Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Netflix and Amazon, My College Basketball Bracket Disaster and Other Retirement Mumblings

I  have cable TV.  Let me rephrase that one. I consider myself a frugal, tightwad, intelligent, adventurous retiree and I have cable-and I plan to keep it.

Why, you may ask?  Unfortunately, one cannot stream football, or college football, or NCAA basketball, or worldwide football (soccer to the rest of you), or the Olympics.  Put simply, those of us who are true sports fans have a different perspective on the "get rid of cable" discussion.  The alternative would be to spend most of my weekends at certain times of the year at Buffalo Wild Wings. I figure it's much better for me to have the TV on while I am cooking or sewing, or beating everyone I know at scrabble rather than sitting at the bar with drinks and munchies-both from a health and a financial perspective.  So cable stays in the budget, getting much more face time in fall and winter, with minimal visits from April through the fall.

Of course into every sporting life rain must fall. Sometimes more than others.  Like now. To those basketball fans who are reading this, let me say that I did fill out a bracket.  Thank heavens above that it was just for fun, however, because even for fun I am still crying in my proverbial beer-and my bracket is already confetti. Baylor, Villanova, Virginia, and more-they are dropping like flies.  My only hopes now are Gonzaga and Michigan State.  I needed five days before this tournament continued to re-fortify myself.

Meanwhile, while when it comes to regular television watching, it seems I've re-discovered Amazon and Netflix and their proprietary television series.  While everyone seems to know about House of Cards, that is only one small part of what is currently offered and what is coming.

Amazon especially is luring me in. It seems that they have a policy of showing a group of premier episodes, and then having viewers vote on them.  Amazon then chooses about half to become series.  Recently I watched the Harry Bosh series (actually produced and directed by Michael Connolly).  The classic novel The Man In the High Castle has been made into a series and will appear soon.  I also watched a one hour preview last night and I can't decide if I love it or hate it. Netflix has not let me down either.  Tonight after everyone is in bed, I plan on watching some the TV series Bloodline, which is supposedly better than House of Cards. Oh the joys of being a night owl!

Life is, at the moment, at an activity crossroads.  While spring is beginning to arrive, with a two week trip planned beginning April 6, there is no point planting and digging until I return. My evening class is on a three week hiatus, we are finished painting the house, and I have ended one online course and the other has not yet begun. This has given me some down time to catch up on drawing, painting, knitting, and reading-all but one of which can be done during the nighttime TV watching hours.

I'm now off to my last class before the break, and looking forward to some serious knitting time, some late night snacking and my flat screen.  And please, don't wake me before 10 am!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

About Those Cost Of Living Increases-and Another Income Addition

It's that time, and it comes (almost every year).  You may know what I'm talking about-the annual (not so) great cost of living increase.  Because I'm a federal pensioner, I get two of those little increases, one of which begins in April.

Don't get me wrong, extra money is extra money, no matter how small the amount. It's just that I have a difficulty finding something specific to do with it, if you know what I mean.  Pre-retirement, the difference in income was usually bigger and it usually got assigned to a specific category. The difference might be put into savings, travel or towards another specific goal. At this point in my life, I'm not finding a specific category to put this very small slush fund into-meaning it will probably turn into what the financial experts call "blow money".  Which of course, is not a bad thing as such.

This year, I have a slightly larger increase that the normal few dollars. Social Security increases my income by $28, and my federal pension will increase by a whole 17 bucks. No big spender am I, obviously, with that increase. However, another increase has also crossed my financial desk.  You see, my college student has turned the magic age of 26. While he was paying all his other bills, I was still paying that fee because it came out of my federal pay-and because he is trying to start a business. 

My son has now joined the ranks of folks signed up for the affordable care act.  In the federal system, there is generally single health care and family health care. So the fee I was paying when my husband was living did not lower, as long as my son was on my insurance.  That amount was $150, which means my health care deduction is now only $100 instead of $250. So there you are, Instant income. I certainly will not argue!

