Home > Archive: May, 2014

Archive for May, 2014

Chase Freedom $200 Offer

May 31st, 2014 at 01:20 pm

I can't partake in this offer as we both already have the Chase Freedom card. For a limited time, you can open the account, spend $500 and get $200!! That is a 40% return. I have never seen an offer that high for the low spending threshold.

I read about the deal on My Money Blog, you can look into it

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52 Week Challenge Has A Goal !!

May 30th, 2014 at 09:11 pm

It came to me while I was out driving today. A reason for saving with the 52 Week Savings Challenge. I've been saving $57 twice per month toward an unknown goal. But today, that goal hit me!

I will use the money to pay for my oldest daughter's band trip that will happen in March 2015. We have been told at this point the estimate for the trip is $1599. Interesting number, huh? I have sent the required deposit of $200. This means we will have at the most $1399 left to pay. We have participated in some fund raising for the last two years towards this trip. The student has been credited with 25% of the sale. I highly doubt we have even $50 in our account. We will get this information at some point.

The 52 Week Savings Challenge should end up with $1378, which conveniently is nearly the amount I will need to pay! I'm not clear yet if we can pay with a credit card or they want cash for the whole trip. If I can use a credit card to receive a bonus award I will do that and then pay off with the challenge money. Otherwise, I will just follow their payment schedule and send cash from the challenge as it comes due.

Our current balance, including the June 1 deposit is 694. I started this in early December if I remember correctly thus I'm pretty much at the half way mark. It feels good to know what I'm doing with the money!

How is your 52 Week Savings Challenge going?

My Turn for Southwest

May 30th, 2014 at 01:08 pm

I applied last night for the Southwest Rapids Rewards card. My husband has applied and received bonuses for two of their cards. Now it is my turn. I was approved for $23K limit. The card has crazy high limits!

The offer is for spending $2K in 3 months to receive 50,000 bonus points, which is equal to $500 in gift cards if one doesn't use the rewards for airline tickets, which we likely won't. There is a $99 fee, which will be refunded if we close the account within the first two months.

We are still working on the Wells Fargo Propel Amex card. We have already spent over $1800 of the $3,000 needed for the $400 reward. I decided this time of year is our most expensive and expect it won't take much longer to reach that spending requirement. It will work out well to have the Southwest card on its way now, so it is ready to go when we meet the Amex spending. My husband has some travel this next month and that alone will help us meet both of these goals.

I'm about to close my Capital One Quicksilver. My husband will keep his open. I'm trying to make sure we don't have more cards open then we really need. I have been keeping cards open with 0% interest just in case. Probably not necessary since we don't really need it.

In other news, I now have my first smart phone. It has been quite amusing trying to get used to something new. It feels really foreign. I did figure out how to download My Fitness Pal so I can track my calories away from home. I might have to find one of the apps that lets me make money while I stay fit.

Did you apply for the Southwest card? Are you close to meeting the Amex requirement? Any tips for a first time smart phone user?

Mortgage Goal 2014 Progress

May 29th, 2014 at 07:00 pm

I have mentioned before that one of our goals this year is to pay down our mortgage debt by over $14K. Specifically, I have a plan to pay off $13,992 which will bring our mortgage balance to an even number. Smile

This month I sent all snowflakes I accumulated to the mortgage, our regular mortgage payment, and two different principal payments that were planned. One of those additional payments is added on at the beginning of the month to our regular payment. The other one happens mid month when my husband is paid again.

Here's the specific breakdown:
_$461.58 Regular Principal Payment
_$103.72 Extra Principal Payment
_$275.00 Extra Principal Payment (mid month)
_$478.01 Snowflakes toward Principal

That extra money sent to the mortgage means we have now paid $6857.13 towards our mortgage pay down goal! That is 49% of the goal in just five months. We are ahead of schedule which feel really nice. Smile

If you want to see where I found over $475 in snowflakes, just check out my previous post. I'm still blogging some over at

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Your Organized Friend, including a few recent posts! And remember you can sign up by email to get notified when I put up a new post over there. I also love comments!!

Are you ahead or behind on any of your financial goals?

May Snowflake Total

May 29th, 2014 at 06:42 pm

I'm closing the books on the May snowflakes. I don't expect anymore to arrive before Saturday and if they do I will add them to June.

