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Archive for January, 2016

February No Spend: One Week's Groceries

January 31st, 2016 at 08:46 pm

We purchased our groceries needed for the next week at the commissary today. We spent $42.09, purchasing 16 items. Seven items were fresh vegetables and fruits. Otherwise, we picked up things like lunch meat, eggs, milk, two kinds of cheese, a loaf of bread. The two items probably not considered needs were tortilla chips and a box of crackers. I bought these because I know the household needs snacks to have and we already had salsa and block cheese on hand.

Tonight we are having chicken enchilada's. I purchased most of those items last week and already have shredded chicken in the freezer. Tomorrow we will have homemade pizza. On Tuesday, we are having an egg casserole (I had planned to make this when my friend was here, but turned out we didn't need it). I'm trying to make sure we eat up things we have in our cupboards and freezer, which means I expect I will be eating steel cut oatmeal for breakfast, and tuna sandwiches for lunch. I do like both, so I will be happy.

I realize I'm calling it no spend, but there still will be spending on the necessities. The goal is to spend the least amount possible so we can set some money aside for upcoming expenses, such as plane tickets.

I'm thinking next weeks grocery bill will be higher, but we will see won't we?

No Spend Month Around the Corner

January 30th, 2016 at 07:08 pm

Our no spend month is around the corner. I did use some funds in January to stock up on toilet paper and a few other toiletries. And there was that ground beef on sale at the commissary. I've also been freezing extra portions of food.

My husband did get paid yesterday. I have paid all the current outstanding credit card balances. Only a few pending charges that cannot be paid until they post. I did budget the paycheck for February, specifically the first half since he will get paid again mid month.

I have to pay rent, water, electric, allowances, flute lessons, and trash at the beginning of the month. I have set aside $495 until the next pay day on February 15 for groceries, fuel, personal care, and a few other expenses. I did put a little money in clothing and some in spending. I really hope to keep them no spend, but I decided to put a little in to cover a need that could come up.

I set aside $1095 in several different savings categories for the month. Over half went to cover two airline tickets for mother in law and niece. They have not been purchased yet. But now the money is available! And in addition to saving for that I added money to our emergency fund, car maintenance, and home furnishings.

The cool thing is as I was writing this post, my daughter said a teacher was requesting donations for a science experiment. One item was Oreo cookies; another was plastic utensils. I picked the utensils since I have a significant amount of those on hand and that donation will cost me $0 out of pocket! Smile

Who else is about to start a No Spend February?

Spring Break Airline Ticket

January 27th, 2016 at 08:16 pm

I just purchased my daughter's airline ticket to come home for spring break and her birthday in late March. The charge round trip was $361. This is about 10% less than the last time I looked. Flight times are okay. We've found that we like her flying Southwest and through St. Louis which is a little smaller airport, so gates are super easy to find. The best part is I had $429 in our vacation fund to cover it!

We have offered to fly my mother in law and a niece (who has never flown) to visit us in April or May. I need to start watch fares and see if I can find something really great. We don't have the money set aside for this yet, but that is a goal for February. We also know with my husband's mother in her 80's (although in great health) it is okay to take out of savings if needed.

In other news, my youngest daughter has a very small cavity (her first). We opted to wait a few weeks so she wouldn't miss school. Sounds like it will only take 40 minutes at the most. And our out of pocket cost only $19. Smile

I have a friend arriving today. Dinner is ready and I'm looking forward to lots of fun catching up!!

Snowflake, Stocking Up & More

January 27th, 2016 at 02:42 am

We received a small unexpected check in the mail for $9.50. It was a class action suit settlement from Wells Fargo. They overcharged us for a flood statement, or something like that. I like unexpected snowflakes!

I did a little stocking up today in preparation of our no/low spend February. A few products for hair and teeth, spent about $8. This will definitely help us get through February. I used this month's budget to accommodate the purchase.

