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Archive for December, 2017

2017 Big Savings Goal Total

December 31st, 2017 at 04:09 pm

Earlier this year, I decided we should start working towards a big goal of saving $200,000 towards our next home. Since we rent it is similar to paying down a mortgage early, especially if you are following Dave Ramsey's Baby Steps.

We already had $40K in equity from previous homes we owned. So the new goal is another $160K to reach $200,000. I think the deadline is by the end of 2023, which is six years from now.

The amounts I earmarked towards the Big Goal this year came to $6,836.39! It's actually more than I thought it might be. I know I had around $2K in June according to one post I found where I reported it. I only came up with the idea in March of this year, so to save nearly $7K in 9 or 10 months is pretty good.

So in the end we can say we have $46,836.39 saved for our next home. Like Amber I'm tempted to add a little more to get it to an even number! I'll have to look at our budget categories and see if I can make that happen.

While I'd like to be on a faster pace with this goal, I knew that the first couple years would be slower with paying for college. It's when my husband gets his next raise that it will likely move faster.

I am very pleased that I started, since I know from experience if I don't make a plan for the money it gets frittered away. Maybe some of it still is, but at least I know have much more than I started.

So now on to 2018 to save even more towards the Big Goal!

Uber Frugal Month: What Will You Do with The Savings

December 31st, 2017 at 07:03 am

I was watching a few videos about no spend, low spend months on YouTube. I know many here are participating in Frugalwoods Uber Frugal Month Challenge in January. It brought the question up, what do you do with the money you save by not spending so freely?

My guess is many of these types of challenges came about in order to pay down more debt or to save more for emergency funds, or even specific savings goals.

I am just beginning to ponder our specific why for this January Challenge. What will we do with the money? Here are a few ideas I'm pondering:

Vacation fund
College funding
Big Goal

I also could split the savings amongst all of these! The college needs are the probably the most important in 2018. Our daughter will take summer classes, tuition due mid June, which needs to come from our current cash, rather than the small amount (okay almost $5K) in her Educational Savings account, which right now I'm saving for spring 2019 semester. The vacation is a bit unknown, but sure would be nice to get away sometime soon with our girls before they start going there separate ways in life. And as always, if I can squirrel money away to the Big Goal that makes a big difference in the long run.

So what will you do with the savings, if you are participating in a no spend, low spend or uber frugal month?

December 2017 Interest

December 31st, 2017 at 06:21 am

December interest earned from all cash accounts is $99.14. Starting to approach $100!

I expect that we will exceed $100 a month in interest earned in the coming year. I have added even more cash, specifically $8,000, to higher interest accounts. And it seems interest rates have finally started creeping back up. That is a big deal for savers. We have had a lot of years with very low interest rates. We are earning 1.4% on our online savings account and between 2.0% and 2.25% on three different CDs.

I will include all 2017 interest in my Big Goal total since I am using that money to help meet that goal.

Ended the Year with $500K

December 29th, 2017 at 06:49 pm

We officially ended 2017 with $500,483.61. Even if we made it by one penny, I'd be thrilled. This was always my hope for this year. And I knew it had to be a year of high returns to make it. Definitely happy dancing!!!

Last year's ending balance was $392,814.02. That's a change of $107, 669.59 or 27.4%.

We contributed the max to our Roth IRA's, $5,500 each. My husband turned 48 this year, so soon we will be able to contribute even more each year. Specifically, in 2019 we will be able to contribute an additional $1000 for him. Luckily, this should be the same year our oldest daughter will graduate with her two bachelor's degrees. Smile

In 2017, my husband contributed $10,067.11 of his base pay to the TSP. Total retirement contributions were $21,067.11 for 2017. Our total retirement contribution is 18% of our gross income.

I haven't decided yet if we will increase our retirement contribution to my husband's TSP. It's tempting to increase another 1%. I need to do some calculations once the new withholding and tax calculator's come out.

I want to point out that it is NEVER too late to start saving for retirement. Anything you save for it is better than nothing. And over time it adds up! Increasing 1% a year isn't noticed particularly if you get a raise of at least that amount.

How did you do with your retirement savings?

Buying The Kid Clothes

December 28th, 2017 at 07:10 pm

More clothes buying today. Another two shirts purchased for college daughter at JC Penney. Spent $35 after $10 coupon. Considering she is no longer growing and we don't buy clothes that often it was money well spent.

Our family went out to dinner tonight. It was planned and budgeted knowing that it would be nice to go out once while our daughter is home on break. Not sure what we spent, but it wasn't a high end restaurant. Dinner for four people adds up even at fast casual restaurants.

I'm looking forward to doing year end final tallies of retirement totals, interest earned, and Big Goal money.

All Over The Place

December 27th, 2017 at 07:32 am

This post may be a bit all over the place...several money thoughts on my mind this morning that I simply want to share.

