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Withholding...Trying to Figure It All Out

February 7th, 2018 at 05:51 am

I have calculated the new withholding amounts we expect to see on my husband's paychecks going forward after the new tax law was passed. I used paycheckcity.com to do the calculations. We currently withhold 9 exemptions every pay period. That means the withholding in the past for us has been $409 per month. The new amount based on the same withholding will be $319 per month. An $80 difference, or $960 a year.

Sounds great right? Well, if I'm understanding the new tax laws for no personal exemptions, but higher standard deduction for married couples, and lower tax brackets, we will definitely have lower taxes, but the withholding we are currently at will be deficient by $400, and maybe more if we cannot take the full American Opportunity Credit for college expenses in 2018. I don't mind owing, but I'm now working to decided if I want to change our withholding to 8, or even add more to retirement to offset income.

I will get it figured out. I know how to do it all, I just need more time to decide what we want to do. Sending more to retirement when we already invest 18% and expect a pension equal to half my husband's pay is starting to seem like overkill. Again, just decisions to be made. I also need to figure how much we may actually pay in college costs out of pocket this year.

Oh, and a note slightly related to figuring taxes. When you claim the American Opportunity Tax credit you can only do it for four years per child. So if you claim it their first semester of their freshman year, that is one tax year. Therefore, once you get to spring semester of their senior year, you are into a fifth tax year...which you cannot claim. In our case, I did claim it for our oldest daughter for that first semester. Although, we didn't use the full amount, but my guess is as tuition increases through the year and our educational savings options run out we would benefit more in that final semester. I think there is still the Lifetime Learning Credit that can be taken indefinitely and combined even if you have another student still eligible for the AOTC. (There are income limits, so don't assume you are eligible based on the information I provide here. Do your own research for your specific situation)

I also have to remember that I can adjust withholding later in the year as we have more information...such as the amount we have actually paid out of pocket for college expenses that could be claimed.

Hmm...another thought I may actually take the Lifetime Learning Credit for my youngest this year, since it will be for just one semester. Then finish up using the American Opportunity Credit for our oldest daughter for 2018. The following year we could swap these. I think that could work. That would lower our taxes even more. I sure would rather the money go to pay tuition, than to the government who is overspending as it is with our tax dollars.

Have you done the calculations for your 2018 taxes? Did you have to change withholding? Will your taxes be less?

Vacation Budget

February 6th, 2018 at 07:02 am

After a low spend January, we had extra funds to allocate. I finally took care of that yesterday, by adding $1000 to our vacation budget. We are definitely going to be on the move this year, so the budget needs help.

We potentially have a small beach vacation with family that will visit in June. The beach is about two hours away, so no airline tickets, but contribution to a rental for sure. And food!

We are going to need to travel to our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June. We likely could skip it living so far away, but we think since we can make it work, it will be helpful as part of the adjustment living away from us to have more experience on campus. We will likely fly for this event. Hotels also needed.

We also want to fly with our daughter and help her move in to her dorm in the fall. Ironically, while typing this message a parent online was asking about storage and moving solutions for out of state students. In helping her I found two that we may be able to use to have her items transported so we don't need to drive 20 hours! We think we will send her bike, so that is bulky. Although maybe it's better to sell it, and buy another one. All things we need to figure out.

Then we would like to visit both girls in late fall, maybe for Thanksgiving. The point is our budget for travel is going to start to be a bigger expense than ever. So it felt good to add $1000 in just one month.

I think I can cover spring break for our daughter with Southwest points. Yay!

January Interest Earned AND Saved

February 5th, 2018 at 03:57 pm

Totaled up January interest for all of our accounts today. Grand total earned was $92.79. We have more money earning higher interest, but the amount earned is a little lower, primarily because I missed moving a matured CD immediately to a new CD. Lost out on about 10+ days of interest. Probably only lost $5...too lazy to figure out the exact amount.

I transferred $131 that went to a savings account from my husband's paycheck into a CD earning 2%. I make a point to do this every month. Not all CDs let you add new money, but we currently have at least two that do!

I also made sure to add $63.15 to our Big Goal. Currently this is the amount of increased pay after my husband's raise. This is twice per month. Once I figure out the new withholding I will probably add this money to the $131 we send to savings...so around $250 a month.

Sold Scissors!

January 31st, 2018 at 05:51 am

I sold some scissors that had been hanging out in my sewing box for years! I probably used them once or twice, but since I really had no use for them, I put them up for sale. My net proceeds were $5.93. All sales of our unused items go to the Big Goal.

