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Saying goodbye to YNAB

George and I have had long talks about the software we use, what we need and what we want.

We absolutely loved YNAB4 – the classic desktop version especially when we were able to update it from our phones. That meant both of us could see what was available to spend when we were out shopping. No one had to ask permission to spend money. I loved that George could see that I honored the budget and kept my spending in line. That helped to get him more engaged with the whole process (he hates the admin part of updating finances).

We got an email saying it won’t be supported any more and decided to look around and ask around. We decided to try financier.io – a web based app that will let us both view it from different devices. It also retains the red arrow from YNAB4 that will let you carry a negative balance from month to month. This was important to us as it let us track any categories that were problems. Lately George’s SUV has needed more maintenance and this is one where the red arrow has been helpful. We turn it on for that category and just keep adding the regular budget amount each month. It almost caught itself up and then his SUV broke down. This is a bigger deal to George than scheduled maintenance. Getting stranded at work and seeing a negative balance in that category has really grabbed his attention letting him know he has some decisions to make probably in the near future.

Meanwhile, the car replacement fund categories for both of our vehicles are sitting there offsetting the negative amount. The total category (transportation) is in the black and all is good here.

I’ll try to post an update in a week or two. I hope this goes well. Meanwhile I guess I’m running two systems!

I have power ups to post but instead I’m setting up financier. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Annual Christmas Planning – 2019

ChristmasCookies
(last year’s cookies by Banks & Warner)

Christmas is 8 weeks away!

Halloween was last Thursday, October 31 and Christmas is 8 weeks later. I like to get out my planner and block in dates, nail down DH’s vacation, make sure the 2019 gift spreadsheet is ready with budget amounts for each recipient, etc. while waiting on kids to trick or treat at our door.

My main shopping goals are to get some great gifts for the people I love. The Money Game taught me that starting early and looking for good sales helps me actually spend more time doing “quality shopping”. I’m spending less and my gifts are a lot nicer now. I hate shopping but the Money Game got me in the hunt!

Make Up Money Games

Make up games to save money on your holiday spending – anything leftover goes into your MG fund. It’s like getting paid to shop (and you’re going to shop anyway right?) I hope to use online sources too and not spend as much money on gas this year. Remember your level is the score and dollars give you the points you need to level up!

Shopping earlier – if you budget $25 for your nephew and find a great deal for $15, you have $10 that you can send right to your MG fund.

Anticipating Black Friday sales – there is plenty of notice online. Do searches for the products you have in mind and/or search for your favorite stores to see what they may be offering. Don’t forget Amazon and don’t forget cyber Monday!

Shutterfly books make great gifts and there are often coupons for a free one. This gift takes time though so start looking now if you want to take advantage of their generous offers.

What I just wrote applies to holiday food too. Start watching for deals, work with your budget and stock up!

Don’t just “save” the money – S.A.V.E. that money!!!

Powering Up

Today is the first and that means free money!
Today’s Deposit: $20.51
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $20.51
Total Balance: $37,615.62
Our Money Game fund has increased .05% so far this month.

$107.86 is needed to reach the next level.

October 2019 Wrap Up

pumpkinKitty
(another pumpkin carving by my son)

New? Start here …

What does looking at these stats do for you? Why would you even want to know or care?

I write these summaries to show the results of saving these little bits of money over and over again. I hope it inspires you to get your game on! Our efforts have literally made us $37,500 richer is just over 3 years. You could probably leave me behind in the dust because you’d probably sell stuff too.

The Top Post of the Month

Maybe you all have Christmas on your minds or maybe it was the crazy snowman picture my niece snapped. But How We Budget for Christmas topped the list for October. I love seeing what interests you and appreciate everyone who takes their time to read this blog.

The Last Power Up of the Month

We have a regularly scheduled deposit that goes into our Money Game fund at the end of each month. Today’s the day …

Today’s Deposit: $125.00
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $929.74
Total Balance: $37,595.11
Our Money Game fund has increased 2.54% so far this month.

$128.37 is needed to reach the next level

Monthly Summary

You can see from above we ended the month crossing $37,500 and increasing our fund by 2.54%. Our deposits totaled $929.74.

Our Money Game fund has grown 21.11% over the last 12 months. Our efforts are pretty much passive. We stay on budget and transfer anything left to the Money Game. That’s not a bad return for some conscientious book keeping.

