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Archive for January, 2019

Another Money Saving Tip

January 29th, 2019 at 01:31 pm

I thought of another of my money saving tips! And I'm sure one of you mentioned this or something similar, but from personal experience it is one of my top tips. DIY, do it yourself!

I have replaced a disposal, installed ceiling fans, painted walls and ceilings, replaced toilet parts, replaced water pump on dishwasher, learned how to replace the air filters on our Honda (tricky, secretive spot), repaired a dryer (had DH's help) and replaced a tablet screen. When we owned our home we also did our own fertilizing and lawn mowing.

With the invention of YouTube it really is possible to troubleshoot issues in order to repair something. And parts can be bought online and shipped to you if not found locally.

Now I'm not saying everyone should repair everything themselves every time. Some of us know what our limitations and abilities are. Professionals are important and helpful. However, it doesn't hurt to at least try or inquire what it would take to fix something before automatically calling/hiring a professional or buying something new. First consider if you could do it yourself for less than the cost of the alternatives.

We don't do our own oil changes, or vehicle repairs (usually) for example as we don't feel that we have the ability nor do we want to cause more damage. And that is a factor that should always be considered when deciding whether to pursue a DIY project.

Do you consider DIY one of your money saving tips? What project have you taken on that most would not?

My Top Money Saving Tips

January 28th, 2019 at 09:45 am

The underlying assumption for saving anything at all is that you must live beneath your means; spend less than you have in after tax income.

Here are my (our) top money saving tips in no particular order:

1) Know how to do your own taxes. You don't actually have to do them yourself, but it's important to know how taxes are figured in order to know what deductions and credits you might qualify for that could lower your tax liability. The less you send the government, the more money that stays in your pocket to save. This also goes hand in hand with understanding how to figure your withholding for your paycheck so that don't send more to the government each month resulting in a large refund. That was your money all year long and you could have been saving it!

2) Understand how compound interest works. Know how it can earn you money on your savings and how it can cost you money on your debt. No one wants to pay more for things, yet keeping debt, particularly on a credit card is very costly. It's probably the number one reason we haven't ever paid interest on a credit card, because I know how it works and I don't want to pay more!

3) Evaluate all ongoing purchases. This can be anything from your mortgage payment (rent) to, a regular service such as a manicure or hair coloring to a magazine subscription. I actually think it's good to think about this before you commit to the purchase. Often we think it's only $X (say $30), but $30 every month is $360 of your income for the year. Is that valuable to continue to spend or more valuable to give up and save?

4) Eat at home. We eat out occasionally and more often when traveling, but our general plan for eating is to buy groceries, and make our meals to eat at home. Our daughter's took their lunch to school EVERY day the entire time they attended public school. My husband also takes his lunch to work everyday, although now he is just four minutes down the road, so he comes home for lunch!

5) Eliminate the consumable products and reuse. Our culture is full of things that we use once and throw away and then feel the need to buy again because we ran out. Many of these items have a reusable option that works just as well. A few examples are: cloth napkins, menstrual products and diapers, cleaning sprays and rags vs wipes, plates vs paper plates. Be on the lookout for reusable options, that yes are a small investment initially, but will save money in time.

6) Research the big expenses. The purchase of a home, the costs of the taxes and insurance involved, the purchase of a vehicle, construction work, and even appliances. This doesn't mean you will always get the best deal, but you are going to have more information in making a good decision if you research before you buy and give yourself as much time as possible to do so.

7) Watch the small expenses. No one gets rich only by using coupons at the store, however, they are part of the bigger picture of evaluating the cost of items and paying the lowest cost possible. So yes, use coupons, but only if you need that item, want that particular brand or would be buying that item anyway. But also, compare prices on the shelves or between stores. Pick up the nickel on the street. Change banks, if they are offering a lower rate on debt or a higher rate on savings. Lower your thermostat in the winter and increase it in the summer. Combine trips to save on fuel.

8) Have a goal and automate if possible. If you don't even know what your goal is for saving it's hard to reach where you want to go. Having a goal to strive for with saving and continually working towards it helps motivate you and set your mind towards how to reach the goal. It's even better if the goal can be automated, such as contributions to your retirement plan or sending money each pay period to your savings account.

