While I'm loving that lower electric bill, it seems our water bill has doubled! From $44 last month to $88 this month. It's that time of year where we are running our sprinkler system. It runs four mornings a week. I think it takes two hours to do all the zones.
Oh, and I should mention our lawn is huge! It takes us 1.5 hours to mow with a standard walk behind mower. Luckily the grass in the southeast doesn't grow too fast, so we don't mow every week.
If we weren't renting I'm pretty sure my husband would have convinced me to buy a riding lawn mower. But since we don't expect to have a huge lawn long term, the standard mower has been just fine. And walking is good exercise!
Viewing the 'Budget' Category
While I'm loving that lower electric bill, it seems our water bill has doubled! From $44 last month to $88 this month. It's that time of year where we are running our sprinkler system. It runs four mornings a week. I think it takes two hours to do all the zones.
My daughter applied for her Post 911 GI Bill education benefits while she was home on spring break. Her certificate of eligibility letter arrived in the mail this weekend. We were expecting it to say 18 months of eligibility as that is what my husband transferred to her and we have documentation of. Instead it said 12 months 6 days.
My husband called the VA today and and it turns out that by law they are required to count educational benefits he already received and used for his bachelor's degree against the Post 911 GI Bill. He used 24 months of a 48 month benefit. He has 24 months and 11 days left. We are splitting the benefit equally between our girls, which means 12 months and 6 days (likely five for our younger daughter).
While this is a surprise and not what we planned I am okay with this. It make sense that the government would not give soldiers educational benefits totaling more than the time one degree would take to complete. My husband did get his bachelor's degree (it was an accelerated program and he had a lot of transferred credits that counted) paid in full. We did benefit from that. He wouldn't have well paying officer's job he has now without a college degree.
The original plan was that 18 months of benefits would have been worth at least four semesters plus housing for our oldest daughter. Each semester is considered 4 months. I hadn't figured out how the two extra months would have worked out, but now I don't really need to.
The current plan is to make use of 8 months worth of benefits for her Junior year, which starts this fall. This will cover the tuition and fees above her scholarship, even at the non resident rate (because of the Yellow Ribbon program). These benefits will provide a housing allowance, but will not cover the full cost of her room and board, and $1000 towards books.
The next question is what to do with the final 4 months of benefits set aside for her. We expect she may need to go an additional semester after the senior year (and some summer classes in between) since she is a double major. Because the scholarship ends after four years, the full out of state tuition will be billed for all credits she takes. I do think it is a full 15+ credit hours the way she has it mapped out right now. It may make sense to save that final four months of benefits for that final semester, since it will be the most costly. The two senior semesters are at least reduced by the scholarship.
Our oldest daughter's senior year is the same year our youngest daughter will be a freshman in college. It is possible, but very slim, we could be eligible for some aid. As always the government would be more than happy to offer us a loan! We also don't know at this point which college our younger daughter will attend, or know the scholarships she may receive.
We can adjust the number of months of benefits we transfer to our daughter's also. So if it seems our younger daughter will have lower costs, we could move some of the benefits to the older daughter. I expect we will know a lot more by the end of the year or early next year.
It is a little overwhelming to look at my older daughter's costs coming up and only see about $8000 sitting in her education funds!
I guess I should add that we aren't against taking a loan out at some point. Maybe for one of her senior semesters? While we support her getting two degrees, it doesn't mean we need to pay for it. I kind of have though the final semester should be on her, but if I could get that most expensive semester covered by the Post 911 GI Bill that would be helpful to her, to have less to borrow.
Sorry if my post is all over the place...this just happened this morning, so I'm still wrapping my brain around this. I hope to come back later today or tomorrow with another post that is a bit more detailed and responds to Monkey Mama's post.
The fridge in this rental home is growing black mold on the gaskets that seal the door to the unit. It was here when we moved in and seems to be an issue in the Southeast. We have attempted to clean. One of those cleaning tries resulted in the gasket getting a tear in it because it was dry rotted. I finally decided I can't keep using the fridge unless these gaskets are replaced. I did my research, including price and how to install. I emailed the landlord and have approval to purchase and do the repair. The new gaskets (there are two because it is a French door unit) will arrive from Sears on Friday. The cost is $109, which I paid for but will deduct from the rent per the landlord. I was thrilled that the landlord responded so quickly. I'm hoping that replacing the gasket may save some more energy costs, but it's hard to know if it was leaking cool air or not.
I got a $14 bill in the mail from our state transit authority for using a toll road in a nearby town (no toll booths on this road) We've been using it for over a year, without being billed. Our guess was because we have out of state plates with a state that doesn't even have toll roads. Maybe there was no reciprocal agreement. But the state has caught on and billed us for trips we made in late March and early April. I have no problem paying the bill now that we actually have one! It is a very nice road. Now I have to decide if I want to keep using it or find another route.
I've decided the money I already saved up for tuition but don't need in full for our daughter's summer class will remain in that budget category. I know that we will owe around $1500 for housing that will not be reimbursed with the Post 911 GI bill. So I'm going to make sure we have that money ahead of time.
On Saturday, I bought a small wooden desk chair at a neighbor's garage sale for $5 on Friday. Today I used two cans of spray paint to spruce it up. It most likely will just be a decor piece, but it will function as a chair if needed. Such a deal to get a new to me chair for under $14.
I redeemed $35 worth of Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards yesterday. They have arrived in my inbox, and I have used $20 worth to buy my husband two new cell phone cases (one is for his work phone). I do like getting some things for free!
So an interesting thing happened today. I logged on to my daughter's payment account for the University because she said she ended up buying a book that she had rented this semester because she knew she will need it for some future classes. I thought maybe it had posted already.
