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*Had* to Update Quicken

April 17th, 2015 at 09:34 pm

I bought Quicken Deluxe in 2012 at Costco for $20.
I had never used Quicken before and quickly fell in love with using it. Honestly, I open and update our accounts in Quicken probably three to four times each week. I love the colored charts and how easy it is to track every penny. I also use it to plan my bill paying a month ahead of time.
It's like a game for me when I'm on Quicken. Smile
(My DH has even referred to me paying bills/accounting as "playing on the computer"!)

About two months ago I started getting messages about how if I didn't update to the latest edition I would lose the ability to download transactions directly into the program. This is a big deal for me. It saves mucho time to just click a button and have all my financial accounts updated. Oh sure the program would still work after May 1st; I'd just be manually entering all transactions.

Had I known at the beginning of the year they would shut off the auto downloading I might have bought it at Costco again. They have Quicken on special every January. I checked the price now - $49.99.

The biggest rip-off is the maker of Quicken - Intuit - says "upgrade now and we will give you $10 off". The cost on their website is $74.99, so $64.99 for all the loyal current customers. The highest price out of anywhere I checked.

Last night I broke down and purchased the 2015 version through Amazon - downloaded and installed it with about three clicks. That process was very easy and smooth.

So far the new version works the same as the old one that I was quite happy with, plus these "improvements".
* The chart and graph colors are in a new color scheme - whatever. Rolleyes
* Some things have been moved from one side of the screen to the other - I find that annoying.
* I get my credit score listed in the side bar - wow (not).
* You can access your account from your phone - I opted out of that for now as I want to try to limit exposure to sensitive account info.

It cost $39.99 on Amazon. BUT, I still had gift card money from the CC rewards so it cost $0!
*Silver Lining* Big Grin

And honestly, $40 every three years for something I use so often is a good deal. I just hate being pushed into it.

Auto Insurance Paid for the Year

January 3rd, 2015 at 03:14 pm

I paid our car insurance for the year in a single payment. It was $579.

This is the third year I've been able to pay it in a single payment using savings. Boy, is it a good feeling. Smile

It's nice that it saves me a little time because I don't have to make the monthly payments. But, I do it because it saves us money.

The insurance company charges a $7/month billing fee. They split the bill into 11 payments, so we save $77 dollars for the year by paying all at once.

I can't think of another bill where we could save by paying all at once.
Do you have any bills that save you money by paying all at once?

Mower Repair & Pre-Sale Gym Membership

August 17th, 2014 at 03:59 pm

Our lawnmower wouldn't stay running. DH had to take it the repair shop. He picked it up this last week. $146 for a new carburetor. Ouch!
We were told that to prevent this from being a problem in the future we cannot use "cheap gas". (Who knew?)
It was recommended that we only use Chevron Supreme in the mower.
(I hope that helps any other mower owners out there.)

------
A new health club is being built in our city. They are running a pre-sale special that has the rates about 50% less than regular.

DH really wants to get back into the gym again. Unfortunately this club doesn't offer racquetball (for the sake of his knees maybe that's not such a bad thing).

The cost for our entire family with the special rate is less than the single member rate at the club we had used previously. And the special rate is locked for the length of the membership. If me or the kids end up not using the club we can suspend the additional memberships (me, DD, DS) and reactivate later still keeping the promo rate. At the minimum we can get DH in there working out a few times per week and squeeze $35/month into the budget. We can cancel anytime without fees, so we felt like there wasn't any risk to giving it a try.

My Friday - Spending & Making Money

August 8th, 2014 at 11:20 pm

Spending.
We got new tires for the Pathfinder.
It had been three years and three months since the last tire replacement and at least 70k miles. They were really worn, to the point that I was worrying about driving too far on them.
Four new tires, an alignment and taxes/fees came to $960.

Making.
I redeemed my Wells Fargo AmEx points for cash into our checking account. That was $550! Big Grin

I made $60 for pet sitting this weekend.

Won $25 cash prize at a veterinary technician meeting this evening.

And I booked a pet sitting job coming up soon that will pay $400.

Scholarship Money

May 19th, 2014 at 10:18 pm

Good news for us - had a letter today from DS's preschool that we will be receiving $1k in tuition assistance for next school year. Tuition is broken down into 10 monthly installments, so that is $100/month savings! Big Grin

We also received a check from DD's 4H club for $50 toward her week at 4H camp this summer.
The camp is a deal at $245 for six days/five nights of sleep-away camp with all meals and activities.
The $50 "scholarship" brings the cost to under $200. Smile

Charged $71 to the Propel AmEx today for a tank of gas. It was $3.95/gallon at Costco.


Treading Water

April 23rd, 2014 at 03:44 pm

Last Friday our paychecks managed to meet our budgeted amount, so that was a good thing.

Need more though..

