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Rewards & Spending

March 19th, 2018 at 11:57 am

In the last week, as I have paid our credit cards in full, I found that two of them had rewards I could redeem. I redeemed $22.11 in cash from our Chase Freedom account. We have been using that card for fuel, cable, phone (Ooma) and Netflix purchases this quarter to earn 5% cash back.

Our American Express card had earned another $25 in rewards. This is applied as a statement credit, but I did put that same amount towards our Big Goal.

Today was a little spendy! My husband is home from work while our daughter visits. We ran to Target to pick up a sympathy card, light bulbs, shaving cream and packing tape. We decide to make this our day out to each lunch. We will eat at home the next few days, with more eating out to celebrate her birthday later in the week. And finally, we picked up some hair product our daughter uses from Ulta (did have a coupon). That was $83 of spending! I'm glad I added extra to our budget accounts.

My husband is going to get the oil changed in my van tomorrow. We have been saving for car maintenance, so no worries about finding cash for that! We are set.

Tonight I'm making this for dinner. Some of us will add chicken. I'm also going to use some hamburger buns to make a garlic bread. I've made that recipe with green beans instead of asparagus with good results...even more frugal.

Lower Electric Bill

March 14th, 2018 at 11:03 am

With the warmer weather a couple weeks ago here in the Southeast, the furnace and air conditioner were not running much at all. The weather has cooled again in recent days, but the end result is a much lower bill from last month.

Remember my bill in January (due in February) was $350?! Last month it came down to $250. And this month, the bill is $161. This is still higher than I like, but for this home it seems to be the near minimum for running everything. I think I will start funding the electric account with a minimum of $250 each month to help level out the larger bills sure to come this summer. It's easy to do this in YNAB and let the money keep rolling over from month to month.

Payday is tomorrow. I will pay all credit card accounts in full, reconcile any accounts in YNAB (did some today) and fund everyday spending for the second half of the month. I will also fund the bills and withdrawals (such as Roth and college investments) and our sinking funds.

I'm more hands off with finances than I once was. Once you have excess funds, you don't have worry about overdrawing your account, or finding money when a larger bill comes in because you have funded it in advance (sinking funds). And YNAB helps keep track of all that as well.

Happy Pi Day!

Spring Break Trip with Miles

February 17th, 2018 at 03:21 pm

I just booked our oldest daughter's flight home for spring break. She will fly Southwest Airlines. I used points we accumulated on our Southwest Visa during 2017 to cover the cost of the flight.

Almost Free!

I did pay for Early Bird Checkin, which is $30 roundtrip. If I were flying alone, I'd skip it, but as a young adult she does like the ability to pick her seat early so she can get off the plane quickly to get to her connecting flight on time. It basically is paying for her to have a little less stress during the process. And I had to pay the TSA Security Fee as well, $11.20.

Grand total $41.20. Can't beat that!

Higher Grocery Bill

February 13th, 2018 at 05:27 am

Wow, the first half of the month is nearly over! My parents were here for 12 days, and boy does it show in the grocery budget. We spent $202 on a full grocery trip three days before they arrived. And then proceeded to spend $276 more in groceries while they were here! We did eat very well and I know there are leftovers I can still use up in the coming days.

And believe it or not we even went out to dinner a few times. We picked up the tab for my mom's birthday at a sushi place. They bought me lunch at a Indian restaurant, Panera and another lunch at the sushi restaurant. Otherwise all meals were cooked at home, but I guess we picked all the expensive ingredients!

So maybe we can get the grocery bills lower in the second half of the month. I do know my daughter and I will be eating leftovers for dinner while my husband is at a work event this evening. I will need to take stock of what I have and make use of it as the month progresses!

Computer For College

January 29th, 2018 at 06:13 am

Last night we ordered a Dell laptop for our youngest daughter. She is heading to college in the fall and we found with our older daughter it was nice to have it purchased well before the first day classes.

Originally we tried to purchase one direct through the University to save on sales tax, however, the one they recommended and were offering was no longer available. It would have been $1299, including a 4 year warranty. Apparently, it was a special deal the university was able to get in cooperation with Dell last year. (I'm sure there will be on again in the early summer or fall, but we decided to just get what we need now to be done with that decision making process...it was stressing us all out for some reason!)

We basically got the same laptop we originally ordered through the University. We did downgrade to a 3 year warranty because that saved us nearly $250. We upgraded to a 2 in 1 version, so that it has a touchscreen available and can be flipped and used like a tablet.