What had posted was the tuition for summer. I had calculated the two online summer courses (at the online non resident rate) as $3,470. But the amount that was showing was $4,689.75! Over $1,200 more than I was planning.
I can only see the amount due, not any billing details. So I asked her if she had any information about it. She sends it to me and I realized this class that she has signed up for is an Engineering class (although specifically geared to non engineering students).
In the end we decided that it wasn't worth the money to take that class. She wasn't really interested in it, she was only taking it to fulfill one of the liberal arts requirement. And she wanted to take something online this summer. She looked for other options, but found nothing to replace it with. So unless something changes she will take just one class this summer, reducing tuition to $1,756.75.
I sort of feel like I won the lottery since I don't have to shell out cash for a second class. My daughter plans to add a math class instead to her fall course load which was already at 14 credits and will now be 17. This will fulfill the requirement she was trying to meet. And as another bonus to us, this fall is when we expect to begin using the Post 911 GI Bill benefits my husband transferred to her. It will cover her classes (even at the non resident rate) in full.
I do feel a little bad she has to take on 17 credits, however, she just did that this semester and seemed to handle it pretty well. She might spend some of her free time brushing up on French and PreCalculus this summer to hopefully help the transition to those classes in the fall.
I had planed to save up $1700 out of pocket to cover half of what I thought tuition would be. The other half was going to come from her Educational Savings account. I have $1400 saved already, but I'm considering sticking with the original plan to pay half out of pocket and the other half from the ESA. This means I would only need around $875, leaving $525 that I could put towards something else.
Maybe the Big Goal? I might wait a bit and see how much the textbook is and if there are other school related expenses that I'm not thinking about. Either way I'm excited about the financial aspect of this change.
I honestly can hardly believe it is May! Is time flying for the rest of you too?
We saved some decent money in April despite going on a trip for eight days. Interest from our savings accounts and certificates amounted to $89.10. We are lucky to have quite a bit of cash in CDs paying 2% or more right now.
We saved $125 automatically from my husband paycheck. I recently increased this to $131, effective next month, since our dental premium went down.
We found some cash to save this month towards the Big Goal.
$105.06 Army Travel Reimbursement
$250.00 Army Damage Claim Paid
$100.00 Anniversary gift
$165.65 Ebay and Pinecone Proceeds
$50.97 Amazon purchases paid with Swagbucks
The total of all amounts listed above is $885.78. This is far from the $1900 monthly average I need to save each month to reach the big goal, but I'm keeping the faith that the tides will turn somewhere in the process where I can save much more each month. It is a journey. If we don't aim for something we will come up far shorter.
It looks like my husband will have a kitchenette in his room while he is at training this summer. He is on a post with a commissary also, so it looks like he can eat almost as normal while away. I do expect he will eat out a bit more, just because of the change in routine. We will discuss this more before he leaves.
He is going to be near Washington DC, so it may end up being a chance for the girls and I to fly up there (not a fan of interstate driving) and visit. It will depend on his availability on weekends. I will try to save a bit more in the vacation fund in the meantime.
We are about to buy our youngest daughter a new cell phone. Her phone is almost exactly 3 years old, but is acting up. She has been dealing with issues with it for quite a few months now. We want to her to have a reliable phone while she is in Europe. Although we don't really want her to use it for much more than a camera or to play a game on since the cost would be very expensive. We expect to use What's App to communicate with her for free.
We are currently looking at buying an unlocked Motorola G Plus (5th Gen) for $229. The best price seems to be at Best Buy for a new phone. My Dad is a Team National member so I'm going to see if they have any discounts before I buy it.
I have some various topics I'm sharing today. And one is a bit personal and some may not want to read. I'll give a warning.
went to transfer the latest $3 sent to me from Pinecone from my PayPal account to our savings account today and realized I had far more money in there! The balance was $165.65! Now once I saw it I did know that the money was from my eBay sales and a few other surveys completed since the first of the year. I did go ahead and transfer the full balance to our savings and flagged the money in YNAB to go to our Big Goal.
I'm still hanging most of our laundry to dry. I say most because I have found towels really do need some time in the dryer. And today, I needed to wash and dry sheets and towels since my daughter had been ill last night. If I could dry outside, I would but I figured drying inside doesn't full kill any bacteria like a dryer would. So two loads have gone through the dryer today. Luckily that is not the norm!
My husband is going away to school this summer for some training on a new job for the Army. He will be about five hours away, so we think he can drive home few times. His housing is covered in full so that is a huge relief to me. He will also be getting per diem for food and incidentals amounting to $1966.50 for the first 28 days. He will need to get his own food, and because he is in a hotel we aren't sure if there will be a way to cook meals. I think he wants to just figure it out once he gets there. I like to know these things ahead. He does know I would love to save some of the money, preferably half or more. He has a second class that I think is for two months in the same location, and we expect, but can't confirm yet, that this one will pay a similar per diem for each month. Oh, and he will get mileage for one trip to the location and one trip home. That could end up being around $300. But of course, we would take the gas cost out of that. The travel claims will be submitted by him at the end of each course.
It's 90 degrees and humid here in the Southeast today. The air conditioning is running. I actually have to be out in it this evening as the marching band is holding a fund raiser. I'm not looking forward to the bill that comes when the air conditioning starts running regularly. Maybe my lack of dryer use this summer will help.
Our garden is looking good, minus the lettuce, which is getting a very slow start from seed. Everything else looks pretty good so far, including the sugar snap peas I started from seed. My daughter is thrilled to see the beginnings of 9 strawberries on her plants.
