I need some advice...
I got approval from my company for reimbursement of that certification that I want to go for. The issue is that I have to pay for it upfront. There are two costs associated with this certification. The prep materials are $265 and the exam fee is $550. My plan is to get the materials, prep for a month, and then sit for the exam. I only get reimbursed if/when I pass the certification. (Side note: I took a practice exam with zero prep regarding terms/formulas and using only my experience and scored 50%. I need 85% to pass. I'm fully confident that once I review the materials, I will pass the first time.)
There are several ways I could go about this:
A) Credit card now, pay it off in June before the statement even closes since this card just closed. (This option would entail delaying the Mariner Loan payoff as I would be using those funds to cover the credit card payment. I would then pay the Mariner Loan with the reimbursement or the following month if I should happen not to pass. The pro to this option would be that I could start prepping immediately. The con is that I'm trying to stay away from credit cards until I'm confident that I can use them responsibly.)
B) Buy materials with cash. (This would delay my start time as I wouldn't be able to purchase them until my 6/7 paycheck. Even then, I would be taking the cash from our account and again paying it back with the money designated for the Mariner Loan payoff from my second paycheck.)
C) Wait it out and see what happens. (My brother is now living with us. We are giving him some time to adjust to living on his own and told him to pay us as he could the next few months. Those payments were slated to be split between debt and savings, but I could use the first payment or two to pay the certification costs, and then designate the reimbursements to savings. The con to this one is that I'm not sure when he will be able to start contributing which would again delay my start time.)
One other thought...while there are free prep materials out there, this particular certification requires a certain number of instruction hours. Those can only be achieved through classroom, online, or podcasts created by certain providers. The $265 prep materials were the cheapest I could find since I was uncertain that my company would pay $2000 for a certification that is somewhat beyond my reach. (It's a certification that requires experience in a position that I've never officially held.)
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I need some advice...
Things are slowly moving forward. Our debt went down about $1200 this month. We have also started contributing to savings. It's very small, but it's a start. It'll actually double this Friday to $120. After June (the personal loan payoff month), I will be putting all of my extra money to savings to build it up a bit. It's controversial since we have so much debt, but DH and I discussed it, and we'd feel more secure having a couple grand saved up before focusing back on debt payoff.
We've decided to wait on all projects for now, but as my brother starts contributing to household expenses and our savings build up a bit quicker, I think we'll try and cash flow the fireplace and tree removal this year.
I'm feeling cautiously optimistic about where we're at. Hopefully, things will continue to improve.
DH and I celebrated one extremely wonderful year of marriage yesterday. We read our wine box letters, wrote new ones, and resealed the box with a new wine that we enjoyed from the winery we visited yesterday. It wasn't a frugal day, but it was an amazing one.
DH's dad told him how to temporarily fix the hole in our house. We bought foam insulation for $6 and filled the hole on Saturday. We'll still need to replace that piece of siding, but it'll do for now.
I've been looking into a certain certification. While I don't have management experience based on my title, I essentially do a manager's job, so I'm going to go for this certification and see what happens. Hopefully, the company will support it and reimburse my costs.
Last night, we had a pretty bad thunderstorm roll through. I checked the backyard afterwards and saw that we had two or three more large branches come down in the yard. Later that evening, I decided to give the dogs a treat before bed. Something on the wall caught my eye in the utility room by their treat station. Something had broken through the wall! I looked closely at it and could see a branch poking through the insulation. Even as I was thinking there was no way that could happen, I knew it had to have. I went out to the backyard, and sure enough, a branch had speared our house! It went straight through the siding and insulation and came out inside the utility room!!
Our insurance carries a $1000 wind/hail deductible. However, my amazing FIL said that it is a pretty easy fix (made even easier if we got lucky and the previous owners left some siding in the crawl space). He suggested we avoid going through insurance and just fix it. The unfortunate thing is that he's leaving the country tomorrow for several weeks, so I don't think it will be fixed for a bit, but he's going to call us this evening to discuss it.
I really hope this string of unfortunate luck stops soon. My car is still in the shop because what was a 2-day repair revealed body damage when they took off the bumper. It's going to be at least the middle of next week before I get my car back.
...for DH. They already gave him his per diem check for $230. He's hoping to have a fridge. In that case, he'll just get sandwich fixings and eat that all week. Another option is tuna packets. Apparently, they offer continental breakfast, so that'll keep costs down as well. He's going to a particularly swampy area, so we did get him some muck boots for $22 yesterday.
DH gets paid on Friday, and my paycheck comes in Monday. That check should get me under the $400 mark for my Mariner loan. I'll be so glad when that is gone! In addition, now that my brother is here, he will be paying us $400/month, plus $50 if he wants access to all of our food. I was still debating what we wanted to do with it, but I've decided. Half will go to our savings and half will go into our bank account until we get to next month's income. I'm still consistently about $800 short. Once that shortfall is eliminated and we have $1000 in savings, $350 will go to a home improvement fund and $100 will go to savings. (Note: These are long-term plans as it will likely take several months to reach each of these milestones)
We have a ton of home improvement things we'd like to start accomplishing including(the numbers are real estimates for my high COLA) :
1) Tree Removal - $1800
2) Backyard Enhancements (Regrading yard, adding drainage, reseeding) - $2400
3) Fencing - $6000-$8000
4) Hot Tub - $500
5) Fireplace - $700
Eventually, we'll need additional furniture, and I'd like to renovate the master bathroom within the next 2-3 years.
My car is in the shop this week. The other insurance company approved the estimate and cut me a check to pay for the repair. I declined the insurance on the rental car, so it worked out well that DH was sent out of town. I dropped him this morning and will just drive his car.
