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Some Cash Updates & More

August 12th, 2019 at 02:53 pm

I sold two more small items on eBay recently. I've lowered the price on one, but soon I need to end them all while we go out of town. I will likely restart them and add a few more things when we return.

I earned $3 from Pinecone Research for a survey.

We were refunded $6 in ATM fees by USAA.

I paid back the housing allowance my daughter received last semester in the amount of $758.10. It's been a chore to get the VA to correct our withdrawal of benefits and then bill us for the correct amount. I believe my plan has been to use part of our tax refund to pay this back. That money did go towards the Big Goal, so I may have to backtrack my totals at the end of the month. However, because I really, really don't like doing that, I may see if I can find another way.

We expect another bill to return the book stipend for $208.33. But unfortunately, they still are trying to bill our daughter $69.03 for tuition. All tution money was sent to the university and they should be billing them. We paid all tution in full out of pocket instead of accepting VA education benefits last semester. At least this new amount they are trying to bill for tuition is down from over $700. Can you believe we have zero access to any sort of online account for beneficiaries? We can only deal in phone calls, letters, and faxes! The government is definitely not up with the times on this kind of thing.

I did a withdrawal of cash from our younger daughter's educational savings account today. The money will cover the cost of one semester's worth of room and board. I have the remaining amount due (tuition) set aside in cash. Her tuition is due August 20, six days BEFORE school starts.

I'm waiting for my husband to be reimbursed from his last trip with the Army. He has some issues with his government card during the last trip, and he ended up putting charges on our regular card. I'm happy for the rewards, but annoyed to have that extra balance there unpaid. It will come any day though.

We were within range this month of our electricity usage. So no credit or refund, but of course, we don't owe any extra either.

Oh, and I also recently applied for the Amazon Prime Visa and earned $70 in Amazon gift cards. I already used it, since I was making a larger purchase of an air purifier. It helped cut the cost significantly. I guess I should set aside $70 towards goals since I was willing to spend the original amount.

I only threw out two frozen hamburger buns. I'm not eating processed carbs, and my daughter said she will not eat that brand, too soft and soggy. Not a bad week in terms of food waste. We keep eating what we purchase.

Spending Has Been Low

July 26th, 2019 at 07:47 am

Our spending has been fairly low again this month. Right now I still have $500 I have not yet allocated to any category in YNAB. We may do some clothes shopping this weekend. I need a few things. And our youngest daughter who will go back to school in late August needs a few things. For all I know we will spend most of it this weekend, or sometime in the process of getting the girls settled into a new year. I would love to save it, of course! Hopefully it will be a balance between buying needs and saving.

I did cash out my PayPal account for $27.61. This is from eBay sales and I think one $3 Pinecone survey.

I need a few more points with Fetch to cash out for $15. I will likely claim a $15 Amazon gift card, as there are bound to be some things shipped from there in coming months. My referral code for that super easy earnings app is FQ8U1 you enter during sign up. You get some extra points, as do I if you use my referral code.

I will make a note here that the Army travel payment we received earlier this month actually needed to cover another charge on my husband's government travel card in the amount of $81.80. So instead of having $292.05 go to us the amount is actually $210.25. Still pleased to have received these funds that we can put towards our goals.

Has your spending been low or high for the month of July?

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.

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

Snowflakes and More About Things that Save Money

May 31st, 2019 at 06:11 am

First, I sold a soundbar and subwoofer yesterday for $100. And I received $3 from Pinecone for a recent survey. I need to get it redeemed to my Paypal account. I have other items on eBay that I hope will sell soon.

I purchase the How to Save on Groceries e-course from Living on A Dime this morning with the last money in our budget. (We have money, but all that's left is allocated to future expenses or savings). It's on sale for $12.50 through today. I think they are eventually raising the prices much higher than the regular $25 later this summer. I probably know quite a bit of what they talk about, but I may have forgotten and let my habits change over the years. I'm hoping I can share some of it with my oldest daughter who is starting to watch her own grocery costs!

I watched another YouTuber this morning that talked about items that you purchased or invested in that save you money. This is somewhat related to not using disposables, but yet includes so much more. The programmable thermostat is an excellent example of controlling energy usage and usually saves people money. We do not have one in our rental, but I wish we did.

The one item that came to mind while watching the video is that I'm sure I have 'made' money with my sewing machine. I know I have made things that would have cost more at the store, as well as gifts for others. Now sewing something isn't always frugal depending on your time and the cost of the fabric. It's officially a hobby. Over a year ago I made probably 16 fabric key fobs for a neighbor to give as gifts. I charged her $7 or $8 each! I definitely made money on these as they are quick to put together and the fabric needs of a small item are minimal.

What items have you invested in that save you money in the long term?