Tag Archives: Debt-free

A Lot Going On While We Stay Home

My apricot roses

Well, it’s been quite a week! Considering we don’t do very much away from the home, the week has had plenty of surprises and drama.

Dear Daughter (DD) started us off with a headache/cough/congestion complaint. Off for COVID testing! We are fortunate to have National Guard testing in our state, but the day we went they must have had an issue because they opened 1.5 hours late and the line was so long we gave up.

Later that afternoon, we heard through the “local mom rumor mill” that another testing site had a short wait, so off we went! Just 24 hours later we were relieve she was negative. She has been tested twice in July and the kid is becoming an expert.

This week I also tried to give blood through the Red Cross… they are offering COVID antibody testing along with your blood donation. I was pretty eager to see if I had antibodies because right before school let out one of our library student helpers had a family member bring COVID back from NYC. He seemed to get a number of our student helpers pretty sick.

I had never donated blood before, and I think I got the “new guy” because everyone seemed concerned about how he was doing 😬. They had to move the needle a few times and I didn’t end up filling the bag. No donation and no antibody test, just a bruise as a memento. Sigh. If you are interested in antibody testing check the Red Cross site for local blood drives.

In happier news….

Cooking– my zucchini is ready and I made a loaf of zucchini bread which is a welcome seasonal treat.

Entertainment – DD and I are watching the new Babysitters Club series on Netflix. It’s fantastic and a nice way to spend some time together.

Buying – one of our more expensive weeks since COVID. We bought a desk and chair for DD as her school will be virtual with more use of synchronous video than last year. I’m grateful our school district made a decision early.

Reading – Two middle-grade books this week. “Wink” by Rob Harrell has risen to one of my top recommendations this year. Best for grades 5 and up. Now I’m reading “American as Paneer Pie” and am enjoying learning about Indian culture through the eyes of a young person.

Flylady – we were in the living room and front entrance zones this week. Admittedly I didn’t do much other than basic maintenance. I did undertake a kitchen pantry clean out as a result of a syrup bottle that was dripping! Good opportunity to tidy up. Next week is Zone 2, the kitchen.

Hope your week was a little smoother than mine. I’m taking a deep breath heading into the coming week as I wait for the school district where I work to make a decision about fall.

We Recouped $80 in 3 Minutes

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From the children’s book “Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Ben Franklin”

One of the benefits to budgeting even after you are debt-free is that it forces you to pay attention to the expenses you incur.  If you get too relaxed, the little things will definitely add up and bite you.

I recently had an annual eye exam.  We have no vision insurance, though the eye doctor likes to submit the claim to our health insurance in case there is something medical they will pick up (such as eye disease).  Usually my bill just gets kicked right back because my eyes are healthy.

DH saw the claim pass through and noticed the high cost ($ 225 plus refraction) right away.  We both recalled having an issue with their billing process in the past.  We decided to wait until the eye doctor billed us, but you better believe we were fully ready to engage in battle!

The bill arrived yesterday and I had it open before I even got to the front door.  They had billed us their “insurance” price because they had submitted the bill to medical insurance and it was denied.  I called right away and politely said that I didn’t think that was the right price for “self-pay”.  The billing clerk said she could take 30% off for self-pay, and in a minute I had recovered 80.00.

I wondered how many people get the bill and just pay it?  Anytime you have any sort of medical or dental claim denied, it is absolutely worth it to inquire if you can have the “self-pay” price.  

Have you ever asked for the self-pay price?

 

Saving… In the Pink

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Happy Valentine’s Week! Valentine’s Day is one of my favorite holidays because I love flowers and beautiful pink and red decorations during the otherwise drab winter.

We are having a quiet weekend because DD is down with a head cold.  Sometimes it’s nice to just stay around home and appreciate what we have here instead of going in search of more.

Earning

DH received an email about a class action lawsuit against Yahoo for a data breach.  You may be eligible if you had a Yahoo account between 2012 – 2016.  We already have credit monitoring services in place (from another data breach, naturally), so we have applied to receive a cash payout (up to 100.00).  You may have received an email, but if not read more here.  Props to DH, who is a master at both rebates and responding to class action lawsuits.

Saving

I used my time at home this weekend to make cut-out heart cookies to give as Valentine’s gifts.  I was able to use some of the butter given to me by the person I am house-sitting for.

Went grocery shopping with DH on Saturday and we used up a Jimmy John’s gift card to bring home a quick lunch.  I don’t like to lose track of gift cards, but this one I have had for a while.

We came in under budget last week, and were able to put that money back into our savings, vacation, and home repair budget lines.

Watching

I am watching Playing With Fire on Amazon Prime (using my free video credits from selecting delayed delivery on packages).  I’m enjoying this documentary about the Financial Independence-Retire Early movement and one family’s attempt to get on the path to FIRE. Have you seen it? Thoughts?