9) Watch lifestyle expenses. Our culture is one of consumerism. Companies are marketing to us constantly to buy their product, often with the idea that we will feel better if we buy their product. So we have people who shop to buy the next decor item, the trendy new clothing styles, technology or beauty treatment. Almost all of it was completely unnecessary and only a want, not a need. Those new subscription boxes for make at home meals and pet treats are easily part of the lifestyle creep I'm thinking of that can cost us a lot of money over time. I'm not saying you can't have any of it, just that each one of those new types of items adds up and can keep you from saving as much as possible.

10) Look for the snowflakes! You know I had to mention this one. Keep an eye out for money coming in that isn't income. It could be a cash birthday gift, a rebate, or cash from something you sold. Those small amounts of money, if saved can add up! Keep your eyes peeled for that money or ways to make snowflake money appear and save it! (Snowflakes come from debt snowball method. The debt payment amount snowball's as you pay off more and more debt. Snowflakes originally were coined as a small amounts of found money to add to the debt snowball payment for a particular month)

There you have it my money saving tips. It's not to late to participate and list your tips. (Try to post by month end).

Some Saturday Spending

January 27th, 2019 at 07:48 am

We went out yesterday...and spent some money.

My husband bought a 3 pack of boxers, these were a need. $15
I bought two birthday cards and four Valentine cards. $7.32

I needed a pick me up for the house. So the following were mental health pickup purchases. Not needs, but reasonable investments in things that we will use.

2 large Boston ferns ($5 each) and a smaller plant ($1). Did get a 10% discount, so spent less than $11 after taxes added in.

2 placemats for our kitchen table. $10.90.

We watched The Old Man and The Gun with my Amazon credit on Friday. We enjoyed the movie very much. Last night we just watched random things, but did take time to go on a walk for about 25 minutes. It's brisk outside this time of year even in the south, but we bundled up and enjoyed the fresh air.

Today's goal is meal planning and grocery shopping over at the commissary. I might repeat a few things we had last week that were new because my husband really liked them. One was taco salad. We love tacos but are avoiding the processed carbohydrates right now. The salad version was just as good.

P.S. I'm sorry I'm slow getting to my Top Money Saving tips...will get to that this week!

Stamp Prices Increasing and Other Things

January 25th, 2019 at 02:58 pm

Did you know stamp prices are increasing? As of this Sunday, the price of a first class stamp will cost $0.55, which is a 10% increase. Some other package pricing has also increased. Sometime last week I went over to the local credit union and picked up stamps from their ATM. I purchased two sets of 18 stamps for $18.00. I don't send a lot of mail, and likely won't use all 36 before the year is out, but I would expect yearly increases to be common in the foreseeable future.

I earned a reward through Verizon for our cell phone bill. I picked an $8 Amazon movie credit. We plan to watch Robert Redford's latest (and I think last) movie The Old Man and the Gun, which is based on a true story. The cost of the movie is less than the credit, so we'll have some to put towards a future movie.

Hulu has increased their prices. You may have heard the opposite that the lowered prices to be competitive with Netflix. They did on their lower subscription plans, but on their live tv version they increased it. Instead of $39.99/mo, the new price will be $44.99. Every increase in prices makes me want to evaluate if we need to continue the service, or if we need to adjust. I will need to discuss with my husband. We primarily got it so we could watch our college football teams live. That season is over for now. I think our new location may have better options for over the air reception. I've seen a few people that seem to have those type of antennas in their window. We can always get the live subscription again for football season. I'll try to remember to update you on our decision.

My husband commented last night that he hasn't added fuel to his truck in quite awhile. We last purchased fuel on 12/28 for $35.17 and on 1/4 $25.22. I still have almost half a tank in my van. Not sure what he has, but his commute is 4 minutes from our home on base. We expect that unless we are traveling our fuel costs are going to be significantly less living in our new location. In December for example, our costs for fuel were $117.50. We did travel around the our new city with our girls when they were home, so it's very likely this is still slightly inflated. For reference in December 2017, we spent $295 on fuel, yes higher prices, but much more driving.

I finished the photo book for my Dad earlier this week. I used Snapfish and was able to get $30 off the book. With shipping I spent $23.61 for an 8x11 Hardcover book. It was really fun to put together. It's all pictures of him, many with his daughters (my sister and I with our husbands), my mother, and grandchildren. It is not all inclusive, as I only had a few from our childhood, but quite a few with my girls and some recent vacations. This was a gift I wanted to put together around Memorial Day when he and my mother visited for my youngest daughter's graduation. It was to be a combined birthday and father's day gift. At the time, I was able to compile some printed photos (maybe 15 or so) into a $1 plastic album, but promised I would make a book. With summer, moving our youngest to her college, our move and then the holidays I just wasn't able to keep my focus to get it done until now.

