Home > Archive: December, 2019

Archive for December, 2019

Call For Blog Collaboration

December 31st, 2019 at 03:18 pm

I just had the idea to do a blog post in the next few days about our financial progress in the last ten years. So if you are interested in joining me and writing about your progress title your post something similar to A Decade of Progress or Ten Years of Finances. The titles don't have to be the same, but similar enough that we will notice them.

I look forward to reading your reflections!

Happy New Year!

End of Year Thoughts

December 31st, 2019 at 02:51 pm

On this last day of the year I thought I'd reflect on a few things, but expect more detailed financial posts in the coming days.

It was an unpredictable year.

I didn't plan for buying our daughter a car, yet the writing was on the wall. That lack of planning resulted in a loan in her name with my husband as cosigner. We are currently making the payment of $133.50 per month because our daughter has a very part time internship. She uses her earnings to cover groceries and gas on the vehicle. The balance is currently $4,949.50. We are not currently making extra payments. I'm mixed about this loan considering we have the cash on hand. But on some level this should be hers to complete once she has a full time job.

We did put $3000 cash down on the vehicle and are currently paying ourselves back for this. I will have an update in a couple days on our progress on this.

Our oldest daughter also has taken on two student loans, each $2750. One is just about to be disbursed for spring. This are the first and only loans she has had to take out. I'm also mixed on these because yes we have the cash, yet I think it is okay for her to have some skin in the game. On the other hand she double majored and we will have supported her for five years by the time!! It's still amazing to me that we were able to get her through school with this small amount of debt.

Our youngest daughter did not need to take out any loans. She still has ESA funds, a least a year of Post 911 GI bill eligibility. We currently save $500/mo (or $6000/yr) towards her tuition.

Our retirement balances have skyrocketed this year with returns exceeding 25%. It was a great year to be in the stock market. We increased my husband's Roth IRA contributions to account for his catch up eligibility since he turned 50 this year.

I'm still impressed with our ability to handle the travel costs associated with having our girls living over 1000 miles away. I think I'm making plane reservations every three months on average!

We did make progress on our Big Goal this year too, which I will report in detail in the next few days. It was an average year towards that goal. Sometimes the effort seems so slow, yet at the same time I'm grateful that we have this goal. I think this money would just slip away without it!

In non financial news, I lost about 15 pounds this year and have been able to keep most of it off all year. I did really well exercising at least 5 days week. I drink a good amount of water regularly. Healthy habits and progress towards a little more weight loss is the goal in the coming year too.

I'm going to count 2019 as a success! Happy New Year!!

Lowering An Expense

December 29th, 2019 at 06:04 pm

We have been using Hulu Live TV recently, primarily to get our college football team games. Those are over for the season and our daughter who was in their marching band is done forever. Sad! We did cancel it for four months this summer when our expenses were especially high, and used an antenna to get over the air channels.

Hulu Live TV is increasing their price from $44.99 to $54.99. Really, really not worth it to me. My husband does like to have it so for now we are switching service providers. We will now stream with Sling TV for their Blue Plan for $30 per month. We will save $15 over our current price and avoid the $10 increase that Hulu Live was offering.

We may pause Sling here and there for additional savings. I personally could just be fine with an over the air programming, I only watch local news for severe weather information.

My daughter's phone was paid off this month too, so our bill will be lower by $13 a month. Not sure how long we will go until we purchase new ones, but for now I appreciate the savings.

Are you lowering any of your expenses in the coming year? I wish I could lower them all, but so many are rising. I guess I will put another post out on that at another time.

Still Debating YNAB

December 27th, 2019 at 03:29 am

I've spent several months using the online version of YNAB. It works fine. There are some things that are just different, such as not letting categories go negative into the next month. I get why they do this, but we have a lot fluff in our account, so I'm definitely not really going to have an issue. I can't make notes on each category without them rolling over into the next month. I'd like each month to have it's own notes. I do love being able to link the accounts. I only have our two most active linked, but so helpful!

Because we did get a few months free as military, our first annual payment of $75.59 is due January 20. That is the amount due after the 10% member discount from my previous purchase of YNAB4 several years ago.

So, while I think on this option for a couple more weeks, I'm curious how those of you who don't use apps budget. Do you just use Excel? Did you make your own or buy a template or program? Do you use pen and paper? I've done both, but I'm out of shape using all those. LOL!

Thanks for sharing any thoughts. Overall it's not a bad program at all, just wondering if I really want to commit to nearly $80 a year for something I might be able to recreate in some way for free or less money.

After nearly four years of YNAB I am still a fan of what it can do, I think I'm just thinking about the cost and how it does add up over time.

Peace and Joy!

December 25th, 2019 at 07:48 pm

Wishing each of you SA readers and bloggers peace and joy this season of holy days!

