Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Frugal and Financial Goals - Recap


For some background, here is the link to my 2015 Recap.  You might want to read the introduction because all of it still applies, up to the "Retirement" header.

To wit: I'm great at making plans, not so much at following through with them.  Well, you'd think I would have learned my lesson but I really didn't, which might be why I feel that I really haven't done much progress and in fact, that I have regressed in some area (*cough* diet! *cough*).

Now, here were my 2016 Goals.  I was very detailed and I intended to revisit the goals quarterly so as to assess progress.  Well, I dropped the ball on that. I guess it's better not to report on it so we can't face defeat, right?  Ugh.

But now it's time to face the music.  So...

1 - EMERGENCY FUND
  • Goal: keep it funded ✔ + $3,188.64 added in 2016
  • To Do:
    • Recalculate a bare bones budget to know how much we would need to live on if Greg lost his job and multiply it by 6 months - Didn't do
    • Put that amount in a liquid account that earns more than what it's earning in our savings account right now (Discover Savings?) but with no risk. Yeah, about that... didn't do.

2 - INVESTMENTS - completely neglected this category. Zero progress.
  • Goals: 
    • understand investing 
    • be a better investor  
    • increase our investments

3 - RETIREMENT - Partly successful
  • Goals: 
    • save the maximum allowable ✔ maxed out the 401(k). IRAs?
    • be savvier in our retirement funds' investments - no :(
  • To Do:
    • Current 401(k) :Contribute the maximum to Greg's Roth 401(k), which is $18,000 for this year again.  I have already set the contribution rate. Done.
    • Old 401(k): investigate rolling it over into an IRA because of performance issues and fees. Nope
    • IRAs: Contribute the maximum to our IRAs, which is $5,500 each for 2016, again. Not yet as of 12/26/16 but intend to.
      • Investigate whether we will qualify for Roth IRA contributions for 2015 and, if not, put that money back into our regular IRA accounts so we're not penalized by the IRS. We moved the money back to regular IRA's.
      • Regardless of the outcome, we need to complete the contribution to my IRA before April and before doing our taxes since we didn't fully fund it in 2015. Didn't do it.
      • As far as the 2016 contribution, wait until early 2016 to contribute once we know whether we qualified for Roth IRAs for 2016 or not. Haven't contributed yet as of 12/26/16. Greg is supposed to look into it this week. Neither of us really feels like dealing with all of this. Ugh.
    • Nathalie's old IRAs: need to investigate whether I should change the investments so I get a better performance. Didn't do.
    • Disney Pension: Investigate whether I should take the lump sum or not. Decided not to take the lump sum as we don't need it right now.

4 - TAXES - Didn't do much :(
  • Goals: 
    • minimize our tax burden
    • strategically manage our tax bill so we don't get a tax refund but also don't get a tax bill!
  • To Do:
    • Look up when the stock options will vest in 2016 and mark in in my Google calendar. I think I did that?  But then I didn't look up or recalculate anything so it didn't matter.
    • Adjust Greg's W-4 as needed when the stock options vest and if/when he gets his bonus/raise (zero allowances right now but maybe we should sent extra money?) No, didn't do.  Didn't recalculate, left the allowances at zero and didn't send any extra money.  Tax time is going to be so much fun.
    • Track Greg's paychecks in Excel every 2 weeks so as to understand what is going on with his income, etc. (complicated pay stubs!) - DONE!!! YAY!!!
    • Health FSA: continue to track our expenses to see if we would need to adjust our Health FSA contributions next year.  DONE!!! YAY!!!
    • Find an accountant to help us plan future fiscal strategy. See if they offer a free interview to gauge compatibility. Nope.
    • Research tax credit for new window installation (and also explore Duke Energy $400 rebate) - looked into those, didn't apply to us.

