I'm sure there are others reading that haven't heard of sinking funds, or know how to set them up. Hopefully, some of us veteran savers can help share how they work! Since I brought up sinking funds yesterday, I thought I'd point out some options for tracking and holding those sinking funds until you need them.
I just remembered that the first time I heard about sinking funds in the personal finance world was from author Mary Hunt. She wrote a book called Cheapskate Monthly Makeover (now titled Debt Proof Living) where she described Freedom Accounts. I actually like that term a little better, as that is exactly what it gives you. Freedom from living paycheck to paycheck because you are planning ahead.
Sinking Funds or a Freedom account are a place to hold the money for the irregular expenses that are known. Christmas is a great example. We know when Christmas comes every year, there is not reason we can't set aside money ahead of time for those purchases. This is amounts to be proactive (saving), rather than reactive (often credit cards) with money.
As I mentioned yesterday we also save ahead for car insurance, vehicle registrations, renter's insurance. And I'm working on getting a bit more clear with saving for tuition, band expenses, vehicle maintenance, membership fees, cell phones and eye glasses.
Currently, all of our sinking funds are in our main checking account. Yep, no interest being earned there. The reason we are able to do this is that we track all the money we are saving in sinking funds in YNAB, You Need A Budget, an online budget tool. I'm not really tuned into the amount we have in our checking account as a whole, because I don't look there. I look at YNAB. And YNAB has it all categorized.
So you might notice I mention we are all done spending because the cash is gone. For me, this means the money I allocated to spending in YNAB is gone. Our checking account still has plenty of cash because the sinking fund money is sitting there.
Before we used YNAB I would hold our sinking funds in a separate checking account at our same bank. Each pay period I would transfer the money to that second account, for later use. This worked really well to keep me from spending that money without realizing it.
I've seen online many people use Capital One 360 checking and savings accounts for their sinking funds. Apparently their online saving account allows for making categories for the money being held there. I think Lucky Robin may use this??
I know other people actually save the cash in envelopes. For me this would not work, only because converting to cash to save and then back to pay for things would be inconvenient.
So those of you who are using sinking funds, where do you keep your money?
Here's a link to Mary Hunt's explanation of a Freedom Account and how to set one up. This is really crucial to getting in control of your finances. I'd say this is step two after getting an emergency fund set up!
Archive for August, 2017
I'm sure there are others reading that haven't heard of sinking funds, or know how to set them up. Hopefully, some of us veteran savers can help share how they work! Since I brought up sinking funds yesterday, I thought I'd point out some options for tracking and holding those sinking funds until you need them.
In our budget discussions this weekend, I explained to my husband that I get overwhelmed with the sinking funds. The fewer I have the better, but lately we seem to have many more that I'm trying to juggle. And my post here, is just to talk about where we are now, not necessarily to fix it, as that is still part of the process we are working on.
The sinking funds that work really well that we have had for quite a long time are for auto insurance, registration, renter's insurance, and Christmas. I recently added birthday's and that one works really well, also.
Some of the one's that aren't as easy for me are: car maintenance and repairs, eye glasses, phones, and college expenses. Now to be fair these are newer categories I have set up in YNAB as a place to hold funds for the above listed expenses.
In the past, before YNAB, we had sinking funds for the auto registration, insurance, and Christmas. The other short term saving money was put into what I called a slush fund. That money was put into a separate savings account. When a bigger expense like eye glasses came up we would dip into it. And this way worked for many, many years.
I know I could still go back and even set this up in YNAB. I just want to be realistic in the knowing how much to put into the slush fund or these newer sinking funds. Because anything above what we need to save for those expenses, I'd really like to go to our Big Goal.
The nice thing about YNAB is that I can look at each category and see what we spent in the last year or year to date. For example last year, we spent $1,900 in car maintenance and repairs. That is an average of $165 a month. So far this year, we are on track to spend more. We have spent so far $1,537 in eight months, which is an average of $192. I think I want to use an average of the two years and start saving that when we get to January. Our vehicles are ten years old, repairs and maintenance are a given in the coming years.
We don't buy cell phones or eye glasses every year (usually) so that one is different. Much harder to figure out a monthly savings. Although again, looking at past expenses, I could probably come up some average over the last two years and save that amount monthly.
