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Teamwork helps

March 13th, 2018 at 07:36 pm

Since I haven't written for a while, there is a lot here, and I have them categorized for ease of reading. Can you say I have worked on a computer for too long? I knew you could.

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Finances
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Been a while since I posted anything here. Life has been going well, no major issues, watching my money go into my 457 plan and being overwhelmed by the drop in value from the markets going down some. Ooops, I just checked, and it is only a few thousand from the high value I saw in mid February, so I guess that's still doing well too.

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Making extra money
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Been doing well selling on ebay lately. So far this year the total is over $500 and that's not shabby considering I am just trying to get rid of things now. Which brings me to my help.

I was talking with the SG-GF a few months ago about everything I was finding as I dug through closets, and pointed out I had a number of unopened Mary Kay items from my EX sitting here and would she know someone that I could give them to. She quickly set me straight (that is - helped me) - I might be sitting on a gold mine of no longer produced products that still have demand. To me it was junk, what did I know? Well I checked on ebay and sure enough, these items do sell. Not sure if they sell for more then originally sold for, but still.... nice getting these out the door and getting a good chunk of money back. I am down to my last six bottles/tubes (I sold two more today), so I'm not getting rich, but this is working great.

My next area of concentration is going to be my toy trains. I probably have 200% of what I really need, so half of them need to go. Biggest problem is figuring out what to sell, and how much to ask for. Oh well, I will make it work one way or another.

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More Finances
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On the credit card front I just got two new credit cards to get the bonus money/points. These are my first ones since the middle of last year. Each one was "use it for $500, get $100 worth of points". Already used one on this year's home insurance (just a smidge over $500), and the other one will be used on either car insurance or a plane ticket for my son, probably both as neither is $500 by itself.

And now with my Real Estate taxes pre-paid for the year, and these items out of the way.... not sure where I will need to spend any serious money until... maybe my vacation to Florida in November????

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Frugality
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I had gotten a Sam's club membership on sale last year (in Feb.), and mostly used it for discounted gas. I got their credit card to get a bonus there too. Really wasn't worth that much for me, but still cheaper gas worked out nice. However, I found out about the gotcha last month. Turns out they don't give any cash back (on the credit card) unless you are a member of the club. And since they only give you cash back after your anniversary with the club.... well you need to sign up (or in my case - they just billed it to my credit card with them!!!) for the next year to get your cash back from the prior year. Those sneaky devils. Ok, so I didn't complain, and got my cash back (they make you do it at their store!). But as I researched it, I found the way to make this work for me.

The membership says you can get all your membership cost back any time for the year you are on. Soooooo.... if I don't use their credit card to buy things, I can use their membership for free for a year, and then cancel and get the last year's membership back, and not lose the cash back on their credit card. AH-HA, I see a work around that will do fine for me. I just need to remember to cancel sometime next January. OK, discounted gas for free, yeah I will take that just fine, thank you very much.

Crazy cheap electronics

December 13th, 2017 at 08:42 pm

The other day as I was sitting on the bed watching NFL games I looked and saw I had with me a smart phone I just got back 10 months ago. I also had with me a Fire tablet I read books on or surf the web. And I was watching on my new-ish TV (32 inch smart TV). And I started thinking how crazy having these items is for me. Why? Because The cost of my electronics now is almost zero.

My TV was free (& new) from a friend last Christmas, the DVD player with it he also gave me maybe 3 years ago (still works great), the tablet I got as part of an award I got at work this summer (anything up to $50 on an awards site, and this 7 inch Kindle Fire was among the items I could get), and my smart phone was part of a QVC sale for $80 with a year of service (and I was about to renew for a year for $80, so I was able to get it for $0 more). And now I am sitting downstairs typing this up, and there is another flat screen TV I got for free, and hooked up is a Blue Ray player I got for $5 at a yard sale.

My only other high tech are this lap top I am using and the ink jet printer for it, and both are at least 8 years old. Since its been so long ago, its like they're free now as well.

Not sure where I am going with this, except that I need to get a new laptop as this one has been slowly dying for 3 years. And when I do, no matter how cheap I can get one, its going to be a shock to the system. I haven't had to pay for electronics for so long now, its like I have forgotten this stuff costs real money. Hard to believe I had to buy a 386 processor computer 25 years ago to help me get through my Master's degree in computer science, and it cost over $2,500!!!! And I thought I did well to not spend even more!

My how times have changed. Not always for the better, but when it comes to high tech, yeah, the prices are sure better.

Florida vacation expense analysis

November 16th, 2017 at 05:32 pm

Time for my after Florida vacation expense analysis. Every year is different, especially in the cost. I had one year where the costs were almost zero, depending on how you calculate, whereas others were..... well not expensive, but certainly more than zero.

This year was different. Main reason was it was a two week vacation the first I have had with a significant other in many many years. Certainly the first with the SG-GF in Florida.

So what did we do? We spent one week at my mother's time share (as part of the payment for my work on her roof). The rest... one day at a hotel paid by the GF, three days at a time share paid by the GF with money and a time share "tour". The other three days were by me at a hotel paid for with $50 and a time share presentation. Yep, that's right, we both did time share presentations. Oooh, wasn't that fun. Smile

But what else? Well we each bought 7-day Disney World tickets. Yes, we went to the parks for 7 days. If there is "Death By Disney" I think we did it. It was fun, but I think it is safe to say we will skip Disney next year (go to Universal probably), we got our fill of Disney for now.

And what else? Well that was a bout it. We needed days to travel there and back, days to recover from the parks, went to yard sales for 2 Saturdays (by now we know a ton of the community yard sales in the area). We each burned a half day at a presentation (don't believe them when they say it takes two hours, budget for 3.5 minimum!). And we got to say "No" A LOT. But its cool, I enjoyed it, but the SG-GF not so much (the presentation and sales pitch – that is). She is not used to saying No so much.

So with all of that out of the way, what was the financial hit? Lets see (below is what I paid only – doesn't include what SG-GF paid)....
* Disney Ticket - $400
* Disney Parking - $140
* Gas - $32 ($72 less $40 I would have paid for two weeks of gas going to work anyway)
* Hotel - $83 (Had to pay $50 + tax on "value" of stay – ugh)
* Eating out - $40
* Park lunches - $95 --- Oh, as an aside, food at Disney would be lots more expensive but we would take in some food each day. Not tons, but enough to get us through the day if we would buy a lunch at the park. Also we now know you can get ice water for free at all locations inside, so that cut down the cost of drinking tremendously.

