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Archive for September, 2013

Triple Dip & This & That

September 29th, 2013 at 01:36 pm

**Dh got his *triple drip* credit card and the points are already showing up for us. Wahoo! Citi - because Citi really really wants him.

I charged $1,000 to our health insurer a few days ago (which included maybe $100 for next month) and I just logged in to check the charge. The statement had closed and the points were there. Dh has to call and redeem for a check to our mortgage company. I read you can just deposit these checks to your bank - and our primary checking account is also with our mortgage holder. Nothing to lose with just trying to deposit it.

**Closed some old credit union accounts - got all our money moved around.

**Dh finally returned his old (broken) phone to Sprint. I figured he might get something. He got $10.

Reminds me, no 4G yet. Dh called to complain again (our credits ran out) and they acted like he had to call back next month. I just sent him the bill that showed that we paid full price for *last* month. So he knows when he calls back to ask for at least 2 months of credit. {I think they saw the other $10 credit and that might have confused them}. The short story is they have been telling us for 18 months that we will get 4G "any second." In the meantime, we barely get even like 1/10 their advertised speeds. It's horrid. They gave us "40% off" the last 4 months and basically said they will do that until we get 4G. But that we would have to check back after 4 months. I have been snowflaking those credits to the mortgage, and will continue to do so when the credits materialize again.

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We acheived a low-spend month on the discretionary spending this month. I can't believe it's already the 29th!! It's been very "tax season" like. Working working working, earning, earning, earning - certainly no time to spend any money.

I was just peeking and we spent $136 on gas this month, and $500 on groceries. & we are done for this month. $500 is right on budget, but included a huge food stock up for our road trip (next month). So, I am pleased with that. Going under this month (stocking up ahead) buys us a little more wiggle room for next month. & November will be another easy month to scale back. Short month, and I will be working tons. We usually budget $300 for gas, but that is usually a worse case month and the only place we really have any room for misc. spending. Still, we probably usually spend around $200. Obviously the carpool is working out well and helping. We are probably driving more than last year (for school) but not a lot.

That said, everything else has completely gone to heck. Still is. It never ends this year. So I can't really boast a true "low-spend" month. Just relieved we were cheap enough to buy us some wiggle room.

We also splurged this week on a night out. It was our 13 year wedding anniversary, and we had a great night out!! A new restaurant in our neighborhood was *divine* and overall pretty reasonable, but we ended up spending way more on daycare than planned. So, a $70 night out. Which I don't think either of us would have particularly planned. But, we got saved by the bell. Grandma sent us a $70 check for our anniversary. Very nice!! Big Grin So I am definitely glad we splurged. That date always seem to be charmed for us.

We'd have probably just gone out to lunch, but we had a free hour of childcare, and if we didn't use the place we would lose our registration. Which I was fine with, but dh really wanted to go out and figured it wouldn't hurt to keep our registration there. (Though we mostly have not used the drop-in place for 2 years). We both weren't thinking - only one of the kids had a free hour - and dh had also told them they could eat there (which cost more). So, ugh. Turned into an expensive night!

Oh, but the kids need all sorts of dental work. The extra tooth that LM has and we were told is "no problem" for the last 5 or so years? *This week* an extra permanent tooth showed up on his x-rays. Oy vey!! (I don't know how rare or common that is - but they never told us that was a possibility - seems rare talking to others who had extra baby teeth. They just so confidently told us all along not to worry about it). BM also has some problems. Lots of tooth pulling, and just crossing my fingers that is all. *sigh*

Anyway, so how is that for mixed money news? It's all good and bad and seems to even out in the middle.

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I didn't finish or publish this post yesterday so have more to add:

**I got a Free $10 coupon from Kohls ($10 minimum purchase) after griping I haven't gotten one in *forever.* Yay!!

**Will not be able to redeem any rewards to ROTH this month because have not been using that card at all. Our credit union is giving us 2% back for another month (& rather support the credit union and use a visa).

