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Viewing the 'Low Spend Month' Category

Taxes, Tuition & More

January 21st, 2017 at 02:49 pm

I was looking for our interest statement on Navy Federal Credit Union's website yesterday. I couldn't find it, or last years. Turns out they mail it to you, and it arrived in our mailbox yesterday afternoon. My husband's W2 was also available on the MyPay website, so that meant I could start working on our taxes! I am still waiting for one more interest form, but I do know the amount. It looks like we will get a $1497 refund. We couldn't quite claim the full American Opportunity tax credit, but we were very close, having spent $3813 in qualified expenses out of pocket in 2016. I do prefer to have a smaller refund, but I think I deliberately did this last year, knowing the refund could be used towards tuition in February.

Tuition and housing bill was forwarded to me by my daughter last night. The total is $10,426, which includes $4662 for room and board. The rest is tuition, fees and books after her scholarship of $7250. She is taking 17 credit hours this semester, so that inflates the bill a bit. And remember she is an non resident student. I'll write more about tuition and paying the bill in another post.

Yesterday, I bought a few groceries and some junk food. I spent about $15 on six items. Three will be used for meals, but we also bought ice cream, cookies and a diet coke! Ugh. That isn't frugal in the least, and definitely not healthy. And it was all my idea to stop because I suggested ice cream to my daughter.

We are going to the matinee of Hidden Figures today. The admission will be $16.50 for the three of us. I expect my husband will get something at the concession stand. I have $40 allocated in our entertainment budget, anything we don't spend I'm putting towards that tuition bill! Every dollar counts.

Tonight we will have fried rice for dinner. I have peas to add, since I bought those for the tuna casserole I made a couple nights ago. Today we will probably just have leftover pizza, pasta and salad for lunch. There is a lot of salad to use up!

I might write more about this later, but there was discussion of annual credit card spending on the forums. Our annual credit card spending for 2016 was $49,384. I'm not sure I have ever looked at the annual amount before. I'm not sure if that is good or bad. It's good as it is less than half of our gross income. And we didn't pay any interest to use those cards for spending. I'm guessing it is slightly inflated, because it includes my daughter's Europe trip.

Have you started your taxes? Do you know what your annual credit card spending is? What are you having for dinner?

More Food Used Up

January 20th, 2017 at 01:13 am

I made tuna casserole tonight. We haven't had that in years! It came up recently when we had a friend over and my husband seemed very interested in having it after it was mentioned. I did have those two cans of tuna to use up so I bought the other ingredients to make it. Of course, now I have extra noodles and peas!

My husband made a lot of salad this week, and I haven't been eating as much of it as I should as I've been eating other leftovers. I'm starting to realize we buy more food than we can eat. I think he is starting to notice it too. I'm going to try to have a leftover night once or twice a week. And we do freeze extras with some frequency so that does help avoid food waste.

My daughter and I got our hairs cut today. Smile Cost was $30 with tip at Great Clips. I think I got mine last cut in November, but I sometimes go much longer. My daughter has a very short cut, so I'm taking her once a month now! A big change compared to getting her long hair cut two or three times a year.

A check for $26.40 arrived at our home today. It was from the overage charged by the oral surgeon when my daughter had her wisdom teeth removed. The check is payable to her! I paid, but I suppose since she is 19 they figured it was hers? I decided I would just send it to her though and she can keep it. She's a college student...probably can use the cash!



Spring Cleaning

January 12th, 2017 at 06:25 pm

It feels like spring here in the Southeast. It was nearly 60 degrees this morning. That made getting my walk with my neighbor in very nice! I've already been doing some deep spring like cleaning; I can actually open the windows today while I'm doing it. I've been very behind in dusting.

I ate my black bean salad for breakfast with half an apple (the other half was rotten). I decided to make chicken salad, rather than tuna salad for my sandwich at lunch today. The chicken will need to be used, and the tuna can wait for later! Oh, and I ate the leftover tomato soup from the freezer with the sandwich.

My daughter is having a friend over tomorrow night. This friend is moving away in a couple weeks and her birthday is today. I think we will make homemade pizza. I only need more pepperoni and that is far cheaper than picking up pizza for take out. We also may make a cake or cupcakes. I may go the box mix route on that, as I think I've only made cake from scratch once. I don't want to ruin this girls cake! The cost is minimal anyway.

I have ANOTHER book to buy my daughter! I really think this is the final one. This one was $64, luckily she didn't need this until Monday so with Amazon Prime it should arrive on Saturday.

I need to do financial upkeep this weekend. Primarily, I need to figure our new withholding and how we really are going to do our retirement investment this year (instead of Roth's we may go Traditional IRA route or add more to my husband's TSP). And I also need to decide on that 2% CD with Navy Federal Credit Union. I think I only have until Tuesday to decide!

More Books!

January 12th, 2017 at 01:01 am

My daughter emailed that she needed me to order more books from Amazon. I know I thought of doing this while she was home, but she has had good luck with the book store and their rental prices. That has not been the case this semester. I rented one and two others had to be bought new. She will have those on Friday. Those three books cost us $71.86. Hopefully she may want to resell the ones that were not rented so we can get some of those funds back.

