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Browsing posts in: Saving Money

New Phone Network

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Hi all! First, I just wanted to say thank you for all your kind comments about my Dad! I’ll let you know when I know more about what the future may look like in that regard. In the meantime, I’ve got a few more financially-oriented posts planned for today. I hope you all have a great Monday!

Similar to Hope’s recent post about saving money on her cell phone, we just made a change, too!

For years and years we had T-Mobile (loved their customer service), but as an Apple family, the iphone lured me away and we switched to Sprint 2 years ago (this was before T-Mobile picked up the iphone).

Well, our 2-year contract is up and although we aren’t dissatisfied with Sprint in any way, I’ve been looking to make a change in the name of saving a buck.

At first I thought about trying to go with one of the super cheap wireless networks (like Ting or Republic Wireless), but we wouldn’t get to keep our iphones, and given that we take long road-trips through remote areas at least twice a year (during which time cell service would be spotty), we decided not to make the switch at this time. It was tempting….but ultimately we decided its not for us at this time.

Then a couple weeks ago a T-Mobile rep called to try to win us back. They offered us new, upgraded phones, more data (which really matters for me because I’ve been having to really carefully ration my data with Sprint so I wouldn’t run out every month), AND free personal hotspots (which doesn’t matter for me as much, but hubs uses it with a tablet he takes to customer’s homes so he can do immediate estimates and have invoices signed on-site). All that, plus unlimited talk + text and the determining factor for both of us….it’s a little bit cheaper!

We weren’t able to save a hundred bucks a month or anything, but our regular Sprint bill has been $115/month. With taxes and fees and everything included, our new T-Mobile bill should cost us $100/month. It’s just a bonus that we’ll be returning to a provider that we’ve previously had good experiences with (seriously, they have fantastic customer service!)

We just received our new fancy-pants upgraded phones in the mail and I’m already obsessed! I have a little bit of blog money I haven’t touched, so I told hubs I’d splurge to buy us both new cases so we can (hopefully) avoid broken phones or shattered screens (I’ve shattered my iphone screen TWICE since I’ve been blogging here and the replacement screens are not cheap!)

It may only be a savings of $15/month, but that’s $180/year! Every little bit helps!

Have you saved money on your monthly bills recently? 


Month in Review- June 2015

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Hey Everyone! I hope you’re all having a great week.

It’s July 2nd, so that means it’s time for a month in review. June went by in a flash, didn’t it? The summer months always seem to fly by so fast.

Since I didn’t post on Tuesday, I want to share a couple of items that happened over the weekend:

  • The same couple that I went out with earlier in June, invited me and GF out again; this time for dinner AND a movie (BTW- Jurassic World is AMAZING). I happily said “Yes!” but it also broke my “fun” budget for the month, which I carried $50. It wasn’t a big deal since my buddy asked me earlier in the week and I was able to budget for the dinner and movie out of my paycheck vs. having to dip into my emergency fund. I’m just really excited that I don’t have to say “No” to everything anymore.
  • I didn’t have a debt update to share since my last paycheck of the month is delegated to paying my mortgage and some other smaller bills. If I didn’t have any plans during this week, I could normally set aside $70-80 for a debt payment. Since I went out to dinner instead, I made no debt payment this week.

As for June, there was a lot that happened, so to review:

  • Firstly, now that most of my smaller debts are paid off (with only one more to go below $10,000) I had an internal struggle (The Hard Wins) on how to deal with the the fact that the payoffs are going to be few and far between now.
  • The day after my “Hard Wins” post, I increased my 401k contribution from 4% to 10% (which I mentioned in the comments of that same post). Update: I think this was a wise decision. For one- I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my take home pay. It ended up being about a $60 difference, but it’s definitely not hurting my ability to pay my bills. Plus, it’s awesome to see my retirement account grow so much faster!
  • In the following post (Time Off), I decided to use the month of July as a vacation from paying off debt to both enjoy my vacation to Disney and clear my head so I can hit August refreshed and ready to go. Update: vacation is only 7 days away (yay!) and this Wednesday’s paycheck marks the first paycheck in a LONG time (if ever) where I didn’t have to make a debt payment. I’m using all the extra  money to buy myself some new clothes and to stock up on supplies (more on this on Tuesday)
  • I went out for dinner and drinks with a with an awesome couple, in which my “fun” fund came in really handy (here) and was most definitely worth it.
  • In this post (Birthday Party), I went to a good friend’s son’s 1st birthday party. Since I started an ESA account, I figured I give the gift of some cash for my buddy to start one of his own for his son.
  • In the same post, we began our planning for Disney. Since we are driving down, a lot of you had some great ideas our how to make our trip as fun and as frugal as we can. We’ve incorporated many of the ideas into our plan as we want to spend as little money as we have to on our drive down and then back up.
  • Lastly, we had a little Father’s Day celebration (Father’s Day) where GF did some amazing little things for me, as I am the father to our kids (lol, they’re dogs). We also started cementing our Disney plans and GF used her couponing skills to get us a whole bunch of goodies on the cheap.

