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52-Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

October 15th, 2014 at 06:55 pm

The writing gig paid fairly well this week, but I'm not sure that will carry on. It was good while it lasted! The Freedom card statement period closed, so I rounded those amounts. I also bought my next $100 movie gift card -- I've got $30-something left on the current one, but I always go to a movie on Halloween which will use up a good portion of that (and I might treat my mom this year, since S will be out of town). S has been wanting to go see something, so we might do that one of the next few weekends. I've had the card since at least November last year, if not earlier. Anyway, thanks to the suggestions here I went to giftcardgranny.com and got the $100 card for $80.50. Since I'd earmarked $100 from the Chase Freedom rewards for the gift card, I'm taking the whole amount and allocating the savings to the Challenge. I also used $5.50 in CVS Extra Bucks and had $5.04 in savings there.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 41 (started late, now on my week 36)

Snowflakes
Pact - $4.48
Writing Side Gig - $82.50
Freedom Card Rounding - $46.37
Gift Card Savings - $19.50
CVS Savings - $10.54

Total Snowflakes: $162.39
Rounding (to reserve): $2.39

Beginning Balance: $4120
Deposit: $160
Ending Balance: $4280

Reserve: $1.22 + $1.39 = $3.61

This puts me at 62% of the Mega challenge, and over 85% of my 2014 goal of $5,000.

Chase Freedom Rewards

October 14th, 2014 at 07:50 pm

Chase Freedom Rewards points came in today. I've estimated about $50 per month in rewards, and this month was a little over at $63.98. The 5% category through September was gas, and I had another 450-miles-in-three-days weekend at the end of the month, which boosted up gas spending.

Starting Balance: $692.78
Ending Balance: $756.76

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

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

Excess
Beginning Balance: $92.78
Current Rewards: $63.98
Ending Balance: $156.76

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.)

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

October 6th, 2014 at 11:17 am

One of my writing gigs has picked up on assignments again, so I'm getting some good snowflakes there. I also had an order for some items I make, and I did the monthly rounding on the checking account.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 40 (started late, now on my week 35)

Snowflakes
Pact - $1.38
Work Reimbursement - $22.48
Writing Side Gig - $84.50
Other Side Gig - $154.70
Review Side Gig - $26.62
Checking Account Rounding - $10.89
ING Interest - $1.89

Total Snowflakes: $302.46
Rounding (from reserve): $2.54

Beginning Balance: $3815
Deposit: $305
Ending Balance: $4120

Reserve: $3.76 - $2.54 = $1.22

This puts me at 60% of the Mega challenge, and over 80% of my 2014 goal of $5,000.

September Look Back / October Look Ahead

October 1st, 2014 at 01:02 pm

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.

I can't believe it's October already! Where has the time gone?

September
Pretty quiet month, financially. The rental taxes were paid, and the normal bills, etc. I procrastinated calling about the landscaping; I may see about it this month but at this point it might be easier to just wait until spring.

We cleaned out the garden last weekend, so now I've got to figure out how to store or freeze what we harvested. (It's mostly onions and potatoes, which are fairly easy, a few carrots, and one big stalk of Brussels sprouts.)

Debt-wise, I paid off $2,456 in debt in August, paid out $853 in interest, and put $282 extra to my current avalanche debt.

October
I don't have much planned for October, either. S and I usually go to dinner and a movie on Halloween (we're not into kids), but he's going to be out of town this year. I may still go to the movies myself if there's something decent to see (beats sitting at home in the dark hiding from the trick-or-treaters Wink ), and since I have a gift card for the movies and I'll have popcorn for dinner, it won't cost anything and we'll save the $50 or so we would have spent at a restaurant.

S will also get a decent-sized commission payment at the end of October. He's been wanting some new gear for his hobby, so some of it may go toward that (or he might use some of his end-of-year bonus instead, depending on the timing; six of one, half-dozen of the other, really). I'll set aside our winter taxes, they're not due until February 2015 and it's the 'small' tax, which actually I can often cash flow, but I might as well just set it aside if I have it. The rest will probably go into a 'slush fund' for various things that no doubt will crop up around the house, the landscaping if I decide to do it now, etc.

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

September 29th, 2014 at 09:09 am

I skipped a week of updating again, but it seems to work out better this way anyway, I can get some of the bigger amounts checked off if I look at it two weeks at a time.

I had forgotten that S's work reimburses us for his Internet (he's based at home), so I'm counting nine months of that here; I returned some items to CVS (and just happened to hit a round dollar amount for the refund); I had two good trips to Kohl's with 30% off and two $10 free coupons (gotta love it when you save more than 2x what you've spent!), and then miscellaneous Pact and side gig income. Plus, inspired by Banker Gurl Wink, I had $6 in Extra Bucks at CVS, they had a battery sale going on buy one get on 50% off, and a coupon for $2 off an $8 battery purchase. Of course, they didn't have anything that worked out exact, but I found two packs of AA batteries that were $9 with the sale, less the $2 coupon, less $6 in ExtraBucks, so $1 total cost. Not too shabby. Smile

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
[/i]Week 39 (started late, now on my week 33)[/i]

Snowflakes
Pact - $3.86
Work Reimbursement - $202.32
Side Gigs - $11.70
Kohl's Savings - $174.83
CVS Refund - $9.00
CVS Savings - $11.00

Total Snowflakes: $412.71
Rounding (to reserve): $2.71

Beginning Balance: $3405
Deposit: $410
Ending Balance: $3815

Reserve: $1.05 + $2.71 = $3.76

This puts me at 55% of the Mega challenge, and over 75% of my 2014 goal of $5,000.