I had planned to do some sewing last week, but the photo project took most of my time. And once I had the book done, I wasn't in the mood for sewing. I have spent time this week going through paper piles. The move caused an accumulation that needed to be reviewed. When I went to go file some of those today, I found a folder with receipts and manuals. I quickly went through it and found about 25 items that could be tossed because we sold the items prior to our move! This paper progress has helped me to get a bit more organized to file taxes this year.

Oh, another positive financially was receiving notification from a company that an item I bought in December wasn't truly organic and not up to their standards. They shipped me a new bottle with organic certification, a $60 value! I hadn't yet decided if I would reorder when the time came, but this give me longer to try the product to make a decision.

Stay warm and frugal this weekend!

Vet Expenses

January 23rd, 2019 at 08:45 am

Cats sure hide pain well. We started noticing our 14 year old cat Liberty pawing oddly at her mouth off and on. It wasn't regular, but it wasn't going away. So we took her to the vet on Monday, who thought she had a cracked tooth. We scheduled it to be removed the following morning.

Yesterday the vet called while Liberty was under anesthesia and said the tooth wasn't cracked and all teeth looked great, but her lower jaw was fractured right between the two canine teeth! We have no idea how that happened.

Liberty is home now and on soft foods for two weeks. She will be checked again in two weeks and in about six weeks will be anesthetized again to have the wire that holds the two sides of her lower jaw together removed.

Costs so far total $524.14. With two more visits, there will be more spent. Grateful for an emergency fund and spending below our means, so that we can pay cash for these expenses when they come up.

Collaboration Call: Your Money Saving Tips!

January 20th, 2019 at 04:41 pm

It's time for another collaboration fellow bloggers!

Let's list our money saving tips! YouTube currently has vloggers listing their top ten money saving tips. I won't hold you to ten, but let's see what we can come up with to share with our readers!

Please post before the end of January and title your post, My Top Money Saving Tips. Thanks for participating!

Throwing Some Food Out

January 20th, 2019 at 10:41 am

The challenge this past week was to eat as much from the pantry, fridge and freezer as possible. In other words, not to buy more food before I ate what we had. I did really well. There wasn't physically anyway to actually eat it all, so as a result I have had to toss some food.

I didn't grocery shop until Friday night in order to buy more eggs and sausage for the rice mix. Because I buy organic eggs, I spent about $9.

I tossed out about a cup of cooked rice just now. It didn't go bad, but going forward I'm reducing most processed carbs. I'm also going to toss out the last bit of spaghetti sauce. Oh, and I had to toss the lunch meat as it was turning bad several days after the expiration.

I did eat up the following:
rice dinner mix
micro popcorn
pistachios
provolone cheese
salsa
eggs (husband helped)
apples
cucumbers
turkey crumbles (husband ate)
canned navy beans

I still have several slices of bread in the freezer, the sweet potato fries, dried cranberries, sour cream, 3 veggie burgers, 1/4c tomato sauce, dry kidney beans, and some corn chips.

I'm very happy with the progress, but honestly some of those items are not doing my body any favors and I may have to throw those out as well. Going forward we are going to focus on eating low carb vegetables and avoid all the processed carbs that our daughter's still can eat!

How is your low spend month or frugal month going? Have you been able to rein in your spending?

Tech Will Work on This Later Today, Per James (site owner)

January 20th, 2019 at 08:46 am

James, the site owner, has emailed me that the tech will work on the blog issue later today. Fingers crossed we can get quick resolution!

More Food Used Up

January 17th, 2019 at 07:20 am

I'm making great progress using up the food, or just using what I have on hand. I ate the rest of my Barley Potato soup yesterday. I had it with a salad at lunch and with a sandwich at dinner.

I have used up these items:
Spinach
Red onion
Tomato
Cucumber
2 slices of cheese
Grape juice
2 slices of bread
2 tangerines
Cheerios
Chocolate chips
Pistachios

Today, I will likely eat a sandwich for lunch with an apple and cucumber slices. I think I will make rice and eat that with the navy beans and salsa for dinner and probably lunch tomorrow.

My husband returns home tomorrow. We will have the rice mix for dinner, but we already talked about wanting to add a protein to it, so I will go to the commissary to buy that. We can eat eggs with cheese and turkey crumbles for breakfast Saturday and Sunday morning. I will propose sandwiches for lunch, with carrots and dressing. Although there could be leftovers from Friday night, too. And finally, I think I can make Pepperoni pizza for dinner on Saturday night, which should provide leftovers for Sunday lunch. At that point we will need to go to the store!!

