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Christmas Savings Flashback

September 5th, 2019 at 02:54 pm

I'm suddenly inspired to think about Christmas! Maybe that's because I just made our airline reservations to go see our girls for Thanksgiving!

I have been having ideas come to me for gifts to give various people. I have not been writing them down! I need to find my Christmas planner, so I can keep everything in one place.

I just sent both daughter's an email saying I will take Christmas ideas whenever they have them. My oldest responded with a pretty long list!! Some of which she had already mentioned, but I had forgotten. Good thing I asked again.

I'm not sure how quick my other daughter will respond. I think she was a bit disappointed in her gifts last year even though I bought what she asked for. I think she was expecting more. Not sure why that was, but it made me a little sad that she was sad. I'm not saying I will go overboard, but maybe I can find some clearance filler items that might help. I don't know! Parents do want to please their kids.

Remember years ago when I accumulated snowflakes (extra non income money) to specifically pay for Christmas? I saw one post in December 2012 where I accumulated $1,700!! I spent $900 on Christmas and sent the remainder to the truck loan we had at the time.

I'm close to another $25 redemption threshold on Swagbucks. I really only do a few things a day, so it's slow, which I'm fine with since I have other things to do! Usually, I send this money to our Big Goal now and simply save up for Christmas. I guess since I'm excited about it my goal should be to find great deals and simply come in under budget!

Anyone else thinking ahead for Christmas? Have you purchased any gifts? Did you know there are 110 days until Christmas? Do you have money saved up?

Authorized Users

August 28th, 2019 at 04:38 pm

Just added our daughters to one of our credit cards. I should have done this a couple years ago primarily to get their credit started. We just weren't thinking ahead honestly. It only came to light when we got our daughter a car that she was a ghost as far as credit. No score at all.

And then recently my husband had a situation with his government credit card where he had to enter PIN (at a rental car agency in Florida, who wouldn't or couldn't run it as credit) and he tried but didn't know it. Card locked up and was denied. He used one of our cards. All fine. But our girls ONLY have a debit card. One card each. Yes, they know their PIN, but what if it stops working, gets lost or numerous other scenarios?

So we have ordered them each a card on our Chase Freedom account, to only be used as a back up or if we specifically tell them to use it for a large purchase that we likely would be covering anyway. They are trustworthy, so I have no major concerns.

And all the while, they will get to benefit from our credit scores. I always knew this was an option, just never took to time to do it, nor thought it was entirely necessary.

I told my oldest daughter today I was doing this and she was shocked. Then said, well how does a credit card work? Do you just pay it later? Lol. I definitely need to have a deeper conversation on this with her and her sister.

Travel Perks

August 17th, 2019 at 07:07 am

My husband uses those off site parking lots and shuttles to the airport when he flies for work. We do the same when we fly, at least at this airport, since it is far cheaper. My husband earned enough rewards with this particular lot to get parking for our next trip free! Our cost would have been $54.

I'm thankful I found a cat sitter. She is charging me $30 for this next trip. If I had to put our cat in a kennel, she would be there six nights (we are only gone four, but the hours would require her to be there ahead of us a day and stay an extra day) which would have cost us $90.

We were able to get a discount on our hotel by using military family pricing. Sometimes we use the military rate, but this hotel chain is a bit more strict with requiring that it be official duty. I completely understand that, which I guess is why they have this specific rate. I saved $25 that way, and compared to some other hotels I looked at I could have spent another $50 more. Of course, we could have gone to even lower end chains, but my husband is never pleased with those. So we did get a rate we are happy with.

We will be borrowing either my mother's car or our daughter's car to take our youngest daughter to her school. So this time we have saved the cost of a rental car. That doesn't always work, but it will this time.

Oh, I guess the last thing I will mention is that my husband's latest trip will net us about $100 in excess per diem. He just didn't spend as much on food as they allow and pay for. That's definitely a perk, and I should toss that onto our Big Goal.

Buying New Clothing

May 25th, 2019 at 06:34 am

My youngest daughter is home for the summer! She needed shorts, because it is very hot here. We stopped by JC Penney yesterday where she found two pairs marked on sale for $14.99. I had a $10 off coupon for spending over $25. The final total with tax was $21.82. Very pleased with this amount. She won't be wearing them daily, as she still prefers jeans even in the heat, but at least when we are out for longer periods of time she will be cooler.

I'm going to have to buy new clothes very soon, as I have lost 13 pounds recently, and I am down thirty pounds since a year ago April. My shorts I was wearing yesterday still stay up and feel fine around the waist, but my husband said they look really baggy! I rarely buy clothes, and am a near minimalist when it comes to what I wear, so I won't need to replace a large amount. I am tempted to thrift store shop only because I expect that the size I am now is not where I will stay. I think I will sell some of my old clothes, the jeans and a dress for sure. The rest is probably only worth donating.

Some people keep their large sizes when they lose weight, but I'm almost positive I have found the right thing for me this time where I will be able to maintain. I'm not going to comment on what is working for me until I have reached my goal and maintained for some time. And honestly, weight loss and health are personal, we all have to find what works for us.

Phones, Soda and Gum

May 22nd, 2019 at 12:06 pm

We just purchased new cell phones for my husband and youngest daughter. They have both had major issues with their phones recently, which forced this purchase sooner than expected, but over two years since they were last purchased. They are getting Moto Z3 phones which are $10/month each for 24 months, 0% interest. I do plan to sell their old phones on eBay as is for parts. I should be able to get $40-60 for both of them combined.

