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How much did efficient driving save us in 2013?

January 7th, 2014 at 08:38 am

In 2013, we drove ~9,000 miles.

The EPA est. fuel economy of our vehicle is 27/33/30 MPG (city/highway/combined). We drove mostly city miles.

Our end-year average fuel economy was 33.4 MPG.

Taking the highs and lows from this chart for our area (no link for area), the average price per gallon was $3.65.

9000 / 33.4 = 269.5 gallons
269.5 * 3.65 = $983.5 spent in 2013 on fuel.

9000 / 30 = 300 gallons
300 * 3.65 = $1,095 spent if attaining only EPA est. MPG

Total saved = $111.5.

This may not sound like much. However, keep in mind: I do not make many behavior modifications to my driving. It simply consists of accelerating slower, staying at or under the speed limit, and turning the car off whenever you would normally idle, and slowing down much sooner for stops.

If you want to learn more, visit CleanMPG.com

Little Updates

April 24th, 2013 at 08:58 am

Our car insurance is going up by $20/mo in June, due to a speeding ticket I received. I contested it so that it, and won, but somehow it is still on my record. No idea.

Anyways, we decided to drop Collision coverage, as our deductible was 1/5 of what we paid for the car. We also opted to lower our Comprehensive deductible from $500 to $250 for only $12 more per 6 months. And considering that we have had a couple break-ins on cars at the property this year, this is a good idea.


In less than two weeks, my wife and I are ditching our kiddo with her parents (driving in from out-of-state) for some much-needed us time! Heading down to Portland to enjoy some fine coffee, beautiful scenery, and some vegan/vegetarian cuisine!

Rent On the Rise - Where to Trim the Fat?

April 9th, 2013 at 09:48 am

Our rent is due to go up by $20 in June. I received a $.36 raise this year ($57/mo) and as a result, our food assistance dropped by $50/mo. Makes sense. But now rent is on the rise as well. The $20 won't break us, as I will still come out $80/mo ahead (before including ~$80/mo commission), but it is still a set-back.

Our expenses are almost as bare-minimum as it gets. Prepaid phones (actually, my phone is on a family plan with my parents, but only costs $2/mo more than prepaid), slowest Internet, no cable, only $40/mo in fuel (no commuting), etc. We even slashed our electric bill by about $15/mo by line-drying our clothes inside rather than using the dryer. We only contribute $80/mo of our own cash to groceries ($230/mo for two adults and one child after assistance).

The only unnecessary expense is $30/mo in coffee.

Water/Sewer/Garbage is through the roof at $80-110/mo. No idea how to avoid that, being on a rented boiler system, an having to pay for other residents leaving crap everywhere.

So, that brings me to car insurance. We recently paid off our car, and still carry full coverage at $140/mo. This is the cheapest. We have looked around. If we drop all but the necessary coverages, it goes down to about $65/mo. Our car cost $5,500 at the time. In order for a downgrade to pay for itself to fund another vehicle, it would take six years to save $5,500.

What to do...

Fell off the wagon.

April 7th, 2013 at 10:47 am

March, and so far April as well, we have not done very well in the way of finances. Mind you, we have no troubles paying bills and all, but I have not been mindful about setting anything aside.
I am still paying bills on set days of the month, and have a month's worth of expenses in checking, but we have dipped below that a bit, and haven't made any deposits in savings.
Since March 1st, we have spent $304 in unbudgeted purchases.
$45 of that was for my wife's blog (which has the potential to have an income in the future).
$85 to dining out (no excuse).
$122 was for outdoor adventuring gear (all on clearance - $272 worth).
$26 was for coffee gear ($72 worth - $46 came from credit card rewards).
$22 for photography gear (potential to make money in future).
$4 for audio equipment (trying to fix record player).
Not sure how we got so off-target. The outdoor gear was foresee, but I did not set a savings goal for it when I foresaw the expense last year.
It has to stop. Almost two months of bad financial behaviour. Well, no more! Back on the right path!

Junk Pile Finds

February 21st, 2013 at 11:39 pm

There are some perks to my job. One of those being the stuff that people throw into the 'junk pile' that we have set up for furniture and donation items.

The following is a list of all of the items that I have found and brought home, with their retail values:

Vintage custom Mid-Century Sleeper Sofa by Seattle Mattress Co. (~$2,000 retail)
Canon D60 camera body (traded for espresso machine) (~$700 retail, ~$200 current market)
Outdoor table & chairs
iPod Nano ($200 retail)
Insignia iPod player ($150 retail)
Charbroil gas grille, large (~$300 retail)
Car Roof Rack (sold for $120)($200 retail)
Trunk-mount bicycle rack ($100 retail)
KitchenAid blender ($8 fix)($150 retail)
Bissell SpotBot ($200 retail)
ShopVac
Dyson DC-14 animal ($500 retail)
Bissell ProHeat 2 carpet machine ($250 retail)
Litter box, large
IKEA rug ($150 retail)

At least $4,400 worth in items that we have actually needed. Smile

Decrease auto insurance coverage?

February 19th, 2013 at 09:44 am

I have seen some financial advise articles say to get the least amount of coverage with the highest deductibles you can. They say that you will end up being able to save more in the long-run even if you end up having to replace your car for $1,500.

