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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?

Friday & Saturday Spending

January 7th, 2018 at 07:35 am

Our daughter has returned to college. She flies out of a town an hour and a half north of us. The flight was at 7am on Saturday. So we decided to get a hotel and stay over the night before. We had points, so the hotel was free! It was good to go a little early on Friday because our area had had snow earlier in the week and temperatures had not warmed above freezing, so we had some concerns on the roads.

I had budgeted dinner out on Friday night. We went to Noodles & Company and spent $43.84. I also decided since the included hotel breakfast would not be available at the early hour we left the hotel we should pick up bagels from Panera. We spent $10.20. I did NOT budget for this. I didn't think about breakfast when I was doing the budget. And on Saturday morning upon leaving the airport at 7am we stopped by Starbucks and spent $7.76 on three hot beverages. So we are now over budget in our restaurant category by almost $6.

My daughter had a new debit card arrive on Friday (after we left for the airport) so we decided to get that in the mail to her she she will have it as soon as possible. I picked up three snacks to include in the package. Spent $3.89 on those plus $7.50 for priority mail. I had budgeted $10 for this expense, but went a little over once again.

On Saturday afternoon I ran to the store for four ingredients we needed for dinner. I spent $13.80 on food, including a Diet Coke for DH. This all came from the grocery budget.

After dinner, my husband wanted to go to Best Buy to use his $20 gift card for a camera case. Case was $19.99 plus tax. We spent 1.39 out of pocket.

We also stopped by Target nearby to pick up a sympathy card, a candy bar for our daughter, and a six pack of 20oz Diet Cokes. No money out of pocket because I had a gift card.

Today we will be grocery shopping. The budget says we have $134. I will be checking the fridge, freezer, and pantry before I make my meal list. I want to use up all the things we can. I do have a little bit of a problem because my husband and I are also watching our diet, so specific foods are important. However, some snacks are eliminated, so that is likely a plus. I'll let you know how it works out. I think I will also check the grocery ad for the local store and see if anything we are buying is cheaper there than the commissary.

Have you been working on eating all the things?

Uber Frugal Month Spending

January 5th, 2018 at 07:56 am

The spending has been pretty slim these first four days of the month. We had a snow day yesterday with my daughter home from school and my husband home from work. And school is closed again today, which is good as there is a lot of ice on the major road near us.



Food transactions
$6.40 for shredded cheese, sliced mushrooms, and a Diet Coke (DH)
$8.50 for snacks, more Diet Coke (DH again 2 days at work)

Restaurants
$4.16 Coffee at Work (DH)

Spending Money
$20 Cash taken out to cover airport parking and commissary tips. We have not spent any of that yet. The other spending money is allowances as mentioned before.

Household Goods
$31.02 Dryer part (see previous post)

Personal Care
$43.70 Three haircuts with tips

The dryer part was not planned obviously, and we are over budget in that category. I will eventually adjust that category, so it breaks even. I usually do this on PayDay. I like to see what I budget and if we go over or under until that point.

Yes, my husband is still doing his regular spending. I may talk to him about it and see if he wants to try to cut back. But I did put some extra into restaurants to cover the coffee spending. I wish he could plug in a coffee maker at work! When he worked on another floor in the General's office there was a private kitchen so he brought his own coffee to brew in the pot provided there. Others would also drink it (usually without compensation) but boy that was cheaper than $2 a day. He tried a thermos we bought for $40 for about a week when he started his new job on another floor. I think the issue was it was too much to make two pots of coffee here at home, in order to fill the thermos, have some for breakfast AND leave some for me. I think he really should just cut back on coffee!! I guess I could skip coffee if one pot would work. Sorry. I'm rambling just thinking out loud while I type.

And there are those three haircuts we budgeted for!

Just a reminder these budget amounts are just for the first half of the month. Next pay period I will add to them.

DIY Dryer Fix

January 4th, 2018 at 05:28 pm

My dryer wouldn't start today! And I won't lie, I did think it was likely that I would need to buy a new one. We had looked at some good deals around Black Friday, but went back to we didn't need one yet. I think our set is at least 16 years old, maybe even 18.

But then my desire to DIY the problem kicked in. No the breaker hadn't tripped. Yes, it was still plugged in. Google said a thermal fuse going bad (or tripped) is usually number one cause. So then, despite a snow day here (school and work cancelled), we ventured out to get a thermal fuse.