5 - EXPENSES
  • Goals: 
    • keep expenses low; only buy what we need. Hmm, we could do so much better!
    • pay cash for everything - yes no debt incurred. But we didn't pay cash, we charged as much as possible and paid off all our cards every month. Which is what I intended to do, I just worded it poorly.
    • put as much money as we can in savings/investments - we saved some but we could have done better.
  • To Do:
    • Large Expenses:
      • Mortgage: continue paying down our mortgage by sending $925 extra to our principal every month.  (I re-ran the calculations and we should pay it off in 50 months, so Feb/March 2020.) We actually increased our monthly extra payment to $960 in March.
      • Car Maintenance: 
        • replace the tires on my SUV and Greg's truck - done
        • take my SUV in for a full check-up before the summer - Didn't do.
        • take Greg's truck in for a full check-up before the summer - Didn't do.
        • keep track of the family car's mileage and take it for a check-up at 60K miles - kept track of the mileage, will need to do the 60K maintenance in early January 2017 as we are just now approaching 60K miles.
      • House Maintenance and Repairs:
        • Need to: tear down and rebuild the front porch (wait to see if Greg gets a bonus) - Didn't do.
        • Would like to: get the shower leak fixed in the downstairs bathroom (a more involved and costly repair/remodeling job than it sounds like) - Didn't do.
        • Would like to: replace the fridge with an Energy Saver model (need to research cost) Researched. Decided to wait until the current fridge dies as actually Energy Star won't save us all that much and a new fridge would be very expensive.
        • Would be nice to: get the electrician to install a permanent connection for the generator - Didn't do.
      • Travel:
        • Greg and our son to travel to Ohio to visit his parents - Did, several times.
        • Greg to visit his daughter and grandson in North Carolina - Did, several times
      • Graduation present for my oldest son - Done


