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$20 Challenge & Thoughts on 2008

January 7th, 2009 at 12:28 pm

I'm cleaning some things up on my blog.

I am out of the $20 challenge. It just did not motivate me at all in 2008, and so I guess I am no longer in.

I think the thing for me was it really motivated me to scrounge up change when we weren't saving much. BUT we are saving a lot more and I am reverting to the "pay yourself first" philosophy much more. I could track that, but it's kind of boring. I don't need the motivation of a challenge either. Believe me, I pay myself first. Nothing will change that.

Likewise, I already posted this in 2007, but I felt I spent too much time and energy chasing pennies. Though I Certainly have gotten some better habits and have embraced some cost savings and other sources of income, I just don't care to spend the time to track it all any more. I guess it's one thing to chase pennies. It's another thing to spend more time tracking the pennies saved. Ugh.

In addition, dh is carrying most of the load here. He is the one who clips coupons, who shops smarter for groceries, and who makes money on the side from ebay and such. As usual, I feel my time is much better spent at my job, where I am paid quite well, even for overtime. So as he picks up some slack, I am happy to focus more on my job. I am far better off chasing a 1% raise than spending an inordinate amount of time to save a few hundred dollars.


I'm keeping an exercise log on the side to kind of motivate me. If I can squeeze 3 days a week of moderate exercise during tax season/winter, I am good. The rest of the year it isn't such a challenge.

A am also re-attempting the "New/Used/Free" thing. I think it would be fascinating to track what was brought into our house, and purged, throughout the year. Every year I try, but it gets way too overwhelming. For example, dh went shopping yesterday, so I already have stuff to add. & as usual, tracking what we buy is not the hard part. Tracking what we receive is another story. I know our family means well, but somehow we are a dumping ground for unwanted crap. I have been really good lately about setting it out for donation. BUT I think the charities have been coming around way more than usual due to the Holidays. Averaging once a week pickup. Doesn't get any easier than that. MIL left us a pile of crap, and we set it out on the front porch for donation. However, we gave SIL a toy that she asked to have. & then she sent it back. Guess we could donate it, but we want to sell it. So, stuff like that is just never ending. (& BTW - when we give you something - we don't want it back!!!!!!! I guess she was being polite, but we have been in such a purge mode, both dh and I were extremely annoyed. LOL. Glad it wasn't just me - I think he was more peeved than I Was).

Anyway, yeah, I have my New/Used/Free page on the side as well. Will see how long I can keep up.

$20 Challenge

November 3rd, 2008 at 06:39 am

I just haven't been hot on the challenge lately, and it shows!

Haven't updated in a while?


2008 $20 challenge:

$3,689.00 - 8/1

300.00 - ROTH Contributions - Sep - Nov
180.00 - Interest - Aug - Oct
620.00 - Deposits to savings Aug - Nov
300.00 - Rebates
$5,089.00 - Balance 11/1

Last year my challenge was every extra penny found and this year I tried to reward my savings more. Everything in the challenge went straight to savings. But for whatever reason, isn't motivating me as much.

Anyway, interestingly, I was tallying up my "extra income" this year, outside 9-5 work, and came up with almost $6k.

For the long run, that's awesome. A way to fund my dh's IRA.

For the short term, I am not even completely funding my own IRA. All of this has gone to savings, but we have some catching up to do still... But yeah, once we catch up a bit, I guess I could say I have found a way to fund another IRA. It's interesting. & mostly stuff that doesn't take a lot of time and effort. The ebay sales take time and effort, for sure, but not a lot for someone who doesn't work a day job. A couple of hours a week (if that) for another few thousand a year? We're There!

Challenge Moolah

August 4th, 2008 at 06:48 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$3,512.00 - 7/1

100.00 - ROTH Contributions - August
77.00 - July Interest
$3,689.00 - Balance 8/1

Challenge moolah

July 2nd, 2008 at 06:45 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$2,530.00 - 6/1

$ 800.00 - IRS stimulus to Mid-term savings
100.00 - ROTH Contributions - July
82.00 - June Interest
$3,512.00 - Balance 7/1

Challenge Moolah

June 4th, 2008 at 06:39 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$2,346.00 - 5/1

$ 100.00 - ROTH Contributions - June
84.00 - May Interest
$2,530.00 - Balance 6/1

This was my last big interest month, for a while anyway, as I pay back a $4k Balance Transfer this month.

Then again, it's not such a big deal. I should have a few thousand in the short-term fund around October - December. I also should received $2k from IRS (straight to savings) in a couple of weeks.

I also am saving much more come July.

So I figure that balance transfer will be easy to make up, soon enough. For the long run that was kind of the plan. Take the balance transfers while my cash was low. Eventually save up the cash to earn the same interest on my own.

Then again I still have a $10k balance transfer earning 5.7%. That will be a little harder to replace (the interest rate more than anything).

But, getting there...

April Additions

May 2nd, 2008 at 06:40 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$2,160.00 - 4/16

$ 100.00 - ROTH Contributions - May
86.00 - April Interest
$2,346.00 - Balance 5/1

Not terribly exciting - nothing new.

