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Archive for January, 2017

Continuing Frugal

January 31st, 2017 at 04:42 pm

I think we are continuing our version of frugal through mid February. That is when tuition is due, so I want to keep the spending to a minimum. My husband and I discussed greatly reducing our alcohol intake primarily for health reasons, but that would be very good on our budget. I will let you know how that works out.

I just ate leftover mushroom barley soup for lunch today. I pulled that out from the freezer. It was probably two servings, but I ate them both! So yummy and really not very caloric. I think I may be having soup all week, as I have a can of soup in the pantry and another soup in the freezer (Moroccan Lentil).

I will need to grocery shop today. I need apples and crackers for my daughter's lunch tomorrow. I made a list of other items to cover the rest of the week. I will buy today, but count the purchase as a February expense.

I checked our bank accounts this morning. The tax refund and my husband's paycheck are both pending for deposit tomorrow! I plan to redeem shares from my daughter's Educational Savings account tomorrow to cover a portion of the tuition bill. At this point we appear to be about $600 short of what we need. As I have said all along, I will use our regular savings to cover the shortfall and pay ourselves back. No loans for her or us this semester is the plan, and I'm sticking to it!

Oh, I saw this on the SA forum this morning. It's under freebies, but it is more about spreading kindness and love. Check it out if you are interested!

School Supplies & More

January 30th, 2017 at 09:58 pm

Today's big spending was on a binder for school. The cost of it was $7.21 with tax at Walmart. It wasn't the cheapest option. She chose one that she know will hold up for the semester. She is a bit hard on them!

My daughter's new debit card for her checking account arrived today. We have now activated it. She also deposited her two checks received at Christmas into her new account, using our mobile app. We also ordered checks. Luckily they just send 40 at a time now. I wonder how long it may take for her to use those up! The checks are free through our bank.

I ate leftover fried rice with tofu for lunch. I think I cooked the tofu just fine. I did use turmeric to color it, so it did remind me of having eggs in it. My daughter decided she didn't like the different texture of tofu with the rice though. Lucky for her we are just having pasta and broccoli for dinner which she does like.

We did go to the store last night and picked up several items, primarily cereal and milk. And two snacks. I think there was something else too. We spent about $14.

Oh, and I had to buy fuel for my van! I was literally on empty when we went to the grocery store. I only filled it up halfway primarily because the pump was VERY slow. I spent $20.02.

Isn't it hard to believe January is about over?

More Credit Card Rewards

January 29th, 2017 at 03:52 pm

I redeemed $12 from our USAA Visa rewards. That money will be deposited in our checking account on Monday. I have designated those funds toward tuition, of course!

I plan to redeem rewards from our Chase Freedom account, but not until after the next statement closes which is on February 12. I will have already paid tuition at that point, but the rewards will help start building back up some of the savings accounts we have designated on YNAB. The thing I don't like about Chase Freedom rewards is that you can only redeem in full after you have earned $20. I currently have $21+ I can redeem. However, I expect with this next statement to have another $2. So I will wait and have that money added to the current balance and redeem in full, rather than have $2 I don't have access to if I redeemed now. We are going to stop using the Chase Freedom card for awhile, so there will not be any rewards accumulating in the near future.

We went to Panera for dinner last night. We spent $33.20. The movie tickets cost us $22.47. We enjoyed the movie, the meal and time spent with our daughter. After that spending our everyday funds account is down to $198. My husband needs to take $100 out for a work trip (reimbursed later) this week. So that leaves $98 for the next three days. I may need fuel, but I think we can get by with food on hand until payday on Wednesday.

The only spending that could come up is any school supplies my daughter might need to start the new semester. One teacher has already requested students bring ruler, calculator, spiral notebook and colored pencils. And I'm 99% sure we have all of those.

I think I'm going to keep myself busy the next couple days doing some cleaning around our house. That shouldn't cost me anything!

Refund Arrives Wednesday

January 28th, 2017 at 04:55 pm

Our tax refund is scheduled to arrive in our bank account on Wednesday, February 1. I submitted them on Sunday, January 22. That is a pretty fast turn around! That $1497 refund is going straight to pay the tuition bill, which has been my plan all along.

I forgot to mention that I redeemed our Discover Rewards and had them deposited in our bank account this week. A whopping $3.37. I seem to earn the least amount of rewards from this card. We don't use it much, so I think I'm going to close it in my desire to keep things a bit simpler.

We are going to a matinee movie today. We are going to see Moana, which our daughter is interested in. We will pay $6 per person for admission. Afterwards we may stop for a quick dinner as our celebration of the first semester ending. It may just be Subway. I do have coupons there that expire tomorrow.

Tomorrow we will probably have fried rice for dinner. With tofu, which I have not made in years. Any advice for using it with fried rice? Do I just drain, cube it and add in?

Used The Rice

January 28th, 2017 at 03:18 am

I used up the arborio rice this evening when I made mushroom risotto. I also used up the white cooking wine. Bonus!

