A quick update

I apologize for not posting lately. A lot is going on.

First – the Money Game continues in earnest. We are closing in on 29k.

Second – I realized if I got a real estate license, I could sell other people’s houses instead of waiting until I had enough cash to buy an investment property of my own. I’ve been working like crazy on a Florida license. I know the area between Destin and Panama City Beach pretty well and I know 30-A especially well. We own property right on 30-A and often vacation there. I hope to take the exam soon.

Meanwhile I signed on as an inside sales associate for a Remax company there and I’ve been working part-time contacting people who registered on their website. It’s been fun to talk to people about beach homes, vacation rentals and retirement (the three most popular topics while working the phones – at least for the people I’ve talked to).

I also thought I’d mention Ibotta again. I had slacked off using it but started again in April. I work hard to buy only things we would have bought anyway. This screen shot shows the cash I’ve received in May from using the app.


The cash rebates have piled up and I thought I’d share my referral code. If you use it, you’ll get $10 cash credited to your PayPal account once you start using the app to get your own rebates. In turn, I’ll get a $5 credit at no cost to you. They’ll also give you your own referral code that you can share with as many people as you chose.

Sign up for ibotta here and receive $10 cash when you start using the app.

This is for you if you aren’t tempted by all the goodies displayed offering debates. I frequently find rebates for produce, meat and the special gluten-free and dairy-free products I buy. For example, I use a vegan dairy-free cheese and I’ve enjoyed the rebates offered for a brand I like. I also see rebates offered for yummy frozen treats, wine, alcoholic beverages, candy and every kind of junk food you can imagine!

So how does it work? You download an app and choose the store you intend to visit. You’ll be shown deals that you can select. Sometimes you have to watch a short video to get the deal. After you make your purchases, you select “redeem offers” from the app. You’ll be prompted to take a picture of your receipt and then scan bar codes for the deals you wish to redeem. Once that’s done, you’ll be notified when they deposit your cash in your PayPal account.

Here are a few things I’ve noticed lately:

  • I’ve received a few extra rebates for things I didn’t buy. No idea why.
  • If I forgot to pre-select what I wanted, I couldn’t select it once I started scanning barcodes for my purchases. That sucked because I did buy the item.
  • You don’t have to buy everything you pre-select.
  • I received extra cash for achieving bonus offers I didn’t even know about. Today I received an extra $5 for achieving a summer weekend bonus.
  • We did a $10 deal today of buying a 12 pack of beer, meat and some buns. The meat and buns were our choice but the beer had to be a certain brand. It was a mainstream beer George likes. He likes a cheaper, light beer after doing yard work in the heat of the day so he would have bought this anyway.
  • We combine these offers with the coupons we get on Kroger’s store app. We redeemed a freebie (an energy drink) with the Kroger coupon and got a 25 cent rebate from Ibotta. That was a fun one. It also counted towards the 14 item summer bonus over Memorial Day weekend and helped us get an extra $5.
  • Pay attention to any conditions on the offers. For example, we use every deal we can find for RX Bars. But the offer stipulates you must buy 2.
  • The Ibotta app provides a way to scan the barcode while you are in the store to see if the item qualifies for the deal. I appreciate that feature and it helps prevent disappoints once you get home.
  • I stopped using it after writing about it earlier because it was so slow to load. I started using it again last month and it loads very quickly now. I did switch from an iPhone to Android so I’m not sure it the issue was my old phone or the app.
  • They say the funds will be deposited in your PayPal account within 24 hours. My funds show up very quickly – usually just a few minutes after I redeem my offers. This is real cash that sits there waiting for you to use. I transfer mine to my bank account and put it right in the Money Game!

Sign up for ibotta here and get an extra $10 when you start using the app!


Money Game Challenge #1


Here’s a challenge – take something off your list and put the money you would have spent in your MG fund.

