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)
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Random Money Thoughts

January 21st, 2020 at 03:25 pm

I have not been good at focusing on much of anything lately, including getting a blog post together. So this is all just random.

I paid our youngest daughter's tuition and housing bill. I had saved $500 a month for the last five months to pay the tuition out of pocket. I used her ESA to pay $5700 to pay for room and board. No loans for her yet!

Our oldest daughter's tuition and housing bill is at about $9,294. She is only taking six credits to finish up this May with her two degrees. I have $6,170 in our account towards that and I believe her loan and a couple small scholarships total $3471. So we will have nearly $300 left. I will likely give this to her at graduation to put towards the loans. No point in doing it earlier, as the loans are subsidized interest.

We got a utility refund for being under the average. That was $27.30. This program is likely going away at least in the short term while they do a military housing wide evaluation, due to complaints. I can see the next refund will be larger at $32.11 and appears to be pending now. I save this money towards our Big Goal.

I redeemed credit card rewards recently. Amex $67.30 and Chase Freedom $3.82, and US Bank $13.00. It all adds up!

I earned an Amazon gift card ($25) from Swagbucks since January 1. I earned $506 in gift cards in 2019. Many of which I think I failed to count towards our Big Goal.

I have kept my eye out of for some Christmas cards on clearance and finally found a box of 14 cards by Papyrus for 90% off. I paid just $1.89 at the local exchange store. This is the only Christmas item I was in need of.

This weekend I went to Dollar Tree and bought 9 cards for $6. 8 were 2 for $1. The valentine card my husband picked out for me was $1. This is a win, as he probably would have ended up elsewhere for a card and paid $7! I also bought some of those foil containers with a lid for food. I put a meal in the set of three for a neighbor who is recovering from surgery. Great deal so they won't have to worry about returning dishes.

I did decide to keep YNAB for now. It is a time saver as far as reconciling accounts, and helps me keep good records of our spending and savings. That will be charged to our account today for $75.59. I have looked at other options but will say they don't quite add up to what YNAB can do.

I think I mentioned this once but my husband raise for the year (not the likely upcoming promotion), is going to end up covering our oldest daughters insurance premium. It sort of doesn't feel like a raise when you don't feel like you get to decide what to do with it. But in reality I'm grateful the money came at the right time for the additional expense and didn't have reduce our savings.

It's going to be a busy year. Lots of travel for my husband. Our oldest daughter will graduate in May (with unknown plans after). Will she move elsewhere? What job will she get? She just seems very focused on finishing up. We will travel to her town for graduation. I just made a hotel reservation and probably am lucky I found something at a reasonable price at this late date!

Our youngest has talked about study abroad for this summer, but I'm insistent that any classes she does take must count for her major or minor. So far, we may be striking out. While the experience would be great, it doesn't make sense to pay for a class that doesn't count.

My parents will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary just after Christmas this year. They have talked about wanting to take a trip with my family and my sisters family on a trip. We have said we will definitely go, but we have no idea where or what the trip may cost.

That potential trip has me wanting to sock away more money in 2020! I mentioned before the year end that some are looking to save $2,020 and I'm thinking of adding that to my savings plans to help with this trip. Hopefully in my next blog post I can try to have it flushed out where I will find this money! I think I just have to make it happen like a bill ($2,020/24 pay periods is $84.17 or $168.34 a month).

Thanks for listening to my brain dump! I didn't even mention taxes...I will save that for another time, too.

Looking Back Ten Years: Financial Point Of View

January 15th, 2020 at 08:15 pm

I'll attempt to include a screenshot of my

Text is December 2009 post and Link is https://creditcardfree.savingadvice.com/2009/12/31/the-numbers-of-2009_56168/
December 2009 post, but the run down I posted then was that we contributed $14,147 to retirement, our retirement accounts had increased by $33,219, and the value had exceed $100K for the first time.



We had paid over $10K on a home equity loan, with total debt decreasing by $17K. Not sure our total debt amount, but we may have had a loan on my van and home debt. If I had to guess $160K to $175K in debt.

I also reported paying our daughter's braces in cash along with a trip to Disney World. We were also getting ready for my husband to deploy to the Middle East for the second time.

Ten years later:

Husband is cosigner on a car loan for our daughter which had a balance of $4,959 at the end of December 2019. Otherwise we have zero debt.

