go to college until Fall 2018, so we have over 4 years to continue to save and for that money to grow.

My best friends son, who is a senior, just decided to attend a private school. His grades are high, but ACT was 24. The school did offer some grants and reductions in tuition. In fact, because they waiting awhile to decide the school actually offered MORE money. My friend and her husband will take out a parent PLUS loan and their son will take out the maximum student loan allowed of $5500. I think that makes their portion around $20K for ONE year. My friend said he will work all summer and have to apply all his earnings to reduce the amount of their portion. They are putting their son on notice that this is a one year trial basis. If he isn't accountable, they won't pay for this private college. Considering they are still paying on her husband's college at the tune of over $600 per month, I'm amazed they are taking on more debt. Although I shouldn't be. They finance EVERYTHING! But they do both work full time and also have part time work as well, so they do seem to make it work.

We expect my husband to get promoted this year. I expect that extra income will help us with the college costs when the time comes. I hope this allows us to at least cash flow the room and board portion of college.

It feels good to be on track to handle college. Are you saving for your child's college? Did you help them with college tuition? If so, did you take out loans or cash flow the cost?

Sold An Item Plus More

February 26th, 2014 at 10:56 am

I sold on item on Ebay today. I'm not sure if I'm getting the profit or my daughter. It was a gift to her years ago. Seems to be a collector item. She is saving for PhotoShop, so I think I will give the proceeds of $19.46 to her. Although, I'd love a snowflake for the mortgage.

Actually I do have a couple of snowflakes that should arrive in my bank account in a couple of days. Twenty five dollars from Swagbucks and $3 from Pinecone. I hope it is here by Friday so I can count it towards this months snowflakes!

A few purchases have been made in the last 24 hours. I ordered that valve for the washer, which has now been shipped and charged to my Discover card for $48. We also bought the newest Thor movie. I didn't know it was coming to video yet, but my husband said we were going to rent it this weekend. We own ALL the other Marvel movies, and we (they) watch them multiple times, so it makes sense to me to buy it. Unfortunately, it might not be here until Monday. We won't be renting though know that we bought it. So that was $19 I think. It was probably cheaper on Pre-Order so I wish I had known.

I thought there was something else I bought. I'm probably remembering that my husband agreed to buy from yet another Girl Scout. Another $21 in cookies. It is supporting some coworkers who have supported our girls in fundraisers, and we do like GS cookies. I told him NOT to buy Thin Mints this time around. I'm watching calories and don't need them.

I had to contact Ooma last week because they had not yet billed me for February and they were late in December, too. Today I had to call because they charged me again on Monday. Double billed for February. I guess I just need to let there system do it's thing and catch up on it's own, but when you expect to be billed on the 6th and aren't it is annoying. They did credit me for the extra charge.

I also received notice that our gas bill will be increasing from $28 per month to $50 starting in April. I was billed a similar amount last spring and summer and built up a credit thus the really low $28 bill for quite a few months. Well, with this really cold weather we have used up our credit balance. It is all fine with me. As long as I know ahead of time of the change I'm okay with budget billing and the changes that come with it.

I think that is the financial news from here. I'm looking forward to payday, as I like to do all the recording of bills and adding money to savings. Smile Do you have any utilities on budget billing? Have you been double billed for anything lately? Did you cave to the girl scouts and buy cookies? What is your favorite?

Found A Leak

February 25th, 2014 at 07:15 am

I woke up this morning to feed the cats. As I neared my laundry room I heard dripping water. I first looked at the sink. Nope. No water there. Instead it was the washer. The tub was holding 4 inches of water with more water dripping into it. I did a load of laundry yesterday early evening. I'm guessing the dripping occurred over 12 hours. Definitely wouldn't have been good if we were gone for many days! Although, after my parents had a major washer flood during their absence we actually do turn off the water to our house when we leave.

After I showed my husband, I turned off the water at the panel by the washer. Of course it stopped. My daughter thought it was time to get a new washer. She also thought a red washer would be fun! Our washer is over 12 years old if I remember correctly. But I don't want to buy a new washer!

I have been looking online and have determined the part we need is a water inlet valve. I watched one video of how to replace. It looks easy. However, I see our washer comes apart a little different. I need to find a video specific to our Maytag washer. I also see there is a universal part for about $20. However, when I look at the part for our specific model it looks different than the universal one. There is a connection pointing 90 degrees the other way. The part that seems specific to our washer is $55+. I also found this exact part USED on Ebay for $12.95 shipped. Not really sure about a used part and how long it would last, but it is better than $55!