We bought a new camera just before Christmas. We have been without one for about two years. I personally could probably have passed, but my husband seemed very interested. He has made a great point of using it over the last several days, getting pictures and video of our family. We took a family picture to send out on Facebook. The cost of the camera was $299, plus tax. He also bought an HD SD card. I was mad about that part initially, but I do see it has some better features than some older cards we have, so I will deal. I applied my husband's birthday money that he hadn't yet spent, and the remaining Christmas budget to cover most of it. After that I just took some cash from other budget areas so we can make it work.

We shopped for some grocery and personal care needs at Target yesterday. I used a $2 coupon along with the gift cards I bought for 10% off after Thanksgiving. So no new money out of pocket for things we needed. I was thinking of going to the store again, but I think I'm going to see if we can make it through Friday or Saturday night and just get our regular groceries for the first week in January.

Our final 2017 education and retirement contributions have been made. We added $2K to our youngest's Coverdell account and maxed out our Roth IRA's. These are all on automatic investment from our checking account, so it's easy to make it happen. I will need to double our payment in 2018 for our daughter's final contributions. She turns 18 in July, after which we we can no longer contribute. I think I may actually just take $1000 from savings and put it in for January. and then continue our regular $166.66 for the first six months of the year as we usually do. I can pay ourselves back the $1000 to savings for the remainder of the year.

I'm working on financial goals for 2018, but I need more time to focus. It's a little busy around here this week, with both girls off school and my husband home from work!

Our Discover statement closed the other day. We earned $15.53 in rewards. I'm going to redeem those and put them towards the Big Goal.

I transferred $8K we had in a second checking account to FNBO Direct yesterday. They have 1.4% interest rate, which is far better than our checking account.

We are about to buy my daughter a new cell phone. Her's is 3.5 years old, barely holds a charge and the camera on it no longer works. She is going to get the same phone I have, it will cost us $13 a month for the next 24 months. Since I charge our Verizon bill to US Bank for 5% back we will also get that same discount on the cost of the phone as well, which adds up to $15 in the end. But we will take it!

And finally, we are very close to purchasing a new laptop computer for our youngest daughter to take to school in the fall. We are going to buy it from the university she is going to attend. They offer a four year warranty, a discount and no sales tax. It's a Dell that will work for her engineering study needs. Cost will be $1299. I currently have $1,047 in the budget for it. We should have the rest of the money on Friday when my husband is paid.

Thanks for sticking with me on all my thoughts! Smile

Merry Christmas Blessings!

December 24th, 2017 at 09:37 am

May you see the blessings already abundant in your life right now before the gifts, food and gatherings. We all have things we can be grateful for and they are not dependent on a holiday of perfection.

Wishing you peace today, tomorrow and always!

Merry Christmas!

Book Stipend

December 22nd, 2017 at 06:16 am

With my husband's VA benefits my daughter gets a book stipend of $1000 per year. We received a payment of $708.33 in August. We have been notified that the remaining amount of $291.67 will has been sent. We have not yet received it though. I'm expecting it will likely come later this month along with a partial payment for December housing.

All is on track to receive all tuition paid next semester. She is signed up for 19 credit hours! We will continue to receive housing payments monthly for $1,112. They do prorate based on numbers of days in the month. So December, January and May will all be prorated.

After this spring semester, she will have one more full semester of benefits. Our plan is to use that next fall, although I may need to do the math and see if it would be better to use it her final semester, which is currently planned to be Fall 2019.

I've said it before. I am very grateful for this benefit that we have been able to pass on to our daughter's for their education.

More Interest and Cash Back

December 21st, 2017 at 05:32 am

It looks like one of our money market accounts has raised their interest rate again! Money we have there will now earn 1.4%. It wasn't that long ago that it was earning just 0.95%. This is at FNBODirect if interested.

I also noticed that our Chase Freedom credit card is offering 5% cash back for the first quarter of 2018 for cable, internet and phone merchants. I think I'll take them up on that offer and pay our cable bill, Netflix and Ooma bill with that card. I already get 5% back on our wireless phone bill with US Bank, so I will leave that alone, but will pay the other two with Chase Freedom January through March. May only net me a few dollars, but I'll take it. Oh, and gas stations are included as well for the same quarter.

Starting to ponder goals for January, financial and others. I usually won't have those quite together until mid month of January, as that is when my husband's new pay starts. He is getting a raise, another $187 pretax per month to work with. This should go to the Big Goal. Some will go to retirement since we put 11% in his TSP off the top. I was disappointed for a second year in a row that our housing allowance did not increase. Based on the market around here, it does make sense. Not much I can do about it. It is what it is.

Credit Card Rewards 2017

December 20th, 2017 at 02:02 pm

Let's talk credit card rewards. This probably wasn't our best year, and I honestly, wasn't focused on getting the best rewards all the time. I made a decision to use one credit card almost exclusively, thus the rewards earned on other cards were done for specific reasons.

