We've traveled across the US this past week and have managed to drop off our oldest daughter at college. She is beginning band camp this week. And tomorrow we drop off our youngest daughter at her University. The emotions of all this are everywhere, excited yes, but I'm a mess...I'm just going to miss them both so much. It seems sending the last one off is almost harder than the first.
So much spending buying supplies and dorm needs. I have yet total it all up. We probably have more than some, but definitely less than others who move into a dorm. We bring enough to create a comfortable environment, but not enough to fill it up.
We did find a great long, yet lightweight coat, at the local Columbia outlet mall here. We had our youngest try on her sister's LL Bean boots and she liked them, so will buy those in one size smaller in a few weeks and have them mailed to her dorm room.
We had two hotel nights on our way here. We have been staying at my parents place now for almost a week. We expect three more nights of hotel expenses on our way back. Another $350 at least. I've noticed that when you book a hotel in advance that you can no longer cancel up until check in on the night of the stay. You must cancel 48 to 24 hours in advance or be charged! We have one booked that we know we will use, but I think on our return trip we will book around noon on the day of our stay, this is helpful in case we think we can drive further or need to stop sooner.
Oh and we have had a lot of fuel and restaurant expenses. Since we have been using credit cards, and payday is in two days, I expect that little float will help. And when we return only need to buy groceries for two people rather than four as we have been doing all summer.
My neighbor has been checking on our 14 year old cat, usually twice per day. When we return, we are going to get her a restaurant gift card. We are so grateful for the help and her extra care and attention to detail.
More later, but prayers and good vibes for our peaceful transition and travel are appreciated.
Viewing the 'family' Category
We've traveled across the US this past week and have managed to drop off our oldest daughter at college. She is beginning band camp this week. And tomorrow we drop off our youngest daughter at her University. The emotions of all this are everywhere, excited yes, but I'm a mess...I'm just going to miss them both so much. It seems sending the last one off is almost harder than the first.
We returned from our mountain trip a day early, so saved $118, plus tax by checking out of the hotel early. We overestimated the time we needed to do what we went there to do. And we all just felt ready to be home.
But we are still spending! College expenses. Today we bought some plates, cups, bowls and a paring knife at Target and spent about $15. At Kohl's with our Kohl's cash we bought bath and hand towels, a backpack, a laundry bag, silverware, chip clips and a cutting board. I paid $4.75 out of pocket after the Kohl's cash.
Earlier today I ordered 2 two packs of surge protectors with eight foot cords for our daughter's dorm room. Those were a decent deal, considering I could not find long cords in any of the stores! We also bought a USB C connector for our daughter's tablet/laptop, it will have additional USB, HDMI and an ethernet port. That along was $54, but it sounds like she will definitely use the USB ports and possible the ethernet connection if the wireless is bad in the dorm room.
We told our daughter's roommate we would bring the television, primarily because we already owned a tv (32") that we were not using. We have the HDMI cable, coaxial cable and an ethernet cord on hand too. At least there are some things I don't have to buy!!
We leave in about two weeks to drive back to the midwest. It is a 20 hour drive that we will likely do in three days (maybe two, but that is a long time in the car!) And yes, pay for hotels. We will be back in time to help our oldest daughter move back into the dorm, but we will have five days to hang out and see family before we travel east a bit to drop our youngest at college. This is where I will get very teary...leaving my baby!! And the next day my husband and I will drive back east to home, where I'm sure our cat will be super mad at us for leaving her! She will be visited by two of my friends while we are gone, but it will be the longest we have ever left her. And she didn't really like that we left to the mountains which was a short trip. Poor baby.
So that's a brief update...definitely been busy this summer!
It's been a very busy week after having my parents, sister and her two girls visit primarily to see our youngest daughter graduate high school! I'm exhausted this morning after taking them to the airport at 4am. I have had a chance though to process my husband's paycheck, add transactions to YNAB, move money around, and pay off the credit cards.
Just prior to my parents arriving my husband was out of town for work for three days. I haven't yet taken the time to figure out his actual expenses, but we did receive $515.85. Some of that is per diem, and the rest is mileage on the truck he drove. I'm sure he didn't spend that much. That money for now is sitting in our second checking account, and I think I'm just throwing it towards our Big Goal.
