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100 Days Until Christmas!

September 16th, 2017 at 05:50 pm

Christmas is just 100 days away!

We have saved some money already. We spend just about $600 a year, and simply save $50 a month. It's nice to know the money is there. I don't include money for gift wrap, baking, or the occasional new decoration. The amount we spend on that is very minimal.

I wanted to bring this up now for anyone that often finds themselves scrambling at the last minute to find cash or pulling out the credit card. Remember now, how disappointing it is to get that big credit card bill in January.

My suggestion is to make a list now of who you buy for and what you can afford to spend. Add that up and then divide by the number of pay periods you have left until Christmas. Save that amount going forward. Now if that seems like too much to save, then you need to go back and adjust the amount you are spending on each person or eliminate some gifts. Look for deals while shopping to make every dollar count. The sooner you start shopping the more time you have to find the right item at the right price.

I'm going to do a little better this year buying my baking items on sale. Last year I divided the items up and bought them during two different regular grocery trips. This year I'm going to watch the sales, probably in the weeks before Thanksgiving.

How are you planning for Christmas (or other holidays) to make it fit within your budget? Do you have a budget?

Started Christmas Shopping & More

September 7th, 2017 at 02:14 pm

I've started Christmas shopping! One item arrived in the mail on Tuesday and another arrives today from Hungary. I mentioned to my girls at the beginning of August that it was never too soon to give me Christmas gift ideas. And they have done just that. Their lists are not flushed out completely, but I figured these couple items would be good to get now. Later this month I'm going to brainstorm for everyone else on my list and start making a rough plan. We've been saving $50 a month since December, so will have $600 saved for gifts by mid November. Yes, $600 is enough, we buy for fewer people now, and buy less expensive simpler gifts. It really makes for a much nicer holiday season.

We did buy my husband his new speakers for our family room. Out of pocket cost for them, the stands and speaker was $457.88. This was paid for with the per diem he received from his summer travel. He is very happy with his purchase and I'm happy for him as he has wanted to replace our old set (which we received as a gift for our wedding) for awhile now.

For now the remainder of the per diem is in savings. I'm pretty sure it will go to the Big Goal, but next time we have a budget meeting, September 15, we will discuss again. We may use some to fund some short term savings, but then pay ourselves back. But it really ends up being saved either way.

We are prepared for Hurricane Irma heading to the southeast coast. We have water, batteries, a hand crank/solarweather radio and cell phone charger, cash, and plenty of non perishable foods. And yes a manual can opener, although we don't have many cans! The weather radio is new. I found one at Bed Bath and Beyond for $51, after my 20% off coupon. I feel lucky as many of these kinds of radios were not going to arrive until late next week!

I used quite a few coupons at the commissary yesterday while shopping. They totaled up to $8.20! I also submitted my receipt to Ibotta for another $1.50 in rebates. I will follow my own advice and transfer that $8.20 from my groceries budget line to the Big Goal. I'm not moving the $1.50 as that is a rebate I will get in cash once I meet the $20 cash out threshold.

I sold a book on eBay over the weekend. Only netted $0.92, but it is now out of our home.

This weekend our landlords drove nearly four hours to put new mulch down in the landscaping beds. It was so needed. In one bed, they changed it to rock. It was very overgrown and over filled with plants. Honestly it really always looked awful. Now it just has a crepe myrtle tree and three rose bushes (which are new) and it looks much better. They also agreed to leave one large backyard bed without much as it only has three trees in it and all the mulch had virtually disappeared and grass has almost filled it all in. This will be much easier to maintain...just mow the grass, no pulling weeds or spraying chemicals! It will save them money in the long term too.

Last Friday, the high school football game was cancelled due to a tornado watch and severe storms. They played their game on Saturday but the band was not needed. We would have been volunteering, thus getting free admission, but we saved the few dollars our daughter would have spent at the concession stand. Tomorrow's weather looks good, so a couple dollars for a evening snack is scheduled. This is how the band makes money, so our daughter does benefit when the money is spent at our home team's concession.

I'll wrap up the post to mention I'm making a photo book for my niece that was adopted by my sister and brother in law in December. I had made one for her older sister when she was adopted. I'm not nearby so I've been gathering the photos as the take them and send them to me. I'm about to wrap it up, order it and have it mailed to her in time for her birthday next week. I'm considering it an adoption gift, and sending money and a small item I'm sewing for her birthday separately.