But, earned $40 in the CU visa (gets redeemed in January) We usually barely use the card and the rewards don't usually amount to a ton - so the "once a year redemption" is usually not a big deal. At least they ran this promotion at the end of the year...

I was able to redeem $25 on our American Express (added it to next mortgage payment).

**If I add $165-ish to our next mortgage payment, we will dip below $190k. The mortgage has been of extreme low priority because this year has been so crazy expensive (home repairs mostly). BUT, I think I can scrounge up $165 for that psychological milestone.

Change in Weather - Less Energy Usage

September 28th, 2013 at 02:56 pm

We had a kind of mild August, but September has been *hot*. We ran the AC most of the month. UGH!

That said the weather has made a sudden turn. So, I turned up the hot water heater to our fall/spring levels. We need to get blankets on the beds this weekend.

Money Mustache had a spectacular guest post late last winter (or early spring) about ideas to deal with the cold. So, I am expecting to use that knowledge to improve on our energy costs this winter. I've gotten some comment how these ideas seem very "deprived", but to me is the polar opposite. There are some simple things you can do to keep more comfortable and warmer, without wasting energy and heating the air in the *entire house.* I am mostly expecting these heating methods to be MORE effective, so I expect to be more comfortable while using less energy.

I'll link the article at the end of this post. What I liked most is that this article finally put into words why I experience cold so much differently than everyone else in my family. The boys have more lean muscles mass and are natural furnaces. I'm always bundled up in several more layers than dh and the kids. Now I know that is mostly because I am female.

In addition, women lose more heat through their extremities. I had never heard this before, but was a huge lightbulb moment for me. When I get cold I really feel it in my hands. (Because of course I know to keep my feet warm!) When this happens, I often crank up the heat far higher than we usually have it set, and it never really seems to help. It feels kind of "duh" now. But I never realized I was feeling it in my hands so much because that is where I was losing all my heat. Of course in those moments I have tried to bundle up my hands, but it's kind of already at the point of no return when my hands turn into little ice cubes. The light bulb moment was this was probably our biggest energy waste - the fact that I had no idea I was losing all my heat through my hands - and no one else in my house was experience this (all males).

I've tried a few different glove options to keep warm and settled on a Target purchase last night. Lightweight fingerless gloves. They are really cute and fashionable. Unlike the other ones I bought last year, these are very lightweight, with a light fleece lining. These will be good for laying around the house (reading/watching TV/computer) kind of activities. If I am up and about I don't tend to get as cold. I obviously will not wear them while cooking and eating and so on, but I expect that to be fine. Trying for a more "keep them warm before they can get cold" strategy. I think I will be more comfortable at much lower temps in the house - temps the boys prefer. I am crossing my fingers that these gloves are warm enough.

Another tip was to wear a hat inside, as to not lose heat through head.

I also read elsewhere about the magic of hot water bottles. I put one on my wish list for Christmas. I think that will be most useful for warming up my side of the bed, before bedtime. I am mostly in the same league as the boys at night, and even prefer to sleep in the cold. Maybe I get the benefit of dh's body heat and so on (though I often go to bed several hours before he does). I have always just stuck out the cold when I went to bed, as I could warm up given some time. BUT, last year I took to flipping on the heat more to warm up the bedroom before bed. I don't know if it was because I am getting older or what - or if I just tried it once and I got spoiled. BUT, I think a targeted warm up of my side of the bed (with a little hot water) would be better and more efficient. (No one else in the house wants a warmer bed).

If the hot water bottle works well, I may take to keeping it with me when I am just sitting around, too.

I am curious to see how much we can improve on our energy usage this year, with these ideas.

Here is the article:

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2013/02/01/the-oil-well-you-c...

More Purging

September 24th, 2013 at 04:03 am

**They switched our recycle pickup back to "every other week". Trash pickup is every week. We barely ever have anything in our trash can, and every other week is fine for the recycles. But, everyone keeps going on and on and on about hor horrible this schedule is and they have to throw away so much recyleables. OR that there is not enough room for their trash and recycle any more.