Here’s a peek at the last 12 months:

Beginning. Balance Monthly Deposits Ending Balance Percent Growth
November, 2018 $31,029.32 $14.03 $31,043.35 0.05%
December, 2018 $31,043.35 $527.16 $31,570.51 1.70%
January, 2019 $31,570.51 $332.80 $31,903.31 1.05%
February, 2019 $31,903.31 $35.95 $31,939.26 0.11%
March, 2019 $31,939.26 $17.63 $31,956.89 0.06%
April, 2019 $31,956.89 $17.07 $31,973.96 0.05%
May, 2019 $31,973.96 $17.65 $31,991.61 0.06%
June, 2019 $31,991.61 $1,804.68 $33,796.29 5.64%
July, 2019 $33,796.29 $833.39 $34,629.68 2.47%
August, 2019 $34,629.68 $1,263.89 $35,893.57 3.65%
September, 2019 $35,893.57 $771.80 $36,665.37 2.15%
October, 2019 $36,665.37 $929.74 $37,595.11 2.54%

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.
Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Don’t let ads dictate what Christmas means to you

JurassicPumpkin
(pumpkin carving by my oldest son)

Sometimes I look around my favorite online places for financial chat to see what people are talking about. I noticed it’s quieted down and wondered if it’s because the holidays are about to descend.

New? Start here …

Have you noticed how hard you can work to lose a few pounds only to have one bad day take back all that ground? We all know the same came happen with our finances.

I’m asking you to go back to last New Year’s Eve and think about the dreams and goals you had. We are coming to the biggest shopping season of the year and the retail industry has big dreams and goals too. They spend millions of dollars on advertising to transfer our dreams to their bottom lines. I don’t think it’s evil but there is a tug-of-war and we want to win. So do they.

I’m not asking you to be stingy and cold. I often like to say that the frugal way can be the best way. In the next few days before Halloween hits, can you think of what you and your family enjoy the most? What things seem to last? Can you make plans to have the most of what you love about the holidays without robbing the goals that are meant for your entire life?

Powering Up!

I’m behind with a ton of power ups to transfer to savings and post about here. I ordered them from the largest to the smallest so here we go. Today’s is leftover after paying the power bill. Spring and fall are low usage months for most of us and I love getting this bonus. After paying the bill, we have $161 leftover in this category. (Our power bill is always in even numbers as the local utility gives us the option to round up with the difference going to the fund to help the poor pay their power bills.)

Today’s Deposit: $161.00
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $804.74
Total Balance: $37,470.11
Our Money Game fund has increased 2.19% so far this month.

$253.37 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

The ongoing budgeting process

The Money Game fund keeps growing passing the $37,300 mark!

I’ve been out of town and have come back to nearing the end of the month and a lot of power ups to dole out. There are details at the end of this post if you are interested.

Adding a new budget category

I just added an extra budget category to YNAB and thought I’d flesh it out to describe how our budget process works. If your budgeting process is humming along nicely, this will probably be boring. If you are learning how to budget, this is a look at how we approach it. The beauty of YNAB is that you have the ability to make any categories you like. You can also decide how much detail you want to see.

We started years ago with categories we absolutely had to fund. These were set bills like the rent/mortgage, any payments, the power bill, etc. We added a category for food and gas to get to work and back. That was all we funded until that was running smoothly. The rest of our money was reserved in category I called “unallocated” until I felt like our budget was under control. Then we slowly started adding more categories. The goal was to have the money sitting there the day a bill hit our inbox.

George reminded me that I need to call our HVAC for a regular maintenance visit. We have two units and this visit usually costs over $100.

Now that our budget is humming along, I realized this is a regular recurring expense with an amount that is pretty well known. I decided to break it out of our “Home Maintenance” category and make it its own category.

I thought the cost was about $125 but decided to search YNAB to make sure. I saw three different charges that varied each year from $160.13 to an even $260. I guess parts can vary each year. It also looked like costs are rising and we missed calling them last year. So I mentally think around $300. I’ll take $25 a month from our generic “Home Maintenance” category and shift it to HVAC Maintenance.

It’s one extra thing to allocate each month but it gives me a better picture of where our home maintenance dollars need to go. This way, if we decide to do a bigger project – replacing windows for example – we know how much we actually have and won’t get surprised by other smaller things that have to happen too.

I love getting an annual bill when it has its own category, the amount is funded because I allocated 1/12 of what is needed every month and the money is sitting there when the bill arrives. I love it even more when there’s a bit leftover – even if it’s just a tiny bit – to toss into the Money Game. It’s like my little bonus for doing a good job.

Powering Up!

George’s expense check hit. After paying his air fare and meals that had been charged, we had exactly $15 (so weird when it’s an even number) to throw at the Money Game.

Today’s Deposit: $15.00
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $643.74
Total Balance: $37,309.11
Our Money Game fund has increased 1.78% so far this month.

$414.37 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Check your grocery receipts!

We watch when groceries are scanned and check the receipt. We are constantly finding mistakes at Kroger. Thankfully the customer service desk is fast and they instantly hand us the cash due us. This week, one trip’s mistakes totaled $3.89. George kept the coins for the water machine (we buy RO water there and fill our own bottles) and handed me $3 to deposit in the Money Game.

We’ve never noticed a problem at Costco but we still pay attention.