So we do have choices. Buy nothing and simply turn water on and off at the wall. This just requires changing our habits. Buy a used part, install ourselves and hope it works for a relatively good amount of time. Buy a new part for $55 and install ourselves. We could also hire someone to install a new part for us. I would guess that would easily run us $120+. Or go with my daughter's idea and buy a new washer...which then I would want a matching dryer, too. Smile

I'm sure we will not be buying a new washer, although if we think we can not do the repair ourselves, I might be more inclined to put $120 towards a new machine. But I would wait on that. It sure isn't a need when we can turn the water off on our own at the wall, which is free.

I will be discussing our options with my husband later tonight. I will definitely be showing him the video of how to do the repair too. I don't mind doing the repair myself, but I would like his support and possible assistance if I run into a tight screw or need help lifting something.

Have you repaired an appliance yourself? What option would you take in our situation? Would you buy a used part to save over $40?

It is Swagbucks 6th Birthday today. Lots of codes and ways to earn Swagbucks. Probably not a bad day to join in on the fun! I would suggest liking their Facebook page to get help from others participating.

Using and Losing

February 24th, 2014 at 07:57 am

I'm still trying to base my eating on using things up. I ate the third of four prepared steel cut oats this morning. I added cinnamon only and it tasted fine. I have sugar in my coffee, so I don't want to be adding any more to my meal. It looks like I will need to eat soup for lunch. I made some for dinner last night. I used up a partial container of vegetable broth while I was making that. My daughter took soup in her lunch, but there is still some left. I will have an appropriate portion for lunch. I'm trying to count calories and it is a little hard to estimate on something homemade, but it is healthier for me! I will make chicken today to use up that barbecue sauce. I will also make some couscous. I have a bag of plain bulk couscous that my mom received from a friend and then passed on to me. It is taking forever to use up. We like couscous, but we usually buy prepared packages with seasoning. I can't seem to get the full flavor we are used to with the spices I'm adding. It has been a savings though since each box is nearly $2.

I'm back going to the gym. I even went twice this weekend. I am done with the weight I gained since we moved. My mantra is Do The Work. So when I don't feel like going to the gym. I just say Do The Work and know that I need to do it to get to my goal. I'm tracking calories in MyFitnessPal. I need to weigh in this today to see if I have lost weight since last week. Probably a pound or two. Why is it we want to lose weight fast when it took us months, sometimes years to gain it? Probably that crazy Biggest Loser show!! I think the weight loss journey will be a money saver too. I can't eat that much, thus I won't need to buy as much. Now if I could get my DH on board we would definitely reduce the grocery bill.

Not much actually money news. We bought groceries. We bought gas. Just the usual. No big expenses. I know there will be a need to buy spring clothes in the coming months, but for now it is still too cold for those.

Did anyone get extra motivated to use up some of their food stores this last week? Is anyone on a weight loss journey? Do you have a mantra?

Clearance at Target & Using Up

February 23rd, 2014 at 11:13 am

I went shopping at Target today, primarily for groceries. I also knew they had some toilet paper on clearance for which I also had coupons. I had two coupons, so I bought to packages. I know have 48 rolls I need to store. I also found a couple hair products we use on clearance as well. Happy to get a deal on things we buy anyway. I didn't buy extras of those though.

I ate another container of the steel cut oatmeal I prepared on Friday. I ate this for breakfast with the coffee I'm working on using up. Only two more to go! This afternoon, I used up the romaine lettuce and a ripe banana for the green smoothie I'm eating for lunch. Oh, I also added the leftover coconut water I purchased yesterday. I didn't really like it plain. I sure can't taste it in my smoothie.

My girls had pasta for dinner last night. One of them finished off the sauce. The other likes her noodles buttered. I skipped dinner as I wasn't hungry, especially for pasta. Later I made a mini sandwich where I used up the last six slices of lunch meat in the container. It was just the right amount.

Today I'm making a Moroccan Lentil soup. I will use up a half container of broth I have in the fridge and carrots. Everything else in the soup will be 'new', but there will not be any partial containers left. Yea! Later this week I planned barbecue chicken to hopefully use up the bbq sauce. I noticed some dressing in the fridge that my husband uses on a certain type of sandwich, so in another week I will buy ingredients for those in hopes that he will used up that dressing. Otherwise it will just go to waste. Besides he will be thrilled to have those sandwiches again!

Did you plan this weeks menu around items you want to use up? Do you stock up on items when you see them on clearance?