I stopped at Walmart, after finally dropping off library books, and picked up the fresh parmesan cheese for the risotto. That was my only spending today. My husband picked up his usual Friday alcohol, although he did buy one less bottle. So that helped save another $10.

It's not particularly frugal but we may go out to dinner tomorrow night. Our daughter finished her first semester of her junior year this week, and it feels like our first free weekend where she has zero homework. We want to get out and celebrate!! I'm guessing she will chose something simple so it won't get too out of hand with the spending.

Payday is on Wednesday. We have $254. I'd be thrilled with at least half of that to apply towards tuition due February 12.

$20 Snowflake

January 26th, 2017 at 10:41 pm

I was surprised today to see a $20 credit on our credit card from Ooma. I thought I was going to get that last month, but when I didn't see it I figured the referral didn't pan out. But it did! That snowflake is going towards tuition.

I spent $6 on a soda, two avocados and chicken broth. I was going to make a mushroom risotto tonight, until I realized I didn't buy the parmesan cheese for it! To avoid another trip to the store today, I decided to just make fish and stuffed portobello mushrooms for dinner. And of course, we still have a lot of salad to eat as well.

I did some more sewing today, just because it made me happy. I'm focusing on feeling good rather than feeling bad. Part of that means doing things I like and avoiding the news and Facebook that make me feel bad. I've seen far too many people thinking their point of view is the only way to think, which leads me to see them as uncaring and unkind. That isn't how I want to think!! So avoidance is best at this point. I think all people have the ability to be kind, compassionate, forgiving, accepting and patient. And I'm going to focus on that as much as I can in the coming weeks and months.

Rising Stock Market Plus More

January 26th, 2017 at 12:40 am

The stock market is up today! The Dow Jones Industrial Average even closed above 20K points for the first time ever. I checked out retirement accounts and today alone our balances rose $3,318! And we are up $12,981 since the beginning of January.

I am able to see my husband's LES (pay stub) for next week's pay. The change for withholding was made, but they don't seem to be showing the 1% increase to his TSP. This means his check was slightly inflated. It shows online that the payment is processing, so I guess I didn't meet the deadline to make that change for this month. Oh well, it will all work out.

I input my husband's net pay into YNAB. I figured out that I can add at least $815 from that check to apply towards tuition. I may pay our high electric bill AFTER the 15th of February, so I can apply the cash I set aside for it to tuition. Again, I'm trying to avoid taking any cash from savings, so it really is about cash flow and adjusting when I make some payments.

I spent $7.32 today on two things at Walmart and postage to mail two packages. I'm watching my fuel tank to see if I can't wait until Tuesday to fill up. That may be pushing it, but I will try.

Dinner was breakfast foods. I made pancakes for our daughter and I. My husband came home later than usual, so he made himself some eggs. Tomorrow we will finally use up the arborio rice when I make a mushroom risotto.

Soup, Sewing & Southwest

January 25th, 2017 at 02:30 am

I ate soup two times today. That one is now gone. I have two other kinds in the freezer, which we will likely eat later this week. It feels like we are doing pretty good with the food overall.

I did my sewing today. I made two keychains and four little tissue covers. I put links to the instructions I used, if you are interested. I've made the key chains before. The tissue covers were new for me to sew, but they are super easy!

I heard from Southwest Airlines that they will refund the Early Bird fee I paid. This was for a flight that they cancelled when my daughter was trying to get back to school. That is $15 back in my pocket. I also read that Southwest Rapids Rewards program is changing a policy about transferring hotel loyalty rewards to their program AND allowing it to count for the Companion Pass. They have extended the grace period so they can count until March 31, 2017. We have started using our Southwest card again and are hoping to rack up enough qualifying points to make this possible. We have Marriott Rewards that could make this happen much easier. Now that I know the deadline, I may consider moving some of the rewards to help make this happen. Here is the post on Southwest's website.

I was tempted to run out for a couple things today, but decided they could wait. I will need to go to the post office tomorrow or Thursday to mail the gifts. I will pick up those few items at that time, thus saving some gas and time!

Although, I'm remembering I did spend some money today. I ordered an item for my daughter for her birthday in March. She gave the hint last week, and the item could run out...maybe. I decided since I had money in the birthday account to just get it done!

I also opened up a Youth Checking account for our youngest daughter today. I had to put in a $25 minimum deposit. I figure my daughter can write me a check to pay me back as a good way to start understanding check writing. I think she probably already knows, just hasn't actually done it herself.


Soup from the Freezer

January 24th, 2017 at 02:46 am

I thawed soup from the freezer for dinner tonight. I may have thawed a bit too much, but I will eat it for lunch the next few days. Tomorrow night we will have pasta with salad. Actually, I might have soup with salad, and just make the pasta for DH and my daughter.

My sister and mother's birthday's are fast approaching. My sister and I have an agreement not to exchange these last couple years. However, I'm thinking I may sew them each something. I noticed one of the lanyards I made for my sister was looking quite worn last time I saw her. I feel pretty confident I have fabric on hand that will work. Cost will simply be mailing the package, less than $3 each is my guess.