I also have another $10 to toss in thanks to our lovely daughter. We took her to Costco, showed her the ropes and she decided to buy some things. I found out in check out that she couldn’t use her debit card on my membership card so I paid for her stuff. There was ATM there that only dispensed in twenty dollar bills. She told me to just keep the extra ten that resulted and wouldn’t let me go back for change. Good deal – we know where it’s going!

Insane price on olive oil

While we’re talking Costco, I just grab my usual bottle of organic extra virgin Kirkland brand. She took a few extra minutes and found a Spanish brand in a larger bottle that actually cost a good bit less. Their organic was already a good buy so this was just nuts. If you use a lot of olive oil, this is worth checking out.

Powering Up!

Today’s Deposit: $13.00
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $628.74
Total Balance: $37,294.11
Our Money Game fund has increased 1.71% so far this month.

$429.37 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Frugal Cooking for Singles 101 – Class 3

New? Start here …

Kitchen knives and salad making

You need a great kitchen knife.

I can get by with two knives – a chef’s knife for chopping and what is called a boning knife. I like it better than the shorter paring knife and use if for peeling, coring an apple and any tasks that are a bit more detailed.

We have bought pricier knives but the ones we’ve had the longest and still use were the least expensive. They were top rated by Cooks’ magazine and we weren’t disappointed at all. They have a plastic molded handle that fits both of hands comfortably. We bought them pretty early in our marriage and we’ve been married 33 years! These knives are awesome! We always hand wash them and sharpen them with the steel that came with them.

I’m linking to them in Amazon but this is not an affiliate link (I’m not opposed to affiliate links but I’m not signed up on that program).

This set has a chef’s knife, a paring knife and a sharpening steel and it’s right at $55!

You also need a go to salad mix or a salad recipe and a salad dressing that you enjoy. Just do a search and/or try the pre-made salad mixes at your grocery store until you find something you like. This is your homework and it’s important. Eating veggies will do so many good things for you. If you have what you need to make a great salad, you’ll be more likely to follow through.

Here are more things you can make with your cast iron skillet and knife:

  • Sliced potatoes and onions cooked in a little olive oil
  • Chopped greens (or really any chopped vegetable you like) sauteed in your skillet
  • Brown ground beef, chopped onion and chopped cabbage together for a quick meal
  • Dice up a sweet potato and cook it in half butter/half olive oil. Season with salt and a bit of cayenne pepper after it cooks for a nice hot/sweet/buttery taste.
  • You can make pancakes in your skillet if you have a bowl to mix the batter in.
  • Eggs with sausage or bacon will cook nicely in a cast iron skillet

I think the biggest challenge is making the time to plan what you want to eat and then going to the grocery store to get everything. When George is out of town on business, I often just bake a sweet potato in the oven. I use a baking stone but a cast iron skillet will work great too. Just wash the potato and place it on the stone. You can put a sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil under it to catch any sweet potato goop that likes to ooze out as it bakes. I set our oven for 400 and start checking for doneness (stick it with a fork or a small knife) after about 30 minutes.

Are any of you cooking now? If you’re an experienced cook, do you have tips to help someone learn? Would you like to see more posts along these lines?

Powering Up!

Another example of a small power up that still helps boost the bottom line is the $3.39 that was left over in our food category this week.

Today’s Deposit: $3.39
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $615.74
Total Balance: $37,281.11
Our Money Game fund has increased 1.68% so far this month.

$442.37 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Menus for next week

Money Game Summary

New? Start here …

Our balance is now over $37,250! We started playing this game in June, 2016. There are more details below in the Powering Up section. I try to post every day with tips and real examples of what we are doing to get this much money together. Every time we find extra, it gets transferred to a special savings account we set up for our Money Game funds. We want to use this money to buy things things that make more money (like rental property) or to buy things to sell for a profit.

It continues to shock us how these small deposits keep rolling over into thousands of dollars. You can play and get these results for yourself!

I keep saying that a huge part of our ability to keep putting funds into the Money Game is because we got our food budget under control.

A week of menus

On Wednesday nights, I take whatever is left in our food budget, move it to the Money Game and then refill the food category. I try to go grocery shopping on Thursdays.

I try to alternate chicken, fish, beef and a vegetarian meal to keep things varied. I also started a list several years ago of every meal I made that was a hit. I’ve built this list up to about 40 groups of these 4 types of dinners and store that list in Keep (an android app on my phone). When you make a list in Keep, it lets you drag drop items to new positions. It also lets you check and uncheck them. That way I can keep making things, check them off and then bring everything back without having to rewrite the list. Keep is a great list maker for recurring tasks too.