More Used Up & Ebay

February 22nd, 2014 at 08:41 am

I used up more items yesterday! I made steel cut oats in the crockpot with the last (expired two days ago) four cups of milk. I divided the batch into four servings. I already ate one this morning, too. I made a batch of boxed brownies to use up the sour cream. Crazy huh? It replaces the oil. My kids haven't seemed to noticed the difference! We ate our pizza last night along with two of the three remaining apples. I have to say those apples did help me eat less of the pizza. Smile

There are still things to use up. I'm trying to focus on those things that have been in the cupboard and fridge for awhile. Some things we always use up. Like cheese and crackers. Others like milk, not so much. We have some ground coffee we received for Christmas that we used some of and then DH declared he didn't really like it. I will use it up this week, when he is not drinking coffee at home. I plan to have a mozzarella tomato sandwich for lunch...probably today and tomorrow to use up the ingredients left over from the last time we had those for dinner. Apparently some of us are getting burnt out from eating those! Not me. I think they are yummy. Although maybe a little caloric for my diet. Frown

I have plans to put three items on Ebay tomorrow. An electronic pet, a cat toy and a series of books. I may also have a curtain panel to list as well. Worth a try to get a few more things sold. I pulled the table we listed on Craigslist last week. I had zero responses. Not even spam! I will relist when the weather gets a little warmer AND take some better pictures.

What did you use up? Is your fridge or cupboards cleaner because of the use it up challenge? Are you selling anything right now?

Updates: Using It Up & Credit Rewards

February 21st, 2014 at 09:42 am

I just ate lunch. All leftovers. I have 1 cup of tortellini soup from two nights ago and leftover roasted vegetables from last night.

Yesterday, I found a bottle of expired dressing. It was nearly gone, so I tossed it out and recycled the bottle. I ended up doing the same thing with some bottles of lemon and lime juice. One was several months expired and the other wasn't clear. It seems like we had it awhile and we aren't really using those items in cooking lately. So I didn't use them up, but it helped declutter the fridge!

I did make banana bread yesterday. I was able to use up the last of the margarine and three frozen bananas. The loaf is now in the freezer, since we didn't need more sweets to eat right now. Tonight I'm making pizza from scratch. I was going to make two, one cheese and one beef. However, my husband is going out of town, so I think one cheese pizza will cover the needs of us three girls. I will cut up a couple apples that need to be used soon to eat with it. I know that the cheese I have in the fridge will be used up when I make the pizza, too. My fridge really seems extra tidy this week. Smile

I checked the balance of our Discover cards. My husband is less than $25 away from meeting the $750 in spending. I'd like him to meet this before the statement closes in early March. All he really needs to do is buy gas and he will meet the requirement. I'm not quite as far along on my spending, as I still $459 to meet the same spending requirement. I expect March bills and fuel for my van will make up a big portion of that.

I have decided to skip the Barclay's card. I think one of us will sign up for Southwest Rapids Rewards card next. Barclay's already increased their spending requirement to $3,000. It had been $1000. I understand it is still available if we call in to customer service. Just seems like too much of a hassle. And I know I can't get DH to take the time to call either.

Is your fridge and cupboards extra clean this week from the using it up challenge? Did you find anything expired that you felt definitely needed to be tossed? Did you eat anything expired?

Ebay Sale & More Using Up

February 20th, 2014 at 06:55 am

I listed four hardback books of a series for my daughter last Friday. She sold them with a Buy It Now option yesterday. I even go the package to the post office last night. She made $36.54, which averages just over $9 a book. She's happy with the cash.

I did actually use up the refried beans and tortillas yesterday at lunch. Yummy! We did eat all the applesauce cake as well, so that is not going to waste. Our dinner was tortilla soup. There are leftovers for today. My daughter took some to school and I expect I will eat some for lunch. Smile I finished a jar of jam this morning, but another will be opened tomorrow I'm sure. It seems things are getting under control and used up in a timely way. There some egg noodles I need to find a use for. We don't usually buy them, but I used some in turkey soup and didn't need them all. Obviously I could use them with pasta sauce pretty easily. I will keep that in mind for lunch in the next week or so.

We are having chicken tonight. I think I will bake the chicken in barbeque sauce to use up that container of sauce. We are having roasted vegetables, to include carrots, brussel sprouts and red potatoes. The carrots and brussel sprouts do need to be used up! I will pour olive oil over them along with some basil, thyme, salt and pepper. I might have some onion to include with those veggies too.

I think I have time today to make banana bread. We don't need to eat it, so I will likely freeze it for later. I just want to get the frozen bananas used up. Banana bread comes in handy for breakfast when guests are here, so I know it will get used.

Keep up the great work using up your food leftovers! Anyone use up any cleaners or personal care products this week? What will you use up today?

Sign Up For Pinecone Surveys

February 19th, 2014 at 07:28 am

If you are interested in doing paid surveys for Pinecone, I have a link here. Pinecone doesn't provide me any incentive to pass this along. I just thought I'd share the link since they sent it to me by email to refer friends and family.