Easter weekend was very nice. We visited my sister, her DH and their baby. The money we spent was on gas (about $80) to drive there and back. To save money we slept on her living room floor in our sleeping bags instead of getting a hotel room. And we didn't buy any candy or any Easter treats this year - not even one. (My sis did get the kids a few little candies - I was glad for that.) My mom and dad came and brought my Grandpa with them. That was extra nice because we rarely get to see him as he lives so far from us. It was really special.


Yesterday I transferred $5 to the "special focus" just to feel like I was making progress *somewhere*.
I'm only kidding myself because in reality the "special focus" now is just getting enough into the checking account to cover regular bills.

Not going to be able to swing much extra to any of the cc debt for the next few months. Hopefully there will be money to put back into savings starting in June or July.

Some of the savings that I used recently I had earmarked for new tires. The current set we purchased in May 2011 and they are worn. I think I can get by for a few more months without any trouble.

Truck still needs a water pump...

Car Repairs. Two More Short Paydays.

April 13th, 2014 at 06:21 pm

My car was repaired last Sunday.. sort of..

I took it for a little test drive just to be sure it didn't give me any trouble before my commute Monday morning. It was a beautiful late Sunday afternoon. I cruised just out of town and through rolling green hills with houses, gardens and animals. I was really enjoying my drive and then the car started running badly again..

Even worse, actually, because it had no power whatsoever. I was glad I was on a quiet country road with nobody behind me. I puttered for a few miles, pulled into a school parking lot and had to call for a tow home.

I was glad it was only me stranded and that I was in a safe place and not on the side of the highway.
I passed the time by watching baby goats playing in the field next to the parking lot and catching up with games on my phone.

Unfortunately, I was 9 miles from home and we just have basic roadside service that covers up to 5 miles of towing (or to closest repair garage), so we had to pay the 4 mile overage. Frown

Turns out there was a second sensor that needed replacement. The car would run fine until it got hot then it would crap out. Our mechanic neighbor finished that replacement early Tuesday afternoon (and the car has been running great since *KNOCK on WOOD*). We returned the rental car that night - we had it for five days.

$542 - repair
$ 82 - car rental
$ 40 - tow


AND as if that isn't financial headache enough, we had two more paydays short of the weekly income I budget for.

On 4/4 we came up short by $240.
On 4/11 short by $318.

The costs for the repairs and the funds to balance the budget have come out of the now pitifully depleted EF.

Frown

Ting Cell Service Saves Us $80 (or more) per Month

April 3rd, 2014 at 01:03 pm

As most of you know we use Ting here and LOVE it.

Recently we were able to switch DH and his beloved iPhone over to Ting. That simple change has saved us $60/month. Which came at just the right time because we ended up needing $60 more per month to cover the new health plan for the children.

As stated in the title Ting service actually saves us more than $60 each month.
Here is how I am basing that statement:

Sprint (network Ting uses) is now offering it's "Framily" plan. So assuming all three of us phone users in our family used that plan it would be $45/pp/mo. That is $135 per month. And say another $6 for taxes and fees, so $141 total per month.

Here is our Ting bill from February 18 to March 18.
(so you all don't think I made up numbers!)



(Our texting is high due to DD. She pays difference between the $5 Medium level and whatever level her texting lands us.)

Yes, that total is $61.97 for three smart phones. Really it could be much lower if we tried harder to limit some of the usage.

AND the amount I actually *paid* last month was $36.97 because I had a $25 referral credit (THANK YOU dear person!).

I think the savings are even greater if you compare plans from AT&T or Verizon. One of them is offering a "special deal" - a four line plan for $180/mo.

SO, if changing your cell service to Ting sounds like something you'd like to do you can save $25 right away by using my referral code:

https://zlibcgmej.ting.com/

MonkeyMama and Ceejay are also using Ting. I know MM likes it. I am interested to hear if Ting is saving CeeJay money and if she likes her new phone.

UPDATE: CeeJay was the first one to comment! Big Grin

Tuition Assistance for Preschool

March 28th, 2014 at 11:16 am

The wonderful preschool DS goes to has a scholarship program. I was a bit on the fence about applying.. Paperwork to fill out, tax returns to copy and a $27 application fee. I had pretty much decided not to apply.

I know it seems silly that here I am blogging on SA and I WASN'T going to apply. It seems silly to me now that I really think on it. The reason is that I don't look at our family as a family in *need* and I don't want to take from a family that truly has *need*.

(Have you ever found yourself stepping aside for others; assuming someone has a greater need than yourself?)

The front office lady, EL, swayed me to going for it when she told me these two things.
First, there is a pool of money and some years it doesn't all get used. (Um.. What?!)
Second, our part as parents is to apply; not decide if we qualify for anything or not. That is the job of the tuition company the application goes to.

When she put it in that perspective I thought "why not?" EL was very encouraging about applying. (I hope that hints at a favorable outcome!)

Last night I filled out the application. The most difficult questions was "How much can you pay toward tuition?". If I put too small of an amount am I trying to get more than I need? If I put too high, then am I shorting the possible assistance payment? I settled on $5k less than full tuition - that would be a huge savings.

