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Archive for January, 2013

Another Amazon GC

January 31st, 2013 at 08:46 pm

Swagbux frustrates me. It's feast or famine! I get most of my points through surveys, and sometimes I hit, other times not. Over the last two days, I got 250-point and 150-point surveys, which helped me to get another $5 gc. I'm still waiting for the last one I ordered to come through. That will bring me to $30 so far this year. How great if I could keep that up all year!

It's been a long week at work, so I haven't gotten much done. We're going out to dinner tomorrow (on DH's company) for a belated Christmas dinner. When I get home from that, I'll finalize my January numbers, which are pretty well set.

As for the weekend, the hub and kids want to take MIL to see The Hobbit and are insisting I go with them. We all saw it already (except MIL) and I wasn't nuts about it. I thought Lord of the Rings was much better. The start to this (3 hour) movie was extremely slow, and it's not really my genre of movie. So hmmm, spend 5+ hours round trip watching a movie I have absolutely no interest in, or spend 5+ hours hanging home with the dog in total peace and quiet. Tough choice. We'll see how it works out. MIL will pay for the movie tickets, so there will be no money out of pocket at least.

Time for bed. I'm hoping to catch up on some sleep this weekend too!

Free Papa John's pizza

January 30th, 2013 at 04:07 am

Papa Johns is having a Superbowl promo. Guess the flip of the coin correctly and you get a coupon for a free, large 1-topping pizza. Vote online by Saturday night.

http://www.papajohnscointoss.com/?utm_source=74709&utm_medium=partner&utm_campaign=201374709


$9.60 Snowflake

January 29th, 2013 at 02:10 pm

Adding to my February totals...

The box of books for Powells that I feared may have gotten lost was received yesterday, and $9.50 was sent to Paypal. I also found $.10 on the bus this morning, bringing my total "found money" to a whopping $.15.

I think I'm addicted to the whole "sell off books/CDs/DVDs" thing. A team leader gave us all copies of a management-teamwork book that I had already read and my first thought, no lie, was "I've already read this. I wonder how much I could get for it." I didn't sell it, but the thought definitely crossed my mind!

52 week Yahtzee challenge

January 28th, 2013 at 03:27 pm

And the week one total is...(drumroll)

$1

Not the quick start I was hoping for, but the whole point is that each box needs to get crossed off once, so does it really matter? I was actually lucky to get the $1. I was in the post office mailing some packages, and the total came to $7.04. I had $8, and apologized to the clerk for not having change. The woman behind me gave me $.04, leaving me with the $1. I'll have to pass that random act of kindness forward.

I'm making it through January in pretty good shape. Over here, under there, with a little bit left over. I need to count my coins and cash in at least $15 worth, so I can bring my extra Heloc payment up to at least $100 (on top of a $500 regular payment).

I finally watched Forks Over Knives today. I really liked it. Both hubby and I have family histories of all sorts of diseases. We've been trying to reduce our meat consumption all month, and have found it easier than we thought. The documentary added a little more incentive to keep it going.

February will be a much tougher month, financially. We've already blown the entertainment budget by getting us and the kids tickets to a concert in April. The memories will be "priceless", but the hit on my checking account was "pricey". I also enjoyed a free month in January for my electric bill (I had a credit balance from the monthly budget billing plan). I also inadvertently prepaid the water bill in Dec, so January was a free month there too. Time to put my creative hat on and see what adjustments to make...

CD Sales

January 26th, 2013 at 12:17 pm

When I sold my last round of dvds, video games, and books, I had not gotten around to cataloging my cd collection. I did that yesterday and ended up selling a bunch to Eaglesaver ($27.29) and Secondspin ($20.05). In doing so, I got rid of so many cds that the kids never listen to. (The Jonas Brothers and Disney Moves CDs were particularly gratifying)! So $47.34 already in line to start my February snowflakes.

DH comes home today. We have a very short window between church tonight and DD's soccer game, so we're going with ravioli and sauce for dinner. I need to run out to the store to pick that up, along with a few things that should hold me through the week.

