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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.

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!

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!

Scholarships!

May 12th, 2019 at 08:12 am

Our oldest daughter was awarded some more scholarship money. Two scholarships, one worth $550 and another worth $950, for a total of $1500. The school will divide the money equally between the two semesters, so $750 off the total bill each semester.

The interesting thing is that she is getting these scholarships through a foundation that she now has an internship with. She needs to send her thank you notes to the same place she now works. I'm positive that her internship and the scholarships are not related, but just kind of neat to know she is benefitting two ways from this organization.

Always grateful for assistance with college expenses!

A New High And Budget Adjustments

April 28th, 2019 at 09:05 am

Yay! Our retirement accounts have reached a new high as of the closing on Friday afternoon. So grateful we have money increasing in value for retirement! We just keep plugging away adding funds to our account monthly. All of these contributions are set up automatically, so other than recorded them in our check register (which is auto on YNAB), we don't think too much about it. Auto investing is the way to go!

Yesterday's mail was fruitful financially. We received a refund check from our utility service here on base. We have stay at or under the average compared to similar sized homes on base for electrical and water usage. The result is a refund of $55.

The other check in the mail was the proceeds from our oldest daughter's UTMA. I'd have to go back and look at our total investment in that account, but I'm going to guess under $1,000 since the late 90s and early 2000s. The final redemption amount was $3,973.62. This is money going towards her first car. Her car will likely be more than this, but hopefully not by much.

I have two items ending on eBay that are being watched, so two sales possible. They won't make more than a few dollars, but it all adds up, as I have shown over and over again on this blog.

I cut our Hulu Live subscription effective today. It's saving us $45 a month. This is planned for the summer months to offset the need to pay $55 a month for our youngest daughter to store her dorm items this summer. Our older daughter has always stored her items at my parents since she is pretty close. Our youngest is much farther away, so this just made sense logistically. Not exactly how I want to spend money, but we are going to try it this first summer and see how it goes. I think my husband is going to miss Hulu, so this is temporary because we did like it for accessing college football in the fall.

I stopped our youngest daughter's allowance for the summer. She was receiving $125 a month from us. Honestly it far exceeded her needs and expenses. I noticed she seems to buy music and make Go Fund Me donations with it. I love that she is generous. The primary reason to end it for the summer and reevaluate is to help cover rent for our older daughter. Our younger daughter will be home and we can cover anything that comes up with our own budget. We will likely reinstate some form of spending money, but we also know she is starting a part time research job, so she will start accumulating her own spending money, thus less needed from us.

I've also decided to stop funding our car maintenance and repair sinking fund for a few months. We currently have $1000 set aside plus an emergency fund. We have been funding it with $275 a month because we have older cars. We are very current on major repairs and maintenance we we think this will not be an issue short term. We expect to start it back up in August or September. This change is also due to upcoming expenses with our daughter staying in her college town this summer.

I'm doing my best to maintain our current Big Savings Goal progress and monthly contributions, thus the reason for making other adjustments to the budget temporarily. I'm grateful that we have flexibility to make changes to how we spend our money.

Surprise Scholarship!

April 26th, 2019 at 07:34 am

Well, my older daughter DID get a scholarship. She was even surprised by it. It's actually one that she received last year for marching band. They had a Honors and Awards event yesterday, but she didn't go because she didn't know she was getting an award. The year prior they emailed her ahead of time that she was getting an award, so she attended. Oh well, she still gets the money.

Last year it was $600 and ended up being applied to her summer tuition. We expect the same will happen again this year. We are so thankful for all the scholarships we have received for both girls.

I am happy and grateful for all money that flows into our lives!

I'm Getting Clarity

April 21st, 2019 at 05:00 pm

I spent some time thinking through all these college costs coming up and I'm getting some clarity. We have already been notified that we owe my oldest daughter's University $901.25 since we withdrew her VA benefits. They put a hold on her University charge card since it is actually an overdue debt at this point. I will pay that tomorrow. I tried today, but they must have the site down for maintenance.