Our insurance is currently as follows:
BI 25/50
410.90
PD 50
UMBI 25/50
50.30
COMP Ded: 500
70.20
COLL Ded: 1000
269.30
Full Glass Yes
Total
800.70 six month premium

At $133/mo, I think we could see this go down a bit. What's everyone think?

Debt Payoffs! [Update]

February 18th, 2013 at 01:03 pm

We ended up with $674 after all was said and done (original estimation was $405, if you take a look at my last blog entry). The crib mattress ended up being $50 cheaper, and we had more in Checking than planned.

That went straight to Savings. And we can start contributing more-than-before to Savings starting next paycheck! Smile

---

Questions.

Some of you use the method of having one-month's worth of expenses in your Checking account at all times. I am starting this, and have already made one-half of the month's expense payments.

When do you refill your Checking to the original balance?

Here is what I plan on doing: Once I am paid, transfer it to Savings, less what I need to keep my running balance (not bank's balance shown) at the appropriate level ($1,761). Is this what everyone does? Every paycheck? Or just once per month?

Debt Payoffs!

February 11th, 2013 at 12:32 pm

We received our tax returns today. $4,848. We are doing the following:
• $2,318 to payoff auto loan. Woohoo!
• $900 to payoff credit card balance from moving last year for new job. (No more credit card balances!)
• $445 to payoff BillMeLater for camera and gear I purchased for side-work.
• $600 to Checking Account to keep one month of expenses in Checking, while income gets direct-deposited to Savings. (Thanks to the community for recommending this method!)
• $180 to IKEA for two dressers, one for wife and I, one for kiddo (currently stacking things on shelves; quite hectic!), and new crib mattress (either from IKEA or Target).
• $405 remaining for our anniversary trip to Portland, OR in May.

Paying off these items will free up quite a bit monthly for extra savings. Smile Which is great, because we have a few savings goals that we have yet to start on. They are:
• Savings for future business.
• Medical care savings.
• Future car savings. (We probably won't need one for quite a few years; only have 49,000 miles on our 2007.)
• College savings for the kiddo.
• Cushion savings!

A depressing realization.

February 7th, 2013 at 11:34 pm

Today, I turned 25. I also realized today that I only earned $25,000 last year. (Actually, I realized this on February 2nd, when we filed our returns.) That means that I only earned $1,000 annually for each annum I have been alive.

Then, however, I realized some other things...
- I only worked 11 months of the year.
- The year before, we only made $11,000 total between the both of us.
- We went from over $12,000 in debt to less than $4,200 in less than a year. This will go down to $1,900 after paying off our auto loan this month when we receive our tax returns.
- My credit score has gone up 104 points in a year!

My coworkers are in-awe of our living situation and our finances. They don't understand how I can make so little, support a wife and child, and have money to save. Not only that, but we can afford little amenities here and there. If you looked around at our house, or even how we dress and hold ourselves, you probably would not guess that we "make so little money." Maybe this is because we never pay full price for things, or just because we save money. Or, even, because we don't make large purchases often (only large ones have all been paid with parts of tax returns). Maybe because we don't complain or say, "Oh, sorry, we can't. We don't have money." Rather, when asked, we talk about how happy we are, what we enjoy, and not complaining all the time about weather or politics or why we deserve this or don't deserve that. When asked to go out to a movie or something that we have not budgeted for, we simply reply, "No, sorry, maybe next time? Just give me more of a heads-up first."

At the same time, people also seem to think we put up some sort of facade. As if we make more than we do. For the same exact reasons that others are in-awe. "Look at your clothes!" or "Look at your computer!" or "Didn't you just get a new coffee maker? So what's a $12 movie?!" It does sometimes get annoying, but we just have to smile and understand that they operate on a different spectrum than we do.

We are definitely looking forward to the rest of this year! Things are looking great! The future is bright! We have lots of plans. Smile Can't wait to share them, as I am sure there will be plenty of questions to go along with them.

Gardens, Move-out costs & Nice surprises

November 17th, 2012 at 07:10 pm

This week has been somewhat eventful.

We are almost entirely settled into our new apartment. Just a few more things to get squared away. We went in to talk to my manager (the property manager), and she surprised us with another $25 off for the unit. So a total of $50/mo we will be saving on this apartment.

However, today, we just received our move-out costs from the other property. $372. $110 more than we expected. Quite unfortunate. So, it will take eight months for this new apartment to make up for the move, but we still feel it was worth it. Especially considering that we will be able to grow a garden!

We got ten five-gallon paint buckets from work, and we are going to be cleaning them out. They will serve as planters. We will, however, have to build some sort of enclosure for them, as they could be considered an eye-sore to other residents. We still need to do our research into just what it takes to grow a garden, and come up with the upfront costs. Any pointers would be great!

We went to IKEA yesterday to get some Christmas items. For the wee one, we got a little baking set. They were out of the cookware set, but they should have it on Monday. We also got her an easel that doubles as a chalkboard, as well as a storage box.

For ourselves, we got four folding chairs, new 16-piece dish set, coffee mugs, and the tables we wanted was out, but should be back in-stock just after Thanksgiving.

So glad my overtime did not get taken away before I was able to save all of the money for Christmas. This will be our first Christmas with our own tree and what-not. A pretty big deal for me, considering my family did not celebrate any holidays, birthdays, etc.

