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My Top Money Savings Tips

January 20th, 2019 at 05:28 pm

I won't have time to participate this month (by coming up with a list), but this is a list I already had in my sidebar (under "My Pages").

It was an article about the "7 Secrets of Super Savers" and I am glad I wrote all 7 down because I can no longer find the article.

1 - Set goals and make them specific

2 - Live below your means

3 - Delay Gratification (Super savers often save up for months or YEARS in order to pay cash for all purchases)

4 - Avoid Debt (Super Savers pay cash for big ticket items like cars and homes)

5 - Save on the everyday expenses (compare prices, clip coupons, buy used)

6 - Have multiple streams of income (Live on one income and saver the other. Single earners have side hustles to earn extra cash)

7 - Track spending (*I* certainly know where every single penny of our income goes! With modern technology, doesn't take much time and effort to track)

8 - Automate Savings (AKA: Pay Yourself First!) ~ We always fund our savings goals before we live on the rest of our income. Or in other words, treating savings goals like a "monthly bill".

We've absolutely always been "live below our means/pay ourselves first" types, but I guess the rest is more the *how* to do that.

2018 Wins and Losses

January 8th, 2019 at 06:08 am

2018 WINS:

**I survived!

Honestly, that's good enough for me. Anything beyond that is gravy. It was definitely the most difficult year of my life.

**I figured out the "next phase" of my career. Time will tell, but I feel like I ended up with a good combo of significantly less stress/responsibility/work, in exchange for better pay than I was expecting (based on the regional job market). I was very open minded going into the job search (open to anything), but fell into a job that hit most of my marks. In the end, is probably a bigger break on the career front than I expected at this point in my life. That is a major win.

**Somehow, in the middle of that madness, we ended up having our highest income year ever.

{If you missed it, my small employer fell ill and sold the business to some super scammy company. I eventually quit without another job lined up. I had wanted to take some time off to regroup, but ended up getting a "too good to refuse" job offer on my very last day at old job. The catch was they needed me to start like "yesterday", which was the general vibe coming from employers. Any other job, I might have gambled some time off, but didn't want to lose this one. Then my old employer ended up undoing the business sale and hiring me to help them through some rough patches. So my expectations of unemployment and a significant salary cut ended up being more "drowning in work" all year}.

The end result? I quit my old job around 9/1 and took a 15% cut in compensation, but we ended the year with $875 more income than we did in 2017. 2017 had been our best income year ever, finally surpassing our 2001 income, last we both worked full-time. 2018 was somehow better.

**Net worth was up $51,000, or in line with our "big picture" goals.

**We finally ditched our gas guzzler (that we have been scheming to get rid of most the years I have blogged here). This newer car purchase was spurred by a cash gift, accepting a job that doubled my commute, minivan getting hit on the freeway, and minivan also needing a medium-sized repair ($750) the last day of my old job. By itself, the repair wasn't a big deal, but I still hadn't gotten around to determining if the vehicle needed any body work or just had cosmetic damage from the accident (or if I would have to spend thousands to repair). With my pay cut, we were extra motivated to invest in a car that used significantly less fuel. I got to buy my "dream car" and we are saving about $200/month in fuel costs. So that is very win-win.

Plus, it's nice to have a significantly nicer car now that I actually spend time in my car. All those years we drove older cars, meh, we never really drove that much. I am glad I saved my pennies for a time in my life where I am spending a lot more time in the car.


Okay, so my gut reaction was to just use wins/losses, because I didn't like the word "fail". But, now that I am typing this out, I want to use the word fail.


**As an adult, I have never failed so miserably on the work/life balance front. It was definitely a FAIL.

I have no idea what in the heck. I suppose I feel like it was all completely out of my control, and not sure what else I could have done to set my life up to be any easier to deal with it all. So maybe "fail" is a strong word. But I just feel like I so completely failed on this front.

2019 will be a year of trying to find my balance again.

Edited: & to be clear, it was more than just WORK. It was "work" also in the sense of chores/obligations, etc. I suppose I said work/life balance because it seemed to start with that, but it has little to do with work at this point. I've always been a "raising kids and working full-time is more than enough" type and don't have any other commitments, but my friends and family have been going through such hard times, and life has been non-stop Murphy hell. I don't know if I've ever had so little down time during my entire life. It feels mostly out of my control. I felt this way when I was between jobs and two weeks off, because I just had a mountain of chores I am finally starting to have the time for (now in January). It's not all going to magically get better if I stop doing side work. It's just how life is going right now. I don't know how to fix it yet, but am trying.

