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Archive for September, 2015

Time to Declutter the Excess!

September 29th, 2015 at 09:02 am

I'm getting ready to write quite a few blog posts for Organized Friends, my other blog. I'm using it as a lesson to keep writing more and to inspire others to declutter their excess stuff. It doesn't seem related to finances, but it is. Going through the process of decluttering really helps one realize how much excess we as Americans have. If you are the one tossing all the excess you generally find that next time you are in the store looking for that next 'thing' to purchase, you might actually stop and think will this become clutter or something I won't use in 6 months or a year?

Clutter and excess cost us time in acquiring the item, cleaning and maintaining the item, moving the item out of our way to find other things. The excess purchases cost us money too. We buy the item on credit and pay interest (maybe not all of us here, but it is common for many Americans). We later can't find the item lost in our other clutter so we buy another one. Some of us forget that we even bought an item. We fail to use the item that we found valuable enough to spend our hard earned money on. If we find it again in our closets, we learn that it has been damaged because we stuffed it with other things to put it out of the way for now.

I have plans to post inspiration for decluttering primarily for all 31 days of October. I may have a few organizing ideas tossed as well. I don't really expect that anyone will follow all the suggestions everyday, but I hope that by the end of the month those reading find they were inspired to declutter the excess in their homes. Those of us here might even find we spend a little less this month as a result.

We are about 85 days away from Christmas, a holiday that can be quite draining on the pocket book and full of excess. You might find the exercise in decluttering has some side benefits to your holiday as well. I will start posting on October 1! Please join me and pardon my plug if I link to the posts on my blog here.


$71.49

September 28th, 2015 at 04:15 pm

$71.49. That's how much we have left of our spending budget for the next two days. The money is sitting in fuel, grocery and restaurant categories currently. I know I may need to buy another tomato for dinner tomorrow, and my husband will likely get gas in the next two days. Other than that nothing is planned to go out. We might end up with extra to throw at the Citi card!

We received a bill from our dentist in our old town. The girls and I had appointments in March. About six weeks ago the office our dentist merged with since then called asking about our insurance. Soon after there were a slew of insurance forms showing the insurance wanted additional information. Then this weekend we got a bill for $336! This got me to start investigating. Our insurance paid for all three of us in full about 8 days after our visit. A quick call today confirmed we didn't owe anything. I have no idea what that was all about other than probably getting record keeping straight on their end.

We sent a letter along with our membership cards to cancel our prepaid gym membership a couple weeks ago. They wouldn't cancel it unless we paid a maintenance fee of $29 each. This is a yearly fee they do charge normally and we have paid in the past. I first requested a refund, but was told no because you pay for first year and get a bonus year. Then my husband got a call from the gym asking why he hadn't been in lately...actually calling my husband 'big guy'! So now I was irritated. We moved. Halfway across the country for the military! We can't go to that local gym anymore.

Eventually things turned when I mentioned that our contract didn't indicate a bonus year, just a term of 18 months. And I asked about waiving the maintenance fee. And yes, I did mention that it is bad public relations to not waive a $29 fee for someone in the military. (I don't usually pull that card). In the end they cancelled the membership, so no more calls, but no refund because it was prepaid, and they waived the maintenance fee. What a mess. At least no additional money out of pocket!

It's been an interesting couple of days...thinking we might owe money to people. Glad we don't owe any more than we already know about. Smile

More Debt Paid and YNAB Update

September 24th, 2015 at 06:08 pm

Sooo...we have been tracking all of our expenses on YNAB. My husband seems to have more transactions than I do! His are smaller though usually. We didn't actually budget categories until tonight. Yep. About nine days after pay day. But this was good for us, because we could see how much we had already spent in the categories and were able to determine/guess how much we would need for the remainder of the month.

As a result of us finally getting our budget in YNAB we decided we did have plenty to put towards our Citi credit card balance which I mentioned yesterday. After making a $1084 payment yesterday and then a $1432 payment tonight, our new Citi balance is $986.75. Ah, so much better to get that paid down to a much more reasonable level.

