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Cutting Out Lessons

August 21st, 2017 at 11:08 pm

We have decided to cut out flute lessons from our budget temporarily. While the decision effects the budget, it was not cut to influence the budget. We have figured out that a new flute teacher is not available on the days my daughter is available, which is only three days a week. The other four days a week all involve band practice, games or competitions. This makes her very busy this fall along with taking three AP classes (which at her school are all completed in one semester). We now have $25 a week to put back in the budget. We expect to start back up as early as December or as late as February depending on how the school classes seem to be going.

I went to the grocery store today and was able to purchase groceries for $59 for the week for my daughter and I. That seems super cheap. The meals are simple and I did find several of the things on my list on sale.

My older daughter (in college) started classes today. She already had to buy more things at the book store. A non graphing calculator to use on Calculus tests. She has a graphing one, but they are not allowed. And because she is in an 80 person class, she rented a Clicker. A Clicker is way for the professor to ask multiple choice questions and have the students respond on their Clicker and then be able to gauge how the class is doing. At least that is my understanding. As a music/graphing design major we don't expect her to be in any other classes requiring a clicker, thus the rental made the best economical sense.

I did get to see the eclipse. We are in an area where it was 96% covered. And it did not get completely dark. It was definitely a different kind of lighting and I did hear crickets chirping (apparently they think it's night). We had eclipse glasses that my mom sent. I invited two neighbors and their kids over to view using the glasses. The kids had made their own cereal box viewers, which kind of worked. I liked viewing through the glasses much better. I feel grateful to have experienced it.

Did you see the eclipse where you live?

Budget Discussion Part One

August 20th, 2017 at 01:23 pm

My husband and I did a review of our budget that we track on YNAB yesterday. This really was a first step of our discussion and making new plans. For the most part we are on the same page, we both admitted areas we probably overspend. We discussed some larger ticket items we need to save for. We also talked about retirement and whether to keep saving at the same rate, about 18%, or lower it. We decided to keep it the same for now. We agreed to come back to the budget on September 1 when my husband is paid again and tweak some things. Around this same time we expect to be getting a per diem check for his summer school travels. We will need to make a solid plan on where that money goes.

We did go out to eat for lunch yesterday. I had a $30 gift card. Our bill was just under $20, so we still have more money to use there another time.

Other spending yesterday came to about $30, which seems very low for a weekend. Today will be grocery shopping for the week.

My mom sent me two pairs of eclipse glasses in the mail that she received for free. I appreciate her mailing them because I was having trouble finding any locally. I plan to invite my two neighbors with children over to share our viewing glasses.

Pays to Shop Around

August 19th, 2017 at 02:41 pm

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

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

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


Paribus & Snowflakes

August 15th, 2017 at 06:46 pm

I'm trying out a new app that tracks online purchases for better prices after you make a purchase. They will refund the difference to you if they find a lower price. I thought I'd try it for a short time and see the results. I'm not usually one to give apps access to my email account, but I'm going to see how it works out and judge after that. Seems like a good way to possibly accumulate some snowflakes! The app/website is called Paribus. That link is a referral link, if you are interested in trying it.

I sold some books on eBay that my daughter decided to sell earlier this summer. Net is about $9.50. I redeemed a $1.25 Ibotta rebate for soap I purchased on Sunday, as well as $0.25 for canned cat food. And I now have enough Swagbucks to redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card. I'm using my discount for the month, so I only need to use 2200 SB. Now to accumulate more in the next two weeks so I can get another one! And finally I returned my neighbor's carpet cleaner and attempted to give her $10 to purchase more cleanser, but she refused. So I now have $10 back in my pocket! All of these snowflakes add up!

I did a small amount of spending today. I mailed a package (why does it cost so much) for $10.55 to my daughter. A few things arrived in the mail after she left and she also left a couple small items. I did include a Dunkin Donuts gift card I bought her at a discount.

The other spending was for cream cheese, mailing tape and three packages of loose leaf paper. My cost $6.67.

As a follow up to my post yesterday. I've decided to wait on the Diet Bet. I am however going to attempt losing 4% on my own in the next four weeks without the Diet Bet motivation. That would be free! I weighed in today, with my final weigh in planned for September 13.

