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?
Viewing the 'saving' Category
Hopefully, the title gives you a heads up what this post is about and if you aren't interested you have moved on!
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?
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!
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.
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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
I use the library!
I'm simple. I own one pair of earnings, a pearl necklace, and probably four rings, although I only wear my wedding ring daily.
Got of of the subscription habit of newspapers when we moved the last time.
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.
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!
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!!
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.
I simple wear a T shirt and workout type pants to bed. I don't need specific clothes for sleeping in.
I stick to the basics with bra and underwear. And I only own three bras.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
We have a treadmill and a few basic weights and bands. In the past we did have a membership and did use the gym!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!!
I was considering changing our retirement vehicle from the Roth IRAs to Traditional to save on taxes. I was definitely procrastinating this decision and the calculations. My husband was agreeable either way. I finally realized it was a bit silly to invest in the Traditional considering we are in the 15% tax bracket. If we were to switch to Traditional we would save that money now, but it isn't that we would invest that savings, we would likely put it towards tuition or other college costs. I finally decided that the growth that would occur on the money invested in Traditional accounts would mean more taxes later. The Roth IRA is actually a really good deal!
I also decided to increase my husbands TSP to 11% of his basic pay. It had been 10% prior. This means an additional $992 saved for retirement. His raise was 2.1% so we put almost half away for later.
I mentioned in my last post that we are expecting nearly a $1500 refund. This means we effectively had too much withheld from my husbands paycheck. That is money we could have had in our hands all year long. I am pretty sure I planned it this way so that money could be put towards tuition this February. I'm not going to need to do that for 2017. I have changed our withholding from 8 to 9. Increasing the withholding number lowers the amount withheld from each paycheck. For us the change amounts to $90.99.
With these changes, my husbands paycheck will actually increase by about $50 a pay period or $100 a month. I think I need to put this extra in a specific budget category. Tuition seems like a good place! Or vacation.
We love our Ooma and still like have the convenience of a landline at our house. Our cell service here has a lot to be desired. I get one or two bars and get more dropped calls then I would prefer! If you are interested the Ooma telo unit is on sale until the end of January and ships free. Our monthly fee of required Federal taxes is $4.83 a month. It does vary by location. I do get a referral credit if you sign up! So thank you in advance.
In other news, I started the transfer of $15K from one bank to the other. The money is going into that 2% CD that I opened yesterday with NFCU. It takes awhile to move...right now the estimated arrival is Monday!
I am in the process of switching some of our regular bills, such as the Ooma taxes, Netflix, cable, and our electric fee to the Southwest credit card. I want to consolidate as much of our spending as possible to one card to rack up the points. I need to try to remember tonight to tell the flute studio that I want to change my automatic payment with them, too.
I spent a little time this morning, get the the exact number than I can claim for tuitions, fees and related course materials. I thought I came up with a little over $4K earlier this month, but my numbers didn't make any sense to me! I redid them and came up with $3,813. I may have counted something twice.
I'm procrastinating working on the withholding and what I want to do about IRA vs Roth investing. Maybe tomorrow.
I opened a new CD at Navy Federal Credit Union this morning. Its been on my list for a week. I only put $75 in it to begin with as that is what was already in my savings account there. We have over $20K at another institution that I would like to transfer and add to the certificate. The maximum amount for this CD (at 2% for 17 months is $50K), so I can add the full amount and it can be added at anytime. So I at least took the first step!
I have only one tax statement thus far. It the 1098-T that universities send out showing qualified expenses they billed and the scholarships and grants provided. My husband's W2 should be available on Saturday. I will need to check the banks to see if they have 1099 INT (interest statement) forms available yet. Our taxes are pretty straight forward most years. I do want to get our return done as soon as possible to get that refund money in our account.
Another reason I want to complete our tax return is to do more planning for 2017. I'm still undecided about changing our retirement from Roth IRAs to Traditional (or TSP). I even went so far as to skip our contributions in January and make them up during the rest of the year, so that I can have more time to figure out what I want to do. This might mean I can use that $916 that I set aside on payday and put that towards tuition. This will mean we each need to contribute $500 a month for 11 months to meet the maximum contribution for the year.