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

September 16th, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Slow-ish week, but I've had worse! I had $65.60 from a side gig and $21.19 reimbursement from a mouse I bought for my work PC that I completely forgot I paid for until now. The Chase Freedom card statement closed last week so I did the rounding for $37.82, and then some miscellaneous Pact earnings and CVS savings.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 37 (started late, now on my week 31)

Snowflakes
Pact - $2.04
Chase Rounding - $37.82
Side Gig - $65.60
Mouse Reimbursement - $21.19
CVS - $2.68

Total Snowflakes: $129.33
Rounding (from reserve): $0.67

Beginning Balance: $3275
Deposit: $130
Ending Balance: $3405

Reserve: $1.72 - $0.67 = $1.05

This puts me at 49% of the Mega challenge, and over 2/3 of my 2014 goal of $5,000. One of my writing gigs finally has assignments available again, so hopefully I'll be able to pick up some good snowflakes from that over the next few weeks!

Chase Freedom Rewards

September 15th, 2014 at 06:58 am

Chase Freedom Rewards points came in today. I've estimated about $50 per month in rewards, and this month was just a tiny bit shy at $47.59. The 5% category this quarter is gas, but that only got me about $8 this time, as I don't drive much in August. (S has a company car so they pay for his gas.) I have another 450-miles-in-three-days weekend at the end of the month, which will boost up gas spending.

Starting Balance: $645.19
Ending Balance: $692.78

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

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

Excess
Beginning Balance: $45.19
Current Rewards: $47.59
Ending Balance: $92.78

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.)

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

September 8th, 2014 at 08:02 am

I missed last week on this, but it was worth the wait! Several good snowflakes came through the last couple of weeks. I got a $50 rebate from my contact lenses; S got a $50 check for his birthday; I found $8 I'd forgotten about at the bottom of my purse; I took back bottles for $56.90. S is working on a project with the help of his cousin, who is retired military; they went to Lowe's to buy some supplies and cousin got us a 10% discount. We also had a return, rounding from the checking account in August, and I decided to count the $150 I'm saving on my hair by switching to a stylist that works out of her home rather than a salon. Plus my DietBet ended and the final round paid out $171.68 - woot! (That ended up with a total payout of $328.96, less the initial bet of $125, for a net gain of $203.96.) Then some various Pact earnings (plus I'm penalizing myself the $10 they took when I simply forgot to log two vegetables. Duh!), a small side gig and CVS savings.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 36 (started late, now on my week 30)

Snowflakes
Found cash - $8
Pact - $13.73
Lowe's Discount - $21.80
Book Review - $3.01
Birthday - $50.00
Bottle Return - $56.90
Rounding - $12.28
ING Interest - $1.52
Refund - $19.22
Contact Rebate - $50.00
CVS - $2.18
Hair - $150.00
DietBet - $171.68

Total Snowflakes: $560.32
Rounding (to reserve): $0.32

Beginning Balance: $2715
Deposit: $560
Ending Balance: $3275

Reserve: $1.40 + $0.32 = $1.72

This puts me at 48% of the Mega challenge, and almost 2/3 of my 2014 goal of $5,000. It also helped clear off a couple of the big amounts, although there are still plenty to cross off!

August Look Back / September Look Ahead

September 7th, 2014 at 11:51 am

Slightly behind on this, what else is new?

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.

August
August is property tax month for our home, which means the bank account takes a pretty big hit. It's a known and planned-for expense, but it still twinges a little bit not to see that nice big savings balance!

The garden is limping along -- other people have said this year is even worse than last year for gardening (and last year they said it was the worst ever), so I guess we're not doing too badly. The tomatoes are finally starting to take off, and we're actually looking like we may have more than we can consume before they go bad -- something we didn't at all have to worry about last year! None of us is really interested in canning, so we're going to look into possible ways to freeze them.

I passed my second licensing exam at the end of the month, so I guess in about 30 days I'll be officially licensed. At some point that's supposed to translate to a financial benefit, but I'm not sure exactly when that will happen.

On the debt front, I paid off $2,532 in debt in August, paid out $777 in interest, and put $291 extra to my current avalanche debt.

September
Rental property taxes are due at the end of September; that's another bite out of the savings account, but only about half as much as our home taxes. There's really not much going else on for September, as far as I can foresee. I may spend a chunk more than planned on yard maintenance.

We have a 'landscape' area behind our fenced yard that has run wild the last several years; we cleared it out last year but of course it all came back again. At this point it's beyond what we could do in a weekend, so I'm going to get a few quotes to have it a) cleared out and b) weed-blocked and either mulched or (better) filled in with rock, and the one area that's visible to the neighborhood given some design other than 'big pine tree and whatever weeds grow around it'. (The big pine tree needs to come down, actually.) I doubt I'll be willing to pay for it all, but I might at least shell out to have it cleared. (I have some money leftover from the rental a/c that didn't end up needing replacement, and a plan to save back up for replacing it in 2015.) The backup plan is to let the bulk of it die off over the winter, and do the cleanup/fill in the spring.