Must Be No Spend

August 14th, 2017 at 07:44 pm

Today WILL be a no spend day. It has to be, we are out of cash, well cash that was set aside to spend for the first half of the month. I told that to my husband, too. I hope he listened!!

I earned another $3 from Pinecone. I'm transferring it to my PayPal account today. That is a snowflake that I will put towards the Big Goal.

On Saturday I remembered to move money to our new 5 month CD, paying 3% so that it was maxed out for earnings. The money I moved was from another 3% CD that had matured.

I'm looking forwarding to budgeting tomorrow's paycheck, primarily so I can fund some expenses I see coming up soon. Once my husband is back in town we are going to sit down and look at YNAB together and get a plan for goals for the next year. He does great at inputting his receipts, which is very helpful, but we haven't had a budget meeting in at least a year! Not really the best way to be working together. So we will try again.

I am back to watching my calories again because well weight gain this summer despite a lot of walking outside. I've noticed I don't drink enough water so that is very important for me to be tracking as well. I'm even considering a Diet Bet, but haven't decided yet. I might see how I'm doing in a week and decide then.

Ebay Sale & Listings

August 12th, 2017 at 02:01 am

I made a quick eBay sale yesterday. I posted three coupons to a major retailer...the type you find in every mall in America. I sold them for $4.99, which net me $3.50 after the fees and a postage stamp. Easy money!

Today, I also listed a new item that my daughter found while dusting her room. I may only net a couple dollars, but hey, easy to ship from my mailbox, so worth a try. I also relisted a couple items. I had tried Buy It Now options in the past. This time I went the auction route with a Buy It Now option included.

I found two American Eagle Silver coins (one ounce) in my desk. My husband and I each received one for our graduation years (1991 and 1989). Someone wrote next to mine that the current value was $7. I know it is worth much more than that today, closer to $19 or $20. It is one of those things I think of selling occasionally, as we don't have much sentimental attachment to them. But then again, could be worth more later, and don't take up much space.

Today was a no spend day for me. I believe my husband bought some alcohol to have this weekend (he is still away at school). And he also bought donuts for his class this morning. There had been some exercise where money was given out. (?) In the end they could keep it. They pooled it together and gave to my husband to buy donuts (it was his suggestion). The donuts were more than the cash, so another $10 out of our pocket was spent.

What Can You Give Up?

August 8th, 2017 at 03:49 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What can you give up to meet your goals?

Packed My Lunch & More

August 8th, 2017 at 12:32 am

My daughter flew back to her college town today. This momma is going to miss her! We have her fly out of a larger airport about 1.5 hours from our home to get better ticket prices with Southwest.

I packed my lunch because I knew we would be away from home over the lunch hour. I had already promised my daughter to buy her Jersey Mike's before we arrived at the airport. My other daughter asked if she should pack a lunch since she didn't want Jersey Mike's. I caved and offered to get her Subway. I spent $18.59 buying them lunch. No regrets, but we are now on no eating out freeze! At least that is my plan.

My only other expense was $4 for parking at the airport. Oh, I guess, I will eventually get a bill for using the toll road. I think that is around $8 for a round trip. And yes, there was fuel for the van, which I had filled up the day before. I only used half a tank, so maybe $20 in fuel. All those costs were still far less than buying an airline ticket to fly from the town we live in.

My husband mentioned that the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie is coming out on Blu Ray soon. From what I can tell online it's release date is August 22. I'm starting to get irritated at this habit of seeing the movie in the theatre and then buying the movie when it comes out, which yes we do watch a couple times.I know this particular movie all four of us went to see. I know we went to a matinee. I'm pretty sure we also bought popcorn and a drink. It would be far less expensive to wait until the movies come out on video. I guess it is something we need to discuss for future movies. It's a tough one because it is something they enjoy together. Dad and daughter bonding, ya know!? Again, just something we need to discuss.

