A power up with our regular monthly savings deposit

We deposit $125 into our MG fund at the end of each month. Love this!

Today’s Deposit: $125
Level Completed: 150 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $473.73
Total Balance: $7,737.18
Our Money Game fund has increased 6.5% so far this month.

$179.70 is needed to reach the next level


10 minute blocks of time

Flylady (I can’t stand her tone but I learned a lot while I was there) taught me you can do anything for 15 minutes. Combined with a game she called “Room Rescue”, I learned I could get a LOT done in 15 minutes. (You set a timer for 15 minutes and if everyone cleans with 100% effort in that one room, guilt-free hang out time comes after. It was always amazing to see how much we got accomplished in 15 minutes.)

She also challenged her readers to do a dreaded job and time yourself. She said you’d be shocked to see how little time it takes. My dreaded job was some stuck on shelf liner under our cups. I just knew somehow honey had spilled (we don’t even keep food in that cabinet) and it would take hours. I set the timer and got to work. It turned out the clear liner just seemed to be stuck. It wasn’t stuck at all. It took me 3 minutes to pull everything out, wipe down the liner and replace it all. That taught me a lot.

So today I saw this post from Wait but Why?: 100 blocks of time

It’s a good read. I usually think about time in bigger chunks – morning, after lunch and  evening. Honestly I waste a lot of time.

I kept thinking about 100 blocks of time and wondered how I could grow it? I love to think in terms of growth. Instead I instantly realized what erodes it.

I’m the kind of person who always has a “dreaded task” hanging over my head. The weight of it makes me drag around and move slower. I realized I could designate a ten minute block of time as early as possible to that task and maybe get it over with.

I also realized I drag around every morning until I shower and dress. The earlier I could do it, the quicker I’d have energy and stop wasting my 10 minute blocks. I get so bored getting ready. Another blogger I like posted something she called “Ready in a song”. She challenges herself to do her makeup before her favorite song is over. I think that’s a very cool idea.

I realized the 30 minutes it takes me to shower, dress, do my hair and makeup could be broken up into 3 10 minute blocks. The first could be to shower and dress. Then I could make our breakfast before doing the second (hair and maybe makeup). It probably takes so long because I get so bored and start dragging.

We use Amazon Echo constantly and now I want a device for our bedroom so I can listen to books and/or get ready in a song in the morning.

One thing that helps me grow time is to have a routine and clean things while they are still clean (it goes faster and the job isn’t gross). My biggest routine is to race the coffeepot every morning while I empty the dishwasher. That way everyone knows the dishwasher is for dirty dishes and the kitchen stays nice. I always beat the coffee and the day starts with a big win.

The post I linked to has a printable 100 grid block. It might be fun to color in each block used productively and X out each wasted block. That would be easy to do on a spreadsheet too.

Update: I did play around with a spreadsheet. What worked best for me was to start one colum numbering down from 6 am to 10 pm (we try to sleep from 10 – 6 each night.) I left 6 rows between each number and then decided ahead of time how I would “spend” each row of 10 minutes. I was a lot more productive this morning. I did wind up surfing for 30 minutes but that was a huge improvement.

Here’s a screen shot to give you an idea (wow – this is personal and you can see we slept in but whatever):

6 0 sleep
10 sleep
20 sleep
30 sleep
40 sleep
50 sleep
7 0 sleep
10 sleep
20 clean
30 cook
40 clean
50 Bible/pray
8 0 Bible/pray
10 Bible/pray
20 Bible/pray/texting Kathy to offer to clean her apartment
30 Internet/Money Game
40 Internet/Money Game
50 Carmen’s MLS renewal
9 0 Shower
10 Shopping on line
20 Makeup and dress
30 talked to sister
40 talked to sister
50 talked to sister
10 0 talked to sister
10 surf
20 surf
30 surf
40 wrote blog post, made bank transfer

