Budgeting, saving money, SAVINGS

February’s Review & Savings.

white money printed card
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

February was a high income month for us as we received a nice tidy sum from Uncle Sam for our tax returns. I was able to fund a spousal IRA with the proceeds.

This month I also continued to see how I could lower my fixed expenses.  After a couple of phone calls, I was able to lower my homeowner’s and car insurance policies by $200.00.  I also received Chase Rewards and Rakuten (formerly Ebates) for a total of $100.00.

However, February was not without its challenges.  We had some pretty hefty bills.

blue and silver stetoscope
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Some health issues reared their ugly heads which came to some big bills.  CT scans, new crowns, fillings and a tooth pulled, numerous doctors visits…. It all adds up.  Thankfully we had the money in our Health Savings Account to cover them.

Image result for picture of alaska

Our final payment for our 25th wedding anniversary trip in May was due this month to the tune of $3,500.  We are heading to Seattle/Alaska/Las Vegas!!  I had the money already saved, so I was all set there.  Fingers crossed we’ll be able to go.  It seems the west coast is experiencing the start of the Coronavirus.

Which brings me to our next large expense.

grocery cart with item
Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

I told myself to stay calm and even wrote a blog post about it.   I thought I was calm until I saw the end result of what I purchased from Amazon, Aldi, Trader Joe’s and BJ’s.  After stocking up on food, medicines, personal care and household supplies, I ended up spending a whopping $1,000! What the heck? How calm is that???

But the good news is that I’m pretty sure I won’t have to buy another bar of soap, shampoo, conditioner, garbage bags, toilet paper, tissues or cleaning supplies for two years and of course we’ll be able to eat for two -three months without stepping into a grocery store. 😉

Even with all those expenses, it was a good savings month. I was able to send $4,230 to an IRA (thank you tax return!), $1,200 to personal savings and $250 extra to the mortgage.

Total Savings for February:  $5,680!  I’m very pleased with the result.

How was your February?

 

 

Retirement, saving money

Seriously. What took me so long?

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Procrastination.  It can be a true enemy to your financial life.  I procrastinated for many years by not looking at my fixed costs more closely.  Fixed are fixed, right?  Wrong.  And it cost me.  Big.  $3,240 to be exact.

I’ve been on a kick to save as much money as possible, as my desire to retire early is lighting a fire under my butt to get it done.  So, I’ve been looking at ways to lower our monthly bills which will allow more money to be saved.   In the last 30 days, I reviewed my fixed expenses, which included insurance policies, cable bills, cell phone bills, electric bills, water bills, and natural gas bills. The results were eye opening.

This is how I found more than $3,000 in savings:

INSURANCE

Homeowners.  I was being overcharged for home insurance by $400 a year.  They had an enormous replacement value on my home because they had in their records 1000 more square feet than its actual size.  If I had really read the insurance papers last June, I would have noticed it sooner.  I’d love to blame them for incompetency, but this one is on me.

Car InsuranceNot much to change here, but I did find an overcharge on my car for $80 a year.  $80 is $80, right?

CELL PHONE/CABLE

Our service provider changed it’s policies so I was able to get out of a cable contract that I had with no penalty.  I capitalized on this recently, and documented it here.   I also took advantage of internet/cell phone bonus and got 1 GBT internet and unlimited data for my cell phones .  This is where I saw the most savings, about $2,000 a year.   I am MOST happy about this change. 🙂

A side note:  If you are financing your phone through your cell phone bill, it’s not a utility bill, it’s DEBT.  It took me YEARS to realize this.  I’m glad we own all of our phones, and no longer finance them.

UTILITY BILLS

GAS & Electric:.  This should have been done YEARS ago, but I finally changed all of my lightbulbs to LEDs.  I’ve also lowered the temp to 68 degrees, lowered the hot water heater to 120 degrees, turned off the garage refrigerator, and started sealing up the windows.  I have yet to get the new bills with these changes, but based on the wattage usage, I should save $25-40/mos. just by unplugging the garage refrigerator.   By lowering the heat and hot water heater, I should be able to save another $20 a month.  Total savings for the year: $720.00.

Water/Sewer Bill: I changed out shower heads to get a slower flow, as well as other faucets.  The water bill has always been an issue, so I’m making a conscious effort to use less.  I am taking fewer baths, and shorter showers.  Hopefully small changes will add up to big savings.  I’ll keep you posted on this one.

I’ve realized, finally, that fixed bills don’t have to be ‘fixed’.  There are ways to save money.  And I have $3,000 more to prove it.  So, not only do I have $3,000 more in savings, but I have $3,000 less to come up with when I retire.  A win-win for sure.

If you have ways you save on your fixed expenses, please share!

 

 

 

saving money, Spending Freeze

Gearing up for a 3-mos Spending Freeze

abundance achievement bank banknotes
Photo by Pixabay

How does one save a bunch of money really fast?  Don’t spend any!

