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Archive for March, 2017

$3 & The Uncashed Rent Check

March 31st, 2017 at 04:50 pm

I received three dollars from Pinecone Research this week. I'm up to nearly 3700 Swagbucks, which I will likely redeem tomorrow for $40 worth of Amazon gift cards. I have some vitamins I need to buy!

Our rent check sent to our landlord in October, and that I know they received because she texted me, has gone uncashed for 180 days. They continue to cash current checks we mail them. The checks specifically state void after 180 days, since they are bill pay checks sent by our bank.

I contacted our bank asking if presented if it would be rejected. They stated yes, but also offered a free stop payment on the check as well. I'm not sure if that was needed if the first is true, but I did take them up on that offer. The stop is good for 180 days. They can put an additional stop on it after that time ends.

I'm just amazed that a landlord wouldn't realize they haven't received their rent! Yes, I could tell them, but I REALLY feel like that isn't my responsibility.

For now, that rent money is back in our budget. It will cover our rent for April and I can use our full paycheck to fill in other areas of the budget. If it comes to their awareness and they let us know, we have plenty of cash to cover it and make good on it.

Is anyone keeping tabs on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE9EWh4ocDs]April the Giraffe? I've been watching way to much waiting for her to have her baby! Smile

More Money Coming!

March 28th, 2017 at 12:12 am

My husband told me today that we will be getting about $105 from his recent travel reimbursement. This was the trip where he bought some friends dinner to the tune of $140. That meal isn't specifically being reimbursed, of course, but it will offset that expense a bit. I didn't think he was getting anything extra.

Our college daughter was home for spring break last week, so we did a little clothes shopping, went out to eat a couple times, and celebrated her birthday with cake from a bakery. And now the funds left that we budgeted through the end of the month are getting slim.

I did jump ahead in the budget a bit and bought tickets for my husband, daughter and I to see a local Sherlock Holmes play in early April. Those three tickets were $55 total. And we will be seeing Beauty and the Beast in the theater this coming weekend. This much more than we usually spend on entertainment in a short period of time. But thankful that we can afford to do so when we find something that is of interest for all of us.

I listed four CDs on eBay today in a lot. Not sure if they will sell or not. I think I may have listed them for sale in the past, but I don't have a record of it on my account any longer. So if I did it was more than two months ago. I figured I would try one more time. Smile

I've been doing pretty good at accumulating Swagbucks, but I'm going to need to spend my time getting my garden planted soon. I'm going to do zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, lettuce, snow peas, onions, cucumber and strawberries. I'm going to do the strawberries in a pot on our screened in porch to keep the birds away! I'm not real optimistic about them, but my younger daughter insists since she didn't like them when she was younger and didn't get to eat any!

Oh, I thought I'd ask those of you world travelers what you think about exchanging currency before a trip? How much of the total expected costs would you want to have in the foreign currency? 20%? 50%? The teacher leading the trip can exchange for a lower fee at her bank. We know some cash is likely a good idea. She would need pounds for the two days in London, and euros for the remaining ten or eleven days. She also has a no foreign transaction fee debit card that she will likely use as well. I think we may also add her as an authorized user on one of our credit cards, as an extra back up option.

Unexpected Offer

March 25th, 2017 at 03:41 pm

Wow! This is so unexpected. My husband was notified on Friday that we will be receiving $250 for an entertainment center that was badly damaged in our move. It had been denied in the past when we appealed the claim. We expected nothing else from it because of the denial.

He has accepted the new offer. I expect a check will be cut for this, as that is the form in which we received our original damage check. And here is the link where I last discussed this (November 2015!)

I have to say the delay on this appeal is horrendous. And just as bad as I hear about insurance billing for health reasons. Why can't these companies get their act together?

Since we were not expecting these funds my plan is to put this in the Big Goal Fund! I do need to set up a place to track these funds for easier sharing. If I don't track it, then it won't happen.

Have you ever received unexpected cash that is surprising like this? Tell me about it?

A Few Snowflakes & More

March 23rd, 2017 at 12:44 am

I sold four DVDs to our local used bookstore today for a credit of $2.65. Not super great, but it wasn't any better than I could get selling them online. And now they are out of my house!

I was looking at an off budget account I have in YNAB yesterday. When I compared it to what the bank said my records were $2.25 less than what the bank had. Turns out I had failed to record the final interest payment on CD back in October! I'm surprised it took me so long to notice.

