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52-Week Challenge/Chase Freedom Rewards Updates

July 27th, 2015 at 04:19 pm

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 30 (saved to Week 38)

I finally got around to taking the bottles back again, so that was a nice boost to this Challenge! I also had a few returns, as well as the Internet reimbursement from S's work. The Chase Freedom card closed so there's rounding from that, as well.

Snowflakes
Reimbursement - $22.48
Freedom Card Rounding - $35.64
Bottles - $90.70
Returns - $87.25


Total Snowflakes: $236.07
Rounding (to reserve): $0.07

Beginning Balance: $992
Deposit: $236
Ending Balance: $1,228

Reserve: $0.69 + $0.07 = $0.76

This puts me at 89% of the Challenge, and we're almost 60% through the year. Only $150 left to go!


Chase Freedom Rewards

I've projected an average of $50 per month in rewards; July was right there, at $52.65. (The billing cycle closes on the 14th of the month, so "July" is really June 15-July 14.)

I did cash in my movie card fund, so there's a $100 statement credit here. I did get the new movie card at a discount, but I applied that amount ($19.50) toward the 52-Week Challenge.

Starting Balance: $207.77
July Rewards: $52.65
Statement Credit: -$100.00
Ending Balance: $160.42

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $100.00
Remaining - $0

Anniversary Dinner Fund
Goal - $300
Balance - $300
Remaining - $0

Slush Fund
Goal - $400
Balance - $160.42
Remaining - $239.58


I'm still just letting the slush fund ride until I decide what to do with it. At an average $50/month with five months left, I should be well set to meet the $400 goal.

52 Week Savings Challenge & Ramblings

July 8th, 2015 at 03:57 pm

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 27 (saved to Week 29)

* The month-end snowflakes hit last week, they're small but they add up!

* I finally used my Chase Freedom rewards for the planned AMC (movie) gift card purchase. I got the cards at Cardpool.com so saved $19.50 (on $100 worth of cards); that extra is going to this challenge. (Just in time, too, as hubs and I went to two movies at the end of June -- a special screening of "Jaws", S's all-time favorite movie and one he'd never seen in the theater, and "Jurassic World", which I thought was almost as good as the first one.)

* Our electric bill budget plan amount decreased quite a bit, so I'm adding the first month savings here.

* I'm a notary for work, we offer it as part of the service we provide our clients, so we don't charge a fee. I had client leave me a "tip", though (he actually snuck it onto my desk after I'd refused it), so that's also going here.


Snowflakes
ING Interest - $2.03
MSD Interest - $6.42
Chase Interest - $0.01
Chase Rounding - $13.18
Electric Bill - $54.00
Movie Cards - $19.50
Notary Tip - $20.00

Total Snowflakes: $115.14
Rounding (to reserve): $0.14

Beginning Balance: $877
Deposit: $115
Ending Balance: $992

Reserve: $0.55 + $0.14 = $0.69

This puts me at just about 72% of the Challenge, and we're about 52% through the year.

----------------------

I'm still feeling generally anxious about finances, which I don't expect to ease up for a few months now. I do feel better knowing I have some money in my EF if I really really need it. (I'm trying to avoid that as much as I can, though!) One bit of good news is that our property taxes came in about $800 less than I was thinking they'd be. (I think I was using the entire year's amount for the projected summer bill, because it's not actually too far off from last year; clearly I didn't look back when I did the projection!)

I had mentioned earlier that we have a balloon payment on a HELOC coming due in October. Last week we got a notice from the loan servicing company that in September our loan would switch from an interest-only adjustable-rate HELOC to a fixed-rate, principal and interest payment. Which is great if that's what happens (and the payment and interest rate are reasonable), but our loan agreement doesn't actually have that provision in it. When I'd asked the company about it a month or two ago (this is I think the third company that has serviced this loan, so they're not the original lender), they said whatever the loan documents stated was how it would be handled. So clearly one hand is unaware of what the other hand is doing. I think I'll probably wait until the August bill comes, which I'm hoping will have more details on the new payment structure, and then see where to go from there. It would be so nice not to have to worry about refinancing this!