I guess you can tell that God nudged me to offer a helping hand to a friend who just had surgery. The power of prayer can work two ways – sometimes He helps us and sometimes we are pressed into helping Him. Anyway I made a note of it to remind me to keep my phone with me in case she texts back. I helped her once before and couldn’t believe how much pain she was in post op. Since I’m talking about this, she’s in our small group at church. If you aren’t in a small group, consider checking it out. I don’t know what I’d do without mine. They have encouraged me, prayed for my kids, challenged me and laughed with me. So far we haven’t had to cry together but if that happened, they would be the ones I’d want around me. We eat together once a week taking turns in each other’s homes, study the Bible together, hand out and pray together. Just opening the Bible and reading it with other people has been amazing. We all come from different church backgrounds but share a dislike for “religion” – man’s attempts to be righteous and man’s rules at church. So we read together without any preset church doctrine. We genuinely want to find out for ourselves what the Bible is saying. We’ve bantered some things around that could be interpreted in different ways and the insight we’ve gotten as a group has been helpful.

Another thing that stood out – showering/make up/getting dressed took a full 10 minutes less tracking this way. That’s a big deal to me because I have a lot more energy when I take time to shower and dress. I usually convince myself that it will take too long and this proves me wrong.

It’s actually fun to look ahead at the next ten minutes, decide how you’ll “spend” it and then follow through.



I’m realizing why I’m procrastinating on sales


A huge part of me doesn’t know what I’m doing.

A little part of me knows how to sell sewing things on eBay. But it was a ton of work and I’m honestly trying to remember everything.

eBay expects top notch customer service. Respond very quickly to customer questions. Ship quickly. Very quickly.

The eBay phone app worked really well for me. I could keep my phone close and respond. I loved hearing that cash register sound every time I made a sale. I’m fortunate to live 2 miles from a post office and I’m home during the day. Quick shipping is totally doable.

The biggest thing I remember from eBay was to know your shipping ocsts before you list the item. I lost money on my first few sales because I had no clue how much it cost to ship things. If you have to drive to the post office to find out first, just do it. Chalk up the time to tuition. Congratulations – you are in eBay school!

I also need to try every local venue I know of. My chiropractor told me his daughter sells clothes on “LetGo”. I’ve never tried Craigslist and I should try our small town Facebook yard sale page. (The Chattanooga page is hopping but I hesitate to list anything that doesn’t cost much as I’ll have to drive at least half an hour to meet up with a buyer). Etsy is another one I haven’t tried and it will work for vintage pattern sales and even perhaps things I make.

It’s 1:00 pm EST. I’m going to get cracking and I’ll come back with an update. The first task I’m assigning myself is to get my eBay app and running. I did sign on to eBay from my laptop the other day so I know that part is good. At least I still know my user name and password!

Update at 1:35 EST I decided to post on LetGo instead (you can see the picture of the listing above). It was easier and there are no fees. If someone buys locally, I don’t have to ship. I had no idea what to charge so I spent 15 seconds looking at that brand on eBay and went with a bit more than I’d be happy receiving. I’m not sure how much people like to negotiate but I gave myself some room.

Here’s a link to the listing on line in case you are curious how LetGo works. I noticed it posted my location. I’m not sure how I feel about it but I’m fortunate to live in a safe, low crime area. Maybe those college girls nearby will feel better about 3 1/2″ heels than I did!

Tips for scoring travel deals

DD#2 lives on a tight budget having forsook all to move the beach (we are all jealous by the way). She still manages to fly around the country taking in great shows or reuniting with good friends.

I was at her house earlier this month telling her how badly we want to fly to Seattle to see our youngest son. She started sharing how she flies inexpensively.

Her biggest tip is to use Southwest Airlines and to sign up for their “Click ‘N Save” emails. A newsletter is sent our regularly and she explained if I read it faithfully, I’ll recognize good deals.

Here’s a link to the newsletter that hit my inbox today. Seattle wasn’t listed so that at least tells me that should a Seattle deal surface, I’ll want to grab it. I’m lucky to have three airports within driving distance that I can use so I’ll definitely check out deals from all three.

Another thing she shared is that if an even better deal surfaces to the same destination before my flight leaves, Southwest will credit the difference to me. You’ll need to contact them and request the credit.

I’ve heard others say to clear your cookies on your computer after you’ve researched flights before you are ready to actually book. They say the airlines’ web sites use cookies to gauge your interest and you may see flight prices go up as you keep checking for deals. I don’t have any experience with this but it couldn’t hurt to try.

