2014 has been a great year. We were and are all well. We got to visit with family and friends numerous times. Financially, we continued to invest and pay down debt. Again, a very good year!
Today, the last day of the year, I managed to close my Discover Checking account. I got the bonus, I don't need it any more. I also emailed Chase to close my husband's Chase Freedom account. We haven't used that in months and don't expect to. Most importantly, I paid the bills!
I packed away some of the Christmas decorations. Before I put the items that were out back in the bins, I made sure to pull out the few things that did not get put out this year so that could be donated. I even went as far as pulling some glitter star ornaments that I was given several years back OFF the tree so I could donate them. Every year when they come out, I hesitate about putting them on, but then we do anyway. This time they are going BEFORE the next Christmas.
I made sure to get to Goodwill today to drop off my final bag of donations for the year. I got my receipt, although I likely won't qualify to take the deduction. That is okay. I'm more excited about less stuff!!
I also made the final grocery shopping trip for the year. I was able to go about three days longer than planned because of all the leftovers from Christmas. We had half a pumpkin pie that I finally had to toss today. It has been a week in the fridge, and I decided it was too late to freeze. And since we weren't interested in eating it it was time to go.
We will stay in to celebrate New Year's Eve and Day as a family. We will play board and card games tonight. Maybe a movie. We will eat lots of snack type foods, including fresh vegetables and fruits! Tomorrow I hope we can all do a little work to put away our Christmas trees. I also secretly hope to get my husband to go through some papers that I think can be recycled or shredded. He does know about them, so it won't be a big surprise.
After the New Year, I hope to write more about our finances in 2014 and our goals going forward. I just haven't had time to think about all of those yet!
Are there certain tasks that you do at the end or beginning of each year? How will you celebrate New Years?
Happy New Year Saving Advice!
Archive for December, 2014
2014 has been a great year. We were and are all well. We got to visit with family and friends numerous times. Financially, we continued to invest and pay down debt. Again, a very good year!
December was a pretty lucrative month for snowflakes/found money, since I finally was able to get US Bank to credit my account for the $200 bonus they offered us to open a checking account. Rebates were helpful too! The one from USSA was nearly $70. Snowflakes for December accumulated to $441.43, so it was a great month for snowflakes.
Here's where December's snowflakes hailed from:
*****Designates where the snowflakes stopped going to mortgage payoff.
Really it was a super, super year for snowflakes. The best one yet! And we made them all count, by sending all but the last several to our mortgage to help pay down our balance. Less debt by snowflakes!!
Are you ready for the final tally? For 2014, our accumulated snowflakes (found money) came to $5,218.60!! The goal was $4,000, so we far exceeded the goal. So very thankful and happy to have made it this far. I didn't have much doubt, but it is nice to know we made it!
To see my Google spreadsheet of all snowflakes for 2014, you can click
I plan to track snowflakes again in 2015! I have yet to make a goal, but I will. Do you want to join in and track your found money next year? I'm definitely up for some competition!
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?
Remember that group gift I wrote about for my mother in law? In the end we were to all give her $70. We mailed a check. As far as I know, it all went fine.
Because we didn't attend my husband's family's Christmas gathering, my mother in law sent us a check...for $80! She bought a small gift for my husband which I know cost $11 and was in with the check. Her check indicated the $80 was for me and my two daughters. Huh? Okay, she is nearly 80 years old so maybe what she wrote wasn't what she meant. In the end we deposited the check and split the money between our two daughters. I did make the suggestion to my husband that the four of us split it with $20 each or just use it for something fun together. He liked the idea of the girls getting the money, so that is what we did.
So nearly even gifts! Checks crossing in the mail. Thoughtful huh? It's all good really. Just weird!
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my SA friends and readers! I hope you all take some time off from thinking about money and enjoy time with family or friends. The time spent enjoying others company can't be bought and it one of life's true gifts.
I also encourage you to consider attempting a no spend week or low spend week as we wrap up the year. This means avoiding those clearance sales after Christmas. Unless you need the item, it probably isn't worth it. The only thing I would actually buy after the holiday is the sturdy kind of wrapping paper since I ran out this year.