For those who might wonder, my very semi employed college student did not qualify for medicaid or any subsidies (probably because he is living in this house although completely emancipated).  He qualified for the Colorado Co-op health insurance.  He is paying the same amount I was paying before. Although his total deductible is much higher than my health insurance, there are many things that are completely free-including many prescriptions, all vaccinations, prenatal health care (no help to him but...) most so called well and preventative appointments.  Since he is an overall healthy young person (albeit with a former history of asthma, leaving migraines and pneumonia as regular occurrences), this seems to be a realistic option for him both in terms of monthly costs and copays.

So what have I decided to do with the money?  I've decided to spend it on me. As someone who has chronic pain, and is not good about doing things for herself, this money will be spend purely on luxuries. A regular massage, a couple expensive supplements to help naturally deal with pain, a more expensive hair stylist, I'm sure you get the picture.  In truth, these are things that were often affordable before, I just simply chose to spend money on the house, or fabric, or something else.  This is a way to remind myself to do these things, as well as it is a better way to fund them.

Meanwhile, my last few days of retirement have been full of those need to do, less than exciting tasks that occasionally come up in groups.  I've helped my son design business cards, cost out landscape equipment and evaluate used trucks for his business. I spent time vacation plannig -booking hotels, printing out maps, looking at the (at least) three alternative ways to travel to Seattle.

Now that those chores are out of the way, it's time to return to designing that quilt, hitting at least one movie this weekend, and hitting at least one local seafood restaurant. No more retirement must do's-at least for a few days!

Monday, March 16, 2015

My $200 A Day Travel Budget-And Heading to Seattle!!

Trip advisor Seattle photo
I apologize folks, apparently I posted this one too quickly, while under the influence of good drugs (don't ask), Hopefully tweaks have made this a big more readable!!!

This is the time of year that many of us start planning longer vacations and road trips. When it comes to travel, some of us are "goers", some moderate planners and some require a pretty full itinerary. It depends on your comfort level. I fall somewhere in between. I have become a bit more of a planner, but not by much. I still plan a general route, and unless it is high season or an expensive town, rarely make reservations ahead of time. I've been known to get off route 70 in Kansas to see the largest prairie dog in the world.

This trip, my first of the season will be an exception, due to my sister's working schedule and the need for my sister in law in Seattle to request time off. While this is a road trip, its also a chance to see my brother, sister in law and five and three year old niece and nephew-yes, you read that right.

In order to accommodate everyone, we will be taking a leisurely drive to Seattle together, spending about five days in the northwest, and then she will fly home (the joys of accommodating and meshing vacations within an organization) while I will choose my leisurely ride home.  Even with this schedule, I want to make the drive each way an adventure.

This is where people can pipe in, should they wish.  I would love to hear advise about what to do in Seattle, whether route 90 or 80 is more interesting, and especially what I should do alone in Portland.  My home route is up to me and my immediate thought is to drive down and then cut across to Colorado, but that part is still in the works. Our schedule for Seattle is still in the works, after all!!

Meanwhile of course, the budget portion of my planning. I cannot compare my road trips to RV trips. On the surface, RV trips are probably less expensive, although I am unsure at what point one decides the RV has "payed for itself" versus hotel bills, once you take in cost and maintenance. I'd be interested in hearing from RVers on this one.  As many readers know, I choose car vs RV by choice, for a variety of reasons-one of which, quite simply, is that I like to drive.

For those who are wondering about the money thing when it comes to car road tripping-I budget for 200 dollars per day on a road trip-and then aim to use as little of that as possible.  On this trip, there will be two of us, making our individual costs close to $100.  When I travel alone, my cost is somewhere  a little less than the $200-probably because I am more willing to experiment with sleeping arrangements. On the road this budget may be lower, in the city it may be more. But even though I expect to use less than that (on my gulf trip for example), I budget that amount considering the extra to be "travel emergency funds" if you will.

Looking at that Seattle trip as an example, the trip there will take two and a half days each way, with four to five days in Seattle, or ten days total (approximately). Since I don't know what I'm doing on the return, I am going with the three day return, knowing well and good that may change. For now, my working figures are based on leaving Denver on April 6, arriving in Seattle on the evening of the eighth, and leaving Seattle on the morning of the thirteenth. Figuring a straight return, we are looking at four or five days in the city, and three on each end driving. Considering the unique circumstances, I'm rounding that to ten days for my purposes.