In anticipation of refinancing, though, and some other things going on, I've been look at my and S's credit scores. My are actually pretty good, averaging around the mid-700s. (Right now I've got 11 different scores from various places, which of course use different scoring models so it's not an entirely accurate picture, but I figure the average is still probably pretty close. I do pay more attention to the scores provided by my credit cards, though, as I think they're closer to what an actual lender would use.) S's are not so great, in the mid-600s, so I'm working on that. His biggest 'ding' is balances too close to the limit. Well, that's because he's had a bunch of 0% balance transfer offers that we've used to pay off higher-interest cards. It's frustrating that credit reports/scores don't look at these things in context! Wink A couple of the 0% offers are due to expire in the next month or two, so I'm looking to pay those off a little early (we have the money set aside), and then I'll probably see about transferring the others to my accounts (that are only in my name) to get them off of his credit. That should boost his score quite a bit, I'd think.

The only other negatives that show up are some inquiries, mostly from when we were looking at refinancing last year, but I know that when they're within a certain time frame lenders lump them together, so instead of 5 inquiries he'd really only have 2. It will be interesting to see just how much of an effect this will have on his score -- and on mine, as I expect a bit of a ding. Still, from what I've read, if we do a refinance, it's better to have two 700 scores than one 650 and one 750, because they use the lowest score to determine the loan terms.

In other news, we finally got our community garden planted, about a month late! We moved to a new spot, which ended up being a mistake because it's in a low area, and we've had a lot of rain. Mud, mud, mud. They couldn't even rototill it until two weeks after the garden opened. So, who knows whether we'll end up with any actual produce this year (although I do think there's a green pepper ready to pick!). It's a bummer because we bought a lot of tomato plants this year, and several heirloom varieties. We've haven't had a lot of heat, though, so no one's tomatoes are doing very well so far. Fingers crossed for a hot, dry July and August!

Long Overdue Updates

June 15th, 2015 at 06:39 pm

I am so behind on updating, I'm tempted to just skip it but then I might as well be somewhat accountable! I was out of town for most of May (I actually was traveling more days than I was home) so fell quite a bit behind. I have been reading everyone's blogs, just haven't found the motivation to update my own until now.

I've been tracking the Savings Challenge amounts but haven't made any deposits lately. We've had a lot of unexpected things come up -- the dishwasher quit draining, the air conditioner blew a fuse, the clothes washer is about to go -- plus some reno/repair expenses that weren't totally unexpected, but as usual cost more than we'd planned. (We're having a major issue with a floor we had put in, improper installation and a costly fix. We're taking that a piece at a time.) Plus we're still fighting with the insurance about replacing the roof -- our guy says we have 6-7 years left of in, they're saying the shingles are curling and the roof has to be replaced. (Reality is the shingles aren't curling, they just have moss on them, but since the underwriters just stand on the ground and take photos they think it's curling.) We'll be getting the roof cleaned and submitting photos to the home office, but meanwhile we'll be looking for a new insurance company, too.

At any rate, I'm a little down about finances at the moment and will probably get a bit panicky come August/September, when property taxes are due. We also have a balloon payment on the HELOC that comes up in October -- for some reason it's not the kind that automatically converts to a fixed loan, so we'll have to try to refinance that. (We should have enough equity in our home to lump it into the mortgage, but it's always a stressful process.) Meanwhile I'm waiting on a couple of things to shake out that should ease things up considerably, but in the mean time I feel like I'm juggling 15 balls in the air and at any moment they'll all come crashing down around my head. (I have an emergency back-up plan, but it's not something I really want to put into action. It beats bankruptcy, though.)

I think I go through this angst every year at about this time! Probably has something to do with my birthday at the end of May.

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 24 (saved to Week 26)

With all the travel the last few weeks, I haven't had a whole lot of snowflakes coming in. Fortunately I was several weeks ahead on the challenge already, so it didn't set me back any! This update covers several weeks, and includes two month-ends of bank interest/rounding and two Freedom card roundings.

Snowflakes
ING Interest - $3.25
MSD Interest - $5.60
Chase Interest - $0.03
Chase Rounding - $10.95
Reimbursement - $22.48
Target Savings - $2.75
Found - $10.00
Freedom Card Rounding - $47.82
Chase Rounding - $11.11
Chase Interest - $0.03
ING Interest - $2.54
MSD Interest - $5.80
Target Savings - $44.28
Freedom Card Rounding - $40.66

Total Snowflakes: $207.30
Rounding (to reserve): $0.30

Beginning Balance: $670
Deposit: $207
Ending Balance: $877

Reserve: $0.25 + $0.30 = $0.55

This puts me at almost 64% of the Challenge, and we're about 46% through the year.


