Home > Archive: November, 2016

Archive for November, 2016

Expected Snowflakes & A Cookie Recipe

December 1st, 2016 at 02:36 am

I'm expecting some snowflakes (found money) in the next couple weeks.

My sister owes me $36. I forgot to ask her about it when I was visiting, but she will mail it to me.

I'm pretty sure Ooma will be crediting my credit card at least $20 for a referral here in a couple days.

USAA provides a subscriber discount every year. Last year it appears to have been over $80, so I expect it will be just a bit more.
I noticed I also have $42 in rewards with our USAA Visa.

And finally I also have $19.47 in my Paypal account that is from two small eBay sales. I'm withdrawing it to our savings account.

That is $155 worth snowflakes! I love snowflakes and found money. I haven't been tracking well at all this year. I hope to get a new start in 2017.

I made

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Gingerbread Crinkle Cookies for the first time a couple days ago. They are yummy and actually pretty easy. I have enough molasses to make a second batch. And I have already frozen them. They look just as good coming back out of the freezer too.

Cancelled Another Credit Card

November 28th, 2016 at 01:48 pm

I cancelled another credit card last night. It was my Citi Thank You Preferred card. I've had it for awhile, and noticed we had added new cards and were using those more. Why keep extra cards if they are never used, right?

I simply sent a message through our account requesting the cancellation. I had a super quick response and when I logged back on the account had been closed. Easy!

The next step is to record in my notes that I cancelled the card and cut the cards up. I kind of like the finality of cutting up a card. I also moved the card account on YNAB to the closed account list. Smile

We still have TEN credit cards open. Want to know what they are? Sure you do!

Target Red Card (5% off Target purchases)
US Bank Visa (5% off cell phone bill)
Chase Freedom (rotating 5% cash back categories)
Kohl's (various discounts)
Discover (rotating 5% cash back categories)
Southwest Visa (miles to fly on Southwest)
USAA (1% cash back)
American Express Blue Cash Everyday (various cash back, plus 3% grocery stores, 2% gas stations) (we have two of these)
Marriott Rewards Visa (hotel rewards)

I'm considering getting rid of Chase Freedom, although I've had it for a long time. I also probably don't need the USAA either, but currently we are using it for most of our expenses. I'm liking how quickly USAA is adding the cash back to our rewards account. And there is no minimum!

The cards that I'm finding most difficult to actually use are the Southwest and Marriott cards as their rewards are miles and hotel points. We pay annual fees for these cards! I'm NOT getting rid of Southwest though, because I do charge airline tickets at least four times a year. I am getting benefit from it. I haven't decided on the Marriott card yet. I think I need more time to decide and figure out how fast I could accumulate points if I used it more regularly.

How many cards do you have?

We have credit cards, but never pay any interest on our charges. All balances are paid in full by the due date, or before!

$10 off $25 at Amazon for BOOKS!

November 27th, 2016 at 10:10 pm

I just got wind of this promotion, so I thought I would pass it on. You can get $10 off $25 book purchase at Amazon. It expires, TONIGHT, November 27 at midnight PST. The code you need at checkout is HOLIDAYBOOK.

I already used it! I'm buying the Hamilton book for my youngest daughter. She is a fan of the Broadway play music. She hasn't seen the production, but this should give her some more insight on it. The book retails for $45. Amazon has had it for $27 with Amazon Prime. After the promotion, I scored it for $17! Quite the deal.

In other looks like I will sell two of my items on eBay tomorrow. One other auction has someone watching it, so that could happen too. May end up with $25 or so.

Retirement is Up

November 27th, 2016 at 03:15 pm

The stock market has been up in the last couple weeks. I think it helps the election is over. The S&P is now up 8.63% for the year.

Our retirement accounts are up over $50K for the year. That does include the cash we invested. The actual amount is $386,448. I'd love to see $400K, but I think that may be pushing it considering we only have another $1600 to invest before year end. I will watch to see how it plays out.