I also did a little tweak to our normally scheduled payments. I usually charge our Verizon bill to our US Bank Visa at this time of the month and then pay it in full with our paycheck on the first of the month. I decided to change that to the 15 of the month paycheck, since the US Bank Visa bill isn't due until the 7th of the following month (or in the case of the current bill, Nov 7). Making this change allowed me to change when I will pay our electric bill. I was going to pay it now with current funds, but realized it isn't due until Oct 10 and if I moved the Verizon payment I could pay it with our paycheck on the 1st of Oct. This freed up nearly $260, which I promptly sent to the Citi card. I like it when I can find extra cash.

We technically have $409 budgeted that we have not spent yet. And there are just six days left to go in the month. It feels we have finally turned a corner. It is possible some of it could be related to YNAB, but I think primarily it is just that our spending has come to more reasonable levels again after the move and college beginning. Whew! Feels so much better to have things under control.

I will add a little caveat...more spending is coming. We will be taking at least one trip by airplane this fall, maybe two. And then there is still a possibility of some new furniture. It does help to be caught up...or close to it at least. It helps make the trip(s) and furniture seem possible without pulling from the savings we have worked hard for.

I need to remember to budget to pay for YNAB next pay period. Smile

Checkout 51 & Free Personal Finance Software

September 24th, 2015 at 06:15 am

I have no idea when I joined Checkout 51, but I finally accumulated the minimum for cashing out. This means a $20 check is on it's way from Canada which is where the company is located.

My husband sent me a link and I saw on the Today show that Susie Orman is giving away (free) a personal finance online course. It's available until tomorrow (Friday, September 25) until 8pm EDT. I went ahead and signed up. Not sure how much I will do with it at this point, but there are always things to learn. One thing she mentioned on the show was student loans are okay, but only up to the amount you would expect to earn in your first year out of college. I know way too many people that have not followed this rule. And of course, I understand why it happens.


Debt Paid and Bills

September 23rd, 2015 at 07:18 pm

The balance on our Citi credit card is just over $3K. Today, I made a payment of $1084 to cover the treadmill purchase earlier this month as well as travel expenses my husband made on the card. I probably have another $1,200 to put on it leaving us with about $1200 left to pay. I think I'm finally seeing the end of the tunnel on this most recent debt accumulation!

I do have some more items I could list on eBay to bring in some cash. It's a matter of getting the time to get the items listed. Maybe Sunday this week would be best...before company arrives the first weekend in October. The cash from these sales would definitely go to pay down the last of the Citi card.

I did get paid from the eBay buyer that was having problems. I sent that item in the mail today. The item being returned should arrive tomorrow. If it looks in good order I will refund that buyer. I think I may just donate this item since I don't have any way to check if it is really faulty or not. Last I knew, just weeks ago, it was working. It is very possible it just didn't work with the buyers version.

We have another bill from the University. The expenses are primarily due to marching band. We needed to purchase shirt, shoes, gloves and a few other items for a total of $114. She moved in five days early (not included in main housing contract) for $160, but a $40 credit was given to those members that were selected. And then there was another $73 and change from book purchases. Our next bill of $307 is due Oct 12. I do have money set aside at least.

I did get paid from the eBay buyer that was having problems. I sent that item in the mail today. The item being returned should arrive tomorrow. If it looks in good order I will refund that buyer. I think I may just donate this item since I don't have any way to check if it is really faulty or not. Last I knew, just weeks ago, it was working. It is very possible it just didn't work with the buyers version.

Still going along well with YNAB. Pointed out to my husband that he recorded one of his expenses on a credit card that I know he didn't have in his wallet! He made the changes.