First, as always, I went to this site. Using this calculator shows that my Nissan Murano will use $175 dollars of premium gas on the trip one way. I will not use premium in my car, but work with that amount as a guideline.  That's $350 round trip or $35 a day for ten days for gas. I'm not figuring in driving in Seattle as I have a relative there and I expect that this cost is generous since I use regular gas. This price does not include the cost of towing (part of my insurance), nor of car maintenance prior to the trip.

While there is not a whole bunch I can do about the cost of gas, there is a great deal I can do about sleeping costs, while still being in comfort. It helps to think outside the traditional box.  Hostels are not what they once were-on my train trip to San Francisco in the fall, I can share a four bed dorm for thirty dollars, or a private suite for $150-in the same hostel.  With Air B and B, Vacation Rental by Owner, Bed and Breakfasts and more, there are lots of options out there. I have tried most all of them, and most all have worked for us.

In general, finding a nice hotel or motel on the road (or in Billings or Boise or even Salt Lake City) for $100 or less for two people is not difficult). On this trip, we will have four nights on the road for a total of four hundred dollars budgeted. We'll also budget four night in Seattle, a not inexpensive city. We've found a two person private room in a hostel for $316 (before tax) for four nights, as well as a condo for five hundred dollars for four nights- a range of from 80 dollars a night, to 125 a night (without taxes and fees).  I average the sleeping budget out for 100 per night overall (and remember that I can cook in a condo and have to buy three meals in a hostel).  I'll do some research and finalize those plans in the next week for a final total. Fellow bloggers can tell me if I am totally out of line on this one.

Assuming 135 of that 200 to be spent on this trip on gas and sleeping, that leaves 65 for two people for food ten days, or $650-aiming to have some left over for fun. Food is something I am extremely flexible about-as long as I am able to eat in a couple really good gourmet restaurants along the way.  I budget $30 per day per person (or $60) for city dining, and perhaps $30 total for two per day on the road trip portion unless we see a really quirky unique restaurant. 

This lovely picnic pack from REI is my best friend (mine is blue and was bought awhile back). Having something like this allows me to enjoy the picnic experience, be non wasteful and to carry healthy food (sandwiches, grapes, cheese, crackers and more).  It's easy to replenish with fruit and crackers and cheese (or whatever your lunch and snack choices are) on the road. And since almost every motel has a fridge in room, nothing goes bad.

The second way I save on food is to make sure that breakfast is included. Motel and hotel breakfasts may not always be the most original, but I can always get fruit or juice, bagels or muffins, cereal, and usually eggs or sausage-to eat at the hotel or on the road (I don't drink coffee, so that's an obvious one). By eating breakfast in a hotel and buy doing the picnic thing on the road, that food money is freed up for dinners, and food truck type food in the city. *** On the road, about half of my evening meals are eaten out and half in the room. I need to stretch my legs. If I've walked the dogs (not with me on this trip) or taken advantage of the pool for half an hour, I'm more likely to be ready to finish the picnic basket in the room.

For this ten day trip, we will budget for $60 for five days, and $30 for five days, making that an average of $45 per day for food. That, plus $35 per day for gas and $100 for sleeping, makes my total $175 per day (depending on how accurate my math is) allowing for wiggle room. .

You'll note that this budget does not officially include "fun stuff" or sightseeing fees.  That's for two reasons.  The first is that I prefer to spend most of my time (even in cities), walking around and enjoying the ambiance. Many parks, cathedrals, zoos, waterfronts, art shows and more are free.

The second is that this is one area where the non planner occasionally need to plan in advance. In this case I will have a built in tour guide, and will also want to plan for a boat and bus tour most likely. On a longer, mainly leisurely road trip, like my gulf coast adventure, many more things are free or low cost (historical sites, gardens, boardwalks, festivals, historic homes and scenic down towns).    While I will at some point wax more poetically on this, my personal solution is to go to the city website, and sign up for Groupon or Living Social for the places I want to visit well in advance. Today I got something about a whale watching trip in Seattle for seventy percent off.

