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Renter's Insurance

May 19th, 2017 at 05:57 am

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 04:30 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

Lowest Electricity Bill Yet!

May 14th, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I just received our electric bill in my email inbox. I love bills that are emailed. They don't add clutter to my life that way!

The bill is the lowest we have had the entire time we have lived in this home (22 months). For a 2400 sq ft home our bill came in at $122.88 The highest was this past December, at around $315. Last month it was $167.

Now it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the cost savings, but I have to give some credit to not using the dryer as much. It still gets use twice a week, rather than four times a week or more.

I'm going to give some major credit to the weather. It has been very mild for many of the days of the billing period, April 10 through May 10. Not too hot to run the air conditioner most of the time. And no need for heating either. Unfortunately, we are going to hit the 90s later in the week.

We were also gone for one week during the billing period and I did increase the temperature before air conditioning would come on. I couldn't turn off entirely because the cat was home, but no lights, or tv use during the week can make an impact.

After we returned, my husband and I both came down with colds. And we both skipped our regular workouts, and for my husband that meant he wasn't using our treadmill. Since that uses electricity I have to think it made an impact also. (We are selling our treadmill this week and expect to make about $200, so no longer will that be an added impact to the electric bill. )

And finally, just this past week I did change the gaskets on the fridge. I do wonder how much cold air was escaping and causing the fridge to run more often. That would have only been for a couple days on this billing cycle, but it had to have contributed a bit.

I'm having fun working on reducing our electricity, even though it can feel I don't have much control over it at times. Thank you mother nature!

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.

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.

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!

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!)

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?

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?

Big Savings Goal: More to Savings

March 12th, 2017 at 06:23 pm

I mentioned my big goal idea of saving $160,000 towards a home in the next seven years to my husband for the first time yesterday. It didn't go too far in that moment. It's not that he is opposed at all. I honestly put it out there to see what he thought first. To let the idea start percolating so to speak.

He then brought it up out of the blue later in the evening. Asking where the money would come from. I said I honestly didn't know and that it probably won't all come from his income. (And he brought up again today! I think he is really pondering this goal. So excited!)

This morning I told him I was moving $100 a month from his check to our Navy Federal savings account. We already have an allotment of $25 going there. Currently his paycheck, even after raising retirement by 1% is about $100 more a month than last year. We were able to make it work on that income last year, so I don't know why we shouldn't be saving it!

In the process of making the allotment change, I was reminded that our dental insurance (for the girls and I) is changing. And the good news is the premium is lower by $5.81 a month. This doesn't start until May, but I will probably adjust the allotment again at that time to account for the difference. That will mean more to savings!

This process of working on a big savings goal feels a lot like making the effort to pay down debt, which I really liked doing! It feels very exciting even though I don't know exactly how we will get it done. But I'm going to give it as much effort as possible while still enjoying life!

Today Is My Blogoversary!!

March 12th, 2017 at 05:34 am

I started my blog here on Savings Advice on March, 12, 2008. It's been 9 years! I'm blown away. It does feel like it's been awhile, but nine years is a long time. And then to think where we are financially, even more amazing.

I just looked up how much we had saved in retirement around that time. $84,000. About 20% of what we have today! And today we have zero debt!! I'm not sure exactly how much debt we had then. I think only our mortgage, around $160K.

I invite any of you lurking out there to start writing about your financial goals and what you are doing to accomplish them. There is a lot of power in writing goals down! And it's free to have blog here, so there sure isn't much to lose. Smile

Summer Classes and eBay Selling

March 7th, 2017 at 10:17 am

Scroll down two posts if you missed the post were I linked to some free debt pay off and saving charts.

My daughter signed up for two online summer school classes. Remember she's a non resident student. And her scholarship helps a lot during the fall and spring semesters, but will not be applied during the summer. In order to graduate with two majors in 4.5 years she needs to take summer classes. Those two classes will cost $3,470. I was expecting this but didn't put a lot of planning thought into it. But now I am!

She still has cash in her Educational Savings account. My current plan is to the money in that account but only for half. The other half ($1,735) I hope to cash flow. I have until June 12 to come up with those funds. Three months! This is $578.33 per month. I'm going to attempt $300 each pay period.

It is really hard to save 'extra' for my long term goal while paying tuition, but I am going to remember that we will have the GI Bill benefits starting this fall. And it covers the full tuition cost, $1000 towards books AND nearly all of the housing costs. I just figured out the housing costs and our actual out of pocket costs will amount to $2208. That is far less than we have been paying. We do have to pay the full amount upfront and then we are reimbursed monthly. Luckily we have the cash and this will work out just fine.

