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Looking at my finances

March 20th, 2018 at 07:47 am

I'm still taking the steps to get all the requirements filled on the new Chase accounts. I linked the savings account to my Capital One, so I could set up the $15,000 transfer. Next I logged onto my employer's payroll website to add the Chase checking and set up direct deposit of $125/week ($500/month). Now I wait....

Last night, I studied my 2017 Year End Summary for the AMEX Blue Cash Preferred (my main credit card.) It was very enlightening. My total grocery spend was over $5900. (This is what amex considers grocery; the stores that they give me 6% cash back on: Safeway, QFC, Trader Joe's are the ones I shop at that qualify.) That amount also included gift cards purchased at the grocery. The only way I could try to break the GC amount down, was to log onto my Amazon account. I added $1000 of their GCs to my account in 2017. Wow!!! I took advantage of my Prime membership way too much! Now I have Amazon's
VISA card, which earns me 5%, so there's not much incentive to use the gift cards, unless I get bonus fuel points from the grocery.

Still on my quest to earn more money on the side. I've been trying to qualify for some focus groups through a local company, but they haven't contacted me about anything recently. I'm bummed; one of them would have paid $875 over 10 1 hour visits. At this point, I'd be happy to get $100 for a one hour session. I have signed up online with a few mock jury-type websites. Also, Smart Panel, which pays $110/year for them to track your internet usage on phone and PC. That one pays in Amazon gift cards, which works great for me.

$500.00? Yes!

March 17th, 2018 at 04:42 pm

I took advantage of the Chase $500 bonus on new checking and savings today. Was able to use the promo code and setup the account online. It's a bit of work to set up the external accounts and wait for them to be verified. I have to transfer $15,000 from Capital One to Chase for the savings requirement, which remains for 90 days. That earns me $200. (I'll be losing $56 in interest from Cap One but earning $200.) After that, I only need to keep $300 there. For checking, I must set up direct deposits from my employer of $500/month. I earn $300 for fulfilling the checking requirement. After 6 months I will close the accounts.

I'm excited, because once I receive the $500, I will add that to my Surgery fund for a new balance of $1,040.

Saturday savings

March 17th, 2018 at 01:35 pm

This is a good day so far. I got up early, made chicken stock in my insta pot. Took under an hour! I cleaned my master bath, including the shower. Which is usually such a chore due to the hard water stains on the glass doors. However, I have found a practically free and easy way to get the mineral deposits off!!! Are you interested?

Ok, here is the secret: the mesh bags from produce like lemons or potatoes. It has the right amount of scratch, but gentle. Use your cleaner of choice. Mine is white vinegar (with citrus peels soaked in them) sprayed on the glass, let sit for a couple minutes, gently scrub (ball the mesh up like a bath pouf), rinse. For the shower floor I like to use Barkeepers Friend with the mesh. I've switched over to all natural cleaners a few years ago.

After that, went to two grocery stores. Only bought a few items but got great deals. At Fred Meyer, a salad kit that was marked down from 3.49 to 1.99, then I had .45 coupon. Picked up a container of heavy cream, a ripe large avocado, free range eggs ($$ but worth it to me), ginger root and an orange bell pepper on sale. Next, Safeway. I had a club card deal for two corned beefs for 1.99/lb, picked those up and some sausage patties. Since I spent over $10 I had another club deal for $2 off. Uncured ham lunchmeat marked down to 1.99, a head of cabbage, ben & jerry's for 2.88 (I think the cartons are getting smaller Frown ), and a tiny french baguette for .99. Used a 10% off coupon received from S.O. getting a flu shot; only saved an additional 1.83 but the coupon was about to expire. total grocery spend was $27. Said no to Girl Scouts at both stores. (I'm very happy this is their last weekend).

I deposited the money I made from my jewelry sales. Calculated my income/expenses through the end of the month, and due to my decreased spending and that I get 5 paychecks this month, I think I'll be able to sock away an extra $700 into my savings! Next month I hope to do an extra $400. The April figure is pretty optimistic, since I am starting auto deduction of $125/week on my payday into my Capital One account. It's a big goal but i should get close.

Have a great weekend!!

Pre- Friday!

March 15th, 2018 at 03:03 pm

It's warm and sunny in the Pacific Northwest. I love it!!