So there you have it, my $200 (more or less) daily road tripping budget. Costs depend on where I am going, whether I am alone or it is a shared trip, how flexible I am, and what kind of deals and steals I come up with.  But it's my starting point-and it works for me! 

The new blog is coming along!! I hope to have a good five or six articles published and then I will link to that as we slowly migrate everything over. I am so excited!!  And since I cannot decide what to do with this fabric (quilt, purses, wallets, I leave you with these pictures to end my post)


Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Yep, This Frugal Retiree Updagraded Her Smart Phone

Well, folks, there it is!  I have a brand new, much larger, much newer phone-and I am still on my old contract.  And yes, at this moment I consider it a smart, frugal choice.

My kids and I have been on a family contract plan since 2007, with each person paying his or her own bill directly.  For us this fee ends up being right around 70 bucks per person. On one level, I feel that's a hefty amount. On another level though, I feel that we use our phones a great deal-and our plan includes unlimited calling, texting and data within the US.

I purchased my phone in Texas right before hitting the long, lonesome and windy road in my 26 foot U-Haul.  Two years later, my "contract" is over. I could have gone paying month to month where I was, upgraded my phone, or left and taken my phone to a pre-paid plan. I really hesitated to do the latter, because it would have put the rest of the family plan off kilter, requiring us to make adjustments (and my tablet is still on that plan).

Just a sight difference in size between the new Samsung and the old Motorola

I honestly use my phone a great deal-and often for good. While a post will probably be forthcoming on this, I have lots of apps on my phone that make my life easier, as well as saving money. I have apps that give me coupons and discounts for places from Jo Anne crafts, to King Sooper to Kohl's.  I have an app that lets me upload all the gift cards I have (from gifts or online earnings) so that I don't have to carry the cards. I have a quilt calculator on my phone that lets me figure exact yardages. I have an app that lets me make a hair appointment and walk in, and I have an app for my bank that allows for remote check deposits. I have a bible and a book of common prayer on my phone.

Of course, I also have the frivolous app here and there, including dare I say it, Words With Friends, I also have an app that counts my steps when I work out, and a diary and notebooks. (for those who are curious, all this can be synced from my tablet to my phone).

Things like his big keyed calculator, large keyboard and interface make it really easy for this blind girl to use!

I would also be lying if I said I did not a great deal of texting. I have a sister in law, and two kids who work and go to school full time as well as have piles of obligations. Texting allows me to send a message to them without disturbing the status quo, and allows them to respond to me as they are able. If I waited to call them, we could be voice messaging for a week.

Anyway, the bottom line was that I decided at least for now to avoid the pay as you go plan. Next was whether to upgrade or to stay with the current phone. The one thing my phone does NOT have is a decent camera.  Which means I'm taking my point and shoot digital camera and my phone wherever I go-be it a quilt show, a meeting, a road trip or a family gathering. This was, frankly, getting old. I wanted a camera that would take decent pictures for this blog and my new one, Facebook, and to send to friends. (Eventually my goal is to improve my skills and move up to a DSLR, but that will be a different time)

All this rambling is to say that I now have a much larger, much newer, very pretty piece of technology. My Galaxy Note 4 is much easier to read and use, and has a 16 MP camera with stabilization built in. At six inches by three inches it's much larger than my old camera and takes some getting used to.

For what it's worth this camera did not require a contract as such.  It was purchased at a discount and increases my phone bill about four dollars per month. If at some point later I choose to go prepaid, I would pay this off and move onward to a prepaid option.

For many people, this kind of upgrade would make no sense. For me, at this time in my life it does-especially as I have no land line and this is often my only technology when I travel. Oh, and for those who have an IPhone? Apparently it's not possible to sync a Verizon tablet with an apple device, which left that out as an option for me.

Frugality (in retirement or any time) means spending little or no money so that when you want to get something really nice, you can-or at least consider it. For now this is right for me-and I got to keep my old phone for wi-fi only usage.  What more could you want?