I spent $220 on food when guests were here, but my Dad also spent ANOTHER $230 on food and some alcohol. So $450 for 9 people for 7 days. We did eat out for five meals, which was additional money spent. We went to the beach for three nights so most of our time was spent sitting on the beach or at the resort pools. Not a lot you can spend money on...unless you venture out and get towed!
Yep, we parked in an expensive lot for three hours, but came back about thirty minutes early to find our van had been towed. The truck, which we also drove, was still parked. In the end it was a bit our fault. The lot has these machines where you pay and then put the ticket on the dash. My husband started the transaction and at some point I looked down and saw a ticket, so I pulled it and handed it to him. Turns out that was the ticket for the person BEFORE us and that ticket expired two hours before ours would have. They didn't even tow until it had been expired for an hour. The cost to get the van out of the impound lot...$160 CASH. Big mistake on our part to not actually look at the ticket. So embarrassing. But we weren't the only ones that night that were careless, the man at the lot said six other cars were towed that night. A bad chain of events for all of us. We thought about pursuing a refund of some sort, but in the end the security guard, and tow truck driver were only going by the information on the ticket...and they were within their duties to tow based on that information. We are not happy about losing that money, but it is just money and we were determined to continue to have a good time and just let it go.
The good news is that today when I was paying off credit cards I redeemed $71.89 from American Express, and $45.95 from Chase Freedom. I also have three rash guard shirts we didn't end up wearing that still have tags. I will return those for at least another $40 to $50. Money flows out, but it also flows back in.
Oh, and my sister is going to give me about $100 to cover food and gas. She is giving my dad some money as well since she didn't contribute while she was here. She had the cash on her this morning, but we both forgot about during the early rush to get to the airport. She will send a check or send me money by Paypal. That will help the budget, too!
I'm exhausted, but we leave in a few days again to go to our youngest daughter's college orientation. Hotels are covered with points, we already paid the airline tickets, but will have a rental car, food and gas to cover while we are there. I think we can also buy the first semester books after she has enrolled in classes. I still have over $1,500 in our vacation fund.
That's all for now! Stay cool and frugal.
I don't budget for medical as we are rarely ill and our insurance covers pretty much everything when we are. We also have a rather large emergency fund.
One of my daughter's and I are now seeking care from a provider who cannot be reimbursed by our insurance. Our insurance simply doesn't cover this common treatment. So out of pocket it is.
Our initial exams with diagnostic tests were $199 each, or $398. I had nearly all this in our emergency fund set aside at the beginning of the month. So that was easy.
I paid $1152 for a series of visits that will cover both of us through the summer. This was a 30% discount offered for paying in one full payment. That is a significant savings. So on the charge card it went. And since we never pay interest on credit cards, I went looking for funds. I found $300 set aside for eyeglasses, but we aren't in current need of those. And finally, the easiest thing to do was to use some of Big Goal Savings we had accumulated this year that was still sitting in our checking account.
I would have preferred not to pull from the Big Goal money, but I think our health needs are a bigger need. My goal is to pay ourselves back, we may have extra vacation funds later this summer, or after I evaluate the funds I have for tuition and housing I may have some to throw from there.
Cash saved gets you the medical you want that the insurance companies will not pay for. Cash is freedom!
For the most part I deal with finances twice a month. Yes, we enter receipts in YNAB as best we can daily or every few days. Lately, it seems there is a transaction missing, but it ends up that it was entered on a different card. It seems to be my husband not paying attention, which is frustrating when I go to reconcile the accounts. I do usually figure it out, but takes much more time than it should if it were just entered correctly the first time!
So pay day is two days away. Today, I went in and paid off all balances on our credit cards. There were seven payments! I had a balance on two Amex Cards, Chase Freedom, Southwest, Kohl's, Target Red card AND Discover! That sounds awful doesn't it? But the balances on four of them were less than $25 each, including something for $5.99 on our Southwest card which we are not really using much. I think the purchase was charged to that card since it was what was on the account for an online purchase. Our tires were on one Amex card, and the other two larger payments $631 and $547 were charges for everyday expenses.
