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100 Days Until Christmas!

September 16th, 2017 at 05:50 pm

Christmas is just 100 days away!

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

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

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

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

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

Snowflakes Here and There

September 15th, 2017 at 07:26 pm

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

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

Those snowflakes add up to $67.47!

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

I've always said that small amounts add up!

Started Christmas Shopping & More

September 7th, 2017 at 02:14 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 08:29 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can We Talk About Emergency Funds?

August 25th, 2017 at 02:43 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where To Hold Sinking Funds

August 23rd, 2017 at 11:27 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 07:16 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pays to Shop Around

August 19th, 2017 at 02:41 pm

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

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

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


Cleaned Our Carpet and Other Frugal Wins

August 10th, 2017 at 03:17 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Amex Offer: 10% Back on Cable

August 9th, 2017 at 12:51 pm

I think this offer was available last year as well. American Express is offering 10% cash back on cable and satellite bills, up to $30. We have two Amex cards, only one had the offer. I added it to the card and plan to use it to pay our bill over the next several months to get the $30.

Because of the change we made with our cable subscription, our bill is prorated and much lower this month. Just $59. The offer will give us $5.90 back this month. I'll take it!

Anyone else going to take advantage of this?

What Can You Give Up?

August 8th, 2017 at 03:49 pm

Our Big Goal is on my mind a lot. I just can't wait to get there, but it is going to be a long journey to say the least. My mind keeps wandering to the items we spend our money on and wondering what we can cut back on, or eliminate all together.

I've mentioned before I did eliminate the need for disposable feminine products for myself. That is probably only a savings of $6-7 a month on average.

We did lower our cable bill by $11 a month just recently, so that will add up over time. I think we may still let it go entirely after football season. We have more channels now, and while it was fun to watch HGTV for a day or so, I'm already not interested in watching most of what is on.

It seems there was something else, too, but maybe that is it so far! There is still work to be done to eliminate more items we spend money on. I thought I'd make a brainstorm list of a few I'm thinking about:

Alcohol ($100 per month)
Paper Towels ($18 a year)
Movies (theatre and purchased) $260 YTD
Restaurant meals $1578 YTD
Chips (too much snacking!) ?
Gum $50/year ?
Ooma (home phone) $48/year
Trash & Recycling service $198
Using the Dishwasher ?

Let me explain the trash & recycling. We pay $16.50 a month for trash and recycling pick up at the curb. The trash pick up is twice per week, and the recycling is picked up twice per month. The reason I could possibly eliminate the service entirely is because about 1.25 miles from our current home is a county trash and recycling drop off site. They are open at least five days a week, maybe six. I drive by it ALL the time, so it is on my regular route to other places I go. I don't think my husband would be on board, but it's an idea to consider.

I use our dishwasher every evening. I like using it. I wonder though if some money could be saved by not using it. How much electricity and water does a dishwasher use each month? I may skip it for the next few weeks while my husband is still at school and it's just dishes for my daughter and I.

I mentioned I made hummus last week. It got rave reviews from my family members. It was very easy, too. When I make something from scratch it always tastes better because it has fewer 'extra' ingredients needed for commercial processing. It makes me think if I should be trying to make some other foods we buy from scratch. Bread is one idea, another would be pasta sauce. I'd have to think through what we buy most often that could be made at home.

Just by doing this little brain storm writing session I have seen where we can put our focus. Eating out. I feel like we don't eat out that much, and probably compared to the average american we don't, but our average is over $200 a month this year. Considering our income that isn't a big amount, but accounting for our goal, it is!

What can you give up to meet your goals?

July Interest

August 1st, 2017 at 11:11 am

The interest earned on our savings accounts and CD's for the month of July was $94.44. As I mentioned yesterday we have one CD maturing in August, but have opened another 3% CD with the same bank that I can roll most of the money into. Very happy about that!

The lowest interest rate we are earning on our funds is 1.1% interest at FNBODirect. The highest is a 3% CD at Navy Federal Credit Union.

So thankful rates have risen a bit recently! May that trend continue so us savers can earn more.

Pay Day, New CD, More Food Used Up and Snowflakes

August 1st, 2017 at 01:47 am

It's payday officially tomorrow, but my husband's check is usually pending as a direct deposit the day before. Apparently I checked a bit too early today, as it wasn't showing up! An hour later it was, as it is suppose to be, pending for deposit. Whew!

