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Archive for February, 2013

February Snowflake Total

February 28th, 2013 at 03:25 pm

February was a good month for Snowflakes primarily because of

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Swagbucks. I earned $75 in cash and 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 08:05 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 01:51 pm

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 03:14 pm

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

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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 08:45 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

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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 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 06:18 pm

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?

Investigating Phone Switch

February 24th, 2013 at 06:17 pm

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 04:08 pm

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.


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previous post was about the importance of an emergency fund. Since you can redeem
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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.
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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 09:05 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 11:18 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 gift cards are kept in my account! I usually get these from

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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 03:22 pm

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 03:44 pm

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 03:00 pm

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

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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 02:43 pm

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 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 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 03:29 pm

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!!

Not Again...Some Sort of Sign?

February 14th, 2013 at 08:32 pm

I took yesterday off from thinking or working on taxes after my frustrating day Tuesday. I decided to start in again using Turbo Tax this time. The Federal return would be free to e file, and over $35 for our state return. Too expensive. I had planned to file our state return with pen and paper and snail mail it in.

Sooo...the long story short. Turbo Tax puts our Federal Tax refund LOWER than HR Block and Tax Slayer by $90, because it is somehow adding $380 worth of income that I didn't input and isn't there.

I'm soooo annoyed. I have never had this many problems with this many different tax software programs. Definitely check the math on your return before you send it off.

Maybe this is some sort of sign that I'm not suppose to file yet. Maybe something else is coming in the mail. I have no idea what it could be though.

Any tax problems you want to vent about today? Feel free to comment here on my blog and we'll cry about it together. Or just ignore me and have a Happy Valentines Day!! Smile

Swagbucks Promotion

February 13th, 2013 at 10:27 pm

Swagbucks is starting a special promotion tomorrow through the end of February. If you are a member with referrals you will receive matching Swagbucks for nearly everything your referral does up to 1000 Swagbucks. This includes the SBTV, Searches, Codes, Surveys, Daily Poll and more!

If you are interested in signing up for Swagbucks,

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my referral link is on my sidebar. You can enter the sign up code 'ShareTheLove' for 50 Swagbucks to get you started.

I have earned hundreds of dollars in gift cards, which never expire and are good for thousands of items on their site. I have more recently been saving my Swagbucks for a cash deposit in my Paypal account as well. As of January 1, I have earned $75 worth of redeemed gift cards and cash. As of right now, I'm less than 1000 Swagbucks away from another $25 for my Paypal account.

Once you join Swagbucks, make sure you check out and like Swagbucks on Facebook. Many people there are very helpful and will help clue you in to ways to earn Swagbucks.

The best way to earn Swagbucks is to simply use their search engine and take surveys. There are videos to watch and games to play as well. Small amounts of Swagbucks add up to real money. Enough to buy yourself a nice gift or give to others!

What are you waiting for? I'd love to have you as my referral. Feel free to 'friend' me on the Swagbucks site if you have questions as well. Happy Swaggin' Swaggers!!

Pinecone Check

February 13th, 2013 at 07:49 pm

I received payment from Pinecone today for a follow up survey I took yesterday. I receive my money through Paypal not a check, so it is very fast! I will add this money to my Christmas Snowflake fund.

I'm reusing fabric today to make my sister a cover for her dogs bed. The fabric was once a curtain panel. It will be secured with that Velcro that I bought at Walmart two days ago. I will only end up needing 1/4 of what I bought. The total out of pocket cost for the project is $0.21.

It looks to be a no spend day...unless the flute music we ordered is available when I pick up the repaired flute. The repair was covered under a 6 month maintenance plan, which was included with purchase. I like that!

I'm taking today off from working on taxes. I'll get back to it tomorrow...and hopefully get them submitted.

Agh! Frustrated Filing Taxes

February 12th, 2013 at 11:23 pm

It shouldn't be this hard. E filing taxes. Unfortunately, I think I know too much and know these companies I'm using are doing it wrong!! Ugh.

I'm attempting to efile using HR Block Free File available to us because we are military. I linked up to it through I get to nearly the last portion to efile before I can actually view the forms. Everything looks great. Except. Except I see the system is going to have me send in by snail mail Form 8283, which are the non cash donations we are itemizing. I have never had to snail mail this form in. I only have one page...not six or something crazy.

Now, I should probably just do what they want and go for it. It is only the cost of the stamp, since we can efile federal and state for free. Of course, it is also suggested I sent it certified mail to have confirmation they receive the form by the tax filing deadline.

My other options?

I tried TaxSlayer also. They are also free from military. The issue I have with them is that I cannot add in our nontaxable income for figuring in our sales tax deduction. That makes for a smaller refund of $15.