I also had to move some money around in YNAB to keep the budget categories from being negative going into next month. We've spent a fair amount on clothes recently, some for graduation and some for the beach vacation. I pulled $200 from the vacation fund to cover these. I'm still over in household expenses by $75. I just stocked up on toilet paper, paper plates, dish detergent, hand soap and other things to have at the house for guests here in a few weeks. I will just cover that overage in June. This is the beauty of having extra funds in your account...can be over in one category, but not actually running a deficient in the checking account.
I'm really looking forward to June being over. It is going to be a whirlwind with graduation, guests, going to the beach and then also flying out of town for five nights for college orientation. Maybe July will feel relaxing? Of course, we have to prepare for getting the girls ready for college, one will need more than the other since it is her first year.
Thankful the cash to do what we want and need to do!
Our younger daughter graduates the middle of June from high school. We have my parents, sister and her two daughters arriving from out of state to celebrate. We are keeping it to this small group. No fancy open house party, in fact no announcements were ordered. No big cake or decorations.
I have purchased at Dollar Tree purple plates and gold napkins. We will have Angel Food cake (from a mix), strawberries and whipped cream for dessert after the 8pm graduation. This is a favorite dessert that will be easy to whip out late in the evening. My daughter is completely fine with this. She and her sister don't like a lot of extra attention put on them.
This morning we have been going through her school photos since preschool. Our plan is to put these out for our family to see on the day of graduation just for fun. We may also put together a binder with certificates that she's received and possibly other photos. We just haven't made it that far yet. She's still in school and has lots of projects and homework to work on this weekend!
While we have had the school photos out we have had the best time looking at other photos of our family and extended family over the years. The girls are laughing at pictures of me in dance class, and my Glamour Shots of from about 1990. And we all have the awkward middle school photos. It just feels good to laugh and appreciate the joy in having family. What's even better...it is free entertainment! So if you are looking for something to do over this long weekend why not take a trip down memory lane with your family by looking at photos.
Well, it seems we may know where we are moving next. It was not on our list once again. We had hoped to get much closer to where our girls are attending college. And on some level I'm still holding out that hope, as we have had changes to our move in the past. Nothing is official until we have orders from the military.
So while we are disappointed our choices weren't possibilities, we are trained to be resilient and we will embrace the next adventure.
The good parts. The location is very close to major metropolitan city, with a lot of culture and things to do. It is still in the south, so we can skip the snow, which I think we have come to enjoy. And the airport with lower fare airlines will be closer too. We are still near a major installation with access to the commissary for discounts on food.
We have done a little looking at the housing market. Rentals are not as plentiful there as where we currently are. The military is very dominant where we live, so lots of rental homes and options. It takes time for homes to sell here, so people who have purchased often turn into landlords. We have seen the benefit of renting over the last three years. If we had purchased this same house and then sold it we would have paid even more due to the commission and upkeep expenses. It just not worth it for a short stay. I expect we will rent again.
We may consider living on post. We do give up our entire housing allowance (BAH). We currently give our BAH plus $15 to our current landlord, but pay electricity, gas, water and trash on top of that. Living on post all of those utilities would be included. Effectively saving us nearly $300 a month. My husband's commute would be super short, thus saving on fuel costs. We haven't had a gym membership in the three years we have lived here, but we could use facilities on post for free. Lawn care would be included, no need to own a mower or other yard care items.
For reference our BAH currently is $1785 per month. The new location would be $2046. It is very tempting to find something off post for far less than that amount, but utilities, commute, safety and type of homes are all a factor. And it's possible we would stay on post for one year and then move to another off post rental.
We are still in the very beginning stages of figuring it all out. We don't expect the orders to be cut for awhile or at least not effective until after October 1. Thank goodness!! We have graduation in three weeks, a visit to the college our youngest daughter will attend for orientation and then we need to get both girls moved to school in August.
Once all that happens and we have orders, I expect we will fly there to look at our housing options. The one thing I don't have to figure out is schools for this move! That is what kept us off post this time. High school that those on post attend here is awful. And prior to this location, we have never lived near a major installation to have on post housing available.
