Little Wins

If you saw my January Check-In post from the other day, you know that we had to take a big chunk out of our checking account to pay down our credit card so we wouldn’t incur finance charges. (We’re waiting on a reimbursement to the card, but didn’t want to be paying any fees while we continue to wait! Ugh.)

Well, something else came through today to pad our checking account: I finally called about a weird transaction in our checking account for $43 that showed up earlier this month. It appeared to be related to my Southern Living magazine subscription (don’t judge) – but I did NOT remember signing up for another year at $43!

First I went to Southern Living’s website and determined that they had no subscription for us. What? I’m definitely subscribed – I’ve been getting it in my mailbox every month for the past year – what gives? So I thought maybe it was for Real Simple instead (which I adore). So I went to their site and canceled my subscription (I was a bit sad to do so, but I’m not paying for a $43 magazine subscription to ANYTHING). Turns out that I was only reimbursed $12. Hmmm. That didn’t add up either.

When I called our Credit Union to get some help, they realized that the long string of numbers in the transaction description was a phone number! (And they also said that if that didn’t work, they would pursue the matter as a wrongful charge! Sweet.)

They also found a charge from January 2014 for $5 to the same company. I remember now: I had signed up for a really cheap subscription (why else subscribe to SoLiv anyway?), but of course probably did not read the fine print about it automatically renewing at a CRAZY HIGH PRICE.

Finally got around to calling the number today and had to sit through a horrible automated answer system… but was able to ascertain that I had ordered Southern Living through them, and I was able to cancel it. They claim I’ll be reimbursed in one or two days (hmmm… nice! we’ll see if it happens…).

So, while I did enjoy receiving my two magazine subscriptions, I’m hoping I won’t really notice their absence. And that’s a total of $55 back in our pockets!

If the reimbursement comes through, I’ll be able to snowflake that to our Student Loan Debt Eradication fund… if it doesn’t, it will just sit in our checking account for the remainder of the month so we can get as close as possible to not having to pull from our emergency fund!

Lesson learned: If you sign up for a great deal on a magazine subscription, set a reminder on your calendar for a year’s time to cancel your subscription… or shop around for another good deal!

Anyone else cancel all your magazine subscriptions? Do you miss them?

January 2015 Budget Check-In

Happy MLK Day!

On a totally un-related-to-MLK note, I wanted to do a quick post to “check-in” on our January budget. I think it’s wise for anyone to check in on their finances at least twice a month – but I check in every day, honestly. (I love surprises, but not financial ones – unless we’re talking about how big our tax refund is!)

Note: We use Mint.com to track our finances.

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January 2015 Budget Check-In

The Woohoo! Category includes:

  • Not over-budget in ANY category yet!
  • Got a reimbursement from H’s trip back in November (but only a partial one – they only covered the gas for the trip – shoot!)
  • I love, love, LOVE having the $200 slush budget line – all of those pesky transactions that never seem to fit anywhere (post office, random little purchases for household needs, a radon detector, even a new card table & chairs set so we can have a kids’ table when we host gatherings!) now have a place and I feel so much better with them organized.
  • It looks like we’ve budgeted well for our gas for the month – the date line and the budget line match up perfectly!
  • I put aside $110.01 in our Student Loan Debt Eradication fund early on.

In the Whoops! Category:

  • We haven’t get received the reimbursement from the return that H sent back at the beginning of the month. That meant we had to pay off the entire credit card bill so that we wouldn’t get slapped with a finance charge when our bill came due a few days ago. This means we now have less in our checking account than we need for the remainder of our budget.
  • Any extra money we got this month (including the reimbursement from the November trip) has gone to just padding our checking account, because we’re off by so much. This has actually helped us close the gap by almost $400, which is helpful. We may only need a little more from the emergency fund (alternately, if the refund comes through this month, we’ll also be okay).
  • It looks like we’re creeping up a bit fast on our food budget, which means we may not have any left over to put aside for Student Loan Debt Eradication. We ran out of a couple of staples and had to make some quick runs to the more expensive grocery store nearby rather than the one that we like to go to (an hour away, when we take L for her ballet lessons on Saturdays). We also hosted a dinner for some friends, and while it was just pasta (and the friends brought an appetizer and salad), we did buy sausage for the sauce (an indulgence we don’t usually buy for our own pasta). We’re also going to a casual potluck this afternoon, so we bought a couple extra things to make our specialty potluck dish (bacon-wrapped dates!). I will say that knowing that these expenses would be happening, H was very careful when shopping and didn’t pick up anything that wasn’t on the list (though there was that $5 bread that H thought was a good idea – he didn’t know that there was cheaper bread available!).

