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Archive for July, 2016

Early Retirement Thoughts

July 31st, 2016 at 02:43 pm

This probably won't be a well thought out post, but I just need to write out some thoughts. We have seven years until my husband can retire from the Army with a paycheck starting immediately. He will be 54. I will be 51.

According to military retirement calculators his retirement pay before taxes would be $4,572 per month or $54,863 per year. So, theoretically, our goal should be to have expenses less than $4,572 per month. At least if we didn't want to pull any money from our retirement savings. I'm pretty sure we could live on less than this, even while doing some traveling.

If he can get into a particular position in the next two years, he may be willing to continue to work until 60 for the Army. Which gee, at that point, isn't really early retirement! I'm not sure he cares, he does like to be busy. The retirement check would be $8746 per month or $104,959 per year. That's less than he makes now, but not by much.

One issue for me in thinking about retirement is our living situation. We have around $40K that came from selling two homes. Thus enough for 20% down on a $200,000 home. I would be fine buying a home in that price range or less. We are currently renting, so we are not building any equity. I can tell our savings has increased in the last six months, by around $7K. I think this is better than if we owned a home.

Honestly, I'd love to buy a house with cash at the time we retire. Of course, that feels overwhelming to think about when we only have $40K specifically set aside as house money. If I were to make that happen, I need to be much more diligent about saving cash to make it happen. It's not that I'm unwilling, I'm just not sure what I'm aiming for. I think we would move back to the midwest, which is where family is and likely both of our daughter's will be (although one never knows on that for sure).

We are currently in the middle of paying for college for our daughter's. We have some savings. Scholarships have been helpful so far. And we have the Post 911 GI bill that I expect will cover half the cost of each of them to attend college. The best case scenario is that they leave college with zero loans. Worse case is they leave college with one years worth of loans. Our oldest is going to be a sophomore this year in college. Our youngest is going to be a junior in high school. Thus they should both be out of college at the time my husband would retire at the earliest.

I feel we are currently living in a home with too much space for our needs and we are paying too much as a result. The home is 2800 sq ft, four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, two living areas, two dining areas, a kitchen, screened in porch, and very large yard. We pay $1800 per month in rent, which is the going rate for this size property. We are not overpaying for the property itself, but probably paying more because we have a home larger than our needs. Most of the time it's just three of us living here, with two cats. Smile We could probably move elsewhere in the area, but I know that is disruptive to our daughter. It also costs some money to move, even in town.

Another thought I have, that may or may not be related to retiring early is buying rental property. Specifically, thinking about buying a home in the college town our daughter lives in so that she could live there rather than a dorm. Not sure if this would involve roommates or not. We wouldn't be living in that town thus as owners, that could be an issue. Although, our daughter would likely learn some things about home ownership through the process.

We max out our Roth IRAs, and put 10% in the tax deferred TSP. We would save 15% on taxes if we put that Roth money into IRAs instead, yet, I'm not sure that is really smart if we would want to use that money in early retirement. That would be $1650 in our pockets each that could go towards the saving for a home. I know we could easily save $1000 a month, which is $12,000 a year. In 7 years time, that would be at least $84K, preferably more if invested.

Again...random thoughts. I would really like to simplify overall and have some clear financial goals going forward. We save what we can for retirement and college, but I've been lazy about the plan for the next seven years. If I want to make something happen we need to start making it a focus. I don't want to only have $40K set aside in seven years for a home.

Feel free to chime in with thoughts or questions. I don't have all the answers yet.

Ooma On Sale - Last Day

July 29th, 2016 at 11:37 am

I've written about our Ooma home phone before. It works over the internet and costs under $5 a month, varying by local tax laws. At the point we don't have kids at home, I expect we'll get rid of it, but it sure beats paying $30-40 a month for!

The current offer is here. Thanks for checking it out. I do get $50 credit if you buy. Today is the last day for the offer so act fast!

One Way Ticket

July 26th, 2016 at 02:20 pm

I just bought our daughter a one way ticket back to her college town. She leaves in about two weeks! So sad to see her go. Although she is super ready to get back to her friends and her routine.

The ticket cost me $250. I wish I could have bought it last week when prices were closer to $190! We just didn't have the dates confirmed at that time. I'll watch and see if it changes in the next 24 hours and attempt to change if it goes lower.

I was attempting to redeem our American Express rewards for gift cards today. I got some message that we need to call to complete order. This is on my husband's account, so I'm going to have to have him call when he is able. Maybe it's because it is for over $500 worth of cards? I did all the extra confirmation to confirm it was us. Who knows! Just a big frustrating. ETA: Well, American Express called us not long after to indicating fraud on the account. Then we called them back, since we don't give personal information when we receive a call like that. But really there was no fraud, they were just making sure the redemption was legit. So all the gift cards are on their way here.