As for my debt paydown, no big milestones met this month, but I still paid off $1,592.21. Down to a balance of $48,466.83. Not my best month, but not my worst, either.

Hope everyone has a great holiday!


Retirement Options

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Let’s talk retirement.

Until just this past year, hubs and I had saved absolutely nothing toward retirement. And, even this past year, we had just started saving $100/month (only in the months where we had an extra $100 to spare). In April we opened our very first Roth IRA for 2014 with a whopping $1,000 investment. That’s it. That’s our full retirement.

I’ve had in the back of my mind that I would start more aggressive retirement contributions after we’re completely consumer debt-free (the only thing left is the car!). But now that I’ve landed a full time job things are shaking up a little.

One maybe odd thing about this job is that they require mandatory retirement contributions. I’ve never heard of that before (but this is my first full-time job, so maybe it’s more common than I think???). Also, there are two separate retirement options. At first I mistakenly thought I could switch between the two, but that was inaccurate. After reading more (and speaking with HR), I’ve learned that once I select a plan – that’s it. There’s no changing the plan. Ever. For the entire duration of my career at the university, I am locked into the retirement plan (note: I can still change investments within the plan, see more below).

The big difference is that one plan is a defined benefit plan, whereas the other is a defined contribution plan. The defined benefit plan has a higher mandatory contribution and match (currently 11.48%, compared to 7% for the defined contribution plan), but it scares me that someone else is entirely in control of the investment. Plus, the defined benefit plan pay-out isn’t based solely on the amount contributed (like the defined contribution plan), it’s based on years of service, average monthly salary, and an actuarial formula.

In contrast, the defined contribution plan benefits are based solely on the amount I’ve contributed and how the investment performs across time. It allows me to select the investment company and investment allocations myself. So even though the match is a smaller percentage, I may be able to make it up with interest and growth across time (and benefit pay-outs aren’t contingent upon years of service, average salary, etc.).

There are lots of other factors to consider as well (e.g., the defined benefit plan offers health care subsidies after retirement and better long-term disability than the defined contribution plan). It kind of sounds, to me, like the defined benefit plan is similar to a pension….only it’s not free money from the employer. It’s money that has been paid-in by the employee (and matched by employer) all throughout the employee’s career. When I googled “defined benefit versus defined contribution” everyone says to participate in the defined benefit plan, at a minimum, and to add the defined contribution plan if possible, too. But I think this is different because the websites I looked at were assuming that the defined benefit plan was paid in full by the employer (not by employee contributions). Also, at my job it is not possible to participate in both. It’s an either/or (and no moving between them).

I’m leaning toward the defined contribution plan simply because the peace of mind of being in control of MY money instead of relying on someone else to be in control (also, I don’t like that the percentage of contributions in the defined benefit plan varies and that vesting doesn’t apply until termination of employment).

Reader thoughts or opinions? For anyone who would like to see the fine print, I’ve attached a retirement comparison chart I received. Thanks!!!

Retirement_ComparisonAug_2014

If you had the option, would you select a defined benefit plan (similar to a pension, but with mandatory employee contributions) or a defined contribution plan (just like a regular 401(k), with a 7% company match)? Why?


Weekly Debt Update #18- A Birthday Party and Disney Planning

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Hey everybody! I hope you all had a great weekend.

With not much to discuss this week- I want to touch on a couple of items. Firstly, a very good friend of mine and his wife had a birthday party for his son who just turned 1, on Saturday. The party was in Ohio, a couple hours away from where we live. I drove down and spent a majority of day celebrating with them and their family. Instead of getting them a new toy, since I figured everybody else would be doing that, I gave them $25 in cash to start an ESA account for their son. Once the present opening began, I realized my suspicions were right- they had more toys and clothes than I think they knew what to do with. I told my buddy how to quickly set up an account (much like I did for my nephew) that will allow the money to grow for the next 17 years.