I will not be disclosing actual locations at any time. My husband feels strongly that this is not something we share for our own safety.
Spending season seems to have arrived at our house. And I don't expect to exactly stop it. It's just that time of year where are expenses are higher.
Our oldest daughter is home from college. Grocery bill is up. Her three instruments needed to be serviced for the year. I bought her new shoes, considering one pair we replaced was from when she was in eighth grade it was a definite need! Oh, and she needed new music, books for summer classes. We also received the bill for her Xray, just $36 after insurance paid. The office visit itself was included in school fees we already paid for.
Our youngest daughter's high school graduation is in one month. And we have company coming and we will go with them to the beach for three days. This is causing us to buy some needed items to make that event happen. Clothes primarily. I found my graduation dress for $39 at the Post Exchange. I won't need shoes, so a pretty decent bargain. There will be lots of food spending in June as a result of company.
It's also PCS season. PCS means Permanent Change of Station for military members. My husband has coworkers who are leaving for other jobs, and it always involves a final goodbye lunch at a restaurant. Each person pays for their own food. A couple of those a month seems to add up.
It's just that time of year. I have to simply expect and embrace it. It doesn't mean we are out spending money we don't have or spending without thinking. It's just that time of year where there are more things going on and the spending is up.
Do you feel you have a season of the year where you spend more than other times of the year?
My parents send my husband and I a $100 check every year for our anniversary. This year was no different. We usually save the money, rarely making a purchase. So yes, we deposited that money into our savings account to count towards our Big Goal.
As far as other snowflakes, I redeemed Amex rewards equal to $25 this week. I also transferred $3.49 from a small eBay sale to our savings account. I have two items I need to list to hopefully bring in a few more dollars.
I got a call from my oldest daughter yesterday with concern she may have fractured a bone in her foot. It was a goofy thing where her foot got trapped between her chair and her desk, so a bit crushed on the side of her left foot. She iced it and went to bed. Woke up and found it very painful to even walk. Somehow she managed to hobble around campus, and late in the day went in for an xRay. Luckily no break or fracture, just a bone contusion. So she has instructions to rest, ice, and elevate. My mom gave her some Ace bandages to use for compression. And the doctor said she could take up to three ibuprofen for pain. My daughter was shocked at the dosage suggested. She is one to stay away from all drugs as much as possible.
About two weeks ago, we realized our daughter was dropped from our insurance because she turned 21. Luckily we got right on it and updated her information to show she is enrolled full time in college. But then yesterday, I questioned my husband that it really did take effect. Initially, it seemed that no it had not. He did some sort of online enrollment and then did get a letter emailed to him before she arrived at the clinic. The visit is free at the University Health clinic (up to five per year), but the xRays will need to go through insurance. She has a $150 deductible so that will need to be met before insurance pays. It is worth it for piece of mind, knowing she didn't break it...just felt like it!
It's a beautiful day here, were going out for a hike! Enjoy your weekend. Stay frugal and healthy.
I finally got my rear in gear and made some airline reservations! I booked my daughter's trip home for the summer. We always do this one way since we don't know exactly when she plans to arrive on campus for the fall. This usually works out in our favor with decent one way tickets. This one cost us $155.
Next I booked our tickets to travel back to the last state we lived in. This is where our youngest daughter will go to college in the fall. I don't disclose exactly where we live because my husband is military and has asked me not to. Our daughter has orientation at the end of June for two days. We will leave on a Friday, have a free Saturday, orientation on Sunday and Monday, and then a free day on Tuesday before flying home on Wednesday morning. Our oldest daughter is coming with us in hopes of seeing some old friends. The airline tickets cost us just over $1,600! Now you can see why I needed to be adding to the vacation budget this year!
I will need to book hotels for five nights AND get a rental car. I think at least three of the nights we may book at a hotel with a kitchen, so may just eat in those nights for dinner and have breakfast provided by the hotel. That will help quite a bit. The good news is I have one free night at Marriott as well as points we can redeem. So it appears we may only need to pay for one night out of pocket. I also looked briefly at rental cars. I have some discount options to consider, but guess at least $150-$200.