CD Maturing

July 25th, 2016 at 02:23 pm

We have a $7,500 CD maturing next month. It's been earning 3.5% for the last 14 months. I'm thinking of rolling it into a 1.05% 12 month CD, but if I could find something better I would jump on it.

I noticed I have an offer on my American Express account to open a Gold card. Spend $2000, get 50K reward points. We did this for my husband earlier this year. We haven't even redeemed the points yet! I will probably open it, but I've been wanting to reduce cards, so this flies in the face of that idea!

Deal on Toilet Paper

July 20th, 2016 at 01:59 am

I purchased THREE 27 roll packages in March for $15.99 a piece with a $15 coupon involved. We ran out of this huge stock pile of toilet paper more than two weeks ago. We bought a 12 pack and it felt like we quickly ran out again. I realized I really like being stocked up on toilet paper!

So I went looking for toilet paper to stock up on. I will admit that I was specifically looking for Scott's 1000 toilet paper. I found a deal at Boxed.com. I hadn't known of this company before. They were selling 36 count rolls of Scott's 1000 toilet paper for $23.99 with free shipping. I could get 15% off my first order. I decided to order four packages! My total was $81.57 after the discount.

Even better, I found out I could use my American Express card and get $20 off if my total was $50 or more. In the end I got 144 rolls of toilet paper for $61.57 delivered. That is $0.43 a roll. I think this will last us at least half a year. Although originally when I ordered I thought it would be a full years worth, but looking back at my notes for the last purchase, I think 6 months is more likely.

Boxed.com does have lot of items that one could stock up on. And there is some sort of point system, although I haven't figured out how great that is or isn't yet. If you want to place your own order for $10 off your first order, please use my promo code QV6LX.

I'm tempted to order another four more packages using my husband's American Express to get another $20 off and count us as stocked for the full year. I do have the storage in the garage, so that isn't an issue.

What do you like to be stocked up on?

Items for eBay

July 18th, 2016 at 12:58 am

I've listed three items on eBay this evening. It's been awhile since I listed anything. It's still time consuming! But we've decluttered quite a few things recently and some of these things are probably worth a few dollars. I decided it would be worth my time to accumulate some cash, as I know there are some expenses like band camp and college textbooks coming up very soon.

Pretty low spend weekend here. We bought groceries and got a 50% off deal on a pizza Friday night (I didn't feel like cooking!).

I bought an item on Amazon Prime Day. According to USPS it was delivered, but I didn't get it. I inquired about that today. Normally, they would send a new one, but they are currently out of stock! So I asked for a refund instead. I'll try to buy this item later in the year when I know it will likely go on sale again. Or maybe we don't really need it, so maybe I'll skip it all together. Smile

Sold a Textbook

July 13th, 2016 at 12:10 pm

I received notification that my daughter's textbook that we listed on Half.com has sold. We will net $36 on the sale. I don't know off hand how much we spent on it. At least double. This was one of those cases where renting wasn't an option.

And we have discovered that renting isn't always the most economical. She rented a music book this past semester for about $14. Turns out the same book will be needed for the next music class. She could have bought the book for just an extra $0.18! This is a case where I didn't have access to that information or knowledge and she didn't read the receipt, let alone consider the option. We are all learning as we go through this college process!

We are starting to buy more things for her dorm. She is rooming alone this year, so we are buying rugs, and a microwave that her roommate brought last year. Overall, I think it is still less expensive than year one. Smile

Sold

July 12th, 2016 at 11:36 pm

Since the market was high again, I made a point to transfer the full amount of my oldest daughter's educational savings account to a money market account. We are likely to use most of the funds for this upcoming school year. I should have taken the money out much sooner, but it was difficult to pull it all when I knew the market was down. It's now safe from market swings.

We still have our younger daughter's ESA invested in the market, but she still has two years before college, and since we don't know what scholarship she will receive we will leave it for now.

Decluttering the Files

July 11th, 2016 at 11:14 pm

I thought I did a really good purge of paper about a year and a half ago. Turns out I could have done better! I started looking through the main files in our desk, and found dental Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) going back to 2008. The orthodontic ones are interesting because I did forget what we paid for my oldest to have braces: $4100, with insurance paying $1500. But I don't need these. At least I can't imagine that I do. The only thing that may be helpful is keeping a list of the dentists we have seen since then. We are on our third dentist since that time in three different cities. If I ever needed records that information would be most important. So I'm thinking of shredding most of the EOBs.

I also have years of 5498s for the girls investments. I don't know why these get mailed when everything else is sent electronically! I need to see if I can update that. I figured I can scan in these documents, rather than keeping the originals.

I'm considering scanning all the vehicle maintenance receipts as well. Or maybe just a chart showing what work we had done and where would be just as good. I've noticed that is what I'm looking for when I browse through those. We have had our current vehicles for 6 and 8 years, so there a quite a few receipts!

