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Just Under $20K to Go

November 4th, 2017 at 02:50 pm

Wow! The stock market is on fire. Our retirement accounts totaled just over $480K yesterday. We are getting closer to $500K...just under $20K to go. Of course, I know there could be a correction at some point, but I'd love it if the accounts could rise to $500K by the end of the year. Another 4% or so. We started the year with balances totaling $392K...so there has been very nice progress!

I tallied up our interest earned in October. We earned $95.28. Can't complain about more money!

Christmas Planning

November 2nd, 2017 at 03:06 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Sale and A Credit

October 25th, 2017 at 11:42 pm

I made an eBay sale today. It was an item I have been trying to sell for several months. Netted just $6, but I'll take it. I do have four new items to list soon.

I requested to trade in my old cell phone (well, really my daughter's old one) with Verizon. I was offered just $20 as a credit, which is perfectly fine. We got 3.5 years use out of it. Verizon is sending a box for me to mail it in.

I also checked our account and noticed my husband received $48 for per diem on a one day trip. I think he spent less than $20, so we netted $28 at least. I'm counting the full amount towards the Big Goal.

We are just two months until Christmas. Time to start saving and making a budget now. In fact, I've learned November is the best time to shop and prepare for the holiday. The more you get done before December the more enjoyable it can be.

Since My Last Post

October 23rd, 2017 at 12:26 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sold Airline Drink Coupons to Buy Books

October 18th, 2017 at 06:56 pm

I sold some airline drink coupons that expire at the end of the year on eBay. We aren't going to be flying before the end of the year. If something changes we can forgo an adult beverage anyway. In my entire life I've only had one on an airplane. I used the funds earned to buy a used book that my daughter's want for Christmas. Zero out of pocket for that one.

I also used $35 worth of Amazon gift cards, earned on Swagbucks two purchase two other books the girls want for Christmas. They want this series of 12 books that cost $20 each brand new! Amazon does have them discounted, and gift cards earned make them zero out of pocket!

I found a fourth book today at the used book store. It was new, but I had a $13.70 credit, so it only cost me $7+ out of pocket. This present is working out to cost very little!

I'm not sure if I will get all 12 books, but I'll do my best. I figure they are likely to get Christmas money from relatives and can buy them if they want to add to the collection. Amazon can have them arrive in two days. I also think Amazon has been known to have a special in late November for $10 off a $25 purchase of books. So that would be helpful also.

Do you drink alcohol on airplane rides? Have you started Christmas shopping?

Snowflakes

October 18th, 2017 at 12:52 am

A few snowflakes to mention.

I returned some fabric binding I didn't need and received $2 back on the credit card I had used.

I used $2.50 worth of coupons at the commissary on Sunday. I also redeemed another $2.50 in Ibotta rebates on the same day.

I have an old Wii game that looks to sell in a couple days on eBay. I'm always concerned with the bidder is a new buyer with zero feedback, but it could workout. I will only get a couple dollars.

I listed two other items on eBay...not sure if they will sell or not. One is new and does have demand. The other has been listed before without much luck. Trying one more time!

I take all the small wins along with the big ones! They add up.

FAFSA Time

October 16th, 2017 at 10:26 pm

It's that time of year to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as FAFSA, if you have a student or you yourself will be attending a college or university in 2018. As of last year, the application comes available October 1 and you use the previous year's tax return. In this case, we will use our 2016 tax return to provide information. In the past, FAFSA's were filled out in the early months of the year after you had filed your tax return.

We haven't ever received any grants, but have always been eligible for unsubsidized students loans. As you know we have not taken the government up on that offer yet! This next school year there is a small possibility we will, so we will apply again.

We also will be applying for both of our daughters. I will need to make note of what I report on one so that I report the same for the other. Maybe their is a way to transfer that information and save time. I will find out!

$80 Side Hustle

October 13th, 2017 at 12:09 am

I had a mini job fall right into my lap. My neighbor asked me to sew a fabric key fob/lanyard, like the one I had given her. She wanted to give them as teacher gifts this Christmas.

