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Archive for February, 2013

February Snowflake Total

February 28th, 2013 at 07:25 am

February was a good month for Snowflakes primarily because of

Text is Swagbucks and Link is http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree
Swagbucks. I earned $75 in cash and Amazon.com gift cards from that site alone. That is the best month I have ever had. I will admit I was on the site a little more than usual. The weather just made me want to stay in and cozy up with the computer.

My Snowflake Christmas fund balance for the year is $191.07. At this point I am ahead of schedule on my $750 goal, which makes me happy!

I have three items up for sale on Ebay this week. I am happy to report that one item has a bid, so it will sell. The other two have people watching.

Any news ways your have found for earning snowflakes this month? I'm interested in new ideas.

Back on Budget

February 27th, 2013 at 12:05 pm

I was doing a survey on Swagbucks for my local gas utility about their website. It had me log in to my account, to test different features. While I was there I clicked on 'Budget Billing' and signed up.

I've been on budget billing before, but when we began service for our new home it was not available. After nearly nine months of billing, we are eligible. Our payment will be $43 per month. I have it set up to review every three months. Right now the highest our bill has been is $101, and as low as $7! We only use gas for our furnace and fireplace, so when it warms up we don't use much gas.

Budget billing is a great way to keep utilities even and easier to plan. There are adjustments, but I've always been notified at least one month in advance. Do you use budget billing for any of your utilities?

See my earlier post today about the truck loan!

Tax Refund = Less Debt

February 27th, 2013 at 05:51 am

When I saw the tax refund pending deposit yesterday, I went ahead and made a principal payment to the truck loan. It was the exact amount of the refund: $442.

So today, the new principal balance of our truck loan is $2033.15. We are getting so close to another milestone of less than $2K.

I expect to be making another payment on or after payday on March 1. This loan is going to be gone soon!!

Money Flows In

February 26th, 2013 at 07:14 am

Money is flowing in here. I see that the $442 tax refund is pending in our account for a firm deposit tomorrow.

I received two rebates in the mail yesterday. One for $7.19, which I will put in the Christmas Fund. The other for $2.41. That one is a Menard's rebate, which you have to spend at their store. When I use it to buy something we need, I will add that amount to the fund as well.

I did end up accumulating enough

Text is Swagbucks and Link is http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree
Swagbucks yesterday to redeem for another $25 Paypal deposit. It has been a good month on Swagbucks.

Do you have money flowing in today?

Ebay & Swagbucks

February 25th, 2013 at 12:45 pm

I finally put three things up on Ebay last night. One watcher so far on one item. They aren't big demand items, but I'll be pleased if they sell. I don't need them!!

I'm hanging out at

Text is Swagbucks and Link is http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree
Swagbucks today because it is their 5th Birthday Party, so they are giving out lots of codes, and there is a chance to win one of five $1000 prizes. I would love to win!

Thanks to my Swagbucks referrals for helping me accumulate so many Swagbucks in the last week and a half. I'm less than 50 Swagbucks away from being able to claim another set of 5 $5 Amazon.com gift cards once March rolls around. If I end up getting closer to 2500, I may just go for the PayPal cash.

In between codes and rounds of SBTV on Swagbucks, I am cleaning! It is starting to feel like spring. I'm mostly noticing the difference in the sunlight. We still have snow on ground, but it is melting.

I plan to take the girls to our new library this evening to grab some more books. We visited on Saturday during their grand opening and it was busy, but it will be nice visit and sit by a window. The library has been in a mall for the last few years because the city had a flood.

I did buy gas today, but I don't expect to buy anything else! Any frugal happenings for your Monday?

Investigating Phone Switch

February 24th, 2013 at 10:18 am

When we moved in July, I signed up for internet, a land line and the minimum basic television service. Our internet service is fast (fiber optic I think) and could probably be downgraded. However, I'm thinking I will probably drop the land line instead. We get more calls from telemarketers on that phone than anything.