I made $200 selling more jewelry. A silver coin, a pair of earrings with tiiiiinnnnny diamonds, and 3 rings, one had particles of diamonds, all had gemstones.

Surgery payback fund is up to $540.00.

I bought a bowl of fruit this morning at my work cafe. $1.35 for about a 2 cup capacity. You can also get a larger bowl for $1.80. They have a nice variety and you can fill it to the brim! The strawberries and pineapples were washed and cut; saves me so much time. I also picked out some red grapes. I take them home and we can snack on them for a couple days. It's a bargain. I love it in the summer, when they have cherries!

My food budget as of today is : $169 out of $350. I am picking up a rotisserie chicken for dinner tonight, and on Friday taking my best friend to a birthday dinner. The restaurant will be doing happy hour so I will eat off of that menu and drink water (can have wine when I get home!)

I failed on the "zero on clothes" for March. My friend gave me a Friends and Family 25% off for Athleta, which I looooove but their clothing is $$$$. I looked online and only found one item I'd like but it was $128. 25% off and tax would make it about $105.00. Well I couldn't justify that, but they are in the same family as Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic. I started checking out the other sites and Old Navy had great looking stuff and everything 40% off. I bought 9 items for the same price as that one jacket. I haven't received my order yet, but surely I won't like at least half the items when I try them on, so will be returning some with the prepaid label. I also had $22 on a gift card, so I can deduct that from my spending.

I'm using the excitement of these new spring clothes to keep me motivated on eating right and exercising!

Trying to Sell Stuff is frustrating

March 14th, 2018 at 10:55 am

I don't know how people do it... I listed a couple items on OfferUp and local FB Buy/sell and no success! On a positive note, this is strengthening my resolve to stop buying so much stuff.

I'll hold onto the designer handbag and try again in late summer. I'm going to take more jewelry in tomorrow to the place I went before. This time I have some rings that have diamonds and gemstones, not just plain gold or silver pieces like the first time. It will be interesting how much they value them. I will be more selective about selling these.

I went through some of my Mom's boxes and found a box of pennies and a few other coins. Some of them were fairly old. I sorted and put aside pennies that were 1960s and older. She also had a Susan B Anthony coin,and a buffalo nickel from 1920. Also, three $2 bills! Very cool and I'm keeping them. The rest of the pennies and other coins I rolled and have $5.00 to add to my "extra income" fund.... I need to come up with a clever name for it.

So far:

Extra income fund:
$335.00 - jewelry sale #1
$5.00 - coins
$340.00 TOTAL

Spavings Fund:
$61.11 -balance
$50.00 - AMEX blue cash reward
$111.11 TOTAL

Makin' extra money

March 1st, 2018 at 12:28 pm

The time is drawing near for me to pay my credit card that I charged the hospital bill on. I'm transferring the money from my online savings, so no sweat there, but I feel the need to 'make up' for spending this money. Even though the expense was totally beyond my control. That's how I roll.

This is my list for recouping some of the money, from easiest to hardest.

Making Money:
1. $900- Sell EE savings bonds: I have bonds that my Mom purchased over the years in the 80s. She passed away 4 years ago. Her and I are co-owners on the bonds. I've been cashing them in once a year as they mature. They earn 4% so I don't want to cash in early. I'll have to wait until 2020 for the last ones to mature.

2. $100 ? - Online surveys... I haven't signed up for any yet; going to research over the weekend. This should be easy to do while vegging out at home.

3. $200 ? - Sell unwanted gold/silver jewelry - I inherited my Mom's jewelry. I don't wear any. Of course there are a few items that have sentimental value, but the rest I have no interest in. I have selected a few items and will take them to a couple reputable local dealers. Hope to get $200 or more, but I have no idea really....

4. $80-$100 - Sell a Dooney and Burke handbag. I've already listed it on Offer Up a few months ago and got several weird inquiries so I removed it. Will try my local city Facebook buy/sell pages.

Saving Money:
1. $500+ - Don't buy clothing and house decor- I would typically spend $100 or more per month on stuff out of boredom or 'I deserve it'. So if I don't buy, it's kind of like earning.

2. $200 - Suspending my massage membership for 3 months. I belong to Element Massage and have a great therapist there. I already suspended it for Jan- Mar. I will resume a couple months and suspend it again. I really enjoy my massages and not willing to give them up completely.

