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Popping In With An Update

February 20th, 2016 at 11:50 am

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.

*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.

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*

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*.

Learning New Things is Good

April 16th, 2013 at 10:06 pm

On Thursday afternoon my DH had set up a meeting with an insurance broker. (Our kids need health insurance, so this was a good thing for him to do.) I was happy he had taken the initiative to set it up, but silently to myself I was thinking "Ugh!".

Long story short the meeting went very well. The broker was knowledgeable and not at all pushy. He thoroughly explained HSAs and high deductable plans. What was really great was the spreadsheet he gave us ranking about 55 different plans by cost. Premium, deductible, maximum OOP etc. A wonderful spreadsheet tool.

I have it narrowed down to two plans both cost about $150/mo to cover both DD and DS. I will purchase through the broker. It doesn't cost us anything to do it that way and he was super helpful.

Afterwards I told my DH he did very well by setting up the meeting. Smile

DH has HSA compatible insurance so we are going to open an account at the credit union we use. It has the lowest account fee at $12/year. I figure we can save at least $12/year in taxes, so why not?

It would have been good for us to have the HSA earlier this year when I got my crown at the dentist and DD her eye glasses - Darn it.

House Values

March 3rd, 2013 at 02:50 pm

The market is pretty strong in my county right now. I started looking at houses and prices about two weeks ago. A friend is house shopping and my co-worker and I have been perusing the listings. It's been interesting because prices are climbing steadily and inventory is tight. If a house is nice and priced right it isn't for sale long.

I looked at my neighborhood (about a five block radius) and in the past four months there have been four sales all about $300k. Currently there is a house listed for $325k one street over from ours. It is a slightly smaller house, smaller lot and only a single car garage.

Zillow has our house estimated at $285k. If comparable houses are selling at $300k I think it is more reasonable to say our market value is $300k. It's rather exciting to gain value even when it really doesn't matter for us right now.

There are still plenty of foreclosures. I know some people just walked away because they didn't *want* to pay the inflated mortgage when the house lost value. Of course there are also people who couldn't afford such a huge payment anymore. At the height of the bubble our house sold for $506k.

Is the market gaining steam in your area too?

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




My V-Day Gift - Taxes

February 14th, 2013 at 02:48 pm

My gift to myself and my DH was to finalize and e-file our taxes. Big Grin

Just finished..

This is my sixth return I have filed using FreeTaxUSA.com. It costs us $10.

The only trouble with our taxes was me. lol.
Last week I was wondering where the heck our forms from our mortgage were. Then I felt silly when I realized I just needed to go to the website and look at them right there. I think several months back they may have asked if I wanted them online vs. paper copy. SO that was easy.

DH's EMT class got us an American Opportunity credit that I was totally not expecting at all. Cool!

All in all we are getting a small refund.
I am fine anytime "small" and "taxes" are in the same sentence. Wink

Happy Valentine's Day to you all.
Tonight we'll celebrate with cupcakes!

Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel

January 17th, 2013 at 03:03 pm

We have $1.30 in our checking account right now.

I cannot remember the last time our checking was scraped away to nothing.
I did say it was a tight month.

Tomorrow night I will deposit paychecks and the rest of the month will be much smoother sailing. I only have a daycare payment and two cc payments due before February 1st.

Bye, Bye EF

January 5th, 2013 at 06:36 pm

So we ended 2012 with $4008 in our EF. Smile
By the middle of this month we will be down to $200. Frown

The breakdown:
- $2356 for DS's ER visit (ER, doctor, ambulance)
- $ 248 for DD's first pair of eye glasses
- $ 647 for annual auto insurance policy
- $ 250 for root canal
- $ 338 for equine vet and disposal truck

The silver lining is we have that money, so it's not going on a cc or being borrowed.
That takes a little bit of the sting of wiping out the EF. (Just a little..)

Busy Tuesday

November 6th, 2012 at 09:54 pm

I started my day at 7:30 with a parent/teacher conference at DD's school. She had a perfect report card and very kind remarks from her teacher. We are so lucky that every year it has been the same - great, great, great. Big Grin

I really give a lot of credit to the wonderful preschool she attended. This is the same preschool that we have DS enrolled in for Fall 2013.

Mid morning I had a dentist appointment. Just a routine cleaning. It won't be covered by my insurance and will cost about $80. I also scheduled my crown for the first week in January. My root canal is scheduled with the endodontist at the end of December. This way I can maximize my dental benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket I have to.

After my appointment I dropped my ballot off. (I filled it out at home, but didn't want to risk mailing it.) It is always neat to see all the different types of voters out and about. Smile

Then I had to stop at MIL's bank. She asked for a $600 loan. This is the second time this year. She always pays it back promptly, so for that I am comfortable. What really alarms me is that they don't have any savings to tap? I'm not saying we are 'The Expert Savers', but we are working on it! (I really understand DH's lack of money management skills when I see things his parents do.)

I bought a banana milkshake from a burger stand next to the bank. It was a serious *want* and it was so gooood! Big Grin Plus, my throat has been sore all day and that shake felt good - wish I had another one right now.

Lastly, I went to work for the afternoon.
It was pretty quiet, so work was the easiest part of the whole day. Wink