I still have not purchased sheets. I decided to buy myself new workout pants, as one of the three pair I own also decided to get a hole in them. I decided working out and not having to do laundry as frequently was more desirable then having matching sheets for the moment. I'm guessing I'll be spending nearly $50+ on sheets when the time comes. I think it just may go in the budget for next month! Smile

YNAB App and More

September 22nd, 2015 at 02:09 pm

Yippee! My husband is using the YNAB app to enter in his expenses so far this week. He even pointed out to me yesterday that he did so. And I'm not sure that tracking caused this, but he decided to take some coffee from home this morning!

We've been have problems with any mail being forwarded from our old home to our new rental place. It worked for awhile when we moved to the apartment AND from the apartment to the rental. But nothing direct from the house...and it was requested and input THREE times! Today we finally got a bill in the mail from the old house. It was for that darn mold test. Just $50, instead of the $75 I remembered. At least mail is coming our way.

Most everything we get mail for has been updated as much as we can, so we haven't been too worried, but there are things that come through that we don't have any control over.

Turns out I have a buyer returning an item they bought last week. They are stating it doesn't work. I know I tested it before I sent it off. And another buyer is having trouble paying me through PayPal for another item. A bit frustrating!

I'm should be able to cash out my Bing Rewards tomorrow for a $5 Amazon gift card. After that one, I will have $41 in gift cards. I'm hoping to get $60 so I can make a 'want' purchase. Smile

Ibotta Cash Out and More

September 21st, 2015 at 01:52 pm

I claimed two offers on Ibotta today for grocery shopping done yesterday. Once those posted, I was eligible to cash out. I picked PayPal and my $10 was sent immediately. I love how quick it was.

I'm currently $1 away from cashing out my first $20 with Checkout 51. I'm not as much of a fan of this site, but I'm determined to get to the cash out amount and be done with them.

I washed the sheets on our master bed today. When I pulled them out the fitted sheet was ripped in the middle. I knew they were getting close to the end of their life span since the elastic was getting loose. I didn't really want to buy new sheets this week. And I really don't HAVE to, as we have extra set for emergency situations such as this and there is a set on our guest bed. However, I am having guests early in October, so I think I will need to buy new soon! For tonight at least the emergency set will work so I have a little time to look for a deal.

Where do you buy sheets? Do you have a thread count or style you like? Do you use Ibotta or Checkout 51?

YNAB Update

September 19th, 2015 at 11:26 am

We are moving along with YNAB. My husband has now downloaded it to his phone, but still needs to sign in. I paid all the bills, but we have cash left to budget for the rest of the month. I actually cleared the budget for the first half of the month. It did help me in paying bills yesterday. I knew exactly what amount to pay on the credit cards we used. However, my budget amounts were completely arbitrary. I do understand how to adjust them though, so that will get better.

My big question, which probably sounds strange. Is YNAB your only way of tracking your money? Is it truly like your check register? I'm having a really hard time letting go of the check register and excel sheets I use, but yet I can see if I can move everything over I would probably like it really well.

We are still on the trial portion for the next 14 days. I'm pretty sure we are committed to pay for it when the trial ends. My husband definitely sees that using the mobile app to input transactions will be really easy and helpful.

I want to carve out some more time to take some more classes. It would be even better if we could take the classes together.

It's PayDay

September 15th, 2015 at 05:23 pm

It is payday today. The market was up. And I sold another item on eBay! And the weather was a 10 out of 10 in my book. It's like all of the stars aligned and angels are singing. At least it sort of feels that way!! Smile

I'd pay bills usually, but DH is not available to work on YNAB until Thursday, so we will wait. I can probably start on it a little tomorrow, but I want him to learn along with me, so if I do too much it won't help him.

I think ten minutes after I returned from mailing the eBay item I sold yesterday, I sold another item. I promise to ship the next business day following payment so it's not a big deal. If I had waited a bit I could have mailed them at the same time. But of course, I didn't know!

As far as the stock market is concerned, I still haven't sold any shares from my daughter's college account. I'm watching the markets to see if they get closer to break even for the year at least. I would like to sell as few shares as possible. The lower the share price the more shares it will take to come up with the dollar value I need.