Our $5 Entertainment & More Spending

August 6th, 2017 at 12:42 pm

I mentioned this is the last weekend before our college daughter returns to the university. On Friday evening, we played the Wii U as a family, games of Mario Kart, bowling, tennis and baseball. All free, and good for some laughs. While we were playing I pointed out their doll house in the corner and asked if it was time to let it go. Which prompted my older daughter to mention that she always wished we had purchased lighting for it. It is wired for it. So we decided to make a trip on Saturday to Hobby Lobby to purchase one doll house lamp. I used the 40% off coupon and paid $5.13. You should have seen them after it came on last night! So excited to see it light up the room!! And now they think they want to see it with more lights. Not sure if that is worth it or not, but it has been a project of many years in the making, so it is interesting to see it come together. Just not sure how much use it will ever get considering they are age 20 and 17!!

I purchased my sister, a kindergarten teacher, some gifts for her classroom. Tissues, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer (which the kids call hanitizer). I don't live near her, so I stocked up at Walmart.com and took advantage of free shipping after spending $35. Total after tax was $37.80. I did add two packages of ramen noodles just to reach the $35 threshold. Smile

I also purchased some gift cards at Raise.com yesterday. I bought a $10 Starbucks gift card for $9.88. Yep, not a big discount, but I wanted to buy one for my sister, so she can get herself a treat or two during the beginning days of the school year. I also bought a Dunkin Donuts gift card for my daughter to treat herself at school. It is worth $5, and I paid $4.95. Again not a big savings. But both cards were delivered within minutes to my email address for printing. The final gift card I purchased were for Chili's restaurant because that is where we were going to dinner! I purchased $50 worth for $41.56. We proceeded to spend $10.95 beyond our $50 gift cards and my husband tipped $12. The savings was $8.44. I'll take it.

I did use our Southwest credit card so will get 1% back in miles. And I used a savings portal I'm a member of to get another 1-2% back (it varied by retailer). I need to make a point to use gift cards more often and get these savings!

Do you use discounted gift cards to increase your savings?

Eat it All Progress & Spending

August 4th, 2017 at 04:40 pm

I continue to focus on eating all the food. I really hope I'm not gaining weight in the process.I mean I did make cookies the other day just to use up butter!! Smile

This morning I used up the last of the frozen strawberries, half a cup of cantaloupe, 1/3 cucumber, and lettuce that was getting close to turning. I made a green smoothie with it. I did add some fresher greens, spinach and butter lettuce, as well. Yummy! An odd mix I know, but the greens were dominate, so the fruit wasn't very prevalent from a taste standpoint.

I just made my first batch of hummus in my blender. I really need a small food processor, but the blender did work. I skipped the fresh garlic this time and used garlic powder. Tastes yummy! I will eat some of the hummus with carrots and celery for lunch.

The next item I see that needs to be used is about 1/2 a cup of milk. I may make some muffins. I just saw a recipe for doughnut muffins...which sound really tasty!

In other news, there has been a little spending in the last couple of days. I took my daughter out for lunch after she passed her driver's test! I also bought her a snack and a used book for reading on the plane ride back to school next week. This morning I picked up contact cleaner and five new workout shirts (3 for DH, and 2 for me). One of my tops was on clearance for $3! We have a couple each that needed to be replaced. I did put money in the budget for those this pay period.

I need to stop by the store to cover a couple meals this weekend while my husband is home for a visit. I have quite a few tomatoes to use up, so I think bruschetta could be tasty! We are going out for lunch or dinner as a family one last time before our daughter goes back to college. After the weekend it will just be me and my younger daughter at home, and I expect meals will be super easy and hopefully inexpensive.

Cooler Weather, Food & Amazon

August 2nd, 2017 at 11:16 am

We have been having cooler weather and much, much lower humidity here the last few days. I can tell our air conditioners are running far less. Maybe this will translate into a lower bill next month. This month was $240, which was $20 more than the month before. I really dislike such large bills like this, but this area and house seem to demand it.

I used up the hoisin sauce last night when I stir fried some vegetables for dinner. I used up the feta cheese and kalamata olives in a quinoa salad I made for lunch. Those last two items were not in my original July list. Here is what is still left from my July list:

1 c. brown rice
2-3 c. white rice
1 can tuna
1/2 bottle of Herb & Garlic marinade
1/2 bottle of barbecue sauce
nearly full jar of tahini

I'm going to toss the marinade. We are eating less meat right now with my husband away. And I really don't like the ingredients in it. Next up to use is the tahini. I have chickpeas, lemons, (need garlic), and olive oil to make humus!

