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Uber Frugal Month

January 10th, 2019 at 06:09 am

I'm not yet participating in Uber Frugal Month. It's too hard to start it on January 1 when our college daughter's are home. We want to treat them and get them what they need since we won't see them until March.

We will start Saturday afternoon and try to go through mid February! My plan is to focus primarily on eating all the things, or making meals from the pantry. I literally only have three things in the freezer, so my stockpile is not like many people. But I have quite of few things in the pantry and refrigerator that I want to make use of before they go bad. I was very successful at this last year.

My husband is out of town for work next week. I plan to stay home primarily and do things that don't cost me money. I have sewing projects I can do with fabric on hand. I need to make a photo book for my Dad (promised to him in June). I also have a book to read that needs some of my attention.

I may (still undecided) shop for towels this month. I need to replace a set. I think this can be a good time of year to find towels on sale. Oh, and my sister and mother have birthdays at end of January, early February, so I'm pondering gifts that could be considered thoughtful and frugal. I did just redeem Swagbucks for a $25 Amazon gift card, so at least one of them may receive something I can buy from there! I could also redeem MyPoints and give my sister a gift card. I think even $10 or $15 to Starbucks might be welcome!

Good luck to all who are participating and are finding ways to keep costs low in January!

More Interest

January 9th, 2019 at 10:17 am

Thanks to BAWW commenting on my last post, I am now aware of a new CD at Navy Federal Credit Union paying 3.25% for 17 months. I knew there would be some good rates coming up soon!

I'm in the process of transferring money from a couple of different accounts so that we can fund this new CD. One bank will only allow $5,000 transfer per day. I need to move $13,000, so it will take THREE transfers. I'm sure a wire could have been done, but that requires a fee. I'm nearly positive this is a new thing for this bank. A little frustrating.

The most interest we are earning on some of our money is a CD that will come due in March. That CD is earning 2.25%, so this increase of 1% is significant.

Sold Shares

January 8th, 2019 at 02:44 pm

It's that time of year again where college tuition and housing payments will be due soon. Our youngest daughter's school collects super early compared to our older daughter. I will pay hers by January 20, just six days after classes start. My older daughter started classes yesterday and her bill will not come due until February 12! I do appreciate the gap between the due dates.

I placed an order on Friday to sell shares in my youngest daughter's ESA. I mentioned before those shares are still invested in the stock market. I sold at $38.88/share in August and sold these last ones for $31.78. (Side note: I made the sale after the market closed Friday without realizing it. Just not thinking. So I had fingers crossed all weekend the market wouldn't tank on Monday.) We did have a few years where we made purchases of shares far under the latest sale price, so we are doing okay.

We are paying about $1,200 out of pocket for her tuition and books which I will be able to claim in 2019 under the American Opportunity Tax Credit. Total bill due for youngest daughter on January 20 is $6,207.20 after $3,600 in scholarships. Again this is for all fees, housing, and tuition and the books that have been charged so far.

This semester our oldest daughter's bill (without books) is currently at $8,831.26 for tuition, fees and housing. This after $8,000 in scholarships. We should have some small VA benefits left (15 days worth), but not sure what that will equate to. If I had to guess maybe another $1000 off?! Currently those benefits have not posted. We will use cash we have received from the VA for housing during Fall 2018 to pay for this spring. We will use most of her remaining ESA funds to pay the remainder amount of tuition.

So thankful to be able to make these payments with ease and to end another semester without student loans. To date we have covered with savings, current cash or had benefits and scholarships to cover tuition and housing for ten semesters of college.

Should We Max Out Roths?

January 5th, 2019 at 10:54 am

So the contribution limits for Roth IRAs have increased for 2019. The limits have increased for other accounts too, but I'm only discussing Roth IRAs since that is where we put about half of our retirement contributions.

The limit in 2018 was $5,500 per person. The new limit is $6,000. That's a monthly increase of $41.66/mo per person. Or in our case $83.33/mo.

This is the year my husband will turn 50 (late 2019) so he is eligible for the catch up contribution limit which is $7,000 for the year. This additional $1000 would increase our contributions another $83.33/mo.

If we choose to max out that will increase our monthly contributions to $166.66/mo.

As noted in my previous blog post my husband did get a raise. The monthly net increase to his paycheck is $115.49. I originally planned to save this money towards our Big Goal.

Now I could count it as Big Goal money but put it in our Roth IRAs knowing we could redeem some money from them for our downpayment if needed. But it also seems better to keep it all separate.

We've been maximizing our Roth IRAs for quite awhile, but this is just a bigger bump I wasn't really tracking! I have more work to do to figure out the best plan of action. I need to see what the budget can actually absorb.

We should have lower expenses her on base, far less fuel for our vehicles and no utility expenses. But we also have more airline tickets to pay for with two daughters away at college.

Back to the budget...

Are you maximizing your retirement contributions in 2019.