Here's the personal part....but is related to savings and not too detailed at all.
And finally, I wanted to give an update on using my menstrual cup and using reusable pads. I have used the menstrual cup before for many years and then took a break for whatever reason. I'm now not sure what it was. I'm glad I have gone back primarily because it is more comfortable than tampons and it manages my heavy flow far better. I bought mine for less than $10 on Amazon using Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks. That was two months (cycles) ago. Early last month I used more Amazon gift cards to purchase five reusable pads that were listed at $19.99 when I bought them. But free after my efforts on Swagbucks. I only used the pads for back up and for very light days, so I had no issue with absorption. I may experiment and report back on a heavier flow day, but for now I super happy with this for the savings, comfort, and environment reasons.
I'm still on the look out for finding ways to save on our expenses. It's a bit slow going, but I'm determined to keep making progress and make a dent in our Big Goal.
For an eight day trip, we spent $803 on food, fuel, parking, and two nights in a hotel for three people. Our airfare was paid before we left. That was approximately $997 for the three of us.
We were lucky enough to have one free hotel night, as well as free accommodations and several meals with my parents. We also had the use of one of their vehicles as we traveled around two states. We did offer to get a rental car, but they were more than willing to share. We did pay for the gas and got the car washed on the last day we had it.
I entered all our receipts/transactions into YNAB this morning. The only category I needed to revise was the restaurants, but there was more in the vacation category, so I moved some of that there.
After purchasing groceries, my husband getting a haircut, fueling up our vehicles, we have about $94 left until the end of the month.
My husband offered to bring taco shells and meat to their work potluck on Friday. I had volunteered cookies for the band fundraiser this weekend. So that is known spending that will come from the $94.
We will also be looking at getting a new cell phone for our daughter this weekend. I do have $200 set aside, and can pull some other savings if it ends up costing more.
Here's hoping we can make it a low spend week!
I earned enough Swagbucks in March to redeem them for $50 worth of Amazon.com gift cards. And I already used them! My purchases should arrive today. I only spent $0.97 out of pocket. I bought two different vitamins for about $25. I added on some tea for $4. And finally, I bought a set of five reusable menstrual pads for $20. I had thought about making my own, but decided I would probably have more follow through and success in the end if I bought something that had good reviews. And with Swagbucks those ended up costing me virtually nothing out of pocket.
It's kind of nice to get things I want and need to buy anyway and have the gift cards to cover them. I really should move the money to savings that I would have spent. Actually I will do that now. I will take money out of the categories these expenses come from and move it to a savings category. Okay, you can't tell that I paused to do that, but I created a BIG goal category in our budget on YNAB. I just put $50.97 in there. I also flagged the other BIG goal contributions so I can find them later. I'll update you on that amount soon.
I do go back and forth about whether the time spent on Swagbucks is worth it. I have taken breaks before and I don't regret them. But I guess for now I'm back on a roll with them. It's motivating when I see that I can buy $50 worth of stuff without any money out of pocket. I can then save that money. Or if we were still paying debt, I could put that money I would have spent without the gift cards towards debt.
If you want to try it out and you haven't joined, I'd be honored if you used my referral link. It can be a little confusing at first. Take a look at YouTube videos that will give guidance about earning as well as ask around on the Swagbucks Facebook page.
I'm still not up to hanging all laundry to dry yet, but there is progress! I have hung up our sheets with very good success. That right there is at least four less dryer loads a month! I'm very happy with that.
I have experimented with shorter dry times. I haven't quite found the sweet spot that gets items mostly dry yet. There are some things that are easy to hang like shirts and pants. It's the undergarments that are harder right now. So I end up drying it all if I'm going to be drying socks and underwear. My goal is still to get most of it on the line for the full drying time. I really need to get a drying rack. I have a great place to put it in our bedroom that will be out of the way, near a warm sunny window and near a air conditioning vent.
I think towels may be last on the list to figure out. I did have a neighbor mention that adding another spin could help get the towels even drier before putting in the dryer or on the line.
Oh, and since my daughter's do there own laundry, I will be working to convince them to line dry more items this summer as well. They both do hang their graphic t shirts up, simply to make them last longer, so they just need to hang more.
All of this is my effort to lower our electricity bill. Dryers are big gobblers of energy in a home. So this is where I'm starting. I can't wait until this summer to really see the difference!
I received three dollars from Pinecone Research this week. I'm up to nearly 3700 Swagbucks, which I will likely redeem tomorrow for $40 worth of Amazon gift cards. I have some vitamins I need to buy!
Our rent check sent to our landlord in October, and that I know they received because she texted me, has gone uncashed for 180 days. They continue to cash current checks we mail them. The checks specifically state void after 180 days, since they are bill pay checks sent by our bank.
I contacted our bank asking if presented if it would be rejected. They stated yes, but also offered a free stop payment on the check as well. I'm not sure if that was needed if the first is true, but I did take them up on that offer. The stop is good for 180 days. They can put an additional stop on it after that time ends.
I'm just amazed that a landlord wouldn't realize they haven't received their rent! Yes, I could tell them, but I REALLY feel like that isn't my responsibility.
For now, that rent money is back in our budget. It will cover our rent for April and I can use our full paycheck to fill in other areas of the budget. If it comes to their awareness and they let us know, we have plenty of cash to cover it and make good on it.
Is anyone keeping tabs on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE9EWh4ocDs]April the Giraffe? I've been watching way to much waiting for her to have her baby!