Earlier this week, I learned that one of our team members may be getting promoted, and that our supervisor wants the rest of us to move up if it does happen. This would be great! Also, I just performed my annual self-review, and soon will have my supervisor perform the review as well. Depending on how well that goes, he will submit the reviews to the Regional Manager, and request that I be offered a raise. And, in 2013, the minimum wage is going up. My supervisor says that we should get an equivalent raise for that as well.

So, while we have had a few set-backs this month, I think we have done a great job at keeping our wits! It will definitely take some time to recover our savings to what it was, but we can do it!

Thanks to all for reading.

The Hits Just Keep on Comin'!

November 4th, 2012 at 08:38 pm

The other day, my wife had a dentist appointment. I was scheduled for that day as well, but I thought it more important for me to work that day instead, since I had missed a full day earlier that week when we were driving back home from our trip.

My wife drove herself there, and we had someone watch our kiddo. As she was backing out, she (according to her telling of the event) didn't know which way to go, as the car was parked so close to the pillar that our space is situated next to. So, not knowing which way to back out, she backed out straight, she says. Haha. I guess the mirror was on the same plane as the pillar, as it crashed against the pillar and snapped off.

If you recall, this is now the fifth time that we have busted a mirror on this car. Man, this vehicle has been through hell and back!

A new mirror is $26. However, I could get folding ones for $70 for a pair. I am not sure what to do, as our Emergency Fund is currently down to $336 since all the other stuff happened.

More Savings - Moving!

October 15th, 2012 at 05:47 pm

Most of you know that we have been looking to move out of our apartment and into something cheaper and more suitable to our lifestyle. We were mainly looking for a house.

Yesterday, however, we found a few apartments at the property that I work at (currently live at the property across the street run by the same company - a more expensive property). I checked out four of them, and then had my wife check out the best two.

We both fell in love with one unit. It is a different floor plan than our current unit. The one we are in now is laid-out in a somewhat cluttered way. You walk straight into the kitchen from the front door. From there, you go into the dining/living area, and then there is a bedroom and bathroom to the side. The new floor plan is set up much more friendly to those seeking hard lines between specified areas. You walk in and to the left is the dining area, in the middle is the kitchen, and just past that is the living area. The bedroom and bathroom are off to the opposite side. Hallway down the middle (with a bar where the kitchen is).

The dining area will serve as our daughter's space. Crib, toys, etc. will all go there. A much-needed improvement to the current layout, where all she has is a corner with her stuff jumbled about. We would consider putting her stuff in the room further from the entry, but the cable hookups are in the further room.

Probably the best bonuses of this unit is that it is; a) on the first floor, b) on a private courtyard (no pool, spa, etc. in the courtyard - just back doors from other units and a huge middle area), c) the patio is 3x the size of our current balcony. This means we may be able to start a garden if we build planter boxes, get soil, and get some seeds! Huge improvements there!

Now, here is the iffy part - it is only going to be $25/mo less. The other floor plan (same as ours) would be $65/mo less, but my thought process on this was that we would be happier in the other unit and therefore less likely to go looking to move as soon as if we were in the other floor plan. Also, this one will not get as warm in the summers as the other units, and the carpet is not brand new, so we won't be charged for carpet on move-out if we do decide to move out within the next year (doubtful). Also, it will end up being more than $25 less because of the way the W/S/G bill is set up. Residents split the rent of the rooftop boilers for hot water. Since there are always fewer vacancies at this property than the one we are currently in, the boiler rental fee will always be less. As well, our electric bill will be lower, as this unit will not get as much sun.

We are looking forward to this new change! We move on the 10th. Smile

Total Bills Cut This Month
Internet - $13
Auto Insurance - $20
Living Costs - $25-40

Total - $58-73


Not too shabby! Smile

Cut those costs!

October 9th, 2012 at 10:23 pm

I thought I would update some of you on our current financial situation. It has been a while!

Living Expenses

Rent, WSG and Electric have stayed the same. No improvements there. And last month we got a letter from our water provider saying they would be making it so that billing is current, rather than three months behind. They way they will do this is by rolling the extra months into other months. So, October and November are supposed to be larger payments than normal. (Great timing for the Holidays, people!) Unfortunately, we have yet to see the increase yet. I pay rent in two instalments each month, though, so I am sure it will happen on the next instalment. Unfortunately, that means that the $80 I was just able to send to savings will most likely have to be taken out again. >.<

Savings

I am now utilising a method suggested by users on the forum, that I am unsure as to why I had not thought of it before. Haha! Once you get paid, immediately move all unbudgeted "extra" funds to savings. I do have a question about this, however:
When should I reconcile my account and move the rounded monies to savings?
You see, I round up and down to the nearest dollar for all transactions. So I always have more in my account than my manual register says. And since I use my Chase Freedom card for all purchases and pay it each week, my checking account is almost never balanced, what with credit card payments taking three days to process and never knowing when to move rounded monies over to savings. Anyone have a solution to this? It is no necessarily an issue, since it currently serves as a small buffer. But it would be nice to fill that savings!

What I am doing currently is: Instead of paying only wha we spent on the Chase Freedom, I pay the rounded amount. This way it helps pay down the debt we accrued from moving over here for work.

Cost-Cutting

When we moved here, we got 20 Mbps Internet from Comcast for $29.99/mo for six months. Well, that six months went by quickly and, while 20 Mbps was sure nice, I decided to downgrade.