Good Riddance to 2018!

January 5th, 2019 at 07:35 am

Good Riddance to 2018! Woohoo!

I wish I could say 2019 was going better. I suppose it is in many ways. I feel like my work life turned to a sea of calm a few days ago. Just the complete polar opposite of this one long year of "putting out fires". I took 10 days off from Job #2 (end of year). At Job #1 we finally "caught up" (last Friday). The employee (on leave) that I have been covering for (the entire time) should be coming back next week. So the mood at my primary job has shifted about 180.

Back to, "I wish I could say 2019 is going better..." *sigh* I had an emergency dental appointment yesterday (because life is apparently still non-stop emergencies). I also saw "twin" at lunch Thursday. While discussing everyone that had passed away during the last week or so, my mom called to tell me someone passed away. So, that is how 2019 is going.

Last weekend was actually pretty peaceful though and I finally got caught up on some stuff around the house. Phew! Literally, for the first time in about 11 months, I feel "caught up".

MH drew the short stick and went to the DMV Monday. Probably for the best because he also had to renew his license. In the end, the DMV was closed last weekend (I was going to go transfer the car title because MH was crazy sick), but he had Monday off so was the only time either of us could go. I then mailed the application for carpool stickers this week. & after all that, we still have to go back in about 10 days so MM can get his learner's permit. I think that is enough DMV for one month.

It was nice to have a little bit of a breather, but my January is shaping up to be pretty crazy. I am wrapping up 2018 for 3 clients I have on my own, and then I am shifting them all to "twin" and her new firm. That's about all I will have time for. MM(15) did some work for my old/forever employer this week and so I stopped by to talk to "workaholic" yesterday. Told him I honestly didn't think I'd be able to help them at all this month. I will see where they are at the last few days of the month. They are losing clients left and right, and have two new employees, so hopefully it equalizes a bit. I also started to temper workaholic's expectations about the rest of tax season. I don't know if he is listening because he thinks we should want to live in the office like he does. I am probably going to cram pretty hard the next two weekends and hope to mostly be done. Some of this is self inflicted because we are going away for a weekend. I just wasn't thinking what a hit that would be as to "job #2" hours. So it will be crazy, but I am continuing to lessen my workload.

I don't think I will realistically be able to hit the "reset" button until February 1.

I will do a separate post about 2018 wins and losses. It will just be a gloss over and I don't expect to have any time to do anything in depth until next month. Which I may or may not ever get to.

Credit Card Reward Tally 2018

January 2nd, 2019 at 05:48 am

2018 TALLY:

$561 Travel Rewards (Capital One Venture, Moi)

Other Rewards:
$150 Citi Price Rewind
$ 10 Hulu Credits (American Express)

Ongoing rewards (through 11/30):

+$315 AmExRewards (6% cash back groceries/3% fuel)

+$88 Target rewards (5% discount Target purchases; mostly groceries)

+$149 Visa Rewards (3% cash back fuel/restaurants)

+$823 Citi 2% card (2% back everywhere - health insurance/medical is the big expenses that we charge, is more than our mortgage payments)

Grand Total = $2,096

I just want to add that historical figures below do also include bank bonuses. They just don't generally work very well for us so I do not utilize as much. (We did -0- bank bonuses in 2017/2018).

Year 2011 = $4,164
Year 2012 = $2,782
Year 2013 = $2,623
Year 2014 = $3,128
Year 2015 = $2,585
Year 2016 = $1,906
Year 2017 = $3,578
Year 2018 = $2,096

Total 7 Years = $22,862
***Mostly Tax-Free Income***

Note: I have been tracking since 2011 because that's when the rewards got CRAZY. I have always utilized cash back on credit cards. It's just been extra rewarding during the past decade or so.

***CAVEAT - I absolutely do not recommend utilizing credit card rewards in this manner, unless you are in full control of your credit card spending. We treat our credit cards like debit cards; only charging if we have the cash on hand already. We've never paid a cent of late fees or interest.***

2019 Goals

December 30th, 2018 at 06:49 am

I decided to put up my 2019 goals on sidebar. Which are pretty much the same as 2018, except that my $12,000 salary decrease means that we will have to fund IRAs from other monies.

