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Let's Talk College Costs...Part One

May 8th, 2017 at 10:19 am

My daughter applied for her Post 911 GI Bill education benefits while she was home on spring break. Her certificate of eligibility letter arrived in the mail this weekend. We were expecting it to say 18 months of eligibility as that is what my husband transferred to her and we have documentation of. Instead it said 12 months 6 days.

My husband called the VA today and and it turns out that by law they are required to count educational benefits he already received and used for his bachelor's degree against the Post 911 GI Bill. He used 24 months of a 48 month benefit. He has 24 months and 11 days left. We are splitting the benefit equally between our girls, which means 12 months and 6 days (likely five for our younger daughter).

While this is a surprise and not what we planned I am okay with this. It make sense that the government would not give soldiers educational benefits totaling more than the time one degree would take to complete. My husband did get his bachelor's degree (it was an accelerated program and he had a lot of transferred credits that counted) paid in full. We did benefit from that. He wouldn't have well paying officer's job he has now without a college degree.

The original plan was that 18 months of benefits would have been worth at least four semesters plus housing for our oldest daughter. Each semester is considered 4 months. I hadn't figured out how the two extra months would have worked out, but now I don't really need to.

The current plan is to make use of 8 months worth of benefits for her Junior year, which starts this fall. This will cover the tuition and fees above her scholarship, even at the non resident rate (because of the Yellow Ribbon program). These benefits will provide a housing allowance, but will not cover the full cost of her room and board, and $1000 towards books.

The next question is what to do with the final 4 months of benefits set aside for her. We expect she may need to go an additional semester after the senior year (and some summer classes in between) since she is a double major. Because the scholarship ends after four years, the full out of state tuition will be billed for all credits she takes. I do think it is a full 15+ credit hours the way she has it mapped out right now. It may make sense to save that final four months of benefits for that final semester, since it will be the most costly. The two senior semesters are at least reduced by the scholarship.

Our oldest daughter's senior year is the same year our youngest daughter will be a freshman in college. It is possible, but very slim, we could be eligible for some aid. As always the government would be more than happy to offer us a loan! Smile We also don't know at this point which college our younger daughter will attend, or know the scholarships she may receive.

We can adjust the number of months of benefits we transfer to our daughter's also. So if it seems our younger daughter will have lower costs, we could move some of the benefits to the older daughter. I expect we will know a lot more by the end of the year or early next year.

It is a little overwhelming to look at my older daughter's costs coming up and only see about $8000 sitting in her education funds!

I guess I should add that we aren't against taking a loan out at some point. Maybe for one of her senior semesters? While we support her getting two degrees, it doesn't mean we need to pay for it. I kind of have though the final semester should be on her, but if I could get that most expensive semester covered by the Post 911 GI Bill that would be helpful to her, to have less to borrow.

Sorry if my post is all over the place...this just happened this morning, so I'm still wrapping my brain around this. I hope to come back later today or tomorrow with another post that is a bit more detailed and responds to Monkey Mama's post.

Money This Week

May 5th, 2017 at 10:03 am

Here's the chair I painted. That is not it's final resting spot, but did make for a good picture. I actually have a church pew I need to paint to put on that wall instead of the chair.



The fridge gaskets arrived today. Very easy to install the right side (less than two minutes). The left side took a bit longer because I had to briefly detach the mullion (yep, new word for me too). But including getting the tools and detaching it, I would guess that side took under ten minutes. Now no more mold! I do hope that the tighter seal helps holding the air and moisture in and keeps the seals free of mold.

I've been run down with a cold this week. My husband had it first. He even missed a day of work recovering, which he has never done while I've known him. So a few cold remedies and soups have been purchased to make it a little more tolerable.

My daughter is having a friend over tonight. I would normally make homemade pizza, but I'm ordering out, so that I don't pass on any residual germs to my daughter or her friend. Not exactly a cost I planned on, but there is cash in the restaurant category.

I will be writing a $54 check for the band banquet next week. It's $18 per person for a bbq pork meal. I'm sure the costs include some other things given out to students. I sort of wish these types of things didn't exist. They didn't at our other school and it was perfectly fine without a banquet.

And finally our college daughter arrives home by plane on Saturday. We will need to add fuel the van to make the 3 hour round trip to the airport for pickup. We might be able to get away without picking up food since she arrives mid afternoon. However, she may not get a chance to get lunch, so she may need something. I could probably make a sandwich wrap and take it along in a lunch bag if I'm feeling better to make it.

Saving Energy...and More

May 2nd, 2017 at 02:37 pm

The fridge in this rental home is growing black mold on the gaskets that seal the door to the unit. It was here when we moved in and seems to be an issue in the Southeast. We have attempted to clean. One of those cleaning tries resulted in the gasket getting a tear in it because it was dry rotted. I finally decided I can't keep using the fridge unless these gaskets are replaced. I did my research, including price and how to install. I emailed the landlord and have approval to purchase and do the repair. The new gaskets (there are two because it is a French door unit) will arrive from Sears on Friday. The cost is $109, which I paid for but will deduct from the rent per the landlord. I was thrilled that the landlord responded so quickly. I'm hoping that replacing the gasket may save some more energy costs, but it's hard to know if it was leaking cool air or not.