Extra points if it’s a permanent change – switching soda to water for example. I’m going to stop buying Scrubbing Bubbles after reading the effects of spraying chemicals when we clean. I always have baking soda and vinegar and I know from experience they work effectively to clean our shower. That’s another permanent savings. To capture that savings, I’ll check Amazon when we run out. That will tell me what I paid for the last case and give me an idea of how frequently I ordered it. Then I can make a note to pay ourselves instead. You guys know me – you know I’ll follow through.

Another personal challenge is to stop buying lettuce from Costco. It’s shipped in so it can’t be as nutritious as what I grow. I’m learning to sow greens continuously so that we can always harvest what we need. I watched to see what plants made it through the winter (kale & cilantro) and I know from last year that malabar spinach produced during the summer heat. I can also switch to summer veggies like squash, green beans and okra during that time (we have grown it successfully 2 years in a row).

I planted asparagus and it’s coming up well. Maybe soon we can stop buying all vegetables! The photo above is one of the stir fry broccoli plants we put in last week.

If you are new to this, you may be thinking this is a lot of trouble to avoid spending $5 a week on lettuce. I can honestly say (and read through the archives if you want concrete examples to back it up) that $5 a week is a lot of money. More important, I’ve seen my health improve dramatically from increasing the amount of greens I eat. Your grandma said it, your mama said it and you probably even say it to your kids. If you think greens from the store are good for you, wait till you harvest them yourself and eat them just minutes later.

I’ll be reporting Money Game deposits again soon. We only have $940 left to save for the house.

If this post was helpful, give it a like and leave a comment if you have some ideas to share with everyone!

Costco Rotisserie Chickens Part 3

Today our Money Game fund got a boost as we regularly deposit $125 each month when George gets paid. I asked him if he still wanted it to go to the Money Game since we’re focusing on saving up for all the work that has to be done to address problems with our home’s foundation. He felt like it should. It was a decision made when we first came up with the game and something we never stopped doing. It didn’t hurt my feelings!! I’ll update our numbers at the end of this post.

Meanwhile since food continues to be such a big part of our budget, here’s another tip to help you when plans change.

We talk a lot about Costco rotisserie chickens being the backbone of our weekly meal plans here and here. Let’s say you buy one but plans change. Friends call and before you know it, everyone is getting together for chili and a few beers down the street.

Make some broth quickly. If you have time for proper bone broth go for it. Otherwise just simmer the chicken in some water for 15 – 30 minutes and call it done. Shred the meat, moisten with broth cover and freeze. You’ll have instant prepped packs of cooked shredded chicken to use in casseroles or any way you like.

This will keep your meat from going bad just sitting in the fridge. Be sure to label your frozen packs with the contents and the day’s date to prevent “mystery meat” dilemnas in the future.

Our tax refund and a few other things hit taking the house fund to just over $19,035. Less than 1k and I’ll be back to the Money Game!

Today’s Deposit: $125.00
Level Completed: 176 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $154.26
Total Balance: $27,723.13
Our Money Game fund has increased .56% so far this month.

$426.71 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Bialetti coffee canister


Here’s a real life example of how we choose to handle money. I lived in Europe during my 20’s and loved Italy dearly. When I found a Bialetti coffee canister in the clearance bin at Kroger for $5 several Christmases ago, I bought it. It made me think of Italy every morning and of course, that made me smile.

It slipped out of my hands and broke on our counter recently. My first thought was that Amazon would have one and they did – for $17.63. Mindlessly, I started to press the one-click order button but stopped to ask myself how would that would move us forward. (The price has since dropped slightly.)

If the Money Game has taught me anything, it’s that $17.63 is a lot of money.

The point isn’t that I can never spend money – I easily have that much in my personal spending category. The point is I couldn’t see how it would us move forward. I repurposed an empty canning jar and I like how it looks full of coffee beans.

George and I often make it a game to see if something we already have will meet the need. It did and it did it beautifully.

I look forward to the day when the Money Game will buy nice things for us. I picture a new car or a new kitchen though instead of an Italian coffee canister.

Since this would have been from my personal funds, I transferred $17.63 to the Money Game. I can’t wait to get back to this full time.