I figured she just needed one or two! No, she requested ten. And I charged her $8 each. They don't take much fabric, but I did have to go buy more than I had on hand. And I definitely wanted to make it worth my time.

This was about a month ago that she requested them. I got right on it and she paid me this week! I could get used to this kind of side hustle.

I've added the money to the Big Goal!

Various Money Updates

October 7th, 2017 at 01:11 pm

I'm not sure why I haven't been posting! Everything is on auto pilot I guess. I have been around commenting and reading your blogs. I'll give you some various updates.

I did the first half of October's budget without my husband. I still have over $400 to allocate, so I will get him involved this weekend to figure those funds out. It seems like a lot of extra money for the first half of the month.

Retirement accounts are up big time with the recent stock market surge. Since January balances are up $80,000. That does include contributions. The more you have the bigger a 1% increase makes.

Interest earned on our cash in October was $92.04. Close to $100 a month in interest isn't anything to complain about. I did notice one bank increased their interest rate slightly (0.05%) again. We have $131 automatically deposited from my husband's paycheck to a savings account. I need to roll a couple months worth of those deposits into one of the CD's we have that is paying 2%.

My cell phone completely died on me this week. It is 3.5 years old, and some things have been failing so I've been working around them. In the meantime, I've switched my SIM card to my daughter's old cell phone. I have a VERY hard time deciding on phones. The newer ones Verizon offers seem so expensive!! I'm also debating moving to an iPhone since I have a Mac. Those are also expensive, but coming down a bit with the new release coming up. I would like the phone to have a good camera, too. I use it for my main camera. I have $195 in my cell phone replacement category and could easily find more money if I go with a more expensive phone.

I returned two pairs of shorts to Kohl's last week. That put $30 back in the budget which helped cover some new shoes we purchased for our older daughter.

We have saved quite a bit of money on high school football games recently. My husband and I have been volunteering in the concession stand for the band. This allows us to get in free (saves $14), and we get a free drink at the end which would cost us $4 if we have purchased. Last night even our daughter skipped buying anything to eat. Saving at least another $3. There have been four scheduled home games, and just one left. Overall savings is over $100. I wish we did this last year too. We will still have plenty of competition admissions this month, so the savings helps!

I've been purchasing some things recently too. It's part of my Getting Things Done series on my Organized Friends blog this month. Just yesterday I purchased two picture frames (both 50% off ) at Michael's for $29. This is something we have wanted to do for awhile, but I've put it off to avoid the spending. It feels good to get it done though. The amount spent is minor in comparison to our overall budget.

That's the money news!

Money Inn

September 28th, 2017 at 10:47 pm

Ha. Ha. A typo in the title that I decided to leave. I would like to be the Money Inn, where money comes to stay for as long as it wants.

I received a $5 rebate on some vitamins I bought last month.

I redeemed Swagbucks for $25 Paypal cash. My Swagbucks added up fast after buying some Gillette razor blades. It was a money maker!

We received $1,112 from the VA. That's the monthly housing benefit we are receiving from the GI Bill. That money is going in savings to pay us back for making the upfront housing payment.

And tomorrow is payday, so that is pending in our account as well.

100 Days Until Christmas!

September 16th, 2017 at 05:50 pm

Christmas is just 100 days away!

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

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

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

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

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

Snowflakes Here and There

September 15th, 2017 at 07:26 pm

Let's see if I can recall the recent snowflakes arriving here lately:

$8.05 Electric co-op return of capital
$6.00 Pinecone Research payments
$0.93 eBay proceeds for a book
$9.00 ATM refunds from our bank
$25.00 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
$8.54 US Bank reward (5% back on Cell Phone)
$9.95 AmEx cable bill reward

Those snowflakes add up to $67.47!

I printed out some coupons for things we normally buy. If I use them all within the next month I will have saved $11.75. Only took me a couple minutes to print.

I've always said that small amounts add up!

No Student Loans Continues

September 10th, 2017 at 07:55 pm

I can't tell you what a relief it is to pay for our daughter's tuition and housing in full. No loans!!