No word from the renters about the water damage. The filter for the fridge water arrived. We won't be returning it though. We expect it either to be repaired or simply will be the final one we replace the one the provide originally.

Only five more days of January left to go. We are down to $200. It would to keep a bit of that. I know we need fuel, and I may buy a pair of sneakers. And there might be a meal at a restaurant since I have a friend in town later this week.

Water Damage

January 26th, 2016 at 03:11 am

Oh boy! I'm not sure how to feel. We discovered some water damage in our rental home. Recently, we have hardwood floors and noticed a few boards separating ever so slightly in our kitchen. Since I'm not an expert in hardwood floor or homes without basements (we have a crawl space) and it has been much, much colder here I thought it was because of weather.

Yesterday and today it was much more noticeable that the boards were warping ever so slightly. And then I noticed a gap (1/16 of an inch or less) in another board closer to the fridge. Our fridge has an ice maker and line for cold water. Hmm...

Once my husband was home I explained I thought we needed to pull the fridge out and make sure there wasn't a leak. If only that had been the case. But there was a leak. Seems to be the water hose (which can be replaced). But the damage to the floor and the cabinet walls on the sides of the fridge are definitely water damaged.

I feel so bad. Not that WE did anything wrong. I just wish it had been more obvious sooner, so the damage would be far less. Our owners live many hours north of us so they can't stop by to look at it easily. We did send pictures.

If it were our home I'd be calling a water restoration company to handle the repairs. For now, all we could do was turn off the water and wipe up the water. Now we wait.

Again, I feel mixed about the whole thing.

I'm grateful that the cost to repair isn't on us. I'm pretty sure the owners have spent around $3,000 on some new air conditioner parts since we have lived here. Now this new expense. Maybe insurance would pay for it? Not sure.

I'm also not looking forward to being in the middle of any repairs while they happen. It's in the kitchen!!

And funny thing...I just ordered a new water filter for the fridge. It will arrive on Wednesday. But now we can't use it!! Ugh. It's a mix bag.

For the most part I feel bad for them. No one want to hear they have water damage in their home.

Getting Prepared for Filing Taxes

January 24th, 2016 at 03:19 pm

First, we never lost power during the storm. For that, I am extremely grateful. We have been inside our home for two days in order to stay safe. I'm definitely ready to get out today! Roads here are clear. Trees still have a little ice, but the dusting of snow has melted. We managed not to spend any money those two days either!

Today, the plan is to get out to get groceries for the rest of January, so back to spending. I'm adding toilet paper, cat food and litter, and laundry detergent to the list. This is an attempt to be be stocked up during the month of February since we are attempting a low spend (no spend) month.

I did just order a water filter for our fridge on Amazon. I used the balance of my Amazon gift card ($3.98) and Discover cash back ($2.52). I only paid $10.45 out of pocket.

I'm close to redeeming for Bing Rewards and Swagbucks again. I will use those $30 in February to get more filters for our vehicles. We realized we are a bit overdue for cabin and engine filters.

I cashed in 1650 MyPoints this morning for a Subway gift card. I will send it to my oldest daughter when it arrives. Hopefully, a gift in her Valentine's card. This will be the second gift card I have redeemed in the last 2.5 months with MyPoints. I have given both to my daughter. It's an easy way to give her a few extra surprises in the mail.

Oh, I guess I was suppose to write about taxes! Almost forgot. We have my husband's W2 forms, the new 1095 (health care), our mortgage interest statement, and a several other 1099s. I'm still waiting on the form from the university showing money we paid. Once that arrives I think we will be ready to start filing taxes. I will likely use FreeTaxUSA again. It seems to work for me.

Have you started your tax return? Do you have all the documents you need? Are you doing a no spend month this year? Have you redeemed any credit card rewards or points from another program recently?

We Still Have Power

January 22nd, 2016 at 04:26 pm

Around our area it is just raining. But it is freezing to things. The roads appear okay from the window and I see people driving out there. We are staying in regardless.