The business was open. Roads were awful for the first two or three miles after leaving our neighborhood. Packed ice!! But the remainder of the trip was dry or just wet roads. Cost for a thermal fuse was $30.

So we came home (crawled the last two miles in our truck on the ice) and set about finding where the parts were so we could replace. One was easy to access, the other...not easy. We ended up opening the top, the front panel and taking out the entire dryer drum! Yep, taking that drum out worried me the most. But we did watch a YouTube video about it first! There was another back panel we detached and we took out the heating element. I seriously think my husband and I could put these together for a living now that we've seen all the parts!!

The best news is it's fixed! Back in working order and has already dried two loads of laundry.

Actually, the very best news is that part died and we were able to get so far inside...there is a lot of lint that accumulates inside a dryer. Sure most of it likely goes through the vent, but over time a lot of lint accumulates inside. It has been cleaned a few times before, but not this deep. And yes, I know to check the lint trap and the vent to the outside regularly. I'm really glad that we were able to have a reason to clean it out so well. I won't hesitate to open it up again in a year or two and clean it out again.

Oh, we also know how to replace the belt on the dryer if needed. And if I had known we were going to be removing it anyway I may have purchased one while getting the other part. But it still works!

Have you ever fixed a dryer? Or other major household appliance?

Snowflakes

January 3rd, 2018 at 05:57 am

It may actually snow today where I live! They are expecting an inch, so school gets out two hours early. Smile As a Midwesterner I have to laugh, but the truth is they don't have the equipment here, nor do people know how to drive in the stuff!

After school lets out, I'm taking the girls to get their hairs cut. We use Great Clips. I usually tip $2 to each stylist, so the cost is $15 each. My husband is getting his hair cut today on post. I think the cost is less than $10, but he usually tips $4! As a percentage, we are both overtipping, but we do think our service people deserve it. These were budgeted in our personal care category.

I received $3 from Pinecone Research yesterday. It is sitting in my Paypal account now. I was notified we will receive an $10 AutoZone gift card for a rebate on headlights we purchased. And after getting our daughter a new cell phone last week, I am sending her old phone in for recycling and expect a $10 bill credit on next month's bill. I love money snowflakes!

The first two days of the year were no spend days. I made the point of going to the library to check out some books to read to keep me busy and focused on healthy eating this month. I love the library for the fact that it costs nothing to browse a book. My sister just mentioned spending $100 at Barnes and Noble recently. I do think some were Christmas gifts, but wow that is a lot of money on books! She also purchased their membership which means she plans to purchase more books there this year.

Have you found any snowflake money this month? Do you use the library?

Frugal Month Begins

January 2nd, 2018 at 05:34 am

We did a big grocery store run on New Year's Eve. We were out of quite a few things, but it feels like we overbought. That may be a good thing as we go into the frugal month.

In some ways, I'm not really planning to start until our daughter heads back to school on Saturday. I did however put cash in our Everyday budget categories and it far less than normal. The amount is $783...and that's for half the month. I know, it doesn't sound that frugal. But yet, some of those are needs, and some have a little fluff in them that I hope not to spend at all.



Groceries are lower and I hope to come in lower than I budgeted. My husband and I are dieting this month, so I expect that will help our food budget. Less snacks!

Fuel is the about the same, slightly higher as we have one trip out of town. I also expect a toll bill this month. I hope to keep myself out of stores, thus only driving will be to school and grocery store.

Spending money is normal. Most of that is allowances for the girls. One gets $17, the other gets $125. The remaining $20 should be for the month to cover parking and tips to baggers at the commissary.

Restaurants is at $60 because I expect one meal out for four people when we are out of town. My husband is also using this category for coffee at work. Not happy about this, but the thermos plan didn't pan out, so he buys a cup for $2 almost every day.

Clothing is at just $25. I'd rather put something in there than nothing. If I find some clearance shirts within that budget, I may buy them for my daughter, but for the most part, I am not going shopping. In the end I hope it is saved.

Household goods is at $20. I know we will need dishwasher detergent and dish soap. Most other household items we should be stocked up on.

I did not put anything in Alcohol or Entertainment. We will not be paying for entertainment in the month of January. And I am committed to no alcohol in the month of January. I think my husband is as well.

