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Archive for June, 2019

Summer Rent & More

June 28th, 2019 at 02:03 pm

We have closed the book on the summer rent. I just sent my daughter the portion we agreed to pay for July, so she can pay that on Monday. It was $400.

The lease is up at the end of July...so she's going to stay either with my sister or my parents, or maybe a friend for about two weeks before she can get into the dorms. We would only need to pay the friends if that is the route she takes.

In order to come up with the $400 each month, I had stopped setting aside money for car repairs and maintenance which was $275. I also stopped my youngest daughter's allowance of $125 over the summer since she is staying with us. And she is doing a small part time job getting paid $11/hour.

In July and August, I'm going to add the $125 allowance money to her tuition category in our budget. She will get the allowance transferred to her starting again in September.

Because we are putting far less wear and tear on our vehicles here, barely driving many miles, and we are up to date on maintenance, I'm going to reroute the $275 to help us pay back the $3000 we put down on our daughter's car. It will end up in our emergency fund, so could still be used if we need vehicle maintenance. We currently have over $1000 in that sinking fund, so that money would be used first.

Considering a few months ago, this all seemed so overwhelming that I called it chaos in a blog post, I'm so thrilled that it worked out as well as it did. I also have clear plans on how the tuition and housing payments will be made for both girls in August and September. Our oldest daughter will take out her first college loan of $2750 this fall. Our youngest will have hers covered with cash on hand and her Educational Savings Account.

Somehow things often work out, especially when you make a plan and tweak a few things. So grateful we have that flexibility!

When I Was A Teen...

June 27th, 2019 at 10:34 am

This is a story from my teen years.

I was clothes shopping with my mom and sister at a department store. I had brought a purse, which contained my wallet, holding $60 in cash. I believe I had started working a part time job at a movie theater around this time. I would cash my check, usually along with my coworkers, in full. It's possible this story was before that, and the money I had with me was babysitting money.

I went to try on some clothes, hung my purse on a hook in the dressing room. Once I decided what I wanted I went back out to meet my mom. She was buying these items. A minute or two later, I realized I didn't have my purse. I went back to the dressing room and my purse was just where I left it, BUT the cash was gone! Thieves are quick when they see an opportunity.

It's hard to put into words how this impacted me. I remember the sinking feeling when I realized my cash wasn't there. I was quite upset. I felt violated. However within a few days, I got over it and I moved on and made more money. It wasn't an experience I would want to have again or want for anyone to have, but when we think we have lost something it is temporary. Money still keeps moving and flowing into and out of our lives in many different ways.

Have you ever had money taken from you?

Living On A Dime Grocery Shopping Tips

June 25th, 2019 at 08:12 am

I mentioned a while back that I purchased an ebook series from the website Living On a Dime. They have a YouTube channel by the same name. They normally sell this set of books for $25, but were selling for half off, or $12.50. I honestly don't normally fall for making these types of purchases. I mean most frugal living and recipes can be found online or a library for free with a little digging in all honesty.

The seven titles of the books were:
224 Recipes in A Hurry
Eating Healthy on A Budget
Is Eating Out, Eating You Up?
Grocery Savings
Grocery Shopping On A Budget
Money Saving Meats
Saving on Cleaning Supplies

I read them all. I knew a lot of the information, much of it reminders of things I knew at one time, but haven't stayed with me. Here's the basic notes I took on the one titled Grocery Shopping on A Budget.

Try to skip a week going to the store. If we don't shop, we don't spend!

Clean out, organize pantry, freezer and fridge. If you know what you have you can use it up or plan a meal around it. You won't buy more if you already have plenty. If the fridge is organized and you keep eggs in the same spot it's easy to see if you need more if you know where to look.

Plan leftovers. Specifically, they talk a lot about buying a roast or bulk meat, using some in one meal on the night it's made and then make a whole new meal with the leftover meat. So roast with vegetables one night, then roast in a noodle casserole the next and then maybe sandwiches another night with the leftover roast.

