It turned out to be an expensive few days, some of which was anticipated and some that wasn't.
Wednesday night we attended a whiskey tasting at a local liquor store that we go to regularly. In addition to the tasting, they held a raffle for the right to purchase 1 of 11 different hard to find bottles. My wife won one and I won one so we came home with 2 bottles at $100 and $150. Not something we were expecting but we'll get to enjoy them for months to come.
Yesterday and today we were in NYC. That was a planned trip for my wife's birthday which is next week. We had bought show tickets a few months ago. Of course, there were also travel costs (though the hotel was free on reward points), meals, and some incidental spending. We also ended up at a piano bar last night after the show which ran us another $107 in addition to the $130 for dinner, plus lunch yesterday and today, parking, etc. Worth every penny though as we had a great time.
Fortunately, it's all stuff we can comfortably afford to do while still meeting all of our investing goals and remaining debt-free.
Viewing the 'Shopping Deals' Category
It turned out to be an expensive few days, some of which was anticipated and some that wasn't.
Not much new going on. Everything is cruising along nicely which is good.
I've sold a couple of items on Facebook Marketplace recently. It definitely has advantages over Ebay and I've used it to get rid of some things that have been sitting around or a while, including things that I tried unsuccessfully to sell on Ebay. The fact that there's no shipping cost helps a lot. That's what makes it hard to sell lower priced items online.
I maxed out my 401k a month or so ago so for the last couple of paychecks, I took the money that would have gone to that and put it into our Vanguard account instead. I did the full amount even though I was doing it with after-tax dollars. We have one more paycheck in December and then the 401k funding will resume, plus they upped the limit $1,000 for 2020 so it'll take a bit longer to max it.
We took advantage of the Target gift card sale today and bought $600 worth at 10% off. Last week we bought gift cards for one of our favorite restaurants. If you bought $75 they gave you an extra $20. We go there about once a month so that'll save us a bit. And yesterday I paid our auto insurance bill through PayPal with our Chase Freedom Visa which has 5% cashback on PayPal purchases this quarter. That saved me $63. $60 from Target, $20 from the restaurant, and $63 from the insurance. All of those things can really add up over time. Oh, and we bought $300 of the Target cards with our Discover card that has 5% back at Target this quarter though we're not sure if that includes gift card purchases. I'll have to wait and see.
My wife and I are going to NYC this week overnight and seeing a show. It's for her birthday. I booked the hotel on reward points so that's free. Of course the parking, dinner, and show aren't. Unfortunately, it looks like it will be very cold so we probably won't do much in the city. That's okay because I like wandering in the city much more than she does anyway.
I guess that's all the main stuff for now.
Okay, this one may sound lame but I still count it as a success.
We were in Lowe's last week buying a new dishwasher. As we were walking through the store, we passed the aisle with the 4-foot long workshop light fixtures like many people have in unfinished basements or garages. We have 3 in our basement. One barely works and one hasn't worked at all for ages. I just never bothered to do anything about it.
Ours have 48" fluorescent tubes. Now they are all LED which is nice. I took pictures of the 3 options and a couple days ago searched on Amazon. Of course, I was able to find similar fixtures that are even brighter and cheaper than Lowe's so I ordered two of them.
They arrived today and I installed them both easily since they were going exactly where the old ones were, even hanging on the very same hardware that was already there.
We now have 2 super bright fixtures. The laundry room has only had a single regular bulb since that fixture died and the other half of the basement was pretty much in the dark except for the rare occasion when that fixture actually decided to work. It looks great down there. DW is happy because she is in charge of laundry and I'm happy because I do a lot of stuff on the other side. Plus the extra pantry is down there so now we can find things without pulling out our cell phone flashlight. And all for just $60 (and I'll get 5% cashback from our Discover card).
I met with our accountant today to do our taxes. I don't know the outcome yet but everything is submitted except for a couple of forgotten items I sent over tonight. I should know in a week or so how we made out.
A few weeks ago when I went to print something, my printer made an awful grinding noise. It did ultimately print but each time I tried after that, same noise. The printer was over 8 years old so I wasn't terribly upset, and it wasn't an expensive item to begin with.
The only thing I was annoyed about was that I bought a set of ink cartridges for it not long before that. I knew if I bought a new printer, those would go to waste.