Personal care is for haircuts and personal care products. We are well stocked at this point. The only thing that could change is the need for some vitamins, but I do have Swagbucks to redeem for Amazon gift cards, so those could be covered that way.

The gifts category would only be used for postage. I may sew my sister a gift for her birthday late in the month, so that is money I would need to mail it to her.

And the Pet category is a need. I bought our cat food for the month and we will need another box of litter.

Now as I said that is really only for half the month. I will replenish groceries and fuel at the mid month payday. And as you can see some balances are less than budgeted that is because some items purchased (like groceries) were bought on December 31 and but came out of the January budget.

It's cold here in the Southeast! Cold enough that school start times are on a two hour delay today. Cold enough the Army is on a two hour delay! As of 8am it is 14 degrees, and feels like 8. Now I know that those of you in the midwest are far colder, and you are still having school and work!

I'm not looking forward to our heating bill. I'm sure many of you feel the same. We were quite mild though for part of the month, so maybe that will help spread out the cost.

2017 Big Savings Goal Total

December 31st, 2017 at 04:09 pm

Earlier this year, I decided we should start working towards a big goal of saving $200,000 towards our next home. Since we rent it is similar to paying down a mortgage early, especially if you are following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps.

We already had $40K in equity from previous homes we owned. So the new goal is another $160K to reach $200,000. I think the deadline is by the end of 2023, which is six years from now.

The amounts I earmarked towards the Big Goal this year came to $6,836.39! It's actually more than I thought it might be. I know I had around $2K in June according to one post I found where I reported it. I only came up with the idea in March of this year, so to save nearly $7K in 9 or 10 months is pretty good.

So in the end we can say we have $46,836.39 saved for our next home. Like Amber I'm tempted to add a little more to get it to an even number! I'll have to look at our budget categories and see if I can make that happen.

While I'd like to be on a faster pace with this goal, I knew that the first couple years would be slower with paying for college. It's when my husband gets his next raise that it will likely move faster.

I am very pleased that I started, since I know from experience if I don't make a plan for the money it gets frittered away. Maybe some of it still is, but at least I know have much more than I started.

So now on to 2018 to save even more towards the Big Goal!

Uber Frugal Month: What Will You Do with The Savings

December 31st, 2017 at 07:03 am

I was watching a few videos about no spend, low spend months on YouTube. I know many here are participating in Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge in January. It brought the question up, what do you do with the money you save by not spending so freely?

My guess is many of these types of challenges came about in order to pay down more debt or to save more for emergency funds, or even specific savings goals.

I am just beginning to ponder our specific why for this January Challenge. What will we do with the money? Here are a few ideas I'm pondering:

Vacation fund
College funding
Big Goal

I also could split the savings amongst all of these! The college needs are the probably the most important in 2018. Our daughter will take summer classes, tuition due mid June, which needs to come from our current cash, rather than the small amount (okay almost $5K) in her Educational Savings account, which right now I'm saving for spring 2019 semester. The vacation is a bit unknown, but sure would be nice to get away sometime soon with our girls before they start going there separate ways in life. And as always, if I can squirrel money away to the Big Goal that makes a big difference in the long run.

So what will you do with the savings, if you are participating in a no spend, low spend or uber frugal month?

December 2017 Interest

December 31st, 2017 at 06:21 am

December interest earned from all cash accounts is $99.14. Starting to approach $100!

I expect that we will exceed $100 a month in interest earned in the coming year. I have added even more cash, specifically $8,000, to higher interest accounts. And it seems interest rates have finally started creeping back up. That is a big deal for savers. We have had a lot of years with very low interest rates. We are earning 1.4% on our online savings account and between 2.0% and 2.25% on three different CDs.

I will include all 2017 interest in my Big Goal total since I am using that money to help meet that goal.

Ended the Year with $500K

December 29th, 2017 at 06:49 pm

We officially ended 2017 with $500,483.61. Even if we made it by one penny, I'd be thrilled. This was always my hope for this year. And I knew it had to be a year of high returns to make it. Definitely happy dancing!!!

Last year's ending balance was $392,814.02. That's a change of $107, 669.59 or 27.4%.

We contributed the max to our Roth IRA's, $5,500 each. My husband turned 48 this year, so soon we will be able to contribute even more each year. Specifically, in 2019 we will be able to contribute an additional $1000 for him. Luckily, this should be the same year our oldest daughter will graduate with her two bachelor's degrees. Smile

In 2017, my husband contributed $10,067.11 of his base pay to the TSP. Total retirement contributions were $21,067.11 for 2017. Our total retirement contribution is 18% of our gross income.

