<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: May, 2017
 

Archive for May, 2017

Sinking Funds

May 31st, 2017 at 03:55 am

I'm on FB group where there has been a lot of discussion about sinking funds. The definition they gave is 'saving a small amount of money each month for a certain amount of time before you make a purchase'. That definition is true, but a bit vague since it doesn't really explain the types of things you use sinking funds for.

I have used sinking funds (sometimes I call them escrow funds) for car registrations, Christmas, auto insurance for a very long time. I established these pretty early on. I wanted to get a discount for paying insurance semi annually. The only way to make sure I had the funds was to save for it. A little each month.

Specifically, I save $50 a month for Christmas. I guess I do have a birthday fund now too. I save $42 a month in that one. I also save $152 a month for car registrations, auto insurance and renters insurance.

Now that we use YNAB, I have quite a few more sinking funds. I don't always add to them all every month. For example, I know that my daughter has a fair share for band expenses due in the fall when marching season starts. It's usually around $300. I could save $25 a month, but that feels tedious to do all year long. So for the last couple months, I have been just putting various amounts in knowing the goal is to have all the money by August. I actually need to make a $75 payment to them tomorrow. And I do have that.

I established an eye care fund, as nearly all of us are due (over due actually) for eye exams and will need glasses. And I also established a cell phone replacement category. So far I have funded it well enough to purchase two new phones. My older daughter and I are holding out even longer with phones we bought 3 years ago. My does randomly turn off and on by itself sometimes, but she hasn't had any problems with hers.

Do you have sinking funds? What do you use yours for?

A Time for Spending

May 30th, 2017 at 01:17 pm

We are just in that time of year I think. It's spending season. Over a week ago we bought one of our daughter's a new smart phone. We tried one unlocked one that didn't end up working with Verizon only to buy a cheaper version by the same company that did work. Net cost $227. I plan to buy a case and scratch cover on Amazon after I earn a few more Swagbucks.

Friday I took both girls shopping for summer wear. Overall, I would say they don't need anything. However, we rarely buy clothes so a few new things are nice. And the younger daughter does need more for her Europe trip this summer. I spent $134.59 for at least eight items. It may have been more.

The week prior I bought myself a new pair of summer sandals for $29. I had been making do with a pair of flip flops from Walmart I bought on a whim two years ago and sneakers. It was time to buy sandals!!

We went to the beach on Sunday. We did pack water and lunch. Parking was free. However, it was a two hour trip each way, so there was fuel for the van. And my husband seemed to need a soda each time we stopped. We did also treat ourselves to homemade ice cream from a local shop.

Our other entertainment this weekend was to see the matinee of Pirate's of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Tickets for four of us were $23. And we almost made it without buying popcorn and soda, but honestly it was lunch time, so we did end up spending $13 on those. Not the most frugal for sure.

The glass for my husband's windshield came to $230. Exactly the amount I was expecting. It was great service and I easily saved $100 over Safelite.

And coming up soon will be new eye glasses for our girls. They are both over due by a year for an exam. One will be covered in full by insurance, the other has a $150 deductible that we haven't met, so the exam will be out of pocket. The frames and lenses are not covered by our insurance. We will be considering online options for sunglasses for sure, if not the actual glasses themselves. However, I know how hard it is to find frames they like, so if they find something they really like at the optical store, I will likely splurge. I currently have $600 set aside for these expenses, but can more money around from other savings goals if needed.

Are you spending more or less this time of year?

Amazon Spending 2017

May 29th, 2017 at 01:01 pm

Since LivingAlmostLarge posted about her online Amazon orders, it got me wondering a bit about ours. I have spent more than she has, but I have not spent tens of thousands like the woman in the article.

For the first five months of 2017, I placed 16 orders, which I guess would average on three a month. The total amount spent out of pocket was $284.45. Some of these order totals came to $0 because I used Amazon gift cards earned from creditcardfree. And I'm sure some of them were reduced because Amazon gift cards, too.

Actually the amount of Amazon gift cards used was $192.73. So that means the spending was $477.18 for the first five months of the year. Just under $100 a month.

Some of the things we purchased were six text books, vitamins, a cord holder for Christmas lights, new headlight bulbs, reusable menstrual items, engine and cabin filters for both cars, a treadmill mat, cell phone cases, and allergy medicine.

Broken Windshield

May 25th, 2017 at 05:22 am

During my husband's travels to school on Sunday, the windshield on his truck was hit by a rock. It eventually resulted in a crack as the trip progressed.

We won't claim this on our insurance as we have a $1000 deductible. I did start the process through USAA who contracts with Safelite for repairs which is where I saw that the windshield would cost $300. I was close to scheduling it, but decided to see if Safelite offered coupons or discounts. Instead I found a local shop that gave an online quote of $197! That is a huge savings.