I went to Home Depot this evening thinking I had a gift card with a balance on it. I figured I would buy a couple cleaning products with the funds. Turns out it had nothing on it! I'm a bit perplexed that I would keep it if it had no funds left on it. In the end about $8 for the cleaning supplies. I'm kind of in a spring cleaning mode this week here at home!

I'm making bone broth for the first time with that chicken I roasted yesterday. It's going to simmer a full 24 hours or maybe a little more. I look forward to tasting it tomorrow. I used up some carrots, celery and onion to get that started.

I ate the last of the barley for breakfast. Forgot that I was going to add the strawberries though. For lunch I ate the Boca burger with a salad. I used a little feta cheese on the salad, and used more of that in a black bean salad for dinner tonight, which also used up the can of black beans and part of the red onion.

Tomorrow, I will probably eat the black beans for breakfast. They are even better the second day! Then for lunch I will have tuna salad (with red onion) sandwich with the tomato soup from the freezer. In the evening we will have chicken, couscous and possibly more salad! I'm going to cube or shred the remaining chicken for soup or tacos and freeze it. (Did I say that in my last post? If so, I guess I went for simpler tonight since my daughter had a flute lesson!)

I received an email from NFCU that there is a 17 month certificate paying 2%, up to $50K. I'm tempted to put some more in, but I'm starting to have a lot of our cash in CDs and I don't really want to tie it up, although I don't know when we would need it during that time period. We have a least 17 months before another move.

Roasted the Chicken

January 11th, 2017 at 12:48 am

We haven't spent much in the last couple days. My husband filled up with gas, but needed to after a 3 hour car round trip in the car to take our daughter to the airport last night. She made it back to school, only missed one day of classes. The first day...which she definitely wasn't thrilled with! Oh, and he also spent $8 to buy her dinner before she flew out.

I ordered one of her books online from Amazon today. The bookstore was completely out. She's renting it. I had credits with Amazon to cover the whole thing, so no out of pocket costs on that one.

I roasted the whole chicken I had in my freezer tonight. I put it in late this afternoon, with no expectation to have it for dinner. We will have the breast meat for dinner tomorrow night. Then I will cut the remaining up and portion it to freeze for other meals. I think I have a plan for a couple meals to use it with but I'm not remembering those at the moment! Oh, I am going to make bone broth with the bones tomorrow, that will use up the celery.

I have cooked all the remaining barley. Most of it was used in the mushroom barley soup I made for dinner tonight. We now have two servings of that soup left. I used some of the barley to eat for breakfast. I ate one portion this morning with cinnamon and a little sugar. Tomorrow I will eat it with some frozen strawberries (that I will thaw). I finished the romaine lettuce, the frozen banana and frozen blueberries today at lunch when I made a smoothie. I added chia seeds to that smoothie also. Last night we finished the fettuccini noodles and my husband ate more of the turkey bacon.

This pantry stuff is harder than it looks! I feel like in some cases I use something up, but then have leftovers which I then need to incorporate into a meal for someone...and often that is me. I definitely don't need to buy anything for my own lunches for awhile. There is plenty here!

I do expect a small grocery run in the next day or so. We should have bought tortillas, and I remembered we didn't get the fish I wanted (to have with rice) because the commissary had not yet restocked when we were there Sunday morning. They had been closed on Saturday due to weather, so not everything was put out.

I feel pretty good about how we are using up this food that I bought and should have made a plan for! The whole chicken was going to be for Christmas, but with Riley (our cat) ill and dying, I just didn't have the energy to do it. (We had to put her down on December 27th, so the days prior were tough).

Eat It All

January 8th, 2017 at 12:26 am

Checking in this evening to give an update on my progress of eating it all, the food stores we have in our home. I've crossed off what I ate so far. And I actually ate a piece of leftover homemade pizza from last nights dinner, as well as some salad my husband didn't eat earlier in the week. I made fresh soup tonight for dinner. I'm going to freeze the leftovers for later in the month.

Freezer Finds
1 frozen banana
3 2/3 cup frozen strawberry servings
2 1 cup frozen blueberries
frozen tomato soup
1 boca burger
1 microwavable meal
1.5 pounds chicken breast
1 whole chicken

Refrigerator Finds
2 opened jars of salsa
8oz sour cream
balsamic dressing (used half of remaining amount)
celery
romaine
kale
1 c. refried beans (ate this in full)
feta cheese (whole package)
3 clementines (ate 2)
1.25 packages turkey bacon (husband ate the 1/4 package)

Pantry Finds
3 English muffins (ate one)
chia seeds
barley (2 servings)
2 c brown rice
2 c white rice
1 c. lentils
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can chunky soup
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg couscous
taco seasoning
1 c arborio rice
12 Wasa crackers (ate 2)
2 cans tuna
spaghetti 1 serving
fettuccini 2 servings

I plan to eat the english muffins or fruit for breakfast. I may also make some green smoothies with the extra romaine lettuce and chia seeds. I can eat the boca burger, tomato soup, and tuna for lunches along with some fresh salad to use up that dressing. My grocery list is much smaller for this upcoming week as I plan to incorporate the chicken, rice, beans, couscous, and the pasta into many meals for the upcoming week.

Do you have anything in your refrigerator that you need to eat up before the food goes to waste?

February Interest & a Deal

March 2nd, 2016 at 01:15 am

We paid $0 in interest. No mortgage. No personal loans. No credit cards with balances. Yippee!!

