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Archive for December, 2015

2015 Snowflakes

December 31st, 2015 at 06:11 am

I'll post of picture of my December 2015 income sources and total. Those amounted to $448.13! Ebay sales helped quite a bit, along with credit card rewards.



As for the entire year of 2015, my snowflake totals equal $2,725.47. I did have many months where I wasn't too focused on bringing in extra funds, primarily because of our move. We also limited our acquisition of new credit cards as well, so there were not many large bonus rewards.

I didn't add the cash we received from our damage claim. That was just over $1400, and could really be considered a snowflake. That would bring the total up to at least $4,135 for 2015. We also had other money come in as a result of our move, but I didn't track that well. Those payments would probably bring add another $7200. Of course, those were really reimbursements for money spent...so it's not like I have a large chunk of cash sitting around as a result.

Overall, it was a good year for finding extra funds. I hope to make 2016 even better! Will you be tracking your extra income/snowflakes in 2016? How did you do in 2015?

Less Money

December 30th, 2015 at 05:12 pm

If it had been up to me, we would have spent $0 today. But I forgot chicken stock for the stuffing we were having. So my husband ran to the store, and he decided we also needed two bags of chips. So another $8.15 out of our account.

Our girls also wanted to spend their Barnes and Noble gift cards. They both went over by a couple dollars...so I spotted them a little cash, but they owe me about $4.

And it seems the buyer of a Wii game I sold early in December feels it doesn't work. I'm a little surprised. I'm accepting the return, since I believe I can ultimately resell it. I will verify again that it works. It originally sold for about $37, so it's not a small request.

However, tomorrow is payday, so were doing just fine. It will be time to do the budget on YNAB and get all credit cards paid!

Simple Gifts

December 29th, 2015 at 01:23 pm

I received a gift in the mail yesterday from a friend. We exchange when the mood strikes us. Last year I'm pretty sure I sent her something. But not this year, in part because I was simply reducing our list of obligations.

She sent me a very small jar of organic hot chocolate mix (two servings), a nice chocolate bar, and two handmade marshmallows. Yummy! It is such a simple gift, but her card and thoughtfulness are more meaningful to me than something more extravagant.

I'd rather receive simple gifts given out of love than something extravagant any day. Some of this may be that I don't like spending money on expensive gifts, so I sure wouldn't want someone doing that for me. And this particular gift is one that will eventually disappear, once it is consumed. Only the jar will remain and that can be recycled!

I have a whole list of things that I think are pretty simple that I would love to receive: lotion, handmade soap, Penzey's spices, good quality tea, wool socks, slippers, homemade foods, lavender dish soap or hand soap, and even flowers or a plant. Did you notice most of those are consumable or something that will eventually be used up or worn out!

Do you give simple gifts? Do you have simple gifts you would look forward to receiving?

She's Home

December 28th, 2015 at 02:24 pm

Our daughter is home from college! The weather cooperated with her flights leaving on time. Classes did end before Christmas but she went with her band to a bowl game over Christmas. Our team won!

We spent money on gas for the van today (around $19), $2 for an hour of parking, another $11 at Starbucks in the airport while we waited for the flight, and $28 for lunch on the road between airport and home. My daughter didn't eat this morning so she was 'starving'. The rest of us probably could have waited, but it's all good. There was money in the budget for eating out.

We will probably stay in the next few days being together and completing our holiday celebration. Although my husband has to work a little. We still have plenty of food to last through the end of the year. I'd really like to think we are done spending for the rest of the year!!

Feeling Anxious

December 27th, 2015 at 06:36 am

I go through periods of time feeling anxious. It's usually the mind going through all sorts of crazy scenarios that I have no control over.

Today, I'm primarily anxious for my older daughter to be flying alone (she has flown without us, but with a group) to visit us. I think it is more about the weather as the Midwest is about to get slammed with a snowstorm. She flys out very early tomorrow morning going through Saint Louis. If the flights are all on time it will be no big deal. It's if there are delays that I'm concerned. So prayers and good vibes are appreciated in the next 24 hours.

I'm also feeling anxious about making financial plans for the next year. Some of the decisions are easy. Save for retirement and college. I think I'd really like to make sure I have a firm savings plan for all the things we want to do in the next year. And I know that some of the reason that is hard is because I don't know exactly what we want to do. What are our priorities?

So that's where I stand today. I think if I can do a little brainstorming of ideas first that will help my brain calm down a bit. And then eventually I would need to discuss numbers with my husband. It will work out. I just know that if I throw out some random goals without knowing where the money comes from and if we can save enough in time that I will probably just fail. I don't want to fail!! And no I don't really think I will fail. It's just the feeling of it.

