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Some Money Stuff...

February 5th, 2019 at 04:15 pm

Here's some random money related tidbits:

I redeemed 2500 Swagbucks for $25, which has been deposited in my PayPal account. I also did a Pinecone survey, so I expect $3 will be added to PayPal tomorrow. All money will go to the Big Goal.

We have confirmed that an access code my daughter purchased and realized she didn't need will be credited to her bill by February 15. This is after the bill to the University is due, but we were told to just pay the balance minus the expected credit. The cost of that code was $174.21, so not a credit I wanted missed.

I contacted the VA representative at the University to find out why the final 15 days of Post 911 GI Bill benefits had not yet posted to our oldest daughter's account. The response was apparently some missed paperwork. They did a credit to the account with the expected amount, and will adjust when actual payments are received. For now, since the numbers are not firm, I am going to float the payment with funds in our checking account before I take money out of her Educational Savings Account. It seems we may not need to withdraw as much as expected!

I've been working on taxes. My biggest issue is the figuring the actual costs we have had out of pocket for each of our daughter's and which tax credit to take. The software (HR Block) wants me to use the American Opportunity Tax Credit for our oldest daughter, which I was hoping to skip and use next year, yet I'm not sure we'll have much out of pocket costs, so it's probably right to take it now. The software gives me an option on which tax credit to use for our youngest daughter and I was leaning toward the Lifetime Learning credit. You can only claim four years of AOTC, which has to be used before they graduate with their degree. Our oldest daughter is on the five year plan because of her double major. I'll get it all cleared up...I still have more than three months until taxes are due.

Oh, another thing with taxes. The 1098T which colleges use to report qualified expenses and scholarships and grants, is not consistent between the colleges. One daughter's college counts activity fees and the other does not. One includes books, the other does not. Just when I think I have things figured out they change!

We had a part replaced on our truck today. $174.45 after a military discount. I do have money in our car maintenance fund.

We are getting ready to travel to visit the girls in the future, so now I'm researching airline tickets, car rental, and boarding costs.

Lots of money going out, but we have the cash. I am grateful we always seem to make it all work, even when it seems overwhelming.

Army Travel Reimbursement Plus

November 28th, 2018 at 01:23 pm

I was pleasantly surprised to find our travel money from the move deposited into our account on Monday! And it appears to be covered in full! It's seems during many moves each different entitlement comes in as different deposits.

The grand total is pretty grand and exceeds the costs we actually incurred, which I honestly never totaled up. Our second checking account is now $6,915.77 richer!

Our primary costs for moving were carpet repair and cleaning at our rental home. Nearly a week in hotel costs, as well as food on the go, and fuel for the our two vehicles. We did fly one way as part of getting one vehicle here (I'm not an interstate driver), so that little trip was an additional cost and not specifically reimbursable by the government.

Nearly half that total is something called a Dislocation Allowance, which for my husband's rank is $3,753. This simply covers all the extras that are variable because everyone has different costs incurred during a move. It is tax free.

It's a relief to have it. I think I'm saving most of it as I was able to cover nearly all the costs incurred out of our current pay. I do know I dipped into the vacation category and that has not been reimbursed. So at a minimum, I will add to that category and save the remainder in the Big Goal.

I completed my first Pinecone survey in a really long time two days ago and was credited for it this morning. I have no idea why I wasn't getting surveys for over a year or more.

Oh, and we had a really nice trip back to see our girls. Our cat did very well, stressful for her, but she survived and is happy to be back in a familiar place. I still miss the girls so much. I'm trying to figure out how we can establish a home base closer to them to see them more often. I'm sure that is at least a year in the works. But living such a long distance away from both of them is hard on all of us. My husband still has at least five years in the military before retirement. My parents are close to the girls, but I'm starting to see how much older they seem as well. My dad is 70 and mother 68. They are very healthy and active, so no major concern, just awareness of the passage of time. It would be nice to be closer to them as well.

Spending, College & Vacation

July 7th, 2018 at 09:29 am

These next six weeks are bound to be expensive!

We just book three nights at a hotel in the mountains. We are getting the government rate. No points to use because I used them all up on the last trip! Cost is $400.02. We will have gas and food expenses, and possibly a museum entrance or two...but would like to stick to exploring and hiking in the mountains.

I just ordered vitamins, water filter replacement cartridges, and hair products for my oldest daughter. She had this on her list of things she needs to stock up on before school starts. It's still about a month before she leaves, but I went ahead and ordered them and had them mailed to my parents house! They will be there when she arrives and can take to school. I don't want to load up her suitcases too much for the return trip!

We are going out today to find some of the 'lighter items' on her list (clothes primarily). I'm hoping we can get my older daughter's needs taken care of in the next week and then focus on our younger daughter AFTER the trip. It's really overwhelming the things you need to buy to send your child to college. I know the first time I definitely didn't think of everything, and there were extra trips made on the day of move in, and lots of packages sent those first few months. This time, I know even more what is needed, so will do our best to get it all ahead of time!