OK, that totals.... ummm.... $790. Now I didn't include some expenses for various reasons. Those include buying groceries at Aldi's (about the same as I would have paid for two weeks of groceries anyway), Disney figurines I bought ($60 – that was really discretionary and I could have done without I think), and a few dollars at Dollar Tree to stock up on items I just ran out of on trip and brought back home with me. And I'm not including all the extras I brought back with me (enough soap, shampoo, dish detergent, and laundry detergent to supply me for a few months at a minimum Smile ).

And then I get paid bi-weekly and I had a nice paycheck waiting for me when I returned. So all in all pretty good. I hear of people paying many thousands for a week down there, so not bad at all.

Probably won't do that again, as moving in and out of 4 places over two weeks was a challenge. But hey, its like we say, it was an experience. Yes, it sure was. A great one.

The Power of Differences in Style

June 10th, 2017 at 05:07 pm

The SG-GF and I like to go to yard sales and estate sales (probably too much, but whatcha going to do?) but when we go together you can see we have a very different way of going about it. She likes to
peruse every item, talk with the sellers, and just enjoy the experience. Me... I go in, view items very quickly, only stopping at things that really catch my eye, and talking as little as possible.

As you might imagine, this can make for a frustrating time for the two of us when we are together. We've had to compromise quite a bit to make this work for us. I often take a book along and when I am done will return to the car and sit and read until she comes back.

That said, there is another difference we have that I think works for us. She is more of a price haggler where I am not. If I don't like the price, I will put it back, thank them, and move on. Usually that means she can at times get a better price than me, but I am not always worried about getting the absolute lowest price, since the prices are usually so good anyway.

That said, my way works too. Sometimes sellers will deal better with people that don't hassle them about every little thing. Case in point was a local estate sale a few weeks ago (NOT run by an estate company)
where I bought a few items and actually chatted some with the seller. (Yeah, I stretched myself there) I then went and got more things,and for a good chunk of it she just let me take the stuff for free. Not everything, but I could tell she appreciated I didn't haggle with her, especially as the prices were very good.

Come to this weekend, and she was there again still emptying the place out. She remembered me, and while I could only find a few things to get, she just told me to take them and not worry about it.

Not sure where I am going with this other than it is interesting that different techniques can work the best at times. Still... its nice to know I can ask the SG-GF to haggle on something and she is always
up for the challenge.

Never ending soap bar redux

February 10th, 2017 at 12:21 pm

In the past I pointed out it seemed like I would never have to pay for soap again. I had built up quite a stockpile from CVS when they were having freebie sales some years ago, and since then I had been finding more ways to get soap for free that my stockpile barely budged. Well that hasn't stopped since I wrote on this last time. Last year that didn't stop as I got soap for free from various places (in free boxes at estate sales / yard sales usually) as well as a large cake of soap used by someone for "soapmaking" along with a book on how to do it - it was the end of the day and she just wanted it gone. Also going through the SG-GF's items we found more bars of soap she wasn't going to use, so that added to the lot. And then whenever we go on trips, we get soap bars wherever we stay. So by the end of the year I think I had more soap than at the beginning of the year.

A new year and it has re-started already. Someone cleared out their desk at work, and left out for anyone travel bars of soap and shampoos. Well now I am stocked up with another month or two of supplies before I have to start on my original stash. Who knows when the next lot will fall into my lap - it seems like it always happens.

Yeah, it probably doesn't save a ton of money, but my stocks of soap, shampoo, deodorant, even dish detergent, have barely budged since I don't know when. But it all counts - waste not want not - and that extra money helps to bulk up my savings for a rainy day (or to use with the SG-GF for various enjoyments in life).

Helping Friends for the win

February 7th, 2017 at 11:13 am

I have a friend at work I try to be extra friendly with (ok, not overbearing or anything, but I can be a bit aloof, so being friendly is above and beyond for me). If he needs help, a ride, whatever, I try to do it for him. Nothing extraordinary, but I do what I can. I will often find something cheap at yard sales for a fun Christmas present for him (usually no more than $3 or so). This year he even commented how he likes mine the best, that anything else he gets is usually boring.

Anyway... come up to last week just before the Super Bowl. I have joked in the past about how old & small my TVs are and I don't care. I would rather save money than get the latest gadgets. So he comes up to me and says would I be interested in a new TV (as long as I don't sell it). Ummmm.... well... sure I guess (Ok, most conversations don't start out this way so I am intrigued). Turns out he bought something before the holidays (not sure what, I wasn't concentrating on that part of the story), and as part of the store's "sale" the buyer would get a free 32" super duper does everything imaginable LCD flat screen TV. Somehow he ended up with two of them ... but... he already has fancier and larger TVs and these would be downgrades for him. (He is always amazed at how much I have saved, and then buys expensive electronics, new cars, and well you get the idea)

So the unopened TV made it home last week and I set it up Sunday. Turned out my old tv was 20", so this was a major upgrade. I spent the day setting up various functions on it, and even one channel that would not come in with the old digital converter box now comes in great with this digital ready TV. Go figure.

So now I have a great TV out of the blue. Not saying I did the things I do for him expecting any payback, but its nice to think I was appreciated (or pitied for my poor existence - take your choice Smile ) and its great to upgrade for $0.

2016 Final Numbers & '17 Roth IRA Funded

January 7th, 2017 at 04:11 pm

Well 2017 is here and the numbers are doing well.

I won't list the 2016 numbers as they are basically the same I had listed in my prior posting. As it stated, my overall ROI was in the 16% range, so I am very happy with the year. The market wavered all over the place, and basically ended where they were at mid December when I posted. I have added some to the numbers in the "About Me" section, though I do keep them a bit low as I expect there to be a little pull back in the future and I don't want to feel too bad about it when it happens (silly I know, but it is what it is).

One quickie note: I just got the monthly report from the 457 plan provider, and I see the yearly numbers for the two small-cap funds that have probably 40% of my overall 457 funds had returns for the year of 18% and 27%. I think I see now why my 457 numbers were so great for the year!