Yesterday, I donated a large box and bag of items I have decluttered from our home this month. There were easily a few things that I could have tried to sell, but being bulky and heavy, I decided it was better to just donate and be done. My husband isn't a fan of strangers coming to our door or meeting them in this town we live in so that limits what I can sell. I know that we are blessed with plenty, so it is only right to simply pass things on when we no longer need them.

No College Loans

January 30th, 2018 at 04:49 am

I paid the University $4,383.69 yesterday for spring tuition and housing. It's primarily housing and books since tuition was covered by the Post 911 GI Bill benefits. So grateful once again that we have been able to provide three years of college expenses without loans. Once we get to 2019 for our older daughter it will get a bit more interesting. Not sure yet exactly how we are doing that, we have just under $5K saved in her ESA, but loans may be involved. I'll have to write a whole other post on that later.

Feeling very blessed!

Computer For College

January 29th, 2018 at 06:13 am

Last night we ordered a Dell laptop for our youngest daughter. She is heading to college in the fall and we found with our older daughter it was nice to have it purchased well before the first day classes.

Originally we tried to purchase one direct through the University to save on sales tax, however, the one they recommended and were offering was no longer available. It would have been $1299, including a 4 year warranty. Apparently, it was a special deal the university was able to get in cooperation with Dell last year. (I'm sure there will be on again in the early summer or fall, but we decided to just get what we need now to be done with that decision making process...it was stressing us all out for some reason!)

We basically got the same laptop we originally ordered through the University. We did downgrade to a 3 year warranty because that saved us nearly $250. We upgraded to a 2 in 1 version, so that it has a touchscreen available and can be flipped and used like a tablet.

Our daughter will be an engineering major, so the laptop does have higher specs than some students may need in college. We did get an older version and an older processor, but again the same one the University was suggesting that we thought we could still purchase.

The University did give us some other options to purchase but they were more expensive than the one we ended up purchasing directly with Dell. They were having 10% off select computers (slightly older models it appeared). The warranty was three years for the price of two. We did get free shipping, but had to pay sales tax of 7%.

The final total charged to our US Bank card was $1,481.65. I had selected electronics stores as one of my 5% cash back categories for this quarter. That will amount to $74.08 off the total. I went through the Ebates shopping portal for 2% back (better than Swagbucks 1% offer), and that will give us $27.88 back in cash (should arrive in May). Both of those more than cover the sales tax we were charged.

I did have to move another $184+ to the computer category as this is the amount over what we originally thought we would pay to the University for the laptop they offered. Luckily, a low spend month help me know we have that amount covered!

Computer arrives on Thursday, and my daughter is excited. She and I no longer have to share! Smile

Closing Out January

January 28th, 2018 at 04:18 pm

For the purposes of this blog and January Uber Frugal month, I am closing out our budget. We went grocery shopping today, but I am not including it since most of the food will cover more days in February than January. I did include the fuel we bought for the van, which was $41.96.



It doesn't show in my screenshots, but we were over our budget by $36.05. Not bad at all considering several things were not planned, such as the dinner on Friday, buying vitamins for our daughter or buying a new fridge water filter. And yes, our groceries are probably inflated, not for eating more food, but for buying high quality food. We are dieting so we are actually eating less..and have both lost weight!



I zeroed all the categories out. This is how I end each month in YNAB. The remaining amount that we didn't allocate to anything this month $1,648.89! Lower spending does pay off! I will add the money to various long and short term goals. Some may go to the Big Goal, most of it will go to bigger expenses that we expect later this year.



Just so you know we are very unlikely to have spent all of that $1600 in a regular month. Compared to December 2017, we spent $1200 more than we did this month. And we spent $450 less than last January. I feel we were very successful this month.

Dinner and Grocery Spending

January 27th, 2018 at 11:20 am

We had a very nice time eating out. We did really good considering it was a brewery...we didn't drink! And I only had water with my meal. We spent three hours there and spent $38.61 on our entrees and DH's diet coke. He tipped generously with $8, for a total of $46.61 spent. So we are definitely over our frugal January restaurant budget. However, you really can't say no to an invite by friends that you don't see that often.

We stopped by the grocery store last night before coming home because we needed eggs. I did remember a few other needs(flour, turkey crumbles, cheese) as well, along with two requests from our daughter. We spent another $29.94 in groceries. We are now over the Uber Frugal budget in groceries too.

Despite going over budget in a lot of budget categories this month, we have done really well. I purposely put the budget low to keep us thinking about our spending. We have months where we just don't monitor it as closely. That's why I find these low spend months so helpful.

Here's what the Everyday Spending categories look like right now. I will probably end our reporting of our spending and Uber Frugal month after today. We have guests coming and I need to get some things purchased (specifically groceries) tomorrow. Notice how there's just $10 left! That's cutting it close isn't it?



