<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: January, 2013
 

Archive for January, 2013

Financial Musings

January 31st, 2013 at 07:40 pm

We have a credit card that my husband uses for work expenses. He had charged about $25, and the other day I noticed the balance was under $10 on that card. I looked it up and found a credit of $15.56. I inquired and this goes all the way back to July when we noticed some odd charges on the card that were not ours. They switched card numbers for us, and moved the balance over, but did not get to the credit for one of the charges until this week! This was shortly after our move, so I was not keeping track that closely. Nice surprise!

Payday is tomorrow. We were left with just over $12 from our regular budget money. I will make sure to put that money where it counts!

I had an offer from Sharebuilder to deposit at least $10K and get $75. Deposit $25K and get $150. Tempting, but I could not tell how much interest their accounts pay in addition to the bonus. I have some cash I could put in the account but I would like to know the interest rate. I did some searching, but was only coming up with margin interest rates. I know I will not pay those fees. I do not expect to be using the money to buy any investments, so the money would just be sitting in cash. I did put the promotion code in my account, since it expired today. I have until late March to put the money in. In the meantime, I think I will skip it, since I cannot find the interest rate.

I renewed our newspaper subscription. I purchased our first three months with airline miles. Unfortunately, it seems to be a one time offer. I paid nearly $65 for 13 weeks of the daily newspaper. The girls love to read the comics. My older daughter watches for local high school news and pictures. I glance at it everyday. I think it is helpful to have the local paper when you first move to a new town. It helps you understand the issues in the community, as well as, local events. It was hard to make that payment though. I will revist the need for the paper when it comes up for renewal in May.

We are having an artic blast here. The roads are very icy, the wind is blowing and drifting the snow from Wednesday. It was negative 17 degrees with the windchill earlier today. It will get even colder tonight. As you can guess our furnace is running quite a bit!!

And that my friends are my financial musings for the day. You all come back again!

Hit $200K

January 30th, 2013 at 10:56 am

The market has been zooming in January, along with all of last year. It appears to be down today as I write this, but yesterday was a milestone. The total value of our retirement accounts has reached just over $200,000! It has only taken 37 months to make this second 100 grand. We will take it, and watch to see how long it takes to get to the next milestone. Smile

You might check your retirement accounts today, to see how much as changed recently. You might be surprised. And don't forget to keep investing! Or start now, if you have not started yet.

January Snowflakes

January 29th, 2013 at 04:33 pm

At this point, I think I have a finalized total for January snowflakes. I can't say I tried to hard to accumulate them. I only sold one book and that was already listed before January on Half.com. I have not been motivated yet to get my Ebay sales listed.



Pinecone Surveys and Swagbucks were instrumental to my total this month. The Target gift cards I accumulated for stocking up on some good deals like toilet paper and laundry detergent were a nice bonus too.

Again, I didn't try to hard, but yet I found nearly $100 to save for next years Christmas gifts. Did you find any snowflakes to save this month?

It Has Entered My Mind

January 28th, 2013 at 10:49 am

This thought has entered my mind several times in the last two weeks: We have enough money in cash that we could pay off the truck today. It would still leave us with plenty of cash for other emergencies, too.

I think the thought comes from impatience. I want to be done with the loan. I spend too much time making calculations as to how soon I can pay it off. I'm annoying myself!!

The pros: We own the truck free and clear. We pay no more interest on the loan. I don't have to make calculations and record the loan. We still have plenty of emergency fund money. We will have only mortgage debt.

The cons: We have to use emergency cash. We lose interest on the cash (although it's very little). I have to focus on paying ourselves back...which will require calculations, too. Smile

I suppose I would need to consider any risk to this payoff scenario. I did read on USAA's website, that with the fiscal cliff negotiations looming, there is a higher probability of a government shutdown. This could lead to a delay of pay for the amount of time it takes. It might be nice to have that truck loan cash on hand if that occurred.

I won't decide right away. Payday is later this week. I expect to send in close to $450 to the truck loan at that time. Once mid month rolls around I expect the loan to be under $3K in a very short time.

I'm off to do more calculating. What would you do if this option was open to you? Pay off with cash on hand, and repay to your savings? Or just keep working to pay it down and off fast?

ETA: Interest rate is 3.39%, balance is $3706.02, regular payment is $329.13, and we have about $900 extra a month to send to the loan.

Owe $161 in Taxes

January 27th, 2013 at 01:10 pm

I've been using HR Block online tax software to file our tax return today. I'm not real thrilled with their set up. I'm using them because it is free to military personnel. I usually use Turbo Tax, and I would highly suggest it to anyone who isn't tax savvy.