I sold some Box Tops on eBay! My net profit is $11.37. Actually a bit less, since I did put a stamp on the envelope. I'm also redeeming 300 points with Pinecone. That $3 should arrive in my PayPal account tomorrow. And finally, I have enough SB to redeem for a $5 Amazon gift card. I may just keep accumulating and go for a $25 Paypal cash, it depends if I find something on Amazon I need. Smile

Our tax returns were accepted. I'm going to log in tomorrow to see if the IRS indicates a date to except our refund. I know the site currently indicates 21 days or less.



Taxes Filed & More

January 23rd, 2017 at 03:25 am

I went ahead and filed our taxes. All of our tax forms arrived. We take the standard deduction, since we no longer own a home. This was probably one of the easiest tax filing years ever, honestly. We are getting a $1497 refund. All of which will go towards the tuition bill due February 12. And as I said in my last post, I did adjust withholding to avoid the big refund next year.

We went grocery shopping today. I honestly didn't use any coupons at the commissary, however I spent $102, which did include several wants. Overall, this is a very decent grocery bill for us. I did inquire about the items that we paid for last week, but were left behind. I had my receipt and they had recorded the items I left. I was simply told to go get the items and they would sack them up. It was almost too simple! At least $10+ worth of stuff was not lost.

The week after next my husband will be gone for about four or five days. I'm going to consider skipping my regular grocery shop and see if I can't get my daughter and I through that week without buying much at all. If I can do that I just might be able to save the $83 left in the grocery budget.

My husband was going to get a haircut today as he primarily needed his neck trimmed. He did mention that we should buy a new trimmer as we have been without one for awhile. He even pointed out the trimmer might cost the same amount as one haircut! Well, the one we bought was $24, and his haircut is usually $13. So one more trim and we will have made the purchase worthwhile. We also talked about cutting his hair at home. We did try that at one time, and I now can't remember why we didn't keep it up!

We have $323 left in our Everyday Expenses category for the rest of the month, just nine days. I feel pretty good that we can keep more than half, maybe even $200 of this money to send in towards tuition.

We were notified by my daughter's flute teacher that she needs to take the next four weeks off from teaching as she has a gig at the community playhouse. We do have the option of another teacher, but my daughter who has been packing in two AP courses in one semester (finals are this week, exam in May) just would like a break. This is going to save me $100! More money I can apply to tuition!!


Decision on Retirement

January 22nd, 2017 at 02:58 pm

I was considering changing our retirement vehicle from the Roth IRAs to Traditional to save on taxes. I was definitely procrastinating this decision and the calculations. My husband was agreeable either way. I finally realized it was a bit silly to invest in the Traditional considering we are in the 15% tax bracket. If we were to switch to Traditional we would save that money now, but it isn't that we would invest that savings, we would likely put it towards tuition or other college costs. I finally decided that the growth that would occur on the money invested in Traditional accounts would mean more taxes later. The Roth IRA is actually a really good deal!

I also decided to increase my husbands TSP to 11% of his basic pay. It had been 10% prior. This means an additional $992 saved for retirement. His raise was 2.1% so we put almost half away for later. Smile

I mentioned in my last post that we are expecting nearly a $1500 refund. This means we effectively had too much withheld from my husbands paycheck. That is money we could have had in our hands all year long. I am pretty sure I planned it this way so that money could be put towards tuition this February. I'm not going to need to do that for 2017. I have changed our withholding from 8 to 9. Increasing the withholding number lowers the amount withheld from each paycheck. For us the change amounts to $90.99.

With these changes, my husbands paycheck will actually increase by about $50 a pay period or $100 a month. I think I need to put this extra in a specific budget category. Tuition seems like a good place! Or vacation. Smile

Taxes, Tuition & More

January 21st, 2017 at 02:49 pm

I was looking for our interest statement on Navy Federal Credit Union's website yesterday. I couldn't find it, or last years. Turns out they mail it to you, and it arrived in our mailbox yesterday afternoon. My husband's W2 was also available on the MyPay website, so that meant I could start working on our taxes! I am still waiting for one more interest form, but I do know the amount. It looks like we will get a $1497 refund. We couldn't quite claim the full American Opportunity tax credit, but we were very close, having spent $3813 in qualified expenses out of pocket in 2016. I do prefer to have a smaller refund, but I think I deliberately did this last year, knowing the refund could be used towards tuition in February.

Tuition and housing bill was forwarded to me by my daughter last night. The total is $10,426, which includes $4662 for room and board. The rest is tuition, fees and books after her scholarship of $7250. She is taking 17 credit hours this semester, so that inflates the bill a bit. And remember she is an non resident student. I'll write more about tuition and paying the bill in another post.

Yesterday, I bought a few groceries and some junk food. I spent about $15 on six items. Three will be used for meals, but we also bought ice cream, cookies and a diet coke! Ugh. That isn't frugal in the least, and definitely not healthy. And it was all my idea to stop because I suggested ice cream to my daughter.

We are going to the matinee of Hidden Figures today. The admission will be $16.50 for the three of us. I expect my husband will get something at the concession stand. I have $40 allocated in our entertainment budget, anything we don't spend I'm putting towards that tuition bill! Every dollar counts.

