Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Challenging Myself in Retirement-Keepng the "Mental Computer" In HIgh Gear

If  I never learned anything new, I would not have a boring retirement. I have a variety of hobbies, an active church life, social friends, and family that is close to me.  All this results in my having the schedule that works for me-half a day at home and half a day of doing "something" most days.

Even with a variety of hobbies, including doing crossword puzzles and reading, I think it's both fun and imperative that I continue to try new things and stay involved in lifelong learning. Studies have shown that physical health and mental engagement are important to long term mental health.  More importantly, some of those same studies have shown that simple "book learning" is not as effective as learning hands on skills. We actively learn by doing, whether it is cooking skills, photography, playing the piano, wood working, knitting or crafting. We challenge our brains on a completely different level than, say, when we attend a lecture.

Folks who have been reading this blog for awhile know that just a few years ago I was a real full time student, attending classes 12 hours a week with college kids 20 years old-and mainly loving it.  After my move, my time constraints changed (along with becoming an out of state student) and i put that on hold.

Lately however, I have been missing that "school like" level of challenge and have been looking to add a few new activities to my retirement schedule.  Some are more challenging than others, some of them more active than others. Since I like to try new things and challenges these things fit into my day (and night) and keep me on my toes, at least for now

For example, once I week I am taking a college class on The Hebrew Bible in it's Cultural and Historical Context (at heart somewhere, yes, I am a geek).  This is a once per week three hour class that is participatory and requires up to six hours some weeks of homework. This is actually part of a four year course on religion and culturalism.

I'm taking an online class in how to draw with colored pencils.  While this is not participatory in the true sense, it is very participator  on my end as I attempt expand my limited drawing skills anyway I can.

As mentioned elsewhere, I've joined a "drawing from the right side of the brain" class once a month, with each month being a different activity. This month we are supposed to bring our favorite poem, and we will be writing our own poem as well.

And finally, I've been talking about joining a book group for awhile-if only so I would force myself to read something other than police procedurals and I finally found one.

Trying new things is always good, in my opinion. Most of these new activities are free.  Added to my Living Richly in Retirement book, my other hobbies and life in general they will, I hope, continue to keep me challenged and ready to learn more.

And now, to do the reading for my bible course................

Friday, October 24, 2014

Little Frugalities This Week in Retirement..

This first day of my non schedule life has been very sedentary-by choice. I got up this morning, grabbed my morning beverage and went back to bed with my laptop. I got up and had breakfast and then sat down with my laptop and tablet. Fear not, this lazy day was planned. My goal was to set up a couple passive income streams to earn a great many more gift cards before the holiday and explore a couple of online money making sites-making my day a success.  I'll talk about these passive streams more later. The point is, the day has gone the way I planned.

I was happy to see that one young women has left the hospital and the other is completely free of Ebola.  No one that contacted them has shown symptoms, and life goes on. Common sense prevails amid our search for a long term plan.  I remain more worried about a spider bite or the shingles at this point in time. And my daughter, who lives in Dallas, is much more worried about her very serious sinus infection than a communicable disease.

It is eighty four degrees outside as we speak, and while many if not most of our trees are golden, the warm weather has prevented a full fall. The front yard however, is filled with leaves from the crab apple tree, which has turned. Were it left to me, I would probably leave them on the ground until the trees were cleared. Other people will, most likely, have other ideas!