I also lucked out getting a big survey completed on Swagbucks today for 175 SB. I had a 50SB one as well. Even after redeeming nearly all my Swagbucks yesterday, I already have 535 again tonight. Moving right along towards my snowflake goals.

How was your day? Did the stars align and angels sing?

Snowflakes!!

September 14th, 2015 at 05:27 pm

Yea! I feel like snowflakes have been slow in recent months. Not that I'm trying too hard. Most are from credit card rewards.

I redeemed 2200 Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card. I seemed to qualify for quite a few surveys in the last couple days. I guess I qualified for the Swagup because I got my 50SB a few minutes after redeeming.

I also sold an item on eBay. It looks like my proceeds will be $11.60.

I'm using these snowflakes to buy a few house wants from Amazon when I have accumulated enough. I'm getting closer to getting one item I want.

Gorgeous Day and More

September 13th, 2015 at 09:32 am

Oh, wow, it has finally cooled down a bit here in the Southeast! The humidity has dropped dramatically. I mowed our lawn for the first time (DH has down it all the other times) today and really enjoyed being outside. Exercise, fresh air and a trimmed yard all at the same time. And no money spent!

I have a couple transactions to put into YNAB today. We spent $30 at the football game (we basically ate dinner there). There was Walmart trip that night, too. And then yesterday my husband needed to withdraw cash for his trip. I guess I can't really record that yet since I don't know what he is spending it on.

I've been reading some ten day email subscription from YNAB that I signed up for. Today is Day 5. It's about budgeting with your spouse. I found a PDF of the entire series here. It's probably all worth reading, but I particularly liked how the author wrote about budgeting with a spouse. I know it can be hard for many couples. We don't really do it and we are after 19 years of marriage finally going to take a stab at it. I sent the email to my husband to read before we start working on our next budget for this next paycheck.

I'm working feverishly to accumulate Swagbucks and Bing points so I can buy some wants on Amazon. I'm a bit out of practice and things have changed at lot since I was doing it on a regular basis. Any tips on how you like to accumulate your SBs is appreciated. I do have over 1800 and I'm looking to get 2200 to get a $25 Amazon gift card.

I've done two Pinecone surveys recently, but I'm just at 900 points. I like to wait until I'm at 1500 to cash out for $15. Fingers crossed I can get a two more surveys before the month ends!

I'm also listing at least three items on eBay today after I get my cleaning tasks done. If those items sell they will help me purchase some of these wants!! It sure helps to have a goal to spur me on to earn a little cash. That and I finally have some time to do so.

What financial goal are you primarily working on? If you don't have one, what would it be? Do you budget with your spouse? How often?

Withholding and CD Expiring

September 11th, 2015 at 06:54 am

My husband did change the withholding on his W2 to 18 last week. The change is already showing on his paystub for pay on September 15. The goal was to avoid having any further withholding through the end of the year, as we have determined we have already paid enough to cover taxes on our return. The increase in pay is $259.32 each paycheck through January 1. This money is going straight to savings to pay ourselves back for tuition just paid.

We have a CD with Navy Federal Credit Union that is expiring on the 17th. It was a 5% interest CD for 12 months. The maximum we could invest was $5,000, which we did. That means $250 earned! I only wish all our money was earning this rate. I may invest in another CD with NFCU that has a maximum investment of $3K earning 3% for 12 months. Much better than 1% on savings. I'll get that all figured out once the CD matures next week. Does anyone know of any CD specials with secure banks earning a decent rate?

We will have a little spending tonight as we are going to an away high school football game to see our daughter perform with the marching band. Admission is $7 each. Plus concessions, we usually need a least a water since they won't let you bring any in and it's HOT here! I gave my daughter $15 since we weren't sure about dinner, but she thinks the band boosters are covering the cost of pizza for the group. (The game is 45 minutes away and they leave right after school...going to be a LONG night!)

Really hoping to keep the rest of the weekend LOW or NO spend!