Note: That new blog is getting closer. If any of my readers with more technology knowledge than I know someone who would migrate this blog to that one, please drop me a line. HTML code is a language I speak not, if you know what I mean!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Sharing a Home In Retirement-How to Handle Shared Space

One of the main advantages of sharing a home in retirement (besides a lower cost) is more space overall-at least for most of us.  I am not in favor of mega homes and do not want more space than I can handle. In fact most of the condos and apartments I looked at were right around a thousand square feet with two beds and two baths and very large enclosed patios. That kind of space would work for me, and is what I may end up in eventually.

 I've described the shared space we live in more than once, but for those who are new readers to this blog, this is a home with 1300 square feet on the first floor and a 1300 square foot finished basement.  The basement entails an open space, a finished bathroom and two bedrooms which are my sister's bedroom and studio (as well as a large storage room and laundry room). We also have a large patio and yard.
I think we need to re-purpose the fireplace back to a fireplace this year

The first floor consists of two living spaces (that could be living and dining) a large eat-in kitchen, a guest bath and a separate hall that includes three roms and a bathroom. In other words, both shared space and private space. This home now accommodates two and a half adults and two canine children with ease and could serve more, depending on circumstance.

Along the way, I (we) have learned a few things about living together, sharing space and time, and more.  We have adjusted, re-adjusted, changed to use of spaces and come to some conclusions as well - at least conclusions that work for us.
  •  For example, from our perspective, there is only so much you can "legislate" ahead of time. While a basic contract (especially on the financial side, which I'll address in another post) may be helpful, much of the way we live and the decisions we made were decided along the way, as our living situation developed. If I were to do a contract, I would make sure it could easily be adjusted to take in a variety of things along the way. Until you actually live together, there are many things you simply will not be able to rule on as such, even with intensive discussions.
  • Early on, we agreed on the need for quiet space and noisy space (for lack of a better term).  Because we have two areas, we took advantage of that. We when entertain for dinner, we can pull the table and leaves out to the center of the floor and grab the chairs. Meanwhile, this second space is the quiet area, while the living room holds the TV/entertainment center and sofa and love seat. For those who remember the dilemma of names, that first room is now called the fireplace room.  Our other space has a sofa and love seat and our large TV.  
    I' m loving the color now that it's done!

    Unfortunately this room still needs it's paint!
  • Having more than one space also deals with the friend/entertainment factor. It allows for book group, chatting with friends or having other visitors without inconveniencing the other party. We do many social things together as well as entertain together. However we also lived separate lives for fifty years-meaning we also have our own friends and activities-and that is as it should be, I expect.
  • Kitchen use is not a problem-mainly because one person still works.  Still, early on we agreed to eat together unless one had a commitment and would not be home.  Every so often we have days when it's leftover day or every woman for herself-but we like to eat well and neither one is likely to settle for popcorn and veggies very often.  For now (and because I still have a college student who eats here part time), I purchase groceries for the five weekdays. The other party cooks on the weekends (often more expensive foods, because its the weekend) and purchases her lunches and special items she likes. Again, it works for us, but I have lived in situations where one had to decide who was shopping, fridge use and the like. When we are both retired, I can see that changing.
    Kitchen with things like cake taker strategically along the counter next to the love seat-to prevent the dog from stealing another whole angel food cake!
  • When it comes to furnishings, it seems to me that you have a variety of options. If the house belongs to one person, that furniture is in place, and the person moving in adjusts to that. If you are purchasing a home together and starting fresh, you may all agree and go shopping together. For most home sharers though, I expect its a combination of possessions. In our case we had both downsized (me too much, as it so happened). So our house is eclectic (which works for us, neither are matchy matchy as such).  Eventually we will purchase items together, such as the replacement seating for the TV room. But the fireplace shelf holds blown and fused glass owned by both. One picture on the wall is mine, one is hers.........and for now that works for us. When we unpacked in the kitchen, we kept what was the best working from each kitchen and donated the rest.
  • Because she is in the basement (and I don't do stairs) and I am down the hall, we respect each others privacy for the most part. We both know that we are in our own spaces. It's easier for her to come to my office/studio to see what I've been working on, but general logistics allow for privacy between bedroom and bathroom and escapism.
    And down the hall we go!
  • When it comes to handling the maintenance of room and spaces, in general everyone does what he or she does best, is physically capable of or cares about most.  While I want the house clean, I am not a get down and scrub the baseboards person. But I cannot stand clutter, so every night before I go to bed I put everything away. On the other hand my sister is much more water conscious/concerned than I, so she is willing to do the dishes every night rather than hear the water running as I rinse and load the dishwasher. I don't do yard work-period. I'll sweep the patio and so forth but all the planting and mowing is hers-after all, that's why I was going to move into a condo. 
  • By the same token, when it comes to decor or, say, paint color issues, unless the disagreement is major the final decision is based on who cares more, or who is doing the work.  That has worked well for us.  Should my sister ask me where to put something in the yard or patio, my answer is basically that since she's the one doing the planting, whatever works, as long as my swing ends up being in the shade.  When looking at the fireplace room paint color, we look at a color called peppery, the blue you see here and a warm gold. I was not painting, so I left the color choice to another.  She obviously made the right choice, as the fireplace really stands out. On the other hand, I did, and do have a strong color preference for the so called tv room and the kitchen (which are yet to come).  I am a holiday person which means I pull out Easter trees and quilts for the table, when she could care less.
Sharing a home or an apartment in retirement can be fun and cost effective, as well as being secure-as long as you are mainly on the same page about how you go with the flow. We've found a way that works for us-and works well-with a little logistical planning and lots of communication.

