1 Million Dollars

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saving money just by asking

As we were looking at our budget one thing that jumped out at us was the internet bill.  Even with the $5 savings by bundling it with our cell phone we still pay $40/month.  But verizon had discontued dryloop so even if we went down in speed we could not save money.  Or so I thought.  I mentioned this problem on the MMM forum (http://forum.mrmoneymustache.com/ask-a-mustachian/) and was told about dsl extreme.  However, the discounted rate was $24.95 for a year plus a $2.88 fee and then it jumped up to $34.95/month.  Did I want to do this, especially when it meant buying a new router?  Not really, but what other choice did I have? 

So, I turned to my husband and asked him to call verizon and let them know that we were wanting to switch to a new company because of the price, could they do anything to keep us from leaving?  And they did!  Not much, only $5/month and only for a year but where else can you save $60 for ten minutes worth of work.  That is $360/hour, I know I don't earn that much. 

Has anyone else saved money just by asking?  Who can you think to ask for a deal?  The worst anyone can say is no and if you don't ask, the answer is already no.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Biannual Review Time!!!!

My husband and I are in the process of organizing our ENTIRE life, including our finances.  One way to do so is to have an fiscal review time.  Back when I was staying home we reviewed the finances monthly, but honestly I did not have time once school and our daughter came.  So we decided we would get together and review our finances twice a year, once during the summer and once during winter break.

However, after this review I don't think we are reviewing enough and we need to be more in touch than we have been.  So, bad news first, we are $400 over in spending for groceries.  Wow, that is six whole weeks of grocery spending. Thankfully we did our review before our major grocery shopping trip and because of finding this out, we made some changes.  Normally we do a major grocery trip every other week and then go to trader joe's for fruit and other items only at trader joe's the opposing week.  We also do runs to cvs and tops market when there are good deals.  Part of the problem was that there have not been many good deals from cvs so we have been spending our normal cash on non-food items like paper towels, bathroom tissue and such.  Also, I have not been spending as much time getting the gift cards from mypoints as I could because my life has been so crazy busy.  But, I need to organize myself because I can't be that crazy busy for more than six months without changing something about my life.  But we will get back to that later.  What are we doing to save that $400?

Well, we cut out all of the "fat" from our grocery budget and were about to get down to $92 for the next two weeks.  But, I think we can stretch that food to three weeks if we hit trader joe's and our new store BJ's warehouse.  Our new plan will not include a major run every two week, but every three weeks, allowing for a run to BJ's warehouse and trader joe's in the weeks between, which does mean stretching the time between trader joe's visits as well.  This should save us some time as well.  Even if we spend high at trader joe's and average at BJ's, we will average about $41/week for the next three weeks if this works.  This does mean that we are eating out of the freezer and cupboard at lot so we won't be able to keep this low of spending but we should be able to get close to my goal of $50/week for the rest of the year this way, I think.  I will be reviewing this in three weeks to see how we did and I will report back!  I am also on the looking for more meals that can be made cheaply.  We also will be relying on our very small garden.

Because of our schedules our garden is mostly dead.  We have one tomato plant holding on, two basil plants barely holding on, our apple tree and the multiple blackberry bushes.  Right now this means I can get a few basil leaves a week and a small handful of blackberries every day.  I am going to use the blackberries to stretch our budget.  Then, when the apples come in, we will do the same with those.  We are lucky to have these fruits that will really help our budget, but that is not just luck.  Part of why we chose this house was the tree and we planted the blackberries three years ago because I know I don't have a green thumb.  Blackberries are one of those plants that acts like a weed and is very hard to kill.  If you don't have much time, or are like me and kill plants, a blackberry bush can be great if you plan to live in your home for over three years.  Pre-planning when you have time can have great benefits in the future when you become busy. 

But on to the better news!  We ended under budget for miscellaneous expenses, like hair cuts, small appliances, etc which is surprising because we had to buy a new printer and I thought that would mean going over.  One of the reason I try to be strict with myself is so if issues happen I don't have a major problem.  Guess that did not work on the groceries, sigh.  Again, on to other expenses.  We are within budget for utilities but I would like to cut those down a little more so we are trying to cut down on dryer usage this summer. Everything else is pretty similar to utilities, within budget but I am still looking for more ideas to cut. 

Does anyone have ideas they have used for cutting expenses that they would like to share?  I always say "never assume you can't do better" and therefore am always on the lookout.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Updated Millionaire Plan July 2014

We have broken $20K!!!!  We now have $20,756 in retirement savings.  Wow, we are so close to our mini-goal of six month's expenses including COBRA ($21,000).  I know we will get there this month but I do wish we had broken $21K as well.  In that theme, I have decided that I feel my retirement savings is too low.  I am moving some of the money I have been putting towards general savings and debt repayment and putting it towards retirement moving our retirement savings to a round 20%.  This means saving $787.50 per month instead of $625 towards our Roth.  I know this hits my EF funding but I need to remember that in a true emergency, I could pull from the Roth IRAs because both my husband's and my Roth IRAs have been opened for over five tax years.   Hey, maybe I should see if I have any extra room in April 2015 and if I do, store my EF cash in the Roth.  What do people think of that?

So, since I am sure I will make our mini-goal of $21,000, I should mention that are next mini-goal after this one is $25,000, my entire gross annual salary and the amount I need to be able to move from target date funds to individual mutual funds.  I can't wait because often individual mutual funds have cheaper fees and I have more control, which makes the control freak part of myself happy. :P

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Third Guest Post

My third guest post is up at Trendy Cheapo http://www.trendycheapo.com/budgetliving/phd-student-saving-half-income/ and for once, my guest post have nothing to do with real estate!  The author of Trendy Cheapo is a fellow blogger in the Save 50 group and my post is about my efforts at achieving that goal.  I am not even close but getting there will be an amazing journey.  So, head over and let me know what you think of my progress so far!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Save money on the internet and saving time as well!!!!