This morning I made copies of the W2s and tax returns. I just put the packet in the outgoing mail here at work.

Any help would make a difference to the budget next year.

Back on the Horse

March 22nd, 2014 at 04:04 pm

I have decided to dig my heels in and I just applied the $60 cash to the cc I have special focus on.
I let snowflakes "melt" into our checking account way too often.

Feeling much more collected today. Smile
And absolutely confident that I will not have lunch out or a family meal out for the rest of the month. I will need to go to the store for bananas and dinner fixings for next Saturday, but other than that we have a ton of food.

A friend and her family are taking a weeklong trip to visit family. She was going to board their little dog at a local kennel. I told her I would watch her dog at my house for half the cost of the kennel. She was thrilled.

It is a Win/Win/Win. I'll make $150. She'll save $150. Pup will have totally tailored attention.

Speaking of horses.. got notice that our boarding rate is increasing by $10/month to $170/month. Operating costs going up for the ranch owner -especially the cost of hay. I figure the drought is only going to make that worse.

April is also vet visit month for our horse. Likely $100 for that.

End of the Week & I Was Bad

March 21st, 2014 at 09:40 pm

Another payday with short paychecks.
(Next week will be golden as neither DH nor I had short days this week.)
But, yeah, $206 less income this week than what I budget/estimate/plan/project for. Frown

I have $60 of cat care cash that I was planning to put toward a cc.
In fact, this week I decided to make this particular card my main focus and commit any *extra* to its payoff no matter what.

Now, I either need to stick to that plan OR use that $60 cash to help cover the usual expenses. No matter which option I am still going to have to transfer some from savings to cover outgoing bills.

It is feeling very one step forward; two steps back.

& I was bad this week...
I don't know if it was the nice weather making me lazy, or the "special" time of the month, or the feelings of stress over weeks of lower income, or some sadness/reality over unexpected deaths (there was a horrific car crash where a pickup truck crushed a car all the way to the front seats. Killing two women - mother/daughter. Happened on a road I frequently drive.) Sicily, the weird missing plane and some other upsetting (child abuse) news stories..
But I ate lunch out four days and as a family we ate dinner out once and had fast food dinner once.
$30 - lunches out
$46 - dinner out
$21 - family fast food

And I completely feel like I am shooting myself in the foot - while taking those two steps back!

Discouraged.

Health Insurance Hassle

March 16th, 2014 at 10:17 am

Been meaning to share that my boss decided to end our group plan at work. His family is eligible to get coverage through his wife's work. Her employer will pay 50%, so he figures they will save money going that route.
*Shrug* We'll see. The % her employer pays is dependent on how many units she teaches each semester, so that might make a big difference.

The good thing is the boss wants to continue paying for my insurance. The bad part is *how* he is going to pay since I am now getting an individual plan. He is discussing with his accountant. One option is bonuses with additional funds added to cover the tax I will have to pay.

The other not-so-great part is that he decided he would cover only up to $300/mo. If the plan I chose was more I'd have to pay the difference. SO what he is paying isn't getting me the same level of coverage I've had.

What is good is that I might "make" money. I opted to go with the same plan that I picked for the kids - which is a bit on the lower end of Bronze. The total for us three is $517/month. Because I opted to go with a "cheaper" plan there will be *extra* money and that will offset the additional we've been paying for DD & DS.

$18/mo of that is "mandatory" dental, but we have dental coverage so I need to discuss with our agent (when things quiet down) if we can drop that.

The hassle has been spending a week trying to get a straight answer about how much the boss would be willing/able to pay. (Still no answer about *HOW* the money will come.) Then shopping and comparing plans for me only to come to the conclusion that I should just go cheap. Then making a new application for me and the kids after I just went through all this a few weeks back for the kids. (Now their previous policy will cancel and this one will start up.)

I am a bit nervous that I'll need to depend on my boss to pay me this additional money each month (you all remember money is a big issue for him). Yes, he has been responsible for paying the premiums in the past, but that was when his family was concerned...

It is all just Hassle..

Stupid Mistake...

February 20th, 2014 at 09:30 pm

DD needed four fillings and two sealants.
We found out she had the cavities in early December at her routine cleaning appointment. With everything going on (action packed December) I thought it would be easier to wait until January/February to make the appointments for the fillings.

*palm to forehead*

That was so dumb! And the kicker is I *know* better. I *know* how to make dental insurance work for you. AND I didn't even realize I screwed up until after DD's fillings appointment.

Our insurance is an incentive plan. They pay 100% up to $1k for routine dental needs. This means we just maxed out DD's dental benefits for this year.
AND we'll have to pay about $100 out of pocket.

We barely used any benefits in 2013, so if I would have just found *a* day in December to do some of the work we wouldn't be paying anything.

Can't believe I so totally dropped the ball on this!
Crap! (& the other four letter words too!)

Yippee! DH's iPhone on Ting Now!