The pup was sick all day yesterday. Couldn't keep anything down, and was just blah all day. I held off taking him to the vet to see if it passed. It seems to, as today he ate a bit and went out for a walk, but he's clearly tired. I do need to pick up some Resolve at the store, though!

DD has a basketball game tomorrow, but nothing else going on. I did get suckered for basketball pictures for both DS and DD this morning. $16 each for individual and team pics. Such a waste of money. I need to get better at "just saying no" to this kind of thing.

3 Freebies

January 25th, 2013 at 09:40 am

Today was a good day for freebies!

1) I finally got the remaining points to snag my $5 Amazon gift card, which will bring my total to $25. It should come through within a few days.

2) I got a $5 rewards gift card from Best Buy. This was particularly nice because I wasn't expecting it. I signed up for their rewards program before Christmas when I was picking up a few things. I assume this is a result of having spent a certain amount of money then, but I don't know. Anyway, it's good through May, 2013, so I'll probably use it the next time DS is looking for a video game.

3) I won a free lunch at work! They have a healthy station in the cafeteria that I've been going to lately. They had a raffle for people who bought meals there. I put my name in and won! It's worth about $6, so that's cool.

I have an account with Viggle, which gives you points for checking into various tv shows. You get 1 point for every minute you watch tv (any show), and opportunities to win bonus points. You can typicaly get a $5 gift card for either 10,000 or 12,500 points, or in some cases a $15 gc for 30,000 points or a $25 gc for 62,500 points. At the end of the year I was able to get 3 $5 CVS gift cards, which was great, but they no longer offer CVS. I'm debating between Barnes and Noble (10k), Starbucks (12.5k), Chilis (30k) or Best Buy (62.5k).

I'm doing well with "use it up" week. DS made 2 great dinners with the veggies I had on hand, and I have leftovers for tonight and tomorrow. Very successful.

We've got a lot of sports going on this weekend, but it should be relatively inexpensive. I'm waiting for my 1/31 pay stub to post so I can finish up the finances and see exactly how much I have to pay toward the HELOC. Woohoo.

Love the new twist on the 52-week challenge

January 23rd, 2013 at 03:33 pm

When the 52 week challenge first came out I thought "eh". By the time the end if the year comes and I need to put away $40+/week, it's going to have to come from sources I would have been saving anyway, so why bother? But Jeffrey has developed a new twist on the challenge that I like: treat it like a game of Yahtzee...each week you have to save something, but the amount can vary based on what you have available in a given week. (He did a much better job of explaining it then I. See the home page for more info).

So I'm going to start this Friday, and I'm going to try to use sources of money that I normally wouldn't count. For example, I get $20/week allowance, so that will be the base and I'll go from there. Should be fun.

I finished a 100-pt swag survey yesterday, but something happened on the last screen and I didn't get credit for it. That would have put me over the top for my next GC, so hopefully I'll snag it tonight.

I planned out the pay down of my Heloc and mortgage. Using what I think are reasonable assumptions, I should have the Heloc paid off by Dec 2014 and the mortgage done by Aug 2016. Dd goes off to college in September 2017, so that's the ultimate goal, if my current dates slip. It's amazing how real it becomes when you write it down. I did it by hand (I'll transfer to Excel later) so it really registered!

My sister is in town helping me with the kids while hubby is away. So lucky to have such a great support network! I'm looking forward to a yummy dinner, wine, and catching up!

$7.53 Snowflake

January 22nd, 2013 at 04:08 pm

I received a $7.53 check today from a place like Ebates (% back for online shopping) for some gifts I bought at Christmastime. I'll deposit it this week and add it to the January Heloc total. I'm up to $85.85 for the month. I'd like to get to $100. I have coins to deposit that should bring me pretty close, if not over.

I have to follow up on a shipment of books to Powells. I received Eagle Saver and SecondSpin, which went out at the same time, but haven't heard a peep from Powells. I need to go back and see exactly what I sent out and give them a call tomorrow.

I did two frugal things today: First, I combined trips and hit the Bank (deposited checks), Staples (faxed something for dad) and Post Office (mailed a PBS book and letters) all in one trip.