We may also do a test run of the shuttle my daughter will take to get to and from campus to the airport on her visits home. She will not have a car. We expect a trial run, may help ease any anxiety about the process. This will cost us about $59 for two of us one way. Not exactly frugal, but helpful. We may change our minds on this, but right now seems like a good option.
Our daughter arrives home today for her spring break! We have to drive a little over an hour and half to pick her up. Southwest doesn't fly into our town and we love that airline! It's also less expensive. And yes, I realize there is gas and parking and often lunch after she arrives.
I have added extra money to our budget accounts while she is home. There is definitely more groceries to buy. And we have plans to go out for sushi and pie. Not on the same day! My husband will be home most of the time as well, so we hope to get out and do some things together. Many will likely be free, but a movie out is a possibility too!
I think she may want to go spring clothes shopping too. Another budget category I added extra to for the remainder of the month.
Oh, and her birthday is next Saturday....so I need to finish shopping for that as well. I have a couple items and if I don't pick up anything else I will likely give her cash. She does have savings goals!
We are excited to see her!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
I sold a set of eight books on eBay Saturday morning. These were my daughter's, so I decided to offer her the $50 proceeds. I usually don't give the girls the money since most items I sell are a couple dollars at a time...and we are still supporting them.
This time the amount was more significant and these were purchased with her own money. She (oldest daughter) has been talking about wanting to save for a new flute and becoming more aware of the need for money! She was very happy to hear she will be getting $50.
Not much financial news here at our house. The weather has been colder in the southeast and we are just enjoying a little more time being hunkered down and relaxing. Busier times are ahead!
We may be spending $200 for the four of us to attend a music concert this summer. We will probably decide this week. It's a week night, so need to really see if my husband is up for a late night with work the next day. The concert is 1.5 hours away.
I continue our paper purge, following Marie Kondo's advice, which is that very little needs to be saved. I have converted some items to digital versions. This weekend my husband created a spreadsheet to track our vehicle maintenance, and then entered years of data from receipts we had been keeping. We now know exactly what has been done, when and how much it cost us...all at a glance. The receipts are going out today! It feels so good to lighten the load of paper.
After a low spend January, we had extra funds to allocate. I finally took care of that yesterday, by adding $1000 to our vacation budget. We are definitely going to be on the move this year, so the budget needs help.
We potentially have a small beach vacation with family that will visit in June. The beach is about two hours away, so no airline tickets, but contribution to a rental for sure. And food!
We are going to need to travel to our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June. We likely could skip it living so far away, but we think since we can make it work, it will be helpful as part of the adjustment living away from us to have more experience on campus. We will likely fly for this event. Hotels also needed.
We also want to fly with our daughter and help her move in to her dorm in the fall. Ironically, while typing this message a parent online was asking about storage and moving solutions for out of state students. In helping her I found two that we may be able to use to have her items transported so we don't need to drive 20 hours! We think we will send her bike, so that is bulky. Although maybe it's better to sell it, and buy another one. All things we need to figure out.
Then we would like to visit both girls in late fall, maybe for Thanksgiving. The point is our budget for travel is going to start to be a bigger expense than ever. So it felt good to add $1000 in just one month.
I think I can cover spring break for our daughter with Southwest points. Yay!
Our daughter has returned to college. She flies out of a town an hour and a half north of us. The flight was at 7am on Saturday. So we decided to get a hotel and stay over the night before. We had points, so the hotel was free! It was good to go a little early on Friday because our area had had snow earlier in the week and temperatures had not warmed above freezing, so we had some concerns on the roads.
I had budgeted dinner out on Friday night. We went to Noodles & Company and spent $43.84. I also decided since the included hotel breakfast would not be available at the early hour we left the hotel we should pick up bagels from Panera. We spent $10.20. I did NOT budget for this. I didn't think about breakfast when I was doing the budget. And on Saturday morning upon leaving the airport at 7am we stopped by Starbucks and spent $7.76 on three hot beverages. So we are now over budget in our restaurant category by almost $6.
My daughter had a new debit card arrive on Friday (after we left for the airport) so we decided to get that in the mail to her she she will have it as soon as possible. I picked up three snacks to include in the package. Spent $3.89 on those plus $7.50 for priority mail. I had budgeted $10 for this expense, but went a little over once again.
