Pampers: 15 New Points

Pampers Rewards

There are two new codes available to add to your Pampers Gift to Grow account. Enter  FBCIN5893333315 for 10 points and TWIT89CNEK11115 for 5 more points. Both codes are good through May 7th.

Emergency Fund Lessons from an Unexpected Tax Bill

What I learned from an unexpected tax bill - and why we are building our emergency fund.

We’ve all been there. Things are going along nicely with our goals of frugal living. We’re saving money and paying down debt. Then, when you least expect it, something changes. An emergency happens. Take my most recent story as evidence.

My husband and I paid off our Tahoe last month. We’re now officially debt free (except for our mortgage). Yay!  Our emergency fund is (almost) where we want it. We have money in our retirement funds that is growing (even though we’re not adding to it right now). We have two paid-off cars (with lots of miles). We have (some) money set aside for (some of) the upcoming house projects we’re hoping to tackle. It’s a good feeling.

Then, we received our annual property tax notice in the mail. This was not a good feeling. I was shocked to see that our taxes went up almost $1400! I read through all the enclosed paperwork and saw that we lost our homestead deduction. I didn’t know why! We’re still living in the house as we have been for the past 5 years.

The next day, I made some phone calls of inquiry and found out that when we refinanced for a great interest rate in 2013, the homestead exemption did not transfer. Because it’s retroactive, there is nothing we can do for this year. I’ve refiled and we have already been approved for our homestead deduction next year and all future years. For this year? We have to pay an extra large tax bill.

Ugh. Taxes. I don’t like them in the first place and now it was more than expected! It’s frustrating, to say the least. I spent a day (or two) stewing over the issue before I realized it wasn’t doing me any good.We still have to pay the tax bill and there is nothing we can do to change that fact. We have an emergency fund that can cover emergencies just like these. I can choose to be thankful that we do have the money available to pay the bill. We’re still doing fine. It wasn’t how I wanted to spend our money but I have to move forward.

Yes, it’s a set-back, but it encouraged me to keep working hard at our financial goals. These up and down money moments are part of life. Sometimes, we can plan for them and sometimes, we can’t. It’s why we put money aside in an emergency fund. Emergencies happen!

Fast forward another two weeks. We received another tax bill in the mail. This time, it was for the amount we had anticipated – and the $1400 difference? Gone! The homestead deduction was added back onto our taxes for 2014! I was beyond surprised and immensely thankful for this change. (I said a very sincere thank you prayer that night!) I still don’t know why it happened. I want to think that the nice guy at the Auditor’s office heard my frustration and fixed it for us. My husband thinks it was just a glitch. Whatever happened, we are very thankful!

While we don’t have to pay the tax bill, this has reinforced our desire to get our emergency fund to the full 3 to 6 months expenses (as recommended by countless financial experts) as soon as possible. Knowing that you have a financial cushion makes unexpected tax bills – and other money surprises – less of a stresser.

The purpose of this story is to show you that we all have emergencies. I don’t want anyone to feel bad about where they are with their budget. We can all make progress forward, although some days (and years) it seems slower than others. The lesson to be learned is that emergency funds are important. 

Do you have an emergency fund?  If not, I encourage you to set something – anything – aside. We lived with a $1000 emergency fund (Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 1) for many years. Even having $1000 as a cushion helps me to sleep better at night.

If you do already have an emergency fund, is it funded where you would like it to be? Every family has a different set of needs so only you can determine what is right for you. Our goal is 3 months in our emergency fund, knowing that we have another 3 months in cash-value life insurance policies. What is your goal for your emergency fund?

My Plans for a Solo-Parenting Week

My husband left last night for a week in Washington DC with his 8th graders. Andy loves teaching history and loves this trip. He’s so good at what he does – and inspiring a love of our country in his students. While he’s gone, that leaves Nathan and I on our own until Friday. It’s going to be easier than a year ago because this year, Nathan sleeps through the night!