We use the internet all the time. We have three laptops, two Nooks, a Wii and a Blue Ray player that can all access the internet. It is nice that we don't have to lose connectivity to one device when someone is streaming a video or movie.

We currently pay $29.74 for our land line. This includes all the taxes. I'm thinking I will invest in a VoIP phone/router as a land line alternative. There will likely be an upfront cost of $50-$150 depending on the set up we go with. We will still owe taxes just under $4 a month. We would break even in 6 month or less.

My husband uses VoIP at work and never has any issues. When he calls me the connection is completely clear. I can't tell any difference.

I suppose I should cancel it and try to go without a land line while I'm investigating the switch. That would save the most money!

I don't have a huge need to keep the same phone number. It is so new, not too many people have the number. Most friends and relatives have our cell phone numbers which we did not change. If I desired to switch the number it would likely cost about $40.

So tell me do you still have a land line? If not, how does it work for you? Does anyone have the VoIP and how is that going?

Tax Refund Arriving Soon

February 23rd, 2013 at 08:08 am

I checked the IRS website this morning. Our refund has been approved and is expected to be sent to our bank on February 27. I'm looking forward to that $442 refund, since I know it is going straight to the truck loan!

I received the $25 PayPal deposit from Swagbucks this week. Just last night, I cashed in for another one! That never happens to me, but I seem to be getting quite a few big surveys, as well as an Inbox offer (Entertainment Now) that is crediting me with many, many Swagbucks. No complaints here.


Text is previous post and Link is http://creditcardfree.savingadvice.com/2013/02/22/emergency-fund-sacrifice_101235/
previous post was about the importance of an emergency fund. Since you can redeem
Text is Swagbucks and Link is http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree
Swagbucks for cash in your PayPal account, it might just be another small way to help you fund your emergency fund or other financial goal.
Text is Dave Ramsey and Link is http://www.daveramsey.com/article/build-an-emergency-fund-fast/lifeandmoney_saving/
Dave Ramsey also has a few basic tips to get you started as well.

I am finally going to get some items up on Ebay tomorrow for sale. I've been putting it off for some reason, but I feel motivated about it now. The proceeds from the sales go in to my Christmas Fund.

Are you selling anything right now? Did you get your taxes done? Have you had a good month on Swagbucks, too?

Emergency Fund Sacrifice

February 22nd, 2013 at 01:05 pm

I've said it here a few times: the establishment and maintaining of our emergency fund is what put us on the path to building wealth and staying out of credit card debt.

We started our marriage without an emergency fund. Although we did get some nice cash gifts, including $1000 from my parents. That is where our emergency fund began. We had already bought and paid for enough furniture to fit in our apartment. We were happy with what we had, so we decided to save it.

I suppose that decision right there comes from somewhere, but we did consciously make that decision to hold on to that money. I'm not sure we even called it an emergency fund then. I didn't know about Suze Orman, Mary Hunt, or Dave Ramsey, all who would have encouraged the emergency fund.

I know many people who do not have an emergency fund and they all struggle in some way financially. For many it means debt in every form, for others it is relying on others for help, and most of them don't even save much, if any, for retirement.

Establishing an emergency fund is the one thing you must start. And it often means sacrifice to do so. In our case, we didn't sacrifice much with the first $1K, but in later years, we went without many things to make sure we had established and maintained a rainy day fund.

I will tell you that every sacrifice you make to establish your emergency fund is worth it. It is worth it to forgo cable, even if the big game is on. It is worth it, to eat simple meals at home. It is worth it to keep your tax refund in your savings account than buying a new big screen television. It is worth doing your own nails, or coloring your own hair. Many here on Saving Advice would agree.

Yes, you will have to give up some things, if you are living paycheck to paycheck. The exercise in sacrifice for this one goal will teach you more than you can know. You will find you can live without many things and still be happy.