I’ve been revisiting the idea of a spending freeze. I did a successful one for the month of February several years ago. And I saved a bit of money.  But as I was perusing the internet, I found one person doing an arbitrary 4-month spending freeze. Hmmm.  If I want to save a lot of money fast, why not do more than a month, perhaps a 3-month spending freeze?

We are about to enter my least favorite months of the year Jan/Feb/Mar- which I affectionately call winter suck.  Why not do something productive to get ready for spring?

christmas cold friends frosty
Photo by Pixabay

This spending freeze will be about giving up wants.  After all, I’m already living with abundance and more than enough.  I certainly can go for 90 days without purchasing any more.

THE RULES:

The following items are off limits for 90 days: (Every one of these items is a trigger for me.)

  • Clothes, shoes
  • Books, cds, dvds
  • Household decor
  • Wine (I may or may not stock up in December)
  • K-cups
  • Purses/wallets
  • Jewelry/clothing accessories
  • Planners, stickers, pens (yes, they are a thing)
  • Trips (other than NY to see my parents)
  • Eating out
  • Travel items/accessories
  • Manicures/Pedicures
  • No online spending (unless it can’t be purchased in a brick/mortar store)

Things I can spend money on:

  • Groceries (within a budget of $100/week)
  • Medications/Medicine/Drs. appts.
  • Anything that Ben (my sweet, sweet boy) needs
  • Replacement products (i.e. toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo, conditioner, make up) * Find the cheapest way to replace through coupons, sales
  • Bills (utilities, mortgage, etc.)
  • Gasoline (but only one fill up a month for me)
  • EZ Pass for my husband to go to work
  • Date night (2x) No need to punish my sweet husband. 🙂
  • Travel to my parents in NY (a necessity)
  • Gifts (3 to be exact – 2 birthdays and an anniversary)
  • Hair cut and color 1x (absolutely, positively necessary.)

If anything else should come up that I didn’t account for, I will update this list.  In the meantime, I will work on coming up with at least 100 things to do for free to keep me from spending.

This freeze will officially start January 1st.

I’m actually excited.  A challenge that will bear fruit at the end.  Money fruit, that is. 😉

Anyone with me?

Retirement Journey, saving money

Retirement Series: Our current savings.

blue and yellow graph on stock market monitor
Photo by energepic.com

After posting about our expenses, the next retirement nut to crack is savings.  Do we have enough?

Ah.  The million dollar question.  Literally.

We used  NewRetirement, a free retirement planning tool to figure out if we were on the right track for retirement.  After inputting all of our financial information, and with the assumption that we will continue to contribute the maximum to our retirement account over the next four years, we come out with a ‘great’ score for retirement in 4 years.

 

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Our net worth includes retirement accounts, home equity and cash savings.  This program also included our mortgage and healthcare expenses, so if we wanted to, based on the above, we could stay in our home.

Thankfully, we have weathered the stormy markets and have come out ahead.  We are more conservative investors, and have rarely averaged a 12% return in a years’ time.  Our average is closer to 8%.  But we still managed to hit the $1M mark.  After 35 years of saving in our retirement accounts, we are finally seeing the fruits of our labor. 😉

What I LOVE so much about the New Retirement site and the chart they provide, is that it lets you know when your social security starts and when you need to take RMDs (required minimum distributions) from your retirement accounts.  It also assumes a 2-3% investment growth, which, to me, is very realistic.

So, do we have enough to cover our expenses and retire in 4 years?  I believe we do.

I will follow this post up with a future post on how we managed to accumulate $1.7M in net worth.  But for now, know that it took hard work, steady investing and a bit of luck.  No inheritance.  No rich relatives.

How are you doing in retirement savings?

 

Goal Setting, Retirement, saving money

An update.

I was supposed to be off my blog for a month, not three.   I must admit I didn’t go cold turkey on social media.  I did read some blogs, watch some videos and follow some friends on Instagram during that time.  Although this blog remained silent, I’ve been busy moving forward with completing our Wills, updating our retirement accounts, bagging the concept of long term care insurance (blog post to follow), planning a few trips and generally enjoying the last of summer and beginning of Fall.

I do have a lot to share, especially with regard to some previous post ideas.  Needless to say, my opinion has taken a 180 on several concepts, which I will also share soon.

So, if you are still out there, I will be updating.  I look forward to talking with you all soon!

Budgeting, saving money

Dumping Amazon Prime, and saving lots of money in the process.

woman holding card while operating silver laptop
Photo by Bruce Mars

It’s taken me a couple of years to actually pull the plug, but I’m finally doing it.

