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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!

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 Financial Wins and Fails

December 28th, 2018 at 06:58 pm

If you didn't see my previous post, I've invited all bloggers to write a post titled 2018 Financial Wins and Fails. Join in before the end of the year.

I reread all of my 2018 posts here and I have to say while the year was a whirlwind of change, we actually had a lot of financial wins, many I forgot about!

I'm going to start with the fails.

1) Failed to shop for the best prices. We purchased some big ticket items, computer for our daughter, dorm supplies, tires and college textbooks. The reasons are multiple, but it was such a busy year, I found myself just wanting to get the purchases complete, rather than spending lots of time finding the best price. It's not to say I didn't do some price comparisons, but I didn't dig in deep to make it a priority.

2) I failed to think ahead about getting out of the stock market on my youngest daughter's Educational Savings Account. The market was doing well. We redeemed shares in August and definitely sold high. But now the market has corrected, and the share price while still high for some of the shares we bought, it is low for others. I should have moved the shares to cash in August. I haven't sold at a loss yet, so may not end up being a complete fail. Time will tell.

3) Failed to plan ahead. This is related to both of the above, but I wasn't thinking months in advance about things that would need cash, particularly all the dorm room expenses. I should have thought about that at least at the first of the year. I was able to cash flow the costs as we made purchases, but it would have been less stressful if the money was set aside for something I knew was coming.

The wins definitely outweigh the fails.

1) We ended the year once again with zero student loans! So excited we have been able to continue to cash flow, use saved investments or take advantage of my husband's Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Oh, and the girls both got fantastic scholarships that helped as well.

2) Despite lots of spending, we saved a lot this year. We maxed out our Roth IRA contributions, and my husband saved 11% of his basic pay for retirement. We saved $2000 in our daughter's ESA (final contribution). We saved $347/mo automatically from my husband's paycheck. We saved all credit card rewards and interest on our savings. (I'll post more specific numbers later.) We also saved the entire military move reimbursement which was nearly $7K.

3) We cash flowed a computer purchase, new tires, shocks and struts for my van, dorm needs, three trips, and several airline flights. Still completely debt free!

The fails help me see where we can improve in 2019, and the wins remind me what we are doing right and can continue with going forward. Do you review your successes and setbacks at the end of the year?

Reviewed Our Tax Situation

December 13th, 2018 at 05:30 am

It's been a whirlwind of a year! In the last couple weeks, I've been starting to panic, wondering if I actually figured our tax situation out for 2018 in light of the new tax laws. I vaguely remembering need to wait to figure things out. But did I ever go back and review?

Yesterday, I hopped on the IRS Withholding Calculator to see where things stood. Luckily, at least in my mind, we are good. We will owe money but it should not be more than $540. I had increased our withholding which meant $90 more in our pocket each month, or by the time it took effect in February, $990 more for the year.

The calculations only took into account the American Opportunity Tax Credit I plan to take for our oldest daughter (for the final time, as it can only be used for four years). I did not take into account any credits for our youngest daughter. Because she only attended one semester in 2018, I plan to take the Lifetime Earning Credits on her qualified tuition, which should give us at least a credit of $300+ for the semester. That brings the tax owed around $240.

It is possible we will have a little more income added and more tax, but that's not looking too promising at the moment. I expect that anything that occurs is something we can handle. I have always preferred owing a few hundred dollars rather than have the IRS hold our money for many months before getting a refund. I've managed to make this work several years in a row now!

Have you reviewed your tax withholding and how that may affect if you owe the IRS or will get a refund? April 15th is just four months away. It's good to be prepared. The IRS Withholding Calculator is here.

Christmas Budgets

December 11th, 2018 at 07:42 am

I was at an event this weekend where a lesson on Christmas budgeting was presented. It was short, but excellent. That is what has inspired this post.

Our Christmas budget the last several years has been $600. These are the funds to cover gifts and shipping costs for nine people. I save $50 each month from our paychecks so the money is available when it's time to shop.