I have a balance transfer (though small) that expires in June. So enjoying a little extra interest in the meantime. Which is the easiest to earn. Big Grin

Overtime Bonus

April 16th, 2008 at 03:00 pm

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 645.00 - 4/1

$1,500.00 - Overtime
15.00 - Rebate/Cash
$2,160.00 - Balance 4/16

Well, I got my "overtime" bonus for the past year. It really wasn't much - I expected more. But that's the thing about bonuses - you take what you can get. Big Grin

Since this last tax season was like 1/10 as stressful as last year, I think I can live. (I am thinking about the 9 months before that though which were hell).

I am adding the entire amount to the mid-term fund, as planned. If I add $15 (my $10 rebate plus $5 of the cash sitting in my checking account) than my mid-term fund will hit $2k even. So that's what I am going for.

Dh was going to deposit my check for me today, and I will transfer the money over to savings tomorrow, first thing.

Earn me some interest!

So, phew. Considering I just paid out about $4k in bills, I am relieved to get some cash inflow this month. I worried I may not get it until May.

I expect $800 from the IRS in June and we are still adding interest to this (around $75/month).

I am thinking of diverting BM's preschool tuition to this fund through the end of the year. We can hit retirement in 2009.

Ideally we would have the following at year-end then:

$12k Emergency Fund
3k Medical Fund
5k Mid-Term Fund
$20k Cash

Enough in the mid-term fund to replace dh's car if something happened, and to do some minor work around the house.

Until then, I am afraid I am still a tad stressed. IT's nice the emergency fund would cover such "forseeable" things. But it's not what I have the efund for. So it isn't very pleasing to me to think I could always tap my efund and then have to just build it back up. Then it's just a neverending treadmill.

$20k is some magic number to me. Before kids we always had a decent amount of cash to fall back on. At least $20k. It's a psychological thing... We moved backwards a few years, then forward. It will feel good to make progress from where we were at age 25. We're still not quite there. In limbo land with this whole kid/one-income thing. But it's so close I can taste it - forward momentum - true forward momentum...

Well, on 1/1 my mid-term fund was a big fat -0-. So $2k is sounding pretty sweet about now. I must admit. Just a long ways to go...

Challenge Update

March 17th, 2008 at 07:26 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 150.00 - 2/10

$ 100.00 - March ROTH Contributions
$ 280.00 - Jan/Feb Interest on Cash
$ 65.00 - Focus Group (to medical)
$ 80.00 - Discount on cell bill (to medical)
$ 675.00 - Balance 3/20

Well, I do get paid today so will fund the ROTH $50 from this check (as I do every check).

Of course, I blogged the other day that I have some competing important goals, and they are retirement and mid-term savings (for things like next cars and house maintenance).

Likewise, all of our extra money this month has been going to our corresponding medical bills, which increases our savings in the end (since we have not been pulling doctor visits and prescriptions from our medical fund. Once the fund hits $3k - same as our deductible - we will ideally have an extra $250 some months, to invest). So not touching it helps our savings grow for the long run.

So I am adding all this to the challenge. It is a little more motivating. Plus I really think all of our extra money this year will go to the mid-term fund. The balance is currently $385. It has a ways to go... Goal to fund it to $5k by 12/31.

& only then will we put anything extra to retirement. So wanted to revamp my challenge. Sticking with retirement will be kind of boring, not much to show this year. Though we also decided to aim for a minimum 5% of income to ROTHs, come summer. But putting much more focus on saving up more cash, in the meantime.

Adding these all to the challenge is slightly more motivating. & more fun anyway.

Last year I came awfully close to $10k. This year, hoping for around $5k mid-term and $2500 to retirement. So I guess I am aiming for $7500???

Unfortunately a good chunk of the stimulus won't count, because I am using it for my $1k IRS bill.

Otherwise that could have been a nice sold $2k for the mid-term fund.

Oh well!!

Challenge $$$

February 21st, 2008 at 07:47 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 50.00 - 1/10

$ 100.00 - February Contributions

$ 150.00 - Balance 2/20

**All retirement monies to challenge for 2008**

With my raise I am now adding $100/month to retirement. This will be bumped up to $300/month come summer.

$50 to T Rowe Target Retirement Fund
$50 to Vanguard total Stock Index

Retirement has always been an after thought as we were much more focused on other things (getting into a house, being there for our kids, etc.). So, it may be a small start, but it's a start. Trying the "automatic" and "pay yourself first" thing.

2008 Challenge

January 1st, 2008 at 10:30 am

2008 $20 challenge:

$ 0 - 1/1

$ 50.00 - January Contribution

$ 50.00 - Balance 1/10

**All retirement monies to challenge for 2008**

Well, here's my start to the challenge. If I get at least a $100 raise, monthly, this week, I will up it to $100. I usually officially make my contributions on the 10th of the month.

On the horizon this month? well my raise this week, which could influence this # a lot. We'll see. This is one year our health insurance did not go up too insanely. So we might enjoy a raise... (Instead of forking it over to our HMO). The raise will be anywhere from 3-10%. Who knows. Market is probably 10%. I have had it too good to complain much though if I get less. I work for a small business and it has been hard to keep up. My salary has gone up on average 12% annually since I graduated college. Only slowing down the last year or 2 with "only" 3-5% raises.

I also just vested in our profit sharing plan so I wouldn't be surprised if I get the lower end in cash salary since I am earning so much more as a whole going forward. Which is fine.

We also have a carseat and a nice crib bedding set to sell. At least $50 between the 2...

So hopefully a good solid $150 for the challenge this month. Maybe more if I get a big raise!

Final Challenge Tally

January 1st, 2008 at 07:34 am


Didn't swing anything the last few days.