Our Amazon Prime membership just renewed. I did consider stopping it, but my husband does use the free music and we do buy things online from them. I am using my Swagbucks to earn Amazon gift cards, so I would like the 2 day shipping! In the end I knew we were using it, just a good idea to be sure you are before a $99 charge renews right? Oh, and I often take advantage of their Kindle First books each month.

Uber Frugal Month and Spending

July 22nd, 2017 at 02:26 pm

I finally feel caught up after having guests for nine days. The home is cleaner, I paid bills, I took time for myself to relax as well as spent time with a friend.

I have not made any new progress with my list of items to use up. I estimate I used up half the list. But with guests the menu changed and more food was purchased that did not necessarily correspond with what needs to be used up. I probably should make a new list of food to focus on using before the month ends. I did my final grocery shop for the month yesterday. The grocery portion was $106.91. That should cover meals for three of us the rest of the month. My husband will be home next weekend, and he will also eat a few meals with us. In fact, I may give a few food items to him to specifically eat up!

And despite UFM, I've done some recent spending. We were on our very last three rolls of toilet paper (for three bathrooms), so I was motivated to stock up. I ended up buying four packages of 36 count Scott toilet paper for $23.99 each from Boxed.com.

I became aware that Boxed was offering American Express cardholders a $25 credit when spending $75 or more. I did two transactions, one was $75, the other $80, and received $50 in credits. I purchased four packages of 36 count toilet paper, two packages of 96 count menstrual pads, two packages of 5 count Degree deodorant, a large jar of pasta sauce and a three count package of 3 subject notebooks. All for $105.

Other spending last two days included cat litter, wet cat food, a rental textbook for the fall semester, and one way airline ticket. Not all frugal, but needed.

My best frugal action yesterday was line drying my clothing, and drinking water all day. Today, I will drink water, eat leftovers from last nights dinner, and rent a Redbox movie with a free credit I have.

How is your Uber Frugal Month going? Mine has been challenging, but I'm enjoying being focused on using up food and avoiding waste.

Less Frugal Saturday

July 9th, 2017 at 12:02 pm

Saturday was less frugal because three of us went to see a matinee showing of Spiderman: Homecoming. Amount spent $17.50. It was an 11:30am showing. I made a point to say I didn't want us spending any money on food and drinks, so we ate lunch at home before leaving. I know that saved us about $10-11.

My husband used a $10 gift card to get a wash for my van. We did purchase the gift card earlier in the year, as a fundraiser for our daughter's school. But at least no money out of pocket this weekend. We really need to be washing our vehicles at home, something to discuss with my husband. Smile Do you wash your cars at home?

We had homemade pizza for dinner. I used up the turkey bacon, the remaining tomato sauce in the fridge, and the pepperoni. We did buy mozzarella cheese and more turkey crumbles. I thought I would be using the turkey crumbles up on the pizza, but my husband had used those up for breakfast and wanted more for the pizza. He also bought a 24 oz package of mozzarella when one 8 oz package would have worked, and decided we needed shredded parmesan cheese as well. So a little overspending on food, but it will all get eaten at some point. I may need to make lasagna or something to use up the cheese.

Did I mention I was going to make chia pudding? I made a double batch with the last of the almond milk. It makes for a great healthy sweet snack.

Other spending: my husband's haircut, gas for my van (don't think it needed it quite yet, but he filled it), and alcohol. I've definitely cut back on the alcohol, we are both not drinking while we are apart. But it seems to be the go to on the weekends we are together. I was able to limit the amount I had, so progress for me!

The best part of the day was listening to our youngest daughter sharing the pictures she took on her Europe trip! That was a couple of hours of very enjoyable entertainment.

My parents arrive on Tuesday, so I think we can get through today with out shopping and I will go tomorrow to stock up for while they are here. I hope to incorporate some of the items I need to use up into the meals we have. I also need to be mindful of what I buy; making sure to buy ingredients that won't get pushed to the back of the pantry.