I'm making a grocery trip today for the last items we need for our holiday meal and hosting of family. I will guess I will go one more time before the year ends, too. Otherwise, I'm staying out of the stores for the rest of the year!
Next week, after our guests have left, I plan to write some posts about the success of our financial year and the goals for 2015. I always like reading those from others, so join in, yes even those of you who are lurking out there. Blogging about your finances can be very motivating!
Again, Merry Christmas!
The military pays us an allowance (tax free money) that we can use towards housing. The news is that the military is getting an average of 0.5% increase. Clearly we are above average with an increase in our allowance of 11.3%! That is $183 increase. We don't have to use our full allowance for housing if we don't choose to. Currently, we have a mortgage on the home we live in. Our current payment is $1,311, increasing to $1355 because of increased taxes. With our new housing allowance at $1800 per month, we are well under the allowance.
It is very tempting to put that extra money towards the mortgage, but more than likely I will just save it for the move coming up in 2015. Yes, we have already started down that road...ranking our preferences based on the jobs available. I really want to stay in our current state, but the odds are against that I think.
Once the holiday and celebrations have past I will be working hard on figuring out our new paycheck amount and goals. One thing I need to figure out is how much as a percentage to send to retirement. It is probably time to increase it again with the raise in salary and housing allowance.
Anyone else out there in the military? Did you get a bigger than average increase in your BAH for 2015?
I just saw a television ad for a credit union in our city offering a mortgage loan for 10 years. They call it a Ten and Done loan. It seems there are likely plenty of credit unions offering something similar.
When I saw it I thought...so about $20K per year if we were to stay in this house and need to pay off our loan in that same period of time. Considering we just paid off nearly $14K without too much effort, it isn't out of the realm to pay off nearly $20K each year for the next 10.
The only hiccup is we are moving this summer. The best option would be to live on an Army post, if that is where assigned, and not have any housing debt. Or pick a home with a smaller mortgage. It will be interesting to see what happens!
If you have a mortgage, could you pay it off in 10 years? Do you want to?
My youngest daughter asked me a couple days ago if it was too late to ask for a Wii game for Christmas. I said it might be. I was pretty sure I was done with all my shopping.
Quite a few of her gifts, primarily T shirts, were still to arrive in the mail. Yesterday, the last package arrived. And then I began wondering if I had semi equivalent gifts for my girls. I made a list of what I had and what I spent. I even had to open some gifts I had already wrapped! It turns out I had spent $175 on my oldest and $110 on my youngest. I budget for about $150 each. I was within budget, but a little off on the equality.
In the end I found two Wii games for about $15 each. One at Target. And the other on eBay that should arrive on Wednesday.
I think she will be pleased with a couple of new games. And I'm glad it came up so I could reevaluate what she was getting.
Today I will wrap and rewrap the gifts I opened! I did end up needing to buy a roll of wrapping paper. I used up all the leftover wrapping we had left.
Other money tidbits: I did get the $200 bonus from US Bank, my PayPal money from Swagbucks arrived quickly, I tried my Bing reward code again and it worked!
Have you realized at the last minute you were low on gifts for a child?
I've been writing over at Your Organized Friend this past month about holiday preparations and making lists. Please come check it out, and don't forget you can sign up for updates by email. I don't get or see that information, so you are anonymous!
We had new brakes installed on my van today. I thought we were getting new pads on the rear, and then thought my husband said both front and back. In the end we just got front end brakes! Cost about $197.
I did get a call from US Bank's Customer Care today confirming I was eligible for the $200 reward. It was not credited automatically from their end because my account did not have the promotion code on it. They do know I was offered the promotion and I had offered the code in my original email. In the end I will be credited the reward by the end of business tomorrow!
The brake cost is offset by the reward! Basically a wash. I like it when that happens.
Our youngest cat seems to have a UTI. It's not confirmed, but you can all guess the problems with that. The vet was not in his office, and our cat was in for a similar issue soon after we moved. They prescribed an antibiotic for the next 7 days. If not better by then she will go in for a recheck, otherwise at least another seven days of antibiotics after that. Cash out the door today was just over $20.
