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Archive for August, 2016

2016 Snowflakes, Sort of an Update

August 30th, 2016 at 01:50 pm

I have not done a great job of tracking our snowflakes this year. Well I did a good job through part of March. I have an Excel documenting them up through then. The total on those is $216.54.

A lot of snowflakes get absorbed into our budget and don't necessarily become savings. At least for parts of this year. I did get quite a few rebate checks (over $200) that did get put into savings. I also starting diverting eBay proceeds to our savings account as well. It's those credit card rewards that get absorbed into our spending on YNAB.

I can tell that the snowflakes diverted to our savings account are equal to $566.58. But again, I didn't track any credit card rewards since March!

I do know I redeemed $550 rewards from American Express Gold. So that means we have over $1000 in snowflake earnings this year. It is probably closer to $1500 with interest and other rewards I'm not listing. By year end, I can probably get a final picture.

I just wanted those of you who know and have read in the past all about my snowflake earnings, that we are still earning them and saving a majority of them. I'm just not doing a great job of tracking them.

I have let go of actively earning Swagbucks for now. It was taking up to much of my time. I wanted to put more focus into my health and mental well being. I found that Swagbucks was contrary to both of those. I did like earning the points and the gift cards, but sometimes other things are more important that free cash! I'm actually still earning some by default from people that are referrals. I have 300 points right now and did nothing to earn them.

I'll try to be a little better about pointing out the little amounts of money we earn. They really do add up! I mean I could pay 1/2 my daughter's tuition (not housing) this semester with the money we have earned in snowflakes. That's not a bad thing at all!

End of Budget

August 29th, 2016 at 11:36 pm

$43.70. That is how much we have left of our budget until payday on Thursday. Our checking account still has $8K in it, so we aren't broke!

I did spend about $25 today at Walmart. Not a fan, but it is close, so we end up there occasionally. I bought a large umbrella, package of pens, composition notebook, ant bait (ants in my kitchen...not a fan!!) and a soda.

I also wrote the first check to the school for $35. Each grade pays dues. They are higher for Juniors and Seniors because of prom. Dues were only $5 last year and I think all the students get a spirit t shirt with the money. My daughter doesn't plan to go to prom. It's just not her type of things. But we pay what we owe. She can't even get a locker assigned until she brings in the money!

My older daughter had to buy a specific dress for her choir class this year. Dress, plus scarf and shipping was $85!!! She will wear it three times. I did tell her she should ask around if anyone from a previous class had one to sell, but she either didn't OR couldn't find anyone her size. Maybe she can sell hers next semester. I do get to count it towards required class expenses when figuring our taxes, so that helps a little.

The plan is to make the next two days no spend days! I feel pretty confident we can do it.

Band Spending and More

August 27th, 2016 at 04:10 am

We are in the midst of marching band season for my youngest daughter. Well, oldest daughter is also, but she's out of town. We pay $7 each to get into every football game we attend. Tonight we also bought food and drinks. We spent $8.50 on four beverages, nachos and a hotdog. It was hot! We may have been able to skip a couple beverages if the weather was cooler.

I did a little clothes spending yesterday. I need a few new pairs of panties. I have a favorite brand and style, and I don't buy them very frequently. I also browsed the clearance racks and found a pair of capris in my new size (yea, for weight loss). I bought them plus four pairs of panties for $30 at Kohl's. I did have a 30% off coupon so that helped quite a bit. I was willing to spend $30 on three pairs of underwear before I walked in, but I walked out with an extra pair and the capris for that amount. Very happy!

My husband is helping his friend move tomorrow. This is actually the couple that let him stay with them for three months in their apartment before the rest of us moved out here. They offered their space for free! We will always be grateful. We definitely want to help payback that generosity in any way we can.

We have $300 left until payday. I think we can make it!

Ebay Sales, CDs and More

August 24th, 2016 at 12:41 pm

I've sold a few more items on eBay. I netted less than $15, but that is money in and stuff out, so I'm happy. I have eight more items listed. I'm not sure they will all sell, but if they end without interest, then they will get donated.

I haven't had a Pinecone survey lately. Although, I know I've done some of the household questions. I decided to log on to their website. I found I had $3 that I could cash in. Nice surprise!

I'm transferring more money from our money market account to Navy Federal Credit Union. We had a certificate mature and they now have an offer of 2% for 20 months, up to $20,000. I decided that 2% is better than .95%, so I'm going to maximize the amount we can invest.

My daughter did get marching band changed to zero credit. The other one credit needs to stay as it is. She has 13 credits officially, we will pay about $3300 out of pocket, after scholarships for the tuition and fees. Total for books and supplies will be known shortly. She has to order a specific dress for choir, not sure yet on it's cost.