Second, I stuck with the "use it up" plan. I was at the supermarket buying the kids' dinner (I buy the meat/fish fresh a few times a week). While I was ordering shrimp, the tilapia looked good. I was going to get one for me, only $2.99, but held off and used up some eggs that are expiring this week.

I hit a few good surveys on Swagbux, and am close to my next gift card. Hopefully I'll be able to order it by the end of the week. I just received my last one, so I'm up to $20 so far this year.

Much to Report

January 20th, 2013 at 02:42 pm

I have a lot to report!

First, I avoided paying $8 today. DD needed a new stretch reading book for school tomorrow morning. She told me at 3:15 this afternoon (ugh), and she didn't have any books on hand that the teacher would okay. (Apparently they call it "stretch" reading for a reason -- no gimmies). So she decided on a Stephen King book. I assumed I would have to go to Barnes & Noble and pay the $8 for it. Instead, we went to our library, which is open until 4:00 on Sunday. No luck. Then we high-tailed it to the library in the next town over, also open until 4:00. No luck. I was going to go to B&N at that point, and she suggested checking the library in the NEXT town over, which is open until 5:00. We found the book she wanted, and checked it out. They give us 3 weeks, so we'll need to renew it, but I saved the trip to the bookstore and paid nothing.

(BTW, Thrifty Ray was surprised about the library offerings in my area. The library we ended up at, which is in a really upscale town, has a Keurig machine and coffee pods for its patrons! Now THAT's service)!
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Second savings: CVS, and a broader lesson on the value of my smartphone. I got an email from CVS offering me 20% off regular priced items this weekend. Hubby needed razors and shaving cream for his trip, neither of which were on sale. I forgot about the coupon until I got to the store. Instead of missing out, I pulled up the email on my phone, clicked the link, and chose the option to send the coupon directly to my ECB card. Voila. Saved $3.20.

A similar thing happened at Staples last week. I forgot to print out that email as well, for $5/$20. I stopped at their print center with the intention of printing the email there. The associate said no need, just pull it up on my phone and show the cashier, and they can enter the code from there. No problems at all.

So the lesson is to make sure that all of your cards are registered and linked on the sites, and don't give up on the savings if your forget the coupon at home!
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I received $5 in the mail today! I had filled out a survey for Swagbux a few weeks ago, about potential new product offerings for a dinner product. They asked if I would be willing to try it at home and fill out a survey about it, and I said sure. The product arrived on Saturday, and we need to try it and respond over the next week. They sent the $5 to cover the cost of the other ingredients I need (ground beef). The kids and I will try it tomorrow. Because I would have bought ground beef for them anyway, I'm going to count the $5 as a freebie and add it to my January HELOC payment.

It's "use it up" week at my house. Whenever hubby travels, I like to take the opportunity to use up whatever I have lying around the fridge and pantries. I have a lot on hand, and should be able to eat for the week without going to the store for myself. I made onion soup today, and have the makings for potato-leek soup as well. I've got some beets, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, turnips, and more onions, so plenty of veggies. I also bought some soft tofu earlier this month when I started this vegetarian kick. I have no idea what to do with it, or how to use it, and it expires later this week. My goal for tomorrow is to come up with a recipe that I can make this week and see how it goes.

So all in all, a pretty good Sunday. I'm off tomorrow for the holiday, but will be down at dad's for a few hours.

Saturday Musings

January 19th, 2013 at 09:07 pm

Saturday random musings...

1) I received my $7.50 payment from SecondSpin, which will go to the HELOC.

2) I'm in mostly good shape with the budget for January. I have $135 left for groceries. I went shopping today, and hubby is out of town for the week, so all I'll need is meat for the kids and my regular shopping next Sunday. I will likely be over on gas, not sure yet by how much.

3) I'm going back to the gym next week. I haven't been much since November and need to get back in the swing. I've been doing a good job with reducing the amount of meat we eat. I've been getting some really creative, tasty recipes that we've really enjoyed. I'm weighing myself tomorrow, but I can tell by my clothes that it's going well.

4) I need to take down the indoor Christmas decorations this week. We got the outside lights down last weekend, but just haven't tackled the inside yet. That's my chore to do while hubby's away.