Our daughter will be an engineering major, so the laptop does have higher specs than some students may need in college. We did get an older version and an older processor, but again the same one the University was suggesting that we thought we could still purchase.

The University did give us some other options to purchase but they were more expensive than the one we ended up purchasing directly with Dell. They were having 10% off select computers (slightly older models it appeared). The warranty was three years for the price of two. We did get free shipping, but had to pay sales tax of 7%.

The final total charged to our US Bank card was $1,481.65. I had selected electronics stores as one of my 5% cash back categories for this quarter. That will amount to $74.08 off the total. I went through the Ebates shopping portal for 2% back (better than Swagbucks 1% offer), and that will give us $27.88 back in cash (should arrive in May). Both of those more than cover the sales tax we were charged.

I did have to move another $184+ to the computer category as this is the amount over what we originally thought we would pay to the University for the laptop they offered. Luckily, a low spend month help me know we have that amount covered!

Computer arrives on Thursday, and my daughter is excited. She and I no longer have to share! Smile

Closing Out January

January 28th, 2018 at 04:18 pm

For the purposes of this blog and January Uber Frugal month, I am closing out our budget. We went grocery shopping today, but I am not including it since most of the food will cover more days in February than January. I did include the fuel we bought for the van, which was $41.96.

It doesn't show in my screenshots, but we were over our budget by $36.05. Not bad at all considering several things were not planned, such as the dinner on Friday, buying vitamins for our daughter or buying a new fridge water filter. And yes, our groceries are probably inflated, not for eating more food, but for buying high quality food. We are dieting so we are actually eating less..and have both lost weight!

I zeroed all the categories out. This is how I end each month in YNAB. The remaining amount that we didn't allocate to anything this month $1,648.89! Lower spending does pay off! I will add the money to various long and short term goals. Some may go to the Big Goal, most of it will go to bigger expenses that we expect later this year.

Just so you know we are very unlikely to have spent all of that $1600 in a regular month. Compared to December 2017, we spent $1200 more than we did this month. And we spent $450 less than last January. I feel we were very successful this month.

Dinner and Grocery Spending

January 27th, 2018 at 11:20 am

We had a very nice time eating out. We did really good considering it was a brewery...we didn't drink! And I only had water with my meal. We spent three hours there and spent $38.61 on our entrees and DH's diet coke. He tipped generously with $8, for a total of $46.61 spent. So we are definitely over our frugal January restaurant budget. However, you really can't say no to an invite by friends that you don't see that often.

We stopped by the grocery store last night before coming home because we needed eggs. I did remember a few other needs(flour, turkey crumbles, cheese) as well, along with two requests from our daughter. We spent another $29.94 in groceries. We are now over the Uber Frugal budget in groceries too.

Despite going over budget in a lot of budget categories this month, we have done really well. I purposely put the budget low to keep us thinking about our spending. We have months where we just don't monitor it as closely. That's why I find these low spend months so helpful.

Here's what the Everyday Spending categories look like right now. I will probably end our reporting of our spending and Uber Frugal month after today. We have guests coming and I need to get some things purchased (specifically groceries) tomorrow. Notice how there's just $10 left! That's cutting it close isn't it?

The good news is there is plenty of cash to still be allocated to savings. I'll share that amount tomorrow!! It's a pretty big number. Smile

Dinner Out Tonight

January 26th, 2018 at 07:36 am

Yesterday, I spent $3.50 to mail my sister her lanyard that I made. All items I used, including the mailer and card were items I had in my home, so no other out of pocket costs. We decided a few years ago not to exchange gifts, but she is my sister and since I felt inspired to make something I just did it!

I also spent $2.12 on a birthday card for my mother. She will be here next week and her birthday will take place during her visit. I'm not sure if I'm buying her a gift yet. I'm thinking of buying flowers to have during her time here as I know she doesn't NEED stuff. I know we will likely go out to dinner, too.

Speaking of dinner, I just got a phone call that a former coworker of my husband is in town and wanted to know if we want to go to dinner tonight. I guess we are...people before money, right? I could offer up dinner at our house, but since the plan is for this evening...I don't feel prepared in the least.

Everyday Spending Update

January 24th, 2018 at 04:10 pm

We have $122.76 left to spend through the end of the month based on the budget I made to be Uber Frugal. We bought groceries on Sunday, so that definitely made a dent in the available cash.