Tonight we will have fried rice for dinner. I have peas to add, since I bought those for the tuna casserole I made a couple nights ago. Today we will probably just have leftover pizza, pasta and salad for lunch. There is a lot of salad to use up!

I might write more about this later, but there was discussion of annual credit card spending on the forums. Our annual credit card spending for 2016 was $49,384. I'm not sure I have ever looked at the annual amount before. I'm not sure if that is good or bad. It's good as it is less than half of our gross income. And we didn't pay any interest to use those cards for spending. I'm guessing it is slightly inflated, because it includes my daughter's Europe trip.

Have you started your taxes? Do you know what your annual credit card spending is? What are you having for dinner?

More Food Used Up

January 20th, 2017 at 01:13 am

I made tuna casserole tonight. We haven't had that in years! It came up recently when we had a friend over and my husband seemed very interested in having it after it was mentioned. I did have those two cans of tuna to use up so I bought the other ingredients to make it. Of course, now I have extra noodles and peas!

My husband made a lot of salad this week, and I haven't been eating as much of it as I should as I've been eating other leftovers. I'm starting to realize we buy more food than we can eat. I think he is starting to notice it too. I'm going to try to have a leftover night once or twice a week. And we do freeze extras with some frequency so that does help avoid food waste.

My daughter and I got our hairs cut today. Smile Cost was $30 with tip at Great Clips. I think I got mine last cut in November, but I sometimes go much longer. My daughter has a very short cut, so I'm taking her once a month now! A big change compared to getting her long hair cut two or three times a year.

A check for $26.40 arrived at our home today. It was from the overage charged by the oral surgeon when my daughter had her wisdom teeth removed. The check is payable to her! I paid, but I suppose since she is 19 they figured it was hers? I decided I would just send it to her though and she can keep it. She's a college student...probably can use the cash!



Alternative Landline Ooma & More

January 18th, 2017 at 07:42 pm

We love our Ooma and still like have the convenience of a landline at our house. Our cell service here has a lot to be desired. I get one or two bars and get more dropped calls then I would prefer! If you are interested the Ooma telo unit is on sale until the end of January and ships free. Our monthly fee of required Federal taxes is $4.83 a month. It does vary by location. I do get a referral credit if you sign up! So thank you in advance.

In other news, I started the transfer of $15K from one bank to the other. The money is going into that 2% CD that I opened yesterday with NFCU. It takes awhile to move...right now the estimated arrival is Monday!

I am in the process of switching some of our regular bills, such as the Ooma taxes, Netflix, cable, and our electric fee to the Southwest credit card. I want to consolidate as much of our spending as possible to one card to rack up the points. I need to try to remember tonight to tell the flute studio that I want to change my automatic payment with them, too.

I spent a little time this morning, get the the exact number than I can claim for tuitions, fees and related course materials. I thought I came up with a little over $4K earlier this month, but my numbers didn't make any sense to me! I redid them and came up with $3,813. I may have counted something twice.

I'm procrastinating working on the withholding and what I want to do about IRA vs Roth investing. Maybe tomorrow.

Opened New CD

January 17th, 2017 at 02:41 pm

I opened a new CD at Navy Federal Credit Union this morning. Its been on my list for a week. I only put $75 in it to begin with as that is what was already in my savings account there. We have over $20K at another institution that I would like to transfer and add to the certificate. The maximum amount for this CD (at 2% for 17 months is $50K), so I can add the full amount and it can be added at anytime. So I at least took the first step!

I have only one tax statement thus far. It the 1098-T that universities send out showing qualified expenses they billed and the scholarships and grants provided. My husband's W2 should be available on Saturday. I will need to check the banks to see if they have 1099 INT (interest statement) forms available yet. Our taxes are pretty straight forward most years. I do want to get our return done as soon as possible to get that refund money in our account.

Another reason I want to complete our tax return is to do more planning for 2017. I'm still undecided about changing our retirement from Roth IRAs to Traditional (or TSP). I even went so far as to skip our contributions in January and make them up during the rest of the year, so that I can have more time to figure out what I want to do. This might mean I can use that $916 that I set aside on payday and put that towards tuition. This will mean we each need to contribute $500 a month for 11 months to meet the maximum contribution for the year.

In credit card news, I'm considering cancelling our Chase Freedom account (although I think my longest open account) and Discover. We still just have too many. I rarely take advantage of the 5% categories (although did use Discover at Christmas for all Amazon purchases). I think because of all the airline travel we are planning to do in the next few years, we would be better off putting a majority of our purchases on our Southwest Card, rather than accumulating cash in little bits over several cards. Trust me I know they add up, but I think the airline miles would be more advantageous to us. I'll let you know when I actually make a decision.

Electric Bill and Van Repair

January 16th, 2017 at 05:20 pm

Our electric bill for last month showed up in my inbox last week. I was scared to look. The temperatures were much lower than normal for this time of year and the heat was running a lot. And yes, I did have Christmas lights on a few hours each night. Total bill is $315!! Last year it was $183. The highest in the last year was March at $257, with July in a close second at $253. I know we could reduce the heat, but it is very hard to get my husband on board with that in the winter as he gets cold very easy.

