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Archive for August, 2014

Good Credit Card Day

August 28th, 2014 at 09:10 am

Well, I know credit card debt can never really be "good", but I logged into my bank today and found that the balances on my two in-repayment credit cards with them are both below $1000. Yay! (These two are actually on the bottom of my avalanche plan, because they're at a low "hardship" rate, and will actually be paid off in the next six months just with the minimum payments. Still, it's nice to get down to three digits!)

And, they raised the limit on my paid-off-each-month card (by a few thousand dollars) -- which I know in the grand scheme of things just means I have more available credit, but it also lowers my utilization ratio. (We generally have a balance on it that at times gets somewhat near the limit; the new limit means our typical balance will be at around 50% utilization, still a little higher than ideal but much better than 90%.)

I'm also seeing it as meaning they have faith in me, that since I've been good at paying my card they're rewarding me with more credit. Smile (I know the reality is that they're hoping I'll use the additional credit and then be unable to pay it back in full, thus having to pay interest, so that they'll make money -- but I choose to believe otherwise!)

Based on my past habits, of course, that's exactly what would have happened -- I wouldn't be as strict about paying on the card every week, I'd let the balance creep up, and then "suddenly" I'd be unable to pay off the statement balance each month. Which means I need to be extra-vigilant for the next several months -- but recognizing the danger is half way toward avoiding it, right?

52 Week Double Savings Challenge - Met!

August 15th, 2014 at 05:05 pm

I'm early on this but am too excited to wait. Smile I went back through and rounded the Freedom card transactions for January through June and for August (the statement closed yesterday). Doing so got me to (and past) the total for the Double Savings Challenge -- woot!

CVS was $5 Extra Bucks plus Extra Care savings. I bought four chairs for our family garden (it's a decent-sized plot so we have a little sitting area if we want to sit and chat, or sit and reflect if one of us goes on our own), I had planned to pay $9.99 each for them as that was the lowest price I'd found, but then it turned out they were on sale for $6.99 each. Score!

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 34 (started late, now on my week 27)

Kroger Savings - $5.49
Pact - $2.15 Pact
Freedom January - $38.39
Freedom February - $36.53
Freedom March - $40.68
Freedom April - $38.79
Freedom May - $40.33
Freedom June - $42.09
Freedom August - $57.30
Book Review - $25.00
CVS - $6.42
Chairs - $12.00

Total Snowflakes: $345.17
Rounding (to reserve): $0.17

Beginning Balance: $2370
Deposit: $345
Ending Balance: $2715

Reserve: $1.12 + $0.17 = $1.40

This gets me to almost 40% of the Mega challenge, and almost 55% of my 2014 goal of $5,000. If I'm doing my math right (and I may not be) I'm about 57% of the way through the challenge (considering my late start date), so I guess I'm not too far behind. It's all the 'big' numbers to cross off now, though!

Chase Freedom Rewards

August 15th, 2014 at 05:49 am

The Chase Freedom Rewards points came through today. I've estimated that we'll get about $50 per month in rewards; this month was a little higher at $75.91. The 5% category this quarter is gas, and I've had a few 320-mile round-trips this month, so it adds up fast.

Starting Balance: $569.28
Ending Balance: $645.19

Gift Fund
Goal - $500
Balance - $500.00
Remaining - $0.00

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $100.00
Remaining - $0.00

Both goals met, yay! Now I need to add a new line item:

Excess - $45.19

I'm still in theory going to allocate 50% of the rewards to bulk up the gift fund, and 50% toward the Mega Savings Challenge, but I think I may just let it build up until the end of the year and then see where I could use it most. Ideally I won't need it at all and it can roll over to next year's goals. Smile

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

August 13th, 2014 at 10:20 am

I decided to start rounding the Chase Freedom card transactions, since we use that card for everyday purchases (yes, and pay it off monthly); I was rounding the checking account (and will continue to do so) but it gets far less traffic than the Freedom card. The Freedom card statement end date is the 14th, so I'll use that as the "monthly" amount, and do the checking account rounding for the calendar month. I just used June 14-July 14 here; I might go back and add up the previous months, since I do still need a boost to my snowflakes, but I haven't had a chance to do that yet.

S and I went to the movies this weekend, finally. I have a gift card from previous Freedom card rewards, so no cash out of pocket. (Total includes the movie tickets and concessions, plus the upgrade savings I got from the Stubs membership.) CVS savings includes some ExtraBucks and savings via the ExtraCare Card.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 33 (started late, now on my week 25)

Pact: $2.11
DietBet: $34.93
Freedom Rounding: $56.15
Movies: $26.75
CVS Savings: $4.68
Total Snowflakes: $124.62
Rounding (from reserve): $0.38

Beginning Balance: $2245
Deposit: $125
Ending Balance: $2370

Reserve: $1.61 - $0.38 = $1.23

This puts me within $350 of the "double challenge" and just over 1/3 of the Mega challenge. I'm still a little worried about making the full Mega challenge by the end of the year, but then I was looking over my goals and realized I only intended to get to $5,000 savings in 2014, since I started 10 weeks into the year, so that's a little more doable!

