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Mid-Month Update and Good News!

January 15th, 2023 at 02:33 pm

I can't believe it's already mid January!

A couple of months ago I received a benefits package from my former employer with the new health care costs for 2023. It looked like I was going to see an increase of about $85 per month, which would have been a major hit to my already tight budget. When I received the first invoice this month, the cost was the same as last year, other then a small, $1.72 increase in my monthly dental coverage cost. I went back and looked again at the rate sheet and saw that I had been looking at the wrong line item! I have never been so happy to be wrong! I also called the Benefits Coordinator just to confirm and she did. Whew! And in addition, I received the details about the new vision plan and it is sooooo much better then the old one, without costing any more. I am so glad they switched. My glasses are so expensive and it now looks like I can get a new pair, almost totally free every 2 years. This is such great news.

My grocery spending at mid-month is at only $39.63. I had a lot of Christmas leftover food and have been workng my way through that so I haven't needed a whole lot, mostly fresh veggies and apples.

I decided it's time to move forward with my master bathroom renovation. When I bought this condo, I knew I wanted to re-do this bathroom. I want to convert the combination tub/shower into a walk-in shower, replace the flooring (the existing tile is cracking), replace the toilet (I have already repaired it 3 times and it is leaking again) and maybe replace the vanity, although the one I have is fine, I just want a more upgraded one. I have had the money set aside from the sale of my previous home, so it's already funded. I was going to start a couple of years ago, but COVID happened. I'll be calling my contractor tomorrow to schedule an estimate. While I dread the process, the noise, the mess etc., I'm excited to be getting this done. I have a second full bathroom to use during the reno, so that part won't be an inconvenience.

I'm back on my healthy eating and exercise routine after having fallen off the past few months and gaining some weight back. Things are going well and I'm moving back in the right direction.

The weather had been milder all last week, but this weekend it got colder and windy again. I cringe every time the heat kicks on. My bill last period was high for me due to that cold snap. Thankfully, it looks like it is supposed to warm up again this coming week. There isn't much else I can do to keep my bill down, rates are up and I can't control that. Sigh.

I'm still involved in delivering food from the senior center to those in need. Donations have been fewer the past few months, but we are hoping things pick up soon. Wth such high grocery prices, people are really struggling. I have really gotten to know the people I deliver to and they have such heartbreaking and compelling stories, but I never hear them complain. They are so grateful for what they do have, and recieve. 

Have a great week everyone!

 

2023 Goals and Other Updates

January 2nd, 2023 at 11:08 pm

My main financial goal for 2023 is to continue to live on my current monthly income without dipping into savings or increasing my monthly retirement distribution. If I find that I can't, and I am just stretched too thin, I will increase my retirement distribution by $100 a month. 

When I first retired at age 60, I knew that I would be on a very tight budget until I can switch my health insurance to Medicare at age 65, and start taking social security at my full retirement age of 67. I am now 62, so a few more years to go! My retirement account that I currently draw from will last me long past that, even if I need to incresase my monthly distribution a bit to keep up with inflation. So, I'll be fine, but will still need to live frugally and watch my spending.

My only other goal is to lose this 11 pounds I packed on since September. I am a stress eater, and after the sudden loss of my sister-in-law I just really fell off the healthy eating and exercise routine I was on. So, I have refocused and know I'll be able to get back to my ideal weight. 

I received $250 in gift cards for Christmas! I will be using most of it on things I really need. I already ordered furnace filters, filters for my water pitcher, restocking my make-up and facial care products, and a phone case for my new phone. Nothing very exciting but all things I need. There are a few other household products I will also stock up on, I'm still working on that list.

I mentioned before that I had saved $866 on my car and condo insurance by changing companies. I had originally earmarked some of that savings for a new phone, but when I got the free phone I decided that I would take $500 of that money and fully fund my 2023 Christmas fund. So that is already taken care of. The other $366 I will use for monthly expenses if I am running short any month.

I also plan to use my tax refund this year for monthly expenses, if I need to. 

I also plan to forward any money I may not spend in any given month from my monthly income to the next month to use. I doubt this will happen very often, but I did have almost $300 that I didn't spend in December that I'll be using as income for this month, if I need it.