Good Bye 2007!

Certainly more than I ever imagined.

(& officially, as of stock close yesterday, net worth up $29,798!)


For 2008, I haven't given much further thought. I guess whatever I add to retirement will do.

It's tempting just to include all savings. Or mortgage prepayments. But I want to encourage retirement savings over all else. So that is my goal. I will live, eat, breathe retirement.

So retirement to the challenge, it is. The thing is I will have a set amount in the budget once we get our raise, but every extra dime we come across SHOULD really go to retirement this year. I think we mostly have everything else covered.

So ideally, my challenge should read much the same. Gifts, focus money, windfalls, extra work, sales, credit card rewards, etc. should go to retirement. Yeah, we'll see!

I am putting interest to the car fund/efund. So that won't go into retirement. Which was a big chunk of the '07 challenge. Only big difference. (& that's the easiest money!).

I am planning to put my entire raise just to the monthly budget (I don't expect much. If it is more I will reconsider). Hoping to add another couple hundred monthly to the slush so that I can put ALL the extras to retirement.

I think I will have my IRA covered regardless. But the other $5k (dh's IRA), lord knows where it will come from. Hoping the challenge will help!!!!!!!

It's not a priority in the budget otherwise, but I think if we continue like last year, we may just be able to scrounge it up. (maxing our IRAs would be 15% gross income, plus I get 10% from my employer. As such we have other fish to fry for now. The new $10k max is a little overwhelming).

If we had another $10k challenge year? Not counting on it in the least! But if we swung more, I would put the rest to cash and taxable investments. Plus I am allocating all of our IRA contributions between now and April 15th to 2007. So we actually have room to put much more than $10k in this year... We'll see... I know one of these days dh will bring in some decent money and we will exhaust our tax deferred investments, so I put everything into the earliest year that I can.

T Rowe is nice because even my monthly automatic contributions can still be applied to '07. I haven't figured out the same for Vanguard... Which is a bummer because it is nice to put it on auto pilot...

Well, here's to 2008! I guess that makes my roundabout goal $10k for the challenge. Here's to our IRAS.

& I already have $50 to add for my automatic retirement contribution for January! (I may up this to $100 monthly for my raise - I'll find out next week - and project another $300/month come late summer or fall when BM is out of preschool. How I plan to fund my $5k).

I am so into "slow and steady winning the race." I have always been so all or nothing in my past. I can save big, easy, but never been much into saving small. But simply adding $50/month every year can make a big difference. It just depends if I get any raise to cover it!!!!! But this is a new me, and this is a nice start to the challenge.

Last year, retirement was not our focus at all. We put in around $350 and had a $1k windfall to add. So I think it will be easy to beat that. $100/month will go a long way... (Yeah it was one of our most pathetic IRA years ever. But I am glad to have our emergency fund back in place, and now we can focus on grander things).

Challenge money...

December 26th, 2007 at 07:13 am

$20 challenge:

$9,468.87 - Balance 12/24

$ 175.00 - December Interest
$ 60.00 - Cash to Savings

$9,703.87 - Balance 12/26

Well, Interest posted for GMAC today. I did a large balance transfer mid-month, so had a little more interest than usual. I have one expiring in March or April so might have a few months of over $200/month interest in the interim. Sweet! Then it will be time to pay back Balance Transfer #1. Which is fine. I don't want to really juggle 3 balance transfers. But I took this one out in anticipation of the other one ending soon enough. I have a 5.7% rate locked in at the bank through October, so I will extend these out until October at the least. I don't intend to do any balance transfers in 2009. Let our FICOs rest, cut up the cards, etc. But I would do it again in a heartbeat. EASY money. Big Grin We might try again in 2010. Since I will now have all the BTs in my name, I am just curious what it does to my FICO. & depends from there how we proceed. If it doesn't make a blip I would consider doing one BT at a time for a while. More than 1 is just more work I guess. I am being optimistic mostly that the money won't be needed so much next year (well, 2009). It has been awesome to help build back up our efund though.

My mom also handed me $60 for groceries (Christmas dinner and such). Since I am just depositing it into the bank, it's challenge money. That was easy money too. Wink

We have a carseat to sell. So might get to $10,750 by year-end. We'll see! Not much else on the horizon.

$40 richer...

December 24th, 2007 at 07:18 pm

$20 challenge:

$9,428.87 - Balance 12/21

$ 40.00 - Sold Pack N Play

$9,468.87 - Balance 12/24

My mom told me she would give me some money for groceries for tomorrow. So I am putting this $40 and that (probably $40 - we'll see tomorrow) into the bank.

Means I should probably hit $9500 tomorrow. With interest that will be $9650 or so at the end of the month.

I think I will be just $300 short. & we were so close. We had all this stuff come up last week that I thought we might come up with an extra $300 (between 2 different $300 opportunities). But they both fell through. What a bummer.

I am not that bummed. But $10k was a good goal. Just not so sure I'll make it. I wouldn't be surprised if I work a good 10 hours overtime next weekend and I am due some overtime anyway. Crossing my fingers if I put in a big weekend that my boss will take pity and give me some overtime 12/31. We'll see. (We just get random overtime bonuses when we work hard. Big Grin
Not strict overtime or anything since I am salaried).

$22 richer...