The good news is there is plenty of cash to still be allocated to savings. I'll share that amount tomorrow!! It's a pretty big number. Smile

Dinner Out Tonight

January 26th, 2018 at 07:36 am

Yesterday, I spent $3.50 to mail my sister her lanyard that I made. All items I used, including the mailer and card were items I had in my home, so no other out of pocket costs. We decided a few years ago not to exchange gifts, but she is my sister and since I felt inspired to make something I just did it!

I also spent $2.12 on a birthday card for my mother. She will be here next week and her birthday will take place during her visit. I'm not sure if I'm buying her a gift yet. I'm thinking of buying flowers to have during her time here as I know she doesn't NEED stuff. I know we will likely go out to dinner, too.

Speaking of dinner, I just got a phone call that a former coworker of my husband is in town and wanted to know if we want to go to dinner tonight. I guess we are...people before money, right? I could offer up dinner at our house, but since the plan is for this evening...I don't feel prepared in the least.

Owe $91 In Taxes

January 25th, 2018 at 09:53 am

I went to FreeTaxUSA to work on filing our taxes since the free option we have as military members is currently not working. Ugh. Our taxes are pretty simple at this point. We no longer itemize since we do not own a home. In fact the last couple years we owned a home, our interest rate was so low in addition to taxes, itemizing was less than the standard deduction. So we took the standard deduction.

I have not filed our taxes yet, not sure if it is even open to do so. (I checked. The IRS begins accepting returns on January 29 this year.) But the final result is that we owe $91. This is really my perfect scenario. To owe just a little. I can come up with $91 any day of the week, so no big deal to figure out where the money owed will come from.

With FreeTaxUSA, federal filing is free. They do charge $12.95 for state filing. However, I'm pretty sure you can get that cut in half using a coupon code. I know Swagbucks is offering 50% off, or 50SB per dollar paid. Ebates is offer 25% cash back it looks like. So for a net of $6.50 I think it may be worth it to just file with them rather than spending time re-entering all the data. Sometimes the money spent is worth the time saved.

Somehow this year, taxes were even more simple than usual. We benefit with lower taxes due to saving in my husband's TSP, which are pretax contributions. We also took advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit this year. We spent $7,565 on qualified tuition and expenses. This does not include housing. Of course, only $4,000 of that amount is eligible for the AOC, which provided us with $1,500 tax credit and a $1000 refundable credit.

Next step is to start figuring out our tax scenario for 2018, so I can get close to even like I did this year.

Have you figured your taxes yet? Are yours complicated or more simple?

Everyday Spending Update

January 24th, 2018 at 04:10 pm

We have $122.76 left to spend through the end of the month based on the budget I made to be Uber Frugal. We bought groceries on Sunday, so that definitely made a dent in the available cash.



Oh, look you can see that we contributed to our retirement, specifically our Roth IRAs.

My husband also bought fuel since the last time I posted this snapshot. Otherwise I think that is it for spending! I will likely need fuel in my van before the end of the month, but we may come under budget in fuel.

We usually shop for groceries together on Sunday's. I intend to do the same this week. We will go over budget because I will be purchasing food for guests during that trip. The guests arrive on Wednesday. After our shopping trip, I may be able to estimate the cost for foods to get us through mid day on Wednesday. That is what would count for January. The remaining will count for February. It is what it is. Hard to get budgets to match up perfectly with a calendar and unusual events such as visiting guests.

How are you doing with your spending goals this month?

Gift Card Rebate & More

January 23rd, 2018 at 06:51 pm

I personally did no spending today. I stayed home and sewed a lanyard for my sister who is a kindergarten teacher. This is her birthday gift. I made it from what I already had on hand in my sewing stash. I will need to mail it to her but I expect that to be only a couple dollars.

My husband received a $10 gift card from AutoZone in the mail today. He purchased new headlights for his truck that had a $10 rebate, thus the gift card. He went to AutoZone to use it for new map lights, which he thinks now wasn't a need but a wiring issue that has come loose. He attempted to get me a battery for my truck key fob, but they didn't have it. Oh, actually he also said he may have stripped the screw that holds the key fob together so we may not even be able to get a battery in it. At least the key still works! Smile

I have some tax documents coming in including my husband's W2. I planned to use whatever the software the military has available, however, the site we need to go through Military One Source is having issues. I'm not able to log in. It seems others are having similar issues. I hope it is corrected soon. I probably could go find another site to use to at least get an idea where we stand, pay or refund. I remember last year doing a projection and expect we may need to pay $400.

