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Spring 2018 College Bill

January 17th, 2018 at 08:34 am

We have a bill that will be sent out in the next week for our University expenses. The final amount, including books that we were charged is $4,383.69. All of that is housing for the second semester. And we will get reimbursed from the VA over the next few months for just under that amount. Specifically we will receive $4,336.80 to cover housing.

I currently have $5,854 set aside in our college category in our checking account. So there will be no issue paying the bill when it is due in early February. After the bill is paid that will leave $1,470. I expect to need at least $3,700 to cover two online classes this summer. The bill will be due early June. My goal is to pay those out of pocket, and I have been setting aside $410 per month to make that happen. It does appear we are on track!

I increased our younger daughter's Educational Savings amount to $333.33 from $166.66. The maximum amount you can contribute each year is $2000. She turns 18 in July. At that time you can no longer contribute to the account. I increased it in order to get the full amount funded by her birthday.

You add those two amounts up ($410 +333.33) and we are setting aside $743 each month for college expenses. That is what saving and cash flowing look like. And if we had car payments like so many American's it would be even more difficult to make this happen. So happy my 2007 Honda Odyssey with 130K miles still looks and runs great!

Whoops! & College Tax Credits

January 13th, 2018 at 06:32 am

I just realized this morning that we had a CD mature at the end of December. The money was moved to our savings account, but I forgot to move it to a new CD that I had opened earlier in December. At least not too much time passed. The transfer of $10,375 is now complete and earning 2% interest until sometime in early 2019.

My daughter sent me the 1098T for 2017. This form shows how much in qualified tuition expenses we paid and how many scholarship and grant dollars were applied to her account. The difference between the two numbers is how much we paid out of pocket for tuition. That amount can be applied for the American Opportunity Tax credit. In our case the amount is over the maximum for 2017, so we can claim the full $4,000 in tuition paid result in a $2,500 benefit to us. This won't result in a refund for us though as I already figured it into our withholding for the year...we've been getting the benefit all year long!

In 2018 we have the potential for claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit for two college students. Right now I expect we will claim whatever we pay in summer tuition for our older daughter. Her tuition for 2018 will likely all be paid by the Post 911 GI Bill so no other tuition to claim. And our younger daughter's tuition is still yet to be determined but at this point I don't expect it to pay out anything near $4,000 for tuition. It's going to get more interesting that is for sure!

Unexpected Snowflake

January 12th, 2018 at 04:52 pm

I received a check in the mail from my claim with Blue Buffalo. Amount of the check is $114.09. It could have been up to $200, but they had lots of claimants. I'm happy either way!

Yesterday, I redeemed Swagbucks for $50 cash through PayPal. I received that money in my PayPal account.

I will add this extra money to our Big Goal!

It's been a good money day!

Uber Frugal Month Challenge: Eating All The Food

January 8th, 2018 at 06:16 am

Yesterday before I made our grocery list and meal plan I wrote down everything we have in our pantry, fridge and freezer. It was actually quite a bit of stuff! I would list it all but it really is too much.

I then got quite overwhelmed (yes, a few tears) trying to make my meal list. I was trying to balance what we need to use up with what my husband and I would prefer to eat on our diet and with my daughter's food preferences. I was also overwhelmed with the amount of leftovers that I feel are only mine to take care of. My husband and daughter rarely eat them. Although without saying anything my husband did eat a leftover stuffed pepper and a chicken sausage dog after grocery shopping. Hooray!

I finally decided my overwhelm was trying to get it perfect. I let that perfection go. I know there may still be some food waste. But we will do our best.

We spent $88.42 on food for the week yesterday. Had to go to two stores as the commissary was out of salad greens! I'm sure a weather issue getting produce to the store.

Last night we used up five hard taco shells, a tomato and some lettuce. We used up half a can of refried beans. I froze the rest.

This morning for breakfast, I ate the last stuffed pepper with two eggs. For lunch, I will likely eat the chicken sausage dog and make a salad. I have romaine, a cucumber, fresh broccoli some sliced mushrooms and diced tomatoes to use. For dinner we will have fried rice (using veggies from the freezer and the last of the rice) and tilapia that I bought at the store. My husband and I are increasing our protein during our diet.

I'm hoping to use up more things as the week goes on, so will try to remember to share. I expect maybe next week grocery planning will be easier with less things in the pantry, fridge and freezer to use. At least I will have a little more time to think about it than I did on Sunday.

Are you eating all the food? Are you making sure to buy only what you will eat?

2017 Big Savings Goal Total

December 31st, 2017 at 04:09 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uber Frugal Month: What Will You Do with The Savings

December 31st, 2017 at 07:03 am

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

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

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

Vacation fund
College funding
Big Goal

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

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

December 2017 Interest

December 31st, 2017 at 06:21 am

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

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

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

Ended the Year with $500K

December 29th, 2017 at 06:49 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

How did you do with your retirement savings?