The longer it rains and the the thicker the ice, the bigger cause of concern. I believe winds are suppose to pick up later, which isn't good.

I'm going to go get my workout on our treadmill done, before any potential outage occurs! It won't work if there is no power.

No store spending today, but there may be a little online spending. We need a new filter for the fridge, and my husband said his headphones stopped working. It's always something it seems.

Getting Ready for Jonas

January 21st, 2016 at 09:56 pm

It seems the state we live in now is going to get hit by Jonas, the winter storm. We are actually on the edge of it, which means ice in the form of sleet and freezing rain are most likely.

I think the entire state is shutting down starting tonight. The post my husband works on is going to be closed tomorrow(I found out first from Facebook). And school has been cancelled too. And for the record it is forty degrees and sunny at the moment. No precipitation is falling in our location. Seems so early to make these decisions. Weather can and does change right?

So we have food here, but my husband is going to grab some nuts, canned tuna, and bottled water just in case there is a power outage. We do have plenty of bread and peanut butter too.

Who else is going to be impacted by Jonas?

No Spend Day!

January 20th, 2016 at 12:49 am

Today seems to be the first day in recent memory that we have not spent any money. It seems one of us is always purchasing something. It could be gas, or a few items from the store, or buying something online. But today, nothing!

It's a small miracle.

Tomorrow though I'm going to buy canned refried beans. Mine didn't turn out. But I have been successful with cooking black beans, so I have hope to try again. Just not this week.

I also need to mail some items to my college daughter. A few items we bought while she was home, but need to mail. She ran out of room in her suitcase! I also picked up some of her favorite snacks, including a box of girl scout cookies!!

I also need to wrap the photo book I purchased for my sister's family. I'm going to try to be creative and use what I have at home. It will also need to be mailed. It's a book, so I'm going with media mail to save on postage. We already have a card on hand we can sign to send with it.

I didn't exactly budget for it, but I think I need to buy a new pair of sneakers. My back and feet have been very tight. I have been walking more (getting in my 10K steps). I think it is my shoes. This happened before, and new shoes solved the problem. It's only been six months since I bought my last pair, but I figure it is an investment in my health! I'll be shopping for those tomorrow too.

Buying Diapers

January 18th, 2016 at 01:24 am

We don't have kids in diapers, but we bought two packages today at the Commissary. My husband works with a soldier who's wife is having their fourth child in a couple weeks. Everyone in the office is getting diapers...all sizes. Can't go wrong with a diaper shower! We spent about $16.

We bought our daughter Subway after her last parade on Saturday. Otherwise we only bought groceries this weekend. We spent about $150 and yes, there was a little wine involved. My meal planning gets us through the next 9 days.

I feel like we are already beginning our no spend month. We aren't really, but I guess we are in practice mode!

American Express Premier

January 16th, 2016 at 02:15 pm

My husband received a credit card offer in the mail from American Express. Apply for their Premier card, spend $1000 and earn 50,000 membership points, which can be redeemed for travel or gift cards. Worth $500.

We have to apply before month end, but we would sure have no trouble spending $1000 within three months. Likely it would only take a month for us.

It does have an annual fee of $195, but it is waived for the first year. The card also provides a $100 credit each year towards travel incidentals (such as baggage fees).

I think this may be the year we jump back into applying for cards. We have received some pretty good offers in the mail. One expired before we responded to it. And with more air travel in our budget it could really help!

Anyone else have the American Express Premier or receive an offer from them?

$10 Ibotta Bonus & More News

January 16th, 2016 at 12:25 am

Another chance to sign up for Ibotta and earn $10 after you redeem your first rebate. I'm about ready to cash out at $20. It seems there are a lot of great rebates right now. Especially for those of us dieting this month.

My referral code is here. I earn $5 after you redeem your first rebate. I think there is someone out there that used my code last time that hasn't redeemed their first rebate yet. Don't forget to do that! Over time the savings really add up.