I will be pulling money out of both daughter's Educational Savings Accounts with in the next month or so, before the mid June tuition bills are due. This IS money we set aside to pay for school, so that is definitely what it should be used for. For my records later, I'm taking out $1560 for DD1 and $1025 for DD2.

In order to get clarity I had to do several calculations, specifically what the expected tuition bills will be for both girls through Spring 2020. I also had to figure how much of those bills we should pay out of pocket for our youngest daughter to qualify for the full American Opportunity Tax credit in 2019. If I take any money out of her ESA that disqualifies those funds as eligible for the tax credit.

Another part of getting clarity was doing a bit of a cash flow scenario, where I can see if we have enough cash available at the time the bills are due. The first time I did it without considering money from their ESA accounts, I was over $3500 short! And I did include loans for my oldest daughter for at least the fall semester.

So in order to not be short the necessary funds, I am withdrawing from their Educational Savings Accounts. I will also use $968 from our tax refund to pay the VA back when they finally do get around to billing us. This will come back out of the Big Savings Goal.

In order to help cover potential costs of my daughter living in an apartment this summer I stopped an allowance to our youngest daughter since she will be home and we can cover any expenses she needs. I am going to stop our Hulu Live subscription for the summer to save $45. I will also stop funding our vehicle maintenance sinking fund for a few months. It currently has just over $1000 in it , and we don't really expect any major expenses and can make it up from our emergency fund, or even the Big Goal Savings, if absolutely needed. I've been adding $275 a month for that. Those changes alone will free up $445 each month to help our oldest daughter. She already receives $125 spending cash from us each month and with her paid internship we don't expect we will need to fully cover all the expenses once she starts getting paid.

I still may need make some changes but I can see more clearly how I can make this work without completely derailing our savings and retirement goals.

Thanks for listening! I do know how blessed we are to have the ability to pay for college and all of our other needs and wants.

Financial Chaos

April 18th, 2019 at 07:47 am

First, I'm not sure how clear I can make this post as there is a lot I'm juggling financially. I 'feel' like we are in financial chaos, but I've been working very hard to turn those thoughts and feelings around. We are coming up on summer and both of our daughter's are taking classes. The combined tuition is over $4,400 plus books. No scholarships or loans available during the summer this time. The easiest thing to do is to withdraw the money in full from the Educational Savings accounts.

But...I know that if I pay out of pocket for our younger daughter that will help me meet the requirements to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax credit for 2019. Spend $4,000 on qualified education expenses, get a $2,500 tax credit. I'd rather use that money to get a discount on taxes than pay our government more in other words.

And...I also know that our oldest daughter no longer has her scholarship for fall (full time) and spring (part time last semester) that has so helped us previously with the out of state tuition. Her ESA is now down to $3,500. Loans have been offered for the next two semesters.

And...our oldest daughter is living in apartment this summer. Here in a couple weeks we going to help her get a car, likely with a majority of the funds coming from her UTMA account and a small loan. This will not be a new car, or even rather that new.

And some news on VA educational benefits. We had planned to transfer some benefits from our youngest daughter to our older daughter for the fall semester since she already used all that we originally allocated to her. We can do this, but if we claim them for fall, they will actually get applied in arrears to this spring when we only used 19 days. The VA even though all parties are good today, goes back to fulfill the obligation in full. While this sounds good, it's not the best scenario for us, as our daughter will have more tuition due in the fall not because of more hours but because her scholarship expired. We have been advised to withdraw the benefits applied to this spring so that we can them claim those 19 days plus the months we transfer to the fall semester. This withdrawal is now creating a debt we will owe to the University and the VA. Specifically we will owe the University $901.15 and the VA $966.43. The University bill will likely be very soon, but the VA will be delayed several months.

Our oldest daughter did get an paid internship for this next year that starts just after school ends. She is also looking for another job to work this summer in addition to the internship. This is good as she will have some funds coming in to help with the car expenses, such as fuel. Because her hours and income are not fully known we are doing our best to support her as she transitions to paying more of her expenses.

