Make Your Credit Score Increase With One Small Change



Some things stay the same forever, until we do something to change things. Like my weight. It was the same for about ten years, until I finally went on a diet and lost 23 lbs this summer. It required changing my foods, practicing portion control and drinking more water daily for about 100 days. I've maintained my weight loss and decided to try to lose a few more pounds so I have a weight loss cushion for the upcoming holiday food binges that are certain to happen.

The other thing that pretty much has been the same forever is our credit score. It's a good score, and there's no need to improve it. Except when you are really close to perfect, its tempting to strive for it. A perfect credit score is 850. I'm not sure if its even attainable for anybody. I know there are a bunch of factors how its determined exactly. I just know it pops up on Mint every time you login, and its on other banking apps so we get reminded fairly often what it is. But there is no need for that because it hasn't changed for us. But low and behold, for the first time in as far back as I remember our credit score increased from 828 to 834 this week. Granted we haven't really done anything to try to improve our score since we didn't have plans to buy anything that would require good credit. So, it was quite the surprise when I checked our net worth on Mint and a new credit score popped up. We haven't done anything to make it change except maybe one small thing I did in the last month. We don't have any loans, mortgages or credit card debt so that didn't affect it.

The only thing I did different was pay off the credit cards on a weekly basis whenever I noticed a new balance on Mint. Usually, I let all the charges accrue and then just pay when I think they might be due. We pay all our cards off online so I never really know when they are due. I know that's not a good practice to not have due date awareness, so I don't recommend it. But, this past month I've been just paying them off pretty much immediately because we had some travel where were offline for a week. So I paid them before, and then paid them after, and then again a week later.

Now for the disclaimer, I'm not sure paying off cards weekly was what triggered the score to increase, but is the only variance in our finances. My theory is that although we still spend thousands monthly through credit cards and utilize our credit, the amount of time any balance is outstanding has greatly decreased by paying off balances immediately. 

It couldn't hurt to try if you too are trying to increase your credit score.




Practice Makes Perfect

It's been a year now since we lost our wonderful dog. We still miss her terribly, hug your pet today.

And, on to more mundane activities. A few minutes after our 5:30am alarm clock went off, we heard the crackle of the power transformer outside and the power was out. Apparently it will be out all morning. Lucky us, out of half of million people in Tampa, we're one of the 31 households with no power. Across the street still has power, and over a block has power - just not our side of the block.
However, I'm going to look at this as a lucky practice run for the summer lightning, storms and hurricanes that probably will affect us again. We happen to have dozens of glade candles still in the stock pile room for gifts, but they turned out to be handy for light this morning. We also have a couple plug in flashlights. Luckily, no activities requiring water involve electricity - except the coffee which DH had set on a timer to be completed at 5:25am. I thought we would be ready quicker than usual, but indecision on plan B for breakfast with no microwave or toaster, made cold cereal the choice. We took our real breakfast - a hard boiled egg and turkey bacon to work to eat later - minus the toast. The thought crossed my mind if we should get a generator someday, since we do have 3 refrigerators and a chest freezer full of food if there were a long outage, but I think I'll do that after about 24 hours of no power. We could always store stuff at our neighbors house across the street, since they still have power.

So,  a little list of Hurricane preparedness things to do when you lose power.
  1. Candles and flashlight. Also need a lighter or match handy to light that candle.
  2. You could preprogram the electric company into your phone, they let you text when your power is out. In Tampa, if you have TECO just text OUT to 35069.
  3. Don't open your refrigerator or freezer, and if you must make it quick.
  4. Unplug electronics that may be damaged from a power surge when power is restored.
  5. Keep window coverings down to prevent sun from heating up the house.
  6. Minimize opening doors to outside, keep the cool air trapped in your home.

We managed to get ready and eat and get to work, all without power in the house. Amazing.


2017 Florida Hurricane Sales Tax Holiday 6/2 - 6/4/2017




The 2017 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, June 2, 2017, and ends at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 4, 2017. During this holiday period, qualifying items related to disaster preparedness are exempt from sales tax. However, the sales tax holiday does not apply to the rental or repair of any of the qualifying items. Additionally, the sales tax holiday does not apply to sales in a theme park, entertainment complex, public lodging establishment, or airport.