My husband told me today that we will be getting about $105 from his recent travel reimbursement. This was the trip where he bought some friends dinner to the tune of $140. That meal isn't specifically being reimbursed, of course, but it will offset that expense a bit. I didn't think he was getting anything extra.
Our college daughter was home for spring break last week, so we did a little clothes shopping, went out to eat a couple times, and celebrated her birthday with cake from a bakery. And now the funds left that we budgeted through the end of the month are getting slim.
I did jump ahead in the budget a bit and bought tickets for my husband, daughter and I to see a local Sherlock Holmes play in early April. Those three tickets were $55 total. And we will be seeing Beauty and the Beast in the theater this coming weekend. This much more than we usually spend on entertainment in a short period of time. But thankful that we can afford to do so when we find something that is of interest for all of us.
I listed four CDs on eBay today in a lot. Not sure if they will sell or not. I think I may have listed them for sale in the past, but I don't have a record of it on my account any longer. So if I did it was more than two months ago. I figured I would try one more time.
I've been doing pretty good at accumulating Swagbucks, but I'm going to need to spend my time getting my garden planted soon. I'm going to do zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, lettuce, snow peas, onions, cucumber and strawberries. I'm going to do the strawberries in a pot on our screened in porch to keep the birds away! I'm not real optimistic about them, but my younger daughter insists since she didn't like them when she was younger and didn't get to eat any!
Oh, I thought I'd ask those of you world travelers what you think about exchanging currency before a trip? How much of the total expected costs would you want to have in the foreign currency? 20%? 50%? The teacher leading the trip can exchange for a lower fee at her bank. We know some cash is likely a good idea. She would need pounds for the two days in London, and euros for the remaining ten or eleven days. She also has a no foreign transaction fee debit card that she will likely use as well. I think we may also add her as an authorized user on one of our credit cards, as an extra back up option.
I generally wash sheets on the first and 15th of the month (or close to it). Today is that day. And since I said I would stop using the dryer so much, I'm attempting to line dry my Queen size sheets inside our home. I want to see how much time it really takes them to dry after several minutes in the dryer. They were in there about ten minutes and really only feel slightly damp. The flat sheet is folded in half and hanging over our shower door. I will likely flip it later. The fitted sheet is draped over large chair, and the pillow cases are hanging over our wood head board. I turned on the fan in the two of the rooms where these are hanging.
I'm doing my girls twin bed sheets today, too. I think because I don't know how drying such large things will work, I'm going to use the dryer, but I'm going to put the setting for far less than usual to see if I can get them dry in less time. I should also toss in a dry bath towel as I've had luck with that helping shorten the drying time.
I do like a challenge, so we'll see how this ultimately works out over the next few months!
We noticed last night that we need a new headlight for my van. My husband just replaced both on his truck earlier this month. We will replace both at the same time, as we have learned they tend to wear out around the same time. I'm not sure we have ever replaced them on this van, which is 10 years old. But that seems a bit long, so I'm probably not remembering.
That will likely cost us $50 together. I guess if they really last ten years then that is a very good price.
Edited to Update: Found a pair of headlights on Amazon that were about $30 with tax (mine are different then our truck). I had about $2.33 in Amazon gift cards and will be able to claim $25 in American Express rewards, so that our out of pocket cost will be just $2.88!
Things have seemed spendy this month. I'm looking forward to payday on Wednesday!
I went shopping today to use some coupons. I had $10 off a $10 purchase at JC Penney. I found a new sports bra and a tank top and paid $1.13 since both items were on clearance. I also looked at Kohl's as I had a $5 coupon, but the truth is I didn't see anything I wanted.
Our Time Warner Cable bill arrived today. It due in about two weeks. I noticed that the prices went up! It's only $3.06, but that is another $36.72 a year. I've been contemplating getting rid of our basic television plan which cost us $34 plus taxes each month. I'm not sure if our internet would then go up too. That could save us $408 a year.
My husband is out of town at a training event and was lucky enough to meet up with some great co workers from his last unit. They are all in different states now! While not obligated, as the highest ranking person, he felt like paying the tab. I don't know the full amount yet, but the credit card is showing a pending payment of $115. There were five people and I saw beer in the picture he sent me. My husband has had meals paid for him many times in the past, so I know it is the right thing to do.
Scroll down two posts if you missed the post were I linked to some free debt pay off and saving charts.
My daughter signed up for two online summer school classes. Remember she's a non resident student. And her scholarship helps a lot during the fall and spring semesters, but will not be applied during the summer. In order to graduate with two majors in 4.5 years she needs to take summer classes. Those two classes will cost $3,470. I was expecting this but didn't put a lot of planning thought into it. But now I am!
She still has cash in her Educational Savings account. My current plan is to the money in that account but only for half. The other half ($1,735) I hope to cash flow. I have until June 12 to come up with those funds. Three months! This is $578.33 per month. I'm going to attempt $300 each pay period.
It is really hard to save 'extra' for my long term goal while paying tuition, but I am going to remember that we will have the GI Bill benefits starting this fall. And it covers the full tuition cost, $1000 towards books AND nearly all of the housing costs. I just figured out the housing costs and our actual out of pocket costs will amount to $2208. That is far less than we have been paying. We do have to pay the full amount upfront and then we are reimbursed monthly. Luckily we have the cash and this will work out just fine.
I added two more items to eBay this morning, and I have four more that I hope to add as soon as possible. These won't amount to a lot of cash, but each dollar counts. These items are easy to mail, too.
I came across a blog that offers free countdown type charts. There are numerous different ones. The charts look a big like a picture in some cases, say if you were saving up for a house. The debt free chart is the words DEBT FREE. You fill the words from bottom to top, kind of like those thermometer charts when an organization is saving for something. Not sure if I'm explaining well at all. Check them out here. There are a couple YouTube videos on the page where you can see someone explain how they are using them.