I saw ladya70's post about the Navy Federal Credit Union CD at 3% and I quickly logged on to set one up! We have a $10K CD that is also at 3%, but it matures on August 10. I was going to be sad about losing that great rate. Instead I can roll all but the interest to this new CD which is good for 5 months. Maybe something even better will come along when that one matures!

I redeemed $10 worth of Swagbucks for an Amazon gift card. It arrived in my inbox today. I quickly logged on to claim and and used it to buy some joint supplements for our cat. I had another Amazon credit so my out of pocket cost was just over $3.

I had my first survey in a very long time from Pinecone. I completed it yesterday and received credit today. Once it is in my PayPal account, I will move it to the Big Goal.

I checked on my neighbor's dog, rabbit, bird and two beta fish while they went on a four day trip. She bought me a gift card for a new smoothie and sandwich shop that opened near us. I wasn't expecting anything as she watched our cat for an entire week! I had checked on the rabbit for two days before, but we were not yet even in my mind.

I used up the butter I mentioned yesterday by making cookies! Yummy! My daughter and I used up the leftover chicken taco meat for lunch.I cooked some quinoa today and will add some ingredients tomorrow for lunch which should use up some more ingredients. I also cut up a yellow watermelon for snacks. Tastes just like the red ones we are used to, but it sure looks like pineapple!

It's been a fantastic money day! Feeling blessed. Smile

Lowered The Cable Bill

July 30th, 2017 at 01:29 pm

I mentioned a couple months ago we were thinking of cutting cable altogether. We would just find things to stream online, which we do most of the time anyway. I never got around to taking the boxes in and cutting it off. An offer arrived in the mail offering a lower price for what we are currently getting with the addition of a few new channels, including ESPN. This is Spectrum, which just bought out Time Warner. We expect with our daughter at a major University we will get to see several of the football games on ESPN (although they can't show the marching band Frown ), so that was the pull. We will try it through the fall, and possibly cancel after. The lower rate is just for 12 months, at which time we will either be moving or have already cancelled.

The savings is a slim $11.59, which over the course of the year does save us $139.08. I better add this to our automatic savings so it doesn't melt, but actually gets saved!

Yesterday wasn't super frugal because my husband was home and we made a point to get out as a family. Our daughter is going back to college in just over a week. We played miniature golf $16, and went to dinner $70. But it was very enjoyable to be together and away from our devices. My husband and I did enjoy a bottle of wine ($9) on the porch last night.

I'm ready for a new frugal month! Are you?

Big Goal Progress

July 28th, 2017 at 05:33 pm

I was able to set aside an additional $500 to the Big Goal this month. I guess we have stayed somewhat frugal with our eating and outings to make that happen.

We also automatically saved $131 from my husband's paycheck. This happens every month and goes into a different bank than our main bank. I am able to add these funds to a current CD we have that is earning 2%. The interest earned on our CD accounts also adds to our Big Goal savings.

The only extra money towards the Big Goal was some eBay and Pinecone earnings. Combined those added $14.54. Not a lot but it will add to the goal.

Progress has been slow, but there is forward progress, so I celebrate that!

Another Retirement Milestone

July 20th, 2017 at 11:51 am

Stock markets hit highs yesterday. As a result, our retirement accounts also hit an all time high. And that made us hit a milestone. Our retirement accounts are over $450K! Specifically adding up to $450,539.97.

At the end of last year we were at $392,814.02, so there has been some good growth this year along with our retirement contributions.

For a little perspective, and encouragement if you are just starting out, in May 2003 when I started tracking our retirement our accounts were valued at $25,742. I know we started far before that, likely in the mid 90's for me, slightly early for my husband. We were married in 1996 and we both were contributing a small amount of our small incomes before that.

Just like exercise, you never regret, putting money aside for retirement. You might regret how hard you worked or if you put to little money in for investment, but the effort you do make you never regret.

Start contributing as soon as you can, and increase along the way, such as 1% every year.

Frugal News

July 7th, 2017 at 11:30 am

This morning I'm eating my steel cut oats I made overnight in the crockpot. It usually makes enough for four breakfasts. There are no more steel cut oats in my pantry, and I have now used half of the almond milk I wanted to use up.

