I apologize twice over, folks, this was up once, and fell into the great abyss it seems. Also, I have been remiss in posting and commenting on your comments. I had to go back to moderation, and a shoulder injury (another post entirely, coming soon) is holding me back!
Also, while I'll dedicate one of my next posts to this, the new bankrate summary shows Colorado among the five top best places to retire, and Florida in the bottom at 39th, and California at 28th. More in a day or so.
Yesterday evening, I
went to the Colorado Symphony. I enjoyed a violin concerto and an hour
and a half of Mahler (yes, I actually do like Mahler). Our seats were
in the first orchestra. After the symphony it was breakfast at a local
Perkins where I allowed myself the country gravy, sausage, eggs and
biscuits. Today was a relaxing day at church, enjoying basketball
finals and sitting on the patio. Since one member of this household is
working on the weekends, I am in the middle of a large project and the
college student has term papers and exams due this week, we are cheating
and having frozen lasagna and garlic bread and sides.
previous few nights we have grilled beef skewers, beer brats, and pork
chops along with homemade salads, breads and desserts. During the week, I
made a quilt. I enjoyed my knitting group and happy hour on Wednesday,
my book group, my craft group and my other daily routines. I went to
see the movie the Winter Soldier. I worked on the patio.
In terms of future plans, I also planned for my one week vacation in Santa Fe in August-where we have rented a huge house with soaker
tub, hot tub, private drive way and the works. I scheduled a road trip
to Texas via old route 66, with economy sleeping plans. I'm working on
my mid fall trip by train to San Francisco where I'll stay in a youth
hostel. I'm planning for an art class, and trying to decide if I should
take a class in the summer or leave it free for as many day trips as
possible. Today I'm sitting down with a list of festivals and craft
fairs in Colorado and the surrounding areas and trying to decide if a
beer or wine tour is in order locally. And our local community theater
has an upcoming performance of The Music Man!
is what life is like on $30,000 a year-for me. It has been a year
since I moved from what was in theory a low cost of living area to one
with a higher cost of living area. While my primary reason was a
different environment and to be near family, my goal was also a
financial overhaul. After I made that decision, I did receive comments
from folks who had left Denver and gone to Seattle because they felt it
was too expensive. When I wrote an article earlier about
moving from a lower cost to a higher cost area, one reader suggested
that I didn't know what I was doing in moving from Texas to Colorado to
save money, and that once I paid the taxes and faced reality, life would
not be so much fun any more.
am here to tell you that she was wrong. Life can be lived as a single
person on $30,000 a year, and I believe that most couples could do the
same.While the specific numbers are worth sharing, it is worth talking
about how I live specifically in terms of choices (and also about the
more or less, mentioned above). Before I share general budget numbers (at the bottom), a bit about what it is like living on that monthly income!
I have some situations that are unique to me, and that not every
retiree may be able to duplicate. For example, I live in 1300 square
feet on the first floor of a house with a
yard, for which I pay $700 and $200 more or less in utility costs
(I keep my house at 73 in winter and rarely use AC even at
90 degrees). Others may not replicate this area so easily, however many
folks have options. Some retirees have homes paid off, some are close
to that. Some live in lower cost of living areas. There are many
choices to be made.
This makes my monthly basic living costs right around $900 monthly. (without
my cell phone). Purchase of this house was a joint family venture,
which means my roommate and I share the cost of the housing cost (which
does include taxes and fees rolled in, for those who are wondering).