No money spent by me today. My husband had breakfast and lunch provided for him at his training. Dinner was also provided but he was full from lunch and going to skip it. But in the same conversation he said he was going to buy some snacks. So not sure what the actual spending is.
I made a yummy rice dish with mushrooms. My daughter loved it. Very easy, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of you already make something like this. I will definitely make it again.
Today I washed the blanket our cat Riley had spent so much time on in the days before her death. I hadn't washed it yet, as our older cat, Liberty, seemed to be enjoying it since then. But it is now closer to spring and it was time to get it washed. It was kind of sad to pull the lint trap out and see if full of her fur. I still so grateful for the time that she was a part of our family.
In other news, I have accumulated 1354 Swagbucks. Closer to my $15 Amazon gift card goal. But then I have found another item I may want to buy and that puts my total closer to $20. I may hold off though on that one, as it isn't a true need.
I like to revisit this topic once in awhile for new readers (and us oldies, too). Down below is a list of things many people buy that I don't as a more frugal spender. Now, of course, the list is not all inclusive as it is hard to remember things I don't buy since I don't think about them at all. I was inspired to write this post after watching a lot of decluttering videos on YouTube. It was interesting to see what people had purchased that they were decluttering. Many items were things I don't even own, or now no longer own as I don't buy them.
I noticed that a lot of people buy these in multiples and then never use them fully. If I buy a candle I use it all up before I would buy another.
I own two bottles of nail polish. Both are almost gone, but I've been using these on my toes in the summer for quite a few years.
I have basic foundation, one lipstick, one palette of eye shadow, one eye liner, and powder. That is it! Very simple when I use makeup which is probably less than ten times a year. I read about what is in makeup and decided I didn't like putting it on my face everyday!
I have had a few subscriptions in the past, but over time realized I wasn't getting any satisfaction reading them. Saves me time and money.
I use the library!
I'm simple. I own one pair of earnings, a pearl necklace, and probably four rings, although I only wear my wedding ring daily.
Got of of the subscription habit of newspapers when we moved the last time.
Same reason I don't wear makeup, too many chemicals. I'm lucky that I don't have very dry skin. I do have some chemical free lotions, but I take forever to use them!
Valentine/St Patrick's Day/Easter/July 4th/Thanksgiving decor
I've come to see these items put out in stores as just a way to part me from our hard earned money. I only decorate for Christmas and rarely buy new items.
Appliances and kitchen tools for only one purpose
My waffle maker, coffee maker, toaster are exceptions. However, have you noticed all the new gadgets for kitchens that come out when a simple tool, like a knife, could do the same thing!
Multiples of anything (such as excess sheets, blankets, towels, scissors, pens) particularly those that don't get used up quickly.
We have one set of sheets per bed. We have two towels per person, plus a set for guests. We buy what we need, nothing more.
This was one I saw many people decluttering. This is one that people probably accumulate because they are inexpensive or cute, but then they don't use them up!
I avoid buying baskets and bins. I have some obviously, but I'm not of the mindset that I have to go buy a container to be organized. I've let go of so much in the last few years, that I have bins I could probably let go of!
Phone cases and Purses
Why buy more than one, when one will do? I have a simple black purse that goes with everything. And if it doesn't? Who cares!
The newest electronics
I still have an iPod Nano from 2006!
Collectibles and knick knacks
I don't collect anything. I don't get the satisfaction at all from this kind of accumulation. And it costs so much money. And I dislike dusting around these kinds of things!!
I do buy them, but very rarely. I purchased one new shirt during the fall/winter time period. I wear things until they are clearly out of style or have worn out. I only buy what I need. I own two pairs of jeans for example.
I simple wear a T shirt and workout type pants to bed. I don't need specific clothes for sleeping in.
I stick to the basics with bra and underwear. And I only own three bras.
These are expensive too and add up! We love movies, so we do watch some of them over again. However, we only buy two to three per year...not every new release.
Alcohol when I eat out
I'm usually the driver as my husband does get alcohol at restaurants. I can't stand the expense!
I avoid paper plates, cups, silverware, wipes, dryer sheets, napkins, Keurig cups. We use paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, Swiffer cloths (have used flannel well in the past), coffee filters. I reuse plastic bags (unless they had a meat product in them) and my daughter has reusable sandwich bags for her lunch.
We been given more gifts in bags and have accumulated plenty to use for the future. I've also been know to wrap a gift in simple color tissue paper, as it is not too costly.
I do send some, but I send fewer and fewer every year. The cost adds up as does the cost of stamps. I also then spend less time shopping and running out for a card.
Stamps to pay a bill
I now use Bill Pay with my bank to send checks, including our rent check. Most other bills are paid directly with the provider, usually by credit card.
I can't even think of the name of some of these subscriptions, but they are like Fruit of the Month club for makeup and organic products.
Traditional Phone Line
We use Ooma to save money. We may opt out entirely at some point in the near future.
Excessive Data Plans
I know compared to some of you we spend more on our cell phones as we use Verizon. The four of us share 3GB of data. My neighbor mentioned that three of them in her family share 10GB of data! I wonder if they have tried to conserve at all?
Excessive Cable Channels
We only have basic to have any signal at all. I did like when we had an over the air antenna at our last house. The cost was just the initial investment. I wonder if we need it at all. We rarely watch any tv.
High end brand name clothing
Do people not realize they are paying for the brand name? I know some brands are worth the investment as the quality is good, but most are just fashion statements...declaring to the world that you overpaid for your clothes!
