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Viewing the 'Frugality' Category

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.

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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!).

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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!)

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

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

Free food and free money - Gotta luv it.

June 2nd, 2013 at 07:08 pm

You may remember (or not?) that a number of years ago many of the credit card banks would send out free "checks" for $15 - $25. Probably in the 2007 - 2009 time frame. The catch to the checks was if you cashed the checks you would be automatically enrolled in a job loss protection plan that would allow you to not pay while unemployed. The additional catch was whatever your monthly ending balance was you would be charged something (usually 0.89%) That comes out to a yearly rate of 10%, and it didn't even pay off the card, only allowed you to wait to pay until you had a job!!! I did this for credit cards I never used, that way I got the money, but never got charged. Smile

With that in mind, about two years ago (March 2011 to be exact), I got 4 postcards saying there was a class action suit dealing with this now long-disbanded "service". (One postcard for each check I cashed.) Apparently some people banded together saying the service was confusing (well duh!) and were setting up a class action suit to get some relief. OK, I filed online for the 4 cards, figuring I might get $10 at most. But hey, free money is free money, right?

Fast forward to this past week and an letter appears and it says it was a payment dealing with that suit. I see there is a check, and on it is over $150. Oh my my. Smile Well that sure wasn't expected. Free money works for me, especially at levels like that.

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On the food front, the mulberry tree has started producing fruit like crazy. To wit, I have collected the berries, and already made over 2 gallons of jam, and there is plenty more on the tree, and plenty more in the fridge yet! I had stocked up on jars last year, but already I am starting to wonder (not if but) when I am going to run out!

As for the garden, this year is an experiment year. The girlfriend's potting soil certainly helped - I should have known to do that! So far the garden looks so-so, with the string beans, peas, tomatoes, and cucumber plants looking OK. The carrots, watermelon, and lettuce... we'll have to see if they survive. Based on the results... I will adjust my garden going forward. I did go out and get some Miracle Gro, so maybe that'll do the trick.

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Finally, on the financial front, I have already put in over $21,000 in the 457 & Roth accounts, and they have risen about $60,000 since the beginning of the year. This savings rate is hard at times, as I have taken home only $12,000 so far this year (and put $6,000 of that into the Roth IRA!) - not having a mortgage sure helps. Oh well, it'll do me well in the long run I'm sure.

Freebies and a good first quarter

April 5th, 2013 at 12:42 pm

First let me start with freebies I picked up recently. The best was from a single Craigslist listing. I had been looking on the free listings for items I could use with a (hopefully) to be built raised garden. I found someone with yard fencing I though could work well and on the way home from work. No one asked for their items, so I could get whatever I wanted, so I went there and found lots more than just fencing for free. I got over a gallon of "simple green" cleaner, a gallon of bathtub cleaner, a large pick-axe, two fence mouted flower baskets, an electric corner sander (works great), an electric sidewalk edger, a hardwood floor cleaner set (new in the box), and some painting supplies. ... and I had to leave some interesting items behind!

Then I picked up 2x8's from an old deck for free just down the street to make the raised garden.

I already have excess deck screws out in my shed, and I know where to get some free dirt, so if only I could get free seeds I would be able to have a totally free garden.

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Well... the first quarter of 2013 is over so perhaps its a good time to review the financial year (so far).

First I used up the remaining medical flex spending account money from 2012 (I have lots of bandages & thermacare to last for years now!).

On the hobby collectables front, I've picked up lots of classic kitchenware in these 3 months - the girlfriend keeps saying she can't break up with me, as she won't want to lose access to my kitchenware. Ah, there is a method to my madness Wink We've been selling some of my excess things and some of my girlfriends excess scrapbooking items this quarter - we have brought in ... oh I don't know... maybe $700 so far? We still have lots more to go through! Maybe I should keep track (probably won't bother), but I hope we can hit $2,000 in sales by year end.

My investments this quarter have done well. My 457 & Roth IRA combo has gone from 279k to 319k (up $40,000), and when you add in my (savings / brokerage / DRIPs / saving bonds) the overall total has increased $46,000. Since I had an increase of $60,000 for all of 2012, I'm not expecting great results from here on out (the market can't keep going up like this). Even so, you can't complain when your investments are earning this type of money.

I've also been helping the girlfriend with her investments. So far so good, but hopefully when there is a correction (and there probably will be) she will understand this comes with the territory.