I got a $14 bill in the mail from our state transit authority for using a toll road in a nearby town (no toll booths on this road) We've been using it for over a year, without being billed. Our guess was because we have out of state plates with a state that doesn't even have toll roads. Maybe there was no reciprocal agreement. But the state has caught on and billed us for trips we made in late March and early April. I have no problem paying the bill now that we actually have one! It is a very nice road. Now I have to decide if I want to keep using it or find another route.

I've decided the money I already saved up for tuition but don't need in full for our daughter's summer class will remain in that budget category. I know that we will owe around $1500 for housing that will not be reimbursed with the Post 911 GI bill. So I'm going to make sure we have that money ahead of time.

On Saturday, I bought a small wooden desk chair at a neighbor's garage sale for $5 on Friday. Today I used two cans of spray paint to spruce it up. It most likely will just be a decor piece, but it will function as a chair if needed. Such a deal to get a new to me chair for under $14.

I redeemed $35 worth of Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards yesterday. They have arrived in my inbox, and I have used $20 worth to buy my husband two new cell phone cases (one is for his work phone). I do like getting some things for free!

A Change Regarding Summer Tuition

May 1st, 2017 at 06:48 pm

So an interesting thing happened today. I logged on to my daughter's payment account for the University because she said she ended up buying a book that she had rented this semester because she knew she will need it for some future classes. I thought maybe it had posted already.

What had posted was the tuition for summer. I had calculated the two online summer courses (at the online non resident rate) as $3,470. But the amount that was showing was $4,689.75! Over $1,200 more than I was planning.

I can only see the amount due, not any billing details. So I asked her if she had any information about it. She sends it to me and I realized this class that she has signed up for is an Engineering class (although specifically geared to non engineering students).

In the end we decided that it wasn't worth the money to take that class. She wasn't really interested in it, she was only taking it to fulfill one of the liberal arts requirement. And she wanted to take something online this summer. She looked for other options, but found nothing to replace it with. So unless something changes she will take just one class this summer, reducing tuition to $1,756.75.

I sort of feel like I won the lottery since I don't have to shell out cash for a second class. My daughter plans to add a math class instead to her fall course load which was already at 14 credits and will now be 17. This will fulfill the requirement she was trying to meet. And as another bonus to us, this fall is when we expect to begin using the Post 911 GI Bill benefits my husband transferred to her. It will cover her classes (even at the non resident rate) in full.

I do feel a little bad she has to take on 17 credits, however, she just did that this semester and seemed to handle it pretty well. She might spend some of her free time brushing up on French and PreCalculus this summer to hopefully help the transition to those classes in the fall.

I had planed to save up $1700 out of pocket to cover half of what I thought tuition would be. The other half was going to come from her Educational Savings account. I have $1400 saved already, but I'm considering sticking with the original plan to pay half out of pocket and the other half from the ESA. This means I would only need around $875, leaving $525 that I could put towards something else.

Maybe the Big Goal? I might wait a bit and see how much the textbook is and if there are other school related expenses that I'm not thinking about. Either way I'm excited about the financial aspect of this change. Smile

Other Savings in April

May 1st, 2017 at 09:22 am

My post last night chronicled the savings we made happen towards our Big Goal. Almost $900!

But guess what? We saved money towards other things too. We saved $845 in my husband's TSP account, and $500 each ($1000 total) in our Roth IRA accounts. We skipped a month for cash flow reasons earlier this year, but this will max us out in our Roth IRAs this year. This savings is all set up automatically, which makes it so easy.

We also set aside money in short term savings for upcoming purchases. We saved $250 for a cell phone, $982.50 towards summer tuition, $190 for band fees, $42 for birthdays, $50 for Christmas, $153 towards auto, renters insurance and car registration, and $200 for car repairs.

And I see I put over $900 towards emergency fund, but that may end up in another spot because we really do already have plenty in our emergency fund.

It's been a very good savings month! Now let's see what I can make happen in May. Smile

April Savings & Interest

April 30th, 2017 at 05:13 pm

I honestly can hardly believe it is May! Is time flying for the rest of you too?

We saved some decent money in April despite going on a trip for eight days. Interest from our savings accounts and certificates amounted to $89.10. We are lucky to have quite a bit of cash in CDs paying 2% or more right now.

We saved $125 automatically from my husband paycheck. I recently increased this to $131, effective next month, since our dental premium went down.