We earned $59.44. Boy do I wish that was more! But it is better than nothing.

It may have seemed as though we spent $0 based on the original title to my post yesterday. I edited it. We did spend money in February on needs to the tune of about $900. And of course, we paid our bills like rent, electric, trash, water, cell phone, life insurance. And we saved around $3700 in cash, plus $1662.33 for retirement and $166.66 for college.

I picked up three large packages of toilet paper at Target. Each was $15.99 with 27 double rolls. I added on some Windex to get my total over $50 so I could use a $15 coupon off a $50 purchase. I think we are stocked up on toilet paper for at least half a year!

February No Spend: $0 Spent Last Day

March 1st, 2016 at 01:42 am

It was VERY tempting to go out today to run errands. Especially since I can see our paycheck pending in our account. However, I stayed in. We spent $0 today. I did some more spring cleaning. It was even warm enough to take the cats out in the yard for an adventure. I pulled a few weeds I found while they enjoyed themselves in the sun.

I'd like to say that I could go longer with a low spend month, but we have some things we want to spend money on (and have saved for). I'm not planning to buy more than a usual month, of course. I just know that if we need to spend we will. And some of it will be wants. There has to be room in life for wants!

Our Marriott Rewards card arrived in the mail today. This card will provide 80K bonus points(plus 7500 points for adding authorized user) after spending $3K in the next three months. The card does have an annual fee, but you get a free night as one of the perks. We expect to use our points for several nights in Washington DC this summer. If anyone recommends any Marriott branded hotels in the area, let me know!

February No Spend: Maintenance

February 28th, 2016 at 02:31 pm

We did do some spending yesterday. Maintenance items for my husband's truck. He had a headlight bulb out, thus an actual need. We decided to replace both at the same time. We also picked up windshield wiper blades as well. That all added up to nearly $70! We did get some higher end blades, not sure on the bulbs. We basically used some of the money I set aside this month in our car maintenance category.

We are going grocery shopping today for the upcoming week. I'm counting this as March spending simply because most of the spending is for March. We have food for dinner tonight and tomorrow already in our home. It just happens to be our routine to shop on Sunday's for the most part.

We did rent two movies on Amazon this weekend. Clue and The Great Gatsby. I had Amazon gift cards, so no money out. Smile

February No Spend: Pent Up Spending

February 26th, 2016 at 02:55 pm

LivingAlmostLarge asked in the comments of my post yesterday if all the pent up spending will be spent in March. No not really.

We have put $3,577 into savings (doesn't included investments) during the month of February. Some of this is money we usually save for car repairs, Christmas and a deposit into our emergency fund. But MOST of that cash is because we didn't have big January bills to pay and we spent far less this month than we usually do. Going out to restaurants, buying movie rentals, picking up a lot of snacks, alcohol, driving to store to get things, buying items because the coupon makes it a great deal adds up. A lot more than we realize.

The point for us to have a low spend month wasn't to deprive ourselves, but to make conscious choices about what we really need to live each day. Do we NEED to go out to eat to be fulfilled? Do we need to rent that movie, or are there other alternatives?

The other reason was to stash some cash. We need cash for airline tickets, vacation goals, college deposits, and furniture we want to buy.

As you can see the cash that was stashed probably will be spent at some point, but on things we want that are important. More important then other things we may have spent our money on this month.

We do have some pent up spending to do, but those purchases will come from March income. I also don't expect that we will suddenly eat out more than we usually did (twice a month maximum) because we didn't eat out at all this month. We will need to buy the toiletries we are getting low on, but we didn't use less toothpaste this month, we just avoided needing to buy those things because we already had those on hand. I used a small tube from the dentist to get by this month. I probably need a haircut that I might have done this month, but I won't get two next month. So yes, spending will be more next month, but it doesn't negate the savings we accomplished this month.

On some level it is just a shift in when the money is saved. We saved a lot in one month for things we need cash for soon, rather than saving a little each month by 'hoping' to reduce our spending each month. Again this was a very conscious effort to reduce outflow of cash to set aside for savings and future purchases.

I feel very confident that any future purchases (other than the large ones already mentioned) will be made with future income. If I find out different next month, I will be sure to let you know! Smile

In other news, I did make an eBay sale. It looks like the profit is $9.46. I have four other items listed that could each bring in a similar profit.

February No Spend: Stress Spending

February 25th, 2016 at 12:42 pm

We survived the severe weather yesterday. We had four tornado warnings yesterday. No damage at our home. It fried my nerves by the time the day was done. And that stress led to spending.

I sent my husband to the store to get ice cream, because our daughter said there were no snacks, which was actually nearly true. And I wanted wine! And DH wanted chips, which were buy one, get one free. Total cost: $20.49.

Not particularly happy about the spending, but it has been a long month and we still had some cash budgeted. We've done really good, so will I guess I will look it as celebration spending! Smile

I may have mentioned it before, but today I'm finally going to get some Wii games listed on eBay. Time to bring in a little cash!

February No Spend: Severe Weather

February 24th, 2016 at 05:27 pm

Our area is experiencing severe storm (tornadoes) weather today. It's even causing schools to close early. As a result, we will be staying in the rest of the evening so we can stay safe and near shelter.