So, overall I think I will be just fine, as long as I continue to budget carefully and live frugally. 

I had so many leftovers from hosting Christmas Eve that I have a very stocked freezer. I'll be making some ham and pea soup, having leftover BBQ pulled chicken, leftover pierogies, and more. I also still have the free frozen turkey that I got in November for future meals. This past week I have been eating things down that would not freeze well, so I haven't been to the grocery store since before Christmas Eve. 

One thing I do not want to do is return to work, even part time. I am so much happier and healthier now and just thinking about going back to work makes me anxious and unhappy. My best friend and I were discussing this yesterday and she feels the same, as do my other retired friends that I am in touch with. It helps to have a social circle of frugal friends.

So I will continue on living my frugal, happy retired life and keep finding ways to stretch my dollars!

 

December 2022 Spending/Savings

December 31st, 2022 at 05:49 pm

I will be staying home today and tonight for a quiet New Year's Eve so no spending will happen today, 12/31.

 

Income Total$1476.21

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $150 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal)

     * $126.21 Credit Card Cash Back Reward 

      

Total Spending: $1186.26

Total Savings (using as income for next month)$289.95 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending) SEE NOTES BELOW
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $167.43

Verizon Mobile: $0 (see note below)

HVAC and water heater contract: $29.95
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $125.52
Gasoline: $0
Groceries: $99.87
Health: $4.49

CVS Gift Cards: $25.00
Take Out/Dining Out: $66.22

Shopping: $0

Household: $0

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt

 

Notes: My next scheduled payment for my cell phone is scheduled through auto-pay next month so there was no payment due in December. Going forward it will be auto-paid on the 5th of each month.

 

The savings I had this month I will be using as income for next month. I will be using any savings I may have in any month toward income for the next month and not truly as savings. I expect my expenses to be higher in 2023 due increases in my health care costs, and utility costs. I honestly doubt I'll be realizing much savings going forward. 

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

December 23rd, 2022 at 09:49 pm

Wishing everyone here a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays! Tomorrow I will have a houseful of family over for the day for lots of eating, football watching, opening gifts and giving thanks for each other! On Christmas Day I will be going to my niece's new house for dinner. Her and her boyfriend just closed a few weeks ago so this will be my first visit at the new place. 

I am so grateful to have such a wonderful family, friends and the means to have these celebrations. Not everyone does, and my thoughts go out to everyone during this holiday season.

Stay warm and safe during your travels!

Grocery Shop day/Free Ham!

December 13th, 2022 at 07:51 pm

I always try to grocery shop on Tuesday because it is senior discount day at my store, and I get 10% off all store brand products. I didn't need much but every little bit of savings helps. 

The biggest savings was that I used 400 store club card points to get a free ham! I picked up an 11.97 lb. Smithfield ham priced at $39.36, for free. I will be using this on Christmas Eve for our family get together. That is some great savings.

Last week I went back to Aldi for more butter as it was priced at $1.99 again with a limit of 4. The first time around I snagged 6 so I am really well stocked with butter. 

I am all ready for Christmas, all of my shopping is done, everything is wrapped and all the decorating is finished. It feels great to be ahead of things this year. Now I am just trying to stay out of crowds so I don't get the flu or COVID which are running rampant again here.

I did meet some former coworkers last week for lunch and a small gift exchange. We sat out on an enclosed, heated patio where we were the only customers (most were seated inside). It was nice and warm and we had a great time!

Not much else is going on, I have started to think about my financial goals for 2023, which is mostly to just stay on budget. I think I will be very close to being truly paycheck to paycheck, but I'll need to see how things go. Has anyone else started thinking about next year's financial goals?

The storm that is marching across the country will reach Maryland overnight Wednesday into Thursday. In my area they are calling for some possible icing with a mixture of some rain and snow, then turning to all rain. Typical Maryland slop. 

I hope everyone is doing OK. The blogs have been really slow. I miss hearing from everyone!