And then there is travel expenses and vacation. This includes flying our daughter here to visit and us visiting here. Last year, our Vacation spending was $9,270. More than half of that was for my daughter's trip to Europe. We had a small vacation to Nashville, and a trip back to our home state. This year our spending for travel is already at $2,526, an average of $315 a month.
Again, not really looking for advice, just explaining some of the things we are looking at for cutting, saving and managing better. These are line items in the budget we need to look at closely, if we are going to make progress on our Big Goal.
Tell me a bit about what you do for managing short term expenses such as the ones I described.
We have decided to cut out flute lessons from our budget temporarily. While the decision effects the budget, it was not cut to influence the budget. We have figured out that a new flute teacher is not available on the days my daughter is available, which is only three days a week. The other four days a week all involve band practice, games or competitions. This makes her very busy this fall along with taking three AP classes (which at her school are all completed in one semester). We now have $25 a week to put back in the budget. We expect to start back up as early as December or as late as February depending on how the school classes seem to be going.
I went to the grocery store today and was able to purchase groceries for $59 for the week for my daughter and I. That seems super cheap. The meals are simple and I did find several of the things on my list on sale.
My older daughter (in college) started classes today. She already had to buy more things at the book store. A non graphing calculator to use on Calculus tests. She has a graphing one, but they are not allowed. And because she is in an 80 person class, she rented a Clicker. A Clicker is way for the professor to ask multiple choice questions and have the students respond on their Clicker and then be able to gauge how the class is doing. At least that is my understanding. As a music/graphing design major we don't expect her to be in any other classes requiring a clicker, thus the rental made the best economical sense.
I did get to see the eclipse. We are in an area where it was 96% covered. And it did not get completely dark. It was definitely a different kind of lighting and I did hear crickets chirping (apparently they think it's night). We had eclipse glasses that my mom sent. I invited two neighbors and their kids over to view using the glasses. The kids had made their own cereal box viewers, which kind of worked. I liked viewing through the glasses much better. I feel grateful to have experienced it.
Did you see the eclipse where you live?
My husband and I did a review of our budget that we track on YNAB yesterday. This really was a first step of our discussion and making new plans. For the most part we are on the same page, we both admitted areas we probably overspend. We discussed some larger ticket items we need to save for. We also talked about retirement and whether to keep saving at the same rate, about 18%, or lower it. We decided to keep it the same for now. We agreed to come back to the budget on September 1 when my husband is paid again and tweak some things. Around this same time we expect to be getting a per diem check for his summer school travels. We will need to make a solid plan on where that money goes.
We did go out to eat for lunch yesterday. I had a $30 gift card. Our bill was just under $20, so we still have more money to use there another time.
Other spending yesterday came to about $30, which seems very low for a weekend. Today will be grocery shopping for the week.
My mom sent me two pairs of eclipse glasses in the mail that she received for free. I appreciate her mailing them because I was having trouble finding any locally. I plan to invite my two neighbors with children over to share our viewing glasses.
My husband is getting close to the point of needing to have his timing belt replaced on his Honda Ridgeline. This is based on mileage and owner's manual suggested maintenance. Our local Honda dealership quoted $1200! This seemed high to me based on around $750+ that we paid for our van a couple years ago. My husband called another dealership 30 minutes away this morning and was quoted $899. He also wants spark plugs replaced and those were quoted less as well. We haven't scheduled the maintenance yet, but once we have a free day and the cash set aside we will be getting the work done at the dealership that charges less.
Groceries are slim here at the house today. I think we are going to use a gift card I received for some pet care to try out a new restaurant for lunch. There may be a little out of pocket, but far less than without the gift card! Tonight we will eat dinner in, but we will need a couple items from the store. And then tomorrow I'll hit the commissary for the upcoming weekly food needs. Right now the grocery budget is still looking really good considering how far we are into the month.
Today my husband and I are going to sit down and discuss the budget. I'm excited to see what comes of it! What are we both willing to do in the next year to make our money work towards our goals.
Yesterday was a No Spend for my daughter and I. We stayed home the entire day. No driving! She worked on her homework (yes summer homework for her AP Literature class) and I did some needed file maintenance. I think it is possible today could be no spend as well. I will need to drive her to band practice, but I don't see anything we need to buy.