Today the van was in to look at the air conditioning again. They didn't find a leak, but found the relay was sticking. This was my theory of the problem last time it was in, but they said it was fine. It has been replaced for just under $79.

I leftover tacos for lunch. Tonight I will use the bone broth and the white kidney beans and chicken to make a White Chicken Chili. It's so yummy!

Still Eating It Up

January 15th, 2017 at 11:52 pm

Before we went grocery shopping today, I checked on our items we need to use up. We actually made very good progress last week. I will incorporate a lot of the items we still need to use up, including the rice, sour cream, the white kidney beans, 2 cans of tuna, and the Wasa crackers.

Our grocery trip included cat food for the rest of the month, paper towels, lotion, dish soap, toothpaste, bar soap, coffee, and generic Swiffer cloths. Our total was $168.87. The food total was $126.79. The food total is more than I would have liked, but we did include more meat this week. We really did use up a lot of things last week.

Unfortunately, we came home and realized we paid for several things that didn't get bagged and put into our cart! We didn't bring home the two boxes of generic Swiffer cloths, taco shells, cereal, and a bag of tortilla chips. This is nearly $12 worth of stuff!! The commissary is a bit of a trip (30 minutes or more), so I don't really want to make a special trip to complain. My husband will be on post on Tuesday, but I'm not sure he wants to deal with getting $12 back. Just frustrating!



We Ate Subway

January 14th, 2017 at 08:44 pm

We were out of town this morning. Our event ended around noon and we were hungry. The three of us stopped at Subway before we headed home. We spent $20.65. This is where our habits and lack of planning cost us money. I'm not really upset about it. If I were being truly frugal we would have prepared a lunch at home and brought it with us.

I have updated YNAB with payday funds. We had about $111 that we didn't spend during the first half of the month. I put that in the college tuition and housing bucket. After allocating for regular investments, bills and spending categories, I had almost another $1700 from our current paycheck to put towards tuition. I now have $2935 set aside. I need about $4K total, so I'm still short. I think I can get pretty close on my husband's next paycheck. And since we do have cash, I can actually pay it and then repay ourselves once we do have funds.

Tonight for dinner, we are having fried rice with some of that chicken I made earlier in the week. We have some salad to finish as well. I need to make my meal plan for next week so we can get our grocery shopping done tomorrow! I hope to incorporate some more rice and some soups into our plan.

And Now It's 70+ Degrees

January 13th, 2017 at 08:01 pm

Heatwave! It's over 70 degrees here this afternoon. My husband is off work today for the holiday weekend. He decided it was time to wash the van (he did the truck two days ago). On his outing to do this (and spend $20!!!) he realized the air conditioning was not cooling. We now have an appointment on Monday. It has been in sometime in the last few months for this problem and one of the things they did was add a dye so that if it did stop working again it would help them find the leak. So fingers crossed this isn't too big of an expense!

We did talk about going to a movie today, but in the end we skipped it. I'm kind of glad since he wanted to spend the money washing the van. We don't wash our cars that often now that we are not in an area putting salt down on roadways too often. My husband does want to protect them so they last us a long time. A small investment, although he really could do this in the driveway! I pick my battles.

Despite the long weekend, so far my husband has avoided picking up alcohol. I mentioned I didn't want to drink much, if any this weekend, so that may be a factor. We do have my daughter's friend over this evening, and I need to be the driver to get her home. We might save a little money if we can avoid drinking most of the nights this weekend.

I pulled some more food out of our storm supplies. Non perishables that I will want replenished this summer anyway. I wanted a couple snacks for the girls if needed. I think this friend may be in one of those homes that is considered food insecure. Frown I want her to fill up while she is here if she wants to. It is a long weekend away from school.

And I made a mistake with some of my daughter's books. I sent them to ME, rather than her!! They arrived this afternoon. Luckily she is not in need of them right away. I probably could have reordered and then returned the ones that arrived here, but instead I ran to the post office and got them sent off Priority Mail. That cost me $13.45. An oops expenditure!

I'm just 70 Swagbucks away from getting a $15 Amazon gift card. Once it arrives I'm going to order my daughter's allergy medicine. She takes Zyrtec nearly daily, so we stock up once a year. The cost is just $15.99.

I finished the chicken salad I made yesterday. I had it as a sandwich. We are definitely going to need to get to the store soon. Our stash of food is dwindling. There are still things that need to be used up, but we need other things to go with them. I will be sure to incorporate many of them into my meal planning for next week!

Spring Cleaning

January 12th, 2017 at 06:25 pm

It feels like spring here in the Southeast. It was nearly 60 degrees this morning. That made getting my walk with my neighbor in very nice! I've already been doing some deep spring like cleaning; I can actually open the windows today while I'm doing it. I've been very behind in dusting.

I ate my black bean salad for breakfast with half an apple (the other half was rotten). I decided to make chicken salad, rather than tuna salad for my sandwich at lunch today. The chicken will need to be used, and the tuna can wait for later! Oh, and I ate the leftover tomato soup from the freezer with the sandwich.