I was paid $10 for a survey. I vaguely remember that I had to provide my email address for Paypal payment, but those never seem to work out for me, so that was a very nice surprise.

I have accumulated more Swagbucks in recent days. My current balance is just under 2400. I plan to save 2200 for April 1 when I redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card.

My husband and I have started counting our calories again, as we have both put on some winter weight. This will end up helping with the grocery bill eventually since we eat pretty well at our meals, but it's the mindless snacking that has caused us both problems.

Any recent snowflakes in your budget?

Reusable Feminine Hygiene

March 20th, 2017 at 11:27 pm

Hopefully, the title gives you a heads up what this post is about and if you aren't interested you have moved on!

I redeemed Swagbucks earlier this month for an Amazon gift card and I made that free money count by ordering a Vida Cup (a menstrual cup). It's reusable thus saving me from buying tampons each month. Mine was priced at $12.77 plus tax and free Prime shipping. Again, it was free to me since I used an earned gift card.

I think I spend about $5 a month on tampons. I also buy pantyliners in large quantity one or twice a year. I can't remember how much those are. I will estimate I spend between $65-75 a year. Not a lot, but that does add up over the many years women are menstruating.

I have used a menstrual cup in the past for many years, but something changed physically for awhile that made me abandon it a few years ago and I eventually tossed it out.

I decided to try it again knowing the more one can use reusable items rather than disposable items, the more one can save! There are other health reasons why a menstrual cup can be better than tampons. I will let you do your own research on why that is.

My next step is to make some homemade (and reusable) cotton pads. I haven't decided on which way I will make them yet. I'm still doing my research online. If I find a video or instructions that I do end up using I will try to remember to link it up here. The menstrual cup works so well, I don't expect to need very many each month.

I'm not going to go into the details of how these are used particularly because this is a financial site. However, there are many reviews on YouTube as well as forums where people discuss the details, which are very helpful to first time users. Just do a online search to get more information.

So, anyone else here want to share if they use a menstrual cup or not? Anyone think they might try one?

Chase Southwest Credit Card Offer

March 17th, 2017 at 08:21 pm

Chase is offering 50,000 points on their Southwest Rapids Rewards credit cards after spending $2,000 in the first three months. There is a $99 annual fee. Depending on the trip, you might be able to score two roundtrip tickets. Or you could redeem points for about $500 in gift cards (do this before you would close the card!)

We love Southwest for their prices, free checked bags, and open seating options. Customer service is great too! Just today in the mail I received four drink coupons for being a cardmember for two years. That's kind of nice perk, not that we would usually buy liquor on a plane trip.

If you are able to pay off your credit card charges in full each month and are interested in the Southwest card, I would be honored if you used my referral link. I will receive 5000 points.

Our smoke alarms started going off this morning. Luckily no fire and my cat and I were the only ones home. The smoke detectors are hard wired in the house, but do have battery backup. We replaced the batteries less than a year ago. I'm surprised they were going off already. It's possible there was another reason. But at any rate, I bought six new 9 volt batteries that we will install this evening. The batteries cost $18.94 plus tax. Why are 9 volts so expensive? Of course, safety for less than $20 is well worth it. And I sure don't want to be woken up by the alarms unless there is a real fire!

Electricity Experiment: Drying Sheets

March 16th, 2017 at 02:56 pm

I generally wash sheets on the first and 15th of the month (or close to it). Today is that day. And since I said I would stop using the dryer so much, I'm attempting to line dry my Queen size sheets inside our home. I want to see how much time it really takes them to dry after several minutes in the dryer. They were in there about ten minutes and really only feel slightly damp. The flat sheet is folded in half and hanging over our shower door. I will likely flip it later. The fitted sheet is draped over large chair, and the pillow cases are hanging over our wood head board. I turned on the fan in the two of the rooms where these are hanging.

I'm doing my girls twin bed sheets today, too. I think because I don't know how drying such large things will work, I'm going to use the dryer, but I'm going to put the setting for far less than usual to see if I can get them dry in less time. I should also toss in a dry bath towel as I've had luck with that helping shorten the drying time.

I do like a challenge, so we'll see how this ultimately works out over the next few months!

What Should I Plant?

March 15th, 2017 at 08:17 pm

I'm thinking of planting some vegetables this summer. I can't do a lot as I'm not going to dig up new areas of my landlord's yard. And I have just a few pots, but I'm not willing to invest in more. I'm not afraid to use a bucket with holes in the bottom either. The one area I can use is near a fence with two shrubs and one ornamental tree. The area gets shade in the morning and full sun in the afternoon and evening. I wouldn't be planting right under the tree or shrubs obviously.