I saw a billboard at the airport this weekend that said "No one ever wishes they waited to start investing for retirement." That may not be an exact quote, but you get the idea. It is NEVER to late to start saving for retirement. Something saved will be better than nothing saved. I think the same thing is true for college savings.

Photo Gifts

November 20th, 2016 at 07:27 pm

I'm making some photo gifts for Christmas this year. I'm making a photo book for my older daughter of her high school marching band pictures. I'm two years late on it, but I think it will be meaningful and unexpected. I should have made it for her graduation, but we were in the middle of getting ready to move at that time and it was just to overwhelming to take on. It was 50% off, so around $18 before shipping. I'm sure there is going to be a better deal at some point, but I'm just happy to have it done and on it's way!

I also put a college of marching band pictures from this year for my younger daughter. I didn't get a lot of good pictures, but a band dad took a ton and my daughter made it into a couple of them. He was nice enough to share them. That 8x10 collage is only a couple dollars and I will get a frame so she can put it on her wall.

The final photo gift is a calendar for my parents with pictures of their four grandchildren. I have not completed it yet as I'm hoping to get a couple pictures of the four of them together over Thanksgiving. I also am purchasing it separately so I can have it mailed directly to them. I think it will cost me $12 or so with shipping.

Do you make photo gifts for Christmas? Are you the recipient of photo gifts? What kind are your favorites?

Cancelled A Credit Card

November 18th, 2016 at 03:22 pm

I think the last credit card we opened was the American Express Gold Rewards card. It was less than a year ago. We met the spending requirement and received our bonus reward in gift cards earlier this year.

Yesterday, I had my husband call to cancel. It was in his name, and sending an email wasn't an option. He told me the woman did try to keep him as a customer by offering a $75 credit on travel expenses. We are traveling soon, but tickets and hotel are already covered. I'm glad to have it cancelled. It would have had a big annual fee had we kept it.

I'm getting close to wanting to cancel a Citi Thank You Rewards card I have. I did have some points, that I just redeemed on Amazon towards a Christmas gift. Those points amounted to $6.18. Happy to use, but we aren't using the card as we have other rewards cards we are using more regularly. I hope to get this one cancelled once I see the payment was recorded. I think I can probably sent a online message to get that done.

Have you opened or cancelled a credit card recently?

Europe Trip Charge Paid In Full

November 16th, 2016 at 12:17 pm

I had charged my daughter's summer trip to Europe on our Southwest Visa early in October. I needed to pay it off by November 23 to avoid interest charges. And I did just that yesterday. The balance is now zero.

We were able to cash flow all but $1400. That amount I took from savings. I expect I will be able to cover most of that next month, and have paid ourselves back.

I feel really good about how it turned out. I could have been making monthly payments of nearly $600 for eight months, but I feel much better having it just done and paid for. My focus now is to accumulate another $4000 for February tuition.

We also need to set aside money for passports in December. We decided my husband and I should have them also, especially if something were to happen and we would need to fly overseas.

Not Spend Free November

November 15th, 2016 at 07:04 pm

I'm not surprised, but November has definitely not turned out as no spend for us. We are spending within our budget as usual, but I'm not able to back off getting some things we need.

Last weekend we went shopping for some new clothes. I bought one shirt, my daughter four shirts and my husband picked up a sweater and a belt. We shopped at Kohl's and after some great coupons and discounts we paid $83. I don't think we had any items that came up to more than $20 after the discounts. We were all due for something new, especially since we are going to attempt some family pictures over Thanksgiving. I had a six year old top I could have worn, but decided I could spend a little money to be wearing something not so dated!

I've also started Christmas baking, which meant buying baking supplies at the store on Sunday when we shopped. I bought only the ingredients I needed. I will pick up the rest after Thanksgiving when I'm back at the grocery store.

I've also started Christmas shopping. Just yesterday I spent $25 at Hobby Lobby buying some items for my niece and my daughter. I also purchased a couple gift items online that should arrive tomorrow.