As for 2017 I already put in my Roth IRA money ($6500). Also got my first paycheck with my 457 money taken out. Now my paycheck is less than half of what it was in December (yikes!). Oh well, with the higher amount I will almost be done with my yearly contributions by the end of July so I should be happy about that.

As for the year coming up, I need to invest my cash in the IRA & brokerage in something, question is which stock.

On a frugal note (I figure I should include one) I got a backup shaver at the Goodwill outlet two weeks ago (by weight it cost maybe $1.50?). Its an expensive Norelco and a twin to what I currently have. It only needed new blade heads, so online I found I could get a new set for $9. But for another $7 I could get a second set, so I am upgrading both shavers to give me a like new shave for $17.50 for two shavers (costs about $70 for a new shaver). So lets hear it for the GW outlet. (PS: Why do I have two shavers? I keep one in my car to use on the drive in each work day, as I have a car adapter for it!)

Hey, lets have a great year everyone!

Saving money & helping family - Win/win

August 4th, 2016 at 08:01 am

Saving money is always good, but helping family is good too. Usually the two don't intersect, but when they do, its almost always a good thing. Even if its not the most optimal solution. At least that's my opinion. To that point....

Two summers ago I was able to re-shingle my mother's house. In doing so I was able to save her tons of money and that helped me save lots of money (via free use of her times share for quite a few years). Great to save money for myself, but it helped her too, so a definite win all around.

That leads to events this past month. I had a coupon for a free oil change at a nearby dealership. Of course it was for them to review my car and come up with all types of work that needed to be done on my car. Which I knew going in, but whatever. Before letting my car go the mechanic comes and points out everything I had left go for some time and how much it would cost to do. And oh yeah, I had to wait for hours to just get an oil change, but now that they are looking at my car, this work could be done quickly. I don't know the going rates, but I declined, figuring any place else would be better (especially after seeing how much they wanted for each piece of work). (Plus I was disgusted having to wait 4 hours for the car to be done as I used their online appointment service before going there!).

The next day thinking on it I remembered hearing about the SG-GF's son and how for the past few months he was running his own "on the go" mechanics service. I thought perhaps this would be good work for him and I might get it done for less. Actually I would have liked to have the work done for free as "family", but he is trying to start a business and deserves all the business he can get. He said he could do the work, and while visiting her for vacation with my son, he was able to do the work, and for maybe $100-$150 less than the dealership. Could I have got it done less somewhere else? I don't know, but really it doesn't matter, as getting a good enough price and helping him was certainly worth more to me than saving an extra $10-$20 elsewhere (if that was even possible).

Just ruminating I guess, but while saving money is good, there are other things to consider in life. Now I'm wondering if he can do other things on the car when I am there next time. Hmmmmmm....

10 years later...

August 3rd, 2016 at 01:41 pm

Well I have been away for a while, still working on my savings, being frugal, and my personal relationships (not necessarily in that order).

However for today I am looking back 10 years, only because I have been on here in one form or another for that amount of time.

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Looking at my numbers for 2006 in August, 10 years ago
* All my investments added up to about what I still owed on my mortgage. Maybe the equivalent of one year's take home pay.
* I was in the midst of working out a divorce with my wife.
* I was only to year 3 of my current job, and wasn't even vested yet in the pension plan.
* I was turning my life around, but it had a long way to go.
* My saving accounts fluctuated between $100 - $2,000

Now its August 2016, and
* My house has been paid off since 2011
* My investments are now about the equivalent of 10 years of take home pay (though maybe 25 years of expenses).
* I'm happily divorced and happily have a girl friend who is great.
* I'm finishing year 13 at my last job, still going strong, and have a nice vested pension amount at this point.
* My life has long been set to a new compass direction, and an excellent one at that.
* My savings accounts now fluctuate between $20,000 & $25,000.
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Getting the ship going the right direction can be a pain, but once there, you can really make headway. Not sure I would have believed it would work out this well 10 years ago, but it has gone well.

100% Pay Raise? Not really, though it feels like it.

August 10th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

I was going to call this "the most wonderful time of the year", though that seemed a bit pretentious...

This year, just like I have been doing since 2008 (or did I start in 2009?) I have been front loading my retirement plan contributions at work. This has been done with the assumption that more often than not the funds in my 457 plan will be lower at the beginning of the year and this will allow me to save even more for retirement. I know this worked well for me in 2009-2012, since then its been sorta iffy.

In any case, originally to make this be less painful I would back end my tax payments to try to equalize my take home over the year. Since I have paid off my mortgage, I've decided to cut back on this technique as I don't need as much to get me through month to month.

That all said, the past few years I have contributed at such a large percentage, that sometime in September my contributions usually stop (that is I have maxed out for the year), and my take home increases dramatically for the remainder of the year. This year is no different, my last bi-weekly paycheck in August (21st) will have my last contributions for the year (well.. there will be about $100 remaining, but lets not quibble). So how much will my take home increase? Well lets put it this way, my last 9 paychecks for the year will total slightly more than the total for the first 17 paychecks of this year. That's 100% more take home from here on out! Par-tay.

From the first 17 paychecks I was still able to save a nice amount and put that in my brokerage. Now for the last 4 months? Its time to enjoy a week vacation with the SG-GF and her son, a few long weekends together, and enjoy the remainder of the year. And time to start adding some serious coin to my brokerage account.

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Hey, that all said above doesn't mean I stopped being frugal (or will stop going forward). Far from it. Yard sales have still been good to me (though last weekend was abysmal). Lots of finds from hobby related items to keep and sell, household items that are serious upgrades, and lots of other things I can sell online have been coming into my hands this year. My withdrawals from Paypal have been $1,300 year to date, and I have lots more to list this week. $200 of the profits went to my SG-GF as some items were her's, but still its been going good.

I haven't reviewed my expenses, but I know they have been staying low. I made mulberry jam this summer, and am looking to do the same with the pears building up on my tree right now. And then there is the various food stocks I brought back from my visit to my mother. Canned meat she over bought, and other staples, that should feed me for my lunches for at least a few months.

And visiting with her there is a nearby "surplus outlet" where you can sometimes get very discounted food. I returned home with a dozen boxes of multi-grain chocolate cheerios for $0.79 each, a bag of whole grain flour for $0.25, a jar of mayonaise for $0.25, and some other odds and ends. Seriously, how can you beat those prices???