Today I was talking to my roommate on how I convinced my mother to join ebates, http://www.ebates.com/rf.do?referrerid=QRRHKGFZxzZzS0zRVfiy7Q%3D%3D&eeid=26729 , a cashback website, for her online purchases, when I realized that I should check if petsmart had free delivery and was on ebates.  We normally get discounted gift cards from cardpool http://refer.cardpool.com/v2/share/6030046157951110512 and then buy our food and litter from persmart.  But why am I taking my very limited time and going to petsmart if I don't have to?

I found out that petsmart has free shipping on orders over $49, plus there is an online sale going on which will save me 10% today.  So I ordered the cat food and litter to be delivered to my house with the petsmart giftcard which I had purchased at 90% of face value.  So I spent $60.88 at pet smart, on a giftcard that only cost $55, plus ebates will give me back $3.04 so really I spent about $52 for a purchase "worth" $61.  So, I saved $9 for less work than driving to the store, plus I did not have to waste or time.  Because it would have taken much longer to drive and shop than order online.  Don't you love when money savings are a time savings as well.  Most times I either need to spend a lot of time or money to do what I want, here I saved both.  What a good start to weekend!

Is anyone else found a money saving trick this weekend?

The links is this article are my referral links, if this is the first time you have heard of these websites and decide to try them out, I'd love if you used my links.

Monday, June 16, 2014

How are you spending your summer?

Summers are great times for students, it is a time of great opportunity.  Right now I am looking around at undergraduate students who are spending 10 weeks working a lab (being paid!) through the CLIMB UP program here at UB (http://www.buffalo.edu/climb/climb-up.html) which will help them decide if they want to go to graduate school.  Unfortunately, this kind of summer opportunity was never one I could take advantage of because I had to work to pay for college.  This meant that because my work was not alright with taking a summer away, I never took advantage of such a great program.  My husband did and it was one of the reasons he got into a PhD program and I only was able to get into a Master's program.

So, what if you don't want to get into graduate school or can't afford to take a summer off from work?  Well, you still have opportunities during the summer.  The last summer before my husband and I left for buffalo we knew money was going to be tight.  We pay for moving, save for an emergency fund, and save for closing costs because this was the Summer of 2009 and the government was giving tax credits for purchasing a house and in buffalo it is cheaper to buy then to rent.  So, we worked.  My husband picked up a second job as a referee because loves hockey.  I picked up as many hours as I could at work.  Summers are great for earning money.  As a student I was always, go, go, go.  But the summer takes away all those class hours, all that studying.  Even if you add in a lot of fun times, there is a serious amount of time you can spend working. 

Your work can be something related to your hobby like my husband's refereeing, or just picking up extra hours from your school year job like I did or it can be a small internship.

Internships can be great but many are unpaid.  So how do you find one which is paid?  Tap your network.  Ask professors if they know anyone who needs extra help during the summer, talk with people at you career center, cold call companies that you would like to work for and ask if they have any summer opportunities for students, any of these may work.  Even if all you are doing is making coffee and stuffing envelopes, you can spend the summer making more connections for your future career or your next summer's wage.

Maybe you are sitting there and saying, but the summer has already started, what can I do NOW?  Hit the pavement, start dropping applications off.  Yes, most employers have hired their summer work force but often this is when they drop the ones that are not working out.  Connect with your friends, see if their jobs need anyone.  Ask your parents if they know anyone who needs help.  But this is not the time to be picky.  If you are good with dogs and someone needs a dog walking in afternoon, TAKE IT!  This is your time to be a freelancer, find opportunities for yourself.  Does someone need a tween driven somewhere, grab that opportunity.  Make everyone in the neighborhood know, you are there to help.  Someone is cleaning out their basement for a yard sale, can you help for a share of profits?  You may not make much at first but in this connections matter and by the end of the summer you so busy you won't know what to do with yourself.

But don't forget to have fun this summer.  By the time you finish college, summer break will be a thing of the past, so take advantage of it. 

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Updated Millionaire Plan June 2014

In May we decided to start funding my Roth IRA and to do so need to connect our bank accounts to Fidelity, and because of some technically problems that did not occur in May.  We did deposit $71.97 from our FIA credit card (https://www.fidelity.com/cash-management/american-express-cards) but nothing else.  But thanks to the market we still have had some nice gains. We now have $19587 in our retirement accounts.

We do plan to add the $625 that we missed in the month of May but because my husband is changing jobs in a few months we are holding on to the money for now.  Sadly we are still short of our minigoal of 6 months expenses including COBRA by $1413 (total minigoal is $21,000) but I bet we will make our goal by our August update.  After that our next minigoal will be $25,000, my gross annual income which will allow us to diversify outside of target date funds and therefore will lower our expense ratios.

I dislike paying extra if I don't have to and in eight to nine month, I won't have to.  I am still a fan of target date funds for new or inexperienced (or even lazy) investors but I have spent the entire time I have been building up our retirement funds learning about investing using index funds and have a pretty good idea on what I want to do.  That said, because of my husband new job, things may change in what we chose to invest in based on their retirement offerings.  I never want to stagnate, I always want to keep learning and being open.  Part of being a student is learning how to learn and my schools have done a great job at teaching me that.