I haven't decided yet if we will increase our retirement contribution to my husband's TSP. It's tempting to increase another 1%. I need to do some calculations once the new withholding and tax calculator's come out.

I want to point out that it is NEVER too late to start saving for retirement. Anything you save for it is better than nothing. And over time it adds up! Increasing 1% a year isn't noticed particularly if you get a raise of at least that amount.

How did you do with your retirement savings?

Buying The Kid Clothes

December 28th, 2017 at 07:10 pm

More clothes buying today. Another two shirts purchased for college daughter at JC Penney. Spent $35 after $10 coupon. Considering she is no longer growing and we don't buy clothes that often it was money well spent.

Our family went out to dinner tonight. It was planned and budgeted knowing that it would be nice to go out once while our daughter is home on break. Not sure what we spent, but it wasn't a high end restaurant. Dinner for four people adds up even at fast casual restaurants.

I'm looking forward to doing year end final tallies of retirement totals, interest earned, and Big Goal money.

All Over The Place

December 27th, 2017 at 07:32 am

This post may be a bit all over the place...several money thoughts on my mind this morning that I simply want to share.

We bought a new camera just before Christmas. We have been without one for about two years. I personally could probably have passed, but my husband seemed very interested. He has made a great point of using it over the last several days, getting pictures and video of our family. We took a family picture to send out on Facebook. The cost of the camera was $299, plus tax. He also bought an HD SD card. I was mad about that part initially, but I do see it has some better features than some older cards we have, so I will deal. I applied my husband's birthday money that he hadn't yet spent, and the remaining Christmas budget to cover most of it. After that I just took some cash from other budget areas so we can make it work.

We shopped for some grocery and personal care needs at Target yesterday. I used a $2 coupon along with the gift cards I bought for 10% off after Thanksgiving. So no new money out of pocket for things we needed. I was thinking of going to the store again, but I think I'm going to see if we can make it through Friday or Saturday night and just get our regular groceries for the first week in January.

Our final 2017 education and retirement contributions have been made. We added $2K to our youngest's Coverdell account and maxed out our Roth IRA's. These are all on automatic investment from our checking account, so it's easy to make it happen. I will need to double our payment in 2018 for our daughter's final contributions. She turns 18 in July, after which we we can no longer contribute. I think I may actually just take $1000 from savings and put it in for January. and then continue our regular $166.66 for the first six months of the year as we usually do. I can pay ourselves back the $1000 to savings for the remainder of the year.

I'm working on financial goals for 2018, but I need more time to focus. It's a little busy around here this week, with both girls off school and my husband home from work!

Our Discover statement closed the other day. We earned $15.53 in rewards. I'm going to redeem those and put them towards the Big Goal.

I transferred $8K we had in a second checking account to FNBO Direct yesterday. They have 1.4% interest rate, which is far better than our checking account.

We are about to buy my daughter a new cell phone. Her's is 3.5 years old, barely holds a charge and the camera on it no longer works. She is going to get the same phone I have, it will cost us $13 a month for the next 24 months. Since I charge our Verizon bill to US Bank for 5% back we will also get that same discount on the cost of the phone as well, which adds up to $15 in the end. But we will take it!

And finally, we are very close to purchasing a new laptop computer for our youngest daughter to take to school in the fall. We are going to buy it from the university she is going to attend. They offer a four year warranty, a discount and no sales tax. It's a Dell that will work for her engineering study needs. Cost will be $1299. I currently have $1,047 in the budget for it. We should have the rest of the money on Friday when my husband is paid.

Thanks for sticking with me on all my thoughts! Smile

Merry Christmas Blessings!

December 24th, 2017 at 09:37 am

May you see the blessings already abundant in your life right now before the gifts, food and gatherings. We all have things we can be grateful for and they are not dependent on a holiday of perfection.

Wishing you peace today, tomorrow and always!

Merry Christmas!

Book Stipend

December 22nd, 2017 at 06:16 am

With my husband's VA benefits my daughter gets a book stipend of $1000 per year. We received a payment of $708.33 in August. We have been notified that the remaining amount of $291.67 will has been sent. We have not yet received it though. I'm expecting it will likely come later this month along with a partial payment for December housing.

