Last weekend my family enjoyed a nice 3 day trip to Lake Tahoe (I took a vacation day). A client generously gave me the use of his vacation property as a "thank you". There were 7 of us: my daughter, my son-in-law, my son, my mother, my nephew, my SnugglyBumps, and myself. We had such a nice time, we are kicking around the idea of renting it for a week in November.
SB has a half-brother who was a dealer at Harrah's in Tahoe the last time SB spoke with him (about 15 years ago). One evening we all (except J, who is 20) went to the casinos and SB set off for Harrah's to see if the half-brother is still working there. It turned out, he is. AND, their father (whom SB had lost touch with more than 20 years ago) is living with him. In Tahoe.
On Sunday before we left, we went to the brother's house. SB saw his father, met his niece and grand-nephew for the first time. They were all very nice, and the father was very happy to see SB. The family resemblance is strong. I was so glad SB had the chance to re-connect with these relatives. I hope he sees more of them.
SB has booked us a cruise during the first week of October. If you count the days we embark and disembark, it is a 5 day cruise. Really just 3 full days and 4 nights. It will be just the two of us, so hopefully a bit romantic. I am taking 5 vacation days that week.
I am going to take a week off in either November or December, whether we go to Tahoe or not. Probably November.
There is talk of using my brother's time share at Christmas.
We have been taking day trips to San Francisco...to catch pokemon. Lol, it sounds so silly, but it really has been a great deal of fun. I am up to 102 unique pokemon now. And I do not even know how many miles I have walked, just to catch them.
My mortgage payment has posted. This month Wells Fargo Home Rewards Visa paid an additional $25.00 and I paid an additional $16.52. My new balance is $164,300.00.
Chips to date: $2,082.08
Interest savings this month: $7.73
Interest savings to date: $191.24
Eventually, the interest savings on the chips I have already made will compound to $4,431.49, provided I own this house until July 1, 2042. Which I probably won't.
Income - one additional day's pay
Savings - fell short of my goal
Utilities - paid J's cell bill twice
Groceries - so close
Gasoline - buying gas for just me now; J is buying his own
Everything Else - This month I spent $340 at the dentist. A visit each for J and I, plus I had two cavities so I got two fillings. I paid the GP another $100 for J's office visit. His medical card was expired, even though he is still covered. I will submit a claim for partial reimbursement.
Well, I have earned $105.04 in credit card rewards from Ally. Choices to redeem are a deposit to my Ally account (with a 10% bonus) or a statement credit. I chose the statement credit, then afterwards received a message that I will receive the credit in 1 to 2 billing cycles. I should have taken the deposit, but I haven't had any money in Ally in a long time and I am not able to log on without calling them first, so I thought the statement credit would be simpler. I should have endured calling them and collected my extra $10.51.
So, I have to pay them $252 for my electric bill, then wait a month or two, and then...what? Pay my electric bill again I suppose, or maybe a medical bill.
SB and I have been kicking around the idea of taking a short cruise in the early fall. There are some 4 day cruises (they don't count the day you disembark, so 4 nights and 3 full days) which can be had for $334 per person, including port taxes. That would be a nice, although too short, break from everything. SB would be paying, so he has the final say.
I want to go Pokemon hunting in San Francisco, perhaps this coming weekend. I hear Golden Gate Park and Fisherman's Wharf offer prime Pokemon collection opportunities. I have just been having a ball with this Pokemon Go; it's amusing and a great incentive to get out and walk.
My mortgage payment has posted. This month I paid an additional $17.72. My new balance is $164,650.00.
Chips to date: $2,040.56
Interest savings this month: $7.56
Interest savings to date: $183.51
Eventually, the interest savings on the chips I have already made will compound to $4,355.41, provided I own this house until July 1, 2042. Which I probably won't.
I have to say, I think it is going very well using cash for groceries, gas, and my personal allowance. Categorizing my credit card transactions is a snap, even if I am using more than one rewards card.
I had a 10 work-day paycheck, so that left my income a little light. I also enjoyed a raise in July, so that helped.
I expect to go a little over on the mortgage, because I round up to enjoy having an even balance.
As I noted earlier, savings was anemic in July.