Meanwhile, a frugal retirement (even an extreme frugal retirement) is more about the little choices and steps we take while going about our fulfilling lives rather than gigantic labor intensive steps, much of the time. I've managed to include frugality, money making, and time and energy saving techniques into my day without affecting my quality of life in any real way.
  • I paid twenty dollars to join the Newcomers Club of Littleton. In truth, this is more a social club (of mainly retirees) than a newcomers club.  I've joined a book group, a single women's dinner group, and a "creating from the right side of the brain" group so far. This small annual fee has opened up a variety of activities.
  • I have needed new glasses for awhile (my prescription is almost six months old). I've been stymied for two reasons, one having no relationship to frugality. The first reason is that my prescription is drastically different and I know that adjustments will be needed.  The second reason was cost, and the fact that I LOVE my frames. I replaced them less than a year ago with duplicates due to a break. New frames are expensive and even in the online market I was looking at at least five hundred dollars for two pairs (sunglasses and progressives). My lenses are severely chipped and scratched however, so I did some exploring. I may be slow on the ball, but my town is the headquarters of a replacement lens company, and the quoted cost for putting lenses into these glasses I love was less than ninety dollars.  I'll take that deal-and start looking for sunglasses deals.
  • I continue to walk outside mainly and do silver sneakers weights a once or twice a week. Silver sneakers is not free for me, but more importantly, I want to take advantage of this beautiful weather for as long as we have it!
  • We continue to eat made from scratch, healthy food at a fairly low cost. My version of made from scratch generally consists of a slow cooker or casserole dish, so I do not spend a lot of time to have cheap but tasty meals.  In fact, my hostess dish for our rotating dinner group will consist of Italian style beef stew with loads of seasoning, wine, and more.
  • Two of my "crafty" groups had a materials exchange this week. This was a perfect example of frugal yet high entertainment.  Everyone brought a dish, the hostess provided the beverages.  We traded unwanted yarn, fabric, bead, wood and watercolors-and had a few discussions about items contributed to the pot whose purposes were questionablee. After a full afternoon of socializing and some wine imbibing, we also divvied up the leftover food and headed for home. Almost all of my socialization groups are free or almost free. We take turns bringing food to my three hour college class (which is a small group so this works), and my knitting class ends in happy hour.
  • I've set up my smart phone to play videos constantly, in order to maximize my gift card grabs cards from Swagbucks and Perk. This would not make financial sense if the only reason for my smart phone was earning gift cards.  Since I have unlimited data in my plan and I have a phone anyway, this is a smart move for me. My next post after the weekend will probably be on the perks gained from my various apps. For those who wonder, I receive approximately seventy dollars in gift cards each month for my time.
  • I made my brother a from scratch layer cake for his birthday-devils food with butter cream frosting. A cake like this would have cost at least twelve dollars at the grocery store, and perhaps fifteen. This took very little time, and was worth the effort.  My gift for him was a good pair of wool socks.  I've recently deciding that my gifting while be for things people need and use, or for things that I know they like and will not purchase themselves. Handmade gifts still fit into this template (as I sit knitting scarves and throws). My simple 100 percent wool socks were a gift my brother (who rarely says what he wants) really loves and something I KNOW he will use constantly.  Our birthday celebration consisted of watching the Broncos win (as always), cake, ice cream and family.
  • As always, when I check my email, various things show up in my feed.  Since I have a few frugal bogs as well as discount sites, this is always an adventurous time.  Today I discovered 33 Free and Cheap Things to do in Denver, Free Tickets to see "Before I Go to Sleep" (some readers may have read the book), Notification of Albertsons 25 cent and fifty cent sale on Tuesday; Adidas shirts on sale for less than ten dollars, and a ten dollar off 25 dollar JC Penney coupon (my son only wears the JC Penney tall guy long and short Tshirts) All of this and more done while drinking my cup of morning tea, along with a list of free kindle books and craft classes
  • I just sent my son to wash my bathroom rugs as well as some heavy blankets. This does cost some money, but eliminates the wear, tear and mess on my older washer. On occasion spending a little bit of money saves you more in the long run, and this is one of those towns.
  • I have been DVRing EVERYTHING. I have decided that the ability to eliminate commercials is healthy for both my pocketbook and my brain. This is especially true at this time of year. People who do not live in a swing state have no idea. Here in Colorado there is, literally, nothing but political advertisements on. Nasty, mean, name calling you name it.  I never thought I would be carping on the advantages of living in a mainly solid state, but there you have it. Maybe not a frugal choice, but a smart one for me.
  • And finally, my news feed also showed me that my social security will increase by twenty dollars or so in the new year. I'm unsure whether my government pension will get the similar treatment. On one level, twenty bucks is not a lot On the other hand an extra couple hundred bucks a year is never to be frowned on, no matter how it's used. Rather than compare that money to an inflation rate, I prefer to consider it "found money" and treat it as such.
And there you have it, frugality as it happens. Small choices and activities that have fit into my lifestyle this week, without causing deprivation or taking large chunks of time away from my retirement priorities.

    Changing Things Up In Retirement-Kicking Schedules to the Curb

    Much of the time, it's the little things that we do, or the changes that we make that increase the quality of our retirement by leaps and bounds.  And while travel, adventure, hobbies and lifelong learning are all important to to a healthy retirement, I continue to believe that the biggest contributor to retirement happiness is freedom and control of time. 