I'm striving for a stress free holiday and part of that involves spending in November, so I don't have to be out in the store shopping. I'm thinking ahead about stamps, cards (actually skipping this year), gift wrap, the gifts themselves, decorations (including lights), and baking. If you want to read more about Stress Less Christmas and my daily Christmas missions go to my other blog

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Your Organized Friend. Feel free to look at November and December archives from last year too.

So while I attempted to be low spend this time of year, it is just reality that there is spending. I'll try again in January and/or February.

Did you try no spend this month? How are you doing?

Christmas Savings

November 14th, 2016 at 12:21 pm

We save $50 a month towards Christmas spending. Before November I had $500 already set aside. I'm about to add another $50 on payday tomorrow.

I've already started buying gifts! So far that spending is about $140. I expect I will be done buying gifts before I fund the Christmas account for December. I'm going to try to keep the spending to $550 just for this reason.

I think in years past I used found money, or snowflakes to help fund Christmas. I probably blogged about it here on the blog. I'm still getting some snowflakes but I just put them in our general savings account. They end up being applied to college expenses for the most part.

Some recent snowflakes:
$5 Amazon gift card from Swagbucks
$5.72 from Ebates
$3 from Pinecone
$22 eBay sale
$25 flute lesson refund (hurricane related)

I think there may be some other snowflakes I could list, but they are not coming to mind right now. I haven't been as good at tracking them this year!

How do you save for Christmas?

Economics & More

November 13th, 2016 at 12:01 am

I hope this is my last post in regards to the election, but I think economic factors were a big issue for many voters. I remembered being a part of a forum discussion where the OP was pointing out how hard it was to find a job in her small town. Here is the

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link if you want to read. If you haven't driven through the farm fields or stopped in a small town, it may be hard to imagine what life is like. Some of them you really wonder why people even stay there. But again, that link is a glimpse into how it is like for some people.

Today we splurged and went to another movie: The Accountant. It was violent, but a VERY good story line in my opinion. We ate lunch at a Mexican restaurant just prior. Very yummy and inexpensive food.

Prior to eating lunch we had run a couple errands. My husband got a used book, and I had a credit to cover the full amount. I picked up gum, and cleaning supplies at Home Depot with a gift card. I bought an iTunes gift card there also, but they wouldn't let me buy it with a gift card. I tried!

We also began looking at cell phones at Verizon. We didn't fall in love with any. My husband said if his screen wasn't giving him such issues he would be willing to stay with his phone. We may consider trying to replace the screen ourselves like we did with his Samsung Tablet. I'm sure it would be cheaper than buying new phones. I need to consider long and hard about moving from my Android phone to an iPhone. I have a MacBook Pro and would love them to be more in sync with each other.

Almost time to watch our favorite college football team. I'm going to try to work on a photo book while I watch. Not sure I can do both, but I'm going to try.

Choose Kindness and Love

November 9th, 2016 at 04:01 pm

Our daughters woke up very upset this morning. One has a friend that is very fearful to walk around on campus. I personally am not fearful, yet I am so sad that others are.

Hug someone if you are feeling sad or scared. Talk through your feelings. Remember that we are more alike that we are different. There is more good in the world than we can possibly be shown on television.

Be the good!

First Gifts of Christmas

November 8th, 2016 at 08:34 pm

My girls are big John and Hank Green fans. Every year they have some special types of merchandise they sell. This year is no different they both wanted something. One is getting a shirt and the other a hoodie. These are Christmas gifts, so I can now say my shopping has begun.

I'm also working on a photo album for my older daughter. The album will be as many pictures I can find from her high school marching band days. I wish I would have done this at the time of graduation...but we were getting ready to move!! I have a coupon for a free 8x8 book and just need to pay shipping.

I also put together an 8x10 photo collage of about 7 marching band pictures for my youngest daughter. Several of them are from their final competition where they are pictured with all their awards. This band doesn't seem to get as much professional pictures to be purchased, but one dad has a super nice camera and is in the pit crew, so he can get great shots. He is sharing them with us for no charge!! I will order the book and collage at the same time. I expect to buy a frame for the collage as well.