I know lots of people have questions about the financial logistics, and I promise that part will come soon.

And so it goes, this Friday in retirement.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Passing Down Memories through Food, Recipes and More

So my new blog location is now all ready to go. I've gotten the domain known as www.livingrichlyinretirement.com (after all I'm still frugal but not a Texas gal), chosen at least a temporary website, and will probably go live soon. My only problem to resolve is how to migrate the content on this site to that one, and if I can do it myself.  Please feel free to let me know any thoughts on that one. Other than that I've been happy with Wordpress, it's easy to use and I'm looking forward to sharing my new blog with you all.

Many year ago, I was temporarily living with my very new in-laws while my husband was in Japan  (my thirty something was a mere four). One afternoon my mother in law came up and hesitatingly asked me, if I by any chance ate calves liver.  Being me, my answer was, " I love calves liver"!".  Strange, I know!  She was thrilled.  

It turns out, you see, that my father in law (J)loves lamb, but hates liver. My mother in law (B) cannot touch the lamb (she was raised in Guatemala in her teens and it would seem she had a bad experience. She also does not eat bananas or plantains as her step father ran a banana plantation).  They had regular routine-she made lamb chops for him, calves liver for her, and then cooked piles of onions, sauteed spinach and potatoes.  I of course could have chosen either option, but being a liver lover, preferred to keep my B company. 

 After that, we moved to Washington and then to Germany.  We had liver (especially in German restaurants), but it was never like hers, and as health guidelines have changed, limited myself to once every six months. After all, as my sister says, it is gout food. My son was never tempted to partake, in any way.

When I moved to Texas after my husband died, I now had a high school/college student. Before long, I was getting a call from B asking what I was doing on Friday night,  and inviting son and self to dinner because she had gotten really good liver.  The first time, they offered to  cook something else for my son. I said no way, and since he was at his grandparents, he ate what was put in front of him, and another liver and sauteed spinach addict was born. This repeated once or twice a year until we moved to Denver.

Although that was years ago, this has come to mind recently. I have been talking about making family cookbooks for my children and realize that the time is now.  In our house, as I am sure it is in many houses, food is memory. Sometimes we actually remember to pass on those kinds of things, and sometimes we just keep cooking and forget. It's occurred to me (and to my son) lately, that we don't really know how she cooked this stuff or other recipes that were especially hers-we were too busy talking and eating, as often happens.  We know that she used bacon grease for the saute portion, but little else.
One of the book I purchased used to help me as I create my recipe books!