3. $200 - Change to cheaper cell phone service. I currently do prepaid Verizon. It's $49/month and I get great service. I need a company that uses the Verizon network due to where I live. I found one called Red Pocket. I can get a plan that would work for $20/month. It's a pain to switch and port number, and what if the service is bad. But I can save more than 50% so I should try.

4. $150 - Participate in a focus group. I signed up with a local research company. It's inconvenient to drive into Seattle on a weeknight, and hard to qualify for the surveys. I'm only willing to do it for a minimum of $100, or $150 if it's a 2 hour survey.

That's my list. It won't cover all my expenses but it's a good start.

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!

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

I'm scared about my eye

January 15th, 2018 at 11:37 am

I have an eye exam this afternoon. Worried because one afternoon last week, in the car on the way home, I noticed there was a blurry/cloudy spot on my right eye. It's like when you rub your eye and your contact slips and gets scrunched on one side, only I don't wear one in that eye. I tried washing it out with water and lens solution. I'm worried that it's a detached retina. Of course, self-diagnosing on the internet is a bad idea, hence the dr appt. Please think good thoughts for me!

On a positive note, I had FOUR No spend days last week! And my kitchen backsplash is installed and grouted! I'm thrilled with it. Last step is the drywall person to stop by and repair the area where there used to be tile and now it's all wall. After that, I'll be able to really clean and make it sparkle!

Weekend to-do and spending diet

January 12th, 2018 at 12:17 pm

I've had 3 no spend days this week (M, W and Th). (Today also, most likely). I'm pretty proud of that!!
That's a total of 5 no-spend in 11 days. My goal is 15.

My grocery spending is $97.57 out of my $250 budget. So far, I'm right on.

My new kitchen backsplash is being installed right now. I had new granite counters put in November and waited to pick out the backsplash material. Then, various delays, including my tile being out of stock, contractor getting sick etc. It should be done by tomorrow! That is the extent of my kitchen project. I'm not including that spending in my diet, because it would have been taken care of last month.

My diet and exercise are going well. I'm starting to feel a little slimmer (but not going to weigh or measure for awhile because I'm trying to focus on other benefits). I am still tired in the morning, in spite of getting 8 hours of sleep, but have more energy in the afternoons, and hunger is better controlled. I can tell that my upper body is getting stronger with all of the tricep push ups, downward dogs, side planks, etc that are prevalent in the Piyo program.

So for the weekend, I will clean and reorganize my kitchen, cook some meals for next week, do my workouts and relax.

Spending Diet update

January 9th, 2018 at 11:46 am

1/5 - $14.12 for family size papa murphy pizza (4 meals)
1/6- 23.38 food (groc)
1/7- 33.59 gas, 6.37 food
1/8 - 0
1/9 - $92.91 for colon cleanse system, 29.29 groc

I have been thinking of doing a colon cleanse for a few days, so this is not an impulse purchase. It falls into one of my exceptions to spending: medical/ health. I'm not getting the results I expected on my other plan,so I will switch to the colon, then back to the "Fat Flush". I'm still doing my Piyo exercise and eating clean.

Over the weekend, I was at Fred Meyer getting groceries and I was drawn to an endcap in the health aisles. There were 50% markdowns of my favorite natural soap brand "Zum". There were soaps, travel kits and soy candles. The company uses all essential oils and everything smelled so yummy! And 50% off! I put two items in my basket before saying to myself, "Hey, what the h**l? You're on a spending diet!!" I replied, "Yes, but these are my favorites at half off! They will all be sold out by Feb 1!!!" Miraculously, I put them back and went back to buying my planned vegetables. I am pretty happy with myself! I think this type of interaction is a "ah hah" moment and the main purpose of a spending diet.

So.... I don't think I will meet my goal of 15 "no spend" days. But this is not a bad thing. First, it is still making me pause and really think about what I'm buying and if it's necessary at this time, or can I wait, or make due with what I already have. Second, if I'm forcing myself to overbuy on food, it could go bad before I have a chance to use it. So I'd rather go shopping more often, but buy less of the perishables so I minimize waste. (Does that sound like I'm justifying not meeting my goal??? Probably.... but I'm still going to get as close as I can!


January 5th, 2018 at 08:57 am

It's been the longest short week ever...