(Not financial but...) I've been able to keep up my exercise regimen. My girlfriend says she can see the difference from even 3 months ago. Some days I wake up sore and tired, but its a good tired. I also saw doctors to use up my FSA money, and got some lingering issues taken care of, so now I'm ... not new, but improved!

On a good deed front, I sent out to someone on Craigslist some baby formula coupons I have gotten in the mail for some reason ($35 worth). They did send the stamped envelopes, so its not like I
spent money to do it. Oh well, hope its used well.

Plums, On the Grid, and Working Towards Independence on Independence Day

July 4th, 2012 at 10:10 am

OK, where to start. First, I survived the power outages here on the East Coast - thankfully I was without power for *only* 30 hours. In 100 degree temps - ugh! Couldn't this have happened on a weekday? If it had, at least I could have gone in to work and enjoyed the A/C there! I did go to the mall, and every available outlet was filled with someone's phone charger!

My plum jam experiments have been interesting. One batch came out with a sweet/tart flavor, the others were fairly sweet. My girlfriend tried making plum bread (so/so to my taste), so I modified it in the past week and did two more loaves. The first one was great, the last one not as good. But in any case, doing this has kept my food costs down, as I haven't been buying as much at the grocery store. There are still more plums in the fridge - I'm not sure if I want to experiment more at this point, or toss out what's left. Hmmmm....

=== Frugality Items ===

Yard sales have been interesting. I haven't gotten as many things this year, but I *have* gotten some great items for me, my girlfriend, some relatives, and for resale. Two weeks ago I bought a small lot of ViewMaster reels for $1. So far I've listed about half on ebay for minimum bids of $30. From prior yard sale finds I sold a DVD set I got for $1.25 for $12 on Half.com as well as a few other books (for a few dollars). My online sales have been paying for everthing I have gotten at yard sales so far - gotta love it.

For myself I've been finding various classic Pyrex dishes lately. Not that I am into cooking (my jam experiements not counting), but I like the retro look, and go with my "retro" (so to speak) hobbies. It's funny, my girlfriend jokes that she won't be able to ever break up with me because it would be a shock to her system to lose access to all the great cookware I have. There *IS* a method to my madness Smile.

Also last weekend I found some classic toy trains (one of my hobbies) at a great price (yeah I was shocked). I am selling the pieces I don't want for what I paid, which will allow me to keep what I want and pay $0. Yep, that'll work!

Yesterday I went to CVS and got 4 2-liter Coke bottles for $2.20 (sale & coupon). I then got more coupons on my receipt, so with a little online research to find more coupons I was able to put together the following purchase...

For a grand total of $10.09 today I got:
* Large Crest Toothpaste
* 4 bottles of Coke
* 2 bottles of Physician Formula Anti Wrinkle creme (ok, maybe not that important for a guy, but if I can get it for free... why not?)
* 2 Old Spice Deodorant
* Bottle of Dawn dish detergent
* $10 gas gift card

Basically I got everything except the gift card for free. Hey, its Independence Day - this will help me towards my financial independence.

=== On the financial front ===

Speaking of independence, my Roth IRA is now up over $50,000 which I think is great. While not everything in it are dividend producers, I checked this quarter and the annual dividend rate is now running at about $1,100 in the Roth. While I won't be able to retire off of what my Roth will be producing, if I can get it to produce $2,500 by the time I *do* retire that will be a nice tax free cash flow.

I went to the dentist office last week and they agreed with my calculations and are supposed to be sending me a $300 refund from overpayments. I live a mile away and no check has appeared though. Ugh. If it doesn't show up soon I may need to make another trip there. Grrr...

=== Lastly --- For My Health ===

My daily workouts have continued. The girlfriend thinks I am losing weight, but really I am just redistributing it. It is nice to feel healthy, though I do have some aches from the weightlifting.

The good, the bad, and the hopefully not ugly.

June 17th, 2012 at 07:05 pm

June has been a month of contrasts for me so far.

In the good category, yards sales are going "pedal to the metal" now. I generally don't buy too much as I have so little I need, but I still find some nice bits and pieces every week. In the last few weeks I have been able to pick up more DVDs (and Blue Rays!) to sell ($0.25 each), books to sell (including one that was $0.25 - sold 3 days later for $25), bicycle hangers for my garage (they work great!), storage bins for my hobbies (@ about 25% of store price), some classic Pyrex for the girlfriend (cleaned up & look like new - unfortunately they're not pink which are her favorites), and other bric-a-brac. As for the good finances my Roth has lots of dividend producers, however they mostly pay in the 3rd month of the quarter. Well its the 3rd month, and the dividends are pouring in (happy - happy).