Emergencies happen. People get sick, or in accidents. People lose their jobs. The water heater or garage door breaks. Your pet is injured. Many many things come up in life that can not be planned. An emergency fund catches you when those unplanned events come up.

Sacrificing as much as you can for a short time to establish an emergency fund is so worth it. If it sounds like I'm talking to you, I am. You don't need a new car now. The vacation CAN wait. You can watch the big game for free at your friends house or a bar. You can do your own nails and hair coloring. You don't need to buy that new thing, yet. You can wait. You will live. That new thing might be cheaper on Ebay in six months. You need to establish your emergency fund now. You NEED to, no excuses. It has to come first.

Yes, you might have debt and you could pay it off with your tax refund. If your refund covers all your debts then yes, pay it off. And then start on your savings. However, if it will take you many many months to pay off your debt, turn your tax refund into your starter emergency fund. Five hundred to $1000 is a great beginning. Let it sit there in an account. Look at it, but don't touch. It's for emergencies.

No more excuses. It's time to start your emergency fund. Tell me how you started your emergency fund. Any advice to readers on ways to save? Where to save? Join in the discussion, now!

How I Track Snowflake Money

February 20th, 2013 at 03:18 pm

It's come up on the blogs recently about how to keep snowflakes separate from your regular income so they don't melt while you are saving them for a particular goal. So I'll share mine. It may be too complicated or simple, but it works for me. Smile

I have a running total in Excel of snowflakes by month and source. It looks like this:

When I receive a Pinecone Payment I simply increase the amount by the amount of the payment, which is always $3 in the case of Pinecone surveys. I do the same with the other lines of the spreadsheet as well.

I keep all physical gift cards in an old bank deposit bag that I keep in my desk at home. I also include physical cash here as well.

My Amazon.com gift cards are kept in my Amazon.com account! I usually get these from

Text is Swagbucks and Link is http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree
Swagbucks and simply copy the gift card code to my Amazon account for safe keeping.

I have earned and redeemed Swagbucks for electronic gift cards. I keep these in my Swagbucks account until I'm ready to print them for use. I only print if I'm taking them to a physical store or giving as a gift.

I don't keep money in my PayPal account for more than one month. I do this primarily so that if I buy something using my PayPal account, the money I've earned from Ebay sales, Pinecone surveys, or Swagbucks does not get spent. This means this money actually ends up in our checking account along with spending money. Doesn't sound like a good idea does it? Especially, since I save my snowflakes for Christmas.

However, I do actually keep my money there. When I look at our checking account balance I don't just see a balance that can be spent. I see a total of about four different pots of money, which are Christmas, escrow, emergency fund, and spending money. I could say I have a fifth pot, but it really is just money sitting there ready to be pulled for an automatic bill payment.

I keep track of how much money is in each pot. I've done this with pen and paper, spreadsheets, a sticky note on my computer and they all work. I update them anytime a balance changes, which is generally on payday twice per month.

Every once in awhile I will make sure my Christmas fund money is correct. I total up cash and gift cards on hand, money in my PayPal account if any, e gift cards in my Swagbucks account, and the cash I have in our checking account. If it all matches my spreadsheet total, I'm good. Occasionally it is not correct. Usually this is because I forgot to add something in. I may have received a rebate in the mail, deposited in the checking account, but did not register it on my Christmas/Snowflake register. If I can't find it I just adjust the cash in my checking account, usually up, to agree with the balance I'm tracking on my spreadsheet.

Oh my...does that sound complicated? It can be. Another way to handle it, would be to try to convert all extra dollars to cash as soon as possible. Spend that Target gift card on something you buy anyway, but withdraw the same amount from your checking account and save the money in an envelope.

Do you have a nifty way to track your snowflake money? Comment here, or post your explanation on your blog.

Regular Payment Hits Truck Balance

February 20th, 2013 at 07:22 am

Our regular payment was processed yesterday. We paid just $10.28 in interest. The principal applied to the balance was $318.85.

This brings our new truck loan balance to $2,475.15!!