We got our first W2 in the mail. It was a bit of a surprise. It is a result of our move. I can't quite remember what it is for. I think it is for the stuff we moved ourselves. Part of it isn't taxable, some is, and some was withheld for taxes. I was actually glad to see that, since I think that means we will owe even less than I originally estimated. I was thinking around $400-500. Now it will be about $250 less since more was withheld then I remembered.


Paid and Paid

January 15th, 2016 at 07:04 pm

It's pay day! Everyone likes those right?

My husband is home today, so we did the budget together. We added money to our vacation fund, emergency fund, and some of our other short term accounts (Christmas, birthday, and car repairs).

And because most of our spending is done on credit cards for the rewards, I also went online and paid off all of our balances. No interest paid, as usual. It's always nice to see those zero balances.

Now to get through until the end of January on the money we budgeted. It seems possible, especially if I do the meal planning right.

Miscellaneous Money & Exercise

January 15th, 2016 at 12:10 am

I had $3 in my PayPal account from a Pinecone survey. I forgot to transfer it out. Turns out it went to pay for a second month of an American Greetings eCard subscription. I just wrote myself a note yesterday to cancel. I was a bit to late. The price was $3.99, so not the worst thing since the $3 in the account covered most of it. I will make sure to send a few more eCards before February 12. Might work well as my mother and sister have birthday's between now and then.

I did get another credit for a Pinecone survey I took. And even though I can now cash out for $3, I'm going to wait. I guess I've become more accustomed to accumulating $15 then cashing out.

My husband bought gas for $1.79 a gallon today. That is amazing. I remember paying over $3 a gallon in the not so distant past.

The electric bill arrived in my inbox today. It was $200. About $17 more than last month. It has been a little colder.

I'm really looking forward to our no spend month. It feels like money is flowing out too much this month!

In other news, I got a Fitbit for Christmas. I've been getting between 8K and 10K steps everyday since then. One day I had 12K steps. I was competing with my sister, so I had extra incentive! Getting the extra exercise is helping me feel better. It is interesting how just having it on your wrist is an incentive to get up and move. I make an extra effort to walk around the house, just to get more steps in.

I'm also cutting out added sugar from my diet for the most part. I have had some sugar, primarily from fruit. If I have any added sugar the goal is to keep it to 25 grams or less. I'm on day 3, which has been a little harder than the first two, but still doing just fine!

If I can see a major difference in the next 10 days to two weeks, I might consider doing a diet bet. Right now though just one or two changes at a time is enough!

Saving in 2016

January 12th, 2016 at 08:55 pm

I've been pondering some plans to get cash saved this year. Last year was such an upheaval physically and mental with the move, that I didn't have big savings goals. We did save for retirement and college since those are automatic. Very easy. I tracked snowflakes, but they didn't actually get set aside in a savings account. Well most of them anyway.

I'm thinking I will do the 52 Week Savings Challenge in some form. I was thinking something along the lines of saving Week 1, Week 52, Week 2, and Weak 51. Which I then see is really just $53 every two weeks. And this amount might just work just fine. This ends up being $1378 for the entire year.

We currently have $25 a month go to a savings account with Navy Federal Credit Union. It comes straight from my husband's paycheck. It's a requirement for one of the CDs we have invested there. That ends up as $300 saved per year.

I mentioned in a previous post that with changes in amounts we are investing, withholding, and a raise, we have $336 more available to worth with each month. We might as well save it if possible. We would save $4,032 by the end of the year.

I also would like to capture as many snowflakes(extra earnings) into dollars as possible. I will attempt to match spending done with gift cards. I will save all cash from surveys and eBay sales, as well as credit card rewards.

I think I can make all of those savings automatic except for the snowflakes will require making savings transfers.

We are still adjusting to college life and the needs our daughter has. The good news is she has a part time job on campus doing graphic design for the music department this semester. That job pays $10 an hour. She's excited to have a little more cash.

I can't guarantee that all the money saved will be in our account at year end, but making it automatic makes it much more likely than just wishing for it to be so.