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)

Snowflakes
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)

Snowflakes
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
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.

August
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.

Snowflakes
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.

Chase Freedom Rewards

July 15th, 2014 at 07:52 am

The Chase Freedom Rewards points came through today. My estimated is that we'll get about $50 per month in rewards, and this month was pretty close at $55.17. The 5% category this quarter is gas, which hits at a good time because there are two weekends in the quarter where I drive about 450 miles in three days. (Normally I drive 25 miles round-trip for work each week, and maybe 10 additional miles the rest of the week, so 450 miles is a lot for me! S has a company car so they pay for his gas, so it's only me and the lawnmower that use the Chase card for gas.)

Starting Balance: $514.11
Ending Balance: $569.28

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

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $69.28
Remaining - $30.72

The movie card should be finished next month. I was considering using 50% of the rewards to bulk up the gift fund, and 50% toward the Mega Savings Challenge, but the way my snowflakes have been going, I might just add it all to the Challenge! I think I'll just play it by ear, and use the rewards to round out the Challenge if they're needed.

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

July 8th, 2014 at 08:33 pm

It was a slow week for snowflakes last week, and will probably be even slower this week! I did join Pact so made $2.12 for the various pacts last week, and I won $39.98 in my DietBet. I got a $5 account credit at my bank for enrolling in paperless statements, $0.60 interest in my ING account, and "keep the change" rounding in the checking account for the month of June totalled $13.10.


52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 27 [started late, now on my week 22]

Snowflakes
ING Interest: $0.60
Pact: $2.12
Paperless: $5.00
Rounding: $13.10
DietBet: $39.98
Total Snowflakes: $60.80
Rounding (to reserve): $0.80

Beginning Balance: $1795
Deposit: $60
Ending Balance: $1855

Reserve: $2.05 + $0.80 = $2.85

I sometimes feel a little bad that these weekly amounts are so small -- I see the Mega challenge weekly goals in the $150-250 range and get a bit discouraged -- but then I realize that I've made it to $1800 savings almost entirely from passive snowflakes, and that's no small accomplishment! Of course something always comes up to keep me busier than I expect to be, but I should get at least a little bit of relatively quiet time soon, and I'm hoping to find some more active means of snowflaking when I do, to hit those 'big ticket' weekly goals and get closer to the challenge goals.

June Look Back / July Look Ahead

July 7th, 2014 at 04:55 pm

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.

June
The good news for June was that my $625 client bill finally got paid! (I posted about it in my last 52 Week Mega Savings Challenge update.) I still haven't received the $200 refund from the physical therapy place, so I'll need to give them a call.

Our vacation went well, I made turtle brownies for the reunion that were a big hit so now I'm "in" with the family (this was the first time I'd met most of them, and only the second or third time for the rest). The critters didn't give anyone too hard of a time, which means they'll probably be allowed back if we try to get away together again.

The air conditioner at the rental is working perfectly (knock wood!) so hopefully it won't need replacement this year. I've started diverting the money I had saved for that to the other repairs that are needed. I had a good talk with the tenant, too, and we're on the same page about what needs to be done and spacing it out a bit so that it's not too much of a financial burden in any one month.

Our garden is in and already doing better than last year, which is promising. Still not as well as some of the more experienced gardeners', but we're still learning. (We're also trying to be less chemically inclined, so for example while lots of people use Sevin dust, we're using diatomaceous earth.) My biggest thrill is that a few of the tomatoes I started from seeds seem to be coming along. Of course the day we were planting the seed pods got all mixed up, so I have no idea what variety they are! Most of the seeds I started were heirloom, so if we end up with tomatoes I should be able to figure out what kind they are from their appearance.

On the financial front, I paid off $2,398 in debt, paid $810 in interest, and diverted my extra $149 from my avalanche card to the small balance I posted about a while back, so that card is now Paid In Full! Yippee! Smile One less payment to make, and an additional $23 a month to avalanche!

Oh -- Social Security apparently paid attention to the letter I sent in May, and at the end of June finally requested back all of the deposits they'd made to my MIL's account. (It looks like the money hasn't actually left the account yet, but I do see the request.) Government efficiency at its finest!

July
The first half of this month is focused on my career, for a change. My boss wants me to take a licensing exam, so this week I'm in review classes and then take the test next week. It's apparently a very intense test, and a significant number of people don't pass it the first time, so I'm nervous about it but also open to the fact that I might need to retake it. (I'm not sure if that's going to be more or less helpful to my studying, but it is what it is at this point!)

Once I pass this exam, there's another that's a bit lower-key, and then I've been told I'll get a bonus and an increase in pay. (We'll see how that shakes out, of course!) The long outlook is that once I'm licensed, I'll be able to take over (buy out) the business when my boss retires/dies/becomes disabled, which is a win-win all the way around. Not that I'm hoping for anything to happen to him, but he's 82 years old (but in excellent health) so it's definitely something he's thought about.

