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Archive for January, 2019

More Food Used Up

January 17th, 2019 at 07:20 am

I'm making great progress using up the food, or just using what I have on hand. I ate the rest of my Barley Potato soup yesterday. I had it with a salad at lunch and with a sandwich at dinner.

I have used up these items:
Spinach
Red onion
Tomato
Cucumber
2 slices of cheese
Grape juice
2 slices of bread
2 tangerines
Cheerios
Chocolate chips
Pistachios

Today, I will likely eat a sandwich for lunch with an apple and cucumber slices. I think I will make rice and eat that with the navy beans and salsa for dinner and probably lunch tomorrow.

My husband returns home tomorrow. We will have the rice mix for dinner, but we already talked about wanting to add a protein to it, so I will go to the commissary to buy that. We can eat eggs with cheese and turkey crumbles for breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning. I will propose sandwiches for lunch, with carrots and dressing. Although there could be leftovers from Friday night, too. And finally, I think I can make Pepperoni pizza for dinner on Saturday night, which should provide leftovers for Sunday lunch. At that point we will need to go to the store!!

I guess it's time to make a meal plan, so I can make a grocery list for Sunday's shopping. I will still have a couple things in the pantry and freezer that I can incorporate into the meal plan, so I will have fewer things to buy.

In addition to Uber Frugal Month, I've been inspired to eat from what we have on hand and be mindful of using things up because of the government shutdown. We have families living right by us that are not getting a paycheck. The community has rallied around them to provide food, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes and gas gift cards. I am a big believer in an emergency fund of course, but it's not wrong to help out our fellow humans in their time of need.

Using Up the Food Progress

January 15th, 2019 at 09:33 am

Here's what I ate yesterday. I think I was a little snacky, so no judgements, please. Smile

1 cup of cereal with milk
2 Cinnamon muffins (this used up the milk and 1 egg)
2 tangerines
Leftover taco meat
2 tomato slices
(ate the two above with cheddar cheese and tostitos)
2 servings of Barley potato soup
The soup used up the potatoes, garlic, celery, chicken broth, the yellow onion, and two carrots)
1 slice of provolone cheese
1 serving of grape juice (I use in my water for flavor)
1 lemon (use in my water)

Today, I ate:
1 cup of cereal with almond milk
Spinach salad (used up red onion, half a cucumber and 1/3 of a tomato)
1 veggie burger
1 slice provolone cheese

I expect to eat more of the Barley Potato soup for dinner, likely with another salad like I ate for lunch today. I'm sure another snack will be eaten as well.

It has only been over 24 hours since I have embarked on my use it all up quest, but I feel good about my plan and progress so far.

Here's the Barley & Potato Soup Receipe that I modified slightly, mostly the seasonings.

Food On Hand

January 14th, 2019 at 07:48 am

My husband is traveling this week. Both of our daughters are back at college. The fridge and pantry are very likely going to be more than adequate to sustain me this week, and maybe through the weekend with my husband home, making it an no spend grocery week!

Before I get to the list of what I have, I will say some of these things are not what I normally eat. The Cheerios were requested by my daughter when she was home. And now they are left here. I did eat Cheerios and milk this morning. And to use up the milk, I made cinnamon muffins, which I will freeze and use if and when I have a sugar craving. But at least at this point we can say I didn't waste the milk!

Here's what I have in the pantry:
Honey Nut Cheerios (4 cups)
Dried cranberries
Microwave popcorn (1 bag)
Pistachios (1/2 c.)
Almonds (1.5 cups)
Canned veggie soup
Canned navy beans
8oz dried kidney beans
Rice dinner mix
Peanut butter (1/3 jar)
Quinoa
White rice
Pearled barley
Chicken broth (2 cans)
Tostitos (1/2 bag)
Bread (13 slices)

Here's what I have in the freezer:
4 veggie burgers
1/2 bag sweet potato fries
15 oz of crushed tomatoes
1/3 bag of chocolate chips
Ice (ha, ha)

Here's what I have in the fridge:
1/3 bag spinach
2 cucumbers
2 apples
11 tangerines
1 tomato and 2 tomato slices
4 lemons
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 red onion
Fresh ginger
Celery
Carrots
8 oz turkey lunch meat
Pepperoni slices
7 eggs
leftover taco meat (1 c.)
4 oz prepared turkey crumbles
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Provolone slices (5)
Salsa (6 oz)
1/2 jar tomato sauce
1/4 jar pasta sauce
Sour cream 4 oz
Almond milk
Grape juice (2 servings)

I also have three medium potatoes and garlic on hand.