December 21st, 2007 at 07:57 pm

$20 challenge:

$9,406.87 - Balance 11/26

$ 22.00 - Sold Toy

$9,428.87 - Balance 12/21

We sold one toy today. $22.

This one I tried to sell last year and I got all annoyed when someone asked for it for $20 "because money was tight." Whatever.

But then I regretted my annoyance.

I mean if they wanted to haggle, that was fine. I didn't care. I just thought that was a cheap card to play. Of course money is tight... When you have an infant!

Anyway, then I had no other offers and I Felt rather stupid. Then I was lazy. I posted it a couple of time no bites.

Dh listed it this week at $25. Lady would pay full price but we didn't have change, so we took $22.

Not bad!

My house is feeling lighter by the minute. It was a big, bulky thing. So, phew.

Reminds me, we tend to go through the toys every winter and summer, and prune. We haven't done it yet. But best to do that before the slew of Christmas toys. Maybe tonight. Make another Goodwill pile...


December 17th, 2007 at 07:54 am

We have about $400 items for sale on Craigslist right now.

One big item and a few smaller things.

BUT it just occurred to me that, um, that this may push us to $10k on the challenge.

Wasn't even my thinking. Just in de-clutter mode!!!!


Well, we'll see. Between that and interest. I might have to save some christmas money to make up the difference. We'll see. For now, money saved, goes to challenge. (gifts and such). I wasn't really planning to save anything though. We'll see. I'll save $50 to get to challenge though.

I actually will probably deposit the $400 or so craigslist money into my ROTH. I need $1100 to buy into another fund. I have everything else covered/planned. But we'll see. Depends ultimately on Christmas money. I am afraid I am depending on some big checks. Trying to keep in mind, who knows, they could not materialize.

If I can put $400 in my ROTH, I might take a $700 advance on short-term savings so I can buy into a mutual fund. We'll see. I can't justify advancing the whole $1100. But if I can whittle it down...

We'll see!


December 12th, 2007 at 04:39 pm

I've pretty much slam dunked my goals for 2007! Yay!!!!!!!

& so I updated my goals for 2008.


I had categorized everything short-term, mid-term, long-term. Mid-term meaning 2008 and beyond, but I had other things to tackle first.

So I took out all the mid-term stuff. It's just the short-term and the long-term goals now. Big Grin

Oh yes, but here are my accomplishments for 2007. Which I will comment more on after year-end. If nothing else, for Net Worth, I Want to see the final value 12/31. Before I recap how I got there. I project a $30k Net worth increase at 12/31. Give or take a couple thousand, depending on the market...


Short-Term Savings
Goal: $800/month - for annual big bills
(Cur: $800/month)

Emergency Fund
Goal: $12,000 by 12/31/07
(Bal: $12,000 as of 9/30/07)

Goal: Start fund for kids (college/home/whatever)
(Bal. $2,300)

ROTH IRA Conversions
Goal: Final ROTH Conversion - 2007
(Need $1500 for taxes on conversion)

Net Worth
Goal: Increase Net Worth by $25k-$30k Annually
(Actual Increase: $25,000 as of 9/30/07)

I already had a rambly entry that touched on this, but this is the short and clear version.

November Interest

November 26th, 2007 at 07:01 am

$20 challenge:

$9,261.87 - Balance 11/13

$ 145.00 - Interest

$9,406.87 - Balance 11/26

Well, received my bank interest today and know what the CDs will bring Saturday. So $145 for the month.

I just executed my last balance transfer so expect an easy $200 interest for December.

Which would put my challenge to $9600. & I have worked enough overtime to bridge the gap to $10,000. I do not know though when I will get paid. So we'll see. Nothing much else planned in that regard. If I save any gift money between here and January I might be able to make it. With birthdays and Christmas there is ample opportunity. The problem is I already have that money earmarked for other stuff. We'll just have to see... {My rule is if I deposit it in efund or retirement I can count gifts towards the challenge. Not if I need them for more short-term expenses).

Yes the challenge really encourages me to save more than spend. I expect next year to go much better. We got much farther on track, but haven't built up much of a car repair fund this year which was my downfall. I assume we'll get plenty of christmas money for that - to replenish short-term savings for the new tires and such. Otherwise it could have gone straight to retirement. So close... I don't expect next year to be an issue since we no longer have to divert so much cash to the e-fund. We are working on our car/house fund next year. Which hopefully means come NEXT Christmas we will have a windfall for retirement. I was hoping to be there this year; but little to complain about overall. We have made substantial progress.

+ $75

November 13th, 2007 at 05:22 pm

$20 challenge:

$9,186.87 - Balance 11/5

$ 75.00 - Focus Group

$9,261.87 - Balance 11/13

Um, dh went to a weird focus group today. LOL. It was about ice cream. But bizarre. (& no ice cream there either. Bummer).

But $75 richer for 1.5 hours of "work." Not bad. We aren't so disciplined this year as we are restoring our reserves, but if the focus groups continue to flow in, um, I think I might just earmarking them all for IRAs. I could see saving up a $1k easy throughout next year at the rate we have been going. Not bad.

They won't be so easy to drop everything at a moment's notice to watch the kids come spring either. So we'll see. But the rest of the year certainly a really good income stream. Beats minimum wage work he has looked at. I'll take this any day.

Oh I brought up the Thanksgiving thing to dh and he flipped out. My mom was not too keen either. Whatever. They love their Thanksgiving at home I guess. (No worries, I don't really do much - it's their thing). So much for that idea, but dinner at our house will be cheaper.