When Comcast kicked it up to $57/mo, I downgraded to their 3 Mbps plan for $39.99/mo with no contract. I then purchased our own modem (a better one) for $71, and was able to get rid of the $7/mo modem lease fee. So on the new rates, that modem will be virtually free after just four months. Not bad. So there is $17 more than before that goes to savings. Smile

Treats

If you remember, we were getting coffee once a week, as our only form of entertainment expense. I still don't think it was that bad, but we came into an opportunity to save more money.

A friend at work had a cheap espresso machine that he need could get a good shot out of. He also happened to be wanted a DSLR camera. I just so happened to have found a working DSLR camera body. He also just so happened to have lenses that fit it.

I think you can see where this is going. Smile

So, now, we have absolved most of that "treats" budget into groceries. Some is for coffee stuff for home, and there is room in there for one outing to a coffee shoppe per month ($6 total). Smile

I think a lot of you would be proud of us. We sure have done a log way!

Groceries

We have decided to go vegan, based on some personal beliefs of our own. We now make even more food from scratch than before. And by that, I mean all of our food except for food milk and flour. We buy everything in bulk (even agave syrup, farina, oatmeal, flour, etc.). We also get a Bountiful Basket every week. $15 for around 25 lbs. of produce every week!

Insurance

Some of you know a little about the insurance headache we went through when we moved over here. Switched from Allstate to Geico, Geico to State Farm. We have been with State Farm. However, in that time, they have cancelled our Roadside Assistance (with no drop in premium), and raised their rates "company-wide."

Today, we made the switch to Safeco Insurance. It would have been $10/mo cheaper had I kept the same deductibles and coverage. However, I decided to save a little more and raise the deductibles. I will most likely lower them again at a later date. Still no Roadside, but there shouldn't be a problem next year. Renters is also more affordable through them - $20,000 coverage at $100/year, $25 cheaper. Our monthly went from $147 to $127. I'll take it!

When is it worth it to move to save money?

June 10th, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Our total living costs (rent, W/S/G, electric) come out to 59% of our monthly income. This is simply unacceptable. However, it was what we could do in a pinch when we had to move 600 miles for this new job. Hey! It was nice. As an employee, I didn't have to pay any deposits, and we get a 20% discount, plus any specials currently going on.

But now that I am somewhat settled in my new job, I would like to look into other options.

Living in an apartment is not ideal. Especially with our little dog - she is so bad! She hates other dogs (unless they're in our house), and barks when we are gone (even with the muzzle on), and barks at everything and everyone if we take her with on a cool day and leave her in the car. So, having a yard sure would be nice. However, we simply cannot find any nearby - even outside our price range; it's like they don't exist! Not what I am used to.

We spotted one rental that was the entire upstairs of a nice craftsman home that would have saved us about $150/mo. Move-in fees came to $785 (cheapest I have seen yet). However, that would take us about 5.5 months to save all that money back up. Plus U-Haul, which would only be $20 (in-city move) + fuel.

Another option is moving into another property that is owned by this company. Same deals apply. And, since I work just across the street (actually, driveway) at another property, we could move there. Rent is cheaper, but also the amenities are slightly less. The cabinetry and floors are uglier, the kitchen faucet does not have the pull-out sprayer, but everything else is the same.

Anyways, I sort of wanted to start a discussion, so I am posting a corresponding post in the forums. [ur=http://www.savingadvice.com/forums/personal-finance/66640-when-worth-move-save-money.html]Go see it here[/url]! Otherwise, go ahead and leave your comments about our personal situation here. Smile

EF up, CC's next!

April 11th, 2012 at 12:45 pm

Made some larger-than-normal deposits today, by way of refunds from the former insurance company.

We now have $1,119.91 in savings! Woohoo!

So we have $1,000 in EF, and $119 in the Auto fund (for repairs, maintenance, registration, etc.). We will keep that fund on hold and pay-down the credit cards with any further extra we may get. Smile

Also, in not-so-happy news, I did not get to do that job last Saturday. Unfortunately, people were concerned about it being a Conflict of Interest, due to the fact that our customer was a person at corporate. Ah well...

Updates on Auto Ins, Living, etc.

March 16th, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Hi all. Thank you for following. Smile

We got both Auto and Renters insurance switched to Geico. Only saving about $11/mo, but the Renters insurance is much more inclusive (though they do outsource it with another agency). Comes with Fraud/Identity Theft protection. Smile

Today, we are going to Lowe's to pic up some picture hangers (bought a canvas painting at IKEA with a gift card!), screws for our accent lighting in our bedroom, tarps for our bicycles that are stored on our patio, for sale signs for the car, and a tool or two for various things. Gotta start collecting tools if I want to move up from my current position at work. Wink Also need them for working on the bicycles.

Also, today, we may be going to look at an '80's Schwinn Le Tour bicycle for $45. It is of higher build quality than my '72 Schwinn Varsity, so it will serve as a parts bike for mine. If we are going to be riding our bicycles instead of driving a vehicle, then we might as well upgrade them a little bit where it is needed.

And also, we might be getting a new stereo installed in our car today or tomorrow. Our old one went bad, so we bought a factory stereo for $50. Installation will be $25. I would do it myself, but I have not successfully done it before, and do not want to screw up any electrical in the car, because we are prepping it for sale.

Yesterday, at work, I found a great looking couch sitting out at the "junk pile" where tenants put what they consider to be junk. More accurately, it is where I put stuff that tenants leave in hallways and trash rooms instead of doing what they are supposed to because they are too lazy and feel entitled... Haha.