I could try Turbo Tax, also free for Federal only. I haven't entered anything with them yet, so there could be errors lurking there too. I have used them in the past and things have always gone well. The state return is $36.99!!! I could snail mail the state return for the cost of the stamp. We are already even with the state...we don't owe and we will not get a refund.

Are your tax filings going better than mine? Any ideas why I'm running into problems with HR Block and there snail mail plan? Should I just snail mail the state return?

Spending, But Saving

February 12th, 2013 at 04:53 pm

We use McAfee internet protection software on our computer. We have been notified a few times recently that it is about to expire. Two years ago, I received a free one year subscription from our mortgage company, a large bank. Last year I renewed it...for probably around $35. This year the renewal rate is the same.

I could have just paid it the rate and moved on. Today, I took the time search for a better deal. I went to our main bank USAA and noticed that I could get upgraded protection for $40.50. For two years! Sign me up. I used that credit card that should now have a $5+ credit on it from yesterday Kohl's return, to bring my out of pocket expense down even further.

I think there are free resources out there as well, but I have found McAfee to be very, very reliable. Do you pay for internet protection?

More Money Tidbits

February 11th, 2013 at 09:35 pm

I ran errands this morning in the very cold wind! Eek. I returned a shirt I bought my husband for Christmas. I noticed he wasn't wearing it and he confirmed he didn't really like it. I got a good deal when I bought it, so I received $5.56 back to the Chase card I bought it with. Now I have a credit on that card...and I was getting close to closing that one!

I also returned some buttons for $1.96 cash back. I bought Velcro at Walmart instead for $0.84. The difference will likely go to the Christmas fund. Smile I picked up packets of vitamin C at Walmart. I usually buy these at Target. Turns out Target charges $1 more! Annoying since I really prefer to shop Target. Thankful for the savings today.

I bought hair product for my daughter. Hair products that keep our frizzy, curly hair intact are a big priority. The product retails for $16. It was on sale for Buy 2, get 1 free and I have a $3.50 coupon. My total was $30.49. Each tube cost us just over $10 and lasts about 1 month. We are stocked up again.

At my daughter's flute lesson today, I am going to cancel next weeks lesson. We are going to be out of town for an appointment earlier in the day. It will be too rushed to make it back on time. I'm sure the teacher would like to reschedule, but I'm going to pass and apply the $20 lesson fee to some music that we have on order.

That the money tidbits for today!

Financial Tidbits

February 10th, 2013 at 03:10 pm

I have already earned my five $5 Amazon gift cards on Swagbucks this month. I am now accumulating points towards a $25 Paypal deposit by the end of the month. I need to average about 110 Swagbucks per day to meet the goal.

I am adding $6.03 to the Christmas fund. This is the ATM rebate money and interest from our bank for the current month.

I will make a small grocery run today. I know we have enough things on hand for two evening meals. I just need to get some lunch items for the girls and my husband. I will make a bigger store run later in the week. I will pick up the Valentine's candy then. I also plan to make my cards for the girls and my husband. Unfortunately, I know he already bought me a card that cost $5. Ugh!

My sister gave me four, or maybe six, curtain panels that are a bright cheery stripe pattern. I will make one into a cover for her dog's bed. I will make button holes on the six tab tops, add the buttons I bought for less than $2, and it will actually close! It is a lot of fabric but would work well for napkins, or fabric bins. I will probably be sick of the pattern by the time I'm done using it! But she gave it to me for free so I hope to make the best of it.

I'm enjoying the free sample of cat litter, but I know that I wouldn't buy it if it came out on the market. Odor good, but messy. The sample means I haven't had to dig into the new bag I bought 10 days ago.

I finally used up a lotion, one conditioner, and two shampoo bottles. I'm working on another shampoo and a small body wash sample.

I spent $30 on jeans for my youngest daughter at Old Navy yesterday. We all get by on two pairs at a time. She has grown since the last pairs were purchased and one was about to get a hole in the knee. I would have liked to have waited until the end of the month because I think I may be earning a $20 reward! The only thing we buy there is her jeans at this point. And this may actually be the last set, since she is about ready for junior sizes and we have found their women's jeans aren't that great for my older daughter. If I get that reward, I may have to purchase another set, and then return them with my first receipt. Do you think that is acceptable?

Today we are making heart shaped sugar cookies. I splurged and bought the Wilton frosting that comes out like liquid by firms up soon after decorating. It was about $4. Maybe I could make that at home...I'm not a frosting expert. It will make for some fun on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

We did redeem our free Papa Murphy's pizza last night. Yummy!

Are you doing anything frugal today?

Tax Return Update

February 8th, 2013 at 08:33 pm

Last I reported here, we were going to owe the Federal government $161. Things have changed...for the better.