Today’s Deposit: $17.63
Level Completed: 176 out of 251
Amount Deposited this month: $29.26
Total Balance: $27,598.13
Our Money Game fund has increased .11% so far this month.

$551.71 is needed to reach the next level

New? Start here …

Google Doc spreadsheet showing all 250 levels of the Money Game

Hitting Baby Step 7

If you are into Dave Ramsey’s baby steps, you may find that baby step 7 is weird. We’re told it will be nirvana – a magical land of no debt and in many ways, it is.

But the minute you make that last mortgage payment, you aren’t financially independent. That doesn’t happen until you reach the Pinnacle Point – Dave Ramsey’s name for that place where your money earns more than your salary.

Dave Ramsey doesn’t give us a lot of direction for what to do after the mortgage is paid off. He doesn’t give us the specific intense goals that we had in the earlier baby steps. For many of us, that’s a problem.

It’s compounded by things we need to save for once we hit baby step 7. By then, our homes need some maintenance and it seems like car replacement is always around the corner.

This is where the Money Game saved me. It gave me the thrill of hitting specific savings goals again. I also have an end game which gives me a target to hit. Leveling up is fun because I’m always being challenged.

Just like the baby steps, the Money Game has a purpose. Once I hit my end number (and even before if I want or if I feel like the Lord is leading) I can use profits to help someone or to help us with a project around the house. I love the idea of helping to support our finances and helping other people is always fun and worthy too.

Here’s what I think someone should do as soon as they finish baby steps 1-6:

  • Look up your annual property tax and insurance amounts. Your house payment is going away but you’ll need to add both of these to your budget.
  • It’s time for a new budget meeting. Do you have enough budgeted for home maintenance? (The recommended amount is 1 to 3% of your home’s value each year.) What about car replacement?
  • Calculate what you need to hit the Pinnacle Point. Will your 401K get you there fast enough?
  • This is a good time to find a great financial advisor if you haven’t done it yet.

George’s expense check for last month was pretty hefty but most of it had to reimburse airline tickets for a business trip. I got to add the rest into the house fund which brought us up some more. As soon as we have $20k saved up for the house repair, I can go back to adding to the Money Game.


Payday …

Payday and our own efforts to save like crazy means the house fund now has $16,600. I get to start on the Money Game again as soon as it reaches $20,000 (and as long as the bills for the repairs and professional services stays under 20k).

If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that the Money Game really needs to be focused on making money – not just saving money.

I’m out of town this week but when I get back, I need to get busy.

As part of this, I’m studying to get my real estate license. I could wait to get a couple of hundred thousand dollars to start buying and selling property …. or I could my license right now and sell other people’s property. The process is easier and less expensive than I would have thought.

Since I know the area around our favorite beach so well, I’m working on getting licensed in the state of Florida. Depending on how that goes I may get licensed in my home state too.

Baby asparagus shoots


See that little green spear? It’s asparagus planted not even a week ago. To give you an idea of its scale, note the pine needle under the green shoot. That “spear” isn’t any bigger than a match stick!

Our house repair fund got a nice boost as I received payment for the sale of my Lexus convertible. I hope to be playing the Money Game again soon!

House repair target fund: $20,000

Saved so far: $15,502

Fat Head Pizza Part 2

After George made his pizza, he had some dough left. He stuck in the fridge and we pretty much forgot about it.

Today was a crazy day. His phone was DOA this morning and one of my closest friends lost her dad – unexpectedly. We both had our hands full and decided we really didn’t even want to eat dinner tonight.

That worked great until tummies started grumbling later in the evening. George remembered the dough and made some more pizza.

This time he rolled it out super thin and he said it was a lot better this time around. It was so good that I thought it was worthy of a blog post. I was sitting in the living room waiting to hear the bad news. Instead, amazing smells came from the kitchen followed by a platter of pizza and stir fried broccoli.

I’m normally skittish over anything that’s hung out in the fridge more than 3 days. I posted about our first Fat Head Pizza dinner on the 4th – more than 2 weeks ago. This is longer than I’d preferred to wait but again – I’m posting as this is definitely a recipe than can be made ahead and then quickly rolled out and finished in the oven with your preferred toppings.