DH and I had plans to go to a movie tonight, but he obviously won't be here now. Fortunately, my brother wanted to see the movie anyway, so he'll come with me. He'll probably purchase the snacks since I already bought the tickets.
This morning, I weighed in at 33% of my dietbet month 1 goal. It's encouraging because this is still the first week, and I haven't even really been working out because I was ill. DH actually hit his month 1 goal last night. I'm very proud of him.
It's been in talks for awhile that my younger brother may move in with us. We're closer to the DC area, so there's a lot more access to jobs. Plus, we have AC and he'd have his own room. Since he's only working retail, we decided to not charge him a lot. His transfer just went through, so he'll be moving in on Sunday. We've agreed to $400 rent. We're excited to have him with us for the extra dog help, but it should also reinvigorate him and his job search. He's been struggling to find even entry-level work in his job field, and it's discouraging. (Side note: I remember job searching after college. It took me a year to find a job, and with how fast-paced things are these days, the longer he's out of school, the harder it'll be for him to find a full-time job in his field.)
I don't have a plan for the $400 yet, but I'm thinking we keep things the same and put $200 to debt and $200 to savings. We also told him he'd be able to help himself to the food we have, but that we'd ask for an additional $50 to put to the grocery budget to help with food.
He'll have to adjust his car insurance. The other plus is that it'll greatly shorten his commute since the store he's transferring to is barely a 10 minute drive and his current store is at least a half hour away. (Other side note: I actually wish he'd sell his car, walk to work, and save up for a beater, but I don't think I can convince him to do that...)
He's actually closer in age to my husband than I am, and we're both hoping this helps him establish himself as an adult.
DH and I bit the bullet and joined Transformers. I also signed him up for Planet Fitness. There's one 5 minutes from the house and on the route home for him. Both money outflows came out of our main account. The caveats are that if either of us lose any months or DH doesn't go to the gym 12 times a month (about 3x/wk), then we have to pay that money back out of our individual bank accounts. So far, so good. He and I are down a collective 3 lbs. (started earlier this week). The first 2 days were incredibly rough for me. I felt nauseous and dizzy all the time, had no energy, and went to bed at 7 pm. My body's starting to adjust and yesterday, I got in a Cize workout. Hoping to get in a few runs this weekend, but if the weather doesn't cooperate, then I'll resort to hour-long Zumba Wii sessions.
Our electric bill was crazy low this month - $100! Back in our apartment days, $100 was on the higher end. However, the house is considerably larger. We're doing our best to minimize electricity use, but I still budgeted $210 for the higher months. In November, we'll have been here a year and can enable budget billing to have a more constant average number.
You know how sometimes your TV and sound get out of sync, so the mouth will be moving but the words come later or before? I feel like that's how Mother Nature is. We had no winter. It's been 40-60 degrees this past week. April was relatively dry, but it's been nonstop rain since May began. Whatever happened to those April showers?
Finances are kind of on autopilot. This is the last month for the DC United season ticket charge, so that should free up $65 until Fall when we renew for next season. I've been doing Swagbucks/mystery shopping to earn a few extra bucks here and there. I'm at $20 on Swagbucks and will continue to accumulate until I can get $40 in Amazon gift cards. I've had my eye on an Essential Oils case, but can't justify the price tag by sacrificing debt payments, so I'm side hustling for it. Mariner loan should be under $400 by the end of this month with a target payoff of end of June!
Thanks everyone for the feedback on the last post. I think we will just do the winery picnic with both families and focus on quality time together.
This week has been a nightmare. On Sunday, our AC stopped working. We have home warranty, but they called on Monday and said it'd be at least another week. DH's dad came to the rescue yet again and got the guy who services his AC to come out that afternoon. It was a broken capacitor. He charged us the $100 that we would have paid as the service fee, so we just cancelled the home warranty claim. On Tuesday, I got rear-ended heading in to work. It seemed to be very minor cosmetic damage, so all I took was his company (it was a work truck) information and his name and phone number. I told him I likely wouldn't follow up on it unless my car started acting weird.
On Wednesday, I had a 2 hour commute in to work. It normally takes 45 minutes. The evening before I'd noticed my car driving a little strangely, and I still noticed it yesterday morning.
Last night, I called the guy. No answer, so I left a voicemail. This morning, I texted him and hinted that I would be following up with his company if he did not respond. He texted back a few minutes later with a really rude response asking how I was going to tell him now that there's an issue when I had said nothing was wrong. I responded that I had said that it didn't seem like anything was wrong and that I'd only follow up if I needed to. I then asked for his company's insurance info. Again, no response. If I haven't heard from him by this afternoon, I will be calling up the company. I suspect he didn't report it to his company and that is why he was so angry.
Additionally, our hall bathroom toilet had randomly started leaking a few weeks ago. DH's dad took a look at it and gave us the options of a super cheap fix or a new toilet. He said the one we had was actually really old and inefficient and since we could get a decent new toilet for under $200, we should just do that. He installed it for us yesterday. Once again, I'm incredibly grateful for his dad's handyman skills. DH realized afterwards that we should have just given him the sausages as a thank you. He really liked them and gave us $25 for a 10 lb. box containing about 160 links.
Here's hoping there's no more expenses for awhile. Every time I feel like we're starting to make progress, things set us back.
Now that the weather has warmed up, we've been eating salads a lot more. I don't even like salads, but we have a pretty basic one that I can live with. It's basically iceberg mix (with cabbage and carrot shreds), grape tomatoes, chicken, a small pinch of cheese, and a hard-boiled egg. DH adds banana peppers and jalapenos to his.