We have four in our household (plus a pet) and we paid for the smallest bins. You got me! IT just makes me wonder what on earth people are buying and how wasteful they are being. ??? {Of course everyone is dirt broke, but have not embraced the idea of less consumption}.

**I noticed a kids' toy in the purge pile and asked dh if I had missed it last time. (Everything else is to be sold, or was already donated). He told me that he just had pulled it from one of the kids' rooms. I looked up the most recent charity pickup bag I had, and it was for today, so I set it out. It was a fairly large toy. Dh also mentioned he had a box of books, and this charity takes books. So, phew! (He had taken them probably more than once on "used book sales" rounds - just the crap that no one wants). I wouldn't be surprised if they toss some of these books, but will let them make that decision. Some of them should be useful for the charity.

I actually found another couple of out-dated toys and added them to the pile. So it was a nice and unexpected purge.

**I found a few activity books and forgotten reading books in one of the kids' rooms. I am sure there are infinitely more laying around. I put them all in a pile for our road trip. We will have to go through and narrow them down.

I have also printed out some activities. For example, a US Map with an image of every state license plate. Seems to be up-to-date, so will be interesting and educational for the kids to keep an eye out for license plates. I printed out some plexers (because they love those) and am going to make my own silly "I Spy" list - I found some funny ideas and just wanted to make my own. It probably won't be very fancy looking, but it will entertain.

Lord knows dh has the electronics covered. Will have podcasts and books on tape and video games and yadda yadda, also. I think we will be good.

As to not be a complete fuddy duddy, I ordered a couple of treats for the kids. Amazon. I will admit probably could have done without, but I was looking up "frugal" travel ideas and got sucked in on some purchases. Probably not the kind of frugal I was expecting. But, whatever. One thing I bought was window markers, which the kids didn't seem that excited about - maybe that will entertain ME. I need something to. I can't drive the whole way. (I usually like to mostly drive, but I think this will be a bit much - for like 10 days of driving). Another interesting suggestion I saw was pipe cleaners. Not messy at all, but the kids can make things with them. I LOVED that idea. & while on Amazon I saw a $7 game that looked perfect. Not that we don't have enough games, but something new and different to mix it up a bit.

**I am just trying to spend an hour or two every weekend working on the planning stages for this trip. Then it doesn't feel overwhelming or like a lot of work, but I feel like we probably got everything fairly well organized. Dh was going to pick up snacks and food for the car. I am in charge of water and drinks. (Since he doesn't do soda or juice - figured I'd better pick that stuff up if I want the rest of us to be happy).

Today I picked up the kids after work, so I took them to Walgreens to pick up some gallon water hugs (could use the man power). I have two jugs from when the water pipe broke in our house and we bought 3 more today. I am thinking more for emergency purposes. Honestly, we should probably always keep a jug in the car.

**Oh, and while decluttering a bit, dh threw some boxes in the van. We have a recycle dumpster at work, which comes in handy at times. The house is looking much nicer. I really only de-cluttered cabinets and so on - but the thing is so much stuff has been laying around the house waiting to be purged. & now it is all gone! Aaaaaahhhhhh...

**Dh tried a tip he heard a while back - tried to renew my vehicle registration at AAA, to receive new registration immediately. I did not want to renew before our trip, because didn't want anything important in the mail while we are gone. So he told me he could just get it for me. He could not execute this transaction since they only took cash or checks. He will go back next week. It is "on the way" for him on Mondays.

This will be my 12th check to write this year. Oy vey!!! I am trying to go checkless, and am mostly succeeding. It's all the unusual stuff that gets me.

Some Interesting Articles

September 19th, 2013 at 01:27 pm

I came across a few random interesting articles the last couple of days.