We will save $25 because we won't be going to my daughter's flute lesson. I'm pretty sure they are cancelled if school cancels. Of course, I care more about being safe then the cash.

So I think we can call this a no spend day! Yea...I need all of them we can get through the end of the month.

February No Spend: Spring Cleaning

February 23rd, 2016 at 09:41 pm

Today appears to be free of any money being spent. The snacks in the house are getting low already. I thought I had a desert I could make, but I don't have enough butter. I'm pretty close though, so I may make it anyway.

I was going to make waffles for dinner last night and then realized I was too low on milk to make them. We ended up eating rice and beans instead. I think I will resort to pancakes tonight as those take far less milk to make. Basically, the same idea!

Tomorrow night for dinner, we are having three cheese tortellini and salad. I might be able to make some cheese bread, too.

I started my spring cleaning today. Primarily I have been dusting things that aren't dusted on a regular basis. I think I'm dusting off stuff that was here before we moved in. So far things are going faster than I expected, and the activity is free. I'm using micro fiber cloths and water (when needed). No special products were purchased. Smile

February No Spend: Errands In One Day

February 22nd, 2016 at 08:08 pm

I made a point to run two errands today that were in close proximity to one another. My daughter had a gift to mail to a friend (she paid for postage). I decided while I was near the post office I would pick up the two items I forgot at the grocery store on Saturday at Walmart. Those items: Clif bars, and mayo. We didn't need those items yet, but would have later in the week.

I had cash in my wallet to cover the $8.87 total. This leaves me with $5 and change. I expect that cash will go towards a tip the next time we are at the commissary. It sure feels better to combine errands and know that I didn't cave to more purchases.

I'm making plans to get some spring cleaning done here to keep me busy through the end of the month. The blinds are dusty and have been since we moved in. And I find that it is a free activity. Smile

I also have some items to get sold on eBay. These are a result of our recent decluttering! That is a free task I hope will earn me a little cash.

We continue to eat in all of our meals. I ate leftover tacos today for lunch. Tonight we are having rice and beans. I expect there will be some left for lunch tomorrow. Oh, and I made a batch of steel cut oats in the Crockpot last night. I divided it into four servings for the next several mornings.

My husband has received a Welcome Letter for Marriott Rewards card. It seems he was approved! Smile

February No Spend: $75 Left

February 21st, 2016 at 04:26 pm

As it turns out, I set aside $885 for everyday spending in February. We are now down to the last $75 because we went grocery shopping yesterday. I have $15 of that in my wallet. And I have three items on my 'forgot to buy at the grocery store' list. I plan to use cash for those items.

There is still cash for one more fuel fill up (we are both on Full right now), a haircut for my husband, a bottle of wine, and $20 for groceries. I have nothing left in clothing, entertainment, gifts, pets, restaurants or household goods. Some of those never had any cash in them this month anyway!

I have a feeling next weekend might feel really hard! Although if absolutely necessary we will spend on what we need.

I can tell that it has been a pretty good exercise for all three of us here. My daughter has been aware. Although she isn't a big spender. I've been aware of the coupons, sales, and emails that tempt me to spend. I've kept myself out of as many stores as possible. My husband has been the most interesting one to watch. I'm not sure if he feels he has had to make too many changes. To me, it seems he has been given some extra passes to get things he wants, particularly food (snacks). And then it interesting to see that I let him! Is that because he is the bread winner and this experiment is just a game? It's all small stuff, but it does add up. I don't really know the answers. Maybe we'll have more insight if we discuss it at the end of the month.

I do remember that he suggested we get my van washed at least twice this month. Yes, it is a bit dusty. It should be cleaned at some point. But it's a no spend month. We are only spending on needs. A car wash is not a need! He has stopped asking. I wonder if he'll take care of it on March 1?

The really exciting part of this experiment is how much money we have saved. It seems that the three months prior our everyday expenses were around $2300. If we only spend $885 this month, then we have saved about $1415! Not bad at all. We've actually saved about $3000 during the entire month, some of which we normally save, but definitely more than we do some months. It helps there were not many outflows from those savings categories too.

ETA: Actually, set aside $785 for variable spending. I accidentally included the $100 we spend on flute lessons in my total. That was considered required spending, like our rent!

February No Spend: 46% Tip and More

February 20th, 2016 at 03:34 pm

I've now seen the receipt from the dinner my husband went to on Thursday night for a coworker's retirement dinner. As I said before he paid for the retiree's dinner. The restaurant included a 20% tip, likely because it was a large group of 11.

So the total of the drinks and meals was $37.98, $3.65 taxes, $7.60 tip added by restaurant for a grand total of $49.23.

He added $10 additional tip because he didn't read the bill specifying that the gratuity was already added! So our out of pocket was $59.23. That is a 46% tip!!

In other news, we cancelled our Citi Premier card. We've had it since last May and have stopped using it. It has an annual fee that is waived the first year, but we don't want to pay for one when it is up for renewal. That was easy to do online.

I also closed my Capital One 360 checking and savings accounts. I had $0.06 in there. We weren't using it because the interest rate of 0.75% was lower than our other accounts. That was also super easy to do online. I did the withdrawal and it had a place to confirm I was closing the account. My six cents should arrive to our checking account on Monday.