The investor (my brother) provided the down payment, a home maintenance
package and a home improvement fund. While my housing situation is unique, I was willing to live in a one bedroom with den condo for $1000 and lesser utilities-in fact it was my original plan.
other place that I may have it easier than some retirees (especially early retirees) is in the
health insurance area. My health insurance is not in this budget
because it goes out of my pension before I see it and is not included in that monthly amount.. For those who wonder,
I pay about $225 monthly for "family" insurance. Next year when my son
turns 26, my fee will be closer to $150. More importantly though, I
have "good" insurance through the feds. My co pays are generally no more
than $20.00 in network office visits. However, as some may
remember last year, my ten percent of a three day hospital stay was
$1800. Since I am not of medicare age yet, I realize that I am blessed
not to have had to drop onto the COBRA wagon or face other issues.
have a rewarding and busy at home retirement much of the year,. That
retirement lifestyle is broken up to three our four vacations a year,
usually road or train travel. I choose to remain in the US and on road
mainly for non budgetary reasons That said, I hope to travel to my
second home of Germany in the next two years, as well as take a trip to
Grand Cayman. As my travel plans above show, I intersperse the
occasional costly travel item (a shared house in Santa Fe) with free and
less expensive alternatives (a youth hostel, a best western hotel). It
goes without saying that I also research every free option wherever I
go, and that I travel frugally by carrying coolers and food.
eat well, and generally at home. I am not a great cook, but I am a
great baker and most of our food is made from scratch. When I do face
time issues, rather than eating out we take advantage of simple foods or
use the grocery deli counter (as for the beef skewers above). I
discussed in another blog post how I feed two adults and a six foot six
college student with a hollow leg on less than $250 a month except for
weekend dinners. I eat out generally no more than once a month, at
upscale non chain restaurants, using a Groupon
when available. We have a local restaurant that flies in flue crab once
a month in the summer, so I know where I will be spending my evening
out in June.
use mainly free and "community events" for regular entertainment. I
have a community theater where one watches for free for volunteering. I
regularly go to free concerts at my church, and take advantage of
summer music opportunities There are local small town symphonies, free
art gallery days, Friday night art walks and the like, that keep me more
than entertained for free or very little. A few times a year I go to a
"real" theater, concert or event. I'm considering an annual membership
to the Denver Art Museum or Botanical Gardens. Both are good IF I use
them at least four times a year and bring a friend. I'm on the fence
right now. As always I look for deals, freebies and last minute open
it comes to sitting in a movie theater or going to a special event, I
make sure it is something I will love, I check discount coupons, and I
appreciate it for what it is. For example, when it comes to sitting in a
movie theater, I do so only for those movies that I feel NEED to be
seen in a real theater (some do), usually on discount weekdays. Gotta
love that retirement freedom.
day to day hobbies and interests are generally free or almost free
(although some of them do have some expensive material requirements). I
have a knitting group that meets in a local independent bookstore. The
local newcomers club (which is really just a social club-some members
have been here for years), have a crafting group, a book group, a movie
group and multiple card groups, and a golfing group. I get my primary
enjoyment from interacting with others with similar interests, reading,
doing hobbies, enjoying my home and my patio. I am a material hoarder,
which means that although I could buy fabric or yarn or paint or jewelry
findings or wood pieces tomorrow, I could make five projects of
professional quality out of what I have on hand. I used to have an
entirely separate "fabric" budget.
My "entertaining" generally consists of group and rotating dinner events where the host(ess)
provides the main dish and appetizer and the guests provide everything
else. When we have folks over for dinner for a Christmas party, I
generally work with the rule of one (one spectacular decoration, one to
die for dish) and work everything around that, or do themed parties like
Christmas cookie swaps that cut down on effort and cost.
"beauty and health" routine is very simple. Again, this is more because
of my lifestyle choice than a financial issue. I belong to the local
recreation center where I walk in the water-and cannot wait until I am
old enough to take Silver Sneakers classes! I buy a very few good
quality skin care products twice a year when they are on sale and use
them as needed. I wear little makeup (mainly because my skin is so dry I
moisturize it multiple times a day (and yes, I am using the riches
products available). Every year I ask for my same favorite perfumes for
Christmas or Mother's day, and every day I get them. So far. I keep
my hair very short and silver. I'm in the water sometimes twice a day, I
work with paints and chemicals and sharp objects. I'm also lazy and I
wear big jewelry.
it comes to clothing expenses I wear mainly casual, classic pieces.