Here's the recap of my spending diet:

1/1 0
1/2 $6.25 lunch
1/3 $25.16: lunch salad, gas, groceries
1/4 0

My company has an on-site cafe and it's pretty awesome. Most of the food is organic. There's always something healthy to eat at the salad bar. I can get a good sized salad for under $5.00. The best deals are in the morning. Two eggs and sausage runs $2.25. There's a fruit/oatmeal bar that has flat cost of $1.35/ $1.80 depending on bowl size. When I have fruit in my diet, I get the large bowl and fill er up- it holds over 2 lbs so it's too good of a deal to pass up!

New Years Resolutions- nope!

January 2nd, 2018 at 10:26 am

So, 2018. Thank goodness the holidays are over. I realized that I dislike the HOLIDAY season very much. I no longer make yearly resolutions. I have decided to commit to MONTHLY resolutions/challenges.

So to kickoff the new year, I have two challenges! I mean, what else is going on in my life.

1. Health/Fitness: I am doing a cleanse. It's called the Fat Flush by Ann Louise Gittleman. It lasts two weeks, and involves some supplements to nourish the body and help it burn fat, smoothies, and cutting out grains, starchy carbs, alcohol, sugar, dairy.... all the usual problem foods, which I try to avoid anyway. She really focuses on getting the liver and gallbladder working efficiently. Goal is to lose a few pounds (5 would be great), lose the belly bloat and have more energy throughout the day.

(For exercise, I am doing "Piyo", which is a beachbody.com program. It's low impact, combo of yoga/pilates that flows from move to move.)

2. Finances: Spending Diet. Basically, not buying unnecessary items like: clothing, decorations, kitchen gadgets, make up, americanos, eating out. I am shooting for at least 15 'no spend' days. I have a food budget of $250 for January (for two people). My guy and I rarely eat out, but we like to consume some organic produce and grass-fed meat. He buys a lot of groceries himself, so if he needs anything it's no big deal. I'm having two smoothies a day with my cleanse, so I only have to worry about a snack and dinner each day. A snack is veggies dipped in nut butter or homemade lemon dill dip, or a piece of fruit. Easy peasy. My goal is to save an extra $300 by not buying stuff.

So those are the challenges for January, and I'm on day 2 and still optimistic! I'll update the blog occasionally this month.

Big spend day

February 18th, 2008 at 11:54 am

I spent $1300.00 this weekend on window treatments! Ack!

One good thing is, this was a planned purchase and I have been saving money in my ING account for Home Decor projects.

Another good thing: I used a coupon for 30% off- (everything except the curtain hardware)

I bought panels for one large window, the rods/rings, two faux-wood blinds for the bedrooms, and two throw pillows. The curtain panels were the huge expense- they were $535.00 after the discount.

The gal said that I am buying at the right time, because many of their fabric suppliers are raising their prices 6-8% in March.

I put the deposit on my new AMEX cash card so I can earn my rebate.

Whew, I feel so much better that I got this off my chest! :*)

I got my refund!

February 15th, 2008 at 08:22 am

I'm glad that is over! Happy Friday!

Where is my tax rebate???

February 14th, 2008 at 11:30 am

I did everything right.... filed electronically, having direct deposit... it's been 11 days! What is going on? It seemed like everyone else got theirs within a week or so. It's just annoying!

Anyway, Happy Valentines day to all!

My Valentines Day plan

February 11th, 2008 at 09:01 pm

Dinner will be a steak from the freezer, steamed broccoli and baked potatoes. Dessert was GOING to be cupcakes with chocolate whipped frosting, but we are going to Hawaii in 5 weeks and trying to slim down.... I might still make them, eat a couple and take the rest to work. Flowers: instead of paying the outrageous price for roses or delivered bouquets, I looked on the web and found an arrangement I like (NO roses) and will get them from the grocery store and arrange them myself. I should be able to make a large bouquet for $15 or less.

Taxes filed

February 4th, 2008 at 11:21 am

I did my taxes yesterday. I'm getting $686 back. I e-filed using H&R. I'm putting most of this into my Home Decor fund. In addition to wanting to purchase an armoire and some window treatments for my home, I am going to help my Mom pay for laminate flooring in her condo. Her carpet is really gross (from the previous owner) and I think it would be a great investment in her place. I am also going to paint her living/dining room a pale yellow. She is really excited about this. My Mom is in her 70's, has many health problems and very limited income. I really want to make her feel comfortable and secure.