We have a treadmill and a few basic weights and bands. In the past we did have a membership and did use the gym!
We nearly always turn these down. They simply add to the cost of what you are buying. It would be better to save the money and set aside if the item ever needs repair. So many things don't break! We did have a warranty on one computer and the screen broke, that warranty did pay for that. Years later something similar happened with a broken screen and I bought a new screen and installed it myself for under $50.
I may have already mentioned I don't follow many fashion trends. I try to stick with basic or classic looks. I also don't have a need for lots of shoes.
Cookbooks (remember no books!)
I only own one cookbook. I find all other recipes online for free.
I limit these. I find pictures of family on vacation are the best souvenir.
New school supplies every year
We reuse markers, backpacks, rulers, pens, calculators, lunch boxes. We restock the items that get used up or worn out like binders and paper.
I have a set of eight and I don't see a need for ones that have other graphics or new designs. Just let go of two snowman ones that my daughters used to drink hot chocolate out of.
I think thank you notes are nice to send. And I'm not against writing real letters. But the truth is, I tend to email or call someone. I was seeing hoards of journals, notepads, sticky notes that some of these people were getting rid of. We still have more than we need in our home that the girls accumulated when they were younger.
I only buy an organizer if it solves a very specific problem that cannot be solved in another way. In fact, at the moment I can't think of any specific organizers that would qualify that reside in my home. I mainly have bins, large and small. Some baskets. But my first instinct is not to buy new containers.
Bleach and other toxic cleaners
Air fresheners (plug ins and sprays)
Most of these items are just too strong to use in our home. And they are not safe to breath in.
Specialty trays and serving platters
Holiday kitchen linens
My basic placements work year round in our home. I don't buy aprons for each season, napkins for each holiday or even serving pieces when our basic china will do.
I suppose I really could go on and on with what I don't buy. I just thought of craft items. I do sew, but I only buy fabric for specific projects and if I have leftover, I use it for other smaller projects.
What things do you avoid buying? Think of all the money we save and time acquiring those things. I'm overwhelmed thinking about if I had to start buying the things I listed!
We earned $79.08 in interest during the month of January. I hope to see that bump up a little now that more ($15K) of our money is invested at 2%.
I withdrew $4,750 from our daughter's Educational Savings account. That money will be used to cover most of her housing costs for the semester. She has $4839 left in her account. This is in a interest bearing account, so she is earning a little money on it each month.
Since it is officially payday today, I can say that I initially allocated $814 towards tuition. But I also didn't fund all of our usual everyday spending categories in YNAB specifically clothing and entertainment. That means I have another $100 to add to the tuition pot, and finally I decided that the electric bill (that really big one of $315) can actually be paid on our next paycheck on February 15. With those funds, funds saved from last few paychecks, the money from the ESA, and our tax refund, I am now only short $205.31!!
But as I'm writing this I'm also realizing that the books I bought my daughter for school have been allocated to that tuition category in YNAB. They were charged to my American Express card which I currently have 0% interest offer on. Therefore, I don't need to pay that off this pay period. That gives us another $153. Now I'm only short $48!!
I did realize that with my husband's travel reimbursement we might make a little money. It depends on how much he spends on food over what the per diem is. I think he will submit his request for reimbursement on Friday, and it should get paid within a week, maybe in time to pay the tuition bill! This would be a little less out of our savings that we would need to pay back.
I'm feeling much better about this huge tuition bill! I think I can likely shave $48 off our spending with some careful planning over the next 10 days.
I took our younger daughter back to Walmart yesterday to get more school supplies. ANOTHER binder, a 3 subject notebook, and dividers were required. We also bought a 4 pack of AAA batteries and a package of glue sticks to donate to two teachers. That was another $22. Why are office supplies so expensive? The 3 subject notebook was $4.24! The teacher did say they could use three regular notebooks, but my daughter did prefer the combined version for the easy of carrying around. I'm not going to make her sacrifice for a couple dollars.
I think we are continuing our version of frugal through mid February. That is when tuition is due, so I want to keep the spending to a minimum. My husband and I discussed greatly reducing our alcohol intake primarily for health reasons, but that would be very good on our budget. I will let you know how that works out.
I just ate leftover mushroom barley soup for lunch today. I pulled that out from the freezer. It was probably two servings, but I ate them both! So yummy and really not very caloric. I think I may be having soup all week, as I have a can of soup in the pantry and another soup in the freezer (Moroccan Lentil).
I will need to grocery shop today. I need apples and crackers for my daughter's lunch tomorrow. I made a list of other items to cover the rest of the week. I will buy today, but count the purchase as a February expense.
I checked our bank accounts this morning. The tax refund and my husband's paycheck are both pending for deposit tomorrow! I plan to redeem shares from my daughter's Educational Savings account tomorrow to cover a portion of the tuition bill. At this point we appear to be about $600 short of what we need. As I have said all along, I will use our regular savings to cover the shortfall and pay ourselves back. No loans for her or us this semester is the plan, and I'm sticking to it!
Oh, I saw this on the SA forum this morning. It's under freebies, but it is more about spreading kindness and love. Check it out if you are interested!
I redeemed $12 from our USAA Visa rewards. That money will be deposited in our checking account on Monday. I have designated those funds toward tuition, of course!
I plan to redeem rewards from our Chase Freedom account, but not until after the next statement closes which is on February 12. I will have already paid tuition at that point, but the rewards will help start building back up some of the savings accounts we have designated on YNAB. The thing I don't like about Chase Freedom rewards is that you can only redeem in full after you have earned $20. I currently have $21+ I can redeem. However, I expect with this next statement to have another $2. So I will wait and have that money added to the current balance and redeem in full, rather than have $2 I don't have access to if I redeemed now. We are going to stop using the Chase Freedom card for awhile, so there will not be any rewards accumulating in the near future.