Do you get anxious about making goals, financial or other?

Tempted...

December 26th, 2015 at 07:06 am

I'm tempted to go shopping today. I have this idea that if I go to Target that I can get some ornaments on clearance. I usually buy one for each of my daughter's, but I didn't buy them this year. They have often come from Target because they seem to have a style my daughter's like.

And I still have the opportunity to gift them as we will not open stockings and the rest of our gifts until next week when my oldest daughter returns home.

Part of me say don't go shopping. Avoid the chaos. Avoid adding 'stuff' to our home. But I also know that for a couple dollars I'm helping build their ornament collections and that they will like them.

I will have to resist any other temptations while in the store, too! That might be the hardest part. The good news is I do not need any wrapping paper for next year. We don't need any candy or holiday themed food. We have more than we need!!

Are you doing any after Christmas shopping?

Merry Christmas!

December 24th, 2015 at 03:48 pm

We made one final purchase this afternoon. A set of ten puzzles of Thomas Kinkade pictures. At 50% off at Micheal's, we spent $9.99 plus tax. So far, the first one is taking quite awhile, so I expect this will be very inexpensive entertainment over the next few days!

Thank you to all of you for reading my financial posts all year long. May you have the happiest of holidays!

Merry Christmas!!

$145 at Music Store

December 23rd, 2015 at 06:40 am

I spent $145 at the music store yesterday, which I still need to record in YNAB. The younger daughter's flute was only $20 to bring back into good playing condition. We also signed her up for flute lessons. She has not been taking lessons since we moved. And originally didn't want to. She has changed her mind. All on her own!

The lessons are $25 each, payable in advance. She starts the first week of January, so that is what we paid for. The other $25 is a one time fee that goes to cover costs of recital venues. So now I need to budget in another $100 expense each month for awhile.

The older daughter doesn't have her flute back yet, so I don't know the cost. I still expect it to be around $100.

We did our grocery shopping yesterday and spent about $185. That did include trash bags and laundry detergent. We are stocked up really well for the next week or more! In fact, I expect there to be leftovers frozen. I wonder if these frozen meals may end up getting us through our No Spend Month in February!

We changed our Netflix plan for the next month. All four of us have things we want to watch and we aren't always watching those things together. We increased our plan from 2 screens to four. The price increased from $8.99 a month to $11.99 a month. I expect to change it back once we are all back to school and work after the holiday.

Flute Repairs & More

December 22nd, 2015 at 05:49 am

My daughter's both have their flutes in for repair, or really just basic maintenance. They are in at different places. The local shop here expected the cost to be no more than $65. The shop in my daughter's college town thought her flute may cost around $90 for repair. She is having a little more work done so that makes some sense.

We are making what I would like to be the final grocery run of the year. Although, I'm sure I'm bound to need a few perishables before then. It seems like a lot of food, a lot of extras we like to have this time of year. It's probably too much, but I guess it's what we do!

I'm also tempted to buy a puzzle or two. We put together one the other day as a family that we bought last year as a holiday activity. I'd like to do more, but I think we only have one other one. I'm sure these are available at a thrift store, so that would be the frugal way to shop for such items.

Do you have instruments you have to repair? How many more grocery store trips do you have in 2015? Do you like to put puzzles together?

Swagbucks

December 21st, 2015 at 04:11 pm

I've earned at least $300 in cash and gift cards from Swagbucks this year, which yes is $25 a month. I probably only spend an hour at the most each day accumulating my points. And this is when I'm on my treadmill in the morning, or watching television in the evenings.

Today, I earned 36 SB clicking videos on my phone, another 4 for the daily habits, a few more playing games, and watching other videos online. And finally I took a short survey for 50 SB. I met my 100 SB goal in 45 minutes. Maybe even a little less.

It's an odd way to make a few dollars, but I find it kind of fun. If you want to join in for 2016...my referral code is here.

There are a lot of people on the Swagbucks Facebook page willing to give tips and answer questions. Will you join? Or have you already been a member of Swagbucks?

A Christmas Miracle!

December 20th, 2015 at 03:28 pm

Okay, that is a very strong statement. But I had to share that I was finally successful at cooking dried black beans! It feels like a Christmas miracle. I've tried a couple times before with no success. The beans were still unedible after hours of soaking and cooking.

I know someone here mentioned that using old beans could be part of the issue. And knowing that I have neglected bags of beans before cooking, I decided I needed to try again.