    Some of you may have noticed that I've done little writing on this blog the past few weeks.  This is not because I don't have things to share, or important things to say.  However, I've been feeling out of sorts and I was not sure why. In the past few days, I realized that I had become a slave to my day planner, and that simply was not working for me. To that end, I have, literally, thrown out the schedule. And I have no plants to start a new one.

    This is not to say that I have kicked my activities to the curb, or eliminated social engagements.  I continue to keep a calendar (although I try to move that to my phone) and I carry a small notebook in my purse in which I journal and jot things down. This jotting has more to do with a rough list of goals and to dos rather than a daily or even weekly challenge.

    I still do all of the things I did before, and have even added some new activities. I quilt, draw, and knit. I write. I play pinochle once a month, belong to a book group and a knitting group, a craft group and a "right side of the brain exploration" group.  I walk half an hour most days and occasionally take silver sneakers. I go to school one night a week and take a fun online class at home. I keep my house halfway picked up (more or less). I go to the movies and hit a day trip every so often just for the fun of it. I've started (I think) a weekday women's bible study group.  You get the idea. 

    For some this sounds like chaos, I am sure. And if I were the person who was bothered by the thought of "what will I do now", it might be for me as well.  As a person who generally has many more things she wants to do than she has time for however, I don't see this as a real problem.  There are a few things that remain in terms of structure-most of those are affected by body clock issues, mealtime needs or the knowledge that I need to walk and clear my head. 

    The end result, at least for me is a blank canvas each day, to use as I am inspired.  This means that rather than a day divided into sections, I have days that flow-mostly depending on how I felt when I got up this morning, or what mood has struck. I may, as happened today, get up and simply decide I'm not ready yet and head back to bed with my coffee.  I may (and have) pick a book and up spending the day reading. I may spend the day puttering, or making a quilt from start to finish. Today, I spent much of my day working (literally) on some passive income streams online as well as journaling about articles and my book, that I really need to finish.

    Syd talked a week or so about letting go of the list. I confess that I still have the list, and update it every so often.  Like her, I'm willing to simply remove some things from the list, knowing that I can always change my mind and add it if things change.  Going one step further, and throwing the daily schedule, plan, whatever your word is takes that freedom to another level

    This is what works for me, and some people are completely uncomfortable without a daily plan or list. For me, at this time in retirement, I'm going to let the day plan itself, and we'll see how that turns out.

    It's working for me, for now.

    Thursday, October 16, 2014

    Volunteering Up Close and Personal, the End of the World is Not Yet Here, and other Thurday Thoughts

    For many retirees, volunteering of some sort is a regular part of their retirement lifestyle.  This is unsurprising, since statistic after statistic has shown that volunteering can improve quality of life, and even extend longevity.  It often takes us multiple tries to find the volunteer gig that works for us as individuals.  In your search, it's worth noting that one other thing is true-the happiest volunteers are those who interact on a personal level with their volunteer subjects.  Whether it's reading to children, teaching English to immigrants, any number of other volunteer activities, the reward is in the interaction.  This is not to say that other types of volunteer work (volunteering, cutting and pasting and cooking for example) are not needed in large ways. Just that in order to get the deepest reward, people also need to interact, on some level.

    In my own retirement I am finding that to be true in spades, as they say. I do number of volunteer activities, many of which are even done at home.  Quilts and blankets for preemies or Habitat for Humanity subjects is a perfect example. However, my most rewarding activity is working with residential homeless women. I may have mentioned that as part of this volunteer gig we interact with the women. In other words, we bring a meal, and an activity.  We sit and eat WITH these women, and dance, craft or game WITH them, rather than to or for them. Other folks from my church walk with the women twice a week, some lead with a prayer group-our days are full.  

    The advantages of this type of volunteering are numerous.  First, we get to relate to this fairly small group of women (25) on a regular basis. Second, we are enabled to see what THEY want and need, rather than what we believe that they want and need, or think they should want. There is a huge difference between the first one and the later two.  Since these our women who are chronically homeless and now  learning how to live in a structured environment and be on their own, it's very important that they can express, and we can understand what is required to move forward.

