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Archive for February, 2018

New IRS Withholding Calculator

February 28th, 2018 at 04:34 pm

The new IRS Withholding Calculator is now available. You can find it here. I have yet to double check ours, but I know a few of you JUST updated your withholding allowances. So check again!

It is important to check for your current paychecks and filing for next year since the tax laws have changed for 2018. I personally like to try to get as close as possible to what I will actually owe at tax time. In fact, I don't mind paying as long as I'm not off by more than a few hundred dollars. This year we owe $91, which I set up for payment tomorrow.

Let me know...did you have to adjust your withholding allowances for the new tax law?

Snowflakes and More

February 27th, 2018 at 06:31 am

I redeemed Swagbucks recently for $25 deposit to my PayPal account. I sold two items on eBay and netted just over $15. I just transferred the money to our savings account. This is Big Goal money!

I did a ShopTracker for Pinecone Research, but I have not seen the credit to my account yet. That should be $3 when it arrives. And I JUST got the email that it has been credited as I was writing this. Timing is an amusing thing!

Payday is on Thursday, so I just paid off all credit cards and they are now back to zero. I do this twice per month, no interest is ever paid on the credit cards we use. Our February spending actually ended up being only $75 more than in January! I was surprised, as we had guests and we weren't trying.

I'm looking forward to adding up our interest for the month of February. I noticed that one of our accounts has increased the interest rate to 1.60%. Such a relief to us savers to see interest rates moving in a favorable direction.

I will balance and reconcile all accounts in YNAB later today or tomorrow. Some accounts are simple as we use them for just a few transactions a month. Other accounts take a little longer. Once they are all up to date, then I toss nearly all receipts, keeping only those that I may need for a return or for long term reasons, such as insurance claims or taxes.

Not Much Going On

February 22nd, 2018 at 05:22 am

There isn't much financial news going on here, thus the lack of posts. The good news is there has been minimal spending, gas and groceries primarily.

I did get an email offer from Discover card for $10. I had to make the card my 1-Click setting on Amazon and was given a $10 credit. I already used it to pick up a book that is normally $15. I don't like to purchase books, but this topic is one I find hard to get at the library.

I've been decluttering more of our paper files this week. I was motivated after dealing with some old tax files. I did a very large purge of papers in January 2015. Bags and bags of shredding went out. When we moved later that year we had two very stuffed file boxes. Those are a pain to move. It is not recommended to send personal or sensitive information with the movers. So you hand carry them. My goal is to get our files down to one box or even less preferably. So much can be kept digitally now, however I also do not want to spend a lot of time scanning. So I'm being very intentional with what paper I keep.

I listed a couple more items on eBay to earn a few snowflakes (found money). I've spied a couple books I could likely list, but need to review them first to make sure. And there's a DVD my mother gave me, that I need to watch and then sell for a few dollars. I think I will watch that today. It's raining and I can sort some more papers while I do so.

Spring Break Trip with Miles

February 17th, 2018 at 03:21 pm

I just booked our oldest daughter's flight home for spring break. She will fly Southwest Airlines. I used points we accumulated on our Southwest Visa during 2017 to cover the cost of the flight.

Almost Free!

I did pay for Early Bird Checkin, which is $30 roundtrip. If I were flying alone, I'd skip it, but as a young adult she does like the ability to pick her seat early so she can get off the plane quickly to get to her connecting flight on time. It basically is paying for her to have a little less stress during the process. And I had to pay the TSA Security Fee as well, $11.20.

Grand total $41.20. Can't beat that!

Cash Bank on Utilities

February 16th, 2018 at 03:48 pm

Our US Bank Visa sent me an email to pick our 5% cash back categories for second quarter beginning in April. I always pick 5% cash back on cell phones which saves us about $8 per month or $96 a year. I'm picking that again!

I'm picking 2% cash back for Restaurants. I could have chosen Grocery Stores or Gas Stations, but I have other cards that provide that or more. I also rarely remember to use this card for the 2% categories because I'm not usually carrying this card in my wallet.

There is a new 5% category...Utilities! According to US Bank this includes electric companies, gas utilities and waste management companies. We don't have gas in our home that we pay regularly. Probably will only fill up once right before we move. The payment for our trash service is paid out of our checking account and is not worth switching to a credit card as there is a fee that would offset any savings.

As you know, we spend way too much on electricity in this home as I have mentioned in the past. And I do pay with a credit card...so that means I WILL be switching cards to take advantage of the cash back. This month's bill is $250...so we would have received $12.50 back if it were in effect. I'm not sure if this benefit will last more than one quarter, but I expect it may be a regular option. If so I could possibly receive $300 just by paying our electric bill with this card.

Do any of you get 5% cash back on your electric or other utility bills?

Cashed Out My Ibotta Account

February 16th, 2018 at 06:55 am

I cashed out my Ibotta account last night. The funds were immediately transferred to my PayPal account. Just this morning I moved those funds to savings, not sure why I waited! I was able to cash out $41.38.