We went to Panera for dinner last night. We spent $33.20. The movie tickets cost us $22.47. We enjoyed the movie, the meal and time spent with our daughter. After that spending our everyday funds account is down to $198. My husband needs to take $100 out for a work trip (reimbursed later) this week. So that leaves $98 for the next three days. I may need fuel, but I think we can get by with food on hand until payday on Wednesday.
The only spending that could come up is any school supplies my daughter might need to start the new semester. One teacher has already requested students bring ruler, calculator, spiral notebook and colored pencils. And I'm 99% sure we have all of those.
I think I'm going to keep myself busy the next couple days doing some cleaning around our house. That shouldn't cost me anything!
I used up the arborio rice this evening when I made mushroom risotto. I also used up the white cooking wine. Bonus!
I stopped at Walmart, after finally dropping off library books, and picked up the fresh parmesan cheese for the risotto. That was my only spending today. My husband picked up his usual Friday alcohol, although he did buy one less bottle. So that helped save another $10.
It's not particularly frugal but we may go out to dinner tomorrow night. Our daughter finished her first semester of her junior year this week, and it feels like our first free weekend where she has zero homework. We want to get out and celebrate!! I'm guessing she will chose something simple so it won't get too out of hand with the spending.
Payday is on Wednesday. We have $254. I'd be thrilled with at least half of that to apply towards tuition due February 12.
I went ahead and filed our taxes. All of our tax forms arrived. We take the standard deduction, since we no longer own a home. This was probably one of the easiest tax filing years ever, honestly. We are getting a $1497 refund. All of which will go towards the tuition bill due February 12. And as I said in my last post, I did adjust withholding to avoid the big refund next year.
We went grocery shopping today. I honestly didn't use any coupons at the commissary, however I spent $102, which did include several wants. Overall, this is a very decent grocery bill for us. I did inquire about the items that we paid for last week, but were left behind. I had my receipt and they had recorded the items I left. I was simply told to go get the items and they would sack them up. It was almost too simple! At least $10+ worth of stuff was not lost.
The week after next my husband will be gone for about four or five days. I'm going to consider skipping my regular grocery shop and see if I can't get my daughter and I through that week without buying much at all. If I can do that I just might be able to save the $83 left in the grocery budget.
My husband was going to get a haircut today as he primarily needed his neck trimmed. He did mention that we should buy a new trimmer as we have been without one for awhile. He even pointed out the trimmer might cost the same amount as one haircut! Well, the one we bought was $24, and his haircut is usually $13. So one more trim and we will have made the purchase worthwhile. We also talked about cutting his hair at home. We did try that at one time, and I now can't remember why we didn't keep it up!
We have $323 left in our Everyday Expenses category for the rest of the month, just nine days. I feel pretty good that we can keep more than half, maybe even $200 of this money to send in towards tuition.
We were notified by my daughter's flute teacher that she needs to take the next four weeks off from teaching as she has a gig at the community playhouse. We do have the option of another teacher, but my daughter who has been packing in two AP courses in one semester (finals are this week, exam in May) just would like a break. This is going to save me $100! More money I can apply to tuition!!
We were out of town this morning. Our event ended around noon and we were hungry. The three of us stopped at Subway before we headed home. We spent $20.65. This is where our habits and lack of planning cost us money. I'm not really upset about it. If I were being truly frugal we would have prepared a lunch at home and brought it with us.
I have updated YNAB with payday funds. We had about $111 that we didn't spend during the first half of the month. I put that in the college tuition and housing bucket. After allocating for regular investments, bills and spending categories, I had almost another $1700 from our current paycheck to put towards tuition. I now have $2935 set aside. I need about $4K total, so I'm still short. I think I can get pretty close on my husband's next paycheck. And since we do have cash, I can actually pay it and then repay ourselves once we do have funds.
Tonight for dinner, we are having fried rice with some of that chicken I made earlier in the week. We have some salad to finish as well. I need to make my meal plan for next week so we can get our grocery shopping done tomorrow! I hope to incorporate some more rice and some soups into our plan.
I paid our cable bill with my husbands American Express card last night. This charge still qualifies under the 10% back on satellite and cable bills that expires at the end of January. The maximum credit is $30 and our other bills have qualified us for $28.95 of that $30. So this bill will get $1.05 credit. I plan to use $25 in rewards towards the bill as well, so our final bill this month will be $55.03. If you remember we turned in a cable box and exchanged it for a digital adapter a couple weeks ago, that is saving us $10 a month now. We did get a $5-6 credit for turning it in mid billing cycle.
I'm debating about doing a StepBet. I know I could win. I have a treadmill, and I go on regular walks with my neighbor. The bet is $40. For those of you who have done these in the past, what have some of your payouts looked like? Is it a good return? I may do another 4 week DietBet, if I don't do the StepBet.
In pantry news, I've finished the english muffins, and the clementines. I plan to have a green smoothie for lunch to use up the romaine, frozen fruit and some of the chia seeds.
Checking in this evening to give an update on my progress of eating it all, the food stores we have in our home. I've crossed off what I ate so far. And I actually ate a piece of leftover homemade pizza from last nights dinner, as well as some salad my husband didn't eat earlier in the week. I made fresh soup tonight for dinner. I'm going to freeze the leftovers for later in the month.