Our home maintenance fund got also got a solid boost from our big rebate check that came from Costco. The check was $557.56 and it went straight to the house repair fund. I am so ready to get this done and get back to the Money Game. I haven’t been myself since we had to make this detour.

House repair target fund: $20,000

Saved so far: $6,922.56

Fat Head Pizza


This is going to sound trivial to some people but I know it isn’t. My friend, KV from the Debt Free Fanatics board, will probably love it because it’s about getting what you want while honoring your budget.

George developed several food sensitivites including one to wheat. He’s given up so much and his health has gotten better as a result (significant weight loss, awesome blood chemistry, etc.)

The Super Bowl is a big day to him with wonderful emotional memories of being with his brothers, pigging out and watching the game.

I found a recipe for wheat free pizza that people seem to rave about. George would probably weep over an honest to god pizza especially later this evening when the big games gets underway.

The recipe calls for a microwave and we don’t have one. I snapped a picture of one from Costco the other day and we joked about it. But we locked down spending because our home is going to need some expensive work in the next month or two.

Today’s the day. He went to Costco for a few staples and again I joked asking if he got the oven so we could make his pizza. He laughed and shook his head.

This is epic people. The old us would have bought a new microwave the instant the old one was carried out. If for some unexplicable reason that didn’t happen, we would have definitely bought one the minute we learned a favorite food could be made again if only we had a microwave.

The ending? I just did a search and found a method for making it without a microwave. It’s actually better as you mix the dough in a food processor and you don’t have to work fast to overcome it cooling. We both high fived as he just rolled out the dough. Toppings are waiting after the base pre-bakes.

(Note – we converted the recipe to American measurements and used

  • 1 1/2 cups finely grated mozarella cheese
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 ounce cream cheese (the package was marked off in ounces)
  • 1 egg
  • a pinch of salt (about 1/8 teaspoon)

We set the oven to 425 F.

Some people on the old Dave Ramsey boards criticized me for not buying whatever I wanted after we finished Baby Step 6. These are the reasons why we’re still in Baby Step 7 years later and why our wealth is growing. It shows you don’t have to do without and often your new solutions turn out even better.

I think the other best example of this is how we stopped going out to eat in Baby Step 2. We learned to enjoy cooking together and to do other things like riding our bikes that focused on play and fun instead of spending money to entertain ourselves. It made our life a lot better and we still prefer an evening in.

On the home front, we continue to save. We just signed and faxed the agreement to the structural engineer to get everything going and hopefully we’ll be back to the Money Game soon.

The pizza smelled wonderful and George said it tastes great (I’m allergic to dairy so I can’t eat it). I had to come back and update with a picture.

House repair target fund: $20,000

Saved so far: $5,250

Life happening

No – I didn’t raid the Money Game.

But we are slogging on. January always seems like a month where I freeze figuratively and literally.

We did our taxes and didn’t owe. The money I set aside from social security income for taxes was freed up so $1,806  got moved to the fix the house fund. It’s a good start. The estimate came from the engineering firm but didn’t include fees for the survey, landscape arcitect, bulldozers or foundation repair. At least the ball got rolling. Right now, we’re trying to get about $20k together.  We keep telling ourselves the longer it takes, the better chance we have to cash flow it all.

I thought I’d be despondent that these types of windfalls couldn’t go to the Money Game but it hasn’t bothered me at all.  I’m grateful we haven’t had to get into savings or the Money Game to fix the house. More windfalls are expected – the proceeds from selling my Lexus to a family member, a big Costco rebate check, tax refunds, etc. I guess I can report on that while we wait for this season to pass.

The power bill came and it was actually over budget. I had to WAM (whack a mole in YNAB speak) by moving a few dollars from our fuel category to cover it ($3.06 if you are counting).

Yesterday temps moved to the high 50’s and I got to spend a pleasant afternoon cleaning up the azaela bed in our front yard. Spring will get here soon enough. These breaks in the weather help so much!!

House repair fund target: $20,000

Saved so far: $1,806