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Tax Refund Arrives Tomorrow

March 5th, 2019 at 07:58 am

Tax refund is pending in our second checking account right now. Somewhere I saw that it would arrive March 12. It's arrival is about a week sooner than I expected.

I really, really want to add this to the Big Goal. And I probably can, but then just back it out later if needed.

Another part of me thinks I should put it towards college tuition expenses since the refund can be directly attributed to taking the American Opportunity Tax credit.

I also know that I could send it various places too.

I think I'm conflicted about where to allocate it because of some bigger outflows happening right now. Spent over $800 on plane tickets for our daughters to come home for spring break. We need to pay the VA for the overpayment they sent the University (and University sent to us). I think there is something else too.

Once I work through my emotions and review our budget in YNAB a bit more, I think I can eventually make a decision. It's been several years since we had a refund and I wasn't expecting one...so I wasn't making plans on what to do with it!

I'll be back to let you know once I decide for sure!

February Big Goal Progress

March 2nd, 2019 at 06:23 am

In January, I wrote that I would try to update our Big Goal progress each month. I nearly forgot until I went looking for our interest earned in January because I needed it for my previous post. We'll see if I can remember all year long!

$350.00 ($175 from each paycheck, two per month)
_$66.71 American Express CC Rewards
_$48.94 Discover Cash Back
_$51.06 FNBO Interest Earned
$113.87 NFCU Interest Earned
__$0.01 USAA Interest
__$5.00 Class Action Rebate
_$25.00 Swagbucks
__$6.00 Pinecone Surveys
$200.00 Fuel Savings*

_$866.59 February Big Goal Total
$1,576.04 2019 YTD

$62,311.59 Previous Big Goal Balance
$63,178.18 New Big Goal Balance

31.59% of $200,000 Goal

*I'm calling this fuel savings as we are not using nearly as much fuel in our vehicles while living on base. In our last place we could easily have spent $200 more per month.

February Interest Earned

March 2nd, 2019 at 05:56 am

February was the first full month that our 3.25% CD was in effect. The interest earned is reflected in the total.

FNBO $51.06
NFCU $113.87
Total $164.93

To compare, in January we earned $147.20. Higher interest rates do make a difference!

All interest earned is added to our Big Goal.

A Higher Interest Rate

February 24th, 2019 at 07:03 am

When you are a saver you cheer when your interest rate goes up! Some of our savings was earning 2.10% and is now going up to 2.25%. It seems like a small difference, but I have enjoyed seeing the rates rise a little at a time after years of very low interest.

I was also notified of a CD maturing in March. This money will go to savings initially, but I think we will end up adding it to another certificate currently earning 3.25% until June of 2020.

Have you noticed the market has bounced back quite a bit since the drop in December? The S&P 500 is up over 11% for the year so far.

What is the highest interest you are earning on your savings?

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?

Dreaming Big

February 14th, 2019 at 09:40 am

I've mentioned before that we are living on a military installation for the first time ever. One of the pros this time around was how much we would save on fuel for our vehicles with his commute being 4 minutes rather than 40 minutes. I'm trying to convince him to ride his bike to work, but so far a no go! He would rather buy a motorcycle if he was going to do that. Ha, ha,

We expect to save at least $200 a month. I'm still testing it. I'm purposely not budgeting $200 each pay period to see if that money is really extra due to the fuel savings. So far things seem promising, but this time of year tends to be low in all costs for us, so it's not entirely clear. And yes, $200 per pay period is $400 a month, which would be the higher end of fuel costs.

I guess I find it a bit of a game by holding that money out of the budget, not categorizing it in YNAB. Not sure it make sense to anyone but me.

I received a $5 settlement from some class action lawsuit, Olive oil I think. I like getting those in the mail. Always a surprise when they come to fruition! I've funneled that to our Big Goal, since small amounts add up.

"Believe in love. Believe in magic. Hell, believe in Santa Clause. Believe in others. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. If you don't, who will?" - Jon Bon Jovi

Yes, I'm a big fan of Bon Jovi...probably tells you when I grew up. Fault me, I'm living on a prayer!

January Big Goal Additions

February 2nd, 2019 at 07:15 am

I'm going to try to post about the amount we added to our Big Goal each month, with a year to date total as well. This will help me a year end know the final tally. I do a pretty good job in YNAB marking what we add, but this will help reinforce and be a backup to that information.

$108.00 1/1 paycheck
$175.00 1/15 paycheck
_$10.00 2 Hulu $5 credit offers Amex
__$1.89 Starbucks Amex offer
__$2.91 Cell phone bill Amex offer
_$50.90 Amex Rewards
_$81.13 NFCU Interest
_$66.07 FNBO Direct Interest
__$0.06 USAA Interest
$213.50 Extra contribution

$709.45 January Total Big Goal
$709.45 2019 YTD

$61,602.14 Previous Big Goal Balance
$62,311.59 New Big Goal Balance

31.15% of $200,000 Goal

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take"

January Interest Earned and Savings

February 1st, 2019 at 07:33 am

In January we earned a nice amount of interest on our savings. We always save all interest, even when we were paying on debt. Although back then our interest earned was piddly!