I had estimated we would owe over $600 when I realized we received a 1099G from our state for last years tax refund. We did itemize, and generally this would be taxable. However, we used the sales tax method rather than income tax on our Schedule A. Sales tax deduction apparently isn't taxable the next year, like it would be if we used our state income tax. We use the sales tax because my husband's income is exempt from income tax in our state. This changes the amount we owe to about $161. I have one more interest income statement to add, that is only for $75, so it won't change too much.

I was most annoyed with HR Block's state return portion because it asked for type of employment. I clicked military. Yet, the calculator was still showing his entire income as taxable, even though it should be exempt. I had to change it in an adjustments to income part of our return. It wasn't obvious at all. I did find it, but I think it is confusing to the average user. I even had to fill in the amount that was tax exempt. I think Turbo Tax handled it better last year if I remember right.

I like that the amount is much lower than I thought. I hope to have the return finalized in mid February. I'm always jumping around from different software options to get the best deal. I prefer free! Do you use the same software every year, or jump around to get the lowest price?

Frugal Happenings: Beauty Edition

January 24th, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I think I'm pretty frugal when it comes to my beauty regimen. Part of it comes from what I'm willing to put on and in my body, and the rest come just from being frugal.

I use the following everyday:
Bar Soap
Shampoo
Conditioner
Deodorant (happens to last nearly a year)
Mousse
Lotion
Toothpaste
All in one contact solution

I use a razor and make the blade last. If I start getting small cuts, I know it's time to replace. I have the same razor handle since college.

I wear makeup only a couple times a month. I have one of each in my makeup bag:
Eye shadow
Eye liner
Blush
Lipstick
Liquid foundation
Loose powder

I used a hair dryer. Pull my hair back in a headband, or pony tail. I never use hair color or have my hair dyed. It's natural (and yes, there are a few gray hairs). I have two nail polish colors that I will wear on my toenails in the summer months. The rest of the year, nothing! Yes, I own a metal nail file, handed down from my mother.

I have a body spray my husband gave me a couple years ago. I wear it a couple times a month. I don't know if you have read, but 'fragrance' as an ingredient could be anything. Companies don't have to disclose where it comes from.

I probably won't win a beauty pageant, but I haven't scared anyone away with my looks or my smell yet! This routine does cost money, but by many women's standards it does tend to the low end. Do you have a frugal beauty routine? How much do you think you spend on your hygiene? Could you find a way to spend less, or skip part of your routine?

Waiting On One Form

January 23rd, 2013 at 09:26 am

I'm waiting on one tax form now that my husband's W2 showed up on DFAS today. I'm waiting for an interest statement from Sharebuilder.

Way back in December of 2011, I opened an account with them for a bonus of $75. I earned the money in 2012. I withdrew the money and did something with it...it's probably on my blog somewhere. I don't think I put in the Christmas fund though. Anyway......it's now 2013 and I'm waiting for that tax form. The Sharebuilder website states it will be available by February 15. I'm hoping sooner. I don't know why I'm so excited to do our taxes. I already know we have to pay. Smile

I'm planning to use an HR block website this year. I found that on Military One Source it is free to file our Federal return and up to 3 state returns. I like free!

How do you plan to do your taxes this year?
If your adjusted gross income is under $57,000 you are eligible to file your Federal tax return for free, per the http://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-...

Stock Market Is UP!

January 22nd, 2013 at 03:31 pm

I don't follow our retirement accounts too closely, but I did record the values at year end and then looked again last night before the markets opened up again today. And they were up again today!

We have a good portion in the S&P 500 index fund and it is up 4.65% since December 31. That doesn't seem like much, but once you reach that century mark of $100K, things start moving up pretty fast. We are closing in our next $100K...so will be watching for the day that it does that.

We are dollar cost averaging our purchases in every month with automatic investment and payroll deduction. It makes it so easy to invest and not think too much about it. How do you invest for your retirement? Payroll deductions, auto invest, mail a check? Lump sum or dollar cost average?

Negative Wind Chills

January 21st, 2013 at 11:41 am

We are experiencing cold cold weather here in the midwest today. We have wind gusts up to 30 miles per hour which makes for negative wind chills. My husband and girls are home from school for the holiday. We watched the inauguration this morning by the gas fireplace. But it is now off. The furnace is running at it's regular temperature of 69 degrees. I ate leftover mushroom barley soup for lunch and actually feel toasty warm.

The cold weather will keep us inside, except to go to my daughter's flute lesson, where I'll drop her teacher a $20 bill. We are keeping ourselves entertained. My husband is has been taking an online class for work. The girls have been drawing, writing, reading books and generally hanging out. I can hear them laughing in one of the bedrooms.

A low spend day, no needs or wants. It's all good!