We got our second Zaycon Fresh order yesterday. This time, it was pork sausage breakfast links. After processing one box of 160 links, we decided to see if his parents would want to buy the other box off of us. I cooked up 3 links last night - one for us to try and two for his dad and his friend who are coming by today to install our new toilet. The sausage was delicious! So far, we've had chicken and the sausage links and absolutely no complaints! In the next 2 months, we'll be getting hot dogs and ground beef as well as a new order of chicken. If you're interested in buying bulk meat at pretty good prices (the chicken came out to $1.39/lb. and we also just placed an order for 93/7 ground beef at $2.80/lb.), I'd appreciate it if you used my referral link
Looking ahead to May and June, it looks like we're definitely not going to be able to do the fence. Instead, we're looking at cutting down the line of trees at the back of our property, so that next year, we can run the fence straight along the property line. We've received one quote for $300/tree (there's 6 total). We have two more contractors coming out this week, although we really liked the first guy.
For Mother's Day, DH suggested bringing picnic things to a winery with both our moms. That sounds fun, so I will look into planning it. I also want to get them each an oil diffuser. My mom already has a starter pack of oils, and I have one coming that I can give to my mother-in-law.
We also have our 1-yr. wedding anniversary in May. We decided to just celebrate simply the weekend of, and then have a Memorial Day cookout with family and friends. We'll be providing most of the food which should come out of the grocery budget since we have plenty of food on hand
June is a 3 paycheck month for DH. That is earmarked for some of our recent bulk meat purchases, the new toilet we had to get, and DH's upcoming car service. Anything left will be split between savings and debt.
It's been a busy few days. I bought a bunch of groceries, including some veggies. DH and I don't really eat vegetables, but I'm trying to incorporate them more. I got tomatoes for his sandwiches and zucchini. I decided to roast those the other night (along with some leftover Easter green beans). It was pretty good. I'm going to make zucchini pasta tomorrow with some chicken.
DH's parents are giving us a new grill that they bought recently. We hinted that since the old one was still functional, that we'd be glad to take that one. But they decided to just give us the new one. They are so generous, and I'm incredibly grateful for their generosity. They're bringing it over this Friday.
DD1 hurt his paw two nights ago. We noticed him limping, and after inspecting his paw, found a crack nail. Unfortunately, it was the worst kind of crack - still firmly attached. I took him to the vet yesterday morning, and they had to cut off the part that had cracked. My champion of a dog did it without sedation. My heart broke a little because I was holding him, and he cried and yelped when they actually cut the nail. But an hour later, he was moving around. Total cost was much less than expected - $200 for the visit and procedure, plus $80 for 6 months of heartworm meds.
On the financial side of things, we're doing okay. We do have the final payoffs coming up on the Amazon Rewards CC, the ring CC, and the Chase Slate CC. I am also paying the full balance on the Marriott card. It's a small start, but I feel cautiously optimistic.
It's bug season again. Now that DH works outdoors, we're discovering new challenges. The big two are ticks and poison ivy. DH first encountered poison ivy over the winter. That's when we realized he is highly sensitive to it. I think we have a relatively good treatment plan in place now, but if anyone has any tips, please let me know. If he thinks he's exposed, he immediately washes with the Fels-Naptha soap when he gets home, and then throws all of his work clothes and gear into the wash. If it still develops, he gets by with lots of calamine lotion and hot showers. He's already got some nasty scars from his first bout, so I'm hoping we're now prepared for future outbreaks.
The second challenge is ticks. About a month ago, I bought 6 months worth of flea and tick meds for the pups. We tend to be a little more lax in the winter and didn't even do it last summer since they were never really exposed to the elements. However, now that we're in our house with a huge yard for them to play in that backs up to a wooded area, we needed to start treatment again. Yesterday, after lying down with the pups, DH found 3 ticks on himself. He says that he checked himself when he got home and didn't even work in a wooded area, so he assumed it was from the dogs. He then proceeded to inspect the house, and found several dead ticks on the floor. I did a very thorough deep cleaning yesterday (like washed the carpets thorough). Today, I plan to wipe down the baseboards and crevices with a mix of peppermint and lavender oils as those are tick and ant repellents. We didn't find anything on any of the animals, even the cat who doesn't have flea and tick repellent on. It looks like the medicine probably killed them off (hence the dead ones on the floor), but we have to be vigilant these next few months to ensure we don't have any more unwanted visitors.
Things have really spiraled this past year and this is embarrassing to post. While I'm upset at the financial side of things, I'm also incredibly happy with our current life. We had an amazing wedding and are now in our dream home (with DH in a much less stressful, albeit much smaller salaried, job), so even though we took a few steps backward, I'm mostly okay with it. However, it does seem like we're finally normalizing, so now it's time to focus on undoing all the damage..
We did get 2 new 0% credit cards and transferred a couple of bigger/interest charging balances over to it. On the BoA card, I split the total amount by 17 (it's 18 months), and set that up to autopay, so that card will be completely paid off. We will pay the minimum on the other card while we work on some of the remaining credit cards.
Here are the credit cards I currently own and their balances:
Chase Slate - $17.79 (the only thing I use this for now that's been paid off is my essential oils order which is $10-20/monthly)
Chase Freedom - $2753.86 (this is the card my family has for backup; I just transferred 5k from here to the NavyFed card and part of my husband agreeing to that was that we take all of the Freedom cards and put them away which I'll do the next time I see my family)
Chase Marriott - $497.92 (We transferred almost 7k from here to the NavyFed card. This card gets charged our health insurance, DH's soccer tickets, and SlingTV monthly and will be paid in full moving forward.)