The lesson presented asked people to think of ALL the costs they may incur during the holiday season. Not just the gifts, but the wrapping, baking and food, travel, postage, clothing, electricity and fuel for our cars. I know that my budget does not reflect all of these costs. I seem to be able to absorb them into our regular spending, but they are important to pay attention to when planning.

Depending on where you are in your shopping, it isn't too late to step back and make a Christmas budget. Figure what you have already spent, and how much you have available to spend. Try to finish within those parameters, even if it means returning someone's gift and getting something else so you will spend less. There are so many great deals this time of year, that gift can cost less than you think. Of course, the deals can pull you in and convince you to spend more, so be strong and stick to your plan.

Dollar Tree isn't my favorite store, but I find myself there every holiday season to get a good deal and help me stay within budget. It can be great for paper products, and stocking stuffers. Of course, not everything is a good deal there, so it is still important to pay attention to prices!

I think the key to staying within a reasonable budget for Christmas is having the fewest number of people to buy for. At least it helped us. We stopped giving to most of our nieces and nephews and exchanging adult gifts. We still give to our parents, our children, two nieces (recently adopted) and buy a gift for ourselves.

We do not buy new holiday decorations each year. The exception is one ornament for each of the girls, but those are usually less than $10 for both. We give cookies to friends, neighbors and coworkers. I send a limited number (less than five some years) of Christmas cards, that I usually buy on clearance after Christmas. I reuse Christmas gift bags and tissue, and usually only buy a roll or two of Christmas gift wrap every two or three years (again, on clearance). I chose gifts that are somewhat lightweight to save on shipping, although Flat Rate boxes from the post office do help (the items just have to fit). We also do not entertain at our place, not because we are grinches, but because family is not nearby.

At a minimum, we can all start a new plan to budget for the next year. As soon as the spending is over this year, review what was purchased and how much it cost. That total divided by 12 will be a great guideline for how much to save each month in order to be prepared for next year. Save it in an envelope or a seperate checking or savings account, so you will not spend it until it is time. After the holiday is also a good time to discuss with family members about how you might want to change the gift giving parameters for the future.

Tell me about your Christmas Budget. Do you have one? What is included. If you don't have one, tell me about that too.

Army Travel Reimbursement Plus

November 28th, 2018 at 01:23 pm

I was pleasantly surprised to find our travel money from the move deposited into our account on Monday! And it appears to be covered in full! It's seems during many moves each different entitlement comes in as different deposits.

The grand total is pretty grand and exceeds the costs we actually incurred, which I honestly never totaled up. Our second checking account is now $6,915.77 richer!

Our primary costs for moving were carpet repair and cleaning at our rental home. Nearly a week in hotel costs, as well as food on the go, and fuel for the our two vehicles. We did fly one way as part of getting one vehicle here (I'm not an interstate driver), so that little trip was an additional cost and not specifically reimbursable by the government.

Nearly half that total is something called a Dislocation Allowance, which for my husband's rank is $3,753. This simply covers all the extras that are variable because everyone has different costs incurred during a move. It is tax free.

It's a relief to have it. I think I'm saving most of it as I was able to cover nearly all the costs incurred out of our current pay. I do know I dipped into the vacation category and that has not been reimbursed. So at a minimum, I will add to that category and save the remainder in the Big Goal.

I completed my first Pinecone survey in a really long time two days ago and was credited for it this morning. I have no idea why I wasn't getting surveys for over a year or more.

Oh, and we had a really nice trip back to see our girls. Our cat did very well, stressful for her, but she survived and is happy to be back in a familiar place. I still miss the girls so much. I'm trying to figure out how we can establish a home base closer to them to see them more often. I'm sure that is at least a year in the works. But living such a long distance away from both of them is hard on all of us. My husband still has at least five years in the military before retirement. My parents are close to the girls, but I'm starting to see how much older they seem as well. My dad is 70 and mother 68. They are very healthy and active, so no major concern, just awareness of the passage of time. It would be nice to be closer to them as well.

Still Waiting On Reimbursement

November 16th, 2018 at 06:55 am

The process of getting reimbursed for all costs and entitlements after a move seems to always be a chore. My husband has been working for three weeks now, and only today did we get confirmation that the travel claim has been received. Most of delay was here locally. Always confusion and disagreement amongst different parties on how to process! At this point I'm praying it has been done correctly and will not be kicked back to only have to submit again.

