June 2017 Net Worth Update

Hello and welcome to our June 2017 Statement of Net Worth Update which is extremely late even though I had the numbers ready by 6/2! I’ve been busy settling in to the summer routine, finishing up the side hustle, and I’m working on diet and exercise lately. So sorry I have neglected my blog! I get summer blues and usually find myself more motivated in the Fall/Winter seasons. I’m strange. Anyway, on to the breakdown!

Statement of Net Worth. June

Assets

You will notice an incredible decrease in our Car Insurance savings, because the car insurance became due! So all this money got cleaned out and we were able to pay the car insurance in full without a problem. That was a great feeling. I also charged it to our Capital One account before paying it off to earn 1.5% cash back. Yay, free money!

Starting July 1st we will start an automatic transfer of $325 per month in to this account so we will see it growing again soon!

The Dart lost another significant chunk of value this month as well, but looking at the liabilities section makes me feel a little better about that. The value of the liability decreased $208 compared to the decrease in the asset of $188. It still stinks, though.

Again, the decrease in Savings – Reg is a holding place for our paychecks until we pay all the bills on the last day of the month so that will go up and down in value but it doesn’t mean much for reporting purposes.

Liabilities

This was a good month, with only the Navient going up in value $121. I had planned to increase my payments to this account in order to avoid growth in my liabilities, but I have become very active in the Instagram Debt Free Community and they advised me that I should go ahead with the Debt Snowball method so that is what I’ll be doing.

I have some more liabilities that I haven’t been completely honest about. Well, not un-honest it’s just I failed to add them to my spreadsheet. They are RAC once again. My husband has a laptop on 0% interest. As of the writing of this blog, the balance is now $169.84.

We are also on a payment plan for the medical bills I discussed in a previous blog. In fact it has been my intention to write a blog about our success with the Compassionate Care program – Our $1,800 bill got knocked down to $378.83 and we were placed automatically on a payment plan of $127 per month. I just never got around to writing that blog. We also have a radiology bill for the MRI he had to have of $746 which we are on a $100/mo payment plan. These are all 0% interest of course.

Vermuelen’s didn’t come down at all because I have been counting $50 ahead somehow and just caught on to it. Whoops! This is the corrected balance.

Debt Pay Off

Hey, what is this? This is a new section where I will discuss what debts were paid off this month (if any) and where I will announce future debt pay off plans.

It just so happens we did pay off a debt for the month of June! That $1,800 bill that became $378.83 is now paid in full! This saves us $127 a month on our total bills each month. Win! Now, our 3 smallest debts at the end of June will be: RAC – $106.27, Vermuelen’s – $306, and Radiology – $346. I should have $350 left after paying bills so we will hopefully be saying goodbye to RAC and possibly Vermuelen’s as well!

Conclusion

You guys! We are now at our HIGHEST Net Worth since I started my blog in October! I only see good things from here on out, We increased $1,560 for a Net Worth of $(66,153)!

As always, thank you for reading. Please follow me on Instagram for daily updates on our journey! @networthnegative

XOXO,

 

Dolores

May 2017 Net Worth Update

May.SNWWelcome to another installment of our Statement of Net Worth updates!

I have been slacking on posting lately, I apologize for that. I have a lot of ideas that I would like to share with my readers so I’m hoping to get back in to posting once weekly. Also, I’m on Instagram! Please follow me @networthnegative.

We have made a nice recovery from last month’s decrease of $3,354 with an increase this month of $3,011!

I’m excited because I don’t foresee us having any more decreases in our Net Worth for about another year. I am considering the Central A/C replacement in March of 2018, and we will be buying a used car that same month because our lease for the Equinox is up 3/31/2018.

But, I digress. On to the breakdown!

Statement of Net Worth. May

Assets

Only one decrease in assets this month which is the Dodge Dart depreciation. Quite a sizeable decrease though. $268 in only one month!

You may have noticed that the Savings – Tax CD account name has been changed to Savings – Car Ins. I mentioned to you guys in a previous post how I was unable to put anything extra toward debt for a few months because we were recovering from our car insurance costs. Well, now I have made a plan to contribute an equal monthly amount to this account automatically so that we will be able to make our car insurance payment in one go. We also charge this bill automatically to our credit card and earn 1.5% cash back on it. Winning all around!