More Foods Used Up

January 22nd, 2018 at 04:29 am

Yes, we did go to the grocery store (commissary) yesterday, but we did use up more food in the cupboard and fridge last week. I thought I'd list a few of them:

Can of tuna
Can of chickpeas
5 Halo tangerines
3 tomatoes
Refried beans (in the freezer)
Leftover pork chop (in the freezer)
Chocolate chips
2 tortillas

I did have to toss some tomato sauce. It had been in the fridge too long. It was about 1/4 cup. Food waste happens.

This week I'm going to make chicken in the crockpot to use up some Pineapple Siracha Jam we received as a gift. Trying to limit sugar, but this is probably the best way to use up and also create flavor for the chicken.

Other items I aim to use up this week:
One hamburger bun
Two whole sized pita pockets
Can of pumpkin
2 carrots

We have croutons, wheat thins and a can of Spaghetti Os that should get eaten but I'm trying to limit processed carbs and none of those seem worth it to eat while on this diet. Yes, I'm aware the pitas and hamburger bun are carbs...may push those off on my daughter. I think I need to donate the Spaghetti Os. My daughter was ill a few months ago and they sounded good to her. I bought two cans when I should have just bought one. We really don't eat that kind of thing anymore.

How are you doing using up what you have? My stash is pretty limited but I'm making a point of using up those things that seem to just keep sitting around longer than usual.

Some Spending Averted

January 21st, 2018 at 11:53 am

My husband and daughter considered going to Jumanji yesterday. I did remind them it was a no spend month. In the end we did some clothes shopping for our daughter, which was more of a need. We also visited the kitties at the pet store. So cute...and tempting!

Three shirts were bought at Target, spent about $60 on those (not frugal), in addition to lotion, laundry detergent and windex. I had a $50 gift card, used two cartwheel offers and there was 15% off clothing if I used our Red Card. So, out of pocket we spent $25.80.

Today we went grocery shopping. Final total at the commissary was $151.26. Pet food was $21 and Vitamin C was $8.77. The rest was food. We bought salmon and chicken this week, so that wasn't exactly frugal. We also needed lots of veggies which are key to our healthy diets.

Still no alcohol has been purchased! That's three weekends in a row. My husband did mention it last night, but he is committed to the diet for the month.

January Spending Update

January 19th, 2018 at 02:20 pm

I thought I'd throw another visual snapshot of our Everyday Spending up for you all to see since it is Uber Frugal Month. Not sure our month is exactly that, but I think we are very aware of the spending that is happening.



I think I mentioned the vitamins purchased for my daughter. That is why Personal Care is already showing over budget. Still have the money in our account to cover it.

And we've spent more on groceries. I picked up eggs and spinach today for $6.10. I do buy organic eggs, thus the higher prices.

And I did send my college daughter a package. It had to go Priority Mail and cost $10.55. This was budgeted and came from the Gift category.

How is your spending going during this Uber Frugal Month? Staying frugal? Or is spending high?

Sold Books

January 19th, 2018 at 09:07 am

I sold 9 books on eBay last night and this morning. Net amount to our bank account is $32.60. I'll take it and put it towards the Big Goal.

Another snow day because of ice on roads in the northern part of our county, so no school again. I will get out today though because roads are dry here and I need to go to the post office to mail the books!

I will also stop at the store, as we are out of greens and eggs. We will need both for tomorrow.

We will all need to get out of the house this weekend. It is going to be warmer and we've been cooped up for too many days. I don't want to spend money, so I'm not yet sure what we will find to do. I don't need ideas...I know that we'll find something. Smile

Snow Day & More

January 18th, 2018 at 06:56 am

We are on our second snow day. Yesterday, could have been a school day as the snow didn't start falling until after 7pm. Yes, rain earlier, but temps didn't drop until much later as well. I guess other northern areas of the county did get snow earlier. That means no driving for me or my husband to go into work. Of course, since the temperatures dropped the heat pump is running constantly.

My husband picked up some more Diet Coke and snacks at the store. Husband and I are limiting snacks and he was just suppose to get one thing for our daughter. Instead three snack items came home. He spent $17+ at the store. Snacks should last awhile because we are not mindfully putting our hands into the package. We measure it all out.

I did purchase several kinds of Vitamins for my oldest daughter. I buy a couple different ones for her and she was basically about out of all of them. I spent $49. That was not budgeted, although she did mention needing them soon. I was hoping to wait until February. It is what it is. We can afford it.

The other cash spent was on my husband's haircut. He spent $13.70. I had budgeted for this!

I'm losing track of what I have reported for snowflakes. Did I mention that I redeemed Chase Freedom rewards for $24.28? That was deposited into our checking account the other day. I listed some items on eBay. No luck on selling yet, but that doesn't surprise me as I'm sure many people are shopped out after the holidays.