I noticed my daughter used up the salsa yesterday. Now one less container in the fridge! I ate some of the leftover taco fixing for dinner last night. I think I will eat the rest for lunch today. Although there may be more refried beans than I can eat in one sitting. Smile But I will clean up the green onions, the shredded lettuce and maybe the tortillas.

I don't plan to bake anything today as we know have banana muffins and applesauce cake sitting on the counter. We sure don't need more bake goods. I'm actually trying to watch my calories, so I will be avoiding them. I guess that doesn't help use them up if I make something else but don't eat that. I think the family will eat them though. I can freeze the muffins if needed.

Tonight I will make tortellini soup, which always has leftovers, but ALWAYS gets eaten the next day. I like when leftovers take care of themselves. Smile

Were are having a heat wave here. It will be 39 degrees here today! Happy for the melting of all the snow. Of course, a Winter Weather Storm watch has been issued for tomorrow afternoon. That means more snow! I can tell it is getting closer to spring as I see more birds and they are singing in the mornings. Our cats have noticed this too!

Will you be signing up for Pinecone? What did you use up yesterday or plan for today? What kind of weather are you having today?

Barclay Question & More

February 18th, 2014 at 05:53 am

First a credit card question:
I haven't applied for any Barclay's cards because the rewards have to be redeemed for travel which we rarely do. But I'm tempted. I read that currently you can get $400 in travel rewards for spending $1000, but that the spending requirement may be going up to $3000. It seems like a good deal to jump on now. The question I have is about redeeming the rewards for travel. Do you charge the travel expense on the card and then redeem points to cover or do you book travel with points? Has anyone completed travel this way with the Barclay's card?

Other news:
I redeemed Swagbucks for $25, so that will be arriving hopefully by month's end. I cancelled my Citi Thank You Preferred card yesterday by secure message on their site. I opened this card last May and earned a $250 check payable to our mortgage company, after spending $1000. I haven't been as good about closing cards as I intended, but I was ready to let this one go. We were not using it and don't intend to.

I used up the last of a jar of Maple Pumpkin Butter today. It had about a tablespoon left, so I put it on my steel cut oatmeal this morning. I am going to make banana bread or banana muffins today to use two very ripe bananas. I will need milk for either one, so I will use more of that. The milk expires tomorrow, although it may still be good after. I just want to use it up rather than pour down the drain.

I need to decide what to have for lunch. There is leftover taco fixings from last night. However, I also need to eat a salmon filet. I might cook the salmon, but eat it tomorrow. That way I can eat up some of the taco things today.

What are you using up today? Has this been a good challenge for you or it this just the norm for you? Did you eat anything strange just to use it up?

Cleaned Up With Applesauce Cake

February 17th, 2014 at 01:37 pm

It has been a snow day here with no school (or work since it is President's Day). And a no spend day so far too!

The plan was to eat the leftover mushroom barley soup, but unfortunately, when my daughter pulled it out of the fridge it all fell on the floor! A nice big soupy mess. This led to cleaning our kitchen floor, which it needed. We also cleaned under the fridge and inside.

While cleaning the fridge, I noticed the applesauce that I mentioned yesterday. I decided to find a recipe to use it up with. I found [urlhttp://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Applesauce-Cake-I/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Recipe&soid=sr_results_p2i20]Applesauce Cake[/url] at Allrecipes.com. Three out of four of us liked it. My youngest daughter thought it was too sweet and spicy. I was able to use most of the margarine I have in my fridge, too. The margarine was bought when we had guests at our house this fall that are allergic to milk products, so I'm glad to have that almost gone.

In other cleaning, we did a wash load of towels and rags, since we used so many cleaning up that mushroom barley soup. Oh, and instead of mushroom soup we made sandwiches with fresh leftover mozzarella cheese, so we were still able to use something up at lunch today.

Did you use anything up today? How long has it been in your fridge or cupboard? Did you find a new recipe in order to use it?

Shall We Use It Up This Week?

February 16th, 2014 at 05:29 pm

Rob62521's post about not liking to waste reminded me of how I used things up this week. I try to do this often, but I'm more conscious of it at some times more than others.

This week I made an effort to use up two kinds of yogurt my daughter didn't like. I ate it with the rest of the granola she often eats with it. I ate it for lunch one day and a snack the other. I ate leftover soup one day with a sandwich. Tonight we used up bacon we had purchased for BLT's the week before. We had eggs for dinner and the bacon was just the right amount to have on the side.

Earlier today, I used the last of the romaine lettuce, a ripe banana, the last of the frozen raspberries and the last of the chia seeds for a smoothie. This was my lunch. Yummy!!

I don't apply the use it up goal to just food. This week I used up some sample shampoo I received for a survey. I think that was the only non food item I used up this week.