It's nice to be under $2500. I don't have it all firm yet, but I hope to have this loan done by the end of March. I hope that comes fast. Smile

Less Truck Debt Again

February 19th, 2013 at 07:44 am

I mentioned that I sent in $300 to the truck loan on Friday after I paid bills. The payment is scheduled for today and I will see the update tomorrow.

The payment brings our principal balance on the truck under $3K, to $2,794.00. Nice to see it getting lower!

Our regular payment is posting today as well, so I'll be back tomorrow with another update and a lower balance. Smile

Ebates, Pinecone, Swagbucks

February 18th, 2013 at 07:00 am

I didn't end up getting my ebates payout on February 15, because I didn't meet the minimum redemption of $5.01. I'm at $3.28. My next opportunity to receive this money is May 15. I just need to remember to use the site for any online purchases.

I did a survey Friday for Pinecone. I expect to receive my $3 Paypal deposit today. I try to hold the money in my Paypal account until the end of the month, when I redeem all deposits in there and move them to our checking account in a lump sum.

I have over 600

Text is Swagbucks and Link is http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree
Swagbucks in my account. I'm going to try to get to 2500 by months end. I might not make it, but it is a goal. That will equal $25 in Paypal cash. If I don't I will have Swagbucks ready for the beginning of the month to redeem for the $5 Amazon gift cards, which are 450 Swagbucks each.

I'm taking a road trip today back to our old town. My daughter has an orthodontist appointment. For now it is worth it to go back once a year to have her retainers checked. I've already paid the orthodontist for the visits, so might as well. It will cost some gas though.

It was a bit of a spendy weekend. I bought a large bag of cat food, flute music, groceries, and a new rechargeable toothbrush for my husband (it was on clearance). All of that was around $200. It seems sometimes money flows out rather quickly, luckily not all of the time.

Have a super Monday!

Taxes: Good News

February 16th, 2013 at 06:43 am

Finally, I was able to complete our taxes correctly, after using a fourth online software program. You can look back at earlier posts to get an idea of the problems.

Thanks to Looking Forward's suggestion, I used FreeTaxUSA.com to complete both our Federal and State returns. Federal is free. State is $9.95. I wanted free, but I less than $10 is very reasonable. I had no problem with this program, but did have to manually input our sales tax deduction information from the IRS website, which other sites were calculating for me...one them wrong unfortunately!

We are even with our state, no money owed, no refund. This is because my husband's military is exempt from taxes in this state, which I love! We are getting a $442 refund from Federal, primarily due to paying a VA mortgage premium this year with our new loan. If not for that we would have owed $271.

The refund will be going towards the truck loan when it arrives. I would expect to have it by the end of the month. I also have scheduled a $300 principal payment on the truck, which will not arrive until Tuesday because President's Day. I'll update the loan balance when it hits the account.

I was able to cash in my Swagbucks last night for a $25 deposit in my Paypal account. I have earned $50 in gift cards and cash since February 1. I sure appreciate those of you who are my referrals for helping me earn more Swagbucks in the last couple days. Smile

Threw More At Truck Loan

February 15th, 2013 at 07:29 am

Several months ago, my husband traveled for work several different times. His expenses were less than the reimbursement. We ended up with $132 and change. I set aside in our cash fund.

It dawned on me this week, that I should just throw that money at the truck loan. It was really a snowflake. Not sure why I held on to it. Luckily it didn't melt!! Smile

I sent in $132.02 towards principal to bring our new balance to $3,094.00. Our regular payment process on the 17th, but probably will be delayed until the 19th because of the long holiday weekend.

I also expect to have some extra funds from today's paycheck to throw at it too. Before I pay bills, I'm am going to try another software program for taxes. Turbo Tax indicated they would help me download a program for free to correct the math error I'm getting using their online program. Unfortunately, I'm not getting a timely response. I'm moving on!

Is today payday for you? Do you have less debt? More savings? I hope so!!