That’s all I have so far but this is an area I intend to learn more about and I’ll share what I learn and what works for me. If you have any tried and true ways of traveling for less, please share! I’m also on the hunt for websites with great travel advice.  Another reader private messaged me saying this is a big interest of hers and my feeling is she’s not the only one.

Leveling up with a real life example

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

To keep this from being a really long story about the boring topic of ironing George’s dress shirts, I’m going straight to the Cliff’s Notes.

I used to pay our former housekeeper $20 a week to iron his shirts. I got interested in Drive Free Cars but wondered how it could earn 12% right out of the gate. George quipped “That’s easy – you pay someone $20 a week to iron my shirts.”

My financial whiz of a brain immediately picked up an iron and that $20 a week was added to our car fund for many years.

I mainly shared that story to explain one reason why I like having a good iron. Lately ours has been spitting water on his shirts. I also noticed I’ve been buying a Rowenta iron about every 2 years.

So today – the online sewing community I’m part of starting buzzing about “the real deal BMW of irons” being on sale which only happens once a year. I almost bought one.

Here’s the real life example of how we approach buying stuff (and this works for big and small purchases – if you’ve been reading this blog, you know how quickly it all adds up right?)

Me: Finally! (clouds are parting – sun rays are beaming down – angels are singing)

Me texting George: You know that POS of an iron that spit water all over your dress shirt? A really, really good one is one sale today for <$100.

George (calling): Is this the best use of $100? (cause he already factored in shipping and tax)

Me (remembering the Money Game): Well I'll also have to buy an IV pole for $32.95 to hold the gravity bag that holds 1 gallon of distilled water while I iron ….

George points out we don't have to buy distilled water now then asks "Are there any other solutions?"

I suddenly remember a book I read where no steam iron is used. An iron is used on a dry setting and a spray bottle of water mists the shirts perfectly. "Yeah now that you mention it, David Coffin's book describes how to use a dry iron more effectively than a steam iron."

George: "That's what I'd recommend too!"

No, we don't get to deposit money not spent into our savings account each and every time. Sometimes we don't have the money to spend to begin with.

But today – I would have bought that iron if George and I hadn't made the game of figuring out how to get the same benefit or better without forking over our hard earned cash. This is the day I'm claiming it.

$100 + $32.95


Today’s Deposit: $132.95
Level Completed: 150 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $348.73
Total Balance: $7,612.18
Our Money Game fund has increased 4.8% so far this month.

$304.70 is needed to reach the next level

We’ve been married quite a few years and that has built some cushion into our budget. We don’t need as much as we did when we were just starting out. If you are just starting, please don’t read this and think “It must be nice!” Trust me, I know many people who have so much more who may be thinking this whole Money Game is the silliest thing they ever heard of. They are literally managing millions and I get that.

My point is please don’t compare but look at the percentage growth. 5% is 5% (or whatever percent growth you wish to use). If you keep growing your money tracking by percent growth, you are going to have more than you could have imagined. If you aren’t convinced, click on the spreadsheet example above that shows the 250 levels of the Money Game and scroll down to see how quickly it can grow.



Powering up with a quick update

Random post notes:

  • $65.75 power up from a $30.75 ibotta rebate, a $20 rebate from a camp thing we signed up for and a fun extra $10 (George gave me a $10 when I told him I’d just wait in Panera while he got his hair cut next door – the Panera server said “Just coffee? It’s on the house.” Whooop!!) I’m going to take the change jar too so I’ll come back and update the totals after the credit union change counter does its thing. Don’t hold your breath – it’s not a lot but it all counts.
  • Adding $3.40 to the deposit from the change jar
  • I’ve been gone for 21 days doting on family and honestly I’m tired. If your inspiration is waning, seriously try to get more sleep if you can.
  • I did lots of homework on beach real estate. There are a lot of costs associated with buying and selling real estate. The money is going to be made in finding properties in great locations for great prices. It’s not going to be a cake walk.
  • George is genuinely excited about the Money Game and he’s tracking with me. It’s a huge help to have someone personally cheering you on.
  • While I was gone, I was able to concentrate on my family. That was a good check for me and I’m relieved that it didn’t bother me to spend more than usual on gas & food, etc. When I found myself wishing I could work on the MG, it was easier than being at work waiting for the evening’s fun to start. That’s cause I was with my family. They are the reason I’m playing anyway. I hope to be able to show them how to be free of a job they may not enjoy and one day, they’ll inherit it. Getting to pause to actually be with them was a blessing and I treasure these times.
  • W2’s are out and I’m excited about taxes. George does them and I hate to push him. We get a refund. We’re don’t have any deductions to claim on withholding. Honestly this is something I need to ask our accountant about.
  • My youngest daughter gave me some great tips on flying from the east to west coast round trip for less than $200. I didn’t know that was possible. As I start working through the details, I’ll be happy to share here – just ask. We haven’t seen our youngest son in almost three years. I miss him so much and hope one of can fly to the other soon.
  • We got notification from Costco that our rebate check is on its way. Bring it on! I am such a happy Costco customer. I get many of the organic products we need at better prices than we get at Whole Foods or Earth Fare and on top of that a big fat rebate check. Our gas costs less but contributes heavily towards our rebate. I love Costco!