The tuition this semester was officially covered in full by the Post 911 GI Bill benefits my husband earned and transferred to our daughter. I guess part of it was covered by her scholarship...can't discount $7,000! I have to say her University was definitely on top of processing the benefits in a timely manner. I think it helped tremendously that we notified them we would be using them in mid May.

Most of the tuition is being reimbursed by the Post 911 GI Bill as well. So far we have received $370. But we are expecting another $3,892 over the next several months. In the meantime, I transferred that amount from our savings so that I could pay the bill due on Sept 12.

Ah, the relief of no loans. It really is palpable!

Equifax Breach

September 9th, 2017 at 12:48 pm

Probably a good idea to check and see if your credit information was compromised by the Equifax Breach. Here is the link.

Turns out my husband and I are affected. Frown

I'm going to check my daughter's also, but need to dig out their social security numbers.

Next step is to sign up for the credit monitoring service. We are already signed up because of the breach that happened with the OPM (Office of Personnel Management). We will, of course, sign up again! It seems like it never ends!!

Were you affected this time?

Started Christmas Shopping & More

September 7th, 2017 at 02:14 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Per Diem Arrived

August 30th, 2017 at 11:47 am

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

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

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

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

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 08:29 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can We Talk About Emergency Funds?

August 25th, 2017 at 02:43 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First VA Housing Payment

August 24th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Where To Hold Sinking Funds

August 23rd, 2017 at 11:27 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 07:16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cutting Out Lessons

August 21st, 2017 at 11:08 pm

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

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

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

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

Did you see the eclipse where you live?

Budget Discussion Part One

August 20th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

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

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

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

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

Pays to Shop Around

August 19th, 2017 at 02:41 pm

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

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

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


Frugal Wins

August 17th, 2017 at 01:56 pm

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

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

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

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

Have a great and frugal Thursday!

Paribus & Snowflakes

August 15th, 2017 at 06:46 pm

I'm trying out a new app that tracks online purchases for better prices after you make a purchase. They will refund the difference to you if they find a lower price. I thought I'd try it for a short time and see the results. I'm not usually one to give apps access to my email account, but I'm going to see how it works out and judge after that. Seems like a good way to possibly accumulate some snowflakes! The app/website is called Paribus. That link is a referral link, if you are interested in trying it.

I sold some books on eBay that my daughter decided to sell earlier this summer. Net is about $9.50. I redeemed a $1.25 Ibotta rebate for soap I purchased on Sunday, as well as $0.25 for canned cat food. And I now have enough Swagbucks to redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card. I'm using my discount for the month, so I only need to use 2200 SB. Now to accumulate more in the next two weeks so I can get another one! And finally I returned my neighbor's carpet cleaner and attempted to give her $10 to purchase more cleanser, but she refused. So I now have $10 back in my pocket! All of these snowflakes add up!

I did a small amount of spending today. I mailed a package (why does it cost so much) for $10.55 to my daughter. A few things arrived in the mail after she left and she also left a couple small items. I did include a Dunkin Donuts gift card I bought her at a discount.

The other spending was for cream cheese, mailing tape and three packages of loose leaf paper. My cost $6.67.

As a follow up to my post yesterday. I've decided to wait on the Diet Bet. I am however going to attempt losing 4% on my own in the next four weeks without the Diet Bet motivation. That would be free! I weighed in today, with my final weigh in planned for September 13.

Must Be No Spend

August 14th, 2017 at 07:44 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Ebay Sale & Listings

August 12th, 2017 at 02:01 am

I made a quick eBay sale yesterday. I posted three coupons to a major retailer...the type you find in every mall in America. I sold them for $4.99, which net me $3.50 after the fees and a postage stamp. Easy money!

Today, I also listed a new item that my daughter found while dusting her room. I may only net a couple dollars, but hey, easy to ship from my mailbox, so worth a try. I also relisted a couple items. I had tried Buy It Now options in the past. This time I went the auction route with a Buy It Now option included.

