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Archive for April, 2017

Saving $6 A Month

April 26th, 2017 at 10:44 am

Yesterday, I was made aware that our dental premium has gone down effective for May and taken out of April pay. The actual change was a lower premium by $5.81 per month.

We currently have $125 from my husband's paycheck going to a savings account. I added $6 to make the new amount $131. This change adds up to $72 more saved per year.

It may seem silly to add another $6 to savings, but I do know these kinds of changes add up. If I didn't capture it for savings now, I would expect it would get lost in the chaos of making purchases. (Although we don't really spend chaotically!)

I'm considering this new savings as part of our Big Goal.

4 Months = $25K

April 25th, 2017 at 10:51 am

On January 4th of this year our retirement accounts topped $400,000 for the first time. As of yesterday, our accounts are valued at $425,768. That is a change of $25K in less than four months. Some of that change is our contributions to retirement, but the S&P 500 is up nearly 7%, so this growth is a factor as well. It sure would be nice to see this continue through the year. I do like to think the next major milestone, of $500K, could be soon!

In other news, I did get $3 from Pinecone. I also received some pending Swagbucks amounting to 1712 for a hotel I booked through the site. I currently have just under 3000 SB to redeem in early May for Amazon gift cards. And it looks like my husband has a couple things sitting in the Amazon cart...so hopefully I can score those for free.

I'm thinking next week my grocery list may be meatless. That may save a bit of money and be healthier as well. I picked up a Forks Over Knives magazine with lots of yummy looking plant based recipes. My daughter is nearly a vegetarian, so finding new things for her to try is a good motivator as well. Or maybe the motivation to be to try to save at least the cost of the magazine (which I never buy) $7.27! Ouch.

$803 Trip Spending

April 24th, 2017 at 10:21 am

For an eight day trip, we spent $803 on food, fuel, parking, and two nights in a hotel for three people. Our airfare was paid before we left. That was approximately $997 for the three of us.

We were lucky enough to have one free hotel night, as well as free accommodations and several meals with my parents. We also had the use of one of their vehicles as we traveled around two states. We did offer to get a rental car, but they were more than willing to share. We did pay for the gas and got the car washed on the last day we had it.

I entered all our receipts/transactions into YNAB this morning. The only category I needed to revise was the restaurants, but there was more in the vacation category, so I moved some of that there.

After purchasing groceries, my husband getting a haircut, fueling up our vehicles, we have about $94 left until the end of the month.

My husband offered to bring taco shells and meat to their work potluck on Friday. I had volunteered cookies for the band fundraiser this weekend. So that is known spending that will come from the $94.

We will also be looking at getting a new cell phone for our daughter this weekend. I do have $200 set aside, and can pull some other savings if it ends up costing more.

Here's hoping we can make it a low spend week!

Back From Our Trip

April 23rd, 2017 at 08:09 am

I slept in really late this morning because that spring break trip wiped me out! Lots of walking around campuses.

Our daughter is looking to study engineering, so we are looking at excellent midwest colleges for that field. All three colleges mentioned payment for internships, up to $25 an hour! Some starting the summer after freshman year. Two indicated a possible five year program to include a master's degree at the end. We are letting all the information sink in. She can't apply until August 1, so there is lots of time to talk it all through. Two would be our home of record and would be in state tuition. The other is where our older daughter is and would be out of state tuition.

It feels like we spent a lot of money while we were gone, particularly for meals at restaurants. I do remember funding the vacation, fuel and restaurant categories before we left. I paid a $200 housing deposit for our daughter while we were visiting her. I had the money set aside for that. I also bought her a tank top with the University logo, snacks and a large portfolio for storing her art. I guess I bought a tube to roll a piece of art that is 4 ft x 7 ft, too. Just those few things alone are far more than I spend in a traditional week.

We did get unpacked and have started laundry so we are prepared for the work and school week. We also need to stock our fridge for eating at home, so that means a grocery run later today. I'd really rather just sit on the couch!

A Room Upgrade

April 17th, 2017 at 07:08 pm

We are currently traveling. Visiting colleges for our younger daughter. Tonight our hotel, Marriott Residence Inn, was covered by the 'free night' we receive each year after paying the annual fee ($85) for our Marriott Rewards card.

We thought we would arrive and get a King bed with a sofa pull out. Instead we ended up with a two bedroom suite! So nice!! I just wish we were here longer to really enjoy it.

My husband had a glass of wine from the manager's evening reception. In the morning we will all have breakfast. Definitely well worth our $85.

Last night we paid $119, for a Marriott Fairfield Inn room. It was a traditional room. We did get our breakfast included. We also had a hotel stay at another Fairfield Inn just before our flight. We were up so early breakfast wasn't being served yet. We did pay about $90 for that room. We will earn Marriott reward points for both of those paid stays.