I currently have $1,305 in the college category in YNAB. I also have $1650 in our emergency category. We have our tax refund ($1968) that I did put into our Big Savings Goal and really, really don't want to use. I also save $400 a month towards college tuition and expenses. I think I can add more, since we are saving quite a bit of money in fuel living on base.

My struggle is wanting to keep moving towards our own goals, specifically the Big Savings Goal, as well as to avoid taking on debt. Overall, I'm not against debt for the short term, but I've learned to love not having debt. In the end I think having our daughter take on a small car loan and some student loan debt is the best route. We have given a lot to avoid debt at this point and we really don't feel sacrificing our goals is worth keeping her from debt. I think that makes sense, and even if it's not what you would do, I think it's right for us at this time.

This post is long. I'm pretty confident I can get it all to work out it's just taking a lot of effort to think through it all and decide where all the money is coming from. Oh, I realized I didn't exactly touch on where the student loans come from, but basically our oldest daughter is at the end of her Education Savings money, scholarships and Post 911 GI benefits. We expect she will have no more than $7,500 in loans. This is very reasonable debt for a double major don't you think?

Random Money Updates

March 27th, 2019 at 08:57 am

Spring break with the girls was wonderful! We had a good balance of relaxing, which they really needed and getting out to explore some things. We did several free things and had dinner out twice, so we easily spent under $150 for those kinds of things. Our grocery bill went up slightly, but that's to be expected.

I found a quarter out back in the alley when I was talking to a neighbor. I love finding cash on the ground!

I'm working on my next $25 Amazon or Paypal redemption with Swagbucks. I really just try to complete the To Do List on the left hand side of the home page. I try the surveys, but I'm not always successful, so as to not waste any more time, I do skip that one. I think Rose asked in another post about how to do it. I would suggest following Swagbucks Swaggernauts on FB for tips and pointers. There is definitely a learning curve. I have found a free malware extension on my computer helps with the junk that can come from using the site.

We received our $10 Visa rebate card in the mail from NAPA for the battery we purchased a couple months back. I plan to use it out shopping. I will then add $10 cash to the Big Goal.

I've redeemed some credit card cash back rewards and will update with a total for March when I report how much progress we made on our Big Goal this month.

We need to already be thinking about airline tickets for May! We will likely go back to the Midwest to help move our daughter's out and help our oldest daughter buy her first car. She is likely going to be staying back there this summer to take a class and get a job or internship. Lots of activity around here and spending.

I have three items I need to sell. Two should be able to go on eBay and the other should go up on a local sales page. I rarely do eBay any more since my main motivation was usually to sell outgrown clothes and toys. I saw a YouTube video the other day though that reminded me of how it is possible to buy items at garage sales and resell them for more. Something I might try and see if it keeps me interested. Clearly more work than finding items in my house!

Please excuse my random thoughts!

Cash In, Cash Out

March 17th, 2019 at 06:36 am

The tax refund did arrive as expected. It is currently in our savings account marked as Big Goal money!! I decided to act like it didn't exist in some ways. We were never expecting a refund, so spending it didn't exactly seem right. If we need an additional $1900 we can take it from our other savings or cash flow it.

I earned enough Swagbucks to redeem for a $25 Amazon gift card. I used it to buy cabin and engine filters for our two vehicles. Those arrived yesterday.

We learned this past week that the University our older daughter goes to overestimated her VA benefits for the semester. Once they received actual payment, they notified us we owe $595 by April 12. Our plan is to use her ESA to pay this. Her benefits were lower this semester, so this was the plan all along, we just know the amount we need to take out now.

Our girls arrive here today to spend their spring break with us. My husband took the week off, so we can do some more exploring of our new town with them. This likely means some meals out and money spent on entertainment.

I learned recently that American Express waives their annual fees for active duty military. I haven't taken action on that as I think we only have one card of theirs with an annual fee. This may give us an opportunity to use some of their other cards with higher annual fees and better benefits. I have more looking to do on this. Anyone have experience with this? If so which card do you use? Yes, we use credit cards, but do not carry a balance, nor pay any interest. Credit cards a financial tool that can be beneficial if used wisely.