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Army Travel Reimbursement Plus

November 28th, 2018 at 01:23 pm

I was pleasantly surprised to find our travel money from the move deposited into our account on Monday! And it appears to be covered in full! It's seems during many moves each different entitlement comes in as different deposits.

The grand total is pretty grand and exceeds the costs we actually incurred, which I honestly never totaled up. Our second checking account is now $6,915.77 richer!

Our primary costs for moving were carpet repair and cleaning at our rental home. Nearly a week in hotel costs, as well as food on the go, and fuel for the our two vehicles. We did fly one way as part of getting one vehicle here (I'm not an interstate driver), so that little trip was an additional cost and not specifically reimbursable by the government.

Nearly half that total is something called a Dislocation Allowance, which for my husband's rank is $3,753. This simply covers all the extras that are variable because everyone has different costs incurred during a move. It is tax free.

It's a relief to have it. I think I'm saving most of it as I was able to cover nearly all the costs incurred out of our current pay. I do know I dipped into the vacation category and that has not been reimbursed. So at a minimum, I will add to that category and save the remainder in the Big Goal.

I completed my first Pinecone survey in a really long time two days ago and was credited for it this morning. I have no idea why I wasn't getting surveys for over a year or more.

Oh, and we had a really nice trip back to see our girls. Our cat did very well, stressful for her, but she survived and is happy to be back in a familiar place. I still miss the girls so much. I'm trying to figure out how we can establish a home base closer to them to see them more often. I'm sure that is at least a year in the works. But living such a long distance away from both of them is hard on all of us. My husband still has at least five years in the military before retirement. My parents are close to the girls, but I'm starting to see how much older they seem as well. My dad is 70 and mother 68. They are very healthy and active, so no major concern, just awareness of the passage of time. It would be nice to be closer to them as well.

Spending, College & Vacation

July 7th, 2018 at 09:29 am

These next six weeks are bound to be expensive!

We just book three nights at a hotel in the mountains. We are getting the government rate. No points to use because I used them all up on the last trip! Cost is $400.02. We will have gas and food expenses, and possibly a museum entrance or two...but would like to stick to exploring and hiking in the mountains.

I just ordered vitamins, water filter replacement cartridges, and hair products for my oldest daughter. She had this on her list of things she needs to stock up on before school starts. It's still about a month before she leaves, but I went ahead and ordered them and had them mailed to my parents house! They will be there when she arrives and can take to school. I don't want to load up her suitcases too much for the return trip!

We are going out today to find some of the 'lighter items' on her list (clothes primarily). I'm hoping we can get my older daughter's needs taken care of in the next week and then focus on our younger daughter AFTER the trip. It's really overwhelming the things you need to buy to send your child to college. I know the first time I definitely didn't think of everything, and there were extra trips made on the day of move in, and lots of packages sent those first few months. This time, I know even more what is needed, so will do our best to get it all ahead of time!

And I need to make a flight reservation for oldest daughter. I book this one way in the fall and one way in the spring. The rest of us are driving back to the midwest since we expect to have a lot of stuff for our newest college student! Although I think it could be possible to fly, and simply buy everything there on arrival...but it sounds more stressful.

I did use Ebates to get 2.5% cash back on my Ulta order. Here's to at least finding some deals along the way! Smile

Trip Costs & More

June 29th, 2018 at 09:29 am

I entered all of our receipts into YNAB yesterday after returning from our Midwest trip for our daughter's orientation. My husband was going to do some of it before we returned, but I offered to do it so I could get everything categorized correctly! He has a habit of putting the charge on one card into the list of expenses on another card. Ironically, I did that once yesterday myself! A reason to have just one card I guess. Smile

I can tell we spent over $1000 on a rental car ($246), one night in a hotel ($121) and food! There were some college t shirts purchased, a calculator for calculus, and a few personal care items needed. We were in hotels five nights. We used Marriott points for four of them so that was very helpful. We had free breakfast everyday, but because we ate out for lunch and dinner we easily spent $80-100 each day. If it was a more relaxing type of vacation we probably could have grocery shopped and eaten that way, but we really were on the go most of the time.

I had saved money for these trips, so we were not scrounging to find the funds upon our return. The remaining balance in the vacation/travel fund is $649. We may take a short three day trip in July as a family. Those plans have not been made, but the hope would be to make sure these funds do cover that trip. I will need to add more funds soon for August traveling to the colleges. One daughter may fly, and the rest of us drive. Not sure yet, but will need to save for those...along with all the new college student expenses. That part is feeling pretty overwhelming!

It's payday, so I will pay off the cards and start budgeting for July! I would like July to be low in the grocery budget, so I need to put some effort there for some simple but healthy meals. After eating out so much on the trip, I really want lighter meals. What do you like to eat that is light in the summer?

Whirlwind Update

June 19th, 2018 at 08:22 am

It's been a very busy week after having my parents, sister and her two girls visit primarily to see our youngest daughter graduate high school! I'm exhausted this morning after taking them to the airport at 4am. I have had a chance though to process my husband's paycheck, add transactions to YNAB, move money around, and pay off the credit cards.