And I need to make a flight reservation for oldest daughter. I book this one way in the fall and one way in the spring. The rest of us are driving back to the midwest since we expect to have a lot of stuff for our newest college student! Although I think it could be possible to fly, and simply buy everything there on arrival...but it sounds more stressful.

I did use Ebates to get 2.5% cash back on my Ulta order. Here's to at least finding some deals along the way! Smile

Trip Costs & More

June 29th, 2018 at 09:29 am

I entered all of our receipts into YNAB yesterday after returning from our Midwest trip for our daughter's orientation. My husband was going to do some of it before we returned, but I offered to do it so I could get everything categorized correctly! He has a habit of putting the charge on one card into the list of expenses on another card. Ironically, I did that once yesterday myself! A reason to have just one card I guess. Smile

I can tell we spent over $1000 on a rental car ($246), one night in a hotel ($121) and food! There were some college t shirts purchased, a calculator for calculus, and a few personal care items needed. We were in hotels five nights. We used Marriott points for four of them so that was very helpful. We had free breakfast everyday, but because we ate out for lunch and dinner we easily spent $80-100 each day. If it was a more relaxing type of vacation we probably could have grocery shopped and eaten that way, but we really were on the go most of the time.

I had saved money for these trips, so we were not scrounging to find the funds upon our return. The remaining balance in the vacation/travel fund is $649. We may take a short three day trip in July as a family. Those plans have not been made, but the hope would be to make sure these funds do cover that trip. I will need to add more funds soon for August traveling to the colleges. One daughter may fly, and the rest of us drive. Not sure yet, but will need to save for those...along with all the new college student expenses. That part is feeling pretty overwhelming!

It's payday, so I will pay off the cards and start budgeting for July! I would like July to be low in the grocery budget, so I need to put some effort there for some simple but healthy meals. After eating out so much on the trip, I really want lighter meals. What do you like to eat that is light in the summer?

Whirlwind Update

June 19th, 2018 at 08:22 am

It's been a very busy week after having my parents, sister and her two girls visit primarily to see our youngest daughter graduate high school! I'm exhausted this morning after taking them to the airport at 4am. I have had a chance though to process my husband's paycheck, add transactions to YNAB, move money around, and pay off the credit cards.

Just prior to my parents arriving my husband was out of town for work for three days. I haven't yet taken the time to figure out his actual expenses, but we did receive $515.85. Some of that is per diem, and the rest is mileage on the truck he drove. I'm sure he didn't spend that much. That money for now is sitting in our second checking account, and I think I'm just throwing it towards our Big Goal. Smile

I spent $220 on food when guests were here, but my Dad also spent ANOTHER $230 on food and some alcohol. So $450 for 9 people for 7 days. We did eat out for five meals, which was additional money spent. We went to the beach for three nights so most of our time was spent sitting on the beach or at the resort pools. Not a lot you can spend money on...unless you venture out and get towed!

Yep, we parked in an expensive lot for three hours, but came back about thirty minutes early to find our van had been towed. The truck, which we also drove, was still parked. In the end it was a bit our fault. The lot has these machines where you pay and then put the ticket on the dash. My husband started the transaction and at some point I looked down and saw a ticket, so I pulled it and handed it to him. Turns out that was the ticket for the person BEFORE us and that ticket expired two hours before ours would have. They didn't even tow until it had been expired for an hour. The cost to get the van out of the impound lot...$160 CASH. Big mistake on our part to not actually look at the ticket. So embarrassing. But we weren't the only ones that night that were careless, the man at the lot said six other cars were towed that night. A bad chain of events for all of us. We thought about pursuing a refund of some sort, but in the end the security guard, and tow truck driver were only going by the information on the ticket...and they were within their duties to tow based on that information. We are not happy about losing that money, but it is just money and we were determined to continue to have a good time and just let it go.

The good news is that today when I was paying off credit cards I redeemed $71.89 from American Express, and $45.95 from Chase Freedom. I also have three rash guard shirts we didn't end up wearing that still have tags. I will return those for at least another $40 to $50. Money flows out, but it also flows back in.

Oh, and my sister is going to give me about $100 to cover food and gas. She is giving my dad some money as well since she didn't contribute while she was here. She had the cash on her this morning, but we both forgot about during the early rush to get to the airport. She will send a check or send me money by Paypal. That will help the budget, too!

I'm exhausted, but we leave in a few days again to go to our youngest daughter's college orientation. Hotels are covered with points, we already paid the airline tickets, but will have a rental car, food and gas to cover while we are there. I think we can also buy the first semester books after she has enrolled in classes. I still have over $1,500 in our vacation fund. Smile

That's all for now! Stay cool and frugal.

Spent Some of That Vacation Budget

April 6th, 2018 at 07:15 pm

I finally got my rear in gear and made some airline reservations! I booked my daughter's trip home for the summer. We always do this one way since we don't know exactly when she plans to arrive on campus for the fall. This usually works out in our favor with decent one way tickets. This one cost us $155.