The car insurance is due 5/11/2017 so we will have a ginormous decrease in this account next month. Sad face. We are being charged an exorbitant amount due to having our son on our policy and then we recently discovered 1 error on each of our credit reports so we are working on getting those errors fixed and then we will shop around for different car insurance quotes. I heard a quote today: “Your insurance company isn’t loyal to you, so don’t be loyal to your insurance company! Shop around!” I do love my agent though, but he’s not worth $2,020.32 for full coverage on 3 cars for 6 months. Sorry, Chris!

Liabilities

2 liabilities increased in value this month and that was the CP Credit Card and Navient. The CP Credit Card continues to be a problem. We went on a bit of a spending spree for my birthday (April 5), and we spent a lot this weekend attending my best friends graduation (flowers, parking, gifts). My card has been put away since the day after my birthday, but my husband still has his and refuses to be cooperative.

Many of our credit card transactions are restaurant visits for us. I like to think that I’m doing much better about cooking dinner at home every night, but the credit card statement says otherwise. Also, my husband is a fan of picking up the check when he has lunch with friends much to my chagrin. His generous spirit needs to be reined in.

As for Navient, this was an odd increase this month. Typically we see over $100 increase each  month but this month it was only $87! I think that may be due to the timing of the month when I’m writing this post. It’s the earliest I think that I’ve ever been able to give an update on our net worth since I changed both our student loans to autodraft on the 1st instead of the 3rd of the months.

Overall, we see an increase in net worth of $3,011 and that brings our Net Worth for 5/2017 to $(67,713). Our record highest net worth was in 11/2016 of $(66,969). I’m sure we can beat that next month! We have only had 2 consecutive months of net worth increases since we started tracking in 10/2016 so having consecutive months of increases in our net worth will be another goal.

Coming up in May:

Fully funded baby emergency fund – $1,000

Drastic decrease in Savings – Car Ins

0 increases in liability accounts???

Thank you for reading and following our journey!

XOXO,
Dolores

April 2017 Net Worth Update

It’s time for our Net Worth update for the month of April!

We were finally able to get 100% of our April bills paid on the last day of March, which is our goal. The reason for the delay in releasing our net worth is because I have to wait for the payments to post to our student loan accounts so we can have the updated balances. We have signed up for auto-pay on both of our accounts so that we can save the additional .25% on our interest rate. Every bit helps! My husbands comes out on the 1st of each month and then takes a few days to post, while mine comes out on the 3rd of each month and posts immediately. So our net worth updates will typically be around the 4th of the month or so.

On to the update!

Statement of Net Worth. April

Assets

The decreases in our Dart, Checking, and Savings – Reg account are typical fluctuations. The checking account is a holding place for our spending money, and the Savings – Reg is a holding account for our bill money. Since all the bills were just paid, the Savings – Reg is pretty low at the moment and just beginning to accumulate money for May bills which will be paid on 4/28/2017.

The only decrease that is unexpected is in the Savings – Emergency account. We had to use $800 of our $1,000 emergency fund to take out tree that fell in our yard during a windstorm. There is only a $275 decrease reported because at the end of March we had $525 left over so it went back in the Emergency Fund. At this point any excess remaining after we pay bills will first go toward getting our Emergency Fund back up to $1,000 and then toward a liability account: either CP Visa or Personal Loan which both have an interest rate of 9%. More about that later.

Liabilties

We have some pretty drastic increases in value in our Liabilites accounts which I’m not proud of, the most of it being the CP Visa account. While you only see an increase of $106, this is an increase reported despite this account receiving $400 in payments since our last update. That means we spent about $500 on the credit card this month. We obviously need to put the credit cards away again.

Our Navient account increased by $135 this month, which is a bit more than March and February ($100 and $101 respectively). This account is increasing in value due to my Income Based Repayment Plan payment amount of $90.61 not being enough to offset the interest that accrues each month. We have a goal of sending this account an additional $175 per month, focusing on the account with the lowest balance and highest interest first. I believe we can start doing this in May.