Just prior to my parents arriving my husband was out of town for work for three days. I haven't yet taken the time to figure out his actual expenses, but we did receive $515.85. Some of that is per diem, and the rest is mileage on the truck he drove. I'm sure he didn't spend that much. That money for now is sitting in our second checking account, and I think I'm just throwing it towards our Big Goal. Smile

I spent $220 on food when guests were here, but my Dad also spent ANOTHER $230 on food and some alcohol. So $450 for 9 people for 7 days. We did eat out for five meals, which was additional money spent. We went to the beach for three nights so most of our time was spent sitting on the beach or at the resort pools. Not a lot you can spend money on...unless you venture out and get towed!

Yep, we parked in an expensive lot for three hours, but came back about thirty minutes early to find our van had been towed. The truck, which we also drove, was still parked. In the end it was a bit our fault. The lot has these machines where you pay and then put the ticket on the dash. My husband started the transaction and at some point I looked down and saw a ticket, so I pulled it and handed it to him. Turns out that was the ticket for the person BEFORE us and that ticket expired two hours before ours would have. They didn't even tow until it had been expired for an hour. The cost to get the van out of the impound lot...$160 CASH. Big mistake on our part to not actually look at the ticket. So embarrassing. But we weren't the only ones that night that were careless, the man at the lot said six other cars were towed that night. A bad chain of events for all of us. We thought about pursuing a refund of some sort, but in the end the security guard, and tow truck driver were only going by the information on the ticket...and they were within their duties to tow based on that information. We are not happy about losing that money, but it is just money and we were determined to continue to have a good time and just let it go.

The good news is that today when I was paying off credit cards I redeemed $71.89 from American Express, and $45.95 from Chase Freedom. I also have three rash guard shirts we didn't end up wearing that still have tags. I will return those for at least another $40 to $50. Money flows out, but it also flows back in.

Oh, and my sister is going to give me about $100 to cover food and gas. She is giving my dad some money as well since she didn't contribute while she was here. She had the cash on her this morning, but we both forgot about during the early rush to get to the airport. She will send a check or send me money by Paypal. That will help the budget, too!

I'm exhausted, but we leave in a few days again to go to our youngest daughter's college orientation. Hotels are covered with points, we already paid the airline tickets, but will have a rental car, food and gas to cover while we are there. I think we can also buy the first semester books after she has enrolled in classes. I still have over $1,500 in our vacation fund. Smile

That's all for now! Stay cool and frugal.

Spent Some of That Vacation Budget

April 6th, 2018 at 07:15 pm

I finally got my rear in gear and made some airline reservations! I booked my daughter's trip home for the summer. We always do this one way since we don't know exactly when she plans to arrive on campus for the fall. This usually works out in our favor with decent one way tickets. This one cost us $155.

Next I booked our tickets to travel back to the last state we lived in. This is where our youngest daughter will go to college in the fall. I don't disclose exactly where we live because my husband is military and has asked me not to. Smile Our daughter has orientation at the end of June for two days. We will leave on a Friday, have a free Saturday, orientation on Sunday and Monday, and then a free day on Tuesday before flying home on Wednesday morning. Our oldest daughter is coming with us in hopes of seeing some old friends. The airline tickets cost us just over $1,600! Now you can see why I needed to be adding to the vacation budget this year!

I will need to book hotels for five nights AND get a rental car. I think at least three of the nights we may book at a hotel with a kitchen, so may just eat in those nights for dinner and have breakfast provided by the hotel. That will help quite a bit. The good news is I have one free night at Marriott as well as points we can redeem. So it appears we may only need to pay for one night out of pocket. I also looked briefly at rental cars. I have some discount options to consider, but guess at least $150-$200.

We may also do a test run of the shuttle my daughter will take to get to and from campus to the airport on her visits home. She will not have a car. We expect a trial run, may help ease any anxiety about the process. This will cost us about $59 for two of us one way. Not exactly frugal, but helpful. We may change our minds on this, but right now seems like a good option.

Vacation Budget Status

April 2nd, 2018 at 11:55 am

I think I mentioned we are likely to need to do some travel this year, primarily to visit our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June and later in the summer to move her in. I also need to buy our older daughter a plane ticket home in May. I should do that any day now. And we are also planning a small trip to the mountains this summer as a family. We will drive, but will need to cover fuel, hotels, food and activities.

I was able to add $500 this pay period to the vacation budget. We now have $3,427.56!

I don't have an exact number we need. I suppose I should start estimating that! It's starting to feel like a lot of hotel nights! We do have some points with Marriott, so will likely use those for some of the nights we need to cover. May need to get creative for other nights to pay the least out of pocket, but within our comfort zone.

I expect to be able to add more money as the weeks go by!