Yesterday, I harvested two nice size zucchinis, a summer squash, one cherry tomato and a bag full of romaine lettuce. I could have harvested more lettuce, but I will wait until I have finished what I harvested. When I'm out mowing in a bit I will fertilize all the plants again. It is very satisfying to have a garden even if small. I really may need to consider that we need to rent a smaller home with a yard, rather than an apartment next year.

The last two days were no spend days. We only left the house once and that was a trip to the library where one of my daughter's picked up two books, and I borrowed a DVD (The Help).

Tonight we are having fried rice for dinner, so I will use up most of the frozen veggies that have been in the freezer a little too long. Does anyone freeze rice? I saw that some people do that to save time.

A book we had listed on eBay sold last night. That will drop a couple dollars into our bank account. Adding it to the Big Goal, of course!

I redeemed Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card. I hoping it arrives soon as I would like to buy a food processor. I don't need high end at this point, just one that is reliable enough to do shredded cheese and make hummus (my blender doesn't do that well). I'm sure I will use it for more things, but until I'm using it regularly, I'm not spending a lot.

I joined back up with Ibotta. I stopped for awhile as it seemed to take forever to get to the pay out threshold. I do want the savings on the things I buy anyway. I don't get as many as some would as the rebates are on a lot of products I don't buy. Anyone else still using Ibotta? If you are new to this savings and want to sign up, my referral code is here.

The really good news is my lower level air conditioner is working! I didn't pay for the service call because that is a landlord responsibility. The bad news, it isn't technically fixed. The technician couldn't find a leak, or any other parts that weren't working. So added freon and said it should keep cooling for three months. So annoying! I'd be really irritated if I were the one paying for the service calls.

That is the frugal news of the day!

Frugal July Thoughts

July 4th, 2017 at 04:33 pm

I currently have our lower level air conditioner off, as it is not cooling properly. Why force it to run overtime at more expense if we don't need to? The landlord did call for service which is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. We are definitely in a heat wave so I don't think this can be a long term solution given the humidity we are currently experiencing.

The lack of air conditioning on this level, where our kitchen is, did force me to cook chicken in the crockpot yesterday. Today we are eating out of the fridge and cupboards. The oven will not be turned on. I suppose that will save some energy too. I wonder if I could go nearly oven free for July?

We went grocery shopping on Friday and spent about $65. It did include my daughter's birthday cake (she arrives home tonight and her birthday is tomorrow) mix and frosting and her preferred meal of pasta. I think my other daughter and I can have bean tacos tonight if I make a run to the store for the refried beans. We have everything else, so that would cost me less than $1. I'd like to get through at least Thursday or possibly Friday (shopping on Saturday) with what we have on hand. Oh, just remembered I have everything on hand for fried rice, too! And I have three potatoes I could make into soup. I think I can make it! We do have salad greens in the garden. But I might pick up three ears of corn on the cob to accompany the pasta. That should be just another dollar. I'll post a food plan tomorrow.

Not sure what my husband's plan is for food. He is traveling back to his school location today. The commissary there may not still be open by the time he arrives. Thus I can imagine he will pick up some fast food. He only plans to be there 2.5 days before he comes back this coming weekend. He wants to see our daughter soon after her trip to hear all about it! I'm hoping he picks something from the commissary rather than going out for every meal before he returns.

Another reason it may be hard to have a frugal July that I don't think I mentioned is that my parents are coming for an eight day visit. That means more food and possibly gas and admission for some outings. I will do a search for free activities. I can currently think of just one. And it will be so hot outside, I'm thinking we need indoor activities! But I did have one frugal idea concerning their visit. I can use some small travel shampoo/conditioner containers and fill them for myself to use while they are here and they can have access to my nearly full bottles. Normally, I would go buy another set and then use it up later.

I printed off a coupon for my contact solution. I did just buy some, but winced as the price has gone up. The coupon will reduce the next purchase by $1.50. I need to make an effort to look for a coupon to print every time I need to make this purchase.

I also need to make July the month that we cancel cable. i'm just being lazy about going into the store to drop off the digital adapters. I need to remember this should save us at least $30 a month.

My van did not end up needing repair at this time. They charged us over $100 for the diagnosis, testing and clearing the check engine light that was on. Our bill did include the 20% discount we asked for. It wasn't the same as getting the full 10% on the truck we should have, I do wish we would have argued this, but it is done.