    So while I volunteer in any other ways, my primary volunteering will continue to be getting as close to one on one as I am able.  Meanwhile, in other thoughts on this Thursday:

    •  This is not the End of The World As We Know it. In this country, you have a higher possibility of getting shingles, the fly, pneumonia, or dying from alcohol or cigarette related illness.  Is Ebola a concern and do we have t find better ways to deal with it? Yes. Does the CDC need to get their act together and take a lead?  Absolutely. Do I think further steps should be taken? Of course.  Do I believe in stocking water, food and medicines for emergencies? Yes, but as much for being stuck at home during the flu or a blizzard as for a pandemic. Preparation is just good sense.  Although I watch and read Fox TV rarely, I encourage everyone to read the rant here.  As the man says, the fear mongering around us is "counterproductive"  Some day there may be a pandemic.  I've watched Contagion. If that time comes, you need to relax, be prepared and do what you are told. Meanwhile, everyone should take a breath-a big one-and think about what would have if they had to stay in their homes for a month because of a pandemic.
    • Syd has a wonderful blog post today about letting go. When I read this, I wanted to say "Yes!! This!!".  The best part of retirement (in my opinion) is freedom-freedom of time primarily. Like Syd, I have long lists of what I WANT to do and what I SHOULD do. While I have not eliminated things from that list, as she has, I have no compunction about ignoring something on this list, and if it doesn't get done one day, I don't necessarily feel the need to add it onto the next day.  As long as I do a certain amount of healthy and challenging things, other things can fall by the side without guilt. Retirement should, I feel, be done at it's own pace. Now, if you sleep till noon for a full week or find yourself sitting in front of the TV twelve hours, or your yard has taken over the house, then it MAY be time to consider a to do list.  Meanwhile, to paraphrase the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, the list is just really a guide, after all. 
    • Soups are one of the most frugal things about fall. Here in Colorado we are as they say in the between.  The weather is  as well. Yesterday the high was mid eighties, today the high will be 72. However the nights have gone to the high thirties meaning the heat comes on in the morning until the house settles at 70.  Outside this means that my crab apple tree is still green, but the leaf vines that cover my house are red and gold. As the weather cools we eat a lot of soups. Soups are easy, you can substitute as need and with bread and salad they make a whole meal with ease. So far we have had homemade minestrone, a copycat Olive Garden creamy Tuscan soup, and broccoli cheese soup. I'll try and share a few of these recipes in my next frugal food post.
    • Studies have shown that learning new things is an important way to keep our brain sharp. This is especially true when we learn new hands on type skills, not just "book learning". I was not aware until recently just how many ways there are to learn hands on skills on the web.  While it's nice to have group classroom instruction for some things, learning online lets you go at your own pace. In my case my current projects have to do with drawing with colored pencils and learning to use my camera phone well.  Between utube, free online classes and tutorials, I'm definitely learning as I go.
     And now, it's time for me to ignore that list of mine and go sit by the window with my newest kindle download for awhile.  Retirement, anyone?

    Sunday, October 5, 2014

    My $200 Grocery Budget (More or Less)

    Normally I don’t put two “frugal specific” posts  back to back on this blog, and in fact, I have been writing for the past week on the things we can to do remain healthy and safe through the cold season.  That said, three people asked me for specifics about my grocery costs and how I do it.  I always aim to please, so here is a hopefully down and dirty explanation of the grocery life of this frugal retiree. Below is a list of the four primary things I do to keep my grocery costs down.

    Before I begin, we should probably make sure that we are comparing apples to apples, if you will. I feed three people for approximately $200 per month.  I do not cook on the weekends, someone else does (there are exceptions, but in general the working housemate likes to cook on the weekend).  That person buys the food for those dinners, usually what she feels like cooking. She also purchases her own wine (I’ve given it up for chances to spend calories elsewhere)  So I guess you could say that out of 28 days, I buy all the food for twenty days, plus breakfast and snack stuff for the other days. If she was not cooking, I would probably need to eat out more often, but I prefer to save that for special occasions and travel food. My husband cooked on the weekends and holidays for the entirety of our marriage, which may be one of the reasons I have not had the urge other spouses might to run away from the kitchen on Friday or Saturday night.

    This budget ONLY includes food. It does not include dog food, paper products or other things that one sometimes buys in a grocery store. This budget does not include eating out (which generally comes once a month, twice at most).  Holiday and extremely special birthday meals are in a separate holiday/entertainment category, although I use many basic pantry items as well. My organic purchases consist of the dangerous and dirty options, cage free eggs when on sale.