I added two more items to eBay this morning, and I have four more that I hope to add as soon as possible. These won't amount to a lot of cash, but each dollar counts. These items are easy to mail, too. Smile

Debt Free Charts & More

March 6th, 2017 at 03:34 pm

I came across a blog that offers free countdown type charts. There are numerous different ones. The charts look a big like a picture in some cases, say if you were saving up for a house. Smile The debt free chart is the words DEBT FREE. You fill the words from bottom to top, kind of like those thermometer charts when an organization is saving for something. Not sure if I'm explaining well at all. Check them out here. There are a couple YouTube videos on the page where you can see someone explain how they are using them.

No money spent by me today. My husband had breakfast and lunch provided for him at his training. Dinner was also provided but he was full from lunch and going to skip it. But in the same conversation he said he was going to buy some snacks. So not sure what the actual spending is.

I made a yummy rice dish with mushrooms. My daughter loved it. Very easy, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of you already make something like this. I will definitely make it again.

Today I washed the blanket our cat Riley had spent so much time on in the days before her death. I hadn't washed it yet, as our older cat, Liberty, seemed to be enjoying it since then. But it is now closer to spring and it was time to get it washed. It was kind of sad to pull the lint trap out and see if full of her fur. Frown I still so grateful for the time that she was a part of our family.

In other news, I have accumulated 1354 Swagbucks. Closer to my $15 Amazon gift card goal. But then I have found another item I may want to buy and that puts my total closer to $20. I may hold off though on that one, as it isn't a true need.

Groceries, Sales, & More

March 5th, 2017 at 06:22 pm

It's just my daughter and I here at home this week. I went grocery shopping for just the two of us and spent $52. I'm very excited about that number! The truth is we just eat a bit simpler without my husband. One night we are at an event at school where we will be served pizza. I will be giving a donation to a scholarship fund with a chance to win some prizes, so not exactly free, but a good cause to donate to.

My net proceeds from selling 11 items on eBay recently came to $145.33. Not bad for stuff we aren't using! This could probably be considered the first money for my new BIG goal.

Flute lesson was cancelled last week because the teacher got ill. Luckily she was able to tell us before we made the full trip all the way over there. Turns out she won't be available to teach this coming week either, so I have a $50 credit that will be applied next month.

I'm working on getting more Swagbucks. I have an item to buy from Amazon that is just under $12, so I'm aiming for a $15 gift card. This item is reusable and will save me about $60 a year by using it. So now I'm realizing I need to see what else I could replace to save. Another option would be to eliminate something I use because it is unnecessary. I have one idea, but I need to try it for awhile to know for sure. That would probably save me $40 per year.

I did a little online research and found that we could likely move on post in Summer 2018 (assuming availability) to an 2 bedroom apartment. The cost would be $1250, and include ALL utilities, cable, internet and trash. I figured that would save us nearly $910 a month or $10,920. And actually would save us even more as my husband would be blocks from work, so could probably walk. I would be driving less without a child at home. I sure like the possibility of saving some serious cash! Not sure what my husband would think of an apartment, nor do I know that we would still be living in the area next summer.

Big Goal

March 4th, 2017 at 06:30 pm

I'm starting to ponder a BIG goal. Like cash for our next home kind of big goal. I don't know exactly when we might own a home again. Possibly 5-7 years from now. In just over a year, we will no longer have children home full time. Of course, we expect them to visit! Therefore, we may be able to rent a home with less space then we currently have.

My first thought is to aim for $60,000. But the truth is I'd rather aim for $160,000. And that is a HUGE goal. Overwhelmingly huge. But the truth is if we don't aim for something, we won't get near as far.

Saving $160K in 7 years means saving $22,857 per year. As things currently stand that is not possible. We can save some of it, just not all of it. I'm starting to contemplate new streams of income or even a part time job to make that happen. I'm not sure where the money will come from but I'm looking to make that a new long term goal.

Do you have a HUGE goal that you are looking to achieve? Is it so big you don't know how it will happen?

Total February Interest

March 1st, 2017 at 11:51 am

We earned $76.83 in interest on our money market accounts in the month of February. The short month! We added $25 to one of our savings accounts. This is a deposit from through payroll, so that we qualify for the higher CD rates.

As I was writing this, I was notified that Swagbucks the two gift cards I ordered just this morning are already ready for use! I haven't been using Swagbucks as much in recent months. This seems so much faster than it had been in the past. Is this the newer normal?

I will be using all $43 right away as I have several items on my Amazon account I want to purchase. I am buying engine and cabin air filters for both of our vehicles. I have a reminder on my calendar to change these out once a year. I'm also buying my a gift for my daughter's birthday later this month. I'm now done shopping for her!