 

Holidays and Gifting

December 5th, 2022 at 05:47 pm

I really do love the holidays! I enjoy getting together with friends and family to celebrate life, and giving thanks, and reflecting on the year gone by and the new one approaching. I especially love hosting Christmas Eve, preparing a wonderful meal, and spending the day/evening with all of my favorite people. 

But what I don't love is the gift buying. I feel like such a grinch just typing that! These days, I just don't need or want any more "stuff". And anything I do need, I prefer to buy myself as I know exactly what I like. We don't have any young children in my family anymore so it's just us adults. Honestly, I could do without receiving and giving gifts. I think I would enjoy the holidays even more without the stress of it all. 

The problem is that I am the only one in my family that feels this way. Everyone else loves gift giving. My sister especially who lives in Texas (we are all in Maryland). I think it makes her feel closer to us to have gifts to open, a little piece of "home". So, I go along with it because it seems to make everyone else happy, and I don't want to spoil that for them.

This year, I just asked for gift cards and when I got some resistance because it "felt like an impersonal gift" I really stuck to my guns and assurred everyone that that was really what I wanted (and it is). 

Does anyone else struggle with this? I guess in the grand sceme of things it really isn't a big deal. It's something we do to make the people we love happy, even if it goes against what makes us happy. I save for it all year so I have the money put aside, so this isn't a financial strain issue. 

Well, I have rambled on about this enough! I hope this all made some kind of sense. 

November 2022 Spending/Savings

December 2nd, 2022 at 12:45 am

Income Total$1425.00

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $225 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal

      

Total Spending: $1420.27

Total Savings$4.73 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending)  
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $167.43

Verizon Mobile: $137.59

HVAC and water heater contract: $29.95
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $89.93
Gasoline: $0
Groceries: $144.32
Health: $40.00 (co-pays)

CVS Gift Cards: $50.00
Take Out/Dining Out: $0

Shopping: $0

Household: $41.18

Entertainment: $52.09

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt

 

Notes: Verizon Mobile this month included charges for an activation fee, taxes on the free phone, Data transfer fee, and some taxes. This will be much lower next month. 

 

Groceries: I stocked up on coffee $33.55, butter on sale at Aldi $11.94, and coffee creamer on sale at $5.99. These stock ups put me over my $100 budget. 

 

CVS Gift Cards: This is a new category. I get a small discount buying these through swagbucks and use them to pay for scripts, vitamins, and personal care products. Really for anything I buy at CVS. 

Totally blew the grocery budget!

November 26th, 2022 at 07:02 pm

I totally blew my $100 grocery budget this month! I haven’t tallied it all up yet, I will post the actual numbers in my month end spending post. But at least the overage was due to stocking up on some things that were on sale. I was almost out of the coffee pods that I use so I bought several bags. I won’t need these again for many months. Aldi had an excellent sale on butter. It was advertised at $2.49 a box with a limit of 6 per person. When I got home, I noticed that it actually rang up at only $1.99 per box (1 lb. boxes)! I froze most of it, and this will last me quite a while even with holiday baking coming up. I also bought another half-gallon of my coffee creamer while it was still on sale for $5.99 (a dollar off). So, I’m OK with the overage since it wasn’t frivolous spending.  

 

Thanksgiving went really well. My brother always hosts it, but I wasn’t sure if he would be up to it this year with his wife just passing away in September. My niece decided that she really wanted to keep the tradition going, so she decided to do most of the cooking and have us all over. I am very close to my niece and offered to come over and help her if she wanted. At first, she declined, I think she wanted to do it all on her own, but a few days before she called and asked if I would assist. I think she was a little nervous, she is a good cook but never pulled together a big traditional Thanksgiving dinner for 8 people before. She did an outstanding job, and everything was delicious! We had a wonderful time. I hope everyone here enjoyed your holiday as well! 

 

I’m almost totally done with my Christmas shopping! I got everything on-line and did snag some great deals. I’m well within my Christmas budget so far. I also started my Christmas decorating today and am making swift progress. I’m feeling ahead of schedule this year.

 

Tomorrow, I’m having my usual people over for Sunday football watching. I’m making sloppy joes and buying some premade potato and macaroni salad.  We have a leftover apple pie from Thanksgiving for dessert. Keeping it simple!