Amazon Rewards - $13.31 (This is the interest from the balance we just transferred to the new BoA card. This will be paid in full this month and moving forward if we even continue using it.)
Target - 0 (I rarely shop here as there's a Walmart 3 minutes from my house. My mom actually keeps this card as an emergency card, and only uses it 2-3 times a year. When she does use it, she pays the balance.)
NFL Points - $2557.11 (Average monthly payment is around $60. I pay $75 each month. We don't/can't use this card anymore as it expired in December. I supposedly received a new one, but have no idea where it may be and haven't bothered tracking it down since I don't want to use it.)
Capital One Venture - $3724.63 (About $800 of this is interest-bearing. The remainder is interest free through October. It will not be paid off by then as we're just paying the minimums.)
BoA Rewards - $1442 (This card is the transferred Amazon Rewards balance. It will be completely paid by the end of the 0% interest period.)
NavyFed - $14400 (This is all the transferred balances. I'm not sure what the minimum will be, but I'm guessing around $250/month. It basically just consolidated all the other payments, but since it's 0% interest at least everything is going to principal on it. It's obviously not going to be paid off by March 2018, but at that point, I'm hoping to be able to transfer again.)
We didn't get here overnight, so I definitely don't expect to get out of it overnight. I might need to consider a name change. I'm not even sure debt-free by 33 is possible at this point, but we will get there. I paid the full remaining balance of Slate this month (that $18 charge is new). The next debt on my list is a leftover Mariner Finance loan. It has less than a thousand left, and I should be able to pay it by June. After that, the plan is to stockpile cash. Before the end of the year, we have a wedding to attend (in which I'm a bridesmaid), car taxes (this surprised us last year when DH's were almost a grand), and some house stuff we want to accomplish (landscaping the backyard, fencing, the fireplace and the hot tub). We also want to begin working on an emergency fund since kids are on our radar.
If everything goes well, then by the end of the year, we will have eliminated/consolidated 5 debts in to 2 and gone from about 17400 to about 14000 on those debts in addition to getting some house stuff done. I'm hoping to do even better if we both get raises this year.
It's going to be slow going, but I'm in it for the long haul now that we seem to be in a stable place.
**It should also be worth noting that while we're both committed to this, there are definitely more drastic things we could do that we're just not considering. My car is paid off, but DH's car is about $400/month and still has 5ish years. We fully realize that the smart thing to do would be to get a cheaper car, but sometimes the emotional beats the financial. Other examples are DH's soccer tickets and my essential oils. Neither of these things are needs, but we enjoy them and at this time, aren't willing to consider parting with them. We do try to keep them minimal though. Other drastic measures include putting off home improvements/not going to my friend's wedding, but again, not something we're willing to consider at this point.
I went on a bit of a frenzy last night. I made the appetizers for dinner - Filipino egg rolls and bacon jalapeno pinwheels. I also made a large batch of rice and black beans (and threw in some leftover shredded chicken). In addition, I had some ground beef left from the egg rolls mix and some rice leftover from last week, so I threw those together for lunch for the rest of the week. I also have a bag of frozen peas that I need to add in to it.
My fridge is looking pretty empty, but we have a ton of chicken and potatoes. I'm going to stock up on rice and beans at the start of the month and try to just make a batch in the crockpot at the beginning of the week. We have a very small $250 grocery budget for April.
April will be the first month we officially live off last month's income. It's a really tight budget, but hopefully we can stick to it. I'll also finish paying off my first credit card next month and will start on one of the personal loans.
DH is being really supportive. I'm just hoping we can finally start seeing some progress.
In next month's budget, I also started putting $50 to savings. It's not a whole lot, but it's a start.
I think I'm back on track. Haven't spent anything these past two days, and while I do have to spend today, I plan to keep it as minimal as possible. DC needs litter and food. I also want to get shredded cheese, bread, eggs, a bag of potatoes and one snack item.
That should last us through when DH gets home.
Yesterday, I used the last of the regular bagels (still have 5 or 6 thins) ham, turkey bacon, and sliced cheese, plus one of the bags of shredded cheese, the pepperonis, pizza sauce, and biquick mix (all on pizza bake).
For the next few days, some of the meal options include sausage pepper soup (from the freezer) with quinoa or rice, black beans and rice, chicken fried rice, grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit, and any combination of chicken and potato meals. I also have one lb. of ground beef and some cream cheese to use up during an apps for dinner night (homemade lumpia - Filipino egg rolls and bacon jalapeno pinwheels).
I really have to find a way to not let the unexpected derail me. Last week, DH ended up getting notified Wednesday night that he would be out of the country for the next two weeks leaving Thursday. While we'd known this was a possibility for a while, I just assumed nothing had come of it since no one had followed up. What followed was two days of scrambling followed by a weekend of sad eating. It was bad. We spent $50 on groceries, $10 on a wallet, used a BBB gift card for a $20 travel adapter, $45 on a gift card for dinner and alcohol on DH's last night here, and then I bought food out several times over the weekend amounting to at least $50. I turn to food to make me feel better which is terrible for both my waistline and my wallet. I got it together last night. I made soup from the leftover chicken broth and veggies and portioned it out over 4 containers of rice. That will be my lunch for the week.
My brother is staying with me these next two weeks, and I'm going to try and avoid buying groceries. We have almost 40 lbs. of chicken in the freezer, leftover sausage/pepper soup, a small container of chili, one loaf of a bread, a small amount of ham and peanut butter/jelly. I'm going to have to get creative with sides as I only have 2-3 more rice-in-a-bag packs, 2 frozen veggie bags and maybe some quinoa. I do have plenty of beans though.
