One of these days I'll be back more regularly.
I have certainly missed you all and want to catch up on everyone's blogs.
The kids and I are doing well. Naturally emotional ups and downs. Financially I have been in a very solid and comfortable position. I'm beyond thankful for that since dealing with everything would be 100 times more difficult if I couldn't make ends meet.
Certainly the children and I would have been better off if there had been some life insurance, but that was not in place. Giving us a financial foothold is the children's monthly death benefits from Social Security.
No benefits for me because I make too much. However, if I ever made less due to reduced hours or job loss I would be able to receive money then.
In other financial news I decided to refinance my house. Refinancing to a conventional loan saves me $114/mo in PMI (FHA loan). I also consolidated the HELOC and my cc debt which saves me several hundred a month in minimum payments.
I was initially resisting the idea of paying off my cc's with my house. But, reducing my amount of outflow every month was the deciding factor.
My new mortgage payment will be $280 more per month than it is currently. I have been paying $315/mo just for the HELOC payment and several hundred more to credit card payoff.
The amount that we receive from SS each month is enough to cover the mortgage and utilities.
My future is a huge question mark.
Who knows how long I'll be living in my current home.
Being able to save a large amount of cash to an EF seems to be the best plan for me right now.
As part of the refi I had to have an appraisal. Housing is ON FIRE here.. It's crazy.
Anyhow, house appraised for $455k!
We purchased it for $265k seven years ago.
It boggles my mind.
Next up working on my taxes...
Y'all take care. I'm looking forward to catching up more soon.
Viewing the 'Credit Cards' Category
One of these days I'll be back more regularly.
Friday I applied for the Costco AmEx card again.
(You all may recall I have applied for this card twice before and been rejected - not because of bad credit either.)
It has been almost a year since I last applied.
When I didn't get this card last year I got the WF Propel AmEx. That worked out great because it had a big bonus.
But, the Propel card has an annual fee and I will need to cancel it soon.
This year I was approved for the Costco AmEx!
(Hence the "Third Time a Charm" title.) I think I was approved this time because the Southwest card I just closed had such a large credit line that it made the credit:debt ratio much "better" looking.
This card has no annual fee and 3% back on gas, 2% on travel & restaurants, 1% on all else.
I like having an AmEx to use at Costco since that is the only CC they accept... for now.
I read they are going to take other cards in the near future. Having this card might be a moot point there, but 3% on gas purchases is nice.
Still busy painting here... Now I'm doing a bookcase for DS's room.
I did get my Chase Southwest points redeemed for $600 in gift cards. When I took them all out of the shipping envelope it really was a fist full of cards.
I was able to purchase the new bedding for DS's bunk bed almost completely with some of those CC reward gift cards.
I spent just under $10 to cover what the gift cards didn't. Such a sweet feeling!
And, earlier this week I cancelled the card and had the $99 annual fee refunded. So all is good.
I took on a last minute cat sitting job twelve days ago. The owners are clients where I work and one of their cats was diagnosed with diabetes three days before they were headed to Hawaii. I agreed to make twice daily visits to their house to give insulin injections since the house sitter was not comfortable medicating the cat. It has been a big time commitment and extra driving, but I am happy to report that the kitty is doing very well on his insulin injections.
I will make $520 gross. I haven't looked at my gas expenses yet. Their house is 19 miles one-way from my house, but only 2 miles from my office.
I'm so glad the gas prices have come down recently!
On Thursday I cashed in $25.54 points for account credit on a Chase account.
And $125 worth of account credit to a Wells Fargo account.
Next, I need to gift card shop ($600+) with my Southwest points. I don't think there is a cash option there.. I didn't see one.
As many of you know our house has needed a new roof pretty much from the time we bought it. We have been limping our old, original-to-the-house roof along by patching spots and last year a tarp over the worst spot.
Well, DH collected estimates from six contractors last month ranging from $9700 to $16600. We chose to go with a company who has been in business in our town for 40 years. DH signed the contract and I selected the shingle color last week.
(I think it is a good mix of brown and grey.)
We also added two 10" round skylights to the job to brighten up our dim hallway.
The contract price is $13,320. *Deep Breath*
We have the HELOC to pay for the job.
DH asked if there was a cash discount and was told "No". Then he asked if there was an additional fee to use a cc and was told "No". So, I will first charge it to a credit card for the points then pay off with the HELOC.
The only thing is any card I use is *only* going to get me 1% ($133). Which beats $0 for sure. But, I am thinking we could easily meet the spending requirements for two or three bonus paying cards.
Maybe the Southwest card and a Sapphire card?
Going to have to do a bit of thinking....
$4299 Starting Balance
- $ 15 Survey Snowflake
- $120 Regular Payment
$4164 Ending Balance
My goal is to have this cc balance at $3900 before 1/1/15.