 

After a cold snap last week, it has warmed back up a bit, with rain expected tomorrow. I’m just happy the heat hasn't been kicking on as much this week. 

 

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

Mid-Month Update and a New Free Phone!

November 15th, 2022 at 10:19 pm

Yesterday I went to the Verizon store to switch my mobile service back to them from Mint Mobile, and to buy a new phone. I was all ready for an aggravating experience, but it was just the opposite! The customer service guy was awesome. I explained to him that I was a previous customer and wanted to switch back to Verizon and I needed a new phone. He asked what kind of phone I was interested in, and I told him a Samsung Galaxy, newish model and he said, I can offer you free one. He came back with a brand new, sealed, in the box phone! He then transferred everything over from my old phone, made sure everything was working properly, and got me all signed up. The plan I picked was unlimited talk, text and data with a bunch of extra stuff included for $80 a month. I’ll get $10 off a month for using auto pay. So right around $70 a month. I know it’s expensive, but it’s reliable, and I like being able to walk into a store if I have a problem and can talk with an actual human who knows what they are doing. I’m OK with technology in general, but there are times when I need some help and it really stresses me out. After limping along with Mint Mobile for the last 3 months I am so happy to have everything working well again. I looked up my new phone online and it is retailing for between $500 -$650. I am very happy with my decision, and the money I had earmarked to spend on a new phone I can now keep in my savings. 

 

I did investigate Ting, which only rated as average coverage in my area, Consumer Cellular, which just felt a lot like Mint Mobile to me, so I wasn’t willing to chance that again (even though I know a lot of people use it and have no problems), and AT&T, which didn’t offer any deals on phones I was interested in, and the customer service rep was less than helpful. I’m so glad to have this taken care of and that I got a free phone!! 

 

Groceries: I am already at $97.76 spent and its only mid-month. Some of that was stocking up on my coffee pods. But I don’t need anything else, and I should be able to get through the rest of the month without needing to spend anything more. I bought an 18 count of large; store brand eggs and the regular price is now up to $5.19!! That is just crazy to me. The last time I bought them the regular price was $4.99. With my store card discount and my senior discount, I paid just $1.34. I had some really good store e-coupons, one for $1 off a one lb. store brand butter and $3 off a rotisserie chicken. My receipt says I saved a total of $8.86 cents using my club card, e-coupons and senior discounts. It all adds up! 

 

After a few weeks of absolutely beautiful weather, it has abruptly turned cold with highs only in the mid 40’s. It was nice to have a couple of months of low-ish utility bills, but the heat is kicking on so I’m dreading to see these winter bills. I set my thermostat at 69 degrees during the day and 66 at night to try and save while still feeling comfortable.

 

Have a good rest of your week!

Free Turkey and Walmart and Aldi Price Rollbacks

November 4th, 2022 at 04:59 pm

Today I went to my Weis grocery store and redeemed 400 club card points for a free turkey. I take advantage of this promotion every year. I got a 13.47 lb. turkey regularly priced at $25.46 for free. The quality is always very good. I don't host Thanksgiving, or serve it for my Christams Eve meal so this goes into the freezer for future use!

Walmart put out a press release that they were rolling back prices on certain food items to last year's prices to help customers afford holiday meals. Aldi also announced rolling back prices on some items to 2019 prices. I don't shop at the Walmart that is closest to me, but I was curious so I drove over to the nearest Aldi and oh my goodness the place was packed! I didn't stay. 

Safeway had a sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts at $2.99 a pound. My family has requested that I make my BBQ pulled chicken for Christmas Eve so I went to buy a few packs as this is the best price I have seen lately. It was flying out of the case so I snagged 2 value packs. I spent $22.09 and saved $7.39. This spend comes out of my Christmas fund. 

I also bought the half gallon size of my creamer, it was on sale for $5.99 (regular price was $6.99). This hardly ever goes on sale, and they have been out of it the last few times I went in. I may go back and get another one to stock up. 

I am glad to be finding some sales and promotions on food items to help make the holidays a bit more affordable!