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 12:16 pm

In our budget discussions this weekend, I explained to my husband that I get overwhelmed with the sinking funds. The fewer I have the better, but lately we seem to have many more that I'm trying to juggle. And my post here, is just to talk about where we are now, not necessarily to fix it, as that is still part of the process we are working on.

The sinking funds that work really well that we have had for quite a long time are for auto insurance, registration, renter's insurance, and Christmas. I recently added birthday's and that one works really well, also.

Some of the one's that aren't as easy for me are: car maintenance and repairs, eye glasses, phones, and college expenses. Now to be fair these are newer categories I have set up in YNAB as a place to hold funds for the above listed expenses.

In the past, before YNAB, we had sinking funds for the auto registration, insurance, and Christmas. The other short term saving money was put into what I called a slush fund. That money was put into a separate savings account. When a bigger expense like eye glasses came up we would dip into it. And this way worked for many, many years.

I know I could still go back and even set this up in YNAB. I just want to be realistic in the knowing how much to put into the slush fund or these newer sinking funds. Because anything above what we need to save for those expenses, I'd really like to go to our Big Goal.

The nice thing about YNAB is that I can look at each category and see what we spent in the last year or year to date. For example last year, we spent $1,900 in car maintenance and repairs. That is an average of $165 a month. So far this year, we are on track to spend more. We have spent so far $1,537 in eight months, which is an average of $192. I think I want to use an average of the two years and start saving that when we get to January. Our vehicles are ten years old, repairs and maintenance are a given in the coming years.

We don't buy cell phones or eye glasses every year (usually) so that one is different. Much harder to figure out a monthly savings. Although again, looking at past expenses, I could probably come up some average over the last two years and save that amount monthly.

And then there is travel expenses and vacation. This includes flying our daughter here to visit and us visiting here. Last year, our Vacation spending was $9,270. More than half of that was for my daughter's trip to Europe. We had a small vacation to Nashville, and a trip back to our home state. This year our spending for travel is already at $2,526, an average of $315 a month.

Again, not really looking for advice, just explaining some of the things we are looking at for cutting, saving and managing better. These are line items in the budget we need to look at closely, if we are going to make progress on our Big Goal.

Tell me a bit about what you do for managing short term expenses such as the ones I described.

Kitchenette and Phone

April 30th, 2017 at 06:38 am

It looks like my husband will have a kitchenette in his room while he is at training this summer. He is on a post with a commissary also, so it looks like he can eat almost as normal while away. I do expect he will eat out a bit more, just because of the change in routine. We will discuss this more before he leaves. Smile

He is going to be near Washington DC, so it may end up being a chance for the girls and I to fly up there (not a fan of interstate driving) and visit. It will depend on his availability on weekends. I will try to save a bit more in the vacation fund in the meantime.

We are about to buy our youngest daughter a new cell phone. Her phone is almost exactly 3 years old, but is acting up. She has been dealing with issues with it for quite a few months now. We want to her to have a reliable phone while she is in Europe. Although we don't really want her to use it for much more than a camera or to play a game on since the cost would be very expensive. We expect to use What's App to communicate with her for free.

We are currently looking at buying an unlocked Motorola G Plus (5th Gen) for $229. The best price seems to be at Best Buy for a new phone. My Dad is a Team National member so I'm going to see if they have any discounts before I buy it.

$803 Trip Spending

April 24th, 2017 at 10:21 am

For an eight day trip, we spent $803 on food, fuel, parking, and two nights in a hotel for three people. Our airfare was paid before we left. That was approximately $997 for the three of us.

We were lucky enough to have one free hotel night, as well as free accommodations and several meals with my parents. We also had the use of one of their vehicles as we traveled around two states. We did offer to get a rental car, but they were more than willing to share. We did pay for the gas and got the car washed on the last day we had it.

I entered all our receipts/transactions into YNAB this morning. The only category I needed to revise was the restaurants, but there was more in the vacation category, so I moved some of that there.

After purchasing groceries, my husband getting a haircut, fueling up our vehicles, we have about $94 left until the end of the month.

My husband offered to bring taco shells and meat to their work potluck on Friday. I had volunteered cookies for the band fundraiser this weekend. So that is known spending that will come from the $94.

We will also be looking at getting a new cell phone for our daughter this weekend. I do have $200 set aside, and can pull some other savings if it ends up costing more.

Here's hoping we can make it a low spend week!

Spring Break Spending

March 2nd, 2017 at 04:29 am

We have two spring breaks as our girl's schools are on different schedules. The first one is for my our college daughter later in March. She's lucky enough to come home and celebrate her birthday. The main spending is her airline ticket home, which was kind of pricy, but I expect that may be because I was a little late getting it purchased, and it is spring break in so many places!
My husband is taking the week off, so we hope to do some fun things while she is home.

The other spring break in April will have us traveling back to our home states to visit colleges for our younger daughter. She will be a senior next year, so it is time to start exploring options and interests. Our airline tickets for all three of us on Southwest were $997. This was a much better deal than the single ticket mentioned above. We will stay with my parents most of the nights, but will get a hotel for two nights when we are in another state. I believe we can use Marriott points. I will look into that option later today.

