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Not Much Spending

November 22nd, 2017 at 09:27 pm

I personally haven't spent much of anything the last three days. I did buy one Christmas gift, but that was paid out of the Christmas budget.

My husband did get his hair cut. I just now sent him to the store to get three food items. While he is there he is picking up the alcohol he wants for the holiday weekend.

We don't have plans to shop in stores on Friday...or likely any other day this weekend. If I know of a deal on something we were going to buy anyway I would likely pick it up online. The crowds are just more than I'm interested in dealing with.

We are having very nice weather, so hope to get out and enjoy the weather and maybe attend a free event downtown on Friday night. Otherwise, I'm going to be very happy watching a couple football games, watching a movie and playing games as a family. Oh, and we will probably decorate for Christmas at some point as well. Who has time for shopping with all of those fun activities?!

It's is my first ever Thanksgiving that I haven't spent with my oldest daughter or my parents! Seems a bit strange, but I'm also glad not to be flying this year.

Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Used Miles For Airline Ticket

November 17th, 2017 at 06:55 pm

I just bought my daughter's round trip ticket home for winter break on Southwest Airlines using the Rapid Rewards we accumulated this year on our Southwest Visa. The ticket was worth 20,520 points. Last years ticket cost me over 39,000 points. I think the difference was being able to purchase the ticket further in advance. She has been to a bowl game the last two years, and this year it doesn't look like it will happen. If it does it will be a miracle and I will need to change the ticket!

I still have 13,480 points. I may book her ticket home for spring break with those soon. Although right now the prices don't look so great! Probably too far out for the best deals.

I could redeem 13,000 point for $125 worth of gift cards, but considering I got a nearly $400 flight for 20K points, I think using them for flying is the better deal.

I did have to pay the Federal Airline fee of $11.20 and I did pay $30 for my daughter to get Early Bird check in. This is especially helpful for very early morning flights and when the time between flights is tight. Get a front seat on the first seat so you can get to your gate in time for boarding the second flight. I think she has just 40 minutes from landing to take off on one of the trips. That's worth the $30 cost to us.

Do you use airline miles for flights?

A Recipe and Update On College

November 15th, 2017 at 12:27 pm

We had this for dinner last night. It was really good! Lots of chopping, but very healthy. I'm making two other recipes from the website later this week.

The VA Education department has continued to provide us a housing payment of $1112 per month for our oldest daughter. I just made a $200 deposit for next years housing contract. My daughter would like to move off campus, but is having a hard time finding a roommate. There are ways to find roommates, but she would like it to be someone she knows. If we go the on campus route again, she will get a discount for being a returning student. That discount for the fourth years is $1097. She packs her schedule full...18 hours on average, so living on campus saves a lot of time and hassle than living off campus.

Our youngest daughter applied and was accepted to her college of choice. She plans to major in Industrial Engineering. This is in our former midwest state that we are still residents of. We did however have to provide documentation to the school to get her classified as a resident. Luckily, we were approved. They do provide in state tuition for all military members, spouses and children. This college charges a flat fee for 12+ hours, rather than break it down by credit hour. Of course, as an engineering student she will have higher tuition in her junior and senior year.

Specifically tuition and fees for 12+ hours is $4,318 per semester, or $8,636 per year. She did receive two renewable four year scholarships. One is worth $8,000 ($2000 per year) and the other is worth $10,000 ($2,500 per year). Very reasonable in my opinion. It's the housing that adds up! I don't have the details on those costs yet, as we have not picked a housing option. I think housing will be less than we pay for our older daughter, so that is a plus! And she will be applying for more scholarships soon, so fingers crossed there is a little more money to assist.

Socks For Christmas

November 11th, 2017 at 01:03 pm

Have you ever heard the story Socks for Christmas by Andy Andrews? I was given a copy of the audio version probably 15 years ago by a friend, along with a pair of socks. In fact, I think our entire family received socks from this friend. It made an impact, my girls still love to get socks for Christmas! As do I.

In my extended family, we adults have been known to exchange socks for Christmas. Smart Wool socks are a favorite. In the last couple years we have not been together on Christmas and have also ended our required gifts to each other. This year, however, I'm inspired once again to give socks for Christmas. These will go to my parents, sister and brother in law.