In credit card news, I'm considering cancelling our Chase Freedom account (although I think my longest open account) and Discover. We still just have too many. I rarely take advantage of the 5% categories (although did use Discover at Christmas for all Amazon purchases). I think because of all the airline travel we are planning to do in the next few years, we would be better off putting a majority of our purchases on our Southwest Card, rather than accumulating cash in little bits over several cards. Trust me I know they add up, but I think the airline miles would be more advantageous to us. I'll let you know when I actually make a decision.
We were out of town this morning. Our event ended around noon and we were hungry. The three of us stopped at Subway before we headed home. We spent $20.65. This is where our habits and lack of planning cost us money. I'm not really upset about it. If I were being truly frugal we would have prepared a lunch at home and brought it with us.
I have updated YNAB with payday funds. We had about $111 that we didn't spend during the first half of the month. I put that in the college tuition and housing bucket. After allocating for regular investments, bills and spending categories, I had almost another $1700 from our current paycheck to put towards tuition. I now have $2935 set aside. I need about $4K total, so I'm still short. I think I can get pretty close on my husband's next paycheck. And since we do have cash, I can actually pay it and then repay ourselves once we do have funds.
Tonight for dinner, we are having fried rice with some of that chicken I made earlier in the week. We have some salad to finish as well. I need to make my meal plan for next week so we can get our grocery shopping done tomorrow! I hope to incorporate some more rice and some soups into our plan.
I paid our cable bill with my husbands American Express card last night. This charge still qualifies under the 10% back on satellite and cable bills that expires at the end of January. The maximum credit is $30 and our other bills have qualified us for $28.95 of that $30. So this bill will get $1.05 credit. I plan to use $25 in rewards towards the bill as well, so our final bill this month will be $55.03. If you remember we turned in a cable box and exchanged it for a digital adapter a couple weeks ago, that is saving us $10 a month now. We did get a $5-6 credit for turning it in mid billing cycle.
I'm debating about doing a StepBet. I know I could win. I have a treadmill, and I go on regular walks with my neighbor. The bet is $40. For those of you who have done these in the past, what have some of your payouts looked like? Is it a good return? I may do another 4 week DietBet, if I don't do the StepBet.
In pantry news, I've finished the english muffins, and the clementines. I plan to have a green smoothie for lunch to use up the romaine, frozen fruit and some of the chia seeds.
I redeemed $62 from our USAA Rewards card yesterday. That snowflake of cash is now sitting in our checking account and has been budgeted for the upcoming tuition expense. I was able to put away $740 in January for tuition. So far this month I have saved $532. I'm definitely behind where I would like to be considering I would like to have $4000 by the tuition due date of February 12.
I raided the birthday fund and came up with $150. I think this was actually birthday money my husband and I received for our birthday's from my parents. Yet, tuition is more important than buying ourselves more stuff!
I evaluated the escrow fund we have for auto insurance, renters insurance, and vehicle registration. I was hoping we had excess there, but that was not the case. I guess I'm pretty good at setting it up correctly!
I may be able to find some things to sell, but I'm not very optimistic they will be big money makers or sell fast. But the little amounts do add up, so I will try.
The second half of the month is usually the most fruitful time for saving. We have fewer bills and expenses. In fact, I may delay our retirement investments one month just to make this all work without dipping into savings. I'm also considering using just a little more of her Educational Savings Account. But that has yet to be determined.
I'm not officially doing the Uber Frugal Challenge for the month of January, but I am following along with the Frugalwoods blog posts about it, as well as all of you here participating.
My daughter is still home from college. (Hopefully, we can get her on her plane Sunday morning. Praying the winter storm coming through the southeast doesn't mess with the roads or the airport runway.) We are enjoying a few lunches out and buying some things she needs while she is home, thus not a particularly frugal time.
I decided to look in our cupboards, freezer and refrigerator today and see what we have that I need to make a point to use. It's more than I expected and will help make some meals for next week.
1 frozen banana
3 2/3 cup frozen strawberry servings
2 1 cup frozen blueberries
frozen tomato soup
1 boca burger
1 microwavable meal
1.5 pounds chicken breast
1 whole chicken
2 opened jars of salsa
8oz sour cream
1/2 balsamic dressing
1 c. refried beans
feta cheese (whole package)
1.25 packages turkey bacon
3 English muffins
barley (2 servings)
2 c brown rice
2 c white rice
1 c. lentils
1 can black beans
1 can white kidney beans
1 can chunky soup
1 can tomato soup
1 pkg couscous
1 c arborio rice
12 Wasa crackers
2 cans tuna
spaghetti 1 serving
fettuccini 2 servings
I have more in our cupboards, fridge and freezer than I listed, but these are things that are most perishable or that we haven't been making a point to use.