Our travel expenses sure have increased since we moved so far away from family! I am thankful that we are not bogged down with debt payments that would make it so much harder to make these trips happen.

Pay Day and Savings

March 15th, 2016 at 07:32 am

YNAB really does make budgeting easier. For us, it seems that having a place to set cash aside for a specific category is motivating. And then to see the balance helps us watch the spending in that category a little better. I think that is what is happening. It's just better!

I finished paying all bills and current credit card balances, which are now all back to zero. No interest paid as always! I allocated cash into our spending categories as well as savings.

Savings seems easier too. For this pay period, I added $500 to our vacation fund and $513 to our emergency fund. My goal each month has been to add $336 to the EF. I have exceeded that amount every month so far this year.

Do you have a specific amount you are saving to an emergency fund each month or pay period?

No Spend Month Around the Corner

January 30th, 2016 at 11:08 am

Our no spend month is around the corner. I did use some funds in January to stock up on toilet paper and a few other toiletries. And there was that ground beef on sale at the commissary. I've also been freezing extra portions of food.

My husband did get paid yesterday. I have paid all the current outstanding credit card balances. Only a few pending charges that cannot be paid until they post. I did budget the paycheck for February, specifically the first half since he will get paid again mid month.

I have to pay rent, water, electric, allowances, flute lessons, and trash at the beginning of the month. I have set aside $495 until the next pay day on February 15 for groceries, fuel, personal care, and a few other expenses. I did put a little money in clothing and some in spending. I really hope to keep them no spend, but I decided to put a little in to cover a need that could come up.

I set aside $1095 in several different savings categories for the month. Over half went to cover two airline tickets for mother in law and niece. They have not been purchased yet. But now the money is available! And in addition to saving for that I added money to our emergency fund, car maintenance, and home furnishings.

The cool thing is as I was writing this post, my daughter said a teacher was requesting donations for a science experiment. One item was Oreo cookies; another was plastic utensils. I picked the utensils since I have a significant amount of those on hand and that donation will cost me $0 out of pocket! Smile

Who else is about to start a No Spend February?

Identity Theft & Move Offer

October 28th, 2015 at 08:11 am

My information was stolen from the government along with my husband's and 21.5 MILLION other people this summer. Ironically just this week the Army posted reminders about how to avoid identity theft. As if we only need to do these things to avoid theft of identity. What about our own government keeping the information provided to them safe?

We have been given three years of credit monitoring including our daughter under 18. Not sure about our oldest daughter seems she should get it too. She may be notified separately. There is identity restoration service and $1 million worth of insurance attached to this as well in case our identities are stolen causing financial harm.

Ick. Sometimes I really do dislike the government!

Oh, and the insurance company for the moving company is offering us $1400 of the $2600 we claimed for the damage they did to our things. One of the items that is damaged the most is being denied! We can appeal. We are going to discuss tonight to determine if we will or not.

Everything that was moved was put on an inventory. The driver logs it along with current damage. He seems to have logged damage on an entertainment center that would match the area we are claiming, but I think his notes were for other damage in that same area...not the big damage we now have and didn't have before. It is really hard to prove this unless we had up close pics before, which we don't. Why would we take a close up of the corner of furniture when it wasn't damaged? It appears someone attempted to repair the area with wax, marker and spray stain. It looks awful. And I feel so mad when I think about it.

I'm working on calculating our net paychecks for next year. I won't really have all information until January, but I have the taxable portion so I should be able to roughly calculate taxes owed for 2016. I need to know this to figure the withholding necessary. I was way off this year since I hadn't figured out the tuition tax credits. The main reason I want to figure net pay is so I can determine if we can actually afford this Europe trip my daughter wants to take. It is a trip that will cost us close to $5K. It is definitely something to plan for and figure out.

Paid Off More Debt

September 1st, 2015 at 08:56 am

It's payday so I paid off more debt that has been sitting on credit cards (no interest is being charged). I feel better than it is starting to dwindle down. Smile

Specifically paid:
$704.38 American Express (Orlando trip expenses)
$3.20 American Express (movie rental)
$360.44 Target Red Card (dorm & school expenses)
$166.58 Discover (online school expenses)

We still have just over $2,184.79 on credit cards. Considering it was over $3K when my husband and I were discussing things a few nights ago we have made some progress. The goal will be to keep spending as low as possible to try to use some extra income toward expenses.

At the same time we are working on debt, we are discussing flying to see family and college daughter at Thanksgiving. I have a Companion Pass earned with Southwest that lets my youngest daughter fly for free with me through the end of the year. This means we only need to pay for two tickets. One scenario has our flights costing $911. Which when you divide by three people flying is pretty good!! I really dislike the idea of flying during the holiday simply because it is so busy, but that is when most of us have time off work and school.