That is actually a lot of food! There is no way I can eat all of that in five days by myself. I'm going to focus on the perishables first. Some of the fridge items (lunch meat, turkey crumbles and eggs) can likely still be good for the weekend and are things my husband eats, so while I may eat them, I'm going to focus on other things.

I'm pretty sure I need to make a soup to use up the potatoes, onion, celery, carrots. That sounds like potato soup, but I don't want to buy more milk, and don't think almond milk would taste right would it? It is unsweetened. I think maybe a barley vegetable soup would work though.

I'm going to save the rice dinner mix for the weekend when my husband is home. But I think I could make some sort dish with the rice, navy beans and the salsa. It would make quite a bit, I might even be willing to eat it for breakfast!

Today for lunch I will eat the leftover taco meat with those two tomato slices and likely an apple or a small salad. Tonight might be soup for dinner.

I'm realizing I should freeze the bread if I'm not going to eat the turkey lunch meat or the veggie burgers. I can use the bread from the freezer if I change my mind.

I'll update you on my progress this week to eat it all up!

What you make off for lunch or dinner if you had my fridge, freezer and pantry to eat from? Have you done this where you focus on eating it all up to help the grocery budget?

Medical Bills

January 12th, 2019 at 08:07 am

We are pretty healthy people, no chronic illnesses. However, both my girls have been to the doctor a couple times in 2018. They are still on our military insurance, but because they live away from home most of the year they are on Tricare Select. The deductible for each of them is $150. Very reasonable.

My oldest daughter maxed hers out in August and then had a procedure where the cost without insurance was billed at $332. She got the bill at her dorm and apparently didn't have the correct information to file a claim. I called Monday and gave them the correct information, although they seemed confused. They submitted it and was covered in full. The provider gets $83.

My youngest twisted her ankle pretty bad in October, her student health center did submit through insurance, but she nor I were ever notified by our insurance. So looking at her tuition bill I see two charges from the health center for $80.04. It took some sleuthing, basically logging into the insurance company site to see the claim. That yes, $135+ was submitted and reduced to $80.04...and we do owe that as we had not met our deductible for her.

It's harder to navigate insurance when your adult children's claims do not go to your address! Youngest said she never received anything at her dorm, which is where they sent it. At least it is all taken care of this round.

It did remind me that a sinking fund for the deductibles wouldn't be a bad idea. Although I can probably manage any charges through basic cash flow.

We Have YNAB 4, But...

January 10th, 2019 at 01:51 pm

maybe not for long! I've noticed for awhile that I can't update my budget on my phone. My husband seems to have no problem and I usually use the desktop version.

I originally got YNAB 4 in September 2015. I think we paid $50 (maybe $60) for it. So we have used it daily for over three years and it's been great. Sometime in 2016, YNAB changed and went to an annual fee. And along the way YNAB stopped updating their old version and they no longer have an option to download that version of the app.

I now need to decide if it is worth trying the latest version for $83.99 per year OR find another free alternative. Anyone here use Personal Capital? If so, did you ever use YNAB and can compare the two? How about EveryDollar?

I remember the days when I only used a checkbook and notebook paper to figure out our budget! And that was free. I'm not a big Excel person, so I'm not going that route. But I'm not going back to pen and paper either!

I do like YNAB, I just like to think through things that become an annual fee!

Uber Frugal Month

January 10th, 2019 at 06:09 am

I'm not yet participating in Uber Frugal Month. It's too hard to start it on January 1 when our college daughter's are home. We want to treat them and get them what they need since we won't see them until March.

We will start Saturday afternoon and try to go through mid February! My plan is to focus primarily on eating all the things, or making meals from the pantry. I literally only have three things in the freezer, so my stockpile is not like many people. But I have quite of few things in the pantry and refrigerator that I want to make use of before they go bad. I was very successful at this last year.

My husband is out of town for work next week. I plan to stay home primarily and do things that don't cost me money. I have sewing projects I can do with fabric on hand. I need to make a photo book for my Dad (promised to him in June). I also have a book to read that needs some of my attention.