On Saturday afternoon I ran to the store for four ingredients we needed for dinner. I spent $13.80 on food, including a Diet Coke for DH. This all came from the grocery budget.
After dinner, my husband wanted to go to Best Buy to use his $20 gift card for a camera case. Case was $19.99 plus tax. We spent 1.39 out of pocket.
We also stopped by Target nearby to pick up a sympathy card, a candy bar for our daughter, and a six pack of 20oz Diet Cokes. No money out of pocket because I had a gift card.
Today we will be grocery shopping. The budget says we have $134. I will be checking the fridge, freezer, and pantry before I make my meal list. I want to use up all the things we can. I do have a little bit of a problem because my husband and I are also watching our diet, so specific foods are important. However, some snacks are eliminated, so that is likely a plus. I'll let you know how it works out. I think I will also check the grocery ad for the local store and see if anything we are buying is cheaper there than the commissary.
Have you been working on eating all the things?
It may actually snow today where I live! They are expecting an inch, so school gets out two hours early. As a Midwesterner I have to laugh, but the truth is they don't have the equipment here, nor do people know how to drive in the stuff!
After school lets out, I'm taking the girls to get their hairs cut. We use Great Clips. I usually tip $2 to each stylist, so the cost is $15 each. My husband is getting his hair cut today on post. I think the cost is less than $10, but he usually tips $4! As a percentage, we are both overtipping, but we do think our service people deserve it. These were budgeted in our personal care category.
I received $3 from Pinecone Research yesterday. It is sitting in my Paypal account now. I was notified we will receive an $10 AutoZone gift card for a rebate on headlights we purchased. And after getting our daughter a new cell phone last week, I am sending her old phone in for recycling and expect a $10 bill credit on next month's bill. I love money snowflakes!
The first two days of the year were no spend days. I made the point of going to the library to check out some books to read to keep me busy and focused on healthy eating this month. I love the library for the fact that it costs nothing to browse a book. My sister just mentioned spending $100 at Barnes and Noble recently. I do think some were Christmas gifts, but wow that is a lot of money on books! She also purchased their membership which means she plans to purchase more books there this year.
Have you found any snowflake money this month? Do you use the library?
More clothes buying today. Another two shirts purchased for college daughter at JC Penney. Spent $35 after $10 coupon. Considering she is no longer growing and we don't buy clothes that often it was money well spent.
Our family went out to dinner tonight. It was planned and budgeted knowing that it would be nice to go out once while our daughter is home on break. Not sure what we spent, but it wasn't a high end restaurant. Dinner for four people adds up even at fast casual restaurants.
I'm looking forward to doing year end final tallies of retirement totals, interest earned, and Big Goal money.
I sold another item on eBay today. I net about $15. Not bad for a used clothing item I was no longer wearing!
That money will go to the Big Goal. More on that can be found on a page on my sidebar if you aren't sure what I'm referring to.
Spending has been minimal, except I ran to the store today to pick up some things to help my daughter cope with a cold. She arrived home from college on Saturday and was recovering from another cold. It seems she picked something else up along the way home.
In other news, we have had a few days of warmer weather, with rain coming tomorrow. I enjoy these mild days knowing it keeps our electric bill lower.
I'm working on some year end posts. More to come soon!
I just printed my USPS shipping labels for two packages that I will have picked up at our house on Monday. The cost was $32.05. It really does feel like shipping has increased a lot! Luckily, this did fit into my Christmas budget.
I've mentioned before that our Christmas budget is $600. I allocate half of that for our daughters. The remainder is split between my husband and I, my parents, two nieces, and my mother in law. This year I came in under budget, primarily due to using Swagbucks (redeemed for Amazon gift cards) for some purchases and buying some items used for my daughters. Both daughters are used to getting used. I did squeeze in a two pairs of socks for my sister and brother in law. See my Socks for Christmas post about that.