Oh, look you can see that we contributed to our retirement, specifically our Roth IRAs.

My husband also bought fuel since the last time I posted this snapshot. Otherwise I think that is it for spending! I will likely need fuel in my van before the end of the month, but we may come under budget in fuel.

We usually shop for groceries together on Sunday's. I intend to do the same this week. We will go over budget because I will be purchasing food for guests during that trip. The guests arrive on Wednesday. After our shopping trip, I may be able to estimate the cost for foods to get us through mid day on Wednesday. That is what would count for January. The remaining will count for February. It is what it is. Hard to get budgets to match up perfectly with a calendar and unusual events such as visiting guests.

How are you doing with your spending goals this month?

Some Spending Averted

January 21st, 2018 at 11:53 am

My husband and daughter considered going to Jumanji yesterday. I did remind them it was a no spend month. In the end we did some clothes shopping for our daughter, which was more of a need. We also visited the kitties at the pet store. So cute...and tempting!

Three shirts were bought at Target, spent about $60 on those (not frugal), in addition to lotion, laundry detergent and windex. I had a $50 gift card, used two cartwheel offers and there was 15% off clothing if I used our Red Card. So, out of pocket we spent $25.80.

Today we went grocery shopping. Final total at the commissary was $151.26. Pet food was $21 and Vitamin C was $8.77. The rest was food. We bought salmon and chicken this week, so that wasn't exactly frugal. We also needed lots of veggies which are key to our healthy diets.

Still no alcohol has been purchased! That's three weekends in a row. My husband did mention it last night, but he is committed to the diet for the month.

January Spending Update

January 19th, 2018 at 02:20 pm

I thought I'd throw another visual snapshot of our Everyday Spending up for you all to see since it is Uber Frugal Month. Not sure our month is exactly that, but I think we are very aware of the spending that is happening.

I think I mentioned the vitamins purchased for my daughter. That is why Personal Care is already showing over budget. Still have the money in our account to cover it.

And we've spent more on groceries. I picked up eggs and spinach today for $6.10. I do buy organic eggs, thus the higher prices.

And I did send my college daughter a package. It had to go Priority Mail and cost $10.55. This was budgeted and came from the Gift category.

How is your spending going during this Uber Frugal Month? Staying frugal? Or is spending high?

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!

Mid Month Budget To Zero

January 15th, 2018 at 03:46 am

I thought I'd share what our Everyday Expenses look like at mid month when my husband get's paid. I basically make the budgeted amount equal to or greater than the amount spent. I subtract from some category amounts to add to others to make this happen. Often there is much more padding in the budget for all the extra spending we tend to do in a regular month.

So you can see there is still money left in Groceries and Fuel. Everything else is balanced to zero now.

In reality, that extra $22.62 was zeroed out as well. I found out when balancing our credit card statement to YNAB that a charge from December 29 in the amount of $22.42 was not recorded in YNAB. That overage then flowed into January. And, of course, it was for alcohol. Ugh! I ended up adding that amount to the budget in December so it won't show up in January...since I'm trying to keep it as accurate as possible for sharing here!

So yes, we really did spend $782.80 in the first half of January on our Everyday Expenses. Spending money probably shouldn't be counted entirely as $142 is allowances for our daughters. I probably should split that into it's own category and put it in Monthly Bills. So that really brings the every day spending to $640.80.

What is really neat about YNAB is that you can click on the outflows and get a pop up box that shows all the transactions that make up the total. So helpful! I do have the offline, version 4, so this may be different than current versions.

Very proud of us for avoiding spending on alcohol and entertainment!

December Electric Bill

January 14th, 2018 at 01:18 pm

I'm annoyed. December electric bill was once again off the charts during our time living in this rental home. Electric heat pumps are not efficient with single digit temperatures. And we have two units in our home that are sized too small for the square footage. Builder grade units that have been limping along. I'm not even going to share the amount. I can't wait to move out of this place. It's a nice home, but the air and electric are sub par.

Bill is due in early February. Will put some of our savings from our Uber Frugal January towards the bill. I look forward to March where I hope to see it drop significantly.

Another Spending Update

January 13th, 2018 at 09:00 am

I'll be honest, I know we are not being as frugal as we could be. We are not doing bad at all, but there would be a little room for improvement.