Amazingly, I have been able to float all the costs that we are waiting for reimbursement. If we are never reimbursed (won't happen), we will be just fine. Keep moving forward is all we can do.

When the money does come it will be thousands of dollars that I will likely add to our vacation fund for flights for us and the girls to visit each other, as well as some to the Big Goal fund.

Money In, Money Out

November 10th, 2018 at 07:26 am

We received basically our entire rent deposit on our last place back. The deposit was $1,800. On move out we needed to top off the propane tank which was for the fireplace only. We used it some in cool fall days, but otherwise it was just the pilot light on all the time. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite empty enough for the propane company to fill without a hefty charge ($45). The propane company was able to tell me based on the amount used the cost to fill up. The landlord agreed we could pay them that amount (around $137) and not fill up. So in the end they deducted the propane costs from our final deposit, and our check was for approximately $1,663.

My plan was to save this money in our Big Goal fund. In fact it is sitting there right now...except, we have a need for it now.

We took my van in for oil change, transmission fluid flush and rotate tires. Turns out I needed new front brakes and brake fluid flush. AND...the one that hurts, new shocks and struts. Now we actually weren't super surprised about the shocks and struts because we had been hearing noises that made us question their condition (my van has 140K miles), but our last mechanic looked and couldn't find the source of the noise and didn't see a problem with their condition. So...on Monday the van will have all those things complete and we will owe them $2000! Now I have to remind myself that this is maintenance and is cheaper than a car payment. Our goal is to keep both of our 2007 Honda's running until both girls graduate in about 4 years.

So money comes in, but money goes out. Thankful we have cash on hand (and did before the return of our deposit) for making these repairs. It's not what I would prefer to spend the money on...I'd rather save it!

Snowflakes and More

August 21st, 2018 at 05:52 pm

Through Facebook I helped my daughter sell her graphing calculator to another student via his mother. She was asking on a parent's page, so I offered my daughter's up for $40. She jumped at the chance! I have the money in my PayPal account and the calculator has been delivered to the student.

When I confirmed the payment I noticed I had a payment from Ebates for $7.63. Nice surprise!

I have a few items on eBay for sale, one has a bid and will sell for several dollars.

The spending for our trip put us over budget by $750! Luckily we did get paid since then and have covered those expenses. It will be a bit tight through the end of the month however.

So now the real fun begins...time to start prepping for the move that will occur late fall. We are downsizing our space so will need to sell some major furniture in the process!

Trip Costs & More

June 29th, 2018 at 09:29 am

I entered all of our receipts into YNAB yesterday after returning from our Midwest trip for our daughter's orientation. My husband was going to do some of it before we returned, but I offered to do it so I could get everything categorized correctly! He has a habit of putting the charge on one card into the list of expenses on another card. Ironically, I did that once yesterday myself! A reason to have just one card I guess. Smile

I can tell we spent over $1000 on a rental car ($246), one night in a hotel ($121) and food! There were some college t shirts purchased, a calculator for calculus, and a few personal care items needed. We were in hotels five nights. We used Marriott points for four of them so that was very helpful. We had free breakfast everyday, but because we ate out for lunch and dinner we easily spent $80-100 each day. If it was a more relaxing type of vacation we probably could have grocery shopped and eaten that way, but we really were on the go most of the time.

I had saved money for these trips, so we were not scrounging to find the funds upon our return. The remaining balance in the vacation/travel fund is $649. We may take a short three day trip in July as a family. Those plans have not been made, but the hope would be to make sure these funds do cover that trip. I will need to add more funds soon for August traveling to the colleges. One daughter may fly, and the rest of us drive. Not sure yet, but will need to save for those...along with all the new college student expenses. That part is feeling pretty overwhelming!

It's payday, so I will pay off the cards and start budgeting for July! I would like July to be low in the grocery budget, so I need to put some effort there for some simple but healthy meals. After eating out so much on the trip, I really want lighter meals. What do you like to eat that is light in the summer?