Next I booked our tickets to travel back to the last state we lived in. This is where our youngest daughter will go to college in the fall. I don't disclose exactly where we live because my husband is military and has asked me not to. Smile Our daughter has orientation at the end of June for two days. We will leave on a Friday, have a free Saturday, orientation on Sunday and Monday, and then a free day on Tuesday before flying home on Wednesday morning. Our oldest daughter is coming with us in hopes of seeing some old friends. The airline tickets cost us just over $1,600! Now you can see why I needed to be adding to the vacation budget this year!

I will need to book hotels for five nights AND get a rental car. I think at least three of the nights we may book at a hotel with a kitchen, so may just eat in those nights for dinner and have breakfast provided by the hotel. That will help quite a bit. The good news is I have one free night at Marriott as well as points we can redeem. So it appears we may only need to pay for one night out of pocket. I also looked briefly at rental cars. I have some discount options to consider, but guess at least $150-$200.

We may also do a test run of the shuttle my daughter will take to get to and from campus to the airport on her visits home. She will not have a car. We expect a trial run, may help ease any anxiety about the process. This will cost us about $59 for two of us one way. Not exactly frugal, but helpful. We may change our minds on this, but right now seems like a good option.

Vacation Budget Status

April 2nd, 2018 at 11:55 am

I think I mentioned we are likely to need to do some travel this year, primarily to visit our youngest daughter's college for orientation in June and later in the summer to move her in. I also need to buy our older daughter a plane ticket home in May. I should do that any day now. And we are also planning a small trip to the mountains this summer as a family. We will drive, but will need to cover fuel, hotels, food and activities.

I was able to add $500 this pay period to the vacation budget. We now have $3,427.56!

I don't have an exact number we need. I suppose I should start estimating that! It's starting to feel like a lot of hotel nights! We do have some points with Marriott, so will likely use those for some of the nights we need to cover. May need to get creative for other nights to pay the least out of pocket, but within our comfort zone.

I expect to be able to add more money as the weeks go by!

Sinking or Slush Funds

August 22nd, 2017 at 12:16 pm

In our budget discussions this weekend, I explained to my husband that I get overwhelmed with the sinking funds. The fewer I have the better, but lately we seem to have many more that I'm trying to juggle. And my post here, is just to talk about where we are now, not necessarily to fix it, as that is still part of the process we are working on.

The sinking funds that work really well that we have had for quite a long time are for auto insurance, registration, renter's insurance, and Christmas. I recently added birthday's and that one works really well, also.

Some of the one's that aren't as easy for me are: car maintenance and repairs, eye glasses, phones, and college expenses. Now to be fair these are newer categories I have set up in YNAB as a place to hold funds for the above listed expenses.

In the past, before YNAB, we had sinking funds for the auto registration, insurance, and Christmas. The other short term saving money was put into what I called a slush fund. That money was put into a separate savings account. When a bigger expense like eye glasses came up we would dip into it. And this way worked for many, many years.

I know I could still go back and even set this up in YNAB. I just want to be realistic in the knowing how much to put into the slush fund or these newer sinking funds. Because anything above what we need to save for those expenses, I'd really like to go to our Big Goal.

The nice thing about YNAB is that I can look at each category and see what we spent in the last year or year to date. For example last year, we spent $1,900 in car maintenance and repairs. That is an average of $165 a month. So far this year, we are on track to spend more. We have spent so far $1,537 in eight months, which is an average of $192. I think I want to use an average of the two years and start saving that when we get to January. Our vehicles are ten years old, repairs and maintenance are a given in the coming years.

We don't buy cell phones or eye glasses every year (usually) so that one is different. Much harder to figure out a monthly savings. Although again, looking at past expenses, I could probably come up some average over the last two years and save that amount monthly.

And then there is travel expenses and vacation. This includes flying our daughter here to visit and us visiting here. Last year, our Vacation spending was $9,270. More than half of that was for my daughter's trip to Europe. We had a small vacation to Nashville, and a trip back to our home state. This year our spending for travel is already at $2,526, an average of $315 a month.

Again, not really looking for advice, just explaining some of the things we are looking at for cutting, saving and managing better. These are line items in the budget we need to look at closely, if we are going to make progress on our Big Goal.

Tell me a bit about what you do for managing short term expenses such as the ones I described.

Kitchenette and Phone

April 30th, 2017 at 06:38 am

It looks like my husband will have a kitchenette in his room while he is at training this summer. He is on a post with a commissary also, so it looks like he can eat almost as normal while away. I do expect he will eat out a bit more, just because of the change in routine. We will discuss this more before he leaves. Smile

He is going to be near Washington DC, so it may end up being a chance for the girls and I to fly up there (not a fan of interstate driving) and visit. It will depend on his availability on weekends. I will try to save a bit more in the vacation fund in the meantime.

We are about to buy our youngest daughter a new cell phone. Her phone is almost exactly 3 years old, but is acting up. She has been dealing with issues with it for quite a few months now. We want to her to have a reliable phone while she is in Europe. Although we don't really want her to use it for much more than a camera or to play a game on since the cost would be very expensive. We expect to use What's App to communicate with her for free.

We are currently looking at buying an unlocked Motorola G Plus (5th Gen) for $229. The best price seems to be at Best Buy for a new phone. My Dad is a Team National member so I'm going to see if they have any discounts before I buy it.