February 5th, 2014 at 04:49 pm

Last night I transferred DH's cell phone over to Ting. I am so excited about this mostly because of the big monthly savings. Secondly, because it's one less bill/company I have to deal with monthly.
I had offered many times to buy him a new phone just to get him to move to Ting, but he is very attached to his current phone.

Just a note: Ting is not fully supporting iPhones.. yet.. *Fingers crossed* for other Apple users. They are activating iPhone4 and 4s that are Sprint "branded" which basically narrows it to two phone models being eligible. This was where we got lucky because DH's phone is a 4 and he bought it through Sprint on Black Friday 2011.

I did have to maneuver a bit to make it happen.

First, I had to swap his Sprint service to an old cell phone so we didn't lose his current number. That meant digging around to pull out all our old phones. Then I was almost ready to give up because the first *four* I tried were not supported by the Sprint network anymore so they couldn't be activated. I almost didn't try the last one - glad I did 'cause the *fifth* old phone worked like a charm!
That made the iPhone inactive with Sprint (the phone must be inactive in order to re-activate with Ting).

Next, I logged into Ting a requested the number be "ported" and to activate the iPhone.

Two hours later I received the email that stated the number has been ported and to finish the activation steps.

My DH was happy because I told him he might be without his phone for 24 hours because I didn't know how long it would take to get his phone number switched.

I was/am so happy because the savings each month!!
Big Grin

**Previous monthly cell charges:

DH's Sprint = $86/mo (average)
Me & DD's Ting = $33/mo (average)

Total = $119/month

**New, anticipated, monthly charges:

Medium Minutes = $9
Large Texts = $8
Medium Data = $12
Device charge = $6 (x3)
Taxes = pocket change

Total = $49/month

$70/month SAVINGS!

**Happy Dancing**

Ting Lowers Rates! (Especially on Data)

February 3rd, 2014 at 07:50 pm

This is great news, especially for higher usage customers!

Even though I use as little data as possible by connecting to Wi-Fi most of the time, my DD typically bumps us to the next level of usage with her YouTube surfing and music listening while not on Wi-Fi. Not that it is a *big* deal - about $10 additional per month that she pays for.

Here is the email I received this morning:




Then this evening I was able to read the blog post and saw their new rate table.



**Remember my referral code is on my sidebar and it will save you $25 when you decide to switch. Smile


Paying More for Health Insurance

January 18th, 2014 at 05:27 pm

I wish, wish, wish, wish that the government wouldn't always take a good idea and f*ck it every which way so that it ends up being a near worthless pile of crap!
Health care should be easy to get, effective and inexpensive for everyone..period.

Anyway, moving on..
Both DH and I are lucky enough to have 100% employer paid health insurance that covers us. I also have a very good dental plan that covers the entire family. I am very thankful for all this.
We have to purchase insurance for the children privately because adding them to either my or DH's plan costs so much. (I have NEVER understood WHY this is?!)

We worked with an insurance agent again to help us chose coverage. I HIGHLY recommend using an agent - It doesn't cost you anything and they are extremely knowledgeable (at least ours was).

Here is a portion of the spreadsheet he provided to compare monthly premiums, deductibles and total annual costs (best and worst).




I'll get to the point here.. we are now paying $258/month for insurance, an increase of $76/month more. Same amount of coverage, but a new plan from a different company - had to change because the old plan doesn't even exist anymore.

We are not eligible for any premium assistance/pre-paid tax credit on the kid's policies because DH and I have "affordable" employee sponsored plans.

It hurts the pocketbook and I'll be neglecting other things I'd rather throw money at.
Somehow I will come up with a way to cover this added outflow.
What about other families?

Financial This 'n That

November 9th, 2013 at 07:51 am

Called our cable provider for a lower rate. We have TV, internet and home phone bundled with Comcast.
I was all set for a tough negotiation and threats of leaving. Didn't need that at all! The CSR was super nice and I was all set less than 15 minutes later. Smile
Kept our same package and services for $120/month for two years.
A savings of $55/month compared to their *regular* rate! ($16/month less than the *low* rate we had been paying.)

DD lost/forgot her debit card. (While walking home with a friend she stopped for a fast food snack.)
An hour later our bank called - her card had been brought in by a good citizen. Big Grin
A good lesson learned.

Our gas and electric bill last month was the lowest it has been all year (I think?) $80. Such mild days and nights in September/October we didn't need the heat or the AC.

Had to reorder checks. Totally ran out right before the first of the month. Rolleyes
Last time I bought them was March 2012.

It has been slow at work, so this past Tuesday my boss reduced my schedule back to a half day on Tuesdays again. (He is a total dork, but that's a different post.)
Darn it - I was liking that bit of extra income.
The silver lining is that I work in the morning, pick up DS from preschool in the afternoon and get home well before dark.
My work schd is pretty sweet: full day, half day, full day, half day, full day, weekend.