Learn about required nutrients and portions sizes for children and adults. Talk to the family so they know what you are doing. Juice is only 4 oz, only pour what a child will actually drink so you are throwing out the excess. Serve and eat three balanced meals a day. Try to skip snacks. To figure out serving sizes literally measure food for a few days to get an idea of what serving sizes are.

Plan seven meals, but also be creative. If you need bread for a recipe, could you use crackers or muffins, bagels, cornbread or other bread product you have on hand?

They point out that store brands can be cheaper than a brand item with a coupon. They suggest trying a store brand of a product one or two times a week. Don't buy something just because there is a coupon. Only buy what you need. If you use coupons, keep them organized, start small, find free ones online, from friends, neighbors coworkers or recycling centers. Swap with others and write companies whose products you like who might send coupons.

Again, most of this is obvious to me. Do I always do it? No, but reading these tips and the others in the books was a good reminder of what I could do to lower our grocery budget.

Any thoughts on the tips? I'll write more about the other ebooks in future posts.

Frugal Report Card

June 24th, 2019 at 08:02 am

Here's a few frugal things that happened in the past week or so at our home:

I made black beans from scratch. In other words I took a pound of dried beans and cooked them, which resulted in over three cans worth of black beans. This is like getting at least one can free.

I shopped from our pantry yesterday before going to the grocery store and came up with nearly three meals we could make with what we had on hand. I only spent $75 at the grocery store as a result. I think this is good practice weekly, or monthly at a minimum.

We did much less driving last week and this week, partly due to my husband's work schedule and we simply didn't need to go anywhere. The amount we save on fuel living on the military installation is amazing.

My oldest daughter was ready to purchase new music for next year, something we do every summer. One piece of music she sent me a link to was nearly $25. I did a little searching and found it for $12.95. Searching for a better price pays off!

I choose a double package of ground beef, as the price per pound was lower. I used half and froze half, since I know I will use next week. I also chose chicken thighs this week instead of boneless skinless breasts because the price per pound was less and I knew we wouldn't notice much of a difference in the recipe I was making.

I ate the leftovers. No waste this week. We did not throw any food out!

What frugal things do you have to report?

Fetch App

June 23rd, 2019 at 08:09 am

I signed up for the Fetch app this week. It's similar to Ibotta, maybe a little more lucrative? Not quite sure yet. The advantage is you don't have to find the offers. You just scan the receipt and it rewards you based on what you bought and what offers are available. I think at a minimum you get 25 points for each receipt. I already have almost 6K points. Payout is 11,500 points for an online Visa or Mastercard worth $10. There are other options for less points.

It's free in the app store if you want to try it and see if it works for you. My referral code is FQ8U1. Simply add it during signup and you will get 2,000 Fetch Points for getting started.

What savings apps have you tried recently that you like? I'm always looking for quick and fast ways to save a little money!

More Money In

June 21st, 2019 at 07:53 pm

I redeemed $26.43 from Ibotta today after I was credited $11.11 for a Joann Fabric purchase. The money is instantly added to my PayPal account. I now need to accumulate another $20 before I can redeem again. That will probably be another six months!

We received a check from the utility company in the amount of $38.51 in the mail today. Theoretically, our rent includes utilities on the base that we live, but if our usage is under the average or an average range we get a credit. If is over we would have to pay. So far we have received a credit for all but one month that we have lived here. We have not yet had to pay.

These extra monies will go toward paying ourselves back for the our daughter's car down payment. I did a little calculation earlier today, and my goal is to repay ourselves in 12 months or less.

Money Flowing In

June 19th, 2019 at 08:21 am

I did sell the item I picked up from a neighbor for free! I think my profit was about $20! Great money for the little work I did. I took pictures, measured and weighed package, uploaded the information to eBay. When it sold I printed the mailing label, attached it and took it to the post office, which is super close.

I took a survey with Pinecone Research yesterday. I have redeemed my $3 from their website today, and expect the payment to be deposited into my PayPal account tomorrow.

I redeemed $57.76 in American Express rewards, which were credited to our account.

Our daughter received a $600 stipend from the University yesterday. We thought they called it a scholarship, but it's for her leadership position with the marching band. It went to our account, as that is what is set up with the University. I have set it aside towards future tuition and housing bills! I was a bit surprised to see a $600 deposit in our account that I wasn't expecting.