I also added $63.15 to the Big Goal. This is the current after tax increase in my husband's paycheck each pay period. I expect the amount will change with the new withholding changes.

Oh, I received notification from Verizon that they gave us a $10 credit for recycling my daughter's old cell phone. Not much, but we'll take it considering it was a 3.5 year old phone.

Keeping busy on the snow days getting cleaning done, updating financials and tax planning, as well as decluttering. Oh, and watching YouTube videos for recipes! All free activities at home.

Spring 2018 College Bill

January 17th, 2018 at 08:34 am

We have a bill that will be sent out in the next week for our University expenses. The final amount, including books that we were charged is $4,383.69. All of that is housing for the second semester. And we will get reimbursed from the VA over the next few months for just under that amount. Specifically we will receive $4,336.80 to cover housing.

I currently have $5,854 set aside in our college category in our checking account. So there will be no issue paying the bill when it is due in early February. After the bill is paid that will leave $1,470. I expect to need at least $3,700 to cover two online classes this summer. The bill will be due early June. My goal is to pay those out of pocket, and I have been setting aside $410 per month to make that happen. It does appear we are on track!

I increased our younger daughter's Educational Savings amount to $333.33 from $166.66. The maximum amount you can contribute each year is $2000. She turns 18 in July. At that time you can no longer contribute to the account. I increased it in order to get the full amount funded by her birthday.

You add those two amounts up ($410 +333.33) and we are setting aside $743 each month for college expenses. That is what saving and cash flowing look like. And if we had car payments like so many American's it would be even more difficult to make this happen. So happy my 2007 Honda Odyssey with 130K miles still looks and runs great!

Eating It All

January 16th, 2018 at 11:54 am

We have had success on eating it all in the last week. I had made a big list before over a week ago of what we had in the pantry, fridge and freezer.

Here's some of what we used up:
macaroni microwave meal
two cans of pumpkin
box of cornbread
craisins
rice
lentils
taco shells
chicken dogs
lemons
fresh broccoli
bits of mushrooms
mini peppers
red onion
cheesy broccoli rice (in the freezer)
frozen mixed veggies
frozen mixed berries
3 cups of diced butternut squash
2 veggies burgers
feta cheese
celery
orzo pasta
can of black beans
1/4 jar pasta sauce

The cupboard, freezer and fridge do look slimmer even after grocery shopping compared to nearly ten days ago.

What have you used up? What could you make sure to use up in the next week so there is limited food waste and less groceries to buy?

Added to January Budget

January 16th, 2018 at 06:58 am

I added more money to our Everyday Spending Budget Categories for the month. I thought you might want a peek!

I do have these funded with frugality in mind for the most part and some reality in mind as well. The reality is my husband is very likely to spend money on coffee at work. And he will record it in the Restaurant category. I also put some more in spending thinking I might switch him to cash, so I don't have to see how he is spending that money $2 a time. I'm going to see what he does this week first.



And you may notice we already have groceries taken out for this week, so the remaining grocery money is from January 21 to 31. Although we shop on Sunday's so that may end up covering just through January 28.

We just put fuel in my van on Sunday. I don't expect to do much driving this month. Stay home and out of the stores! So maybe most of that balance will be for my husband to go to and from work. Maybe not all of it.

Clothing and Household were added with just in case money. I don't expect any clothing to be bought. Although my younger daughter mentioned more clothes for next fall when she is at college. And now would be a good time to look for long sleeve shirts and such as those will be going on clearance. We'll see if it comes up, but I'm not rushing out now to take care of it.

I added to gifts. I found a sweater for my older daughter at Target and paid for with a gift card, so will need to mail it. And my sister's birthday is at the end of the month. We have stopped exchanging gifts in recent years, but if something comes to mind that is right for her I may buy and mail it. I'm starting to think that may not happen, so less would be spent there.

I added $35 for personal care. I know my husband will get another haircut $13.70, I will buy shampoo and conditioner $10 and the remaining is just in case.

And finally the pet category. We usually don't spend $50 in one month on our cat, but we stocked up on litter and will need to buy a new bag of dry food, which is like once every six months. And I will need a few more cans of wet food before the month is out. But we don't usually splurge in the pet category so those are all needs.

So after spending on Sunday, we have $490 left that we budgeted for January. Let's see how we do!

My Friend Has A Plan To Get Out of Debt

January 15th, 2018 at 11:54 am

I had a fun chat with my best friend last week! She and her husband have been in debt for a long time. I know there is mortgage debt, student loans, credit cards and car leases. Exact details I do not have.