I did hear that 2 relatives are coming (through my mom - but dh's relatives). Yeah, thanks for telling us. As usual. I told dh to call and figure that out today. Is a week notice too much to ask for this stuff? Yeesh. Are we cooking for 6 adults? OR 8 or 10? It makes a big difference, don't you think? (I am still annoyed with dh's parents for switching their mind at the last minute to stay overnight before Florida. Fine with me if anyone was going to bother to tell me... So this sounds like more of the same).

As far as the challenge, I am fairly pleased. I never really mentioned much of it to dh and so I mentioned it over the weekend. I Said we saved close to $10k doing things "different." He didn't believe me in the least. LOL. It's funny. I'll break it out and show him when the year is over. IT is amazing how it all adds up.

I also am not stressing on the $10k thing. I would LOVE to make $10k. But um, if I think about it I know we have saved almost $1k easy (if not more) in saved gas and groceries this last year. We have changed our driving habits a bit and both our gas and grocery bills are down in times of rising costs. IT is a lot harder to quantify these results. But if my challenge only gets to $9.5k, I'll know we have done our part in more unquantifiable ways to bridge the gap of that last $500. I was trying to calculate gas savings with me just driving dh's car more but all I Could come up was like $5/month or something when I tried the math. I am obviously missing something big. Our gas bill has been on average $50-$100/month less than "usual." So I give up on trying to quantify it. Just have to take my word for it. (In general his car gets twice as good gas mileage and I have been drivibng it 2-3 days a week, if not more. Particularly on days I have to drive multiple places - preschool and aerobics and stuff). But dh used to HATE it when I drove his car and he has been better at allowing me to drive it - sometimes every day. The grocery savings is all him. I don't "do" groceries. Wink He has also mastered the art of $50 groceries which saves us 10 - 15 cents per gallon by store. Big Grin I Swear I don't know how he does it. The bill is usually $50.01 or something. LOL. & I tend to use them mostly in the van which holds twice as much gas. Yup, all that stuff adds up.

Saved Parking Money

November 7th, 2007 at 07:28 am

$20 challenge:

$9,171.87 - Balance 11/4

$ 15.00 - Saved parking expense

$9,186.87 - Balance 11/5

Um, well, I had a class downtown and it ocurred to me maybe the night before that it would be nice if dh could drive me and I could avoid parking and all that. But he is NOT a morning person and thought better of it. LOL. When I was on maternity leave and such we did this a lot because we were way too poor for a day of parking downtown.

Anyway, in the morning the kids got up well before dawn (still on Florida time - time change does NOT help) and so I mentioned it to dh offhand. I was surprised, but he was game. Anything to save a dollar!

So I decided to add it to the challenge. Something we have done before, but not very consistently. Saved at least $15 on parking. Gas was minimal since we live so close to downtown. (Now that I think about it I would have to drive anyway - duh).

Well the social security class was VERY interesting. I learned much. Will have to share snippets over time (just so much).

Beyond that I got some stomach bug - or food poisoning yesterday. It has just been horrid. I am not sure if I am up to work today. I am feeling better by the minute so I might try to go in the afternoon. I felt pretty weak this morning. We'll see. I had something very similar last month, but since it is just me this time I wonder if I had food poisoning. Frown This also feels like most of my pregnancies, and so every last bit of baby fever I had about my newest niece just went out the window. I was just telling dh I can't believe I agreed to it a 2nd time. LM is swell and everything but lord knows why I agreed to be sick for 9 months again. I must have had hope it wouldn't be so bad the 2nd time. Now I know better. Oh yeah so since this is the time I found out I was pregnant both times (around 4th of November) I think that is why I was really thinking back to my pregnancies. Deja vu. (& no I am not pregnant - 100% - phew!!!!!)

Credit Card Rewards

November 4th, 2007 at 07:52 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,921.87 - Balance 10/25

$ 250.00 - Credit card rewards

$9,171.87 - Balance 11/4

Just redeemed my $250 cash rewards from Chase. Big Grin

Will cover our Vegas airfare nicely. Otherwise I'd have to say I'd probably save it. Crazy month and all...

Makes it $500 official for the year and a good $1200 with interest and gift cards and such. A good year for the cards. This has been a huge part of the challenge as I just accepted 1% back and was happy for that, in the past. A good $100/month is way more profitable. Took little effort...

I can't help but giggle when I come across the extreme anti-card blogs and radio shows and such. (Dave Ramsey comes to mind). Hate your cards all you want but I'll take the CASH!!! (I also snort at the idea of the credit card companies getting a flipping dime from me. As if! I've made it 14 years and feel quite confident I can figure it out. Wink )

Interest for October

October 26th, 2007 at 08:34 am

$20 challenge:

$8,776.87 - Balance 10/5

$ 145.00 - Interest

$8,921.87 - Balance 10/25

I think $9500 will be "easy" for this challenge as the year wraps up. I am still at a loss how to get to $10k. Some focus groups would be nice right about now. Big Grin

It will have to be overtime I am guessing. Or pray for some nice cash gifts to deposit into retirement. Not counting on that at all as we have had such a fruitful year when it comes to gifts. I am not so motivated to pile on hours though when this is the REAL calm before the storm. & it is actually CALM at work. Has not been so all year. around Dec. 1 it will get harried though... I might pull some overtime in December without compromising a lazy November - there's hope...