We found some cash to save this month towards the Big Goal.
$105.06 Army Travel Reimbursement
$250.00 Army Damage Claim Paid
$100.00 Anniversary gift
$165.65 Ebay and Pinecone Proceeds
$50.97 Amazon purchases paid with Swagbucks

The total of all amounts listed above is $885.78. This is far from the $1900 monthly average I need to save each month to reach the big goal, but I'm keeping the faith that the tides will turn somewhere in the process where I can save much more each month. It is a journey. If we don't aim for something we will come up far shorter.

Kitchenette and Phone

April 30th, 2017 at 06:38 am

It looks like my husband will have a kitchenette in his room while he is at training this summer. He is on a post with a commissary also, so it looks like he can eat almost as normal while away. I do expect he will eat out a bit more, just because of the change in routine. We will discuss this more before he leaves. Smile

He is going to be near Washington DC, so it may end up being a chance for the girls and I to fly up there (not a fan of interstate driving) and visit. It will depend on his availability on weekends. I will try to save a bit more in the vacation fund in the meantime.

We are about to buy our youngest daughter a new cell phone. Her phone is almost exactly 3 years old, but is acting up. She has been dealing with issues with it for quite a few months now. We want to her to have a reliable phone while she is in Europe. Although we don't really want her to use it for much more than a camera or to play a game on since the cost would be very expensive. We expect to use What's App to communicate with her for free.

We are currently looking at buying an unlocked Motorola G Plus (5th Gen) for $229. The best price seems to be at Best Buy for a new phone. My Dad is a Team National member so I'm going to see if they have any discounts before I buy it.

I Forgot About this Money

April 28th, 2017 at 11:30 am

I have some various topics I'm sharing today. And one is a bit personal and some may not want to read. I'll give a warning.

went to transfer the latest $3 sent to me from Pinecone from my PayPal account to our savings account today and realized I had far more money in there! The balance was $165.65! Now once I saw it I did know that the money was from my eBay sales and a few other surveys completed since the first of the year. I did go ahead and transfer the full balance to our savings and flagged the money in YNAB to go to our Big Goal.

I'm still hanging most of our laundry to dry. I say most because I have found towels really do need some time in the dryer. And today, I needed to wash and dry sheets and towels since my daughter had been ill last night. If I could dry outside, I would but I figured drying inside doesn't full kill any bacteria like a dryer would. So two loads have gone through the dryer today. Luckily that is not the norm!

My husband is going away to school this summer for some training on a new job for the Army. He will be about five hours away, so we think he can drive home few times. His housing is covered in full so that is a huge relief to me. He will also be getting per diem for food and incidentals amounting to $1966.50 for the first 28 days. He will need to get his own food, and because he is in a hotel we aren't sure if there will be a way to cook meals. I think he wants to just figure it out once he gets there. I like to know these things ahead. He does know I would love to save some of the money, preferably half or more. He has a second class that I think is for two months in the same location, and we expect, but can't confirm yet, that this one will pay a similar per diem for each month. Oh, and he will get mileage for one trip to the location and one trip home. That could end up being around $300. But of course, we would take the gas cost out of that. The travel claims will be submitted by him at the end of each course.

It's 90 degrees and humid here in the Southeast today. The air conditioning is running. I actually have to be out in it this evening as the marching band is holding a fund raiser. I'm not looking forward to the bill that comes when the air conditioning starts running regularly. Maybe my lack of dryer use this summer will help.

Our garden is looking good, minus the lettuce, which is getting a very slow start from seed. Everything else looks pretty good so far, including the sugar snap peas I started from seed. My daughter is thrilled to see the beginnings of 9 strawberries on her plants.

Here's the personal part....but is related to savings and not too detailed at all.





And finally, I wanted to give an update on using my menstrual cup and using reusable pads. I have used the menstrual cup before for many years and then took a break for whatever reason. I'm now not sure what it was. I'm glad I have gone back primarily because it is more comfortable than tampons and it manages my heavy flow far better. I bought mine for less than $10 on Amazon using Amazon gift cards from Swagbucks. That was two months (cycles) ago. Early last month I used more Amazon gift cards to purchase five reusable pads that were listed at $19.99 when I bought them. But free after my efforts on Swagbucks. I only used the pads for back up and for very light days, so I had no issue with absorption. I may experiment and report back on a heavier flow day, but for now I super happy with this for the savings, comfort, and environment reasons.

I'm still on the look out for finding ways to save on our expenses. It's a bit slow going, but I'm determined to keep making progress and make a dent in our Big Goal.




Saving $6 A Month

April 26th, 2017 at 10:44 am

Yesterday, I was made aware that our dental premium has gone down effective for May and taken out of April pay. The actual change was a lower premium by $5.81 per month.

We currently have $125 from my husband's paycheck going to a savings account. I added $6 to make the new amount $131. This change adds up to $72 more saved per year.

It may seem silly to add another $6 to savings, but I do know these kinds of changes add up. If I didn't capture it for savings now, I would expect it would get lost in the chaos of making purchases. (Although we don't really spend chaotically!)

I'm considering this new savings as part of our Big Goal.