We applied for the American Express Premier Rewards Gold card finally. We received one offer a couple months ago. It expired before I could get that completed. So when it arrived in the mail again, I jumped on it. It appears to offer $50K points for spending $1000 in three months. I think there were some points for an authorized user too. Oh, and we were instantly approved.

We also applied for the Marriott Rewards credit card. There was an offer for 80K points after spending $3000 in three months. We would like to use these points for hotels this summer, when we hope to visit Washington DC. This card, offered by Chase, didn't instantly approve, but indicated we would receive notification by mail. Chase has changed the way they do business and approvals. We have never had this card in the past though, so hoping this is available to us.

My husband did make some purchases yesterday. Fuel for his truck $23.35, alcohol $19.10, and some snacks $21.03, which was more than I expected. We will need to pick up some groceries for the coming week today or tomorrow.

The cash is getting tighter! Trying to hold on until the end.

February No Spend: Dining Out

February 19th, 2016 at 04:39 pm

We haven't eaten any meals out the entire month of February. Until yesterday. My husband had the retirement dinner for a colleague last night. I was mentally prepared for this since he mentioned it early in the month.

I don't know his exact spending yet, as he didn't enter it into YNAB and has the receipt in his wallet. He told me it was around $60. Turns out he ended up paying for the departing soldier's meal, since no one else offered or stepped up. What can I say? He's a generous person! I could have been upset, but there's really no point. I don't want to squash generosity, just for my little no spend game.

We are coming up on the weekend. I expect we will find free things to do. I don't know that anyone needs anything such as clothing or personal care (I might need contact solution before the month runs out, but trying to conserve). So as is usual for most weekends I expect our spending to be on food.

Just 10 more days of February! We have $230 that has not been spent, but is still in our budget. Hopeful we can get by without spending all of that. How much money do you have left in before the end of the month?

February No Spend: Needs

February 18th, 2016 at 04:34 pm

I've spent some money. On needs. I picked up highlighters and a pencil sharpener for my daughter last night at Staples (who I feel is overpriced). Outflow was $5.34.

Today I went to Walmart and picked up pencil lead for my daughter, all purpose flour to make pizza, and shaving cream for my husband. Outflow was $7.28.

Now I suppose I could nitpick a bit and suggest my husband could use soap for shaving for the rest of the month, or that my daughter could use the one color of highlighter, or even I could make half a batch of pizza dough. But that isn't exactly the point. To go extreme. The point is to make conscious choices.

I was able to browse in both stores, but felt no real to desire to buy anything than I went in for. It is much more satisfying to leave knowing you only went in for needs and survived doing it!

I also have to admit I have a few things on a list, that probably could be considered needs, that I will probably purchase in March. Two of those are a new trashcan for my daughter's bathroom (it's cracked on two sides), and curtain rods for at least two bedrooms (we currently don't have any here, but can install if we remove and repair before we move).

Another free thing to do during a no spend month: delete old emails and computer files!

P.S. We received our tax refund of $359 today from the IRS. We're going to set that aside in savings.

February No Spend: Repairs

February 17th, 2016 at 05:39 pm

We've spent some money on household repairs this month. But it doesn't count! The money is being initially spent by us, but we will reduce our rent in March accordingly and send our receipts to the owners. These are repairs authorized by them, so this isn't a surprise.

The first purchase was for a new supply line for the refrigerator, which we paid about $20 for, as it appeared to be leaking near the shut off valve. We installed this ourselves. Unfortunately, this was not the only leak.

There is a leak near the water inlet valve on the fridge itself. It's pretty obvious to us now that this was long term leak as parts nearby are corroded. I'm currently waiting for Sears (the owners desired repair service) to come replace the part. If I am correct on the part it seems to be about $65. At a minimum the charge is $115 to come to the door! I actually think I could have fixed this myself. I've seen it done on another fridge we had. So I currently don't know the full cost, but it will be charged to our card and we will reduce our rent by the same amount in March. How nice of me to float that expense for them! I do at least get a few reward points for it. Smile

So I think I'm going to file these charges under rent in YNAB since they are effectively reducing our rent. At least it makes sense to me.

No spending yesterday as expected. I think, in addition to the above repairs, we have a few items to purchase: shaving cream, flour, and a couple school supplies. And tomorrow is the day my husband goes out to eat for a coworker's retirement dinner. So the next two days have some small expenditures.

Edit to add: Sears was two hours outside their window of service, the cost came to $294.37! The labor was $211. And it only took four minutes to change out the part once he had moved the fridge. I then had to sign several 'waivers' of damage liability, which took longer than the five minutes print, discuss and sign.

February No Spend: Decluttering Is Free

February 16th, 2016 at 04:46 pm

No spending yesterday. And I don't expect any today. I'm still staying out of the stores and eating meals at home.

I don't think I've mentioned it here yet, but I've been decluttering this month. The main purpose is to help keep myself busy and out of the stores! But the side benefit, is that when decluttering you realize that you own stuff you purchased at one point that you never liked or used. That alone makes me a little more careful about future purchases. I also have several things I could sell, but I'm not to that point in the process yet.

I haven't limited my decluttering to physical items. I'm deleting old emails, and documents on my computer also. And photos on my phone!