Her husband is quite interested in upgrading their home. She is as well. However, while the bank would no doubt loan them the money because they have excellent credit, she knows they are in over their head with payments. She knows they need to pay off some debt and get some cash in the bank.

I'm not sure her husband is entirely on board yet, but her goal for the next 18 months is to pay off 1/3 of their debt. I believe this is all on credit cards (the portion she is looking to pay off). She would also like to save $10K. I think these are excellent goals. They may not be what you or I would do exactly but they are a start in the right direction and thinking.

Their youngest son will be graduating high school at the end of that time and the possibility of moving to another town in their state is high. So really buying a bigger home now doesn't make sense anyway. She has a large extended family and does want a larger home than the 1900 sq ft they have now, but she probably needs to talk her husband down from the 3700 sq ft homes he is looking at.

I think I'm just excited that she finally seems to see that they can't keep going forward the way they have. She knows that buying furniture on credit isn't smart. Thus she also would want to save cash for furniture for any new home. Yes, that is the right way to do it!

Now I just really hope she can get her husband on board!

Mid Month Budget To Zero

January 15th, 2018 at 03:46 am

I thought I'd share what our Everyday Expenses look like at mid month when my husband get's paid. I basically make the budgeted amount equal to or greater than the amount spent. I subtract from some category amounts to add to others to make this happen. Often there is much more padding in the budget for all the extra spending we tend to do in a regular month.



So you can see there is still money left in Groceries and Fuel. Everything else is balanced to zero now.

In reality, that extra $22.62 was zeroed out as well. I found out when balancing our credit card statement to YNAB that a charge from December 29 in the amount of $22.42 was not recorded in YNAB. That overage then flowed into January. And, of course, it was for alcohol. Ugh! I ended up adding that amount to the budget in December so it won't show up in January...since I'm trying to keep it as accurate as possible for sharing here!

So yes, we really did spend $782.80 in the first half of January on our Everyday Expenses. Spending money probably shouldn't be counted entirely as $142 is allowances for our daughters. I probably should split that into it's own category and put it in Monthly Bills. So that really brings the every day spending to $640.80.

What is really neat about YNAB is that you can click on the outflows and get a pop up box that shows all the transactions that make up the total. So helpful! I do have the offline, version 4, so this may be different than current versions.

Very proud of us for avoiding spending on alcohol and entertainment!

December Electric Bill

January 14th, 2018 at 01:18 pm

I'm annoyed. December electric bill was once again off the charts during our time living in this rental home. Electric heat pumps are not efficient with single digit temperatures. And we have two units in our home that are sized too small for the square footage. Builder grade units that have been limping along. I'm not even going to share the amount. I can't wait to move out of this place. It's a nice home, but the air and electric are sub par.

Bill is due in early February. Will put some of our savings from our Uber Frugal January towards the bill. I look forward to March where I hope to see it drop significantly.

Another Spending Update

January 13th, 2018 at 09:00 am

I'll be honest, I know we are not being as frugal as we could be. We are not doing bad at all, but there would be a little room for improvement.



Whoops...sorry didn't include the category names. They are in this order: Groceries, Fuel, Spending Money, Restaurants, Clothing, Household Goods, Alcohol, Entertainment, Gifts, Personal Care and Pets. I did include a screenshot at the bottom.

Payday was yesterday, so I'm going to close out the spending for the first half of the month looking like this. Notice the $915.67 left to budget at the top. Yep, I haven't put that money anywhere yet. I just wanted it to hang out there while we kept our spending low. There is no way under normal circumstances we would have spent that much in these categories. Most of that will end up in short term savings...college and car repairs for example.

More grocery spending. We checked out the new Sprouts store in our area yesterday, while picking up more baby spinach, himalayan salt, avocados and a couple treats. Spent $19.85. The original total was nearly $50! One of the treats that was $1.49 rang up as though we bought 20 of them!! Luckily I caught that error while at the store.

Just this morning I ordered my daughter more generic Zyrtec for her allergies. A need that I wasn't aware it was about time for. However, I see I did order the bottle this time last year, so it was time. After the balance of a gift card was applied, I spent $13.52. That was noted in the Personal Care category.

So you can see if I balance all the categories to zero we still have $22.62. We did make it within the budget that I put forth, but the categories were not as planned. And that really is how budgets can go at times. If you were doing a cash envelope, you would move money from one to another to make it work.

I'm really happy to report no spending on alcohol! It has not bothered me one bit not to drink. My husband is doing great, but when he is bored the urge is there. I'm committed for the full month of January and at this time do not plan to fund that category.

Also no out of pocket entertainment spending. We did rent a movie on Amazon last night. We used an Amazon.com gift card balance to rent it. Out of all the free content, my husband chose one to purchase. His desire to spend low is not as strong as mine!