I also glanced in Quicken and though it was a very expensive month, somehow our inflow still tops outflow by a good $1k. On a cash flow basis I feel we are in the red, but a lot is automatically going to retirement, and interest is good, so we are forging ahead regardless.

I can not wait until 2008 when we start to contribute $5k/year to our car/house fund. It will also supplement our emergency fund. (Meaning the more emergencies we have the less car we can buy. IDeally we would love to both by $20k cars next round, but won't count on it. We could settle on $1k if we had to). Anyway, for now my efund is funded but it taunts me because I wouldn't touch that thing with a 10-foot pole. I need some slush. The $5k next year will go a long ways to slush. Phew. As much progress as we made this year, we have a ways to go before I relax more...

Focus Group Money

October 5th, 2007 at 08:01 am

$20 challenge:

$8,656.87 - Balance 9/30

$ 120.00 - Focus Groups

$8,776.87 - Balance 10/5


Here's to more focus groups!!!!

ETA: I will get my next $250 cash credit reward probably right around Christmas. Sweet. $9k will be easy for the challenge, maybe even $9.5k. I am going to have to hustle for that last $500!!!!!!

Challenge Analysis

September 30th, 2007 at 06:48 am

I finally got around to organizing my challenge money by item. Probably should have done this all along. It is interesting.

Interestingly, overtime, freelance work, credit card rewards and interest were the easiest for me AND the biggest dollars. Focus groups comes up pretty close behind, and as of next week it will be closer to the top of the list as well.

Actually, if I think about it none of the stuff on the list took a lot of effort. Maybe overtime, extra work, and writing money. I think the thing is I get so much more bang for my buck with my real job that I am a little burned out on writing. I really like if I am in the mood and I write a good article I can get some money. But I think the times I was making close to $100/month I was getting really burned out too. It is something I want to pursue in the long haul, particularly when I switch to part-time status or near retirement. In the meantime, it has been a bit much.

I also made $112 selling Cookie Lee jewelry (talk about easy money) though it wasn't a challenge item.

As far as cash gifts - anything I put into long-term savings I counted as challenge money. So we had some significant gifts that we didn't exactly save either. Mostly the gifts that were earmarked for specific things.

To date - challenge money is 12% of my income (paycheck). Total extra money this year was about 17%, but we had an extraordinary amount of gifts. Not exactly sustainable I am sure. (Either the 12% of 17%).

I wanted to quantify my progress and kind of look at what streams of income were really worthwhile. As we have met our goals for the year and are back on track I am re-evaluating. I used to never bother selling things, but this year we made $160. It is not a huge amount, but I think I will work on selling more items around the house. For one, it is something dh can do so I don't have to spend a lot of time on it. I have a pile for ebay anyway so I expect that number to go up through the end of the year.

Interest and credit card rewards we have always done, but really took it to a new level this year. I don't expect to do so good next year, as I don't want to open a bunch of new cards for rewards, or do more balance transfers beyond the ones we did already. But will be a significant interest stream through 2008 & at that point we should have almost as much cash anyway, as we do now with the balance transfers. So by the time we pay all those off we will be making some decent interest still. The credit rewards - we stand to receive $500/year with our current rewards card, and that's great.

We are saving so much money in the long run by dropping dh's broker and switching to Vanguard - I don't even know. That will turn into a huge amount of savings over the next few decades.

Well, my goal next year is to come up with $5k challenge money for retirement (dh's IRA basically). Retirement has really been on the back burner this year as I expect a large contribution from my job on 12/31 & as we needed to get our efund cash back up, etc.

But next year my focus will really shift. Retirement, retirement, retirement.

I will mostly focus on working overtime (primarily tax season) as a way to contribute to retirement. I think I would like to focus harder on getting back to a better work/life balance, and strangely, squeezing in more hours at work accomplishes that a lot more easily. I have to work so little to make so much more. Credit card rewards will be a significant contribution to that, and focus groups if we continue to get so many opportunities. The focus groups pay as well as my job on an hourly basis (sometimes better). We are mostly guaranteed a $1k cash gift that can go to his retirement as well.

I think we could pretty much max out both of our IRAs on my income, and all the challenge/extras would be gravy, if not for preschool. That is only 2 more years. I imagine by the time the kids are in public school that I will have enough raises that it will matter little. We may be able to divert the preschool money to the mortgage or something. (Or maybe should save for orthodontia and all that stuff!). As a plus, dh could work at that point without us spending so much money on care. So in the meantime my goals are not quite as lofty as I expect them to be in 2 years. There are other things that are more important to us while the kids are so young. It certainly won't be forever. But we are miles ahead all the same where we were when we first cut our income in half to be home with the kids.

So yeah, next year I won't count things like interest to my challenge. I am going to leave that to my efund. I guess only money outside my regular wage that goes to retirement, that will be my challenge. I think it will be a good motivator. Big Grin On the flip side I think I am going to be lazier next year. If we really maxed out both our IRAs that would be a 15% contribution to retirement, on top of my 10% work contribution. I want to get used to putting aside 15% for when my boss retires and I work somewhere that isn't so generous. Wink & I want to take full advantage of our tax-deferred ROTHs. But beyond that, it is way overkill on what we really need to do with our retirement. These are our lazy stay at home years. I am not going to kill myself over it. So I guess overall my challenge will look really different next year. I hope it's more relaxed and I will be far more focused on our ROTHs than anything.