What are your savings plans for 2016? Do you have any unique ways of saving?

Amazon Spending: $0 Out of Pocket

January 11th, 2016 at 01:52 pm

I bought four things on Amazon yesterday. All needs. And I spent $0, since I had over $44 in Amazon.com gift cards. The total of the order was just over $40, so I still have a few dollars left for another time.

I bought a pair of earbuds for my daughter, a cabin filter and rear wiper blade for my van, and generic allergy medicine.

The Amazon.com gift cards came from a variety of sources this time. $5 from Bing Rewards, $25 from Swagbucks, and $14.86 from TopCashBack. Those all add up!

It's kind of nice to have some needs covered with gift cards. More money stays in our pockets! I did record my earnings as snowflakes, too.

Some Spending

January 8th, 2016 at 07:17 pm

My daughter had her first flute lesson with her new teacher on Wednesday. Of course, new books were suggested. We purchased them and got 20% off because we take lessons there at the store. Out of pocket was about $24.

I had to pick up a couple things at Walmart. Tortillas, salt and three boxes of tissues. Spent about $7.

I also bought deodorant and a photo storage box (two different locations) and spent another $7.

My husband is taking his dress uniform into the dry cleaner tonight, so well have some money spent there when they are ready.

We have plans to go out to dinner tonight. Last night college daughter is home until spring break. We will end up spending a little on gas tomorrow to get her to the airport (she's flying out of one about 1.5 hours away).

I did tell my husband about the no spend month planned for February. He said he doesn't spend much money, yet he has spent at least $140 on things specific to him since the beginning of the year. I'm not saying these weren't needs or okay to buy, but that IS spending!! He does seem on board. I think we may have to be specific about what we aren't spending money on (entertainment, alcohol) and what we are. More on that once we discuss it further.

Automatic Auto Insurance

January 6th, 2016 at 09:11 pm

Our auto insurance is billed every six months, automatically to one of our credit cards. It posted yesterday in the amount of $503.18. I have $457.88 save towards that bill. On payday I will add another $152 to that savings pot, thus plenty of cash to pay it off in full.

I've been paying our auto insurance every six months for nearly our entire married life. Almost 20 years! We save monthly for the bill, but it has been less expensive to pay it only twice per year.

Do you pay your auto insurance premium yearly? Or some other frequency? Is it less expensive to pay less often for you?

Changed Withholding and More

January 5th, 2016 at 05:38 pm

We had changed the withholding on my husband's pay late in the year to account for overpaying. We have now changed it back to 8 for the coming year. It will go into effect for January 15 pay. The net check will be lower, but it is still higher than it had been before. It may still put us on target to pay around $400 each year, but that I can deal with.

I also remembered that we had put extra funds in my daughter's Educational Savings account (ESA) early last year and dropped our Roth IRA payments initially. By April we increased them to make sure we got the maximum funds in by year end. It worked well, but it means we now have $167 each month in our favor to budget with.

Along with a small pay increase, we actually have another $336 more each month to work with in 2016. I'm thinking I just need to funnel it away and not think to specifically what it needs to go for. By year end that would amount to $4032. I'd really like to make sure we are still adding to our savings, particularly now that we don't have a mortgage. I would pay that down if we did. Smile

In other news, I took my daughter to the dentist today. All good. We have known that she will need her wisdom teeth pulled. We have set into motion a plan to make that happen. We have a consult over spring break with the oral surgeon. We had to pay $95 to even make the appointment, but it will be applied to any costs we incur. We expect the oral surgeon will want to remove all four wisdom teeth, and will have that done in the summer when she is home on break. That will give us time to monitor her for any complications. I think our insurance will cover most of the cost of oral surgery, but I will be attempting to get more information on that soon so I can plan. Checked and our insurance covers 40% up to $1300, so we will definitely have some costs.