Fresh Start Budget Done!

June 17th, 2019 at 12:27 pm

I've set up our Fresh Start Budget in YNAB. I'm thankful that so much transferred over. I did make some new categories and was able to delete some that just aren't needed any longer. We no longer have a line item for electricity or water since these are included with our rent. But we did need to add a line for our daughter's car payment.

The primary motivation to start fresh was the realization that I needed a different category for each of our daughter's tuition and housing. The money is coming from different sources and I wanted to make sure I wasn't spending money from one on the other. This is particularly important at tax time! I managed it for 9 months and should only have another 10 to go, but this will help keep me sane during those final months and at tax time!! No need to have things be difficult.

I also deleted some old categories like computer savings and combined eye glasses and medical together. I put medical into short term savings rather than every day type of expense because it is rare that we have out of pocket medical expenses. You get the idea. I simply cleaned it all up and it's more in line with how our budget really is right now.

Now that I've done this once, I can almost see me starting over more often. I think this last budget went back to 2015. I also like that the old budget is saved so I can go back and forth between the two if needed. This will be helpful at tax time or when I want to track the Big Goal savings progress for the year.

How often do your revamp or start fresh with your budget?

Frugal Things

June 16th, 2019 at 08:41 am

Here's some frugal things that happened here this week. I'm not saying everything we did here was frugal, but these are the ones to inspire me to continue to do better.

My daughter went to the housing office to pick up a free donut they were offering on National Donut Day. I skipped as I'm not wanting to eat much sugar lately.

I did freeze the tomato paste and used up 3/4 cup of pureed pumpkin to make an 8x8 pan of chocolate brownies.

We went to a museum yesterday that offers free admission to active duty military families. It's under the Blue Star Family program they offer every summer. I think it saved us $7.50. I was thankful for plenty of free parking nearby.

I reused a glass jar that I cannot recycle for bacon grease. We don't cook a lot of bacon, but I will use the bacon grease for something in the future.

My husband washed both our cars here at home this weekend. Water is free or at least included in our rent. He did want to invest in a long handled brush, rather than use a sponge. It can be attached to a hose and had a dispenser for soap. So he also bought soap. The cost was less than $20, which was equal to washing both cars where he currently goes. He did discover it was a pain to keep taking the soapy brush off the hose so he could rinse when doing the first vehicle. So on the second he put the soap in a bucket and dipped the brush in there. He has always avoided washing cars at home and I honestly really don't care if they are washed at all! I think the only reason he was willing to DIY is because he saw someone else do it living here. I didn't ask, but I think he's had an aversion to doing it at home because of what people will think. I think (and could be wrong) that he's not wanted to do it because he's never seen anyone do it in our old neighborhoods! I really don't want to ask, I'm just happy he will have clean cars and it won't cost us more than the cost of soap going forward.

I picked up brand new item in the box from a neighbor that I hope to sell on eBay. The company sent her the wrong one and told her to keep it and still sent her the correct one. I think I can make at least $20 on it once I get it listed. Someone was offering free plants, but I didn't see in time...looks like someone else gets that joy! I am hoping to get some free plants at some point. Smile

What did you do that was frugal that might inspire someone else?

eBay Sales

June 14th, 2019 at 09:39 am

Some of you may have seen my other eBay post. I'm think I may have accidentally deleted while trying to clean up my blog from the site issues.

Basically, the report is that I transferred $100 from my PayPal account from the recent eBay sales I had. I applied the money to our cell phone category in YNAB. We will have a large bill at the end of June due to two new cell phones. My goal was to cover the sales tax and activation fees, which came to $129.50. I have successfully covered this with eBay sales.

All future sales and credit card rewards are going to be applied to paying ourselves back for the downpayment we made on our daughter's car. Already applied $100, so $2,900 to go!

I do have about seven items up for sale and a couple more items I could list. Just need to make the time and effort to do it.

