Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How to hack a cheap and comfortable sofa bed..

Our "new to us" couch needed a better pull out bed since our in-laws are coming to visit in April... and we wanted to try and make their stay a bit more suitable and keep them from having to pack an air mattress and sleeping pads across a couple states.

But sofa beds are normally really crappy to sleep on because they are soooo thin and normally have springs in them... but we love our memory foam mattress we bought off amazon... and it got us thinking...

So we googled and found out that Amazon sells a 5 inch version of our bed that comes to your door with free shipping for a grand total of $170.59... (including taxes and recycling fees)...

So we clicked order and believed ourselves heroes... We didn't bother measuring the current mattress in the couch because it said queen sleeper... and a queen is a queen, right..... wrong....

When it arrived, we popped open the box and laid it on the bed and gave it a few minutes to fluff since it comes in a very compact box. However, when we attempted to fold up the mattress, we realized something we didn't know before. Couch mattresses are shorter than the advertised "queen" bed folding couch.


Yup, we have about 6 inches too much on the mattress... Apparently if your couch bed says its a queen, its not really a queen length wise because they are factoring in part of the length of the couch as part of the queen mattress length.

BUT since its a memory foam mattress that came in a tiny squished box... we decided to see if it would close with the extra length ... after all, my husband is 6'5" as is most of his family... and that extra 6 inches would be nice to have... Worst case, we figured we'd just cut the mattress down to size since you can do that with a memory foam... but to our joy and surprise, it worked and folded up fine because it was able to swoosh in on itself.


So, with that, our living room couch is now a prime time snooze zone and as an added bonus, our couch now has more support, making it even more comfortable then when we first got it!!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Recipe Savers: Chicken Enchilada Soup

Over the past 9 months we have dramatically reduced our grocery budget by shopping at Aldi... so much so, I've started to share my recipes, secrets and tips in a new feature called Recipe Savers.

This recipe comes from a blog I found via Pinterest when I was searching for new recipe ideas! I give you Lil' Luna's Crock Pot Green Chile Enchilada Soup which has become an absolute staple in our house.

I make a batch up, we eat dinner and then we FREEZE these in Tupperware containers, making a quick and awesome lunch for busy mornings. I've Mild-Out the flavors because we have a toddler at home, and lately he hasn't really felt like eating this meal, but i'm happy to feed him a quesadilla when we make this just to stock our freezer up!

I will admit, I've modified her recipe a little adding in more corn and rice because its just easier to use a whole can then less, but either way you follow it, its amazing and people tell me it smells soooooo good when I heat it up at work.

Instead of canned Green Chile sauce, I use this recipe from Mel's Kitchen. I've roasted my own green chili's before and it made it to die for...  but with a toddler, i just don't have the time to roast and peel these suckers and end up using the canned green chili's instead. For my Recipe and math below, you need a double batch of Mel's sauce mixture.

So how much does it cost to make? $14.92 at Aldi for 16 servings... $0.93 each... 

Sauce:

  • 1 Cup of Chopped Onion ($0.25)
  • 4 garlic cloves ($0.25 / Whole minced jar is $2.19 so this is generous price estimate)
  • 6 tablespoons Flour ($0.05)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin (estimate $0.10 / Whole jar is $1.19)
  • 1/2 a teaspoon Oregano (estimate $0.10 / Whole jar is $1.19)
  • 1 teaspoon Salt (too cheap to count)
  • 3 Cups Chicken Broth ($0.25, using this homemade version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper (too cheap to count)
  • 4 cans of Green Chili ($0.55 each / $2.10 Total)
  • 4 tablespoons of Oil: $0.20

Soup:

  • 4 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (about 2/3 a family packet at Aldi) $6.50
  • 28 oz Chicken Broth already factored in above...
  • Green Chili Sauce from above
  • Cumin (already factored in above for an extra 1.5 tablespoons)
  • Chili Powder (estimate $0.10 / Whole jar is $1.19)
  • Onion Powder (estimate $0.10 / Whole jar is $1.19)
  • Garlic Powder (estimate $0.10 / Whole jar is $1.19)
  • Can of Corn (I use a whole can in mine) $0.49
  • Rice - I just cook 1/2 cup to 1 cup of dry rice on the stove top and drop it in ($0.15)
  • Cream cheese - $1.29
  • (I don't add additional green chili's to the recipe), but if you want it spicy you can add $1.10)
  • Block of Cheese to shred and top soup with: $2.89

It's just flat out tasty folks... 