The huge increase in our Home Depot account is due to buying a new furnace under a 0% for 24 months financing plan. The hope here was to save money on our gas bills, but I’m not sure if that’s going to happen because 70 degrees on the new thermostat feels so much colder than 70 degrees on our old thermostat, so the heat has been turned up to 74 at times. We have been working out the kinks of getting on a schedule where we have the heat turn down to 62 degrees when we aren’t home and when we are sleeping, but the kids were on spring break and my husband was on vacation this week so there was a whole lot of turning the heat up going on. We will see how it goes, though.

Our Capital One increase is due to fluctuations in regular monthly bills that are put on autopay, and is currently carrying a balance of $1,609.53 toward the 0% balance transfer for the HHR we transferred to our son.

Overall, we have a decrease in net worth of $3,354 which is to be expected due to adding the debt for our new furnace. Our net worth is now (70,724) which is just a bit lower than our all time low in January 2017 of (70,620).

Coming up….

We had planned to do a 0% balance transfer this month for the Personal Loan but I haven’t received an offer from Capital One to do so yet, so I’m just waiting for that invitation. Funny they seem to come every other month but once I am counting on using one, it’s nowhere to be found! Once we receive one we will move forward with transferring that balance.

All about our furnace replacement – and an extra repair that needs to be done which was found at the time of installation!

Medical bill negotiation – Compassionate Care Success!

Student Loan Breakdown – Look for an upcoming blog post displaying the balances of each of my 11(!) student loan accounts and the plan of attack.

As always, thanks for reading and talk again soon.

XOXO

Dolores

Blessings Abound

I am an aspiring minimalist and own very few items. I don’t purchase clothes or shoes for myself unless I absolutely love them. I also am very savvy at shopping sales and never pay full price for anything. If I have to pay full price that makes an item 75% less attractive to me!

It’s not unusual for me to go through a purge and start cleaning my closet and home of things I don’t love anymore, and I did that this past weekend.  I donated books that have been sitting around for years to my local library and I have a basket in the dining room where I collect items to be donated which I took to Goodwill.

The great thing about working at the dance studio is I have to pass the library on the way there. I stopped in last Saturday when I made my donation and looked through the personal finance section and saw lots of books that I wanted to read! Unfortunately time didn’t allow for my to actually check one out, but I hope to do so this Thursday or Saturday. Also, the dance studio is located across the street from Goodwill so I can drop off our unwanted items there very easily and regularly.

I think we have all heard the advice to sell unwanted items around the house for help coming up with funds. Since I am a little behind on bills I decided to do just that, and I had some gems around the house that I was having trouble letting go of, but I went ahead and  listed them for sale on my local Facebook Buy Sell Trade page and couldn’t be happier.

blessings-about

I sold 2 pairs of jeans that fit a little too large and just made me kind of sad every time I would attempt to wear them. The colors were adorable and I had shoes that matched perfectly but they were baggy in the thighs and fell down my butt. 😦 They got me $15.

I sold a brand new pair of Nikes that I bought for my daughter for gym class, but she never had gym last year and refuses to wear sneakers (girly girl problems). I got $20 for those.

I sold another pair of Nikes that were a touch too small for me which made me upset because I loved them so much and I wanted them to fit! I even put water bags in the toes and froze them over night in an attempt to stretch them out, but no dice. Those got me $15.

I sold an Ann Cherry waist trainer that I was so sure I wanted over year ago and cost $50 but was way too small on me. I kept it for a while for thinspiration but it was just gathering dust and looking ugly in the closet. I got $20 for that.

So, this is all money now that can go toward catching up on those bills at the end of the month! Great news, right?

I have found that when I bless others, blessings come my way. Read what happens next…

Yesterday I got an email from the dance studio very apologetically asking if I could come in to work this Saturday (it was supposed to be my off weekend). I said, “Absolutely! I have nothing better to do.” There’s $50 more toward bills.

Today I received my paystub and found that my check was $50 more than I anticipated due to being refunded for a payroll error for the last 2 weeks. I still don’t have my new normal paycheck amount, but based on this week’s paystub I’m thinking I might bring home $25 more a week from the changes I made to my health insurance for 2017. Great! I’ll find out for sure next week. In any case, $50 more toward bills this week!