If you attempt your own no spend/low spend month, I encourage you to have some free activities or projects to do around your house. You will be spending significantly less time in stores. A few ideas: spring cleaning, decluttering, organizing, finishing a project that you have all supplies for, enjoying a hobby, watching movies, playing games, exercising, talking on the phone with friends and family, completing home maintenance, and cooking meals at home (with ingredients you already have).

February No Spend: Free Stuff

February 15th, 2016 at 06:29 pm

We did finally see Bridge of Spies this weekend. For free! It was a really good movie. I wouldn't not have regretted spending $4.99 to rent online, but I found a code for a free Redbox rental. So it cost us nothing out of pocket. More free entertainment!

The code is still available. I found it here on Hip2Save. Once I had the promotion code, I went to the Redbox website (I didn't use the app) and reserved our movie to pick up later. Simple!

Today we are all home. We aren't planning to go anywhere. In fact, we are watching a movie this afternoon. One we already own. We are having tacos for dinner, so no eating out.

I did purchase some L-Lysine for our cat, along with a new computer battery from Amazon yesterday. The good news is no money out of pocket. I used $30 worth of Amazon gift cards earned from Swagbucks and Bing Rewards. The remaining $1.29 was covered by Discover rewards. I like when I can get stuff for free!

February No Spend: Groceries

February 14th, 2016 at 11:48 pm

We have moved into our next pay period of February spending. Monday would usually be payday, but because of the holiday my husband was paid on Friday. Today we went grocery shopping at the commissary. I would have liked to have waited one more day, but we may be getting some winter weather tomorrow that we would rather not be out in. We spent $92.45. This included $10.05 for litter and a couple cans of cat food. We have $74.29 left for groceries for the remainder of the month.

I feel pretty confident we have all the food we need to get through next Sunday. I think some of the things we bought, such as turkey bacon and cheese will extend into the next week for meals.

I paid balances on our credit cards in full on Friday. And made sure to allocate funds into categories for the remainder of the month, including savings for Christmas, Auto Insurance, and the minimum we save in our emergency fund. I did not add any money to restaurants, clothing, entertainment, gifts or pets. We still have nearly $1,700 left to budget. Since I did all of that other budgeting myself, I'm going to discuss that other money with my husband and determine which categories are important right now. I would guess Vacation, College, Furniture and maybe more to the EF. That excess is a testament to the fact that low spend months do result in extra money!

No Spend February: Valentine's Day

February 13th, 2016 at 04:13 pm

We are not spending anything on Valentine's Day. We don't usually spend much at all most years, but this year no extras are being purchased. At most we can say I spent $8, $3 for a bag of candy, and $5 bill to mail to my niece. However, I technically used money for those in January. Smile

I have a box of chocolate caramels that were sent at Christmas and the bag of Valentine's candy that I purchased in January. That is our way of celebrating. Eating sweets!



I specifically told my husband not to buy any cards or flowers this year. That easily saved us $20 to $25. He usually buys a card for each of our daughters, and myself. And these are the $4 and $5 cards! That we look at for three seconds. And the flowers are a bouquet he picks up at the grocery store and puts in a vase when he arrives home.

We did send a homemade Valentine's card to our daughter in college that we all signed. I enclosed a $10 Subway gift card that I earned from MyPoints. She's not big into the whole Valentine's thing anyway.

I feel really good about this spending decision. Valentine's is one of those holiday's that seems so contrived. Will you spend any money on Valentine's Day?

February No Spend Month: Meals and Spending

February 12th, 2016 at 11:30 pm

The most recent spending was fuel for both of our vehicles. My husband spent $28.40 yesterday to fill his truck. Today he filled my van up, spending $27.25. Low fuel prices are kind of nice on the pocket book, but still thinking about those in the industry that it may affect. Frown

My husband also picked up a few groceries from the commissary to get us through the long weekend. No work or school on Monday due to President's Day. He spent $30.73 on the items I put on the list. And this time he didn't add anything! And it seems we are having an alcohol free Friday, and hopefully, the full weekend! We used up our alcohol budget already.

I did make banana bread yesterday. I didn't have milk for my traditional recipe and found one that would use sour cream! It tastes really good, too. That used up two of the eggs I listed in my post yesterday.

Today my husband had a couple egg burritos for lunch, while I had meatloaf and a salad. And yes, we are having homemade pizza. It's jazzed up a bit more since we purchased turkey crumbles and pepperoni today.

Our lunch and dinners include the following for the next three days:
Tuna melts on English Muffins
Lentil soup/tomato soup with Salad
Boca burger/Frozen pizza/Eggs
Pasta with sauce and salad
Chili/PB&honey sandwich/Eggs
Tacos (we bought a few things to make this work)

I may try making a frittata in the coming days. I've never made one before, but I wouldn't mind trying. We also picked up black beans to have with brown rice and salsa in the coming days as well.

Today is payday, but that is three days early because of the holiday. I will end up adding some more cash to our low spending budget for the month, but not too much, as I do want to save as much as we can. I'll have a post on the total savings at some point this month.

February No Spend: Torn Clothing, Credit, Pantry Status

February 11th, 2016 at 06:05 pm

I seem to have torn a hole in a favorite pair of workout capris. And not in way that can easily be repaired. So into the trash. I have two other pairs I can wear to finish out the month of February. Although, I will say this tempts me to want to see if I can find any on clearance (usually a good time of year for that). But for now, I'm going to resist. As that is part of the exercise of a no spend month.