What I Don't Buy

February 10th, 2017 at 08:07 am

I like to revisit this topic once in awhile for new readers (and us oldies, too). Down below is a list of things many people buy that I don't as a more frugal spender. Now, of course, the list is not all inclusive as it is hard to remember things I don't buy since I don't think about them at all. I was inspired to write this post after watching a lot of decluttering videos on YouTube. It was interesting to see what people had purchased that they were decluttering. Many items were things I don't even own, or now no longer own as I don't buy them.

Scented candles
I noticed that a lot of people buy these in multiples and then never use them fully. If I buy a candle I use it all up before I would buy another.

Nail Polish
I own two bottles of nail polish. Both are almost gone, but I've been using these on my toes in the summer for quite a few years.

Make-up
I have basic foundation, one lipstick, one palette of eye shadow, one eye liner, and powder. That is it! Very simple when I use makeup which is probably less than ten times a year. I read about what is in makeup and decided I didn't like putting it on my face everyday!

Magazines
I have had a few subscriptions in the past, but over time realized I wasn't getting any satisfaction reading them. Saves me time and money.

Books
I use the library!

Jewelry
I'm simple. I own one pair of earnings, a pearl necklace, and probably four rings, although I only wear my wedding ring daily.

Newspapers
Got of of the subscription habit of newspapers when we moved the last time.

Scented Lotions
Same reason I don't wear makeup, too many chemicals. I'm lucky that I don't have very dry skin. I do have some chemical free lotions, but I take forever to use them!

Valentine/St Patrick's Day/Easter/July 4th/Thanksgiving decor
I've come to see these items put out in stores as just a way to part me from our hard earned money. I only decorate for Christmas and rarely buy new items.

Appliances and kitchen tools for only one purpose
My waffle maker, coffee maker, toaster are exceptions. However, have you noticed all the new gadgets for kitchens that come out when a simple tool, like a knife, could do the same thing!

Multiples of anything (such as excess sheets, blankets, towels, scissors, pens) particularly those that don't get used up quickly.
We have one set of sheets per bed. We have two towels per person, plus a set for guests. We buy what we need, nothing more.

Stickers
This was one I saw many people decluttering. This is one that people probably accumulate because they are inexpensive or cute, but then they don't use them up!

Containers
I avoid buying baskets and bins. I have some obviously, but I'm not of the mindset that I have to go buy a container to be organized. I've let go of so much in the last few years, that I have bins I could probably let go of!

Phone cases and Purses
Why buy more than one, when one will do? I have a simple black purse that goes with everything. And if it doesn't? Who cares!

The newest electronics
I still have an iPod Nano from 2006!

Collectibles and knick knacks
I don't collect anything. I don't get the satisfaction at all from this kind of accumulation. And it costs so much money. And I dislike dusting around these kinds of things!!

Clothes
I do buy them, but very rarely. I purchased one new shirt during the fall/winter time period. I wear things until they are clearly out of style or have worn out. I only buy what I need. I own two pairs of jeans for example.

Pajamas
I simple wear a T shirt and workout type pants to bed. I don't need specific clothes for sleeping in.

Lingerie
I stick to the basics with bra and underwear. And I only own three bras.

Movies
These are expensive too and add up! We love movies, so we do watch some of them over again. However, we only buy two to three per year...not every new release.

Alcohol when I eat out
I'm usually the driver as my husband does get alcohol at restaurants. I can't stand the expense!

Disposable products
I avoid paper plates, cups, silverware, wipes, dryer sheets, napkins, Keurig cups. We use paper towels, tissues, toilet paper, Swiffer cloths (have used flannel well in the past), coffee filters. I reuse plastic bags (unless they had a meat product in them) and my daughter has reusable sandwich bags for her lunch.

Gift bags
We been given more gifts in bags and have accumulated plenty to use for the future. I've also been know to wrap a gift in simple color tissue paper, as it is not too costly.

Greeting cards
I do send some, but I send fewer and fewer every year. The cost adds up as does the cost of stamps. I also then spend less time shopping and running out for a card.

Stamps to pay a bill
I now use Bill Pay with my bank to send checks, including our rent check. Most other bills are paid directly with the provider, usually by credit card.

Subscription boxes
I can't even think of the name of some of these subscriptions, but they are like Fruit of the Month club for makeup and organic products.

Traditional Phone Line
We use Ooma to save money. We may opt out entirely at some point in the near future.