I guess it's time to make a meal plan, so I can make a grocery list for Sunday's shopping. I will still have a couple things in the pantry and freezer that I can incorporate into the meal plan, so I will have fewer things to buy.

In addition to Uber Frugal Month, I've been inspired to eat from what we have on hand and be mindful of using things up because of the government shutdown. We have families living right by us that are not getting a paycheck. The community has rallied around them to provide food, formula, baby food, diapers, wipes and gas gift cards. I am a big believer in an emergency fund of course, but it's not wrong to help out our fellow humans in their time of need.

Using Up the Food Progress

January 15th, 2019 at 09:33 am

Here's what I ate yesterday. I think I was a little snacky, so no judgements, please. Smile

1 cup of cereal with milk
2 Cinnamon muffins (this used up the milk and 1 egg)
2 tangerines
Leftover taco meat
2 tomato slices
(ate the two above with cheddar cheese and tostitos)
2 servings of Barley potato soup
The soup used up the potatoes, garlic, celery, chicken broth, the yellow onion, and two carrots)
1 slice of provolone cheese
1 serving of grape juice (I use in my water for flavor)
1 lemon (use in my water)

Today, I ate:
1 cup of cereal with almond milk
Spinach salad (used up red onion, half a cucumber and 1/3 of a tomato)
1 veggie burger
1 slice provolone cheese

I expect to eat more of the Barley Potato soup for dinner, likely with another salad like I ate for lunch today. I'm sure another snack will be eaten as well.

It has only been over 24 hours since I have embarked on my use it all up quest, but I feel good about my plan and progress so far.

https://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/barley-potato-soup-48475 that I modified slightly, mostly the seasonings.

Food On Hand

January 14th, 2019 at 07:48 am

My husband is traveling this week. Both of our daughters are back at college. The fridge and pantry are very likely going to be more than adequate to sustain me this week, and maybe through the weekend with my husband home, making it an no spend grocery week!

Before I get to the list of what I have, I will say some of these things are not what I normally eat. The Cheerios were requested by my daughter when she was home. And now they are left here. I did eat Cheerios and milk this morning. And to use up the milk, I made cinnamon muffins, which I will freeze and use if and when I have a sugar craving. But at least at this point we can say I didn't waste the milk!

Here's what I have in the pantry:
Honey Nut Cheerios (4 cups)
Dried cranberries
Microwave popcorn (1 bag)
Pistachios (1/2 c.)
Almonds (1.5 cups)
Canned veggie soup
Canned navy beans
8oz dried kidney beans
Rice dinner mix
Peanut butter (1/3 jar)
Quinoa
White rice
Pearled barley
Chicken broth (2 cans)
Tostitos (1/2 bag)
Bread (13 slices)

Here's what I have in the freezer:
4 veggie burgers
1/2 bag sweet potato fries
15 oz of crushed tomatoes
1/3 bag of chocolate chips
Ice (ha, ha)

Here's what I have in the fridge:
1/3 bag spinach
2 cucumbers
2 apples
11 tangerines
1 tomato and 2 tomato slices
4 lemons
1/2 yellow onion
1/4 red onion
Fresh ginger
Celery
Carrots
8 oz turkey lunch meat
Pepperoni slices
7 eggs
leftover taco meat (1 c.)
4 oz prepared turkey crumbles
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Shredded cheddar cheese
Provolone slices (5)
Salsa (6 oz)
1/2 jar tomato sauce
1/4 jar pasta sauce
Sour cream 4 oz
Almond milk
Grape juice (2 servings)

I also have three medium potatoes and garlic on hand.

That is actually a lot of food! There is no way I can eat all of that in five days by myself. I'm going to focus on the perishables first. Some of the fridge items (lunch meat, turkey crumbles and eggs) can likely still be good for the weekend and are things my husband eats, so while I may eat them, I'm going to focus on other things.

I'm pretty sure I need to make a soup to use up the potatoes, onion, celery, carrots. That sounds like potato soup, but I don't want to buy more milk, and don't think almond milk would taste right would it? It is unsweetened. I think maybe a barley vegetable soup would work though.

I'm going to save the rice dinner mix for the weekend when my husband is home. But I think I could make some sort dish with the rice, navy beans and the salsa. It would make quite a bit, I might even be willing to eat it for breakfast!