My to-do list is full, as it usually is. I’ve learned to readjust my expectations since becoming a Mom. I still accomplish a lot but it takes me longer than before.

Nathan and I have plans for a play-date with another little boy his age and his Mom today. I’m looking forward to it! Tuesday and Thursday will find me teaching as usual, while Nathan goes to Grandma’s. I have piano lessons every day of the week. I’m practicing with and playing for a preschool Mother’s Day tea.  Those are the things on our schedule. Other than that, we’re staying home.

We’re going to bake bread and pumpkin bread. Nathan loves both kinds as much as his Mama! I made yogurt last night. We’re going to take our daily walks to the post office and around town. We’re going to read lots of books. (Giggle, Giggle, Quack is the current favorite.) Nathan will take his naps and maybe I’ll join him as I occasionally do. I’ll attempt to stay caught up on laundry and the other household chores. We’ll do a bit of grocery shopping and eat from the pantry.

All in all, it will be a pretty typical week – except we’ll miss having Andy / Daddy home with us at night. Who wouldn’t miss a cute little boy like this? (I was missing the Texas bluebonnets so Nathan and I took a picture with the Indiana version – dandelions!)

Nathan in the Dandelions

I hope Andy and his students have an amazing trip. We’ll be glad to have him home again on Friday. What are you plans for the week? Will it be a typical week or anything out of the ordinary for you?

Frugal in Ft Wayne: 5/3 – 5/6

Frugal in Fort Wayne - Top 5 Deals of the Week at Joyfully Thriving

The deals this week are okay but nothing amazing (in my opinion). Andy’s heading to Washington DC with his 8th graders this week. That means that Nathan and I will be eating from the pantry. I’m taking it as an opportunity to clean out our freezer. I will pick up a couple deals at Kroger though because they have a great deal on tortillas. Here are the best deals that I see.

1. Kroger milk (half gallon) at $1
Final price: $1

2. Kroger cheese (8 oz) at $1.99
Final price: $1.99

3. Mission flour tortillas at $1.25
Use $0.55/1 printable coupon
Final price: $0.70 after coupon

4. Suave shampoo and conditioner at $1
Final price: $1

5. Kroger frozen potatoes and hash browns at $1.79
Final price: $1.79

Lists and Links I Love

Links I Love

How has your week been? Are you ready for the start of a new, fresh month? We have a busy weekend with confirmation at St. Paul’s and my kids singing at Ascension. Then, Andy leaves for Washington DC on Sunday afternoon with his 8th graders. Life just continues moving right, busy as ever.

Ruth at Living Well, Spending Less shared a great list of 10 simple habits that might change your life. I thought it was a great list that we all can adopt. We all know keeping things tidy can help and I appreciated the reminder to keep family first.

Along similar lines, Kalyn gave 11 easy ways to sleep better tonight. It can be hard for me to turn my mind off at night, too. Anyone else?

There was another 10 list that I enjoyed. Melanie shared 10 qualities of a best friend. I think friendships can be more challenging as we grow older especially when we are Moms at home with little ones. We all need a best friend – other than our husband. Do you have a best friend?

Andrea listed 6 things she does every day to simplify her home. I make our bed daily and it really does make a difference. I’ve been working harder at clearing my counters daily, too. Do you have daily routines like these?

I’ve been listening to more audiobooks this year. For this reason, I appreciated Mandi’s list of 7 times to listen to audiobooks. Cars and chores are my favorite time to listen. How about you?

This post by Lydia made me pause and think. How to live when you just can’t. We’ve all been there and sometimes we need the comfort that only our friends can give us.

This was a little big of what I’ve been reading and pondering lately. Do you have anything of interest to share?

Pampers: 35 New Points

Pampers Rewards

Here are a couple new codes that you can add to your Pampers Gifts to Grow account. Enter the code CM4TY417FRM2015 for 20 points. Then, add FB89TACE2445415 for 10 points and TWIT89N22344415 for 5 points.

Thanks, Hip 2 Save!