Whoops...sorry didn't include the category names. They are in this order: Groceries, Fuel, Spending Money, Restaurants, Clothing, Household Goods, Alcohol, Entertainment, Gifts, Personal Care and Pets. I did include a screenshot at the bottom.

Payday was yesterday, so I'm going to close out the spending for the first half of the month looking like this. Notice the $915.67 left to budget at the top. Yep, I haven't put that money anywhere yet. I just wanted it to hang out there while we kept our spending low. There is no way under normal circumstances we would have spent that much in these categories. Most of that will end up in short term savings...college and car repairs for example.

More grocery spending. We checked out the new Sprouts store in our area yesterday, while picking up more baby spinach, himalayan salt, avocados and a couple treats. Spent $19.85. The original total was nearly $50! One of the treats that was $1.49 rang up as though we bought 20 of them!! Luckily I caught that error while at the store.

Just this morning I ordered my daughter more generic Zyrtec for her allergies. A need that I wasn't aware it was about time for. However, I see I did order the bottle this time last year, so it was time. After the balance of a gift card was applied, I spent $13.52. That was noted in the Personal Care category.

So you can see if I balance all the categories to zero we still have $22.62. We did make it within the budget that I put forth, but the categories were not as planned. And that really is how budgets can go at times. If you were doing a cash envelope, you would move money from one to another to make it work.

I'm really happy to report no spending on alcohol! It has not bothered me one bit not to drink. My husband is doing great, but when he is bored the urge is there. I'm committed for the full month of January and at this time do not plan to fund that category.

Also no out of pocket entertainment spending. We did rent a movie on Amazon last night. We used an Amazon.com gift card balance to rent it. Out of all the free content, my husband chose one to purchase. His desire to spend low is not as strong as mine!

We also spent some money at Target that is not reflected in the budget because we used gift cards. We picked the needed bar soap (bought a 10 or 12 pack), and added on a six pack of Diet Coke, a sweater on clearance for our oldest daughter and a dress for our younger daughter. Amount spent was $48.32, with most of that being clothing.

I will probably post again tomorrow with what the spending categories look like after I add to them for the second half of the month. Here is what they look like balanced to zero, or in the case of groceries and fuel a little bit left!

Oh, yes and if you see that that totals don't add up that is because we went over in Groceries, Personal Care and Pets in December, and it rolls over to the following month. All of those overages happened on December 31. We had already been paid for January, but the transaction at the commissary was in December, but it really is part of spending for January. Or at least that is how I have it set up in YNAB.

Not Afraid of Vegetables & Fruit

January 10th, 2018 at 05:44 am

Patient Saver commented on my last blog post this morning pointing out that not all carbs are bad for you. She is absolutely right. I didn't specify in my last post that I'm eliminating refined carbs as much as possible. I am still eating lots of vegetables and some fruit at every meal. I like bread too much and because my daughter practically only eats refined carbs as the basis of her diet, I eat them too. So working on eating less of those and even more vegetables. We actually did really well in 2017 adding more vegetables into our daughter's diet. The stuffed peppers from the other night...new to her. She was willing and scarfed it down before her pasta.

Today, I'm making a Pumpkin Lentil Soup for dinner to use up some mini peppers that are slightly past their prime but still good. I also have a can of pumpkin on hand and will use up the rest of my red lentils.

As I'm writing this I'm eating one of six halo oranges that have been around from the holidays. Between my daughter and I we should have no problem eating them before they go bad. I'll make some eggs later to round up my breakfast. I just checked the fridge and I probably should have the leftover taco meat for lunch. I will likely end up eating them with tortillas (refined carb). If I still had romaine, I'd make a taco salad. Smile

Last night we had apple spiced pork chops with mixed vegetables and corn bread. That used up a wilting apple and the mixed vegetables and the last of the corn bread mixes. I only ate one corn bread muffin. There is a leftover pork chop. I will offer it to DH with his soup tonight. If not I have two choices, freeze it or eat if for lunch tomorrow.

So far the only spending since Sunday has been gas for my husband's car. Although he hasn't entered the receipt so maybe there is other spending. I will need to buy him shaving cream today, but I'm going to buy that at Target and use the gift cards we have on hand. I think I need one other thing, but otherwise no other spending.