We also spent some money at Target that is not reflected in the budget because we used gift cards. We picked the needed bar soap (bought a 10 or 12 pack), and added on a six pack of Diet Coke, a sweater on clearance for our oldest daughter and a dress for our younger daughter. Amount spent was $48.32, with most of that being clothing.

I will probably post again tomorrow with what the spending categories look like after I add to them for the second half of the month. Here is what they look like balanced to zero, or in the case of groceries and fuel a little bit left!



Oh, yes and if you see that that totals don't add up that is because we went over in Groceries, Personal Care and Pets in December, and it rolls over to the following month. All of those overages happened on December 31. We had already been paid for January, but the transaction at the commissary was in December, but it really is part of spending for January. Or at least that is how I have it set up in YNAB.

Whoops! & College Tax Credits

January 13th, 2018 at 06:32 am

I just realized this morning that we had a CD mature at the end of December. The money was moved to our savings account, but I forgot to move it to a new CD that I had opened earlier in December. At least not too much time passed. The transfer of $10,375 is now complete and earning 2% interest until sometime in early 2019.

My daughter sent me the 1098T for 2017. This form shows how much in qualified tuition expenses we paid and how many scholarship and grant dollars were applied to her account. The difference between the two numbers is how much we paid out of pocket for tuition. That amount can be applied for the American Opportunity Tax credit. In our case the amount is over the maximum for 2017, so we can claim the full $4,000 in tuition paid result in a $2,500 benefit to us. This won't result in a refund for us though as I already figured it into our withholding for the year...we've been getting the benefit all year long!

In 2018 we have the potential for claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit for two college students. Right now I expect we will claim whatever we pay in summer tuition for our older daughter. Her tuition for 2018 will likely all be paid by the Post 911 GI Bill so no other tuition to claim. And our younger daughter's tuition is still yet to be determined but at this point I don't expect it to pay out anything near $4,000 for tuition. It's going to get more interesting that is for sure!

Unexpected Snowflake

January 12th, 2018 at 04:52 pm

I received a check in the mail from my claim with Blue Buffalo. Amount of the check is $114.09. It could have been up to $200, but they had lots of claimants. I'm happy either way!

Yesterday, I redeemed Swagbucks for $50 cash through PayPal. I received that money in my PayPal account.

I will add this extra money to our Big Goal!

It's been a good money day!

Everyday Expenses Spending

January 11th, 2018 at 08:14 am

Here's an update on how our spending looks by category for the first half of the month. More money will get added to these on the next payday, which actually may be tomorrow. Yep, just checked. It is pending for deposit tomorrow. I probably won't add to the categories until Sunday or Monday though, in hopes we can stay in budget.



Over in restaurants, due to eating out and buying of water and Diet Coke. Even since the water bottle was purchased, he bought water because the post had a water outage, which was fixed, but then the water looked bad, so he bought instead of refilling from the tap.

Over in Household, and amazingly it is by the exact amount of the dryer part we purchased.

Over in Gifts, underestimated the amount of postage I would need to pay to send a package to my daughter.

And finally, over in Pets because apparently the price of litter went up. I thought we paid under $10, but this 40 lb box was $12.61. But I did just go back and look...we've been paying $12.99. I guess I wasn't paying attention. So I guess this one was on sale.

I will adjust all overages to even before budgeting for the second half of the month. I did buy fresh ginger at the store yesterday for $0.38, I paid with cash on hand which originally came from the spending money category.

Used up frozen fruit today for my smoothie today. Didn't feel so great yesterday, so food plan went out the window as far as leftovers I thought I would eat. We still ate things on hand, no eating out.

Not Afraid of Vegetables & Fruit

January 10th, 2018 at 05:44 am

Patient Saver commented on my last blog post this morning pointing out that not all carbs are bad for you. She is absolutely right. I didn't specify in my last post that I'm eliminating refined carbs as much as possible. I am still eating lots of vegetables and some fruit at every meal. I like bread too much and because my daughter practically only eats refined carbs as the basis of her diet, I eat them too. So working on eating less of those and even more vegetables. We actually did really well in 2017 adding more vegetables into our daughter's diet. The stuffed peppers from the other night...new to her. She was willing and scarfed it down before her pasta.

Today, I'm making a Pumpkin Lentil Soup for dinner to use up some mini peppers that are slightly past their prime but still good. I also have a can of pumpkin on hand and will use up the rest of my red lentils.