Next week, I want to eat the last salmon filet in the freezer, the mushroom barley soup from last night, the milk before it expires in two days, a couple more extra ripe bananas, last of the applesauce, some margarine, and maybe some apples. If I can use up those items I will really be cleaning up my fridge.

Our dinner plans this week will use up some frozen chicken, some of the $1 cheese I bought on sale over a week ago, leftover pasta sauce, the ends of bread and some of that milk mentioned above and a container of sour cream!

Use it up! Maybe that is this week's theme here on SA. Do you have plans to use some of your food up this week? Do you have any non food items to work on using up?

I wrote a little more about frugal eating at Our Money Blog, if you want to check it out.

52 Week Savings Challenge

February 15th, 2014 at 07:18 am

I should really call our challenge Twice Monthly Savings challenge. Smile Our automatic deposit to our savings challenge will take place on Monday. Another $57 deposit will bring the balance to $295. This covers weeks 1-9 and 48-51.

I still don't have specific plans for this money, but it may eventually go for a car for our teen daughter or a vacation further down the road. It just feels good to make a specific and planned savings deposit. We save more than this each pay period, but the amount varies.

In other news, I did list our old kitchen table and chairs on craigslist for $150. No interest yet, but I put it up late last night. I also listed a series of books on Ebay for my daughter. Again no leads yet! But I expect there will be. Smile

How are you doing on your savings challenge? Are you trying to sell anything?

Here Is How Pay Day Went

February 14th, 2014 at 10:10 am

My husband did end up buying flowers for Valentine's day. A bouquet of pink, green and orange flowers from Target for $17. The flowers are for the girls and I to share. Pretty for sure, but not needed. He did look cute with the flowers in hand when he walked in the door last night though! Smile

Payday is today. I paid and recorded all upcoming bills, like life insurance, water softener rental, Roth and college investments. I paid current amounts on both Discover cards, which included our internet and electric bills. The total on those cards was just over $500. I also paid $184+ on the US Bank Visa. I left a balance of about $140 as I expect that the rewards I will receive will total at least that. The $100 shows as pending, once it is available I will redeem for credit on the account.

The good news is I was able to save about $350, which I tossed in our emergency fund. I scheduled a $275 principal payment on the mortgage. I plan to make this payment each month to help us pay down nearly $14,000 in principal this year. I'm recording that on the sidebar.

It's been a good payday! How about you...did you household get a paycheck today? Did it all work out like you planned? Any good or bad surprises?

Tracking Money Spent

February 13th, 2014 at 04:59 pm

I know we all have our methods of tracking our spending. I thought you might be interested in how we tracked our spending in the early days of our marriage. In some ways it was the beginning of building our budget. I wrote the post on Our Money Blog, if you want to hear about it.

Little Money News

February 13th, 2014 at 11:36 am

My Swagbucks money arrived in my PayPal account yesterday, so I requested that money to be transferred to our checking account. There was also a Pinecone payment in there, so I pulled that too. That will be $28 going to the mortgage! I will likely make that payment tomorrow when I'm paying bills.

My husband's paycheck is already pending in our bank account. I like paydays that arrive on the weekend...it means we get our money a little early.

I had over $150 in cash at our house due to getting cash for fundraiser that I wrote just one check for and getting paid for that sewing work. I took all the cash plus some change I scrounged up and made a $158.65 payment on our Target Red Card. Obviously, I made this payment in the store. I still owe more on the card, but I will pay that off tomorrow when I pay bills.

My daughter has found 10 books she wants to get rid of. Preferably she would like to sell them. One series has sold on Ebay for $50 with free shipping included. She keeps her books very nice, so I think hers can sell for this amount easily. The other series isn't as clear about the price it sells for. I might try $25 initially. Maybe I can get them posted later tonight if I have boxes for them.

We really need to list some furniture on Craigslist soon. We have a kitchen table and four chairs, a couch and a love seat. I'd like to try this weekend, but I'm not sure if my husband will be on board with that. I'd like $300 for all pieces. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I picked up The Signature of All Things, by Elizabeth Gilbert at the library today. I'm looking forward to reading it...for free of course.

I also picked up two small bags of candy at the store today. This is for Valentine's Day tomorrow. I might make a couple homemade cards for my girls. We will have manicotti for dinner at home. That is our frugal celebration!

Do you have frugal Valentine's plans? Did you sell any books or borrow one from the library?

Our FICO Scores

February 12th, 2014 at 10:02 am

The advantage of having Discover it cards, is that we have access to our FICO scores for free. Yep, the real score. Not the credit reporting agencies pseudo score.

I vividly remember asking two homes ago what our credit scores were because at the time we had zero debt and were about to sign for our newest mortgage. This was just over 7 years ago. The I response I remember was 815. I now don't remember if that was for me or for my husband. It was the first time I really knew what are scores were and I knew that 815 score was good.