A lot to do, so I must get back to it! Prayers to all in the path of Irma and those that love them!!

Per Diem Arrived

August 30th, 2017 at 11:47 am

Did I mention my husband completed his training, graduated and is now finally back home after a very long summer? On Friday, within an hour of arriving home he submitted his travel voucher for the trip. And it arrived in our account today!

The grand total amount of per diem and some mileage for first trip and last trip came to $5,348.25! A very nice chunk of change.

We will spend time talking about how to handle these funds. I personally just want it to go to the Big Goal, but at a minimum we are going to replace an old set of speakers in our family room. They are going out and we talked about replacing them at Christmas, but then had a change of plans for that money. Now is the time to make it happen.

I'll let you know after our next budget meeting what the plan will be. Smile

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 08:29 pm

We had some good news today on my daughter's University Bill. The school has applied her VA tuition payments. I'm not entirely sure they have received the funds, but they have noted them on her bill, so it appears we no longer owe the money. So now a bill for just $6,073.51. Most of that is for room and board, about $250 of that seems to be additional housing payment for the week she was in her dorm during band camp. I think something else was covered that we didn't expect. It seems they allowed her Honor's book scholarship of $250 to cover books. It didn't count towards tuition, so that was another $250 from the VA that went towards tuition. All done correctly it seems, just not what I was expecting.

There have been a few more school expenses. My daughter needs a conducting baton for her conducting class. We bought it used on eBay. It was about $22. Hopefully we can resell after this class. My younger daughter needed more notebooks and I picked up some printer paper. Out of pocket for those additional items was $4.03.

Other high school expenses I see coming up are $40 for senior dues (these primarily go to Prom I think), and my daughter's year book for $73. The yearbook isn't a need, but we have always bought them...and this is the last year!! We can afford it, so we are buying it.

Not sure how long it will take for the school to start talking about cap and gown orders and so forth. We will likely only order the cap and gown. We didn't do announcements for our older daughter and it was just fine. That will save some money. We also won't be having any big party. My parents, maybe my sister's family, will be in town and we will celebrate simply with them.

And then at some point we need to get senior pictures.

I made a donation to the American Red Cross to help Houston flood victims. I doubled our normal disaster amount. I wish we could do more, but if everyone helps it will make a difference. Consider miles you have or even Swagbucks if you don't have cash you can assist with.

I received a $3 Pinecone payment today. I redeemed $2.50 in coupons for groceries this week. Two were physical coupons, the other two were rebates with Ibotta.

That's the money news for now! I will get another Emergency Fund post up soon.

Can We Talk About Emergency Funds?

August 25th, 2017 at 02:43 pm

I saw a headline recently that 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. This makes me so sad!

And then I talked to a good friend of mine yesterday who lives in the path of Hurricane Harvey. I reminded her she should have some cash on hand. She had just taken out $50. I told her more would be better. In my mind I had $500, but said maybe $200 would be good. She said although she just got paid, that she didn't have that much money! I said well since you just got paid, don't pay some of your bills you would be paying until the storm passes. Take the cash out and put it back in after the storm and pay the bills. That assumes she doesn't need it.

I'm of the belief that having an emergency fund, even a small one of $1000, is the foundation of financial security. The feeling you get when you accumulate that much money for just in case is palpable. Particularly if you didn't think you could do it. It's a feeling of accomplishment, confidence and security all rolled into one! It's also a feeling of relief when an emergency such as the one my friend is dealing with arrives and you have that money to use.

Saving that first emergency fund changes your mindset to being proactive against the unknown expenses rather reactive. If you can see that emergencies do come along and you will need money for them, then you can also see why setting aside money for irregular bills is helpful. It opens you up to seeing that you can save for other things like a new dishwasher or Christmas. And then you have saved money because you aren't charging the expense and paying interest. A proactive mindset with your money lets you see that you should save ahead for house down payments, college and retirement. Like I said it is the foundation of a solid financial house.