Did great on utilities. I am expecting my natural gas bill to drop soon, maybe one more month of paying $68. I currently have a credit balance. I am on balanced bill pay, so I have to keep paying $68 until they recalculate.
Have been doing great on groceries, which is all thanks to SB. He takes the time to visit different stores on his way home from work. He will stop at a grocery outlet and see what they have for cheap, then cook meals around that. He does an awesome job. He does most of the cooking, too. I really can't complain.
Everything else this month included my new phone (184.43), a trip to the dentist for J (85.00) as well as miscellaneous household. The phone was just a want, but everything else was necessary.
And now for the exciting news...J has started another part-time job! He is keeping his first one. This one will give him about 25 hours per week. He is very happy about the job. He will earn enough money to start saving for some things he wants as well as take over more of his own expenses. I'm so glad for him. MrsM180 helped him get his foot in the door. I always enjoy catching one of my kids being nice to the other.
And I won't lie, I'm excited about the positive impact to my own budget. I want to reach my goals.
Bill Fixers was able to reduce my internet bill by $13.96 per month. Not much, but something. I have to pay them half of it, so I am ahead $6.98 per month.
In other budget news, I cancelled my gym membership. A payment was due in July, and that is that. So, there is another $19.99 per month ahead.
I have added dvd service to my Netflix, and will probably keep that for a few months. Our list of movies we wanted to see which are disc only grew to the point it made sense to restart that service. I got the first month free, but afterwards will pay $12 per month.
So as you know, I recently switched to cash only for groceries, gas, and personal spending. Since I had previously used rewards cards for those things, in July I had to pay some of June's charges, plus pay as I go for July. (For budgeting purposes, I count spending when I make a charge, not when I pay it.) As it turns out, I am also parting with the cash for two electric bill payments in July*, which is further impeding my cash flow. It is a temporary bottleneck and will ease next month. However, July's savings account deposits are very anemic.
* My electric company bills me around the 5th or so, and I need to pay by the 20th or so. Usually, I use my Citi DoubleCash MasterCard to pay the electric company. The Citi billing cycle cuts off around the 6th of the month, so I typically charge the electric bill on the 10th. When I get paid on the 15th, I pay the charges which appear on Citi's statement from the 6th. In practice, I don't part with the cash for June's electric bill until July 15th. Which I have just done.
In the pursuit of credit card rewards, I have recently applied for and received the new Ally Visa. The sign-up offer is to spend $500 in the first 3 months and receive a $100 bonus. Since my electric bill is $252 per month, I decided to use it twice to pay my electric bill, thus I don't need to bother with it further. So, I used it this past July 10 to pay July's electric bill. And then the statement cycle closed, and I need to pay by August 12th. A bit inconvenient as that's 3 days before payday. So, I just paid it tonight. That $252 is coming out of my planned savings account transfer.
I will use the Ally card for August's electric bill and pay that in August too.
In September, I will go back to using Citi DoubleCash and won't need to pay that statement charge until October, thus picking up a bit of extra cash flow to throw into savings.
So there you have it. Other than that, just plugging along as usual here at Chez Petunia.
OK, I want Pokemon Go. There, I said it. I think it sounds super fun. Sort of like the game Zoo on Facebook, only you get a little exercise.
The app is free, but, it won't run on 4.3 or older. My Samsung Galaxy S3 is completely updated and 4.3. Some websites say you CAN get it to 4.4, but it requires rooting. SB says I should get someone I really trust to do that because if I do it wrong, it is buh-bye phone. I am not all that tech savvy.
So, do I really want to spend money on a new phone? No, not especially.
Tonight as I was leaving my part-time job, I walked out onto the sidewalk. A group of 4 young men, early 20s, wearing basketball shorts, t-shirts, and athletic shoes were just walking past. They all 4 had their phones out. I said "Are you playing Pokemon Go?" They reacted. Some smiled, some laughed, and one said "We are supposed to be playing basketball right now. But, this is more fun!" and we all shared a laugh.
MrsM180 is playing it. She showed me her Pokemon. She has given them all clever names and some of them are very cute. She was just the right age to be enthralled with all things Pokemon back in the 90s, so Go is highly nostalgic for her.