Chase Freedom Rewards

I've projected an average of $50 per month in rewards; May and June were higher, at $74.03 and $68.66. Again, having restaurants in the 5% rewards category this quarter is a big help -- despite not paying for anything the five days we were in Napa!

I exceeded the $300 goal for our anniversary dinner, just in time! (The rewards are calculated on the 14th of the month; we had our dinner on the 16th.) Although our meal came in well below that number, I used the whole $300 as a statement credit on the card; the excess will offset some of the cost of the gifts.

Starting Balance: $365.08
May Rewards: $74.03
June Rewards: $68.66
Statement Credit: -$300.00
Ending Balance: $207.77

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $100.00
Remaining - $0

Anniversary Dinner Fund
Goal - $300
Balance - $300
Remaining - $0

Slush Fund
Goal - $400
Balance - $107.77
Remaining - $292.93


At this point I'm just going to let the excess accumulate as a 'slush fund'. I'll probably use it for Christmas, unless something else comes up. I've set a goal of $400 based on an average of $50/month with six months left, plus what I've already got. Next quarter the 5% is gas and I have a few high-mileage weekends that quarter, so I will probably end up a bit over.

52 Week Savings Challenge and Angst

April 21st, 2015 at 03:43 pm

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 16 (saved to Week 21)

The Freedom card rounding hit for this week. It was a bit more than I expected, so I got to knock out another of the 'higher' numbers.

Snowflakes
Freedom Card Rounding - $40.89

Total Snowflakes: $40.89
Rounding (from reserve): $0.11

Beginning Balance: $629
Deposit: $41
Ending Balance: $670

Reserve: $0.36 - $0.11 = $0.25

This puts me at almost 48% of the Challenge, and we're just past 30% through the year.

-----------------------------

Meanwhile, I've been spending out of control! It's really mostly planned expenses, getting ready for two back-to-back vacations, but still, there's been a lot of money going out lately! Some of it I was able to put on my PayPal credit, which gives me six months of no interest, and the rest is on the Freedom card (which is paid off monthly) so at least I'll be getting 1% back on that. I may have to dip into my slush fund savings when the bill comes due, but I've never gone this far into the year without dipping into that fund in the past, so I'm not too upset about it!

Part of the problem is that the first trip is to Napa for S's work President's Club. While the trip itself is pretty much all expenses paid for both of us, it's "resort business casual" (whatever that means!) and "suit and tie required" dress, which is not the norm for either of us. S only has one nice suit, and he's worn it to the past several work events, so he wanted something new. He really wanted something tailored, since as a competitive cyclist he's hard to fit (big legs, small waist and hips, broad shoulders). He ended up getting a really good price, for what he got, but it was still twice what I probably would have spent!

Then we hit Kohl's for "resort business casual" wear for me, and a nice dress for the suit-and-tie event, since all I have are very dowdy skirts (it's a passive-aggressive thing since my boss won't let me wear slacks) and capris. Of course due to S's schedule we went when I didn't have any percent-off coupons. It was late and I wasn't in the mood to try anything on, so I did that at home, and of course the fancy dress I bought was just horrible once I put it on. I went by myself another night and got a couple other dresses, and a couple of replacements for some other things that didn't fit. Two days later, of course, was the "lowest prices of the season" sale, and $10 cash back for every $50 spent. Given the boatloads of money we'd just spent, I wasn't about to just let that go!

I did find an online-only coupon for 15% off (there as a big dry spell with Kohl's coupons for a while!), so I spent most of Friday morning re-buying everything we'd purchased and were keeping, plus a couple of other little things I'd forgotten earlier. When all was said and done, I ended up saving an *additional* $250 to what we'd originally spent, *plus* I got $90 in Kohl's cash. So I really made out on the savings, but I still spent quite a lot to get there! (I've returned some of the original purchases already, and the rest will go back once the online orders arrive.)

Hopefully, we should have very minimal spending the end of April/beginning of May. The work trip is basically all expenses paid, except souvenirs and if we want to do anything during the few hours of 'free time' we have. My pilgrimage is the next week and I've had the money set aside for that for a while now. Then we don't have much until the middle of the month, with our anniversary; I'm using the Freedom card rewards for the anniversary dinner, which is the bulk of that expense (the gifts are already paid for). I'll be out of town again at the end of the month, but it should be a low-cost trip. I'm going to try to get us focused on a frugal June, though!