And yes, fresh beans worked out just like the direction stated! So tonight we had brown rice, black beans (which were seasoned with cumin, onions and garlic), salsa and sour cream. Yummy!! And pretty cheap.

I have at least 5 cups of beans left. I have put 2 containers of 2 cups of beans in the freezer. The rest were mixed in with the leftover rice, so someone will have some lunch this week. Probably me!

Plans...Not Yet

December 20th, 2015 at 09:43 am

I haven't made any goals or plans yet for 2015. I found out our housing allowance which generally goes up each year, is staying the same. Not the end of the world, but a bit disappointing. The increase in my husband's pay is going up by about $105 a month.

I'm going to need to adjust pay for withholding after the final pay day of the year on December 31. We had changed it so there would be no withholding for the last three months when I realized we had been putting too much in. The college benefits threw me for a bit of a loop in planning! I'll know much more after this tax season.

I know we will save for retirement and college which are set up automatically. We would really like to take a vacation. I think with YNAB we will better be able to track this and make more concentrated progress.

The good news is there is no debt! We don't need to be focused on paying anything off. Thus the major focus to save or at least pay in cash those things we are putting our priorities on.

I'll get back to you in the new year on more specific goals. Are you planning to attack any big financial goals in 2016?

Lunch Out Today

December 19th, 2015 at 01:12 pm

Although our Christmas shopping is done, we did some shopping today for needs. At Ulta. Where the checkout line was horrendous! Not that I was really surprised. The man buying his daughter's makeup just about had a heart attack when they gave him the total! The stuff is expensive and adds up fast. I don't think they had any coupons. We were buying one liter of conditioner and a tiny bottle of hair serum of some kind. With 20% off and $6 in rewards our total was $26.49. That conditioner bottle should last me six months. It seems the shampoo lasts about twice as long!

I bought a long sleeve shirt on Land's End today. I've been wanting a gray one to replace one I got rid of last winter. Today, I was able to get it for half off, free shipping and will get a $15 credit because I used our Chase Freedom card through the Visa Checkout system. The total before the credit was $17.90. I had to throw in a child's fleece hat $3.97 to get my total high enough for the credit offer. I will donate that since both items together will only cost me $2.90! Smile

We went out to lunch today. We tried a new pizza place here in town, called MOD Pizza. It was really good! With drinks for three of us we spent $31. We ate late, so hoping dinner here at home can be light. Oh, and the meal was in our budget!

We have plans to watch Polar Express tonight also. It's been a few years since we watched it...and I was contemplating decluttering the disc. Guess it stays for now!

We received lots of goodies (food primarily) in the mail from my parents today. Their Christmas gift to us. They know the kinds of things we like. And there should be nearly zero clutter as a result. There were some candles...which could take awhile to burn though.

I hope you are all enjoying the lead up to the holidays! If you are stressing out...please don't it isn't worth it. I have heard of too many people getting upset this time of year for various reasons. That makes me sad when it should be a joyous time. It seems to come from putting too much pressure on ourselves to please others or expecting too much of the season. We have scaled back considerably and I can tell we are all enjoying ourselves so much more!

Sold Shares & Ibotta

December 18th, 2015 at 12:26 pm

I sold more shares of my daughter's college fund the day interest rates went up and the market went up. I'm selling to cover the cash we used out of pocket to pay tuition and housing last semester. I still need to withdraw another $2K before the end of the year. Although if the market keeps tanking, I may just forget it!

It's officially holiday break! We have no particular plans. I'm hoping we can find some low/no cost things to do at home or in the area before Christmas. I guess my husband has a few more days of work before then too!

I did buy toilet paper and got $1 back from Ibotta for the purchase. Always nice to find some savings. I have nearly $16 accumulated with Ibotta and will have to wait until I'm at $20 to get cash through Paypal. I would guess it will happen before the month is out, since there are a lot of rebate opportunities this time of year! That's my referral link. You get $5 and so do I after you claim your first rebate.

Spending and Small Snowflake

December 16th, 2015 at 07:29 am

We've been looking for new furniture since we moved in. And we found it and decided what we wanted awhile ago. We finally decided to make the purchase this week. We bought three pieces of leather, a couch, love seat and push back chair (recliner). With taxes, delivery and some leather protection warranty, we paid $2,921. We receive our furniture on Monday!

I think I mentioned that we got around $1400 for damage done to some of our furniture during the move. We are applying all of that to the purchase. I'm going to throw some snowflakes at it in addition to using some savings. Eventually we hope to sell one sofa that is replacing so that should help a little, too.

