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Archive for July, 2019

$128 Worth Of Free Amazon Products

July 19th, 2019 at 11:51 am

I was just thinking about how small amounts of money add up and how I have used Swagbucks, and other sources to earn gift cards that then really result in free products.

I have accumulated enough points in the last six months with Swagbucks to redeem them for $128 worth of Amazon gift cards. I also redeem some for $25 cash deposited into my Paypal account.

Some of the things we bought with those Amazon gift cards either in full or partially are:
Printer ink
Engine and air filters for two vehicles
Vitamins (at least three orders)
TV antenna
2 books

Yes [ulr=https://www.swagbucks.com/lp-savings-button?cmp=695&cxid=swagbuttonref&rb=346111&extRefCmp=1&extRb=346111]Swagbucks[/url] is a little work, but I don't spend much time on it each day, thus why it can take about a month to accumulate $25 worth of points. I used to be able to rack up a lot more points, but I decided it wasn't worth THAT MUCH effort, so I'm pleased that with the little effort I do put in, I get some things we need and want with no cash outlay on our part.

While looking at our Amazon account I did notice a few other gift cards redeemed for $10. Those cards came from Fetch Rewards and the other from

Text is MyPoints and Link is https://www.mypoints.com?rb=25836026
MyPoints. And I redeemed
Text is Ibotta rebates and Link is https://ibotta.com/r/xjyhxxw
Ibotta rebates for cash.

If you want to join Fetch Rewards, which is very easy to use compared to Ibotta, you can download the app and enter my referral code FQ8U1. All you have to do is take a picture of your receipt. The app figures out what deals are available based on what you purchased. If you join and take a picture of one receipt before July 22, you will earn 3,000 points and I will as well. That 3,000 points can be redeemed for a $3 gift card to Amazon, Panera Bread, Target or Dunkin Donuts. Or you can accumulate more points and redeem for other things.

I used to track all these extras in more detail on my blog and shared them as little snowflakes. I still mention them, but not in quite as much detail.

What you like to get for free by capturing these easy ways to accumulate points and rewards? Right now I have just 240 Swagbucks, but I'm thinking I may use my next Amazon gift card to buy a new knife or two for my kitchen, or maybe a new product to try with this curly girl hair method.

Thank you in advance if you use any of my referral links. Share yours in the comments if you have a way you earn gift cards that I don't currently use.

Frugal Things

July 17th, 2019 at 07:42 am

As best as I can remember, I only had to throw out at most two cups of watermelon this past week. I had purchased a very large one for a picnic we were going to attend. We were eating it ourselves since we missed the picnic due to my husband's travel I mentioned last week. It turned bad before we could finish those last two cups.

I made a point this past week to use up some things in the fridge as part of my meal plan. I had an opened can of olives, some green onion, half a bag of frozen peas and carrots, a partial jar of tahini and a lime that were top on my to use up list.

I have been using dish soap and vinegar as my primary bathroom cleaner for about a month. It works really well. I have to be careful not to spray too much on or it gets really sudsy! I already had all items, including the spray bottle on hand, when I decided to try it out.

I found and used three coupons at the store yesterday and saved $2.00. I think I will pull $2 from the grocery category and dump it towards our goals.

I saved some money and will continue forward by stopping the use of shampoo on my hair. I'm a curly hair girl, and recently read some things about the Curly Girl Method, which basically says to stop using shampoo. I've done this before with good results. Not sure why I went back. My hair is feeling thicker and curlier after just a week and a half.

I saved some bacon grease to use for cooking other things. We don't eat a lot of bacon, and I usually just wiped up the grease with a paper towel in the past. I thought I'd try it out. I use all sorts of oils; olive, ghee, coconut, and butter. So this is just a little extra to add to my stash of options.

I did make the chicken broth I mentioned last week. I have not yet used it. I will need to make a point to do that soon, or get most of it frozen.

I think that is all I have to report. Unless you want to hear about all the things we don't buy that many Americans do! What frugal things did you do this week?

An Extra $500?!

July 16th, 2019 at 08:04 am

Hmm, just balanced our budget after this last pay period and we had an even $500 left! I'm starting to wonder if i missed something. I do know there wasn't much activity, driving, eating out or spending this first half of July, but to have an extra $500 seems surprising.

I put it into the Emergency Fund category of YNAB, which brings that balance to $1,392. I tend to sweep extra funds in there lately when I'm not sure exactly where to allocate the money. I do like a little cushion.

I did remember after I put the $500 there that I was short for one daughter's fall tuition payment by the due date, but was just going to borrow from other areas and pay it back the following month. Actual shortage $521. So I suppose, I should be proactive and drop that money there. As a result I may be able to adjust the future monthly allocations to her tution down by $100 each month.