Whirlwind Update

June 19th, 2018 at 08:22 am

It's been a very busy week after having my parents, sister and her two girls visit primarily to see our youngest daughter graduate high school! I'm exhausted this morning after taking them to the airport at 4am. I have had a chance though to process my husband's paycheck, add transactions to YNAB, move money around, and pay off the credit cards.

Just prior to my parents arriving my husband was out of town for work for three days. I haven't yet taken the time to figure out his actual expenses, but we did receive $515.85. Some of that is per diem, and the rest is mileage on the truck he drove. I'm sure he didn't spend that much. That money for now is sitting in our second checking account, and I think I'm just throwing it towards our Big Goal. Smile

I spent $220 on food when guests were here, but my Dad also spent ANOTHER $230 on food and some alcohol. So $450 for 9 people for 7 days. We did eat out for five meals, which was additional money spent. We went to the beach for three nights so most of our time was spent sitting on the beach or at the resort pools. Not a lot you can spend money on...unless you venture out and get towed!

Yep, we parked in an expensive lot for three hours, but came back about thirty minutes early to find our van had been towed. The truck, which we also drove, was still parked. In the end it was a bit our fault. The lot has these machines where you pay and then put the ticket on the dash. My husband started the transaction and at some point I looked down and saw a ticket, so I pulled it and handed it to him. Turns out that was the ticket for the person BEFORE us and that ticket expired two hours before ours would have. They didn't even tow until it had been expired for an hour. The cost to get the van out of the impound lot...$160 CASH. Big mistake on our part to not actually look at the ticket. So embarrassing. But we weren't the only ones that night that were careless, the man at the lot said six other cars were towed that night. A bad chain of events for all of us. We thought about pursuing a refund of some sort, but in the end the security guard, and tow truck driver were only going by the information on the ticket...and they were within their duties to tow based on that information. We are not happy about losing that money, but it is just money and we were determined to continue to have a good time and just let it go.

The good news is that today when I was paying off credit cards I redeemed $71.89 from American Express, and $45.95 from Chase Freedom. I also have three rash guard shirts we didn't end up wearing that still have tags. I will return those for at least another $40 to $50. Money flows out, but it also flows back in.

Oh, and my sister is going to give me about $100 to cover food and gas. She is giving my dad some money as well since she didn't contribute while she was here. She had the cash on her this morning, but we both forgot about during the early rush to get to the airport. She will send a check or send me money by Paypal. That will help the budget, too!

I'm exhausted, but we leave in a few days again to go to our youngest daughter's college orientation. Hotels are covered with points, we already paid the airline tickets, but will have a rental car, food and gas to cover while we are there. I think we can also buy the first semester books after she has enrolled in classes. I still have over $1,500 in our vacation fund. Smile

That's all for now! Stay cool and frugal.

No Loans! Six Semesters, Two Summers

June 8th, 2018 at 05:35 am

This morning I paid the balance of my daughter's summer tuition in full out of our checking account. Today's amount due was $1,613.26, which was far less than I estimated.

Originally, my estimate was just under $3,700 without books. I was a bit off on my estimate. One class is a business class and thus carries a premium tuition rate, which added another $534! I also didn't add in the fees, which seems odd that I failed to do that. Books (specifically access codes for online instruction) were added to the tune of $245. The finally tally was $5013.26 for six credit hours. Reminder this is out of state tuition.

But we were blessed with a scholarship of $2,800. It was part of our daughter's main scholarship, but somehow was not applied last year when she took one class. So we didn't know that it would cover summer classes. So at this point I was expecting to pay $2,213.26.

But when I went to pay there was a credit of $600, leaving the balance at $1,613.26. We can't tell online specifically what the $600 is, however we think it is likely one of the music scholarship she received this spring. She was expecting a check for it. I think the University would cut a check if there was not a balance due. So instead the credit goes towards the current tuition owed. In the end it is all the same.

Sometimes I'm just amazed at our ability to have paid tuition and housing in full without loans. Let's see if we can continue the trend! Oldest daughter has three more semesters with intended graduation date of December 2019. And of course, our youngest is starting this fall, so another four years and we should be done!!