I got a very decent deal on socks at Kohl's last night. These are not our traditional Smart Wool socks, but a very nice Gold Toe dress pair for the men and a soft warm Cuddle Duds pair for the women. After three coupons applied, I paid $4.17 for the men's and $4.42 for the women's. I also picked up a new pair of slipper socks for myself for $5.21.

I plan to attach a tag with some words about socks and my memory of giving them socks in the past at Christmas. I told my husband my plan and he had a big smile on his face, because he knows how much fun we had giving each other socks in the past.

Small, simple gifts given from the heart often mean more than an expensive gift. What gift have you received that touched your heart?

Christmas Planning

November 2nd, 2017 at 03:06 pm

I have aimed to have less stress during the holidays for several years now. The key to less stress is November. Yes, the month of November puts me ahead of schedule to complete the shopping, decorating and wrapping that comes with the holidays.

Yesterday, I printed off free November and December calendar pages to help me mark off all of the holiday activities, wrapping, shopping and planning that comes with the holidays. My first step was to meal plan for the month of November. I still have a few days left to figure out, but getting that task off my mind will help things run smoothly at home.

I'm Christmas shopping online already. My list isn't large and I have time, so I'm keeping eyes wide open to get the best deals. I also have a sewing project to do for a niece, so that will be one of the next things on my list. I want it done before Thanksgiving, so I'm not sewing at the last minute. That is definitely stressful!

Another thing I have learned over the years is to buy less. Buy for fewer people. Buy fewer gifts for those we do buy for. And spend less on the gifts. And guess what? Buying for fewer people doesn't take away the joy of the holiday! It does however save time, money and stress.

I know people will say 'well, I have to buy for....', but that is not true no one is forcing you to buy anyone a gift. It is all optional. Yes, you may need to give a reason, such as we are saving for X, so we need to cut our gift list back this year.

About three years ago, I asked my sister if we could stop exchanging with adults. So we no longer buy for her and her husband and they no longer buy for me and my husband. We give just to the kids. I specifically said, I'd rather you spend the time and money you would use for shopping for us on your own family. It does help that we aren't actually with each other at Christmas.

Our gift recipient list includes my parents, my mother in law, my daughters, two nieces, my husband and myself (my husband buys for me). I have other nieces and nephews, but that side of the family has gravitated away from the exchanges and we also are not there on Christmas anymore.

We will bake cookies and freeze, so if I need some for a work exchange or a neighbor they will be ready to give. This is along the lines of the One and Done concept. Give one gift to many and be done with it. No need to specialize every gift you give. I find nearly any food product to be great for this!

I'd like to hear your thoughts on planning ahead for the holidays and your gift giving plans.

Since My Last Post

October 23rd, 2017 at 12:26 pm

Since my last post, I donated $100 to the daughter of an Army family we are friends with. She is raising money for a diabetic alert dog. She was super excited to receive the donation. I hope she can get the funding soon, as I know it will provide peace of mind to her and her mom.

I sold a Wii workout game online and made a couple dollars. After that transaction, I sent the profits from recent sales to our Big Goal. It's just $15, but it counts.

We spent Saturday at an RV show. Paid $30 to get in the door and $5 for parking. We also needed a snack before we left for lunch, easily over $10 at those concession prices. This activity was a picked as a birthday outing for my husband, so the money was budgeted. My husband is very interested in traveling in an RV after we retire. My biggest concern isn't the money, but the size of these things. They are huge, not that we would get the largest ones. Most likely the travel trailer versions. But I dislike interstate driving in my van, why would I want to drive something so large?! Truth is I probably would not be driving it at all. Only in an emergency situation. But all three of us really enjoyed checking out all the options and features of the RVs. Oh, and we drove 1.5 hours each way to check it out, so it was an adventure!

I recently had my wedding ring repaired. The main reason for the repair was it was cut off last time I was pregnant and ballooned up overnight and it was painful on my finger. The ring needed a new claw to hold the diamond. And I had to add gold to upsize it. In the end my repair cost me $172. If you are paying attention at all, yes, my youngest child is 17...so this is long overdue! I'm so happy to have it done though. It feels like a brand new ring.

Our entertainment budget has ballooned in the last couple weeks, as we have been attending away football games and competitions. I think we have just two more games and two more competitions. Admission and usually money for our daughter to get a snack add up! My husband and I are doing better about eating something before and holding our expense to a water if needed.