At any rate, the rest of July should be pretty laid back; it's a slow time at work and nothing much going on socially or with the family except my mom's birthday at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to having some time to relax again!

52 WMSC - Finally Paid

June 28th, 2014 at 08:59 pm

I finally got paid by my one client -- $625 -- woot! I was also paid $25 for another book review and got a $10 gift card for the new monitor I had to purchase for work. I also finally went to see the movie I was supposed to see at the end of May, but at a different theater so my AMC gift card balance hasn't changed. We thought we had a coupon for free tickets, but it was actually for discounted ticket prices (well, I thought that's what it was to begin with, but everyone argued me into thinking it was for free tickets!). Luckily I remembered a gift card for that theater that I got about four years ago and never used, so it was still no money out of pocket. There was also a coupon for a free small popcorn, which we upgraded to a medium. Total for two of was $18 on the gift card (I got a drink, too).

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 26 [started late, now on my week 20]

Snowflakes
Client payment: $625.17
Book Review: $25.00
Gift Card: $10.00
Movie Card: $18.00
Total Snowflakes: $678.17
Rounding (from reserve): $1.83

Beginning Balance: $1115
Deposit: $680
Ending Balance: $1795

Reserve: $3.88 - $1.83 = $2.05

This puts me at 100%+ of the regular challenge, over 65% of the double challenge, and over 25% of the mega challenge. Still need to get working harder on the mega challenge, but I'm excited about having finished the regular challenge!!

52 WMSC & Rewards Updates

June 21st, 2014 at 01:01 pm

I've been "down country" and had limited wifi access, so I'm behind on updating. Rather than do separate updates for each week I missed (I think I missed three), I'm just going to skip ahead and count them all together. There are probably some snowflakes I'm forgetting, too!

I had a $5.29 return at CVS and I used $5 in Extra Bucks. I'd forgotten an item on my expense report for my critter club, and since the money ($119.76) was long gone in my mind I figure I'll use the reimbursement as a snowflake. I also got $50 for my birthday a few weeks ago.

Still expecting some big snowflakes in the next few weeks, $625 from a side gig (I need to start getting tough on that one, it's been 3-4 months since I sent the first invoice) and $203 from an insurance reimbursement. I also just got a quick review that will bring in $25, probably next week. Those aren't counted here, of course, but it's nice to know there are some things to look forward to!

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 25 [started late, now on my week 16]

Snowflakes
CVS Return: $5.29
CVS Extra Bucks: $5.00
Club Reimbursement: $119.76
Birthday: $50.00
Total Snowflakes: $180.05
Rounding (to reserve): $0.05

Beginning Balance: $935
Deposit: $180
Ending Balance: $1115

Reserve: $3.83 + $0.05 = $3.85

(Somehow my reserve amount was off; this amount coincides with what the bank has.)

That puts me at 80% of the regular challenge, 41% of the double challenge, and 16% of the mega challenge. I need to step things up if I want to hit the mega challenge -- even the $853 I have coming only puts me 1/4 toward that goal, and we're just about halfway through the year!


Chase Freedom Rewards
Still beating the estimate of $50 per month, again most likely due to the 5% restaurant category and eating out quite a lot, between our anniversary and our vacation. Some of the vacation awards will carry over to next month, as well. We ended at $76.35, which finishes up the gift fund. Woo hoo!

Gift Fund
Goal - $500
Balance - $500
Remaining - $0

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100.00
Balance - $14.11
Remaining - $85.89

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

June 3rd, 2014 at 09:23 am

Fairly decent week for snowflakes, considering I haven't done much of anything to try to get them, although most of them did involve spending money. I used $7 in coupons at CVS (for drug store items that I actually needed Wink ) and then saved another $4.79 on things I picked up while I was there. I got $20 in Kohl's cash (which of course means I spent $100, but considering the full price total was $500, I think I came out ahead!). The 'save the change' rounding total for May was $14.78. I also had interest on the ING account, I'd forgotten about it in April so I've got April ($0.26) and May ($0.47) here.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 22 [started late, now on my week 16]

Snowflakes
CVS Coupons: $7.00
CVS Savings: $4.79
Kohl's Cash: $20
Rounding: $14.78
Interest - April: $0.26
Interest - May: $0.47
Total Snowflakes: $47.30
Rounding (to reserve): $2.30

Beginning Balance: $890
Deposit: $45
Ending Balance: $935

Reserve: $0.80 + $2.30 = $3.10

May Look Back / June Look Ahead

June 2nd, 2014 at 08:29 am

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. I was going to combine this with my 52-Week Mega Challenge update, since I figured they'd both be short, but apparently I had more to say in this one than I expected! Wink

May
Not a whole lot going on in May; it's a high-spend month for several reasons (my annual 'pilgrimage', our anniversary, and my birthday, plus getting ready for the family garden) but we plan for it and set aside money from my overtime (Feb - April).