     My goal for next year is to be part of a CSA and begin buying free range chicken and meat as I can afford it. That will increase our costs. Finally, my 200 is an average. In the summer my meat costs are higher because I purchase grill meats, and in the winter this Texas girl needs strawberries, in season or not. While I wish we ate more organic, I believe that by cooking from scratch and eating primarily fruits and vegetables we are ahead in the long run.

    To give you all a small idea as to what we eat:  In the past week we have had the following for dinner in terms of proteins:  shoulder lamb shops, a small pork tenderloin in rosemary maple marinade, large rosemary garlic chicken drum sticks cooked in the slow cooker and homemade minestrone with homemade popovers. Our sides vary depending on what is on season and on hand.  We had mashed potatoes, salad and vegetable with the lamb chops, and fruit and wheat popovers with the soup, just for example. Our breakfasts include oatmeal, cheerios cereal, eggs and toast, bagels and low fat cream cheese and waffles on weekdays. Except for me (picky, picky) lunches are leftovers. We always have fruit on hand and vegetables for snacking. We drink milk, soda, juice, coffee and water. These meals also yielded leftovers for both Friday and Saturday.

    Now that this is all clear as mud………………….

    1.  We eat everything, for the most part. We don’t just eat boneless skinless chicken breasts. We also eat drumsticks and bone in thighs, for example. I cook them skin on and people have the option of removing skin afterwards. My doctor says this is healthy. We eat pork and ham, lamb, ground meats, sausages and brats. We also eat a variety of fish and on occasion seafood. Our diet is does not eliminate much, and allows most things in moderation. What used to be a dash diet has changed a tiny bit to be more Mediterranean. In other words, we allow healthy fats and most proteins, piles of fruits and vegetables, and limit but don’t eliminate carbs and wheat products (although I do attempt to make baked goods at least half whole wheat). We are not paleo, we do use regular flour and sugar (albeit I attempt to add whole wheat and brown when I can).

    2.  I cannot say often enough or loud enough that we do not make a grocery list and shop from it. This should probably be number one, actually. We buy loss leaders each week in terms of protein and staples, and the only things we buy regularly each week are some dairy products, in season produce, and fresh bread as needed.  I choose what we will have from what we have on hand.  The shoulder chops mentioned above for example were 2.99 a pound. I bought enough for three meals. Shoulder shops are not rib chops but they are extremely tasty and can be cooked a variety of ways, including in the skillet like a steak and served with mint. So this week I purchased the meat above, drumsticks and thighs for 88 cents a pound and that was the only meat. I always buy at least two of loss leader proteins, one for the freezer. For those who wonder how I decide the best price, I have a website to refer to and I have been shopping long enough that I have a top price that I will pay in my head. Since my primary store is King Sooper (a Kroger store) perhaps I will start sharing every week or so what I buy and how I plan to use it-let me know what you think. I could add it at the bottom of another post.

    3. I cook from scratch and have a pantry.  Before you run screaming from the screen, this is not as hard as it seems. I am a happy, active retiree with a life who has better things to do most of the time than slave in the kitchen all day.  However, when I DO cook, I at least double anything freezable.  At the beginning of last week, we had blueberry pancakes and bacon with fruit for dinner. I made a batch of pancakes as large as one of those Tupperware bowls. The waffle iron was on the kitchen table, so as we sat and talked, I waffled. Those waffles are now between pieces of waxed paper in large freezer bags, ready for gigantor to have for breakfast.  Everyone’s definition of what constitutes a convenience item differs.  My freezer has ice cream and frozen vegetables (often more nutrients than less than fresh). Everything else is either frozen loss leader grocery items or homemade and frozen items. My pantry includes everything from canned tomatoes and boxed broth to ever seasoning on earth and three kinds of oil, to various pastas and both white and brown rice.  In other words, my scratch tomato sauce will be from tomatoes in a can and tomato paste, not from the garden. That is my “from scratch” level”.  However, I make my own flavored rice and pilaf, not from a box. And almost every store bought baked good makes me go ew.  I am not a gourmet cook. Many of my meals are thrown the slow cooker in the morning and remembered at dinner time.