Check out my other Recipe Saver Ideas:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

March ' 17 Mortgage Update

Principle paid down: $717.07
Interest: $265.91
Loan Balance: $84,635.89

The pay-off date is now September 2030.

We plan to continuing to pay an extra $313 a month to get used to paying a larger mortgage before we move, and to pay it off quicker since this is our only debt. If we keep it up, our pay-off date is August 2025.

In order to move, we are hoping to have at least $150,000 of equity to use as our down payment to allow us to afford our high cost of living area which is close to both our jobs and we both don't want to commute anymore than we already do.

If we sold our place today, we'd walk away with $150,3641.11... (assuming our place is worth $250K and we pay 6% closing costs). 

Which means we actually have the equity we wanted to move... which is kind of a big deal, considering this is 3 years ahead of schedule...

However, properties have also jumped up in price significantly.

It looks like a rough estimate says we can afford something in the $325,000 range and keep a similar payment to what we have now, but the range for a 2 bedroom in our area now is around $325,000- $350,000 instead of the $280k - $315k that it was... with nicer places at $375k - $400k... which on our current plan will still take around 3 years to come up with if we don't get a significant promotion.  :(

The long history summary... 

It took me $7,057.08 to get the keys to my condo and then I spent another $17,672.29 to remodel and repair it... In short, I was -$24,729.37 in the hole on day one...

  • In 2009 I got the First Time Home buyer's Credit giving me $8,000.00. I also got to write off some of the property tax I paid in addition to taking the standard deduction. This gave me an extra $90.10... but then I had to pay an Electrician $95.00 to fix an outlet... I also got a refund from my botched tile job that gave us another $1,265.00.
  • In 2010 I saved $1,087.00 on my federal taxes and $461.00 on my State taxes from itemizing my homeowners expenses. (This is what I received ABOVE what I would have gotten back with just the standard deduction).
  • In 2011 I spent $12.97 at home depot and $72.29 on a kitchen door. When we subtract those costs from what we saved by living in our condo instead of renting, we came out ahead $494.04 (See Mortgage Update + Condo Costs December '11 for that break down.) We also received a small $70 refund check from over paid closing costs. We didn't Itemize our taxes in 2011.
  • In 2012 we finished our Kitchen/Laundry door which cost us $103.24.. We also replaced both our glass slider doors which cost us $2,957.00... and repaired our dryer for $81.42....It ended up being $3,383.47 cheaper to OWN our condo than to rent an apartment on a monthly basis, (See Housing Costs 2012 for the break down) so even after we subtract the windows and other minor repairs, we still came out ahead $241.81 by owning our condo instead of renting...
  • In 2013 we got $52.53 back from challenging my property taxes in 2012. I also refinanced our condo, costing us $447.00 up front for our home appraisal... but we got a check back at closing for $747.20 and a check from my old escrow account for $489.74... We also got to skip a mortgage payment too! In addition, they automatically lowered my property tax value, giving us a check for $86.77.. and we saved $5,191.81 by NOT renting a place (see Housing Comps 2013)!! Additionally we ITEMIZED our taxes in 2013, saving $702.45 on a federal taxes and $503.74 on our State Taxes. (Again, this is difference we saved by itemizing our taxes, instead of taking the standard deduction -- which we could only do because we owned our condo).
  • In 2014 we did a few home repairs totaling $976.00... but even with those factored in, we still saved $3,119.04 living here instead of renting an apartment (See Housing Costs 2014 ) For 2014 we spent $14,172.96 to live in our condo, instead of $17,292 to live in an apartment. We also saved an additional $377 by itemizing and writing off our property taxes and interests.
  • In 2016 we itemized our taxes again and got to write off our interest and property tax. It was these two expenditures that put us over the threshold to make itemizing the way to go, saving us $950.00 more than if we had claimed the standard deduction. Despite playing extra on our mortgage and $581 in minor repairs and a new front door lock, we still saved $1,986.55 over renting (see our 2016 housing update for the break down).