I also had proceeds from an item I sold on eBay yesterday as well, so I transferred those to savings. In total I added $49.56 to our Big Goal funds.

It does take awhile for Ibotta coupon savings to add up and you need a $20 balance to withdraw, but I find it easier than cutting or printing coupons. If you are interested in saving this way, you can sign up under me here.

Computer Not Electronics

February 15th, 2018 at 09:19 am

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I was waiting to hear back from US Bank about earning 5% cash back on our daughter's computer purchase with Dell. I had selected 5% cash back on Electronics and Cell Phones (I always select this one) for the first quarter of the year.

Turns out Dell does not designate themselves as an Electronics Store but as Computer & Computer Software retailer. I really should have asked this question in advance. I took a chance. I had even considered buying Dell gift cards at a discount site, but then figured I wouldn't get the 5% back since that would be a gift card purchase. In the end that is what I should have done because those gift cards were at a 4% discount.

I did get 1% back on the purchase with Dell, so saved $14.61. I also clicked through Ebates for 2% cash back or $27.88. I will get that money in May when Ebates send me my Big Fat Check (that's what they call it). I see now they have 10% cash back on Dell. Ugh. I have to trust that I got a good deal on the site at the time. If I remember right the computer was discounted by 10%.

My husband was paid today. I put $108 into our Big Goal Fund since this is the amount of his paycheck that is over what he was receiving before. So important to save as much of our raises as possible, so we don't get the creep of lifestyle inflation.

I also sold another item on eBay. Net is probably about $7.50. It will go to the goal too. It adds up!

Snowflakes In February

February 14th, 2018 at 06:18 am

I found some cash yesterday! I made sure to get all of it deposited into our savings accounts to go to the Big Goal. If you are new here, I call found money snowflakes. It's a term that comes from adding small amounts of money to your debt snowball to pay the debt off quickly. I also use the term when adding small amounts to my big savings goals.

Here's what I found:
$1.33 Discover Rewards
$4.59 Ebay Proceeds
$19.10 Chase Freedom Rewards
$3.11 USAA ATM rebate and interest
$28.13 TOTAL

I also have some rewards with US Bank, but I'm checking with them about the amount. I think I'm owed more after purchasing a computer from Dell and having 5% cash back on electronics chose for this quarter.

Not big money, but I'm telling it where to go so it will make a difference in our goals. I share so that if you have any snowflakes you might be inspired to put that money towards your financial goal, whether that is paying off debt or saving. The small amounts add up.

Where do you find your snowflakes?

Cash Back Amex & Boxed.com Offer

February 13th, 2018 at 09:48 am

I was checking to see if I have the Boxed.com offer on my American Express card today, after Ceejay mentioned it the comments of a recent post. Yes, I do. I will likely take advantage of stocking up on household items so I can get $20 off the $75 purchase. I will check prices of course to make sure they make sense.

I have the American Express Everyday Cash Back card. Apparently I can refer others, and earn $75 per referral. If you also apply, you can earn $200 statement credit after spending $1000. There is no annual fee. Always read the fine print and don't open credit cards you don't have a way to pay off before interest accrues.

Oh, and I do have a referral for Boxed.com too if you are interested in buying in bulk.
[url=https://www.boxed.com/invite/QV6LX
You get $15 off your first order and I receive a $15 credit.[/url] Check it out and see if it make sense for you.

Thanks in advance for anyone that uses my links!

Higher Grocery Bill

February 13th, 2018 at 05:27 am

Wow, the first half of the month is nearly over! My parents were here for 12 days, and boy does it show in the grocery budget. We spent $202 on a full grocery trip three days before they arrived. And then proceeded to spend $276 more in groceries while they were here! We did eat very well and I know there are leftovers I can still use up in the coming days.

And believe it or not we even went out to dinner a few times. We picked up the tab for my mom's birthday at a sushi place. They bought me lunch at a Indian restaurant, Panera and another lunch at the sushi restaurant. Otherwise all meals were cooked at home, but I guess we picked all the expensive ingredients!

So maybe we can get the grocery bills lower in the second half of the month. I do know my daughter and I will be eating leftovers for dinner while my husband is at a work event this evening. I will need to take stock of what I have and make use of it as the month progresses!

Taxes Filed & More

February 8th, 2018 at 02:15 pm

So finally, after many issues last month, I was able to log on to the free version of H&R Block to file our taxes. We are able to file free as military members through the Military One Source website. The filing was free for Federal and State. We owe $91 to the federal government, which is better than the expected $400 I had in mind. And we are exempt from state income tax in our state of legal residence, since they do not tax Active Duty Pay. I have already schedule payment from our checking account to take place on March 1st. I could have waited longer obviously, but I just want to get it done!