Qualifying Items
Selling for $10 or less:- Reusable ice (reusable ice packs)

Selling for $20 or less:- Any portable self-powered light source (powered by battery, solar, hand-crank, or gas):

Flashlights Lanterns Candles

Selling for $25 or less:- Any gas or diesel fuel container, including LP gas and kerosene containers

Selling for $30 or less:- Batteries, including rechargeable batteries, listed sizes only (excluding automobile and boat batteries):

AA-cell C-cell D-cell 6-volt 9-volt - Coolers and ice chests (food-storage; nonelectrical)

Selling for $50 or less:- Tarpaulins (tarps)- Visqueen, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and other flexible waterproof sheeting - Ground anchor systems

- Tie-down kits- Bungee cords - Ratchet straps- Radios (powered by battery, solar, or hand-crank)
Two-way Weather band
Selling for $750 or less:- Portable generators used to provide light or communications, or to preserve food in the event of a power outage.


First-aid kits (always exempt)



See more Information at LINK

Tampa Bay Rays 2017 Promotion

Batter Up! If the Tampa Bay Rays get 10 strikeouts, you'll get a FREE WHOPPER Sandwich Combo Meal of your choice from a participating Burger King. 

Within 7 days of the 10 strikeout home game, bring in one of these qualifying items to any Kane's Showroom and get a coupon for a FREE WHOPPER Sandwich Combo Meal from Burger King:
Ticket Stub
Seat Locator Receipt (for Flex Pack Cardholders)
Web Voucher (printed or on phone)
http://www.kanesstrikeout.com/

PLEASE NOTE: Limit one FREE WHOPPER Sandwich Combo Meal coupon per person per ticket stub/receipt/web voucher, per game. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age & you must redeem your ticket stub/receipt at Kane's within 7 days of the 10 strikeout home game date.
Click Here To View The Strikeout Contest Rules

The Kanes stores usually let you redeem several printouts at one time so if the RAYS do 10 strikeouts in successive games, just bring the vouchers in at the same time. Bring your spouse too.

2016 How Much Were Our Household Expenses?


It might not look like much, but that 10 foot vinyl fence gate cost about a thousand dollars. It was one of the few remaining costs to prepare our forever home for retirement. It will last longer than we will, barring a hurricane. The fence was the big project this year. If you remember we put on a metal roof in 2015. So the only thing left to buy big is a new vehicle before we retire. Actually, our 2004 Camry would probably last the rest of our life, but we feel like we deserve to have a new vehicle to travel around the country. It will be our last vehicle and we expect it to last over 20 years.

Some of you may wonder why or how we bother to track our expenses. Actually, it is critical for anyone who is frugal and wishes to spend less than they earn. And if you are retired, you don't earn much from pensions and social security and your investments, so awareness is essential. As an Analyst by trade, I know you can't improve what you don't measure. If you can't even bother yourself to measure where you're at; you have little hope to improve. This philosophy applies to finances, health, exercise and diet.

If you monitor your expenses, there is immense peace and lack of anxiety about money if you have a good idea what goes in and out of your household moneywise. We use two different applications - both are free. Mint to monitor our spending and calculate our year end expenses. Personal Capital has some really nice retirement calculators and you can add in different income streams and expenses for certain amounts of time to really get a good idea of your readiness for retirement. Both can be accessed from your computer on their websites, or thru apps on your tablet or smartphone.

2016 was an expensive year, very expensive with the fence and shed purchase over $11,000. I'm not adding this to the budget because the projects were paid with our savings account. Even so we spent a lot on miscellaneous stuff. Way to much was spent on clothing. And our stockpiles are getting depleted so more was spent on household supplies and groceries. And of course we spend way too much on beer, it is over half of our grocery spending. We eat out two times a week on Friday and Saturday at our favorite little pub (The Firehouse) where we enjoy the best Buffalo chicken wings and a pitcher of Bud - this expense is from our allowance. We each pay for one night, its $21 including tip for 20 wings and a pitcher. Quite the bargain, its hard to go out anywhere else. Anyway, it turns out we spent more this year than last, about $45,000 for our household.
We do not have any debt, so we don't have any car payments (our cars are 13 and 19 years old), our house was paid off six years ago and now our home is completely ready for retirement as we have remodeled all rooms, fence, roof and appliances. Our dog died this year too so that expense has disappeared. Our health expenses were higher this year due to dental costs, we each had a crown replaced and we had some cleanings. Our health insurance remains inexpensive as we pay $30/month for a PPO plan through the State of Florida, our employer. The home expenses don't include the cost of the fence and the shed, but they do include the costs of removing some trees along the fence line, paint to remodel the doghouse into a nice sun porch, and AC service, a new dishwasher, plumbing maintenance and carpet cleaning.

The biggest category that needs to come under control is the Cash and ATM category in miscellaneous spending. We like to use cash to stay off the grid, but it doesn't show up in any of my apps (like mint, or personal capital). We also spend quite a bit on haircuts for DH, but I'm afraid he is too vain to let me cut his hair every 3 weeks (@$19 a pop). He is going bald so maybe in a few years this expense will diminish. We did cut back on our auto insurance coverage level, going from 300/100 to 100/50 since we drive so little (opting to walk, ride MC or ride bicycles to work).