Credit Card Balances

August 4th, 2015 at 12:32 pm

So for full disclosure I'm putting how much we have currently on credit cards. A whopping $5,161.22! I know. That is a lot. None of it has been charged any interest. We have either paid the balance in full before the due date or let the balance roll over on the one 0% interest card we have, Citi Thank You Premiere. And yes, that card does have the largest balance at $2,585.67.

The good news is I have $3,441 that I have decided I can pull out of savings and start paying these balances down/off. I also have a $100+ reward from US Bank to apply to a balance as well. That leaves $1,620.22 to pay off. Some of that will come from current money in our checking account to cover purchases included in the total that are current purchases and bills. That accounts for at least $300, maybe a little more.

I'm pretty sure I can get the remaining carryover balance paid off in the next month, by the September 1 paycheck. Of course, I could pay the whole thing off and just pay ourselves back too. I am considering that also.

And yes, a big chunk of that balance is our trip. I said I would use some extra Army funds and house proceeds and that's what I'm doing. Off to pay off some more debt! Smile

Total Universal Orlando Trip Costs

August 3rd, 2015 at 05:24 am

Our trip to Universal Orlando did cost a bit more than I expected, but I have no regrets. We had a very good time with plenty of memories!

Here's the approximate breakdown of costs:
Airline Fees $144
Park Tickets $604
Hotel Cost $695
Hotel Parking $52
Rental Car $191
Food/Gas/Souvenirs $668
Airport Parking $42

Grand Total $2396

We did Early Bird Check in for Southwest on both legs of the trip, which added $100 to our cost. It was worth it leaving, but on the way home our flight probably only had 60 people, so need for it. But you don't know that ahead of time.

Hotel costs could have been much less, however, we did get Express Passes included to cover all three days for four people even though we only stay two nights for that cost. (Third night at different hotel was paid with reward points) If we had purchased Express Passes (Unlimited version) for three days for four people it would have cost us over $1400! That is not a typo. There is no way I would have paid that, which is why staying on site is such a deal even though the cost of the hotel seems pricey it isn't for what you get.

I mentioned the rental car issue in yesterday's post. Originally I though I was getting a rental car 'free' with reward points.

Of course, we could have limited souvenirs, of which there really were only six or seven items. My husband had some pricey beer. We did eat Clif Bars in our hotel room each morning so that saved us a bit, but if we wanted food in the parks we ate it. I tried Earl Grey and Lavender ice cream, which was yummy! With it being so hot, water was probably our biggest expense. I didn't have time to do enough research, but we could have refilled our water bottles with water at the Coke Freestyle machines for FREE! Oops. Lesson learned for next time!

So it's all good. I'm using a little bit of our house proceeds and army reimbursements to pay for the trip. Smile

More Spending...

July 27th, 2015 at 06:22 pm

We are still spending. This time we went to Kohl's and bought some clothes. I needed another pair of shorts for our trip, I bought three because I couldn't decide. However, I will return two after the trip. My husband needed two pairs as did one of my daughter's. My husband also needed a couple shirts. And then since we had a 25% off coupon and a $10 off coupon it seemed the right time to buy a new kitchen pan. My husband has been complaining about ours sticking. He's already used it and very happy!

That trip was not frugal, but we all found things there in one trip so that was really good. But spending $178 is tough! Again, I do plan to return two of the shorts I bought, which we probably be about a $32 credit, bring the bill to under $150. A bit better, but boy things are expensive and thus why we usually get by with less clothing. On vacation we don't want to spend our time washing and drying to get things clean. And we will be in Florida, thus the clothes are going to be filthy after sweating in them all day. No wearing again. Although I actually might try that with one pair of shorts. Wash in the sink and hang to dry. Then I could return all three pairs of shorts!!

Our first water bill arrived today. It was for just 7 days. It included a $20 turn on charge. The actual water with taxes was 7.60. I set the bill to pay next Monday from our checking account and requested future bills to be sent by email.

I'm going to enjoy the trip and plan to pay all the bills when we return this weekend.

Temporary Lodging Paid

July 24th, 2015 at 06:18 am

We received a payment for our temporary lodging expenses yesterday. The amount was $1550.50. This is less than the rent we actually paid for 30 days. But the Army made this payment based on their calculation for 10 days worth of lodging and meals. Works for me!

I can now make the final payment on our Citi Premiere card, which is under $800. That will make the balance zero. It should remain that way and we will get it closed in the near future.

I still have a running balance on our Citi Preferred card, maybe about $3K. This card has 0% interest, so I have been just paying what I can from paychecks. I will need to dip into savings soon to get it all paid off, which is fine. I haven't even used all the money the Army has sent yet. Smile

I expect I can put at least $1500 on it today, and have another $500 available on pay day. Of course, we have our trip expenses, but some of that Army money is covering the trip. I'm finally feeling a little more in control of the cash inflows and outflows again.