I may (still undecided) shop for towels this month. I need to replace a set. I think this can be a good time of year to find towels on sale. Oh, and my sister and mother have birthdays at end of January, early February, so I'm pondering gifts that could be considered thoughtful and frugal. I did just redeem Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card, so at least one of them may receive something I can buy from there! I could also redeem MyPoints and give my sister a gift card. I think even $10 or $15 to Starbucks might be welcome!

Good luck to all who are participating and are finding ways to keep costs low in January!

More Interest

January 9th, 2019 at 10:17 am

Thanks to BAWW commenting on my last post, I am now aware of a new CD at Navy Federal Credit Union paying 3.25% for 17 months. I knew there would be some good rates coming up soon!

I'm in the process of transferring money from a couple of different accounts so that we can fund this new CD. One bank will only allow $5,000 transfer per day. I need to move $13,000, so it will take THREE transfers. I'm sure a wire could have been done, but that requires a fee. I'm nearly positive this is a new thing for this bank. A little frustrating.

The most interest we are earning on some of our money is a CD that will come due in March. That CD is earning 2.25%, so this increase of 1% is significant.

Sold Shares

January 8th, 2019 at 02:44 pm

It's that time of year again where college tuition and housing payments will be due soon. Our youngest daughter's school collects super early compared to our older daughter. I will pay hers by January 20, just six days after classes start. My older daughter started classes yesterday and her bill will not come due until February 12! I do appreciate the gap between the due dates.

I placed an order on Friday to sell shares in my youngest daughter's ESA. I mentioned before those shares are still invested in the stock market. I sold at $38.88/share in August and sold these last ones for $31.78. (Side note: I made the sale after the market closed Friday without realizing it. Just not thinking. So I had fingers crossed all weekend the market wouldn't tank on Monday.) We did have a few years where we made purchases of shares far under the latest sale price, so we are doing okay.

We are paying about $1,200 out of pocket for her tuition and books which I will be able to claim in 2019 under the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Total bill due for youngest daughter on January 20 is $6,207.20 after $3,600 in scholarships. Again this is for all fees, housing, and tuition and the books that have been charged so far.

This semester our oldest daughter's bill (without books) is currently at $8,831.26 for tuition, fees and housing. This after $8,000 in scholarships. We should have some small VA benefits left (15 days worth), but not sure what that will equate to. If I had to guess maybe another $1000 off?! Currently those benefits have not posted. We will use cash we have received from the VA for housing during Fall 2018 to pay for this spring. We will use most of her remaining ESA funds to pay the remainder amount of tuition.

So thankful to be able to make these payments with ease and to end another semester without student loans. To date we have covered with savings, current cash or had benefits and scholarships to cover tuition and housing for ten semesters of college.

Should We Max Out Roths?

January 5th, 2019 at 10:54 am

So the contribution limits for Roth IRAs have increased for 2019. The limits have increased for other accounts too, but I'm only discussing Roth IRAs since that is where we put about half of our retirement contributions.

The limit in 2018 was $5,500 per person. The new limit is $6,000. That's a monthly increase of $41.66/mo per person. Or in our case $83.33/mo.

This is the year my husband will turn 50 (late 2019) so he is eligible for the catch up contribution limit which is $7,000 for the year. This additional $1000 would increase our contributions another $83.33/mo.

If we choose to max out that will increase our monthly contributions to $166.66/mo.

As noted in my previous blog post my husband did get a raise. The monthly net increase to his paycheck is $115.49. I originally planned to save this money towards our Big Goal.

Now I could count it as Big Goal money but put it in our Roth IRAs knowing we could redeem some money from them for our downpayment if needed. But it also seems better to keep it all separate.

We've been maximizing our Roth IRAs for quite awhile, but this is just a bigger bump I wasn't really tracking! I have more work to do to figure out the best plan of action. I need to see what the budget can actually absorb.

We should have lower expenses her on base, far less fuel for our vehicles and no utility expenses. But we also have more airline tickets to pay for with two daughters away at college.

Back to the budget...

Are you maximizing your retirement contributions in 2019.

Figured Out 2019 Net Paycheck

January 4th, 2019 at 07:28 am

I used the Paycheck City website yesterday to determine my husband's net paycheck. His base pay has increased by $204.43 per month. The housing allowance (BAH) has also increased by $117 per month. I would be really thrilled about this, but because we live on a military installation, the property management company gets the full increase for housing. This isn't a surprise, but a bit of an annoyance. We are committed here for 12 months, and we are open to looking into other options after that.