We are already very frugal and generally do not employ home services, instead electing to take care of our own lawn, pool, house cleaning, tree maintenance, obtaining and splitting of firewood, home maintenance jobs such as plumbing, electric, carpentry and painting. With the excellent videos available on Youtube, one can really do almost any task with some basic training. I figure if a person who doesn't even have a college degree or HS degree can do a job, I certainly should be able to figure it out. The one exception is when special equipment is needed that is too expensive to rent. We did hire a tree guy to remove a 40 ft tall tree that was too dangerous for us to do ourselves.

Anyway, our expenses every year have been trending higher, but just barely, I'm going to attribute this to higher prices of goods and services. But we must remain vigilant these last few years before we retire to keep our spending in check, I would actually like to keep it below 40K per year.

2013 we spent 32K
2014 we spent 34K
2015 we spent 43K
2016 we spent 45K

Our plan for this next year 2017 is to start adding cash payments into mint.com as a manual payment. I also want to be better at always assigning and splitting ATM transactions so they are all accounted for before we forget and move on. I'm going to try to not buy any clothes or shoes this year, because I have plenty to last for years. We have a decent deal on cable/internet at $124/month but that contract will end in March of 2018 and it will be time to shop. DH will not give up his live sports channels, so until live streaming is "easy" on the big TV, its an expense we'll have to keep.

Well, that's about it for 2016, another year on the books.
 
 
 

How Prepared Are You For A Hurricane?

 
The weather news is all about Hurricane Matthew that is bearing down on the Florida Atlantic coast. Matthew is stirring down in the Caribbean now and has Florida solidly in the forecast cone. While this system will probably not impact Tampa Bay (other than some wind and rain), it is still a good time to get ready for what ever the rest of the season brings us. Are you ready for a hurricane to happen now? Here are some checklist items to help you prepare for a storm -
  •  Do you have plenty of cash in small bills stashed in the event there is no power, or you need to barter to get things you need during a disaster? Most ATM's will run out of cash, businesses may not be open and your best bet to buy stuff will be from people hawking stuff on the corner - for cash.
  • Do you have plenty of dry food (cans, dry mixes, dry milk, beverage mixes, pet food), enough for a weeks worth of meals? Make sure you have an old fashioned manual can opener too, or be sure all your cans are pop tops.
  • Do you have water or drinks enough for 3 days (at least a gallon a day per person)? This doesn't include bathing or cooking water, so a clean source of water for that is important too - fill your tub or sink for cleaning.
  • Do you have a bug out bag in case you need to leave your home - a change of clothes, cash, medications, sturdy shoes (not just sandals), silverware,etc.
  • Do you have a weapon to protect your life and/or property in the event of a disaster and there are no police services?
  • Do you have your automobile's full of gasoline, a spare 5 gallon can of gas, a full canister of propane for your grill?
  • Do you have flashlights and batteries that work? First Aid kit?
  • Do you have some basic tools, keys, portable Radio and Telephones?
  • Are your important documents secured in a waterproof safe or in a safety deposit box at the bank? Can you scan them and take the data device with you?
The www.weather.org site has the most up to date information.

Great Books I've Read This Year


Summer is a great time to read and if you love to devour books like I do, you're always on the lookout for a new list of great reads. My goal this year is to read 100 books and I'm well on my way with 64 completed. I usually have a hardcover I read at lunch, an audiobook I listen to as I work, and a different ebook or hardcover for the evening reading hours - so I usually have 3 going at once! I should easily reach my goal of 100 in the remaining four months of the year 2016. Not all the books I've read have been great so I filtered out my favorites that I would rate a 5 star.

Here you go!


Title
Author
The Guilty (Will Robie, #4)
David Baldacci
James Baldwin
Far From True (Promise Falls Trilogy,  #2)
Linwood Barclay
Julian Barnes
Off The Grid (Joe Pickett, #16)
C.J. Box
Night School (Jack Reacher, #21)
Lee Child
Among Thieves: A Novel
John Clarkson
Michael Connelly
Susan H. Crawford
The Gangster (Isaac Bell, #9)
Clive Cussler
Matthew Desmond
Allen Eskens
Janet Fitch
Mary Gaitskill
Robert Galbraith
Justin Halpern
Kent Haruf
Ethan Hawke
Noah Hawley
Ken Ilgunas
Tetsuko Kuroyanagi
David Lagercrantz
Kate Clifford Larson
Brad Meltzer
Vladimir Nabokov
Thomas Perry
Eleanor H. Porter
Judgement Cometh (Joe Dillard, #8)
Scott Pratt
Crimson Shore (Agent Pendergast, #15)
Douglas Preston
Extreme Prey (Lucas Davenport, #26)
John Sandford
Ruta Sepetys
The Black Widow (Gabriel Allon, #16)
Daniel Silva
Rebecca Skloot
Colm Tóibín
John Vaillant

 Bookmark this page until you've read them all!