Pay Day Approaches

May 30th, 2018 at 06:48 am

For the most part I deal with finances twice a month. Yes, we enter receipts in YNAB as best we can daily or every few days. Lately, it seems there is a transaction missing, but it ends up that it was entered on a different card. It seems to be my husband not paying attention, which is frustrating when I go to reconcile the accounts. I do usually figure it out, but takes much more time than it should if it were just entered correctly the first time!

So pay day is two days away. Today, I went in and paid off all balances on our credit cards. There were seven payments! I had a balance on two Amex Cards, Chase Freedom, Southwest, Kohl's, Target Red card AND Discover! That sounds awful doesn't it? But the balances on four of them were less than $25 each, including something for $5.99 on our Southwest card which we are not really using much. I think the purchase was charged to that card since it was what was on the account for an online purchase. Our tires were on one Amex card, and the other two larger payments $631 and $547 were charges for everyday expenses.

I also had to move some money around in YNAB to keep the budget categories from being negative going into next month. We've spent a fair amount on clothes recently, some for graduation and some for the beach vacation. I pulled $200 from the vacation fund to cover these. I'm still over in household expenses by $75. I just stocked up on toilet paper, paper plates, dish detergent, hand soap and other things to have at the house for guests here in a few weeks. I will just cover that overage in June. This is the beauty of having extra funds in your account...can be over in one category, but not actually running a deficient in the checking account.

I'm really looking forward to June being over. It is going to be a whirlwind with graduation, guests, going to the beach and then also flying out of town for five nights for college orientation. Maybe July will feel relaxing? Of course, we have to prepare for getting the girls ready for college, one will need more than the other since it is her first year.

Thankful the cash to do what we want and need to do!

Under Budget!

May 25th, 2018 at 12:18 pm

Our tire purchase came in under budget. Yesterday, I estimated $750 based on their estimate and a discount. Turns out the total came to $681. That means we still have money in our car repair and maintenance fund to the tune of just $72. I think I may just let my husband get his windshield wipers replaced. Smile

We are up to date on all maintenance for awhile. The hope is there are no repairs needed anytime soon. I clearly need to keep adding to it. Although we do have a regular emergency fund that would take the hit if something major were to happen.

Have you come in under budget for a major purchase lately?

Getting New Tires

May 24th, 2018 at 05:08 pm

I'm getting new tires on my van tomorrow. This will be the third time we have replaced the tires on our 2007 Honda Odyssey, which has 135K miles.

Cost of four tires and an alignment after the military discount should be around $750. Maybe less. I think our original quote has a warranty of some sort on them with the tire store. Since we will be moving and this store doesn't exist there, what's the point?

Not sure we exactly got our money's worth on this last set. I thought they were rated for 90K miles. Do tires actually ever make it to their mileage rating? This is the only time I noticed that they didn't even come close.

The good news is I have this amount in our car maintenance sinking fund. No debt! Not that we have been in debt for quite some time, but we are still rocking being debt free!

Oh, and to be more specific we are adding $225 each month to our sinking fund for car maintenance and repairs. This was the average of what we have spent on two vehicles in the last two years. As they get older they do have a little more repairs needed. We are determined to hold these vehicles until our daughters graduate college. Just four more years to go!!

ANOTHER Scholarship

April 23rd, 2018 at 04:27 pm

Wow! My daughter is a money magnet. She has now received a scholarship for summer classes. It has the same name as the big scholarship she currently has, but she didn't receive it last summer. It is possible that was because she was half time, just one three credit hour class. This newest scholarship is worth $2,800. The total summer bill is $4,768. I was expecting just under $4,000, and have been saving monthly to pay this. I figured out that I didn't remember to add up all the fees, or to figure that one of the classes (a business class) is a higher tuition rate. So now our portion to pay, due June 12 is $1,968.

I also had her apply for a summer grant worth up to $1,400 for summer. I'm not sure she's actually eligible as an out of state student, but it let her apply. That, or a portion, would be very helpful.

