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Archive for November, 2014

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Elitism

November 30th, 2014 at 02:06 am

I had a long post written, spurred by an incredibly elitist comment on a blog here (though honestly I don't know why it surprised me), but of course I took too long for the software to deal with it and for whatever reason my Lazarus add-on for Firefox got uninstalled, so I can't recover it. Probably for the best, it was fairly pointless and rambling. Wink

We postponed Thanksgiving due to illness -- my sister and my husband. Since our celebration is only five people (one of whom is sis's 5-year-old daughter) we figured it was better to reschedule than have a big meal for two people. (We live within 15 minutes of each other so it's not difficult to get together.) We'll have our dinner next Sunday instead. Thankfully we figured it all out before anyone did major prep work for Thursday's meal!

I broke my self-imposed rule and left the house on Black Friday. Since the news was reporting expected and actual smaller-than-usual crowds, I figured I'd check out the parking lot and see how things looked. Honestly it was no busier than a normal weekend. I went to Kohl's, since I needed jeans and winter boots and I had a $10 coupon plus 15% discount. I got the jeans on sale, a few tops on either a 55-60% off sale or clearance, and found some boots for $25, marked down from $80. (I only really walk from my car to the office and back, so I don't need heavy-duty winter boots, just something other than heels.) I also got a new set of microfiber sheets; we bought some last year and they're like sleeping on a cloud. They haven't pilled up too badly, either. I usually like to have two sets of any 'type' of sheets, so that I can put one on the bed while the other is on the laundry, but these are $120 regularly and I won't pay half that for sheets. They were on sale Friday for $30 -- major score. Overall I spent $110 -- so got $30 Kohl's cash back -- and saved $290. (My typical Kohl's goal is to save at least twice what I spend, so I'm happy.) S needs some new business-dress pants (he ended up heading down to see family early Friday morning, as he was feeling better) so we'll use the $30 for that next week.

(Still a little pointless and rambling, but far less so! Wink )

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

November 17th, 2014 at 08:28 am

Snowflakes are still coming a little more slowly than I'd like, but I suppose that's not too unexpected with the holidays coming up and my free time becoming more limited. I had one side gig done, rounding on the Chase Freedom card, and the reimbursement from S's work for our Internet service. I also got a very small check from the HELOC I refinanced quite some time ago -- I either never got or forgot to deposit the first one, so they re-sent it.


52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 46 (started late, now on my week 38)

Snowflakes
Freedom Card Rounding - $29.84
Reimbursement - $22.48
HELOC - $2.61
Side Gig - $155.00

Total Snowflakes: $209.93
Rounding (from reserve): $0.07

Beginning Balance: $4500
Deposit: $210
Ending Balance: $4710

Reserve: $3.41 - $0.07 = $3.34

This puts me at 68% of the Mega challenge, and at 94% of my 2014 goal of $5,000. (Last time I mistakenly said I was at 95% of that goal; I meant 90%!)

Chase Freedom Rewards

November 15th, 2014 at 09:18 am

Another round of Chase Freedom Rewards points. I've estimated about $50 per month in rewards, and this month was fairly short at $29.05. This is the first time it's been that far off, so I think my average is still OK. I also had a $500 credit so lost $5 from that. This quarter's 5% categories aren't places where I generally shop, so I haven't been able to take advantage of those.

Starting Balance: $756.76
Ending Balance: $785.81

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

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

Excess
Beginning Balance: $156.76
Current Rewards: $29.05
Ending Balance: $185.81

At this point I'm just going to let the excess build up, and then see where/if I need it at the end of the year (gifts, 52 Week Challenge, etc.)

October Look Back / November Look Ahead

November 3rd, 2014 at 08:52 am

The look back/look ahead 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.

October
October ended up being a big "financial" month, mostly because I spent the vast majority of the month looking at our finances and budget and debt and all that fun stuff. I don't keep to a "budget", per se. I know how much is going to come in each month (aside from snowflakes) and how much has to go out, and I keep up with that every few days (kind of like balancing a checkbook, but I do it in Excel). Most of our daily expenses go on the Freedom card, which we pay off before interest hits, and there's a lot of flex there. Our October Freedom spending was way out of control, though, about $2K more than usual. (Some of that was the $586 medical bill I ranted about a while back, and another $500 ended up being refunded, but still, we spent a lot more than I expected.)