A new outdoors store opened near me. I tried to go opening day to get a gift card, but it was packed. I found out later some 5000 people had attended a Thursday morning opening. They also did giveaways each morning through the weekend. I got a bag and folding stools. I couldn't go Saturday, so I paid out of pocket for the hat because DH really wanted it. It worked out well since I brought that home to him Friday and he promptly wore it out of the country. It is a really nice hat!
I'll have to see how finances work out, but I think we'll have enough to actually live off last month's income (albeit it, very tightly). DH will be getting paid for both jobs, so that should make up our grand deficit. The money won't come in until early-mid April, but I'm going to put it with the money earned in March and do my darndest not to spend any money earned in April until May.
We have a storm coming in tonight. I'm hoping we don't lose power as it just occurred to me that our house is entirely electric. If we lose power, we're in for a cold, boring time. Fortunately, we have plenty of blankets, two large dogs, and a fat cat for warmth. The basement holds heat pretty well, so we'll probably heat that up tonight, and also boost the house temp up to 68 (it's currently at 60). We also have MREs for food should we need something to warm us up.
My first new paycheck comes in next Tuesday. I think it will only be about $100-$150 increase in take-home pay, but it also means I'm back up to contributing 10% of my income to savings. Eventually, I'd like to be able to max out both of our Roths in addition to our retirement accounts through work, but that's some time out.
I had about $90 extra in my personal account and only need about $30 for one more gas fill-up, so I went ahead and sent $30 and $32 to two of my credit cards. The smallest one is now at $214. I'm so tempted to just pay it off, but I know it's better to stick to my budget and not spend money that's meant for something else.
We both got check refunds for our personal property taxes because we moved our cars to a different county last November, but both checks were for $5.50 each. I have to call and get it verified because I was expecting more. DH paid almost $800 in car taxes. Prorated for the year, he should get around 100 back, while I was expecting around 20.
Nothing much to report. I feel like this week has been crazy long for a 4-day week. A few days ago, I did get a call for a phone interview for a job that pays 10k more than the other job offer I had gotten. Since I just went through a situation with my work, I decided to show a little faith and decline the phone interview. I did make sure to let my boss know, so that she realizes she needs to follow through on some of the changes I've been promised.
I've also been up since 4 am. I feel like tonight is going to be an early night. I felt rested when I woke up, so I got up and made a huge pot of chili for DH's chili cook-off. He later called me for a name for it. He wanted to name it Midnight Barker. I told him that sounds like it's going to make people sick...
He ended up going with my suggestion of 2 B Chili (Shakespeare reference and there are 2 different beans in there). Not the most creative, but hey, it was 6 AM...
We got our tax return. We ended up paying DH's brother $650 back. The rest he said was a gift. We also gave DH's mom $100 towards his phone. DH had to get a new phone last December. He likes his fancy gadgets and doesn't ask for much, so he got the Google Pixel phone. It costs $600, and he did the monthly payments on Verizon since he's on his mom's plan. We've budgeted $100/month for the next 6 months to cover the phone just to get it out of the way quickly.
I also gave DH $300 fun money.
The remainder helped us fill out last month's income, but even so we're still not quite there (about $800 short). We should be able to do it in March given that DH should get both military pay and work pay for a 2 week period...provided his orders actually come through.
I decided to prioritize retirement above everything else. I had been diligently contributing 10% (8% to my 401k to get the match and 2% to a Roth). However, when we were wedding planning, I scaled it way back to 2% to maximize my paycheck. I think failing to plan for the future was one of my mom's biggest mistakes, so I decided that had to take precedence with the raise. I moved it back to 10%, so I'm thinking my take home will not be anywhere near as big an increase as I was hoping. Still, I think the retirement savings are important since my company does match 50% up to 4% of your total pay.
I had alluded a while back about a potential job offer. It came through. It was about a 25% raise. I spoke to my boss about it, and she immediately asked that I give my current company a chance to keep me.
I have been with this company since right out of college. I'm on a management track within the company, and I have a lot of flexibility built up with them since I'm very good at what I do. Unfortunately, I know that I could make a lot more elsewhere, and given our current financial situation, I decided to see what else was out there.
My company came back with a 20% raise, but when I add in my 5 weeks PTO, it is actually more than the new offer. Not to mention, the new offer is a longer commute, hourly contract work, and an unknown in terms of flexibility/security.
Given all that information, I decided to stick with my current job. There are a couple of other concerns with it, and I let them know that should those things remain an issue in the next 6 months to a year, we may end up in the same situation.
I do feel reinvigorated though. And I'm currently working on a one-off project that should be fun.
My increase went into effect midweek this past week, so I'll see it in my first March paycheck. It should be a 500-600 monthly increase depending on taxes.
I don't know why I never made chili before. It's so easy, especially since I used a bunch of canned goods. We had a huge potful, and DH liked it so much that he asked me if I would mind making a batch next week for his work's chili cook-off. We both have some for work today, and there's 2 containers in the freezer, and two more large containers in the fridge. Tomorrow night, I will be making some sort of chicken-based soup and may also just do the batch of sausage and pepper soup while I'm at it. I'll keep small servings out of those for variety, and freeze the majority of it for next week and the week after.
DH is set to travel most of March, so I'm hoping to not buy groceries (other than eggs which I'm out of and perishables like fruit or bread) until he leaves. For March, I plan to lower our grocery budget since it will be just me.