    4.  I do take advantages of coupons and deals. I am not a coupon queen and do not allow this to take up my precious time. I have a website that shows printable coupon deals that match grocery stores in my area, and available Catalina deals (the ones that print out at the grocery store or Target), as well as gift card target deals. Visiting this website takes me about half an hour a week and reaps results.  While this is a paper item, this week Kroger stores are giving a two dollar coupon on your next purchase when you buy Ziploc brand bags. and there is a one dollar coupon available to print on two.  This makes Ziploc bags much cheaper than generic bags and worth purchasing if they are something you will use (I use them for freezing AND for storage of small items such as sewing supplies).  Again, this is a non-food item but there are in fact many food Catalina's available. There are also many Target red cards that make sense when you look at the final cost. Are there many meat and vegetable coupons? Not really. But by getting broth, canned tomatoes, and sugar at less than half the price of generic using coupons, that cash is freed up for the proverbial good stuff. Coupons shoppers know, by the way that the smallest container is the cheapest when using coupons. Better to use three one dollar coupons on the small container of mustard than use one dollar on the family size-even taking recycling into consideration.

    That’s it. Those are the four primary things I do to keep my food costs low. If you read this far, you understand the basics of what I do, although I could describe many of them in more detail., and may in a further post. This part of the article is the meat (no pun intended) of the article on my retirement food strategy. If you don't read any further, you have gotten at least eighty percent of what I do, if not more.

    What I would add as an addendum are three things:  First, it’s not a deal if you don’t eat it. I buy the things I buy because we eat them. If you only eat chicken breasts, then you’ll want to buy more at the lowest price than I do, for example. 

    Second, you need to know what the lowest price is, and the flyer is no indication.  You have to find a way to figure out what the lowest price is, and how often you can get it at that price (so you know how much to buy). You can start making a list and comparing it twice, or you can find a good website that lists grocery deals for the week and rates them somehow (as well as telling you that there are coupons). My website rates with five being an absolute run out and buy it price. When I scan her list, if it is not a four, I don’t even stop to see what it is. I consider myself financially savvy, but let someone else do this chore.

    Third, the fewer options you have, the more you will need to stock up. Most things go to their lowest price in my location every four months.  HOWEVER, I am within couple miles of an Albertson’s, a King Soopers, a Safeway and a Sprouts.  If I only had one store, or only time to hit a single store a week, then I would stock up a larger amount, to keep me until the next sale.

    I am not an expert. These are our prices, at this particular time. Prices may go up, sales may get worse, I may decide I need more wine and chocolate, who knows. Even at three hundred dollars a month, we would still be considered a thrifty household who ate well.  For now, this budget works for me!!

    Thursday, October 2, 2014

    Smart Women Do Not Pay Full Price-Getting Things for (Mostly) Much Less

    Although I miss the fall leaves spectacle that was part of my life in Virginia, Colorado does have the most beautiful Aspen groves.  Catching the right weekend to see the trees in full color is always a crap shoot. This past weekend, we headed to the front range to see what we could find.  On the first part of our trip, it was easy to see that we were a weekend late. Orange and gold are interspersed with gray and brown. Still, we had a lovely time and the rest of the party hiked up the mountain while I attempted to take pictures in less than sunlight conditions. Rather than turn around, we made a circle, and found some better views just a bit south on the return trip (forewarned, these are taken by camera phone).  It was bumper to bumper much of the day, I think everyone in Colorado had the exact same idea. Aspens are connected underneath the ground, so when a tree dies, so goes the grove.

    The first part of the title above was the motto of a local Connecticut retail store years ago, and is one I have taken to heart. Rather than the big box discount store of today, this store was a small Dress Barn style clothing and accessory store, one that had a nice ambiance, traditional clothing-and deep discount pricing.

    In retirement especially, I have realized that in fact, I rarely spend "retail prices" for much of anything, and looking at my receipts for the past months, most of the time I spend much, much less than the average price.  My first motto is still " Free is best", but when things are not free, my goal is to see how cheaply I can get them.  This has become easier than one might think.

    Now, when I say "cheap" I do not mean "junk".  As a rule I'm not likely to buy an eight dollar blouse at Walmart, eat mainly junk food, or buy something that will fall apart. And there are surely parts of my life where I have to pay full cost, up front.  Removal of the large tree branch felled by snow in the middle of my drive way and the street is a perfect example.  In the face of immediacy, I called around, got the person who could come the fastest and accepted life for what it was.