Finally, I scored two pairs of socks and a greeting card at Kohl's for $0.70 yesterday. I had a $10 reward and a $1.34 Kohl's cash that I applied to bring my original bill of $12.84 to just $0.70. They don't charge tax on the reward portion, so that did reduce the tax as well.

More frugal thoughts later! Happy Independence Day!

June Interest

July 1st, 2017 at 02:59 pm

Interest for June on our savings tallied up to $90.52. A little less than last month, but there was one less day!

Upon logging into one of our bank accounts, I found out there is a new interest rate! It's higher. Moving from .95% to 1.10%, not a lot but sure is a step in the right direction.

Have your savings interest rates increased?

18% Gross To Retirement

June 30th, 2017 at 11:30 am

We save 18% of my husband's gross pay to retirement. I'm starting to wonder if it is too much. Only because I've been watching YouTube videos of people following Dave Ramsey and saving 15% gross on Baby Step 4.

Our plan is for my husband to retire from the Army with a full retirement pension. This is equal to 50% of his base income, which if calculated today would be about $3,840 per month. It will be higher as he will get promoted at least one more time before he retires. He might also be eligible for more than 50%, but not sure. If so that will make a huge difference in pay as he will have over 32 years of service.

Obviously, there is risk that something could happen that he won't get to full retirement. He is already eligible for a reserve retirement check that would pay out beginning at age 60, possibly sooner. That check would be far less.

I think part of me is wanting to adjust to 15% so I can use the other 3% (which is just under $300) towards the Big Goal. And I suppose I don't have to change anything, as more than half of our retirement is invested in our Roth IRAs. I can take those contributions out any time.

Just thoughts. How much of your gross income do you/did you save for retirement?

Frugal Wins

June 25th, 2017 at 09:37 pm

I just harvested a bunch of lettuce from our garden. Maybe for the last time this season...it seems a bit on the bitter side. We will still eat it mixed with other greens or add to a smoothie. There was also one cherry tomato and a summer squash ready. I do need to do some fertilizing as the soil here is awful!

I used one of my Frito Lay coupons today at the store. The price of the chips was $3.20, so received that off my bill. I also used two other coupons, that I found in the store, for another $1.50 off products I purchased. I have moved $4.70 from the grocery budget to the BIG goal.

I probably saved more money today, as I made a list and later crossed a few items off. I would guess another $5 to $10 worth of savings by skipping some items that were not needed. I also don't think I added anything extra into the cart...oh actually I did. But both were less than $2 combined. I also had a couple times where I picked up an item I needed only to find the same thing, different brand in another aisle for less!

We have been able to keep our irrigation system from running all but one time in the last two weeks because we have received so much rain! Maybe the water bill will be a bit lower next month.

What are your frugal wins?

In other news...

We have been hearing from our daughter each afternoon. Evening for her. She left the UK yesterday and arrived in France. I know she will be in Paris tomorrow evening. She isn't saying a lot because it seems to be moments before she dives into bed. I think the trip is going well. We have seen pictures on Facebook from a teacher who is posting. I will be interested to see how much of her money she spends!

Frito Lay Coupons

June 23rd, 2017 at 05:20 pm

I received three coupons in the mail from Frito Lay after discovering something like black mold on some bite size tortilla chips. I sent pictures and explanation through some form on their website. We basically had to throw the entire bag out, so I was asking for a cash refund. The coupons work too, as that will buy us three bags of chips which will save me far more than the cash refund.

I received $3 from Pinecone and it is now sitting in my Paypal account with a little money from a small eBay sale not long ago.

I'm working on Swagbucks here and there. I have not been focused enough everyday to meet goal until this week. It has helped to join the Swagbucks Swaggernauts page on Facebook to find a few quick ways to earn. I would like to get to 2500 by this weekend so I can get an Amazon gift card and purchase a few items for my daughter's birthday at the beginning of July.

Trying to stay frugal in this next week. It felt very spendy in the days leading up to our daughter's trip. So far no meals out, and the only spending were some sports bras, which we did need.

Snowflakes to Big Goal

June 11th, 2017 at 12:58 am

Small amounts add up. I'm pretty sure I have said that before!