This morning I'm eating my steel cut oats for breakfast, with some of the frozen strawberries. For lunch I will likely have a sandwich with watermelon, and a very small side of the rice and lentils I had leftover. Dinner is likely pasta with a side of zucchini from the garden!

I didn't mention a couple items in the freezer we need to use up. One pasta microwaveable meal, that was bought for my girls but they don't like. A frozen homemade waffle. And several cups of frozen grapes. I do like these food challenges. Not sure the family does! Oh well. Smile

Living On A Dime

July 8th, 2017 at 12:30 pm

I've been watching some videos from the YouTube channel Living on A Dime. It was especially interesting to hear the mother, Jill, talk about living on $500 a month with two teenagers in the 1990s, after her husband left her. She had to be very frugal with her cash. Her experience reminds me a bit of what you hear about people doing during the Depression. Oh, and she was making $12,000 a year and paid off $35,000 worth of debt in five years at that same time!! Very impressive.

Yesterday, I did end up at Target to stock up on my hair mousse and feminine products for the girls. There was a cartwheel coupon that save me $2. While I was there, I bought one bag of chips, lunch meat, tomatoes, sliced cheese, two loaves of bread, and jam. My total bill for all of it was $31.45. Oh and I did buy some M&Ms and gum...two items I should have skipped and now regret buying and eating.

Yesterday, I used up a shallot, tossed the ginger that was growing mold (ick), cooked the lentils and ate them for lunch over rice, ate fried rice for dinner which used up the frozen carrots & peas and some of the frozen corn. We also ate sauteed zucchini and summer squash from the garden on the side. Yummy!!

Today I will eat the second serving of the steel cut oats. We will eat sandwiches and watermelon for lunch. Tonight we will eat homemade pizza. I did forget to buy mozzarella cheese at Target, so will stop by the store for that later. The pizza will used up the bacon, pepperoni and some turkey crumbles in the fridge. I wouldn't be making pizza if my air conditioning wasn't working, but it is! Smile

What will you do today that is frugal?

Four Days of Meals

July 5th, 2017 at 07:26 pm

My daughter and I did have refried bean tacos for dinner last night, after I purchased a can for $0.54, regularly $1.09 but I used a $0.55 coupon. There is enough for two more tacos which I'm having for lunch!

Today is our youngest daughter's birthday (she made it home safe from Europe), so I was up early to make her favorite spice cake in the oven (remember no A/C on the level with our kitchen) so I didn't want to heat the house up in the middle of the day. Tonight we will have spaghetti with Alfredo sauce and corn on the cob. These were requested by her.

Thursday night we will have fried rice. I'm making sure to use up the frozen corn, peas and carrots. I also have plenty of green onion to add.

I made potato soup yesterday so that will likely be eaten on Friday, although it may also become lunch this week. If we eat all the soup, we may just eat grilled cheese and watermelon.

On Saturday, I will probably turn the oven on and make homemade pizza. I have the sauce, the items to make the dough, as well as some meats. I may just need to buy the cheese.

When I was at the store I did pick up a few other items and paid $13.24.
1 dozen eggs
1/2 gallon of milk
celery
1 lb of carrots
three ears corn on the cob
pretzel sticks
refried beans
large watermelon

Birthday cake, watermelon and pretzel sticks should help tide us over between meals. I expect this will get us through Friday, maybe part of Saturday before we go to the store again. Saturday's shopping list will have to include groceries to feed my parents while they are here, so I expect it could be a bit inflated.

My next post will be about the things we need to use up in the month of July, which what the Uber Frugal Month post is about today on the Frugalwoods blog.

Frugal July Thoughts

July 4th, 2017 at 04:33 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More frugal thoughts later! Happy Independence Day!

Free Cat Food & More

July 3rd, 2017 at 01:49 pm

On Friday, I stopped by PetSmart to pick up a free bag of cat food with a coupon that had been mailed to me. I could pick any brand as long as it wasn't more than 3.5 pounds. The one I picked would have been $10.99 normally in the store. But it was completely free.