I can't save that much money. I will spend it if I see that money in my account. We have too many bills. Those are all excuses that block your ability to even try to start an emergency fund. Nearly everyone in the United States has the ability to save $1000. Now you might not be able to save it all this month, but any income level would likely be able to save that much in a years time. I think that is a little too long (and so would Dave Ramsey) but I would give you the grace to get it set up in that period of time. And if you want the math on that it is $83.33 a month.

And now I'm just going to do a quick brain storm of how I could find $83 each month. And honestly, the first thought that came to mind was Swagbucks! I know many people don't like it and even I get annoyed with it sometimes. But it is definitely possible to earn SB to equal a $25 deposit to a PayPal account each month.

I see my husband pick up a bottled water or soda at the grocery store at least once a week. Okay, I do it too, just not as often. The last time I remember noticing the price it was $1.89. If we could eliminate those five sodas from our spending we would save $9.45.

And at our house you have heard me mention that we spend more on restaurants than I prefer. I like to think we rarely eat out, but we do eat out. If we eliminated one trip to Subway each month we would save nearly $30.

I've been lax about using coupons at the grocery store. I think I could probably find at least $5 worth of coupons to use each month, maybe even $10. In fact, just confirm I'm right, I checked Ibotta and found the following coupons that I would use on things I normally buy. $0.25 on any item, $0.25 on fresh zucchini, $0.50 on cheese slices and $1.25 on a specific brand of bar soap. So in one shopping trip I could have $2.25 in savings. That is savings I could set aside towards my emergency fund. Again, easily $5 a month without changing spending habits, but by just finding the coupons!!

This next one is personal, and I've mentioned it here before, but I invested in a menstrual cup and washable/reusable pads earlier this year. At this point the small outlay (which I think I actually used Swagbucks to purchase) has been recouped by saving an average of $7 a month on disposable supplies. Because of my investment that is $7 I no longer have to spend. If I was consciously saving for my first emergency fund I would set that $7 aside each month.

Another one that has crossed my mind lately as a way of saving in our own home is the food we buy our cat. We've been feeding more wet food. A can a day, which is at least $0.50, often a little more. That is $15 a month. Now we do feed her dry food as well, so by eliminating wet food the amount of dry food she eats would increase, but the cost for that additional serving is far less than $0.50. Probably under $0.10. So let's assume we would save $0.40 a day, that is $12 a month.

And finally, I think I would be looking for something to sell each month while I was saving up my $1000 emergency fund. Things I have sold in the past for at least $5 include DVDs, girls jeans, Bath & Body Works lotions and sprays, kids coats and boots, Box Tops for Education, and tools. I've sold many things over the years, some online, some at yard sales. Of course, the amounts vary based on the item. Most of our homes are bursting with stuff! If you could find 12 items in your home worth $5 to sell, you would have $60 towards your emergency fund. I'm guessing many people have far more than that!

At at minimum I just came up with $94 a month I could save!! It takes effort, commitment to the goal but it can be done. And anything you eliminate for the year can be added back in. Or if you eliminate restaurant meals one month, swap it out with putting your Netflix membership on hold for a month. Be creative with how you come up with your savings each month. It doesn't have to be an elimination for a whole year!

Let me know if you are inspired to try saving your first $1000 emergency fund? Do you think you could do this?

And I'm thinking tomorrow I may brainstorm how I would come up with $1000 in one month! That is usually the best plan. Saving the emergency fund as fast as possible.

First VA Housing Payment

August 24th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

We received our first VA Housing payment due to our college daughter using the Post 911 GI Bill. The amount was $370.67. I guess they counted this month as just 10 day. I think it should be 11 since it is a partial month and the number of days my daughter is in school is 11 for August. But I do know the government does base payments on a 30 day month. We will take it.

Now we are just waiting to see the Chapter 33 (Post 911 GI Bill) designation on our daughter's account at the University. The VA office on campus indicated that it should show up after the first week. And since this is the first week, I'm not too concerned yet. I just need it to show up BEFORE the bill is due on September 12 when the bill is due.

In the coming months we expect a monthly payment of $1,112. For the fall semester we will receive that full amount in October, November and December. In January, we will get a partial payment for the partial days of class in December. Each time these come in we will simply be paying ourselves back for the cost of the semesters housing.

And I've mentioned before these housing payments will cover all but about $1700 of the housing that is due for this school year.