Our health insurance went up $50/month and I may have some more expenses with the third car, BUT I already lowered our expectations about funding IRAs, so just didn't want to cut back on any of our other savings. So I probably committed to saving at least $50/month I don't have, but I suppose I am presuming I will eventually get a raise to cover it.

Money that was going to taxable investments before, is now going to 401k. From a net worth standpoint, it's all well and good, but I am not thrilled because I feel like I need a bajillion dollars cash (teen drivers x2, braces x2, home repairs, etc., all in the very near future). "College savings" is accordingly on the back burner again, but I am okay with earmarking ROTH money (for college) during years we contribute 20%+ to retirement. Otherwise, it wouldn't make any sense to be so retirement heavy, at the expense of the rest of our finances, but everything is so "hell if I know," I'd rather err with piling up ROTHs.

I do also expect some side income in 2019, but will just be hoarding up cash to fund IRAs and to pay for big planned expenses.

2018 Goals

December 29th, 2018 at 06:42 am

I am just cutting and pasting so that I can update my sidebar for 2019 goals. I expect a $20,000 decrease in salary/wages/OT, and so 2019 numbers will be more muted. Though honestly, by the time you factor taxes/401k (allows me to contribute 9% to retirement while keeping our cash flow the same), and extra/side business income, I expect 2019 to probably be about the same (cash flow) as 2018 (which was a very flush year for us). The one big change is that we will be very retirement heavy, as a result, which I mentioned below.

2018 Goals


[/]$11,000 to IRAs 2018 (MAX)
...($6,090 @ 10/31/18)
...We save $900/month
UPDATE: I diligently saved $900/month until I decided to quit my job in August.
For 2019, I have to abandon funding IRAs from *my* income.
I took a $11,000 pay cut, so this is the obvious solution. We will max out our IRAs regardless; will fund with other income or assets.

On the flip side, I am contributing 9% to a new 401k (my contribution + employer contribution). My contribution is a complete wash with reduced income taxes. So I am able to contribute 9% to retirement without coming up with more money. This is very reminiscent of our early one-income years when I had 10% work retirement contribution and we just funded IRAs with other monies. In both cases, we were contributing 20%+ of our gross income to retirement and didn't have much left for other savings/investment vehicles.

We will be "retirement heavy" until I get a raise and/or MH returns to work full-time.


[ ]$5,000 to savings
...($0 @ 12/31/18)
...$300/month, plus interest.
...Topping off with snowballs
UPDATE: Savings was up about $8,000. I funneled everything into cash this year in prep for job transition. But I ended up putting all this money towards a car purchase. The net result is -0- change to savings.

[ ]$9,000 to investments
...($1,500 @ 12/31/18)
...$250/month, plus snowflakes
...Will also invest tax savings ($2,000) when contribute to Traditional IRAs
...Will top off goal with snowballs
UPDATE: Due to job instability and substantial decrease in income, have only contributed 'snowflakes' to investments this year. Goal for 2019 will be to fund retirement instead. This is due to a combo of less income and more retirement space to utilize.

[ ]$3,000 to mortgage
...($0 @ 12/31/18)
...$3k per year to pay off in 20 years (from last refi); also ensures that we pay more principal than interest
...Funded with overtime
UPDATE: Will probably abandon this goal for 2018 and future. I am no longer working OT (new job) and was never paid for the OT I worked in 2018.

Goal savings rate = 30% of gross

**Actual savings rate = lord if I know. I am just so happy that I have been able to cash flow the insanity this year. Mostly, we funded IRAs and threw our snowflakes into investments. We did also throw about $1,000 into MH's 401k. Savings rate was probably around 15%.**

In addition, we save 100% of MH's (net) income ~ most goes to 401k/taxes.

**We only did the minimum for match this year because I expected employment upheaval. This is just a very small part-time/seasonal income, and was probably -$0- after you factor taxes, 401k contribution, and covering my unpaid time off work.**

Three Car Family

December 25th, 2018 at 06:00 am

& just like that, we are a 3-car family.

Where in the heck did the time go??? How on earth is that wee little baby old enough to learn how to drive!?

