For This I Am Thankful

what-are-you-thankful-for

Thursday, I will be catching some early morning Black Friday sales at Rite Aid (FREE ear buds, people!), enjoying the annual Thanksgiving service at my church and getting down to the business of eating, a little later in the day.

So, I thought I would share my gratitude today, instead.

  • My health and health and insurance…for this I am thankful
  • My family and my place in it…for this I am thankful
  • My own Mirror Image…for Her I am thankful
  • My job and manager…for those I am thankful
  • My passport…for this I am thankful
  • Travel rewards and points…for this I am thankful
  • The opportunities to give and serve others…for these I am thankful
  • Honorable Police…for them I am thankful
  • Dedicated garbage collectors…for them I am thankful
  • Patience…for this I am thankful
  • Forgiveness…for this I am thankful
  • The election is over…for this I am thankful

Have a marvelous Thanksgiving and a Happy Black Friday!

Thrifty Image

My Mint Account Reveals

Mint

I have been a Mint user for a little over a year now and I LOVE IT. I love it so much I wish, even now, that the moment I first heard Jean Chatzky mention it on an episode of Money Matters that I had gotten up off the sofa right then and created my account rather than waiting for as long as I did. I should have hopped up the moment she said it was FREE.

The love I have must be obvious because in one 2 minute conversation with my mom, I convinced her to try it and now, she LOVES IT, TOO. This is not to be taken lightly.  My mom doesn’t really have a lot of patience for sitting at a computer, gathering ALL of the account numbers, passwords, secret questions and the like. Plus, she has a healthy distrust of the internet and its ongoing security issues that get played out on the evening news.  Think Target, Home Depot, Ashley Madison, etc. But if you were to ask her, she would admit to those 2-3 hours of setting up her account as the best investment of time she can remember.

It has been a game changer for me.

Before Mint, I would check my accounts regularly at different websites plus kept a general spreadsheet of my income and expenses but never, had I had the ability and desire to gather ALL of my accounts in one place on my own.  I think this largely had to do with not fully understanding the concept of net worth at the time.

With Mint, having almost all my accounts in one place takes allows me to know my net worth, my credit score, my due balances and most importantly, my financial trends. It is the TRENDS function that has me so excited right now.

I was playing around with the TRENDS function in a way I hadn’t before and was able to determine how I have been spending my money by category.  I was particularly interested in the area of Food and Dining – specifically the Groceries sub-category. With Mint, I can compare trends over time.  The options range among last seven days, last month 3 months, 12 months or the comparison can be customized for a particular investigating.

I beat myself up a lot because of the amount of money I spend on groceries each month. We are eaters in the Thrifty Image household. We like to eat, Mirror Image likes for me to cook and I take joy in our being able to come together over a delicious meal without the extra salt, fat or costs of eating out. But I really felt that the monthly costs were pretty high. So I took a look and compared my costs over the last 6 months with the previous six months then did the same with the year to date.

What a pleasant surprise!

I have spent approximately $1,000 less these last six months than I did in the previous six months on Groceries. And I know why. The Water Challenge in January and the current Meat Free March challenge. I have been perplexed by what has felt like excessive spending yet, the overall food category has gone done overall. Hurrah!

This is just one of the ways Mint helps me manage my money and gives me the tools to explore not just the money but better money management.  With all of the information in one place, it is so much easier to manage the money and understand the nuances. With Mint I see:

  • Cash (Savings) Account
  • Investment (403b, 401K, Roth IRA, Schwab One, Betterment)
  • Credit Card Accounts
  • Housing Value (provide by Zillow)
  • Vehicle Value
  • Loans (Mortgage)

Accounts can be added (say you get a new credit card or open up a Betterment account) or they can be closed or deleted (perhaps your credit card number was stolen or your car was totaled and it doesn’t exist as an asset anymore). The only account I cannot currently see is Mirror Image’s Private College 529.  According to Mint, there needs to be a pent-up demand and I guess I am the only one with that account.  Another reason to transfer that account over to my State College Savings Plan!

Thrifty Image Mirror

Monday Money Review

Magnifying Glass - Results

What a lovely weekend! The kind to be treasured — just the right amount of relaxation and effort; healthy choices and indulgent snacks; togetherness and alone time.