I’m hoping that by the end of this coming week, we’ll have our W-2s in hand and be able to continue working on our taxes. I’ve already entered as much as I can (we use TurboTax) but I can’t get even get a rough estimate of our return until we enter our income.

How’s the first month of 2015 going for you all, financially-speaking? I’m disappointed that this month won’t be one of great Debt Eradication, but it was the last month of funding our Travel savings, so I’m looking forward to February!

Clearing Out: My Cast-Offs = Someone Else’s Treasures?

We arrived back from our Christmas travels on the Friday before I returned to work (which was this past week). We got unpacked (well, mostly), and then we spent the weekend putting away the Christmas decorations. Then I went on a whole crazy purge last week, and it felt good!

One thing I do differently now than what I did five years ago: when putting anything away (or re-arranging something in our house), I look for anything I can give away or consign.


My System for Consigning/Donating

Ideally, I want to consign anything I can so that I can make money off of it. I know others do great things with Craigslist (and we’ve sold a couple of things that way) and eBay, but I’ve got a system that works now, so I that’s what I follow.

I use a consignment store in Small City (I can get there around once a month, since we take L in for ballet lessons once a week) for clothing and housewares. They take a cut, but it’s super easy to drop off and pick up my money!

I use a used book store in Small City as well for books. We get either cash or store credit. I always ask for cash and then if they can only offer store credit for something, I will accept it (of course), and then L can pick out a book (if she’s along for the ride).

If I can’t consign it, then I donate it to Goodwill and ask them for a receipt. Starting late last year, I started keeping track of all of our donations in the ItsDeductible app. (Do you know how painful it is to type that name without an apostrophe?) It’s pretty hip, and it ties in directly to TurboTax (which, incidentally, is owned by Intuit as well – and you know Mint.com is, too, right?). We use TurboTax each year, so I’ve already uploaded the information from the app to TurboTax. Sweet!

I’m not sure how much we made in consignments last year, but according to ItsDeductible, we’re going to reduce our tax burden for 2014 by something like $500 from donations! (No, that’s not the overall worth of what we donated – that was much higher. Who knew we had such valuable stuff?) I plan to track what we get from consigning items this year, because I’m interested. All of that money will be snowflaked to our Student Loan Debt Eradication fund, and as we’re aiming to snowflake at least $50/month (in accordance with our 2015 goals), I hope that consigning will help us at least partially reach that goal.


Working Towards Less

We’ve been working hard to reduce the amount of stuff we own (isn’t everyone these days?), and we didn’t get rid of enough stuff when we moved. I’m embarrassed by the amount of stuff we’re still storing in the basement of our rental home. Admittedly, we did move from a 2,000+ square foot house, but I had high hopes before we moved that we’d be able to get rid of lots more while we were packing. It did seem like we consigned and donated a ton of stuff… but it was apparently not enough!

Anyway, I got together a pretty respectable pile of Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree and some other holiday household items as I was packing up the good stuff (plus, y’all, I ORGANIZED and LABELED the dang storage boxes! can I get a round of applause, people?).

Then we had to do some major readjusting. Without going into a lot of detail, we moved L’s bedroom from one room of the house to another to save some money on our heating (boy, that is a conversation for another post!). I refused to move a bunch of stuff without sorting it to make sure it was going into the new space all organized and to also make sure we weren’t moving a whole bunch of stuff that we didn’t need. So….. it took us one day to move her bed in the new room and a few necessities.

Then it took 6 more days (!) for me to sort all of her stuff into consign and donate piles. That was done mostly after I got home from work. Ugh. But I felt really good carting away a van-load of stuff to consign and donate on Saturday!

L’s room isn’t actually ready to go yet (we have yet to unload a piece of furniture from that room and then do a little more shifting around), but all of her toys/clothes/random items have been sorted for the time being. I even have a tub full of winter clothes to be consigned next fall (as the place I consign with does it by the seasons), clearly labeled and packed away into a closet!

Coupled with the cleaning we did ahead of the get-together we hosted last night, I feel like we got a good start on our spring cleaning! One of my personal goals for 2015 is: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I’m really hoping that I can at least figure out the first part, then worry about the second half later….

Of course, truth be told, the bedroom we moved L out of is still overflowing with things that have yet to be given a place…. But I needed to preserve my sanity after working on it every day last week after work, so I’m leaving it for another day!

Now… where’s my wine?

Anyone out there have great consigning / re-selling items tips? I’m always looking for ways to unload my cast-offs….

P.S. Intuit does not reimburse me for my references to their products. Hey, Intuit… are you even listening?