Catching Up

August 1st, 2014 at 03:53 pm

The month of July really got away from me. I spent the first half studying for my licensing exam, and the second half recovering from the studying! I'm feeling a little bit back on my feet, finally.

July Look Back / August Look Ahead

The look back/look head is just my way to try to keep myself on track with my saving and spending. I have an Excel spreadsheet I love for tracking my debt paydown but it doesn't translate well to saving and spending; I find I'm more about words than numbers for those areas.

July was a good month overall, our family garden is growing (slowly, but much better than last year), and I passed my exam (phew!) - on the first try.

I did end up having the faucet/knobs (controls? handles?) in my shower replaced, as well as many of the pipes, due to major leaking, to the tune of $850 (ouch!). There are some 'good' things about it, though; first, I found the access panel in the linen closet, which at first they didn't think was there, so it cost about $2,000 less than they originally anticipated. (They had quoted the job about a year ago, when we had them do a temporary fix to some minor leaking, knowing it would have to be replaced in the not-so-distant future.) Also, we've been setting aside money for general household updates (rental and personal), some of which are optional, so I was able to cash-flow the expense and will replace the funds over the next few months. Finally, without the leaking (it was leaking into the tub for a long time, until it finally started leaking out of the tub and into the basement) we'll be saving water -- how much remains to be seen, but I've definitely noticed a difference in both water pressure and how long the hot water lasts.

On the debt front, I paid off $2,548 in debt in July, paid out $760 in interest (nice to see that number drop below $800!), and put $160 extra to my current avalanche debt.

I have a second licensing exam at the end of this month, and if I pass that I'll be able to complete my license. It's not supposed to be as difficult as the exam I took in July (though still a challenge); the bonus there is that a few areas I studied for the July exam are topics that will be on the August exam.

It's S's birthday this month and while he claims he doesn't like birthdays, I was already instructed to get tickets to a play for that night. (His birthday is on a Saturday, conveniently.) There's a restaurant we've been wanting to try not too far from the theater, so we'll go there for dinner - expensive, but S got a good bonus this month so we'll use part of that.

Property taxes on our home are due at the end of the month -- that will be a big chunk out of the savings account balance, but of course the reason we have so much in the savings account is because we set it aside for the taxes. (Taxes on the rental are due at the end of September; another chunk out of savings, but half as much as the August bill. It's nice to actually have the money in the bank, though -- too many years we didn't plan ahead and had to borrow or use credit cards (or one year just not pay them for a few months until a big bonus came through).

Other than that, I don't see much going on in August. My niece starts kindergarten at the end of the month (or maybe the beginning of September, they recently changed the laws about the first day of school and I don't remember on which side of Labor Day it landed.) I picked up a cute little "Frozen" nail polish set with a tin to keep them in (she's all about both "Frozen" and nail polish these days) at the Five Below (it was $5). I'll probably tell my sister to give it to her if she's a good girl on the first day of school. (Or, on whatever day she gets a good report if the first day is a bust! She's usually pretty good, honestly, but it's a new school so who knows how that will affect her.)

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 30 [started late, now on my week 24]

Obviously these cover several weeks, but I'm just lumping them all together rather than doing multiple updates. The refund was for some concert tickets S bought, he ended up getting a different package so they refunded the original. The gift card was for Barnes & Noble -- I got two books, "S" by J.J. Abrams, and then I spent $3.99 on a biography of Warren Buffett to get free shipping (which would otherwise have been $3.99). The refund for my physical therapy co-pay, that I paid and then the insurance ended up paying the whole thing, finally came through. I had $10.29 in "keep the change" rounding on the checking account. (Next month I might try it on the Freedom card activity -- we use that a heck of a lot more!) The dinner refund is money my mom gave me for her birthday dinner (I cooked for her); I had intended to pay the whole thing but my sister and I took her out for lunch twice during her birthday week, so she insisted on paying for the dinner. Interest is in the ING/Capital One account, which is where the 52-Week Challenge money goes.

Pact: $2.18
Pact: $1.95
Refund: $52.00
Book Review: $15.01
Book Review: $25.00
Gift Card: $25.00
Rounding: $10.29
Pact: $1.40
Pact: $1.88
Insurance Refund: $203.00
Dinner Refund: $50.00
Interest: $1.06
Total Snowflakes: $388.76
Rounding (from reserve): $1.24

Beginning Balance: $1855
Deposit: $390
Ending Balance: $2245

Reserve: $2.85 - $1.24 = $1.61

This puts me within $500 of the "double challenge" (I finished the single challenge a while ago), and almost at 1/3 of the Mega challenge.