  • Every Day Expenses:
    • Keep our everyday expenses low
      • Buy only what we need. Limit impulse or "but it was such a good deal!" purchases as much as possible.  I actually think I did OK for the most part.  
      • Buy used whenever possible. Keep on adding to my thrift store wish list. DONE! I got lots of things from thrift stores and keep an ongoing thrift store wishlist.
      • Update my credit card chart to see which ones have the most advantageous rewards - DONE. Created cheat sheets for Greg and myself to use every quarter.
      • Don't sacrifice quality for cost. Not sure that I did that, though. I'm cheap.
      • Track everything in Excel.  At the end of every month, assign any leftover money to a fund that needs to be replenished (car maintenance, house maintenance, etc.) - Did track everything in various spreadsheet. However, didn't assign any leftover money to anything in particular. Just left it in checking.
    • Regular car maintenance: take the vehicles in for their oil changes, etc. Mostly done, got oil changes, replaced bulbs and windshield wipers.
    • House maintenance:
      • Repaint the bathroom ceiling with mildew resistant paint - Didn't do.
      • Repaint the master bedroom - Didn't do.
      • Identify which electrical outlets should be replaced and schedule replacement with the Home Wire Protection provider - Didn't do.
    • Utilities:
      • Water: continue saving water by collecting rain water, fixing leaks, not irrigating, turning off faucets when not in actual use, only running full loads in the washing machine and dishwasher, reminding the kids to limit their time in the shower.  We spent $801 in 2015 (sewer and trash/recycling pick up included).  Try to spend less in 2016. Collected rain water and reused water collected in leaky shower, ran mostly full loads, etc. However, did nothing to fix the leaks :(  Spent $762.87 so we did spend less, though!
      • Electricity:
        • Start replacing the CFL bulbs in the most used rooms with LED bulbs (entry room, living room, kitchen, daughter's bedroom, front porch). Price them and then be on the lookout for sales. DONE, replaced most bulbs with LEDs.
        • Invest in more power strips with on/off switches and do the rounds at night to avoid leaving power vampires plugged in when unnecessary (like the Xbox 360 and its TV that are rarely used, or the TV in front of my exercise bike!) - Didn't do that.
        • Clean fridge's coils once a month - Did it a couple of times only, despite monthly reminders :(
        • Keep the AC turned off (or up) when the kids and Greg are gone (76 or 78F during the day) - I think I was pretty good with this!
        • See about scheduling maintenance for our AC units this year - Didn't do.
        • Use the crockpot and microwave a lot more - Yes!
        • Don't use the oven to bake just one thing - I tried, didn't always succeed.
        • Continue drying the clothes on the laundry racks - I did it the vast majority of the time.
    • Gas (for cars):
      • Ask Greg to work from home one day a week.  Didn't track it but he didn't work from home every week.
      • Try to reach 7 No Drive Days this year - Done, we got 11!
      • Continue batching errands. Avoid driving during the weekends. Batched my errands as much as possible but we did drive on the weekends as we went to walk on trails, went fishing, etc. We felt those were positive activities for us so were willing to forego No Drive Days.
      • Use the family car for errands as much as possible (much better mileage) - wasn't always possible since my daughter needed the car, but I did use it extensively this summer when she was away.
      • Investigate the bus schedule to go into Clermont (to walk on the trail or run errands that don't result in my shopping a lot!) Investigated but never rode it.
    • Food Expenses:  Goal: $5,200 maximum for ALL food expenses, i.e. groceries and eating out/ordering in (but not travel food expenses) - FAILED BECAUSE OF EATING OUT/ORDERING IN THAT WAS OUT OF CONTROL. But the grocery only budget did come under budget.
      • Stick to a $50/wk average grocery bill - Tried to but not too hard. I need to be better in 2017 as I definitely spent more than I really should have.
      • Plan meals with what we have on hand - I actually failed at that a lot this year.
      • Use up what we have in the freezer and pantry (i.e. rice noodles, hamburger helper, crockpot sauces...) - Hmm, nope.
      • Avoid food waste. Continue posting Food Waste Friday every week. Failed. Didn't post about Food Waste too often this year :(
      • Eating out:
        • School lunches once a week - Kids did great in the rest of the last school year. This school year, my son hasn't eaten at school even once and my daughter is buying her own food when she eats out, which is most days.
        • Daughter to pack a dinner or eat at home on college nights - Done
        • 1 dinner out a month challenge for the rest of us.  Oh that so didn't happen!
      • Continue redeeming my Swagbucks for grocery gift cards and credit card rewards for CVS gift cards or grocery gift cards whenever possible - DONE
    • Entertainment:
      • Do not renew Amazon Prime - We decided to renew it after all.
      • Reevaluate Netflix by starting to track our usage, again.  Remember that I bought a Kindle Fire to watch shows while I cook/do the dishes, though... - Didn't track the usage but we used it A LOT. However, I'm thinking that we won't keep it much longer because there's really nothing that interests us much anymore, especially most of their "Netflix Original" shows.
      • Look at shows available on DVD from our library - I borrowed quite a few seasons of TV shows from the library this year. 
      • Continue to use free codes offered by Redbox to watch newer movies (if any) - Only redeemed 1, I believe. There just wasn't anything we wanted to watch.
      • Continue watching over the air (OTA) TV - The various stations changed their line-up so we ended up watching less OTA TV and more shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant.
      • Research the 2016 NFL Sunday Ticket: could we get it through my middle son's college status? Greg decided he didn't want to watch the NFL this year.
      • Internet: call Brighthouse to investigate what other (cheaper?) options we have than the plan we currently have (currently paying about $53 a month) - Didn't do.
      • Replace our router (Christmas?) - We had to since ours crapped out!  Bought an expensive Google On router but it's been great.
      • Gaming: keep Gamefly membership - Yep. Greg loves it and uses it a lot.
    • Cell Phones:  I would like to reduce our cost (currently at about $165 per month for 4 lines!). Things to keep in mind:
      • Greg is off contract in May or June this year - AT&T dropped the cost of his line instantaneously when he went off contract, we didn't have to do anything. Yay!
      • Would it be cheaper to put the house line on Ooma or similar? (but then the AT&T plan might change and not for the best) - Kept our plan the same.
      • Need a plan that allows for international travel (Canada, France) and making calls to France from the USA, which Ting doesn't provide
    • Gardening: I would like to keep my cost at $200 or less for the whole year.  I may not garden for one of the seasons.  I actually spent about $250 on vegetable gardening and supplies. This does include $85 for a rainbarrel. This doesn't include any landscaping expenses (another $200!).  I certainly didn't recoup any of that money in harvests, though. This continues to be a big money waster for me, especially when we don't even eat what I grow.
    • Car Insurance: Call USAA  to review our policy and find efficiencies (paying $269 a month right now) - Didn't do.
    • Education:
      • Research college scholarship for daughter. Schedule meeting with foundation director, DD, and myself. - Done
      • Investigate Florida Prepaid options for our youngest son. Put the documents together and discuss with Greg (funds that he's already earned with his cat chores) - Done and started contributing back in April when open enrollment was in effect.
    • Pets: budget and schedule check-ups and food for 3 cats - Done. And then we got 3 more cats.  Budget is through the roof. Oh well :)