Might be able to switch DH's iPhone to Ting at the end of this month.
(Shhh..I got an email about beta testing..)
That could save us an easy $40 to $60 each month! Very excited!

Had a 0% balance transfer offer come up. A bit of quick math and I figured the upfront transfer fee would "pay for itself" after 3.5 months. We would not have the balance paid off by then. Prepaying a bit of interest now to reap long term 0% benefit will pay off in the long run.

I am continuing to earn $80/week with my quick, 30 minute, twice weekly trip to give an old cat fluids.
I also earned $140 by pet sitting some other cats five days last week.
This extra cash has been so awesome! Big Grin

October Spending

November 2nd, 2013 at 11:04 am

One of the reasons I love my Quicken is the pretty colored pie charts. Smile



Home: Mortgage interest, taxes, insurance.
Kids: Childcare.
Food: Groceries, eating out, lunches, etc..
Utilities: Gas, electric, cell phones, water, sewer, garbage, cable, internet, home phone.
Interest Expenses: Higher than usual - did a balance transfer to get 0%.
Health: Dentist bill, Health insurance.
Home Loan: Mortgage principle.
Auto: Gas, new headlight bulbs, oil change.
Travel: Deposits on upcoming vacation.
Shopping: Household supplies, costumes, hobbies, DH's nicotine (Copenhagen) habit.
Retirement: ROTH IRAs
Pets: Horse board.

Resolution of the Childcare Situation

September 26th, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Currently we are situation "A".
Daycare costs are calculated at the new rate and average number of hours/month.
School costs are fixed per month regardless of attendance.
I work four full days and one half day per week.

A) School part-time/Daycare part-time
$986/month
School 3 days/week = $590
Daycare (GrandmaB) = $396

B) School mostly/Daycare 4.5/hrs/week
$966/month
School 4 days/week
+ flat rate aftercare = $885
Daycare 1/2 day/week = $81

C) School Full Time
$990/month
School 5 days/week + flat rate aftercare = $990


I have asked the preschool to put us on the waiting list to increase DS to five days or at least add the fourth full day I work. This may not happen for weeks or months. This preschool is *amazing* and 100% full with a waiting list.

The school is hands-down the best place for our son to go. He asks to go every day now and financially the numbers speak for themselves - why did I/am I having such a hard time with this?
After more thinking it is because of emotional attachmant and that I very much dislike change.

In my earlier post I wasn't very clear - not even for myself. I was actually struggling to find a reason to *stay* with our current daycare lady (GrandmaB) even given her rate increase. Though it is not logical in the financial sense. I have very personal feeling toward this woman, whom I've known for over 10 years and who has cared for both of my children. She loves them like her own and gets them little gifts for birthdays, Christmas and back-to-school.

Yes, my feelings got a little hurt when she announced her rate increase. I feel that her reason comes more from seeing us "have the money" to pay preschool tuition than anything else. I might be wrong there, but can't help feeling that.

Her home and care is safe and reliable, but it is not enriching, stimulating or exciting. If you picture a small living room and a dining room with some toys and a grandma in a rocking chair you've got the whole picture. And there isn't anything wrong with that, except we can have more for him for essentially the same cost.

I could have enrolled DS full time in preschool when I was planning months ago, but I didn't for these reasons.
1. GrandmaB is flexible. If I work 20 or 30 minutes later it is no problem.
2. I didn't want to "take" DS away from GrandmaB. I didn't want to hurt her feelings by not "needing" her.
3. Wasn't sure how well DS would take to such a big change. (In retrospect this is more *I* didn't want a big change. My baby isn't a baby anymore.)
4. The cost of using GB part time was less by close to $60/month.

Unfortunately, the school is not so flexible with late pick-up. That is the only drawback there. I have already discussed what is going on and the plan with my boss. He is fine with me not being available to work late. It really doesn't happen very often and I can still stay up to 15 minutes after "closing time" if need be. He said he thinks school is the best place for DS too and that is most important.
So there it is, the only real negative factor isn't really a factor at all.

When we end up making the change I will give GrandmaB as much notice as possible and write her a very nice letter of recommendation. There may still be days when we will use her in a drop-in way or maybe in the summer. If not, I will make a point to drop by to see her and still send her cards and pictures of the kids.

Daycare Rate Increase. Thoughts?

September 21st, 2013 at 06:20 pm

Friday evening when I picked up DS our daycare lady told me she is thinking/needing to raise our rate to $4.50/hour. I was totally unprepared when she said it and at first I was thinking that was a big increase (it is *just* $0.50/hour more). I reacted with a bit of shock and resistance. I told her I needed to make some calculations because I can pay a flat rate per month for aftercare at his preschool and that may end up costing less than using her all week.

At that point I'm sure I hurt her feelings a little. She got a little defensive in her body posture and said "do what you need to". *sigh*

Now, of course our son and his safety, comfort and care is a top priority. 50-cents more per hour doesn't seem like a lot. I don't want to be "so cheap" (you all know what I mean by that).