    MOST of the time though, I am spending much less and getting much more in retirement. I allow two hundred dollars for monthly basic groceries for two single women and a six foot six college student for five days a week, and we eat well. The past two oil change/oil filter/tire rotations have been twenty dollars apiece. I recently got said gigantor student three quality long sleeved heavy t-shirts for less than twenty dollars. All done with very little of the traditional "coupon cutting" from the Sunday paper.

    I was always able to wait for sales and find deals, but I seem to have taken this to a new level in retirement.  As a retiree with a lifetime of stuff, I have fewer immediate needs than when I was a young mom with working children, or a wife of a corporate guy who had to travel and entertain.  Many of my personal requirements are either "replacement" purchases than I can plan ahead for, or "wants" that are not necessarily immediate.

    The best part of retirement, for me at least, has always been flexibility. I don't have to wait and shop on the weekends or evenings.  This means that I can unashamedly take advantage of "senior" days at places like the Clark shoes outlet.  And since my days are free I have time to explore and take advantage of discounts.  This doesn't mean that I spend my retirement days searching and coupon cutting, heaven knows.  It does mean that many days I spend some time checking emails from stores that I shop at or that my children go to (I have a separate email address), as well as keeping an eye on sales and options.

    Tomorrow, I'm meeting with my quilting group. I plan to make quilted gift card sized bags with ribbon handles to sell, use myself for family and give as gifts. Pictures to follow.  Before I go, I'll have my coffee on the patio and take my morning walk (I used to walk in the evenings, but Colorado has decided to have Texas and Virginia style evening thunder showers). 

     I'll lunch at the Old Mill Brewery with a twenty five dollar gift certificate that I purchased for three dollars during a special deal. I've realized that it's time to break down and buy some heavy socks. I have a $5.00 of $25.00 coupon as well as a coupon for 30% off my clothing purchase. I'm going to try some knee high socks and see what I think.  I also need some craft items for my homeless women-they'll be decorating sugar cookies and their own pumpkins.  Michael's stores have all their Halloween decorations and embellishment at thirty percent off. I have a coupon for twenty percent off everything, even sale items.  At fifty five percent off, I can afford to donate to this important cause.

    Dinner tomorrow is lemon oregano chicken in the slow cooker with huge drumsticks purchased at the loss leader price of 70 cents a pound (a family pack for now, and one put into the freezer). I need to take my next free Craftsy lesson on drawing with colored pencils, and I have a free book downloaded to my kindle.

    Saturday morning, I have decided to break down and go see Gone Girl-although I can't imagine hating Ben Affleck as much as I hated his book character, and even knowing they may have changed the ending. I'll attend in the morning using my senior discount price, and use my earned movie rewards card to have movie popcorn and soda, even knowing I'll have to walk twice as long after I leave the theater. 

    Getting stuff for much less in still only one part of a frugal retirement.  Much of my life style is still free or almost free-library books instead of purchased books, free concerts, free entrance to community theater through volunteering, Netflix or on Demand instead of movies, walking instead of a gym membership and more. But it's nice to know, especially as the holidays and then spring travel approaches, that full price can be a think of the past with a little bit of effort and some good timing.

    Friday, September 26, 2014

    Changing of the Seasons

    I enjoy living in a four season climate most of the time. I really appreciate the change in seasons, and much of the time Denver has a pretty mild climate overall, with lots of sun year around.  I enjoy the season to season changes.

    Right now it's still warm in Denver. Weather will be in the mid to high eighties during the day through the weekend, and next week the highs are scheduled to be high seventy to eighty some degrees.  Even so, it's getting cooler at night, meaning that a few leaves have started to fall here and there. Plants and flowers are still in bloom, although a few have been brought inside to protect from the cool night air. Bees and flies abound! As we move to October the nights will get cooler with average temps dropping to as low as sixty degrees.

    This means that I need to start preparing for cooler weather, even though things are warm as can be for the moment. I'm trying to make my frugal fall planning list and check it twice!