October 2022 Spending/Saving

November 1st, 2022 at 12:44 pm

Income Total$1400.00

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $200 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal

      

Total Spending: $1279.53

Total Savings$120.47 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending)  
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $167.43

HVAC and water heater contract: $29.95
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $76.57
Gasoline: $39.97
Groceries: $83.92
Health: $50.26 (co-pays, scripts refillsvitamins and personal health care items) 
Take Out/Dining Out: $31.10

Shopping: $0

Household: $14.63

Funeral Expenses: $92.75 (flowers and sympathy cards)

Entertainment: $25.17

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt

 

I'm happy to have been able to sweep some money into savings, and that my grocery spending was under my $100 budget. Take out was a bit high due to my sister and BIL visit. 

Insurance Savings!

October 26th, 2022 at 05:30 pm

My auto and home insurance policy bundle is up for renewal in December and of course there is another price increase looming. I decided to use a local, family owned insurance agency to shop around for a better rate and they did! The current policy would have renewed at $1908.00 for a full year. My new quote with a different insurer will be $1042.00, a savings of $866.00!! The new insurer is solid and highly rated through the Better Business Bureau and Moody's and have been in business for over 50 years so I feel comfortable moving forward with them. I can use some of this savings to purchase a new cell phone and save the rest. 

Speaking of cell phones, I contacted Mint Mobile about all of the problems I am having and despite best efforts at resetting, and sending me a new SIM card to try,  nothing worked and the same problems persist. This will be my next project to tackle. It feels less ominous now that I have the money for the new phone which I really need, definately not just a want.

I went to the grocery store yesterday for my final shop for October and my total for the month is at $85.42. I am happy to be under my budget of $100 for the month.

With so much depressing economic news it feels good to have a financial win for a change!

 

 

October Mid-Month Update

October 15th, 2022 at 01:46 pm

My spending so far this month is at $1252 which is right on track. All of my regular monthly bills have been paid except for one small one, so the only other spending should be on groceries.

My grocery spend so far has been pretty low, at $36.22. I continue to focus on zero food waste, and using up what I have on hand. I did a freezer sweep and found some things I need to use up. I have a four pack of pork chops which I will use to make some BBQ pulled pork in the crock pot. I have about 2 servings of fish sticks, 2-3 servings of chili, and 3 hamburger patties. I will pair these with mixed veggies for dinners this week. I'll also be making a pan of cheesy corn grits. These are like corn bread but with sharp cheese added in. Great with the chili! 

My Verizon cable and internet bill is increasing by $7 a month. I will call on Monday to see if there is a less expensive cable (TV) plan, but I don't plan on cancelling this. I'm happy with it, and get all of my sports viewing, which is a big part of my social entertaining. My internet works great with no interuptions or problems. 

I have been researching new phones and plans and will be going to Target this week to look at Consumer Cellular and to an AT&T store. Thanks everyone for the recommendations!

My sister and BIL left this morning to head home to Texas.

The weather here in Maryland today will be in the low 70's and sunny. But it will turn much colder this upcoming week with highs only in the upper 50's!

Have a great weekend everyone!

Costs Just Keep Going Up

October 8th, 2022 at 07:55 pm

I received a packet from my former employer with information on the new health care premium costs starting 1/1/23. My health/prescription/dental and vision plans premium total will be increasing monthly by $86.56. Ouch. The only good news is that the vision plan is a different one that is way better then the old one. I should be able to save quite a bit on my next pair of new glasses. 

My utility costs (gas and electric) has increased from 7.820 cents/kWh to 9.773 cents/kWh starting 10/1/22. It is set to increase again at the end of May 2023. Another Ouch. I don't know how this will look in dollars on actual bill yet but surely it will go up!

My cell phone switch to Mint Mobile from Verizon has been a failure. The coverage is terrible. Since I no longer have a landline I need reliable cell service, and this really hit home with the recent loss of my SIL. I was not receiving really important calls and texts. When things settle down a bit I will be switching to something more reliable and upgrading my phone. More expenses and aggravation

I stopped at the grocery store today and the regular price for an 18 count of large sized, store brand eggs is up to $4.99. I have posted many times that I can get them for .99 cents when I use 100 points on my store club card. Today, that discounted price is up to $1.49. Still, a great discount but less then before. 