So very thankful that our out of pocket costs are going to be far less this year. We'll still be saving some cash in the coming year in anticipation of future semesters that will not be covered. So this reprieve is very helpful!

Where To Hold Sinking Funds

August 23rd, 2017 at 11:27 am

I'm sure there are others reading that haven't heard of sinking funds, or know how to set them up. Hopefully, some of us veteran savers can help share how they work! Since I brought up sinking funds yesterday, I thought I'd point out some options for tracking and holding those sinking funds until you need them.

I just remembered that the first time I heard about sinking funds in the personal finance world was from author Mary Hunt. She wrote a book called Cheapskate Monthly Makeover (now titled Debt Proof Living) where she described Freedom Accounts. I actually like that term a little better, as that is exactly what it gives you. Freedom from living paycheck to paycheck because you are planning ahead.

Sinking Funds or a Freedom account are a place to hold the money for the irregular expenses that are known. Christmas is a great example. We know when Christmas comes every year, there is not reason we can't set aside money ahead of time for those purchases. This is amounts to be proactive (saving), rather than reactive (often credit cards) with money.

As I mentioned yesterday we also save ahead for car insurance, vehicle registrations, renter's insurance. And I'm working on getting a bit more clear with saving for tuition, band expenses, vehicle maintenance, membership fees, cell phones and eye glasses.

Currently, all of our sinking funds are in our main checking account. Yep, no interest being earned there. The reason we are able to do this is that we track all the money we are saving in sinking funds in YNAB, You Need A Budget, an online budget tool. I'm not really tuned into the amount we have in our checking account as a whole, because I don't look there. I look at YNAB. And YNAB has it all categorized.

So you might notice I mention we are all done spending because the cash is gone. For me, this means the money I allocated to spending in YNAB is gone. Our checking account still has plenty of cash because the sinking fund money is sitting there.

Before we used YNAB I would hold our sinking funds in a separate checking account at our same bank. Each pay period I would transfer the money to that second account, for later use. This worked really well to keep me from spending that money without realizing it.

I've seen online many people use Capital One 360 checking and savings accounts for their sinking funds. Apparently their online saving account allows for making categories for the money being held there. I think Lucky Robin may use this??

I know other people actually save the cash in envelopes. For me this would not work, only because converting to cash to save and then back to pay for things would be inconvenient.

So those of you who are using sinking funds, where do you keep your money?

Here's a link to Mary Hunt's explanation of a Freedom Account and how to set one up. This is really crucial to getting in control of your finances. I'd say this is step two after getting an emergency fund set up!

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 07:16 pm

In our budget discussions this weekend, I explained to my husband that I get overwhelmed with the sinking funds. The fewer I have the better, but lately we seem to have many more that I'm trying to juggle. And my post here, is just to talk about where we are now, not necessarily to fix it, as that is still part of the process we are working on.

The sinking funds that work really well that we have had for quite a long time are for auto insurance, registration, renter's insurance, and Christmas. I recently added birthday's and that one works really well, also.

Some of the one's that aren't as easy for me are: car maintenance and repairs, eye glasses, phones, and college expenses. Now to be fair these are newer categories I have set up in YNAB as a place to hold funds for the above listed expenses.

In the past, before YNAB, we had sinking funds for the auto registration, insurance, and Christmas. The other short term saving money was put into what I called a slush fund. That money was put into a separate savings account. When a bigger expense like eye glasses came up we would dip into it. And this way worked for many, many years.

I know I could still go back and even set this up in YNAB. I just want to be realistic in the knowing how much to put into the slush fund or these newer sinking funds. Because anything above what we need to save for those expenses, I'd really like to go to our Big Goal.

The nice thing about YNAB is that I can look at each category and see what we spent in the last year or year to date. For example last year, we spent $1,900 in car maintenance and repairs. That is an average of $165 a month. So far this year, we are on track to spend more. We have spent so far $1,537 in eight months, which is an average of $192. I think I want to use an average of the two years and start saving that when we get to January. Our vehicles are ten years old, repairs and maintenance are a given in the coming years.

We don't buy cell phones or eye glasses every year (usually) so that one is different. Much harder to figure out a monthly savings. Although again, looking at past expenses, I could probably come up some average over the last two years and save that amount monthly.