--------------------------

Funny (non-financial) story. When our grandma died several years ago, my sister and I went down to visit with our grandpa, and stayed at their house (which my aunt and uncle had bought from them as a vacation home, when my grandparents moved into a senior/long-term care facility). We were looking through old photo albums and ran across a picture of my grandpa when he was in the Navy, and both said, "Oooh, dreamy!" (Which I guess is kind of weird to say about your grandpa, but whatever.)

We got together with my cousin a couple of weeks ago, after my aunt & uncle's funeral, before she want back down south. (She's now living in the house down there.) My sister mentioned that if she ran across the photo, we'd love a copy. She laughed and said, "I know exactly which picture you're talking about, I have it on my work desk!" When she got back home she sent my sister the picture and sure enough, it's the same one. Smile

What do you think? He was a dreamboat, wasn't he? Even for a grandpa! Wink

Chase Freedom Rewards

April 16th, 2015 at 06:36 pm

I've projected an average of $50 per month in rewards; this month was a little higher, at $62.69. The 5% category this quarter is restaurants, which is always a good time of year for us, with Mother's Day, my birthday, and our anniversary all falling in May. (My annual pilgrimage to our critter national is also in May, and while I try to limit my meal expenses we do go out to a nice dinner at least once.)

Starting Balance: $302.39
Ending Balance: $365.08

Movie Card Fund
Goal - $100
Balance - $100.00
Remaining - $0

Anniversary Dinner Fund
Goal - $300
Balance - $268.08
Remaining - $34.92

I should hit the $300 next month (which, again, will hopefully be more than I actually need for our dinner). I'll need to come up with something else to save for -- probably Christmas again, I guess!

52-Week Savings Challenge

April 13th, 2015 at 02:54 pm

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 15 (saved to Week 20)

I had some great CVS savings, which included $26 in ExtraBucks. I'm still getting used to not needing a ton of snowflakes each week (compared to the Mega Challenge I did last year); I have some bottles to return in the next couple of weeks, too; I was going to do them over the weekend but a) I ran out of time and b) I really didn't need them for the challenge. I do these the "Bingo" way and I've already got six of the top ten amounts crossed off. This week will be the Freedom card rounding, which should knock off a mid-range amount.

Snowflakes
CVS Savings - $41.94

Total Snowflakes: $41.94
Rounding (from reserve): $0.55

Beginning Balance: $587
Deposit: $42
Ending Balance: $629

Reserve: $0.42 - $0.06 = $0.36

This puts me at almost 46% of the Challenge, and we're almost 29% through the year.

52-Week Savings Challenge

April 6th, 2015 at 02:01 pm

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 14 (saved to Week 19)

S got a bigger-than-usual reimbursement from work, and since the money it was reimbursing is already spent I'm counting it as a snowflake. Smile It was the end of the month, too, which means interest paid and rounding from the checking account.

Snowflakes
Reimbursement - $65.72
Chase Interest - $0.03
ING Interest - $3.36
MSD Interest - $5.78
Checking Rounding - $10.56

Total Snowflakes: $85.45
Rounding (from reserve): $0.55

Beginning Balance: $501
Deposit: $86
Ending Balance: $587

Reserve: $0.97 - $0.55 = $0.42

This puts me at almost 43% of the Challenge, and we're almost 27% through the year.

Random Thoughts and 52-Week Savings Challenge

April 1st, 2015 at 01:58 pm

I mentioned I had my aunt & uncle's memorial last Saturday. It was a nice service, sad of course, but they certainly were loved by many. My aunt is my dad's half-sister; her mother died when she was young, her father remarried and they had my dad. (Aunt is six years older than dad, so my grandmother was pretty well the only mother my aunt knew.) At the luncheon after the service, we sat with my aunt's oldest friend, who spoke about how much my aunt loved my grandmother and never really thought of her as a step-mother. In fact, when my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia, my aunt called her friend and was worrying about whether it was hereditary -- the friend had to remind my aunt that she wasn't biologically related to my grandmother. Smile

My dad, as far as anyone knows, did not show up for the service. (Apparently there is a balcony in the church, so it's possible he came and sat up there.) When my cousin called, his response was "Well, we haven't been in touch for a long time." Of course the gut reaction is "how terrible, that's his sister and brother-in-law, even if you've been out of touch you still go to the funeral" etc. Until it occurred to me that I had no plans to attend his funeral. I haven't spoken to him in 25 years. There's no animosity there, we just decided to part ways when I was 19. He was "born again" and (unbeknownst to me at that time) starting a new family and we really didn't have a lot in common; getting together was an obligation, not something to look forward to.

