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Archive for April, 2016

Interest, Savings and More

April 30th, 2016 at 02:37 pm

The interest on all of our accounts for the month of April was equal to $61.67. I'd rather have ten times that amount!

We saved $25 automatically from my husband paycheck last month. It's a requirement for one of the CDs we have to have a payroll deposit.

I have paid all credit cards in full since payday occurred on Friday. All spending and saving categories have been funded. The emergency fund received a boost by $458.

My husband bought two new uniforms, a pair of boots, t shirts and PT uniform this week. He's been putting off changing over to the new one since it isn't required for another year. He finally gave in to peer pressure primarily. Everyone else is switching over. Granted he has had his current ones for quite a few years now. It's just time. He is having new name plates and rank sewn on as well. In all he spent $528.12. I'm sure he'll be wearing all these items for several years, so we will get our money's worth.

We went shopping for new end tables for our living room. We bought the couches and chair in December. Last week we bought a rug (the room didn't have one before). Now we need tables, since we don't have any at all. It sure is hard to find exactly what you want at the right price!

Article: 4 Men, 4 Incomes

April 26th, 2016 at 05:27 am

I found this Esquire article on My Money Blog today. The most interesting part to me was that two of the men with the lowest incomes thought taxes were too high. I'd have to bet neither of them are paying Federal income tax. Of course, yes, they likely pay sales tax.

And if I was making $50K, I would not be buying such expensive bedroom sets! I do feel for the guy making minimum wage. I do wonder what his plan is to triple his income? I hope he is taking advantage of some educational opportunities!

What did you take away from the article?

One More Week

April 25th, 2016 at 05:53 am

I have one more week until I weigh in for my Diet Bet. The good news I expect to win, having weighed in this morning just .1 away from my goal. I look forward to having my $30 back and hopefully a little more!

I may do one more Kickstarter bet following this one. It's tough to decide between that and a Transformer. I know I can technically do both, I'm just not sure I want to be betting on my weight for six months in a row.

Snowflake

April 22nd, 2016 at 04:04 am

I often fill out class action claims when I become aware of them and qualify. I received a check for a Frosted Mini Wheats claim. I don't actually remember this one however! The check is for $11.44. Just this morning I deposited it into our savings account.

I love snowflake money!

Band Fundraising

April 20th, 2016 at 05:24 am

My daughter's band is fundraising this weekend with a BBQ plate fundraiser. I've purchased five of the ten tickets ($8 each, so $40) they wanted each child to sell. Three for us, and two that my parents would buy if they lived here to eat the BBQ. I've donated about $5 worth of cookies and loaned out two tables, two coolers and a crockpot. I'm also volunteering my time on Friday morning to assist.

We can no longer fundraise through my husband's work due to ethical reasons. And I'm fine with that. However, we don't know anyone else, besides band parents to sell to! This is where I feel much more strongly about being able to just donate cash, or skip the fundraising and just charge us our portion of the costs to participate. Last year we paid $250 plus the cost of shoes for her to participate in band. Apparently, this year is going to be more expensive because of more props, oh and they bought new uniforms (although I think those are paid for).

What I wonder is will I end up paying more out of pocket with or without participating in the fundraiser? I will probably never know.

Fundraising is a strange beast.

Time For Graduation and Weddings

April 19th, 2016 at 12:01 pm

We've received a wedding invitation and a graduation invite in the last two weeks. We don't plan to attend as they are not nearby. I know of one other graduation (my cousin's daughter) also. Oh, and I guess one of my nieces graduated in December from high school, so she may be having a celebration, too!

The wedding invite is a little strange as I only met the bride once briefly. She's the daughter of my husband's coworker. I feel torn about a gift, but decided in the spirit of generosity we can spare $40 as a gift to a young couple.

I think for graduations I will give $25.

Figuring these kinds of gifts out is an interesting process. First can I afford to give anything? Yes. Second what is too little and what is too much, thus what is the right amount. I think my husband would toss everyone a $100 bill, but I think that is too much for many situations.

I did buy all the cards I need for these cash gifts at Walmart today. I did make sure to buy $0.47 and $0.97 cards. Smile

I never did send out graduation announcements for my daughter who graduated high school last year. We weren't having a party, thus no invites to mail. Some people sent a gift, but many did not, which is perfectly fine from our perspective. I do wonder how many more gifts she would have received if an announcement or invite had been mailed.

What is your take on wedding and graduation gifts?