We do not own a home and live on a military installation. We pay rent equal to our housing allowance. At this point we have rented since June of 2015.

We have $95,327 in cash (most of it invested in high interest rate CDs.) Part of that, $72,083.93, is cash towards our Big Savings Goal of $200,000.

We saved $21,627.56 in 2019 towards retirement. Our retirement accounts increased $172,287.30 in one year, with an ending balance of $660,822.27.

In 2019 both of our daughters were in college full time for the first time. Tuition bills were paid in full, with our oldest daughter taking out her first loan in the fall for $2,750. No parent loans thus far!

Our 2007 Honda vehicles are still paid off. While they have lots of miles they still run and look fantastic.

In ten years there has been significant progress in retirement and we have mostly stayed out of debt (just a little help for our daughter).

It's fun to look back and I look forward to another ten years of financial progress. It should make for an interesting story!

Back To Empty Nesting

January 10th, 2020 at 03:41 pm

Both of our daughters have taken off for their respective schools. We are empty nesters once again. Amazing to think our oldest will graduate in May. Time to make plans for that and spring break!

I still need to do my ten year look back financially. I didn't forget!

I've thought about some goals, but not ready to write them, nor are they that much different than past years. Just plan to save MORE!

I'm not specifically doing Uber Frugal Month, but trying to be conscious of spending going forward. I did buy some groceries at Target in the last week using the gift cards I bought at 10% discount in December. So there will end up being less spent in the grocery budget.

I did spend some money recently to get items to start growing my own broccoli sprouts. I do like sprouts, but can't find them very often. They are really good for you, so I'm going to grow my own inside in jars. Do you grow anything inside your home that is edible?

Winnings!

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.

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

Christmas Gifts, Dungeons and Dragons, Insurance and More

November 7th, 2019 at 09:00 pm

I've purchased several Christmas gifts this week. I have bought two items each for our daughter's. I also made a photo book for my husband through SnapFish. It is full of pictures of him and our daughter's. I originally planned to do the photo book for Father's Day but I didn't stay motivated and focused. I finally made the effort and got it done. It will be delivered by next Saturday and I paid $27 with shipping.

Our youngest daughter is starting to play Dungeons and Dragons with some new university friends. Does anyone have experience and point me to a book or something that might be helpful as she learns the game? I thought it would make a great Christmas gift.

Our renters and auto insurance payment made it on to our credit card yesterday. I do have the full amount saved, $2,616. I recalculated how much I need to save monthly in order to have enough to pay future bills and the registrations on all three cars and came up with $366. I had increased our savings after we got our daughter's car in May, but didn't quite start it soon enough, so I had to play catch up this last month. I'm primarily posting this for my own record.

With Veteran's Day coming up, the stores are offering all sorts of discounts. Amazon is offering their Prime Membership to military affiliated individuals for $79, which is $40 off the regular price. We actually just renewed in September, but I went ahead and took advantage of the offer. This extends our membership until September 2021.

I think we will do some clothes shopping this weekend for a few needed items we need and want before the holidays. We will attempt to take advantage of some discounts, but at the same time not spend too much money!

A Razor Story

October 22nd, 2019 at 07:50 pm

Over a year ago I found a deal on the razor blades my husband likes. He only started using them in the last six months, and recently mentioned he didn't think they were good. He said he kept cutting himself. Darn, maybe they sell production seconds off in bulk for less?

He had seen those Harry's razors at Target awhile back and seemed intrigued, but was still using up the bad batch of razors. I should clarify the blades worked, but wouldn't last as long before he started cutting himself.

Harry's blades can also be found online and I think I had a MyPoints or Swagbucks deal to try them for free (plus shipping). So they sent a blade, razor handle and small can of shaving gel for about $3 in shipping. He really liked the blades and the handle. We decided to let them send a batch of 8 blades for $16. And because he liked the gel too, we added that to the order for another $6. No shipping costs added this time.

I'm not usually a fan of these subscription services, so we will see how this works in the long run. I thought I'd mention it in case anyone wanted to try Harry's out.

Text is This link and Link is harrys.com/invite/wmjkx7
This link is for $5 off your second box. We also will get $5 off our next box, if you use our link.

What do you buy on subscription service? Do you have a favorite razor blade?

Random Money Updates

March 27th, 2019 at 03:57 pm

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 01:36 pm

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.