4 Months = $25K

April 25th, 2017 at 10:51 am

On January 4th of this year our retirement accounts topped $400,000 for the first time. As of yesterday, our accounts are valued at $425,768. That is a change of $25K in less than four months. Some of that change is our contributions to retirement, but the S&P 500 is up nearly 7%, so this growth is a factor as well. It sure would be nice to see this continue through the year. I do like to think the next major milestone, of $500K, could be soon!

In other news, I did get $3 from Pinecone. I also received some pending Swagbucks amounting to 1712 for a hotel I booked through the site. I currently have just under 3000 SB to redeem in early May for Amazon gift cards. And it looks like my husband has a couple things sitting in the Amazon cart...so hopefully I can score those for free.

I'm thinking next week my grocery list may be meatless. That may save a bit of money and be healthier as well. I picked up a Forks Over Knives magazine with lots of yummy looking plant based recipes. My daughter is nearly a vegetarian, so finding new things for her to try is a good motivator as well. Or maybe the motivation to be to try to save at least the cost of the magazine (which I never buy) $7.27! Ouch.

$803 Trip Spending

April 24th, 2017 at 10:21 am

For an eight day trip, we spent $803 on food, fuel, parking, and two nights in a hotel for three people. Our airfare was paid before we left. That was approximately $997 for the three of us.

We were lucky enough to have one free hotel night, as well as free accommodations and several meals with my parents. We also had the use of one of their vehicles as we traveled around two states. We did offer to get a rental car, but they were more than willing to share. We did pay for the gas and got the car washed on the last day we had it.

I entered all our receipts/transactions into YNAB this morning. The only category I needed to revise was the restaurants, but there was more in the vacation category, so I moved some of that there.

After purchasing groceries, my husband getting a haircut, fueling up our vehicles, we have about $94 left until the end of the month.

My husband offered to bring taco shells and meat to their work potluck on Friday. I had volunteered cookies for the band fundraiser this weekend. So that is known spending that will come from the $94.

We will also be looking at getting a new cell phone for our daughter this weekend. I do have $200 set aside, and can pull some other savings if it ends up costing more.

Here's hoping we can make it a low spend week!

Back From Our Trip

April 23rd, 2017 at 08:09 am

I slept in really late this morning because that spring break trip wiped me out! Lots of walking around campuses.

Our daughter is looking to study engineering, so we are looking at excellent midwest colleges for that field. All three colleges mentioned payment for internships, up to $25 an hour! Some starting the summer after freshman year. Two indicated a possible five year program to include a master's degree at the end. We are letting all the information sink in. She can't apply until August 1, so there is lots of time to talk it all through. Two would be our home of record and would be in state tuition. The other is where our older daughter is and would be out of state tuition.

It feels like we spent a lot of money while we were gone, particularly for meals at restaurants. I do remember funding the vacation, fuel and restaurant categories before we left. I paid a $200 housing deposit for our daughter while we were visiting her. I had the money set aside for that. I also bought her a tank top with the University logo, snacks and a large portfolio for storing her art. I guess I bought a tube to roll a piece of art that is 4 ft x 7 ft, too. Just those few things alone are far more than I spend in a traditional week.

We did get unpacked and have started laundry so we are prepared for the work and school week. We also need to stock our fridge for eating at home, so that means a grocery run later today. I'd really rather just sit on the couch!

A Room Upgrade

April 17th, 2017 at 07:08 pm

We are currently traveling. Visiting colleges for our younger daughter. Tonight our hotel, Marriott Residence Inn, was covered by the 'free night' we receive each year after paying the annual fee ($85) for our Marriott Rewards card.

We thought we would arrive and get a King bed with a sofa pull out. Instead we ended up with a two bedroom suite! So nice!! I just wish we were here longer to really enjoy it.

My husband had a glass of wine from the manager's evening reception. In the morning we will all have breakfast. Definitely well worth our $85.

Last night we paid $119, for a Marriott Fairfield Inn room. It was a traditional room. We did get our breakfast included. We also had a hotel stay at another Fairfield Inn just before our flight. We were up so early breakfast wasn't being served yet. We did pay about $90 for that room. We will earn Marriott reward points for both of those paid stays.

We are away about a week, and only have three nights where we have to pay for rooms. The rest of our nights we are staying with family!

Planted Our Mini Garden

April 9th, 2017 at 03:20 pm

I mentioned previously that I was going to plant some vegetables this year. I've always loved fresh vegetables in the summer. After talking to my youngest daughter, she has good memories of picking beans, and tomatoes from our garden. So we are doing it again.

My landlord put in a pretty large mulched bed with two shrubs and a small tree right before we moved in. I was so surprised as the backyard had nothing but grass when we looked at it. I was a bit irritated as I knew the bed would need weeding. But I'm now grateful the area is there, so that I can plant some things without pulling out the grass.