Our Christmas has been wonderful with our girls home! We received a gift of an Escape Room in Box. We are looking forward to the challenge later today!!

I hope to get some time to reflect on 2020 financial goals soon!

Good While It Lasted

December 21st, 2019 at 01:07 pm

For just over a year we have been able to pay our rent for our current military housing with a credit card, earning Southwest airline miles and not paying any additional fees.

Unfortunately, the private company that manages the military housing has ended this practice, I believe in part due to their own change in banks. Of course, this has likely been costing them fees on their side.

We can still pay with a credit card, they are now passing on the fees to us to use the card. It would cost us over $60 a month to pay with a credit card. We pay them quite a bit as it is to live here in this 1980s era home (including many of the fixtures), so of course, we don't want to pay more than necessary.

We will now pay our rent with a checking account. This will not cost us any fees.

As a side note, people are livid with this change. They basically gave ten days notice. I think it has to do primarily with the lack of clear communication, and advanced notice of the change. It's amazing to me sometimes, how some organizations operate without no real understanding of their customer or end user.

Again, I appreciate the opportunity to use the card (fee free) and rack up airline miles over this last year. I just used some of the miles to cover two one way tickets for our daughter's return trips back to college after the Christmas break. We will not lose the miles we have accumulated and should have enough for one more round trip ticket.

Christmas Gifts, Budget, and More Snowflakes

December 19th, 2019 at 03:47 pm

All Christmas gifts are bought, wrapped and those that needed to be shipped have been mailed! Our Christmas budget is $600 and we came in under budget by $17.75. I probably would have been a little over budget, but I did get a credit for an item that came slightly damaged from Amazon (so it was free), and I earned some Swagbucks $25 that I used to purchase one gift on Amazon, in addition to using about $15 in Amazon credit card rewards.

I have some snowflakes fall around here!

I redeemed $47.06 in American Express Rewards this morning. Those are redeemed as a credit, but I record it as money sent to our Big Goal in YNAB.

My husband received a travel reimbursement from work and it was $58.40 more than his expenses. I saved it of course.

I also sold a salt lamp on Facebook that we had been given as a gift. I was paid in cash, but used the cash for groceries so I moved $25 out of the grocery budget to the Big Goal.

I received $3 from a Pinecone Survey in my PayPal account, too.

And the final snowflake (small amounts of found money) is a sale on eBay which netted us $5.34.

I'm a big believer that small amounts of money can add up, of course large amounts can too, but don't discount the small amounts to add up to something!

Did you come in over, under or on budget for your holiday spending this year?


December 15th, 2019 at 03:00 pm

Over a week ago, my husband's unit has a family Christmas party. I won a small cast iron pan with a cookie mix in it. It makes probably a four or five inch cookie. Not something I would ever buy, but I decided to give it to our youngest daughter with her Christmas check ($40). She does like to bake and I thought it would disguise and help me wrap the check! Worse case scenario I donate it.

My husband also won a $25 Target gift card from filling out a survey for our property management. A nice surprise! Wish I had known earlier, as I already bought my other daughter a $25 Target gift card! It's all good though, they will all get used.

Very small winnings, but winnings nonetheless!

In other small money news, I did redeem rewards on our Chase Freedom card for $13.77. I also sold a book on eBay that I need to mail out tomorrow. Probably made $5 on that. Less stuff more money!

Our girls arrive home on Saturday for their holiday break! We are looking forward to it.

2020 Savings Challenge

December 13th, 2019 at 09:02 pm

I've seen some talk on the internet about a 2020 Savings Challenge. The idea is to save up $2,020 next year, by setting aside $38.85 per payday, assuming you are paid weekly. I'm primarily sharing, in case you were wanting to find a way to challenge yourself to save more money in 2020.

I'm pondering some sort of challenge to save more. I'm not sure yet what that would be. In this scenario, my husband is paid twice per month, so that would be $84.17 per pay period.I 'think' we could technically do this, but I need to run numbers.

We have added a new expense this insurance premium for our oldest daughter. She can stay on current plan, but because as of next week she will not be full time at school, AND in March she turns 23 which ages her out of the option to stay on the plan without a premium. Fingers crossed she gets a job with health insurance, so we can cut that expense. We are happy to provide it, just not excited about paying it...who ever really is right?

The exciting thing about 2020 for us is that we expect my husband to be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, which is a very nice raise of nearly 18%! We do not expect that to happen until May or June.

Generally, we save what we save. But it can be easy to become complacent and not save as much as possible. Are saving challenges helpful to you? Are you planning to do one in 2020?

USAA Subscriber Account

December 11th, 2019 at 02:38 pm

USAA returns portions of our insurance premium every year, as member owners. Last year was around $80 if memory serves me correct. This year, and likely be how much more insurance we pay them our return is $193.20.