This couch looks like a mid-century sofa. It has a nice floral print and has a hide-a-bed, and is on rollers. It's pretty awesome. We love mid-century styles, and our current sofa is scratched up and bulky and way too contemporary for us. You can actually find the same set at RC Wiley. Not our flavour at all!

I stored this sofa in one of our maintenance rooms that only three of us have access to, so that no one would jack it. Ha! The sofa has no scratches or anything on it. Only thing is that the arm rests are somewhat hard, so our little one may bang her face on it a time or two. Haha. Well, that is going to happen no matter what. Smile

We're excited about the sofa. Just need to figure out how to get our current one down five stories to put in the junk pile. It does not fit in the elevator, and there is a divider in most of the stairwells blocking entry from Parking Level 1 to Parking Level 2 (where the junk pile is). I'll have to figure out which one does not have that divider, and hopefully enlist my wife's uncle to help.

Oh! Almost forgot. A few weeks ago, someone threw away a somewhat older DSLR camera. It was set nicely in its nearly indestructible case, with two battery packs, two memory cards, and cleaning tools. There is no lens in there, but we have done some research, and they still make lenses for it. This particular camera (just the body is in there) is the Canon EOS D60. It was made in 2002, so it is missing some more modern features. However, it is still a very functional camera. With 169 different Canon EF-series lenses ranging from $150 to $2,000, there are plenty of choices. Smile We found one for $170 that would do us quite well. This camera retailed for $2,200 back in 2002. The body by itself still sells on eBay and Amazon for $200. Smile So, we are going to keep it. It turns on and takes pictures fine - just need a lens and battery charger.

Woohoo for working in Apartment Maintenance! Smile

On a more downward note, we still have running balances on our credit cards. Currently paying only a little above the minimum payments, but that will all change soon enough.

We have been thinking about what we would do with the money left from paying off the car after selling it. We should have around $3,000 - enough to pay off Sallie Mae and our credit cards. However, that would leave us with no money to purchase a vehicle if we find that we can indeed not go without a vehicle. So, maybe we will wait a month or two to pay them off. Or we may pay off the cards or Sallie Mae, and keep paying the other. What do you think?

By the way, the current estimation of how much we will be saving per month after selling the car and having dropped the smartphone plans, is over $400! Smile We will be allocating $50 of that to groceries (EBT benefits are decreasing) and $30 to clothing at first (need rain gear and bicycle clothing such as rain jackets), bringing the net savings to $326 per month! Also, we will be getting Washington State Basic Health plans for my wife and I, at $60 each, bringing the new net savings to $206 per month.

It should be a little more than that, because all of our budgets are rounded up and income is rounded down (by about $100/mo), and we have not factored-in our current difference between income:expenses. Just factoring in what we will be saving from dropping the car and phones.

Sounds pretty great, right?! Smile

AT&T may want $450

March 4th, 2012 at 05:27 pm

We are going to check tonight, but here is the deal...

We want out of our iPhone contracts. Wife's is up this July. Mine is up November of 2013. Do not want to wait that long. Their Early Termination Fee for smartphone users is $325, less $10 for each month into the contract you are...

What if they do try to get us to do this? We do have that much in savings. But sheesh! Ugh! I would rather just tell them to shove it, but the prepaid phone plans we want are AT&T. >.

Sell the Car?

March 1st, 2012 at 10:29 pm



We have a 2007 Ford Focus. 44,000 miles (great for the year!). Great mileage. For us, at least - I hypermile, so I always exceed the EPA ratings. EPA ratings are 24/33, but I get 40 in the city. Rebuilt title. Needs tires.

Auto Loan: $3,400 - $136/mo
Auto Ins: $166/mo
Gas: $30/mo

We are contemplating selling. We do not want to, especially with its amazing miles, mileage, and reliability. However, take a look at this (not a pretty sight): Our budget.

As you can see, this leaves NO wiggle room at all. So, we need to trim the fat! We really cannot part with our phones. They are handy for when we do not have our bulky digital camera with us, and we have a daughter, so we need to capture those moments. It really is a fruitful part of our lives to be able to capture and share those moments, especially with being away from our families.

We could trim out our $32 in treats (Starbucks), which we have had to do before...

Student loans are already deferred, which I hate doing.

Rent cannot be trimmed. Nor can internet.

So that leaves the vehicle...

We have always wanted a VW camper. Why not get one if we do sell the car? If we sell the car for $7,500, we could have $4,100 left over to purchase a bus. Also, we could wait to get a bus while saving up more to get a better one. Good VW camper busses usually start around $4,000, but you should really look at spending $6,000 for one you won't need to do any serious work on for a couple of years. However, if we do end up spending $4,000 (and I have seen a couple of great ones for that price, but not very common), then I am thinking this: We will be saving at least $250/mo with not having to pay for the Focus anymore. So this could help us build a good savings again, since it was almost dwindled when we moved. Would help pay off credit cards we had to use for moving.

Here I am asking... What would you do? We like our car (don't LOVE it, but it is responsible). It is reliable, but if anything happened, we could not afford to fix it now. If we had an older vehicle (like the bus), we could afford repairs when it needed it. We could afford clothes (I am down to two pairs of undergarments and two pairs of socks, and the wife... Oh, man!). We could afford to get more clothes for our daughter (she has like five outfits and no rain-proof clothing; kinda need that here!). It would most likely be much better.