My husband did however go out to dinner at Noodles & Company. I think a fellow classmate invited him. He's bored, so getting out and hanging out with others once in awhile is fine. He spent $11.66. He also bought something at the commissary for $4.77. I can see his entered transactions on YNAB.
In the last week, I have been running the dishwasher about every other night. On the nights that I run it, I leave the heated dry off. I then open it in the morning to do further drying. A few hours later I put it all away. This is working for now since it is summer.
The electric bill that is due in September is for $229. Last month was $240, so a little lower. The humidity is so very high right now the a/c is working a lot! Water bill was slightly higher than last month by $7. We have had a lot of rain lately so I expect the bill will definitely be lower the next month. Fewer showers here, less laundry and less watering of the lawn!
Have a great and frugal Thursday!
I'm trying out a new app that tracks online purchases for better prices after you make a purchase. They will refund the difference to you if they find a lower price. I thought I'd try it for a short time and see the results. I'm not usually one to give apps access to my email account, but I'm going to see how it works out and judge after that. Seems like a good way to possibly accumulate some snowflakes! The app/website is called Paribus. That link is a referral link, if you are interested in trying it.
I sold some books on eBay that my daughter decided to sell earlier this summer. Net is about $9.50. I redeemed a $1.25 Ibotta rebate for soap I purchased on Sunday, as well as $0.25 for canned cat food. And I now have enough Swagbucks to redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card. I'm using my discount for the month, so I only need to use 2200 SB. Now to accumulate more in the next two weeks so I can get another one! And finally I returned my neighbor's carpet cleaner and attempted to give her $10 to purchase more cleanser, but she refused. So I now have $10 back in my pocket! All of these snowflakes add up!
I did a small amount of spending today. I mailed a package (why does it cost so much) for $10.55 to my daughter. A few things arrived in the mail after she left and she also left a couple small items. I did include a Dunkin Donuts gift card I bought her at a discount.
The other spending was for cream cheese, mailing tape and three packages of loose leaf paper. My cost $6.67.
As a follow up to my post yesterday. I've decided to wait on the Diet Bet. I am however going to attempt losing 4% on my own in the next four weeks without the Diet Bet motivation. That would be free! I weighed in today, with my final weigh in planned for September 13.
Today WILL be a no spend day. It has to be, we are out of cash, well cash that was set aside to spend for the first half of the month. I told that to my husband, too. I hope he listened!!
I earned another $3 from Pinecone. I'm transferring it to my PayPal account today. That is a snowflake that I will put towards the Big Goal.
On Saturday I remembered to move money to our new 5 month CD, paying 3% so that it was maxed out for earnings. The money I moved was from another 3% CD that had matured.
I'm looking forwarding to budgeting tomorrow's paycheck, primarily so I can fund some expenses I see coming up soon. Once my husband is back in town we are going to sit down and look at YNAB together and get a plan for goals for the next year. He does great at inputting his receipts, which is very helpful, but we haven't had a budget meeting in at least a year! Not really the best way to be working together. So we will try again.
I am back to watching my calories again because well weight gain this summer despite a lot of walking outside. I've noticed I don't drink enough water so that is very important for me to be tracking as well. I'm even considering a Diet Bet, but haven't decided yet. I might see how I'm doing in a week and decide then.
I made a quick eBay sale yesterday. I posted three coupons to a major retailer...the type you find in every mall in America. I sold them for $4.99, which net me $3.50 after the fees and a postage stamp. Easy money!
Today, I also listed a new item that my daughter found while dusting her room. I may only net a couple dollars, but hey, easy to ship from my mailbox, so worth a try. I also relisted a couple items. I had tried Buy It Now options in the past. This time I went the auction route with a Buy It Now option included.
I found two American Eagle Silver coins (one ounce) in my desk. My husband and I each received one for our graduation years (1991 and 1989). Someone wrote next to mine that the current value was $7. I know it is worth much more than that today, closer to $19 or $20. It is one of those things I think of selling occasionally, as we don't have much sentimental attachment to them. But then again, could be worth more later, and don't take up much space.