Here's what we spent:
Mother in Law $53 (check for $50 and $3 to ship it with pictures)
Sister's family $99.70 (includes $18.85 for shipping)
Parents $46.83 (includes $13.20 to ship)
Daughter 1 $115.94
Daughter 2 $44.75 (bought used and used Amazon gift cards)
Daughter's shared gift $64.65
Technically, I went over budget for my husband and he went over for me. We were suppose to only spend $50 each. I bought him an extra gift of a saute pan (since he uses one every morning and we had to toss our old one out).
Now I must not have accounted for everything correctly, as the balance in my Christmas budget on YNAB shows a balance of f$103.12. The numbers above come from receipts.Maybe I lost a few. I do know of $10 that was for paper plates and lights. And I think another $20 may be for gifts I bought with Target gift cards, but were not recorded as Christmas in YNAB. So I'm slightly off above in my total spending as YNAB has to be a bit more correct.
The good news, we are under budget! I have $103 to be used for something else. I'm thinking a donation might be a good idea.
I watch a fair number of YouTube videos. There are several out there right now for which the them is what they do not buy at Christmas. I thought I'd throw my take on it. Join in if you want!
I do not buy ribbons, bows and gift tags.
I still have gallon size ziplock bag of bows that I bought easily ten years ago that we reuse for gifts here at our home. Gifts that are not for us, are usually being stuffed in a car or a box, thus do not hold up well with bows and ribbon. I'm currently using up some blank address labels and free gift tags stickers. I simply write the name and stick it to the back of the gift. When I run out of free options, I will simply write directly on the package. Old cards you receive can be turned into a gift tag. I've even used cards stock I have on hand.
I do not buy live Christmas trees I have two artificial Christmas trees. One is from when I was a child, bought in the mid 1980s. And the second one was bought at the end of season at Target about three years ago. I paid $20. I expect at some point we will downsize and pass one of the trees to someone else to use, but I have enjoyed having two trees while living in larger homes. The trees are our main decorations.
I do not buy holiday music or movies We own Polar Express and about 6 discs of music. We have owned those for years, but as things have gone digital and streaming is available online we simply use free options for our listening and viewing needs.
I do not buy new gift bags. Years ago when my girls were in elementary school I bought some classic red and green gift bags through a fundraiser. I use these gift bags, along with others we have received gifts in over and over. I tend to keep the ones that are just red and green, so they all coordinate. And when I buy gift wrap, I choose ones that can be for kids or adults and stay with the red and green theme. I probably only buy four rolls of gift wrap every three years. I did use up one roll this year, so I expect to hit the clearance sales and pick up one or two. I also limit the amount of tissue paper I use by taping the top of the gift bag. No tissue needed!
I do not buy Christmas themed items This one is a bit all encompassing. I don't buy Christmas jewelry, special outfits, napkins, tableware or plastic storage containers.
For the most part you can probably tell, we just reuse what we have purchased in the past. The stockings for the girls are the only ones they have ever owned. Picking a classic style helped, not feel the need to replace something that was dated.
A few other places where our Christmas spending is limited, is we only buy two new ornaments a year. These are for our girls. I usually buy those ones at World Market for $2.50 each. Or I find some on clearance the year before. I currently only send three Christmas cards. One to my parents, one to my mother in law and one to my oldest daughter at college. Next year I will send four since my youngest will be at college. I did run out of cards this year, so that is another item I will buy on clearance at the end of the season.
Tell me what you don't buy during the holiday season.
I combined three errands together to save time and gas money. First I dropped off a large box of donations at Goodwill. I stopped by Walmart and picked up lotion that my daughter said I could give as a stocking stuffer. And then a quick trip to the military pharmacy to pick up a prescription. These were all within a mile of each other but about 15 minutes from my home, so it made sense to combine the errands for one outing.
The only fail is, I wish I knew I needed a lemon for the dinner we had tonight. I could have picked it up at Walmart, instead I had to run to the grocery store just before I started cooking. We had this Lemon Garlic Asparagus Pasta from the Budget Bytes site. Yes, we still have fresh asparagus in our area! It was really good, the only thing we did different was add parmesan cheese on top after serving. I will be serving it again, it was that enjoyable to us.
My Amazon gift card ordered from Swagbucks arrived so I ordered the final gift I needed to purchase. It was no cost to me after the gift card!