Secondly- the money saving planning for Disney has begun. So far, we know of 2 ways that are going to save us a ton. 1) We’ve been talking to GF’s mother, who lives only a couple miles away, to watch the dogs for us while we’re gone. She agreed to come over, let them outside, and play with them a couple of times each day and we’re going to give her $200. When I was looking into having the dogs boarded for the week, the prices ranged form $350-$450 depending on how much activity we wanted the dogs to get. Besides the financial aspects, I don’t really feel comfortable keeping our dogs in a kennel where they have limited space. I feel that keeping them in our house, where they can roam anywhere and play with all their toys, is a much more inviting scenario. 2) Since we’re driving to and from Disney (16+ hours away) we’re going to pack as much as we can for the drive. GF has already started couponing and buying foods that we can eat on the way that won’t go bad. The day before we leave, we plan on making pasta salads, normal salads and fruit salads- food that we can eat straight from the cooler, are healthy, filling and will give us plenty of energy for the drive. This will certainly keep us from hitting the gas station food when we stop for gas, at least on the way down. We haven’t yet figured out what we are going to do for the trip back up.

For anyone interested in my current debt totals, here they are:

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,896.61$3,940.63$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,750.50$3,449.52$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$6,271.63$4,078.55$305.85
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$48,918.66$61.669.00$305.85

I hope everyone has a great week!


New Money Saving Trick

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Hi friends! Just wanted to poke in and say hello! I’m still in doctors’ appointments, so I’ve pre-scheduled this post for you guys. I’ll be back “live” on Thursday! Have a good week!

Hey, remember when I used to give random money saving tricks? Things I’d been doing to try to save a buck? It’s been a hot minute!

Here are some old ones:

  • Saving money on ziplock baggies and cleaning spray (still do this!)
  • Making my own baby wipes (fell off the wagon with this trick, though I did it for months and, to be fair, we’re 99% potty trained, so I rarely use wipes anymore)
  • Making my own fruit leather (still do this, and make lots of other homemade varieties of store-bought stuff, too. I’ve done homemade Cheese It’s, homemade granola bars, and homemade fruit leather to name a few)
  • Buying bulk and making flavored water (still do this. I’ve actually been trying to increase my water consumption lately – aiming for 10 cups per day, which isn’t too hard since its 100+ degrees already! Making flavored water really helps mix things up)
  • Homemade organic weed killer (ehhh, kinda fell off the wagon with this, too. It did work, but when Costco put weed killer on sale this Spring I bought one of their big jugs so that’s what I’ve been using recently)

Which brings us to today’s money saving trick….

Using a makeup brush to reach the very last of the concealer!

I’ve always been pretty low-key when it comes to makeup. I rarely step inside an Ulta or high-end makeup place. Never buy from department stores, etc. I’m a drug-store or grocery store makeup girl. So I’m already saving a lot simply by buying cheaper brands. But I HATE when the concealer is too low to use anymore, but you can still SEE so much left in the tube! Which got me thinking….why not just use a makeup brush to fish out the insides of the concealer tube???

And lo and behold, that’s what I’ve been doing

IMG_1595

Years ago I’d read a tip (I think in Cosmopolitan…maybe Seventeen. I was in high school at the time so we’re talking over a decade ago), that you can scoop out the leftovers of tubes like this (concealer, lipstick, etc.) and store in a pill box. I’d tried the tip out, but wasn’t thrilled with the results. I felt like the makeup got all dried out and crusty in the pill box. Not sure why; it’s not as though the regular makeup container is air-tight or anything so I don’t know why it stores better in the actual container (as opposed to a pill box container), but just a heads up that following that tip didn’t work out for me.

However, using the makeup brush has worked like an absolute champ! I used a brush I already had and never used. I put the tip of the brush directly inside the tube and then apply under my eyes (or wherever you need concealer). Easy peasy and saves me lots of money. I cannot believe how much makeup is still left in the tube when it’s too low to use in a conventional manner anymore. I mean, after this concealer was “gone” (meaning, when the old me would have thrown it away because it was too low to use anymore), I’ve still been using it for another 3 weeks. And there’s still a ton in there! I bet it will last me another 3 weeks, too!