Today was a no spend day for me. I believe my husband bought some alcohol to have this weekend (he is still away at school). And he also bought donuts for his class this morning. There had been some exercise where money was given out. (?) In the end they could keep it. They pooled it together and gave to my husband to buy donuts (it was his suggestion). The donuts were more than the cash, so another $10 out of our pocket was spent.
I borrowed a carpet cleaner from my neighbor while she is on vacation, so I could clean the carpets. An ill cat last year didn't help the condition of the carpet. She brought carpet solution she already owned to use on it, which I was not expecting. I ended up doing every area that didn't have furniture on it once I realized how dirty the carpet was. So I used much more solution that I planned when I thought I was just doing the high traffic areas. I decided to clean up the carpet cleaner really well (get the cat hair out) and give her $10 for the carpet solution I used. So thankful she let me borrow it. This was much less expensive than calling someone in and the carpets look really good!
I took the girls for their haircuts on Sunday and was surprised to learn we earned at loyalty reward of $7.01. I didn't know Great Clips did that! My younger daughter has a much shorter cut now and we go almost monthly now to get her hair cut. I'll take the reward any time they want to give it to me!
We've had so much rain this week that I turned off the sprinkler system. I expect it to be off until Sunday unless we get more rain. That will save some water on our next bill. We also will likely have less water usage now that our daughter went back to college. Less laundry, less toilet flushing/hand washing, less showers. That is until my husband returns at the end of the month.
The weather is significantly cooler today, so I know the air conditioner is running less. It isn't fall yet, and there are bound to be many more warm days, but fall feels like it is just around the corner.
I took the advice and ran the dishwasher a bit earlier in the evening last night and then opened it up a bit to air dry. Yes, a couple things were holding water, but everything was dry. I just need to remember to start it earlier and open it before bed! And I only ran it once in the last two days, since only two of us are home.
Second post for the day!
I just noticed that we have a pending payment from the VA for my daughter's book stipend. The maximum per year is $1,000. She is taking 17 credits so the payment for this semester is $708.33. This means next semester the payment will be $291.67.
The VA will be making monthly payments to the school for the tuition portion they are covering after my daughter's scholarship. We expect the total for the semester from the VA to cover $6,465.75. I'm not sure how they break down payments yet, but I guess I will know more after the semester. I do know that after the first week of school, we should see the benefit on her billing account.
The VA will also be making housing payments directly to us. Our daughter is again in a dorm. This may be her final year. The housing portion (room and board) for the first semester is $5,828.08. The VA benefit is $1,112 per month and prorated for the exact days of the semester. The first payment will cover housing from Aug 21 to Aug 31, which will amount to $407.73. We expect this payment at the beginning of September.
The housing payment will be due in full on September 12. We will pay this with cash on hand. The amount we will receive from the VA for housing for the semester is $4,299.73. This leaves us paying $1528.35 out of pocket. The second semester out of pocket will be less as we will have a $400 credit for the housing deposit we made last fall applied to the housing bill. There will also be a $719 credit applied because she is a returning student (they give a discount). We expect spring out of pocket for housing to be just $176.20.
Before the book stipend payment I had about $325 set aside for college expenses. I expect I can add more on each pay period before the bill is due. We also will have a travel payment from the Army sometime in September for all the per diem owed us from my husband's school trip this summer.
We are all very grateful for the VA benefit assisting us in paying for college. So far no student loans! Right now, it is very possible we will need a loan for the last semester she attends as the scholarship will run out, our 529 savings will be tapped out, and her portion of the VA benefit will also be used up. That is a bill we would be looking at about two years from now. By then we will know more about any scholarships our younger daughter may receive. So many moving parts to consider!
I think this offer was available last year as well. American Express is offering 10% cash back on cable and satellite bills, up to $30. We have two Amex cards, only one had the offer. I added it to the card and plan to use it to pay our bill over the next several months to get the $30.
Because of the change we made with our cable subscription, our bill is prorated and much lower this month. Just $59. The offer will give us $5.90 back this month. I'll take it!
Anyone else going to take advantage of this?
Our Big Goal is on my mind a lot. I just can't wait to get there, but it is going to be a long journey to say the least. My mind keeps wandering to the items we spend our money on and wondering what we can cut back on, or eliminate all together.