Overall in May I paid off $2,292 in non-real estate loans, paid $770 in interest, and paid $158 extra to my 'avalanche' credit card. I wrote yet another letter to Social Security informing them of my mother-in-law's death (in August of 2012) and requesting that they stop depositing her monthly benefits into her checking account. (There's almost $30,000 in there now -- no wonder the system is going bankrupt!) I also informed them that this was our last attempt at remedying the situation -- they've been informed at least three times by three different people (including the funeral home), the bank was instructed to return the first two deposits and close the account back in October 2012, we've tried calling multiple times but can never get through (when we do get through, it's hold-hold-hold-hold and then they disconnect us). So, it's on them, and I'm not even going to worry about it any more. (We don't have any access to the bank account, it's in her name only, so there's not much else I can do regardless.)


June
We have another vacation planned this month, for S's family reunion (among other things). It's unusual for us both to go anywhere together that's not a day trip, because of the critters. We're dividing them up among friends so that no one has more than they can handle. (Once we get this debt paid off and a good EF built up, I'm going to start saving up to buy a big cargo van so we can just bring them all with us. Since we don't go too often it's not that big of a hardship to ask friends to babysit, but it's six trips getting them there and back and about 20 hours of driving total! It does save tremendously on boarding fees, though; we'd be looking at four figures, easily.)

We're staying with family for the duration of our trip and S has a company car so doesn't pay for gas (they take a set amount out of each check to cover personal use of the vehicle), so our actual vacation expenses should be minimal.

I am expecting some big snowflakes this month. Of course, one I've been expecting for a few months now (payment for a side gig), but I'm moving up the ladder now and should have a resolution soon. The other is $200 from a round of physical therapy I had last year; I paid a $20 per session co-pay, but then the insurance company ended up paying the entire bill. I heard back from them last week that they'll be processing the refund and I should see it in a few weeks.

On the down side, the tenants at the rental let me know about several areas that need repair at the house. (Honestly most of them are items that needed repair when we moved out 12 years ago.) They do most of the work on the house themselves -- they plan to buy it at some point (and I'm not pushing them, honestly, because a) they're like family and b) the longer they wait the better for me, because the mortgage will go down and the home's value will go up) -- but they're in a tight situation financially right now and can't afford to pay for the repairs and pay the rent. So they'll likely only pay a portion of the rent for the next several months, while they tackle these repairs, and I'll need to make up the difference since the rent is used to repay family loans. (It should only be a few hundred dollars each month, which I may be able to cash flow from S's bonuses, side gigs, etc., but if not I've asked them to find out about recharging the a/c one more year instead of replacing it, and then I can use some of the money I had set aside for the new a/c now, and start saving again to replace the a/c next June.)

We started on the family garden yesterday (late, we were waiting on the rototilling to get done) and hope to get the bulk of it finished up tonight, if the rain holds off. This is our second year at the community garden, and I'm really hoping it's better than last year was. We have a new plot, that's on a little bit higher ground (apparently our plot last year was in what used to be a riverbed), and the soil seems much better. To be fair, everyone at the garden said they had a bad year last year, we got quite a lot of rain and not many really sunny, hot days. This year they're predicting extreme heat, which I'm hoping also means lots of sun. I'm not sure what the rainfall prediction is, but water is free so it's just a matter of getting there as needed. (My sister lives a mile away and I drive by every day on my way home from work, so that's not a problem.)

I think that's (finally) it! More than I expected to write, but I guess I needed to get all of this out of my head. Smile

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

May 24th, 2014 at 08:50 am

Slow week (as usual, it seems!). I need to get moving on some side projects; this weeks I should get a couple done, though they won't pay out until next month. Anyway, I remembered at the last minute to turn in some medical bills for last year's flexible spending plan, so that reimbursement came through for $59.68. I also returned a bag of pop bottles that came to $5.20. (I wasn't even paying attention when I left for the store -- there was a whole other bag waiting to go!)

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 21 [started late, now on my week 14]

Snowflakes
FSA Reimbursement: $59.68
Bottle Return: $5.20
Total Snowflakes: $64.88
Rounding (from reserve): $0.12

Beginning Balance: $825
Deposit: $65
Ending Balance: $890

Reserve: $0.92 - $0.12 = $0.80

Those "Almost Paid Off" Debts

May 21st, 2014 at 01:00 pm

I'm working on paying off credit card debt, I have a plan in place and its going well, and I'm also able to save for upcoming expenses, a small emergency fund, etc. I just got the latest statement from one of my Chase cards, and the balance is under $200.

I have money in the bank. It is earmarked for property taxes, but I know I can make up $200 before they come due. The Chase card is second to last in my debt avalanche repayment plan, because the interest rate is only 6%. (In fact, it will be paid off just with the minimum payments before I even get to avalanche it.) It's only costing me $1 a month or so in interest, and the payment is $23.

If I pay off the card and put the $23 toward building my savings back up, it would take me 8.6 months to repay myself. If I keep paying the minimum on the card, I'll have it paid off in nine months. The interest on my savings account is nothing to speak of, so I'm not really losing anything there; paying on the card for the next nine months would cost me less than $9, so not really losing much there, either.

My inclination is to pay it off, add the $23 to my avalanche, and find a way to make up the $197 through side gigs, selling some stuff, whatever.

What do you do with those straggling little debts? Is there a threshold amount where you decide it's worth it to just pay them off and deplete your savings a bit?