What to do, what to do.
My mortgage payment has posted. This month I paid an additional $18.84. My new balance is $164,975.00.
Chips to date: $2,022.84
Interest savings this month: $7.47
Interest savings to date: $175.95
Eventually, the interest savings on the chips I have already made will compound to $4,322.91, provided I own this house until July 1, 2042. Which I probably won't.
This month is a bit different in that I have credit card charges for gasoline and groceries, plus I withdrew cash at the end of the month for 2 weeks of gasoline and groceries.
Withdrawing cash for my personal allowance is not new, but I did decide to increase it beyond what I had originally budgeted.
Well, I made it through expense-topia! Last month’s big expenses are all paid, as well as my 6 month auto insurance premium. CurveBall has sure taken a beating. I didn’t “save” anything this month, opting instead to withdraw from savings as little as possible. Onward and upward.
It has gotten to be a little stressful to track all of my credit card purchases. With one Visa, I have “authorized user” cards for every member of my household. J will charge his gas, trips to the grocery store, and other small items with permission (such as his recent purchase of two new shirts and a pair of pants). SB will use the card for trips to the grocery store. He is in charge of splitting the grocery bill fairly, which he certainly does, I have no complaints there. Mr and Mrs M180 seldom use the card at all, I just want them to have it in case of an emergency. Any time they do use it, they repay me promptly. And then there are the cards I use, which changes from month to month as I try to maximize rewards. It just gets to be a bit much! So I have decided to experiment with using cash for groceries, gas, and personal spending. I will continue to use rewards cards for utilities, medical co pays, and insurance. Years ago, when my ex-husband and I shared one account, we used cash only for groceries, gas, and personal allowances and it really made things simple. I would like to have a little more simple in my life.
In rewards cards bonus news, I have recently applied and been approved for the new Ally rewards card. The sign-up offer is to spend $500 in 3 months and earn a $100 bonus. All I need to do is use it to pay my electric bill twice, and the reward will be mine.
Life has been so busy of late with extended family in town, a surprise 70th birthday party out of town for my cousin’s husband, and SB and I planning to head to my brother’s house for the July 4th weekend. But it is the best sort of busy.
I am planning to replace my roof, get some cement poured in my yards, and improve my back patio. I tentatively think my roof will cost approximately 5k, the cement 2k, and the patio 1k. I am going to try to cash flow all of this by next summer. While I am working on setting this aside in CurveBall, I will continue to add to E fund with the goal of eventually reaching 15k.
May was brutal for extra expenses around here. Since I use rewards cards as much as possible, I won't have to fork over the money until June. I skipped budgeted savings and instead sent every penny possible to credit cards, in effect prepaying June's bills. I shouldn't need to touch GS Savings (emergency fund) at all, but WF savings (curveball fund) will be hit hard.
Rent - BF pitched in an extra $200 to help with the new hot water heater.
Groceries - An amazing coincidence.
Utilities - J's cell phone carrier (Republic Wireless) charged me on the 1st and 31st, so an extra $29.95.
Everything Else - Car repairs came in at $1266.82, new hot water heater totaled $847.81, car registration for J was $115.00, new puppy expenses paid by me were $104.82. May was also a big graduation and birthday month in my extended family, so another $133.76 was spent there. Medical co-pays were $64.08.
I'm almost afraid to put it in words, but I am hoping June holds no unexpected expenses.
My mortgage payment has posted. This month I paid an additional $19.96. My new balance is $165,300.00.
Chips to date: $2,004.00
Interest savings this month: $7.37
Interest savings to date: $168.48
Eventually, the interest savings on the chips I have already made will compound to $4,287.95, provided I own this house until July 1, 2042. Which I probably won't.
I am disgusted about the lack of quality content in the articles being published here on Saving Advice.
Just now I noticed there is a recent article about how to mooch a free meal from others.
The endless articles (and I do use that term quite loosely) about "Is Target open on Belly Button Day?" and "Are banks open on Mother's Day?" were bad enough. But this is a new low.
OK, so maybe my idea of "fun" is a bit abnormal, but I think this is super fun.