Today’s Deposite: $64.15
Level Completed: 149 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $215.78
Total Balance: $7,479.23
Our Money Game fund has increased 2.9% so far this month.

$60.66 is needed to reach the next level

A camping hack (and how we save money)

We went camping at Grayton Beach last Thanksgiving. They have the coolest grates that fit over their campfire rings. It’s adustable and it gives you a great cooking surface. We liked it so much we asked at the office where we could order one. They happily obliged with a link and we we learned these grates cost hundreds of dollars each.

That wasn’t going to happen. But stuff like that gets on our radar and we start noticing fire pits, ways of cooking outdoors, etc.

Today I ran into this You Tube video. It’s a $6 solution and it will also fit into the big plastic bin that houses our camping “kitchen”. (I said a $6 solution as we’ll probably get the larger sized brackets.)

A camping hack (via You Tube)

I love finding things like this. I think it’s actually a better solution for us as it’s more portable. We also won’t have to figure out how to get a huge, cast iron grate that’s been over a campfire into the back of our SUV. (I mean we could but I don’t want to mess up our vehicle.)

What’s up?

photo by Mary Cavanaugh

I am on family duty. Part of that has been helping my youngest daughter at her beach home in Florida. Her car broke down and she has a big client who has flown in from New York. She’s newly licensed and obviously wants and needs this sale. I drove down so she can use my car to meet her client. (Don’t feel too sorry for me. I snapped that picture the other morning hanging out on the beach. Temps have been in the mid 70’s. Dude – it’s January!)

Why am I telling you this? My daughter’s strengths are in helping her customers see the ROI on investment properties. She managed property here and got so many inquiries about selling that she got licensed.

Serious players of the Money Game may feel their ears perking up. What? Investments? Real estate?

I’ve learned a lot following her around, asking questions and looking at ROI spreadsheets until my eyes have crossed (not really – I could look at data all day long especially when the charts are moving up).

One thing I learned is that today’s technology will let anyone work as a reservationist for a vacation home owner. You don’t have to actually live at the location to help customers with their questions. Many of these owners don’t enjoy this aspect.

VRBO (the biggest web site for finding a vacation home to rent) has been sold to Expedia. There have been lots of changes and even glitches. A patient person who can work through computer issues can help an owner improve their booking rates. Additonally there is at least one software platform that will tie in multiple listing sites and integrate their calendars making it easier and more effective to get more bookings. I’m looking into that now. For example, many owners here are old school and haven’t even begun to use Airbnb.

This may be the side hustle that is not terribly labor intensive but could help one earn more money for buying real estate down the road. It requires:

  • great people and communication skills
  • an understanding of how vacationers book and pay for a vacation home
  • a decent computer or laptop
  • a good phone with a reliable connection
  • a need to answer phone and email inquiries promptly from the morning well into the evening
  • the ability to learn how VRBO and similar sites work (if their rules aren’t followed, the property won’t rank high when customers search)
  • the ability to follow up with existing customers to get more bookings
  • an ability to figure out how to find your first vacation home owner who needs your help (and hopefully as many more as you’d like)

Since I don’t live here, I won’t physically manage the property’s cleaning and maintenance. This is strictly entering bookings online and answering questions when prospective vacationers inquire.