I found two American Eagle Silver coins (one ounce) in my desk. My husband and I each received one for our graduation years (1991 and 1989). Someone wrote next to mine that the current value was $7. I know it is worth much more than that today, closer to $19 or $20. It is one of those things I think of selling occasionally, as we don't have much sentimental attachment to them. But then again, could be worth more later, and don't take up much space.

Today was a no spend day for me. I believe my husband bought some alcohol to have this weekend (he is still away at school). And he also bought donuts for his class this morning. There had been some exercise where money was given out. (?) In the end they could keep it. They pooled it together and gave to my husband to buy donuts (it was his suggestion). The donuts were more than the cash, so another $10 out of our pocket was spent.

Cleaned Our Carpet and Other Frugal Wins

August 10th, 2017 at 03:17 pm

I borrowed a carpet cleaner from my neighbor while she is on vacation, so I could clean the carpets. An ill cat last year didn't help the condition of the carpet. She brought carpet solution she already owned to use on it, which I was not expecting. I ended up doing every area that didn't have furniture on it once I realized how dirty the carpet was. So I used much more solution that I planned when I thought I was just doing the high traffic areas. I decided to clean up the carpet cleaner really well (get the cat hair out) and give her $10 for the carpet solution I used. So thankful she let me borrow it. This was much less expensive than calling someone in and the carpets look really good!

I took the girls for their haircuts on Sunday and was surprised to learn we earned at loyalty reward of $7.01. I didn't know Great Clips did that! My younger daughter has a much shorter cut now and we go almost monthly now to get her hair cut. I'll take the reward any time they want to give it to me!

We've had so much rain this week that I turned off the sprinkler system. I expect it to be off until Sunday unless we get more rain. That will save some water on our next bill. We also will likely have less water usage now that our daughter went back to college. Less laundry, less toilet flushing/hand washing, less showers. That is until my husband returns at the end of the month.

The weather is significantly cooler today, so I know the air conditioner is running less. It isn't fall yet, and there are bound to be many more warm days, but fall feels like it is just around the corner.

I took the advice and ran the dishwasher a bit earlier in the evening last night and then opened it up a bit to air dry. Yes, a couple things were holding water, but everything was dry. I just need to remember to start it earlier and open it before bed! And I only ran it once in the last two days, since only two of us are home.

VA Payment for Books Received

August 9th, 2017 at 01:57 pm

Second post for the day!

I just noticed that we have a pending payment from the VA for my daughter's book stipend. The maximum per year is $1,000. She is taking 17 credits so the payment for this semester is $708.33. This means next semester the payment will be $291.67.

The VA will be making monthly payments to the school for the tuition portion they are covering after my daughter's scholarship. We expect the total for the semester from the VA to cover $6,465.75. I'm not sure how they break down payments yet, but I guess I will know more after the semester. I do know that after the first week of school, we should see the benefit on her billing account.

The VA will also be making housing payments directly to us. Our daughter is again in a dorm. This may be her final year. The housing portion (room and board) for the first semester is $5,828.08. The VA benefit is $1,112 per month and prorated for the exact days of the semester. The first payment will cover housing from Aug 21 to Aug 31, which will amount to $407.73. We expect this payment at the beginning of September.

The housing payment will be due in full on September 12. We will pay this with cash on hand. The amount we will receive from the VA for housing for the semester is $4,299.73. This leaves us paying $1528.35 out of pocket. The second semester out of pocket will be less as we will have a $400 credit for the housing deposit we made last fall applied to the housing bill. There will also be a $719 credit applied because she is a returning student (they give a discount). We expect spring out of pocket for housing to be just $176.20.

Before the book stipend payment I had about $325 set aside for college expenses. I expect I can add more on each pay period before the bill is due. We also will have a travel payment from the Army sometime in September for all the per diem owed us from my husband's school trip this summer.

We are all very grateful for the VA benefit assisting us in paying for college. So far no student loans! Right now, it is very possible we will need a loan for the last semester she attends as the scholarship will run out, our 529 savings will be tapped out, and her portion of the VA benefit will also be used up. That is a bill we would be looking at about two years from now. By then we will know more about any scholarships our younger daughter may receive. So many moving parts to consider!


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