Frugal Happenings: Sunday Edition

January 20th, 2013 at 06:27 pm

I've been trying to pay attention to the things I do that are frugal. I know I do them, and often take them for granted. I figure someone may find them useful.

I made my grocery list for the week while taking inventory of my cupboards. I found cream of wheat,barley, frozen onion/celery, refried beans, pasta, and ground beef. Luckily, I won't be using those for one dish! I'm going to use the cream of wheat up for my breakfast this week and maybe even next! I will add a pound of mushrooms to make mushroom barley soup, which will include the onion and celery. We will have taco dip. I had to buy sour cream, tomatoes and tortilla chips. The pasta and ground beef will go together. I picked up fresh green beans to eat with it. It does help to use what you have on hand!

I cut open a tube of lotion this morning. It was enough for one more rub down after my shower. I also scavenged the bottle of lotion my husband threw in the trash. I will use the remainder he failed to use for tomorrow. I will also recycle the bottle rather than throw it away. (He does have some bad habits.)

I combined trips today, to save on gas. I went by the library to drop off books on my way to the grocery store. I noticed on my way to the library there is a dry cleaner nearby. I like that we don't have dry clean clothes, thus no money needs to be spent there.

I did three loads of laundry. I used half the amount of soap, and half a dryer sheet for each load, since we have soft water.

Other than coffee, I drank water today. Straight from the tap. I even took my own water bottle to the gym.

We have spent part of our evening listening to music we already own, watching broadcast television and one quick show on Netflix. Simple, inexpensive entertainment. I will probably read my library book right before bed, too.

What did you do today that was frugal?

Flute Upgrade

January 20th, 2013 at 08:22 am

My husband, daughter and I went flute shopping yesterday. We have upgraded her from her first flute to an intermediate flute, which has the silver head joint and open holed keys. She was very excited.

The flute is a brand new Yamaha. We paid $1,478 plus tax. We asked our daughter to pay 10% (before tax) of her own money, just so she would have a little skin in the game. Her portion was $148. Our portion ends up being $1433.46.

We did put the purchase on our Chase Freedom card. We will earn 1% on the purchase in rewards. We will pay the balance from our savings account. My plan is to pay ourselves back over the course of the year. I thought of opening a card with 0% interest, since I have seen a few offers for 18 months financing. However, I didn't want another card, or the hassle of making the payment on their terms. We have the cash and are not earning much of anything on it, so might as well just pay ourselves back as the year progresses.

We did not trade in her original flute because she will have two more years of marching band. Marching band is hard on instruments, since they are out there sweating while they play them, laying them on the turf, the sidewalk, and so forth. The new flute will be her concert flute. The sound is so pretty and will be awesome to hear her play her solo piece in the acoustic friendly concert hall our district has.

Did you play an instrument in high school? Do you still own it? If not, what did you do with your instrument after you stopped playing?

Estimated Taxes Owed

January 19th, 2013 at 08:53 am

I did a rough estimate of taxes owed to the US Federal Government this morning using Turbo Tax TaxCaster. As I expected we will owe money. The estimate is $623. I can handle that.

I did an estimate this summer and came up with $262 that we would owe. However, as with many estimates, it didn't include a few things. I did not include last years state tax refund, which was over $2K, or some of the interest we earned. I just forgot about these when I did my estimate.

We also paid far less in real estate taxes this year because we moved into a new home where the full value of the home has yet to be taxed. This means we don't have enough expenses to itemize. Usually we have about $13,000 in expenses we can itemize, but not this year, just under the standard deduction of $11,900 by a few hundred dollars.

Since I have three months until this money is owed. I will be setting aside $100 for the next 6 pay periods, including the last one on April 15th. I will make payment that day.

I feel better knowing the amount. I realize it could change slightly, but I think this estimate is right on target and includes everything this time around. We shouldn't have to owe as much next year...unless my husband gets promoted. In that case, I will likely have to change his withholding, since we will be in a different tax bracket.

Maybe I can find a credit card to charge this payment on and get a cash bonus! Or does the government charge extra to process credit cards over debit cards? What is the most you have ever owed the government at tax time?

Less Truck Debt!!

January 18th, 2013 at 05:32 am

Our regular payment to the truck loan was processed yesterday in the amount of $329.13. We paid only $13.67 in interest; $315.46 went to principal.

The principal is now under $4K, with a balance of $3,706.02. Yipee! More progress. Always makes me happy!!

On a side note, I remembered a frugal happening from last week. I used the ends of the bread to make my toast. I hate to admit I often throw these out. I have saved them in the past to make bread crumbs, but we don't really make anything that needs bread crumbs anymore. Do you eat the ends of your bread? If not, do you throw out or reuse?