Also, I think there has been some spending on textbooks and , but those have been budgeted for and can't be helped in a uber frugal challenge. Other than renting or buying used. Not sure what my daughter has done this semester, but she is not officially in the challenge. Smile

I found out my parents are coming to visit. Arriving on the last day of this month, and they stay for 11 days! They won't be here the entire time (also visiting friends that live the next state over), but I think this means that the challenge for me will likely end at the end of the month. I originally wanted to go through the first week of February. That will just be a bit more difficult with guests. So three weeks to go!!

How are you doing eating all the food? How do you feel you are doing with the Uber Frugal Challenge?

Diet Coke Resolution & More

January 9th, 2018 at 05:12 am

Much to my surprise, my husband told me that he had been drinking and buying more Diet Coke recently at work because he needed a new water bottle. This was true. His last water bottle cap melted in our dishwasher a couple weeks ago. And the place where he would buy the Diet Coke has a $3 minimum to use a debit or credit card, thus he would pick up a water AND a Diet Coke. So we bought a water bottle on Sunday for $12.95 at the Post Exchange. If I had known ahead this was all the reason I would have shopped around or purchased one at Target where I had gift cards and didn't need to spend out of pocket. But in the end the cost of the water bottle will be recouped by the NOT buying water and Diet Coke for four or five days! And we didn't buy ANY Diet Coke at the grocery store. We both have really cut this back in recent years, so it was a bit of a surprise he was on a kick with it again.

I'll try to share as much as I can about food I use up this month. Yesterday, I used up 1/8th of a white onion, last of the white rice. I also ate the last chicken sausage dog with a salad that used up romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, and half a cucumber. I actually have half of that salad left that I will eat today for lunch (with something else I can scrounge up)!

The good news is the first week on my diet was very successful. I lost 6.6 pounds. That is not a normal amount of weight loss for me in one week, but I have been trying to eliminate carbs and eat a little more healthy fat. I did better, but there is room for improvement.

Saw my husband's net pay for the first paycheck of the new year. Increase of $63.15 per pay period or $126.30 per month after withholding. I suppose it will change when the new withholding amounts are determined in February. I plan to sock this money away towards the Big Goal, so that will add $1,515.60 for 2018!

What did you use up today?

Friday & Saturday Spending

January 7th, 2018 at 07:35 am

Our daughter has returned to college. She flies out of a town an hour and a half north of us. The flight was at 7am on Saturday. So we decided to get a hotel and stay over the night before. We had points, so the hotel was free! It was good to go a little early on Friday because our area had had snow earlier in the week and temperatures had not warmed above freezing, so we had some concerns on the roads.

I had budgeted dinner out on Friday night. We went to Noodles & Company and spent $43.84. I also decided since the included hotel breakfast would not be available at the early hour we left the hotel we should pick up bagels from Panera. We spent $10.20. I did NOT budget for this. I didn't think about breakfast when I was doing the budget. And on Saturday morning upon leaving the airport at 7am we stopped by Starbucks and spent $7.76 on three hot beverages. So we are now over budget in our restaurant category by almost $6.

My daughter had a new debit card arrive on Friday (after we left for the airport) so we decided to get that in the mail to her she she will have it as soon as possible. I picked up three snacks to include in the package. Spent $3.89 on those plus $7.50 for priority mail. I had budgeted $10 for this expense, but went a little over once again.

On Saturday afternoon I ran to the store for four ingredients we needed for dinner. I spent $13.80 on food, including a Diet Coke for DH. This all came from the grocery budget.

After dinner, my husband wanted to go to Best Buy to use his $20 gift card for a camera case. Case was $19.99 plus tax. We spent 1.39 out of pocket.

We also stopped by Target nearby to pick up a sympathy card, a candy bar for our daughter, and a six pack of 20oz Diet Cokes. No money out of pocket because I had a gift card.

Today we will be grocery shopping. The budget says we have $134. I will be checking the fridge, freezer, and pantry before I make my meal list. I want to use up all the things we can. I do have a little bit of a problem because my husband and I are also watching our diet, so specific foods are important. However, some snacks are eliminated, so that is likely a plus. I'll let you know how it works out. I think I will also check the grocery ad for the local store and see if anything we are buying is cheaper there than the commissary.

Have you been working on eating all the things?

Uber Frugal Month Spending

January 5th, 2018 at 07:56 am

The spending has been pretty slim these first four days of the month. We had a snow day yesterday with my daughter home from school and my husband home from work. And school is closed again today, which is good as there is a lot of ice on the major road near us.