At least when I went through my daughter's school files they were pretty easy to toss out (recycle) the notes and extra papers. I don't think most of that needs to be scanned at this point, all though I might like having that information stored virtually for the long term.

Paper is quite the project!!

Do you keep EOBs, or vehicle maintenance receipts?

Two Checks and More

July 9th, 2016 at 07:22 pm

Snowflakes in the mail today! Both were made out to me from the same legal settlement. Each check is worth $19.17. I'm putting this $38 in our savings account, since there is no debt to pay off.

I've been doing a lot of reading about minimalism and simple living. I'm feeling inspired to keep things as simple as possible, including finances. This will likely entail closing several credit cards and consolidating a few more investment accounts.

I've been perusing rentals in the area knowing that in less than two years we will likely move out of our current rental that is costing us $1800 a month, to something smaller, and hopefully less expensive. I came across a couple condo closer to post that had three bedrooms, 2 baths, about 1500 sq ft. One was for rent at about $950 a month. The other was for sale for $79,000. We could sure live cheap if we bought that, it's just a matter of finding a buyer. They seem few and far between around this town.

Do you feel your finances and your life are as simple as you would like them?

Internet Increase

July 7th, 2016 at 11:55 am

Just as I lower our cell phone bill by $12, our Time Warner Internet bill goes up by $10 because our promotion ended. I tried to get them to lower it back down. Only way to do that would be to lose speed. I don't think that would work as it seems we are streaming things all the time (currently trying 7 days of Sling TV).

This may prompt me to cancel TV service. We have the most basic of plans, but we rarely watch it and pay about $45 a month once you add in the cable boxes. I just don't think we can get even one station over the air here. Frown

Kohls Fraud

July 5th, 2016 at 08:57 pm

This would be the second time that someone has used my Kohls.com account to buy things and charge them to my Kohl's card. Ugh! After talking to the fraud department, that account (in which they changed the email address) has been cancelled. I put a password on my card (that I have to take off each time I want to use the card). I had one on there before, but forgot to put it back on one time apparently! I do have noted that I took it off.

This is prompting me to clean up our credit cards that we have open. I think we have several that are unnecessary to keep any longer. I haven't quite firmed up which ones, but this is a must do project. I also need to clean out a lot credit card mailing junk from my desk as well while I'm in the process.

Our youngest daughter just turned 16. (Not interested in learning to drive yet, so no insurance changes yet). She received checks in the mail and it made me think we need to get her set up with a checking account now, so she can get used to handling that before she leaves for college. We did this a little late with our oldest daughter (although she's done just fine).

I did make a small change to our Verizon cell phone bill. I changed us from the Large data plan to the Medium. We have used over 3GB in the past, but not very often. This will save us about $12 a month. I have notifications set up if we get close to the 3GB. I'm still not sure if Ting is right for us. I would love to make it work, but I'm still not convinced.

It's super hot and humid where we live. I can only imagine the electric bill. Although the water bill is getting a small break because of the rain we have had.

Tell Me About Ting

July 4th, 2016 at 02:19 pm

So, I'm really, really considering Ting for our family. Our contract with Verizon was up in May. Our bill has been lowered now that we aren't paying for the phones. A couple of us have started having small issues with our phones, likely needing an upgrade in the near future.

We currently pay around $140 with Verizon for four phones. The last time I checked with Ting based on our usage we would pay between $75-$85 a month. We do a pretty good job of limiting data since we use WiFi at home.

I think the hard part will be making the actual switch! My first thought is to get SIM cards and keep our current phones and numbers which I believe can be ported over from Verizon.

After that I think we would slowly switch each of us over as it becomes clear our phones are really dying. So far, all the issues have resolved themselves usually with restarting the phone a time or two.

My main concern is the actual switch. Will our ability to get service change that much? We will be getting service through the same towers we currently do right? In some ways we are only changing the billing method.

At one time, I understood that Ting used Sprint towers. I hesitated to switch as Sprint towers in our previous town were horrible according to users and Sprints own map. I think now if we use GSM SIM cards we will be on Verizon towers (not sure this makes sense, but it's how I understand it).

Also once I have the SIM cards in hand and insert into our phones, how long until they are active? Less than a day? This is actually a good time of year to switch as we are home a lot more and not using our phones as much.

I'm sure I can find some more information on Ting's website, and I will start looking. I'm just hoping one of you Ting users can encourage me and answer some of my questions.

Thank you in advance!

$78.55 June Interest

July 3rd, 2016 at 01:48 pm

Our total interest earned in June was $78.55. It sure helps that some of our cash is earning around 3% interest in CDs. These are are all with Navy Federal Credit Union. I think one ends in August, but hopefully there will be something new around that same time.

We also put $25 into our NFCU savings account from my husband's pay. This is part of the agreement to earn the 3% interest. I think I'm going to increase it to $100. I don't think we'll miss putting more into savings! And if needed we can always take it out.