I've mentioned before I did eliminate the need for disposable feminine products for myself. That is probably only a savings of $6-7 a month on average.
We did lower our cable bill by $11 a month just recently, so that will add up over time. I think we may still let it go entirely after football season. We have more channels now, and while it was fun to watch HGTV for a day or so, I'm already not interested in watching most of what is on.
It seems there was something else, too, but maybe that is it so far! There is still work to be done to eliminate more items we spend money on. I thought I'd make a brainstorm list of a few I'm thinking about:
Alcohol ($100 per month)
Paper Towels ($18 a year)
Movies (theatre and purchased) $260 YTD
Restaurant meals $1578 YTD
Chips (too much snacking!) ?
Gum $50/year ?
Ooma (home phone) $48/year
Trash & Recycling service $198
Using the Dishwasher ?
Let me explain the trash & recycling. We pay $16.50 a month for trash and recycling pick up at the curb. The trash pick up is twice per week, and the recycling is picked up twice per month. The reason I could possibly eliminate the service entirely is because about 1.25 miles from our current home is a county trash and recycling drop off site. They are open at least five days a week, maybe six. I drive by it ALL the time, so it is on my regular route to other places I go. I don't think my husband would be on board, but it's an idea to consider.
I use our dishwasher every evening. I like using it. I wonder though if some money could be saved by not using it. How much electricity and water does a dishwasher use each month? I may skip it for the next few weeks while my husband is still at school and it's just dishes for my daughter and I.
I mentioned I made hummus last week. It got rave reviews from my family members. It was very easy, too. When I make something from scratch it always tastes better because it has fewer 'extra' ingredients needed for commercial processing. It makes me think if I should be trying to make some other foods we buy from scratch. Bread is one idea, another would be pasta sauce. I'd have to think through what we buy most often that could be made at home.
Just by doing this little brain storm writing session I have seen where we can put our focus. Eating out. I feel like we don't eat out that much, and probably compared to the average american we don't, but our average is over $200 a month this year. Considering our income that isn't a big amount, but accounting for our goal, it is!
What can you give up to meet your goals?
My daughter flew back to her college town today. This momma is going to miss her! We have her fly out of a larger airport about 1.5 hours from our home to get better ticket prices with Southwest.
I packed my lunch because I knew we would be away from home over the lunch hour. I had already promised my daughter to buy her Jersey Mike's before we arrived at the airport. My other daughter asked if she should pack a lunch since she didn't want Jersey Mike's. I caved and offered to get her Subway. I spent $18.59 buying them lunch. No regrets, but we are now on no eating out freeze! At least that is my plan.
My only other expense was $4 for parking at the airport. Oh, I guess, I will eventually get a bill for using the toll road. I think that is around $8 for a round trip. And yes, there was fuel for the van, which I had filled up the day before. I only used half a tank, so maybe $20 in fuel. All those costs were still far less than buying an airline ticket to fly from the town we live in.
My husband mentioned that the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie is coming out on Blu Ray soon. From what I can tell online it's release date is August 22. I'm starting to get irritated at this habit of seeing the movie in the theatre and then buying the movie when it comes out, which yes we do watch a couple times.I know this particular movie all four of us went to see. I know we went to a matinee. I'm pretty sure we also bought popcorn and a drink. It would be far less expensive to wait until the movies come out on video. I guess it is something we need to discuss for future movies. It's a tough one because it is something they enjoy together. Dad and daughter bonding, ya know!? Again, just something we need to discuss.
I mentioned this is the last weekend before our college daughter returns to the university. On Friday evening, we played the Wii U as a family, games of Mario Kart, bowling, tennis and baseball. All free, and good for some laughs. While we were playing I pointed out their doll house in the corner and asked if it was time to let it go. Which prompted my older daughter to mention that she always wished we had purchased lighting for it. It is wired for it. So we decided to make a trip on Saturday to Hobby Lobby to purchase one doll house lamp. I used the 40% off coupon and paid $5.13. You should have seen them after it came on last night! So excited to see it light up the room!! And now they think they want to see it with more lights. Not sure if that is worth it or not, but it has been a project of many years in the making, so it is interesting to see it come together. Just not sure how much use it will ever get considering they are age 20 and 17!!