I will keep the extra $2000 I will have saved by mid June for future college expenses. Although it is honestly tempting to put it into our Big Goal. Smile

Rewards, Sale, Savings

April 16th, 2018 at 04:39 am

I've added some more cash to our Big Goal. Our plan is to add $108 per pay period. I keep forgetting when I do our budget in YNAB, so then I have to go back in and make adjustments for it to work! This is money from my husband's raise this year. We also save last year's raise. So we are still living on 2016 income!

I think I will switch this to an automatic savings transfer, then I can have automatically set up to record in YNAB as well. I can't let this money disappear into our spending!

I made an eBay sale last night. Net proceeds about $11 on something we no longer need or use. It had been listed for awhile, but I was okay waiting for the right person to come along.

I redeemed $22.99 from our Chase Freedom account. Cash will be deposited into our bank account in the next day or so.

Happy to have cash flowing in and the ability to save it.

March Snowflakes

April 10th, 2018 at 04:54 am

I just reviewed the snowflakes we received in March. Here's a breakdown:

$3.53 eBay proceeds (our portion, daughter received more)
$25.00 Amex reward
$20.00 Amex offer
$18.00 Rooms to Go settlement
$66.53 Total

Not much but it does add up!

On that Amex offer, we made a purchase at Boxed.com and received a credit on our Amex statement. I simply moved money from the Household Expenses category that would have been spent without the offer and put that money in the Big Goal category.

For anyone new, snowflakes is just a term for extra money. Since many people snowball their debt payments, finding extra money to add is a like adding some snowflakes to the snowball. We are debt free, so we simply add our snowflakes to our savings goals.

Spent Some of That Vacation Budget

April 6th, 2018 at 07:15 pm

I finally got my rear in gear and made some airline reservations! I booked my daughter's trip home for the summer. We always do this one way since we don't know exactly when she plans to arrive on campus for the fall. This usually works out in our favor with decent one way tickets. This one cost us $155.

Next I booked our tickets to travel back to the last state we lived in. This is where our youngest daughter will go to college in the fall. I don't disclose exactly where we live because my husband is military and has asked me not to. Smile Our daughter has orientation at the end of June for two days. We will leave on a Friday, have a free Saturday, orientation on Sunday and Monday, and then a free day on Tuesday before flying home on Wednesday morning. Our oldest daughter is coming with us in hopes of seeing some old friends. The airline tickets cost us just over $1,600! Now you can see why I needed to be adding to the vacation budget this year!

I will need to book hotels for five nights AND get a rental car. I think at least three of the nights we may book at a hotel with a kitchen, so may just eat in those nights for dinner and have breakfast provided by the hotel. That will help quite a bit. The good news is I have one free night at Marriott as well as points we can redeem. So it appears we may only need to pay for one night out of pocket. I also looked briefly at rental cars. I have some discount options to consider, but guess at least $150-$200.

We may also do a test run of the shuttle my daughter will take to get to and from campus to the airport on her visits home. She will not have a car. We expect a trial run, may help ease any anxiety about the process. This will cost us about $59 for two of us one way. Not exactly frugal, but helpful. We may change our minds on this, but right now seems like a good option.

Vacation Budget Status

April 2nd, 2018 at 11:55 am

I think I mentioned we are likely to need to do some travel this year, primarily to visit our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June and later in the summer to move her in. I also need to buy our older daughter a plane ticket home in May. I should do that any day now. And we are also planning a small trip to the mountains this summer as a family. We will drive, but will need to cover fuel, hotels, food and activities.

I was able to add $500 this pay period to the vacation budget. We now have $3,427.56!

I don't have an exact number we need. I suppose I should start estimating that! It's starting to feel like a lot of hotel nights! We do have some points with Marriott, so will likely use those for some of the nights we need to cover. May need to get creative for other nights to pay the least out of pocket, but within our comfort zone.

I expect to be able to add more money as the weeks go by!

My Blogoversary

March 27th, 2018 at 12:39 pm

A few random updates.

I returned an item I bought last week to Walmart. It just didn't work like I thought it would. That put $3.94 back in our pockets, which I probably did really spend again, because I needed several things while I was there. And I also bought my husband Star Wars, Last Jedi that came out today on Blu Ray. I lucked out that he never paid money to see this in the theatre, so only buying the movie is a win! Sometimes it seems we have to do both. Ugh!