Errands Today

September 10th, 2015 at 10:43 am

I ran two errands today. One to Target, where I decided to include grocery shopping as well. And also to get fuel in my van.

At Target, I wandered around looking for home decor items, or anything on clearance I needed. Guess what? Did find anything! So no spending on that kind of stuff. I did see some things I liked if we change up our decor with new furniture, but that has not been decided. I was able to claim $1.40 in rebates from Ibotta and $1 from Checkout 51.

I stopped at a different gas station today so I could use a deal on my American Express card. Spend $25 at Exxon and get $5 off. I put exactly $25 in. And Amex has already indicated that I used the offer! I think my husband has this on his card also, so will make a point to use that next week.

I also made sure to record the two purchases in YNAB. I used my mobile phone, but only once I got home and saw my receipt. It would be best to record these things purchases right when they happen.

I'm home for nearly the rest of the day. I hope to spend some time learning YNAB a bit more. I especially need to understand credit cards more clearly. At least I don't have to add interest!!

University Bill & YNAB

September 9th, 2015 at 02:55 pm

I paid the big fat University bill today in full. I had the money in savings. It was $7,198.55. I have not yet pulled any money from her ESA, since the market is down. It was looking good for a very little while this morning. Not that I planned to make a sell order today. We have time. Smile

You will be glad to hear that I did some entering of things into YNAB. I watched another tutorial which was helpful. I entered in all the credit cards we use regularly, with their current (PreYNAB balances). I entered only the $X I set aside at the beginning of this month to spend on the irregular purchases of the first half of the month. I budgeted that money into categories...starting with guesses really. Got to start somewhere though!

After that I went back and recorded actual purchases, most of which were on one credit card. There were a couple others on the Discover card and one in cash. I did have to adjust the budget. Originally I had no money for car repairs, but we did have a $129 expense for car maintenance. I had at least two other categories like this as well. The budget still shows $325 left, but I see it is assuming I want to pay all the card balances with this current income, which isn't exactly what I normally do. So, when I have a little more time I will look at that closer.

I'm feel better than I'm working on it. It does take time, but I do hope the investment is more clarity in how we spend some of our money.

YNAB Update

September 8th, 2015 at 10:02 am

I told you in a previous post I have been procrastinating setting up YNAB. And yes that is still true. It is a bit overwhelming with various credit cards and checking accounts to keep track of. I expect this alone may help me get some more cards cancelled and consolidate a few accounts.

I'm determined to get something entered on YNAB this week. I have a 'real life' friend who uses it and was asking me how it was going. I know she will ask again about it later in the week, so that is going to be my motivation.

I'm going to start by entering our disposable income each paycheck. This is $X amount that I set aside each paycheck after all fixed expenses are accounted for, such as rent, allowances. So those fixed items are going to stay off the budget for now. What I really want to know and be aware of is where is the $X going. I know it goes to things like groceries, dry cleaning, gas, postage, haircuts, entertainment, eating out, coffee, alcohol, toiletries and cleaners, and school fees.

My plan is to get back to you by Friday with another YNAB progress update. Oh, and yes, I realize this isn't exactly how YNAB is intended to work, but I need to start slow and simple just to get myself started!! Otherwise, I'm going to procrastinate. And yes, I'm still on the free trial. No money spent yet. If I don't get fully on board with YNAB by the end of this month, I'm not buying the subscription. Smile

Bought Used

September 4th, 2015 at 01:11 pm

My husband has a four day weekend due to the holiday. Although because they are getting ready for a conference next week he needs to go in to work on Sunday for awhile. Frown

We took advantage of the time off to get some errands done. The first involved getting a few more civilian clothes for him to wear. One shirt(on clearance for $10) and a tie. We tacked on two 99 cents cards with our purchase at Kohl's so we could get over the $30 to use a $10 off coupon. Spent around $22 for those four items. Very pleased since business casual clothes can get pricey.