I got home from work today and had a check in the mail from the bank where we originally had the Dodge Dart financed. A refund of $21.55 for loan over payment. This will be $25 more toward bills!

Have you ever found unexpected money once you decided to get serious about your debt? Have you been blessed when you decided to make a donation to charity? I’d love to hear about it!

A Very Merry Weekly Recap

Just in time for the New Year I have decided to take a new direction with my blog, which is more of the direction I had originally planned in my first blog post.

I recently heard an interview in which Andrew at familymoneyplan.com stated that he didn’t try to blog about how to get out of debt, but how HE got out of debt. That really hit home for me. I have been slow at posting lately because I struggled to come up with detailed, well thought out, informative posts for my readers when my mission was to document THIS family’s journey to have a positive net worth.

So, going forward I will document our wins and losses as I always planned to do.  Let’s start now.

12/21/2016

Today I was in touch with our credit union to request the interest rate reduction on our personal loan, and was advised that we could transfer our loan for our Dodge Dart from Huntington at a 4.49% interest rate to the credit union at a 3.99% interest rate.

Christmas has us just a little “short” on bills. I say this even though we never pay our bills late. My strategy as the family accountant is to save our paychecks all month long, and on the last pay-day of the month we pay all the bills that are due the following month regardless of their due date. So at the end of December, we would have been $650 short on paying 100% of all the January bills, so I would have to pay 2 of the January bills on 1/8, and those 2 were due 1/10 and 1/11. No big deal, but I don’t like when this happens! It’s a signal to me that we have mismanaged our money this month.

When our credit union told me the terms of the new loan agreement, the payment amount dropped about $40 a month but mostly because the term is now 60 months. On the old loan our terms were 54 months. Also, our first payment will not be due until 2/4, so we are skipping the January payment. The financial side of me knows that it’s a bad idea to skip a payment and to extend the loan, but in the short-term it really helps! I figure once I catch up and pay off things that are costing us more money in interest I can work this down quickly.

We also added GAP insurance for $399 since we owe more on the Dart than it is worth, so we will see the balance owed on the car go up again this month.

I have also created a list of all the loans we have currently that cost us interest.  I have a plan of attack which basically amounts to the debt avalanche method (paying off highest interest first). Whenever I start thinking about these plans I get excited and carried away and start planning the next debt, and the next debt until I find myself planning budgets for 3 years in the future! I’m not joking!

There is some marital discord because my husband wants to buy a new home because the one we are living in now is really a starter home. I would like to stay modest in the home that we have and spruce it up to our standards. I also want to buy rental properties, but my husband wants us to be in a better home first. I can’t plan too far in to the future (ie: past 10/2017) because at that point I would really like to be throwing all I can at my student loans, and my husband would like to pile up money for a down payment on another home. I usually do go with what my husband wants first, because as long as he’s happy then I can go about doing what I want! What do you think the best course of action would be? The more I have been thinking about it, I start to think that maybe we can halve our savings between a down payment on a new hone, and paying off student loans. But I have also heard a saying, “If you aim at many targets you’ll miss them all’, which basically means to focus on one thing at a time.

It’s killing me not to be able to look ahead. I guess all we can do is take it one day at a time…And I’ll continue with the small home improvements here and there to make our humble abode ever so slightly less cumbersome.

12/22/2016

Today was No Spend Thursday and I started the day off by buying a $2.12 Extra Large coffee from Tim Horton’s because I knew I had a big shipping project to work on at my first job. Then, I went to my second job at the dance studio and bought crackers and a soda for $1.50 with $2 I found in my husband’s pocket while I was sorting laundry 😉 So we had a tiny bit of a fail for No Spend Thursday and it was all on me!