My husband has been on a kick recently of buying two sodas and a pack of gum, three to four times a week. This is after he has been home for lunch. The cost each time is just over $4, or $12-16/week. I mentioned buying a six pack or more to keep at work, or even store at home to take with him after lunch. I also mentioned the lower cost of his gum to buy in bulk on Amazon. Today he reported that he bought a six pack of soda and 3 pack of gum and spent just $4. He was very proud of himself for making this change. Of course, I wish he didn't buy soda at all! I will celebrate the win.

The Car Purchase

May 12th, 2019 at 07:44 am

Our trip back to the midwest was to help our oldest daughter move and purchase a used car. We ended up with a 2011 Subaru Forester with just over 100K miles.

We did put $6,000 down on the $11,400 purchase. The rest was financed over three years. The original interest rate at the dealership was 8.49%, which I balked at. They said it was because our daughter had no credit score (which is true). On Tuesday they called and said they found a lower rate of 5.74%! Wow, what a difference. We may still refinance this if we can. It's been years since we financed or bought a car, and honestly, we were a bit rusty with the process. There are probably things we could have done differently, such as check with USAA for a loan, but I remember I looked and dismissed it, but now I don't know why. It is what it is at this point.

We really like the car. Drove fantastic! Super clean engine. Nearly new tires. All wheel drive for winter driving should be helpful too. If it can last as long as the loan that will be a good thing!

The payment will be $133/mo, which once our daughter starts getting paid from her internship, she should be able to pay. She is a bit overwhelmed with the expenses of living on her own and mad that she can't save!! But that is yet to be seen. Hopefully, she will adjust well once she sees the paychecks. I think it's all a bit abstract right now to her. Of course, I will help her through the process.

Her insurance policy is about $450 every six months. We will cover that while she is still in school, which is now another expense we have added to our budget.

Frugal Groceries: Homemade Seasonings

April 30th, 2019 at 09:52 am

I'm going to be going back to basics regarding our grocery bill. I am on a new eating plan, which has lowered our grocery bill and I will talk about that when I have more definitive results to share. However, we are attempting to keep costs in check this summer with our daughter home while supporting our older daughter who will be staying in our college town. She may end up covering most of the expenses since she does have an internship and a very part time job, but until that gets going we have to be prepared to help a bit.

So as I alluded to in the title, I need to tweek my homemade seasonings. We have tacos or fajitas once or twice a week and I have always bought those premade seasoning packets. A quick look at the Budget Bytes website and her recipe for taco seasoning is almost exactly what I pay for a packet. So it may not even work out as a savings, but I will avoid the added preservatives and unnecessary ingredients, which is important to me. I will have to watch for good prices on the
individual prices from now on!

Once I get an idea of what our daughter wants to eat on a regular basis, I'm going to be checking sales ads weekly. I may be able to stock up on some of her staples if they are loss leaders and save over the cost at the commissary. Generally, the commissary saves us 30% over the cost at traditional grocery stores. They do have some sales, but not always things we buy.

Anyway, you may be seeing more posts from me about grocery savings. Please chime and share your best tips for saving on groceries! My first one for anyone to work on is avoiding brand name items. Nearly all the time store brands are less expensive and the taste is the same. If you have never tried the store brand, I suggest it would be worth a side by side taste test to determine if you really can detect a difference. And if there is the difference is the price difference worth it to you? I will admit we need to switch back to store brand shredded cheese...or shred our own cheese if that is more cost effective.

Do you make your own homemade seasonings? Do you buy store brand? Why or why not?

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.

The Government Billed Us

February 22nd, 2019 at 12:21 pm

We finally received a bill from the government. Not many people say that! We were aware of and notified of VA overpayment of tuition benefits in early December because our daughter added then dropped a one hour class last semester. The school was overpaid, and they refunded us some money in October or November. So now the government is asking us for the cash to the tune of $487.

We are going to pay it at the beginning of March. I do have a little problem with the amount. My guess is it is right, but I am just not clear on how they figured the amount of the overpayment. It is not equal to what the school refunded us, which was around $400. I'll probably send an email to the school to see if they can explain. I think getting an answer from them would be faster!

I earned $3 for doing a Pinecone Survey. I found a penny on the ground when I went to the store. I've actually found quite a few coins on my walks here!

I've arranged for our cat to be boarded while we are on a three night trip in March. She will spend five nights at the kennel for a total of $75. They provide food and litter. I wish I didn't have to do board here, but our housing won't let us leave a pet overnight even if someone is watching her. She sleeps a lot anyway, so she will be fine!

It's about time to make flight reservations for our daughter's to come here for their spring breaks. More money out, but we will look forward to seeing them and doing some more exploring of our new town.

I've been watching Living on A Dime on YouTube. I've watched some of their videos before, but it had been awhile. Jill, the mother, has a series on the channel called Penny Pinching Mama, that explains her life when she was first diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and how she lived on $500 a month with two kids in late 1980s. She still only lives on $750 for social security. They are fantastic example of how people really can make it on low income. They don't deny that it's hard, but that it can be done! The are very conservative with what they use. Anyone else seen these ladies on YouTube?