I just went to the email from USAA, and it says "this year the amount includes a portion of the proceeds from the sale of our Asset Management Company to Victory Capital". So not just because our premiums are higher due to our riskier location.

We will take it and save it towards the Big Goal, of course!

I also redeemed $13 in rewards from US Bank this morning, too.

Downsized Living

December 7th, 2019 at 03:24 pm

LivingAlmostLarge asked me to write about our downsized living situation, so these are just my thoughts off the top off my head. Feel free to ask other questions in the comments.

We downsized just over a year ago from a 2800 sq foot rental home to a 1600 sq ft townhouse at our current duty station. We went from four bedrooms to three. We went from three full bathrooms to 2 full and one half bath. Our kitchen is now a galley style. We only have one true family room living space, rather than two, this resulted in getting rid of a couch, loveseat, tv and speakers. There is no space for an a large desk, so that was sold, as were the previously mentioned items. While our last home had two dining areas, we used the formal one for eating as it was right off the kitchen and fit our table set better. Our current dining area holds the same table, but also a couch and a church pew! It's amazing it fits, but it's kind of awkward too. Since our kitchen and dining are not open to the living area it is nice to have a couch in that area for being together on that side of the home.

We have two parking spaces, one stall garage, but we don't park in it. We have it set up so we could, but it's difficult to back in and out of! So our garage holds some ladders, chairs, Christmas items, my husbands field gear and some other odds and ends you might find in a garage. Because we don't do lawn care, we let go of shovels, lawn mower, fertilizer spreader, several hoses, and trimmer. Most of these items were donated to Habitat for Humanity.

I do like living in a smaller space. It is much, much easier to clean. I always felt like we didn't have enough stuff to fill the last home, if that makes sense. 2800 sq feet just requires more money to heat and cool, too. We really, really weren't using all the space. I do think with children at home, or with any entertaining it's nice to have two living spaces. If our girls lived here full time and had friends over, they would really only have the bedrooms to entertain in, unless we moved ourselves to the bedroom so they could watch a movie. Obviously it could work, but it would be something I would miss at that time stage of life.

Since my husband often talks of RV living, I wonder if we would ever go back to that large of a home. I might if I thought we would really have a need to use it. Lots of grandchildren or something. I think what I would need in a smaller space is a more open floor plan, or a better layout that what our current space is. But it is fitting our needs just fine in all reality. We even have plenty of closet space for our needs with a large pantry barely half filled! I've seen others closets in our same unit that have full closets, so it is all relative to what you own and store. We tend towards the minimalism side so we have plenty of available storage space.

Overall, I think we as a couple need a place to sleep, a place to hang out, a place to prepare food and eat it and at least spaces for guests (likely two additional bedrooms, but if the space was right maybe only one). And yes bathrooms and laundry!

I'm not sure if that answers your question. We don't have regrets of downsizing. The cost to rent in our current area is very high, particularly for a 2800 sq ft home, so it would not have been advantageous to continue at that size particularly as renters. If the opportunity presents itself during the next move, I might do it, but then of course, I would need to buy more stuff! Lol

Paying Ourselves Back: November

December 7th, 2019 at 03:01 pm

We are paying ourselves back for money we put down on our daughter's car in May. I am putting all sources of extra funds towards that goal. Here's what I found in November:

US Bank $13.00
Chase Rewards $1.80
Amex Rewards $55.26
Electric Rebates $82.99
Extra travel funds $105.34
USAA Reward $1.62
Total $260.01

Prior Payback Balance: $1,559.76
New Payback Balance: $1,299.75

At one time I thought we could get this paid back by the end of the year, but it seems we had expenses I hadn't accounted for. But I feel confident we can get this paid back by the end of next year...hopefully much sooner!

Big Goal Savings: November

December 7th, 2019 at 02:51 pm

While we continue to pay ourselves back for the car down payment we continue to send money to our savings goal. As of last month we are 35.5% complete.

November Big Goal Additions
Paycheck 11/1 $175.00
Paycheck 11/15 $175.00
Total Interest $181.23
Total $531.23
New YTD Big Goal Total $8,563.45
New Big Goal Total $71,548.90

November's tally brings us 35.77% of goal. Still heading in the right direction!

If December is similar, then we will top $9K towards our goal this year. Not too shabby!

Interest Earned In November

December 7th, 2019 at 02:46 pm

Here's the interest we earned on our cash savings last month:

FNBO $60.16
NFCU $121.04
USAA $0.03
Total $181.23

This money is saved towards our Big Goal. I noticed it was down by $7 from last month, despite the same balances. More noticeable I guess when there is one less day in the month!

Are you tracking your interest? Do you save it or spend it?