My daughter is having a friend over tomorrow night. This friend is moving away in a couple weeks and her birthday is today. I think we will make homemade pizza. I only need more pepperoni and that is far cheaper than picking up pizza for take out. We also may make a cake or cupcakes. I may go the box mix route on that, as I think I've only made cake from scratch once. I don't want to ruin this girls cake! The cost is minimal anyway.

I have ANOTHER book to buy my daughter! I really think this is the final one. This one was $64, luckily she didn't need this until Monday so with Amazon Prime it should arrive on Saturday.

I need to do financial upkeep this weekend. Primarily, I need to figure our new withholding and how we really are going to do our retirement investment this year (instead of Roth's we may go Traditional IRA route or add more to my husband's TSP). And I also need to decide on that 2% CD with Navy Federal Credit Union. I think I only have until Tuesday to decide!

More Books!

January 12th, 2017 at 01:01 am

My daughter emailed that she needed me to order more books from Amazon. I know I thought of doing this while she was home, but she has had good luck with the book store and their rental prices. That has not been the case this semester. I rented one and two others had to be bought new. She will have those on Friday. Those three books cost us $71.86. Hopefully she may want to resell the ones that were not rented so we can get some of those funds back.

I went to Home Depot this evening thinking I had a gift card with a balance on it. I figured I would buy a couple cleaning products with the funds. Turns out it had nothing on it! I'm a bit perplexed that I would keep it if it had no funds left on it. In the end about $8 for the cleaning supplies. I'm kind of in a spring cleaning mode this week here at home!

I'm making bone broth for the first time with that chicken I roasted yesterday. It's going to simmer a full 24 hours or maybe a little more. I look forward to tasting it tomorrow. I used up some carrots, celery and onion to get that started.

I ate the last of the barley for breakfast. Forgot that I was going to add the strawberries though. For lunch I ate the Boca burger with a salad. I used a little feta cheese on the salad, and used more of that in a black bean salad for dinner tonight, which also used up the can of black beans and part of the red onion.

Tomorrow, I will probably eat the black beans for breakfast. They are even better the second day! Then for lunch I will have tuna salad (with red onion) sandwich with the tomato soup from the freezer. In the evening we will have chicken, couscous and possibly more salad! I'm going to cube or shred the remaining chicken for soup or tacos and freeze it. (Did I say that in my last post? If so, I guess I went for simpler tonight since my daughter had a flute lesson!)

I received an email from NFCU that there is a 17 month certificate paying 2%, up to $50K. I'm tempted to put some more in, but I'm starting to have a lot of our cash in CDs and I don't really want to tie it up, although I don't know when we would need it during that time period. We have a least 17 months before another move.

Roasted the Chicken

January 11th, 2017 at 12:48 am

We haven't spent much in the last couple days. My husband filled up with gas, but needed to after a 3 hour car round trip in the car to take our daughter to the airport last night. She made it back to school, only missed one day of classes. The first day...which she definitely wasn't thrilled with! Oh, and he also spent $8 to buy her dinner before she flew out.

I ordered one of her books online from Amazon today. The bookstore was completely out. She's renting it. I had credits with Amazon to cover the whole thing, so no out of pocket costs on that one.

I roasted the whole chicken I had in my freezer tonight. I put it in late this afternoon, with no expectation to have it for dinner. We will have the breast meat for dinner tomorrow night. Then I will cut the remaining up and portion it to freeze for other meals. I think I have a plan for a couple meals to use it with but I'm not remembering those at the moment! Oh, I am going to make bone broth with the bones tomorrow, that will use up the celery.

I have cooked all the remaining barley. Most of it was used in the mushroom barley soup I made for dinner tonight. We now have two servings of that soup left. I used some of the barley to eat for breakfast. I ate one portion this morning with cinnamon and a little sugar. Tomorrow I will eat it with some frozen strawberries (that I will thaw). I finished the romaine lettuce, the frozen banana and frozen blueberries today at lunch when I made a smoothie. I added chia seeds to that smoothie also. Last night we finished the fettuccini noodles and my husband ate more of the turkey bacon.

This pantry stuff is harder than it looks! I feel like in some cases I use something up, but then have leftovers which I then need to incorporate into a meal for someone...and often that is me. I definitely don't need to buy anything for my own lunches for awhile. There is plenty here!

I do expect a small grocery run in the next day or so. We should have bought tortillas, and I remembered we didn't get the fish I wanted (to have with rice) because the commissary had not yet restocked when we were there Sunday morning. They had been closed on Saturday due to weather, so not everything was put out.

I feel pretty good about how we are using up this food that I bought and should have made a plan for! The whole chicken was going to be for Christmas, but with Riley (our cat) ill and dying, I just didn't have the energy to do it. (We had to put her down on December 27th, so the days prior were tough).