6 - HEALTH - TOTAL FAILURE after mid year success.
  • Goals: 
    • get healthier!
    • stay healthy!
  • To Do:
    • I need to lose weight. I have much to lose but I would like to lose 20 lbs by the summer, that would be a start. I will do this by a combination of diet and exercise.  Diet will be using MyFitnessPal to record my food intake and follow their caloric guidelines. Exercise will be walking on the South Lake Trail and using my recumbent bike at home, along with some exercise tapes that I have at home. I will start with that plan on Monday 1/11/16. - Didn't success. Repeatedly.
    • Schedule an appointment with my eye doctor this summer  DONE, got new bifocals.
    • Schedule GYN appointment in the fall - Didn't do.
    • Follow through with a mammogram this time - Didn't do.
    • Take daughter to a GYN at some point - Didn't do.


18 comments:

  1. Hi Nathalie,
    I am so glad you are back and opened comments. I really missed your posts. Especially the ones with your frugal successes... you are always giving me new ideas for deals and promotions I was not aware of. I don't know if you remember me but you helped me about a year ago to figure out accessing my Swagbucks gift card and also gave me tips on earning a few more. The SB provided several of the Christmas gifts for our family this year including a Pandora bracelet and 3 charms for our daughter-in-law. You had mentioned Bing rewards and I wasn't ready at the time... but I told you I would use your link if I did it.. now I'm thinking about it .Are there any deals for your and I with a referral at this time? Any tips for me?
    Hang in there on the diet...you are not alone... uugh... It's a new year.. more water, exercise and fiber are my goals!
    Thanks again for all you do! You are an encourager to many out her in blogland. Bonnie

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    1. (Part 1, stupid Blogger thinks I'm too chatty!)
      Hi Bonnie! Yes, I do remember you! I'm so pleased you were able to make Swagbucks work so well for you and got lovely Christmas gifts with your SB!!! That's so wonderful :)

      Your very kind words really touched me! I read your email to Greg who always joking about me doing things like Swagbucks and blogging and he thought it was so nice for you to say as well :)

      Thanks for thinking about using my referral code for Bing. They actually changed the program to Microsoft Rewards earlier in the year and while it doesn't change much for the users, they did do away with the referral program :(

      If you want to get started with Microsoft Rewards, go here here for information about the program. I believe one of the links on the page will lead you to the sign up page.

      Once you go to log in to your dashboard (https://account.microsoft.com/rewards/), make sure that you pick the option for your browser to remember your password so you're always logged in. Your name should appear at the top right corner if you're logged int.

      Here is what I do every day:
      I go to the dashboard (I've bookmarked it on all my devices) and first I complete any of the activities in the center of the screen. If you don't use Edge as your default browser but you have Edge installed on your machine, right now you can get an extra 10 credits a day for following the link to Edge and just completing one activity there, which is just a link you click. You don't need to do anything else! Once an activity has been completed, you'll see a little check mark next to it in your dashboard. On your first day you'll have lots of bonus activities to complete such as "setting a goal" so make sure you complete them all! At first you'll be at Level 1 and there are a number of things to do to get to Level 2. You need fewer credits to get to your goal at Level 2 so try to reach Level 2 as fast as you can. There are only 2 levels.