My investments have been so-so this year, but hey, you can't have everything, right? Though there will be more on that in my next posting....

Looking forward, not back, and a quickie review YTD

June 14th, 2015 at 03:39 pm

Something I try to keep in my GF's mind... that she shouldn't stress over things that have happened (though learn from them), but try to make things better going forward (that is: "look forward, not back"). (Not that I forget the past, but I don't let it keep me from moving forward.) Anyway, in that vein, I tried to cheer her up a few weeks ago on a down day for her and sent to her the following list of things I am looking forward to:

* In less than two months I will be taking off two weeks to be with my son.
* In two months I will be getting slightly larger paychecks (about 1%, but hey, it counts)
* In three months we are going to an out of town social event we look forward to every year.
* In three months I will have completely funded my 457 retirement plan for 2015. That means larger paychecks going forward through the end of the year for me to invest (or whatever).
* In five months we will be on our way to Florida.
* And after that we have various work holidays through the end of the year.

Nothing earth shattering there, but its keeping my eye on the ball (so to speak) that helps me through the hard days. She felt it was good for her to read them and remember the good times we had and the good times to come for us.

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eBay Sales
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I have slowed down on my sales, though I did bring in about $60 earlier this month. As an approximation for my sales, I checked for how much I transferred to my saving from Paypal for this year. Just over $1,000. That's not too shabby. And in the past 3 weeks I have picked up some very nice hobby items to sell, maybe make another $100-$200 if I am lucky. Now I just need to test them and get my sales going again!

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Investments
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Well I have been doing worse than the market so far this year. (BOOOOO) My 457 plan has risen (after contributions) about $20k, maybe about 6%. My Roth IRA I think is flat for the year after my yearly contribution (maybe up 1-2% depending on the day I check!). I knew there would be years like this. I keep telling myself that's ok. Hopefully I will remember that.

My brokerage is doing well, but only because I have been adding lots this year. Growth has been minimal. But a year ago it was about $12k, now its at $38k. That's a great start. My DRIPs are some days up, some days they look flat for the year. At least the dividends are increasing!

Other savings are holding steady, which I am fine with. I have over a year's worth of expenses in my savings/checking accounts, I see no need to increase them.

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Expenses
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I think my expenses have been lower this year than last, if such a thing is possible, so I am very happy there. I'm not checking the numbers, so maybe I am deluding myself. But the checking account is doing better than last year, and the only difference I can think of is the extra from my sales and a single savings bond redemption. And I have already paid for our get away over Labor day, my son's plane ticket, and my home and car insurance. All I have is possible car repairs and house taxes to get me through this year. I even made some mulberry jam this year (though not too much, the tree isn't producing like it used to). And maybe a month ago I went to CVS and using coupons, and sale items I got a bottle of laundry detergent and 5 bottle of dish detergent == $0.29. And I paid for that using my CVS gift card. In fact many purchases of late have been with gift cards. And I just completed another credit card bonus, and am getting another $200 of gift cards -- sweet Smile.

Hopefully nothing will surprise me going forward.

Everything is holding near steady. Its good when you have a groove going forward.

One-Third Year Check-in

April 30th, 2015 at 07:49 am

I haven't been posting anything since things are pretty much going on autopilot lately (which is GOOD). Given that, you are warned the remainder is fairly boring, but that's the way it goes sometimes.

So lets see...

In addition to my previous free finds (and then sales of free items), two weeks ago I picked up a toy train motor for free. I have already sold it for over $12, so a nice easy profit. Picked up two other toy train sets (yeah, a specialty of mine) for $12, they were both really nice. I should be able to sell them this fall for over $100 combined (they're not the type I like or I would keep them), so I just store for a few months and sell - easy. My other ebay sales have gotten pretty slow - maybe $100 in sales in the past 2 months, but that's ok, I needed the break. But getting more stuff out the door would be nice (and I listed a few things last night).

Yard sales have started, and other than the trains, I have picked up some classic cookware, and though I haven't tried to sell any, I know I could make a decent profit if I tried ($10 purchase of plates would go for ~$60, $6 dish normally goes for $30-ish, $4 casserole that would sell for $25, and a few other items really cheap that are more for restoration than any other reason). I will probably keep all of it, but you never know. Yard sales are fun to go to, as long as the weather is nice.

My finances are doing well so far this year. I've put over $11k into the 457b plan that has gone up $30k to date. My brokerage has gone up $7k (though $5k is from my deposits of cash) Then there is the $1500 I've had to contribute to my pension. Since my savings have held steady, that means I am saving around 55% of my gross earnings, a healthy rate I want to keep if possible. As far as overall amounts, the retirement account went up $30k so far (that makes $19k of growth!) and the Roth grew only $1,500 (oh well) Frown

As for CC Signups - $200 & $50 from a savings signup. Its hard to find any good ones any more. I've had to close some accounts so I can get a chance to sign up again in the next year or two (I hope). If not, that's ok, I still have plenty of credit if I need it.

My health is doing ok, I have kept up with my daily workouts, modifying it some to see if I can get even better results. I did tweak my knee a few months ago, I hope to get over the residual pain soon (it hurts off and on). The SG-GF is doing much better, her health is improving with a new diet and other tweaks, and she is looking healthier. Its great to see her happier about her health.

Spring is here and its only a half year until our yearly (& nearly free) vacation to Florida. Life is good.

More Recycling for Easy Money

February 27th, 2015 at 12:44 pm

Not much in ebay sales for the past 2 weeks (I guess I needed a break) though I have a few ending this weekend. Anyway, I went to recycling last week with my papers and cans and bottles, and looked for boxes to send out items (I used alot of my supply in the past months). Well, wouldn't you know it, I found more things new in the original shrink wrap. This time it was 3 packs of a folder indexing kit and I brought them home. I listed them that night, and while it is ending this Sunday, I already have an opening bid of $11. Looking at similar prior sales, I wouldn't be surprised if it gets up to $20, but I will be happy with the minimum bid, if that's as far as it goes.

That will give me for the winter sales of 2 books (net of $80), pair of sandals (net of $40) and folder supplies (net of $10), for a total $130 profit just by taking my recyclables to the local bins like a responsible person.