Amex Offer & StepBet

January 9th, 2017 at 04:07 pm

I paid our cable bill with my husbands American Express card last night. This charge still qualifies under the 10% back on satellite and cable bills that expires at the end of January. The maximum credit is $30 and our other bills have qualified us for $28.95 of that $30. So this bill will get $1.05 credit. I plan to use $25 in rewards towards the bill as well, so our final bill this month will be $55.03. If you remember we turned in a cable box and exchanged it for a digital adapter a couple weeks ago, that is saving us $10 a month now. We did get a $5-6 credit for turning it in mid billing cycle.

I'm debating about doing a StepBet. I know I could win. I have a treadmill, and I go on regular walks with my neighbor. The bet is $40. For those of you who have done these in the past, what have some of your payouts looked like? Is it a good return? I may do another 4 week DietBet, if I don't do the StepBet.

In pantry news, I've finished the english muffins, and the clementines. I plan to have a green smoothie for lunch to use up the romaine, frozen fruit and some of the chia seeds.

Commissary Run

January 8th, 2017 at 06:43 pm

We were snowed in yesterday, after a miniature ice storm hit the area. I think we could have been out, but they way these southerners drive during bad weather makes you want to stay in! The weather did cause my daughters flight schedule for today to be cancelled. Apparently the airline can't get the gate area clear enough! So she will miss the first day of classes and arrive back to the dorm late on Sunday night.

The commissary was closed yesterday and our normal shopping day is Sunday. I expected to see shelves that weren't stocked. I was partially correct. The bread was stocked, but the chicken (which I didn't need) and the lettuce were not stocked at all. Very bare shelves in those areas.

I'm making a point to use up what we have in our pantry, freezer and fridge. I'm about to take out the whole chicken for thawing, which I hope to use in several meals later in the week. I have eaten the last clementine orange. I ate another english muffin, and used up last week's salad with the balsamic dressing. Tonight we are having BLT sandwiches to use the turkey bacon, and some of the romaine lettuce. I also had two tomatoes to use that I don't think made it on the original list.

Our total bill at the commissary was $100.66. We did buy some cat food, laundry detergent, dishwasher detergent, contact lens solution, and vitamin C packets. The actually food portion was $66.76!

I told my husband I was making a point of using some things up, but he surprised me and didn't get asparagus for his salad, chips, crackers or tortillas which always seem to end up in the cart! I think we both know we have been overeating. If we don't buy the junk we won't eat it.

After recording the grocery spending in YNAB, we still have $125 left! We may need a couple things before the 15th when we shop again, but I expect we may be able to put those extra funds towards tuition.

Eat It All

January 8th, 2017 at 12:26 am

Checking in this evening to give an update on my progress of eating it all, the food stores we have in our home. I've crossed off what I ate so far. And I actually ate a piece of leftover homemade pizza from last nights dinner, as well as some salad my husband didn't eat earlier in the week. I made fresh soup tonight for dinner. I'm going to freeze the leftovers for later in the month.

Freezer Finds
1 frozen banana
3 2/3 cup frozen strawberry servings
2 1 cup frozen blueberries
frozen tomato soup
1 boca burger
1 microwavable meal
1.5 pounds chicken breast
1 whole chicken

Refrigerator Finds
2 opened jars of salsa
8oz sour cream
balsamic dressing (used half of remaining amount)
celery
romaine
kale
1 c. refried beans (ate this in full)
feta cheese (whole package)
3 clementines (ate 2)
1.25 packages turkey bacon (husband ate the 1/4 package)

Pantry Finds
3 English muffins (ate one)
chia seeds
barley (2 servings)
2 c brown rice
2 c white rice
1 c. lentils
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can chunky soup
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg couscous
taco seasoning
1 c arborio rice
12 Wasa crackers (ate 2)
2 cans tuna
spaghetti 1 serving
fettuccini 2 servings

I plan to eat the english muffins or fruit for breakfast. I may also make some green smoothies with the extra romaine lettuce and chia seeds. I can eat the boca burger, tomato soup, and tuna for lunches along with some fresh salad to use up that dressing. My grocery list is much smaller for this upcoming week as I plan to incorporate the chicken, rice, beans, couscous, and the pasta into many meals for the upcoming week.

Do you have anything in your refrigerator that you need to eat up before the food goes to waste?

Snowflake Towards Tuition

January 7th, 2017 at 03:49 pm

I redeemed $62 from our USAA Rewards card yesterday. That snowflake of cash is now sitting in our checking account and has been budgeted for the upcoming tuition expense. I was able to put away $740 in January for tuition. So far this month I have saved $532. I'm definitely behind where I would like to be considering I would like to have $4000 by the tuition due date of February 12.

I raided the birthday fund and came up with $150. I think this was actually birthday money my husband and I received for our birthday's from my parents. Yet, tuition is more important than buying ourselves more stuff!

I evaluated the escrow fund we have for auto insurance, renters insurance, and vehicle registration. I was hoping we had excess there, but that was not the case. I guess I'm pretty good at setting it up correctly!

I may be able to find some things to sell, but I'm not very optimistic they will be big money makers or sell fast. But the little amounts do add up, so I will try.