I'm calling to today to see if we can get our vehicle in on Saturday while he is home, otherwise it will need to wait.

Of course, I'm not thrilled about paying for a windshield, but this is a reason to have savings! And it does pay to shop around when needing repairs. Smile

Saving Change

May 23rd, 2017 at 07:18 am

I found $5.09 in change this weekend. Most was from my husband, but I had seemed to collected some in my wallet as well. There was almost a dollar in pennies stashed in a small container, too.

Because we bank online I can't just deposit this money to savings. I have to spend it. So my plan is to spend it when I making some cash purchases this week. Once I have used it all up I will transfer $5.09 from checking to savings.

We used cash much more in our early days of marriage. We would toss all coins in a container and once filled we would take it to the bank to be counted and then deposit it into our account. When we got serious about debt this money would go to make payments on the debt.

Coins count and add up! What do you do with your coins?

Bummer, No Kitchenette

May 21st, 2017 at 02:44 pm

My husband has found out his room while he is away for three months of training is a fairly basic hotel room. It doesn't have the stove and kitchen supplies we were expecting. It does have a microwave and a very small dorm refrigerator.

The good news he does get 'free' breakfast everyday. I hope it is somewhat decent as some of those breakfasts can get old after awhile. There may be a manager's reception/weekly social at least one night a week.

He will be back home for Memorial Day weekend, so we might have to figure out some options for food he can buy and eat from the commissary without eating out for every meal.

He is getting per diem to cover meals. Originally we were told it was $69 a day, but it is 75% of that because of the length of the training. That works out to $51.75 for each day. For thirty days, that is $1,552. I think the man can eat decently for that, even with some eating out.

The truth is I would love to keep as much of that money as possible. Even half or 2/3rds of that amount seems possible. I guess we will know more as it all plays out.

Renter's Insurance

May 19th, 2017 at 05:57 am

Our renter's insurance has renewed for July. And the rate has dropped! By $100 a year. Last year the amount was $404, this year our rate is $304. Seems almost unheard of that insurance rates go down!

I'm taking this saving and dropping it into the BIG goal. Smile

I do find it interesting that as soon as I make a plan to save more money, money shows up! Some of it comes in the form of checks, and some comes in the way of savings on bills. I will take it.

Sold Our Treadmill and More

May 17th, 2017 at 04:30 am

We sold our treadmill back to Play It Again Sports, which is where we purchased it used 20 months ago. I used it a fair amount initially. My husband used it last on Sunday. And easily used it about four days a week.

I figured out that we originally spent $900 including tax and delivery. We sold it back for $200, and they came and picked it up and moved it (down the stairs no less). $700 net over 20 months was equal to $35 a month. Not bad.

We didn't really want to sell it, but we had it on carpet in our bonus room and realized a couple months ago that the treadmill had burned a hole in the carpet from friction! Well when you rent you do try to limit damage. So we bought a mat to put under it, but it didn't seem to help. We were seeing evidence that a new hole could develop again.

My husband is about to be away for a few months for training, and when he returns his job will have fewer hours, with more time for working out on post. And that is free!

I've been walking in our neighborhood, even during some of the winter months, so my exercise is free as well. I do need to start doing more weight bearing exercises, but those can be done with some small equipment pieces we have at home and with my own body...like pushups and squats.

The damage to the carpet is unfortunate. And we feel really bad about it. My husband thinks the landlord will have to replace all the carpet, therefore we will lose our entire $1800 deposit. My thought is to approach them in the month or so before our lease ends, and suggest a local company that will repair the hole using carpet from a closet. The hole itself measures less than 2 inches by 2 inches. We have a remnant of carpet from another home that could fill in the small amount of carpet from the closet. We would pay for the repair and expect all or most of our deposit back.

Our landlords are a bit hard to work with, so we don't know how they will respond. We are currently trying to get them to hire a new company to fertilize and spray for weeds. It is in our lease that they provide it. They fired the last company for unknown reasons last fall. Currently, they have simply not responded to our voice mail, a text or an email concerning the problem.

We have heard from neighbors that they didn't take care of the lawn very well when they lived here, so I think they aren't very motivated to provide the service when they can't see the weeds themselves.

In the past they have tried to have us call to make a/c repair appointments. However, if we call the a/c company still requires the owner to call to authorize. So I don't get why they can't just make the call when we are in need of service. Sometimes I wish we had a property management company, but then I hear my neighbor complain, and figure we don't have it too bad. They leave us alone most of the time and the house itself is in good working order.