Since we paid off the first "Special Focus Debt", here is the next one on my list.
(What I mean by "Special Focus" is the debt that I will apply any snowflakes or found money to.
It's my Special project. )
$4342 -- Starting Balance
- $40 -- Snowflake Payment
- $ 3 -- Psychological Gratification
$4299 -- New Balance
DH and I have both been blessed by some side work this past week. I have a dog that I am pet sitting at our home for two weeks and DH installed a furnace and new duct work for an acquaintance last weekend.
I decided to use the cash I made and some of what DH made to PAYOFF the "Special Focus" credit card.
$876 - Previous Balance
$0 - Current Balance
At the end of last month I received a $60 check from one of the companies I do a monthly inventory survey for. This company pays me quarterly - $20/month.
$976 Previous Balance
- $60 Snowflake Payment
- $40 Regular Payment
$876 Current Balance
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.
I redeemed my Wells Fargo AmEx points for cash into our checking account. That was $550!
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.
Sunset view from the side of the house (DS's bedroom window).
My phone does a good job with pictures, but this doesn't quite convey all the shades of color there was in the sky. Hope you all enjoy anyway.
In other news, the bonus points have posted for my Wells Fargo Propel card. Yay!
Unfortunately, their system is down, so I can't redeem right now. *Shucks!*
Monday I received the usual $15 check for the monthly inventory tracking.
$991 Starting Balance
$976 New Balance
Pushed it just a little here and used all my cat care money for the week to drop this balance under $1k.
I say "pushed it" because DH still was short a few hours on Friday's paycheck. We ended the week with about $60 less than what I budget for. I think so far there has only been one week where we weren't short. It is slowing goals down for sure!
AND we'll be short again this Friday as DH doesn't get holiday pay for the Fourth of July. Phooey..
The $80/week cat care cash is REALLY helping to buffer the low paychecks, but I'd rather be using the cash for other than covering regular bills.
Okay, here it is.....
$1071 Previous Balance
- $80 C.C. Cash
$991 Current Balance
So despite DH's weekly paychecks still coming up short, I did manage a few small flakes toward this one particular cc.
$1121 Starting Balance
- $15 S. Flake
- $25 Regular payment
- $10 S. Flake
$1071 Current Balance
Although not as bad as previous weeks we are still running short each payday. With the increased heat DH's work is busier, but still not back to full paychecks. Friday we were just about $100 short.
As long as my work is not dead slow and the boss sends us out early then my paychecks are predictable. It might be + or - an hour per week depending on what's going on and there's not much I can do to change that.
You might recall several months back my boss increased, then cut back on my Tuesday hours.
For a long, long time I only worked a half day on Tuesdays. Then he and I agreed to increase it to a full day because it was so much work for just him and the receptionist alone. That worked well for awhile until he decided he needed to save money and cut my hours back to where I had been.
Well I think that choice has really been biting him in the butt.. There have been several busy Tuesdays recently where there is a bunch of extra work.. But he hasn't yet asked me to stay all day.
I really enjoy getting home early on my half days, but I wouldn't pass up the extra hours if I could get them here and there.
I received my usual $15 check for the inventory tracking on Friday.
I applied it to my *Special Focus Debt*.
$1109 Starting Balance
$1094 New Balance
Yesterday afternoon I had an eye exam and ordered six pairs of contacts. $275.
I was well overdue for an exam - it had been two and a half years since my last one.
And my contacts are *supposed* to be disposed of monthly - but, I only ordered six pairs last time and they lasted me this long (30 months). I take extra care to clean them and treat them gently so they last me - I can't imagine throwing good lenses away every 30 days.
Unfortunately, the office doesn't take AmEx so I couldn't use the new card.
My co-worker needed to pay her PG&E (gas/electric) bill in person with a check. I offered to put it on my CC using online and she could pay me. My thinking was to get the $107 charge on my new AmEx. Unfortunately, they don't take AmEx either.
Late last night I made a major grocery run so I wouldn't have to go during the long weekend.
$252 that I did get on the AmEx.
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!
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.
Charged $71 to the Propel AmEx today for a tank of gas. It was $3.95/gallon at Costco.
I applied for this card after getting tipped off about the $400 bonus from MonkeyMama via CCFree's blog.
It arrived today and I used it for chicken feed and a few groceries. I hope that DS's preschool and our health insurance takes AmEx because that would be a huge chunk toward the spending requirements.
$1151 Starting Balance
$15 Payment using inventory survey snowflake
$1121 Current Balance
So far the $15 check I deposited last week is still "there". I think I'll give it one more week before I transfer that to our savings.