So I got it into my head to go back through the last year and total up all of our transactions, in broad categories, and see just how were were doing in general. I had myself quite freaked out for a while, too, because any way I looked at it (last three months, last six months, last 12 months) it averaged out that we were spending $3,500 more per month than we brought in. (Which on the one hand wouldn't surprise me, sometimes, but I just couldn't imagine how that could be possible when we still had money leftover almost every paycheck. It's just not sustainable, right?) It was, of course, a bonehead error on my part; we've done some debt consolidation and 0% balance transfer checks over the last year, and I deleted the loan/check deposits from our income -- but I'd forgotten to delete the corresponding card payoffs from the expenses. Oops!

Once I fixed that things look a lot better, although still tighter than I would have thought. (I suspect that's because of the averaging, though; we had some big expenses at the beginning of the year, but some big paychecks to cover them.) There's a lot we can trim, though -- we spend an obscene amount on eating out, I found, and most of it is lunches. S is on the road a lot for work so there's not much to do there, but I almost never bring a lunch to work. That would probably save $100/month, easily, so that will be my focus for November. (We rarely have leftovers from dinner, but I may start tweaking recipes when it's possible so that we do. My biggest problem is I'm always running late in the mornings, so packing a lunch is usually not on the agenda. Leftovers I can pack up the night before and just grab and go.)

Debt-wise, I paid off $2,373 in debt in October, paid out $935 in interest, and put $230 extra to my current avalanche debt.

November
We ended up doing another debt consolidation, the loan closed on October 31 so this weekend I made all the payoff payments. (I told S to check out the account online after the loan principal hit, because our balance probably won't be that high again for at least a decade! Kind of scary, though, to see the balance drop by several thousands of dollars overnight, even though I was expecting it.) This doesn't really affect my payoff time, which is about two years out, but will save about $3,800 in interest. I also took the $500 refund we got and paid off one of my lower-interest cards. It was due to be paid off in February, so I really didn't save much in interest, but the monthly payment was $133 so now I have that much more to put toward the other debt.

We finally gave in and turned on the heat Saturday night. I usually struggle to make it to October 1 before I get too cold, but we had so many 70-degree days in October this year I just couldn't justify turning it on for the 2-3 50-degree days in between. (Plus we have very warm snuggly bedding, and if I'm sitting on the couch I have a triple-layer fleece blanket plus any number of warm and toasty critters on my lap.) We had snow on Halloween night, though, and driving home from dinner at my mom's on Saturday is was I think 29 degrees, so we figured it was time!

Not much else going on for November. My niece turns 5 at the end of the month; my sister has asked that some of her "presents" be money, since they are going to start her on a "budget" plan (allocating for spending, saving, giving, etc.). She's having a party for the first time this year (she started kindergarten so it's with the kids in her class); I'll be helping out with that and since I'm not really a big fan of kids, I'll consider that part of my present, too! Wink We don't spend a lot on birthdays so that will be an easy cash flow. Thanksgiving is at my sister's and we share expenses (my mom, sis, and us) so it's another easy cash flow. Then it's just gearing up for Christmas and year-end stuff, and starting all over again in 2015!

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

November 2nd, 2014 at 11:38 am

Slow couple of weeks on the snowflake front. I do have a couple of side gigs that should be picking up, one next week and another in the next month or so, so those should help. I had some CVS savings, of course, the month-end rounding on my checking account, and interest on the ING savings account. S got a $10 gas card for a study he's in and since he has a company car he gave that to me. I also withdrew some money from PayPal, which technically has already been counted here because it's come from various snowflakes, but since I was able to save the amounts without withdrawing from PayPal until now, I'm just going to count it again!


52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 43 (started late, now on my week 37)

Snowflakes
Checking Account Rounding - $13.52
Gift Card - $10.00
CVS Savings - $6.58
ING Interest - $2.17
PayPal - $187.53

Total Snowflakes: $219.80
Rounding (from reserve): $0.20

Beginning Balance: $4280
Deposit: $220
Ending Balance: $4500

Reserve: $3.61 + $0.20 = $3.81

This puts me at 65% of the Mega challenge, and at 95% of my 2014 goal of $5,000.