Focus Group

September 29th, 2007 at 06:32 am

Well I should have $60 from a focus group next week. Big Grin

This is the first one I have been eligible for.

I think yesterday was the first day I felt normal. I will attempt aerobics today. I also have to go into work for a bit. I was originally planning to go in for my token 2 hours overtime (trying to work OT to justify this preschool thing - and now that it's paid for - well it would still be nice to have extra cash). BUT yesterday turned out crazy. I think I probably should work all day but not sure if I am prepared for that. Will put in my token 3 hours and see where I stand. I don't mind working when I plan for it. But suddenly having to work all day and thinking about all that needs to be done this weekend for my trip? Ugh.

But yeah it feels nice to feel back to "normal." That flu bug was just awful.

Here's to a healthy trip. I leave in a week!

September Interest

September 26th, 2007 at 12:43 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,504.87 - Balance 9/22

$ 152.00 - Interest

$8,656.87 - Balance 9/30

Well I don't expect it to be SO good next month. Interest rates are falling and balance transfer is being paid - even if little by little. So this is probably the peak.

$80 from my GMAC account, around $25 from CalFirst (CD) and around $45 for my local credit union CD. September Interest.

Not bad! Talk about passive income. There was a discussion on one of my favorite personal finance blogs about how passive passive income really is. In this case, quite passive. Sure I had to shop around a little and get some great rates. But for the next year or so I am pretty set with these rates. Easy money. Big Grin

In other news, we haven't turned on the air inside all month. The weather has been perfect as it was a tad cold, but then warm, and as it fluctuates outside our house has settled on a nice 75 degrees. Sweet.

Oh yes, and someone has expressed interest in our "ugly" chair. Haven't given up hope yet.

At work I am working on some ugly project - some guy who inherited millions right before his death and we are trying to figure out the tax reporting on the elaborate "tax shelter" his lawyer came up with or something. Tedious and difficult and crazy. If not for this and my vacation I would probably be feeling pretty caught up. We hired a new person and our distant employee is working out rather well. I am shifting 2 more clients to him and think I might actually start to feel caught up. Right around the time I go on vacation. Figures. No last minute craziness here with the 9/15 & 10/15 deadlines though, so that's good. They'll have to figure out this estate mess thing while I am gone anyway. Didn't plan it that way, but works out. Wink Since all the tax returns are due 10/15. & I'll be in JAPAN!

I think I have been in a real funk because of work this last year (just crazier than I ever imagined it would be) so with things settling down it feels like a load off. & with the kids away at school 2 days a week I think dh has been in a much better mood. Lm has been sleeping so well in his bed too (knock on wood on that one. I won't breathe a sigh of relief until he gets his final molars - he sleeps so poorly with the teething).

I haven't hit the gym though since we got sick. I still feel kind of off but I think I will attempt aerobics tomorrow. We'll see... Blech...

Challenge $ - Sold Items

September 21st, 2007 at 06:42 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,439.87 - Balance 9/6

$ 65.00 - Sale of baby items

$8,504.87 - Balance 9/22

Oh it was a little slow going (compared to past experiences) but we sold the crib for full asking price. Woohoo! Got $50 for the crib and dh also sold the exersaucer for $15 when the lady showed up. I had meant to clean it up and list it later, but now I don't have to. How cool is that? Way to go dh. He got $15. I think we paid $15 or $20 for it used. About how it goes with a lot of the baby stuff. Sell it for what you paid - not much to complain about.

I have another play gym thing which has gotten no bites. I turned down $20 for it last year. Stupid me. I'll have to relist again. I think I listed $25. Will just list $20. This is one of those stupid things that costs like $60. Usually I don't spend that much unless I can sell it for as much. So it is frustrating me. Just not sure why the ancient, dirty exersaucer goes like that, but the really nice one sits.

Challenge Money

September 6th, 2007 at 05:11 pm

$20 challenge:

$8,418.32 - Balance 8/31

$ 21.55 - Writing Money

$8,439.87 - Balance 9/6

Got August writing money. It was my second piddly month. However, $20 is $20. No complaints here. Big Grin

I think I could probably swing $20 this month. But it seems I have completely lost my momentum.

I have been hoping for more Focus Groups but dh turned down 1 in Modesto this week. Bummer. I think it would have been worth it. Then again I am kind of glad I don't have to rush home and be alone all evening. No pain no gain though. I am apparently nnot focus group or survey material. They just never call me.

Oh, I got my Cookie Lee order in today. I just bought 1 pair of earrings and a necklace (on the cheaper end) with all this sales money. After that I will walk away with $65 if I give a nice discount to my coworker.

While I was online I checked my balance for the year. After today that is $662 in sales. That is SWEET because I need to sell $600 to stay a consultant (Which I stay on for all the discounts). So I am set and haven't even done my Christmas selling. Not bad...

I only spent $15 for my earring/necklace set. IT is rare that I walk away with any profits - just usually buy up jewelry so I had much self control. I am not sure if I have ever made a sale without buying something though. Too tempting. But I have been selling for a while so is like my only side income where that I don't add to the challenge. I probably should because I am not sure if I ever made a profit before. But it's okay.