Fortunately we have a situation that hopefully will produce more than one great outcome as I move towards recipe collection on my husband's side of the family.  My father in law is of course at loose ends, after the loss of B.  He has likes to be busy, to have projects and have people to talk to. I think I've just given him a project, or maybe two.  Along with a birthday card, I sent a letter explaining my goal, and asking him to look through, or write down his recipes as many as possible-and not just for liver. There is grandma's jello salad, sticky chicken, berry crisp (that even my non-berry eating son would eat) Osso Buco, and more.  Since he's an amateur genealogist, I also asked him for some of that information as well, and told him that we would want to talk about that more when we visit in May.

Meanwhile, it's time for me to start searching my own memory and recipes.  My parents have been gone for awhile. Last birthday, another family member replicated the steak and kidney pie, spinach salad and homemade lemon meringue pie that my mother made for my birthday for years.  Her Sole Almondine was unmatched. I have many cookie recipes unique to our family, and traditions of my own to replicate such as homemade lasagna on Christmas eve (including sauce from tomatoes), and lots of other recipes to share-and look up.

This will be both a labor of love for me, as well as a memory for both of my adult kids.  Whenever possible I'll add a note about where the recipe came from, a picture , or something else. Both my kids enjoy cooking as well as eating, and they have been patiently waiting for this book for awhile now.

I'll be working on this project a bit every single week, beginning now. After some thought, I'm using a basic colored binder with a pocket and photo save pages-so that more recipes can be added as needed.  This way I can type the recipes, add graphics, hand written notes and pictures as needed-and still allow the kids to add their own recipes as life goes on. My intention is to update on this every week to keep myself accountable and to share my progress as I work on this family project.  I already have some "food themed" scrapbook papers purchased and am chomping at the big to begin.

Although I'm starting this project to preserve memories, it will be an easy, inexpensive gift that requires a lot of time, very little money and will be unique-just what I am looking for.

And so it goes, this snowed in day in retirement

Saturday, February 28, 2015

11Real Ways To Save Money In Retirement-An Unscientific List

The lists abound over the blogging world, and on money management sites.  Ten ways to save money in retirement, 25 money saving tips for retirees.  Bullet lists at their best. While the list may vary in tone and content, most of them are very similar. Cook from scratch and stop eating out to save money. Review your expenses. Look for discounts. Simplistic in the extreme, another blogger called this kind of post an "Eat Your Vegetables" article, and I tend to agree.

While I'm sure these folks mean well, he is correct these articles often seem to be written by thirty somethings.  Writers, mind you, who seem to think we've forgotten everything we learned.  I'm not sure about you, but sometime after college (at the latest), I realized that menu planning and eating at home saved money, and that it was a smart move at least every year to see if another insurance company could beat my rate.  After all, most of us lived on budgets most of our pre-retirement lives, if you get my drift.  These kind of budget cuts are what another blogger refers to as low hanging fruit.  They've been cut already very often.  As a non retirement example, that advise to cut out the latte was useless, since I never stopped and got one to begin with.

The other problem I have with these kind of articles is that they are very much one size fits all-and retirees have all kinds of incomes, all kinds of interests and all kinds of lifestyles.  What retirees need (in my humble non-financial expert opinion), are new ways to look at spending and the big picture. 

And so, with little ado, these are my own personal thoughts on saving money in retirement. I am not an expert on finance, but I do know at least a little bit about budget living in retirement, as well as knowing other retirees from a variety of spectrum.  With that, here we go:

  1. Know where you are and where you are going. As someone who was not financially savvy, experienced a shocking life event and had to make large changes quickly, I failed at this one. Because I had to sell a home, buy another, and move across the world, for example, I never had the chance to follow advise. I did not "change nothing" for a year, I did not do the math, I did not ask for help and I certainly did not think about where I wanted to be or what I wanted to do. My choices were driven by necessity and depression.  At some point I did sit down and take that step, better late than never.  Face the realities, however good or bad they are, and go from there.
  2. Cut from the top down, or overhead, overhead, overhead!! I spend a lot of time on this blog discussing small frugal changes that can be part of a rewarding lifestyle.  But those changes are secondary to the big one. Make sure that food, transportation, health premiums and copays and housing (and the attendant taxes and insurance) are less than what you make each month or are willing to withdraw each month. Period.  How we do that is different. Some folks will choose to give up one car. Some will downsize.  How we get there is different, but these are decisions and changes that need to be made earlier rather than later. Moving and making friends is much easier at fifty and sixty than at seventy, no matter your personality.
  3. Recognize that your time and money continuum have changed and use it to your advantage. Retirees have,while not an infinite amount of time, certainly large amounts. Spending some of that new time to save (or make) money in order to be able to fully enjoy those other chunks of time should not be considered a sacrifice. While spending a few minutes looking at sales, cleaning your own home or painting a wall may take some time, for most people most of the time that is a small price for a large reward. Just as many retirees are still investing money, invest some of that time as well.
  4. Know your personal comfort level (or "ick factor" as one person calls it)-but be willing to stretch yourself to find what works-and consider why that's a comfort level issue.  I am unwilling to keep my home lower than sixty seven degrees and it goes as high as seventy two in the winter. On the other hand I have absolutely no problem going to a thrift shop and purchasing an LL Bean sweater for three dollars.
  5. Consider spending to save if you are at the beginning of retirement or if you are not yet retired-if you are sure you are spending on a long term value.  I'm sure many of those financial wizards would disagree.  If however, you are spending on what you are SURE are so called "investment items", that can be a good thing. Prior to retirement my husband and I were prepared to invest in good ski equipment, and I purchased my three thousand dollar sewing machine. Our goal was to have a life that required "replacement and repair costs" rather than big expense costs. My father and mother in law spent money improving their windows and making their home handicapped accessible, figuring that when they were done, their only expenses would be for the basics and someone to come in and help them.
  6.  Stay healthy and explore healthy self care options.  Not talking pseudo medicine here, just looking at all the options for staying healthy.   Medical expenses for retirees are the proverbial elephant in the room, if you will. Exercise, eat right and look at the various self care options for minor and chronic ills.
  7. Find ways to do the things that are important to you for less. The fact that you cannot afford the symphony doesn't mean you can't afford the symphony.  Music fans amongst my readers may be familiar with the Voices of Light-a concert and chorale set to the remastered classic film the Passion of Joan of Arc. Symphony tickets over the US have ranged from fifty dollars and much higher.  I'll be attending this performed by a local symphony and a cathedral chorale in a large cathedral next weekend. Before saying, but I can't, check again. Almost any thing can be done more cheaply or in a different way. 
  8. Working in retirement can be fun and rewarding and is not necessarily a punishment.  However.... I don't work for the essentials of life.  If you are working to pay the bills in retirement, look again. No job is secure, as many older retirees know.  When I work (which is on and off), it's because I want something, and don't want to take money away elsewhere to get it.
  9. Be willing to step out of the box (this probably falls along with your comfort level).  Learning new things in retirement is essential.  Spend a little bit of that learning time taking savings to the next step.  While we all know that menu planning and cooking at home save you money, taking the next step can save double.  Learning how to get real food cheaply, cook and freeze and eliminate waste can lower grocery bills by thirty percent.  Learning to new home improvement skills are good for our health, brain, and bottom line
  10. Give yourself a break.  I don't drink coffee. If I did, Starbucks would probably be my best friend. I do however have a Starbucks hot chocolate and a glazed lemon pound cake once week-without regard to calories or money (well, I do have the Starbucks reward card)
  11.  Finally, saving money and cutting expenses increase your bottom line.  You can have what you want, just not everything you want.  You can afford anything, just not everything. Every dollar saved through frugality is money to either be spent elsewhere or saved and invested for future spending.  And, you don't spend taxes on what you save!

And there you have it. My unscientific, one size does not fit all, advise for saving money in retirement.  These are not rules, but rather (as they say in Pirates of the Caribbean), just general guidelines.  Use them or not, as you see fit!

What about you, do you have any out of the box tips for saving money (in retirement, or any other time)???