This rate increase would mean us paying on average $40/month more while DS is in preschool. $100/month more in the summer. That is significant.. Right?

I am having a hard time with her reason for increasing her rate which is - She is losing money because DS is in preschool now.
The increased cost would be tough enough to swallow, but I would be more agreeable if her reason was operating costs, or cost of living adjustment, or something along those lines. I mean, come on, when I work less I don't ask for a raise in my hourly pay to try to make up the difference. I feel like that is what she is saying. If she doesn't like losing income then she should take in another child. She only cares for one other little girl four days a week. And it's not as if she didn't know our DS would be coming less. I told her about preschool when he was two and a more serious discussion when all the paperwork was filled out six months ago.

Running the numbers last night it is an even cost if we pay her to watch DS two full days and three after-school days per week or if she watches him two full days per week and he stays at preschool the other three days.

On one hand I want to make a point and if she is going to charge more then I am going to use her less. On the other I don't want to hurt her feelings. She is sensitive and I don't want her to feel as though we don't value her care of our baby boy.

On Monday we will have to have a more thorough discussion since this topic was left hanging right before the weekend. Maybe she might re-think the increase given what I said about having him stay at preschool.

I have been thinking of offering to pay $40/month more while he is in school, but only if she agrees to keep the rate the same. That way in summer I'll be saving us the increase.

Any thoughts?

One Year Review of Ting and $25 Off Coupon Code (aka Ting! Ting! I Love Ting!)

September 19th, 2013 at 04:16 pm

A review of my year using Ting - the cell phone service company.

Bottom line: I really love using Ting! The last 12 months have saved us $400. And that is after I subtract the cost of the phones we purchased.

If that alone has helped you decide to change; just scroll to the end of this post for ways to save even more money when you switch to Ting.
....
When I look at my bills from Ting I don't cringe in horror like I used to. Especially because I am a pretty low usage user. I always hated how "Unlimited" didn't apply to me or how you have to have premium service if you want to use a smart phone. I know things are changing in the cell business - lots of competition is helping to lower the cost for everyone - I just want it super low now. Big Grin

Using Ting for just myself the bill was $16/month. Now with my DD and myself we are $25 - $30/month.

I did buy a fancy smart phone last year when I switched. You can opt for a "simple" phone or a used one or you might be able to use the phone you use now. My phone quickly paid for itself with the big monthly savings and referral credits earned (THANK YOU!).

I LOVE my Android smart phone. DH has an iPhone and it's nice too, but I like my Samsung better. Smile

I had Sprint service before switching, so I knew my coverage area would be the same, but far less money. In the past year my coverage has only gotten better as equipment has been updated and expanded.

The customer service is A+. You can email or talk to a real live person. That is so very nice. Smile

Keeping track of your usage is also very easy. There is a "Dashboard" online that shows your usage like a speedometer in a car.

The only negative (a small one) is that when I call or text my DD it counts as double - me sending/her receiving. *shrug* Not a big deal, but something to bear in mind.

Also a negative for some people, the fact that Ting doesn't offer the iPhone. For me that doesn't matter, but I know some of you are holding out until the do.
Just keep in mind you are spending way more than you need to...

....
Now is a good time to switch to Ting if you've been thinking about it.

1) They are now offering to "pay" a portion of the early termination fee that you are charged when you leave your old carrier.
Information here: https://ting.com/etf

2) Use my referral code to save $25 off a phone or service. *Thanks* in advance!
https://zlibcgmej.ting.com/



Happy Cell Saving to You!

Easy, Low-Tech, Calendar Budget System

September 7th, 2013 at 11:41 am

I wanted to share this little budgeting system using a calendar and pencil (and maybe a calculator too).
I hope someone will find it useful...

My coworker was having trouble planning her money out. She asked for some advice when she couldn't pay her rent until two weeks into the month it was due. She'd like to do the envelope method, but that is hard to start when you are starting out behind. I showed her how to lay out this calendar and she has told me the past two months have been so much better. Just a glance at her calendar budget and she can stay on track.

Some of us might refer to this a "future checkbook" or might use a spreadsheet to plan ahead. I use Quicken to do this every month - planning ahead to see where we need to move money and when in the month we can do it. In Quicken it is much easier because I can easily change numbers and dates and the program makes all the calculations. However, this calendar will help someone looking for a low tech way to look ahead and keep tighter tabs on their cash. I think this method is most helpful for people being paid weekly or bi-weekly.

These examples are based on my coworker's situation. She is a single woman without many expenses. She is paid weekly. Currently she is trying to get caught up to the point where she can pay her rent on the first of the month.

First, write in the starting balance.
This could be in your checking account or cash.
I like to plan for all the income first ('cause it makes me feel warm & fuzzy Smile ).
Payday is Friday.
Her paycheck fluctuates, so this number is a best-guess-average. Eventually her plan is to save any income above her "estimated" number and to budget a set amount to save weekly or bi-weekly.