My daughter's flute teacher cancelled her lesson yesterday. We prepay to the store, so she informed us we will get a credit for yesterday's lesson. That means $25 back in our pocket at some point. Since this is the first that happened, I'm not sure if it will show up right away as a credit on our credit card or reduce the payment for March. I'm going to expect the latter, and be surprised if it is the other way.

My husband didn't get his hair cut yesterday, so it was again another No Spend Day. Two days in a row! I have done really well keeping myself out of stores. I probably would have popped into a store to pick up a couple school supplies for my daughter had we been to her lesson. So those will wait to be combined with another trip.

I ate Cream of Wheat for breakfast (only one or two packets to go!) Lunch was leftover taco dip on two tortillas and a side salad. We are having meatloaf for dinner tonight. There should be some leftovers for lunch on Friday. Tomorrow I will make homemade pizza, with a side salad planned for dinner.

It feels like our food supply is diminishing. But here is what we still have that doesn't have a plan: 6 apples, half bag mini peppers, two cans of tuna, 5 eggs, lentil soup (freezer), a half loaf of bread, two packages of ground beef, chili (one serving, maybe two), English muffins (frozen), one Boca burger, half bag hashbrowns, tomato soup (one serving), one frozen single serve pizza, side serving of risotto (frozen), can of beets, brown rice, barley, can chicken noodle soup, steel cut oats, quinoa, arborio rice, 1/4 jar of peanut butter, a few Wasa crackers, three slices of cheddar cheese, 1 c shredded cheddar cheese, 8 oz sour cream and large container of salsa.

I think I'm going to come up with a precise plan to get through most of the weekend on these items. I think I will have to allow a bag of tortilla chips at a minimum. I personally wouldn't mind some popcorn.

Hopefully, I can report back tomorrow how I'm going to use all these items! If you see a clear meal with the ingredients listed, let me know. I'm open to ideas. Oh, and I have two frozen bananas...I think I can make banana bread!

What do you have in your fridge, freezer and pantry?

February No Spend: Lower Time Warner Bill

February 10th, 2016 at 04:00 pm

Our Time Warner bill came in my email inbox yesterday. It was higher than usual. It was $97.24 rather than the $90.80 that we have been paying for several months. I thought originally that there was a new $10 charge. But the math didn't make sense.

Turns out some of the fees connected to the TV portions of our bill had increased. There was information on our last bill about the increases. I didn't read the bill because the amount was the same...so thus a bit of a shock to see the increase this month.

I did an online chat with customer service and cancelled our Sports Pass. We added that in the fall to see our favorite football team, and maybe some glimpses of our daughter in marching band, but only saw three games broadcast on that station in the end. That was originally $8.99 a month and had increased to $10.

So instead of a $97.24 bill, I got a credit for cancelling the Sports Pass. Our new bill amount is $85.58. I can probably get this lower if we turn our HD Set top box in for a digital adapter instead. That should bring the bill down closer to $75 for basic TV and internet. We will need to go in to customer service to make that change.

Yesterday was a actual no spend day. No outflow of cash by any of us! Today my husband is going to attempt to get a haircut while on his lunch break. That is budgeted in our spending plan this month. It is required to upkeep his hair for his job. Of course, we could just shave it all off! But we won't. Smile

We all ended up eating waffles last night, so no leftovers for snacks. Usually my husband eats eggs when I make waffles, so now we have a few extra eggs for later in the month. Tonight we are having Bean Taco Dip for dinner. It's easy to have on busier evenings (flute lesson tonight). Tomorrow is the meatloaf! I think I'm having salad and a Boca burger for lunch today.

I also have plans to do some more cleaning today to keep myself busy. Bathrooms and vacuuming are my goals. I'm also going to watch one or two episodes of Mad Men on Netflix while I walk on the treadmill.

February No Spend: What We've Spent So Far

February 9th, 2016 at 04:27 pm

Again, a no spend month isn't entirely no spend. It's more of a low spend month. We are trying to get by with just the basics. I think I'm following it the best because I personally have only purchased one item I didn't need. A diet pop. Actually ask my husband to pick it up for me when he was out getting other things.

My husband has insisted on alcohol, which I did have a little of, and extra snacks. My daughter insisted on Clif Bars (which I see as a luxury food item) for her lunch.

As of February 9, we have spent $238.10. And here is how that breaks down:
Groceries: $157.61
Fuel: $29.79
Alcohol: $50.70

Yes, over 21% of our spending was on alcohol. Trust me, I'm not proud to say that. The spending would look even better if that alcohol wasn't there. However, despite that, we are spending far less than we sometimes do.

My daughter came to me last night asking for highlighter markers. The ones she had were wearing out. I directed her to a couple in my desk drawer. Only one was acceptable. She said it should work for awhile. She is aware of our no spend month, so I think she means it will work until March. I'm willing to buy her a new one or two if she does need them, as I want her to have the right tools for school.

I'm going to spend some of my afternoon cleaning our home. These wood floors show every cat hair that has come loose! And it seems to be a free activity and will help keep me warm on this cooler day.

Only 20 days left of the month. I wonder if this low spending plan is going to get easier or harder?