How the Traditional “Rules” of Frugal Living Often Vastly Undervalue Time

http://www.thesimpledollar.com/how-the-traditional-rules-of-...

This article I did not like at all, but was worth sharing. To me, this is the *perception* of frugality. I have always found it ironic that being frugal buys us infinitely more time. So, my real experience is generally very opposite of the perception.

The main example in this article is car buying. & mentions that buying a clunker means buying a $2,000 car every 30,000 miles. & then goes on what a PITA it is to buy a car. Seriously!?!

Reality: I've owned some clunkers and we have only bought used cars, but we on average keep our cars far longer than any non-frugal type. I did pay $1,000 once for a car I drove for 7 years. You could argue I got lucky, but we paid just under $8,000 for dh's car (almost new), are 12 years in, and will easily keep for 20 years. If it is not totaled, we will keep it for 20 years.

I've watched everyone I know who snidely told me, "I buy new so it lasts longer" replace their cars once or twice in that time. Plus, they can never actually afford to keep their cars in good repair. So, in the end, not only are we buying less cars, but they seem to be more reliable and in better working order. I think almost everyone I know had no A/C in their car during a brutal summer with a very small kid or baby. Honestly, I would be concerned about the physical safety of that situation. But, you know, I am the cheap one! Rolleyes

So, yeah, I just happened to randomly come across this article and had to comment.

I know a lot of frugal people, and even a lot of *extreme frugal* types, and none of them are buying a car every 30,000 miles. That is just dumb. This is maybe what you do when you have no other choice. If you are frugal, you are saving your pennies to buy a better car next time. {The vast majority of frugal types that I know buy one car - used or new - every 15 or 20 years. We bough old clunkers when we were 16, and then saved up to buy replacement cars that lasted much longer. The "clunker" concept is for when just starting out. It is not a long-term car plan. Likewise, the point is to buy a reliable car that just maybe isn't very pretty. Not sure we have ever owned a true clunker. Just some older and less pretty cars - very reliable though!}.

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Subsidizing Spouses

http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/09/16/subsidizing-spo...

I just came across this economics blogger and found her articles very interesting.

"Our public policies contradict one another, stigmatizing unmarried parents who lack paid employment as lazy bums (and enforcing stiff paid work requirements) but subsidizing married persons who specialize in family care, especially if they are married to high earners."

Read her articles and the comments, and just a lot to think about. I am glad I stumbled across this writer.

I think this is also another case of perception versus reality - when it comes to the part of the article that I quoted. Lord knows many people have never had anything nice to say about the idea of either someone like my mom or my husband staying home with the kids. But, at the end of the day, there are significant benefits to this type arrangement. & we are well aware of the benefits that we are reaping. Lord knows perceptions never seem to have anything to do with the reality, in this case.

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Why So Many People Fail at Becoming Debt Free

http://www.frugalrules.com/people-fail-becoming-debt-free/

Anyone concerned about becoming debt-free should read this article.

" Lack of Vision

This is likely one of the most important parts of a successful journey to living debt free. Whereas a good understanding of your debt will motivate you through fear, a good vision of your life without debt will motivate you through excitement."


Maybe some of the rest of this article are more obvious things to ponder. But, this last point is really key.

& this kind of goes back to the first article. It's kind of hard to have the vision if you equate being debt-free with pain and sacrifice. I think you've got to be really focused on the up-side. Otherwise, why would you even bother??

Just Busy

September 17th, 2013 at 01:09 pm

Just Busy over here. I have a (very rare) big project at work, which means lots of work and overtime. So, is all good - my month has been extraordinarily low spend on the discretionary stuff (gas, food, retail). Like, I am not sure if I have spent one penny this month. Dh filled up a vehicle for me. It's like tax season, except I have a vacation to look forward to!! {& maybe not quite the pressure. Phew!}

Lord knows of all years that we can use some extra overtime.