I did have some major weeding to do to prepare the area, but the hoe we own was very helpful in getting them pulled up! There is hardly any mulch left that the landlord put down two years ago. A neighbor is required to put down mulch based on her rental contract. That is something we are not required to do.

I planted snow peas and romaine lettuce from seed. I put the lettuce in grow bags (basically directly into a bag of garden soil, with the bag ripped open on the top). I purchased two tomato plants, a summer squash, a zucchini, and two strawberry plants. The strawberry plants are in a large metal tub. These will go on our screened in porch to keep the birds away from them. They will get plenty of sun. Everything else is planted directly in the garden bed. I made sure to plant items where they will get the most sun (to the south of each tree). I guess the peas are behind one of the trees, but I think they will get enough sun. If they don't work out this spring, I will try another crop in the fall in another spot.

The snow pea seeds were $1.89. Organic romaine lettuce seeds were $2.24. The strawberries, tomatoes, zucchini, and squash were $3.40 each. The bags of soil were $1.80 each. I did have to invest in two tomato cages for $8.60. My total investment was $36.73 plus tax ($39.30). If I can end up with produce worth more than $40 this summer I will be ahead financially. That will make the effort well worth it!

I know some of you are big gardeners. Anyone else planting anything edibles this year?

Friday Night Entertainment Spending

April 8th, 2017 at 08:00 am

We rarely go out on the town for entertainment, but we became aware last fall that a play based on a book was going to be performed this spring. Specifically, Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery. My daughter has read nearly all the Sherlock Holmes stories.

I had considered it as a Christmas gift, but she had some other wants at the time. And in the end tickets weren't available until two weeks ago. For three of us to attend the live play we paid $55.65. Yes, this is more than a movie, but honestly, much more enjoyable to be witness to the skill that is live acting! There were only five actors, but three of them played multiple characters, so lots of costume changes...which made for some hilarious moments. There weren't any mishaps because of the costumes, but just so fun to see the actors and actresses act out different characters.

We planned to go out to dinner ahead of time. I feel our budget lucked out when my daughter picked Subway and my husband was agreeable. He usually likes to sit down and be served which I know always costs far more. I skipped the drink and chips, and they counted two of our six inch subs as a footlong, our bill came to $18.68 for the three of us.

There was an intermission. We ended up buying two bottles of water for $2 each, and leaving a $1 tip. Another five dollars spent. We were parched as it was a bit warm in the theatre.

I feel really good about our spending for this evening of entertainment. Looking back we could have easily eaten dinner at home, but sometimes just getting out of the house and enjoying a night out is worth it.

Did you have any Friday night entertainment expenses? When was the last time you saw a live play or other live entertainment?

Amazon Gift Cards from Swagbucks

April 6th, 2017 at 10:20 am

I earned enough Swagbucks in March to redeem them for $50 worth of Amazon.com gift cards. And I already used them! My purchases should arrive today. I only spent $0.97 out of pocket. I bought two different vitamins for about $25. I added on some tea for $4. And finally, I bought a set of five reusable menstrual pads for $20. I had thought about making my own, but decided I would probably have more follow through and success in the end if I bought something that had good reviews. And with Swagbucks those ended up costing me virtually nothing out of pocket.

It's kind of nice to get things I want and need to buy anyway and have the gift cards to cover them. I really should move the money to savings that I would have spent. Actually I will do that now. I will take money out of the categories these expenses come from and move it to a savings category. Okay, you can't tell that I paused to do that, but I created a BIG goal category in our budget on YNAB. I just put $50.97 in there. I also flagged the other BIG goal contributions so I can find them later. I'll update you on that amount soon.

I do go back and forth about whether the time spent on Swagbucks is worth it. I have taken breaks before and I don't regret them. But I guess for now I'm back on a roll with them. It's motivating when I see that I can buy $50 worth of stuff without any money out of pocket. I can then save that money. Or if we were still paying debt, I could put that money I would have spent without the gift cards towards debt.

If you want to try it out and you haven't joined, I'd be honored if you used my referral link. It can be a little confusing at first. Take a look at YouTube videos that will give guidance about earning as well as ask around on the Swagbucks Facebook page.

Check Arrived & More

April 5th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

The $250 check from the moving company's insurance, for major damage to our entertainment center, arrived in the mail today. That money is going to the BIG goal. I was starting to wonder about it a bit, but I think it has been only two weeks since we accepted the offer.

My daughter is giving up a brand new pair of shoes that were given to her to do an art project with. She has had over four years to actually do it, and finally decided to abandon the idea all together. So those are going to be listed on eBay. I'll probably use proceeds towards textbooks she needs this summer.

I purchased a one way ticket back home for our college daughter. Just a month away at this point. It was $183.45. I had the cash set aside. Yea!

Second Laundry Post for the Day

April 4th, 2017 at 03:39 pm

I mentioned in my post earlier today, that I have the hang of drying sheets hanging up in various places in our home. Sheets dry pretty fast, too.