February No Spend: Computer Updates

February 8th, 2016 at 08:07 pm

I'm keeping myself out of the stores as much as possible this month. I'm not much of a spontaneous spender, but it happens. And those costs do add up. It is so much easier to keep a low spend month really low by staying out of the stores.

I had the last yogurt and some Cream of Wheat this morning. Lunch was leftover meats(chicken and beef) and potatoes with cheese sauce. I also had a piece of bread and butter.

This evening we are having another soup from the freezer (Mushroom Barley) and cheese bread. We will probably have a small side salad as well. Tomorrow we will make eggs and waffles. We usually end up with plenty of leftover waffles that I freeze and use for a snack or another night of waffles for dinner. Wednesday is meatloaf. I haven't made that in years! We have a lot of ground beef on hand, so it will be a nice treat.

I have spent most of today working on some computer updates. Our computers have had Windows 8 operating systems on them, and we have been reminded many, many times we can upgrade to Windows 10 for free. My husband already took care of the computer he uses the most. Today, I upgraded mine to Windows 10. It did take some time, so I used some of that time to go through some papers in the file drawer in my desk while I waited.

After the Windows 10 Update, I went to Navy Federal Credit Union where I found a free one year trial of McAfee for our computers. It's one offer per member. We are each considered separate members, so if it is available next year, we will qualify again for another year. If I could not find McAfee for free, I would have used AVG that several of you had suggested. My husband seems to think McAfee is the only way to go for this kind of thing!

My daughter did inform me this morning that she will need more granola bars. I was surprised as I was sure there were at least five or six on Friday. I planned those would get her through this week. Turns out she ate some over the weekend. This means a trip to the store before Wednesday morning. I'm debate whether I should go or send my husband. We know what happened last time I sent him! Smile

We did spend each day over the weekend. It was all within budget. And in the grocery and alcohol category. And I personally did really well with my consumption of alcohol!

February No Spend: Free Entertainment

February 7th, 2016 at 04:57 pm

On Friday night my husband mentioned that a movie I want to see (Bridge of Spies) is now available to rent on Amazon. I reminded him that it was a low spend month and that I did not put any money in the entertainment budget. I also reminded him it would still be available in March and we have a lot of other free options of movies to watch with our Prime and Netflix memberships. We found another option that interested us for free.

On Saturday evening, we decided to go explore the post my husband works on. We were looking for a training exercise we could view. We found one of the spots, but it seems we may have been on the opposite end for the best view. We did get to see a very pretty sunset while we waited. We will try again another time they have this exercise on a weekend. At least it was free!!

After we returned home from our adventure we ate dinner and opened up our newest board game, Ticket to Ride. It looked like I was winning, but in the end our daughter won. She was super excited! That is a very fun game. I may see if she wants to play again today. Smile

We will watch the Super Bowl tonight. I'm not a big NFL team follower, but these big games are pretty fun...especially with some great commercials mixed in. Will you watch the Super Bowl?

February No Spend: 'Groceries Don't Count'

February 6th, 2016 at 06:06 pm

So my husband did go to the commissary yesterday after work to get groceries. I made a VERY SPECIFIC list. He did get everything on the list, but he ADDED to it. Ugh. He bought an extra bag of chips, another box of crackers, a second package of tortillas, and ice cream! I reminded him it was a no spend month, and his was reply was I didn't think groceries counted! Well the goal is to spend the least possible across the board, so YES groceries count. By the way those extra items cost us $10.52, which is nearly 15% of the total bill.

I really do appreciate that he went as it will keep us from making a separate trip over the weekend to shop. It's going to be crazy busy there with the Super Bowl coming up on Sunday!

He spent $72.37 at the commissary. I think except for a couple more items, this can get us through next Sunday, which is the day before payday. I set aside $175 for groceries for this pay period and we still have $39 left. I think we can make it. And the extra snacks might keep us out of the store just a bit longer!

He spent $19.10 on wine. The equivalent of four bottles. And earlier in the day he bought candy for the office because he had been eating quite a bit of it because he forgot his lunch! It would have been healthier to spend the $8.98 on an actual lunch.

He also bought fuel for his truck which amounted to $29.79. Last time he filled up was 10 days ago. This is about average for him. I still have half a tank, although we are going to take a little road trip late this afternoon for a free activity. We may fill up before or after. I budgeted $150 this pay period for fuel, but that is probably too high considering we range between $170-230 each month. Maybe we'll try to stay on that low end! It does help that fuel prices are low right now.

So far I feel really good at how we have done with our low spend month. I will say a lot of the groceries have been fresh vegetables since my husband takes salads for lunch everyday. We also use some of it some nights with our dinner. I'm just trying to use up with what we have on hand. Last night we had pasta with ground beef and sauce that we had on hand. I used up some fresh broccoli and got out a can of beets.

Original plan for dinner tonight was chicken breasts, roasted potatoes and salad, but we may end up postponing that to tomorrow night. We may be out around dinner, so instead we will come home and have our super bowl snacks a day early.

Next week we will be having some of these meals:
soup and cheese bread
eggs or waffles
meatloaf and beets
bean dip (need sour cream and can of refried beans)
homemade pizza and apples
tuna melts and apples
and one night will be make your own (ie leftovers)

I'm planning to eat a combination of leftovers and tuna sandwiches for lunch. I'm also currently using up the Cream of Wheat packets in our cupboard for my breakfast.


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