Let’s see if the money tells the same store. So, here we go:

Before

  • Church (tithes/offering) = $328
  • Gas = $25
  • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
  • Groceries = $5
  • Dollar Tree = $0
  • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
  • Clothes Shopping = $0
  • Gifts = $0
  • Restaurant = $0
  • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
  • Prescriptions = $35
  • Fun Outing = $10
  • Total = $403

After

  • Church (tithes/offering) = $328
    • Church (tithes/offering) = $328
  • Gas = $25
    • Gas = $24.10
  • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
    • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
  • Groceries = $5
    • Groceries = $5.77
  • Dollar Tree = $0
    • Dollar Tree = $19.11
  • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
    • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
  • Clothes Shopping = $0
    • Clothes Shopping = $0
  • Gifts = $0
    • Gifts = $0
  • Restaurant = $0
    • Restaurant = $0
  • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
    • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
  • Prescriptions = $35
    • Prescriptions = $0
  • Fun Outing = $10
    • Fun Outing = $8.80
  • Total = $88
    • Total = $385.78

Although gas prices went up .15 per gallon over last week, it was still a reasonable purchase with less than $25 out of pocket.

I went back to Aldi Friday after work to pick up some avocados and other vegetables in order to have a successful meat free weekend.

There is a new Dollar Tree somewhat in my area!  It changed over from a Deals to a DT and I was able to not only pick up desired snacks and cleaning supplies, but I was also able to use some coupons!

Mirror Image had a soda during intermission at the orchestra,our fun outing on Friday. It cost $2.00.  This combined with the $6.80 round trip train tickets brought out cultural outing in under $10!

The rest of our weekend consisted of laundry and dog hair management (yuck), exercising Thrifty Pooch, fun with homemade clay, homemade Spinach pizza, a murder mystery movie from the library and Walking Dead after Mirror Image went off to sleep.

I came in under budget because I neglected to pick up some prescriptions and I utterly failed at the Dollar Tree but came in under budget overall. Bye-bye weekend money!

Thrifty Image Mirror

Monday Money Review

Magnifying Glass - Results

This weekend had its highs and lows.  Nothing went quite as planned.  Mirror Image’s friend left homesick for her family LATE Friday night so there was no actual sleepover. Since there was no sleepover, we decided to make this a mostly errand running and crafting weekend.  This had an impact the Weekend Money.

But, I will justify the spending later in the post, here’s is where we work out if this past weekend matched the expected weekend money. So here we go:

Before

  • Church (tithes/offering) = $28
  • Gas = $25
  • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
  • Groceries = $0
  • Dollar Tree = $10
  • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
  • Clothes Shopping = $0
  • Gifts = $0
  • Restaurant = $0
  • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
  • Prescriptions = $0
  • Fun Outing = $25
  • Total = $88

After

  • Church (tithes/offering) = $28
    • Church (tithes/offering) = $28
  • Gas = $25
    • Gas = $22.73
  • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
    • Personal Care (haircut, mani/pedi, etc.) = $0
  • Groceries = $0
    • Groceries = $41.66
  • Dollar Tree = $10
    • Dollar Tree = $7.92
  • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
    • Vehicle Service/Repair = $0
  • Clothes Shopping = $0
    • Clothes Shopping = $0
  • Gifts = $0
    • Gifts = $0
  • Restaurant = $0
    • Restaurant = $0
  • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
    • Zips Dry Cleaning = $0
  • Prescriptions = $0
    • Prescriptions = $0
  • Michael’s = $0
    • Michael’s = $4.23
  • JC Penney = $0
    • JC Penney = $3.17
  • Fun Outing = $25
    • Fun Outing = $0
  • Total = $88
    • Total = $107.71

Sam's Club Membership Gas Price

I was excited about this gasoline outing.  I have been a member of Sam’s Club for some months now but still hadn’t remembered to take advantage of club gas prices.  Fortunately, I saw the sign while driving on a different errand for only $1.52/gal.  I knew this was .14 less than at the Exxon closest to my home so I filled up.  The only downside is that when I saw my transaction on Mint, it registered as shopping, instead of fuel.  That means I won’t be seeing the 5% back on my Chase Freedom this time around.  Still, membership clearly has its privileges. Funny thing, I was so mesmerized by the price, that Sam’s Club and Walmart’s relationship to each other didn’t even register in my mind at the time. So the question becomes, do I keep my Walmart shopping ban strictly with Walmart or stretch to it’s other entities as well?  Dunno yet.