We are probably saving big on electricity this month. The weather has cooled considerably. Enough that we needed to switch to heat for a couple mornings. That switch to heat made us aware that our lower unit is not working at all. In fact, even with the thermostat on the wall off, the outside unit fan was still running! I turned it off at the main panel as soon as I noticed. Our landlord is aware and this is after a recent visit by professionals who have said the compressor is out entirely. So I think we are now waiting for a compressor to be ordered and then schedule. In the meantime, weather is mild and our electric usage should drop. At least I hope so!!

We've started digging into our stash of hurricane supplies. The season officially ends December 1, but I feel pretty confident our area is not going to be impacted this year. So this will help the budget a bit in the coming weeks as I make a point to use it up.

And finally, I purchased a new cell phone. Originally was leaning towards an iPhone, but decided the one I was interested based on price, the SE, was simply too small for my over 40 year eye sight! I ended up with a Motorola Z Play Droid from Verizon. Price was $335 or $14 a month. I will get a 5% discount each month on that portion ($0.70) by using my US Bank card. I made my last phone last 3.5 years, so If I can do the same with this one it will be well worth the money.

Busy month, plenty of spending, but it's all good.

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!!

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!

Packed My Lunch & More

August 8th, 2017 at 12:32 am

My daughter flew back to her college town today. This momma is going to miss her! We have her fly out of a larger airport about 1.5 hours from our home to get better ticket prices with Southwest.

I packed my lunch because I knew we would be away from home over the lunch hour. I had already promised my daughter to buy her Jersey Mike's before we arrived at the airport. My other daughter asked if she should pack a lunch since she didn't want Jersey Mike's. I caved and offered to get her Subway. I spent $18.59 buying them lunch. No regrets, but we are now on no eating out freeze! At least that is my plan.

My only other expense was $4 for parking at the airport. Oh, I guess, I will eventually get a bill for using the toll road. I think that is around $8 for a round trip. And yes, there was fuel for the van, which I had filled up the day before. I only used half a tank, so maybe $20 in fuel. All those costs were still far less than buying an airline ticket to fly from the town we live in.

My husband mentioned that the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie is coming out on Blu Ray soon. From what I can tell online it's release date is August 22. I'm starting to get irritated at this habit of seeing the movie in the theatre and then buying the movie when it comes out, which yes we do watch a couple times.I know this particular movie all four of us went to see. I know we went to a matinee. I'm pretty sure we also bought popcorn and a drink. It would be far less expensive to wait until the movies come out on video. I guess it is something we need to discuss for future movies. It's a tough one because it is something they enjoy together. Dad and daughter bonding, ya know!? Again, just something we need to discuss.

Our $5 Entertainment & More Spending

August 6th, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I mentioned this is the last weekend before our college daughter returns to the university. On Friday evening, we played the Wii U as a family, games of Mario Kart, bowling, tennis and baseball. All free, and good for some laughs. While we were playing I pointed out their doll house in the corner and asked if it was time to let it go. Which prompted my older daughter to mention that she always wished we had purchased lighting for it. It is wired for it. So we decided to make a trip on Saturday to Hobby Lobby to purchase one doll house lamp. I used the 40% off coupon and paid $5.13. You should have seen them after it came on last night! So excited to see it light up the room!! And now they think they want to see it with more lights. Not sure if that is worth it or not, but it has been a project of many years in the making, so it is interesting to see it come together. Just not sure how much use it will ever get considering they are age 20 and 17!!

I purchased my sister, a kindergarten teacher, some gifts for her classroom. Tissues, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer (which the kids call hanitizer). I don't live near her, so I stocked up at Walmart.com and took advantage of free shipping after spending $35. Total after tax was $37.80. I did add two packages of ramen noodles just to reach the $35 threshold. Smile

I also purchased some gift cards at Raise.com yesterday. I bought a $10 Starbucks gift card for $9.88. Yep, not a big discount, but I wanted to buy one for my sister, so she can get herself a treat or two during the beginning days of the school year. I also bought a Dunkin Donuts gift card for my daughter to treat herself at school. It is worth $5, and I paid $4.95. Again not a big savings. But both cards were delivered within minutes to my email address for printing. The final gift card I purchased were for Chili's restaurant because that is where we were going to dinner! I purchased $50 worth for $41.56. We proceeded to spend $10.95 beyond our $50 gift cards and my husband tipped $12. The savings was $8.44. I'll take it.