Food transactions
$6.40 for shredded cheese, sliced mushrooms, and a Diet Coke (DH)
$8.50 for snacks, more Diet Coke (DH again 2 days at work)

$4.16 Coffee at Work (DH)

Spending Money
$20 Cash taken out to cover airport parking and commissary tips. We have not spent any of that yet. The other spending money is allowances as mentioned before.

Household Goods
$31.02 Dryer part (see previous post)

Personal Care
$43.70 Three haircuts with tips

The dryer part was not planned obviously, and we are over budget in that category. I will eventually adjust that category, so it breaks even. I usually do this on PayDay. I like to see what I budget and if we go over or under until that point.

Yes, my husband is still doing his regular spending. I may talk to him about it and see if he wants to try to cut back. But I did put some extra into restaurants to cover the coffee spending. I wish he could plug in a coffee maker at work! When he worked on another floor in the General's office there was a private kitchen so he brought his own coffee to brew in the pot provided there. Others would also drink it (usually without compensation) but boy that was cheaper than $2 a day. He tried a thermos we bought for $40 for about a week when he started his new job on another floor. I think the issue was it was too much to make two pots of coffee here at home, in order to fill the thermos, have some for breakfast AND leave some for me. I think he really should just cut back on coffee!! I guess I could skip coffee if one pot would work. Sorry. I'm rambling just thinking out loud while I type.

And there are those three haircuts we budgeted for!

Just a reminder these budget amounts are just for the first half of the month. Next pay period I will add to them.

DIY Dryer Fix

January 4th, 2018 at 05:28 pm

My dryer wouldn't start today! And I won't lie, I did think it was likely that I would need to buy a new one. We had looked at some good deals around Black Friday, but went back to we didn't need one yet. I think our set is at least 16 years old, maybe even 18.

But then my desire to DIY the problem kicked in. No the breaker hadn't tripped. Yes, it was still plugged in. Google said a thermal fuse going bad (or tripped) is usually number one cause. So then, despite a snow day here (school and work cancelled), we ventured out to get a thermal fuse.

The business was open. Roads were awful for the first two or three miles after leaving our neighborhood. Packed ice!! But the remainder of the trip was dry or just wet roads. Cost for a thermal fuse was $30.

So we came home (crawled the last two miles in our truck on the ice) and set about finding where the parts were so we could replace. One was easy to access, the other...not easy. We ended up opening the top, the front panel and taking out the entire dryer drum! Yep, taking that drum out worried me the most. But we did watch a YouTube video about it first! There was another back panel we detached and we took out the heating element. I seriously think my husband and I could put these together for a living now that we've seen all the parts!!

The best news is it's fixed! Back in working order and has already dried two loads of laundry.

Actually, the very best news is that part died and we were able to get so far inside...there is a lot of lint that accumulates inside a dryer. Sure most of it likely goes through the vent, but over time a lot of lint accumulates inside. It has been cleaned a few times before, but not this deep. And yes, I know to check the lint trap and the vent to the outside regularly. I'm really glad that we were able to have a reason to clean it out so well. I won't hesitate to open it up again in a year or two and clean it out again.

Oh, we also know how to replace the belt on the dryer if needed. And if I had known we were going to be removing it anyway I may have purchased one while getting the other part. But it still works!

Have you ever fixed a dryer? Or other major household appliance?

Frugal Month Begins

January 2nd, 2018 at 05:34 am

We did a big grocery store run on New Year's Eve. We were out of quite a few things, but it feels like we overbought. That may be a good thing as we go into the frugal month.

In some ways, I'm not really planning to start until our daughter heads back to school on Saturday. I did however put cash in our Everyday budget categories and it far less than normal. The amount is $783...and that's for half the month. I know, it doesn't sound that frugal. But yet, some of those are needs, and some have a little fluff in them that I hope not to spend at all.

Groceries are lower and I hope to come in lower than I budgeted. My husband and I are dieting this month, so I expect that will help our food budget. Less snacks!

Fuel is the about the same, slightly higher as we have one trip out of town. I also expect a toll bill this month. I hope to keep myself out of stores, thus only driving will be to school and grocery store.

Spending money is normal. Most of that is allowances for the girls. One gets $17, the other gets $125. The remaining $20 should be for the month to cover parking and tips to baggers at the commissary.