The latest snowflake is $12 from Pinecone. CrazyLibLady mentioned that the $3 cash out option was back! She was right, so I used my 1200 points for $12. I expect that money in my PayPal account tomorrow. Which reminds me I had another small sale on eBay for which I probably gained $4.50 after fees. The little amounts add up!

I'm nearly done with all Christmas tasks...yes, shopping is done, wrapping is complete, some gifts mailed. Just working on the menu and getting grocery list together. Oh, and I need to send our eCard yet as well. Otherwise, I'm just enjoying the season!

That Was Fast

December 14th, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Amazing that so much has been fixed on this site so fast. Why did it take so long to get such a quick response? I sent Jeffrey a private message yesterday. I thought others had done this in the past. At any rate, it is good.

I redeemed 2500 Swagbucks for $25 in my PayPal account last night. I was tired of Amazon...spent too much there lately! The money was already in my account this afternoon! Super fast!! And now I'm transferring it to my checking account.

Another snowflake to add to the list. Smile

Snowflakes in 2015 So Far

December 13th, 2015 at 06:22 pm

I suppose I stopped doing snowflake updates around the same time that we stopped being able to add pictures to our blogs. Maybe that will be a thing again. Not sure that I feel too confident on that yet.

Last month, in November, I accumulated just under $80. Specifically $79.29. Primarily made of Bing, Swagbucks, Ebates and US Bank (credit card) rewards.

So far December has far exceed November. I will disclose that total at the end of the month with details too.

The year to date total for 2015 is $2612.56...so far. I think there will be some more to add before the year ends. I have had better years of accumulation, but with a major move this year I'm not going to beat myself up about it!

Have you continued to track your found money in 2015? Will you have a total at the end of the year?

$81.12

December 11th, 2015 at 08:32 am

We received our 'refund of premium' from USAA. We get one every year. And each year it seems to go up! Last year it was $69. This year $81.12. This sort of makes up for the fact that our auto insurance rates went up when we moved.

I don't have specific plans for the money other than to save the money. I'll count it as a snowflake for the month. I'm guessing it might help cover the cost of college books in the spring. Or could offset the money spent for our adopted family. However, I think that actually ended up being covered by our Christmas budget!

Today, I'm spending money on postage to mail two gifts. I bought fuel for my van. Later I'm getting a haircut. We are also out of coffee, so need to pick that up! Dinner is planned for here at home tonight. We may have lunch out tomorrow as we will be viewing our daughter in the Christmas parade downtown.

I'd like to think it will be at least a low spend weekend, so we don't have much more to spend until payday! And as I write that I've been thinking about doing a no spend month, likely in February. It's the shortest month, even with it being a leap year! And I think it may be one where we don't have as much going on. Has anyone done a no spend month recently, ever or want to?

ATM Rebates and Air Fare

December 10th, 2015 at 10:06 am

Apparently we took out cash last month at enough places to get our ATM fees refunded to the tune of $11.25! I'm thankful our bank refunds these (only up to $15), but I don't like that we paid them in the first place.

I did find (and told my husband) about ATMs around us that do not charge fees for withdrawals. Another thing you have to adjust to when you move!

We just booked an airline ticket for our daughter to come home for about 13 nights. It could have been longer, but she needs to go with the marching band to the bowl game before she returns home. She will be in California on Christmas Day as it turns out. The cost was just over $600! I would have booked much, much earlier, but couldn't until we knew the whole bowl schedule. I should get her spring break trip booked right now, too.


Another $14 in Sales

December 8th, 2015 at 06:14 pm

I sold a book and Box Tops for Education on eBay yesterday...and net another $14! The net total is about $187. Not too shabby.

I still have two items listed. I'm not sure if they will sell. One seems like it should, so I'm not quite sure what it hasn't. I may need to change it in some way to guarantee a sale.

I have earned enough to get a $5 Amazon gift card through Bing rewards. I haven't redeemed them yet. I'm getting closer to earning another $25 gift card or cash from Swagbucks, also. These seem to be my monthly averages on these.

I sure do like the small amounts of money that come in! Let it snow. Let it snow!!

Net Sales $173.24

December 7th, 2015 at 11:49 am

It's official. All the items I have sold have resulted in $173.24 after fees and shipping! Some items were from the Wii U lot that I purchased. The others were old military gear.

The money is definitely going to offset the purchase of all the new to us Wii U items, and the gifts we purchased for our adopted family (spent about $250 on them).