Still, my reaction to him not showing up at my aunt's funeral made me rethink my position on attending his. Part of it is that you go to a funeral to show your love or respect for the deceased -- I have neither for him -- or to support those who have lost a loved one -- and I don't know anyone in his life. My grandparents are both gone, and now may aunt. My step-mother, whom I had known and liked (they married when I was 7) died years ago. I've never met either of their kids. No doubt the cousins won't attend, especially after this. I wouldn't know a single person at the funeral -- except my sister, of course -- and nor would a single person there know me.

I talked with my sister, though, and we are basically on the same page. We would go to the service, sign the guestbook so that the family would know we were there, sit in the back, and leave without talking to anyone. The reason we would go is because my grandmother would have wanted us to; she was very bothered by the fact that we were out of touch with my dad, and even though we'll never reconcile in his lifetime, for her, we'll go to the funeral.

If, of course, anyone even lets us know about it, which is highly unlikely. My aunt had always told my mom she'd let us know -- because mom will get more Social Security benefits when he dies -- but I doubt the cousins will be any more in the loop than we are. Odds are my sister's ex will be the one to find out; he's just like that.

Not the kind of thinking anyone really wants to do, but at least we've got it figured out before the situation is really staring us in the face.

-------------

I haven't been doing my monthly look back/look ahead this year. Mostly because I have a lot up in the air until around June, when I may be doing a consolidation, and until then things aren't especially progressing. (I'm saving on interest in the long run, but my credit card paydown per month isn't too impressive at the moment.) I may do quarterly reviews, though, just to keep myself on track.

--------------

I also haven't actually been putting my 52-week savings challenge money into my Capital One 360 savings account. I'm keeping track of my total, but since I'll need $2,500 from the CapOne account to pay for the new wall heater we had installed in February (which is due April 11), I figured there was no sense transferring the money for just a couple of months. I might have lost $2 in interest. As of right now I can pay the heater off in full without dipping into the CapOne account, and I'll keep tracking so that if I need some funds in the future, I might have some of that $2,500 available still.

I'm not sure that makes a lot of sense, but on paper, it works!

-------------

I've been basically failing at Lent this week. I did buy lunch out twice a couple of weeks ago -- I was "allowed" one, because I didn't go out on Fat Tuesday, but the second one was not part of the plan. I've bought lunch twice this week already and will need to again today. It's simply a matter of poor planning on my part, I didn't even think this weekend about cooking lunches ahead and we have nothing to 'grab-and-go' in the house. (Although S did bring home leftover subs from his work function Monday and Tuesday, which we ate for dinner. I could 'substitute' the money I spent on lunch as money that would have been spent on dinner, and count the leftover subs as my 'not purchased' lunch. I think that starts to defeat the spirit of Lent, though!) So I'll just extend my Lenten no-buying-lunch rule for as many days as necessary after Easter. It shouldn't be too hard, really, since I'll have Easter leftovers to cover at least a couple days' lunches!

-----------

52-Week Savings Challenge
Week 13 (saved to Week 17)

I cancelled my cable movie channel package last week, so have a credit on my bill for that. I've always justified the expense because if S and I watch two movies a month at home, we've saved money over going to the theater (when you add in snacks). Plus there have been several series that we've watched. For the last several weeks, though, I've barely turned on any of the movie channels; all of the series we watched have either ended or are on break, and even though I check the guide to see what's playing, I've rarely found anything I wanted to watch. So I cancelled it last week -- although, if I'd been paying attention, I would have waited until this week, because I wanted to see the HBO documentary on Scientology which premiered over the weekend. (We did sign up for Amazon Prime, so no doubt it -- and the series we want to keep watching -- will show up there at some point.)

I also had $5 Extra Bucks from CVS (and $5 more to spend in the next couple of weeks -- it's been a good run lately!).


Snowflakes
Cable Refund - $55.25
CVS Savings - $5.30

Total Snowflakes: $60.55
Rounding (to reserve): $0.55

Beginning Balance: $441
Deposit: $60
Ending Balance: $501

Reserve: $0.42 + $0.55 = $0.97

This puts me at just over 36% of the Challenge, and we're 25% through the year.