Monday, March 31, 2008

A Coupon Code Saved Us $500

Before I get into my story, I want to assure you that this is not a paid post. I am not affiliated in any way with the website I will tell you about. I'm just sharing about how I saved some cash!

I love to save money, whether it's 10 cents at the grocery store or $500 on a laptop :)

My husband has been pushing his employer for quite awhile now to get him a laptop for his work as an engineer. A few weeks ago, he was finally informed that a laptop wouldn't be supplied to him for at least a year. We discussed it and decided to buy one ourselves for my husband to use at work.

We did some research (ok, my husband did some research while I blogged on our other computer!) and decided on a Dell laptop. By the time he customized the laptop for his engineering needs, we were looking at a cost of over $1300. It was definitely more than we had planned on spending, so we decided to take a couple of days to think about it.

The following Sunday, we visited my husband's family and mentioned the laptop we were thinking about buying. My brother-in-law asked if we had checked out Got Apex?. My husband looked the website up as soon as we got home and found a deal for $500 off a Dell Vostro laptop purchase over $1249. We immediately ordered the laptop. Final price: $850!

Got Apex? is set up like a blog (does that mean it is a blog?) with each deal being it's own blog post. This makes it easy to check the site every couple of days to see what the latest deals are, as the most recent are always at the top of the page. Of course, if you do that, you run the risk of finding deals on things you don't really need :) Still, I'm very happy about saving $500 and will definitely check this site out before our next computer or electronics purchase.

Do you have a website that you always check for deals before you make a big purchase?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 3/28/08

My favorite blog post this week is from Lynnae at She had a really neat way of cleaning her daughter's bedroom over spring break. It sounds like her method worked really well and she even got her daughter to get rid of some clutter!

My post about removing our escrow account was a pretty big success in the blogosphere (for me, at least!). It was included in the Carnival of Money Stories at Dividend Growth. Paidtwice read the article through that carnival and included it in her carnival round-up post. Thanks, guys :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Goals Mini-Update

I've had some recent successes and frustrations, so I thought it would be a good time for a 2008 goals mini-update! I'll just update on the areas that have had recent changes.

2007 Roth's are fully funded! I made the last contribution this week. I have updated the progress bar on the side to show the progress on funding our 2008 Roth's now.

We received our escrow check! Removing our escrow wasn't a 2008 goal, but I had $500 that I was able to put into our new siding fund as a result of closing the escrow account. That was an awesome unexpected bonus.

Our state tax refund hasn't shown up. This is the frustration mentioned at the beginning of this post. I was hoping that our state tax refund would show up in time to cover most of the federal taxes that we need to pay in. I've been checking the status of the state tax refund on our state's website, and it doesn't even show that they've received our return, even though I sent it in the middle of February. The State of Wisconsin did this to me last year, too, when I received my refund at the end of June! I think it's because of my HSA. At any rate, it looks like I'll probably have to take money out of our emergency fund to cover the federal taxes and pay the emergency fund back once the state refund shows up. Grrrr!

Things are going to be a little tight for the next few months because of two trips my husband and I are taking within three weeks of each other (one's a wedding). After that, no more expensive vacations for the rest of 2008. We need a break!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Attendant Gifts

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about buying your attendant gifts. My total amount spent in this area was $70.

Attendant gifts is an area of weddings that I really just don't "get". Don't get me wrong, I totally understand the idea of thanking your attendants for being willing to stand up in your wedding (and spend lots of their own money doing it, in many cases). What I don't understand is who decided that all men need numerous personalized flasks and all women need multiple necklaces that they may not even like ;)

My number one recommendation for buying attendant gifts is to purchase something that you would otherwise ask them to buy/pay for as part of your wedding. For example, I paid for my bridesmaids' pedicures the day before the wedding. If we hadn't gone out together to get pedicures, I would have paid for their hair or their ($35) dresses. My husband and I decided the best gift we could give our attendants was to keep our wedding inexpensive for them to be a part of.

Another good idea is to buy them something they'll actually enjoy, the gift being different for each person (along the same lines as a birthday or Christmas gift). One of my friends gave me a lightweight backpack I'd been eying up. It was an excellent gift!

The previous two ideas focused more on getting good gifts than on saving money (though the first one will save your attendants some money). Some ideas that would save you some cash include making something personal for your attendants or giving your time as a gift. Giving time might include a day at the disc golf course or some quality time on the beach. I would suggest making a homemade certificate to give the night before the wedding and do the quality time after the wedding. This lets your attendants know that you're not planning on disappearing into the land of newlyweds after the wedding day!

I hope these ideas get your creative juices flowing :)

What is the best gift you've received for standing up in a friend's/relative's wedding? The worst?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 3/21/08

My favorite blog post this week was from Frugal Dad. He wrote about lessons he's learned from living on one income. I thought it was a fitting article for me since I plan to stay home once my husband and I have children. From what Frugal Dad wrote, I think my husband and I will be ready!