All of that "math" leaves us $3,274.84 in the green before we even talk about equity!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Savings Accounts

Now that we have received most of tax return (California has still not sent us our $600 back yet, which is kind of frustrating because we got our federal return back weeks ago and they has already accepted our return, so we aren't sure what the hold up is) and our glorious annual profit share check, it's time to get an update on our savings accounts...

All 19 of them....

Ya, we have 19 savings accounts... That sounds like over kill, but thankfully all are at the same bank but it makes it much easier for me to give every $1 a name in our budget. They are my virtual envelopes if your a Dave Ramsey fan. We don't keep one for everything (you won't find a grocery or a gas savings account), but they give me a place to stash our cash for intended future purposes.

We keep accounts for our once a year bills that we save for on a monthly basis to make sure we don't accidentally spend the money on other items and things; others  are "reserve" funds for specific items such as car repairs, cell phones (we use prepaid cell phones so we go a couple months, then spend $80 or $90 on minute cards); daycare (in case we have a small paycheck without overtime, or need to cover for a last minute babysitter) or smaller things like annual car registration and smog fees. This is also were we park of Emergency Fund so its 100% liquid.

I'm happy to report that all our sub savings accounts are at desired levels, minus our car repair fund -- so any extra cash we have at the end of the month will be diverted there until it hits $1k. 

  • New Car Fund: $3,638.00
    • Our "Extra Paychecks" get deposited here since both our cars are 10+ years old and are rocking over 100,000 miles.
  • Medical Savings: $1,000.00
    • Used for Doctors, Dentists, and Vision Necessities.
  • Roxy: $1,000.00
    • Our pup emergency fund. I'm glad we have this, we just spent over $400 on her at her last vet visit because she needed special allergy shots and some tests because she was vomiting and not well. We used our profit share check to bring it back up to $1k.
  • Vacations: $1,500.00
    • Trips to visit family or fun family local excursions. We replenish this as needed, but I love having it set aside so if an opportunity arises and we need to go see family immediately, we aren't worrying how to pay for it.
  • Emergency Fund: $16,757.55
    • You can view this post for how far it will get us. 
  • Utility Bill Extras: $400.00
    • Our buffer for high summer electricity costs. 
  • Daycare: $838.79
    • I like having a full month on hand saved up in case we have a sudden emergency, a job loss etc. since we have to provide written notice of termination of care.
  • Slush Fund: $2,450.00
  • Car Repairs: $348.18
    • We have $100 a month out into this account each month, but we always seem to drain it and need our slush fund to cover repairs, so well be focusing on keeping this at $1k and then adding to it.

Do you use multiple savings accounts to keep track of our funds?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Profit Share Check

As some of my more devote blog readers know, once a year my husband receives a percentage of profits that his company brings in, in the form of what we call our "profit share check." On Friday it was placed lovingly into my husband's hands!!!

Before taxes, it was a nice $5,600!!! 

So what are we doing with this windfall?

  • We always put 10% into his 401k so his company will provide a 6% match...
  • then we pay our church tithing on the amount he earned...
  • and then finally we watch Uncle Sam take out a HUGE amount for taxes.
Which means we are only "seeing" $2,400 actually get deposited into our bank, but this my glorious people of the internet, funds our "slush fund."

What is a Slush Fund? 
It's our stash of disposable cash that we will dip into throughout the year to buy larger purchases that we don't have a line item for in the budget, or that we do not have enough cash for in our various savings accounts to cover. In the past it has been used to pay for extreme car repairs to keep our emergency fund in tact; sometimes its used for clothes for Hubs, our annual computer upgrade (Yup, each year he gets to pick something "cool" to do to the computer that isn't a necessity. One year it was new monitors, another year a tricked out case with glowing lights... this year will be more practical, but also more money -- as we need a new processor and mother board and technical components); home improvements; new appliances; additional vacation spending money, camping or hobby supplies, etc.