All is on track to receive all tuition paid next semester. She is signed up for 19 credit hours! We will continue to receive housing payments monthly for $1,112. They do prorate based on numbers of days in the month. So December, January and May will all be prorated.

After this spring semester, she will have one more full semester of benefits. Our plan is to use that next fall, although I may need to do the math and see if it would be better to use it her final semester, which is currently planned to be Fall 2019.

I've said it before. I am very grateful for this benefit that we have been able to pass on to our daughter's for their education.

More Interest and Cash Back

December 21st, 2017 at 05:32 am

It looks like one of our money market accounts has raised their interest rate again! Money we have there will now earn 1.4%. It wasn't that long ago that it was earning just 0.95%. This is at FNBODirect if interested.

I also noticed that our Chase Freedom credit card is offering 5% cash back for the first quarter of 2018 for cable, internet and phone merchants. I think I'll take them up on that offer and pay our cable bill, Netflix and Ooma bill with that card. I already get 5% back on our wireless phone bill with US Bank, so I will leave that alone, but will pay the other two with Chase Freedom January through March. May only net me a few dollars, but I'll take it. Oh, and gas stations are included as well for the same quarter.

Starting to ponder goals for January, financial and others. I usually won't have those quite together until mid month of January, as that is when my husband's new pay starts. He is getting a raise, another $187 pretax per month to work with. This should go to the Big Goal. Some will go to retirement since we put 11% in his TSP off the top. I was disappointed for a second year in a row that our housing allowance did not increase. Based on the market around here, it does make sense. Not much I can do about it. It is what it is.

Credit Card Rewards 2017

December 20th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

Let's talk credit card rewards. This probably wasn't our best year, and I honestly, wasn't focused on getting the best rewards all the time. I made a decision to use one credit card almost exclusively, thus the rewards earned on other cards were done for specific reasons.

The primary card we used this year was the Chase Southwest Premier Visa. It offers 1 point per dollar, and 5 points for Southwest purchases. My goal was to earn enough points to buy our daughter's Christmas roundtrip ticket. We succeeded! Her flight was 20,520 points. In total we earned 33,375 points on purchases. There was another 1617 from flying, 3,000 for a bonus and 6,000 as an anniversary bonus. We still have 26K points remaining.

All other credit cards earned cash back. I will list from largest to smallest.

US Bank $86.37
We use this card nearly exclusively for 5% back on our wireless phone bill.

American Express 1 $80
Redeemed $25 in cash from purchases, and received $30 in credits for our cable bill, and $25 from Boxed.com. I have $9.91 earned from purchases, but need to meet the $25 threshold to redeem.

USAA $77
We redeemed points earned on purchases for $77 cash back.

Target Red Card $37.34
Based on our spending and the 5% discount this is how much we saved.

American Express 2 $26.50
Redeemed $25 in cash from purchases. Also $1.05 credit for some purchase (maybe the cable bill offer from 2016?) We have $18.62 in rewards, but cannot redeem until hitting the $25 threshold.

Chase Freedom $17.36
I've been using this card for purchases at Walmart the last few months for 5% cash back. I try not to shop at Walmart, but honestly it is the closest discount store to me. I liked it better when I lived 5 minutes from Target!

Discover $5.75
We barely used this card this year. I have used it in the last couple months for 5% back for Amazon.com purchases. Luckily many of my purchases with them have been with gift cards.

I wish I could remember what the flight we redeemed for points would have been in dollars. I think around $400-$425. I know the year before I redeemed points for what would have been a $600 ticket. I used more points for that one.

All the cash cards come up to $330.32.

Again, not the best year, and most of that was due to looking to earn miles rather than cash. I did like using just one card most of the year. That makes things pretty simple. But the tradeoff is less cash.

I will need to decide if I want to make any changes in the coming year as to which cards we use. Or if we even open or close any cards. I do expect we will fly more in 2018. it may be more of my husband and I going to see our girls than them coming to see us. We will see.

Also a caveat to anyone reading that doesn't know our history with credit cards. We DO NOT every carry a rolling balance on credit cards that would accrue interest. I make a point to pay off all charges on our credit cards each time my husband is paid, which is twice per month. I do not suggest you open credit cards for rewards if you are going to be accruing interest as a result because you will likely earn more in interest than you will make in rewards.