5) I need to get back on Swagbux more regularly. My goal was to get 1 $5 gift card per week. I'm on track so far, with $15 already and another $5 on the way, but I haven't been as aggressive about getting on there as I'd like.

I think that's it for now. I'm looking forward to a quiet Sunday...

I'm over myself

January 17th, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Thanks to everyone for the supportive comments as I wind my way down Motherhood Lane. It's so nice to know that I'm not the only one feeling like I do.

On to financials...I got my first snowflake cash in hand - $15.82 from EagleSaver for the books/games/DVDs I sold a few weeks back. It's in my Paypal account now, and will go right to my Heloc. In the "non-cash" department, I scored another $5 Amazon GC from Swagbucks, bringing my total to $20.

January has been going well. No major surprises with the paycheck, and all if the budget categories are still on track. I'm hoping to have an extra $100 for the Heloc at month end.

On the downside, I had my first mishap with the bus yesterday. It had snowed the night before and I was running late, so I caught the last bus on my route in to work (7:25 am). It never came. I waited until 7:45, then drove in. $37 for parking. Ouch. This is unbudgeted, making it all the more painful.

Parenting blahs

January 13th, 2013 at 07:21 pm

Skip to the 2nd half of the entry if you want financial-related thoughts...
__________________________

At the risk of having the "old-time parents" laugh at me...

Parenting is hard!

And frustrating.

One of the things I love about my job is that I know at the end of the day (or project, or whatever), if I've done a good job. With kids, it's a total crapshoot. DD (14) is going through such a tough time right now...stressed about school (I think the prospect of graduating 8th grade and moving to high school is a bit intimidating). Stressed about her schedule (which is busy but not over the top). And there's no magic answer to make her unstressed. (The "dude, it only gets worse" didn't work, but I am putting that on my "mom of the year" application, LOL).

*Sigh*. If only our kids could see themselves the way we see them.
__________________

On to financial musings. I had a productive day today.
- Went to church.
- Then to CVS for conditioner and deoderant, paid with ECBs and a gift card.
- I tried to take DS for a much needed haircut, but they closed 15 minutes earlier Frown.
- I picked up a cd from the library (kids have gotten on the frugal bandwagon, and have sought out library cds to load onto Itunes instead of paying for the songs).
- I also picked up dry cleaning
- and did what I hope is most of the grocery shopping for the week.

The biggest achievement today was that I made dinner at home. DD had a soccer game at 5:00 (refer to schedule stress noted above). The game ended at 6, about 1/2 hour away. We came home and I made dinner instead of grabbing fast food or pizza, as we normally would. I tried out a new vegan recipe (that was dynamite). That part of my 2013 resolutions is going pretty well. And I lost 1 lb this week, as a result of my clean living.

Sorry for the rambling. DD has thrown me for a loop. Looking forward to a quiet week at work and home (fingers crossed).

Is it Monday?

January 11th, 2013 at 05:20 am

Sure feels like it! I forgot to set the alarm and overslept until 7:00 (I'm usually out the door by 6:50). The last bus on my route is 7:25, so I needed to take the train/ferry instead. I had to pay for the 2 train and 2 ferry tickets. Total cost: $31. Ouch.

Our town recently went through a reassessment. Our house value dropped from $727,800 to $568,900 (22%) in just a couple of years. At first I was happy, or at least not disappointed about it, because I thought it would result in a reduction of our $13k property tax bill. But everyone's value went down, so it will likely not make any difference. We won't find out until August. The positive is that we have no plans if selling the house in the near future, and the mortgage is just over $100k, so it's not the end of the world.

I did have one bright spot last night: someone on their blog (I really have to get better at attributing this stuff!) was going to go through their memberships, etc to make sure they were taking advantage of all of the benefits. I started doing that, and went to the Upromise site. I've been a member since 2001 and have amassed over $4k for the kids' college fund, without giving it any thought at all. That will barely cover a semester of books these days, but better than nothing!

Have a great weekend!

Kohls cash, dentist, found money

January 10th, 2013 at 04:58 am

That was about the extent of my Wednesday.