At the end of January 2018, any money left in the account is transferred over to a specific savings goal since we will usually file our tax return early in February, and then have our next profit share check in March to use for the following year. This year its the car replacement fund. That's where we will be diverting extra funds to once our car repair fund is at least $1,000.00

Why do we operate this way?
Because we don't want to "count" on profit share for our living expenses or our necessities... If the company doesn't have profits to divide among the employees, there is a chance that check could be zero. If his company moves buildings, needs to buy office computers or other large items, its always taken out of the profit the store makes... and when the recession hit, you guessed it. Staff members didn't get checks...  and so many of them were screwed.

Most of his employees were shocked to find that we generally have money left over from profit share when we get the next check a year later... but we're diligent in this area and we try to preserve the funds in this account, looking at it as not money to spend, but money that's there if we need it throughout the year. Yes, sometimes we add a little fun, and knock off some big projects --- but it's not used for living expenses.

Before the check arrives, we work out a game plan and make note of the 2 or 3 things we want to do FOR THE YEAR, and then we do them and leave the rest in the account until there is a need or want we both agree on.

Friday, March 3, 2017

February Spending

February flew by pretty fast this time around. I attended my sister's baby shower, we received our tax return from the feds (CA is still processing) and did some more purging of my closet.

I'm getting used to my new job and role, but I kind of feel like i'm still wearing multiple hats and trying to keep things in balance and in check.

But other than that, we're hanging in there pretty steady.We did a lot of one time purchases which i'm sure i'll go into more detail in future posts.... But we are loving family Hammock time and we're pretty thrilled with our DIY Folding Bed replacement for the new to us couch we inherited from our church friends.

We are also rocking a few new clothes and i've been enjoying a final closet purge. Little man is almost 2 and i'm at the point of finally purging all the clothes that don't make me happy anymore and that don't fit after having a toddler. It's so freeing to get rid of clothes that make you sad and replace them with ones that make you feel happy :)

February Spending:

  • Giving: $717.00
  • Daycare: $900.00
  • Groceries: $311.80
  • Gasoline: $203.37
  • Little Dude: $99.25
    • $30.68 Diapers and Wipes
    • $68.57 (Usborne Books; Numbers Match Game; Potty Hook; couple small busy toys)
  • Eating Out / Date Nights: $108.01
    • $40.00 Restaurant Date
    • $8.61 Netflix DVD Plan
    • $61.20 Fast Food
  • Clothes: (Hubs): $104.30 (Good shoes and socks)
  • Clothes: (Me): 
    • $29.08 (Cheap boots)
    • $111.67 (Lularoe)
  • Gifts:$43.33
    • $12.97 Baby Shower
    • $30.66 V-day Hubs
  • Internet: $62.99
  • Electricity:63.69
  • Cell Phones: $21.35 (2 new cases and screen covers)
  • Housing:
    • HOA: $350.00
    • Mortgage (including extra principal): $1,100.00
    • $66.15 Carpet Cleaning
  • Medical: $85.00
    • Dentist: $50.00
    • OTC: $20.00
    • Eli Dr. Visit: $15.00
  • Pocket Money:
    • $35 each (includes our Netflix bill)
  • Discretionary $564.29
    • $126.98 Turbo Tax
    • $6.44 Silicone Bake ware
    • $7.99 Return Ship Fee
    • $123.80 Hammock
    • $170.59 New Couch Mattress
    • $87.49 (Folding box, food containers, cups, hygiene items, hook hardware)
    • $26.00 Haircut (hubs)