I purchased my sister, a kindergarten teacher, some gifts for her classroom. Tissues, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer (which the kids call hanitizer). I don't live near her, so I stocked up at Walmart.com and took advantage of free shipping after spending $35. Total after tax was $37.80. I did add two packages of ramen noodles just to reach the $35 threshold.
I also purchased some gift cards at Raise.com yesterday. I bought a $10 Starbucks gift card for $9.88. Yep, not a big discount, but I wanted to buy one for my sister, so she can get herself a treat or two during the beginning days of the school year. I also bought a Dunkin Donuts gift card for my daughter to treat herself at school. It is worth $5, and I paid $4.95. Again not a big savings. But both cards were delivered within minutes to my email address for printing. The final gift card I purchased were for Chili's restaurant because that is where we were going to dinner! I purchased $50 worth for $41.56. We proceeded to spend $10.95 beyond our $50 gift cards and my husband tipped $12. The savings was $8.44. I'll take it.
I did use our Southwest credit card so will get 1% back in miles. And I used a savings portal I'm a member of to get another 1-2% back (it varied by retailer). I need to make a point to use gift cards more often and get these savings!
Do you use discounted gift cards to increase your savings?
I continue to focus on eating all the food. I really hope I'm not gaining weight in the process.I mean I did make cookies the other day just to use up butter!!
This morning I used up the last of the frozen strawberries, half a cup of cantaloupe, 1/3 cucumber, and lettuce that was getting close to turning. I made a green smoothie with it. I did add some fresher greens, spinach and butter lettuce, as well. Yummy! An odd mix I know, but the greens were dominate, so the fruit wasn't very prevalent from a taste standpoint.
I just made my first batch of hummus in my blender. I really need a small food processor, but the blender did work. I skipped the fresh garlic this time and used garlic powder. Tastes yummy! I will eat some of the hummus with carrots and celery for lunch.
The next item I see that needs to be used is about 1/2 a cup of milk. I may make some muffins. I just saw a recipe for doughnut muffins...which sound really tasty!
In other news, there has been a little spending in the last couple of days. I took my daughter out for lunch after she passed her driver's test! I also bought her a snack and a used book for reading on the plane ride back to school next week. This morning I picked up contact cleaner and five new workout shirts (3 for DH, and 2 for me). One of my tops was on clearance for $3! We have a couple each that needed to be replaced. I did put money in the budget for those this pay period.
I need to stop by the store to cover a couple meals this weekend while my husband is home for a visit. I have quite a few tomatoes to use up, so I think bruschetta could be tasty! We are going out for lunch or dinner as a family one last time before our daughter goes back to college. After the weekend it will just be me and my younger daughter at home, and I expect meals will be super easy and hopefully inexpensive.
We have been having cooler weather and much, much lower humidity here the last few days. I can tell our air conditioners are running far less. Maybe this will translate into a lower bill next month. This month was $240, which was $20 more than the month before. I really dislike such large bills like this, but this area and house seem to demand it.
I used up the hoisin sauce last night when I stir fried some vegetables for dinner. I used up the feta cheese and kalamata olives in a quinoa salad I made for lunch. Those last two items were not in my original July list. Here is what is still left from my July list:
1 c. brown rice
2-3 c. white rice
1 can tuna
1/2 bottle of Herb & Garlic marinade
1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce
nearly full jar of tahini
I'm going to toss the marinade. We are eating less meat right now with my husband away. And I really don't like the ingredients in it. Next up to use is the tahini. I have chickpeas, lemons, (need garlic), and olive oil to make humus!
Our Amazon Prime membership just renewed. I did consider stopping it, but my husband does use the free music and we do buy things online from them. I am using my Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards, so I would like the 2 day shipping! In the end I knew we were using it, just a good idea to be sure you are before a $99 charge renews right? Oh, and I often take advantage of their Kindle First books each month.
The interest earned on our savings accounts and CD's for the month of July was $94.44. As I mentioned yesterday we have one CD maturing in August, but have opened another 3% CD with the same bank that I can roll most of the money into. Very happy about that!
The lowest interest rate we are earning on our funds is 1.1% interest at FNBODirect. The highest is a 3% CD at Navy Federal Credit Union.
So thankful rates have risen a bit recently! May that trend continue so us savers can earn more.