And then there is travel expenses and vacation. This includes flying our daughter here to visit and us visiting here. Last year, our Vacation spending was $9,270. More than half of that was for my daughter's trip to Europe. We had a small vacation to Nashville, and a trip back to our home state. This year our spending for travel is already at $2,526, an average of $315 a month.

Again, not really looking for advice, just explaining some of the things we are looking at for cutting, saving and managing better. These are line items in the budget we need to look at closely, if we are going to make progress on our Big Goal.

Tell me a bit about what you do for managing short term expenses such as the ones I described.

Cutting Out Lessons

August 21st, 2017 at 11:08 pm

We have decided to cut out flute lessons from our budget temporarily. While the decision effects the budget, it was not cut to influence the budget. We have figured out that a new flute teacher is not available on the days my daughter is available, which is only three days a week. The other four days a week all involve band practice, games or competitions. This makes her very busy this fall along with taking three AP classes (which at her school are all completed in one semester). We now have $25 a week to put back in the budget. We expect to start back up as early as December or as late as February depending on how the school classes seem to be going.

I went to the grocery store today and was able to purchase groceries for $59 for the week for my daughter and I. That seems super cheap. The meals are simple and I did find several of the things on my list on sale.

My older daughter (in college) started classes today. She already had to buy more things at the book store. A non graphing calculator to use on Calculus tests. She has a graphing one, but they are not allowed. And because she is in an 80 person class, she rented a Clicker. A Clicker is way for the professor to ask multiple choice questions and have the students respond on their Clicker and then be able to gauge how the class is doing. At least that is my understanding. As a music/graphing design major we don't expect her to be in any other classes requiring a clicker, thus the rental made the best economical sense.

I did get to see the eclipse. We are in an area where it was 96% covered. And it did not get completely dark. It was definitely a different kind of lighting and I did hear crickets chirping (apparently they think it's night). We had eclipse glasses that my mom sent. I invited two neighbors and their kids over to view using the glasses. The kids had made their own cereal box viewers, which kind of worked. I liked viewing through the glasses much better. I feel grateful to have experienced it.

Did you see the eclipse where you live?

Budget Discussion Part One

August 20th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

My husband and I did a review of our budget that we track on YNAB yesterday. This really was a first step of our discussion and making new plans. For the most part we are on the same page, we both admitted areas we probably overspend. We discussed some larger ticket items we need to save for. We also talked about retirement and whether to keep saving at the same rate, about 18%, or lower it. We decided to keep it the same for now. We agreed to come back to the budget on September 1 when my husband is paid again and tweak some things. Around this same time we expect to be getting a per diem check for his summer school travels. We will need to make a solid plan on where that money goes.

We did go out to eat for lunch yesterday. I had a $30 gift card. Our bill was just under $20, so we still have more money to use there another time.

Other spending yesterday came to about $30, which seems very low for a weekend. Today will be grocery shopping for the week.

My mom sent me two pairs of eclipse glasses in the mail that she received for free. I appreciate her mailing them because I was having trouble finding any locally. I plan to invite my two neighbors with children over to share our viewing glasses.

Pays to Shop Around

August 19th, 2017 at 02:41 pm

My husband is getting close to the point of needing to have his timing belt replaced on his Honda Ridgeline. This is based on mileage and owner's manual suggested maintenance. Our local Honda dealership quoted $1200! This seemed high to me based on around $750+ that we paid for our van a couple years ago. My husband called another dealership 30 minutes away this morning and was quoted $899. He also wants spark plugs replaced and those were quoted less as well. We haven't scheduled the maintenance yet, but once we have a free day and the cash set aside we will be getting the work done at the dealership that charges less.

Groceries are slim here at the house today. I think we are going to use a gift card I received for some pet care to try out a new restaurant for lunch. There may be a little out of pocket, but far less than without the gift card! Tonight we will eat dinner in, but we will need a couple items from the store. And then tomorrow I'll hit the commissary for the upcoming weekly food needs. Right now the grocery budget is still looking really good considering how far we are into the month.

Today my husband and I are going to sit down and discuss the budget. I'm excited to see what comes of it! What are we both willing to do in the next year to make our money work towards our goals.