For my ugly, I had a dentist bill me for almost $600 for some work (based on their estimate of insurance (end of May). Ok, that amount will be reimbursed by the FSA, but the sucky part (besides the large expense) is that the insurance paid much more than the dentist office was saying (try $300 more). So now its off to the dentist office and see if I can get them to straighten this out (they'll probably give me some song and dance saying I need to come back another time because its "not in their system" or some such). They always insist they know how much the insurance pays, but every time they're not even close. They're lucky I like them (and are close), otherwise I wouldn't put up with this. And then I have had other expenses with paying for upcoming vacations, so this month has taken all my free money - no additions to investments for me this month (Boooo).

Finally for the "I hope it ain't ugly" part, I am getting lots of small plums from a tree out back. I'm hoping to make something from them (butter, bread, oh I don't know...). With my girlfriend coming this coming weekend and enthusiatic about trying some things, this should be interesting! If we can make something I like, this will be a great home made food year (mulberry jam came in at over a gallon for this year).

Free electricity and jam (well... sorta)

May 23rd, 2012 at 05:01 pm

Its hard to write anything when you're in a (good) groove, but I have two recent items that are now sorta free.

First, I got my latest electricity bill. I went and added that to the prior two bills. Admittedly these are the lowest usage months of the year, but the total was $94.15 for the last 3 months. And then I checked the dividend I got for the last quarter from my stock in the company - $94.35. It was more than my bills for the last three months! Of course Uncle Sugar is taking a 15% skim from my dividend, but still... its nice to see that my dividend "covered" my electricity usage (sorta - you know what I mean).

The past week the mulberry tree at the corner of the property has started to produce quite a bit of fruit. Unfortunately this fruit can't be kept fresh for long (maybe a week or two max). It always bothered me that it mostly went to waste, so I decided to try making jam and canning it. I've made two batches of jam (using that fruit pectin thickener you can buy) so far, making 2.5 quarts of the stuff. It tastes excellent, though I think I will grow tired of it long before I run out. To do this I had to buy jars, lids, sugar, and the thickener. Its costing me about $1 per jar, but if I had the jars it should be half of that. Quite the learning experience, and relatively easy to do. I already gave a jar to a coworker (he's into organic everything, so this is up his alley). The GF is ready to try it this weekend.

And on a financial note, I just put in $300 for more Heinz stock (one of my DRIPs). With no major expenses now my savings / DRIPs / brokerage should start to grow, though with the market going south lately my retirement accounts are sagging badly.

Saving money techniques work for me

May 11th, 2012 at 04:47 pm

Just a few money saving techniques I have used this week that have my costs way down this past month.

The cook top on my stove literally crumbled through last weekend. What I had though was cracking of the enamel on my 14 yr old stove top turned out to be rusting from underneath (booooooo). After some researching online and seeing they don't make the "prescribed" cook top any more, I found another one that the part number was off by one digit and looked like a match. I used my ebay proceeds (from sales of items I found for free at a "take anything you like" house remodel) to get the top and it was delivered in 2 days. It was a perfect match, and now I have a nearly new stove again for little money.

Last month I called a local hospital and asked for my money back (that I should need to do that.... grrrr.... anyway) and I now see it has shown up as a credit card credit. Not as good as a check, but darn close. I guess I paid the bill this way, so that's how I am getting it back. Still... nice to see some money show up.

The local newspaper did its usual increase on my rate after the "special" rate ended, so another call had to be made. At first they were going to give me the new rate after the 8 weeks I paid for expired (paid - as in they automatically took it outta my credit card). Errrmmm... I think not. Either change it now or I'm walking and getting my money back, and they did. So now I am paid until the end of September (about 40% of their normal rate)

All of this, and lots more... and with no mortgage, cool weather (low utils), using gift cards I bought months back, etc.... my expenses for last month were crazy low. Credit card bill was $130, gas & electric was ~$55, food was ~$100, and maybe $40 for yard sale finds. No other outgoing expenses for the month. It'll go up in May with a car insurance payment, but oh well... a month with total expenses under $350, yeah that'll work for me.