Snowflake to "Special Focus":
$15.00 Honorarium for monthly inventory tracking
$ 0.46 Paid from checking
$1197.00 New Balance
You may have read that I have choose a *Special Focus* debt to use my cat care cash on.
It is our Discover card. Currently at 0% for a few more months, but then that goes away. Must be paid off before that!
I just made a payment with the cash I made Monday.
$ 60.00 Snowflake payment
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.
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!
I have had a Gold card for two years now. Initially I applied for it for the $250 reward, but kept it because AmEx is the only cc you can use at Costco. I almost always buy gas once a week there. We also shop inside, usually once monthly. I earned points that I cashed in for gift cards.
The first year the annual membership fee was waived. The second year I called to cancel the card and was told I could have the fee waived again if I wanted to keep the card. This year I decided I would apply for a different card account - the one specific to Costco and with higher % back rewards.
Well, I was denied! *gasp!*
That really surprised me. I haven't been denied an account anywhere in years. In addition to the fact I have had an excellent record with my Gold account.
So today I dropped to Plan B and called to cancel my Gold account. I was hoping they would offer to waive the $125 annual fee *again* in order to keep me. They didn't.
On a happier note - I did cash out the little bit of points I had for a $25 Cheesecake Factory card and a $10 Bath & Body Works card.
I figure by this time next year I'll be posting about how they have sent me an offer with a bonus reward I can't pass up. (So they've probably done me a favor.)
I am kind of kicking myself for not getting DH one when the extra bonus deal was on.
I am thinking of him getting one now, but it would *only* be $400 bonus.
Do you think I should go for $400 or wait until the bonus is bigger again?
We are only charging purchases we would normally make to get the bonus these credit cards offer. We don't pay interest on these credit cards by paying our balances in full. It doesn't make sense to get a bonus if you end up losing it to interest payments. The bonuses are being applied to other debt or to fund savings. Please do not attempt this type of plan if you are not able to pay balance in full every month.
I was not good about posting progress on my goals throughout the year or updating my sidebar much. I find that sometimes I add money or make a transfer and *want* to post about it, but when I finally get time to make a post I either forget or it seems like it happened SO long ago.
At any rate as of 12/31/13..
$2K New Auto Savings
Reduce CC Balances
Diverted more cash to savings than to cc payments. Silver lining - almost all of this debt is at 0%.
Lose 20 lbs
[lost/kept off 5lbs]
I want to do a better job of tracking my snowflakes, cc rewards, side money etc this year.
Feeling optimistic about 2014!
The one item that I have had my DH pick up for me on Black Friday the past few years has been the $0.99 poinsettias from Home Depot.
This year I used them as gifts for DD's teachers.
She was embarrassed to carry a bunch of plants to school yesterday morning. I told her to get over it!
She doesn't think anyone gives teacher gifts now in middle school - it's not "cool". I told her it is important to recognize the efforts of teachers and appreciate them. (My mom is a teacher, so maybe I feel more strongly than most.) And all DD's teachers seem really on top of things and good.
DS's preschool had a "giving tree" for a local community school that serves special needs, at risk and low income children. Last week I chose two disadvantaged children to buy gifts for. My first pass through the names/wishes made me cry - very sad situations - homeless, parents in jail, etc.. Gift wishes were very simple; books, art supplies, dolls, Transformers..
I picked siblings - a nine year old brother (NERF stuff) and six year old sister (American Girl type doll & Mickey ears).
I purchased their wish list items with the Sapphire card and spent $97 total. We will get the gifts wrapped up this weekend so I can deliver them to DS's school on Monday.
Working on getting lots done before our big trip!
Used my AmEx to buy chocolates for Christmas gifts at a local shop.
I will get a $10 account credit for shopping there yesterday. I was going to shop there anyway so getting $10 back was especially sweet.
I have eaten a lot of chocolate and they make the best truffles I have ever had.
The shop is not in the town I live in. However, it was a beautiful 20 minute drive through vineyards and pastures bathed in sunshine.
The drive and the "tasting" certainly made shopping a very pleasant experience.
Small Business Saturday.
Shop a participating small business with your registered American Express card this Saturday (11/30) and get a $10 account credit.
Last night MonkeyMama posted a link to a link for 50,000 points on a Chase Sapphire Preferred once you reach $3k spending in three months.
I went right ahead and applied and was approved last night.
Some thoughts on how to meet the spending requirement:
Our car insurance is due next month. I have been paying it once yearly and have the cash in savings, so that will go on the card.
Utilities like cable, water, garbage.
Motorcycle registration renewal w/DMV.
AAA membership in January.
If need be, DS's monthly preschool tuition (2% fee).
All spending was/is planned spending. Nothing is being charged that can't be paid in full.
(I need to copy & paste CCFree's wonderful "disclaimer" outlining CC rewards here )
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