Easy peasy money. Gotta luv it. Big Grin

Can I keep this up for the year???

February 19th, 2015 at 07:00 pm

So far this year I have been on an ebay selling tear. I have resolved to not let things pile up, but to list them online. I have discovered that things sell much better when you list them (shocking - I know!). So far this year I am over $800 in sales. I know, I know, its profits that matter. Well.... I figure if I back out the ebay fees (sheesh, they charge enough), sales that belong to the SG-GF, and the expense of buying some things this year.... hmmmm... well I come up with a little over $550 of profit for me. Its been work, but a good kind of work. Although I am getting burned out for the moment.

My expenses have so far been crazy low too. Yes, the heating bill is relatively high, but if I add up the utilities (gas, electric, phone, water, internet), they've probably cost me only $300 so far. A good thing, right? Well... yes it is, but... I am trying to spend enough on my latest credit card to earn the bonus of $100. I still have a month, and need to spend another $250 by the end of March. I may need to pre-pay some more bills if possible. Or buy more gift cards. Or... I don't know, maybe prepay at the dentist? Its a crazy problem to have.

I've spent quite a few weekends with the SG-GF. Lots of driving to and fro, but its a good life, and going strong. Nothing I can complain about, that's for sure.

Thankfully nothing has broken down lately. I was thinking every week I was going to have something new to fix.

Life is doing good, at least for now. Big Grin

More sales, More Fixes

January 21st, 2015 at 08:18 am

After some more sales finished this week online, I noticed that my sales for the last 2 months is over $530. If I back out the items sold for the SG-GF, the ebay fees (boooo), and my cost of the items, I am probably netting almost $400. A nice extra paycheck to invest in stocks or in my hobbies, though for the past year that was about $125 for a 90 year old restored train, and maybe another $100 for classic kitchenware I let the SG-GF use when she visits. I need to keep up this pace in the coming year.

And then the last weekend visiting her I picked up a lot of "Cars" movie based toy cars and track for $8. Looking online, I expect I can sell them for maybe $75 if I split it into separate sales. Yeehaw.

==================================================

As for fixes, in the past week I replaced my car's brake light switch. It cost $20 for the part online, and maybe 15 minutes of work under my car's dash. With a nice markup for the part, and the labor cost, what would that be, maybe $100 to make the repair at the dealership (not to mention the time and driving there to get it done)?

And then last night I fixed my furnace. Darn thing would only heat for maybe 15 seconds and then cut off. After an hour of cleaning and observing the mechanism in action, I spotted the on the side the listing of the LED indicator light codes (There is a LED on the circuit board inside that was flashing). Turned out the code could apply to a number of problems, but only one made any sense. And it even had next to it the most likely way to fix it. A quick hand sanding of the furnace ignition sensor (oxide buildup) and now I have heat in the house again. While aggravating to figure out, at least now I know what to do if this happens again. And no charge for a repairman to come and look at it.

====================================================

And finally I am working on my latest credit card for a $100 bonus. I forget who mentioned the AARP credit card here, but thanks for the info!

That's a "Service Deal Special"???

January 9th, 2015 at 05:49 am

Over Christmas the SG-GF got both of us replacement cabin air filters for our cars. She had been threatening to get new ones for a while, and she finally did it. Well after looking online for how to do it, I spent about 4 minutes replacing mine, and 2 minutes to replace it in her car. No tools required. She was saying "That's it?" after it was done. Yep, that was it. "They wanted $60 to do that!" Now you know why dealerships are so shiny.

Anyway, today I got an email from the local dealership promoting various "specials" (*cough, cough*). Yeah, they're "special" all right. For $50 they have the special to replace the filter on my car. I checked online, and the filters cost less than $10 each, and I am sure the dealership pays less than I do for the filters. I know they have overhead, but give me a break. Charge me $30-$40 for 5 minutes of work, and then review the car to find other things you recommend to be "fixed" at your "cheap" rates as well? Ugh.

Free vacation to Florida & Recycling for easy money

December 22nd, 2014 at 11:48 am

====================== Florida Vacation ======================

Well its been over a month since the trip to Florida, and its well past time to report on the cost, or lack thereof, for the trip. Well I am happy to say that my expenses for the trip were under $300. Now this doesn't take into account the expenses that were exclusively for my girlfriend (the SG-GF), as this time we brought along her son, so her expenses were higher than she was originally planning.

As for me, I spent $170 for a three day pass to Universal, $30 for a dinner theater, $15 for a ghost tour in Savannah, and $50 for a present for her son (a belated birthday present). How come no more costs? Well we stayed at my mother's timeshare for free (in exchange for re-roofing her house), A stay in Savannah was free using CC sign up bonus points, gas was free (via gift cards she got with Swag bucks), food was... well not free but we spent maybe 1/2 our normal on food (my mother wanted to cook for us a few nights) and we went out to eat one night, so I figure that nets out to a normal week's food expense. We did buy a few other things (maybe $100 total between us), but none of them were touristy items, so no sense in counting them either. And in addition, I just happened to get a $300 bonus on the paycheck awaiting me when I returned. And.... I also picked up $70 for a timeshare tour and hard sales pitch (I pity the poor woman that had to work with us - we were hard on her!).

Sooooo... the total cost due to the trip for me was .... about $270. And I got extra that pay period... $370. So I ended up with a wonderful vacation with SG-GF & her son, and got my normal paycheck + $100. Woohoo, what a way to live. (OK, bragging I guess, but I was very happy with it Smile)

================= Recycling ======================

As is my usual concern for the environment (as well as allowing me to not need to pay for garbage pickup), I have been continuing to go to the local recycling center with papers and glass and cans, etc.... Well the last two visits (and some prior) I have been looking for good small boxes to pick up for shipping ebay sales (I won't get into how great that has gone the past two months - other than great Smile ). Crazily enough, even that has now been a great money maker for me. How so? Well the last time there I picked out a box and it felt like something was inside. When I opened it up, there were high end leather sandals still with the packing and tags. Not my size, I decided to check online, and I find that these sell on ebay for about $50 a pair new (mine's new!, and they sell retail for about $90). I haven't listed them yet, but what a deal!