Tips to Stay Cool When its Hot #TestedTough

 
Everywhere in the nation it has been steamy hot and humid this summer, Florida is no exception. We are planning a trip to the Canadian border later this month and have been watching the weather and its in the 80's there too. But the hot steamy weather doesn't mean you can't get out an enjoy a nice walk or activity outside.
 
Here are some tips to stay cool in the hot, humid weather -
 
  1. Timing is Everything - If you can, choose your time outside when its cooler, like early morning or early evening. If there is rain, wait til afterward and get outside when its cooled down from the rain.
  2. Drink Water - drink more water than you usually do, guzzle a glass just before you get outside.
  3. Acclimate yourself to heat - being tolerant to the heat doesn't happen in one day, it takes weeks of getting outside in the warm weather and getting active. You will notice that as the days go by it doesn't bother you as much.
  4. Stay in the shade - if you have to take a break, get out of the sun and into the shade or AC.
  5. Don't overexert yourself if you're not in shape - only tackle what you can handle. Be more careful to not over do it if you are in a remote location and help is not immediately available. Wear your Fitbit Charge to monitor your heart rate to be sure you don't get in peak zone too long.
  6. Dress right - forget about fashion, be practical and wear light colored and loose fitting clothing that will allow your body to breath and, yes sweat. Sweat is natures way of cooling your body. We love the brand #Columbia and especially the Omni freeze zero shirts that provide cooling effects when damp. When we go canoeing, we just put the shirts in a gallon size Ziploc bag, pour a bottle of cold water on the shirt and squish it around til its all saturated and then put on the wet shirt. Its chilling like being in air conditioning for hours! 


 
 



#Rays Got 10 Strikeouts! 2016 Free Wawa Sub Sandwich



It's back again this year, when the Tampa bay #Rays get 10 strikeouts against the other team, Kanes and Wawa will give you a free sub! You don't even have to attend the game, just print this voucher from your printer and bring it to Kanes within 7 days of the game with ten strikeouts. They will exchange your voucher for a coupon to Wawa to get a free short hoagie.

Tampa Bay Rays Promotion
Batter Up! If the Tampa Bay Rays get 10 strikeouts, you'll get a FREE Shorti Hoagie of your choice from a participating Wawa. 

Within 7 days of the 10 strikeout home game, bring in one of these qualifying items to any Kane's Showroom and get a coupon for a Shorti Hoagie from Wawa:
Ticket Stub
Seat Locator Receipt (for Flex Pack Cardholders)
Web Voucher (printed or on phone)


http://www.kanesstrikeout.com/

PLEASE NOTE: Limit one FREE hoagie coupon per person per ticket stub/receipt/web voucher, per game. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years of age & you must redeem your ticket stub/receipt at Kane's within 7 days of the 10 strikeout home game date.
To find out if the Rays got 10 strikeouts you can check your newspaper and look under the other team they played and if the number of strikeouts is 10 or greater you can get the promotion. If you're not sure, you could just go to http://www.kanesstrikeout.com/ to see if the voucher shows a game date within the past 7 days.

The Rays got 10 strikeouts on 6/14/16 and the voucher must be redeemed by Tuesday 06/21/16 at Kanes.


Another Tampa Bay Rays Promotion
Papa John's Pizza - get 50% with code RAYS6 the day after they get 6 runs in a game, which they did on the 14th. So today the 15th you can get a Large Pizza for $7.49

How to Get A Free Moe's Burrito

 

1. Download the Moe’s Rockin’ Rewards app on iTunes or Google Play.
2. Create an account with your email address or Facebook account. (Using Facebook will earn you an extra 50 points.)
3. Click on “Offers” in the bottom right-hand corner of the app, and you’ll see your coupon for a FREE burrito, which you can redeem at the Moe’s nearest you.
4. You can also enter another user’s referral code (mine is MARIE39) to get an additional 500 points — which I’d say is worth it, because 1,000 points will get you $10 in store credit. 

To rack up the other 500 points, you can either spend $50 (you earn 10 points for every dollar spent), or refer friends. For everyone who signs up through your link, and then uses the app in-store, you get 100 points. So get five friends to join, and you’ll have $10 in Moe’s credit!
The promo runs from now until August 14, 2016.
Once you sign up, you must redeem the offer in-store within seven days… But I doubt you’ll wait that long when a free burrito is calling your name!