<< Back to all Blogs
Login or Create your own free blog
Layout:
Home > Archive: February, 2019
 

Archive for February, 2019

February Credit Card Rewards

February 28th, 2019 at 10:30 am

We primarily used our American Express and Discover credit cards in the month of February, and I think January as well. Just today I redeemed the most current rewards earned.

$66.71 American Express
$38.94 Discover
$105.65 Total Cash Back Rewards

The above cash back is being saved towards our Big Goal.

We use our Southwest Airlines Visa card to pay rent and a few other much smaller bills. We are earning a couple thousand points each month now. Specifically for February we earned 3,372 points. My account has over 35K points! We will definitely use most of those sometime this year.

We do not pay interest on our credit cards. We pay our balances in full each month. Credit card rewards do not pay off if you run a balance and are charged interest on your debt.

Tax Return Filed

February 25th, 2019 at 11:55 am

I could have filed much earlier this month, but honestly it was wearing me out each time I attempted it.

Each of the two colleges we are working with fill out their 1098-T forms slightly different. One school includes the books, the other does not. One school includes the required activity fee and the other does not. I was a bit surprised by this, but found a resource that schools should be using as guidance for filling out these forms and used that as my guideline. We also had money paid on our behalf by the VA, but have to pay back, that was not reflected, nor did H&R block have a way to ask or handle this situation. This probably makes no sense to most of you, but just know that different institutions fill out their 1098-Ts differently based on their interpretation of the law. I think some parents/students at one institution are probably losing out on some qualified expenses if they only rely on the 1098-T.

I feel 99% confident I did it correctly. We claimed the American Opportunity Credit for both girls this year. Neither one them had expenses that qualified for the full amount offered, but we ended up with a refund of $1,968.

It's been a few years since we had a refund as I've been able estimate our future tax and withholding pretty well. This year I forgot about the Dependent Tax Credit ($500) for a dependent that qualifies over 18. This was $1000 in our favor. I also decided to claim the AOTC for our younger daughter, although originally wasn't going to.

I'm pretty sure this money will go towards future college expenses rather than the Big Goal.

Have you completed your taxes?

Edited to add: We do file state income tax, but our home state does not tax active duty military wages, so no refund or payment ever required unless I start working or we earn a LOT of interest.

A Higher Interest Rate

February 24th, 2019 at 07:03 am

When you are a saver you cheer when your interest rate goes up! Some of our savings was earning 2.10% and is now going up to 2.25%. It seems like a small difference, but I have enjoyed seeing the rates rise a little at a time after years of very low interest.

I was also notified of a CD maturing in March. This money will go to savings initially, but I think we will end up adding it to another certificate currently earning 3.25% until June of 2020.

Have you noticed the market has bounced back quite a bit since the drop in December? The S&P 500 is up over 11% for the year so far.

What is the highest interest you are earning on your savings?

5% Cash Back TV, Internet & Streaming Services US Bank

February 23rd, 2019 at 05:12 am

We have the US Bank Cash + card and use it regularly for 5% cash back on our cell phone bill. We had been using it for 5% cash back on utilities prior to our move to base (no utility bill here).

The good news is they have a new category that we can benefit from! 5% cash back on TV, Internet, and Streaming services. We use AT&T for internet, Netflix and Hulu streaming services that should all qualify. I was just explaining to my husband how much we pay on these things. And honestly we should cut something, but yet four of us actually do use these. So 5% cash back will help cut the sting of the costs.

This new category is effective April 1. I'm making a note on my computer, specifically in YNAB, to switch the billing to the US Bank Card near the end of March.

As you might imagine, I will save the cash back received towards our Big Goal!

Anyone else us US Bank Cash + card?

The Government Billed Us

February 22nd, 2019 at 12:21 pm

We finally received a bill from the government. Not many people say that! We were aware of and notified of VA overpayment of tuition benefits in early December because our daughter added then dropped a one hour class last semester. The school was overpaid, and they refunded us some money in October or November. So now the government is asking us for the cash to the tune of $487.

We are going to pay it at the beginning of March. I do have a little problem with the amount. My guess is it is right, but I am just not clear on how they figured the amount of the overpayment. It is not equal to what the school refunded us, which was around $400. I'll probably send an email to the school to see if they can explain. I think getting an answer from them would be faster!

I earned $3 for doing a Pinecone Survey. I found a penny on the ground when I went to the store. I've actually found quite a few coins on my walks here!