As I get to the end of this post, I'm beginning to think we need to spray the weeds ourselves, and charge them for the cost and time. They seem to be fine with just deducting things from the rent. However, then I'm irritated that our lease states it is included and they aren't providing it.

Oh and by the way the $200 is going to the BIG Goal. Smile

Double Water Bill

May 16th, 2017 at 06:30 am

While I'm loving that lower electric bill, it seems our water bill has doubled! From $44 last month to $88 this month. It's that time of year where we are running our sprinkler system. It runs four mornings a week. I think it takes two hours to do all the zones.

Oh, and I should mention our lawn is huge! It takes us 1.5 hours to mow with a standard walk behind mower. Luckily the grass in the southeast doesn't grow too fast, so we don't mow every week.

If we weren't renting I'm pretty sure my husband would have convinced me to buy a riding lawn mower. But since we don't expect to have a huge lawn long term, the standard mower has been just fine. And walking is good exercise!

Lowest Electricity Bill Yet!

May 14th, 2017 at 12:04 pm

I just received our electric bill in my email inbox. I love bills that are emailed. They don't add clutter to my life that way!

The bill is the lowest we have had the entire time we have lived in this home (22 months). For a 2400 sq ft home our bill came in at $122.88 The highest was this past December, at around $315. Last month it was $167.

Now it is hard to pinpoint the exact reason for the cost savings, but I have to give some credit to not using the dryer as much. It still gets use twice a week, rather than four times a week or more.

I'm going to give some major credit to the weather. It has been very mild for many of the days of the billing period, April 10 through May 10. Not too hot to run the air conditioner most of the time. And no need for heating either. Unfortunately, we are going to hit the 90s later in the week.

We were also gone for one week during the billing period and I did increase the temperature before air conditioning would come on. I couldn't turn off entirely because the cat was home, but no lights, or tv use during the week can make an impact.

After we returned, my husband and I both came down with colds. And we both skipped our regular workouts, and for my husband that meant he wasn't using our treadmill. Since that uses electricity I have to think it made an impact also. (We are selling our treadmill this week and expect to make about $200, so no longer will that be an added impact to the electric bill. )

And finally, just this past week I did change the gaskets on the fridge. I do wonder how much cold air was escaping and causing the fridge to run more often. That would have only been for a couple days on this billing cycle, but it had to have contributed a bit.

I'm having fun working on reducing our electricity, even though it can feel I don't have much control over it at times. Thank you mother nature!

Let's Talk College Costs...Summer 2017

May 12th, 2017 at 05:55 am

I'll keep this short as there isn't much detail to post about taking an online summer class. My daughter did originally sign up for 6 credits. But one of the classes she picked to fulfill a math credit was an engineering class...which is a much higher rate! Basically I told her it wasn't worth it, so she dropped it.

The class is online, so while it is still the non resident rate it is lower than the classroom rate.

The total tuition and fees for one 3 credit hour class is $1,751. She does not have scholarship money that is applied for summer classes. We will be paying this in full out of pocket. I currently have $1,285 saved. I think tuition is due June 12 (although the class doesn't start until July).

My husband gets paid on Monday, so I expect we will have the $466 available at that point. I should put a bit more in as I'm sure there is a text book she will need to buy.

My daughter still has money in her Educational Savings Account. I had considered paying half of tuition with the money in that account, especially when I thought she was taking 6 credits. However, I'm going to save those funds for later, since we are able to pay the full amount out of pocket.

So once again we will have paid some more college costs without student loans! Yea!!

Let's Talk College Costs...Spring Sophomore Year

May 11th, 2017 at 06:32 am

Note: I wrote two posts today, scroll down to see the other one.

Get ready, this was the most expensive semester yet! My daughter took 17 credit hours!! Remember she is an out of state student.

$12,746 Tuition and Fees
_$5,063 Room and Board
$17,809 Total Before Scholarships
($7,250) Scholarships
$10,559 Total After Scholarships
__($400) Advance Housing Deposit Paid out of Pocket
($4,750) Paid from ESA
($1,497) Tax Refund (also considered out of pocket)
($3,912) Paid Out of Pocket

I looked back at YNAB, where I now have a College Tuition and Housing Category and we did save all that money from December to February when it was time to pay the bill. Again, I have made the point to pay at least $4K out of pocket each calendar year to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Housing cannot count towards the credit, only eligible tuition and required fees.

This is the semester our daughter just finished. And we have not taken out any loans. The ability to cash flow some of this at times does boggle my mind a bit, but we have pretty low expenses overall thus the extra cash cushion to apply to college. This is key to making it work along with having saved some money in advance. We have also known that we have the Post 911 GI bill for awhile now which has factored into all of the decision making.