What do you all think?

Oh! One more thing! I have a contact that works on and sells (and know others that do as well) classic VW busses. So we would only be getting into a bus that we knew everything about, and knew what we were getting into.

SaveUp!

February 14th, 2012 at 10:20 pm

Found an awesome web site. Have used it twice. It is a play-to-win web site. You use tickets - which you earn for adding your accounts or by winning them, or even by paying down debt! - to play different games.

Rewards range from gift cards to loan payoffs to cars.

Have fun!

https://SaveUp.com/

Moving - Job Offer!

January 25th, 2012 at 04:52 pm

Hi all!

I am happy to report that I was offered a job in WA. This is great news! We will bring in more than we are now, and will be able to rent our own place. I will be performing apartment maintenance.

In order to complete this move, however, we will have to deplete our savings account (which is currently at $1,650) to zero. Ack! I have made a budget, and it looks as though we may even be forced to use the credit card.

While this is not at ALL what I want to do, I feel that it would be stupid of us NOT to. I will be making money right off the bat, will have full benefits within three months, and will be making even more as the years go on, as I will have plenty of room and opportunity for growth and promotion.

I will be working with my wife's uncle and his friend. Her uncle has been in the industry for over 10 years, while his friend - former assistant - started where I am, and became a supervisor within three years, and is now making $22/hr and gets free rent.

The planning is going well. We need to get our dog fixed before moving, and she decided that today was a good day to go into heat. Ack! Her appointment is on the 6th, so she will still be in heat then. We may have to pay the extra $25 to have it done while she is still in heat.

Anyways, wish us luck! You should be hearing more from me, as we will have much more going on. Smile

Career Opportunity - Your Input?

January 14th, 2012 at 07:44 pm

I thought that some of you may want to hear about an opportunity I have coming up. 

The other day, we went to Starbucks for our weekly treat. While we were there, a woman not much older than ourselves took notice of us - mainly our beautiful little girl. (No matter where we go, she is always catching peoples' eyes!) We got to talking with this woman, and it turns out we have a bit in common, and she seems like a soul that could teach us a lot as well. She carries a small journal and writes in it throughout the day, rather than hunching over an iPhone, like so many of us (*cough*me*cough*). 

Near the end of our discussion, she grabbed my number and said she would pass it along to her husband, as his "company is always expanding and looking for sharp individuals." 

He called the next day and we arranged to meet at the same Starbucks this evening. A couple hours ago, we had that meeting.

This man came across professional and strong, comfortable in himself and his life. I had some doubts about him, however. I wondered if he was for real. He said things like "ambitious" and "self-motivated" to describe the type of people he looks for. He said he likes to work with people that are busy, that have more than one thing going on in their lives. He said those were the type of people that get things done. 

He asked some things about me. He asked a little about my work history, but mainly about me, as a person. My ambitions. Goals. Aspirations. Where did I see myself in one to five years, if I did find that career I was looking for. I told him, "I'll tell you - I can't describe my future, without describing my family. We take joy in the outdoors, the world, the people in it. My wife and I have a dream about owning a VW bus for camping and road trips. We want to homeschool our little girl." And then I mentioned that Idaho ranked 47th in quality of education... "We want to be able to bicycle more." More on that in a moment. Smile "We want to eventually make our home in Portland." Then he asked why we felt Portland was a good match for us. I told him, "What's not to love about Portland? Really. It's beautiful. It's bicycle friendly. There is loads a family can do there, and affordably! There's history. Portland is the most eco-friendly city in America. It's.... For us, it's that place. You round the turnpike to get onto the interstate that runs through the city and... You see the city itself for the first time... And you get goosebumps. Nowhere else is it like that for us." All he said was, "Oh wow." He actually didn't know exactly what to say to that. He seemed impressed. 

So what exactly does this guy do? He explained, a little bit. "We work with entrepreneurs... And we set them up with retailers... Most of our income is residual." 

Near the end of our meeting, he asked if making $50,000 a year, 10-15 hours a week was something my family could live with. I tried not to act impressed, as I am still skeptical. I told him, "That would definitely be a good figure if it worked that way." I had to come up with this response on the fly, and I think it was a pretty neutral one. 

We set up to meet again on Tuesday at 7:40p. We will meet at Starbucks, then go to his house. Hmm. He told me to bring my family so we could talk more in detail and decide whether or not it is a good decision for us to make. 


It sure sounds like a wonderful opportunity, does it not? What do you all think? 

I thought this sounded like something someone would rather hire a college graduate for...?

--

We got a bicycle trailer for the little one! Finally! It's a Burley D'Lite two-kid stroller. Or, if you're us, one kid and a Miniature Schnauzer! Smile It also converts to a jogging stroller, which is what we have been looking for. If you look this one up, it retails anywhere from $500-700. How much did we get it for? $100. Smile 

We sold my massage table for $180, put $80 into our birthday trip fund, and $100 for the stroller. We think we got a great deal. Smile 

Amazon Free Shipping - Short by a little & don't know what to get?

January 12th, 2012 at 12:46 pm



I am a fool for Amazon.com's FREE Super Saver Shipping. And here's why: If you spend just a little more, you can usually end up getting something basically for free, when you figure that that money would have been used for shipping.