So you want to see what our scores are? We have never filed bankruptcy, we have credit cards which are paid on time in full, the oldest is probably about 7 years old (although we had ones in the past but closed them all at one time), one mortgage and no other debt.

Here's mine:


Here's my husband's:


As you can see from the FICO scale below we are exceptional borrowers. It really isn't hard to be a good borrower. Don't borrow more than you can afford, and no more than you can pay off when the debt is due. Pay on time ALWAYS.



I would also suggest to never max out a credit card. This reason for this is that if you have $5,000 in credit charge $1,000 you are using 20%(1000/5000) of your available credit. If you charge up a balance of $4500, you are now using 90% (4500/5000) of your available credit. Lenders prefer the lower amounts. They refer to this as your utilization rate. The lower the better! In fact, this rate is figured based on ALL of your available credit issued to you. The more credit issued, and the less you use it, the lower your rate.

I've never really been to hung up on our credit scores. I think it is just because we do borrow limited amounts of money. We pay things off and on time. We have ever been denied credit when it was important, such as getting a car or house. However, I am grateful we have the scores we have because I know we pay lower interest rates on our home (2.75% Smile) and are able to take advantage of credit card bonus offers.

Do you know your true FICO score? Did you get your score from Discover for free or did you pay a fee? Do you even care what your score is? Are you surprised at our scores based on all the credit cards we have been opening?

The Snowball Arrived

February 11th, 2014 at 08:31 am

On the coldest day of 2014 so far, our snowball arrived. Cool! That snowball is the Chase Sapphire bonus of 50,000 points for spending $3,000+. The actual awards credited this month was 51,016, which is equal to $510.16.



I have redeemed them for a statement credit which generally appears the next business day. This will leave me with $42.08 left to pay which I will pay right away tomorrow, leaving the balance at zero. Smile

Since I don't have to pay $510+ on the credit card, I made a payment towards the principal balance on our mortgage. The amount, of course, is $510.16! Yea. Less debt!!

I expect a Pinecone survey to arrive in my Paypal account today. I'm still waiting on a deposit from Swagbucks. But it seems things are moving right along in the snowball department.

Tax Credit For Saving

February 10th, 2014 at 06:27 pm

Make sure if you qualify you take the Saver's Credit, which can increase your refund or decrease the amount you owe. If you didn't save for retirement last year...make sure you do this year!! Smile

Here's a chart I found on the IRS website. You can get more details about the chart and the rules here.



We didn't qualify this year because our AGI is too high. If I'm looking at this correctly, we could actually save in Traditional IRAs rather than Roth's and possibly qualify. I'm not sure that its worth it being in the 15% income tax bracket. I'll have to run the numbers for this coming year.

Did you qualify and take the Saver's Credit on your tax return? Were you aware of this tax benefit for saving?

Bumbling Around

February 10th, 2014 at 07:40 am

I seem to be bumbling around lately. I'm not focused! Ack. I have plenty of goals and things I want to accomplish, but I'm not giving any of them my full attention and as a result I'm not getting anywhere. This isn't about finances really. I have so much of that on auto pilot and I have been working with it for so long it really is a non issue.

I want to be eating better, exercising more, writing more blog posts on my other blog, establishing some sort of side income stream, making time for hobbies and the list goes on. I mention this because I'm not sure how my blog posts are coming across out there in internet land. I read other blogs online and it seems they are so organized with their posts and writing. I want to be them! But instead I'm me, which I'm fine with. I just want to improve. A little a time, right?

So behind the scenes, I'm going to be taking some time to think about my non financial goals without the advice of the internet. This means I have to turn this darn computer off and think for myself!! Ack. I have already come to the realization that I need to plan the time to work on these goals. For working out, I need to get back on schedule getting to the gym. Make it a routine again. Other goals can be similar. A routine for writing. A routine for meal planning and learning about healthy foods. I think setting time aside to be focused on these goals will be key.

My goal this week is to make a list of my goals. I may have to narrow them down or at least prioritize them. I will list first steps I can accomplish in the beginning to feel as though I'm making progress. After that is done, I will eventually make a schedule for how I can fit those goals into my life. I may not work on each goal everyday, some might be once a week or less.

It is so easy to look around on the internet and see what seems like perfection. Someone decorating each room of their home in the latest fashionable colors. Someone paying off all their debt super fast. It is easy to get down in the dumps and feel like we aren't doing as well. I figure it is time to stop looking at them and focus...FOCUS on me. I don't plan to blog much more about my other goals as I think that will take away from the focus.