Next Up! An online summer class!

Let's Talk College Costs...Fall Sophomore Year

May 11th, 2017 at 06:12 am

As of my daughter's sophomore year, she still has her primary scholarship of $7,000 per semester. She still has her honors scholarship of $250.

The fall of her sophomore year she enrolled in 13 credits.

$10,350 Tuition and Fees
_$5,801 Fall Housing
$16,151 Total Before Scholarships
($7,250) Scholarships
_$8,901 Total After Scholarships
($4,750) Paid from ESA
($4,151) Paid Out of Pocket

I don't have an account of book and art supplies costs for this semester. As a music major she often has to hire an piano accompanist for a couple practices and then the performance. She pays these fees out of her own money.

I'm remembering that the reason I pay at least $4,000 toward tuition out of pocket is to qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The maximum tuition amount you can claim is $4K. The maximum credit is $2,500.

I looked back at our bank account last year and can see we were definitely socking away between $800-1,100 a month early in the year. This is where some of that money went...tuition!

Another thing to note, is that she took 13 credit hours in the Spring and Fall of 2016. There was a cost difference in tuition and fees of $431. A small portion may be fees specific to classes, but an increase non the less.

Let's Talk College Costs...Spring Freshman Year

May 10th, 2017 at 11:28 am

Let's move on to my daughter's spring semester of her Freshman year in college. That semester she took 13 credits. This is down from the 16 she took her first semester.

_$9,919 Tuition and Fees
_$4,949 Spring Housing
$14,868 Total Before Scholarships
($10,000) Scholarships
_$4,868 Total After Scholarships
__($400) Advance Deposit from Cash on Hand
($4,400) Paid from ESA
___($68) Paid out of Pocket

Looking back I kind of wish I paid less from her ESA, but overall I have no regrets. I mean couldn't I have come up with another $1000 towards it? But it did go to costs associated with attending.

I'm not entirely sure the book costs for Fall, but I do see she purchased at least $269 for books and supplies at the University book store. Some of her supplies would be art items, which are often pricey! And I know she bought some items at an off campus art store too. We paid for the books out of pocket, also.

I think you can tell that it is helpful to have room in your budget to absorb some of the costs, of at least books and incidentals that come up. Of course, I also think it isn't a bad idea to have students pay these themselves. And there are things our daughter does pay for, which I can put in another post at some point.

Let's Talk College Costs...Fall Freshman Year

May 10th, 2017 at 06:04 am

So let's go back in time. My daughter graduated high school two years ago, May 2015. At the time her ESA account was valued at $22,588.50. She also has a UTMA that was valued at $2,608.19. The total of the two was $25,196.69. All of that was saved by us, except for maybe $1000 worth of gifts from grandparents, and some market appreciation.

My daughter was enrolled in 16 credit hours (at the non resident rate) for Fall 2015. Tuition and fees totaled $12,044. Housing for first semester was $5,154. Yep, a $17,198 bill!

The good news is she had scholarships! That semester those came to $10,000 (current scholarship per semester is still at $7,250) Leaving us a balance of $7,198 to pay.

I had to look back at my blog to find what actually happened. But the plan was to pay the tuition portion ($2,044) out of pocket and pay the housing $5,154 from her ESA. But what actually happened was I paid the full $7,198 out of our savings account when the bill was due in early September.

I then paid ourselves back with two withdrawals later in the year from the ESA. The market was down at the time, so it was hard to pull the sell trigger! Those amounts were $1,718 and $1,436. Which together equal $3154. Which is less than I originally planned to withdrawal by $2000.

The remaining amounts did come from savings and cash flow that was not original designated for college expenses. I had also changed our withholding once I realized we would benefit from the American Opportunity Tax Credit. This netted us $259 per pay period or $518 a month that we made sure to put back into savings for four months ($2,072).

So in the end we did pay $4,044 out of our own savings for the first semester. The remaining $3,154 was from her ESA. No loans! Smile

$12,044 Tuition and Fees
_$5,154 Housing
$17,198 Total Bill Before Scholarships
($10,000) Scholarships
_$7,198 Total after Scholarships
($3,154) Paid from ESA
($2,044)Saved Withholding/American Opportunity Credit
($2,000) Paid from Savings
-$0

It's interesting for me to go back and look. I had no idea we actually paid more out of pocket that first semester than what we withdrew from her ESA. One thing I remembered is that we had been saving $166 a month ($2000/year) for many years into her ESA. I don't specifically save that money into our savings for education but that is where some of the money comes from. ESA's require you stop investing on the child's 18th birthday.

Questions? I'll post Spring Freshman Year next.