The last time I bought dry cat food was in December when our other cat was ill. It was a large bag and it is taking awhile for my other cat to eat through it! We also supplement with wet cat food now as well. But we will use this new bag when I run out of the other that is already open.

Today we have my van in for service. We noticed we didn't get their 10% military discount on Saturday service for my husband's truck. We inquired and their solution is to give us 20% off today's service. We'll see if that works out in our favor depending on the cost of the repair.

Our outing yesterday did allow us to visit a museum for free as a Blue Star family. The admission would have cost us the three of us $28. It was a beautiful art museum and grounds. I was especially intrigued with one artist who used old items and added glass. For example one was an old wood desk, but the drawers had been made out of glass, a frosty type. There was also a wagon, a chair and an umbrella.

We did take our own water and lunch to eat in the car on our road trip. We did stop to eat ice cream near the beach to tide us over. We also found free parking twice in the little beach town, once while we bought our ice cream and another time while we walked the beach for about 30 minutes. The only other expense besides fuel was the purchase of three or four waters/sodas. Each time we stop to use the restroom, my husband feels obligated to buy something. It's hard to harp on him for it, but I do personally feel it isn't an obligation. I'll guess that cost us another $6-8.

Oh and I overhead a couple speaking with the cashier at CVS yesterday about a $100 bill. This is what the couple said that the cashier agreed with. "If you break it, it's gone." Obviously I don't know these people, so I don't know exactly what they meant. It seems like an odd way to look at money. Once you have $85 in smaller bills for example, you should just consider the money gone? You can't save $20 bills? Every purchase we make with or without cash should be considered right? It doesn't matter what size bill we paid it with. Just my thoughts. What do you think about it?

Not A Frugal Month

July 2nd, 2017 at 01:04 pm

I just don't see this being a frugal month for us. We are trying to enjoy the time with our college daughter home and my husband is traveling home most weekends from his school. Thus there is fuel for cars, and money spent on some activities. We do embrace free as much as we can. In fact today, we may go visit an art museum that we can get in for free (Blue Star Museum participant). We do have to drive to get to it however.

We spent $352 on my husband's truck yesterday. He needed brakes badly. Can't say no to maintenance that is important for safety. He also got an oil change. He later picked up new windshield wipers at AutoZone (not the most frugal store to purchase from in my opinion) as he was overdue for those as well.

My van is being repaired tomorrow as I have a check engine light on. I'm expecting it to be an oxygen sensor. I checked my blog and it was over $300 for that repair last time.

Yes, all this money being spent is a good reason to watch the budget in other areas. And I will. I expect the grocery budget would be the best one to focus on.

I am going to follow along with UFM though here and on the Frugalwoods blog. As I know it will be inspirational. I may be able to do a Ultra Frugal Month in August or September.



Money News

June 29th, 2017 at 12:41 pm

I redeemed some Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards this week. I would have like to have waited for the beginning of the month to get the discount, but I needed them to buy my daughter birthday gifts! Luckily, Swagbucks have been fruitful with a lot of good surveys and nCraves this last week. In total I redeemed 2800 SB for $28 worth of Amazon gift cards. They arrived within two days, too, so that made me happy!

My husband and I both need to get our vehicles in for repairs. My husband's is just an oil change. My van now has a check engine light on. And no it's not the gas cap. It is driving well, so I expect it is just an oxygen sensor that has failed. That usually seems to be the case for us, if the car is running properly. I have an appointment for Monday and he will stop in for an oil change on Saturday morning.

We earned just over 3100 miles on our Southwest Visa this last month. Yep, that means we charged nearly $3000! We currently have about 20K miles that we can eventually redeem for a flight. I'm planning to use them for my daughter to fly home during Christmas break. I could use some now for her one way ticket back to school in August, but the cost is minimal and December is always a more expensive month.

I wanted to write a blog post yesterday, but there were site issues. I don't think what I wrote above is what I wanted to write. I wish I could remember! I should have written it in a word document. Hopefully it comes back to me, so I can tell you all. Smile

Frito Lay Coupons

June 23rd, 2017 at 05:20 pm

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

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

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

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

High Summer Utilities

June 18th, 2017 at 01:26 pm

It's just that time of year. More watering of the lawn, which is very large. And the cooling of our home. Because of the high humidity and heat of the southeast, I cannot set the air conditioning too high or mold will grow.