I've grown tomatoes, onions, pole beans and sugar snap peas with good luck in the past. There may have been one other thing, but I can't remember right now. I'm considering zucchini and or summer squash (I know those take up a lot of space, right?).

I'm just in the beginning stages of my thinking and planning. So I'm curious what would you plant when you have limited space?

Lowering Electricity Costs

March 14th, 2017 at 06:49 pm

Our electricity bill arrived today in my inbox (do people still get these in the mail?). I'm glad to say it is down again from the month prior to $164.92.

In fact compared to last March it is down as well. That $300+ bill two months ago brought home the fact that we could do better when it comes to our electricity use.

I'm going to guess most of the electricity is from heating (except for a gas fireplace, the home is all electric). We are in another cold snap, so we'll see what the next bill looks like!

I've made an effort to make sure we are skipping the water heating for washing clothes. I also unplugged my daughter's Wii U and shut down my husband's computer. The computer was probably drawing some power since it's battery doesn't really hold a charge very well and DH generally just puts it to sleep rather than full shut down mode.

My next step is to start experimenting with drying our clothes without the dryer. I will probably use it for 5 minutes for each load to give the clothes a head start on drying. We already do hang some graphic T shirts (since the designs fade and crack in the dryer) and fleece items (since they dry fast). I figure this will be quite helpful in keeping electricity costs down, while also keeping more heat out of our home this summer.

My first plan is to avoid buying anything, but I may need to buy a drying rack. I cannot put up a clothes line per our neighborhood covenants (sometimes these rules irritate me!).

I might also look into a water heater blanket, but possibly not until fall as it will be hot here very soon. Our water heater is in our unheated garage so I can imagine that is not very efficient.

Do you use your dryer? What do you do to conserve electricity?

Big Savings Goal: More to Savings

March 13th, 2017 at 01:23 am

I mentioned my big goal idea of saving $160,000 towards a home in the next seven years to my husband for the first time yesterday. It didn't go too far in that moment. It's not that he is opposed at all. I honestly put it out there to see what he thought first. To let the idea start percolating so to speak.

He then brought it up out of the blue later in the evening. Asking where the money would come from. I said I honestly didn't know and that it probably won't all come from his income. (And he brought up again today! I think he is really pondering this goal. So excited!)

This morning I told him I was moving $100 a month from his check to our Navy Federal savings account. We already have an allotment of $25 going there. Currently his paycheck, even after raising retirement by 1% is about $100 more a month than last year. We were able to make it work on that income last year, so I don't know why we shouldn't be saving it!

In the process of making the allotment change, I was reminded that our dental insurance (for the girls and I) is changing. And the good news is the premium is lower by $5.81 a month. This doesn't start until May, but I will probably adjust the allotment again at that time to account for the difference. That will mean more to savings!

This process of working on a big savings goal feels a lot like making the effort to pay down debt, which I really liked doing! It feels very exciting even though I don't know exactly how we will get it done. But I'm going to give it as much effort as possible while still enjoying life!

Today Is My Blogoversary!!

March 12th, 2017 at 12:34 pm

I started my blog here on Savings Advice on March, 12, 2008. It's been 9 years! I'm blown away. It does feel like it's been awhile, but nine years is a long time. And then to think where we are financially, even more amazing.

I just looked up how much we had saved in retirement around that time. $84,000. About 20% of what we have today! And today we have zero debt!! I'm not sure exactly how much debt we had then. I think only our mortgage, around $160K.

I invite any of you lurking out there to start writing about your financial goals and what you are doing to accomplish them. There is a lot of power in writing goals down! And it's free to have blog here, so there sure isn't much to lose. Smile

Need a New Headlight

March 11th, 2017 at 04:36 pm

We noticed last night that we need a new headlight for my van. My husband just replaced both on his truck earlier this month. We will replace both at the same time, as we have learned they tend to wear out around the same time. I'm not sure we have ever replaced them on this van, which is 10 years old. But that seems a bit long, so I'm probably not remembering.

That will likely cost us $50 together. I guess if they really last ten years then that is a very good price.

Edited to Update: Found a pair of headlights on Amazon that were about $30 with tax (mine are different then our truck). I had about $2.33 in Amazon gift cards and will be able to claim $25 in American Express rewards, so that our out of pocket cost will be just $2.88!

Things have seemed spendy this month. I'm looking forward to payday on Wednesday!