In all we accumulated $478.01 in snowflake money from many, many sources. Rewards from our normal spending on credit cards has made a difference in how fast we accumulate funds. All snowflakes were sent to pay down the mortgage, so this means less debt, which I love!!

Year to date, I have accumulated $2,964.96 in snowflakes!! My goal is $4,000. Clearly I'm ahead on this goal. I suppose a revised goal may be in order. I will decide that later.

Are you tracking your snowflakes still? Do you apply your extra funds toward a savings or debt pay down goal? Do you use your snowflakes to help with everyday spending?

Spending Has Been High, So Here's the Plan

May 28th, 2014 at 02:31 pm

Spending seems to be high for us right now. Band expenses, getting new phones, items for the yard, and a few spring clothing items.

I want to go looking for curtain rods for our bedroom and maybe new curtains. (I thought our old ones would work, but they are not wide enough...should have left them with the old house I guess). I also wouldn't mind some spring clothes for this smaller body I seem to be getting with losing weight. I decided that for this week, just this week, I can wait on those items. We have really already spent all the money we set aside to spend this month. I don't feel those items are worth using our savings for.

Instead, I have decided to work on things at home that don't cost any money. Already this morning I pulled out previously purchased paint and put one coat on one wall of our bedroom (it is an accent color). I will do the other coat in a little while. I will spend some time working out, which is free or already paid for. I have some organizing tasks I want to complete, which also require no spending. And I have an item I previously purchased at Target I need to get price adjusted, as well as return an item to Lowe's.

I think I have enough things to keep me busy this week and out of the stores buying things. I will still likely buy the items, but just wait until we have spending money again on the first of June. It doesn't hurt to wait.

In other updates, I sold a book on Ebay. And I have another Pinecone survey payment coming in. So a few more snowflakes to end the month of May!

Has your spending been higher than it was a few months ago? Do you find spring and summer to be more expensive than other months? Are you waiting to make any purchases?

New Cell Phones

May 27th, 2014 at 12:51 pm

It's been over three years since we upgraded our cell phones and the truth is they still work. Although my husband's smart phone doesn't hold a charge too long. We have waited awhile to upgrade because my husband has had the grandfathered unlimited data plan with Verizon and he loves to stream radio while he is at work. His habits will be changing with our new plan.

Now I suppose some may wonder why we didn't switch to Ting or Republic Wireless. Trust me, I wanted to try it. In the end however, my husband travels EVERYWHERE and we needed a phone and plan that will give him the service he needs to do his job while away from home. It also seems that the Sprint network those companies use doesn't get very good reviews or service in our current area. It turns out we are willing to pay the premium for the service Verizon will provide.

In the end we signed a two year contract, and picked 'free' smartphones for all four of us. We tried to purchase at the store. However, the free phones weren't free at the stores. We left and came home to upgrade our phones online. For right now our out of pocket cost was $120 plus tax, since each phone had an upgrade fee of $30. We were aware of and expecting that fee.

We have picked a data package of only 4GB for now. We can switch it at anytime if we need more data. I checked with my sister and her husband and they used 1.7GB last month with two adults. The phones will try to switch to wifi when available, so I expect when we are at home they will be running of our internet connection which will keep our costs down. We do get a 15% discount on the price of data because of my husband's military affiliation.

So for now our cell phone bill is increasing by $70 a month, which is a result of adding three smartphones to our plan. I'm sure many of you on Ting are dropping your jaws. I know I completely get it. It is a lot of money. I know we can afford the costs, so I'm not worried. I'm hoping in two years, there will be new options for us that make better sense then the premium service we are paying for with Verizon. I will say we have had super service, rarely a dropped call or inability to connect when and where we want.

Oh, if you are curious we ended up with three LG G2 phones, and one Moto X. We have 14 days to try them and switch if needed and they should arrive on Thursday.

Do you think we made a big mistake? When did you last change your cell phone plan? Do you have a smart phone?

Thinking Ahead: Increase Salary

May 23rd, 2014 at 06:11 pm

We expect my husband will be promoted sometime in the next four weeks, likely three. Smile It had been awhile since I had figured our net paycheck for the new pay rate. As it turns out we will net an additional $1043 per month. And I don't really know what we are going to do with it. And I realize this is a good problem to have. Smile

I do know that we will have our oldest daughter in college in the fall 2015. We do have money saved, but it will not be enough for the entire degree program.