I'm going to start thawing the chicken this weekend and cook that next week, so I hope to use it with some of the ingredients above. I'm also going to make bone broth from the bones which will give me a chance to use up the celery!
I still expect to shop after the storm on Sunday or Monday, but I'm sure we will be well fed without running out to stock up for the storm! I even have snacks in our hurricane preparation kit I can pull out if needed.
Have you reviewed your food stores recently? Did you find much?
I've been crunching numbers to prepare for 2017 taxes. Yes, now at the beginning of the year. Part of the reason is to not have a big refund if possible. I want the money in my pocket now!
One site I use to calculate how different withholding amounts affect net pay is PayCheckCity.Pick salary or hourly as appropriate.
And the IRS calculator may be helpful also to figure how much you should be claiming for withholding in the first place. It can be found here.
Just sharing in hopes that it helps someone. I've always done our taxes (well a couple years early in our marriage my father in law did them, but he passed away in 2002). I found it helpful to understand how they work. The more you know, the less scary it is.
We reached a retirement milestone today. The total of all of our retirement accounts combined equal $400,134.76. I was hoping for this by the end of 2016, but four days after works just fine for me!
I can't wait to see $450,000 next which I expect could easily be this year. Getting closer to half a million. It does add up fast after that first $100K. I checked and we reached that milestone back in November 2009.
I'm a bit undecided on our financial goals this year. I know we will continue to invest for retirement. I'm looking into how and if I want to adjust anything. Part of this includes running through our taxes. The free online tax software I used last year for the military won't be available until Monday, January 16th.
I will also continue our youngest daughter's college savings. We started investing earlier for her, so she has a bit more accumulated. She turns 17 in 2017 so I will no longer get the child tax credit for her. Another part of my planning.
I want to continue to avoid student loans for my daughter in college. The bill in February will be the biggest outlay this year. I'm using some of her Educational Savings Account. The remainder, over $5K, will come from our bank account. We have savings, so will use that, but I'm trying to get most of it from current income before it is due. Right now I only have a little over $1K accumulated. I think I can get close to another $2K by the end of January. I also will put any tax refund towards the bill. I just may not have that in time to make the payment on February 12.
I was thinking this would be the year we would get a family vacation in, but it is starting to look like my husband will be at some out of town classes this summer. I do think we plan to visit colleges in the spring, and that will involve airfare and a hotel night or two. As soon as I save for tuition, I will save and pay for airfare. Honestly, I expect airfare for daughter's spring break in March and then again to come home in May. That will add up!
Once we are to summer, I may be looking at some tuition for my daughter to take a couple online courses. I can use her ESA funds for these or part of these. Once we get to Fall we are finally going to start using the Post 911 GI Bill benefits. The tuition and fees are covered in full. There is also payment for books, $500 a semester, and housing ($1062/mo, prorated). The housing payment doesn't cover our entire costs, we will likely need to pay about $1500 out of pocket. This is something I can easily pay from current cash flow at the time.
So I'm thinking about what we need to accomplish, I just don't have it nailed down specifically yet. I will get there though!
Our retirement investing is on auto pilot. My husband saves 10% of his base pay (this is pay that does not include our housing allowance). We also each max out our Roth IRAs for a total of $11,000 a year. Our total retirement investment for 2016 was $20,032.04.
The total balance in our retirement accounts at the end of 2015 was $330,739.99. We ended 2016 with a total balance of $392,814.02. A difference of $62,074.03. More than two thirds of that increase was growth!
I wish the market had done well enough for us to see $400K. We were really close at one point, but the market fluctuates. We will get there!
Our retirement savings rate is 17.45% of our income. I often bump this up every year by 1%. I'm pretty sure I will do it again this year, too. I'm also contemplating changing from Roth IRAs to Traditional. We are in the 15% tax bracket so the savings would be $1650 in taxes. I guess I figure this is money we could put toward college expenses that are happening now. I have a little over two weeks to decide (the auto investment happens around the 18th of the month for our Roth IRAs).
Are you increasing your retirement savings in 2017?