Today for lunch I will eat the leftover taco meat with those two tomato slices and likely an apple or a small salad. Tonight might be soup for dinner.

I'm realizing I should freeze the bread if I'm not going to eat the turkey lunch meat or the veggie burgers. I can use the bread from the freezer if I change my mind.

I'll update you on my progress this week to eat it all up!

What you make off for lunch or dinner if you had my fridge, freezer and pantry to eat from? Have you done this where you focus on eating it all up to help the grocery budget?

Medical Bills

January 12th, 2019 at 08:07 am

We are pretty healthy people, no chronic illnesses. However, both my girls have been to the doctor a couple times in 2018. They are still on our military insurance, but because they live away from home most of the year they are on Tricare Select. The deductible for each of them is $150. Very reasonable.

My oldest daughter maxed hers out in August and then had a procedure where the cost without insurance was billed at $332. She got the bill at her dorm and apparently didn't have the correct information to file a claim. I called Monday and gave them the correct information, although they seemed confused. They submitted it and was covered in full. The provider gets $83.

My youngest twisted her ankle pretty bad in October, her student health center did submit through insurance, but she nor I were ever notified by our insurance. So looking at her tuition bill I see two charges from the health center for $80.04. It took some sleuthing, basically logging into the insurance company site to see the claim. That yes, $135+ was submitted and reduced to $80.04...and we do owe that as we had not met our deductible for her.

It's harder to navigate insurance when your adult children's claims do not go to your address! Youngest said she never received anything at her dorm, which is where they sent it. At least it is all taken care of this round.

It did remind me that a sinking fund for the deductibles wouldn't be a bad idea. Although I can probably manage any charges through basic cash flow.

We Have YNAB 4, But...

January 10th, 2019 at 01:51 pm

maybe not for long! I've noticed for awhile that I can't update my budget on my phone. My husband seems to have no problem and I usually use the desktop version.

I originally got YNAB 4 in September 2015. I think we paid $50 (maybe $60) for it. So we have used it daily for over three years and it's been great. Sometime in 2016, YNAB changed and went to an annual fee. And along the way YNAB stopped updating their old version and they no longer have an option to download that version of the app.

I now need to decide if it is worth trying the latest version for $83.99 per year OR find another free alternative. Anyone here use Personal Capital? If so, did you ever use YNAB and can compare the two? How about EveryDollar?

I remember the days when I only used a checkbook and notebook paper to figure out our budget! And that was free. I'm not a big Excel person, so I'm not going that route. But I'm not going back to pen and paper either!

I do like YNAB, I just like to think through things that become an annual fee!

Uber Frugal Month

January 10th, 2019 at 06:09 am

I'm not yet participating in Uber Frugal Month. It's too hard to start it on January 1 when our college daughter's are home. We want to treat them and get them what they need since we won't see them until March.

We will start Saturday afternoon and try to go through mid February! My plan is to focus primarily on eating all the things, or making meals from the pantry. I literally only have three things in the freezer, so my stockpile is not like many people. But I have quite of few things in the pantry and refrigerator that I want to make use of before they go bad. I was very successful at this last year.

My husband is out of town for work next week. I plan to stay home primarily and do things that don't cost me money. I have sewing projects I can do with fabric on hand. I need to make a photo book for my Dad (promised to him in June). I also have a book to read that needs some of my attention.

I may (still undecided) shop for towels this month. I need to replace a set. I think this can be a good time of year to find towels on sale. Oh, and my sister and mother have birthdays at end of January, early February, so I'm pondering gifts that could be considered thoughtful and frugal. I did just redeem Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card, so at least one of them may receive something I can buy from there! I could also redeem MyPoints and give my sister a gift card. I think even $10 or $15 to Starbucks might be welcome!

Good luck to all who are participating and are finding ways to keep costs low in January!

More Interest

January 9th, 2019 at 10:17 am

Thanks to BAWW commenting on my last post, I am now aware of a new CD at Navy Federal Credit Union paying 3.25% for 17 months. I knew there would be some good rates coming up soon!

I'm in the process of transferring money from a couple of different accounts so that we can fund this new CD. One bank will only allow $5,000 transfer per day. I need to move $13,000, so it will take THREE transfers. I'm sure a wire could have been done, but that requires a fee. I'm nearly positive this is a new thing for this bank. A little frustrating.

The most interest we are earning on some of our money is a CD that will come due in March. That CD is earning 2.25%, so this increase of 1% is significant.