If you retired today, what are your chances of having enough resources to support yourself for the rest of your life? You can find out here:
My success rate is 0.0%. I expected that. But I intend to check back with this site from time to time. And are you ever going to hear me "squeeee!!" when that dial moves from 0.0%.
The final determination on my car's transmission and clutch problems is that the part in the transmission is NOT covered under Ford's powertrain warranty, and that my clutch does not need to be replaced at this time.
I am really impressed with my mechanic. He stated he did not see why a part in my transmission (the source of the small leak) would not be covered. He faxed my parts list to an employee of a different Ford dealership with whom he has a working relationship to double check what the local dealer told me. It was confirmed; that part is not covered. He also stated that replacing a clutch is not regular maintenance; you replace it when it is going out and not before. He even stated that my money should stay in my savings account until the time comes. What a guy! I think I might have a little crush on him.
Regarding the small leak, he said they would check on it at every oil change and advise me if it gets to the point they recommend replacement.
So what do you think happened next? J came home Sunday evening and announced "I had to get towed here. There's something wrong with my car." Awesome sauce. (That is J's favorite slang).
So Monday morning I had his car towed to my mechanic. It needed a new alternator. Also, he said the tires are in bad shape and should be replaced immediately. (When I discussed with J, it turns out he knew that). So, four new tires. And I learned that J's ignition key had broken into two separate pieces and he had it duct taped together. Yes, that's right, duct tape. I had them replace that too.
So, there went $1,110.50.
J cannot cover this expense. He is still scraping money together for his car insurance due next month. I hope CurveBall gets a chance to breathe before any more demands are made.
Also this week (it really has been a great week) I received my auto insurance renewal bill. My current insurance company, Mercury, wants $1948.76 for J and I for the next 6 months. This is a $200+ increase from last time.
I decided to get a few quotes online. Geico* will write the exact same policy for $1716.06, a savings of $232.70. Sounded good, but I thought I would let Progressive have a shot at my business. Those folks at Progressive are hilarious! They quoted $2576.76. I had a chuckle and then clicked back over to Geico.
*Geico is owned by Berkshire Hathaway and offers an 8% discount to shareholders. You can own just 1 share of Brk.B (currently trading at $144.xx) and qualify. You can qualify with Brk.A too, but I don't have a spare 220k sitting around. However, I learned this particular discount is not available in California.
Last Friday afternoon while running errands for work, my nose detected a burning smell coming from under the hood of my car. It was strong (making my eyes water) and chemical. It was the first time I had ever smelled it.
I called SB and had him come give it a look before heading home. He checked all my fluids and did say that the coolant was at the "minimum" mark. He went to buy some and added it before I drove home.
I left the car parked all weekend, and dropped it off with my mechanic first thing Monday morning. He said he believed I was smelling the clutch, and that my transmission has a small leak. He said it should be covered under my powertrain warranty, which is 5 years or 60k miles. My car was bought new more than 4 years ago and has 32k on the odometer.
I called the local Ford dealer and made an appointment for Thursday (yesterday). I had to pay the minimum labor charge ($120) for them to take a look. They determined the problem is my clutch is excessively worn. They recommend replacement of the clutch and shift tower, as well as resurfacing of the flywheel. And none of it is covered under the powertrain warranty. Their estimate for repair is $1375.00.
Did I mention that my car has 32k on the odometer? I feel that this sort of repair should not be needed already. Not a happy camper.
I declined to have the dealer do the work. Instead, I called my mechanic and have an appointment on Monday. He has not given an estimate yet. Even if his estimate is also $1375, I would rather pay him than the dealer. But I am fairly certain he will charge a bit less.
This has been an expensive week. I would like to rewind and try again.
Yesterday evening, just as I was finishing up at a client's and preparing to leave, I began receiving text messages from home. There was water in Mr & MrsM180's bedroom. Smelly water. Upon investigation, it was discovered the hot water heater had sprung a leak. (Their bedroom shares a wall with the garage. The hot water heater is bolted to that wall). It seems a pipe had corroded and failed, leaving a hole in the side of the tank.
Doesn't that sound fun?
Our garage is cram packed with stuff, mostly belonging to SB. MrM180, J, and SB moved boxes out of the garage to clear work space. SB put the boxes in his trailer.