Cash Related Updates

April 18th, 2016 at 01:23 pm

Pinecone has awarded me another $3 for taking a survey last week. I may wait to redeem.

I made a $29.97 purchase on my American Express card. I will use $25 of the $45 rewards I have accumulated towards the balance. I will count the reward as a snowflake for April.

My parents gifted us with cash for our 20th wedding anniversary last week. The check amount was $120.20. I'm going to put this money into savings rather than setting it aside to melt away.

Our electric bill is down this month by $50! So nice. Clearly not using much heat or air right now. Still keeping windows closed most of the time because of my daughter's allergies. Beautiful outside though!

The water bill was up by about $45. It seems that we use more water when the sprinkler system is on. Funny how that happens. Smile

And finally our cell phone bill is only $54 this month, thanks to changing plans last month. Part of our overage in charges last month, after the change resulted in a smaller bill this month. I think around $140 from here forward for four people.

No big spending going on right now. May buy some annuals this weekend for some of my pots that have been empty for more than a year because of our move.

College Investment Thoughts

April 16th, 2016 at 08:17 am

Our youngest daughter has $23K invested for college and we are still adding to it. We expect to put in another $5500 before she turns 18 in just over 2 years.

I'm getting concerned we have too much invested. Of course, I don't know that for sure. It's just based on how well things are going with our older daughter cost wise.

If we have cash leftover from our older daughter in her Education Savings account we can roll it to our youngest daughter, thus she will have even more money!

If we have too much money invested and go to withdraw it, we will have a penalty of 10%. I was thinking of changing the last amount of contributions for our daughter to our Roth IRA accounts. Actually, I would increase my husband's TSP retirement contributions which would lower our taxable income. We already maximize the Roth IRAs thus why I would put the money in the TSP. If we needed to withdraw that college money I would take it from the Roth IRAs since contributions are always available tax and penalty free.

I did a little looking while writing the post though. It turns out for both ESA and 529 plans, extra funds that can be contributed to having received a tax free scholarship can be with withdrawn and the penalty waived! Thus far my oldest daughter does have a large tax free scholarship that would easily help her withdraw and excess tax free.

Since this could be the case for our youngest daughter, I'm going to leave it be for now and just continue as planned. If anyone has any other thoughts though let me know. Smile

Retirement is Up

April 16th, 2016 at 07:56 am

Finally, with the market going back up the retirement totals are going back up! Ended last year with $330K. We are now at $343K. Total investments thus far are around $5K in the first three months of the year. The next milestone is $350K which I really, really hope to see this year. It doesn't seem impossible if the market can stay a bit steady. But who knows!

I did receive the Brinks Prepaid card in the mail. The wording doesn't make me confident that I can get the savings account without a direct deposit of $500. I don't want to do that. I might try the NetSpend card instead.

Adjustments

April 13th, 2016 at 11:24 am

I did reconcile our accounts on YNAB yesterday. I did find an error in a payment I recorded for our credit card. I showed us making a payment for $36 more than we actually did. That was because I transposed the numbers. Luckily, I did make the right payment and it's not a big deal in the end. No bounced checks or anything. I was also missing the recording of two transactions. Both were from the last week or so. All up to date now.

On Friday I will make payments on the all the outstanding credit card bills we have. Believe it or not, I have six with balances. The biggest one is Marriott Rewards, since that is the primary card we have been using. Three other cards have regular payments made on them, thus the balances until payday. I used the Southwest Visa to charge the airline tickets purchased for my niece and mother in law. And finally, I used my American Express card for a Amazon purchase that was around $30. I have enough points to redeem for $25 statement credit reducing that purchase to about $5. YNAB make it really easy to see what needs to be paid. And we always have the cash to cover our expenses! Yea.

I checked our retirement balances as of yesterday and we are looking much better than we were at the end of last year. I suppose most of that the contributions we've put in since the market isn't up much since the end of the year. I have a mental goal of where I'd like to see us end up, but it depends on how the markets go really!

I redeemed $6 from Pinecone recently. It was in my PayPal account. I made sure to transfer it to our savings account yesterday so it won't melt. Smile

Time to Reconcile

April 11th, 2016 at 05:18 pm

I'm posting here to remind myself to log into all of our accounts tomorrow so I can reconcile all of them on YNAB. I usually do it at the end of the month. It seems I forget to do it at the end of March. Oops!