So this is what’s coming up for next week:

  • chicken enchiladas
  • beef pot roast
  • blackened salmon
  • lettuce tacos (plus hummus and other things for a game day spread)
  • Julia Child burgers + veggies in season
  • Palso BBQ chicken + veggies
  • quinoa + stir fried veggies

I may sub salmon for mackerel and just make mackerel patties if I can’t find wild caught salmon. Fish is getting a lot more challenging now that GMO salmon has become a thing.

Breakfast is eggs + fruit with coffee and we keep lots of things in the pantry that will work for lunch in case we don’t have leftovers.

Powering Up!

An annual insurance bill came and there was $13 in that category after paying it.

Today’s Deposit: $13.00
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $612.35
Total Balance: $37,277.72
Our Money Game fund has increased 1.67% so far this month.

$445.76 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

How we budget for Christmas

Snowman
(I can’t remember who sent me this crazy snowman picture but I love it!)

Money Game Summary

Our balance is now over $37,000! We started playing this game in June, 2016. You can read the details below in the Powering Up section. I try to post every day with tips and real examples of what we did to get this much money together. Every time we find extra, it gets transferred to a special savings account we set up for our Money Game funds. We want to use this money to buy things things that make more money (like rental property) or to buy things to sell for a profit.

It continues to shock us how these small deposits keep rolling over into thousands of dollars. You can play and get these results for yourself!

Budgeting for Christmas

We budget $300 a month for Christmas and allocate it every month in YNAB4. I keep a spreadsheet with each of our children and grandchildren listed along with the budget amount for each one. If I buy gifts early and get something great on sale, the amount I come in under gets moved to the Money Game savings account. It’s a huge incentive for me to get the shopping done early. I don’t want to be cheap so it also helps me find out what they really want and do a good job looking for great sales. I know I’m buying nicer gifts now and I’m spending less.

By allocating this money every single month, I end up with $3,600 to spread over 4 kids, 6 grandchildren, Christmas stockings and gifts for my siblings (George’s family doesn’t exchange gifts. His siblings are older and gosh, it makes it easier.) We also buy a gift together or sometimes each take part of that money and buy something for each other. I also use this budget for things like gift wrap, cards & tags and other extras.

I try to keep our food budget the same but if there’s any extra from mid-November to Christmas, I move it to a category called “Holiday Food”. Although honestly at this stage of our lives, we aren’t eating as much. I should probably rename it “Holiday Cheer!” It helps boost our budget to afford prime rib, drinks, etc.

Some people wait until November and/or December to budget for Christmas and that works too. I like having the same budget every month and it seems to work well for us.

Powering Up!

I paid our cable/internet bill and there was $6.84 left. I often say I feel like I’m boring everyone by taking the time to write up these small deposits but I do it to show how they add up.

Today’s Deposit: $6.84
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $599.35
Total Balance: $37,264.72
Our Money Game fund has increased 1.63% so far this month.

$458.76 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down. You’ll see that we started with $5 in June, 2016.

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Start collecting stocking stuffers!

Money Game Summary

Our balance is now over $37,000! You can read the details below in the Powering Up section. I try to post every day with tips and real examples of what we do to come in under budget. Any money leftover gets transferred to a special savings account we set up for our Money Game funds. We want to use this money to buy things things that make more money (like rental property) or to buy things to sell for a profit.

It’s not too early to start collecting stocking stuffers!

If you’re home is anything like ours, Christmas stockings are a big deal. It also takes a boatload of money to fill them up. Start looking around and buying things now. This will save you a ton of money over waiting till the last minute. I have a big basket on the top shelf of my closet. Any time I see something that will work, I try to buy it and toss it into the basket. I like to put fun snacks, candy, mints, etc. in too but I buy these fresh right before Christmas.

  • make a sewing kit in an Altoid tin
  • essential oils
  • nail polish, mini manicure kits
  • homemade soap
  • hand knit hats, mittens, etc.
  • razor blades
  • dropper bottles filled with flavored liquid stevia (our favorite is toffee)
  • makeup brushes – Elf brushes are decent and don’t cost much
  • Sonic Care toothbrush refills
  • Bath & Body
  • lip balms
  • fire starter kit
  • small picture frames
  • cute jewelry, scarves, etc.
  • tea/coffee/cocoa mixes
  • RFID wallets
  • gift cards
  • think of small luxuries you love to receive but probably wouldn’t buy for yourself – would those be good for Christmas stockings?

Pinterest is a great place for ideas too. The key is to start early or even make a habit of doing this all year. If you have anything special you like to include, I’d love to know!

Powering up!

I found a less expensive salon for pedicures and had $15 leftover in that budget category.

Today’s Deposit: $15.00
Level Completed: 182 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $558.46
Total Balance: $37,223.83
Our Money Game fund has increased 1.52% so far this month.

$499.65 is needed to reach the next level

Your comments, questions, clicks, likes and shares are always appreciated and help support this blog. Thank you!

You can find the archives by going to the home page and scrolling down.

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game