Picking Up the Tab

March 9th, 2017 at 02:10 am

I went shopping today to use some coupons. I had $10 off a $10 purchase at JC Penney. I found a new sports bra and a tank top and paid $1.13 since both items were on clearance. I also looked at Kohl's as I had a $5 coupon, but the truth is I didn't see anything I wanted.

Our Time Warner Cable bill arrived today. It due in about two weeks. I noticed that the prices went up! It's only $3.06, but that is another $36.72 a year. I've been contemplating getting rid of our basic television plan which cost us $34 plus taxes each month. I'm not sure if our internet would then go up too. That could save us $408 a year.

My husband is out of town at a training event and was lucky enough to meet up with some great co workers from his last unit. They are all in different states now! While not obligated, as the highest ranking person, he felt like paying the tab. I don't know the full amount yet, but the credit card is showing a pending payment of $115. There were five people and I saw beer in the picture he sent me. Smile My husband has had meals paid for him many times in the past, so I know it is the right thing to do.

Summer Classes and eBay Selling

March 7th, 2017 at 06:17 pm

Scroll down two posts if you missed the post were I linked to some free debt pay off and saving charts.

My daughter signed up for two online summer school classes. Remember she's a non resident student. And her scholarship helps a lot during the fall and spring semesters, but will not be applied during the summer. In order to graduate with two majors in 4.5 years she needs to take summer classes. Those two classes will cost $3,470. I was expecting this but didn't put a lot of planning thought into it. But now I am!

She still has cash in her Educational Savings account. My current plan is to the money in that account but only for half. The other half ($1,735) I hope to cash flow. I have until June 12 to come up with those funds. Three months! This is $578.33 per month. I'm going to attempt $300 each pay period.

It is really hard to save 'extra' for my long term goal while paying tuition, but I am going to remember that we will have the GI Bill benefits starting this fall. And it covers the full tuition cost, $1000 towards books AND nearly all of the housing costs. I just figured out the housing costs and our actual out of pocket costs will amount to $2208. That is far less than we have been paying. We do have to pay the full amount upfront and then we are reimbursed monthly. Luckily we have the cash and this will work out just fine.

I added two more items to eBay this morning, and I have four more that I hope to add as soon as possible. These won't amount to a lot of cash, but each dollar counts. These items are easy to mail, too. Smile

Hollar: An Online Dollar Store?

March 6th, 2017 at 11:43 pm

Wow! Interesting thing I found out about today. There is an online store where they sell things for as low as a dollar! Now not everything is a $1, but quite a few things are. There are kids items, cleaning products, home decor, party and holiday decorations. Oh, and office supplies. And much more! It looks like the first shipment is free, and after that shipping is free if your order is at least $25. Here's my referral link (you get $2, and I get $2). I'll check back after I make my first order and let you know how it goes.

Has anyone else used Hollar?

Debt Free Charts & More

March 6th, 2017 at 11:34 pm

I came across a blog that offers free countdown type charts. There are numerous different ones. The charts look a big like a picture in some cases, say if you were saving up for a house. Smile The debt free chart is the words DEBT FREE. You fill the words from bottom to top, kind of like those thermometer charts when an organization is saving for something. Not sure if I'm explaining well at all. Check them out here. There are a couple YouTube videos on the page where you can see someone explain how they are using them.

No money spent by me today. My husband had breakfast and lunch provided for him at his training. Dinner was also provided but he was full from lunch and going to skip it. But in the same conversation he said he was going to buy some snacks. So not sure what the actual spending is.

I made a yummy rice dish with mushrooms. My daughter loved it. Very easy, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of you already make something like this. I will definitely make it again.

Today I washed the blanket our cat Riley had spent so much time on in the days before her death. I hadn't washed it yet, as our older cat, Liberty, seemed to be enjoying it since then. But it is now closer to spring and it was time to get it washed. It was kind of sad to pull the lint trap out and see if full of her fur. Frown I still so grateful for the time that she was a part of our family.

In other news, I have accumulated 1354 Swagbucks. Closer to my $15 Amazon gift card goal. But then I have found another item I may want to buy and that puts my total closer to $20. I may hold off though on that one, as it isn't a true need.

Groceries, Sales, & More

March 6th, 2017 at 02:22 am

It's just my daughter and I here at home this week. I went grocery shopping for just the two of us and spent $52. I'm very excited about that number! The truth is we just eat a bit simpler without my husband. One night we are at an event at school where we will be served pizza. I will be giving a donation to a scholarship fund with a chance to win some prizes, so not exactly free, but a good cause to donate to.