I think for now I will keep our withholding allowances at 9. Dido made me aware that there will be a $500 credit per dependent over age 17 beginning in 2018, so that reduces the tax owed by $1000. I may actually increase it later in the year, but I will wait until we know what the actual college expenses we pay are. Right now it could be as much as a $2500 American Opportunity tax credit and maybe $400 Lifetime Learning Credit. As it stands now, we will have $3918 withheld for 2018, and likely actual tax would be $6900. So we are in the right place with withholding.

And I can see that our next paycheck is higher due to the new withholding tables. The amount is $45.70 more per pay period or $91.40 per month. We were already getting an additional $63.15 per pay period due to my husband's raise. So since December we have $217 more in our pockets each month. And more going to retirement because of the raise! Can't complain about that.

In other news, I sold three more items on eBay in the last week. Not big money, but it all adds up. It goes to the Big Goal...as should that extra income above.

Withholding...Trying to Figure It All Out

February 7th, 2018 at 05:51 am

I have calculated the new withholding amounts we expect to see on my husband's paychecks going forward after the new tax law was passed. I used paycheckcity.com to do the calculations. We currently withhold 9 exemptions every pay period. That means the withholding in the past for us has been $409 per month. The new amount based on the same withholding will be $319 per month. An $80 difference, or $960 a year.

Sounds great right? Well, if I'm understanding the new tax laws for no personal exemptions, but higher standard deduction for married couples, and lower tax brackets, we will definitely have lower taxes, but the withholding we are currently at will be deficient by $400, and maybe more if we cannot take the full American Opportunity Credit for college expenses in 2018. I don't mind owing, but I'm now working to decided if I want to change our withholding to 8, or even add more to retirement to offset income.

I will get it figured out. I know how to do it all, I just need more time to decide what we want to do. Sending more to retirement when we already invest 18% and expect a pension equal to half my husband's pay is starting to seem like overkill. Again, just decisions to be made. I also need to figure how much we may actually pay in college costs out of pocket this year.

Oh, and a note slightly related to figuring taxes. When you claim the American Opportunity Tax credit you can only do it for four years per child. So if you claim it their first semester of their freshman year, that is one tax year. Therefore, once you get to spring semester of their senior year, you are into a fifth tax year...which you cannot claim. In our case, I did claim it for our oldest daughter for that first semester. Although, we didn't use the full amount, but my guess is as tuition increases through the year and our educational savings options run out we would benefit more in that final semester. I think there is still the Lifetime Learning Credit that can be taken indefinitely and combined even if you have another student still eligible for the AOTC. (There are income limits, so don't assume you are eligible based on the information I provide here. Do your own research for your specific situation)

I also have to remember that I can adjust withholding later in the year as we have more information...such as the amount we have actually paid out of pocket for college expenses that could be claimed.

Hmm...another thought I may actually take the Lifetime Learning Credit for my youngest this year, since it will be for just one semester. Then finish up using the American Opportunity Credit for our oldest daughter for 2018. The following year we could swap these. I think that could work. That would lower our taxes even more. I sure would rather the money go to pay tuition, than to the government who is overspending as it is with our tax dollars.

Have you done the calculations for your 2018 taxes? Did you have to change withholding? Will your taxes be less?

Vacation Budget

February 6th, 2018 at 07:02 am

After a low spend January, we had extra funds to allocate. I finally took care of that yesterday, by adding $1000 to our vacation budget. We are definitely going to be on the move this year, so the budget needs help.

We potentially have a small beach vacation with family that will visit in June. The beach is about two hours away, so no airline tickets, but contribution to a rental for sure. And food!

We are going to need to travel to our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June. We likely could skip it living so far away, but we think since we can make it work, it will be helpful as part of the adjustment living away from us to have more experience on campus. We will likely fly for this event. Hotels also needed.

We also want to fly with our daughter and help her move in to her dorm in the fall. Ironically, while typing this message a parent online was asking about storage and moving solutions for out of state students. In helping her I found two that we may be able to use to have her items transported so we don't need to drive 20 hours! We think we will send her bike, so that is bulky. Although maybe it's better to sell it, and buy another one. All things we need to figure out.

Then we would like to visit both girls in late fall, maybe for Thanksgiving. The point is our budget for travel is going to start to be a bigger expense than ever. So it felt good to add $1000 in just one month.

I think I can cover spring break for our daughter with Southwest points. Yay!

January Interest Earned AND Saved

February 5th, 2018 at 03:57 pm

Totaled up January interest for all of our accounts today. Grand total earned was $92.79. We have more money earning higher interest, but the amount earned is a little lower, primarily because I missed moving a matured CD immediately to a new CD. Lost out on about 10+ days of interest. Probably only lost $5...too lazy to figure out the exact amount.

I transferred $131 that went to a savings account from my husband's paycheck into a CD earning 2%. I make a point to do this every month. Not all CDs let you add new money, but we currently have at least two that do!

I also made sure to add $63.15 to our Big Goal. Currently this is the amount of increased pay after my husband's raise. This is twice per month. Once I figure out the new withholding I will probably add this money to the $131 we send to savings...so around $250 a month.