It will be interesting to see how college and making payments feels in the next couple months! It's coming up fast. Smile

Southwest Companion Pass Earned

December 29th, 2014 at 07:39 am

Wow! I guess signing up and earning over 100,000 Southwest Rapids Rewards points gets you a free Companion Pass. I actually earned mine this year only by signing up for two different Southwest Cards this year for their 50K bonus offers. I didn't fly once!

I plan to keep this Southwest card (Plus version) open at least for 2015. I paid for the annual fee, and expect with a move somewhere we might actually need to fly to see our college bound daughter. The Companion Pass will help quite a bit!

I'm not year clear on when I need to designate my Companion. I hope I can wait until the first trip. It will likely be my husband, but could also be my youngest daughter.

Do you have a Companion Pass with Southwest or another airline?

Southwest Rewards Update & More Snowflakes

July 28th, 2014 at 06:07 pm

Southwest has awarded my bonus points to my rewards account. I now have 52,683 points. I think my husband's account has about 600+ points that I may transfer over to round up to 53,000. That would mean I could redeem $525 worth of gift cards.

I may however not redeem all of my points. I have a friend that recently moved to the Houston area. I might want to go visit, but I'm not sure yet if that is really realistic schedule wise since we both have high school kids with busy schedules. The airfare is a better deal for the points than redeeming for gift cards. I'm still pondering, but I expect to redeem a little more than half the points for gift cards.

We received two surprise snowflake checks in the mail today. I love these types of snowflakes the most! My husband and I each got a check for $25.60 from a Trans Union class action settlement. We first requested to be part of the class action in September 2008!! That is not a typo. 2008. Crazy. But hey, I take my cash where I can get it. I've deposited the checks and I'm going to send the money to our mortgage pay down goal, which is where all snowflakes go to rest. Smile

Do you use Southwest rewards for airline tickets rather than gift cards? Did you receive a class action check lately?

Barclay Question & More

February 18th, 2014 at 05:53 am

First a credit card question:
I haven't applied for any Barclay's cards because the rewards have to be redeemed for travel which we rarely do. But I'm tempted. I read that currently you can get $400 in travel rewards for spending $1000, but that the spending requirement may be going up to $3000. It seems like a good deal to jump on now. The question I have is about redeeming the rewards for travel. Do you charge the travel expense on the card and then redeem points to cover or do you book travel with points? Has anyone completed travel this way with the Barclay's card?

Other news:
I redeemed Swagbucks for $25, so that will be arriving hopefully by month's end. I cancelled my Citi Thank You Preferred card yesterday by secure message on their site. I opened this card last May and earned a $250 check payable to our mortgage company, after spending $1000. I haven't been as good about closing cards as I intended, but I was ready to let this one go. We were not using it and don't intend to.

I used up the last of a jar of Maple Pumpkin Butter today. It had about a tablespoon left, so I put it on my steel cut oatmeal this morning. I am going to make banana bread or banana muffins today to use two very ripe bananas. I will need milk for either one, so I will use more of that. The milk expires tomorrow, although it may still be good after. I just want to use it up rather than pour down the drain.

I need to decide what to have for lunch. There is leftover taco fixings from last night. However, I also need to eat a salmon filet. I might cook the salmon, but eat it tomorrow. That way I can eat up some of the taco things today.

What are you using up today? Has this been a good challenge for you or it this just the norm for you? Did you eat anything strange just to use it up?

Prepping for Thankgiving

November 26th, 2013 at 11:11 am

Part of me wants to complain about the work I have to do to get ready for guests. I think this is because I feel I'm doing all the work alone. My husband came for lunch and asked if it was okay if he worked out after work today...well it is if you can also help me when you are done! I need a twin bed set up in another room, wine and beer purchased, a shower cleaned and couches rearranged. It seems he was on board with that. I know he is busy with work, but if it would be nice if he could see how much work I'm doing to prepare.

I will spend the rest of today cleaning, moving sheets and blankets to another room, vacuuming the carpets, doing at least one load of laundry, maybe two, and numerous other odds in ends. Like finding my gravy boat and getting it cleaned. I'm pretty sure I know where it is!

Tomorrow is baking day. We will be making scones, pumpkin pie, a focaccia bread, and a stuffed bread. I'm also putting together a pumpkin lentil soup for us to eat for dinner which is around the time our guests are arriving. And there is some cleaning on the list, too! The girls are helping with the baking, but it will be a long day.

I'm thankful really that I have family to spend Thanksgiving with, and family that wants to drive here to spend it with us. If something doesn't get done, or something doesn't work out right in the cooking they are all very forgiving and understanding. It won't matter to them one bit. I'm thankful my husband is home to be with us on Thanksgiving, as there have been a few years where he was not. I'm also thankful for our good health.

It's all good, isn't it? What are you most thankful for?

Back From Vacation

June 27th, 2013 at 03:50 pm

We are back from vacation. Yep, it was a quick three day road trip, but fun and entertaining! I've done the laundry and purchased $100 worth of groceries. DH has mowed the lawn. Now I will need to get the receipts tallied. We did eat out every meal except breakfast. And a couple of the meals were a little pricey, but we enjoyed our time together and the food.