All the taxes went up accordingly ($29.90/mo), we added a family vision plan ($36.55/mo), and my husband's retirement plan contribution increased ($22.49/mo). This means of the $204.43 increase the remaining $115.49 is ours to keep when the paycheck is deposited. This will end up being split evenly each pay period, about $57.75 twice per month.

For the last two years I have literally saved my husband's pay increases for the Big Goal. In 2017, the amount was $131. I had that money sent directly from his paycheck to our Navy Federal CU account. In 2018, the amount was $216, which I manually set aside in our checking account toward the goal. Amazingly I remembered each pay period. I can't say I really liked how tedious that was.

So I see it as we have two choices. We can have the full amount transferred from his paycheck automatically OR have the full amount (divided by 2) transferred to one of our savings accounts twice per month. I may go with the latter because that would get the money into our account faster earning interest. I really failed to have any of last years raise earning interest, so that alone will be an approvement.

Next steps...I need to stop the current transfer from my husband's paycheck. As of January 15, I need to set up a transfer of half the amount ($231.50) to one of our savings accounts twice per month. This alone will guarantee $5,556 will be saved towards the Big Goal for 2019.

If you received a raise or had other changes to your paycheck for 2019, have you calculated what you expect your net amount to be? Do you use Paycheckcity or some other calculator? Share in the comments!

2019 Financial Planning Considerations

January 3rd, 2019 at 07:57 am

I have a lot of work to do in the next month to plan for 2019. I thought I'd make myself a list here, so I don't forget anything. Maybe it will help you think of things you need to look at in your budget planning.

Figure out new paycheck amount (I use Paycheckcity.com)

Consider new Roth IRA contribution amounts in budget planning. My husband turns 50 this year, so he qualifies for the catch up limit.

Consider costs we can cut or reduce, specifically auto and renters insurance.

Calculate new sinking fund amounts based on goals. This includes car maintenance, out of pocket tuition expenses, insurance and costs for airline tickets in 2019.

Calculate paycheck withholding based on our expected 2019 tax situation.

Research better interest rates for our cash reserves. We have one CD maturing in March 2019.

Calculate the extra we can continue to send to our Big Goal fund.

Financial planning is a puzzle sometimes! This does stress me out a bit, but I do it every year and the stress and time spent is worth it!

2018 Progress on Our Big Goal

January 2nd, 2019 at 06:48 pm

We have a Big Goal to save $200,000 to buy our next home, or at least a major portion of our next home in about five years time. This post is an accounting of what contributions we made in 2018 and where we are in our goal progress.

We saved all interest towards the Big Goal, $131/month direct deposited from my husband's paycheck, $216 each month that accounted for his 2018 raise, all snowflakes, gift money, military reimbursements for travel including a big one for our move.

I flag contributions in our accounts on YNAB, so I can go in and check mark them and have YNAB total them up for me.

Checking Account One $2,993.99
Checking Account Two $8,985.08
Navy Federal CU $2,154.52
First National Bank $632.16

Those numbers total $14,765.75!

2017 Big Goal Balance $46,836.39
2018 Big Goal Additions $14,765.75
New Big Goal Balance $61,602.14

That means we are now at 30.8% of our 200,000 goal!

In doing this I realized I need to move money from our checking accounts into higher interest earning accounts. I have too much money not earning interest. In fairness, a large amount of that money came fairly recently.

The progress is a bit slower than I would prefer. This year was fantastic, but $6,900 was a travel payment from our move. That makes a big difference! And we won't be moving every year. But we did do better than in 2017. We will keep moving forward. Anything saved will be helpful in the end.

Interest Earned in December (And 2018)

January 1st, 2019 at 07:09 am

I like to post our interest earned each month. I'm sure I forget some months, but I try. In December we earned $118.80 on our interest bearing accounts.

Now to total up ALL the interest.
$582.52 Navy Federal Credit Union
$632.16 First National Bank Omaha Direct
$1.04 USAA Checking
$1,215.72 TOTAL

Wow look at that! Over $100 per month on average. We saved every single penny of our interest. (We usually do.) It's currently going towards are Big Goal.

I'll update the Big Goal progress for 2018 very soon. Since I have money coming in from different sources and in different accounts it takes a little bit to compile it, but I will get it done because I want to know too!

Did you earn interest on your savings this year? How much did you end up with?