It’s very snowy here tonight, so we will raid the freezer for a simple meal. Tonight I will firm up a meal plan for the week ahead and make a grocery list. This gets my week off to a good start even if we have to make changes along the way.

 

 

Brrr….Saving This Week

Vintage-Winter-Birds-Image-GraphicsFairy-1024x392It’s been a slow, quiet kind of weekend for us.  Our daughter has been studying for her mid-year final exams.  We also got a pretty decent snowfall Friday into Saturday, which gave us another great reason to stay close to home.

Savings and Earnings this Week…

The Cell Phone Game

We have unlimited data (teenager), but if we stay under 2Gig, we get $10.00 back per phone.  Our daughter blows through that in days, but this month both DH and I are close to losing our our 10.00!!!  We are determined to squeak in below our data limit for the 10.00 each!  Ah, its the little things…

Selling

I sold a doll item for $  10.00 in a mom group on Facebook in my community.  This is a great way to sell things without the hassle of Ebay.  I usually just have a porch pickup, which means they can get the item and leave the money.  If you have toys or kids’ items to sell, see if there is a sales group on Facebook for your area.

Dining at Home

There were many opportunities to eat at home this week – we had pea soup in the freezer that I added chicken and apple sausage to to jazz it up the second time around.  We also had tofu bowls with rice, veg, and marinated, oven baked tofu — it’s an inexpensive, vegetarian meal that is always well received.  I also made steel cut oats and froze them in individual packets in the freezer.

I try to eat dairy-free and wheat free most of the time because I have eosinophilic esophagitis, an allergic autoimmune disease.

Staying Healthy

I got an eye exam this week and scheduled some dental work now that we are in a new year for our flexible spending account (money taken out pre-tax for health expenses not covered by insurance).  Every year we use all of the FSA money, so I had been holding off on these two appointments until the new year.  A flexible spending account is a great way to reduce your taxed income, and if you have medical needs, or children with braces or going to physical therapy for injuries (ahem!), you will use that money right up!

Short week ahead for all of us.  We will be staying close to home and celebrating the end of exams by binging on the last episodes of “Cheer” in Netflix once DD is done!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Money this Week and Snowmaggedon

How was your week?  We prepared for a big snow event this weekend which kind of fizzled out, but we are enjoying being home, watching football playoffs, and eating the groceries we have instead of going out in search of greener pastures.

Saving this Week

Groceries

I had success this week using my Kroger store’s online ordering/curbside pickup.  Ordering online forces me to be a little more disciplined and think through my meal plan instead of wandering off to the store after work every day.  I can also take advantage of their online coupons which are so much easier to use than the old days of clipping coupons.  This week I saved 31% on my order there, purchasing things we use regularly.  They also gave me a bouquet of flowers which I have been enjoying all weekend.

Medical

Last week I mentioned that our health insurance allows each member two free Teledoc  visits per year.  I tried it! I used the dermatologist for a simple need and I had a response and prescription for a cream within an hour of submitting my request and photos.  No taking off of work, waiting for an appointment, etc.

Investing

DH and I decided to close one of my Roth IRAs which was invested in a variety of funds and individual stocks and consolidate it with Vanguard in a Lifecycle fund.   Simplify.

Planning

This week looks to be a bit busier than last week, so during the evening football game I will get my planner out and make sure I have a solid meal plan for the week.

Earning this Week

I took an extra recess duty shift this week.  I always feel like I’m really sacrificing when I do that!  Hey, I got some free Vitamin D from the winter sun and thankfully no playground concussions or other issues occurred on my watch!

New Years’ What I Did to Save Money

Welcome to 2020! We have had a delightful week with the whole family off work and school, and we used the time for a lot of relaxing, movie watching at home, as well as getting ready for the new year.

Donating and Selling

Our house is small enough that we use every room every day. We went through a few closets and found plenty to donate, share with a neighbor, and some to sell. Sold an American Girl item for $ 10.00 in a mom group.. so much easier than eBay. For us, paying off our house and not moving has been a great way to build savings, so we try to stay satisfied with our home and keep it pleasant to be in.

One of the closets we went through has freed up space so we can better access items we might buy at a good price and store.

Saving on Food

My friends will be traveling this winter so they gave some some terrific food items before they leave. In addition to the items in the picture there is a huge box of Cheerios and some salmon. I need to explore recipes like muffins that use maple syrup, because this is a lot of syrup! Any recommendations?

The morning of Jan 1st I logged into my Kroger grocery store website to load the new digital coupons for the month. At the same time I added items to my cart so I can drive up to pick up my groceries after work. This is one of my favorite months for grocery sales because “healthy” foods are the focus. My daughter loves Special K and it is always on sale in January!