As I'm pondering this problem, which yes I know is a fantastic problem to have, I'm thinking I might rename the category, Slush Fund. I might try to maintain it at $1000, anything I drop in there over $1000, should then be swept into our EF earning interest. I think I've been putting more money in there lately as because I've been seeing this year as more expensive, but in some ways it hasn't been that much different.

On the other hand, I sort of want to sweep it all over (minus the $500) to pay back that down payment we made on our daughter's car. Things to think about at least.

Travel Reimbursement In Our Favor

July 14th, 2019 at 07:14 am

My husband had what was supposed to be a one night trip for work last week, unfortunately due to flight cancellations it turned into two nights and he flew into a different airport, specifically on July 4. It was not the holiday we had planned.

I had to drive our vehicle to pick him up about 90 miles away. As a result he received additional per diem and mileage for the use of our personal vehicle. He also did a really good job of keeping his dining expenses low, taking advantage of the USO in the airport primarily and having one dinner with friends who ended up paying, while he was in town.

We made $292.05 on the trip. That will be used to repay ourselves for the car down payment. At the rate we are finding money it seem this payback is going to happen much faster than I expected!

I recently redeemed Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card. I stocked up on Vitamin D with the gift card and set aside the $25 I would have spent out of pocket towards our current goal.

And finally, I redeemed $20.95 in rewards from US Bank and expect that we will have American Express Rewards to redeem in the next week as well.

Electricity Refund

July 11th, 2019 at 04:53 am

Our housing payment on this military installation covers utilities, unless we go above the normal range compared to other units our size by 10%, then we would pay the difference. The opposite is true, if we go below the normal range we get a refund.

We received our refund for service from mid April to mid May this week. It was the highest we have had yet at $53.18. This is going towards paying ourselves back for the car down payment. I have seen our fellow neighbors posting how low they keep their air conditioning and while we drop it at night for sleeping, we do adjust up during the day because otherwise I would need to wear a sweater to keep warm!

Just this morning I received notification of the mid May to mid June period. Our credit will only be $11.85. That is not enough to receive a payout next month, but it will be added to any future credits, or money owed.

I'm thankful for all money, snowflakes, that fall in our favor!

Shopping the Fridge and Avoiding Food Waste

July 9th, 2019 at 05:55 am

Prior to grocery shopping on Sunday, I reviewed what we had on hand that could be part of some meals this week. I did have to throw out 2 ribs of celery, 6 mini peppers, 1/3 of a bag of greens and a few baby carrots. Not too bad on the waste!

We had taco salad last night where I used up some red onion and the oldest of the lettuce greens. I made potato soup the night prior to use up some milk that is expiring today. I didn't quite use it all up, so it may get tossed today if it is actually bad.

I'm using an apple and onion we had on hand when I make pork chops this week. And when I make taco dip I will use up green onions and olives. I did have eggs and hashbrowns available that will make up our dinner one night this week.

As you can tell I did have to buy other ingredients, but the meals were shaped by what I needed to use up before it went to waste or what I already had that could make a meal.

The food portion of our grocery bill was $81.40 for the week. My husband did buy some almonds to snack from another store for $7.99.

Today I'm going to make bone broth with a chicken carcass I have in the freezer which will use some more carrots, onion and celery for flavoring.

DId you waste any food this past week? Did you find a full meal or meal ingredients in your home before you went shopping?

Our Christmas Budget

July 7th, 2019 at 12:07 pm

It's July! Time to think about Christmas or any other December holy day you may be celebrating. These holidays come at the same time each year, so there is no reason we cannot plan ahead to save and make a budget.

We budget for Christmas gifts over the full year. A set amount each month to accumulate by December and ready for spending. That amount for us is just $50 per month, or $600 in total for Christmas gifts.

Our budget may be considered small to many, but our gift recipient list is rather short, covering my husband and myself, our two daughters, two nieces, our three parents. Occasionally, my husband and I skip gift for ourselves as we usually buy what we want, when we want it.

Now notice I referred to gifts only. I do not budget for other Christmas related expenses, which can include photos, new clothes, cards, postage, gift wrap, decorations, party supplies, food and baking supplies, babysitting services, and travel. We already budget monthly for food, clothes and travel, so we tend to inflate those categories during the month of December to adjust for increased spending. We rarely buy new gift wrap and cards, preferring to stock up at the end of season clearance IF we expect we need things during the next year. I did look at last years expenses that came from our Christmas budget and it does look like I included postage costs, likely because the gifts themselves came in under budget.

We are on schedule to have our $600 by December 1. I have already purchased two small gifts! I find shopping as early as possible so helpful in managing the busyness and stress of the season.

I will write more in a future post about some tips for those of you who have not yet started a holiday budget.

Do you have a holiday budget? Do you save ahead of time? What is your budget, does it include more than just gifts? How many people do you buy for?