So I checked the box for the cartridge for a list of compatible printers and then searched on ebay for the newest of those models. I lucked out and found someone selling the newest one for $15 plus $17 shipping. I was happy to spend $32 to get an upgraded printer and not waste about $60 worth of ink cartridges. It arrived yesterday and I just set it up tonight. It seems to be working just fine so I'm back in business for a pretty modest expenditure.
My mom loves Aldi and I've taken her there a few times as she no longer drives. My wife has always kind of looked down on the place. Even though she's frugal and a good shopper in general, she's never been a fan of the deep discount places.
Last time I took my mom over, my wife was also with us. We noticed that they sell the same brand of Italian rolls we buy all the time. I think they were over $1/bag cheaper. And one of the things my mom went for was strawberries which were on sale for $1.39. I had just bought a container of them at Wegmans the day before but I paid $4.49. That's a big difference.
There happens to be an Aldi on my way home from work if I take a certain route, so I stopped there today. I was going to just buy strawberries. They are no longer on sale so they were $2.99, but that's still $1.50 less than Wegmans. I also picked up blueberries for $1.99. I'm not sure how much those are at Wegmans but I know it's more than that. DD had some of each tonight and said they were good.
Next step is to actually go over and browse and buy some things to try out and see how we like the store brands. Hopefully we can find a few things we like. I'm happy to stop there after work occasionally, especially if every trip saves us several dollars. I'll count that as a win for sure.
I realized that I haven't posted here since the end of the year. Where has the time gone?
So to update....
2015 is off to a solid start with my medical surveys.
April promises to be a good month as I'm already at $610 as of today and it's only the 8th. So I should definitely break $1,000 again.
In other news, we've had an expensive few months. We replaced our refrigerator in January. A few days later, our heater died. That (the heater) cost us $4,000 plus a couple of nights in a hotel. The fridge was about $1,200 I think. Replacing the heater also led to replacing the AC, which we just did the other day, for another $3,000.
In the good news department, I was dreading filing our 2014 taxes because a couple of our taxable mutual funds paid out large capital gains distributions (like $20,000 worth). So I was expecting a 4-5K tax bill. As it turned out, thanks to some other stuff, like the college tax credit, we actually ended up breaking even, getting a small ($95) refund. That was a big relief.
I've been making more use of some online savings, specifically promo codes at sites like retailmenot.com and discounted gift cards at sites like cardpool.com and giftcards.com. We saved almost $100 on the fridge, $30 on a trip to the local aquarium, and $66 on a new suitcase for DD recently.
So that kind of sums up the recent stuff.
Well my wife is officially unemployed. Her last day was May 30. I ran the numbers and her average monthly take home pay was $385. On top of that, a total (with match) of $480 was going into her 401k, so $865 total that we're down as a result.
We're addressing that in a few ways. We are tightening up the spending particularly in the area of groceries and dining out. We have typically averaged about $300/month eating out. For the past few weeks, we have cut that back significantly and have been doing a lot more cooking at home. For example, I used to go straight from my office to our synagogue on nights when I had meetings and I'd stop and pick up dinner on the way. Now, I've been stopping at home and getting dinner there instead so that probably costs $2-3 instead of $8-10 when I'd eat out.
We've also started using coupons which I haven't really been in the habit of doing for a while. It saves $2-3/week but it all counts and all adds up.
I've been more careful about where I buy gas and have been paying cash a lot more since many stations charge more for credit. I used to stick to stations that charged the same for cash or credit. The problem has become that those stations are charging more. So instead of $3.33 for cash and credit, I'm going to the station that is $3.27 for cash and $3.37 for credit and paying cash. Again, not a big savings but it's something.
The main thing I'm doing is really focusing on my survey participation. It's probably too soon to make a dependable prediction but I've started tracking my actual surveys done. Previously, I only tracked the money when it actually comes in.
For the week of May 27, I did $291 worth of surveys.
For the week of June 3, I did $210 worth of surveys.
For the week of June 10, I've done $185 worth of surveys and the week isn't over yet.
I also do an ongoing survey that pays me $150/month which works out to $34/week.
So for the past 3 weeks, that means I've generated a total of $788. That's a weekly average of $262.66. Multiplied out for a year, that's $13,659. I realize I can't really extrapolate based on less than 3 weeks of data but there is certainly a high probability that I will earn more in 2013 than I was shooting for originally (8K). At that rate, I could earn almost 8K just from June to December and I already took in $3,000 through March, so 10-11K for the year is certainly doable.