Last month the water bill was $88 and this month it is $114. Not super happy about it, but the lawn does look better with more water on it. The good news is our neighborhood has put a ban on irrigation temporarily because one of the water pumps isn't working, thus some residents are having low water pressure. It helps those residents with better pressure if we don't irrigate. It has been one week so far and I expect that will result in a slightly lower bill next month.

The electric bill was $122.88 last month. This month it jumped to $220.90. I did compare that higher bill to last year at this time and it was $252. So I kind of feel that there is an improvement in using less electricity in areas we can control. I'm still hanging my own clothes to dry, but I know my girls are still using the dryer. And I do use the dryer for towels and jeans. Reducing the use of electricity is still on my radar. We will keep trying despite the weather!

Returns

June 13th, 2017 at 02:43 pm

I returned a shirt to Kohl's this morning. I received $9.97 back to my Kohl's card and $1.34 in Kohl's cash. I find it odd to get Kohl's cash because the Kohl's cash I received had already been used in full. So a mini bonus I guess. At least I have 30 days to use it.

I have a pair of jeans I bought in April from JC Penney's that I need to return also. That will bring $20+ back to our budget.

The money is all going back to the clothing budget as there has been more spending there as of late.

Do you have anything at home that you purchased, but have now decided not to use? Return it and put that money back in your budget!

Eating Out Costs Since January

June 9th, 2017 at 11:26 am

OMG!

I say we don't really eat out, but I did a report on YNAB to see how much we have spent since January 1. We have spent $1,158.51 in restaurants. I was shocked. I feel like we only go out once, maybe twice a month.

Here's the monthly breakdown:

January $153.03
February $142.71
March $254.90
April $428.35
May $159.73
June $19.79

I know that in March my daughter was home on spring break, and my husband was off work, I know we ate out as a family at least once and took her to lunch at couple times. In April, we were traveling for eight days and we did buy food out many times during that time.

January, February, and May seem like they may be more normal spending amounts.

In May, there were 9 restaurant transactions. Four of those were my husband eating out for lunch. One was for pizza when I thought a friend of my daughter was going to eat with us. She didn't but I had already ordered it. The other four were restaurant meals for two to four of us. I would say two were for convenience and two were for enjoyment/entertainment.

I'm sure people spend far more than we do eating out, but even basic grab and go at Subway adds up!

Do you know how much you spend eating at restaurants on a monthly basis?

Retirement Up Since Last Year & More

June 6th, 2017 at 08:35 pm

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

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

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

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

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

A Time for Spending

May 30th, 2017 at 08:17 pm

We are just in that time of year I think. It's spending season. Over a week ago we bought one of our daughter's a new smart phone. We tried one unlocked one that didn't end up working with Verizon only to buy a cheaper version by the same company that did work. Net cost $227. I plan to buy a case and scratch cover on Amazon after I earn a few more Swagbucks.

Friday I took both girls shopping for summer wear. Overall, I would say they don't need anything. However, we rarely buy clothes so a few new things are nice. And the younger daughter does need more for her Europe trip this summer. I spent $134.59 for at least eight items. It may have been more.

The week prior I bought myself a new pair of summer sandals for $29. I had been making do with a pair of flip flops from Walmart I bought on a whim two years ago and sneakers. It was time to buy sandals!!

We went to the beach on Sunday. We did pack water and lunch. Parking was free. However, it was a two hour trip each way, so there was fuel for the van. And my husband seemed to need a soda each time we stopped. We did also treat ourselves to homemade ice cream from a local shop.

Our other entertainment this weekend was to see the matinee of Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Tickets for four of us were $23. And we almost made it without buying popcorn and soda, but honestly it was lunch time, so we did end up spending $13 on those. Not the most frugal for sure.

The glass for my husband's windshield came to $230. Exactly the amount I was expecting. It was great service and I easily saved $100 over Safelite.