My net proceeds from selling 11 items on eBay recently came to $145.33. Not bad for stuff we aren't using! This could probably be considered the first money for my new BIG goal.

Flute lesson was cancelled last week because the teacher got ill. Luckily she was able to tell us before we made the full trip all the way over there. Turns out she won't be available to teach this coming week either, so I have a $50 credit that will be applied next month.

I'm working on getting more Swagbucks. I have an item to buy from Amazon that is just under $12, so I'm aiming for a $15 gift card. This item is reusable and will save me about $60 a year by using it. So now I'm realizing I need to see what else I could replace to save. Another option would be to eliminate something I use because it is unnecessary. I have one idea, but I need to try it for awhile to know for sure. That would probably save me $40 per year.

I did a little online research and found that we could likely move on post in Summer 2018 (assuming availability) to an 2 bedroom apartment. The cost would be $1250, and include ALL utilities, cable, internet and trash. I figured that would save us nearly $910 a month or $10,920. And actually would save us even more as my husband would be blocks from work, so could probably walk. I would be driving less without a child at home. I sure like the possibility of saving some serious cash! Not sure what my husband would think of an apartment, nor do I know that we would still be living in the area next summer.

Big Goal

March 5th, 2017 at 02:30 am

I'm starting to ponder a BIG goal. Like cash for our next home kind of big goal. I don't know exactly when we might own a home again. Possibly 5-7 years from now. In just over a year, we will no longer have children home full time. Of course, we expect them to visit! Therefore, we may be able to rent a home with less space then we currently have.

My first thought is to aim for $60,000. But the truth is I'd rather aim for $160,000. And that is a HUGE goal. Overwhelmingly huge. But the truth is if we don't aim for something, we won't get near as far.

Saving $160K in 7 years means saving $22,857 per year. As things currently stand that is not possible. We can save some of it, just not all of it. I'm starting to contemplate new streams of income or even a part time job to make that happen. I'm not sure where the money will come from but I'm looking to make that a new long term goal.

Do you have a HUGE goal that you are looking to achieve? Is it so big you don't know how it will happen?

Help for A Military Family

March 4th, 2017 at 12:55 am

No pressure at all, but I thought I would post a Go Fund Me link for a military family in need of help for medical bills. The wife of the soldier is in the hospital healing from lung cancer. We don't personally know this family, but the soldier did serve in a unit that was connected to my husband's former unit. We know soldiers who know the family well. They are very good people from what I have been told.

If you feel compelled to give back to a family that has served our country, this would be a most appreciated.

And as you can tell from reading their story, they have insurance through the military. As a reservist this insurance is a bit limited. And it does not cover experimental treatments that may be necessary.

Thank you for your consideration.

Spring Break Spending

March 2nd, 2017 at 12:29 pm

We have two spring breaks as our girl's schools are on different schedules. The first one is for my our college daughter later in March. She's lucky enough to come home and celebrate her birthday. The main spending is her airline ticket home, which was kind of pricy, but I expect that may be because I was a little late getting it purchased, and it is spring break in so many places!
My husband is taking the week off, so we hope to do some fun things while she is home.

The other spring break in April will have us traveling back to our home states to visit colleges for our younger daughter. She will be a senior next year, so it is time to start exploring options and interests. Our airline tickets for all three of us on Southwest were $997. This was a much better deal than the single ticket mentioned above. We will stay with my parents most of the nights, but will get a hotel for two nights when we are in another state. I believe we can use Marriott points. I will look into that option later today.

Our travel expenses sure have increased since we moved so far away from family! I am thankful that we are not bogged down with debt payments that would make it so much harder to make these trips happen.

Total February Interest

March 1st, 2017 at 07:51 pm

We earned $76.83 in interest on our money market accounts in the month of February. The short month! We added $25 to one of our savings accounts. This is a deposit from through payroll, so that we qualify for the higher CD rates.

As I was writing this, I was notified that Swagbucks the two gift cards I ordered just this morning are already ready for use! I haven't been using Swagbucks as much in recent months. This seems so much faster than it had been in the past. Is this the newer normal?

I will be using all $43 right away as I have several items on my Amazon account I want to purchase. I am buying engine and cabin air filters for both of our vehicles. I have a reminder on my calendar to change these out once a year. I'm also buying my a gift for my daughter's birthday later this month. I'm now done shopping for her!