The primary card we used this year was the Chase Southwest Premier Visa. It offers 1 point per dollar, and 5 points for Southwest purchases. My goal was to earn enough points to buy our daughter's Christmas roundtrip ticket. We succeeded! Her flight was 20,520 points. In total we earned 33,375 points on purchases. There was another 1617 from flying, 3,000 for a bonus and 6,000 as an anniversary bonus. We still have 26K points remaining.

All other credit cards earned cash back. I will list from largest to smallest.

US Bank $86.37
We use this card nearly exclusively for 5% back on our wireless phone bill.

American Express 1 $80
Redeemed $25 in cash from purchases, and received $30 in credits for our cable bill, and $25 from Boxed.com. I have $9.91 earned from purchases, but need to meet the $25 threshold to redeem.

USAA $77
We redeemed points earned on purchases for $77 cash back.

Target Red Card $37.34
Based on our spending and the 5% discount this is how much we saved.

American Express 2 $26.50
Redeemed $25 in cash from purchases. Also $1.05 credit for some purchase (maybe the cable bill offer from 2016?) We have $18.62 in rewards, but cannot redeem until hitting the $25 threshold.

Chase Freedom $17.36
I've been using this card for purchases at Walmart the last few months for 5% cash back. I try not to shop at Walmart, but honestly it is the closest discount store to me. I liked it better when I lived 5 minutes from Target!

Discover $5.75
We barely used this card this year. I have used it in the last couple months for 5% back for Amazon.com purchases. Luckily many of my purchases with them have been with gift cards.

I wish I could remember what the flight we redeemed for points would have been in dollars. I think around $400-$425. I know the year before I redeemed points for what would have been a $600 ticket. I used more points for that one.

All the cash cards come up to $330.32.

Again, not the best year, and most of that was due to looking to earn miles rather than cash. I did like using just one card most of the year. That makes things pretty simple. But the tradeoff is less cash.

I will need to decide if I want to make any changes in the coming year as to which cards we use. Or if we even open or close any cards. I do expect we will fly more in 2018. it may be more of my husband and I going to see our girls than them coming to see us. We will see.

Also a caveat to anyone reading that doesn't know our history with credit cards. We DO NOT every carry a rolling balance on credit cards that would accrue interest. I make a point to pay off all charges on our credit cards each time my husband is paid, which is twice per month. I do not suggest you open credit cards for rewards if you are going to be accruing interest as a result because you will likely earn more in interest than you will make in rewards.

Item Sold On eBay

December 19th, 2017 at 02:22 pm

I sold another item on eBay today. I net about $15. Not bad for a used clothing item I was no longer wearing!

That money will go to the Big Goal. More on that can be found on a page on my sidebar if you aren't sure what I'm referring to.

Spending has been minimal, except I ran to the store today to pick up some things to help my daughter cope with a cold. She arrived home from college on Saturday and was recovering from another cold. It seems she picked something else up along the way home.

In other news, we have had a few days of warmer weather, with rain coming tomorrow. I enjoy these mild days knowing it keeps our electric bill lower. Smile

I'm working on some year end posts. More to come soon!

Half A Million

December 18th, 2017 at 05:48 pm

We finally hit another retirement milestone today! And it's a big one at half a million dollars. Happy Dancing!!

Exact total at today's close for all of our accounts is $501,160.59. The change to our balance from Friday was $3,450.92. Yep, one day of trading can make that much of a difference in one day. The more you have the bigger a small percentage impact can make on the total balance.

We were at $392,814 at the very end of 2016. I really did want to reach $500K this year. I knew it would have to be a very good year to make it happen. So grateful it did!

Seriously...start investing if you have not yet! It compounds over time. Just 14.5 years ago we had $25K invested for retirement. You will have nothing if you don't start. And it is never to late to start. Something saved is better than zero saved.



Getting Close

December 15th, 2017 at 06:43 pm

Our retirement balances are close to another milestone. Actual amount at the close of today is $497,709.67...

half a million get ready!!

Honestly, I'm a little stunned. It's really hard to believe that just 14 years ago we had just $25K.

Invest. You won't regret it!

2017 Swagbucks Earnings

December 15th, 2017 at 09:37 am

I've done more earning on [url=http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/creditcardfree]Swagbucks[/url] than I realized this year. I had taken some time off from it in the past because it can be a time suck. Usually, I just do it when I'm watching television (which is rare) or hanging out in the evening (not as rare).

I redeemed all but $25 of my Swagbucks for Amazon gift cards. I redeemed amounts ranging from $3 to $25. I think I often would redeem the smaller amounts when I knew I had an upcoming purchase on Amazon, so I would redeem to get some cash off those purchases.

The $25 that was not for Amazon was Paypal cash. I applied that money to my Big Goal (see side bar for explanation).

The total amount of cash equivalents redeemed in 2017 was $472! Almost $500. I do have enough Swagbucks to redeem for $15 right now. I will likely earn more and redeem in January. If I redeem before I will update this post with the correct amount earned!

Did you earn Swagbucks this year? How much did you end up with?

Check them out if you want to earn some gift cards and cash! My referral link is at the top!