Figured Out 2019 Net Paycheck

January 4th, 2019 at 07:28 am

I used the Paycheck City website yesterday to determine my husband's net paycheck. His base pay has increased by $204.43 per month. The housing allowance (BAH) has also increased by $117 per month. I would be really thrilled about this, but because we live on a military installation, the property management company gets the full increase for housing. This isn't a surprise, but a bit of an annoyance. We are committed here for 12 months, and we are open to looking into other options after that.

All the taxes went up accordingly ($29.90/mo), we added a family vision plan ($36.55/mo), and my husband's retirement plan contribution increased ($22.49/mo). This means of the $204.43 increase the remaining $115.49 is ours to keep when the paycheck is deposited. This will end up being split evenly each pay period, about $57.75 twice per month.

For the last two years I have literally saved my husband's pay increases for the Big Goal. In 2017, the amount was $131. I had that money sent directly from his paycheck to our Navy Federal CU account. In 2018, the amount was $216, which I manually set aside in our checking account toward the goal. Amazingly I remembered each pay period. I can't say I really liked how tedious that was.

So I see it as we have two choices. We can have the full amount transferred from his paycheck automatically OR have the full amount (divided by 2) transferred to one of our savings accounts twice per month. I may go with the latter because that would get the money into our account faster earning interest. I really failed to have any of last years raise earning interest, so that alone will be an approvement.

Next steps...I need to stop the current transfer from my husband's paycheck. As of January 15, I need to set up a transfer of half the amount ($231.50) to one of our savings accounts twice per month. This alone will guarantee $5,556 will be saved towards the Big Goal for 2019.

If you received a raise or had other changes to your paycheck for 2019, have you calculated what you expect your net amount to be? Do you use Paycheckcity or some other calculator? Share in the comments!

2019 Financial Planning Considerations

January 3rd, 2019 at 07:57 am

I have a lot of work to do in the next month to plan for 2019. I thought I'd make myself a list here, so I don't forget anything. Maybe it will help you think of things you need to look at in your budget planning.

Figure out new paycheck amount (I use Paycheckcity.com)

Consider new Roth IRA contribution amounts in budget planning. My husband turns 50 this year, so he qualifies for the catch up limit.

Consider costs we can cut or reduce, specifically auto and renters insurance.

Calculate new sinking fund amounts based on goals. This includes car maintenance, out of pocket tuition expenses, insurance and costs for airline tickets in 2019.

Calculate paycheck withholding based on our expected 2019 tax situation.

Research better interest rates for our cash reserves. We have one CD maturing in March 2019.

Calculate the extra we can continue to send to our Big Goal fund.

Financial planning is a puzzle sometimes! This does stress me out a bit, but I do it every year and the stress and time spent is worth it!

2018 Progress on Our Big Goal

January 2nd, 2019 at 06:48 pm

We have a Big Goal to save $200,000 to buy our next home, or at least a major portion of our next home in about five years time. This post is an accounting of what contributions we made in 2018 and where we are in our goal progress.

We saved all interest towards the Big Goal, $131/month direct deposited from my husband's paycheck, $216 each month that accounted for his 2018 raise, all snowflakes, gift money, military reimbursements for travel including a big one for our move.

I flag contributions in our accounts on YNAB, so I can go in and check mark them and have YNAB total them up for me.

Checking Account One $2,993.99
Checking Account Two $8,985.08
Navy Federal CU $2,154.52
First National Bank $632.16

Those numbers total $14,765.75!

2017 Big Goal Balance $46,836.39
2018 Big Goal Additions $14,765.75
New Big Goal Balance $61,602.14

That means we are now at 30.8% of our 200,000 goal!

In doing this I realized I need to move money from our checking accounts into higher interest earning accounts. I have too much money not earning interest. In fairness, a large amount of that money came fairly recently.

The progress is a bit slower than I would prefer. This year was fantastic, but $6,900 was a travel payment from our move. That makes a big difference! And we won't be moving every year. But we did do better than in 2017. We will keep moving forward. Anything saved will be helpful in the end.

Interest Earned in December (And 2018)

January 1st, 2019 at 07:09 am

I like to post our interest earned each month. I'm sure I forget some months, but I try. In December we earned $118.80 on our interest bearing accounts.

Now to total up ALL the interest.
$582.52 Navy Federal Credit Union
$632.16 First National Bank Omaha Direct
$1.04 USAA Checking
$1,215.72 TOTAL

Wow look at that! Over $100 per month on average. We saved every single penny of our interest. (We usually do.) It's currently going towards are Big Goal.

I'll update the Big Goal progress for 2018 very soon. Since I have money coming in from different sources and in different accounts it takes a little bit to compile it, but I will get it done because I want to know too!

Did you earn interest on your savings this year? How much did you end up with?

Last of the 2018 Snowflakes

December 31st, 2018 at 06:42 pm

I have few final snowflakes to report for 2018. A full tally coming soon!

$100 Christmas gift from my parents
$24.81 Ibotta proceeds
$1.89 Starbucks (Amex reward offer)
$5.00 Hulu (Amex reward offer)
$2.91 Verizon (Amex reward offer)

It's been a good year for snowflakes (extra money)...all have been added to our Big Goal. More about that on the sidebar and an update soon.