I've arranged for our cat to be boarded while we are on a three night trip in March. She will spend five nights at the kennel for a total of $75. They provide food and litter. I wish I didn't have to do board here, but our housing won't let us leave a pet overnight even if someone is watching her. She sleeps a lot anyway, so she will be fine!

It's about time to make flight reservations for our daughter's to come here for their spring breaks. More money out, but we will look forward to seeing them and doing some more exploring of our new town.

I've been watching Living on A Dime on YouTube. I've watched some of their videos before, but it had been awhile. Jill, the mother, has a series on the channel called Penny Pinching Mama, that explains her life when she was first diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how she lived on $500 a month with two kids in late 1980s. She still only lives on $750 for social security. They are fantastic example of how people really can make it on low income. They don't deny that it's hard, but that it can be done! The are very conservative with what they use. Anyone else seen these ladies on YouTube?

Dreaming Big

February 14th, 2019 at 09:40 am

I've mentioned before that we are living on a military installation for the first time ever. One of the pros this time around was how much we would save on fuel for our vehicles with his commute being 4 minutes rather than 40 minutes. I'm trying to convince him to ride his bike to work, but so far a no go! He would rather buy a motorcycle if he was going to do that. Ha, ha,

We expect to save at least $200 a month. I'm still testing it. I'm purposely not budgeting $200 each pay period to see if that money is really extra due to the fuel savings. So far things seem promising, but this time of year tends to be low in all costs for us, so it's not entirely clear. And yes, $200 per pay period is $400 a month, which would be the higher end of fuel costs.

I guess I find it a bit of a game by holding that money out of the budget, not categorizing it in YNAB. Not sure it make sense to anyone but me.

I received a $5 settlement from some class action lawsuit, Olive oil I think. I like getting those in the mail. Always a surprise when they come to fruition! I've funneled that to our Big Goal, since small amounts add up.

"Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Clause. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?" - Jon Bon Jovi

Yes, I'm a big fan of Bon Jovi...probably tells you when I grew up. Fault me, I'm living on a prayer!

Tuition Paid, No Loans Again

February 9th, 2019 at 07:54 am

I've now paid both of our girls tution and housing bills for Spring 2019. We still have no loans!! Eight semesters for one done and two for the other. I will say housing and meal plans are the most expensive part of sending your children away to college. It is a choice we made, so no complaints, just observation.

I looked up the cost for graduate school yesterday. My oldest daughter is thinking about it. But that cost will be on her. For some reason, I thought graduate tuition was a flat rate, not base on in state or out of state residency. Not sure where I got that idea. I checked only a couple schools, so maybe somewhere this is true. Maybe this fact will convince her to go back to our home state. It's going to be expensive and she really needs to figure out if the ends justify the means. I'm not entirely convinced...but we will keep discussing it.

“We all have a story. The difference is: do you use the story to empower yourself? Or do you use your story to keep yourself a victim? The question itself empowers you to change your life.” ― Sunny Dawn Johnston

Chance For Free Juicer

February 7th, 2019 at 05:05 pm

I don't know if any of you juice or have wanted to, but you have a chance on February 14 to win free Champion brand juicer. You can enter

Text is here. and Link is https://www.chrisbeatcancer.com/giveaways/2019-champion-juicer-giveaway/?lucky=19375
here.

I've always wanted to try one myself. I do use my basic blender to make green smoothies. Do you make juice or smoothies?

Some Money Stuff...

February 5th, 2019 at 04:15 pm

Here's some random money related tidbits:

I redeemed 2500 Swagbucks for $25, which has been deposited in my PayPal account. I also did a Pinecone survey, so I expect $3 will be added to PayPal tomorrow. All money will go to the Big Goal.

We have confirmed that an access code my daughter purchased and realized she didn't need will be credited to her bill by February 15. This is after the bill to the University is due, but we were told to just pay the balance minus the expected credit. The cost of that code was $174.21, so not a credit I wanted missed.

I contacted the VA representative at the University to find out why the final 15 days of Post 911 GI Bill benefits had not yet posted to our oldest daughter's account. The response was apparently some missed paperwork. They did a credit to the account with the expected amount, and will adjust when actual payments are received. For now, since the numbers are not firm, I am going to float the payment with funds in our checking account before I take money out of her Educational Savings Account. It seems we may not need to withdraw as much as expected!