The second half of the month is usually the most fruitful time for saving. We have fewer bills and expenses. In fact, I may delay our retirement investments one month just to make this all work without dipping into savings. I'm also considering using just a little more of her Educational Savings Account. But that has yet to be determined.

Food in My Pantry

January 6th, 2017 at 06:37 pm

I'm not officially doing the Uber Frugal Challenge for the month of January, but I am following along with the Frugalwoods blog posts about it, as well as all of you here participating.

My daughter is still home from college. (Hopefully, we can get her on her plane Sunday morning. Praying the winter storm coming through the southeast doesn't mess with the roads or the airport runway.) We are enjoying a few lunches out and buying some things she needs while she is home, thus not a particularly frugal time.

I decided to look in our cupboards, freezer and refrigerator today and see what we have that I need to make a point to use. It's more than I expected and will help make some meals for next week.


Freezer Finds
1 frozen banana
3 2/3 cup frozen strawberry servings
2 1 cup frozen blueberries
frozen tomato soup
1 boca burger
1 microwavable meal
1.5 pounds chicken breast
1 whole chicken

Refrigerator Finds
2 opened jars of salsa
8oz sour cream
1/2 balsamic dressing
celery
romaine
kale
1 c. refried beans
feta cheese (whole package)
3 clementines
1.25 packages turkey bacon

Pantry Finds
3 English muffins
chia seeds
barley (2 servings)
2 c brown rice
2 c white rice
1 c. lentils
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can chunky soup
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg couscous
taco seasoning
1 c arborio rice
12 Wasa crackers
2 cans tuna
spaghetti 1 serving
fettuccini 2 servings

I have more in our cupboards, fridge and freezer than I listed, but these are things that are most perishable or that we haven't been making a point to use.

I'm going to start thawing the chicken this weekend and cook that next week, so I hope to use it with some of the ingredients above. I'm also going to make bone broth from the bones which will give me a chance to use up the celery!

I still expect to shop after the storm on Sunday or Monday, but I'm sure we will be well fed without running out to stock up for the storm! I even have snacks in our hurricane preparation kit I can pull out if needed.

Have you reviewed your food stores recently? Did you find much?

Rental Check Experiment

January 6th, 2017 at 12:23 pm

I mentioned a couple months ago that our landlord failed to cash our October rent check. That check was received as I have a text from one of the owners confirming it. It was the first check I sent them through bill pay, rather than writing my own check. She was kind of enough to confirm that it was received as I notified her of the change in advance.

The owners have now cashed November, December and January checks. January was cashed yesterday. December wasn't cashed until the 15th of December. I think November was cashed early in the month. However, October still has not been cashed!

Our rent is $1800. I sure don't mind the extra funds. And I still don't think it is my responsibility to notify them. We saw one of the owners on New Years Day as he was in town and wanted to take pictures of the yard (a whole other issue they have failed to properly address this year). There was no mention of the issue and he had no comments on the home and our care of it.

I'm considering this an experiment now. How long do people really go without cashing checks? I cash them within a day or two of receiving, so I find it quite interesting. And the experiment could land me $1800 in our pocket.

Oh, and I'm not spending that $1800 until we are free and clear out of this home. It is still technically their money. We do owe it and if they bring it to our attention I will have no problem paying it. I just find it amazing that you wouldn't notice that you didn't deposit a rent check!

Helpful Links

January 6th, 2017 at 03:40 am

I've been crunching numbers to prepare for 2017 taxes. Yes, now at the beginning of the year. Part of the reason is to not have a big refund if possible. I want the money in my pocket now!

One site I use to calculate how different withholding amounts affect net pay is PayCheckCity.Pick salary or hourly as appropriate.

And the IRS calculator may be helpful also to figure how much you should be claiming for withholding in the first place. It can be found here.

Just sharing in hopes that it helps someone. I've always done our taxes (well a couple years early in our marriage my father in law did them, but he passed away in 2002). I found it helpful to understand how they work. The more you know, the less scary it is. Smile

Qualified College Expenses

January 5th, 2017 at 12:35 pm

I've been crunching numbers.

I plan to claim the American Opportunity Tax credit on our taxes this year. We can claim qualified expenses. Those include tuition, fees, and required course materials, such as books, supplies and equipment. I think I'm also going to claim the money my daughter paid piano accompanists. It was required for the grade to perform with one.

The maximum we can claim is $4000, which as it turns out is just about what we paid. My number crunching came up with $4,102!

Now we did pay more out of pocket for unqualified expenses such as room and board. We just can't claim those. But I have used my daughter's Educational Savings account for most of that expense in 2016. By being able to claim the full $4000 in qualified expenses, we actually get a $2,500 benefit on our taxes.

My current estimate is that we will receive a tax refund of $1500 this season. I don't need too many tax forms to file this year, so I hope to file at the very beginning of February, so that I might have that money to pay tuition on February 12. I can cover it if the refund doesn't arrive prior to that.

I remembered that next year when I file for 2017 we can no longer claim a child tax credit for our youngest daughter. She turns 17 in 2017. The child tax credit is only for those children ages 16 or younger at the end of the tax year.


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