Our bank reimbursed us for a $3 ATM (incurred while my husband is away), plus gave us $0.07 for interest.

I sold four CDs of an older band on eBay earlier this week for a net profit of $1.67. Considering the used book/music store wouldn't even buy them, I'm happy with the small amount.

Just tonight I listed two books on eBay and one on half.com. One already sold! I expect a net of $4.90.

I think I mentioned in a past blog post that I was using up my change while out doing my normal purchases. I had $5.09 in coins, with over a dollar in pennies. I did get it spent. What I found to be a great place to spend it was at self checkouts that accept cash! Five dollars in coins is heavy in my wallet, so I didn't have it all with me initially.

Last night on a trip to Target, I made a point to take it all so I could get rid of it! Luckily there were no other people waiting while I inserted nearly $2 in coins in the machine. My balance was far more, but the machine lets you pick Pay With Card if you don't have enough cash, so that is what I did. I have moved $5.09 from our spending budget to our savings! And while I would have liked to have just deposited directly to our account, we bank online, so that isn't an easy option for us.

I'm gathering all the snowflakes I can while we rack up the cash towards our Big Goal, which you can get details on the sidebar if you don't know what that is. Smile

Cancel Basic Cable

June 8th, 2017 at 09:18 pm

We have basic cable here. Before we moved we had an antenna in our attic to receive over the air channels. I did the research here hoping to do the same, however, the signals are not great in our location for over the air. The cable portion for very basic channels is $30.48 which includes two digital adapters and taxes.

But guess what? We don't watch television. We end up watching things on our phones, tablets and computers. And what we watch doesn't require a cable subscription. I did think of one show my husband does often watch on Sunday mornings, but after talking to him he said he could watch it later online. He seemed to think that was a perfectly fine solution.

So I just need to make the change. I need to call the cable company and cut the cord! Once I do, and turn in the adapters, I will save at least $30.48 each month, that is $365.76 a year.

Do you have cable? Did you have it in the past and cut it? Do you rely on just over the air reception?

Retirement Up Since Last Year & More

June 6th, 2017 at 08:35 pm

Retirement is definitely up from last year at this time. In fact, we had just met a milestone of $350K. But now, a year later our retirement accounts at last check totaled $439,848. A nice $89,000+ difference. That change is due to the market rise and our contributions over the year.

I sold an item on eBay yesterday. I only netted a small amount, maybe $2. But the items are gone. That money will go to the Big Goal.

I found a nickel in a store parking lot yesterday. Unfortunately, it didn't cover the costs of what I spent!

I used $30 worth of Amazon gift cards (earned through url=http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree] Swagbucks[/url]) to cover some phone and travel expenses for my daughter. A phone case and screen cover, a travel adapter, a book for her AP Literature class (she has to do a project over the summer!), and a travel wallet for cash and passport that she can wear under clothes. Out of pocket I only spent $6.52!

Today has been a no spend day! Happy about that, since it has been a very spendy June so far.

Big Savings Goal: $2,093.73

June 3rd, 2017 at 02:11 pm

I'm not sure when I announced our Big Savings Goal, but it has been at least two months. I thought it would be good to share how far we have come.

The Big Savings Goal is $160,000.

We have saved $2,093.73 as of the end of May 2017.

I wish it was more, but I also am pleased that we have a decent start. I didn't put the goal out there to forget about it. I also expected progress to be a little slow in the beginning. We have a daughter in college, and some of our cash goes to tuition. We have a rent payment of $1800 for another year (hope to move and lower that amount).

I posted our interest for May in yesterday's post. Yes, that interest is going to our Big Savings Goal!

May Interest

June 2nd, 2017 at 12:39 pm

The interest earned on our cash savings came to $92.26 in the month of May. We do have several 2% CDs where a lot of our money is parked, so that helps a lot.

In fact, I remembered when checking the interest, that at least one of the CDs allows new deposits added to it. I transferred $430 I had in a savings account at the same bank to that CD. I think it is actually two of the CDs that have that option, but the rate is the same, so it didn't really mater which one I picked.

Did you earn any interest in May?

Sinking Funds

May 31st, 2017 at 10:55 am

I'm on FB group where there has been a lot of discussion about sinking funds. The definition they gave is 'saving a small amount of money each month for a certain amount of time before you make a purchase'. That definition is true, but a bit vague since it doesn't really explain the types of things you use sinking funds for.