I hope everyone has a very blessed Good Friday and gets to spend quality time with family and/or friends this weekend for Easter!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We Got Rid of Our Escrow Account!

My husband and I are not big fans of giving companies free loans. For example, we keep our tax withholding low so that we're not giving the federal government a free loan every year. Along the same lines, our escrow account on our mortgage has always bugged us because our mortgage company gets to earn interest on our property tax money all year long instead of us. Not anymore!

For quite awhile, I had been considering refinancing to get rid of our escrow account, but our fixed interest rate is as low as, if not lower than, any current rates out there. I wasn't convinced it would make sense financially to refinance.

Then, about a month ago, I read Prime Time Money's article about Saving For and Paying Your Own Property Taxes. PT suggested that his readers try calling their current mortgage company and asking them to remove the escrow account. It sounds silly, but I had never thought of that!

I was a little skeptical about my mortgage company, Wells Fargo, being willing to give up what was for them an easy money-maker. Nonetheless, I sent them an email asking about removing our escrow account. They sent a message back saying that we could do it if we qualified and that they would only close it out via a phone call.

About two days later, I received a letter in the mail stating that we qualified to have our escrow removed! My husband called Wells Fargo and asked them to remove the account. They said we should received a check for the balance in the escrow account within a week.

A week passed and our online information still showed the escrow account. Hmmm. I sent Wells Fargo another email, to which they replied that it was "processing". I'm pretty sure that meant that they had forgotten about it because the very next day our account showed that the escrow had been removed. Woo-hoo!

I did some math on the check we should be receiving this week, and the mortgage company was keeping about a $500 "reserve" in the escrow account. The amount I need to have saved for our property taxes (and insurance) at this point in the year is about $500 less than the amount of the check we're getting. That $500 will be going right into our new siding fund.

Thanks for the idea, PT. I owe you one :)

Has the personal finance blogosphere given you an idea that was able to save you money? I'd love to hear about it in the comments or, better yet, write a blog post about it!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Should I Declutter?

I have been reading a neat blog, Unclutterer, and it has gotten me really thinking about all of the "stuff" in my house.

I used to live in a 679 square foot house that literally had no closets in it. Although I longed for closet space, one of the things I liked about the house was that I couldn't bring anything into it without getting rid of something else to make room for the new item.

Last summer, I got married and moved into my husband's 1650 square foot 3-bedroom home. It's a beautiful house (that's it above), and I especially love that there is a ton of built-in storage.

After I moved in, we had a huge rummage sale and got rid of all of our "doubles". Our house is now pretty uncluttered; in fact, we have empty drawers and shelves! Even so, I feel like we could really get rid of a lot of excess stuff.

How do you get the ambition to declutter when your house is more than big enough for all of your possessions? Do you even bother? Any advice?

ps- We don't want to downsize since we're hoping to have kids in a couple of years.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Favorite Blog Post 3/14/08

If you've meandered your way over here from Gather Little By Little, welcome! Please check out some of my recent posts below :)

For everyone else, please check out my guest post The Next Big Thing over at Gather Little By Little. I want to thank Glblguy for the opportunity to post on his awesome site!

My favorite blog post this week was It Doesn't Matter What My House is Worth from I've Paid For This Twice Already. Like, PaidTwice, I don't really consider my house an investment, it's just my home!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Our Dumbest Purchase Ever

DebtKid is asking people to blog about their dumbest purchase ever, and offering the chance to win some Nintendo thing as incentive. So, even though I have no need for a Nintendo DS Lite (whatever that is), I thought I'd join in the fun!

I've made plenty of dumb purchases over the years, but luckily most of them have been in the $1-$5 range.

One larger purchase does stand out, though. It popped to the front of my mind as soon as I started reading DebtKid's post, so it must be the item I'm supposed to blog about!

A little over a year ago, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I purchased an FM transmitter for his ipod for about $80. It seemed like a great idea. It was supposed to plug into the lighter in our car and then play ipod music over the radio waves. Pretty cool, right? Except for that the dumb thing worked horribly!

The first problem was that you had to find an unused FM radio frequency. In a decent-sized city, there really aren't that many that don't pick up at least a little bit of some radio station or another.

The second problem was that even if you could find an unused radio frequency, the ipod music came across very soft and a bit fuzzy. No cranking your favorite song with this thing!

The third problem was that if you are traveling, you're constantly moving into and out of various signals. We discovered we might as well not even try using it while traveling since I was constantly changing stations looking for unused signals.

Needless to say, the device is gathering dust in our house somewhere. Anybody want a useless ipod FM transmitter? ;)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Saving Money on Your Wedding: Flowers and Decorations

I am doing a series of posts on saving money while planning a wedding. Today I will talk about the wedding flowers and other decorations. My total amount spent in this area was $410.