Every month, I always want more interest on our money. This month is no exception. However, I feel blessed that our money is earning us money without ANY effort on our part. Passive income, love it!!
Our December total interest is $78.12.
My wish for 2017 is more interest than 2016!
Our cat Riley has cancer. I was actually told this on Saturday, but because of the veterinarian's thick accent, I didn't hear that part. We spoke to him again today in person to get it all cleared up. She is drinking and using the litter box. Her desire to eat is very low. And unfortunately she is vomiting some of it up once a day. I think I mentioned before that she weighs less than she did three months ago.
Our vet costs this month have amounted to $829. We aren't going to do much more for her. She is 9. We will keep her comfortable, until it's time. She still has some energy to play a bit, and gets up to change where she sleeps and use the litter box.
We are traveling for a few days coming up. I'm attempting to find boarding, but expect my neighbor may end up helping instead. She is actually willing to deal with an ill cat! I feel blessed.
In other news...we finally exchanged our more expensive cable box for a digital adapter. This saves us $10 a month, and provided a $6 credit on our next bill. I think the smaller adapters use less energy too, so we might see a little savings.
And finally, today we went shopping. So unlike me the day after Christmas! My younger daughter needed jeans, a pair of khaki pants and pajama pants. It had been two years since she had purchased some of these things so it was time. We were able to get everything in two stops. I spent $79 at Kohl's and $20 at Target for 7 items.
I may not check in here until around the new year. I hope everyone enjoys the rest of 2016.
I'm calling it a year with the credit card rewards. I didn't track well at all this year. My snowflake spreadsheet ended in March, so I had to go looking through all of our credit card accounts.
The final (slightly estimated tally) is $2,595!
The best new reward was from Marriott (we earned $87K points by opening their Rewards card and spending $3K). Those are worth about $612. We have not redeemed all of them yet. In fact, we may have only redeemed one or two nights so far for 25K points. I noticed we also earned another 10K points, so a total of 97K points for the year. This card does have an annual fee. That fee covers one free night the following year.
Southwest Rewards. We earned just over 19K miles. With miles from the previous year, we were able to redeem miles for my daughter's flight home this month. That ticket would have cost me $600 out of pocket. I also upgraded from the Plus card to the Premier card and received a $25 statement credit. Total $625.
The next best reward was for another card we opened. The American Express Premier Gold card. We earned 50K points after spending just $1000. Those 50K+ points earned us over $500 in gift cards. We have already cancelled this card as it had a large annual fee.
Here is the breakdown of other cards we have and the rewards we have earned on them. I do a lot of switching around thus, the small amounts on some of them.
American Express Blue Everyday (CCF) $235
American Express Blue Everyday (DH) $199
US Bank $140 (a 5% saving off our cell phone bills)
Citi ThankYou Preferred $58 (cancelled this card)
Chase Freedom $40.60
Target $40 (from 5% savings)
I can't complain. That is decent savings! And we paid zero interest on our cards by paying balances in full each month!
The stock market has been up in the last couple weeks. I think it helps the election is over. The S&P is now up 8.63% for the year.
Our retirement accounts are up over $50K for the year. That does include the cash we invested. The actual amount is $386,448. I'd love to see $400K, but I think that may be pushing it considering we only have another $1600 to invest before year end. I will watch to see how it plays out.
I saw a billboard at the airport this weekend that said "No one ever wishes they waited to start investing for retirement." That may not be an exact quote, but you get the idea. It is NEVER to late to start saving for retirement. Something saved will be better than nothing saved. I think the same thing is true for college savings.
We save $50 a month towards Christmas spending. Before November I had $500 already set aside. I'm about to add another $50 on payday tomorrow.
I've already started buying gifts! So far that spending is about $140. I expect I will be done buying gifts before I fund the Christmas account for December. I'm going to try to keep the spending to $550 just for this reason.
I think in years past I used found money, or snowflakes to help fund Christmas. I probably blogged about it here on the blog. I'm still getting some snowflakes but I just put them in our general savings account. They end up being applied to college expenses for the most part.
Some recent snowflakes:
$5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
$5.72 from Ebates
$3 from Pinecone
$22 eBay sale
$25 flute lesson refund (hurricane related)
I think there may be some other snowflakes I could list, but they are not coming to mind right now. I haven't been as good at tracking them this year!
How do you save for Christmas?
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