Do you have any great moneysaving tips you’ve used lately?

Side note: Are you joining me with my summer book club?  This month we’re reading Dave Ramsey’s, The Complete Guide to Money. I’ll post my thoughts at the end of the month, so it’s not too late to join!


Weekly Debt Update #17- Time Off

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I hope everyone is having a wonderful Tuesday!

For those of you who haven’t read my previous post, or the comment section of the post before that, I’ve decided to take some time off in July from paying down my debt. As you know, I will be taking a physical vacation to Walt Disney World to spend some quality time with my whole family, new nephew included. I will also be using the money I would normally put towards debt to not only fund our vacation (GF and I anticipate spending between $600-$700) but use the money for things I’ve been putting off, as well. I know I want to buy some new clothes and get my car fixed (I’ve had some minor sensor issues for the past couple months) and July seems like the perfect time to get this all done. I want to go into August with renewed energy to finish off the remaining $50,000 in debt in 18 months. What ever money I don’t spend, I’m going to use to refund my EF. I don’t plan on missing any blogs posts during this time off, except for the week I will be in Florida.

On an other note- my fun fund has come in handy once again. Over this past weekend, a good friend of mine invited me and GF out them for dinner and drinks. GF couldn’t make it, as it was pretty spur of the moment, and I ended up spending nearly $50. I’m so grateful to those who convinced me to put money aside for fun every month. Only a couple months ago, I likely would have said no to the request, or worried so much about how much I was spending that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself, anyways.

And an update on an item that came up last week- I handed in my 401k contribution form to increase my contributions from 4 to 10%. Me contributing to our company’s 401k was never about affordability, it was more so about how quickly I could pay off my debt- every penny was one closer to my original goal. Well, lately I’ve had an internal struggle over putting money towards savings. I think this increase in contributions will ease my mind in this regard. If it doesn’t work out, I can always decrease the contributions back down (the paperwork take roughly 1 minute to fill out), but I know I’m not going to get optimal savings years back.

Lastly, for those interested in how much I’ve paid off lately, here are my balances as of today. I didn’t post an update last week, so the “+/-since last week” is actually from 2 weeks ago.

Loan NameInterest RateOriginal Balance- May '09Current BalanceTotal Paid OffPaid Since Last Week
Sallie Mae 015.25$27,837.24$23,896.61$3,940.63$0.00
Sallie Mae 024.75$22,197.02$18,750.50$3,449.52$0.00
Sallie Mae 037.75$20,692.10$0.00
$20,692.10$0.00
Sallie Mae 045.75$10,350.18$6,577.48$3,772.70$707.05
Sallie Mae 055.25$6,096.03$0.00$6,096.03$0.00
Sallie Mae 06 and 074.75$6,415.09$0.00$6,415.09$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 015.25$5,000.00$0.00$5,000.00$0.00
Sallie Mae- DOE 025.25$3,000.00$0.00$3,000.00$0.00
AES6.8$9,000.00$0.00$9,000.00$0.00
TOTALS$110,587.66$49,224.59$61.363.07$707.05

I hope everyone has a great week!


Cheap Mother-in-law Birthday Gift

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In keeping with the cheap gift ideas of late, here’s another one to add to the mix.

My mother-in-law’s birthday was last Thursday. She’s actually flying into town today for the long weekend (yay!), so we’ll be taking her out to dinner one night while she’s here. But we also wanted to do something on her actual birthday, so I had the girls make another super cheap craft that we mailed to her last week.

This was actually an idea I saw when I was in Michael’s craft store for something totally unrelated. This was right before Mother’s Day and they had a whole display of crafts for kids to do for/with their Moms. One of the crafts was a coffee mug/paint set. They were on sale 2 more $3, which seemed like an excellent deal (came with the mug and the ceramic paints). I bought two and had the girls make 1 for me to keep and 1 for my MIL’s birthday.

IMG_1517

IMG_1518

IMG_1519

We (heart) You!

If I were to do it again, I probably would have done the palms at the bottom, overlapping, and done fingers up (we had a hard time keeping the thumb tucked in, so the heart has some little “wings” hanging off the side). But the imperfection just makes it that much more special and precious. Maybe not worthy of any fine art awards, but definitely worthy of a grandma’s love! <3

 
Hope you all have a great weekend! A good long weekend to those in the states! Be safe and have fun and let’s remember what the holiday is really all about : )