And coming up soon will be new eye glasses for our girls. They are both over due by a year for an exam. One will be covered in full by insurance, the other has a $150 deductible that we haven't met, so the exam will be out of pocket. The frames and lenses are not covered by our insurance. We will be considering online options for sunglasses for sure, if not the actual glasses themselves. However, I know how hard it is to find frames they like, so if they find something they really like at the optical store, I will likely splurge. I currently have $600 set aside for these expenses, but can more money around from other savings goals if needed.

Are you spending more or less this time of year?

Amazon Spending 2017

May 29th, 2017 at 08:01 pm

Since LivingAlmostLarge posted about her online Amazon orders, it got me wondering a bit about ours. I have spent more than she has, but I have not spent tens of thousands like the woman in the article.

For the first five months of 2017, I placed 16 orders, which I guess would average on three a month. The total amount spent out of pocket was $284.45. Some of these order totals came to $0 because I used Amazon gift cards earned from Swagbucks. And I'm sure some of them were reduced because Amazon gift cards, too.

Actually the amount of Amazon gift cards used was $192.73. So that means the spending was $477.18 for the first five months of the year. Just under $100 a month.

Some of the things we purchased were six text books, vitamins, a cord holder for Christmas lights, new headlight bulbs, reusable menstrual items, engine and cabin filters for both cars, a treadmill mat, cell phone cases, and allergy medicine.

Broken Windshield

May 25th, 2017 at 12:22 pm

During my husband's travels to school on Sunday, the windshield on his truck was hit by a rock. It eventually resulted in a crack as the trip progressed.

We won't claim this on our insurance as we have a $1000 deductible. I did start the process through USAA who contracts with Safelite for repairs which is where I saw that the windshield would cost $300. I was close to scheduling it, but decided to see if Safelite offered coupons or discounts. Instead I found a local shop that gave an online quote of $197! That is a huge savings.

I'm calling to today to see if we can get our vehicle in on Saturday while he is home, otherwise it will need to wait.

Of course, I'm not thrilled about paying for a windshield, but this is a reason to have savings! And it does pay to shop around when needing repairs. Smile

Bummer, No Kitchenette

May 21st, 2017 at 09:44 pm

My husband has found out his room while he is away for three months of training is a fairly basic hotel room. It doesn't have the stove and kitchen supplies we were expecting. It does have a microwave and a very small dorm refrigerator.

The good news he does get 'free' breakfast everyday. I hope it is somewhat decent as some of those breakfasts can get old after awhile. There may be a manager's reception/weekly social at least one night a week.

He will be back home for Memorial Day weekend, so we might have to figure out some options for food he can buy and eat from the commissary without eating out for every meal.

He is getting per diem to cover meals. Originally we were told it was $69 a day, but it is 75% of that because of the length of the training. That works out to $51.75 for each day. For thirty days, that is $1,552. I think the man can eat decently for that, even with some eating out.

The truth is I would love to keep as much of that money as possible. Even half or 2/3rds of that amount seems possible. I guess we will know more as it all plays out.

Let's Talk College Costs...Part Two

May 9th, 2017 at 02:26 pm

There is a lot to discuss when sharing the nitty gritty of college costs. I expect to break my posts down about this over several days. I even need to check with my daughter on how many credits she took each semester.

First here is a screen shot of the annual expenses for a full time undergraduate student taking 30 hours from the 2015-2016 Common Data Set at the school she is attending.



Living on campus is required at this school the freshman year if the student is under 19.

She is an out of state resident. She did receive a renewable four year scholarship of $14,000 per year. That is equal to $56,000. She also received an art scholarship her freshman year equal to $4500. And because she is an Honors student, she receives $500 per year towards books. Because the way the billing is, the Honors scholarship is really like any other scholarship and reduces tuition costs.

I do want to say that even I see areas where costs could be reduced. But we all make choices for our spending that are not about dollars and cents. I'm not going to go into justifying the decision. We are simply grateful that we have had the ability to pay the costs so far without taking out student loans.

In my next post I will try to break down actual costs for freshman year.

Let's Talk College Costs...Part One

May 8th, 2017 at 05:19 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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