We did our big grocery shop this weekend. We spent right around $300 which is our grocery budget for the month, but I think we're good for the remainder of the month minus maybe 1 more trip for eggs and greens. That also included a BJ's shop where we stocked up on toilet paper, paper towels, and trash bags.
We missed out on saving $10 on our grocery shop. I had gone through Ibotta and marked everything we were getting. Plus, there was a $2 bonus for 3 redemptions. DH didn't realize that he needed to use my phone number at Food Lion. Apparently, he put in his mom's number. When it didn't automatically hit yesterday, we realized we'd missed an opportunity. It's disappointing since I had 4 or 5 rebates (including beer), but now he knows to always use my account.
I also went ahead and placed my first Zaycon Fresh order. 40 lbs. of chicken for $55 coming out to 1.39/lb. I was hoping they'd discount it once more before the delivery, and today was the last day for 18% off. If we like it, then we will start using them for our meat purchases. I also volunteered to be a helper at their events when needed. It's a $10 credit for every hour you help, so that would help offset the purchase even more.
Yesterday, I went down to visit my mom. It was so warm there that the dogs went swimming in the lake! Last night, the temperature dropped, and it was super windy. At one point, we heard a loud noise. There was a giant branch in our backyard that had snapped right off. DH is going to go up on the roof today and make sure it didn't damage anything since he the noise happened right above him.
Lastly, we had our date night last night. It was super fun, and we spent nothing out of pocket!
We've been mostly sticking with the frugal challenge and limiting our spending. The one exception thus far was $8 for 2 king pillows. There was a good deal for 3.99 pillows and I'd been shoving two random pillows into the king size pillowcase, so we spent the $8 to remedy that.
Otherwise, the only spending this month has been for groceries, fuel, and bills.
DH has been on a health kick. He's started working out daily and eating salads. I have been trying to eat a little healthier with him and would also like to start working out. I think I'll be able to ramp it up once the weather warms up. I simply hate moving in the cold - I have zero motivation. DH gets $5 a workout up to $20/wk, so that's his motivation since he likes having a little more play money.
I'm going to get some groceries this weekend to make two soups (one Sunday and one Wednesday). That will be our meals since DH has been simplifying things. I'll have to do more prep for the OAMC shop. DH's been having really bad heartburn (which partially prompted the lifestyle changes). He hasn't had it in almost a week and seems to have more energy too. While he mostly wants to stick to the salads plan, I'd like to have some meals prepped and in the freezer as the occasional splurge/my food.
For Valentine's Day, we decided to keep it super simple. We agreed to just cards and no gifts (although he did spend $5 on something small for me when he did groceries the other day...he felt bad so he confessed). I got him a .99 card that I'm pretty sure he'll love. We're going to use one of our 3 $50 restaurant gift cards to get takeout from Red Lobster and have a Walking Dead night on Sunday to celebrate. I have cheer practice Tuesday evening so probably nothing that night.
So my taxes are officially filed. They ended up much lower than I had anticipated. I think what happened is that DH's actual W2 pushed us just over the 125 AGI, so we couldn't deduct the mortgage insurance premiums which were $7k. It's really unfortunate because our AGI worked out to 125,500 and because of that, our refund went down to about $3k. Ah well, such is life. We're grateful to both have secure, well-paying jobs.
That means that we obviously won't be able to do all the things we'd anticipated. With the much smaller return, our priorities are paying DH's brother ($650) and living off last month's income ($1900). The remainder will be split between boosting DH's personal account ($300) and cash-flowing all of our random expenses (personal property taxes for the last 2 months of 2016 in our new county, medical bills, etc.)
I do hope to have some good news this week on increasing our income which should help us reach the other goals faster.
Just popping in quickly. We mentioned to DH's brother about paying him back. He said to only pay half back ($500). We are incredibly grateful for his family and their generosity. Since he is still in school and living off his savings this semester, we decided we would pay him back $650. So that has moved up on our tax return priority list.
The hot tub has moved to the backburner for now. It looks like fencing will probably be more than we anticipated. At the back of our property is a line of cedar trees. The trees basically mark the property line, so we'll need to figure out whether to a) tear up all the trees (ridiculously expensive, but then we wouldn't have to worry about it anymore), b) install the fencing around the trees (I'm worried about the roots interfering with the fencing posts), c) install a less expensive temporary fence with the intent of ripping out one tree per year over the next several years and then putting in the long-term privacy fence. The other issue with the yard is that we have discovered some drainage issues with a part of the yard that doesn't get much sun due to our house blocking it. When we were doing the fencing, we wanted to look at getting a french drain put in that part of the yard as well as resodding it. Our neighbors actually go in together on an aerator each spring and have offered to include us in that. I'm almost wondering if DH and I could possibly do the french drain ourselves which would save some money.
Once the weather starts warming up, we plan to have a yard drainage expert and fencing expert come out to the house to give us estimates. From there, we'll decided on priorities.
One last random note, DH got a rare spurt of energy the other day and went to town on our utility room. It is now unpacked and completely organized. Plus, the laundry detergent soap for poison ivy is open in there, so it smells delicious when you walk in. I'm hoping we can capitalize on that and start getting some other areas of the house organized/settled. Once we got the basics unpacked, some other boxes just remained in their current state. The big remaining projects are our master closet and our storage closet in the basement.
I did have to cave and buy groceries, but this should get us through early next week. I spent $62. I really want to get our tax return done, so I can fill out the living on last month's income money and do a big grocery shop. I'm going to get enough for a 4 wk. cycle from the OAMC cookbook. That should give us 2-3 months worth of meals in the freezer which would leave us with just needing breakfast and lunches each week.