And the price of gas is going back up. 

The only thing that isn't going up is my monthly income.

My sister and BIL are still here (staying with me until probably Thursday when they will head back to Texas). As much as I miss her when she isn't here, I am looking forward to some peace and quiet and getting back to my routines. My sister is a true "Type A"personality, always in motion, never sits still, and I am the complete opposite! 

The weather here in Maryland has been very cold and rainy (needed to turn on the heat cold) but then warmed back up for a few days. Now it is cooling down again , but it is sunny.

 

Update and Thank You

September 29th, 2022 at 09:16 pm

I want to first thank everyone for your kind words, thoughts and prayers for my SIL and my family. I am sad to update that she has passed away.

It really is true that you just never know when something like this might happen. My last happy memory of her was  on the boardwalk, enjoying the sun, eating an ice cream and watching the ocean waves. The beach was truly her happy place.

Rest in Peace Bev. 

Vacation Nightmare

September 24th, 2022 at 05:24 pm

A few days before my sister and BIL were going to leave Texas and drive to Maryland to stay with me for a few days before we all left for our family beach vacation, he had a medical problem and needed to get a pacemaker. He is fine, but they were unable to come for the vacation as he couldn't travel.

So, while this was very disappointing, the rest of us went to the beach as planned. We were having a wonderful time until on Wednesday, when my sister-in-law fell ill and had to be rushed to the hospital. She had a very serious brain bleed. This required emergency surgery. She is still in ICU, but is listed as stable. She is still sedated so we don't know the extent of any long term damage. We thought we were going to lose her so we are very grateful that she pulled through, but the road ahead will be very difficult. 

I left the beach to come home early on Thursday while I could get a ride home with my neice and her boyfriend. My brother and nephew remained at the beach so they could, of course, be with her. They had to check out today and will be coming home briefly to regroup, then head back. The hospital is about a 2.5 hour drive from where we live. 

The last few days have just been a blur. This is just devastating for us, please keep her in your thoughts and prayers. 

Thank you my on-line friends!

 

 

Quick Update

September 17th, 2022 at 02:07 am

We are heading out on Sunday for our week long family vacation to the beach! I've been busy with laundry and packing and buying some groceries to take with me. This will be a weird finance tracking month, especially for food spending. Now that football season has started I always have my brother, nephew and cousin over on Sundays and serve lunch. Sometimes we all pitch in for pizza and wings, sometimes I make something. I think I need to just make an entertainment category during football season.

I'm still evaluating Mint Mobile. I've been having some problems with incoming calls going straight to voicemail for some reason, and I can no longer recieve or send pictures attached to text messages. Sigh. I may just deal with it for the 3 months I paid for, then just bite the bullet and upgrade my phone and sign on again with a larger carrier. I need reliable service as this is my only phone. Still mulling it all over.

That's it for now. The weather for the upcoming week at the beach looks pretty perfect! No rain in sight.

August 2022 Saving/Spending

September 1st, 2022 at 01:03 pm

Income Total$1425.00

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $225 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal

      

Total Spending: $1462.67

Total Savings$0 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending)

Total Overspent $37.67  
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $160.43

Cell phone Verizon: $67.79

Cell phone Mint Mobile: $51.78 (prepaid 3 months)
HVAC and water heater contract: $0 (billing delay)
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $114.63
Gasoline: $0
Groceries: $97.97
Health: $13.17 (co-pays, scripts refillsvitamins and personal health care items) 
Take Out/Dining Out: $45.83

Shopping: $133.29

Haircut and Tip: $60.00

Gift Card: $50.00

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt

 

Notes: Both my Verizon cell service that I cancelled, and my new Mint Mobile service were included this month. Shopping included my Brita water pitcher, new wireless mouse, 2 bras and some tops for upcoming vacation. I took my brother out for lunch for his birthday and gave him a gift card. I keep a $500 cushion in my checking account so the small overage was easily covered.