As I'm writing this I'm eating one of six halo oranges that have been around from the holidays. Between my daughter and I we should have no problem eating them before they go bad. I'll make some eggs later to round up my breakfast. I just checked the fridge and I probably should have the leftover taco meat for lunch. I will likely end up eating them with tortillas (refined carb). If I still had romaine, I'd make a taco salad. Smile

Last night we had apple spiced pork chops with mixed vegetables and corn bread. That used up a wilting apple and the mixed vegetables and the last of the corn bread mixes. I only ate one corn bread muffin. There is a leftover pork chop. I will offer it to DH with his soup tonight. If not I have two choices, freeze it or eat if for lunch tomorrow.

So far the only spending since Sunday has been gas for my husband's car. Although he hasn't entered the receipt so maybe there is other spending. I will need to buy him shaving cream today, but I'm going to buy that at Target and use the gift cards we have on hand. I think I need one other thing, but otherwise no other spending.

Also, I think there has been some spending on textbooks and , but those have been budgeted for and can't be helped in a uber frugal challenge. Other than renting or buying used. Not sure what my daughter has done this semester, but she is not officially in the challenge. Smile

I found out my parents are coming to visit. Arriving on the last day of this month, and they stay for 11 days! They won't be here the entire time (also visiting friends that live the next state over), but I think this means that the challenge for me will likely end at the end of the month. I originally wanted to go through the first week of February. That will just be a bit more difficult with guests. So three weeks to go!!

How are you doing eating all the food? How do you feel you are doing with the Uber Frugal Challenge?

Diet Coke Resolution & More

January 9th, 2018 at 05:12 am

Much to my surprise, my husband told me that he had been drinking and buying more Diet Coke recently at work because he needed a new water bottle. This was true. His last water bottle cap melted in our dishwasher a couple weeks ago. And the place where he would buy the Diet Coke has a $3 minimum to use a debit or credit card, thus he would pick up a water AND a Diet Coke. So we bought a water bottle on Sunday for $12.95 at the Post Exchange. If I had known ahead this was all the reason I would have shopped around or purchased one at Target where I had gift cards and didn't need to spend out of pocket. But in the end the cost of the water bottle will be recouped by the NOT buying water and Diet Coke for four or five days! And we didn't buy ANY Diet Coke at the grocery store. We both have really cut this back in recent years, so it was a bit of a surprise he was on a kick with it again.

I'll try to share as much as I can about food I use up this month. Yesterday, I used up 1/8th of a white onion, last of the white rice. I also ate the last chicken sausage dog with a salad that used up romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and half a cucumber. I actually have half of that salad left that I will eat today for lunch (with something else I can scrounge up)!

The good news is the first week on my diet was very successful. I lost 6.6 pounds. That is not a normal amount of weight loss for me in one week, but I have been trying to eliminate carbs and eat a little more healthy fat. I did better, but there is room for improvement.

Saw my husband's net pay for the first paycheck of the new year. Increase of $63.15 per pay period or $126.30 per month after withholding. I suppose it will change when the new withholding amounts are determined in February. I plan to sock this money away towards the Big Goal, so that will add $1,515.60 for 2018!

What did you use up today?

Uber Frugal Month Challenge: Eating All The Food

January 8th, 2018 at 06:16 am

Yesterday before I made our grocery list and meal plan I wrote down everything we have in our pantry, fridge and freezer. It was actually quite a bit of stuff! I would list it all but it really is too much.

I then got quite overwhelmed (yes, a few tears) trying to make my meal list. I was trying to balance what we need to use up with what my husband and I would prefer to eat on our diet and with my daughter's food preferences. I was also overwhelmed with the amount of leftovers that I feel are only mine to take care of. My husband and daughter rarely eat them. Although without saying anything my husband did eat a leftover stuffed pepper and a chicken sausage dog after grocery shopping. Hooray!

I finally decided my overwhelm was trying to get it perfect. I let that perfection go. I know there may still be some food waste. But we will do our best.

We spent $88.42 on food for the week yesterday. Had to go to two stores as the commissary was out of salad greens! I'm sure a weather issue getting produce to the store.

Last night we used up five hard taco shells, a tomato and some lettuce. We used up half a can of refried beans. I froze the rest.

This morning for breakfast, I ate the last stuffed pepper with two eggs. For lunch, I will likely eat the chicken sausage dog and make a salad. I have romaine, a cucumber, fresh broccoli some sliced mushrooms and diced tomatoes to use. For dinner we will have fried rice (using veggies from the freezer and the last of the rice) and tilapia that I bought at the store. My husband and I are increasing our protein during our diet.

I'm hoping to use up more things as the week goes on, so will try to remember to share. I expect maybe next week grocery planning will be easier with less things in the pantry, fridge and freezer to use. At least I will have a little more time to think about it than I did on Sunday.

Are you eating all the food? Are you making sure to buy only what you will eat?


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