Have you started any Christmas shopping? I have a plan to finish by the end of November. I might need a couple extra days in December, but the goal is before that.

$11 In My Wallet

November 8th, 2016 at 02:27 am

I ended up with $11 in my wallet after the weekend. We usually have cash on hand for all our marching band adventures. The season ended Saturday night on a high note. Our daughter's band was named Grand Champions at their last competition!!

Today I gave my daughter the $11 to donate to school. They are collecting funds to purchase grocery store gift cards for those in need this Thanksgiving. She gets community service hours for her donation; one hour for every $1 donated. So our small donation saves her from actually volunteering 11 hours of time! I did tell her she could use some of her own money to add to it if she desired. Not sure she is as I think she is hoarding money for her Europe trip.

So other than that donation, it was a no spend day. I'm hoping to gain some bookstore credit tomorrow when I sell some books and CDs.

New Shoes, A Movie, Gas, and Groceries

November 7th, 2016 at 02:23 am

It was a spendy Sunday.

We took our younger daughter to see Dr. Strange. Great movie! I don't regret the movie tickets. I had allocated cash towards this expense. I do regret the pop and popcorn though...I should have put a snack in my purse instead. My husband would have bought the soda either way. At least we went during matinee pricing.

I bought new running shoes. My last pair lasted about three months. I poked a hole with my big toe, and the soles were very worn. This time I bought the same pair, but decided to go up a half size. I've been walking A LOT...easily 5 miles a day. At that rate, one does go through shoes much faster. The shoes cost me $95.99 at the Post sale tax and probably 30% cheaper than buying at a traditional store.

We filled up on gas and bought groceries today through the next payday. Groceries were $168.81 including laundry detergent, kleenex, cat food and a multipurpose cleaner. The gas was $33.85.

I might get my hair cut tomorrow, otherwise I don't expect any other spending tomorrow. Right now I don't see much spending this week!

Spent $45

November 6th, 2016 at 03:26 am

Last night we didn't end up paying to get into the away football game our daughter's marching band was performing at. The band didn't leave school until 2 hours after originally scheduled. They arrived after half time. We were there in the parking lot when they arrived, but decided we didn't need to go in just to watch her play in the stands. Saved $14.

Today we spent about $24 at Subway for lunch. Definitely not a need, but it was convenient after a busy morning at a Veteran's Day Parade. I did have cash allocated in our Restaurant category.

We also spent $23 at the final marching band competition at the season. We spent $16 on admission, $3 on a program, and $4 my daughter spent at the concession stand. I always remind myself that our spending at these games and competitions help support the band (and athletic) programs.

Oh, and we bought wine to drink while watching our favorite college football team play on TV. I'm not sure the cost of the wine. Maybe $10.

Weekends tend to be when we spend the most. We can get by most week days without spending much at all.

Uncashed Rent Check

November 4th, 2016 at 05:00 pm

We changed how we pay our landlord at the beginning of October. Instead of writing a check myself, and finding the envelope and stamp, I set up the rent to be mailed from our bank using Bill Pay. I notified the landlord and it was fine with them. One of the owners let me know by text message that the check did arrive.

But it has not been cashed! I checked this morning and our rent check dated November 1 has been cashed.

Edited to add: Our bank will void the check after 180 days. Thus on March 30, 2017 that check can no longer be cashed.

So...should I say something? It seems so odd. Part of me hopes they forgot and never cash it. I can't imagine they will never notice, especially at tax time.

No spending yesterday by me. My husband bought coffee for work $6.29 at the commissary. Tonight we have the last high school football game (we go to see the marching band) which will cost us about $14 to get in the gate and about $4 for our daughter to purchase concessions.