12/23/2016

I’m writing this just before noon in my PJs sipping on a coffee from a Santa mug. I’m going to have a busy day today. We need to:

  1. Grocery shop for Christmas Eve dinner
  2. Put up the Christmas tree
  3. Finish wrapping the Christmas presents
  4. Clean house

Luckily only one of these costs money! Christmas Eve dinner shouldn’t be too bad since I coupon a lot, I have a lot of the stuff I need stockpiled, and some stuff left over from Thanksgiving. Here’s what’s on the menu:

  1. Small Turkey Breast
  2. Ham with Pineapple
  3. Stuffing
  4. Mashed Potatoes
  5. Macaroni and Cheese
  6. Green Bean Casserole
  7. Hawaiian Rolls
  8. Apple Pie & Chocolate Pudding Pie
  9. Watergate Salad (made by my mom!)

An update from Future Dolores: Christmas Eve dinner cost about $50, and we got all our goals accomplished this day. Win!

12/24

One of our big splurge events happens on Black Friday. This is when we give ourselves the green light to go ahead and buy things that we really want if they are on sale. Some of the things we bought this Black Friday were:

  1. An electric fireplace for my daughter – $38 marked down from $70 (the heat doesn’t quite reach up to her room in our old drafty home)
  2. A pair of boots for myself and my daughter – $20 each, marked down from $80 each
  3. 4 pairs of leggings for my daughter – $5 each marked down from $20 each
  4. 2 boxes of Tupperware – $10 each
  5. Decorative baskets – $10 (I have a thing for baskets and boxes)
  6. 2 double slow cookers – $20 each

I can’t remember what my husband and son got!  Anyway, last night we had our traditional Christmas Eve dinner and I was finally able to use those double crock pots for the first time. All other Thanksgivings and Christmas Eves in this home we have had disposable tin foil pans laid out along the table and I would be stressed out trying to time everything so it got done at the same time. This year I was able to cook the stuffing and green bean casserole early and just throw them in the crockpots on warm. In the other crock pots I put the mashed potatoes and macaroni and cheese. I wasn’t too worried about the turkey and ham, but then my mom came over with her Christmas gifts, and what did she give me? A 3 pan warmer! I was a little disappointed at first because I really liked my slow cooker set up better, and my mom comes to all the holiday dinners so there’s no way I could get out of using it without hurting her feelings – but then I discovered that it perfectly fit our turkey breast, ham, and dinner rolls!

christmas-eve-dinner

The picture doesn’t do it justice; I snapped the picture quickly before my phone died, but Christmas Eve dinner looked so beautiful and stayed warm for everyone to get seconds and thirds, including my nephew who couldn’t make it until 8pm due to work. Truly a wonderful Christmas Eve.

I hope your holidays were just as great!

XOXO,

Dolores

December 2016 Net Worth Update

Hello, World and welcome to our December 2016 Statement of Net Worth!

statement-of-net-worth-december

This month we see a decrease (egad!) in our Net Worth because we bought a 2013 Dodge Dart. Buying cars is definitely a learning process for us and I expect we will get better as time goes on. This was an expense that we expected and did plan for. The car was for sale for $10,000 and we negotiated with the dealership to get the price down to $9,400 which I thought was awesome. We were aiming for $9,000 but there was really nothing wrong with the car so we went ahead and paid that. BUT my husband really wanted a warranty added on to the car. We disagreed about this so we came to the conclusion that we will go ahead and get the warranty because he really wanted it, and I would feel terrible if something happened to the car where we needed the warranty! It cost $2,495 and was added on to the loan, which automatically makes it cost more. I really wasn’t happy about this! But we went ahead and added it to the loan and we are using it as a learning experience. I have an ongoing note of the repairs that we get under this 3 year/36,000 mile warranty. If the costs don’t exceed $2,495, going forward we will know to opt out of the warranty for future car purchases and just hold that money aside in an Emergency Fund especially for car repairs.

I looked up the car value using Kelly Blue Book and I believe I selected excellent condition, and sell to a private party. Dealerships are always more expensive but we aren’t to the point yet that we are ready to risk going to a private seller. I might attempt it when I buy my daughter’s VW Beetle in 2018. Scott Alan Turner had some good ideas on how to achieve this: Look up the cars you want on your preferred search tool, and then arrange for the seller to take the car to the dealership for an inspection. If everything is up to par then you go ahead and buy the car. If everything is not up to par, you and the seller both know what cards are on the table and you can perhaps negotiate the price even lower if you are still interested in buying the car. If not, you’re out the cost of the inspection but that’s a small price to pay because you avoided buying a lemon. Plus, you could save thousands by going to a private seller. Just look at our deficit for the Dodge Dart: It is worth $7,524 had we purchased it from a private party and we owe $12,526… Stupid warranty. Grr.