Item Sold On eBay

December 19th, 2017 at 02:22 pm

I sold another item on eBay today. I net about $15. Not bad for a used clothing item I was no longer wearing!

That money will go to the Big Goal. More on that can be found on a page on my sidebar if you aren't sure what I'm referring to.

Spending has been minimal, except I ran to the store today to pick up some things to help my daughter cope with a cold. She arrived home from college on Saturday and was recovering from another cold. It seems she picked something else up along the way home.

In other news, we have had a few days of warmer weather, with rain coming tomorrow. I enjoy these mild days knowing it keeps our electric bill lower. Smile

I'm working on some year end posts. More to come soon!

Half A Million

December 18th, 2017 at 05:48 pm

We finally hit another retirement milestone today! And it's a big one at half a million dollars. Happy Dancing!!

Exact total at today's close for all of our accounts is $501,160.59. The change to our balance from Friday was $3,450.92. Yep, one day of trading can make that much of a difference in one day. The more you have the bigger a small percentage impact can make on the total balance.

We were at $392,814 at the very end of 2016. I really did want to reach $500K this year. I knew it would have to be a very good year to make it happen. So grateful it did!

Seriously...start investing if you have not yet! It compounds over time. Just 14.5 years ago we had $25K invested for retirement. You will have nothing if you don't start. And it is never to late to start. Something saved is better than zero saved.



Getting Close

December 15th, 2017 at 06:43 pm

Our retirement balances are close to another milestone. Actual amount at the close of today is $497,709.67...

half a million get ready!!

Honestly, I'm a little stunned. It's really hard to believe that just 14 years ago we had just $25K.

Invest. You won't regret it!

2017 Swagbucks Earnings

December 15th, 2017 at 09:37 am

I've done more earning on Swagbucks than I realized this year. I had taken some time off from it in the past because it can be a time suck. Usually, I just do it when I'm watching television (which is rare) or hanging out in the evening (not as rare).

I redeemed all but $25 of my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards. I redeemed amounts ranging from $3 to $25. I think I often would redeem the smaller amounts when I knew I had an upcoming purchase on Amazon, so I would redeem to get some cash off those purchases.

The $25 that was not for Amazon was Paypal cash. I applied that money to my Big Goal (see side bar for explanation).

The total amount of cash equivalents redeemed in 2017 was $472! Almost $500. I do have enough Swagbucks to redeem for $15 right now. I will likely earn more and redeem in January. If I redeem before I will update this post with the correct amount earned!

Did you earn Swagbucks this year? How much did you end up with?

Check them out if you want to earn some gift cards and cash! My referral link is at the top!

Christmas Spending Update

December 15th, 2017 at 05:30 am

I just printed my USPS shipping labels for two packages that I will have picked up at our house on Monday. The cost was $32.05. It really does feel like shipping has increased a lot! Luckily, this did fit into my Christmas budget. Smile

I've mentioned before that our Christmas budget is $600. I allocate half of that for our daughters. The remainder is split between my husband and I, my parents, two nieces, and my mother in law. This year I came in under budget, primarily due to using Swagbucks (redeemed for Amazon gift cards) for some purchases and buying some items used for my daughters. Both daughters are used to getting used. I did squeeze in a two pairs of socks for my sister and brother in law. See my Socks for Christmas post about that.

Here's what we spent:
Mother in Law $53 (check for $50 and $3 to ship it with pictures)
Sister's family $99.70 (includes $18.85 for shipping)
Parents $46.83 (includes $13.20 to ship)
Daughter 1 $115.94
Daughter 2 $44.75 (bought used and used Amazon gift cards)
Daughter's shared gift $64.65
Husband $62.16
CCF $58.38
Total $545.41

Technically, I went over budget for my husband and he went over for me. We were suppose to only spend $50 each. I bought him an extra gift of a saute pan (since he uses one every morning and we had to toss our old one out).

Now I must not have accounted for everything correctly, as the balance in my Christmas budget on YNAB shows a balance of f$103.12. The numbers above come from receipts.Maybe I lost a few. I do know of $10 that was for paper plates and lights. And I think another $20 may be for gifts I bought with Target gift cards, but were not recorded as Christmas in YNAB. So I'm slightly off above in my total spending as YNAB has to be a bit more correct.

The good news, we are under budget! I have $103 to be used for something else. I'm thinking a donation might be a good idea. Smile


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