This also includes only online surveys. I regularly get invited to do in-person studies but don't usually get to them for scheduling reasons. I'm paying more attention to those and trying to find ones that I can work around to do. Even if I could only do one every 2-3 months, it could add another thousand or more to my total.
On my wife's end, she is doing the sewing/quilting thing and has already sold 20 or more items. A friend bought 9 $5 tote bags from her yesterday for teacher gifts plus a $60 patchwork beach bag for herself. Our neighbor bought an iPad cover for a gift and a Kindle cover for herself. And there have been numerous other sales so that's doing well so far.
I'll post at the end of the month with the monthly survey total as always. I'm at $322 so far so it should be good.
Why is an entry about an iPhone appropriate for a financial blog? Well, ultimately, everything we do has financial impact so why not. Besides, a device that simplifies your life and can even save you money definitely fits the topic.
Anyway, enough rationalization. I got an iPhone 3G in early 2009. At the time, I thought it was terrific. It could do all kinds of things - check email, get online, play games, take pictures, record video, etc.
The 3G had one major fault, though. It was agonizingly slow. Many of the apps available simply didn't live up to their potential usefulness because the phone was just too darn slow. Yes, it is nice to have a device in your pocket that can be phone, computer, camera, GPS, game player, movie viewer, and more, but if it is too slow to actually accomplish those things, it isn't quite as impressive.
Enter the iphone 5. I got this just before Christmas when WalMart cut the prices. A phone that is $199 everywhere else was $127 at WalMart. I was planning to upgrade anyway and that made the decision even easier.
This phone is GREAT! It is lightning fast and all of those apps that had great potential before have actually now become useful in the real world. I've even started seeking out new apps for specific tasks which is something I rarely did on the old phone. This week, I got a running log app to record my treadmill time. I also got an app called Money Monitor that I've started using to record all of my medical survey income. I used to do that with pen and paper in my datebook. Then at the end of each month, I had to manually add up the total for the month. Now, each time I get a payment, I enter it on the app and anytime I want, I can quickly see how much I've earned so far that month (or year to date as the year progresses).
Sorry to sound like an iPhone commercial but for anyone thinking about it, now is definitely the time to go for it, or upgrade if you have an older model like I did.
In the past month or so, I've really taken notice of the fact that we do not take advantage of many things that are in our own backyard particularly as far as inexpensive entertainment is concerned.
When I was off from work over winter break, my daughter and I rode the train into the city to do some sightseeing, lunch and shopping. We try to do that every year but for some reason, this year really opened my eyes to what is out there. We walked through the downtown area and passed endless shops and restaurants that would appeal to all of us, even if just for window shopping. Of course, there are also a ton of historic sites, museums and other places of interest within walking distance of the train stations.
Then yesterday, a school friend of my daughter's was performing in a play at a nearby college. This time, we drove into the city (not near a train station). For $10/person, we saw a very good show. We did pay another $13 to park plus the $4 bridge toll, but that's still less money than if we had gone to NYC to see even an off-Broadway show. The colleges in the area offer all kinds of entertainment - concerts, live shows, art exhibits, film festivals, etc. We never go to any of that stuff and we really should. It is usually inexpensive and sometimes even free. It is close to home. And it is not mainstream stuff so there is an educational/cultural/expand your mind aspect to it, too.
I'm going to start looking around online to see where they list upcoming events and make an effort to do stuff like that occasionally throughout the year.
I posted a thread about this on the forum but thought it would be a good topic here, too, as I know not everyone reads both.
We went out to lunch today at a local restaurant that we like. They were having a special deal on gift cards: buy $100 worth and get $20 free. So we did just that. Not only that, but I charged them to my Discover card which has a 5% cashback bonus at restaurants through December, so I'll get $5 back on the purchase. That means I actually spent $95 and got $120 worth of gift cards. Coincidentally, our meal today came to exactly $25.00 which means the meal was basically free. We spent $95 (after the Discover cashback), got lunch for the 3 of us and walked out with $95 remaining on the gift cards.
A local mall also has a deal on gift cards. Buy 3 $20 cards and get a $15 gas card.
A few years ago, we took advantage of a deal on Marriott gift cards. I don't remember the details but I think we got $50 free for buying $200.
So be on the lookout this holiday season for gift card bonus offers, not to use for gifts, but to use for yourself to save money on things that you would be buying anyway.