On to our regularly scheduled breakdown:

Assets

­The value of our home went up $477! Great news, but nothing under our control, just the fluctuations of the housing market.

The HHR went down in value $46 which isn’t a big deal, but what will be a big deal is when I sign this car over to my son it will be coming off our Assets resulting in another $2,000 decrease in net worth! I really don’t want to hit $(70,000)!

In regards to the Christmas Club and Vacation Club accounts, my husband and I have agreed to make a New Year’s Resolution to increase the automatic transfers in to these accounts from $5/week to $20/week! That will be super helpful come Christmastime next year, and should allow for something of a vacation eventually.

On to the ugly…

Liabilities

This was the first month of our increased principal payment due to the regular monthly payment amount due dropping from the escrow adjustment last month. So our mortgage decreased $124 instead of only $95 in November.

We will be scoring a 5.5% interest rate reduction on our personal loan later this month due to our credit scores increasing 2 letter grades in 1 year, so that will help take more off the principal until I add this to my Capital One 0% balance transfer I have planned for April.

Some awesome news is that we paid off my 401(k) loan last month! I left it on the spreadsheet to reflect the 0 balance, but I’ll be taking if off next month. I can’t wait for the day when we have more asset accounts than liability accounts. Maybe in April when I  transfer the personal loan to Capital One.

I made my first Income Based Repayment Plan payment to Navient this month, and my balance actually went UP $161! How heartbreaking, right? There were some hiccups with autopay which was supposed to start 11/3 and then again 12/3 but they never drafted, so I had to call and make the payment myself. I’m going to watch next month and see what the balance increases to and then increase my payment that much. It stinks I’ll have to pay that much extra just to keep from falling deeper in to debt, but if I had done it years ago I wouldn’t be paying compounding interest on the balance now. I have to draw the line somewhere! I can’t choose to wait for the 25 year forgiveness to save me because my balance will have grown to $81,000 by then and all of that will be counted as income on that tax year. Plus, I just want it gone. I really want to pay this off.

Home Depot went up a little bit because we purchased a leaf blower, the expense of which was offset by my payment. This will actually be going up quite a bit more in the next month or 2 because I’m planning on updating the bedroom and bathroom doors in our home. I’m doing a bit here and there to try to not only increase the value of our home but increase OUR value of the home. I am trying to make it as comfortable and accommodating as possible so we are happy in it as long as possible.

Our Capital One account balance has decreased $351 thanks to $275 coming of for the 0% HHR payment, and other miscellaneous balance changes that happen month to month since we have many of our bills on autopay and pay it in full each month.

And here we have our December 2016 Net Worth amount of: $(69,580)! A decrease of $2,611 from November. Whomp Whomp.

Fun Facts:

This month we have started a New Month Resolution called No Spend Thursdays! I have been inspired by Youtubers who engage in No Spend Months but I really can’t imagine going that long without spending! Another Youtuber suggested to start out small by having a certain day of the week where you don’t spend anything. That’s Thursday for this Family!

Exciting Changes Coming Up in January:

  • Increased principal payment to personal loan due to interest rate reduction
  • Increased auto transfer of $20 to Christmas and Vacation Clubs

I really wish this month had more success to share. I love that this blog and the monthly updates keep me accountable.

Talk again soon!

XOXO,

Dolores

The Cash Budget: My Spin on The Envelope System

Many personal finance podcasts advise to keep a cash budget for groceries and entertainment for the month. There is an envelope method and when the cash runs out for that particular category, there is no more spending in that category for the rest of the month. The idea behind this is that spending actual cash hurts, whereas swiping a card is kind of mindless. I find this to be true. When you pay for cash you need to know exactly how much it is so that you can count out the bills and be there mentally to make sure you get the correct change back. When I swipe my card, I’m not even listening to what the cashier says my total is!