I opened the mail to find that DH has been issued a fine for speeding. This is from one of those automated photo enforcement things. The intersections are well marked so you can avoid speeding or running a red light easily. He was going 48 mph in a 35 mph zone, and received a $75 fine to be paid in about two weeks. He was disappointed, but it clearly shows speeding, thus we will pay the fine to the city.

It is always nice to be home and the cats are glad to see us, too. I was unpacked within 30 minutes of being home. How quickly do you unpack after a trip?

A Want, Not a Need

June 20th, 2013 at 11:24 am

I purchased this chair yesterday for $99 plus tax. Yes, I did purchase it on the Citi Thank You Preferred Card. Yes, it is a want, and not a need. But I have to say I'm excited to have it. We all are...all four of us went together to pick it up!

It is shown here in my living room with our cat Riley trying it out. She approves. It doesn't match the living room, but I think I might get one that does. This is very close to our entry way and could use something there. This actual chair has been moved to our basement guest room where we have plum and gray bedding. It looks great down there, too!

Yesterday included buying a prescription for my older daughter for just $5 and a few fill in grocery items. Oh, actually we did buy her prescription sunglasses earlier in the day as well...just under $150. That went on the Target card to get the 5% off!

I hope to keep the rest of the week low on the spending side, but I did hear my youngest ask about pajama shorts and since she has none I think we'll keep our eyes peeled for those and I'd love a new top for summer vacation next week.

Have you given in to any wants recently?

Vacation Hotel Costs

June 18th, 2013 at 07:16 am

I booked three nights of hotel stays for our mini vacation get away. Total cost $172.48!

Here's how it is going down:

First two nights will be at a Marriott Residence Inn. We will get the government rate of $77 a night for a two room suite. We will get a King bed and the girls will take a pull out couch. They serve free breakfast and have a manager's reception in the evenings we are there. There is a kitchenette, if we decide to eat in for a meal or two. We do like to eat out on vacations, but at least it is an option. With tax the total stay will be $172.48.

The third night is in another town. We will stay at a Hampton Inn. We used Hilton Honors points we accumulated last year during out long extended stay in a hotel during our move to make this hotel stay FREE! We get free breakfast at this hotel as well.

An average of $57.50 a night is not bad in my opinion. And considering we should get three breakfasts and two dinners for four people included makes the deal even more valuable.

Our other costs will be fuel for the van, additional food and snacks, and admission to some attractions. We hope to have a nice mix of free activities in there as well. I think it will turn out to be just enough time away and low on the vacation expenditure scale as well.

Do you like to stay at hotels that include a meal? Do you save up points for free hotel stays? And don't you think it takes forever to rack these stays up? I do!!

I finally had to verify my account with Swagbucks today. I had redeemed $25 PayPal this weekend and it was refunded. I reordered and was prompted to verify my account. I did this by text message. The other option was snail mail. And now my PayPal money has been reordered!

Free Entertainment

June 15th, 2013 at 01:04 pm

It's a low key weekend here. It's hot and muggy, my husband had two wisdom teeth pulled Friday and we were busy with the art fair last weekend. It feels good to stay relaxed.

I have earned enough Swagbucks for ANOTHER $25 PayPal cash deposit. This will make $350 from Swagbucks since the beginning of the year. Not bad, huh?

I took a walk around the neighborhood, stopped at a garage sale and bought two hanging shoe holders for $1 each. I will use them in hall closets to keep gloves, hats, sunscreen, umbrella and such organized. They are a pretty teal and black floral too!

My husband's wisdom teeth were not impacted, but needed to come out due to cavities. Since they are far back in the mouth they could not be drilled, thus just a basic visit to have them pulled. He says it would taken an Act of Congress to get approval to have not impacted teeth pulled by an oral surgeon, which is what he wanted to do. Turns out he did fine. Now he's a little groggy on Vicodin and Aleve! As military member he will not have to pay out of pocket. Even the Vicodin was free. We did have to pay for the Aleve and some extra gauze pads, which was about $7.

I've been cleaning and doing laundry today. If the humidity drops, I hope to mow (might need gas) and get to the grocery store tomorrow. I hope to buy enough groceries to last through the end of the month. We do have a few vacation days before the end of the month so a few less meals needing to be cooked at home.

This evening we do have to go out to attend a chamber concert my oldest daughter is performing in. Last night we got to hear her play a duet on her flute with a harpist. So pretty!! The concert is free.

Are you doing anything outside of your home that is free entertainment today or tomorrow? What is your best free thing to do outside of your home?

First Citi Payment

June 13th, 2013 at 08:10 pm

The Citi Thank You Preferred card that I received earlier this month has been used just a little in the amount of $25.11. There actually was a statement issued already! That amount has been paid as of this evening.