    For example, I never had to have a serious robe in Dallas, and it's on my list to get one, and soon.  While most days in Denver are warm and sunny in the afternoon, thee mornings are sunny and cool.  If I've said it once, I've said a hundred  times how much I enjoy relaxing and reading in them morning on the patio, and a nice robe will let me do that almost until Christmas. I might have moved to a slightly cooler climate, but I'm determined to enjoy my yard as many days as possible. Slow riser that I am, I appreciate my hour or so outside with nature.

     I need to check my insurance and get that flu vaccine in the next few weeks.  I won't jump into the flu vaccine debate, except to say that the vaccine does not cause the flu and say that for me, it has kept me from having the flu every year I have had it. Readers may remember that last year my sister had the flu for a full week, and my son had it so badly that he had to go to the hospital. I was in close proximity to both, and except for a stuffy nose, remained healthy. The CDC suggests getting the shot  by October and most insurance providers pay the full fee for people sixty and older.

    I'm also stocking up, in the cold and sniffle preparation department.  While I will get a flu shot, sniffles and sore throats can still arise, as can the occasional migraine headache (due to some serious barometric changes in the fall). My college student especially has serious issues with barometric changes (as well as changes in altitude.  A week visit to Texas gave him four days of head trauma after our return). Since these are things that are on sale now, I am stocking up on Kleenex (one area i have not yet moved to cloth), cough syrup, and some of the other basics.

    I'm  having fun experimenting with making my own home remedies,  as much for the fact I prefer them as the fact that they are frugal.  This appeared in my feed this morning-sliced lemon covered by honey and refrigerated-you just need a spoon to add to hot tea-and in my case a teaspoon of rum our bourbon. Yes, I know you cannot cure a cold, but you can make it more comfortable. This recipe calls for a little ginger as well.

    Lemon, Honey and Ginger Soother for Colds and Sore Throats

    On the home front, I'm reminding myself it's time to replace the old air filter, and double check all the alarms. When it comes to servicing the furnace, I tend to think every two years or so are fine, as long as filters and alarms are maintained. I also want to do a gutter cleaning and pull out all the fall tools such as leaf rakes and make sure I have easy access.  Most importantly I need to get the fireplace cleaned!  I already have cured wood thanks to a huge tree branch that was felled by heavy snow, and I'm looking forward to the fireplace.  Wood fires may not necessarily help the heating costs, but I love them, and we are waiting on the decision to move to gas. I would love to hear thoughts from anyone who has changed out a wood fireplace to gas!

    This morning I pulled out a couple extra quilts and I am knitting a large blanket for my living room. It may be 87 today, but it got down to fifty three last night.  I've also put extra covering on my beds.  I also pulled out the fall colored table covering and most of my fall decorations so that I can wash them and get ready. For me fall is still bright rather than dark so I can use the yellows, greens and golds at almost anytime. And, since I almost always have my house decorating for something, I'm slowly "autumnizing" my mantle and decor.

    Everyone in this house has been asking for soups, and I keep saying "soups are not summer food unless they are cold". Now I can justifiably pull out the slow cooker and make home made soups and breads (together fast, frugal, healthy and easy). Soups are one of those things that are almost always frugal, even the tastiest ones with the "expensive" ingredients, especially if you make your own broth.  I have clam chowder, baked potato, and broccoli and cheese soups on my short list. I also found another one of those restaurant copycat style dishes, this one for slow cooker broccoli and beef. I'll let you know how it turns out.

      Last but not least, I'm preparing my own little living room corner. After all, it's football season. That and the new TV season mean I'll be spending more time in the living room and want things to do with my hands.  I know have the living room set up with blankets and pillows, books and crossword puzzles, and knitting and sewing.  While I'm not addicted to television, and I use my DVR liberally and often, there are certain shows such as The Blacklist, The Bridge, True Detective, Gracepoint and more, that will keep me busy in the evenings on occasion. I'm now ready-and have even joined a Fantasy Football group!

    Oh, and while I never thought I, liberal left winger that I am would live to say it, there is at least one advantage to living in a solid state, even if it's red. The political commercials in this swing state are constant, and have been since February (not because of a primary mind you) and only gotten worse since the end of August.  I cannot imagine what I would do without the advantage of a DVR!

    Do you prepare and plan for fall?  Do you just take it as it comes?  What about winter?

    This weekend I'm off to celebrate my birthday with as many retirement and birthday freebies as I can, take a trip to the botanical gardens, and enjoy a retirement day of quilting and sewing.  Happy retirement weekend, all!