But how do you know how much money to put in your Cash Budget for a category? I have heard advisors say to review your bank account for the past year, or you could do 1 month or 3 months to get an idea of what you spend in each category. If you do one year, you would divide your category by 12 to come up with your monthly budget for that category. If you did a 3 month history, you would divide the category by 3, and so and so forth. When you have your monthly spending amounts totaled you should reduce it a little (we are trying to save money, right?) and there you have it: your one month Cash Budget.

I am using a newer budgeting software tool to help me with this called Tiller, which costs $5 per month. Here I can categorize all of my automatically imported bank transactions in to predetermined categories, or categories I can name myself (like Date Night and Snacks). I can then look up each category’s detail to see the transactions and totals I have spent in any category in a certain time period: this week, this month, this year, etc. There are other budgeting tools that do this which I don’t have personal experience with. One is Mint and the other is EveryDollar.

The Cash Budget and Envelope Method sound great, however I am notorious for losing cash so the envelope system would not work out for me; I’d just drop the envelope somewhere and lose a thousand just like that! My solution is Raise. This is an app that allows you to buy gift cards either electronically or a physical gift card shipped by US Mail at a discount that can range from 0.5% to 25% and even more off the face value. There are also sales that appear in my email inbox pretty regularly that offer an additional 3% discount.

Here is my own personal example: I did a study on our bank account to look at what restaurants we visited from January 2016 – June 2016, tallied the total amount spent, reduced the total by 15%, and then divided by 6 months to come up with a monthly Cash Budget allowance for each restaurant. I happen to still have a note in my iPhone with these amounts.

Little Caesar’s $25/mo

Applebee’s $25/mo

Outback $10/mo

Taco Bell $40/mo (my husband went a little crazy with work lunches)

KFC $10/mo

Subway $75/mo (when my husband went on a Subway kick)

McDonald’s $25/mo

Burger King $10/mo

Wendy’s $20/mo

Bob Evan’s $30/mo

In our defense, this was before we started tracking exactly how much we were spending where. I now pack my husband’s lunches for him most days of the week.

Let’s look at what Raise is offering at the time of this writing for KFC: a physical $75 value gift card is being sold for $63 (a discount of 16%). Since our monthly KFC budget is $10 a month, $75 would get us through 8 months. If I bought this card today, 10/14/2016 I would write on the gift card “Good Through 06/2017” with a Sharpie. If we use up all of that gift card before June 30, 2017, there are no more KFC transactions allowed.

I have had a few fumbles with Raise so here are a couple of my fails: Yesterday we decided to have a Family Date Night and went to see Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (super cute!) and we went to Pizza Hut for dinner. Our local movie theater has a special matinee price for $5.75 and I thought it would be super smart to buy a $25 Fandango gift card at a 10% discount (I paid $22.50).  I went to complete my purchase on the Fandango website using my new gift card and saw a $5 “convenience” fee at the checkout! I quickly called up the theater and asked if I could use my gift card to pay in the store, but I couldn’t. I called Raise up to tell them I didn’t want this card anymore because I had just saved $2.50 to spend an extra $5 but I was told I could not return it because there was nothing actually wrong with the card (other than my failure to fully research before I clicked “Buy”). I thought ‘well other people are obviously selling their gift cards, I’ll just list it for sale!’ Sure, I could list it for sale for a 15% fee! I decided to just eat my $2.50 loss and not buy Fandango gift cards again.

I also had a brief stint when I went from a $50 a week grocery shopping cash budget to getting a $50 very slightly discounted Walmart electronic gift card (I’m talking 0.5 – 1.5% off the face value) which resulted in cashiers having to manually enter the gift card numbers and then waiting for a manager to approve the transaction. It was just not very convenient when the savings is usually less than $1. In addition I found myself straying from my $50/week budget if there was perhaps a $70 gift card at a 5% discount. I just wasn’t being as thoughtful with my grocery purchases so I have returned to the cash budget for that.

I hope you found this information useful. I have not been paid for any of my opinions on the apps and software I mentioned. Let me know if you decided to give any of these a try, or if you already use them!