All Over The Place

December 27th, 2017 at 07:32 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for sticking with me on all my thoughts! Smile

More Interest and Cash Back

December 21st, 2017 at 05:32 am

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

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

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

Item Sold On eBay

December 19th, 2017 at 02:22 pm

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

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

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

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

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

Half A Million

December 18th, 2017 at 05:48 pm

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

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

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

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



Getting Close

December 15th, 2017 at 06:43 pm

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

half a million get ready!!

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

Invest. You won't regret it!

2017 Swagbucks Earnings

December 15th, 2017 at 09:37 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

Found $140.54

December 13th, 2017 at 11:08 am

I was balancing our checkbook on YNAB today and found a transaction that should have been recorded on our credit card. Turns out it was already recorded there too! So a double recording means that transaction can be deleted. That put $140.54 back into our budget.

I should probably put it towards the Big Goal, right?

It's tempting to throw it into a few other pots for some other short term savings goals. We are probably going to buy our youngest daughter a laptop (for college) here in the next month, if I can pull the cash together.

Heck, I will put it towards the Big Goal...I can always pull it out if needed.

Netflix Increasing & Be Kind

December 5th, 2017 at 01:27 pm

I had an email this morning that our Netflix subscription amount is changing from $11.99 per month to $13.99 a month. Sounds like their will be more programs and the ability to download for later watching as benefits. Never a fan of price increases, but we will stick with Netflix for now.

Purchased my daughter some vitamins on Amazon today. I used the Discover cash back for a credit of $2.38. Final cost was $12.36. I think I will send that cash back amount to our Big Goal. I should add in the coupon savings from Sunday, too.

I had to take a mental health break today. I had some stress and anxiety pop up on me this morning. I'm feeling better already. To help, I called my mom, went for a two mile walk, ate a good lunch, and then took an epson salt bath. Later I added some relaxing oils to my diffuser while I listed to some very nice relaxing YouTube music. I also got up and got busy in the kitchen making some muffins and hummus (not to eat together!).

I share because this time of year can be stressful for various reasons. It is okay to take a time out and take care of ourselves. And it doesn't have to cost anything! And be kind to those you meet as you don't know what their current struggles may be.

Coupon & Rebate Savings

December 3rd, 2017 at 01:14 pm

I took advantage of the Target gift card deal. 10% off online and another 5% cash back using my Discover card. I bought the maximum of $300. I checked and in the last year I have spent around $700 at Target. These gift cards will get used.

At the commissary today I redeem a physical coupon I found in the store for $0.50. I also used their rewards card to get another $2.40 off our bill. When I came home I redeemed rebates worth $2.75. Savings from those sources was $5.65. And theoretically, I'm saving 30% shopping at the commissary in the first place.

November Interest Earned

December 1st, 2017 at 08:48 am

I totaled up the amount of interest earned on a money market account, a savings account and three CDs for the month of November. The amount earned was $84.77.

One account earns 1.15%
One CD matures at the end of the year and is earning 3%.
Two others are 2% and mature in April and June 2018.

If you hear of good CD rates at the end of the month, I'd will be interested to hear! Although, I'm just now remembering I may be able to roll that money in the 3% CD into one of the other ones. I will check that.

The Cost of Books

November 30th, 2017 at 07:04 am

My daughters wanted a series of books. There are 12 in the series. I was told I could skip purchase book two as it is a combination of two other books my youngest daughter already owns.

Each book retails for $20. Thus this expense could have cost me $220!! No way was I going to pay that much out of pocket.

I figured if I could at least pay half of retail I would be doing good. I started purchasing earlier this fall. Two initial purchases came from buying used on eBay. One book was $12.40 with shipping and another was $11.13.

I mentioned that I sold some things back to a used book store and was able to use a $13+ credit towards a new book they had listed at the $20 retail price. I paid $7.70 out of pocket for that one.

The deals get better because I found three ex-library versions on eBay from one seller for $21.40. Average about $7 each.

And I made two separate purchase on eBay using Amazon gift cards I earned from Swagbucks over the last couple months. The book prices offered on Amazon varied from $13.59 to $17.36. One purchase was completely covered by gift cards and the other cost me $2.30 out of pocket.

In the end new books that could have cost me $220 new plus tax, were just $54.93 out of pocket. An average of $4.99 a book. A savings of 75%!

No worries that my girls will be offended by used books. They are fans of the library and know that book costs add up. And the used ones that did arrive are in very good shape! The three ex library books do have tags and tape on the side but again in very good shape! They will be very pleased, and hopefully surprised that I found all of the ones requested.

I do sort of wish I started earning the Swagbucks a little earlier so I could have reduced the out of pocket cost, but it is what it is! Still a great deal.

No Spend Wednesday!

November 29th, 2017 at 04:01 pm

No spending here at our house today. I didn't go anywhere, except a walk around the neighborhood where I ran into a friend. We walked and talked while enjoying the nearly 70 degree weather. I'd much rather be chatting with a friend then out shopping!