$66.07 FNBO Direct
$81.13 Navy Federal CU
$147.20 Total interest earned

In December our total was $118.73. We have increased our monthly interest by $28.47 because we moved a large amount of cash from one bank earning 2.15% to a CD at the other bank earning 3.2%. At about $150/month, we are on schedule to save $1,800 in interest this year.

We did a great job with extra savings this month. We only spent $31 on fuel for our vehicles. I think we both need to fill up soon! We saved toward the Big Goal as planned, but also since we were under budget we have added $545.05 to our emergency fund.

I've decided for 2019, continue the Big Goal saving with $350 a month ($175 each paycheck), add in credit card rewards and other snowflake money and interest earned. Any extra we save is going to our emergency fund. I think there are some expense we will incur in 2019 that are hard to anticipate the amount, so any extra cash saved will be helpful. I'd rather money from those come from what we have stashed and marked as EF money, than from our BIg Goal money.

Here's to a great year of saving!

Another Money Saving Tip

January 29th, 2019 at 01:31 pm

I thought of another of my money saving tips! And I'm sure one of you mentioned this or something similar, but from personal experience it is one of my top tips. DIY, do it yourself!

I have replaced a disposal, installed ceiling fans, painted walls and ceilings, replaced toilet parts, replaced water pump on dishwasher, learned how to replace the air filters on our Honda (tricky, secretive spot), repaired a dryer (had DH's help) and replaced a tablet screen. When we owned our home we also did our own fertilizing and lawn mowing.

With the invention of YouTube it really is possible to troubleshoot issues in order to repair something. And parts can be bought online and shipped to you if not found locally.

Now I'm not saying everyone should repair everything themselves every time. Some of us know what our limitations and abilities are. Professionals are important and helpful. However, it doesn't hurt to at least try or inquire what it would take to fix something before automatically calling/hiring a professional or buying something new. First consider if you could do it yourself for less than the cost of the alternatives.

We don't do our own oil changes, or vehicle repairs (usually) for example as we don't feel that we have the ability nor do we want to cause more damage. And that is a factor that should always be considered when deciding whether to pursue a DIY project.

Do you consider DIY one of your money saving tips? What project have you taken on that most would not?

My Top Money Saving Tips

January 28th, 2019 at 09:45 am

The underlying assumption for saving anything at all is that you must live beneath your means; spend less than you have in after tax income.

Here are my (our) top money saving tips in no particular order:

1) Know how to do your own taxes. You don't actually have to do them yourself, but it's important to know how taxes are figured in order to know what deductions and credits you might qualify for that could lower your tax liability. The less you send the government, the more money that stays in your pocket to save. This also goes hand in hand with understanding how to figure your withholding for your paycheck so that don't send more to the government each month resulting in a large refund. That was your money all year long and you could have been saving it!

2) Understand how compound interest works. Know how it can earn you money on your savings and how it can cost you money on your debt. No one wants to pay more for things, yet keeping debt, particularly on a credit card is very costly. It's probably the number one reason we haven't ever paid interest on a credit card, because I know how it works and I don't want to pay more!

3) Evaluate all ongoing purchases. This can be anything from your mortgage payment (rent) to, a regular service such as a manicure or hair coloring to a magazine subscription. I actually think it's good to think about this before you commit to the purchase. Often we think it's only $X (say $30), but $30 every month is $360 of your income for the year. Is that valuable to continue to spend or more valuable to give up and save?

4) Eat at home. We eat out occasionally and more often when traveling, but our general plan for eating is to buy groceries, and make our meals to eat at home. Our daughter's took their lunch to school EVERY day the entire time they attended public school. My husband also takes his lunch to work everyday, although now he is just four minutes down the road, so he comes home for lunch!

5) Eliminate the consumable products and reuse. Our culture is full of things that we use once and throw away and then feel the need to buy again because we ran out. Many of these items have a reusable option that works just as well. A few examples are: cloth napkins, menstrual products and diapers, cleaning sprays and rags vs wipes, plates vs paper plates. Be on the lookout for reusable options, that yes are a small investment initially, but will save money in time.

6) Research the big expenses. The purchase of a home, the costs of the taxes and insurance involved, the purchase of a vehicle, construction work, and even appliances. This doesn't mean you will always get the best deal, but you are going to have more information in making a good decision if you research before you buy and give yourself as much time as possible to do so.

7) Watch the small expenses. No one gets rich only by using coupons at the store, however, they are part of the bigger picture of evaluating the cost of items and paying the lowest cost possible. So yes, use coupons, but only if you need that item, want that particular brand or would be buying that item anyway. But also, compare prices on the shelves or between stores. Pick up the nickel on the street. Change banks, if they are offering a lower rate on debt or a higher rate on savings. Lower your thermostat in the winter and increase it in the summer. Combine trips to save on fuel.