End of April Shopping

Remember how determined I was to make up for my overage last month? Well, it didn’t quite happen. I stayed under budget but I stocked up on meat so spent more than I anticipated. Still, I’m not sorry I did it because it was a great price on hamburger ($2.99 for 85% lean). As I’ve said before, this is one reason I like having a monthly budget because I can make larger purchases in one week and smaller in another to make up the difference. Here’s what I bought on my last shopping trips of April.

Fresh Thyme - $2.99/lb

I made my first trip to Fresh Thyme to buy 15 pounds of hamburger at $2.99/lb. I brought it home and immediately divided it into 1 pound portions for the freezer. I spent $45.55 on meat at Fresh Thyme. Fresh Thyme won’t be one of my regular stores but I will go back for their sales!

I also made one quick trip to Kroger. I wanted to buy some more cheese that was on sale, especially since I had coupons. Here’s what I bought at Kroger.

Kroger - 4/28/15 - $12.10

I had coupons to pair with the mega sale so I spent $1.49 on each package of cheese. I had two $1/1 Mott’s printable coupons that were expiring at the end of April. It allowed me to buy apple juice for $0.49 and the applesauce containers for $1.19. Yes, I would have saved more by buying 2 containers of apple juice but Nathan eats a lot of applesauce and it was still a good price.

I also bought milk for $1 a half gallon. I bought skim milk for us to drink, whole milk for Nathan to drink and 2% milk to make more yogurt. I also picked up bananas. They were a tad more expensive at Kroger but I knew I wasn’t going to Meijer this week. Plus, I can still redeem them for the weekly Checkout 51 offers. Oh! I also picked up my free chocolate. I do love all these Friday freebies. At Kroger, I spent $12.10.

On Wednesday, I did end up going to Meijer to pick up a prescription for Nathan. His earache came came so we’re trying another antibiotic. Cutting 3 top teeth and molars at the same time made for a couple of cranky days – and nights. I picked him up more ibuprofen while I was there. I used a $2/1 coupon from the doctor’s office and a $1/1 store coupon from Meijer to buy Children’s name brand Advil for $2.46. I also picked up my free Nestea tea while I was there.

My weekly total was $60.11. My monthly total was $191.53. I stayed $9 under budget. It’s not the $20 that I had intended but that’s good enough for me. Were you under budget or over budget this month? Or did you stay right at your grocery budget? We’re into a new month now so time for a fresh start!

Friday Freebies on May 1

Friday Freebies - Featuring Free Ebooks at Joyfully Thriving

It’s the first day of May! When did that happen? I’m excited for the warmer weather that is finally making it’s way to Indiana this weekend. Nathan and I managed several stroller rides this week and I’m planning on more and more while the weather is nice in May. Nathan does love his stroller rides!

Since it’s Friday, it’s time for another list of free ebooks. Thanks to Shelly at Frugal Family Home for her help in compiling this list of Kindle freebies! Remember that Amazon pricing, promotions, and availability are subject to change at any time without notice. Please confirm the price before completing your purchase. Also, some of the links below are my referral links. You can see my disclosure policy for more information. If you are reading this in a reader or email, due to Amazon’s policy, you must click through to my website for the links to work.

Fiction

First Dawn

The Foundation

A Joyful Break

In Search of a Love Story

Non Fiction

Gardening: From Boring Backyard To Beautiful, Edible Garden: Organic Vegetables, Herbs

The Housekeeping Handyguide

Minimalism for Moms

Handmade Jewelry

Cookbooks

Camping and Cooking Beyond S’mores

Southern Cooking Recipes

Freezer Recipes: 50 Make Ahead Meals For Easy Breakfasts on the Go

Weight Watchers: 365 Days of Weight Watchers Recipes

Kids Books

Rebekah – Girl Detective #1: The Mysterious Garden

A Smart Kids Guide To INTRIGUING IRELAND: A World Of Learning At Your Fingertips

A Tundra Tale

Jaw-Dropping Geography: Fun Learning Facts About Largest Lakes

Dayspring: Mother’s Day Sale & Mark Downs

Dayspring just marked down this beautiful “A Grateful Life is Blessed” cake stand down to only $12! Normally this cake stand is $29.99. Plus, use the coupon code MOTHER35 to take an additional 35% off. This would make the cake stand only $7.80! If you have your eye on something else, the coupon code is good on any one item you want to use it for. Remember that when you spend $25, shipping is now free. There are some beautiful Mother’s day gifts available at Dayspring! Which one is your favorite?