First, Kohls cash: MIL bought us some Christmas gifts from Kohls that we needed to return. She gave us the receipt, along with a $70 Kohls cash, which expired on Jan 1st that she forgot to use (!). When I returned the stuff, I asked Customer Service if I could do anything about the expired Kohls Cash. She said they honor expired certificates, but you can't return any merchandise you buy with it. So I got a merchandise credit for $61, and I can use the expired Kohls cash (reduced to $60 after the return). I wish I knew this sooner because I've thrown out my fair share of expired Kohls cash, thinking they were useless.

Took DS to the orthodontist yesterday. Good news: I'm going to save $170 on his braces! When he got them, they charged me $4,340, and my insurance covered 50% up to $2000. So I put $540 down and $100/month for 18 months. My coverage went up in 2013, so they now cover 50% up to $2,500. 50% of 4,340 is $2,170, so I'm getting an extra $170. Unfortunately, I can't count this as cash savings, because I planned my Flexible Spending around the full amount. I'll be able to use the difference on something (glasses, contacts) but unrestricted cash is always better.

And finally, I found my first money of 2013: a nickel in the parking lot.

Today I need to put through my last FSA claim for 2012, from the kids' December trip to the dentist. I'll have $4 left in the account, so I'll need to go back through my records and make sure I didn't miss anything.

Saving and Spending

January 9th, 2013 at 06:30 am

On the plus side, I recently received a promotion at work (after a greuling 2012). At my new level, my company reimburses gym memberships. For first timers, like me, they reimburse 75% of the cost, up to $1500. For people in the program more than one year, they have a sliding scale based on how many times you attended the year before.

The gym I go to is relatively new (5 years old) and pretty state of the art. It has a great kids program as well. They really emphasize fitness being a fun family thing. Anyway, my membership is $69/month. So this means that I will only be paying $17.25/month this year, for a savings of about $52/month. The full amount was included in my budget, so FOUND MONEY! The company also foots the bill for a cardiac stress test (mandatory for over 40), which I've been meaning to do anyway.

So that's the saving for today. The spending is DD's 8th grade field trip to Washington DC. I just got an email that this month's installment is due. The total cost of the trip is $616. Personally, I hate the idea of my 14 year old being away for 3 days and 2 nights supervised only by school personnel, and I question how much they'll be able to see and do with 150 kids, versus what we could do during a family trip. And I'm quite sure that I could arrange a more meaningful trip for the 4 of us for less than $616 bucks. But alas, I don't want her sitting in a study hall for 3 days while all of her friends and classmates are away, so we're bucking up for it.

Speaking of DD, I'm home from work today because she needs to go to the doctor, and DS needs to go to the orthodontist. Both of those payments will be covered by my Flexible Spending. (Another "savings" - my orthontic coverage increased from $2000 to $2500 this year, so $500 less for me to pay. Wahoo). We have High School orientation tonight, and a number of errands to run today, including returning a few Christmas gifts. Busy, busy, busy...

My dog saved me $50!

January 8th, 2013 at 05:58 pm

Before I get to the dog, I have to preface this by saying:

Do you ever read the blogs on this site and think, "wow, I'd NEVER spend money on that...what a waste." (This happens to me, with some blogs more than others, lol!). Anyway, I'm sure many of you will be feeling the same way about me after this entry!

My dog goes to day camp. Not every day, but 3-5 times each month. Hubby works from home, but also travels regularly. When he's away, and I'm in the city working, it makes for a really long day for the dog. Although physically he'd be fine, he's got SO much energy that he would end up getting into mischief if left alone for that long.

The place where we board him for vacations offers "doggy day camp". We can drop him and pick him up any time between 7 am and 7 pm. He spends the whole day romping around with other dogs. (They even have cameras so I can check him out online)!

The cost: $29/day, $25 if you buy a package of 5, which is how I buy them. Well, my pup won "Camper of the Month", which comes with 2 free days - $50 worth for me!

I plan on buying a 20-pk when I run out, because that drives the price down to $21/day.

I'm also keeping track of the freebies I get this year on my sidebar, so I've added this to the list.