I have three items currently listed for this next week. I think I have more I can list tomorrow, but I may be winding down with the sales. It feels good to get some of this military gear out the door. I knew it was worth money, so I lugged it halfway across the country (well, the movers did). It's finally time to get it out of here to free up some space!

December Sales

December 6th, 2015 at 08:43 am

So excited that my buyer from last Monday finally paid for their auction. I can get it in the mail on Monday!

I had one item sell yesterday with a Best Offer...but they have not paid. Ugh. I'm not sure if I didn't have that set up right, as I usually require immediate payment for Buy It Now auctions.

I have four auctions ending today and two already have bids. Some of these items are offsetting the cost of the Wii U I purchased for my daughter, so that is also exciting.

I have at least one or two more Christmas themed items I found in our stash that I'm going to put up for sale. If they don't sell before the holiday, they will just be donated?

Are you doing any selling during the month of December?

Ideas?

December 5th, 2015 at 11:26 am

We are helping buy gifts for a family in need. It was a last minute decision on our part. The gifts need to be dropped off on Monday.

Under the heading of toys for a 13 year old girl is listed Educational Books. Thoughts on that? My sister said all books are educational. However, I wonder if non fiction is the direction they are pointing. Or possibly trying to avoid certain types of teen novels.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to read them. We are shopping later tonight or tomorrow morning with our 15 year old daughter that probably will be a great help, too.

Ibotta Referral

December 3rd, 2015 at 03:48 pm

If you haven't started using the Ibotta app for rebates and cash back on things you probably already buy...now is the time. You can get $5 for signing up here. That's my referral link. I will also get $5. You will need to accumulate another $15 in redeemed rebates in order to cash out for Paypal or Venmo (cash out minimum is $20). There are also some gift cards you can redeem for including Amazon, Starbucks, Walmart and iTunes (some have higher thresholds).

Just trying to save you a little money! You are welcome.

Good News On College Benefit

December 3rd, 2015 at 11:18 am

I think I've mentioned before that my husband qualifies for the Post 911 GI Bill which he can transfer to me or our daughters. It is 36 months of benefits, which we have currently split into 18 months for each of our daughters. We were planning to start using it next year and we still might.

The exciting news is there is no cap each semester. The benefit will also pay non resident tuition! That was news to us. This would be especially important for my oldest daughter if she were to take more than four years to graduate. Currently one of her scholarships covers a large portion of the out of state tuition. It is renewable but only covers four years. It's that possible fifth year that this benefit could help to cover everything that isn't covered under that scholarship. We have time to figure it out. And who knows she may get other scholarships.

In addition to the tuition benefit, there is a housing benefit and money towards books! I knew about those as well. Feeling blessed that this is available for our family. Now we just need to be smart and use it when it is the most beneficial.

Interest, eBay Sale & More

December 2nd, 2015 at 05:50 am

I'm terrible at remembering we have savings that earns interest. Maybe because it isn't much. One account earned $25, while two CDs earned almost $29 in the month of November. We also deposit $25 into a savings account as part of the agreement on one of the CDs. So we are accumulating $75+ each month. Not a lot but it counts!!

I sold another item on eBay yesterday. Already paid and mailed! That is another $12 added to the $63 profit. If the buyer of an auction that ended Monday would pay I have ANOTHER $12 to add. Hoping the payment is soon. I also have a bid on another item!

I mentioned photo books a few posts back. I did get one complete for my parents. It was $9.99 plus $7.99 shipping. It has photos of the grandchildren. It will arrive in time to wrap and mail for Christmas. I think I can fit it in a Flat Rate Priority envelope, so shipping should only be an additional $6. I debated about having it sent direct, but it seemed less personal. Nice gift for less than $25. Smile

I paid all the current credit card spending. One card had over $1200 on it! But since we use YNAB, I knew the money was there to pay it. Our available spending is a bit sparse for the next two weeks, since there was a little overspending on our Thanksgiving trip. I don't think it should impact us much, since we just plan to stay home and do minimal outings.

$63 Profit

December 1st, 2015 at 06:41 am

I sold four items on eBay yesterday. I have already received payment for three netting a profit of $63 after fees!

The items I sold were included with the used Wii U I bought on eBay a couple weeks ago. There were some valuable items in there we don't need. Turns out I got a really good deal!! My out of pocket cost is now $237 rather than the $300 I paid. I have one more sold item I'm waiting for payment on, as well as three more from this purchase that I'm attempting to sell. I feel confident I can get under $200.

I'm also selling some military gear. I have one offer which I have countered. The other items probably just need more time! I'm putting the proceeds into the vacation fund...aka the fund for my daughter's plane ticket home. Smile