The pay period is winding down. I did pull $50 that I put into savings as it looked like I didn't budget quite enough for our expenses. My daughter suddenly needed water filters (yes, that is a need), and we purchased a pair of workout pants for my husband. I thought the pants were going to be a present for Christmas, but no he decided to wear them before I could wrap them! So those came out of our current budget rather than the Christmas budget. I still have $18 of the $50 in our account, so may be able to move some of that money back.

I wrapped the gifts that arrived in the mail yesterday. I can't tell you the relief I have that my November shopping and preparing have paid off. I will get nearly all of December to enjoy the holiday season. No stress. The money spent will not be on credit cards held over until January like so many. In fact, the cards I did use (and never pay interest on) will be paid before Christmas!

I'm starting to wonder if December will be a low spend month? That seems like the rarest of possibilities, but I sure do like the idea!

Looking For Snowflakes

November 25th, 2017 at 05:30 am

I'm looking for snowflakes! The money kind that I can add towards our Big Goal.

I have two items on eBay that I wish would sell. I must need to lower the prices. One could be the wrong time of year.

I came up with four items we have that we don't use that I could sell. Our china sugar bowl. An exercise foam roller (used twice so nearly new). Two very large black table cloths. And a Wii U game that I don't think my daughter will play again (I do need to ask). Make that five items...I could list a couple scrapbook tools.

Did you know that some old Hallmark ornaments sell? I have some that would fetch at least $5 each, but I'm not sure I want to sell them, but I will consider it. I'm sure I wouldn't miss one or two.

Will these add up to big money? No not by themselves, but the small amounts add up together to make hundreds of dollars. The more I can find the better for the goal!

$56 Extra Income & More

November 16th, 2017 at 06:36 am

I mentioned a few days ago that my neighbor asked me to make 6 more key fobs. A few days later, she asked to add one more on. I was quick to get the work done and yesterday she paid me $56 for the work. This goes towards the Big Goal.

In my planning November planning for Christmas, I'm making a point to stock up on things around the home. When we were at the commissary, I bought dish soap, laundry detergent, parchment paper, ziplock bags, vitamins, toothpaste and bar soap. I want to be stocked up through the end of the year, so that the only shopping I need to do in December is for food. The more I can stay out of the stores in December the easier it is to keep to the Christmas budget. I did notice I need coffee filters and toilet bowl cleaner, so I will pick those up this week.

Yesterday was pay day. All credit cards were paid off in full. I put $42 in the birthday category of our budget, $50 in Christmas, $940 in college and tuition (normal amount is about $410), and $272 for insurances and auto tags. There was money added to our car maintenance fund. It was negative after a having some recent maintenance done. Now it's back to zero. There was about $200 left, and I just dropped it into the emergency fund category for now. May need it elsewhere later in the month, but we will try without.

I have three items on eBay that I'd like to see sell soon. May need to drop the prices a bit, but a little extra cash would be nice.

Just Under $20K to Go

November 4th, 2017 at 07:50 am

Wow! The stock market is on fire. Our retirement accounts totaled just over $480K yesterday. We are getting closer to $500K...just under $20K to go. Of course, I know there could be a correction at some point, but I'd love it if the accounts could rise to $500K by the end of the year. Another 4% or so. We started the year with balances totaling $392K...so there has been very nice progress!

I tallied up our interest earned in October. We earned $95.28. Can't complain about more money!

A Sale and A Credit

October 25th, 2017 at 04:42 pm

I made an eBay sale today. It was an item I have been trying to sell for several months. Netted just $6, but I'll take it. I do have four new items to list soon.

I requested to trade in my old cell phone (well, really my daughter's old one) with Verizon. I was offered just $20 as a credit, which is perfectly fine. We got 3.5 years use out of it. Verizon is sending a box for me to mail it in.

I also checked our account and noticed my husband received $48 for per diem on a one day trip. I think he spent less than $20, so we netted $28 at least. I'm counting the full amount towards the Big Goal.

We are just two months until Christmas. Time to start saving and making a budget now. In fact, I've learned November is the best time to shop and prepare for the holiday. The more you get done before December the more enjoyable it can be.

$80 Side Hustle

October 12th, 2017 at 05:09 pm

I had a mini job fall right into my lap. My neighbor asked me to sew a fabric key fob/lanyard, like the one I had given her. She wanted to give them as teacher gifts this Christmas.

I figured she just needed one or two! No, she requested ten. And I charged her $8 each. They don't take much fabric, but I did have to go buy more than I had on hand. And I definitely wanted to make it worth my time.

This was about a month ago that she requested them. I got right on it and she paid me this week! I could get used to this kind of side hustle.

I've added the money to the Big Goal!

100 Days Until Christmas!

September 16th, 2017 at 10:50 am

Christmas is just 100 days away!

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

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

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

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

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

Snowflakes Here and There

September 15th, 2017 at 12:26 pm

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

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

Those snowflakes add up to $67.47!

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

I've always said that small amounts add up!

Started Christmas Shopping & More

September 7th, 2017 at 07:14 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VA Tuition Payment

August 29th, 2017 at 01:29 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can We Talk About Emergency Funds?

August 25th, 2017 at 07:43 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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