I have used sinking funds (sometimes I call them escrow funds) for car registrations, Christmas, auto insurance for a very long time. I established these pretty early on. I wanted to get a discount for paying insurance semi annually. The only way to make sure I had the funds was to save for it. A little each month.

Specifically, I save $50 a month for Christmas. I guess I do have a birthday fund now too. I save $42 a month in that one. I also save $152 a month for car registrations, auto insurance and renters insurance.

Now that we use YNAB, I have quite a few more sinking funds. I don't always add to them all every month. For example, I know that my daughter has a fair share for band expenses due in the fall when marching season starts. It's usually around $300. I could save $25 a month, but that feels tedious to do all year long. So for the last couple months, I have been just putting various amounts in knowing the goal is to have all the money by August. I actually need to make a $75 payment to them tomorrow. And I do have that.

I established an eye care fund, as nearly all of us are due (over due actually) for eye exams and will need glasses. And I also established a cell phone replacement category. So far I have funded it well enough to purchase two new phones. My older daughter and I are holding out even longer with phones we bought 3 years ago. My does randomly turn off and on by itself sometimes, but she hasn't had any problems with hers.

Do you have sinking funds? What do you use yours for?

Renter's Insurance

May 19th, 2017 at 12:57 pm

Our renter's insurance has renewed for July. And the rate has dropped! By $100 a year. Last year the amount was $404, this year our rate is $304. Seems almost unheard of that insurance rates go down!

I'm taking this saving and dropping it into the BIG goal. Smile

I do find it interesting that as soon as I make a plan to save more money, money shows up! Some of it comes in the form of checks, and some comes in the way of savings on bills. I will take it.

Sold Our Treadmill and More

May 17th, 2017 at 11:30 am

We sold our treadmill back to Play It Again Sports, which is where we purchased it used 20 months ago. I used it a fair amount initially. My husband used it last on Sunday. And easily used it about four days a week.

I figured out that we originally spent $900 including tax and delivery. We sold it back for $200, and they came and picked it up and moved it (down the stairs no less). $700 net over 20 months was equal to $35 a month. Not bad.

We didn't really want to sell it, but we had it on carpet in our bonus room and realized a couple months ago that the treadmill had burned a hole in the carpet from friction! Well when you rent you do try to limit damage. So we bought a mat to put under it, but it didn't seem to help. We were seeing evidence that a new hole could develop again.

My husband is about to be away for a few months for training, and when he returns his job will have fewer hours, with more time for working out on post. And that is free!

I've been walking in our neighborhood, even during some of the winter months, so my exercise is free as well. I do need to start doing more weight bearing exercises, but those can be done with some small equipment pieces we have at home and with my own body...like pushups and squats.

The damage to the carpet is unfortunate. And we feel really bad about it. My husband thinks the landlord will have to replace all the carpet, therefore we will lose our entire $1800 deposit. My thought is to approach them in the month or so before our lease ends, and suggest a local company that will repair the hole using carpet from a closet. The hole itself measures less than 2 inches by 2 inches. We have a remnant of carpet from another home that could fill in the small amount of carpet from the closet. We would pay for the repair and expect all or most of our deposit back.

Our landlords are a bit hard to work with, so we don't know how they will respond. We are currently trying to get them to hire a new company to fertilize and spray for weeds. It is in our lease that they provide it. They fired the last company for unknown reasons last fall. Currently, they have simply not responded to our voice mail, a text or an email concerning the problem.

We have heard from neighbors that they didn't take care of the lawn very well when they lived here, so I think they aren't very motivated to provide the service when they can't see the weeds themselves.

In the past they have tried to have us call to make a/c repair appointments. However, if we call the a/c company still requires the owner to call to authorize. So I don't get why they can't just make the call when we are in need of service. Sometimes I wish we had a property management company, but then I hear my neighbor complain, and figure we don't have it too bad. They leave us alone most of the time and the house itself is in good working order.

As I get to the end of this post, I'm beginning to think we need to spray the weeds ourselves, and charge them for the cost and time. They seem to be fine with just deducting things from the rent. However, then I'm irritated that our lease states it is included and they aren't providing it.

Oh and by the way the $200 is going to the BIG Goal. Smile


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