As you can tell from my blog I have most of our financial life under control. And that feels good. I need to apply similar practices to my other goals so I'm not bumbling around with them next year at this time.

How do you keep yourself focused on goals? Are you bumbling around too? Any tips for staying focused when you have multiple goals?

I was focused enough this morning to write another post on Our Money Blog about slush funds, since the topic came up around here recently. Thanks hopping over there to check it out!

Looking Forward to Monday

February 8th, 2014 at 08:04 pm

I have several financial things happening on Monday that I'm looking forward to. Yes, they are small, but fun for me just the same.

1)Our Chase Sapphire card statement will close, and the bonus rewards should then be available. Once this happens I can apply them to the balance, pay the small amount remaining, and then match the rewards with a big fat mortgage principal payment.

2)Our internet bill will post to my US Bank card and I will have met the $500 in spending to earn about $125 in rewards. I don't know yet when the statement closes or how quickly rewards are given.

3)My daughters recent Etsy purchase is available for pick up at the post office. I originally purchased with our credit card. Once she has it in hand, she owes me about $80.

4)If I'm lucky, I will receive cash in my Paypal account for Swagbucks and a Pinecone survey.

5)I plan to pay a few bills and make an extra mortgage payment for the sewing project I completed.

It's the little things some times that make the difference, even in personal finance! Are you looking forward to anything on Monday?

Paid for Work

February 7th, 2014 at 05:47 pm

I was paid for a sewing project today that I did for my Mom. I now have $45 more in my pocket than I did this morning! I will figure my profit for the work and send that amount to the mortgage since I consider this side gig a snowflake. I will actually keep the cash she gave me and use for flute lessons later in the month. That means I shouldn't need to pull any money from an ATM for the rest of the month! Smile

My husband came home from work and was interested in going out to dinner. He said we haven't done that as a family for awhile. True. But I had dinner all planned and ready to go. And the girls wanted to watch the Olympic opening ceremony on television. So we saved a little cash, since we kind of made plans without him.

We made a purchase today of tickets to a concert in late May. My daughters are excited. By that statement you might expect it is some boy band, but no....it is a violinist! My parents are coming with us since it is in their town, so I purchased six tickets with fees for about $175. I put it on my Discover card, ya know to help meet the spending requirement for the $150 bonus!

That is the financial news from here today! Best wishes for a thrifty weekend.

Where We Are With Credit Cards

February 6th, 2014 at 08:18 am

Regular readers know we have been taking advantage of credit card bonus offers to make a little cash. All funds earned from our regular spending on these cards is going to pay down our mortgage balance. If we could get decent rates on savings accounts, we would do that instead.

Currently, we are working on spending on three cards to obtain bonus cash. I thought you might like to see where we stand on those. We both have a Discover It card that we each need to spend $750 on to receive $150 in bonus cash. I also had a special offer from US Bank for which I need to spend $500 to receive $100 in bonus cash. There is an opportunity to claim an additional $25 at the time of redemption on that card.

US Bank: $427.82 of $500
Discover(Me): $35.94 of $750
Discover(DH): $126.86 of $750

I am close on the US Bank card. I will probably pick up some vitamins at Walmart and get fuel in my van to meet the minimum spending requirement.

As for the other two cards, I expect we will be charging six concert tickets for about $150, the electric bill which is $167, cell phone bill for another $150, fuel for our vehicles and other odds and end spending. I might bump up payment for our auto insurance to meet the spending as well. I already have the money set aside for that bill, so that makes it easy.

I have a balance of $552 on my Chase Sapphire card and the money to pay it, but I expect the bonus of over $500 to be available when the statement closes on February 10. When it is available I will request a statement credit and pay the remaining balance to bring the card back to zero. No interest has accrued of course, because I would never let that happen!

That is where our credit card reward activity stands. It feels things are moving slow on those cards, but I think the main reason for that is less spending. And that is a good thing! Smile

Make sure you read my blog post from yesterday about how to pay off debt using the debt snowball, if you find yourself with multiple debts.

Paying Off Debt: The Snowball Method

February 5th, 2014 at 01:48 pm

I wrote a post on Our Money Blog today about how to pay off debt the fastest way possible. In my opinion, this is using the debt snowball that many financial gurus recommend.

In the post I show some charts and an example. If you find yourself interested making a chart of your own debt, you should check out the calculator I used at What's the Cost. I used an example without interest, but obviously that is not realistic. It is fun to work with different amounts to see how much faster debt can be paid off when more money is applied each month or interest is reduced.

We personally have paid plenty of debt this way. I specifically remember using pen and paper to plan a debt snowball after we were married. I know we had a car lease (ack!), a student loan (maybe two) and a personal loan (which was consolidated credit card debt from a failed business). I think there was other debt, but I can't even remember what it was now! I do know we paid off that personal loan in about one year, and the students loans before that. It was fast! And faster than my plan stated because we kept putting more money than planned towards the debt.