Excessive Data Plans
I know compared to some of you we spend more on our cell phones as we use Verizon. The four of us share 3GB of data. My neighbor mentioned that three of them in her family share 10GB of data! I wonder if they have tried to conserve at all?

Excessive Cable Channels
We only have basic to have any signal at all. I did like when we had an over the air antenna at our last house. The cost was just the initial investment. I wonder if we need it at all. We rarely watch any tv.

High end brand name clothing
Do people not realize they are paying for the brand name? I know some brands are worth the investment as the quality is good, but most are just fashion statements...declaring to the world that you overpaid for your clothes!

Gym membership
We have a treadmill and a few basic weights and bands. In the past we did have a membership and did use the gym!

Extended warranties
We nearly always turn these down. They simply add to the cost of what you are buying. It would be better to save the money and set aside if the item ever needs repair. So many things don't break! We did have a warranty on one computer and the screen broke, that warranty did pay for that. Years later something similar happened with a broken screen and I bought a new screen and installed it myself for under $50.

Trendy shoes
I may have already mentioned I don't follow many fashion trends. I try to stick with basic or classic looks. I also don't have a need for lots of shoes.

Cookbooks (remember no books!)
I only own one cookbook. I find all other recipes online for free.

Vacation souvenirs
I limit these. I find pictures of family on vacation are the best souvenir.

New school supplies every year
We reuse markers, backpacks, rulers, pens, calculators, lunch boxes. We restock the items that get used up or worn out like binders and paper.

Coffee Mugs
I have a set of eight and I don't see a need for ones that have other graphics or new designs. Just let go of two snowman ones that my daughters used to drink hot chocolate out of.

Stationary
I think thank you notes are nice to send. And I'm not against writing real letters. But the truth is, I tend to email or call someone. I was seeing hoards of journals, notepads, sticky notes that some of these people were getting rid of. We still have more than we need in our home that the girls accumulated when they were younger.

Organizers
I only buy an organizer if it solves a very specific problem that cannot be solved in another way. In fact, at the moment I can't think of any specific organizers that would qualify that reside in my home. I mainly have bins, large and small. Some baskets. But my first instinct is not to buy new containers.

Bleach and other toxic cleaners
Air fresheners (plug ins and sprays)
Most of these items are just too strong to use in our home. And they are not safe to breath in.

Specialty trays and serving platters
Holiday kitchen linens
My basic placements work year round in our home. I don't buy aprons for each season, napkins for each holiday or even serving pieces when our basic china will do.

I suppose I really could go on and on with what I don't buy. I just thought of craft items. I do sew, but I only buy fabric for specific projects and if I have leftover, I use it for other smaller projects.

What things do you avoid buying? Think of all the money we save and time acquiring those things. I'm overwhelmed thinking about if I had to start buying the things I listed!

Interest, Tuition Funding & More

February 1st, 2017 at 05:51 am

We earned $79.08 in interest during the month of January. I hope to see that bump up a little now that more ($15K) of our money is invested at 2%.

I withdrew $4,750 from our daughter's Educational Savings account. That money will be used to cover most of her housing costs for the semester. She has $4839 left in her account. This is in a interest bearing account, so she is earning a little money on it each month.

Since it is officially payday today, I can say that I initially allocated $814 towards tuition. But I also didn't fund all of our usual everyday spending categories in YNAB specifically clothing and entertainment. That means I have another $100 to add to the tuition pot, and finally I decided that the electric bill (that really big one of $315) can actually be paid on our next paycheck on February 15. With those funds, funds saved from last few paychecks, the money from the ESA, and our tax refund, I am now only short $205.31!!

But as I'm writing this I'm also realizing that the books I bought my daughter for school have been allocated to that tuition category in YNAB. They were charged to my American Express card which I currently have 0% interest offer on. Therefore, I don't need to pay that off this pay period. That gives us another $153. Now I'm only short $48!!

I did realize that with my husband's travel reimbursement we might make a little money. It depends on how much he spends on food over what the per diem is. I think he will submit his request for reimbursement on Friday, and it should get paid within a week, maybe in time to pay the tuition bill! This would be a little less out of our savings that we would need to pay back.

I'm feeling much better about this huge tuition bill! I think I can likely shave $48 off our spending with some careful planning over the next 10 days.

I took our younger daughter back to Walmart yesterday to get more school supplies. ANOTHER binder, a 3 subject notebook, and dividers were required. We also bought a 4 pack of AAA batteries and a package of glue sticks to donate to two teachers. That was another $22. Why are office supplies so expensive? The 3 subject notebook was $4.24! The teacher did say they could use three regular notebooks, but my daughter did prefer the combined version for the easy of carrying around. I'm not going to make her sacrifice for a couple dollars.