Busy Weekend & 52WMSC Update

May 19th, 2014 at 08:32 am

I actually got some stuff done this weekend -- between tax season and then planning for (and being on) my vacation, it's been a long time since that's happened! I had to renew my notary commission, which means driving out to the county clerk's office which is also the courthouse, so I figured a 1-2 hour wait. I got there at the right time, apparently, because it was only about 10 minutes, so I had time to get my nails done for our anniversary celebration (it's today, actually, but we celebrated on Saturday night).

They finally put the free compost out for city residents -- it's supposed to be available in April, but I'd imagine the weather delayed things. Which works out fine, since the community garden just opened anyway. So I filled several lawn bags to use when we start planting, probably this coming weekend. (Well, I say "filled". Really they're only about 1/3 of the way full, because compost is heavy! So I'm driving around with bags of compost in the back of my car all week, because I don't want to take them out and have to load them back in again.) I have several seeds started, which we got for the cost of postage, and then we went on Mother's day to buy some other veggies for the garden. We had a rather dismal year last year (our first), but everyone said it was a bad year, so we're hoping for more success this time around.

I also filled up my car's gas tank. That probably doesn't seem like an accomplishment, but I'm notorious for just putting in $25 at a time.

[LOL - just re-reading and it doesn't really sound like a busy weekend at all. Smile That was all just on Friday, actually. Saturday was 'anniversary day' so we had lunch, went to an exhibit at the museum, then dinner and a play at the community theater. Yesterday I got caught up on all the laundry from my trip, made a couple of quick small gifts, and then we went to dinner again because the place we were going to go on Saturday had a too-long wait time.]

In the Savings Challenge, I'd forgotten a few things in previous weeks so I'm throwing them in here. I took some of my CVS savings from Lent (the half I hadn't used here previously) and bought some lottery tickets -- well, I think they called it a "raffle", really. It was special thing the state did, they called it a $40K tax-free raffle but really the prize was about $59K and you net $40K after taxes. For every x amount of tickets sold they added another jackpot, plus lots of smaller prizes. At any rate, the big push was "one in six wins", so I figured I'd test the theory. Tickets were $10 and we bought six, all from different places. (Not sure if that increased or decreased the odds of winning.) We did win, twice in fact, but only $15 each time. I was hoping to at least break even. So technically I'm out $30, but since the CVS money was an 'uncounted' snowflake itself I'm counting the raffle winnings as a snowflake here.

As I mentioned, I have my notary commission because at work sometimes a client needs something notarized, and the woman who was the notary retired. So my boss pays for my notary commission and once or twice a year I notarize something for a client. My sister's boss, however, has had a slew of documents she needed notarized, so I did those for her and as a thank you she got a me a $25 Visa gift card.

Finally, my "keep the change" total for the month of April (rounding my checking account transactions) was $12.82.



52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 20 [started late, now on my week 12]

Snowflakes
Lottery/Raffle: $30
Gift Card: $25
Rounding: $12.82
Total Snowflakes: $67.82
Rounding (from reserve): $2.18

Beginning Balance: $755
Deposit: $70
Ending Balance: $825

Reserve: $3.10 - $2.18 = $0.92

That brings me through week 13, or 25% of the year. My progress so far (since I started late, I'm aiming to complete the mega challenge but tracking the regular and double, too):

52-Week Challenge: 60% complete
52-Week Double Challenge: 30% complete
52-Week Mega Challenge: 12% complete

I still have $625 coming from a side gig, someday, and more work to do for that client once they get me the information I need. The $625 by itself will complete the regular challenge, get me past the half-way mark on the double challenge, and to just over 20% of the mega challenge. Slowly but surely I'm getting there!

Chase Freedom Rewards Update

May 15th, 2014 at 08:24 am

The Chase Freedom Rewards points came through today. I've estimated that we'd get about $50 per month in rewards, but this month was quite a bit higher, $90.06. It helps that the 5% category for this quarter is restaurants, and we do a lot of eating out in May (my vacation and Mothers' Day for this period; our anniversary and my birthday (though we might not pay for that one) for the next).

Gift Fund
Goal - $500
Balance - $437.76
Remaining - $62.24

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $0
Remaining - $100

I may have the gift fund fully funded by next month, and then can start on the movie card, which should be funded by August, I'd think, at the latest. After that, I think I'll use 50% of the rewards for the gift fund, since the $500 was random and didn't include our anniversary gifts to each other or our dinner (our annual splurge!). The other 50% will go to the 52-Week Challenge.

I did make it to the movies once last month, so my current movie card balance is down to $62. I will be going again at the end of this month, but I don't see anything beyond that (yet) that I'm interested in seeing in the theater. If I do, though, I'll probably need to divert some of the gift fund money to get a new movie card. It all works out the same, just a different timeline. (Next year, if I repeat this, I'll fund the movie card first. Smile )

Catching Up - April/May and 52WMC Updates

May 12th, 2014 at 09:06 am

I was on vacation last week (my annual pilgrimage to the Critter National Smile ) and even though I bring my laptop, there's so much going on I rarely get a chance to to use it!

April Look Back / May Look Ahead

April

The adjustments we made at the family financial summit to the March payments ended up being adjusted back, because the renters' catch-up payment arrived on March 31. It's minimal so I'm not bothering to go back and revise the March info; I've accrued a little less interest than I expected, so that's a good thing!