This card has a $1000 minimum purchase to earn $250 in gift cards. We have three months to meet the goal. We will use it for everything we normally purchase and our small in state vacation at the end of the month. I expect by the end of the month we will have met the goal. Just $974.89 to go.

In fact, I did use this card today for fuel in my van, a gift card for my dad, and a book of stamps, which was around $85. I think my husband probably used it to pay for his haircut.

I do have a few out of the norm expenses that can be charged if needed. Prescription sunglasses and flute maintenance specifically.

The spending needed on these cards for the $500 in rewards bonuses is going fast. I may have my husband apply for these cards soon, so we have them on hand for another round of rewards. He will be able to apply for one additional card, Chase Freedom, so his ability to earn some rewards will be slightly larger, $600 I think.

On another note, I'm just 500 Swagbucks from earning another $25 gift card. I have not made goal at least two days this week. I wouldn't have anyway with vacation planned for later in the month. I don't want to be glued to Swagbucks when I can be enjoying my family and the beautiful scenery of the Mississippi River, right?!

Are you taking a vacation this summer? Are you flying or driving? Are you staying close to home? Who is traveling the farthest away?

Using credit cards to obtain rewards is only for those with cash to pay off purchases right away before interest accrues. And those organized enough to keep track of the charges, and due dates. We are not making purchases we wouldn't be making normally. All rewards are to bulk up the savings in our down payment fund.

The Fun Begins

June 5th, 2013 at 05:25 pm

My American Express Blue Cash Everyday card arrived in the mail today. I forgot that this card has 0% interest through September 2014, just like the Citi Thank You card I applied for.

I will use one of the cards to make the full payment for the Washington DC trip, which I must do by the end of the month. This way I can make payments towards the balance over the course of the year without paying any interest or dipping into other cash savings. If I used the AE card, the rewards are offered as a statement credit, so this would work well for redeeming.

I expect to pay off the balance long before the trip in April, but at least I have a little wiggle room and can control when I pay it off. This way is much better than making payments directly with the travel company as they charge all sorts of processing fees. Yuck. I also have the protection from the credit card company if anything goes awry with the travel agency.

The bonus offer on the AE card is $150 for spending just $500. This transaction will be $1250, so there is no problem meeting the minimum. The rewards are given as a statement credit as I understand it. I will redeem at one time when I would have made a payment and keep the payment money in cash to save towards our mortgage goal.

It does help, I think, to use the card for large transactions, rather than a lot of little ones. It is just easier to manage and track the where I am in meeting the requirements.

Anyone know of any good bonus offers for opening any other type of account, brokerage, checking or savings? I'd be interested in those offers as well as a way to bring in extra cash to meet our goals.

Mish Mash

May 29th, 2013 at 09:23 am

I earned $3 from a Pinecone survey and received the samples in the mail to try. I expect that money to arrive in my Paypal account tomorrow. I will do a May Snowflake update on Friday.

I've been earning my Swagbucks, reading my library book, taking walks, cleaning, sewing and planning our vacation, thus not much spending other than gas and groceries. And those alone add up fast!

We will be going to a graduation out of town this weekend. Thus more spending on gas and eating. We will write my niece a $50 check. We already wrote in a simple note card, rather than buying a 'special' graduation card. Again, don't most people just toss or recycle cards anyway?!

We know we can use some hotel points for one night in a hotel. We expect to be away three or four nights, so that helps a little. I hope to take a cooler along since it is a road trip. At a minimum, snacks(fresh fruit) and drinks (water) can be bought ahead of time to save us from making convenience purchases! I'm willing to eat lunch and breakfast out of the cooler. We have already found several free things to do so I think we will have a fun time traveling the scenic byway of the Mississippi. I expect we will use a credit card for the vacation expenses to earn some cash back. We will pay for it in full upon our return, of course!

Thinking ahead to big expenses coming up in the next few months: prescription sunglasses for oldest daughter, new sneakers for both girls, school tuition, flute maintenance repairs, band camp fees, few more summer clothes for each of us, mulch for a garden bed we are carving out, two trees for our back yard, gifts for the daughter turning 13, and the deposit on the Washington DC trip.

That's the money mish mash for today!

Vacation Thoughts

May 25th, 2013 at 07:11 am

Thanks for the kind wishes of good health yesterday. I do feel better today. I had a huge urge to sleep several times, so that is just what I did. I think I slept 11 hours last night, and I feel pretty good this morning.

It is raining pretty good here today, which lends itself to a lazy day. We might be able to get a few honey do list items done, which will require no outlay of money. Smile

We need to do some vacation planning as well. We are thinking of a road trip along the Mississippi River byways here in Iowa. If anyone has any must see destinations in that area, let me know. We also want to have a stop for a day or two that is just relaxing in some way. Enjoy the scenery and each other. It seems it could be a semi frugal vacation as it will be meals, hotels, and fuel and activity admissions. I'm hoping for a budget of $1000 or less.

Will you be taking a vacation this year? Do you have a budget? Will you fly, drive or stay in town?

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