10 Ways I Saved in April

Here is a list of 10 ways I saved in April. How did you save this past month?

This post may contain affiliate links. You can read more in my disclosure policy. Thanks for supporting Joyfully Thriving!

I really can’t believe it is the end of April. Spring break and Easter seem so long ago already. That’s okay because May brings the anticipation of summer vacation! Even though I still spent money, I saved in quite a few ways this past month. It makes the bills easier to pay when you know you are paying less. I share these lists to help you think of all the different ways you might have saved this month. Please share with us in the comments! Here are 10 ways that I saved in April.

1. I redeemed some of the birthday freebies I received. Over the course of two weeks, I enjoyed a free snack size boneless wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, a free one scoop sundae at Culvers, a free appetizer of Idaho nachos at Granite City, and a free drink at Starbucks. I also got $3 to spend at CVS which was nice. I never made it for some of the other birthday freebies since my birthday was on Easter this year.

2. I chatted with my web hosting service for my blog to reduce my bill. My hosting bill was up for renewal but had increased in cost again this year. By asking, I was able to reduce my monthly hosting fee by $5. I went ahead and paid for 2 years at this price to lock in the savings. That quick chat will save me $120 over the course of the next 2 years!

3. I used a coupon code to save $75 on my new blogging class. Yes, you read that correctly. I joined the Elite Blog Academy. I’m working on continuing to create great content and grow this humble blog of mine. I am learning so much already! I look forward to seeing what the future holds for Joyfully Thriving!

4. I used a gift card at Meijer and redeemed Mperk rewards to keep my grocery bill low. I had discovered the $10 gift card in my wallet and used it to keep our grocery budget lower this month. I also used another $10 in Mperks rewards that I earned. The $20 in “free” groceries helped keep my budget lower this month.

5. I purchased generic products when grocery shopping. A lot of times, I buy name brand products and use my coupons. This month, I was able to get generic canned vegetables at Meijer for only $3/1. I stockpiled and bought 2 cases of vegetables for our pantry at this price.

6. I watched some shows on Netflix. We don’t subscribe to cable and are on a Netflix family plan with my siblings. We are completely unused to watching shows with commercials now!

7. We checked out the latest season of Downton Abbey from the library and watched it over a long weekend. Now we’re all caught up and have to wait for the 6th and final season to air. I’m so happy that Anna and Bates are back together! They need some happiness after all they’ve been through.

8. I borrowed my book for book club from the library. I enjoyed listening to the audio of Call the Midwife (and the rest of the series). I love my library! Can you tell? It’s a great way to save. Plus, I’m at a point in life where audio books are easier for me to get through than actual books. I’ve still managed to read / listen to 20 books so far this year. It’s under my pre-baby reading numbers but not bad, considering.

9. I used some credits to place another order on Schoola. Have you shopped at Schoola yet? I’ve recently discovered this site and have enjoyed another frugal way to shop online. It was nice to pick out some more clothes for Nathan and myself for free, thanks to referral credits, too. I also shopped when there was a free shipping promotion so saved even more that way. When you sign up at Schoola, you get a free $15 to spend, if you want to check it out.

10. I requested – and received – a refund on Amazon for a drop in sale price. Did you know that can request a refund on Amazon for a drop in price? I had purchased several books on sale and then the price dropped further. By quickly asking, I received the difference in sale price back! I’ll share step by step instructions for how to do this soon because this is something good to know.

There you have it! Those are a couple of the ways I saved in April. How did you save this month?