I want to get it complete and get any errors corrected before payday on Friday. I'm pretty sure that I, not DH, have missed a couple of transactions. One of them may be the Diet Bet funds. Not sure.

I bought a book of stamps today. Saved a whopping $0.40 by waiting until the price dropped! I also avoided buying a $8 anniversary card at Walmart. I honestly didn't know such expensive cards existed at Walmart. I opted for one that was just $3.50, which still seems like to much. I recycled so many cards in the last several months, it just seems like a waste. I did suggest to my husband a few days ago that we go look at the cards together and pick one out for each other, read them and then put them back. He thought that was lame. I guess he's convinced cards are worth it.

Do you reconcile your checkbook or budget software? What do you think about the cost of greeting cards?

Diet Bet: The first seven days

April 10th, 2016 at 10:49 am

My transformer Diet Bet started Monday. I weighed in last Sunday and today I've already achieved 58% of my goal. I feel much better because of the better eating and more exercise. Funny how that is. I mentioned to a friend that the reason I think Diet Bet is going to help for me, is that there is a tangible number assigned to the process, 4% of my original body weight to be lost by a set date. It's not vague in the least. And then I'm rewarded with getting my money back if I make the goal, which is super nice to think about! I will say it does help to be mentally ready to do the work. I was ready!!

I probably did spend a little extra money on food this week as I stocked up on more veggies and a few healthier snacks. However, I'm eating less, so there are leftovers, which means some of the food we are buying is stretching a bit farther.

I'm about to buy a foam roller on Amazon. I'm having some tightness in one leg, which has to be related to the knee pain I had the couple weeks before I started this Diet Bet. The knee feels a lot better, but there still some tight muscles that need some work. The foam roller, along with some videos, should help me progress towards healing faster.

Housing Deposit

April 8th, 2016 at 06:44 am

Yesterday, my oldest daughter reminded me we needed to pay the final housing deposit for next year. It's $200. The best part is I already had that money set aside because I knew it was coming. She is going to have a single room next year. Sounds expensive doesn't it? It is just because it is dorm housing and it isn't because the price difference is relatively small.

As a returning student living in the same dorm she is eligible for a discount of $342. With her 7 day meal plan included we will pay $10,704. If she doubled up, with the same meal plan, we would pay $10,104, which is a savings of $600. In the end, after the discount her single room will be $10,280. The difference between the double vs single is then only $176. We decided that the extra $176 is worth it for a single room. She loves her sleep and often goes to be before 10pm, she will sleep so much better without a roommate making noise or being frustrated by the lights still being on.

This past year housing was our biggest expense because nearly 90% of tuition and books were covered by scholarships. We used our own cash and money saved in her ESA account to cover those remaining expenses.

Next year, we plan to use my husband's Post 911 GI Bill to cover all tuition and most of the housing. We will need to pay for the housing up front, but we will receive a monthly housing allowance while she is in class. That housing allowance is $1080 per month. It is prorated, so will equal about 4 months worth of housing, or around $4320 per semester.

In the end we will have some costs to pay out of pocket, but we expect these will be manageable. We are extremely grateful (and amazed) at how well we have been able to manage the costs of college.

I definitely encourage all families expect children to go to college to save something! You won't regret it. And of course, help your child be the best they can be by taking challenging classes, participating in something extracurricular, study if needed for ACT or SAT, and put in some volunteer time. It does pay off!

Honda is Awesome! (Check For Recalls)

April 7th, 2016 at 05:44 am

We found out recently that my husband's Honda Ridgeline is part of the air bag recall. We received a letter with notification and indication that the parts won't be available until this summer.

Last week my husband went into the dealership for an oil change and some other services. Honda offered to hold the truck in their lot until the repair can be made. In exchange they offered a rental car. We talked it over and decided it was worth it to take them up on the offer. If we didn't and something happened we would definitely regret it. In fact, a 17 year old girl was just killed by a Honda airbag this week in Texas. She went to my friends' daughter's school.

So my husband is now driving a bright red Jeep, until the repairs are made. All of this is of no cost to us. I'm just hoping the Jeep gets better gas mileage. Smile

So I think Honda is definitely doing the right thing in regards to handling this recall with an abundance of caution. I encourage anyone with a Honda to check if your vehicle is on the recall list for the airbags. The website is here.