I feel like I want to just squirrel it away for some known goal, to avoid the money getting spent without any thought. I talked to my husband about it this morning and his first thought was just to save it,too. Nice to be on the same page!

Although a new fridge would be nice...not a need at all, but an upgrade to the stainless steel is appealing. I sure wouldn't mind some new family room furniture. See I can definitely find things to buy, but I don't want to just buy to buy. My husband said something about replacing our two vehicles, but since they are Honda's with 80k and 60k miles on them and run great, I'm pretty sure that is not a good use of our hard earned cash.

Just to recap, we have a $20K emergency fund, we save nearly 17%+ for retirement, save $4000 towards college per year (currently have $37K+ saved), we have a mortgage of over $200K which we are paying down by $14K this year. We also have my husband's Post 911 GI Bill that can be used to cover up to 36 months of college education. This can be split between all four of us in any way if we choose. We expect to be moving AGAIN next summer.

There are some things we will want to buy in the next year. An Apple Mac, with Photoshop, for our daughter to take to college. An intermediate flute for our youngest daughter. We are also going to be paying for lessons for our youngest daughter, which is a new $80 expense for us. Maybe a car IF our oldest daughter decides to start driving. There are a few other possible expense, but all of them would be within our current salary capabilities.

It seems strange to be at a place where we will have excess money that we have no particular plans or needs for. What would you do with an extra $1K per month? Any better ideas for us, on what we should do with the money?

Ack! Expenses Popping Up

May 22nd, 2014 at 10:17 pm

In the last four days expenses have popped up, one I was aware of and two I was not. Marching band expenses to be specific.

First, band camp is $50 and covers various things. I knew this one was coming...although I was forgetting about it truthfully. This fee is due June 6.

The second expense is a result of my daughter being chosen as a section leader for band. She is required to attend a leadership conference in July as a result. This is $55 and due May 30.

And finally, the big band trip for spring break 2015 has been announced. They are going to Walt Disney World. A deposit of $200 is due June 2. The entire trip is estimated to be $1,599, with fundraising opportunities available. We also have a little money, likely less than $50, in her account from past fundraisers that will be applied.

Ack! That is $305, which I had nearly zero advance warning about. A little irritated. I have the money, but what about parents who might have an issue with the short notice. I suppose they may make accommodations.

Have you had any big unexpected expenses pop up this week? Are you expenses due soon? Did you go on a trip when you were in school?

52 Week Savings Update: May

May 21st, 2014 at 12:51 pm

Although the challenge is 52 Weeks, I am participating by saving $57 every pay period. For us that is twice per month. I have made deposits that cover weeks 1-15 and weeks 42-52. If I'm calculating correctly that puts us halfway to the goal! I did start in December so that seems right.

Our balance is $637. Well, I have a $20 referral in the account and some interest so the true balance is $657.79. We are keeping our 52 Week Savings Challenge money in our Capital One 360 account, which earns interest of 0.75% and there is no minimum balance.

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You too can put your money there. Capital One 360 offers bonuses for opening different accounts. I like having it separate so we don't accidentally spend. I also like that I set up our deposits to automatically deduct each pay period so I don't forget. Makes it easy!

How is your 52 Week Challenge coming along? Are you still on track? How about your other financial goals?

Throw Back Post

May 20th, 2014 at 12:43 pm

I was reading my old posts and found

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this one still applies. I posted it March 14, 2008. It's just a reminder that financial security and goals are a journey.

I recently went to my local indoor botanical garden. That experience made me think that gardening has many aspects that relate to money, budgeting and investing.

1. All plants start small...a seed.

It's okay to start saving with small amounts, because one day those savings will bloom.

2. A garden requires maintenance.

Just like pulling weeds to help the plants to grow, a budget needs to be tweaked to cut expenses or increase savings. Money maintenance comes in all forms, including reading your bills, bank and investment statements. Investments need to be rebalanced from time to time to keep your portfolio diversified.

3. A garden doesn't grow overnight.

Paying off debt or saving for retirement take time and patience. Little by little the garden flourishes.

4. A garden requires more than seeds.

A flower needs soil, water and sunlight. For money to work well in our lives, we need to have the right spending attitudes, cash flow, communication with our partner as well as the ability to know what our goals are.

5. Flowers and vegetables can be shared with others.

Some of your money is available to be given away. The smile and appreciation of others is worth the effort.

What else does a garden teach you about money and your budget? Do you have an old post that still applies today?