Second, plan your month.
Each week she withdraws cash to spend on gas and food for the week ($50/wk).
She has a few small charges on auto-pay (insurance, game club, etc..).
Cell phone is always $40/mo.
TV & Internet.
Electric & Gas.
One CC payment.
Dentist payment.






Third, make changes as you go.
In this picture I show the adjustments she makes when she deposits her actual paychecks.



As you can see in this example she started September with $816 and is finishing the month with $1135. Almost enough to pay her rent on or before the first.
She would meet her goal by the end of October as long as nothing changed. Smile


*** In "real life" my coworker is not quite that close to her goal yet.
She had really gotten behind. She tells me that she is much better off now with the calendar and it is "simple to use". She showed me her September projections yesterday at work and she will have her December rent set aside by Thanksgiving.
*fingers crossed*

Auto Repairs. Registration. Smog.

July 21st, 2013 at 12:21 pm

The last two weeks we've spent a chunk on my vehicle. This is our 1999 Nissan Pathfinder that currently has just under 220k miles. It's yearly registration was due and it needed to pass the bi-annual smog (emissions) test. The "check engine" light has been on and it was well overdue for a tune-up.

We had our neighbor, a mechanic, do the work for us. Which was super convenient because I didn't have to drop the car off anywhere. He just walked over and picked it up when he had time to work on it. Plus, he charges $30 - $45 less per hour than a usual shop.

The money spent:
$763 - complete tune-up (plugs, wires, filters etc..), replaced a fuel injector, O2 sensor, a couple fuses, new brakes..
$ 95 - yearly registration
$ 53 - Smog test & DMV certificate

It runs so great now and passed it's Smog test easily. Should've had the work done sooner, oh well, I am very happy with the results now. Smile

Good Way to Compare Health Plans

May 2nd, 2013 at 06:09 pm

In an earlier post I said we had met with an insurance broker about plans for our children.
Now that I learned how to use the Snip Tool I can post some screen shots of the nifty spreadsheet he gave us to compare costs. I couldn't fit all of them in (there were 66) but you'll get the idea.

For those of us who have a hard time figuring out where to start when it comes to narrowing down the choices I hope this helps - It certainly helped me.

Okay, so things to know when you look at this:
- All the numbers are doubled to account for both kids.
- It's color coded to show different companies. I didn't include the company/plan names for space reasons.
- The HSA and Tax columns are both blank because it's "child only" plans.
- Based on the best case/worst case numbers I chose four plans and investigated their specific coverage. The best thing, for me, was to remember that now with ObamaCare preventative care is covered 100% no matter what plan you have.

Best Case Scenario
Annual Premium. No other money spent.

Worst Case Scenario
Annual premium *added to* Total Out Of Pocket Limit.





I found it very interesting to see how a "full coverage/$0 deductable" policy could really cost you a whole lot more especially if you are a healthy person. You could spend as much in *Best Case* as you would in some cheaper plans *Worst Case*.

Truck. Credit. Weather. Quicken.

March 9th, 2013 at 12:22 pm

My DH took our truck in for its smog test and to have a tire repaired. $65. The yearly registration for the truck is due the end of this month.

-----
I got a comment on my blog that someone used my referral code. I checked my Ting account and it was a $50 credit! They are running a promotion until March 15 were I get a double credit for each one.

Two more months of free cell service! Big Grin

I am going to snowflake that money to a cc payment.

-----
The weather is beautiful. We had some rain on Tuesday night, but the system passed through quickly. We really need more rain, but it's hard to complain about the sun, 70F days and lovely sunsets.

-----
Just wanted to say again how much I love using Quicken. It is so useful for tracking, but also so useful for planning.

I worked a system out months ago where I input income and expenses a month ahead at a time. It makes it so great for planning because I can see which week might be tight or flush. I can change a payment amount and, without doing any work myself, see how that impacts the rest of my month.
And categorizing expenses is so easy; I love the colored pie chart. Big Grin

If you are on the fence about trying it - do it. I wish I started sooner.

Utilities

March 6th, 2013 at 08:56 pm

Lost this post the first time, so here is a less detailed post.

We received a $13 credit by reducing our gas usage compared to last year. Smile
DH turned our water heater down. But the savings might also be because we didn't host Christmas (see below).

Our natural gas doesn't really cost us all that much considering we have gas water heater, stove/oven and furnace. In winter it's about $2 per day up to $5 on some weekend days. In the summer our gas costs us $0.25 per day.

Electricity is pretty steady throughout the year except for the hot days in the summer when we run the AC.

Our water bill was 65% lower this December-January compared with last year. That is about 4400 gallons of water less and over $20 in savings. I figure it is because we didn't host Christmas this year. No extra people in the house and no extra dishwasher loads. Our bill (water & sewer) runs about $85/month on average.

Garbage is $43 every three months.

Cell phones are $16/mo for me (Ting) and $85/mo for DH (Sprint).