Fresh Start Budget

June 12th, 2019 at 06:14 am

I haven't done it yet, but I think it's time to make a new budget, or a fresh start budget as they call it in the YNAB community. There isn't anything exactly wrong with our current budget. It still works, but I'm realizing our lives have changed and the categories are not working quite as well I could have them work.

The most specific issue is how I track money for college tuition for our daughters. I have ONE category for two daughters. I save $400-$600 a month there. We also receive housing and book payments for our older daughter using the Post 911 GI Bill, and I add money from their ESAs into the account. So whose money is whose? I think I need to make a change. It worked great when it was one child and I think it's all worked out this last year, but going forward I need it cleaner. I tried adding a category and starting to change things...but boy was I going to mess things up going back and doing that.

There are other smaller reasons to make a new budget, too. So this could really clean things up in many areas. I'll be honest I'm a bit scared changing things over. I will try to do it starting this Friday or Saturday since I usually clean up the budget and pay off credit card balances when there is a new paycheck. The good news is IF this new budget doesn't work, the old budget is still saved. This actually helped me tremendously when I was making changes and realized I was messing things up. I just went back to the time stamp on the budget that was prior to my messing with it! Yay!

I still want to move from YNAB 4 to the new version...just waiting for the financial storm to pass before I commit to a new annual payment.

Those of you in YNAB, have you ever made a Fresh Start or a New Budget? And tips, advice or regrets?

Food Success, Frugal Wins

June 9th, 2019 at 06:49 pm

Despite the recent food waste, I mentioned in a previous blog, there have been some food successes. Last week, I used the bones from a rotisserie chicken to make bone broth in the crock pot. It turned out pretty well. I have already used about half, with another quart still in the fridge. I also have some frozen chicken bones in the freezer to make another batch sometime in the future.

I used up the frozen peas in the freezer this week finally when I made fried rice. This week I plan to make potato soup to use the last three potatoes in the house, some bone broth and frozen celery in the freezer. And that will help use the milk up a little faster, too! I used up 1/4 of a cabbage and two carrots to make a simple coleslaw which I ate as part of my lunch today.

My daughter wanted manicotti for dinner tonight. Instead of making an entire pan using all 14 manicotti noodles for three of us, I made half a batch! We ate each one I made and have saved the remainder for the future...potentially next week if we don't eat the cottage cheese this week. When there are four of us home we definitely eat more than seven but we always have leftovers, which I, along with my older daughter would eat. Since she is not here this summer to help with leftovers, I simply didn't make any! This is especially helpful since I'm trying to keep my processed carbs to only three dinners per week at the most.

Now going forward this week, I need to freeze some tomato paste that is in the fridge. I usually scoop it out in 1 TBS drops, freeze on a pan and then put in a container for future soups and sauces. I also need to start eating down the frozen grapes I have in the freezer. I think I'm the only one that will eat them. They are really good when it is so, so warm out. I just forget about them in the freezer. Oh, and there's one apple that I need to remember to cut up at dinner and use up. I think I can do that tomorrow night.

A few other frugal wins for the last week:

I found $0.14 on the ground. I actually found most of it in the middle of a soccer field when I walked out from the track to pick up some trash, a duty I find myself doing to keep the area looking somewhat clean. I guess I get paid to clean up!!

When getting the mail at our community mailbox, I glanced in the nearby trash can and saw one of those blue and white Amazon bubble mailers right on top and snatched it up. I've been shipping things due to eBay sales. I primarily use mailing supplies I have from things mailed to me. I'm starting to run low, so this was a nice addition to my stash. I will keep an eye out for other such items that are still clean that I can use.

My husband went to get a haircut this afternoon and they were already closed. I suggested I trim his hair this week instead of a $9.50 haircut with his usual $5 tip! He agreed. Maybe I can do this once a month at least, because he is going twice a month to cut probably 1/4 inch off his very short hair. This is why we have a trimmer in the first place to save money!

My husband has been doing well buying his soda and gum in bulk packaging rather than going to pick up individual servings several times per week. I'd prefer he not buy any of it, but that isn't where he is right now. I'm happy with the change though financially.

I'm going to try to keep posting about frugal successes, feel free to join in with what you did that helped save you money!