Major Commuting Savings

January 7th, 2013 at 05:11 pm

It's rare that I find huge savings in my budget after all of these years. I've already refinanced, checked auto insurance, etc. But I recently got a new commuting tip from a coworker that is saving me $133-$333/month!!

I commute to NYC each day. In the past, I've taken the train from my town ($8 each way) then the PATH train across the river to Manhattan ($1.75/trip) for a total of $19.50/day. Multiply this by 20 work days/month and it's just under $400 (my employer pays $100).

Since Hurricane Sandy, the PATH has been out of service, so the alternative is to take the train to the ferry, which is an unbelievable $7 each way! That brings my daily commuting cost to $30/day. Multiply that by 20 work days/month and I was looking at a $500 monthly commuting cost ($600-$100 from employer). There's no word on when my PATH line will be back up and running.

In the aftermath of Sandy, everyone is figuring out new ways of getting around. A coworker told me that there is a bus that picks up from a commuter lot 5 miles from my house, and goes express into the city, dropping off 2 blocks from my office. Total cost: $267 for a 40-ticket pack (20 trips), which works out to $13.35/day (-$100 from my employer = $167/month for me).

So basically, I'm saving between $133-$333/month, I don't have to transfer from the train to the PATH, and I'm 2 blocks away instead of 6 blocks. The bus is comfortable and, on most days, has outperformed the train in terms of time door-to-door.

Although I'm sure nobody out in blogworld cares about the ins and outs of my commute, I think the point is that it's always worth revisiting your expenses and thinking through whether or not there are new ways to cut them down. Things change constantly, and ideas you may have dismissed before may make more sense now.

First official snow of 2013

January 4th, 2013 at 02:01 pm

Although I sold a bunch of books and DVDs on New Years Day, I don't count the snowflakes until I have the cash in hand. Today, I got my first official snowflakes, as 3 $5 Amazon gift cards hit my account, courtesy of Swagbucks. I got back on SB between Christmas and New Years after months away. I racked up the points so quickly thanks to a bunch of surveys that I qualified for. It's slowed up a bit since then, but I get what I can each day. My goal is 1 gift card/week, which works out to about 65 points/day.

The only money out today was food at work, which is budgeted. It should be a pretty cheap weekend too. DD plays indoor soccer, and has games and tournaments this weekend, none if which we have to pay for. The only iffy thing is on Sunday, when she has games from 2-3 and 5-8. Not sure if I can squeeze in dinner at home; otherwise we'll be eating out.

I also have some errands to do tomorrow, including mailing all of the books, depositing a check in the bank, and picking up my briefcase, which needed to be repaired.

Selling books, dvds, and games

January 3rd, 2013 at 04:33 pm

I have had a lot of success selling books, dvds, and games in the past (including New Years Day, for $32), and I notice a lot of others have been doing the same.

I wanted to post a few tips for anyone interested. I hope it gets you a few extra bucks...

Selling books:

1) There are a number of book selling sites. There's an app for the IPhone (not sure about other smartphones) called BookScouter. It's free. You can key in or scan the bar code from the book, and it will automatically check 8 or 9 different sites, including Powells, Bookbyte, Textbooks.com, Sellyourbooksback, and Valore. I usually start here.

2) Cash4books is not included in the app, but they have their own app. This is my next stop. You can check all of these sites online as well as with the app.

3) Prices vary significantly from site to site, and from day to day. So I put all my isbns in an Excel spreadsheet, and go through this exercise once a quarter or so. You can also enter multiple isbns at once on the websites, so this saves a lot of time.

4) Each site has their own rules about the # of books or the minimum $ sale amount they'll accept for an order, so be aware.

5) All of these sites pay for media mail shipping. You print out the label, pack the books and mail them. They then send you a check or a Paypal deposit.

6) I also post books on half.com and paperbackswap.com. They're both hit-or-miss. With half you get money back. With PBS you get a credit that you can then use to get yourself a book. I use my credits to get high value books that I can sell on the other sites, or books that the kids need for school.

Selling DVDs/CDs/Games

1) Same principle, fewer choices. I've used SecondSpin and EagleSaver. You can also get quotes from Selldvdsonline and yousellbooks (they take dvds, etc. too).