Happy New Year, Saving Advice bloggers and readers!

2018 Financial Wins and Fails

December 28th, 2018 at 06:58 pm

If you didn't see my previous post, I've invited all bloggers to write a post titled 2018 Financial Wins and Fails. Join in before the end of the year.

I reread all of my 2018 posts here and I have to say while the year was a whirlwind of change, we actually had a lot of financial wins, many I forgot about!

I'm going to start with the fails.

1) Failed to shop for the best prices. We purchased some big ticket items, computer for our daughter, dorm supplies, tires and college textbooks. The reasons are multiple, but it was such a busy year, I found myself just wanting to get the purchases complete, rather than spending lots of time finding the best price. It's not to say I didn't do some price comparisons, but I didn't dig in deep to make it a priority.

2) I failed to think ahead about getting out of the stock market on my youngest daughter's Educational Savings Account. The market was doing well. We redeemed shares in August and definitely sold high. But now the market has corrected, and the share price while still high for some of the shares we bought, it is low for others. I should have moved the shares to cash in August. I haven't sold at a loss yet, so may not end up being a complete fail. Time will tell.

3) Failed to plan ahead. This is related to both of the above, but I wasn't thinking months in advance about things that would need cash, particularly all the dorm room expenses. I should have thought about that at least at the first of the year. I was able to cash flow the costs as we made purchases, but it would have been less stressful if the money was set aside for something I knew was coming.

The wins definitely outweigh the fails.

1) We ended the year once again with zero student loans! So excited we have been able to continue to cash flow, use saved investments or take advantage of my husband's Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits. Oh, and the girls both got fantastic scholarships that helped as well.

2) Despite lots of spending, we saved a lot this year. We maxed out our Roth IRA contributions, and my husband saved 11% of his basic pay for retirement. We saved $2000 in our daughter's ESA (final contribution). We saved $347/mo automatically from my husband's paycheck. We saved all credit card rewards and interest on our savings. (I'll post more specific numbers later.) We also saved the entire military move reimbursement which was nearly $7K.

3) We cash flowed a computer purchase, new tires, shocks and struts for my van, dorm needs, three trips, and several airline flights. Still completely debt free!

The fails help me see where we can improve in 2019, and the wins remind me what we are doing right and can continue with going forward. Do you review your successes and setbacks at the end of the year?

2018 Financial Wins and Fails Collaboration

December 27th, 2018 at 08:23 am

Hello fellow Saving Advice bloggers!

Many of us are pretty good about writing about our year end in some way or another. I'm going to be writing about our financial wins and fails for 2018 before the end of the year. I'd like you to join me and write a specific blog post about your wins and fails for 2018.

While it's important to review for ourselves, sharing our financial wins and fails helps inspire others. Will you join me? Simply title your post 2018 Financial Wins and Fails, post before the end of the year and invite others to join at the end of your post.

And if you are new or a lurker, we would love for you to join in and post your own financial wins and fails! Goal setting and review is helping in making progress and changes for the year ahead.

We Owe The Government

December 17th, 2018 at 09:41 am

I knew this was coming. My daughter received Post 911 GI Bill benefits for her tuition and fees this year. She originally signed up for 18 credit hours, then added one hour, which then she eventually dropped. Actually, that one extra credit hour may not have been the same class, but tuition wise it is the same.

The VA, who provides this benefit, is a little slow to catch up to the changes. They originally paid benefits for 18 credits in August, which was perfect and what we wanted. But then they were notified of the new hour and sent that extra funds in November, to the tune of $400.87. But now they are up to date with the fact that my daughter dropped that last hour and are telling us we owe them money. Perfectly find and expected.

The amount they indicate we owe is $483.37. The breakdown they provide makes no sense and I can't get the math to work. I'll have my husband make a phone call. It is probably correct, but it annoys me I can't follow how they came up with that number.

They state tuition and fees charged:
19 hours $5,846.75
18 hours $5,575.50
This is a difference of $271.25

But they state total overpayment is $487.37
Tuition and fees overpayment $245.30
Yellow Ribbon Program overpayment $238.07

Yellow Ribbon is a program that pays the overage for out of state tuition. GI Bill pays in state, Yellow Ribbon pays out of state portion (or maybe half, and the university may waive the other half).

The payment the University received in November for the extra credit hour showed up on my daughters bill as two credits.
VA Chapter 33 $203.44
VA Yellow Ribbon $197.87
This is $400.87 and the amount we received from the University as a refund.

I knew this was an overpayment by the VA when we received it and I expected they would be asking for it back. But the amount doesn't match! The amount is MORE than what they appear to have paid the University. In the end I'll probably just pay the whole thing knowing they are probably right. Overall we have received very good benefits and if another $82.50 has to go back to them, it's still been worth it. If I had to guess it may have to do with fees associated with the dropped class...but I still can't figure out the math.

The VA is VERY bad at communicating the financials of these benefits. You can find nothing online. And the statements received are so odd and don't add up.

Thanks for listening! Again at most $82.50 we pay back may not be correct. But maybe it is.