And the prior time I went there I tried to pick out a storage box from the recycling bin, and I found inside a pile of brand new books. I didn't know what they went to, but I figured I would take them home and see - maybe I would get lucky. I found out they go to a very specialized advanced class for non-profits. Well I listed one on half.com, and it just sold (3 weeks). I will net over $40 for that one book, and I have a pile of 6 more identical I need to list yet! Woohoo, easy money - I luv it. Big Grin

A great weekend to save money

August 20th, 2014 at 05:48 pm

At least it was for me this past weekend. The SG-GF visited for the first time in a while and it seemed like we were off to the races doing things which were fun, yet saved us lots of money.

===== Some random this and thats from the weekend follow =======

Of course we had to start with the yard sale loop on Saturday. Not too many buys, maybe $10 spent between the two of us. Next she went to Aldi's to save on her groceries (nothing like that where she lives).

Ok, then what? Oh lets see, I got this month's gas bill in the mail. It was all of $7. I think I can handle that Wink (almost no usage, and a state mandated refund of a few dollars accounted for this).

Later we went to CVS so I could use some "ExtraBucks" I got from a CVS online survey before they expired. I combined it with coupons I was able to find here and there, and was able to walk out mouthwash to last me 6 months, a 2 liter soda, and $10 in extrabucks. Only cost me an extra $4 from my CVS gift card I got for free from my credit card sign ups. And I see I can go and spend another $5 and get $5 extrabucks. So more for free - I can handle that.

Then the big money saver, the SG-GF asked that I help her color her hair. Ooooh, a challenge. And if I screw up, well... it could be fixed I suppose Big Grin. Anyway, it was fun, worked great and she was very very happy with it. Of course now it looks like I will be doing this in the future - ruh roh! Not sure how much that saves, but she said it was lots-lots.

Another big item was my washer stopped working - ugh. So back online I went and tonight I took that monster apart and fixed it - cost was $0 and an hour of my time. $#@!#!!! cheapo Sears brand washer. Oh well, at least it happened to lots of others, and youtube showed how to fix it.

For our trip to Florida, we each got another $50 gas card last week - I think we already have enough! But I'm not complaining - more is better (at least I hear that on TV the few times I turn it on). And I got a new credit card. A small signup bonus but a large bonus once you use it at their branded motels. Well it so happens we're going to one for Labor Day weekend! Great, we'll use it there, and then use the points to stay at motels on the trip down and back up in November. Hey, another win-win. Big Grin

Oh, and she helped me fix some toy train cars when she arrived (I need three hands to do this!). And some items sold on ebay and half - one was a small toy train engine I got in a box of lots of trains for $20 - this one I didn't want sold for $25 - yep, I like my hobbies for free.

Whew, what a great weekend. We had other adventures that she said she really enjoyed as well.

A weeklong vacation for $0???

June 23rd, 2014 at 06:58 am

This fall the SG-GF (Single Guy Girlfriend) and I are going on our yearly weeklong vacation to Florida. After this spring/summer of working on my mother's roof, my mother is going to let me use the timeshare for free this year (and hopefully some future years - yet to be negotiated!). As the SG-GF has started with the credit card signup bonuses (following my lead), she proposed an interesting idea to me this weekend.

Her idea is this... Since we have the timeshare to use this year, perhaps we can make this a weeklong vacation costing $0. At first I thought this was a nice idea to cut down our expenses on the trip, but I am now thinking this might be a possibility. Here is what I see as our expenses and how we could cover each for free.

* Lodging: Already covered above.

* Amusement parks: SG-GF pointed out we could sign up for Disney branded CCs that would give bonuses to use at Disney parks. I'm not sure how much this would cover, but it could cover a majority of that expense. I still need to research this.

* Transportation: We're driving, and the SG-GF is a big Swagbucks user. She thinks we can cover the cost of gas with gas branded gift cards we can get from there. I don't remember the prior years' exact costs, but $200-$300 seemed to cover our gas purchases, and I know she can get lots of gas cards, so this may be doable as well.

* Food: I have some restaurant gift cards from prior CC sign ups, so those should cover any eating out while we are there.

* Miscellaneous: I know we can get money from the time share by going through one of their sales presentations. I'm thinking it was $50, but I may be wrong there. In any case, it should cover a lot of our random expenses.

Hmmmm... could we make this work? I am thinking it could happen. If nothing else I will have to track our expenses closely this year and see just how well it works out. Free vacations... I like it Big Grin.

Saving money can be painful

April 21st, 2014 at 06:54 am

Last summer my mother looked into getting her roof replaced. Her home is only one story high, and the roof is relatively flat, yet the estimates came in from $13,000 to $18,000 (!). And this wasn't for new plywood or even new roofing felt, just putting new shingles on. I told her that amount was crazy as while the roof is large, its very safe and easy to get up on. So I offered to do the work, if she helped as she could.

So last fall the shingles were delivered and put onto her roof (lifted with a boom, and I placed them on the roof).

Jump ahead to this spring and I have spent two of the last three weekends working on her roof. Ugh. While its easy to get up and stay up, that is still a ton of work. Well, with her help we are about 40% completed, and the parts we did were the harder sections. The rest should be more straightforward (thankfully). Of course my body is all sore and will take a few days to recover, but at least my exercising is coming in handy.

Who knew saving money could be so painful?

I'm a Half-a-Millionaire!

April 1st, 2014 at 07:25 am

Just like the famous Horace Vandergelder, today after adding up all my investments, retirement plans, savings, bonds, etc.., (and not including house, car, other physical items) I'm now a "Half-a-Millionaire", at least for a day!. (Ok, for those that are wondering of what I speak... look up Hello Dolly!)

My look at my retirement accounts is encouraging. According to what I read, the various indicies went up 0.5% - 2% for the first quarter of this year. After backing out my contributions to date, my 457 plan went up 3.9%, and my Roth IRA went up 4.7%. As before, am I lucky or smart? Hmmmmmmm.

Expenses are doing well, I just got paid for an other ebay sale (phone bought for $0.50, sold for $23, will probably net $20). I have interest in a classic coffee mug I bought for $1 on Saturday, and am looking to sell for $15, so hopefully that will sell too. Now I just need to list more items for sale, lord knows I have enough.

And after a rediculous cold winter, has spring finally arrived? I sure hope so, I am certainly primed to get out to yard sales. And to plant items in the garden. I have lots of plants growing inside just ready and raring to get outside and get lots of sun.