**We are still having plumbing issues. So, lord knows. IT could be a "This caused our leak in the first place" thing. IT could be a "They messed something up" thing. All I know is, "No one knows what the hell it is" thing - which is frustrating.

**I wish I cataloged all of the Citi offers dh got in the last month or so... Talk about random. If they just send us 100 different offers, all with varying terms, maybe we will just pick something??? The *best* deal, that we had received early on, expired yesterday. So, I redeemed it. I would generally hold out for better rewards, but this is one he has already done twice. IT's a triple dip! Basically, it had a low spending minimum, so maybe seemed more worth the effort. Especially if there is a chance we won't get the reward. It is spend $1,000 for a $250 reward. I can redeem it for cash, and I am expecting it to go towards vacation costs.

**Vacation. Now, I am really excited about vacation! Is a trip I have been wanting to do for a very long time.

It's a "Grand Canyon" trip, and I have never seen the GC before. BUT... That seems like the least exciting part of the trip, at this point.

Other views I am looking forward to seeing:











I am kind of in "wing it" mode, but this was making dh nervous. I told him I thought a plan sounded grand, but he has actually been on a southwest road trip, and has the time - so he should maybe do some planning. We sat down this weekend and shaved several destinations off of our list. There are just not enough hours!! But, if it goes really well, we can at least get a taste of *what* we want to see more, or if we should just take two weeks next time. I think we will see a ton.

We more carefully planned out the first couple of nights and booked rooms. Not thrilled that both required deposits for 100% of the cost. Rolleyes Just not helping with the money outflow. We may end up booking most the hotel rooms this month and paying ahead. Oh well...

Vacation Discussions:

Dh asked if we should consider skipping this trip, at some point. Given our year. Heck no! I feel like if we don't go now, who knows when we will have another opportunity. We have been waiting years to be able to do something like this. We did talk about just cutting it short if it was getting to be too expensive. I feel like probably I am under-estimating costs. While on the road there, I feel like we will probably just say, "Whatever." I suppose the compromise is that if it costs twice as much as expected, we may have to give up one year in the future and stay home. So, this is one reason I appreciate the Citi reward that I just applied for. If I can add $250 to my vacation budget, that means a lot.

Basically, what I am thinking is "dirt cheap road trip" but having trouble wrapping my brain around what it means to have three other people with me, and to pay for gas on the minivan. I haven't road tripped since I Was single. !! I think most our trip will be national parks, PB sandwiches, and $50 motels. BUT, we splurged on a hotel in Death Valley for the first night, and dh and I Are coveting our favorite Vegas buffet. Which may have always been a reasonable splurge for the two of us, but quickly adds up to $100 for one meal for four. No matter - we will eat well because we won't be eating anything but PBJ the rest of the week. Big Grin

If the trip comes under budget, the Citi $250 can pay for the bulk of our November beach trip. I think most likely we will have to cancel this trip this year. But, will see... The good thing is I don't have to decide until November. Gives us time to see how our road trip and this plumbing stuff shakes out.

Feeling Lighter!

September 10th, 2013 at 01:45 pm

I remembered to take out 6 bags for charity pickup today. Now just crossing my fingers that they show up (though they always do...).

I've also shredded about 2 plastic grocery bags full of financial papers.

Feeling much lighter!

The sale pile:

--2 booster seats to sell

(Life has been completely CRAZY but I guess I should nag dh about getting those sold now).

--A Bissell wet vac that I got at recommendation of friends at some point and which I find useless. I've switched over to a reusable/washable cloth mop, which is a dream! I wanted to gather all the parts and instructions on the Bissell first though - might be able to get a few bucks for it.

At this point, any cash we make we'd probably hold onto for our road trip. $25 cash entrance fee for the Grand Canyon - stuff like that. It's just in a few more weeks!