Restaurants is at $60 because I expect one meal out for four people when we are out of town. My husband is also using this category for coffee at work. Not happy about this, but the thermos plan didn't pan out, so he buys a cup for $2 almost every day.

Clothing is at just $25. I'd rather put something in there than nothing. If I find some clearance shirts within that budget, I may buy them for my daughter, but for the most part, I am not going shopping. In the end I hope it is saved.

Household goods is at $20. I know we will need dishwasher detergent and dish soap. Most other household items we should be stocked up on.

I did not put anything in Alcohol or Entertainment. We will not be paying for entertainment in the month of January. And I am committed to no alcohol in the month of January. I think my husband is as well.

Personal care is for haircuts and personal care products. We are well stocked at this point. The only thing that could change is the need for some vitamins, but I do have Swagbucks to redeem for Amazon gift cards, so those could be covered that way.

The gifts category would only be used for postage. I may sew my sister a gift for her birthday late in the month, so that is money I would need to mail it to her.

And the Pet category is a need. I bought our cat food for the month and we will need another box of litter.

Now as I said that is really only for half the month. I will replenish groceries and fuel at the mid month payday. And as you can see some balances are less than budgeted that is because some items purchased (like groceries) were bought on December 31 and but came out of the January budget.

It's cold here in the Southeast! Cold enough that school start times are on a two hour delay today. Cold enough the Army is on a two hour delay! As of 8am it is 14 degrees, and feels like 8. Now I know that those of you in the midwest are far colder, and you are still having school and work!

I'm not looking forward to our heating bill. I'm sure many of you feel the same. We were quite mild though for part of the month, so maybe that will help spread out the cost.

Buying The Kid Clothes

December 28th, 2017 at 07:10 pm

More clothes buying today. Another two shirts purchased for college daughter at JC Penney. Spent $35 after $10 coupon. Considering she is no longer growing and we don't buy clothes that often it was money well spent.

Our family went out to dinner tonight. It was planned and budgeted knowing that it would be nice to go out once while our daughter is home on break. Not sure what we spent, but it wasn't a high end restaurant. Dinner for four people adds up even at fast casual restaurants.

I'm looking forward to doing year end final tallies of retirement totals, interest earned, and Big Goal money.

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

Christmas Spending Update

December 15th, 2017 at 05:30 am

I just printed my USPS shipping labels for two packages that I will have picked up at our house on Monday. The cost was $32.05. It really does feel like shipping has increased a lot! Luckily, this did fit into my Christmas budget. Smile

I've mentioned before that our Christmas budget is $600. I allocate half of that for our daughters. The remainder is split between my husband and I, my parents, two nieces, and my mother in law. This year I came in under budget, primarily due to using Swagbucks (redeemed for Amazon gift cards) for some purchases and buying some items used for my daughters. Both daughters are used to getting used. I did squeeze in a two pairs of socks for my sister and brother in law. See my Socks for Christmas post about that.

Here's what we spent:
Mother in Law $53 (check for $50 and $3 to ship it with pictures)
Sister's family $99.70 (includes $18.85 for shipping)
Parents $46.83 (includes $13.20 to ship)
Daughter 1 $115.94
Daughter 2 $44.75 (bought used and used Amazon gift cards)
Daughter's shared gift $64.65
Husband $62.16
CCF $58.38
Total $545.41

Technically, I went over budget for my husband and he went over for me. We were suppose to only spend $50 each. I bought him an extra gift of a saute pan (since he uses one every morning and we had to toss our old one out).

Now I must not have accounted for everything correctly, as the balance in my Christmas budget on YNAB shows a balance of f$103.12. The numbers above come from receipts.Maybe I lost a few. I do know of $10 that was for paper plates and lights. And I think another $20 may be for gifts I bought with Target gift cards, but were not recorded as Christmas in YNAB. So I'm slightly off above in my total spending as YNAB has to be a bit more correct.

The good news, we are under budget! I have $103 to be used for something else. I'm thinking a donation might be a good idea. Smile

$230 Left

December 11th, 2017 at 05:22 am

We are doing really well this pay period with spending. Out of about $1000 budgeted for our variable expenses this pay period we still have $230 left.

We did get pizza takeout on Friday night for $15.10. We rented a digital movie from Amazon the weekend before last for $4.27. Personal care has only consisted of two haircuts and about $20 in personal care products. Household goods spending is under $20, buying paper towels, all purpose spray, an adapter for my car charger and a few other items I can't remember. Really good deals on all of those.