Ahhh, groceries. So with the unexpected free time this weekend, there was no reason to not visit the grocery store.  Especially once Mirror Image showed me this – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCAQMRAZVuY . What an awesome project for a Saturday.  Aldi doesn’t sell a huge selection of Jello and gelatins so we also had to shop at Shopper Food Warehouse.  While there, I also picked up some Cadbury eggs and Yokisoba noodles.  I had awesome coupons for both. While at Aldi I also picked up a big Chuck Roast for Sunday dinner.  For March, my family is eating vegetarian meals only. This was our meat celebration meal before the meatless challenge begins.

I picked up a 16oz bottle of Sprite, some cleaning supplies and garbage bags from the Dollar Tree.

There was unexpected shopping – I wanted to give the girls a paraffin wax hand spa treatment so I picked some up at Michaels with a 20% off coupon I had.  I also had a $10 off $10 coupon from JC Penney.  I tried to stay at the $10 purchase to make it a FREE item, but ultimately had to come out of pocket at the $3.17 for a new bath rug.  It was TOTALLY worth it considering the sorry state of my current bath rug.  Interesting fact, while at the JCP, I learned this location is closing on April 8th.  I have to admit to not shopping there regularly.  In fact, I only go when there is a $10 or $10 coupon floating around.  But, I will stop by in the next couple of weeks as they slash prices on inventory.  If the prices are low enough, I may start back-to-school shopping for Mirror Image and just hide them until August.

We decided to not go to RockinJump but rather, to have fun at home with our crafty projects, DVDs rented from the library and the Thrifty Pooch.

I failed at the Weekend Money plan overall but still didn’t spend on clothes and restaurants.  I will have to console myself with the small wins this time.

Thrifty Image Mirror

Taking Financial Advice – Credit Cards

Welcome to my new series – Taking Financial Advice –  where I share financial or money  advice I have been given and give feedback on how that worked out for me.

 

Credit-Card-Logos

For years I have operated with one credit card.  Discover Card with 1% cash back. This wasn’t always the case. Before aligning myself with the one card rule, I had several cards. An American Express from my college days. 2-3 store cards that I got in order to receive the in-store purchase discount and a random Visa that showed up in my mail one day.

But then I started listening to a professional money-head, probably Suze Orman, and the advice was, to have just one card and pay it off at the end of the month.  So I did. And I was always pleasantly surprised to receive a credit that I could apply to my future balances one the credit reserve was large enough.  I see now, while not exactly harmful advice, not stellar advice either – at least not for me.

What I did not do was research.  I took some advice from someone “in the know” and reaped the rewards – or rather lack of rewards – from that advice.

What went wrong?

#1 Closing established accounts

Closing my oldest credit accounts stripped me on my history of long-term credit relationships. This is a ding on credit reports.

#2Higher credit use ratio

Also, because I only had one card, the likelihood of having an unattractive credit utilization rate was ongoing.

Now in all honesty, I was not paying pay attention to my credit reports back in the day and had never heard of FICO and had no idea what terms like Credit Utilization or “balance-to-limit-ratio” even meant. That wasn’t the money-head’s fault.  I should have known or should have researched the technicalities behind the advice. This just goes to show that everything is an iceberg.  The advice that floats on the top and, the information that is swimming under the surface.

#3 Sacrificing rewards opportunities

This is the one that is most disheartening.  I have left so many rewards and points on the table because I thought I was taking the smarter, nobler steps of keeping just one card and paying off that card at the end of each month.  The truth is, I could have still been smart, and pay my balances in full at the end of each month. But just with more cards.

The lesson for me is, listening to advice is great and necessary.  There are so many resources that know or can offer more information than any one of us can know on our own in a single lifetime.  The real problem was not in taking the advice but in not doing more research or understanding what my real needs were and what opportunities I could benefit from.

And when it comes to our finances, only we care the most about them.

And because I care about how I can arrange my finances for things like excellent credit scores, fun vacations and cash back, I have new cards that I LOVE and these are the rewards that I received when I signed up:

Chase Sapphire – 50,000 points (can convert to free hotel nights)

IHG – 60,000 points (about 6 free hotel nights + plus a FREE night each year on my birthday)

Southwest Rapid Rewards – 50,000 points (2 round-trip tickets to Seattle for Me and Mirror Image to visit my father)

Chase Freedom – $150 Cash Back

Barclays MasterCard – $250 Cash Back

And I still pay my bills, in full, at the end of each month so as not to pay finance or interest fees.  And with these cards, as with my beloved Discover Card, I can get cash back or points/ rewards on the things I would have purchased anyway.

Thrifty Image Mirror