Memory Lane Part I

September 8th, 2013 at 06:08 pm

I've got a large pile of old bank statements that I can purge. I decided to enter a lot of the data into Quicken. I went back and forth a bit, but if I get it entered electronically I could keep the data without taking up so much space. I'd probably be pretty cool with just shredding it, but thought my future self might appreciate preserving some of this information. But then again, it seems like kind of a waste of time to re-create old data. I am not much of a "looking back" type person to begin with.

I have been using Quicken since 1/1/06 (at least, that is how much data I entered when I started), and I married in 2000, so it's the 2000-2005 time period I am going through. (Before that, the "broke college years" are probably pretty boring - not much there). I am sure it would have made a lot more sense to enter more of this in 2006, but I had no idea how useful I would find Quicken. & I admit I can probably go through it much faster right now with the ease I feel with the program, after using it for several years.

There are a lot of holes so these will be pretty incomplete financial records, but at least I can keep what I can. I might find other pieces eventually.

In the end, I am so glad I decided to do this. I have had a delightful trip down memory lane...

Some of the delightful memories:

I did a fair amount of traveling in college (driving) and post-college (by air). So, I Was seeing all those travel expenses and reliving those memories. I then noticed a lot of flower purchases. I was remembering how on more than one occasion some friend (or a friend of a friend) would have well-off parents who would open their home to a pile of young people for a small vacation. At least we were polite and always thanked them by sending them flowers afterwards. Was just something I hadn't thought about in a long time. (In fact, took me a while to remember why I seemed to be always buying flowers).

{I didn't particularly spend any real money on any of these trips. For example, my friend and I went to NY and Boston simply because we found $150 Roundtrip airfare - we stayed with friends when we got there. Just a lot of stuff like that. When we went to Utah I apparently spent like $30 to go skiing, and that was about it. We had been invited by some friend's parents}.

Another pleasant memory: My car broke down in the middle of nowhere when we were driving between homes (our newer home was being built, we had gone up to check its progress and/or sign some paperwork).

Doesn't sound so pleasant? AAA towed us to some awful shop that wanted to charge us a fortune and keep the car for an entire week. ??? It was just the alternator. The tow truck driver said "Psssst" and offered to fix it for free. We didn't have much to lose at that point. So, I saw the charge for Kragen, for the new alternator, and immediately knew what that was. I remember he had a family and we gave him whatever cash we had (which probably was not a lot OR didn't feel like enough given the hassle he saved us). But when I thought back on the experience I had an entirely different perspective. He was probably happy to just make a few extra bucks. Whether we gave him $20 or $60, I am sure it was appreciated. Oh, and it took HIM about 10 minutes to fix it and he did a good job - never had another alternator problem since.

As I went down memory lane during the times we were "deprived" and saving most our income (literally 50% - 80% of it saved) all I had was happy memories. & I realized what made the memories special was all the people. I have had amazing friends, we have amazing families, and I have had the luck to come across these kind of good samaritans at times...

Beyond that, I got a sense of my very simple budget system and I did not remember anything with rose colored glasses. If anything, we did better than I remembered. So that I don't write a huge novel I will do a separate post on "simple" budgeting.

A Turn of Good News

September 6th, 2013 at 03:52 pm

**I got new tires - what a difference! Absolutely nothing else needed, so all ready for our road trip. (That was a nice surprise - that the van needed absolutely no other work - woohoo!).

**I had another surprise as I was able to redeem $50 credit card rewards to my ROTH. For whatever reason I miscalculated and thought I'd have -0-. Can only redeem in $50 increments.

Yay!

**The money I transferred to my checking account showed up in less than 24 hours. It was a very large sum. Holy Cow!

Makes me rethink if I should keep that account for emergency money. Hmmmm... The reality is that in 20 years I have never been in need of a large some of emergency cash. Not even this year with everything breaking like crazy. I think I will continue with my plan to close the account. Wink Savings transfers already made to other accounts.

**How random is this???

Musical artist who we saw on "living room" tour last year is doing *one* similar type show - in our city - when we will actually be in town. OMG. He's not from around here, or this half of the country. You got me! We bought up our tickets the second we saw that. There may only be 10-30 guests. Our family and friends have already bought up 10 tickets. How FUN!! I am so excited!