Food Waste

June 7th, 2019 at 12:10 pm

Today, I'm reporting our food waste. It's one thing so many of us, or at least many Americans, find themselves doing. And it really is just money in the trash!

My daughter went to eat breakfast to find the milk had soured, despite an expiration of three days later. I went to make Apple Spiced Pork Chops last night only to find that three apples were starting to go bad, one worse than the others. I cut the bad parts off two and tossed the other in the trash. Oh, and I also had to toss 1/2 cup of fresh broccoli that had turned.

One way we can avoid produce and dairy from spoiling is by making sure we aren't buying too much at one time from the store and also making sure we make a point to eat these items before they do spoil. I usually check to see if we have anything that needs to be used up soon, before I make my meal plan, so I can incorporated it into our eating in the next few days.

Food waste isn't just from spoilage. It can come in the form of making too much of a food that you cannot eat in one sitting. I also did that this week. I doubled a recipe and then we had too much. It was the first time I made this homemade macaroni recipe, so I will let myself off the hook a bit. I did end up eating the leftover for a couple lunches after, but I really regret that part too as I'm trying to stay away from processed carbohydrates. I made it at my daughter's request since she is home for the summer.

Buying in bulk at those big warehouse stores can also cause overbuying and then as a result of not being able to consume that much, the food goes to waste. We generally don't buy fresh produce in bulk for this very reason. Onions, apples and potatoes would be the exception, where we buy in 3-5 pound bags. This food spoilage can even occur in packaged/processed food if you don't eat the food by the expiration date. That means the good deal you got at the warehouse store was actually a waste of money.

Knowing portion sizes can help us plan how much to buy so we do not overeat or overbuy. We really usually do pretty well, so it was surprising to have to throw out what we did this week. I think there were a couple of other things that I can't remember, it was more than the milk, broccoli and apples.

We did also adjust our fridge temperature, as we wondered if the cause was due to the warmer temperature here, but not cool enough inside the fridge. Hopefully, that will help us, too!

How do you do in the area of food waste? Do you have any tips or tricks that help you avoid throwing out food, or in other words your hard earned money?

College Tuition, VA Debt and Another Sale

June 5th, 2019 at 08:31 am

College summer tuition for both our girls is due within the next week. I did withdraw $1000 each from their ESA accounts to help cover the cost. One daughter owes $1895 for two online classes (8 credits) at a community college, and the other owes about $2600 for one three credit hour class that she is taking locally at her University. I think you might guess which one is in state and which one is out of state!

Our oldest daughter withdrew her request from the VA to cover 15 days of tuition for the Spring 2019 semester. We knew this would result in paying the VA back for the housing and books payment. Unfortunately, there seems to be a mix up or communication issue, and they billed us for the tuition they paid to her University on her behalf. Meanwhile when the benefits were withdrawn the University also billed us for those same credit hours, which we paid promptly. Luckily, we seem to have heading down the path of resolution after the VA contact at the University called and asked that the VA bill the University for the return of tuition charges. There is probably going to be a lag of one or two months, so more calling may be involved. At least I feel more confident that all parties seem to be on the same page...we don't owe double tuition! That could have cost us another $900!

I sold my husband's old cell phone on eBay yesterday. I did take a lower price than listed, but I'm pleased with getting it sold and having a little money to apply to the sales tax and activation fees we will owe at the end of the month!

Fingers crossed the things I have listed will start selling! I do hope I can get my daughter to go through her room this summer, as I'm sure there is quite a bit that can be decluttered and potentially sold for some cash.

Life is good! Money isn't everything, but I do like to talk about it. Thanks for reading!

Another Couple Sales

June 4th, 2019 at 05:11 am

I sold one of the old cell phones and a pair of shorts on eBay yesterday. Netting a little over $40 I think.

Although I said ALL sale money would go to pay ourselves back for the car down payment, the money from the phones is going towards paying the sales tax and activation fees on the two new phones which is going to be on our bill at the end of the month. That charge is $120 or so. I have one more phone to sell, but it will go for less as it's more beat up and we aren't selling it with the charger.