Spendy Monday

August 23rd, 2016 at 02:31 am

I took my daughter and a friend out for a day on the town. We ate lunch at Subway first where I spent about $20. Downtown we stopped into our local art council to see the current exhibit, however the exhibit was not open to the public. Frown It would have been free to view.

The girls decided to paint pottery next door. It was military Monday so there was a 10% discount. Total cost was just over $23. We were there for about 1.5 hours. Their pottery will be ready next Tuesday afternoon.

And then after walking around getting hot going in and out of stores just to look, we needed ice cream. Unfortunately, we went to the most expensive ice cream place...Cold Stone Creamery. I spent $15 for the three of us to each have one small item off the menu. I wish I would have suggest a soft serve cone from McDonald's instead!

It was a good time. And a good way to end the summer vacation. School starts on Monday of next week.

Zero Credit = Zero $

August 21st, 2016 at 02:31 pm

My daughter is in marching band at her university. She has to enroll in this as a class. Last year she took it for credit. This year there is really no point in taking it for credit as only one time with marching band can count towards her degree. So we are saving over $700 since she is taking it for zero credit. Yes, it could count as an elective, if she did pay for it and take it for credit. And that $700 is for one credit hour at the non resident rate. She has a scholarship that covers about 10 hours at the non resident rate. We pay out of pocket for the amount over that currently.

My daughter is enrolled for 13 credits now that she changed marching band to zero credit. She thinks there is one other class that she may be able to switch to zero credit as well. She will get that all firmed up on Monday.

Start of School Costs

August 18th, 2016 at 11:57 am

I'm thinking ahead. I know that yearbooks, school pictures, and class dues are all going to be coming up once school starts. Since we have been here one year, I know how this school works. The first year at a new school is like going in blind.

Here's what I'm aware of right now:

Class dues $35 (prom primarily, which my daughter won't even attend)
Yearbook $68 (goes up as the year progresses)
School Pictures $40 (not sure exactly, as packages vary)

We don't expect any other expenses from the school, but of course, that doesn't mean there won't be any.

If I ran a school, I might actually provide parents a list of possible expenses. Indicating which are required and which are completely optional. Many are optional.

We stopped at Staples last night and bought two new binders and two sturdy folders. The total was $19+, but I had gift cards so out of pocket cost was zero. I think Staples is VERY expensive compared to the discount stores. Binders shouldn't cost nearly $9 in my opinion.

Are you aware of what expenses you may have coming up from your child's school?

Ebay Sale & More

August 17th, 2016 at 02:09 pm

I made another small eBay sale yesterday. I probably only netted about $5, but that's fine. Item out, money in!

I've redeemed some rewards on credit cards recently. American Express for a $25 credit, which helped offset the charge for vitamins I bought my husband. I also redeemed just under $7 on our US Bank Visa to reduce our cell phone bill. I love the 5% cash back on cell phone bills!

My daughter left her rain jacket at home, along with several items for cooler fall days. I shipped them out yesterday, along with her bus pass, in a Large Flat Rate box. I paid $18.75. Ugh! I hope she didn't forget anything else!

It's been a calm week here so far with limited spending. I even tried to convince my daughter she may want a new shirt for picture day. She said no, she has something in her closet to wear. Turns out its the same shirt she wore last year, only in a different color! I guess that is okay. Her hair is shorter, so it will look different. She's a practical girl. Smile

I guess I should have factored in school pictures to my budget this month. They are bound to happen that first week of school. I think she will owe some class dues. Only $5 last year, but may be more as a junior.

Estimating our 2016 Tax Return

August 15th, 2016 at 12:16 am

College starts next week for our daughter. Thus a tuition and housing bill will be due in September. This made me think of the American Opportunity Credit, and wondering how much we might be eligible for.

After a lot of number crunching and estimating, I came up with credits worth between $2075 and $2500. The maximum is $2,500 based on a maximum of $4000 paid in qualified tuition expenses. Room and board are NOT qualified tuition expenses. It is actually our biggest expense.

This means we will get a refund in the spring. I'm estimating approximately $1178, up to $1553 depending on the American Opportunity credit.

I'm going to firm it all up once we have paid tuition in full. I've thought of changing withholding for the last two or two and a half months of the year. I figure it might be nicer to have the money earlier than wait for a refund. That will require some more number crunching later.

Over on the forums....

August 14th, 2016 at 04:35 pm

Just so you are aware of things happening on the forums. Notice the administrators responses!

Does anyone remember if the blogs were bought by someone else or have a different administrator?

Another Sale

August 13th, 2016 at 01:42 pm

I sold another item on eBay. Net profit $6.74. Less stuff, more money! I will put this in savings.

I've been motivated by my daughter going back to school to sell some things, just to help offset costs. In no way does it cover the cost, but every little bit helps!

I need to get on the ball and get more listed. Tuition and housing are due September 12. I have yet to calculate total bill, but I'm thinking at least $9K for the semester.