More Credit Card Rewards

January 29th, 2017 at 07:52 am

I redeemed $12 from our USAA Visa rewards. That money will be deposited in our checking account on Monday. I have designated those funds toward tuition, of course!

I plan to redeem rewards from our Chase Freedom account, but not until after the next statement closes which is on February 12. I will have already paid tuition at that point, but the rewards will help start building back up some of the savings accounts we have designated on YNAB. The thing I don't like about Chase Freedom rewards is that you can only redeem in full after you have earned $20. I currently have $21+ I can redeem. However, I expect with this next statement to have another $2. So I will wait and have that money added to the current balance and redeem in full, rather than have $2 I don't have access to if I redeemed now. We are going to stop using the Chase Freedom card for awhile, so there will not be any rewards accumulating in the near future.

We went to Panera for dinner last night. We spent $33.20. The movie tickets cost us $22.47. We enjoyed the movie, the meal and time spent with our daughter. After that spending our everyday funds account is down to $198. My husband needs to take $100 out for a work trip (reimbursed later) this week. So that leaves $98 for the next three days. I may need fuel, but I think we can get by with food on hand until payday on Wednesday.

The only spending that could come up is any school supplies my daughter might need to start the new semester. One teacher has already requested students bring ruler, calculator, spiral notebook and colored pencils. And I'm 99% sure we have all of those.

I think I'm going to keep myself busy the next couple days doing some cleaning around our house. That shouldn't cost me anything!

Rising Stock Market Plus More

January 25th, 2017 at 04:40 pm

The stock market is up today! The Dow Jones Industrial Average even closed above 20K points for the first time ever. I checked out retirement accounts and today alone our balances rose $3,318! And we are up $12,981 since the beginning of January.

I am able to see my husband's LES (pay stub) for next week's pay. The change for withholding was made, but they don't seem to be showing the 1% increase to his TSP. This means his check was slightly inflated. It shows online that the payment is processing, so I guess I didn't meet the deadline to make that change for this month. Oh well, it will all work out.

I input my husband's net pay into YNAB. I figured out that I can add at least $815 from that check to apply towards tuition. I may pay our high electric bill AFTER the 15th of February, so I can apply the cash I set aside for it to tuition. Again, I'm trying to avoid taking any cash from savings, so it really is about cash flow and adjusting when I make some payments.

I spent $7.32 today on two things at Walmart and postage to mail two packages. I'm watching my fuel tank to see if I can't wait until Tuesday to fill up. That may be pushing it, but I will try.

Dinner was breakfast foods. I made pancakes for our daughter and I. My husband came home later than usual, so he made himself some eggs. Tomorrow we will finally use up the arborio rice when I make a mushroom risotto.

Taxes Filed & More

January 22nd, 2017 at 07:25 pm

I went ahead and filed our taxes. All of our tax forms arrived. We take the standard deduction, since we no longer own a home. This was probably one of the easiest tax filing years ever, honestly. We are getting a $1497 refund. All of which will go towards the tuition bill due February 12. And as I said in my last post, I did adjust withholding to avoid the big refund next year.

We went grocery shopping today. I honestly didn't use any coupons at the commissary, however I spent $102, which did include several wants. Overall, this is a very decent grocery bill for us. I did inquire about the items that we paid for last week, but were left behind. I had my receipt and they had recorded the items I left. I was simply told to go get the items and they would sack them up. It was almost too simple! At least $10+ worth of stuff was not lost.

The week after next my husband will be gone for about four or five days. I'm going to consider skipping my regular grocery shop and see if I can't get my daughter and I through that week without buying much at all. If I can do that I just might be able to save the $83 left in the grocery budget.

My husband was going to get a haircut today as he primarily needed his neck trimmed. He did mention that we should buy a new trimmer as we have been without one for awhile. He even pointed out the trimmer might cost the same amount as one haircut! Well, the one we bought was $24, and his haircut is usually $13. So one more trim and we will have made the purchase worthwhile. We also talked about cutting his hair at home. We did try that at one time, and I now can't remember why we didn't keep it up!

We have $323 left in our Everyday Expenses category for the rest of the month, just nine days. I feel pretty good that we can keep more than half, maybe even $200 of this money to send in towards tuition.

We were notified by my daughter's flute teacher that she needs to take the next four weeks off from teaching as she has a gig at the community playhouse. We do have the option of another teacher, but my daughter who has been packing in two AP courses in one semester (finals are this week, exam in May) just would like a break. This is going to save me $100! More money I can apply to tuition!!



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