Earlier this week, we went out to the car to find that some idiot had broken one of our wiper blades. The same person also got into another person's car. Well, I am pretty sure that the wiper arm is okay, so I just need a new blade. Straight from the manufacturer, these blades are $30. No thanks! So I looked at AutoZone and similar places, to find blades for the same price, but of much better quality, such as the RainX blades.

Then I read about silicone blades. These things last for YEARS, rather than the recommended six months. And they keep on working! And, guess what... Retail price is $25!

So I did some hunting, and found the same ones on Amazon for much cheaper! To be exact, the driver side (a 22" blade) is $14.27, and the passenger side (a 19" blade) is $10.40. Altogether, that is just under $25.

Well, as most of you know, FREE Super Saver Shipping kicks in only at $25, on eligible items. So I browsed my Save For Later list, and realized that I had some Kool Stop bicycle brakes on there for my '72 Schwinn. SWEET!

Added those to the cart and the total came to just under $35, $5 cheaper than if I had ordered just the blades and paid for shipping. HA! Take THAT, Consumerism! And I got all those for less than one blade from the manufacturer. Smile

So, if you think you're just going to have to buck up and pay for shipping, remember to check your lists. If you can't find anything in there cheap enough, there is this super awesome tool, called the Amazon Item Filler. You simply enter the amount that you are short on receiving the FREE Super Saver Shipping, and it finds items in and around that amount. Alternatively, you could always enter the difference between the total for shipping, and the current amount of the items you have. In my case, this would have been about $10.

Here are links to the items mentioned in this article:
edit: For some reason, links are not showing up when using vB code or HTML... >.<
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00029X5WO/ref=oh_o00_s00_i00_details - Silblade (choose your size - don't know it? Amazon does!)
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001SYM690/ref=oh_o00_s02_i00_details - Kool Stop Continental bicycle brake pads
http://www.filleritem.com/ - Amazon Filler Item Finder

Fooducate Yourself

December 10th, 2011 at 10:09 am

Yesterday, we finally got a chance to use a new iOS app that my wife found the other day.

Using the built-in barcode scanner (or by typing in the name of the food product), you can instantly view the health information about that item. It will give you a letter grade ranging from F to A+. It will then break down the information into things such as calories per serving, how it ranks on a dieter's theoretical list, etc. And, the best part, this app also informs you as to the content of that item. Potatoes are high in Vitamin C, and it will tell you that. It will also tell when an item's packaging contains BPA. Or, hey, how about that Smart Balance vegetable spread that your doctor recommends? How about the fact that it contains TBHQ and EDTA? Bet your doctor didn't tell you that! I also bet you wouldn't have guessed that Bush's reduced sodium kidney beans are considered one of the healthiest!

For those that are looking to really get away from the CRAP found in your everyday foods, this is a really awesome app for you!

Fooducate - web site - App Store



Fooducate - web site - App Store

The Reason - Responses?

December 1st, 2011 at 11:23 pm

Recently, my wife has been looking into going to school. If you remember, she is now the one working, while I am a stay-at-home-father and practicing my poor Algebra skills to retake the Math COMPASS for entry into college. She has been looking at the Paul Mitchell school - something she has always considered doing. She would receive 2,000 hours in Cosmetology training. We have thought about this. The school's job placement rate for new grads is 86%. Pretty good. Average salary is about $24,000/yr. "That would help us get out of our living-with-family situation," we think. Then we realize that we would also lose Food Stamps, which is over $400/mo. So, to make up for that, pay our current bills, plus pay her tuition, and put $700 towards rent and utilities, we would have to net $2,000/mo. On one income...

We are still donating plasma, but it is not the $440/mo that we have hoped it would be. While that is the max potential (two people, two 'donations' per week), we have found that it is not always possible for us to do so. So, it has turned out to be around $100/mo. 

Also, I have taken it upon myself to try to find odd jobs to do. This has come to me in the way of oDesk.com. It is a freelancing/contracting web site that appears to have some threads of truth to it. I have been working on my résumé in order to make myself more desirable, so I have yet to apply to any contracts yet (limited number of applications per week). So I do not know how that will pan out. 

Anyways... While the job placement percentage is decent, it is an $18,000 tuition in a field where the demand comes strictly from desire rather than from need. The clients are there because they want to be. Because they are able to afford it (or at least have some credit left on their cards). I am still paying off my $18,000 tuition from when I went to school for Massage Therapy. I am a great Massage Therapist. Great technique. Great form. Wonderful pressure. Superb personal skills. And that sixth sense that a lot of MT's don't have, but wish they did... And yet, I have never been employed in the field. 

What are we to do? We live off of $600/mo. We live in an oppressive and downright dangerous environment where the downstairs wreaks of cat feces and occasionally marijuana, where the other residents do not take into account the welfare of the infant in their house, etc., etc. We have been married over a year and a half, and have been together for longer, and have not once lived in a place of our own! 

This. This is the point of all that we strive to do, financially. Money is the only thing that can change our lives at this point.

What are we to do? Suggestions for my wife? For me? 

Thank you for reading.

Mint.com - anyone use it?

November 5th, 2011 at 08:03 am

I love the idea behind Mint.com. However, I have yet to be able to use it successfully. The most irritating thing about it, is that it will categorize purchases all by itself after I've already categorized them (or, in Mint.com terms, set a budget for them). So it screws everything up. I am probably missing something, as Mint has a HUGE user base.