I took a Pinecone survey today. Another $3 coming my way soon. I also redeemed Bing Rewards for a Swag code this morning. It was sent pretty quickly but when I went to enter it in on the Swagbucks site it shows as invalid!! I did sent a help request to Bing about it. Hopefully it is fixed fast!
I redeemed Swagbucks yesterday for $25 in Paypal cash. I guess that could be considered a help to cash I'm sending my mother in law for Christmas.
We are giving the flute teacher a gift of a $10 Panera gift card (earned through MyPoints), a lotion bought on clearance last year, and a few candies. Last lessons of the year today!
I found a penny on my basement floor and a nickel in a parking lot yesterday. It does help to look down to find such things!
I was notified by Citi about their Price Rewind program that pays you back if they find a lower price. This got me to think about our flute purchase we made last month. I haven't found a lower price, but I came across a rebate! It is $50, so I filled it out and put in the mail this morning. I remember seeing it at the store, but the employees made no mention that the one we bought qualified. I also didn't think to ask, just glad I came upon it now!
The tires and flute purchased in the last couple months are being carried on two different zero interest credit cards right now. We do have the cash to pay, but I've been waiting for the cash flow from the raise to catch up and help. With payday yesterday the tires are paid off after a $708 payment! I paid $307 towards the flute.
I completed our 52 Week Savings Challenge at the beginning of December. I had been stashing that money in our Capital One 360 Savings account. Most that money has been used to pay for my daughter's band trip this spring. I ended up with an extra $423 in the account, which I'm going to use to pay towards the flute. After I apply that payment later this week, we will owe just $806.
I have made sure to set aside some cash in our checking account to pay for the $250 admission fee to the University my is choosing to attend. I also set aside the balance we will owe for senior pictures, $210. Both of these will be charged on a credit card for points, but it is nice to have the money set aside to pay for them when due.
I did end up return a few items bought for potential gifts. I returned a pair of slippers, a spa kit, a makeup kit and two pairs of men's socks (one had hot dogs on them!). I did keep the four rugs after realizing I paid less than $1.25 each. I'll probably use one myself! Or two!! The returns netted me just under $20, but I consider it less clutter and offset for three pairs of slippers (of a different kind) that I bought for friends that will need to be mailed.
Lots of money activity here! Have you found any money? Have you returned anything you purchased recently? Have you redeemed any Swagbucks or MyPoints?
I mentioned the group gift my husband's siblings are getting my mother in law in another post. Things have changed. The item was to be a media console that looks like a fireplace and is a heater. The picture I was shown and price given initially was $250. Although there are seven siblings total, only five are participating. So that would be around $50 each.
The youngest sibling showed the picture to my mother in law who said it wasn't big enough. There were not enough spaces for her dvd player and cable boxes. Another sibling went looking for other options and found a $400 one. It was decided to ask my husband's mom again if this one would work. It turns out she wants the money so she can shop for one herself.
The question then was how much money the group should give her. In the end it was decided we would give $350 as a group. We had all been willing to put in nearly $90 a piece. This new amount would be $70 each. Of course, this is still above the original $50 we thought we were going in on!
We usually spend $35-40 on my mother in law, so we are spending nearly double our budgeted amount. This comes down to a reason I don't like group gifts. They don't turn out like you expect them to.
Now, I'm not mad at how it turned out. But it does confirm my desire not to participate in the future. I'm not really thrilled that my mother in law requested a large gift and then changed it to cash. I do think she will buy the item and I would guess she will like it. It is so different from my parents who could care less if they get a gift and often tell us we don't need to get them anything. My mother in law is on a fixed income, and usually we get her a bottle of wine, nice soaps or lotions and some quarters for her condo washing machine. Quite a difference, huh?
The other unfortunate outcome of the gift discussion was one sister getting mad at a brother when he was upset about all the group texting. The brother's wife even indicated they had limited texting. The sister was trying to get everyone's advice and do us all a favor in doing the shopping. She felt shut down by their responses. We were later asked to contact the brother to tell them our decision on the gift. This was fine with us and easy in the end because he didn't answer his phone and so we left a message. Just yucky communication between some family members for something that should be enjoyable.