Here are some tips and ideas to save money on your wedding flowers and decorations:

-Keep it simple. This one seems obvious but can manifest itself in many ways. For example, BankerGirl is planning on buying her flowers at the local farmer's market on the morning of her wedding, which I think is an awesome idea! For my wedding, I kept all of my bouquets small and limited who got flowers.

-Skip the roses. This was a huge money saver for me. Instead of dark red roses, I had dark red carnations in my bouquet and the bridesmaids' bouquets. All of the boutineers featured one single carnation. Carnations are so cheap and nobody will even realize the roses are missing. The funny thing is, my florist still put a few roses in the bouquets and the ring surrounding the unity candle. I just didn't have to pay for them!

-Use what's there. My husband and I got married at a wedding chapel, which was already tastefully decorated. I didn't spend a single penny on decorating the chapel. Their decorations were just fine for my non-detailed, non-picky tastes!
I also didn't decorate the restaurant we had our reception at. They already had candles on all of the tables. After all, do you remember what the centerpieces looked like in the last wedding you went to?
If you're more picky than me, you should still ask your church and reception site if they have decorations available to use and see if you can make at least some of them work. It will save you decorating time and money.
You might want to also see what Make Love, Not Debt had to say on the matter.

As you can see, there are plenty of easy ways to save money on your flowers and decorations. Feel free to leave additional ideas in the comments!

Friday, March 7, 2008

I Have My Own Domain Name!

Hi everyone. I have my own domain name now! As you can see, I am now at

If you subscribe to my feed, please resubscribe to continue getting updated content! Your current feed will not send you updates. If any blogger out there knows of a way to contact my subscribers to let them know, please leave me a note in the comments. I'll continue to research this on my own, as well. There's so many new things to learn when you blog :)

Favorite Blog Post 3/7/08

My favorite blog post this week was from Rocket Finance. Rocket reminds us to keep things in perspective in his post Relativism. I think part of the reason I liked this post is because he's talking about the ending of this cold Wisconsin winter!

Also, Mrs. Micah started a great new wiki website for personal finance websites, particularly blogs. It's called Finwikian. Check out my entry! This is an awesome idea, Mrs. Micah. I'm somehow not surprised that a librarian came up with an idea like this :)

I was very excited to discover that my post Getting the Best Deal on Airline Tickets was an editor's pick over at Broke Grad Student! Thanks! Make sure you check out the rest of the great articles at the Festival of Frugality.

I'm having my parents and some siblings over for lasagna on Sunday. I hope you get to spend your weekend with family, too!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Financial Goals 2008: March Update

I can't believe we're already two months into 2008! I thought this would be a good time to update you on our 2008 goals.

1. ROTH IRA's. As you can see from my progress bar on the side of the screen, my husband and I are really close to our goal of having our 2007 ROTH contributions maxed out. We are also automatically contributing to our 2008 ROTHs and have a balance there of $500 each. Our goal is to have $4000 in each of our 2008 ROTHs.

2. New Car Fund. We are saving for our next car in our brokerage account, which is invested in low-risk mutual funds. With additional investments and (amazingly) a little bit of market gain, we are up $389 in this fund since the first of the year. Our goal is to increase the balance by $3900 by the end of the year.

3. Emergency Fund. This is in a high-yield savings account. We currently have $525 added out of a goal of $2600.

4. New Siding Fund. As soon as our ROTHs are maxed out for 2007, I'm going to be working really hard on this fund. My husband and I also plan on putting our economic stimulus rebates into this fund since my husband really wants to put the new siding on by the end of the summer. We currently have $780 contributed of our $4000 goal.

So far, I'd say we're pretty well on track to meet our goals. How are you doing on your goals for 2008 (financial or non-financial)?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Potato Lovers Unite!

I just found out that 2008 is The Year of the Potato. Those of you who know me personally know that I love potatoes. They are, by far, my favorite food. Baked, mashed, scalloped, fried: potatoes are so versatile! How can you help but love these little guys? Go, potatoes ;)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Raises and Bonuses

My annual review at work was last Friday, and I was pretty happy with my raise. I got a 6% raise, which is better, percentage-wise, than any of my previous raises in the five years I've been working for my boss. I was pretty happy with that! The extra money will be going towards our siding fund, of course!

My employer also decided to add a bonus program for my position. It's based on a combination of individual performance, company profitability, and tenure. I will be getting them three times a year (providing that my company is profitable) and my first one, which I got last month, was about $300 after taxes. That went toward our 2007 ROTHs, and future bonuses will probably also go towards either retirement or savings goals.

Yay for raises and bonuses!

What's the best/worst raise you've ever received?