Does anyone else use What's the Cost to plan debt payoff? Is anyone snowballing debt right now? Did you snowball debt payoff in the past? Do you remember how much you paid off and how fast?

A Little Mortgage Snowflake

February 5th, 2014 at 11:50 am

That Ebates payment arrived in our checking account and I sent it right off to pay down the mortgage. Less debt! That is the first snowflake for the month of February. It's a little slow going, but I know there will be more arriving at some point. Smile

Refund Request & News

February 4th, 2014 at 08:53 am

My daughter has a minor condition that is bugging her. My mom has it and there really isn't a known cure, but there are plenty of things to try to provide some relief. One of these items was a type of vitamin marketed directly for this condition. She gave it a try...two bottles priced at nearly $25 each. In the end she said it didn't really seem to work. Fine. There is a money back guarantee for one purchase. I sent a request to the company with the receipt and UPC code today. I don't know how long it will take to receive, but the process has begun to get some of our money back.

I redeemed some more airline miles my husband has accumulated. These are for our newspaper subscription. I know we are probably aren't getting the best value from those miles, but we really never fly any where for pleasure. We might as well get something for them, rather than nothing. And our town's newspaper is pricey...$66 for 13 weeks of everyday delivery. That is $5 per week! If I were to pay upfront for the entire year it would come down to $4.95 per week. I rarely read it...but I like to do the suduko puzzle while I eat lunch. I could find this online for free if I wanted. So for now, we will use airline miles, rather than pay out of pocket for the paper.

Do you purchase a subscription to your newspaper? How much do you pay? What do you like best about the paper? If you don't read the newspaper, why is that?

Ebates Arrived

February 3rd, 2014 at 04:26 pm

My rebates from Ebates arrived in my PayPal account today. I have requested the $29.35 to be moved to my checking account. I will then send that money to the mortgage!

I bought another 8 bags of cheese for $1. There wasn't a limit, but I do have limited space in my freezer for storing, so that is all I bought.

I returned an item at Joann's Fabric for $3.52, but then purchased new machine needles (with a 40% off coupon) for $2.24. I made the original purchase in cash, but they give returns less than $5 in cash. I now have an extra $1.28 in my wallet.

I received a postcard in the mail from USAA for a reward promotion we participated in. We spent $1200 quite awhile back and were to receive a $25 gift card. The postcard was a link to claim the gift card. I chose Target. We won't receive it for 4-8 weeks. I have to say it isn't a great reward, but at the time of the promotion we weren't working on any other rewards, so it was a bit of a bonus.

Next week our Chase Sapphire billing cycle should close, so our reward should be available at that time. I'm looking forward to that, so I can make another big payment to the mortgage with it.

As you can see it wasn't a no spend day, but some snowflakes are on the way!


$1 Cheese and More

February 1st, 2014 at 05:33 pm

Today feels like a good day money wise. I think this is because I paid bills and everything is under control. Our bank will transfer $57 to our Capital One savings account on Monday for our twice monthly deposit to the 52 Week Savings Challenge. Our challenge total is $238, which covers weeks 1-8 and 49-52. Moving right along on that one. Smile We also set aside $164 for things like auto insurance, auto registrations, and Christmas. We do this at the beginning of every month.

We ventured out after the snow stopped falling and purchased fuel for my husbands truck and some groceries to fill in for the next couple days. At the grocery store we found store brand shredded cheese for $1 in an 8 oz package. We buy these at Super Target for nearly $2.50 or more. We picked up 5 or 6 packages, since we didn't know if there was a limit. I did notice the sale ends on Monday, so I may pick up more cheese before then since this is a significant savings for something we buy anyway.

My daughter bought an item from Etsy online last month. She paid nearly $85. I used my credit card to make the payment since I wanted to use the expense towards our credit card rewards spending. I decided she could wait to pay me until it arrived. At this point we expect it next week, so I will get my money at the same time. What is fun, is that I actually forgot that I would be getting that money!

I was able to set $525 aside in savings, which is similar to the amount I saved last payday. Clearly we are not spending everything we earn! Some of that money actually will get to go to the mortgage once I get the rewards and have them credited to our current balance.

I'm going to write a post soon about how a debt snowball works. I think we might have some new members and probably some readers that are not familiar with this process. I don't think anyone is writing much about it right now either. We are not actually doing this type of pay debt down anymore since we only have one debt...our mortgage!

Is anyone snowballing debt currently? If so, will you let me know, so I can refer readers to your blog when I do the post? Did you get to put extra money in savings this week? Did you find any good grocery deals?