I did use our Southwest credit card so will get 1% back in miles. And I used a savings portal I'm a member of to get another 1-2% back (it varied by retailer). I need to make a point to use gift cards more often and get these savings!

Do you use discounted gift cards to increase your savings?

Frugal Updates

July 27th, 2017 at 03:58 pm

The out of pocket spending has been very minimal lately. There were at least two no spend days, maybe three this week. Driving around has been a bit limited, too, so less fuel consumed.

We made one run to the store for a treat, ice cream, yesterday. And just this morning I ordered some vitamin supplements online, spending just $20 and getting free shipping. Smile

I've used up the following from my list at the beginning of the month:

whole wheat pasta
chia seeds
poppy seed dressing
most of the hoisin sauce

Today, I finished up the cereal I found in the cupboard that the girls said they were not going to eat. I ate the last of the strawberries with spinach and the poppy seed dressing for lunch. I also had the last chicken dog in the fridge with some stir fry veggies from last night.

I turned off our sprinkler system for two days this week partly due to lots of rain. That should save a little money!

I'm starting a list of school supplies needed. I don't expect the number of items to be much, but the cost of the items will not be cheap. My daughter will go through at least four 2 inch binders this year at least based on our experience last year. I'm keeping my eyes open for a sale on them, because they are expensive!

Guests Left

July 19th, 2017 at 07:41 pm

My parents left this afternoon after visiting for nine days! It was great to see them, but that was a really, really long time. I now feel like I need a vacation.

I don't think I spent too much money while they were here, as they took us out for several meals and even bought some of the groceries. We limited our trips out of town to two, which I purchased gas for. The museums and the beach were free, we also played a lot of games to keep ourselves out of the heat.

I do know some food was thrown out, but I now intend to use of the leftovers in the coming days. My meals may be a bit odd! The most frugal snack I bought was a large 2 pound bag of popcorn that cost me $1.79 at the commissary. We didn't use it all, but it made a lot of popcorn just using the pan on the stove. I had forgotten how fast and easy it is. That is a huge savings over microwave or pre popped popcorn.

I hope to have more updates soon, but for now a little rest before I get back into the routines!

Frugal Wins

June 25th, 2017 at 09:37 pm

I just harvested a bunch of lettuce from our garden. Maybe for the last time this season...it seems a bit on the bitter side. We will still eat it mixed with other greens or add to a smoothie. There was also one cherry tomato and a summer squash ready. I do need to do some fertilizing as the soil here is awful!

I used one of my Frito Lay coupons today at the store. The price of the chips was $3.20, so received that off my bill. I also used two other coupons, that I found in the store, for another $1.50 off products I purchased. I have moved $4.70 from the grocery budget to the BIG goal.

I probably saved more money today, as I made a list and later crossed a few items off. I would guess another $5 to $10 worth of savings by skipping some items that were not needed. I also don't think I added anything extra into the cart...oh actually I did. But both were less than $2 combined. I also had a couple times where I picked up an item I needed only to find the same thing, different brand in another aisle for less!

We have been able to keep our irrigation system from running all but one time in the last two weeks because we have received so much rain! Maybe the water bill will be a bit lower next month.

What are your frugal wins?

In other news...

We have been hearing from our daughter each afternoon. Evening for her. She left the UK yesterday and arrived in France. I know she will be in Paris tomorrow evening. She isn't saying a lot because it seems to be moments before she dives into bed. I think the trip is going well. We have seen pictures on Facebook from a teacher who is posting. I will be interested to see how much of her money she spends!

My Baby Girl Is Off to Europe

June 21st, 2017 at 07:28 pm

By midnight eastern time, my youngest daughter will be arriving in London for her first international trip! She will be gone 14 days. I will admit I did get a little teary eyed at the airport. I'm going to miss her. I guess a good trial run for next year when she leaves for college.

I'm glad my older daughter is home this summer. With my husband away I would probably be quite lonely!