Today, I needed to do a load of laundry. I decided I needed to bite the bullet and spend money on a laundry drying rack. I started the washer and went on my way to purchase one. I found a wood one at Walmart for just under $18 (although online it says $15 and I forgot I wanted to question it at the register). I did have to put it together, but it wasn't too hard, may have been harder if I had seen the instructions before I put it together! They seemed confusing. My laundry was washed at this point, so I went about hanging up some pants, shorts, under garments, socks and hand towels. I hung the shirts up on hangers and have those hanging in our bathroom. I expect that these will be mostly dry before we go to bed. I will fold them at that time.

And if I didn't point out this in another post about saving money on electricity, I'm considering the cost of the wood drying rack an investment that should pay big returns in lower electricity bills Specifically, I saved two loads of laundry from the dryer today, and the cost associated with running it. Yea!

Air Drying the Laundry Progress

April 4th, 2017 at 06:39 am

I'm still not up to hanging all laundry to dry yet, but there is progress! I have hung up our sheets with very good success. That right there is at least four less dryer loads a month! I'm very happy with that.

I have experimented with shorter dry times. I haven't quite found the sweet spot that gets items mostly dry yet. There are some things that are easy to hang like shirts and pants. It's the undergarments that are harder right now. So I end up drying it all if I'm going to be drying socks and underwear. My goal is still to get most of it on the line for the full drying time. I really need to get a drying rack. I have a great place to put it in our bedroom that will be out of the way, near a warm sunny window and near a air conditioning vent.

I think towels may be last on the list to figure out. I did have a neighbor mention that adding another spin could help get the towels even drier before putting in the dryer or on the line.

Oh, and since my daughter's do there own laundry, I will be working to convince them to line dry more items this summer as well. They both do hang their graphic t shirts up, simply to make them last longer, so they just need to hang more.

All of this is my effort to lower our electricity bill. Dryers are big gobblers of energy in a home. So this is where I'm starting. I can't wait until this summer to really see the difference!

Automatic Savings

April 3rd, 2017 at 10:43 am

Most of our savings are done automatically. This means I don't need to make a physical transfer at the bank, on the phone or even online.

I mentioned before that we are saving an additional $100 a month now as of March. This was part of my husband's raise. This money is set up to be withdrawn from his paycheck and deposited by payroll to our savings account. We already had $25 a month going previously (this deposit was required to get one of our high CD rates). We added $100, so the full amount being deposited is $125 a month. Again, all set up automatically. On an annual basis this will equate to $1500 a year in savings.

Our retirement accounts are set up automatically too. The Roth IRAs are set up with the mutual fund company to withdrawal $458.33 for each of us on the day we designated. We do have the option of stopping or skipping these each month. We did do that for one month earlier this year for cash flow reasons, as result our investment amount is now $500 each to make sure we each contribute the maximum amount to our Roth IRAs each year. That amount currently stands at $5,500 each.

My husband is also signed up for automatic investment into his work's retirement account (TSP). He is now saving 11% of his basic pay. He had been at 10%, but we increased it by 1% when he received his raise this year. His contributions are applied monthly to his retirement account automatically.

Auto savings makes things so easy! Eventually you sort of forget that you are doing it, well until you look at the balance accumulated! What do you automatically save for?

March Interest Income & Saving

April 1st, 2017 at 07:25 am

I totaled up our interest income for the month of March. It amounted to $91.85! No complaints on that money.

We just allow our interest to accumulate. We don't specifically look to spend it. I think I will start counting this towards our big goal, which I still need to start tracking!!

The big goal is money saved towards the next purchase of a home, which we currently don't expect to be for another six to seven years when my husband retires. We have about $40K currently that we could put towards a house right now, but we are renting so that isn't happening!

The goal would be to save $160,000 to add to that money for a total of $200,000. That doesn't mean the home will be that much, but if it's less than great! If it is more than that is okay, too. Right now we don't entirely know what we want long term or where we will end up (although we think somewhere in the midwest...although I do love this Southeast weather most of the time!)

$3 & The Uncashed Rent Check

March 31st, 2017 at 09:50 am

I received three dollars from Pinecone Research this week. I'm up to nearly 3700 Swagbucks, which I will likely redeem tomorrow for $40 worth of Amazon gift cards. I have some vitamins I need to buy!

Our rent check sent to our landlord in October, and that I know they received because she texted me, has gone uncashed for 180 days. They continue to cash current checks we mail them. The checks specifically state void after 180 days, since they are bill pay checks sent by our bank.

I contacted our bank asking if presented if it would be rejected. They stated yes, but also offered a free stop payment on the check as well. I'm not sure if that was needed if the first is true, but I did take them up on that offer. The stop is good for 180 days. They can put an additional stop on it after that time ends.

I'm just amazed that a landlord wouldn't realize they haven't received their rent! Yes, I could tell them, but I REALLY feel like that isn't my responsibility.