Do you need to change your paycheck withholding now that it is a new year? It's a good time to calculate what you might need it to be. The IRS has a withholding calculator on their website. Have you paid for wisdom teeth removal? What did you pay?

Top Cash Back Snowflake

January 4th, 2016 at 07:37 pm

I redeemed the funds in my Top Cash Back account today for an Amazon gift card. My funds equaled $14.50. For picking Amazon over cash I got a 2.5% bonus, which makes the Amazon snowflake (extra money) $14.86. If you sign up with my link you get $10, but only after you have used their service to redeem $10 of cash back from shopping sites.

We bought shoes at Kohl's for my daughter yesterday and received $10 Kohl's cash, which was available for use today. My husband bought running shoes and we used the Kohl's cash towards that purchase. I'm debating about counting that as a snowflake. It is money we may have spent if we didn't have the Kohl's cash. I did get out of the habit of matching these in the last year.

We also purchased some vitamins online for my husband. Spending $50 plus tax. A bit of a splurge, but not a permanent expense. I used a Visa Signature card and MAY get a $10 credit as a result of the purchase, if it goes through correctly. I'm not sure it worked. I was going to purchase either way, so the $10 will be a nice bonus.

I'm redeeming Swagbucks today for a $25 Amazon gift card. Hoping it will be quick. Noticed there was a new way to claim December bonus Swagbucks. They are not automatically applied!

No Spend Month Planning

January 3rd, 2016 at 03:05 pm

I mentioned in December that I would like to do a No Spend Month in February. For me, I see a no spend month as spending only on necessities. And to really consider what the necessities are! Is renting a movie a necessity? Are vitamins a necessity for one month? Are Valentine's a necessity? Can I clean the shower with a homemade concoction with ingredients on hand?

I feel there needs to be a little planning involved in order to make this happen. We will pay our rent, utilities, any tuition and books, flute lessons, fuel for our vehicles to get around to school and work, and buy the minimum groceries. The other part of the plan is to make sure that the family is on board, specifically my husband. I think he may think I'm a bit crazy. I've done No Spend months before, but he was usually living out of the country! Smile

With February comes Valentine's Day. I decided to set aside some chocolate caramels we received as a gift for Christmas and use those as our candy for Valentine's. I have six Valentine cards and the same number of stamps, if I decide to send them. Again, there will need to be an agreement with husband not to buy flowers and cards!

There will be more planning. Specifically meal planning. I'll share more about that as I get that part together!

Some of you are doing a No Spend Month in January. How is that going? Did you plan ahead to make it work? What advice do you have for a No Spend Month?

Free Admission

January 2nd, 2016 at 10:23 pm

We took a quick trip to our local botanical garden today. It was sunny and 51 degrees here, so it was an enjoyable quick walk. I really enjoy being in a climate where plants are still blooming in January.
We have a membership to our garden, so admission was free today.



I'm looking forward to going back again soon. And definitely would like to go back in the spring. They are building a meditation garden that I can't wait to experience!!

We have been at home today otherwise. So no out of pocket spending. We still have food in the house for dinner. The girls are having pasta. My husband and I are having shrimp cocktail. We bought it for New Year's, but with all the other food we had it was just too much!

We have all of our Christmas decorations put away, and have avoided buying anything new that would be on clearance. The truth is we don't need any new items to celebrate. We have plenty of gift bags, tissue and wrap for another year.

December Interest

January 1st, 2016 at 05:09 pm

Happy New Year!

I checked our interest bearing accounts and found we earned $60.58 on our cash in December. Not too exciting but if we earn that every month for a year we would have $726.96 more in our pockets.

We are watching the Rose Bowl parade this morning...well now afternoon here. We are either taking a road trip to visit a nearby art museum (free admission). This was a request by artist daughter! If we don't end up there today, we'll go tomorrow.

And whichever day we don't go to the museum, we plan to take down our holiday decorations. So hopefully not too much spending as we start off the new year.

My husband and I need to sit down and finalize our YNAB budget. I think it is looking pretty good as we start the year.