$1000 Spent and More

April 6th, 2016 at 09:08 am

We finally made the airline purchases for our niece and my mother in law to visit over Memorial Day. That weekend seemed to work best for them and they will see our daughter's more, but the tickets were more expensive. Niece (20) is super excited because it is her first plane ride. She wants to have a window seat, which probably won't be an issue, since I bought Early Bird Checkin for them on Southwest. We spent in total $1004.92. The good news I had already set that money aside in our vacation fund.

I decided against participating in our neighborhood garage sale this Saturday morning. I don't have a lot of stuff. And the big stuff I want to let go of I want more than garage sale prices for. I will have to list them on some sale sites or Craigslist at some point.

Instead of the garage sale, our family is volunteering at the local food bank for four hours. She needs community service hours for the Engineering Program she is part of at her high school. This is our second time, and we actually enjoyed it last time, so it isn't a big deal to go again. We did reward ourselves with lunch out last time, have to decide if that is a habit or not!

I'm on Day 3 of my Diet Bet. I can already tell that my diet changes are making a difference. It really can be about mindset. Once I decided to actually take action and knew what my plan was I felt committed. And that is such a different place to be than where my mind just says 'yea, I know I should eat better' and so forth.

I do need another pair of workout pants! If I have lost some weight by Friday, then I'm rewarding myself with one pair, just so I don't have to do laundry so often!

And finally, it seems I'll be using more gas in my van for awhile. I volunteered to pick up my husband's coworker's son and take him to school in the morning. Unfortunately, we live on the opposite boundaries for the high school. I will take my daughter first, then head to pick him up. He could take the bus, but he's being bullied it seems, so he's avoiding the morning bus. And his Mom needs to get to work and his Dad is out of town for at least the next month. Oh, and he has been tardy over five times, because he missed the bus, which apparently could lead to expulsion. He is a very nice young man. It's just my way of helping our Army family out. I was offered gas money, but I declined. I told his mom I may need her to do something for me someday, so it will all work out!

March 2016 Snowflake Earnings

April 5th, 2016 at 01:47 pm

March 2016 Snowflakes

eBay Proceeds $26.32
Pinecone Research $12.00
Discover Rewards $1.49
Templeton Rye Settlement $23.00
Chase Rewards $20.00
Ibotta (iTunes gc) $25.00
Total $107.81

I may have had more, but I'm not going to go looking for them. I sure can't complain about having an extra $100+ in our pocket. I'm going to make sure this money gets into our second savings account when I earn it. I rarely touch that money, so it will become savings that won't quickly melt.

I checked our American Express rewards the other day. We each have about $45! We had been using those exclusively since the beginning of the year, until sometime last month when we switched to a couple new cards for bonuses. We can only redeem in $25 increments, so only $50 is actually really available.

I believe I have some money in my PayPal and Pinecone accounts to redeem. I'll get that taken care of and count it for April!

March Interest Income

April 4th, 2016 at 12:06 pm

For March we earned $30.09 on around $10K worth of CDs. Those rates are pretty good that we got through Navy Federal Credit Union. I wish there were more! Both these CDs will come due in the second half of the year.

We still have a big stash of cash in our money market account earning about 1%. We earned $33.47 on that money last month. Better than nothing, but I think I'm finally convinced to try some of those prepaid card accounts where I can open a savings account and earn 5% on $5K. I'll start with one account first, but potentially we can open two more for me, and three for my husband, investing $30K earning 5%.

How much interest did you earn in March?

If you think you have...

April 4th, 2016 at 09:43 am

money problems. You do!

I just saw a interview on the local news with a man who just said that. I think he's right, especially when it comes to debt.

What do you think?

It's Official

April 3rd, 2016 at 08:02 am

I signed up today for the Diet Bet that starts tomorrow. I bet $30 to lose 4% of my body weight in the next four weeks. It does feel pretty daunting, but I know I need some accountability. I can't keep going in the direction I have been.

My goals are to keep my calories around 1300 and walk 8-10K steps most days. I've done calorie reduction before. It's harder in the beginning, but it does work! The exercise piece will be a bit different for me as we don't have a gym, just our treadmill at home. I think lifting weights was always helpful for weight loss. I will need to use my own body for that.

I feel like my biggest stumbling block may be my knee. I've been having pain, usually AFTER I walk, not during. It then hurts for a couple days which makes me not want to exercise again. So I'm going to do my best to address that issue along the way.

We are grocery shopping today. It seems we are out of lots of things right now, such as paper towels, soap, coffee, laundry detergent. I expect it will be a larger than normal total.