For now, that rent money is back in our budget. It will cover our rent for April and I can use our full paycheck to fill in other areas of the budget. If it comes to their awareness and they let us know, we have plenty of cash to cover it and make good on it.

Is anyone keeping tabs on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE9EWh4ocDs]April the Giraffe? I've been watching way to much waiting for her to have her baby! Smile

More Money Coming!

March 27th, 2017 at 05:12 pm

My husband told me today that we will be getting about $105 from his recent travel reimbursement. This was the trip where he bought some friends dinner to the tune of $140. That meal isn't specifically being reimbursed, of course, but it will offset that expense a bit. I didn't think he was getting anything extra.

Our college daughter was home for spring break last week, so we did a little clothes shopping, went out to eat a couple times, and celebrated her birthday with cake from a bakery. And now the funds left that we budgeted through the end of the month are getting slim.

I did jump ahead in the budget a bit and bought tickets for my husband, daughter and I to see a local Sherlock Holmes play in early April. Those three tickets were $55 total. And we will be seeing Beauty and the Beast in the theater this coming weekend. This much more than we usually spend on entertainment in a short period of time. But thankful that we can afford to do so when we find something that is of interest for all of us.

I listed four CDs on eBay today in a lot. Not sure if they will sell or not. I think I may have listed them for sale in the past, but I don't have a record of it on my account any longer. So if I did it was more than two months ago. I figured I would try one more time. Smile

I've been doing pretty good at accumulating Swagbucks, but I'm going to need to spend my time getting my garden planted soon. I'm going to do zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, lettuce, snow peas, onions, cucumber and strawberries. I'm going to do the strawberries in a pot on our screened in porch to keep the birds away! I'm not real optimistic about them, but my younger daughter insists since she didn't like them when she was younger and didn't get to eat any!

Oh, I thought I'd ask those of you world travelers what you think about exchanging currency before a trip? How much of the total expected costs would you want to have in the foreign currency? 20%? 50%? The teacher leading the trip can exchange for a lower fee at her bank. We know some cash is likely a good idea. She would need pounds for the two days in London, and euros for the remaining ten or eleven days. She also has a no foreign transaction fee debit card that she will likely use as well. I think we may also add her as an authorized user on one of our credit cards, as an extra back up option.

Unexpected Offer

March 25th, 2017 at 08:41 am

Wow! This is so unexpected. My husband was notified on Friday that we will be receiving $250 for an entertainment center that was badly damaged in our move. It had been denied in the past when we appealed the claim. We expected nothing else from it because of the denial.

He has accepted the new offer. I expect a check will be cut for this, as that is the form in which we received our original damage check. And here is the link where I last discussed this (November 2015!)

I have to say the delay on this appeal is horrendous. And just as bad as I hear about insurance billing for health reasons. Why can't these companies get their act together?

Since we were not expecting these funds my plan is to put this in the Big Goal Fund! I do need to set up a place to track these funds for easier sharing. If I don't track it, then it won't happen.

Have you ever received unexpected cash that is surprising like this? Tell me about it?

A Few Snowflakes & More

March 22nd, 2017 at 05:44 pm

I sold four DVDs to our local used bookstore today for a credit of $2.65. Not super great, but it wasn't any better than I could get selling them online. And now they are out of my house!

I was looking at an off budget account I have in YNAB yesterday. When I compared it to what the bank said my records were $2.25 less than what the bank had. Turns out I had failed to record the final interest payment on CD back in October! I'm surprised it took me so long to notice.

I was paid $10 for a survey. I vaguely remember that I had to provide my email address for Paypal payment, but those never seem to work out for me, so that was a very nice surprise.

I have accumulated more Swagbucks in recent days. My current balance is just under 2400. I plan to save 2200 for April 1 when I redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card.

My husband and I have started counting our calories again, as we have both put on some winter weight. This will end up helping with the grocery bill eventually since we eat pretty well at our meals, but it's the mindless snacking that has caused us both problems.

Any recent snowflakes in your budget?

Reusable Feminine Hygiene

March 20th, 2017 at 04:27 pm

Hopefully, the title gives you a heads up what this post is about and if you aren't interested you have moved on!

I redeemed Swagbucks earlier this month for an Amazon gift card and I made that free money count by ordering a Vida Cup (a menstrual cup). It's reusable thus saving me from buying tampons each month. Mine was priced at $12.77 plus tax and free Prime shipping. Again, it was free to me since I used an earned gift card.

I think I spend about $5 a month on tampons. I also buy pantyliners in large quantity one or twice a year. I can't remember how much those are. I will estimate I spend between $65-75 a year. Not a lot, but that does add up over the many years women are menstruating.

I have used a menstrual cup in the past for many years, but something changed physically for awhile that made me abandon it a few years ago and I eventually tossed it out.

I decided to try it again knowing the more one can use reusable items rather than disposable items, the more one can save! There are other health reasons why a menstrual cup can be better than tampons. I will let you do your own research on why that is.