Things are good (until I try to do my taxes this coming weekend!!!)

Pre-Christmas treasure finds for $0

December 27th, 2013 at 01:50 pm

For my Christmas visit with the GF we stopped at a local Goodwill outlet just to pass a little time. In the past we have found some interesting things, but this time... really nice stuff for real cheap.

I ended up with up some nice Corelle dishes, some hobby items for me (2 toy trains - pretty much complete), some electronic cabling (USB cabling and some cables for the LCD TV I inherited). While I waited for her to finish, I searched the books and got a few I thought might be sellable.

Instead of waiting until I got back home I quickly listed two of them online that night (half.com). Next morning I got up and checked my email, and here one book already sold for more than I paid for everything from the thrift store.

Dang I love it when I can get something I like (my hobbies), and have it all paid for. If only everything in life worked that well.

Getting paid to be entertained for the evening - Priceless

December 1st, 2013 at 07:34 pm

After dropping off my son at the airport Black Friday morning, and waiting 3 hours for my girl friend to pick me up (long story, but not her fault), we went to Baltimore for a museum visit. That was a great time (thanks to my GF!), on the way back she describes to me her time at the mall trying to buy the latest phones for her kids for Christmas. But one item caught my attention, the mall has a casino right next to it. Now I never to go a casino. That is a wonderful way to lose money.

She tells me that the employee where she bought the phones said that there was an offer where you could take your receipts to the casino and get "free money" to play the slots. Intrigued, I asked if she was interested in going there to find out more about it, since it would be a long time before we came back that way. On a whim, we decide to try it. Oh, what an adventure.

The mall parking was insane, but the casino had a 7 level parking garage. After about 15 minutes in mall traffic we were parked on the top level. Once we found our way to the casino entrance, we got in and asked where to go for the offer. After she signed up, we got $50(!) in slot play money.

This was new to us. Apparently we got something like a credit card that we could slip into a slot machine. Well this place had 100's, if not over a thousand, slot machines. After wandering around dazed at the lights and noise, we sat down at a slot machine and spent 5 minutes trying to figure out how to use it (yep, we were clueless at first). Finally figuring it out, we made a few plays and "won" some money, maybe $2 worth. However the machine would just add your winnings to your balance on the machine. This was confusing to us, and at this point we didn't know what to do, so we decided to go to another machine. We found that the machine would return the un-played free slot money to your card, but not your winnings. That money you had to "cash out". Cashing out would give you a winnings voucher.

I quickly realized what the machines were setup to do. By not showing your winnings total, most people would keep playing until all the money was spent, including your winnings. The trick was to play only as much as you pulled off of your card onto the machine, but no more. At that point you should do a "cash out" to get the winnings, and roll any un-played free slot money back onto the card and go to the next machine.

We then went from machine to machine, playing $5 worth of spins at each machine, cashing out, then moving on. At the end of our free slot money we stopped and went to the cashier to get our winnings. We ended up with just over $25. So we got about 2 hours of "adventure" and ended up with $25 for the effort. Priceless Big Grin

Freebees at just the right time - priceless

November 18th, 2013 at 04:21 pm

Previously I had XM radio in my car, at their lowest rate for 6 months, usually to coincide with long trips (FL & relatives). This year, since we were using my girlfriend's car for the FL trip, I skipped on the XM radio. I can get decent channels near where I live.

Last Friday I received a letter from them saying they were setting me up for 2 weeks free starting this Wednesday. Just so happens I am travelling all next week to relatives, so this is perrrrrrrfect Smile. About the only time I would want to have it all year, and they're giving it to me for free right then.

I love it when things work like that. Big Grin

Back from the yearly road trip

November 15th, 2013 at 01:46 pm

Well the trip to FL ended this past Monday (literally, I finished driving at 3:00 AM Monday) and we survived (physically and mentally). The total for me and the SG girlfriend was probably $1,800 ($730 for the timeshare, $490 for 3 day disney tickets, ~$300 for gas, and well... a little here and a little there). We survived some near misses (people trying to play dodge'em with our car, a gated community's gate that swung towards our car, not to the sides {yikes, put it in reverse now!}, the 3 egrets that tried walking in through the open door in our time share, almost getting lost in Tampa). My girlfriend showed her new found courage to go on some "scary" rides. OK, not so scary to me, but I know she was considering turning back more than once. Her fortitude was really appreciated - it helped to make a great time in Florida.

We also did our (or mine anyway) first timeshare presentation (at the location we were staying). I think our presentation was the shortest of any in our group (maybe 20 groups). We didn't lie to the guys (there was first guy, and then the "closer"), but I think they thought we were a little nuts. OK, that may be true, but hey, if it works, go with it. Right? That got us about $65 off our tickets for a little over an hour of time (plus we got some nice OJ and coffee). Not sure if we could have done better elsewhere (probably), but this is supposed to be low pressure, so it was probably just as well we went there. I forget the exact numbers (they wouldn't let us take the numbers with us), but I think they started at $30,000, then $12,000, and finally a reduced value package for $5,000. Since its not a real "time share" any more, but some convoluted point system, they can offer all levels of packages. Basically looks like pre-paying your vacations, though more flexible (in some ways!) than with old style time share systems. And I think I realized what is going on. Using a point system, they can over-sell facilities, knowing that not everyone will use their points, or will only buy when prices are high. Its like planes where they over book. An easy way to make even more money. Gawd, if that ain't easy money for them, I don't know what is.

On the trip I used my gas gift card, along with a Subway gift card she had. That helped with the expenses. And today I get my two-week paycheck, more than enough for the whole trip plus more. Yep, it was a good trip.

On the road again...

November 1st, 2013 at 07:39 am

... can't wait to get back on the road again... Yes, it has arrived, the last day before I head off on a week long vacation. And its a good day in other ways. I got my super-sized paycheck today (instead of a raise, we are getting a 1% bonus, all of it paid today), I sent off two ebay sales this morning, and I have four more to get sent out. Thankfully they aren't big, I can easily take them with me if they don't pay tonight. I probably made $100 on this week's sales (the best is a lot of toy cars I paid $2 for and I am getting $40 for Smile).