      Then I come back to my dashboard tab and click on "PC Search" link on the right. This opens a tab in Bing News. Scroll down to the row of pictures entitled "Trending Topics" and start clicking each picture in order. Make sure the new page loads with each picture but you don't need to do anything else. Depending on the speed of your computer and internet connection, it can go very fast. Mine is "click, click, click..." and I'm done. Each search is worth 5 credits. That row is short though, so when I reach the end of that row, then I go back to the 2nd row at the top of the page, under the search field. It's grey and the first header is "Top Stories". Click on "Top Stories". It goes to a new page and there is a new row of "Trending Topics" on that page and that row is much longer than the first one, so go ahead and click down the row. At some point, go back to your Microsoft Rewards dashboard tab and reload it and see what your progress is under "PC Search". You can earn 150 credits a day (300 today because they're having a promo on the weekends in December!) so it might say something like 120/150 if you're not done yet. If not done, go back to your trending topics line and keep on clicking until you're at 150/150 on your dashboard.

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    2. Part (2)

      I also installed the Bing Rewards app on my iPhone. I'm not sure if they renamed the app as I haven't updated mine in ages. When I open that app (sign in with your Microsoft Rewards account), then there is the list of activities you can complete. It's usually the same as on the PC so if you've already done the PC Searches and Bonuses, then all you have to do is the "Mobile Searches". Click on the link for Mobile Searches (on your phone or tablet, I guess it would work with a tablet as well? I'm not sure) and it'll open a browser page and put you in Bing News so you do the same thing, clicking on those photos to bring up a news story each time, only this time there's only 1 row to click and you have to keep on scrolling back to the next picture because the line won't advance automatically. Check your dashboard again either in your app or on your PC and check your progress. You can earn 100 credits a day with Mobile Search (200 credits today only!).

      I'm not sure how many credits you need for a $5 Amazon credit card at level 1, but I need 5,250 at level 2. I've been able to order 1 gift card each month, sometimes 2 if they offer a lot of bonuses. They just gave me 1,000 bonus points last weekend for Christmas, for instance. Greg got 500.

      They also send you an email every week (I want to say on Tuesdays? I'm not sure) so make sure to open it. Usually there are links to earn up to 30 extra points but you have to make sure you're logged in to your account first so before I click on anything in the email, I open a tab with my dashboard on (and logged in) and leave it open. Then I go back to the email and click the links and the 30 points get credited.

      There are other ways of earning points too! If you use Edge as your preferred browser, you earn points for every hour that you actively use Edge during the day. I use Chrome so that doesn't apply to me. Also, if you want to purchase anything from Microsoft directly, then click on their Microsoft Store link and you'll earn rewards for your purchases. I'll get 600 credits for having ordered my copy of Office 2016 through their link (and actually, I put it in my cart through their link and then went back into Microsoft Store via Swagbucks and completed the order through that window and earned credits on both programs).

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    3. Part (3)!!! Good grief, Blogger...

      Anyhoo, sorry for the long and convoluted explanation. It seems like a lot but seriously, it's super quick. 10 minutes TOPS every day. I think it only takes me 5 minutes, I've never timed myself. I do it first thing in the morning so I don't forget, usually. If you play the nGage and JunGroup videos in Swagbucks, you can earn your Microsoft Rewards while you play the videos (I turn the sound off and minimize all the video windows, leaving only the windows with the green buttons to click on my screen, next to my browser window) and you can spend that time earning SB and Microsoft Rewards at the same time. You just have to keep clicking all over the screen for 5 to 10 minutes to keep up with both programs, LOL.

      Let me know if you have any other questions. Oh, and you don't have to pick a $5 Amazon gift card as your reward, they have other options although none for grocery stores :( Greg likes using his to buy more video games from Microsoft and he was thinking about working towards credits for Groove Music since we pay for that currently. I like Amazon so I haven't checked what else they have in a while. The Amazon gift cards usually are emailed within minutes when you redeem your Rewards and you just apply them to your account via the link they send you, it's all very easy and convenient.

      And THANK YOU for the diet encouragement! I see myself more as a downer so it was really nice of you to say and actually YOU encouraged me. We can be diet buddies and keep on encouraging one another! Have a lovely New Year, Bonnie!

      Now, go earn your rewards for today before midnight since you would get double credits today but I don't think it extends to tomorrow.