8) Have a goal and automate if possible. If you don't even know what your goal is for saving it's hard to reach where you want to go. Having a goal to strive for with saving and continually working towards it helps motivate you and set your mind towards how to reach the goal. It's even better if the goal can be automated, such as contributions to your retirement plan or sending money each pay period to your savings account.

9) Watch lifestyle expenses. Our culture is one of consumerism. Companies are marketing to us constantly to buy their product, often with the idea that we will feel better if we buy their product. So we have people who shop to buy the next decor item, the trendy new clothing styles, technology or beauty treatment. Almost all of it was completely unnecessary and only a want, not a need. Those new subscription boxes for make at home meals and pet treats are easily part of the lifestyle creep I'm thinking of that can cost us a lot of money over time. I'm not saying you can't have any of it, just that each one of those new types of items adds up and can keep you from saving as much as possible.

10) Look for the snowflakes! You know I had to mention this one. Keep an eye out for money coming in that isn't income. It could be a cash birthday gift, a rebate, or cash from something you sold. Those small amounts of money, if saved can add up! Keep your eyes peeled for that money or ways to make snowflake money appear and save it! (Snowflakes come from debt snowball method. The debt payment amount snowball's as you pay off more and more debt. Snowflakes originally were coined as a small amounts of found money to add to the debt snowball payment for a particular month)

There you have it my money saving tips. It's not to late to participate and list your tips. (Try to post by month end).

Stamp Prices Increasing and Other Things

January 25th, 2019 at 02:58 pm

Did you know stamp prices are increasing? As of this Sunday, the price of a first class stamp will cost $0.55, which is a 10% increase. Some other package pricing has also increased. Sometime last week I went over to the local credit union and picked up stamps from their ATM. I purchased two sets of 18 stamps for $18.00. I don't send a lot of mail, and likely won't use all 36 before the year is out, but I would expect yearly increases to be common in the foreseeable future.

I earned a reward through Verizon for our cell phone bill. I picked an $8 Amazon movie credit. We plan to watch Robert Redford's latest (and I think last) movie The Old Man and the Gun, which is based on a true story. The cost of the movie is less than the credit, so we'll have some to put towards a future movie.

Hulu has increased their prices. You may have heard the opposite that the lowered prices to be competitive with Netflix. They did on their lower subscription plans, but on their live tv version they increased it. Instead of $39.99/mo, the new price will be $44.99. Every increase in prices makes me want to evaluate if we need to continue the service, or if we need to adjust. I will need to discuss with my husband. We primarily got it so we could watch our college football teams live. That season is over for now. I think our new location may have better options for over the air reception. I've seen a few people that seem to have those type of antennas in their window. We can always get the live subscription again for football season. I'll try to remember to update you on our decision.

My husband commented last night that he hasn't added fuel to his truck in quite awhile. We last purchased fuel on 12/28 for $35.17 and on 1/4 $25.22. I still have almost half a tank in my van. Not sure what he has, but his commute is 4 minutes from our home on base. We expect that unless we are traveling our fuel costs are going to be significantly less living in our new location. In December for example, our costs for fuel were $117.50. We did travel around the our new city with our girls when they were home, so it's very likely this is still slightly inflated. For reference in December 2017, we spent $295 on fuel, yes higher prices, but much more driving.

I finished the photo book for my Dad earlier this week. I used Snapfish and was able to get $30 off the book. With shipping I spent $23.61 for an 8x11 Hardcover book. It was really fun to put together. It's all pictures of him, many with his daughters (my sister and I with our husbands), my mother, and grandchildren. It is not all inclusive, as I only had a few from our childhood, but quite a few with my girls and some recent vacations. This was a gift I wanted to put together around Memorial Day when he and my mother visited for my youngest daughter's graduation. It was to be a combined birthday and father's day gift. At the time, I was able to compile some printed photos (maybe 15 or so) into a $1 plastic album, but promised I would make a book. With summer, moving our youngest to her college, our move and then the holidays I just wasn't able to keep my focus to get it done until now.

I had planned to do some sewing last week, but the photo project took most of my time. And once I had the book done, I wasn't in the mood for sewing. I have spent time this week going through paper piles. The move caused an accumulation that needed to be reviewed. When I went to go file some of those today, I found a folder with receipts and manuals. I quickly went through it and found about 25 items that could be tossed because we sold the items prior to our move! This paper progress has helped me to get a bit more organized to file taxes this year.

Oh, another positive financially was receiving notification from a company that an item I bought in December wasn't truly organic and not up to their standards. They shipped me a new bottle with organic certification, a $60 value! I hadn't yet decided if I would reorder when the time came, but this give me longer to try the product to make a decision.

Stay warm and frugal this weekend!

Collaboration Call: Your Money Saving Tips!

January 20th, 2019 at 04:41 pm

It's time for another collaboration fellow bloggers!

Let's list our money saving tips! YouTube currently has vloggers listing their top ten money saving tips. I won't hold you to ten, but let's see what we can come up with to share with our readers!

Please post before the end of January and title your post, My Top Money Saving Tips. Thanks for participating!