I'm not sure how much we will hear from her, but we did buy her a very small data plan which included some texts for a whopping $40 with Verizon. One teacher on the trip plans to send at least one text a day, while another teacher is posting pictures to Facebook. As long as I know she is alive each day, I will survive. Smile

And if you are curious, she is in London two days. Four nights in France. One night in Belgium. Four nights in Germany. And finally one night in Austria. I think she is hoping to use a little of the German she has learned while she is there. The theme of the trip is WWII and the Western Front.

I guess I will save on groceries a bit during these next two weeks, with one less mouth to feed.

Bummer, No Kitchenette

May 21st, 2017 at 09:44 pm

My husband has found out his room while he is away for three months of training is a fairly basic hotel room. It doesn't have the stove and kitchen supplies we were expecting. It does have a microwave and a very small dorm refrigerator.

The good news he does get 'free' breakfast everyday. I hope it is somewhat decent as some of those breakfasts can get old after awhile. There may be a manager's reception/weekly social at least one night a week.

He will be back home for Memorial Day weekend, so we might have to figure out some options for food he can buy and eat from the commissary without eating out for every meal.

He is getting per diem to cover meals. Originally we were told it was $69 a day, but it is 75% of that because of the length of the training. That works out to $51.75 for each day. For thirty days, that is $1,552. I think the man can eat decently for that, even with some eating out.

The truth is I would love to keep as much of that money as possible. Even half or 2/3rds of that amount seems possible. I guess we will know more as it all plays out.

Let's Talk College Costs...Part Two

May 9th, 2017 at 02:26 pm

There is a lot to discuss when sharing the nitty gritty of college costs. I expect to break my posts down about this over several days. I even need to check with my daughter on how many credits she took each semester.

First here is a screen shot of the annual expenses for a full time undergraduate student taking 30 hours from the 2015-2016 Common Data Set at the school she is attending.



Living on campus is required at this school the freshman year if the student is under 19.

She is an out of state resident. She did receive a renewable four year scholarship of $14,000 per year. That is equal to $56,000. She also received an art scholarship her freshman year equal to $4500. And because she is an Honors student, she receives $500 per year towards books. Because the way the billing is, the Honors scholarship is really like any other scholarship and reduces tuition costs.

I do want to say that even I see areas where costs could be reduced. But we all make choices for our spending that are not about dollars and cents. I'm not going to go into justifying the decision. We are simply grateful that we have had the ability to pay the costs so far without taking out student loans.

In my next post I will try to break down actual costs for freshman year.

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.

Money This Week

May 5th, 2017 at 05:03 pm

Here's the chair I painted. That is not it's final resting spot, but did make for a good picture. I actually have a church pew I need to paint to put on that wall instead of the chair.



The fridge gaskets arrived today. Very easy to install the right side (less than two minutes). The left side took a bit longer because I had to briefly detach the mullion (yep, new word for me too). But including getting the tools and detaching it, I would guess that side took under ten minutes. Now no more mold! I do hope that the tighter seal helps holding the air and moisture in and keeps the seals free of mold.

I've been run down with a cold this week. My husband had it first. He even missed a day of work recovering, which he has never done while I've known him. So a few cold remedies and soups have been purchased to make it a little more tolerable.

My daughter is having a friend over tonight. I would normally make homemade pizza, but I'm ordering out, so that I don't pass on any residual germs to my daughter or her friend. Not exactly a cost I planned on, but there is cash in the restaurant category.

I will be writing a $54 check for the band banquet next week. It's $18 per person for a bbq pork meal. I'm sure the costs include some other things given out to students. I sort of wish these types of things didn't exist. They didn't at our other school and it was perfectly fine without a banquet.

And finally our college daughter arrives home by plane on Saturday. We will need to add fuel the van to make the 3 hour round trip to the airport for pickup. We might be able to get away without picking up food since she arrives mid afternoon. However, she may not get a chance to get lunch, so she may need something. I could probably make a sandwich wrap and take it along in a lunch bag if I'm feeling better to make it.

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

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.




4 Months = $25K

April 25th, 2017 at 05:51 pm

On January 4th of this year our retirement accounts topped $400,000 for the first time. As of yesterday, our accounts are valued at $425,768. That is a change of $25K in less than four months. Some of that change is our contributions to retirement, but the S&P 500 is up nearly 7%, so this growth is a factor as well. It sure would be nice to see this continue through the year. I do like to think the next major milestone, of $500K, could be soon!