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    4. Hi Again,
      Thank-you so much for all your time to give me such detailed info on Bing/Microsoft. Sorry I didn"t get back to you sooner... one of my goals for 2016 was to order photos from my computer ... I had a free 8x8 photo book so ..today was the day... took me 5 hours but I made it in 2016... LOl. I'm going to try Microsoft rewards right now. Would you like to encourage each other to lose 5 lbs by Jan 31 st? That should totally be doable after all the Christmas goodies ( : Bonnie

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    5. Oh was that one of those Shutterfly books? I swear I've tried 3 times to make one and each time I get so frustrated with their interface that I give up on it. I hope yours turns out nicely!

      Yes, let's shoot for 5 lbs! Yay!

      I'm going to try and go "cold turkey" tomorrow with all the goodies. No looking forward to it since we still have a house full of things that I shouldn't eat!

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    6. Yeah we are on for 5 lbs! It was Shutterfly after 4 hours I thought I lost it and panicked!!!. Luckily I had saved every page so it was not in my cart but in saved projects. I've already earned 470 Microsoft points. Thanks a million for the info..sorry you can't get some credit for it ) :

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    7. Woohoo! You're on a roll! Don't worry about the reward referral but thanks for thinking of me. It would have been terrible to lose everything after 4 hours, I'm glad you recovered it. I don't know why I find their program so challenging. I get so angry at it, it's ridiculous!

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  2. That was a very thorough recap of your frugal and financial goals! Well done! I think you did quite well in many areas. Maybe not everything you wanted to do, but then, who does? The important thing is, you didn't go into debt as you were well able to afford all your expenditures. As for the weight loss, "slow and steady" is the way to go. The nice thing about a new year (or even a new month), is it allows us to have a new beginning. Here's to another frugal year!

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    1. It is kind of cool to be able to wipe the slate clean and start anew on January 1st, isn't it? Here's to, hopefully, being wiser and more successful this year! Oh yeah, and frugal too :)

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  3. My husband recently got mad at BrightHouse (Spectrum) for deceivingly advertising low-cost, high-speed internet. Every time he gets mad at them, he cancels one of their services. Two years ago, it was cable. This time, it was the phone service. We now have phone service through Ooma, which costs $9.99/month for their premium plan; we pay 2 cents/minute to call Germany. There is a way you can use your cell phone to make calls oversees via Ooma, too. Clark Howard recommends Ooma, and we trust his advice.

    We use Virgin Mobile for cell phone service, $35/month/phone for unlimited calls, messaging, and data. No added taxes or fees on top of that. They have a map on their website where you can check how well their service/connectivity is in any given area.

    I love how thorough you are with your plans and follow-up!

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    1. Thanks for the recommendations, Pixel!

      I looked into Ooma a year or two ago back when I was looking at getting rid of our landline but wanted to keep a line for "home" and not just have our cell phones, but I was too chicken to pull the plug... I just wasn't sure that the company would remain in business and I think I was never able to determine whether I could completely turn off the device so the calls would just go to voicemail and the phone wouldn't ring at all, not even to tell us we had a voicemail. Can you do that? Also it would have meant another device on Greg's desk and he didn't want one. His desk is kind of crowded already (the modem plugs in the wall right by his desk). The 2-cent a minute price to Germany is excellent, though!

      As for Virgin Mobile, I just looked at their site and I have several concerns, let me know what you know.
      1) It doesn't look like we have anything else than "voice coverage" in our area (looking at their coverage map) so no LTE or 4G and we sit at the edge of a big area that we actually visit a lot that shows it would mean roaming and according to a FAQ I read, "Virgin Mobile doesn't provide roaming".

      2) We couldn't use our AT&T devices on there, we would need to get their phones, and our phones are already paid off. I wouldn't want to have to buy 2 of their iPhones and then one of them dumb phones too.

      3) Right now I get unlimited calls and texts on AT&T plus 2G with rollover data (and we never use it all since we're 99% of the time on wifi) for $40/month for my line and $20 for any additional line (but there are added fees and taxes, of course!) and I pay $4.99 a month for the international plan so I can pay 9 cents a minute to call a French landline (but it jumps to 22 cents a minute for calling a cell phone, yikes!). But I rarely ever call. Once we drop Greg's line, I'll pay $58.14 for my line (all charges and tax included), $32.34 for my son's line, and $26.35 for the "home" line, so $116.83/month. We do get an 18% corporate discount via Greg's employer.