I will back up. The in-laws told us 2+ years ago they wanted to give their old car to MM(15) for Christmas. He turns 15.5 next month and will be getting his learner's permit. Our ideal world would have been buying a very used car from a friend or a relative, someone we knew who took good care of their cars.

I don't know that we would have thought at all about getting him a car before he turned 16, but I guess it works out because we have two new-ish cars and aren't really thrilled with the idea of him learning to drive on our cars. This is maybe extra so after having much older cars most of our lives.

So, the in-laws starting telling us this about 2 years ago. We were skeptical. We were just kind of, "Will see if you still have your car in 2 years." You know, anything can happen. I believe they had recently replaced their other car because it had been totaled in an accident, when they first brought it up.

It came up again in the last 2-3 months, and I guess MH and I were more ready to start making concrete plans. We made very clear that we were able and willing to buy the car from them, and did not expect them to just hand it to us (or to our child). They insist, but we just wanted to make sure we made it very clear that they don't have to give us a car. The other thing is they have *4* grandchildren, and I think they were jumping the gun significantly and probably hadn't thought it through too much (particularly when they brought it up years ago). So we wanted to make sure at this point they had thought it through. MIL keeps telling me that her daughter and her kids are "too good" for her old car and don't want it. I don't know if it's actually been discussed or if this is a presumption. But, whatever. I say, "whatever" because I can't control that. As long as they think they have discussed it, whatever. Last we brought it up, she told us the car was for BOTH of our kids. I think it just works out about as well as it can. It gives MM(15) two years to save up for a car, maybe 6+ years if he doesn't need a car for college. My kids are exactly two years apart, so should give them both a car to drive their last two years of high school.

I think MM(15) was somewhat aware, because some adults have slipped up in front of him. & I know I change the subject any time we get on this topic. He knows we are planners and he knows it's weird we have not discussed this at all. Beyond, "You should be saving up for a car."

He was definitely not expecting a car *right now*, and so I think it worked out pretty well as to surprising him. MIL/FIL put a bow on the car and hid it in their garage. After doing Christmas stuff at SIL's house Sunday, we drove over there and they opened up the garage door. He is very surprised and happy.

We drove the car home, Sunday night. I will need to get insurance on it. We were paying around $500 per year for our 2005 minivan, and this should only be cheaper. Is higher miles and is a small sedan, so should be cheaper to insure.

The year has been so chaotic and in-laws have never had any details when I asked in the past. I thought it was maybe a 2003 or a 2005? (Just subconsciously remembering that they bought it when the kids were born?) I guess in the end it is a 2004 and has 188,000 miles.

The car is worth about $2,500. Is probably about just exactly what we would be buying our kids anyway (private party) except we'd probably be looking for a $2,500 car with 130k or 150k miles. For a free car that we just want to last for 4 years, it should be more than ample.

I am guessing we will be paying $250-ish for liability insurance on the car for the next 6 months, and then we will get MM insured on the car when he turns 16 this summer.

When he turns 16 he will probably bear all of the costs of the car. I've already been quoted $1,000 per year for a teen male driver (roughly). I was happily surprised because I know that is less money than I paid as a teen driver. Will see what the real numbers end up being. But everyone makes it sound so scary and awful, especially with a teen boy. I did discuss numbers with my insurance agent at some point, because I did realize a year or two ago that probably most people are more price sensitive than we are and maybe it won't be quite so bad as I was imagining. We do not plan to let him drive our cars, which is where it can get really expensive. Apparently we don't have to insure him to learn on our cars though, which is nice. Practically, he will have to be practicing in our cars once in a while.

Because the car was gifted by a family member, we also don't have to pay any kind of transfer tax on the car. I suppose if we have to pay any license or registration fees though, we will cover them, this first year. We just think it's important for our kids to learn about all the costs of owning a car. If they end up with some large car repair because the car has almost 200k miles, we will cross that bridge when we come to it. I could see helping with any major repairs.

Merry Christmas to us, because that's a can we can kick down the road. Phew! I don't think saving the $2,500 is particularly life altering, but I just feel like we'd be taking a lot more risk on the private party market, otherwise. I feel extraordinarily blessed to have found a (well cared for) hand-me-down. I know we are probably saving a lot more than $2,500, given the circumstances.