We've been pretty consistent in our breakfasts and lunches. DH always get a breakfast sandwich from our breakfast sandwich maker (an amazing, albeit limited, Xmas gift). If I eat breakfast, I'll do a sandwich, but I want to get more in the habit of making several overnight oats and eating those for brekafast (we have a large container of oats in our pantry). Lunch is usually sandwiches or leftovers. I'm hoping to limit our groceries to $50/wk after the big shop. That would account for perishables, sides, and household goods.
As I mentioned before, we'll also be using our tax return to get a baby e-fund going (3k), pay off 2 debts (1200), and pay for fencing/hot tub repair. I'm hoping to keep the last two costs limited to $3500. Depending on what's left, we also want to look into paying DH's brother back for the computer. He bought all of the components for DH to build his laptop back during Black Friday sales. All told, it was right around a grand. We decided we would cover $500 from the two of us. The remainder would come from DH's overtime. That way, he could work as fast or as slow as he'd like at paying it back.
I've found that posting here really helps keep me accountable. I couldn't post for awhile because I usually do it during a break in the work day, but my computer started giving me the blue screen of death for coming on the website. No posting = no one to answer to (other than myself and my husband, both of whom are way too lenient...) = a bit of slip in the UFM. I'm still doing 5 minute showers, but we've had some craziness in the past week or so that caused some hiccups. I got sick, and the DH contracted a nasty case of poison ivy, so things went undone in the house. We did manage to get the housewarming party in before we melted down though. Spending wasn't 60, but still came in under the $200 budget at $134. We did order in food this past week once, and we also spent money on several Wal-Mart runs for Mucinex, Nyquil, frozen pizzas (because we were too exhausted to do anything in the kitchen), and several poison ivy remedies. We also both ended up in the doctor's office, so we'll have those visits to pay for once the bills come in.
I started doing our taxes. They are just about finished. I'm missing DH's W2 from his old job, but plugging in very rough estimates of the numbers nets us around 10k. We're trying to figure out the best way to allocate that money. Right now, we're leaning towards 3k savings, pay off 2 debts (my smallest credit card and an old payday loan that is under 1k), fill up our account to live off last month's income, and use the remainder to fence in the backyard and get the hot tub up and running. We feel like that's a good balance of fun things and practical things.
We had a setback yesterday. It was supposed to be our uber-frugal date night. We were both really excited. Unfortunately, it didn't go as planned...
It started with a phone call at 2:45 from DH. DD1 (his evil stepson as he likes to call him) decided to counter surf for the first time in the new house. He at about 10 milk chocolate truffles and a small box of mixed milk chocolates. The only good thing is that he somehow did that without breaking the large glass bowl they were sitting in.
DD1 happens to have a lead stomach (I could tell some stories about the things he's eaten), so I wasn't overly worried about chocolate poisoning. But it definitely put a damper on things. I got home about 345 and went to take DD1 out to see if he'd go to the bathroom. That's when I noticed the whole back deck around the hot tub was wet. I picked up the lid to see the water level, and yep, the hot tub is somehow leaking.
By that point, DH and I were both in debbie downer moods. He suggested cancelling completely which I agreed to, but that made me even more upset. We decided to just drain the hot tub completely and winterize it that way. Unfortunately, that way involves a wet/dry vac to clean out the pipes/motor pool compartment. We decided to go to Home Depot to rent one, but renting costs $13 and to buy one outright was $24. I'm sure you can see where this is headed...we spent $24 on a wet/dry vacuum that we hadn't planned. While not necessarily a need, it will prevent much more costly damage that would result from the motor pool freezing. As it is, there may already be damage which is why it started leaking in the first place, but I'm trying not to think about that.
On the way out of Home Depot, we saw a Chinese restaurant. Ordering in Chinese and playing board games is one of our favorite homebody dates. DH asked if it would be cheating if he spent his birthday gift card to treat us to Chinese since our dinner plans were ruined. While it doesn't espouse the mindset behind an UFM, at least he wasn't spending money from our bank account or even his own individual bank account. We ended up having Chinese food, playing Battleship, and marathoning 24. Not the worst way to spend an evening, I guess.
The Chinese food leftovers are lunch today for both of us and will be DH's lunch tomorrow. Since I was out of sandwich meat, that worked out okay.
We're going to try again tomorrow evening.
Day 12 about making excuses came just a little late because that's exactly what we did. Life handed us lemons and we went out and bought soda. I'm going to try and remember this lesson in the future. Spending on something to make me feel better in the short-term when things don't go as planned is probably one of my biggest weaknesses.
I forgot to post my original budgets for January, but I decided to post them here along with my progress so far.
I know there's room for improvement, and I want to make some changes, but I'm trying to focus on one goal at a time. I took all debt payments down to the minimum to try and get a better idea of how much money we actually have left. It's looking like about $500. This month will be the first month in a long time that we haven't actually added any credit card debt. The next two goals will be $1000 in the Savings account and enough in our checking to cover living off last month's income and a $200 buffer. I'm hoping to accomplish these things by March provided nothing comes up that we suddenly have to cash flow.
After that I have a card payoff plan, but I'm trying not to focus on that just yet.
Here's my budget snapshot. I get paid twice a month, so I assign bills to each paycheck based on their due dates. My student loan payments did go up a bit from $155.
Here's our joint budget snapshot. I'm on track to come in well under budget on the Entertainment category. The clothing purchases are documented under Miscellaneous.