We took our truck in for an oil change, tire rotation and replacement of cabin filter. The bill was over $120 at the dealership. The big mistake was letting the dealership do the cabin filter. We have replaced that ourselves in the past. It cost $22 for the filter and $40.99 for labor!! Ugh. I looked up the cost of the filter on Amazon. Only $8.09 with 2 day shipping with our Prime Membership. We are good with maintenance on our vehicles but my husband also tends to react with yes at anything the dealership suggests without knowing if we have recently done it or if it is something we can do easily ourselves. I'm definitely going to get a spreadsheet set up with our past maintenance and start recording what we should have done and when. Maybe there is an app? Do you do a good job at keeping track of vehicle maintenance?

Finally, our big splurge for the day was a USED treadmill. I saw one someone was selling locally for $1000 that was nearly new. We weren't convinced it was the right size motor for my husband who would prefer to run nearly daily. But it seemed a bit like a deal compared to a $1500 new one we had been keeping our eyes on. Before we committed to this local sale one, we stopped by Play It Again Sports and found a nearly new treadmill that was almost exactly the same spec wise as the $1500 one. The were asking $799. And for $50 more they would delivery it up to upstairs bonus room. Sold! After tax and delivery it was around $908. Cheaper than new, but like new, and delivered for less than we were considering. I will definitely use it since we don't have a gym membership. I expect my daughter is interested in it also. Fingers crossed it doesn't become a clothes hanger!!

We are paying for the treadmill out of savings since we have a pretty healthy bit of cash and this is a small drop in the bucket. And an investment in our health is worth it!! It arrives Tuesday afternoon.

Procrastinating on YNAB

September 3rd, 2015 at 10:49 am

I'm procrastinating using YNAB. I know I can probably catch back up since we aren't too far into September. My husband did get paid so that is easy. I have already set up my normal way of paying bills. Thus it doesn't seem necessary. It feel like MORE work to use YNAB.

I still want to try. I'm just being honest. I'm procrastinating getting it done. Maybe this weekend? I'll let you know.

I do have one question. We make our Roth IRA investments out of our net paycheck received on the 15th of the month. Do I include these contributions as an expense? Or should I deducted them from income before I input that amount?

For those of you that use YNAB, what do you like most about using it?

August Snowflakes

September 2nd, 2015 at 05:57 pm

August went super fast! But the snowflakes rolled in despite the business. I can thank credit card rewards for many of the snowflakes. All of them have gone to debt on the credit cards. It all helps!

Total was $183.62, which was far better than July when I only pulled in $29.17!

I will attempt to add a picture of my spreadsheet below, but just in case here is where the snowflakes came from:



Interest & Rebates $14.72
Pinecone Surveys $15.00
US Bank Visa Rewards $145.13
Discover Cash Back $8.77

How did you do collecting extra funds in August? What did you do with yours?

In September, I have some snowflakes I plan to put towards some purchases that would be considered wants over needs. I also plan use some for debt and a little for a gift for my college daughter. Do you have a plan for this month?

Paid Off More Debt

September 1st, 2015 at 08:56 am

It's payday so I paid off more debt that has been sitting on credit cards (no interest is being charged). I feel better than it is starting to dwindle down. Smile

Specifically paid:
$704.38 American Express (Orlando trip expenses)
$3.20 American Express (movie rental)
$360.44 Target Red Card (dorm & school expenses)
$166.58 Discover (online school expenses)

We still have just over $2,184.79 on credit cards. Considering it was over $3K when my husband and I were discussing things a few nights ago we have made some progress. The goal will be to keep spending as low as possible to try to use some extra income toward expenses.

At the same time we are working on debt, we are discussing flying to see family and college daughter at Thanksgiving. I have a Companion Pass earned with Southwest that lets my youngest daughter fly for free with me through the end of the year. This means we only need to pay for two tickets. One scenario has our flights costing $911. Which when you divide by three people flying is pretty good!! I really dislike the idea of flying during the holiday simply because it is so busy, but that is when most of us have time off work and school.