I've been working on taxes. My biggest issue is the figuring the actual costs we have had out of pocket for each of our daughter's and which tax credit to take. The software (HR Block) wants me to use the American Opportunity Tax Credit for our oldest daughter, which I was hoping to skip and use next year, yet I'm not sure we'll have much out of pocket costs, so it's probably right to take it now. The software gives me an option on which tax credit to use for our youngest daughter and I was leaning toward the Lifetime Learning credit. You can only claim four years of AOTC, which has to be used before they graduate with their degree. Our oldest daughter is on the five year plan because of her double major. I'll get it all cleared up...I still have more than three months until taxes are due.

Oh, another thing with taxes. The 1098T which colleges use to report qualified expenses and scholarships and grants, is not consistent between the colleges. One daughter's college counts activity fees and the other does not. One includes books, the other does not. Just when I think I have things figured out they change!

We had a part replaced on our truck today. $174.45 after a military discount. I do have money in our car maintenance fund.

We are getting ready to travel to visit the girls in the future, so now I'm researching airline tickets, car rental, and boarding costs.

Lots of money going out, but we have the cash. I am grateful we always seem to make it all work, even when it seems overwhelming.

Bought A Battery and Faucet Filter

February 3rd, 2019 at 01:05 pm

Geez! Apparently we had some pent up need to spend! A lot of outflow since Friday, but no regrets.

On Friday we purchased a battery for our truck. Our last visit to the dealer indicated it was going to be replaced very soon. This is something my husband knows how to do. In the we had help from the NAPA shop owner who offered to help swap it out. No extra charge and it saved us a trip back to drop off the old battery. The battery cost $99.81 and has a $10 rebate, which I submitted online today.

We went out to dinner last night and spent $37.87, including a tip. This was a planned outing.

We both filled up our vehicles in fuel, after nearly a month! Total spent for both vehicles $61.48.

My husband got a haircut this morning for $9.50, plus a $5 tip. Yes, he's a very generous tipper sometimes. He tipped $6 on last night's meal, so I think he really doesn't think through percentages! I've had this conversation with him before, but in the end, it's not breaking us and we do want to tip well for good service.

We bought groceries, cat food, litter and one cleaning product at the commissary today. I found $4 in coupons on things we were already going to purchase. Total spent was $160.61. We are buying some quality food right now.

Today we bought and installed a kitchen faucet filter. I can't stand the water here, and had been buying bottled water at $0.81 a gallon, which adds up! The filter was $18.99 and was very simple to install. Filters are about $10 a piece, every three months. In the long run we'll save a little money this way and our water will be cleaner and more palatable to drink.

So until next weekend let's see if we can keep the spending down! It wasn't too bad, but seemed like a lot in a short time, after a month of trying to stay pretty frugal.

January Big Goal Additions

February 2nd, 2019 at 07:15 am

I'm going to try to post about the amount we added to our Big Goal each month, with a year to date total as well. This will help me a year end know the final tally. I do a pretty good job in YNAB marking what we add, but this will help reinforce and be a backup to that information.

$108.00 1/1 paycheck
$175.00 1/15 paycheck
_$10.00 2 Hulu $5 credit offers Amex
__$1.89 Starbucks Amex offer
__$2.91 Cell phone bill Amex offer
_$50.90 Amex Rewards
_$81.13 NFCU Interest
_$66.07 FNBO Direct Interest
__$0.06 USAA Interest
$213.50 Extra contribution

$709.45 January Total Big Goal
$709.45 2019 YTD

$61,602.14 Previous Big Goal Balance
$62,311.59 New Big Goal Balance

31.15% of $200,000 Goal

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

January Interest Earned and Savings

February 1st, 2019 at 07:33 am

In January we earned a nice amount of interest on our savings. We always save all interest, even when we were paying on debt. Although back then our interest earned was piddly!

$66.07 FNBO Direct
$81.13 Navy Federal CU
$147.20 Total interest earned

In December our total was $118.73. We have increased our monthly interest by $28.47 because we moved a large amount of cash from one bank earning 2.15% to a CD at the other bank earning 3.2%. At about $150/month, we are on schedule to save $1,800 in interest this year.

We did a great job with extra savings this month. We only spent $31 on fuel for our vehicles. I think we both need to fill up soon! We saved toward the Big Goal as planned, but also since we were under budget we have added $545.05 to our emergency fund.

I've decided for 2019, continue the Big Goal saving with $350 a month ($175 each paycheck), add in credit card rewards and other snowflake money and interest earned. Any extra we save is going to our emergency fund. I think there are some expense we will incur in 2019 that are hard to anticipate the amount, so any extra cash saved will be helpful. I'd rather money from those come from what we have stashed and marked as EF money, than from our BIg Goal money.

Here's to a great year of saving!