  • Special K Family Size box $1.49
  • Annie’s Box Mac and cheese 2 for .30 cents!

Spending

We are debt free, which affords us some choice about spending our money on things we value. I value having experiences with my family so this week DH and I went out for a date night, which we especially enjoyed after being sick over Christmas. Our teen stayed home and enjoyed her own “Dance Moms” binge on tv.

Any new resolutions or plans for your money in 2020?

Easing out of the Christmas Frenzy

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Happy New Year!  We slid into the month of December with a lot of spending and family fun — so much so that we had trouble getting caught up in our budget(!!), and are limping to the end of December with both DH and I having the latest virus that is going around. Forced frugality.

We have been seeking some balance from the excesses of December by:

  • Making meals like chili that use up pantry/freezer items
  • Using some of the teacher appreciation restaurant gift cards I got last spring
  • Picking up clearance Christmas items that we know we will need next year (cards, 1 roll of wrapping paper, and labels)
  • Watching for holiday clearance grocery items that I know we will use, like canned pumpkin.

We did manage to get our budget up to date after several weeks of too many trips to Trader Joe’s as well as hosting various parties. Whether you are a new or a seasoned budgeter, this is a great time to take a look at what you spent so you can plan for it next year. For example, DH takes his staff out for lunch in December, so we always set aside money for that.

I naturally find myself looking ahead 3-6 months for any major expenses on the horizon so we can plan. This week I realized we have a new expense ahead… drivers education for our daughter. It costs around 400.00 so we will allocate money for that. If you’ve been reading this (intermittent) blog for a while, you might be surprised we are already facing driver’s education!

How are you feeling about your finances after December?

 

How Did You Do That?

This morning I said, “Hey it’s our debt-free anniversary!” It’s a good thing I have the blog because that’s how I keep track of how many years it has been. Eight! When we paid off our house DD was in kindergarten and now high school is on the horizon.

She said, “How did you guys DO that?”

Short answer… when we were first married and had less income we paid off all of our credit cards, then our car. We hated interest! After that, we only bought what we could pay in full for (except the house). Then we went after the mortgage.

I shared that most people use credit/debt to pay for trips, clothes, cars.

I never envisioned how quickly our decision to be debt free would become a touchstone for talking about college costs. Many people would say, “Eighth grade is WAY too early to think about college!” I disagree! Three years from now she will be narrowing down choices for college, which is a $100,000 + financial decision. One day you’re deciding how much babysitting money to put on your Starbucks card and the next day you’re taking out a $7,000 unsubsidized loan (interest accrues right away). The steps she takes in high school can directly correlate into money and more choices for college, if she wants them. We have found that when you stop borrowing money you need to think 2-3 years out for major expenses.

If you’re at the beginning of a journey to pay off credit cards or school loans, keep going! It’s a huge undertaking in our culture of readily available credit, but if you are successful you will give yourself and your children an amazing head start at building wealth and freedom.

Back and Saving for the Big Stuff

This morning I was reading old blog posts to get menu plan ideas for the coming week. One theme that really stood out for me was how many years we have saved for big expenses, and how we actually achieved them over time. New siding, basement bathroom, trip to England and Ireland. Done without taking on debt, but with a good amount of budget focus week after week.

Bath, England

We are still at it too!

This spring we had an unexpected opportunity to go to Europe, and when we came back, we just wanted to travel MORE! It lit a fire under the budget process we have used for years and made us want to be a bit more mindful to come in under budget whenever we can so we have more more to put towards future travel.

So this Sunday we are home, waiting for it to snow (Spring, where are you?!), and eating from the pantry. I’ll work up a meal plan for the coming week and we will see if we can save some money this coming week.

Travel wish list: Scotland, Denmark, Germany via river cruise.

It feels good to breathe some new motivation into the budgeting we have been doing for 25 years.

What is your current financial focus?

Dave-A-Versary

Memorial Day Weekend 2007 was our first exposure to Dave Ramsey.   CNBC was running his “Dave Ramsey Roadshow” — most likely to fill time during a holiday weekend.  I don’t recall how I landed on the channel, but I know my husband was working on the computer at the dining room table and able to hear what I was watching.

We had been doing many good things with our money – investing, saving for our 2 year old’s college tuition, paying bills on time.  We were also spending a ton of money — on daycare ($10,000/year), on loan interest, and on take-out meals from California Pizza Kitchen because I was working full-time.  We were starting to hate the day care lifestyle.

Seeing the show (YouTube version above) gave us the VISION for what we could be doing with our money.  To read about the full plan of action we took, go here.  

Ten years have passed since that life-changing Memorial Day.  Some of the foundational elements of our current family life, such as having me home when our daughter is not in school, would not be possible if we hadn’t seen this program and acted on it.  If you could use a change in lifestyle and want more freedom, it would be amazing if I could pass this gift on to you.