2) Same caveats - big price differences across the sites, so it definitely pays to check them all. Also, prices change from day to day. And they all have their rules regarding # or $ of items.

The smartphone apps make it really easy to scan titles at library book sales, yard sales, etc. And thanks to one of the other bloggers (CCF?) who mentioned that Cash4Books has a promo code that will give you a 10% bonus on your sellback - I learned something new today.

So try it out and good luck!

On to other things...Three days in and I'm on track with my dietary changes - vegan Tuesday, meat yesterday, vegetarian today. So far so good. I got the kids fast food tonight for dinner, but used a gift card, so no cash out of pocket. I like boring finances...

Snowmaking Challenge

January 2nd, 2013 at 07:49 am

I had a thought while trying to get to sleep last night. So many of us are trying to accumulate snowflakes to help pay down debt. I thought, wouldn't it be great to have a "snowmaking" challenge, kind of like the ski resorts when they manufacture snow at the beginning of the season, to help everyone get started.

So here's the challenge: over the next few days, post your BEST pieces of advice for accumulating snowflakes. Not a laundry list of every thing you do to save money, but the couple of things that will make the readers say "aha, I've got to try that."

And readers, if you try any of the ideas and have success, post it and let us know! I'll keep track of the nuggets and the savings that result. Who's in?

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Here's my nugget to start off the snowmaking challenge:

If you pay your property tax and house insurance as part of your monthly mortgage payment, look into paying it yourself. (This may not be possible if you have less than 20% equity). The banks are allowed to keep in escrow amounts above and beyond what they need to pay the bills. If you start paying directly, they will refund the extra to you. Many towns allow for automatic debiting of property taxes, and you can usually do auto debit or charge to your cc for insurance. I did one better and took advantage of a $100 account opening bonus at Chase, so I keep these funds segregated from the rest. It's a 1-time benefit, but may result in a few hundred dollars or more.
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On other fronts, I tallied up my year end account balances for my accounts (401k, etc). It's amazing how these things grow when you're not looking at them every day.

I cleaned house yesterday and sold approx $32 in video games, DVDs, and books to Secondspin, EagleSaver, and Powells. I won't get to the post office until Saturday, so I won't get the cash for a week or two, but it should definitely hit in January.

I also paid a few bills (all budgeted), submitted a claim form for the kiddies' visit to the dentist, and ate breakfast at home, saving a few bucks. A good start to the new year!

Major calculation error, but still optimistic

January 1st, 2013 at 07:59 am

I put together my 2013 budget a few days ago and it was looking pretty good. I chalked it up to the fact that I was recently promoted (new salary hits Jan 1). I was also totally off the wagon tracking my expenses at the end of last year, so I thought that a good hard look at the budget was causing the numbers to look better. Alas, I forgot to account for the taxes that come out of my paycheck (Fed, State, FICA/EE). In the past I plugged in the net number for my pay, but this year I moved to gross so I could actually focus on what was coming out. In doing so, the Excel spreadsheet calculation didn't pick up those three lines.

So instead of being in incredible shape financially, I'm just in ok shape. I adjusted my 401(k) percentage to max it out, and adjusted my withholding, both of which will eat up some of the raise. We have a big tax bill due in April (DH is self-employed and had a good year next year, but we never increased our estimated tax payments. Ouch). Once we're past that, I should be able to tackle the HELOC full force. In the meantime, I'll rely on snowflakes and creativity to start getting it down.

As always, New Years Day will be a good day for the diet resolution. DH goes to a friend's house to watch college football all day. I'm going to make two soups: carrot, sweet potato and ginger soup, and potato leek soup. My "healthy eating" goal is to have two vegan, two vegetarian, and three reduced-meat days each week in January.

On the vegan front, I tried out Silk's Creamer in my coffee this morning and don't taste a difference, so that's an easy change to make permanent. There are so many vegan options in the store (though they're quite expensive). My plan is to try things out one at a time and see what I can live with. Part 2 is to then find out where I can get them cheaper / coupons, etc.

I hope everyone has a happy, healthy, prosperous 2013! I look forward to following you on the blogs...