2017 Spending:

  • Giving: $1,394
  • Daycare: $900.00
  • Groceries: $626.06
  • Gasoline: $455.49
  • Little Dude: 168.23
    • $20.48 Pants
    • $20.59 Food Pouches
    • $47.93 Diapers & wipes
    • $31.14 Toys (Used Mega Blocks / birthday toys were hiding)
    • $68.57 (Usborne Books; Numbers Match Game; Potty Hook; couple small busy toys)
  • Eating out / Date Nights: $98.20
  • Yup, this is how I chop onions when I don't use the food
    processor... with swim goggles... #notears
    • $32.06 was movies and snack-age
    • $40.00 Resturant Dates
    • $127.34 Fast food
  • Clothes: (Hubs): $209.12
    • A cheap hoodie from walmart ($7.56)
    • 2 nice pairs of pants from a place hubs wanted to try out ($97)
    • Good Shoes and Socks ($104.30)
  • Clothes: (Me): $140.75
    • $29.08 (Cheap boots)
    • $111.67 (Lularoe)
  • Gifts: $145.33
    • Toddler Birthday Party: $15
    • V-day
      • $80.83 - lularoe... (my new obsession)
      • $6.43 - Card for hubs.
      • 30.66 - knife and oil
    • $12.97 Baby Shower
  • Internet: $125.98
  • Electricity: $147.53
  • Cell phones:
  • It's about balance. Pizza and Carrots
    • Car mount: $13.78
    • Charge Cables: $17.74
    • Cases and screen covers: $21.35
  • Housing:
    • HOA: $700
    • Mortgage (including extra principal): $2,200.00
  • Medical: $93.54
    • Dr/Urgent Care visits: $45 (3 visits)
    • Over the counter: $54.44
    • Prescriptions: $29.30
    • Dentist: $50.00
  • Pocket Money:
    • $70 each (includes our standard Netflix bill)
  • Discretionary: $638.41
  • Book Worm :)
    • Kitchen/Cooking:
      • Tooth Picks: $1.48
      • Cookie Cutters: $0.82
      • Silicone Bake Ware: $6.44
      • Folding box, food containers, cups, hygiene items, hook hardware: $87.49
    • House:
      • Vacuum Storage Bags: $39.95
      • New Couch Mattress: $170.59
    • Fitness:
      • Medicine Ball: $8.63
    • Husband:
      • Legos: $14.88
      • Machete Sheath: $8.36
      • Return Ship Fee: $7.99
      • Hammock: $123.80
      • Hair Cut: $26.00
    • Other:
      • Turbo Tax: $126.98

I also am a Thirty-One Independent Consultant... started in August of 2016, so below are the business expenses for the month. You can visit BassettBags if your interested in placing an order or you can message me through the site if your interested in booking a party.
  • Website: $29.90
  • Monthly Promotion Flyers:$3.50 
  • February Game Discount: $5.00
  • Flash Sale Discount: $12.96
  • Business Supplies: $93.57 (Spring Catalog Switch; Hostess gifts and car decal)


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Carpet Cleaning!

You can see the strip we hadn't done... EWWWWW
Well, I've been planning to clean our carpets for some time now. March of 2015 to be exact. That's when I called and got a quote for carpet cleaning and transferred $300 into savings... only to get super distracted by life.

Yup, carpet cleaning was on my "before the baby arrives" list. I was going to call zero-res to come do it and 2 years later, we rented a rug doctor and did it ourselves.

Eli got a kick out of our couch living in the kitchen for a couple days while we did 1/2 the house on a Friday night, and the second 1/2 on Saturday. It took until Monday to get the carpet to dry and we did it on a wet weekend and only had 2 bog box fans... but its noticeably cleaner than before.. but we still want to rip out all the carpet and replace it with hard wood *(fake hardwood, I mean... like cheap but nice looking laminate that locks into place one board at a time... only my floor "dips" noticeably in one place and i'm not sure if that would need to be fixed first.)...

But our carpet got cleaned and it only cost us $66.15 with the rental and the cleaner bottles we picked up.

We might go to Ikea and get a new floor rug for the living room to cover the more worn parts of the carpet. Our white one has been much much closer to a shade of grey after too years with a toddler. We've moved our hallway rug to the high traffic area near our front door though until we can find the time.