5 Reasons I’m dumping Amazon Prime

  1. HIGHER PRICES.  Amazon is no longer the least expensive retailer online for all products.  Recently I started checking other company websites and was shocked at how much less expensive things are outside of Amazon.  When I was looking for a specific item for my son for his birthday, I checked Amazon.  The item was $300, which was a bit more than I wanted to spend.  I researched the item and found it on another website, Academy Sports for $199.  It also came with a 20% coupon code.  Add with the 6% I received on Ebates, PLUS free shipping, I ended up saving over 60%.
  2. TARGET (and other online stores).  Other companies are starting to compete with Amazon, and I’m taking notice.  Specifically Target Online.  Recently I wanted to purchase some books.  Habitually, I searched Amazon first.  (That’s where you buy books, right?)  But then I decided to check Target.  Target not only had the books at the same price, but because I had the RedCard (no membership fee), I received 5% off and free shipping.  I also earned 1% in Ebates, so total savings was 6%. A WIN for me. 🙂  (Target RedCard comes in the form of a debit card if you’ve sworn off credit cards, FYI.    Not sponsored, I just like the savings.)
  3. HIGH MEMBERSHIP FEE. When I first signed up for Amazon Prime, the membership fee seemed minimal. I would make that up in the first couple of shipments.  Now the fee is $12.99/mos. or $155.88.  If I chose to pay for it all at once (which I have) it’s $119.00.  I understand that Amazon Prime isn’t just for free shipping.  They offer movies, books and ‘special offers’.  Honestly, I’ve rarely taken advantage of it.
  4. SUBPAR DELIVERY SERVICE. Delivery from Amazon is subpar, at best.  (UPS is a close 2nd in deplorable delivery practices.)  Packages were being thrown on our porch (we have the RING Security System and see everything!).  Also, we do not have a covered porch, so packages were getting soaked in the rain.  And, on several occasions, packages went ‘missing’ and we had to contact customer service.
  5. DEPLORABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE.  In the past, I’ve had decent service.  However, my last two dealings with Amazon ‘customer service’ have left me scratching my head.  Let me just preface this by saying I’m very careful about ordering products that I may have to return.  i.e. clothing.  I choose Amazon Prime, Free Returns every.single.time.  And, as I had anticipated, I had to return clothing items that did not fit.  After taking 15 minutes to find Amazon’s customer service number (1(888)280-4331 – you’re welcome. 😉 ), I had to argue with the rep because they said it was from an outside vendor and there would be a charge to return it.  It was very clear on website that it was free returns.  In the end I had to contact the specific vendor personally, and ended up losing 50% of the cost of my purchase. 😦

To be clear, I will still use Amazon from time to time.   I just won’t be paying the membership fee to do so.  I have a feeling that I’ll be saving much more than the membership fee.  It’s time to allow other companies compete for my business.   Sorry Jeff Bezos.  But I’m sure you’ll get over it.

How often do you check prices online?  Do you automatically go to Amazon?

Budgeting, Retirement, saving money

Tracking my money…how I saved an extra $1,000 in May!

photography of one us dollar banknotes
Photo by Burst

Do you know how much money actually flows into your life on a daily, weekly or monthly basis?  Recently I started watching a YouTube channel, Enjoying Life’s Journey, specifically for her weekly budgeting videos.  I often pick up one or two golden nuggets from these types of videos, and this one was no exception.  What struck me about this particular channel and her budgeting videos (and there are a ton of them out there) is the fact that Jackie tracks every last penny that comes in and out of her life.  I mean every penny.

This past month, I decided to create my own excel spreadsheet and track every penny that came in and went out.  I thought I was already doing this, but it appears I’ve been letting money slip out of our budget, especially if it makes its way to me in cash.  In the past, I only budgeted the incoming paychecks.  I was shocked to see what actually came in, and what I was able to keep.  

Here is the extra money that came in May, 2019:

  • Interest in Ally Bank:  $10.59
  • Sold items: $275.00 (Facebook Marketplace)
  • Cell phone reimbursement from my husband’s firm: $60.00 (2 mos).
  • Chase Cash Back rewards: $117.50
  • Ebates: $37.50  (If you are an online shopper, this is amazing.  If you click on the link and sign up, we both get $25.00.  This is REAL money.  It took me a long time to sign up, but over the past 6 mos I’ve received $97 back.)
  • Medical Reimbursement check: $23.25
  • Anniversary gift from my incredibly generous parents: $500.00

Total ‘extra’ money for May: $1,023.84!!!

Normally, I wouldn’t track it and somehow it would be gone.  This month every last penny went into my savings account.

Keeping track of every penny allowed me to save an extra $1,000+.  I realize not every month will be as lucrative as this month, but I’m sure there will be something every month, and I will be tracking it going forward.

How much money is flowing into your life?

 

*Ebates is an affiliate link, and is the only affiliate link in this post.  Please know that I will never have an affiliate link that I don’t use or 100% endorse.