Frugal Wins

August 17th, 2017 at 01:56 pm

Yesterday was a No Spend for my daughter and I. We stayed home the entire day. No driving! She worked on her homework (yes summer homework for her AP Literature class) and I did some needed file maintenance. I think it is possible today could be no spend as well. I will need to drive her to band practice, but I don't see anything we need to buy.

My husband did however go out to dinner at Noodles & Company. I think a fellow classmate invited him. He's bored, so getting out and hanging out with others once in awhile is fine. He spent $11.66. He also bought something at the commissary for $4.77. I can see his entered transactions on YNAB. Smile

In the last week, I have been running the dishwasher about every other night. On the nights that I run it, I leave the heated dry off. I then open it in the morning to do further drying. A few hours later I put it all away. This is working for now since it is summer.

The electric bill that is due in September is for $229. Last month was $240, so a little lower. The humidity is so very high right now the a/c is working a lot! Water bill was slightly higher than last month by $7. We have had a lot of rain lately so I expect the bill will definitely be lower the next month. Fewer showers here, less laundry and less watering of the lawn!

Have a great and frugal Thursday!

Must Be No Spend

August 14th, 2017 at 07:44 pm

Today WILL be a no spend day. It has to be, we are out of cash, well cash that was set aside to spend for the first half of the month. I told that to my husband, too. I hope he listened!!

I earned another $3 from Pinecone. I'm transferring it to my PayPal account today. That is a snowflake that I will put towards the Big Goal.

On Saturday I remembered to move money to our new 5 month CD, paying 3% so that it was maxed out for earnings. The money I moved was from another 3% CD that had matured.

I'm looking forwarding to budgeting tomorrow's paycheck, primarily so I can fund some expenses I see coming up soon. Once my husband is back in town we are going to sit down and look at YNAB together and get a plan for goals for the next year. He does great at inputting his receipts, which is very helpful, but we haven't had a budget meeting in at least a year! Not really the best way to be working together. So we will try again.

I am back to watching my calories again because well weight gain this summer despite a lot of walking outside. I've noticed I don't drink enough water so that is very important for me to be tracking as well. I'm even considering a Diet Bet, but haven't decided yet. I might see how I'm doing in a week and decide then.

Returns

June 13th, 2017 at 02:43 pm

I returned a shirt to Kohl's this morning. I received $9.97 back to my Kohl's card and $1.34 in Kohl's cash. I find it odd to get Kohl's cash because the Kohl's cash I received had already been used in full. So a mini bonus I guess. At least I have 30 days to use it.

I have a pair of jeans I bought in April from JC Penney's that I need to return also. That will bring $20+ back to our budget.

The money is all going back to the clothing budget as there has been more spending there as of late.

Do you have anything at home that you purchased, but have now decided not to use? Return it and put that money back in your budget!

Double Water Bill

May 16th, 2017 at 01:30 pm

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!

Let's Talk College Costs...Part One

May 8th, 2017 at 05:19 pm

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! Smile 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.

Saving Energy...and More

May 2nd, 2017 at 09:37 pm

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!

A Change Regarding Summer Tuition

May 2nd, 2017 at 01:48 am

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. Smile

April Savings & Interest

May 1st, 2017 at 12:13 am

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.

Kitchenette and Phone

April 30th, 2017 at 01:38 pm

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. Smile

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 Forgot About this Money

April 28th, 2017 at 06:30 pm

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.




$803 Trip Spending

April 24th, 2017 at 05:21 pm

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!

Amazon Gift Cards from Swagbucks

April 6th, 2017 at 05:20 pm

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.

Air Drying the Laundry Progress

April 4th, 2017 at 01:39 pm

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!

$3 & The Uncashed Rent Check

March 31st, 2017 at 04:50 pm

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! Smile

More Money Coming!

March 28th, 2017 at 12:12 am

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. Smile

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.

Electricity Experiment: Drying Sheets

March 16th, 2017 at 02:56 pm

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!

Need a New Headlight

March 11th, 2017 at 04:36 pm

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!

Picking Up the Tab

March 9th, 2017 at 02:10 am

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. Smile My husband has had meals paid for him many times in the past, so I know it is the right thing to do.

Summer Classes and eBay Selling

March 7th, 2017 at 06:17 pm

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. Smile


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