In other news, I did get $3 from Pinecone. I also received some pending Swagbucks amounting to 1712 for a hotel I booked through the site. I currently have just under 3000 SB to redeem in early May for Amazon gift cards. And it looks like my husband has a couple things sitting in the Amazon cart...so hopefully I can score those for free.

I'm thinking next week my grocery list may be meatless. That may save a bit of money and be healthier as well. I picked up a Forks Over Knives magazine with lots of yummy looking plant based recipes. My daughter is nearly a vegetarian, so finding new things for her to try is a good motivator as well. Or maybe the motivation to be to try to save at least the cost of the magazine (which I never buy) $7.27! Ouch.

$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!

Back From Our Trip

April 23rd, 2017 at 03:09 pm

I slept in really late this morning because that spring break trip wiped me out! Lots of walking around campuses.

Our daughter is looking to study engineering, so we are looking at excellent midwest colleges for that field. All three colleges mentioned payment for internships, up to $25 an hour! Some starting the summer after freshman year. Two indicated a possible five year program to include a master's degree at the end. We are letting all the information sink in. She can't apply until August 1, so there is lots of time to talk it all through. Two would be our home of record and would be in state tuition. The other is where our older daughter is and would be out of state tuition.

It feels like we spent a lot of money while we were gone, particularly for meals at restaurants. I do remember funding the vacation, fuel and restaurant categories before we left. I paid a $200 housing deposit for our daughter while we were visiting her. I had the money set aside for that. I also bought her a tank top with the University logo, snacks and a large portfolio for storing her art. I guess I bought a tube to roll a piece of art that is 4 ft x 7 ft, too. Just those few things alone are far more than I spend in a traditional week.

We did get unpacked and have started laundry so we are prepared for the work and school week. We also need to stock our fridge for eating at home, so that means a grocery run later today. I'd really rather just sit on the couch!

A Room Upgrade

April 18th, 2017 at 02:08 am

We are currently traveling. Visiting colleges for our younger daughter. Tonight our hotel, Marriott Residence Inn, was covered by the 'free night' we receive each year after paying the annual fee ($85) for our Marriott Rewards card.

We thought we would arrive and get a King bed with a sofa pull out. Instead we ended up with a two bedroom suite! So nice!! I just wish we were here longer to really enjoy it.

My husband had a glass of wine from the manager's evening reception. In the morning we will all have breakfast. Definitely well worth our $85.

Last night we paid $119, for a Marriott Fairfield Inn room. It was a traditional room. We did get our breakfast included. We also had a hotel stay at another Fairfield Inn just before our flight. We were up so early breakfast wasn't being served yet. We did pay about $90 for that room. We will earn Marriott reward points for both of those paid stays.

We are away about a week, and only have three nights where we have to pay for rooms. The rest of our nights we are staying with family!

Friday Night Entertainment Spending

April 8th, 2017 at 03:00 pm

We rarely go out on the town for entertainment, but we became aware last fall that a play based on a book was going to be performed this spring. Specifically, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. My daughter has read nearly all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I had considered it as a Christmas gift, but she had some other wants at the time. And in the end tickets weren't available until two weeks ago. For three of us to attend the live play we paid $55.65. Yes, this is more than a movie, but honestly, much more enjoyable to be witness to the skill that is live acting! There were only five actors, but three of them played multiple characters, so lots of costume changes...which made for some hilarious moments. There weren't any mishaps because of the costumes, but just so fun to see the actors and actresses act out different characters.

We planned to go out to dinner ahead of time. I feel our budget lucked out when my daughter picked Subway and my husband was agreeable. He usually likes to sit down and be served which I know always costs far more. I skipped the drink and chips, and they counted two of our six inch subs as a footlong, our bill came to $18.68 for the three of us.

There was an intermission. We ended up buying two bottles of water for $2 each, and leaving a $1 tip. Another five dollars spent. We were parched as it was a bit warm in the theatre.

I feel really good about our spending for this evening of entertainment. Looking back we could have easily eaten dinner at home, but sometimes just getting out of the house and enjoying a night out is worth it.

Did you have any Friday night entertainment expenses? When was the last time you saw a live play or other live entertainment?

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.

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.


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