We are away about a week, and only have three nights where we have to pay for rooms. The rest of our nights we are staying with family!

Planted Our Mini Garden

April 9th, 2017 at 03:20 pm

I mentioned previously that I was going to plant some vegetables this year. I've always loved fresh vegetables in the summer. After talking to my youngest daughter, she has good memories of picking beans, and tomatoes from our garden. So we are doing it again.

My landlord put in a pretty large mulched bed with two shrubs and a small tree right before we moved in. I was so surprised as the backyard had nothing but grass when we looked at it. I was a bit irritated as I knew the bed would need weeding. But I'm now grateful the area is there, so that I can plant some things without pulling out the grass.

I did have some major weeding to do to prepare the area, but the hoe we own was very helpful in getting them pulled up! There is hardly any mulch left that the landlord put down two years ago. A neighbor is required to put down mulch based on her rental contract. That is something we are not required to do.

I planted snow peas and romaine lettuce from seed. I put the lettuce in grow bags (basically directly into a bag of garden soil, with the bag ripped open on the top). I purchased two tomato plants, a summer squash, a zucchini, and two strawberry plants. The strawberry plants are in a large metal tub. These will go on our screened in porch to keep the birds away from them. They will get plenty of sun. Everything else is planted directly in the garden bed. I made sure to plant items where they will get the most sun (to the south of each tree). I guess the peas are behind one of the trees, but I think they will get enough sun. If they don't work out this spring, I will try another crop in the fall in another spot.

The snow pea seeds were $1.89. Organic romaine lettuce seeds were $2.24. The strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash were $3.40 each. The bags of soil were $1.80 each. I did have to invest in two tomato cages for $8.60. My total investment was $36.73 plus tax ($39.30). If I can end up with produce worth more than $40 this summer I will be ahead financially. That will make the effort well worth it!

I know some of you are big gardeners. Anyone else planting anything edibles this year?

Friday Night Entertainment Spending

April 8th, 2017 at 08:00 am

We rarely go out on the town for entertainment, but we became aware last fall that a play based on a book was going to be performed this spring. Specifically, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. My daughter has read nearly all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I had considered it as a Christmas gift, but she had some other wants at the time. And in the end tickets weren't available until two weeks ago. For three of us to attend the live play we paid $55.65. Yes, this is more than a movie, but honestly, much more enjoyable to be witness to the skill that is live acting! There were only five actors, but three of them played multiple characters, so lots of costume changes...which made for some hilarious moments. There weren't any mishaps because of the costumes, but just so fun to see the actors and actresses act out different characters.

We planned to go out to dinner ahead of time. I feel our budget lucked out when my daughter picked Subway and my husband was agreeable. He usually likes to sit down and be served which I know always costs far more. I skipped the drink and chips, and they counted two of our six inch subs as a footlong, our bill came to $18.68 for the three of us.

There was an intermission. We ended up buying two bottles of water for $2 each, and leaving a $1 tip. Another five dollars spent. We were parched as it was a bit warm in the theatre.

I feel really good about our spending for this evening of entertainment. Looking back we could have easily eaten dinner at home, but sometimes just getting out of the house and enjoying a night out is worth it.

Did you have any Friday night entertainment expenses? When was the last time you saw a live play or other live entertainment?

Amazon Gift Cards from Swagbucks

April 6th, 2017 at 10:20 am

I earned enough Swagbucks in March to redeem them for $50 worth of Amazon.com gift cards. And I already used them! My purchases should arrive today. I only spent $0.97 out of pocket. I bought two different vitamins for about $25. I added on some tea for $4. And finally, I bought a set of five reusable menstrual pads for $20. I had thought about making my own, but decided I would probably have more follow through and success in the end if I bought something that had good reviews. And with Swagbucks those ended up costing me virtually nothing out of pocket.

It's kind of nice to get things I want and need to buy anyway and have the gift cards to cover them. I really should move the money to savings that I would have spent. Actually I will do that now. I will take money out of the categories these expenses come from and move it to a savings category. Okay, you can't tell that I paused to do that, but I created a BIG goal category in our budget on YNAB. I just put $50.97 in there. I also flagged the other BIG goal contributions so I can find them later. I'll update you on that amount soon.

I do go back and forth about whether the time spent on Swagbucks is worth it. I have taken breaks before and I don't regret them. But I guess for now I'm back on a roll with them. It's motivating when I see that I can buy $50 worth of stuff without any money out of pocket. I can then save that money. Or if we were still paying debt, I could put that money I would have spent without the gift cards towards debt.

If you want to try it out and you haven't joined, I'd be honored if you used my referral link. It can be a little confusing at first. Take a look at YouTube videos that will give guidance about earning as well as ask around on the Swagbucks Facebook page.

