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Archive for February, 2018

wrapping up February

February 27th, 2018 at 08:37 am

It's been an ok month. Once again, did not meet my Food budget goal. I'm at $294 as of today, and planning to buy several items at Trader Joes. I've only had 6 no-spend days this month. I don't have a goal related to that though. But zero on clothes and cosmetics!

Yesterday was follow up with my Retina specialist. It's been 6 weeks since my Vitrectomy. He said my eye is healing, retina is attached, vision has improved in spite of having the oil bubble in place. (20/70), which is better than pre-surgery (meaning when my retina was torn and detached...) So I have 6 more weeks til the next appt, and if all is well I will be scheduled for the next procedure, to remove the oil bubble. "we're halfway there!!! Ahhhhh Livin' on a Prayer!!" (channeling my inner Bon Jovi). He examined my other eye and that retina is thinning, so down the road I will need an in office procedure to laser the retina.

I'm working on eating better (reducing the carbs, avoiding processed foods), walking more and doing a workout called Classical Stretch. It's a unique method that combines strength, cardio, taichi, stretching, all no impact and with no added weights. Those things, along with my happy light and days getting longer, are helping to boost my mood and energy.

So, onto March.... my least favorite month of the year. It's long, no holiday, rains all month long (in Seattle)... over the next 2 days I will work on my goals for the next month.

My AMEX 'Hustle'

February 23rd, 2018 at 02:30 pm

I've been meaning to share this for awhile.... probably not the first one to think of the idea. When I tell my friends they are pretty impressed!

Calling it my Hustle because it's very trendy on the blogs to talk about a Side Hustle. I don't have other ways of making money, besides my full time job. So I try to think outside the box to maximize my cash back. I guess you could call it a Lazy Hustle.

I have the AMEX Preferred Cash card. The biggest benefit is the 6% cash back at the grocery store, up to $6000 year. I've never come close to maxing that out, which I want to do (without being wasteful) because that's a guaranteed $360.00, less the $95 yearly fee.

Besides the obvious buying groceries, I also purchase gift cards for other businesses I frequent on the regular. This is mainly Starbucks and Amazon for me.

Now here's a more clever one, if I do say so myself. I have both a Fred Meyers (Kroger) and Safeway close to my home and each has a gas station. I also have QFC (another Kroger) a little farther away. I buy gift cards for the stores (Kroger at QfC, Safeway at Safeway) so I earn 6% back at each gas station. I don't get 6% back at F.M. because it's categorized as a discount store. So I use the gift card purchased at QFC for anything I buy inside FM AND their gas station.

Conservatively I can earn an additional $100/year by doing my Grocery Gas Station hack, if I do it consistently. I earn even more by using the QFC card for FM store purchases (they sell clothing, home goods, electronics etc). It covers the annual fee! It's a bit more thinking to keep track of my GC balances but I just cut up blank address labels and stick them on the front of the cards and update the balance with a pen after each use.

The other idea, which I haven't done yet for some reason, is to buy Netflix GCs and load them on my account. That would earn me about $15 more/year.

So, any other ideas from Cash Back experts??

Weekly wrap up

February 23rd, 2018 at 10:57 am

It snowed yesterday. Anywhere from trace to 2 inches in my area. Of course, since I live in the Seattle area, any appearance of the white stuff causes panic. In this case, it was justified because temps went down to 20 after snow, so we had roads and hills of ice, oh the fun! (sarcasm). I was 2 hrs late to work so I skipped lunch yesterday, and will today, to try to make up some time. (I am an hourly employee.)

Other than that, it's been a pretty boring week. I did pretty good with my meal prep last Sunday, got me through Thursday lunch. I will surpass my grocery budget of $280 ($10/day), as I only have $6 left for the month. Oh well.... I think it helps to have a goal, to be mindful, even if I don't meet it.