2% CD Navy Federal Credit Union

August 12th, 2016 at 04:33 pm

Interesting, just as one of our CDs at NFCU is expiring there's another decent offer, although not as good rate wise. The current rate on the CD has been 3.5% for the last 15 months. We have $7,000 in the certificate.

This new offer is a 20 month CD, with a maximum investment of $20,000 at 2% APR. We have other cash that we would definitely move over to get the full benefit of the rate. Of course, I would really like more interest, but I feel glad we have the option to take advantage of higher than average rates.

What is the best interest rate you are earning on any certificates of deposits?

Vintage 80s Sale

August 12th, 2016 at 01:50 am

I've been minimizing lots of things, including keepsakes. Earlier this year, I took apart the scrapbook I made as a teen. Most of it was junk!! However, I did set aside a park map from a Disney park I visited. It was actually selling on eBay. I listed it about two weeks ago and it sold last night.

I know have a quick $8.40 in my pocket after fees. I put the money into our savings account.

So check any vintage keepsakes for some hidden value!

Potato Class Action

August 6th, 2016 at 08:29 pm

Last year around this time, I submitted a claim to be part of a antitrust settlement regarding our purchase of potatoes. As usual, I don't remember the requirements. But today we received a check in the mail for $30.49!! That's a big amount.

Just for kicks I went back in our records and found we have received $202.28 from class action settlements since the beginning of the year! Nice snowflakes hanging out in our savings account.

I believe I have become aware of all of these from this website. I don't fill out any that I don't legitimately have claim to.

$370K

August 5th, 2016 at 11:26 pm

We've met another milestone with our retirement accounts. We now have $370,000. If the market appreciates another 6% I might be able to meet the $400K milestone. That would require our additional contributions to be included as well. I would be shocked if the market earns another 6%, but one never knows for sure. We will just keep moving forward!

Rewards

August 2nd, 2016 at 07:06 pm

I used $4.44 from Discover rewards to make a purchase of ink for our printer on Amazon. After the reward redemption, I spent just over $17 for color and black high yield ink, remanufactured. It's been quite some time since I've bought ink for the printer. More school work done online and less coupon printing I think.

I also redeemed some Marriott points for a hotel room the night before my daughter flies off to college. She has an early 8am flight and we live 1.5 hours away. It's just more relaxing for everyone to be in the town the night before.

My husband wants me to buy his preferred vitamins from GNC. I thought Tuesdays were usually their best sale day. Right now I'm not seeing the deal I'd like, which is buy one, get one! I may need to wait another week, unless I can round up some other ways to reduce the cost!

Unexpected Snowflakes

August 1st, 2016 at 11:46 pm

I was reconciling our Citi Thank You card on YNAB today. I still don't have it quite balanced, but I did find two $25 Category Bonus that were applied on July 12. I didn't have any points to redeem, so these must have been applied from some promotion. Not exactly sure what that was! So an extra $50 is a nice surprise. I added this cash to our emergency fund.

The other surprise was a class action settlement from Kashi that arrived in the mail today. It was for $44.08! I quickly deposited it to our savings.

I added up the interest (which was expected) earned in our savings accounts for the month of July. A bit fat $81.35 to add to our savings. We never spend our interest. We just let it keep accumulating. If I had some sort of debt, I would be throwing it that way!

Since I was thinking about early retirement. I looked up the dividends we've earned from our investments last quarter. $1518.17 from our investments at Vanguard. This was the total ending June 30. My husband has an account with American Funds and that one paid $860 in December. It seems to pay annually. Currently these are all reinvested. But in retirement these could be withdrawn. If those quarterly amounts were somewhat equal that would mean over $6K in income based on what we currently own. That's very promising!!

Amex Rewards: Gift Cards

August 1st, 2016 at 04:47 pm

My husband got a American Express Gold card earlier in the year. I believe the offer was to spend $2000 and receive 50K reward points. We did the spending and the points accumulated to just over 51K. Last week we finally went through the process of redeeming those rewards. It wasn't as simple as ordering online, although I tried. In the end, my husband had to talk to customer service to confirm the order wasn't fraud. I suppose that is because the order was for over $500 worth of gift cards!

The cards we ordered arrived three days later by UPS. No need to sign for them, just dropped on our front porch.

We got cards to places like Home Depot, Staples, Bath&Body Works, Chili's restaurant, Bone Fish Grill, and iTunes. There weren't not as many options as I would have liked to be honest. The Target and American Express gift cards 'cost' far more points per dollar than the ones we did redeem.

On Saturday night, three of us went to dinner at Chili's. The bill was $45.29. I had the server run the card, left the balance and a $5 bill as a tip. So only $5 out of pocket for three people to eat. That was nice!

I now see that I'm eligible for this same credit card offer when I log into my Amex account. It might be worth it...just wish the rewards were better (to places I tend to shop).