Retirement Milestone

July 7th, 2019 at 06:40 am

Our retirement accounts hit a new milestone on July 3, 2019. We have crossed the $600K mark. Considering the value was under $500K at the end of 2018 because of the market drop last fall, it feels good that the markets have rallied once again.

If you have no retirement, at least start researching types of investments. Understand fees. Understand risks. Put some numbers into retirement calculators to see how your money can grow.

If your employer offers a retirement plan, set up an automatic investment there. Automatic investments with your employer keep you from spending your money before you get it invested. Automatic investments from your checking account are also great as you never forget to invest.

Just 13 years ago our retirement accounts were just $25K. It's hard to fathom when you first start that you will make it to $100K. But consistent dedication to investing does pay off.

Frugal Report Card

July 2nd, 2019 at 07:26 am

Here's a few frugal happenings from our corner of the world this week:

I found a $0.50 coupon for the shaving cream I needed to buy right on the shelf by the shaving cream. The commissary puts up tablets of coupons for certain items every so often. These are coupons only available for use at a commissary.

I found two dimes on two separate occasions while out walking this week.

We currently use foaming hand soap at all our sinks. A couple of them were getting low, so I added water to extend the life of the soap. It still comes out foamy. Eventually I will add more soap in, as it will get too diluted.

My nieces just went to a week long summer camp. Family and friends are invited to send mail. Instead of buying cards, I folded some scrapbook paper into note card size cards and used colored markers to write and draw inside. I had envelopes and stamps on hand, so no new out of pocket cost to bring a smile to their faces.

I went shopping at the thrift store and bought nothing. I did see some interesting items, but even thrift store prices were a bit much for what I was finding.

I did buy a new pair of Asics sneakers at the Exchange here on base. Normal retail was $124.99. I snatched them up for $37.18. This is my second pair of the same style shoe that I found at this price and in my size. I just started wearing the first one about a month ago. So this newest pair won't get use until my current pair is worn out.

The only food I threw out this week, was some celery that must had had root rot or something. I went to cut up some of the ribs were cracked and mushy. I had just bought it a few days prior. I did salvage some of it.

And finally, I have started saving any paper bags we get from the store. I have found they can be great packing paper for shipping eBay items! They can also be wrapped around a box, if mailing in the original box, so that a label can be attached. The lighter the box the better!

What frugal happenings do you have to report?

Paying Ourselves Back: June

July 2nd, 2019 at 05:12 am

I'm going to start posting our progress in paying ourselves back for the $3,000 we took form our savings towards our daughter's car. I sold a speaker set for $100 in May, the same month that we bought the car, so when I moved the money, I actually only took out $2,900. That is our starting point for reporting purposes here.

$12.84 US Bank Rewards
$57.76 Amex Rewards
$38.51 Utility Rebate
$26.43 Ibotta Rebate
$3.00 Pinecone Survey
$58.57 Ebay Sales
$197.11 June Total

$2,900.00 Beginning (Debt) Balance
$2,702.89 Current Balance Owed

Big Goal Savings: June

July 2nd, 2019 at 04:58 am

If you didn't see my previous posts, take a look. I had to revise May progress, luckily in the right direction. Starting this month, I will be reporting Big Goal Savings as well as our progress paying back the $3,000 car down payment that came from our savings.

Here's the money we are applying to our Big Goal this month.

NFCU Interest $119.42
FNBO Interest $66.62
USAA Interest $0.02
6/1 Paycheck $175
6/15 Paycheck $175

$536.06 June Big Goal Total
$5,876.72 2019 YTD

$68,326.12 Previous Big Goal Balance
$68,862.18 New Big Goal Balance

34.43% of $200,000 Target Goal

Side note, that is an average of $979.45 per month. The average is likely going to go down until we pay ourselves back for the car down payment. Sometimes I'm just amazed at how things can work out if you stick to the principles of regular savings or paying off debt.

Big Goal Savings: May (Revised)

July 2nd, 2019 at 04:41 am

I wrote that in May I made a mistake with Our Big Goal Savings tracking, where I forgot to actually account for a $175 deposit. Turns out I actually made two mistakes!! I forgot to add in the interest earned for May into our totals!

This the revised May Progress report:

$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
$69.61 FNBO Direct Interest
$123.08 NFCU Interest
$0.03 USAA Interest

$571.76 May Big Goal Total
$5340.66 2019 YTD

$67,947.08 Previous Big Goal Balance
$68,518.04 New Big Goal Balance

34.26% of $200,000 goal

June 2019 Interest

July 2nd, 2019 at 04:20 am

Here what we accumulated in interest during the month of June:

NFCU $119.42
FNBO $66.62
USAA $0.02
Total $186.06

I probably say it nearly every month, but I love compound interest!