Overall in April I paid off $2,421 in non-real estate loans, and paid $777 in interest. I also paid $141 extra to my 'avalanche' credit card. (I think I said $141 extra in March -- that was actually $146 extra.)

May
I'm back to my normal hours this month, and of course it works out that the paydays are exactly two weeks each (I get paid twice a month), so the two May paychecks will be the lowest amount I get paid if I work every day. (I do have vacation pay, fortunately.) S got a small raise effective the last April check, and we're getting into his busy season so his monthly bonuses should be increasing. It tends to balance out, but I so look forward to the day when I don't have to worry about whether it will or it won't, because we have money in the bank and no huge debts hanging over our heads!

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge

Two weeks to update here. The first week I had a quickie side job that brought in $22, and returned bottles for $72. (Normally the bottle money is used as spending money on my trip, but between a "happy trip" gift from my mom and friends buying me dinner and drinks a few times, I actually didn't spend any of my own spending money!)

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 18 [started late, now on my week 10]

Snowflakes
Side Job: $22
Bottle Returns: $72
Total Snowflakes: $94
Rounding (from reserve): $1

Beginning Balance: $630
Deposit: $95
Ending Balance: $725

Reserve: $3.79 - $1 = $2.79

The following week was my actual vacation, so not much opportunity for snowflakes there (other than the above). I did meet another monthly goal for my Diet Bet, so that was $30.31 in winnings. I'm not counting the money I didn't spend on cool stuff I wanted to buy! Smile

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 19 [started late, now on my week 11]

Snowflakes
Diet Bet: $30.31
Total Snowflakes: $30.31
Rounding (to reserve): $0.31

Beginning Balance: $725
Deposit: $30
Ending Balance: $755

Reserve: $2.79 + $.31 = $3.10

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

April 28th, 2014 at 12:36 pm

It seems like this Challenge is the only update I'm doing! There's not been much going on for me finance-wise, I'm waiting for a few things to shake out and my side gigs really won't pick up until after my annual vacation the first week in May. So not much to talk about! Last week was the last week of Lent, so my $25 CVS savings are gone. (I have been to CVS after Easter, but only because I actually needed drugstore things, and then I got $8 in Extra Bucks that I'll count here if I end up using them.)

I did find $10 in my 'critter bag', and 'sold' an item (actually used the price to knock $ off a bill) for $66. So not a horrible week, all things considered. Still waiting on the $625 invoice to come in, he told me last week he was doing it that day, which means I might see it next month. *sigh*

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 17 [started late, now on my week 8]

Snowflakes
Found Money: $10
Sale/Bill Offset: $66
Total Snowflakes: $76
Rounding (to reserve): $1

Beginning Balance: $555
Deposit: $75
Ending Balance: $630

Reserve: $2.79 + $1 = $3.79

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

April 21st, 2014 at 09:18 am

I cleaned out my car this weekend (finally!) and found $75 in the process. $20 went to my "emergency $20" car stash that I'd spent the other day when I left my purse at work; the rest I'm calling a snowflake. I also went to a movie and saved $1.25 at the concession stand with my Stubs card, so I'll count that, too. Plus I totally miscalculated last week so my total was $5 short, so I'll add that in here.

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 16 [started late, now on week 7]

Snowflakes
CVS Savings: $25
Found Money: $55
Correction: $5
Movie Savings: $1.25
Total Snowflakes: $86.25
Rounding (to reserve): $1.25

Beginning Balance: $470
Deposit: $85
Ending Balance: $555

Reserve: $1.54 + $1.25 = $2.79

Various Updates (Rewards, 52 Week Challenge, General)

April 15th, 2014 at 07:40 am

Its Tax Day, which means the end of my 60-hour work weeks (yay!) but also the end of my overtime (boo!). Still, I'm pushing my mental and physical limits, so I welcome getting back to my 4-day work weeks, and my annual vacation in a couple of weeks.

We had a fairly major health issue with one of the critters last weekend, requiring unplanned surgery and overnight vet stays. The high end of the estimate was just about our entire emergency fund, but better that than not having the EF! She ended up staying at the vet an additional day, so I was expecting to hit the high end and perhaps go a bit over. Fortunately, I have a CareCredit card, which you can generally get at least six months at 0%; I figured I'd do that and set aside the money to pay it off, rather than depleting the EF and then building it back up. When I picked her up, though, the total cost was less than the low-end of the estimate! So I was able to just cash-flow it, since I have a little bit of overtime coming still. I won't be able to put as much in savings as I'd planned, but I still have the EF and no new balance on the CareCredit card.

The Chase Freedom Rewards points came through today, so I can update that amount. I'm estimating we'll get about $50 per month in rewards; this month was a little higher, $59.26.