The gas gift card arrived yesterday. Perfect timing. It's only good for one brand of gas, but still... we'll just check prices each time we stop, and if the prices are the same we'll use the gift card. Otherwise we'll go to the cheaper gas and put the purchase on my new credit card so I buy enough to get my latest CC reward ($200) Big Grin.

I also have another $5 gift card ready to give my girl friend. So that's good.

I'm leaving with my fridge stocked up with apples and pears. They both seem to last a long time, so a week away shouldn't make a difference to them. The yard is a mess with leaves, but that can't be helped at this time of year.

And finally everything from work is working smoothly today. No stress, just some boredom until I leave. Yep, can't wait to get back on the road again.

Freebee golf

October 29th, 2013 at 07:02 am

Ok, freebees, but no golf (unless we do frisbee or minature golf!). In the week before heading off to golf courses and amusement parks (no, not California, but Florida) for a week of relaxation, I was able to get some more freebees at CVS.

This week I got in a single purchase the following: bottle of laundry detergent, 1 liter mouthwash, bottle dish detergent, and a "Pro-Health" toothpaste - all for $1.39. I needed to use some coupons before they expired, and ended up with as many "extra bucks" as when I started. Free cleaning materials => always good. By now I am stocked for more than a year on all these items, maybe many more years!

Yesterday I got my first check for mystery shopper work in many years. In September I did one for Salvation Army Thrift stores, and for an hour or two of work I got $15 + reimbursement for items I bought and got to keep (some nice dishes and glasses).

Finally, my retirement 457 plan went over $300k this month. Geeze, it seems like not that long ago I was thrilled it went over $100k, while owing only $50k on my mortgage (it was probably 2008). Now I have triple that and a paid off house - I luv it.

Why did I delay?

October 24th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

I was discussing two weeks ago with the SG girlfriend about my credit card bonuses, and mentioned that I had earned one I that I did the required purchases, but never redeemed because the bank's web site made it hard to register online (and I had already closed the bank account, but kept the credit card). She looked surprised that I would let something like this go, as that wasn't how I would normally do it.

Well, on Monday I got a letter from the bank promoting the benefits of using the card, and that finally got me off of my duff to take care of it yesterday. About 10 minutes of online work, and now I should be getting a $100 gas gift card in the mail. Hopefully it will arrive before my departure date for our Florida trip as it would be nice to keep the expenses down further. If not, we'll live; the gift card can always be used locally as well.

Sometimes you need someone else to give you that push to get things done. Geeze, 10 minutes to get $100, why did I delay?

The Never Ending Soap Bar

September 30th, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Using small savings adds up over time. I believe I previously commented that I had enough soap to last me until I retired. Well... for over the past year I have done even better as my cleaning supplies have actually increased for no cost at all.

Due to gifts of excess soap stocks from my girlfriend (saved from work related travel stays), as well as free soap I get at yard sales (I even picked up 4 Big Grin bars for free at an estate sale on Saturday) my collection of soap and shampoo has actually increased in the past 15 months. And even my dish detergent supplies have increased, as I have been able to get deals from stores like CVS where I got this past week (using coupons and other deals) the following for $2 (2 bags of snickers, large bottle of dish detergent, bag of honey pretzels - my favorite pretzels, and 2 bottles of skin lotion). And then I went back with more coupons on Sunday night and picked up a bottle of clothes detergent, 2 more bottles of dish detergent (as well as a can of shaving cream and a bottle of mouthwash) for only $0.63. This doesn't save much in a week, but over time it really starts to add up.

======================================================

On other financial news...

My trash savings (I recycle and compost most everything) have been plowed into a DRIP for the past 6 years - its now over $3,000 and growing. The latest dividend was over $22 and it grows about $1 / quarter.

My yearly trip to Florida is paid for ... well that is other than the gas to get there, and the tickets for the parks while we are there. It will also be nice to leave and come back to a paycheck awaiting me. Smile

On day to day finances I'm not sure what to say. Everything is on autopilot right now. I made two apple pies this week - given the free apples I have, the rest of the ingredients cost maybe $1. My monthly food comes in around $100 - maybe $125 if I am honest (too many pizzas!).

=============================================

Interesting Note....

Looking back 3 years, my salary less taxes and deductions (insurance & pension basically) I estimate at around $225k. Now in those same three years my net worth excluding the house went up near $200k. But if you include the house, where I paid off the last $26k on my house, that would total around $225k, the same as what I obtained to cover living expenses and savings. And this includes a time where I bought my low mileage used car, had vacation trips to Florida each year, travelled lots to be with (and do things with) my girlfriend, and had other experiences (that I am not itemizing here!). So I am very, very pleased, even with a job with no raises, life is working out oh so well. Smile Smile Smile

The yearly slog comes to an end

August 15th, 2013 at 01:39 pm

Yes, the slog of putting money in my work 457 retirement plan is finally coming to an end for this year. My next paycheck is the last with retirement deductions - I will be hitting the $23,000 max I can contribute this year. Woohoo.... 4 months (Sep - Dec) with no retirement deductions, no mortgage and no expenses (almost!). I won't know how to react to all this extra money showing up in my paycheck! (I'll figure out something!)

===================================================
Some other financial news & notes (year to date updates mostly):
===================================================

In my retirement accounts I am up $80,000 year to date. I have put in ~ $26,000, so the remaining $54,000 is the current increase in value (of course I think it lost $1,500 today alone!!!)

This year my electric has totalled $240 for 7 months (less than $35/mo). However, my electric co. stock dividends are currently about $105/ qtr, or $35/mo. - Hey they match! Big Grin Of course I pay taxes on the dividends, but still that's great for this point in the year.

My CC rewards have only added up to about $700 this year so far - maybe I can pick it up later?

As for dividends... For the first 6 months, the Roth IRA had $860, the DRIPs returned $350, and the brokerage has had a single quarterly dividend of $73. Take those together out to a full year, and you have about $2600. Not enough to retire on yet, but its about $900 more than last year, so I'm happy about it.

I made maybe $400 profit from online sales so far this year, which is pretty pitiful, but that has slowed as I have other things ongoing in my life taking up my time. Hopefully I can pick up the pace - I currently have a dozen items for sale, 3 with bids ($120 there)

Finally I earned about $40 in Amazon gift cards (gave those to my great GF)

===========================================================================

Some fun holidays and larger paychecks for the remainder of the year. Yeehaw!


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