He wouldn't even come to our city last time! We had offered our home as a venue.

**My Dad and I are starting to discuss an April Japan trip. Obviously I am not going (no time off in April for me!). Just BM? Maybe dh and BM. They may go backpacking too, so may stay a couple of weeks. We will pay 0% - 100% of our share. We are just pinning down dates for now. My Dad and I both agreed to figure out the finances later - see how the year shakes out. Arrangements will be made next year. I told him dh and BM were probably game, but only if my house and everything stops breaking, so I appreciate the time to see where our finances land. I don't think there is any way in heck my Dad would pay one cent towards this trip, for my family's travels, except he is wrestling if he should invite my sister (who could not afford it) and keeping it fair.

I suppose that is another post for another day.

For reference, as a child we could never afford to vacation *anywhere* (my parents never took advantage of all the frugal options in our "backyard") and so I have no frame of reference regarding all this. Yes, my kids are spoiled rotten! Honestly? My Grandparents hardly cared I even existed, and I am far more jealous of and pleased with this special time BM is getting with his Grandparents. The destinations don't mean that much to me - the time they are getting together is priceless. IF they spent $50 on a camping trip, I think it would mean about as much. Wink But my dad wants to go to Japan and would love to take a Grandchild along for the company and to share the experience.

This & That

September 5th, 2013 at 01:23 pm

**Feeling lighter:

--Shredded a huge pile of financial documents. Most of which are moot any more, in the electronic age. Phew!

--Gave away my wedding dress! It was a huge space hog that I have been wanting to get rid of for a long time. I tried to sell it but wasn't sure of size and really didn't want to open the box and deal with it. I was only getting flaky no-shows. So, dh asked me if he could list it for free over the weekend - he was sick of it taking up space in the living room - it was gone basically in minutes. It seems we couldn't give it away last we tried. It sat in my closet for 13 years - I am so relieved it is gone!

I could let it sit in my closet another decade, but it had to go before we downsized. The people who took it were extremely grateful, so dh felt happy about it. BUT, they hadn't even taken it out of the box yet. !! Will see... I hope they like it and that I was in the ballpark with the size.

**Since it is the most expensive year ever, the big expense this month is new van tires. I thought I was keeping more on top of things, but we had some rain and I glanced at the tires as I left Tuesday, out of habit when the weather turns. I was horrified when I looked closely at the tires - getting kind of bald. So, the van has been grounded - will get the new tires today. Turns out we got good tires - they have about 60k miles on them. I was shocked we had bought them all 4 at once and they all still seem to be the original. In the past I have had horrible tire luck. Dh's car is on a "replace 2 at a time" schedule, so is usually more of a non-event. I think two of his tires are on schedule to be changed, but they look pretty darn good - like they actually have some tread. Wink I'll look more closely once we get the van in tip top shape. His two tires will still be mostly a non-event - smaller and cheaper.

We have a big road trip in a few weeks, so it will be nice to have new tires. We were going to take the car in for a check closer to our trip. We decided to get a "safety check" with the new tires and will do an oil change the week before, just to have a double check of fluid levels and such.

I also won't be surprised if it needs some brake work or if it's time to change some belt. Will see... I've crossed 100k miles since last I took the van in to our mechanic, so he might recommend some preventative work. Might not, since they only recommend work that is truly necessary. I am sure they aren't cheapest for the tires, but the peace of mind is priceless.

**I am shuffling bank accounts around. I am going to close a CU account I have that has dropped interest rates over the years. I have about $24,000 over there and transferred the bulk of the money over last night. Honestly, we have saved up much more money several times over. We put a $50,000+ down payment on our first condo. & so on... So, on some mental level, it's nothing *that* exciting. BUT, when I transferred all that money to my checking account, my heart skipped a beat. Holy cow!! What a lot of money to move around at once. Just some thoughts like, "Man, I hope I didn't screw this up and send this to someone else's account." Which is a ridiculous worry.