J called his gf's dad (a self-employed plumber), who said he would come this morning at 9:30. I went to work as normal, J handled everything. The plumber came as promised, took a look, and said a new unit was needed. He and J went to a hardware store and J purchased the unit (J is an authorized user on one of my credit accounts). I will send J over tonight with cash to pay for the labor.
J reports that the unit is now installed and we are back in business. I still need to assess the water damage. Not sure yet if anything else will need to be replaced.
Update: the final cost was $850
My mortgage payment has posted. This month I paid an additional $21.07. My new balance is $165,625.00.
Chips to date: $1,984.04
Interest savings this month: $7.28
Interest savings to date: $161.11
Eventually, the interest savings on the chips I have already made will compound to $4,250.98, provided I own this house until July 1, 2042. Which I probably won't.
So yesterday J and his girlfriend were with some friends in a park, and they came upon this little guy:
He is a puppy. He has no collar. He is emaciated. His spine, ribs, hind hip, and neck bones all stick out. It's just awful. Not sure if he was homeless and couldn't find enough food or if someone had him and just didn't feed him. They said he was weak and lethargic before they gave him some food.
He appears to be part chocolate lab and part pit bull. He looks as though he could be the love child of our dogs Nala (yellow lab) and Buster (pit bull and terrier mix).
SB and I were at my mother's yesterday afternoon and evening playing cards. By the time I got home, MrsM180 was already smitten, having succumbed to his puppy charms.
He does have a very sweet disposition.
We are still tossing around names. My choice is Gilligan.
Everything else this month included 138.00 for income taxes, 123.64 for medical, 36.86 for J's oil change, a new purse and wallet, and several dinners out.
I received a nice bonus and so tucked some extra money into my traditional IRA and my E fund.
I have a girlfriend who is the accounting manager of a small manufacturing company located in a nearby small town. She gave me a heads up that they will be hiring several entry-level employees for the factory soon. She gave the h.r. person J's name, and J has applied to the temp agency they use. Fingers crossed that J will have a full-time job soon.
I need to have some things done around the house. I had two shingles blow off in the last storm, so I want a roofer to replace them and take a look. My house was built in 1991 and the roof is original. I want to price some stamped concrete work for the backyard. In the front yard, I have a hedge which is just out of control. I allowed it to grow up and swallow two small trees. The hedge made a lovely barrier between us and the crazy neighbor. Now that he is gone, I feel the space would be better utilized as a parking space. We think we can handle the hedge and tree removal ourselves. If not, I will hire someone. To pour the concrete pad, I will definitely hire someone.
So, these expenses are going to slow down my E fund progress. I am going to try to pay for these expenses without resorting to debt. I really love having no debt other than the mortgage, and I really want to keep it that way.
I have been thinking about Georgia Gal lately and wondering how she is doing. I thought I would leave her a little message on her most recent blog post. Since it has been awhile, I expected that I would need to find her in the retired blogs.
Guess what? The retired blogs are gone.
I signed up with Bill Fixers today. All I had to do was give them my name, e-mail address, and upload a copy of my internet bill.
They have already responded. They let me know that they "are experiencing a big surge of sign-ups" and assured me they will get to me as soon as possible, but I should please be patient.
I will report how it goes.
I added a page called "Emergency Fund Progress" where I am tracking...my emergency fund progress. So I don't know that I will mention it much, but if you are the nosy type (like yours truly), the details are all there.
GE Capital Bank went and changed their name to Goldman Sachs Bank. (Well, I suppose they merged or were bought or some such, but I didn't feel I could spare much attention over the matter). They are still paying 1.05% on savings, at least for the time being.
SB is gearing up to start a new small business. He intends to offer to paint people's house number on their curb, door to door. He has already been down to the City to get a license and declare his area. (The City will allow only one operator in any given area at any given time. If you want to move on to another area, you must give up the one you have). He has ordered paint and glass beads (very tiny, to be embedded in the paint, which is why it is reflective) which meet the City's specifications. Now he is just waiting for his paperwork to arrive in the mail. So, he will see how that goes.
I am hoping to get my house number painted on my curb at a discount.
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