1 frozen banana
3 2/3 cup frozen strawberry servings
2 1 cup frozen blueberries
frozen tomato soup
1 boca burger
1 microwavable meal
1.5 pounds chicken breast
1 whole chicken
2 opened jars of salsa
8oz sour cream
balsamic dressing (used half of remaining amount)
1 c. refried beans (ate this in full)
feta cheese (whole package)
3 clementines (ate 2)
1.25 packages turkey bacon (husband ate the 1/4 package)
3 English muffins (ate one)
barley (2 servings)
2 c brown rice
2 c white rice
1 c. lentils
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can chunky soup
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg couscous
1 c arborio rice
12 Wasa crackers (ate 2)
2 cans tuna
spaghetti 1 serving
fettuccini 2 servings
I plan to eat the english muffins or fruit for breakfast. I may also make some green smoothies with the extra romaine lettuce and chia seeds. I can eat the boca burger, tomato soup, and tuna for lunches along with some fresh salad to use up that dressing. My grocery list is much smaller for this upcoming week as I plan to incorporate the chicken, rice, beans, couscous, and the pasta into many meals for the upcoming week.
Do you have anything in your refrigerator that you need to eat up before the food goes to waste?
I redeemed $62 from our USAA Rewards card yesterday. That snowflake of cash is now sitting in our checking account and has been budgeted for the upcoming tuition expense. I was able to put away $740 in January for tuition. So far this month I have saved $532. I'm definitely behind where I would like to be considering I would like to have $4000 by the tuition due date of February 12.
I raided the birthday fund and came up with $150. I think this was actually birthday money my husband and I received for our birthday's from my parents. Yet, tuition is more important than buying ourselves more stuff!
I evaluated the escrow fund we have for auto insurance, renters insurance, and vehicle registration. I was hoping we had excess there, but that was not the case. I guess I'm pretty good at setting it up correctly!
I may be able to find some things to sell, but I'm not very optimistic they will be big money makers or sell fast. But the little amounts do add up, so I will try.
The second half of the month is usually the most fruitful time for saving. We have fewer bills and expenses. In fact, I may delay our retirement investments one month just to make this all work without dipping into savings. I'm also considering using just a little more of her Educational Savings Account. But that has yet to be determined.
I mentioned a couple months ago that our landlord failed to cash our October rent check. That check was received as I have a text from one of the owners confirming it. It was the first check I sent them through bill pay, rather than writing my own check. She was kind of enough to confirm that it was received as I notified her of the change in advance.
The owners have now cashed November, December and January checks. January was cashed yesterday. December wasn't cashed until the 15th of December. I think November was cashed early in the month. However, October still has not been cashed!
Our rent is $1800. I sure don't mind the extra funds. And I still don't think it is my responsibility to notify them. We saw one of the owners on New Years Day as he was in town and wanted to take pictures of the yard (a whole other issue they have failed to properly address this year). There was no mention of the issue and he had no comments on the home and our care of it.
I'm considering this an experiment now. How long do people really go without cashing checks? I cash them within a day or two of receiving, so I find it quite interesting. And the experiment could land me $1800 in our pocket.
Oh, and I'm not spending that $1800 until we are free and clear out of this home. It is still technically their money. We do owe it and if they bring it to our attention I will have no problem paying it. I just find it amazing that you wouldn't notice that you didn't deposit a rent check!
I've been crunching numbers to prepare for 2017 taxes. Yes, now at the beginning of the year. Part of the reason is to not have a big refund if possible. I want the money in my pocket now!
One site I use to calculate how different withholding amounts affect net pay is PayCheckCity.Pick salary or hourly as appropriate.
And the IRS calculator may be helpful also to figure how much you should be claiming for withholding in the first place. It can be found here.
Just sharing in hopes that it helps someone. I've always done our taxes (well a couple years early in our marriage my father in law did them, but he passed away in 2002). I found it helpful to understand how they work. The more you know, the less scary it is.
I'm a bit undecided on our financial goals this year. I know we will continue to invest for retirement. I'm looking into how and if I want to adjust anything. Part of this includes running through our taxes. The free online tax software I used last year for the military won't be available until Monday, January 16th.
I will also continue our youngest daughter's college savings. We started investing earlier for her, so she has a bit more accumulated. She turns 17 in 2017 so I will no longer get the child tax credit for her. Another part of my planning.
I want to continue to avoid student loans for my daughter in college. The bill in February will be the biggest outlay this year. I'm using some of her Educational Savings Account. The remainder, over $5K, will come from our bank account. We have savings, so will use that, but I'm trying to get most of it from current income before it is due. Right now I only have a little over $1K accumulated. I think I can get close to another $2K by the end of January. I also will put any tax refund towards the bill. I just may not have that in time to make the payment on February 12.
I was thinking this would be the year we would get a family vacation in, but it is starting to look like my husband will be at some out of town classes this summer. I do think we plan to visit colleges in the spring, and that will involve airfare and a hotel night or two. As soon as I save for tuition, I will save and pay for airfare. Honestly, I expect airfare for daughter's spring break in March and then again to come home in May. That will add up!
Once we are to summer, I may be looking at some tuition for my daughter to take a couple online courses. I can use her ESA funds for these or part of these. Once we get to Fall we are finally going to start using the Post 911 GI Bill benefits. The tuition and fees are covered in full. There is also payment for books, $500 a semester, and housing ($1062/mo, prorated). The housing payment doesn't cover our entire costs, we will likely need to pay about $1500 out of pocket. This is something I can easily pay from current cash flow at the time.
So I'm thinking about what we need to accomplish, I just don't have it nailed down specifically yet. I will get there though!
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