I received $3 from Pinecone. I'm transferring it to my PayPal account. Another snowflake to go to the Big Goal.
Still no charge from JC Penney for the pillow! I wonder how long it could take?! That was $10.69, so if it doesn't show up on by the 15th I think I'll add that as a snowflake to the Big Goal too.
My daughters wanted a series of books. There are 12 in the series. I was told I could skip purchase book two as it is a combination of two other books my youngest daughter already owns.
Each book retails for $20. Thus this expense could have cost me $220!! No way was I going to pay that much out of pocket.
I figured if I could at least pay half of retail I would be doing good. I started purchasing earlier this fall. Two initial purchases came from buying used on eBay. One book was $12.40 with shipping and another was $11.13.
I mentioned that I sold some things back to a used book store and was able to use a $13+ credit towards a new book they had listed at the $20 retail price. I paid $7.70 out of pocket for that one.
The deals get better because I found three ex-library versions on eBay from one seller for $21.40. Average about $7 each.
And I made two separate purchase on eBay using Amazon gift cards I earned from Swagbucks over the last couple months. The book prices offered on Amazon varied from $13.59 to $17.36. One purchase was completely covered by gift cards and the other cost me $2.30 out of pocket.
In the end new books that could have cost me $220 new plus tax, were just $54.93 out of pocket. An average of $4.99 a book. A savings of 75%!
No worries that my girls will be offended by used books. They are fans of the library and know that book costs add up. And the used ones that did arrive are in very good shape! The three ex library books do have tags and tape on the side but again in very good shape! They will be very pleased, and hopefully surprised that I found all of the ones requested.
I do sort of wish I started earning the Swagbucks a little earlier so I could have reduced the out of pocket cost, but it is what it is! Still a great deal.
I am so close to finishing my holiday shopping!
I should have done some of this shopping yesterday, as I'm sure I would have saved a few dollars more. Oh well, I'm still happy with my purchases.
Today I ordered a shirt and jeans for my husband. I also added a two pack of infinity scarves for a niece and the required christmas stocking stuffer of socks for my girls. I bought these from Kohl's using a 20% off coupon and a $5 Kohl's cash. I spent $65. The jeans were Levi's, so they didn't get a discount. Free shipping and I didn't have to browse through the store. I think I just saved myself a lot of time making those couple purchases online today!
I'm heading to Walmart to pick up an item I need for dinner, and will see if I can add a few stocking stuffers in my cart! Some are food items and would probably be less expensive at the commissary, so will wait on those and purchase next week.
After the stocking stuffers are complete, I just need to order a card/board game my daughter wants. It is $20 on Amazon. I'm going to earn more Swagbucks, then redeem for a gift card and make that purchase for free!
Right now, the Christmas category in the budget has $183 in it. I still need to make another $50 deposit in December, but will actually just send that to my mother in law. I also need to mail three packages using those funds. I think we may come in UNDER budget! I will do a detailed run down of gifts and cost once I have it all done.
After grocery shopping and making a run to Walmart for things the commissary didn't have, I was able to redeem $3.20 with Ibotta. I have now met the $20 threshold to cash out. I have decided to wait until the end of the year to cash out. I expect December and even early January will bring more options for rebates. Once you cash out, you have start again to meet the $20 threshold.
My daughter said no on one of the Wii U games I thought I could sell. That is okay. I will get three of them listed later this week. I probably should try for today with it being Cyber Monday.
I did purchase a cardigan for my oldest daughter at Target.com today. Their entire site is 15% off and this sweater was already on sale. Plus free shipping and 5% off with my Red Card. I think except for stocking stuffers, I'm doing shopping for her!
I bought my husband some new athletic pants this weekend. He was with so he could try on. I was going to make them part of his gift, but he already wore them!! I guess not. I think a couple new shirts may be just what he would like instead. Or even a new pair of jeans.
I'd really like to wrap up the Christmas shopping this week. The more I'm in stores, the more I see the deals which make me think I need things. And the truth is I don't. The quicker I'm done shopping the better!
Payday is Friday. Except for Christmas purchases, I don't intend to buy anything!
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!
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?
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.
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?
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, 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.
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!!
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