First, I realized I had entered in our locality tax incorrectly. Instead of 1%, I was entering the full tax rate of 7%. That sure made it look like we had much more sales tax to deduct than the tables indicated. I was confused about that one for some time! That error was not in our favor, and it looked like we owed $271. I was okay with this since this more accurately matched my estimate I computed this summer.

Today we received in the mail a 1098 from our mortgage lender. It seemed odd to me, since we already had it emailed to us. At the bottom, and on the form itself, it was noted this was a correct 1098. Apparently, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended mortgage deduction for mortgage insurance premiums. This figure was added to our form.

We took out our first VA loan this time around, which requires a 'funding fee' paid to the Department of Veteran's affairs. This was actually mortgage insurance and it turns out is fully deductible this year! That means that once I add in the figure, we are now deducting quite a bit more from our income tax (read: more than the standard deduction) and have a refund. A refund of $434.

Weird how these things work out sometimes. That is a net change of $705. Once we have the refund in hand, I'm going to add the amount we would have owed the IRS to it and knock down the truck loan a bit more.

We are still waiting for the 1099INT from Sharebuilder, where I earned $75 in interest last year. It should be here this time next week. I have already included it in my calculations, but want the form in hand before I file.

Have you had any good news on the tax front?

Saving More Than I Realized

February 6th, 2013 at 08:05 pm

I made our goals very early in January and didn't give them a lot of thought. In fact, I still haven't!

One of our goals is to save 15% of our gross income for retirement. Some was to go to my husband's TSP, and the rest to max out our Roth IRA's. Turns out what we are actually saving for retirement is 17.3% of my husband's gross income. Clearly we were saving more than 15% before his raise and increased Roth IRA contributions limits! I just didn't realize it. Another good reason to automate savings.

Another goal was to save at least $500 for each of our daughter's college funds. I thought the $2000 limit for Coverdall IRA (ESA's) was expiring last year, which would have put the limit back to $500. Now we are on track to save them each $2000 in their college funds.

We are saving nearly 22% of our income for retirement and college. Amazing! Do you know how much as a percentage of your income you are saving? Doesn't take long to do a quick calculation.

Snowflakes for February!

February 5th, 2013 at 11:49 pm

My snowflakes for February are starting to add up. I have already redeemed $10 worth of gift cards through Swagbucks. I have enough to redeem another $5, and will likely have enough for another $5 AGC very soon. If you followed that math, I'm looking at $20 in Amazon credit for February so far!

I can see I will get paid from Ebates on February 15. It's only $3.28, but I know these small amounts add up big by the end of the year, so I will take it.

I've thought of another way to save small amounts of money. It is our own money, but I would funnel it towards the Christmas Snowflake Fund. My husband often goes to an ATM that charges him $1, occasionally $2, for withdrawal. Our bank, USAA, reimburses us each month, up to $15, for these fees. Luckily he never goes over that limit...thus I do not complain. When these are reimbursed, I will take that amount and add it to our Christmas Fund. This will easily be another $5 per month on average. We usually get a couple pennies of interest at the same time, so I might as well throw those in there too!

Do you have any new sources of snowflakes you would like to share?

High Electric Bill

February 4th, 2013 at 08:42 pm

Oh boy! The electric bill arrived in my inbox this morning. It is nearly $50 higher than last month. Yikes! The full bill amount is $179. Last month it was $131. There are some factors at play. Very cold month, with many days in single digits. I also know my husband has been increasing the temperature quite often when he is around. We also have space heaters that we have used in our bathroom and in our basement. I'm guessing those are not as efficient as the furnace.

The gas bill was up by about $35 as well. Luckily, we have the cash to pay our bills. We will attempt to adjust accordingly. I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable in our home.

I look forward to July, when I hope the utility companies can put us on a budget billing cycle. We will have been in this home for one year. I much prefer that method financially.

I will be grateful for all the warmer days to come. Is your weather warming or cooling this week?

Fat Payment to the Truck

February 1st, 2013 at 06:32 pm

I sent in a big fat principal payment of $480 today. That brings our truck balance to $3226.02. We are getting closer to that next milestone, which will come mid February when our regular payment posts.

I mentioned how I've been contemplating just paying off the balance in our cash account and then paying ourselves back. Most of you thought we should just do it. MonkeyMama's gut says I will pay it off once it gets under $2K to $3K. I think her gut is right! You know me too well. Smile Once this next payment hits I'll see how it feels to send in a lump sum and be done once and for all.

There is no major risk to taking this cash out. We have plenty on hand for major emergencies. If it were to drain us in a big big way, I would not even consider it.

Less debt on payday always makes me happy!