I have already applied some funds from other prior sales to the phone charge as well in the amount of $27.50. We are also expecting a rebate check from our utility service in the amount of $33, which I also plan to apply to the charge. It seems late, but I think it will be here before that bill is due. We do have the money to cover the charge, this is just the way my brain works when I have extra expenses. So I'm close to have the full $120 for the phones!!

I have other items listed on eBay and I have other potential items to sell as well. Summer feels like a slow time of year to make sales, but it's worth the try. If our housing has another garage sale, I might see if I have enough to put some things out.

Paying Ourselves Back

June 3rd, 2019 at 05:31 am

I mentioned in a previous post that we paid $3,000 towards a downpayment on our daughter's new to her car. I initially put this on a credit card, which has 4% interest rate. This was my way of avoiding taking on a lot of debt at nearly 9% interest rate they were offering us on the loan initially. In the end the loan is at 5.74% and is likely a little high because my daughter did not have credit. My husband is the cosigner. We will make the payment on the loan while she is in school, the rest will be up to her.

Back to the $3,000 on the credit card. It is due June 15, where no interest will have been accrued. I plan to take money from what is probably considered our emergency fund money to pay it in full on that date. My next concern is making a plan to pay that money back in the midst of new expenses (a car payment of $133.50 and increased insurance of $75 a month).

I'm going to continue adding to our Big Savings Goal, but not as aggressively, basically, we will throw the interest earned on our savings and the $175 twice per month towards that goal moving forward as our bare minimum. This puts us near $550 per month.

To pay ourselves back for the $3,000 down payment, I'm going to put all eBay sale money and credit card rewards towards this. I'm also going to be actively looking for other additional funds that can make this payback go as fast as possible. I'd like to say this is my primary goal. And it basically is, but I also know we are managing travel expense again coming in the fall. (Sometimes it's not fun having your kids attend schools so far away!) If we didn't have these expenses, it would be no issue to pay ourselves back this $3K in a very short period of time.

I can already report that the $100 we received for the speakers I sold last week have already been applied towards this goal.

$3,000.00 Beginning Balance
__$100.00 Speaker Sale
$2,900.00 New Balance

I am curious how quickly I can make this happen!

May Big Savings Goal Progress

June 2nd, 2019 at 07:18 am

I made a mistake in May. I didn't actually add $175 at the beginning of May to our Big Goal. I have an automatic withdrawal from our checking to savings for this each period. And that part did happen, but I didn't officially fund that transaction from my husband's paycheck on May 1. So effectively, in YNAB the Big Goal category balance in our checking account was reduced by $175. That was simply money saved from other deposits I made into that category.

Here's what new money was applied to our Big Savings goal in May:

$100.23 Anniversary gift
$39.82 Paypal (eBay, Pinecone, olive oil settlement)
$175 Paycheck 5/15
$48.88 American Express Rewards
$1.87 Discover Rewards
$0.40 Chase Rewards
$12.84 US Bank Rewards

$379.04 May Big Goal Total
$5147.94 2019 YTD

$67,947.08 Previous big goal Balance
$68,326.12 New big goal Balance

34.16% of $200,000 goal

It's going up! I'm thankful despite all the moving financial parts this month that we could still find money to add to our Big Goal.

May Interest 2019 And Car Info

June 1st, 2019 at 04:42 pm

This is an update on our interest earnings for May. I expect the numbers to go down a bit in June, as our savings will be dropping by $3,000. We are earning close to 2.20% on that money currently, so this should amount to a loss of $5.50 each month until we pay ourselves back. But this is better than paying 4% interest on that same money!

NFCU $123. 08
FNBO $69.61
USAA $0.03
Total $192.72

Getting so close to $200 per month in interest. I guess I can hope interest rates will continue to rise to offset the small loss of interest on that $3,000.

The $3,000 was money we put towards our daughter's new to her car. She put $3000 towards it, and paid for the taxes and registration (nearly $1000) out of a UTMA account she had since she was little. The remainder of the car cost is a loan, we are paying the payment until she graduates. The payment is $133.50 per month.