Spring Tuition and Housing

November 3rd, 2016 at 06:13 pm

I've left a tab open on my computer for weeks to remind me to calculate my daughter's expected spring tuition, fees and housing. She signed up yesterday officially, so I finally took the plunge and started calculating.

She is taking 17 credits. Three of those are an online class, which is a bit cheaper than classroom learning by almost $500 a class. Tuition and fees are $12,726.75, but she has $7,250 in scholarship money. So we will owe out of pocket $5,476.75. Our estimated tax refund is $1375. I may not have that back when the bill is due February 12, but it can be counted on to cover the cost we take from savings. That means I need to find $4101.75 to make the payment. We do have the cash, but I would like to accumulate and cash flow that money as much as possible by February 12.

And the housing due for the spring semester is $5.015.65. She does get $353 discount because she is a second year student in the same dorm. That amount is $4662.65. We will use money we have in her education account to cover this. After this withdrawal we will have just under $5K left in her education account. We could use this for the tuition above, but expect we may want that for her final semester or some summer classes.

The goal is to finish school without loans if possible. It sure helps that our expenses are low and we don't have debt. We do have the Post 911/GI Bill benefit we expect to use starting Fall 2017. We will owe just a little for housing each semester, maybe $1000, plus some books.

Spending Today

November 2nd, 2016 at 07:06 pm

I spent $13 at Walmart to pick up a few things that didn't make the grocery list on Sunday. I was definitely not looking at the status of some of our staples like salt, olive oil and butter when I made my list. I also picked up a personal care item...and actually remembered to use a coupon! I think these count as needs, rather than wants though. Smile

I forgot to mention we ended up with some free vitamins in the mail. We ordered two months supply for my husband last week. Somehow we got someone else's order (of the same vitamins) in separate box, but with a shipping label to our home. So not really our problem. So instead of a $30 cost per month, the cost is closer to $15 a month for the next four months! Nice surprise bonus. I used our Amex card for the purchase and there was a $10 coupon off a $50+ order.

I'm ordered two Christmas gifts this week. My daughter is selling live wreaths for marching band. I'm buying one for my parents and one for my mother in law. They are approximately $35 each. These will be Christmas gifts. I let my Mom and Dad pick theirs out when they visited. The cool thing is these will get delivered to their home! I am using money I have saved for Christmas to make these purchases.

Still haven't pointed out the low spend month idea with my husband! And we do travel this month so I think that is why I'm hesitant to really dive in. I do think the exercise of reining spending in is a good one. We aren't big spenders overall, so there isn't a lot of excess. However, I know for our experiment in February that one can save a LOT of cash by making the intention of low spending.

No Spend November?

November 1st, 2016 at 07:47 pm

Today, I came across an article where someone is doing a No Spend Month in November! And I see that Mrs. Frugalista is doing one also. I never thought that it would be possible to do in November. I'm not sure I can convince my husband, but it may be worth the try.

I made a credit card payment for our airline tickets that I charged last week. I had all but $200 of the cost set aside in our vacation fund. Between that purchase and the cost of my daughter's Europe trip, we earned 7500 Southwest Airline miles. I wouldn't count this as spending though for November, primarily because I did do it in October and it is essential to get home for a holiday when the money is available!

I just did our budget and basically after paying required bills, I was able allocate $1000 for spending through Nov 15. We could likely spend far less than that if we are super careful, but that amount is average for us. I also put $500 aside that will go towards paying the Europe trip. I'm going to see what else I can come up with next pay period before I make another payment.

I went grocery shopping on Sunday as usual. My parents were here visiting, so I didn't make a great menu plan and just told myself I could go back to the store later. I'm going to do my best to make it through Sunday without going to the store. I know I have soups frozen that I can thaw, and items to make pizza. We have lots of eggs to make breakfast for dinner. I believe there is rice and beans (and salsa). I think I bought some frozen burritos too. I bet we can make it! And that will help the budget quite a bit.

Do you think you could keep your spending down to just the essentials in November? Again not sure if I can, but I just might try it. I'll let you know how it goes.