My next step is to make some homemade (and reusable) cotton pads. I haven't decided on which way I will make them yet. I'm still doing my research online. If I find a video or instructions that I do end up using I will try to remember to link it up here. The menstrual cup works so well, I don't expect to need very many each month.

I'm not going to go into the details of how these are used particularly because this is a financial site. However, there are many reviews on YouTube as well as forums where people discuss the details, which are very helpful to first time users. Just do a online search to get more information.

So, anyone else here want to share if they use a menstrual cup or not? Anyone think they might try one?

Chase Southwest Credit Card Offer

March 17th, 2017 at 01:21 pm

Chase is offering 50,000 points on their Southwest Rapids Rewards credit cards after spending $2,000 in the first three months. There is a $99 annual fee. Depending on the trip, you might be able to score two roundtrip tickets. Or you could redeem points for about $500 in gift cards (do this before you would close the card!)

We love Southwest for their prices, free checked bags, and open seating options. Customer service is great too! Just today in the mail I received four drink coupons for being a cardmember for two years. That's kind of nice perk, not that we would usually buy liquor on a plane trip.

If you are able to pay off your credit card charges in full each month and are interested in the Southwest card, I would be honored if you used my referral link. I will receive 5000 points.

Our smoke alarms started going off this morning. Luckily no fire and my cat and I were the only ones home. The smoke detectors are hard wired in the house, but do have battery backup. We replaced the batteries less than a year ago. I'm surprised they were going off already. It's possible there was another reason. But at any rate, I bought six new 9 volt batteries that we will install this evening. The batteries cost $18.94 plus tax. Why are 9 volts so expensive? Of course, safety for less than $20 is well worth it. And I sure don't want to be woken up by the alarms unless there is a real fire!

Electricity Experiment: Drying Sheets

March 16th, 2017 at 07:56 am

I generally wash sheets on the first and 15th of the month (or close to it). Today is that day. And since I said I would stop using the dryer so much, I'm attempting to line dry my Queen size sheets inside our home. I want to see how much time it really takes them to dry after several minutes in the dryer. They were in there about ten minutes and really only feel slightly damp. The flat sheet is folded in half and hanging over our shower door. I will likely flip it later. The fitted sheet is draped over large chair, and the pillow cases are hanging over our wood head board. I turned on the fan in the two of the rooms where these are hanging.

I'm doing my girls twin bed sheets today, too. I think because I don't know how drying such large things will work, I'm going to use the dryer, but I'm going to put the setting for far less than usual to see if I can get them dry in less time. I should also toss in a dry bath towel as I've had luck with that helping shorten the drying time.

I do like a challenge, so we'll see how this ultimately works out over the next few months!

What Should I Plant?

March 15th, 2017 at 01:17 pm

I'm thinking of planting some vegetables this summer. I can't do a lot as I'm not going to dig up new areas of my landlord's yard. And I have just a few pots, but I'm not willing to invest in more. I'm not afraid to use a bucket with holes in the bottom either. The one area I can use is near a fence with two shrubs and one ornamental tree. The area gets shade in the morning and full sun in the afternoon and evening. I wouldn't be planting right under the tree or shrubs obviously.

I've grown tomatoes, onions, pole beans and sugar snap peas with good luck in the past. There may have been one other thing, but I can't remember right now. I'm considering zucchini and or summer squash (I know those take up a lot of space, right?).

I'm just in the beginning stages of my thinking and planning. So I'm curious what would you plant when you have limited space?

Lowering Electricity Costs

March 14th, 2017 at 11:49 am

Our electricity bill arrived today in my inbox (do people still get these in the mail?). I'm glad to say it is down again from the month prior to $164.92.

In fact compared to last March it is down as well. That $300+ bill two months ago brought home the fact that we could do better when it comes to our electricity use.

I'm going to guess most of the electricity is from heating (except for a gas fireplace, the home is all electric). We are in another cold snap, so we'll see what the next bill looks like!

I've made an effort to make sure we are skipping the water heating for washing clothes. I also unplugged my daughter's Wii U and shut down my husband's computer. The computer was probably drawing some power since it's battery doesn't really hold a charge very well and DH generally just puts it to sleep rather than full shut down mode.

My next step is to start experimenting with drying our clothes without the dryer. I will probably use it for 5 minutes for each load to give the clothes a head start on drying. We already do hang some graphic T shirts (since the designs fade and crack in the dryer) and fleece items (since they dry fast). I figure this will be quite helpful in keeping electricity costs down, while also keeping more heat out of our home this summer.

My first plan is to avoid buying anything, but I may need to buy a drying rack. I cannot put up a clothes line per our neighborhood covenants (sometimes these rules irritate me!).

I might also look into a water heater blanket, but possibly not until fall as it will be hot here very soon. Our water heater is in our unheated garage so I can imagine that is not very efficient.

Do you use your dryer? What do you do to conserve electricity?


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