      4) Another thing that wouldn't work for me is that it doesn't look like you can take your Virgin Mobile device overseas. I would need to be able to do that. Do you have different info? The USA site or their community doesn't address that at all. The one site that talks about it is the British site.

      So depending on what I hear from you about my Ooma questions, I'm thinking we could possibly switch the "Home" line to an Ooma and save us $21+ a month (difference between what I pay for Home line per month and $9.99 Ooma fee, plus the $4.99 World Connect Monthly Fee if I cancelled that), plus whatever I could save by calling France from my cell via Ooma. I'd also have to make sure that going down to just 2 lines with AT&T wouldn't require us to change plans, which might mean a costlier one because I think we're grandfathered in to ours right now. It's all so complicated! All I know is my French family pays WAYYYYY less for their cell plans and my mom always claims that she has free unlimited international calls on her cell phone but I keep on thinking that she just doesn't understand her bill. Their internet fees are way cheaper than ours too and they get FAR better speeds than us.

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    2. OK, it sounds like with your cell phone you would be better off staying with your current plan. Virgin Mobile does not work overseas, and yes, you have to buy their phones.

      With Ooma, there are two levels - the basic plan (you only pay the tax after you buy their device), and the premium plan ($9.99), which includes a second phone number (such as for a fax machine or a separate number for a business), you get notified on your cell phone (via text) that you have a voice mail, caller ID, and some other stuff. Since the device works on WiFi, we shut the phone off during the day (we always turn off WiFi when we leave the house), but if someone leaves a voicemail, we still get notified on the cell phone. Their device can be plugged in anywhere (doesn't need to be on the desk) if you have the WiFi adapter.

      If you are making phone call overseas, you need to make sure you have enough money on the account. If you only add enough to the account to cover the monthly fee, you'd have to add money to the account to cover an overseas call. Of course, you could do that quickly online. Or just have a few extra $ on there to cover those calls.

      Hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions. We've only had Ooma for two months, but we really like it.

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    3. Thanks, this helps a lot!

      So is there a way to completely silence the Ooma machine without turning off the wifi? And to NOT get the notifications on your cell? You see, the current set-up that I have and want to replicate with the home line is that it's actually a cell phone line connected to a dumb phone. The phone itself is OFF, 24/7. When people call our "home" number, they then get the voicemail box automatically on which I left a very long and very foreboding message warning people that we're on the do not call list and to only leave a message if I have invited them to do so (lol). Usually, there are no messages. The only way that I do know there is a message is if I turn the phone back on and there's a message indicator for the voicemail box. I am very willing to continue paying what we're paying now for the peace it's brought to my house. Back when we had an answering machine, we turned it off and turned the ringer off too so people would call and we wouldn't know and they never could leave a message either.

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    4. Yes, with Ooma you can turn off the phone (shut off the power or unplug it) and it won't ring - any calls go directly to voicemail. If you choose not to have the app on your cell phone, you won't get notification that you have a new voicemail. The way you would know that you have voicemail is that a light turns on the Ooma machine once you turn it back on. It sounds like that is exactly what you want.

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    5. It DOES! Oooh, you've given me something to think about! I might pick your brain again if I come up with another question, thanks so much for your help, Pixel!

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  4. For all the talk about not doing much towards your 2016 goals, all I could see were all the successes you managed to pull off. Yay for you. You did extremely well. All the stuff you wanted to accomplish in the area of investments was written down to try and force your hand. That does not make it a fail. It is a deferment until you are ready to take the plunge. You are just getting all your ducks in a row for when that time comes. Take the pat on the back. You have done well.

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    1. This is one big difference between the two of us: you're a half-full glass kinda of girl and I'm the half-empty glass kind of girl :) It's so annoying to me that I can't seem to muster ANY interest in trying to further our situation with the BIG things, only with silly little things like coupons and Swagbucks. Ugh. I mean, ZERO interest.

      But thank you for your encouragement!

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