Internet/Home Phone/Cable runs us $150/mo.

March - The First 'Extra' Payday Month

March 2nd, 2013 at 10:42 am

DH and I are both paid on Fridays. A few months each year have five Fridays, thereby giving us an "extra" payday. March is the first for 2013.

I am laying out a plan for all the "extra" payday months here and now. This will keep me accountable to sticking to my plan and keep the money from "evaporating" into the usual monthly money flow.

March

$300 Truck Registration
$500 EF
$500 CC Payment

Actual: $1223
$300 Truck
$500 EF
$423 CC



May

$1300 Roof Replacement


August

$500 Summer Camps/Classes/Activities for Kids
$800 Vehicle Repairs/EF


November

$500 EF
$800 Christmas Spending




February Wrap Up

February 28th, 2013 at 04:58 pm

My cell phone case came today. It was $9.90 and had near perfect reviews. It is just what I have been wanting - not bulky and a simple blue glitter color. Even though it is thin I think it would have protected my phone if I had it when it fell last week.

I ordered my DH some work gloves at the same time so I could get free shipping. Then when I was checking out I saw I had $16 available Amazon credit on the Discover cc. I used that and paid $12 for both items. Smile

February seemed to fly by! The weather has been so mild for most of the month. This past weekend we took a drive to one of the neighboring towns to buy DD some beekeeping supplies. The drive was beautiful. Our area is very pastoral and with the sun shining, blue sky, green grass and trees blooming it's especially lovely. To be fair most of the year it is pretty here for one reason or another. My drive to and from work is highway driving, but alongside it are dairy cows in pastures and vineyards and great sunsets to look at.

We had a major *fail* in the grocery spending this month. $915. Plus another $120 in dining out.

The grocery spending was a lot of deals I didn't pass up on. We have a full pantry and freezer. I do not expect to buy much this weekend - I am going to stick strictly to my list. And I am going to work at being extra attentive to March spending.

The eating out was MIL's birthday visit, breakfast out when my mom came for a visit and a few fast food lunches (DH). It will be less this month by not having any birthday meals out.

Gas is now over $4/gal here. I paid $4.06/gal today when I filled up. Some stations have prices upwards of $4.30/gal. Ouch!

I spent $439 for gas this past month. Blah!

Good Roof News (I Hope)

February 21st, 2013 at 03:51 pm

Our roof needs to be replaced. It is original to the house which was built in 1955. We have gotten a few estimates and they have all averaged about $6500. We've had to limp our current roof along with patch jobs and last month a tarp across a particularly bad spot. I have focused our extra money on debt pay down and not making much of a plan for the roof. If DH had a large side job or two he could make enough to pay for it in cash, but he hasn't had any large jobs for awhile.

(Back story: About two years ago he had a big job and used the profit to buy a motorcycle. Made me so very angry that he chose that over the roof! Now he has been having to live with the results of that choice. At this point I hope he has learned from this. (I don't even want to talk about - sure way to start a fight.) When it comes to money he really needs to "grow-up". He has got to realize he can't buy every toy or thing he *wants*.)

I know because of these events surrounding the roof I am happy to *dump* the problem on DH and let him worry about it. I feel like I am saying "Yeah Honey it could've been done already, but you made your bed now lay in it." Without verbally saying anything.

Alright, on the real reason for the post.

About two weeks ago DH and I were talking about the plans for the "extra paycheck" months. He told me that he thinks he is just going to have to replace the roof himself. He has had offers from a few friends to help him do it. Some with prior experience and others just handy, so he wouldn't be doing it completely alone.

Then last weekend he was helping a buddy out with his furnace and the roof subject came up. This friend, B, replaced our windows a few years back and has general contracting experience. He told DH he has all the tools needed for roof replacement and has done it a few times. They discussed trading services; HVAC work for roofing work.

What this all boils down to is that we would buy materials and labor would cost us beer and pizza for 4 or 5 guys over a weekend or two.

This could be very good. Maybe it can all come together this summer.

Sick this Weekend

February 9th, 2013 at 02:33 pm

It is a beautiful, sunny, blue sky day here.
I am sick and pretty much staying inside trying to rest up. I started coming down with it on Tuesday, it is not the flu or really bad, but I want to kick it as fast as possible.

This weekend I am going to finish updating my cc information with the last few auto-pay accounts. I am also going to call AmEx to cancel. I should call to see if two other cards can give me a better APR now that they have adjusted up from 0%.

DD has a friend staying over tonight. They are going to cook dinner for us (and maybe dessert too). Cheese stuffed turkey meatballs, tomato sauce, noodles, French bread. DH just left to run them to the store - needed breadcrumbs and pasta sauce for this dinner. Milk, bananas, tomatoes needed for the week and I wanted more ice cream. Smile

DH was instructed to keep it under $80 because I know he and DD will buy more than what was on the list I sent them with. This is fine because they need stuff for their lunches and what they pick out they will use up.


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