The best way I can describe it to my women readers is imagine if you
walked into Steinmart
today and saw the casual black yoga pants and the long white skirts and
the bright colored tops and tunics. this is what I wear year around,
simply moving to sweater tunics. Put simply, I do the casual flowing
thing, not the jeans and tailored thing. That is what I do. This takes
me most places, from knitting class to church, depending on how I
accessories. I only buy clothing when I need it AND when I love it AND
when I know it will go with everything else. I rule out no store as a
clothing resource. I buy expensive, comfortable shoes from Clark's
Bostonian, generally buying two pair per year, always on sale and
usually at the same time (when they have a buy one, get one half price
or better sale). I still have a pair of walking shoes I purchased from
Clark's the first year I came back from Germany (2008).
I am sure that some of the reason I am successfully living on my income
is that in general, I have the personality type that would prefer to
create a solution rather than pay for one, when possible. This does not
mean that all my solutions are pretty, or that I never resort to buying
something. It just means that by nature, for me, that is generally a
last resort. I was blessed to have had a patient husband and equally
patient children who were not afraid to say "Oh, No!!", or Oh, Yes," in
in hand with the above are two other personal traits. The first is the
fact that I am willing to wait. While there are things I want now,
there is nothing I need now. I am willing to wait for the right solution
at the right price, as well as willing to look for that solution in
non-traditional places including used sources. The second trait is that I
am willing to consider all sources all the time-I'm talking primarily
in terms of shopping here, but the same applies I suppose to anything
else. I don't necessarily consider the Littleton Symphony inferior to the Colorado Symphony. I don't assume that I will like Nordstrom's
clothing better than Kohl's clothing better than my local consignment
store. Certainly there are some exceptions. I only buy Clark's shoes
(after much trial and error). But over all, I think my open mind in this
area has gotten me more for my money than almost anything else.
Finally as a quick aside, I am the queen of discounts and freebies. I do allow part of every day (generally one half an hour ) to read the freebie emails in my inbox and grab links to any deal that I might consider using
Now, before we get to the specific number portion of this missive, I do need to address the more or less.
Before you say "I knew it", or "Now, we come to the real truth", hear
me out. Recently, I willingly took on a car payment. In order to have
that car payment for as short a time as possible, that car payment is
large ($500). I have shared on this blog in the recent past my "web
research gig" and how interesting that is. So, for the moment I am
paying for that payment from a different source. Were that source not
available, I would refinance to the smallest amount and adjust the
savings, travel and sinking fund categories appropriately. earning by
choice is covering that amount, that is not included in my budget
numbers. in fact, for a few hours or less a day (as the mood strikes
me), I am learning more than that. That said, my general budget is only
based on what I regularly earn through unearned sources.
So, when we come to the nitty
gritty of life on between $2600 a month, this is what you
get. Remember that I am not a budget person, and use broad categories
for budgeting, although I do track every thing by small individual
House payment with taxes rolled in $700
Electric/Gas (1/2) 100
Cell Phone (includes son's portion ) 100
Groceries and Dog food 300
Car Insurance 80
Monthly Haircut 25
Rec Center 25
Church and Charity 40
Sinking fund 550
Travel Fund 550
Because do not live off a 401K or investments, I base my budget on my unearned income. I use broad categories, and one sinking fund for unexpected and variable expenses.
My sinking fund includes emergencies/savings as well as the money for monthly variables .............clothing ($600 annually), House stuff such as pillows, gardening supplies ($1000), medical copays ($2000), car maintenance, and non travel entertainment $(400). This fund was only emptied for relocation to date.
there you have it. What do you feel I have left out? Do you think I'm
unrealistic? What do you think of my budget categories. Do you
Feel free to share-I'd love to hear your thoughts and I promise I can take it!