I earned $5.10 from Ibotta this month. Not a lot, but I don't buy many of the things they offer.

I have not been doing Swagbucks much this month. I have 1490SB currently. I'll just keep accumulating them when I feel like it. I also have almost 2500 MyPoints, which seems to be owned by the same company as Swagbucks!?

We had our daughter home for Spring Break last week. We did some extra eating out as a result, which I expected and planned for. And guess what, next week is my younger daughter's spring break!? I don't think it will cause us to eat out more, but I'm thinking we may do some shopping for clothes, or even some college dorm room items!

Budget is getting a little tight as we near the end of the month, but payday is Friday, so I expect I can stay within the budget we put out for March.

I missed my TEN year Blogoversary earlier this month on March 12. I'm quite shocked I have stayed at it this long. It's been fun, and very rewarding to reach towards our goals, andcheer each other on in this community all while creating a log of our financial happenings!

Rewards & Spending

March 19th, 2018 at 11:57 am

In the last week, as I have paid our credit cards in full, I found that two of them had rewards I could redeem. I redeemed $22.11 in cash from our Chase Freedom account. We have been using that card for fuel, cable, phone (Ooma) and Netflix purchases this quarter to earn 5% cash back.

Our American Express card had earned another $25 in rewards. This is applied as a statement credit, but I did put that same amount towards our Big Goal.

Today was a little spendy! My husband is home from work while our daughter visits. We ran to Target to pick up a sympathy card, light bulbs, shaving cream and packing tape. We decide to make this our day out to each lunch. We will eat at home the next few days, with more eating out to celebrate her birthday later in the week. And finally, we picked up some hair product our daughter uses from Ulta (did have a coupon). That was $83 of spending! I'm glad I added extra to our budget accounts.

My husband is going to get the oil changed in my van tomorrow. We have been saving for car maintenance, so no worries about finding cash for that! We are set.

Tonight I'm making this for dinner. Some of us will add chicken. I'm also going to use some hamburger buns to make a garlic bread. I've made that recipe with green beans instead of asparagus with good results...even more frugal.

Daughter Arrives Home Today

March 17th, 2018 at 05:46 am

Our daughter arrives home today for her spring break! We have to drive a little over an hour and half to pick her up. Southwest doesn't fly into our town and we love that airline! It's also less expensive. Smile And yes, I realize there is gas and parking and often lunch after she arrives.

I have added extra money to our budget accounts while she is home. There is definitely more groceries to buy. And we have plans to go out for sushi and pie. Not on the same day! Smile My husband will be home most of the time as well, so we hope to get out and do some things together. Many will likely be free, but a movie out is a possibility too!

I think she may want to go spring clothes shopping too. Another budget category I added extra to for the remainder of the month.

Oh, and her birthday is next Saturday....so I need to finish shopping for that as well. I have a couple items and if I don't pick up anything else I will likely give her cash. She does have savings goals! Smile

We are excited to see her!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Lower Electric Bill

March 14th, 2018 at 11:03 am

With the warmer weather a couple weeks ago here in the Southeast, the furnace and air conditioner were not running much at all. The weather has cooled again in recent days, but the end result is a much lower bill from last month.

Remember my bill in January (due in February) was $350?! Last month it came down to $250. And this month, the bill is $161. This is still higher than I like, but for this home it seems to be the near minimum for running everything. I think I will start funding the electric account with a minimum of $250 each month to help level out the larger bills sure to come this summer. It's easy to do this in YNAB and let the money keep rolling over from month to month.

Payday is tomorrow. I will pay all credit card accounts in full, reconcile any accounts in YNAB (did some today) and fund everyday spending for the second half of the month. I will also fund the bills and withdrawals (such as Roth and college investments) and our sinking funds.

I'm more hands off with finances than I once was. Once you have excess funds, you don't have worry about overdrawing your account, or finding money when a larger bill comes in because you have funded it in advance (sinking funds). And YNAB helps keep track of all that as well.

Happy Pi Day!

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.


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