Yesterday's spending was definitely more than anticipated, but still within budget...if that makes any sense. I went ahead and decided to combine this week's $50 and next week's $50 so I could just make one trip. I actually spent $108, but that included an $8 thermal and $35 bag of dog food. I also spent $15 at Goodwill for 2 pairs of jeans for DH. I redeemed $4 back between Checkout 51 and Ibotta.
For the rest of the week, a rough meal plan looks like this:
Today - Spaghetti (OAMC meal)
Tomorrow - Nacho Car
Thursday - Frozen Pizza (Wal-Mart has these really delicious $3 pizzas...probably not the most nutritious thing in the world, but satisfies DH's pizza cravings and easy)
Friday - Tuna Pasta (OAMC meal)
Saturday - Potluck with friends (bringing bacon jalapeno pinwheels)
I know for sure that we have at least another week's worth of dinners. I think we may also have a few remaining MREs on hand, so worse case, we'll work those into the menu.
Since I hadn't planned for the $15 or $7 clothing purchases (I had taken the miscellaneous budget down to $0 in a really ambitious move...), I'm going to take $22 from the last week's $50 and try to get by with only spending $28 that week.
Unfortunately, there was no way to add the beer into the grocery budget, so that $60 is still there. Considering the original party budget was $200, I feel pretty good getting it down to $60.
The UFM Challenge is chugging along. DH hasn't spent any money this month. I haven't spent anything outside of the $91, cat litter, and a $5.30 wine purchase for two more bottles for the party. The wine purchase was from the Groupon gift. Since it shipped late, they issued me a $50 off $50 or more purchase with free shipping. Given the prices of the bottles, I had to go slightly over $50. That gives us 14 bottles (7 red, 7 white), so I'm not getting any more wine.
After reading some of the comments on my last post, I feel silly for commenting on the cold. Some of you are dealing with single digits to negative temps. When I said cold, I meant 20's...We did actually find out that we could run the small space heater in the basement with the door closed which would make the room quite toasty. The hard part will be when we decide to do our own things for the evening because DH uses that heater in his office to play video games. At that point, I'll either stick with the heated throw and more blankets or just read upstairs in our bedroom.
We do have some spending planned for today. As I mentioned late last week, the dogs need food (there's 2-cups left which is one meal for one dog). We also discovered Friday that DH needs more thermal shirts and when he wears layers, his jeans are uncomfortably tight. We did wait the 72-hours suggested by Mrs. Frugalwoods, and DH even worked all this weekend, but he really needs a pair or two of larger jeans that will comfortably fit pants under them. We are going to get the thermal shirts and jeans from Goodwill since they'll get beat up outside regardless. DH also wants thermal pants, but those are definitely more of a want since he has military gear and one pair of warm running pants that he can use for this season.
I also started Checkout 51 and Ibotta. I got a $10 bonus through Checkout 51 and need to do my first Ibotta receipt to get that .50 bonus. We apparently go through bread really fast, so we need bread and eggs. I also plan to get a few more of the party appetizers under the grocery budget this week.
DH and I had a really productive weekend. Ever since we moved, it's felt like a never-ending cycle of laundry, but this weekend, we finally caught up (putting away laundry is the worst...)! I also made some phone calls that I'd been putting off, organized the linen closet, cleaned the floors, and got all Christmas and Halloween decorations stored. One of the recent UFM days was about using all of our groceries before getting more, so we tried to focus on that. We cleaned out the bad stuff from the fridge, and I turned 2 celery stalks, a handful of potatoes, a borderline bell pepper, some leftover green beans, and an onion into a pretty amazing soup. DH was really excited to take some for lunch today.
We've decided to wait on the hot tub. We found out that it's wired incorrectly, and the correct breaker box that we'd need runs about $350. The heater board also has a slight burn mark. It may still work, but we won't know until it's properly wired. If that doesn't work, then we'd need a new heater board at about $250 (he said installation is easy enough that we should be able to do it ourselves). DH and I decided to forget about the hot tub until after the fence is in. We do need to buy an incandescent light bulb to put in the motor compartment to prevent it from freezing since we won't be running it, so that's another expense added into today's spending. Even though it's not running, the $150 visit was really fruitful. I learned a ton, including that the hot tub is from 2008-2010 (most likely 2008), costs several thousands upfront and is a steal even if it ends up costing $500 or so to get it running, and will last at least another decade or so with proper upkeep.
DH and I have two events later this week that may present challenges, but he's been pretty committed to this whole month, so I think it'll be okay. The first is date night. DH and I's birthdays are a few weeks (and several years) apart. We both get free movie tickets for our birthdays, so we've decided to go see Rogue One this Wednesday. The challenge will be food. This particular theatre serves full meals, adult beverages, etc. in addition to standard concession fare. To combat this, I'm going to bring one small box of Raisinets (I hate doing it, but I need something for my hands) and a stress reliever toy. We're also going to get food beforehand. One of our favorite Mexican restaurants does a free happy hour nacho bar. Again, we'd normally get a margarita or something to support the restaurant, but this time, we'll just eat our fill of nachos. The other event is a potluck. I normally make lumpia, but since I'm making that next weekend, I'm going to go with pinwheels. Those ingredients will also be purchased under this week's grocery money.
Speaking of date night, we also agreed to go minimal for Valentine's Day. I bought him a .50 card on his birthday, and I told him to skip the flowers/chocolates/gifts. He's happy because that's less effort for him.
One last random thing, one of the pets' Christmas gifts was light up LED collars for $8 each from Groupon. On a day-to-day basis, it's been our best gift. I can see the dogs in the backyard without having to go out there with them. I also use it when walking them later and have gotten people at red lights who asked where they're from.
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