Most of spending was on groceries and extras for holiday baking, fuel, and allowances for the girls. I have been buying more organic ingredients and making things from scratch like soups. I think these are expanding my grocery bill some. Does anyone here use Better than Bouillon? I use pre made stock or broth for my soups. Yes, I know you can make it but that isn't the direction I want to go. Traditional bouillon is very salty, and I understand this product has less salt.

It remains to be seen if we spend much more before Friday, but I think the leftover cash will likely go in the clothing budget which currently only has $80. My oldest daughter says she is in need of winter shirts. She swears she only has three! I guess when they are away at college we just don't shop that much! We won't need all that money, but I will put it there to be prepared. I could also use a new pair of casual dress shoes. I expect there to be some good sales in the coming weeks after Christmas.

Things I Don't Buy at Christmas

December 9th, 2017 at 06:16 am

I watch a fair number of YouTube videos. There are several out there right now for which the them is what they do not buy at Christmas. I thought I'd throw my take on it. Join in if you want!

I do not buy ribbons, bows and gift tags.
I still have gallon size ziplock bag of bows that I bought easily ten years ago that we reuse for gifts here at our home. Gifts that are not for us, are usually being stuffed in a car or a box, thus do not hold up well with bows and ribbon. I'm currently using up some blank address labels and free gift tags stickers. I simply write the name and stick it to the back of the gift. When I run out of free options, I will simply write directly on the package. Old cards you receive can be turned into a gift tag. I've even used cards stock I have on hand.

I do not buy live Christmas trees I have two artificial Christmas trees. One is from when I was a child, bought in the mid 1980s. And the second one was bought at the end of season at Target about three years ago. I paid $20. I expect at some point we will downsize and pass one of the trees to someone else to use, but I have enjoyed having two trees while living in larger homes. The trees are our main decorations.

I do not buy holiday music or movies We own Polar Express and about 6 discs of music. We have owned those for years, but as things have gone digital and streaming is available online we simply use free options for our listening and viewing needs.

I do not buy new gift bags. Years ago when my girls were in elementary school I bought some classic red and green gift bags through a fundraiser. I use these gift bags, along with others we have received gifts in over and over. I tend to keep the ones that are just red and green, so they all coordinate. And when I buy gift wrap, I choose ones that can be for kids or adults and stay with the red and green theme. I probably only buy four rolls of gift wrap every three years. I did use up one roll this year, so I expect to hit the clearance sales and pick up one or two. I also limit the amount of tissue paper I use by taping the top of the gift bag. No tissue needed!

I do not buy Christmas themed items This one is a bit all encompassing. I don't buy Christmas jewelry, special outfits, napkins, tableware or plastic storage containers.

For the most part you can probably tell, we just reuse what we have purchased in the past. The stockings for the girls are the only ones they have ever owned. Picking a classic style helped, not feel the need to replace something that was dated.

A few other places where our Christmas spending is limited, is we only buy two new ornaments a year. These are for our girls. I usually buy those ones at World Market for $2.50 each. Or I find some on clearance the year before. I currently only send three Christmas cards. One to my parents, one to my mother in law and one to my oldest daughter at college. Next year I will send four since my youngest will be at college. I did run out of cards this year, so that is another item I will buy on clearance at the end of the season.

Tell me what you don't buy during the holiday season.

A Simple Gift

December 8th, 2017 at 07:55 am

Not sure if I mentioned this yet on the blog, but I bought a neighbor and friend an amaryllis bulb for Christmas. I planted it in a pot with soil about mid November, with the plan to give it to her December 1.

The bulb shot up like crazy, so I had to give it to her early (November 27) because I didn't want her to miss the flowering! The most important part!!

I can't tell you how excited she was to receive it! I mean I even told her the pot was found in my garage...spent very little on the bulb ($6). I knew she would like it as she loves plants and is quite an outdoorsy person.

The gift has even given me joy, because she keeps sending me pictures of it as it has grown and started to bloom. I have to say this is one of the very best gifts I have ever given, simply because of the joy and appreciation my friend has for it. And even better it cost me so very little!

Here's the flower today. Sorry it is sideways...not sure how that can be correcedt. May try it later. But you get the idea!

What is a simple gift that you have given that has brought much joy to the recipient?

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.

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!

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