Anyone use it?

Also, credit score went up two points this month, probably from paying off the personal loan. Was hoping to see it go up a lot more, but oh well.

Want to Get Back @ Big Banks?

October 30th, 2011 at 09:17 pm

Obviously, the absolute best way to get back at banks is to never owe them money, or even to never bank with them. However, we live in a digital age, so the latter may not be possible for a lot of us. I know that it is not for me. There is still yet more to do!

If you are still receiving credit card offers via snail-mail, there is a beautiful - and I do mean b-e-autiful - way to be a nuisance to them.

Have a gander and let me know what you think! I will be doing this from now on.

(Apparently, you cannot embed YouTube videos. So, here ya go...)

http://youtu.be/ZgkSiyIUz_w

A Nice Surprise

October 29th, 2011 at 02:52 pm

Last night, I had a dream that my wife said, "You know what? We still haven't found those two $10,000 checks that we lost!" Ugh! Ya, right! Haha!

Today, however, I moved $45 to our Savings. The $45 was a result of our rounding*. I applied the $45 to our Auto fund. That is the fund used to purchase - you guessed it! - auto parts, repairs, maintenance, etc. We now have $201 in that fund. We also have $312 on its way from PayPal to our checking account that will be applied to Auto as well. This will result in enough money for us to get new tires for the car! Smile

Why am I so excited for tires for the car? Well, a) because we just took a drastic cut in income. We are now living on about $600 less per month than before! And b) because I am going to be LRR*1 tires that will help improve not only our already awesome fuel economy of 40 mpg (which is over 128% better than EPA est. MPG*2), but also will last us 80,000 to 100,000 miles. Smile

So, we are doing pretty well! We have restructured our budget, paid-off a personal loan, and I am working on getting enrolled in college.

Also, since we got the Chase Freedom card, we have been doing pretty with it. It's nice having a credit card, using it for everything, and never having a running balance. Smile

*1 - LRR - Low Rolling Resistance. LRR tires are proven to increase fuel economy and are built to last longer. They use a harder composite than traditional tires. They are found on all hybrids, and only recently are being manufactured in more common tire sizes for the use by non-hybrid vehicles.
*2 - EPA est. MPG for our vehicle is 23 city / 30 hwy / 27 combined. Currently getting 40 mpg with 90% city driving. Learn how you can do this, too, by visiting http://www.CleanMPG.com/ and help reduce this nation's dependency on foreign oil. Be a
patriot.

$25 of FREE Gas!

October 7th, 2011 at 08:05 pm

Looks like some good vibes were sent out way (Thank you all!).

Today, we pulled up to the Chevron and the pump read, 'Begin Fueling'. I expected it to say 'Insert Card or Pay Inside'. I started pumping. It began slowing down at one point, so I got back out of the car and found that it had stopped at $25 even. Confuzzled, I then looked at the other display, which said nothing. So I put the pump back. It then said 'Insert Card or Pay Inside'. Inserted card. Filled up to a bill of $17. Woot!

Talk about good vibrations!

Only got 39 mpg this tank. Only. Haha. I remember when I was excited to hit 35. The past few tanks have been 40, though, so I was hoping to maintain that. Will hit it this time around. Wink

A Fresh Start (New Blog)

October 6th, 2011 at 09:18 pm

After some drama with my previous employer, and per the advice of some regular readers of mine, I have decided to create a new blog, in the hopes that I am not stalked by said employer's staff.

A little about who I am and what I am about. I am married, Christian, have an 8-month old daughter, and am recently unemployed, due to my previous employer making false accusations and following them up with a termination. Currently in proceedings with the Department of Labor and finding other employment. I start school at the local university in Spring of 2012. I will be majoring in Nursing. It is my dream to someday work as an OR Nurse or in a pediatric oncology unit. We shall see just where it all leads me.

We currently live in my parents' house, where my 32 year old delinquent brother does as well. If you know who I am and have read my previous posts, you will understand that he is not exactly the greatest person to live around. We were planning our exodus from this place when I was terminated from my position and almost all hopes of any future employment that I was seeking were lost.

I am a hypermiler. By that, I mean that I pump my car for more fuel economy than the average person. Our car, a 2007 Ford Focus S with 5 speed manual transmission, is EPA rated at 24 city/33 hwy/27 combined. I have consistently been averaging 40 mpg or more on the past few tanks, as I am improving my skills. You can find my stats at my CleanMPG.com profile. Once our tires are done for, I will be purchasing LRR (Low Roll Resistance) tires, which help to improve fuel economy. Also, I am running AMSOIL Signature Series 100% Synthetic oil, which is good for 25,000 miles/12 months between changes. It also provides superior cold-weather start-up, lower friction, and is more affordable (when calculated by qt per mile) that all other oils available. This oil costs about $.27 per mile, as compared to Mobil 1's $.67 (thereabouts).

There is plenty more to know about me, and I am sure I will touch on them in the future, as I have already done in my former blog here on savingadvice.com.

Some more recent developments are that my wife has an interview with her former employer (Macy's) for a non-seasonal sales position. Talk about role reversal! I am pretty concerned as to how well I will do with the little one with mommy gone off to work.

Also found out today that my credit rating went up from 715 to 726. Up 11 points from last month. Started at 640 in February. Now that's rewarding!