For reference, $23,000 is more than we paid for both our current cars, combined. It is a huge chunk of change! It's just funny how one small difference in looking at it can make it feel so different.

I also wanted to share because it was a savings effort over time.

I opened this account in 2009 with $5. I transferred over $7,000 from another savings account. The rest was saved over time. I added around $7000 over the course of 4 years. (An average of $145 per month). I earned about $500 of interest on this account. I deposited $9,000 of overtime money into this account and $5,000 in gifts. I pulled $3,000 out at some point to put down on the mortgage.

That said, most of that build-up was only in the last couple of years. We had gotten to a place where we could just save 100% of our windfalls, to cash.^^ Because our IRAs were maxed out and we were contributing a fair amount of extra to mortgage, and so on.

I actually pulled out the home repair monies, this past month or so, from another account.

^^This just means that we have no other needs or obvious goals. Cash is holding tank for mortgage paydown or other investments. Or in this case, we could really use some cash.

**This reminds me:

Mortgage progress!

Got my paycheck and paid the mortgage. Added $25 for credit card rewards. & added $10 carpool money. I calculated $1 per day, and rounded up a bit for the very short school month. Our next payment will put us in the $190,500 realm. If we hadn't had such a year, I'd just throw an extra $501 to it and be done. Down to the $189,999. That 8 looks so nice! Another $10k milestone.

The reality is it is going to have to wait a couple of more months. I doubt I will put anything more than snowflakes to the mortgage for the rest of the year. The year has been too brutal. I will have paid $6,000-ish in home repairs and would still like to pre-pay $2,000 to the property taxes. I think it's fair to give up in a year like this, but doesn't mean I give up for the long run. Next year will be a new year. I won't beat myself up that I had $8,000 cash to direct to other home stuff. Maybe next year I will have $8,000 extra for the mortgage. I can hope!

Nice Try AmEx

September 1st, 2013 at 03:02 pm

**I earned $45 this month on our Gas/Groceries card. Higher than usual because we charged about $250 in Amazon cards, at the grocery store (for 6% cash back). I can only redeem in $25 increments, but had $11 already, so can redeem $50 cash to mortgage this month.

I can't say if I have been double checking my rewards calculations every single month. It's kind of complicated because there are three reward tiers. But, I checked the first few months I had the card and I know what the ballpark should generally be.

This month, with the Amazon gift cards, I just wanted to double check that the strategy worked. It did work! But I noticed two errors: They knocked off 11-cents on my grocery rewards - ??? Rounding down 11-cents. Interesting? BUT, what is worse, is they had left off a $20 fuel charge for the 3% reward. I figured maybe dh had filled up at some non-obvious gas station name or something (out of town). But, it was Safeway fuel. Which is clearly either grocery store or fuel. We had last filled up at Safeway in June, and lo and behold, they put it to the right category in June. But left it out for July. I am out 50-cents with both errors. This whole thing is annoying. I have absolutely never had a cash reward calculated incorrectly. Like seriously, this should be computerized.

**In other credit card news, we have opened and closed so many credit cards the past couple of years, I am not going to be double dipping on any more until we get the *best* rewards. If this is my last chance with these cards, or my only chance for another 12 months or so (before I can try a triple dip). So many of these cards had $500 rewards earlier in the year, so I am holding out for those.

Dh did get a $250 reward (spend $1,000 from Citi). I had set it aside in case something better came along before the expiration of the offer. It would be a triple dip on that one. The low spending requirement is the enticing part on that one.

What's interesting is he has gotten several more similar offers in the weeks that followed, but they are all worse. "Spend $2,000 and get $150." "Spend $1,000 and get $100." What on earth are they doing over there??? It's just so random. "Gee, he didn't sign up for that one, so let's see if he will take a worse offer?"