Gift Fund
Goal - $500
Balance - $347.70
Remaining - $152.30

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $0
Remaining - $100

We were planning on going to a movie Sunday, but the scheduling didn't work out, so I've still got $83 left on my current AMC gift card. I am going by myself to a movie on Friday -- one of my post-tax-season treats -- so that will knock it down a bit. I have $10 rewards on my AMC Stub Card, but my membership is due for renewal, so I'll use that plus $2 from the gift card. (I don't usually pay for rewards memberships, but this one truly does pay for itself and then some. My first year of membership was free, so in three years I've paid $24 in membership fees, and between rewards and savings on concessions I've made $127. It helps that my mom goes to the movies with a group of her friends once a month or so, and uses my Stubs card. And of course I haven't really 'paid' the $24, between the rewards and gift cards.)

Finally, it was a pretty poor week for the Savings Challenge. Things were so busy at work I really didn't have time for any side jobs, and no snowflakes spontaneously appeared. I did have a couple of returns and while they're not technically snowflakes, I had already counted that money as spent, so I'll include it here just so I have something!

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 15 [started late, my week 5]

Snowflakes
CVS Savings: $25
Returns: $41.19
Total Snowflakes: $61.19
Rounding (to reserve): $1.19

Beginning Balance: $410
Deposit: $60
Ending Balance: $470

Reserve: $0.35 + $1.19 = $1.54

52 Week Mega Savings Challenge Update

April 7th, 2014 at 07:55 am

I got one side gig done last week for $25, found $3 when I (sort of) cleaned my desk at work, and won Round 1 of my DietBet for $16.31 (my initial bet was $12.50, so net profit of $3.81, but I'm counting the entire amount as a snowflake). I also decided to do a "keep the change" thing in my checking account -- rounding each debit up and each credit down to the nearest whole dollar amount. I just whipped up an Excel spreadsheet and at the end of the month will copy all my transactions over. (There aren't that many, since we use the Freedom card for whatever we can. I generally pay that in whole dollars but maybe I'll change that. I might look at doing the rounding on the Freedom card transactions, too...) Anyway, for the first three months of this year that totalled $30.46. And then I have my No-CVS-For-Lent savings -- so overall not a bad week!

52-Week Mega Savings Challenge
Week 14 [started late, my week 5]

Snowflakes
CVS Savings: $25.00
Side Gig: $25.00
DietBet: $16.31
Bank Account Rounding: $30.46
Found Dollars: $3.00
Total Snowflakes: $99.77
Rounding (from reserve): $0.23

Beginning Balance: $310
Deposit: $100
Ending Balance: $410

Reserve: $0.58 - $0.23 = $0.35

March Look Back / April Look Ahead

April 3rd, 2014 at 09:30 am

March
I have a home I'm renting out to someone who is practically family, so I'm very lenient with them if something comes up and they can't make the rent. They always send something, even if it's just $100, and make up the rest as soon as they can. However, that money goes directly to paying off my family loans, so technically if they're late with the rent, I miss payments on those loans. (The family is also understanding so it's not a huge deal, fortunately.) We had our annual family financial summit at the end of March, and so I adjusted the loan schedules to reflect those missing payments. (A little extra interest accrues, essentially.)

The end result is that it decreased my debt principal payoff for March, so I only ended up paying down $1,464 in principal (it should have been around $2,000). I also paid $801 in interest. (These amounts do not included real estate backed loans.) I also paid $141 extra to the current point of attack (highest-interest credit card).

I did join the DietBet 6-month challenge. The first round closes out this weekend and I'm on track to meet the goal, so I should get a little snowflake for that sometime in April. I also made a bet with Healthy Wage, another 10% in 6 months challenge. My initial investment in both was $275, but if I meet the goal (figuring low-average returns on the DietBet winnings), I should end up with around $600. That is more motivating than "health" "fitness" "smaller clothes" etc. -- I wish I'd found this 'dieting for money' thing a long time ago! I'll consider all of that money as snowflakes for my 52-week Mega Savings Challenge.

We also made a decision that probably almost everyone will say was the wrong one to make, but I'm not ready to talk about that just yet.... Smile

April
I have two more weeks of overtime at work, and then I'm back to my 'real' income. Fortunately we are able to set aside a lot of my overtime pay to cover upcoming expenses in the next several months. I do plan to revisit our budget once things slow down to see where we can cut our spending a bit -- really I think if we just got a little organized we could save a decent amount. (Mostly me, I guess, with breakfasts and lunches on work days. It's been better since I've been trying to eat healthily for the DietBet thing, but I don't always wake up in enough time to make a lunch so end up buying it at $5-8 a day. Lots to work on there!)

I'm also going to see if we can decrease our electric usage; we keep getting letters from the company saying we're using so much more electricity than our neighbors, which I'm sure is true. I know exactly why that is (40+ days in a row of round-the-clock below-freezing temperatures will do that!) and we've already decreased our usage by about 50% from last month, but I might try things like unplugging stuff rather than just turning it off (if the plug is easy to reach, that is!), putting things on a power strip and turning that off (if there are no clocks or programs to reset), etc. We do have one light on a timer and I need to adjust the timing for that now that the days are getting longer. I'll look at putting in those pigtail light bulbs wherever I can, too, since they supposedly save money. Our billing cycle starts on the 26th, so I've got some time to formulate a plan of attack, and then get everything in place. (And talk S into participating!)

What do you do to save on electricity? What tips or tricks have worked well for you? (Or alternatively, are there any you've found haven't really made that much difference?)


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