This is a job you’d advertise on your own. I’m working on an ad to place locally  and I plan to charge 5% for one (and only one) client. The going rate is 10% but I need one client to learn the ropes and I’ll advertise as such. Once I’m comfortable, I can start asking for referrals and advertise for new business. At that time, I can raise my rate.

It will be easy to measure performance.  I’ll make a spreadsheet capturing the home’s income for the past year and then measure what I’m able to do. I’m confident I can adapt to VRBO’s changing rules and stay compliant. If I’m understanding Carmen correctly, they also measure response times and I’m good with that. I like to help people and I’m not terribly busy. Responding to emails and phone calls won’t be an issue for me (and it was never was when I worked in the corporate world. Customer service was always the part of my performance reviews where I got the highest scores and the people I served liked me.)

To give you an idea of earning potential, let’s say an owner has a vacation home that rents for $1,000 a week (that’s pretty low for a beach house but I want the math to be easy).  Our owners aren’t tech savy and they are really busy people. They haven’t had the time to read and implement VRBO’s new rules. They also don’t know that there are lots of new platforms now to use. They typically book 8 weeks a year bringing in $8,000 plus taxes and cleaning fees.

Let’s pretend I take over and spend a good week properly listing the home. Phone calls and emails trickle in. Customers can tell I’m helpful and responsive. The home looks great (I’m not going to enlist a home that’s a dump) and bookings increase 50% over the next season. I bring in $12,000 plus extra fees and send all the money to the owners. I invoice them 5% for the rental which will be $600. (I’ll invoice monthly not yearly though.)

In that example, I really won’t make much for my time. In reality, the spreadsheets I’ve seen with real data for this area have been $4-8k a month income. I’m willing to take on a low performer as long as the home is decent to learn how to help customers make their reservations and how to properly list a vacation home.

If I land a good client, I may use some Money Game funds to upgrade my phone. It’s an iPhone 4s and trust me, it’s time.

I’m so glad I structured the Money Game as a game. It gave me the ability to set it aside while spending time with family this month. I thought about bringing things to sell but knew Carmen would need my car. I would have been listing yard sale things for a few dollars here and there and missed learning so much about how to make extra money in a new way. I’ve also learned a lot more about breaking into real estate investing. As that part takes shape, I’ll share it too.

Powering up with December’s expense check

(photo by George Cavanaugh)

I apologize for disappearing. Last week, this little cutie’s mom (my daughter in law) called saying our granddaughter was sick and asked if I could spend the night to help watch her brother while she took her to the pediatrician. She was much sicker than we thought with pneumonia so I’ve been out of town for a week. She’s feeling better now and I’m thankful for that and to be back home.

This post comes with a power up as George did his expense check a bit earlier than usual. Today’s deposit is $150.61.

Level Completed: 149 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $151.63
Total Balance: $7,415.08
Our Money Game fund has increased 2.1% so far this month.

$124.81 is needed to reach the next level.

December wrap up

December ended up being the month with the most deposits. The Instant Pots haven’t sold. I’ll try again on Facebook tomorrow. I got 2 payouts from ibotta – one for $25.25 and the other for $69.25. We also got 89 cents in interest. Everything else was from coming in under budget (a whopping $725 was budget extra for our beach property POA). In the past, I would have used that money to make up for over spending here and there. Today, it goes to our Money Game fund.

Those big payouts start in the fall and end right after Christmas. Those are things like annual tax bills where I have to estimate what we’ll need and set some aside every time George gets paid. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months.

On the health front, we continue with another month of no sick days. I’m so thankful for this lifestyle (and thankful that we love veggies because we sure do eat a lot of them!)

Monthly Deposits Beginning Gain Ending % Growth
July, 2016 0 $509.86 $509.86 N/A
August, 2016 $509.86 $1,214.77 $1,724.63 238.26%
September, 2016 $1,724.63 $1,422.87 $3,147.50 82.50%
October, 2016 $3,147.50 $1,493.36 $4,640.86 47.45%
November, 2016 $4,640.86 $1,119.90 $5,760.76 24.13%
December, 2016 $5,760.76 $1,502.69 $7,263.45 26.08%