We won't be visiting this side of the family this year, so in the end we are just going to write a check and send a card to my mother in law. It feels a little odd, but if she is happy that will be the most important thing.
Do you think we should have handled the group gift differently? What do you think of someone asking for a gift than changing it to cash?
I opened a joint checking account with US Bank back in September to earn a $200 bonus. We easily met the requirements over a month ago, which was a direct deposit of $500 each month. I emailed once and didn't get a response...at all.
I decided to try once more before I went to the branch. What can I say, I'd rather deal with things online! Luckily this time someone responded. They confirmed I was offered the bonus promotion, based on the number I had given them and signed up with. The email indicated they could confirm I met the requirement. The next step was for them to forward it to their Customer Care Unit, which will further review the account. I should expect a credit or at least email response in 2-3 business days.
I hope the wait is nearly over. I haven't been impressed with the ability to connect with the bank online that is for sure. Otherwise, we have had no issues with our transactions and so forth. I expect to keep this bank account at least through the move next year, since it can be helpful to have a local bank branch during a home sale transaction.
Did anyone else get a US Bank Checking account offer? Was your promotion applied timely?
I made my husband go with me to Target today. I had a 20% off our entire shopping trip coupon that I earned last week. I needed him to help me because I knew I would be buying more than one cart worth of stuff. And that is really hard to handle with the crowds less than two weeks before Christmas.
I made a list of items I knew we needed, which included toilet paper, trash bags, toothpaste and other household items. I then added current groceries from my meal plan through Friday. I also added food items I knew we would eat before the end of the year. A turkey, bread, cheeses, crackers, candies, marshmallows, ect. I also added a few items such as batteries, a pizza pan, a placemat to match the ones we already have, and several stocking stuffers.
I even bought a second Christmas tree! I didn't really think we would get one, but after a coupon and 20% off it was under $40 for a seven foot tree. It will likely be our first themed tree and will help make our basement more festive. The theme is still yet to be determined. I think I will make it a surprise for my girls. Maybe...not sure yet.
The bill before our discounts and coupons was $473! It is rare that I spend more than $150 at the store in one given trip. We did buy some alcohol which was not discounted, but in the end after the coupons, 20% off and our 5% red card discount we paid $351.58! My receipt says we saved $157.64, which I assume figures in the savings from items already on reduce or on sale before the discounts at the register.
Am I thrilled about spending $350 in one trip? Not really, but we got so much stuff for that money. I'm also thinking this will save me quite a few trips in the coming days before the holiday. I know I will need to go back for a few perishables and more dinners at some point, but we are stocked up well now! I am happy that I may not need to go out to the store for awhile!
Did anyone get the 20% off coupon at Target last week? Did you also use it to stock up and buy gifts? Does anyone have a themed Christmas tree? What is the theme you have or would have if you did?
I found some great items on clearance earlier this fall that I thought I could give as gifts. Most of these were from Kohl's. I have one makeup kit, a spa gift set, a pair of slippers, a wallet, four small rugs, and two bottles of nail polish. I think I probably got all of that for around $30. I may actually return most of it!
Why might I return? Does anyone really want a rug for Christmas? Just an odd gift that doesn't make sense now. The make up kit was going to be for a niece, but now I need to mail something, so want something lighter and less bulky. the slippers were going to be for my mom (sister mentioned she already bought some), the spa kit was going to be for one of the adult females on my husband's side (now no longer exchanging). I may give the wallet to my husband. The nail polish will still get included in the original planned gift. I may have $20-$25 worth of items to return!
Today, I went to use a $10 JC Penney Reward and one of their $10 off $25 coupons. Unfortunately my purchases didn't come up high enough to allow me to use both. I spent $20 with tax for four items, but three of them were kind of last minute gifts that would need to be mailed. So thinking I could buy all of these items and spend $15, really will mean spending nearly $30 once I factor in shipping. Now I need to decide whether to keep the gifts and be okay with the money spent, or return the last minute gifts and only spend about $5.50 for the one item I really wanted to get.
Do you ever find yourself returning gifts before you give them? What prompts you to return before giving?