Check Arrived & More

April 5th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

The $250 check from the moving company's insurance, for major damage to our entertainment center, arrived in the mail today. That money is going to the BIG goal. I was starting to wonder about it a bit, but I think it has been only two weeks since we accepted the offer.

My daughter is giving up a brand new pair of shoes that were given to her to do an art project with. She has had over four years to actually do it, and finally decided to abandon the idea all together. So those are going to be listed on eBay. I'll probably use proceeds towards textbooks she needs this summer.

I purchased a one way ticket back home for our college daughter. Just a month away at this point. It was $183.45. I had the cash set aside. Yea!

Second Laundry Post for the Day

April 4th, 2017 at 03:39 pm

I mentioned in my post earlier today, that I have the hang of drying sheets hanging up in various places in our home. Sheets dry pretty fast, too.

Today, I needed to do a load of laundry. I decided I needed to bite the bullet and spend money on a laundry drying rack. I started the washer and went on my way to purchase one. I found a wood one at Walmart for just under $18 (although online it says $15 and I forgot I wanted to question it at the register). I did have to put it together, but it wasn't too hard, may have been harder if I had seen the instructions before I put it together! They seemed confusing. My laundry was washed at this point, so I went about hanging up some pants, shorts, under garments, socks and hand towels. I hung the shirts up on hangers and have those hanging in our bathroom. I expect that these will be mostly dry before we go to bed. I will fold them at that time.

And if I didn't point out this in another post about saving money on electricity, I'm considering the cost of the wood drying rack an investment that should pay big returns in lower electricity bills Specifically, I saved two loads of laundry from the dryer today, and the cost associated with running it. Yea!

Air Drying the Laundry Progress

April 4th, 2017 at 06:39 am

I'm still not up to hanging all laundry to dry yet, but there is progress! I have hung up our sheets with very good success. That right there is at least four less dryer loads a month! I'm very happy with that.

I have experimented with shorter dry times. I haven't quite found the sweet spot that gets items mostly dry yet. There are some things that are easy to hang like shirts and pants. It's the undergarments that are harder right now. So I end up drying it all if I'm going to be drying socks and underwear. My goal is still to get most of it on the line for the full drying time. I really need to get a drying rack. I have a great place to put it in our bedroom that will be out of the way, near a warm sunny window and near a air conditioning vent.

I think towels may be last on the list to figure out. I did have a neighbor mention that adding another spin could help get the towels even drier before putting in the dryer or on the line.

Oh, and since my daughter's do there own laundry, I will be working to convince them to line dry more items this summer as well. They both do hang their graphic t shirts up, simply to make them last longer, so they just need to hang more.

All of this is my effort to lower our electricity bill. Dryers are big gobblers of energy in a home. So this is where I'm starting. I can't wait until this summer to really see the difference!

Automatic Savings

April 3rd, 2017 at 10:43 am

Most of our savings are done automatically. This means I don't need to make a physical transfer at the bank, on the phone or even online.

I mentioned before that we are saving an additional $100 a month now as of March. This was part of my husband's raise. This money is set up to be withdrawn from his paycheck and deposited by payroll to our savings account. We already had $25 a month going previously (this deposit was required to get one of our high CD rates). We added $100, so the full amount being deposited is $125 a month. Again, all set up automatically. On an annual basis this will equate to $1500 a year in savings.

Our retirement accounts are set up automatically too. The Roth IRAs are set up with the mutual fund company to withdrawal $458.33 for each of us on the day we designated. We do have the option of stopping or skipping these each month. We did do that for one month earlier this year for cash flow reasons, as result our investment amount is now $500 each to make sure we each contribute the maximum amount to our Roth IRAs each year. That amount currently stands at $5,500 each.

My husband is also signed up for automatic investment into his work's retirement account (TSP). He is now saving 11% of his basic pay. He had been at 10%, but we increased it by 1% when he received his raise this year. His contributions are applied monthly to his retirement account automatically.

Auto savings makes things so easy! Eventually you sort of forget that you are doing it, well until you look at the balance accumulated! What do you automatically save for?

March Interest Income & Saving

April 1st, 2017 at 07:25 am

I totaled up our interest income for the month of March. It amounted to $91.85! No complaints on that money.

We just allow our interest to accumulate. We don't specifically look to spend it. I think I will start counting this towards our big goal, which I still need to start tracking!!

The big goal is money saved towards the next purchase of a home, which we currently don't expect to be for another six to seven years when my husband retires. We have about $40K currently that we could put towards a house right now, but we are renting so that isn't happening!

The goal would be to save $160,000 to add to that money for a total of $200,000. That doesn't mean the home will be that much, but if it's less than great! If it is more than that is okay, too. Right now we don't entirely know what we want long term or where we will end up (although we think somewhere in the midwest...although I do love this Southeast weather most of the time!)