Puts mea bout $1500 from my $10k goal on the challenge. I have been trying to work up some overtime and earlier felt confident that with overtime I would hit it. However, now I am not so sure. With all these vacations coming up. I just caught up all my time from my day off last week. & it's been a hard week. LM is in this "mommy don't go to work stage." Both kids have gone through it here and there and rarely lasts long. But during the stage it sucks. I Can't bring myself to work overtime when my 2-year-old tells me I Am a "poo poo butt" (gets that from the big kids) and he doesn't love me. THat is what he told me at lunch. OF course he couldn't feign "hate" very long. HE kept intermixing that with lots of hugs and "I love yous." But he is very mad I have to go to work this week. With BM I tell him that the house, cars, food, just EVERYTHING is paid for by my wage and that is why I Work. I know some days he is not happy I have to go to work, but he understands for the most part. LM is just not quite at that age of understanding yet.

Oh yes, which reminds me yesterday was an expensive day. 2 doctor appointments at $100. Though our appointments were 1 hour apart we got out at the same time. I was in and out in about 10 minutes and with the 5-minute drive from work I suggested we go to lunch. (Dh and LM got out pretty quick for a shot visit - usually takes hours). So we decided to pop over to the mall for lunch. California Pizza Kitchen. Divine. Used to eat there in college all the time with my high school buddies who went to school up here. Of course they put one in San Jose the year we moved up here. Figures. But it has just been ages. & LM rarely gets us all to himself, so though we spent $35 on lunch, it was nice. IT was $5 over our monthly dining out budget. What a boring rest of the month - hehe.

On the money saving front the one concert we try to go to every year is the day before dh gets back from Florida. I don't want to go without him. (It's outdoors and I need someone to keep me warm). So though I probably could go I won't. $130 or so saved. We don't have the money anyway so I can't say I am too upset. Maybe next year! But of course they had a good lineup. Last year they had perfect weather (unheard of!). This year they have a great lineup. Next year will probably suck. Blech.

August Interest

August 28th, 2007 at 08:00 am

$20 challenge:

$8,268.32 - Balance 8/23

$ 150.00 - August Interest

$8,418.32 - Balance 8/31

I got most of my interest from my MM paid Monday (25th for whatever reason). The CDs are easy enough to calculate - so $150 for August. Not bad. With the 2 balance transfers paid for a full month, this is the best month. Will go down as balances are paid down. Also, I have to send off $1k to the IRS which will lower my September interest.

September & October will probably be decent, but will be draining around $4k in November and December for property taxes and insurances. For now I have a big chunk of short-term savings in the MM earning big interest.

Well it is nice while it lasts!

Not sure I have ever made easier money. Wink

I FINALLY got my Cookie Lee catalog today so will make some sales this week. Well I can't add it to the challenge, but it will help.

Another Focus Group

August 23rd, 2007 at 11:38 am

$20 challenge:

$8,208.32 - Balance 7/31

$ 60.00 - Focus Group

$8,268.32 - Balance 8/23

Dh did a focus group on music last night. It was a little shorter than the last one and paid $60.

But he netted $135 in just 25 days.

Not bad, not bad at all...

They called me and invited my daughter and I to one for $35. Since I don't have a daughter, didn't work out, but I forwarded it to my friend who has daughters in the age range. Her and her husband work many many jobs and I knew she would appreciate the easy money. Not sure why I didn't mention to her sooner (duh moment).

Dh obviously fits the demographic and the kids help too (kids were invited to one already - just happened BM was out of town with grandma). I have yet to make it to one, but if dh and I could average one a month that would be a pretty sweet income stream. Another $1k-$2k/year with little effort?

Probably won't last forever as they get more of a database going, but they keep calling dh up for these $200 focus groups he does not qualify for in the Bay. (Disqualified by zip code). So for whatever reason he is wanted.

I am not in a favorable demographic apparently. Or one that is too saturated I guess...

Which reminds me I think I am out on surveys. I realize I feel like I have done 100 surveys for NFO and am just hitting the $5 mark. I can't even cash out until I make $10. I decided I am out. I just don't have the time for these. I haven't found it to be as easy as it seems... I could spend that time writing articles instead... Or working overtime taking home $25/hour. So I'm out... (I also applied for Pinecone and they didn't want me. It probably does not help that I rarely shop so why I am not good survey material).

ETA: I would probably have some cookie lee money too but I yet to receive the catalog that came out about 11 days ago. ?????????????????????? I am peeved. To hell with MLMs. LOL. Just weird - I will cash in soon enough though. Well, if I ever get the stinkin' catalog. I got 2 people wanting to order though if it ever arrives. Though it's not challenge money. But it's money. Big Grin

Interest for July

July 28th, 2007 at 08:18 am

$20 challenge:

$8,080.32 - Balance 7/12

$ 108.00 - Interest

$8,188.32 - Balance 7/31

$108 in interest this month. Very sweet.

Looking back earlier in the year it was $50/month and has slowly inched its way up over the year, helping my challenge greatly.

With $15k in balance transfers now in place, I expect closer to $120 next month. & in the $100 range for the rest of the year. Woohooo...

This is one of the smartest things I have done since coming here and working on my finances - finding a 5.3% - 5.7% interest rates for my cash. It's an easy way to make more money. When I had double the cash in the bank all we ever made was $40/month at most (1.5%???). So things are looking up. Just an area we were horrible with our finances before and are improving.

Are all the BTs worth it? It's not a ton of money, but at this point EVERY little bit helps. So I'll say yes, definitely worth it!!!

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