I'm starting a new category of savings, called Spavings. I read about it on some other blogs (Budgets are sexy was the original)... I'm going to take any cash back incentives and put them into my savings. For 2018 so far:

$21.11 MR Rebates check
$40.00 Chase Amazon cash back
Total: $61.11

I had a massage yesterday. I sure needed it! I usually get at least one per month, but due to my eye surgery, I postponed. My therapist was kind enough to loan me a head cradle while I was recovering from the vitrectomy, and I returned it and we caught up while I was getting my service. She and her husband are going to Maui next week- doing one of those time share deals to get free hotel and rental car. They are one of those type that can handle the pressure for 90 minutes and don't feel bad about saying no... it sounds like a nightmare to me! I am jealous that she will get some sunshine. I can't wait for spring... or at least the temp to get into the 50s...

My SO wants to go to the Seattle home show this weekend. Normally I would love to... but 1. I just finished my kitchen project and am not eager to do another project of any kind, 2. I have no $$$ budgeted as I have to pay $3000 for my eye surgery OOP. Jack wants to go to research his next project, which will be some kind of path on the shady side of the house. Which sounds pretty boring to me... but if he buys me dinner afterward, I'm game!

Stock Market Correction

February 8th, 2018 at 06:11 pm

Received a Mr. Rebates check for $21.11 and deposited into my Capital One savings.

Now, onto the stock market and the craziness of the last few days. All I can say is "Finally!" Then I say, "Oh no.... okay don't worry". (I mean, what good does that do?) But really, as of today, the Dow is back to where it was in early December. Is that really a correction? So it's down 10% but it was crazy high. A lot of my stocks are still closer to their 52 week highs than the 52 wk lows. I love a good sale, but it needs to go lower before I take advantage by buying. What do you guys think?

Depression setting in...

February 6th, 2018 at 10:40 am

Well, it's winter and typical Seattle weather (cloudy, rainy, so little daylight) so I would be feeling a bit down anyway, but....

(Pausing to pull on my Complainy Pants)....

The gratefulness of saving my eyesight via surgery for detached retina is wearing off. Weekends are great, because I can putter around the house doing chores on my timeline, lay down/nap as much as necessary. I barely get through the workday, and then home to lay on the couch and listen to/watch TV and attempt to get ready for the next workday. Having one blurry eye just makes me MENTALLY tired, because my brain is constantly having to compensate to even out my vision. I'm happy that my eye is healing but I feel like all I can do is count down the days/weeks until my next surgery.

I know what I need to be doing to help myself. First is exercise. I have been holding off because there are a lot of restrictions and I don't want to hurt my eye, but also many things I can still do. My belly is getting soft and I know I'm losing muscle tone. It's really hard to get motivated to start. So that is on me.

The next is diet. I did well last weekend by preparing a few meals to eat this week, but that only lasts partway and then I'm back to trying to put something nutritious together when I am so tired. I need to allow myself permission to get take out occasionally and rely more on convenience foods. But that eats into my "spending diet" goal to reduce my grocery costs.

Last on my complaint list is the medical claims. Luckily, I have $3000 maximum out of pocket for this year, and the company contributed a little to my HSA account. Now the claims are coming in, and I already put most of it (over $2300) on my credit card which I will have to pay off next month. I have the money sitting in my savings account, but dang it, it makes me mad because I have to spend that money!!! I set yearly savings goals last month and I won't be able to meet them because of my stupid eye. Also, I bumped my HSA deduction to the maximum, so that's $60/week going there, and I won't be able to reimburse myself for my out of pocket costs until the end of the year.

Oh one other thing. I did my taxes and I owed $45! So crappy.... one more expense that I didn't expect.

Thanks for letting me vent.

January Spending Diet wrap up

February 4th, 2018 at 05:49 pm

First, I changed the name of my blog. Salamander was my nickname as a kid, so "salamander saves" sounds cool and snazzy to me!

I didn't meet my goals, but in spite of the unexpected eye surgery, I did pretty well.

Grocery spend- Goal $250- Actual $287
**Since I spent 5 days laying around with my head toward the ground and not going shopping, I thought I would accomplish this. On 1/28 my guy drove me to Trader Joe's and I stocked up on things, and bought more convenience foods than normal, since I was still pretty tired.

No spend days: Goal 15- Actual 14
close!!