 

Switching to Mint Mobile

August 24th, 2022 at 09:11 pm

My current smart phone service with Verizon was recently increased from $59.89 a month to $67.79 per month. The reason for the increase was stated as “increased administration cost”, so I wasn’t really getting anything more. My monthly plan with Verizon included unlimited talk, text and I believe 5 GB of data. I was happy with them; the service was always very reliable. When I called them to discuss any other options to lower my bill, they basically said there wasn’t anything they could offer me.

 

After doing a lot of research on different providers and plans I decided to try Mint Mobile. This is a prepaid plan as opposed to a postpaid plan which seems fine to me. For unlimited talk, text and 4 GB of data per month, the cost is $15 per month! The offer was to sign up for 3 months (prepaid) and after taxes and fees the total cost for 3 months was $51.78. This makes the taxes and fees only $6.78 for 3 months. After the 3 months if I am happy with the service, I can keep that rate for another full year.  

 

I am not a heavy data user and always use less than the 4GB’s a month so this plan should work great for me. 

They are sending me a SIM card which I should receive in a few days (for free) and all I need to do is switch it out and then activate my account. According to Mint Mobile, my zip code is in an “excellent” connection area, so I’m hoping the service works well. I can also keep my current phone# and phone.

 

I must say, the customer service so far has been excellent. I was easily able to speak with an actual person who was very knowledgeable, friendly and patient! I had a lot of questions and she answered all of them without rushing me. She even said that they would be happy to walk me through the activation process over the phone if I would be more comfortable than trying to do it on my own. It does sound very easy to do so I think I can manage it, but it was nice to have that support.

 

I’ll update again after everything switches over and I begin using it. Paying less for 3 months of the same service as Verizon was charging me for one month will be some great savings. 

 

And I will need it to bump up my monthly grocery budget. I am stopping the free grocery give away from the senior center. They have been receiving a LOT less donations from the grocery stores and I would rather the food go to others who may need it more than me. I am still doing my monthly food drop offs and will continue to do so to those people without transportation, or who are disabled and can’t drive. I enjoy it!

 

I was trying to stay at $70 per month for groceries but will be bumping it up to $100 per month. The savings from reducing my cell phone bill makes this possible.

Mid-Month Update

August 15th, 2022 at 10:28 pm

Spending so far this month is right on track. I have spent $60.29 on groceries which only leaves me with $9.71 left to spend for the rest of the month to stay at my monthly goal of $70. I will need to buy butter, cheese, fresh spinach and iced tea soon so it might be a stretch to stay under budget this month. I did a quick tour of my fridge, freezer and pantry and I have 6 chicken drumsticks, frozen veggies, chili, veggie soup, ground meat, fish sticks, tuna, canned chicken, PB&J, pasta, pasta sauce and eggs so I can make it work. I like the challenge of using up what I have on hand! 

 

The price of eggs keeps going up. I bought an 18 count of large store brand eggs on 8/8 and the regular price is up to $4.89. The time before that, they were $4.75. I’m happy that my store still offers them for just .99 cents when you use 100 store club card points. I have not seen any shortages on any products that I usually buy and can still get some things on sale. At least the price of gas is going down. It was down to $3.89 for regular at my corner station today. Still high but better.

 

I took my brother out to lunch for his birthday spending $35.91 for both of us with tip and gave him a $25 gift card so some spending there.  

 

I’m getting excited about our upcoming vacation in September! I’ve been tucking away some spending money every month so I can just enjoy myself without counting every penny.

 

Not much else is happening, we had an absolutely beautiful weekend with perfect weather in the low 80’s and low humidity. My BF and I went to a few yard sales (I didn’t buy anything) and hit the park for a long walk and then sat outside for a while enjoying the sunshine. 

 

Football season is fast approaching which means I will soon be hosting my usual football Sunday get togethers. There will be some food spending for this, but everyone either pitches in, or brings something so it’s affordable, and we have so much fun!

 

I can’t believe it’s already mid-August!

July 2022 Saving/Spending

July 31st, 2022 at 05:12 pm

Income Total$1415.00

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $200 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal

     * $15 Health co-pay refund

      

Total Spending: $1232.73

Total Savings$182.27 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending) 
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $160.43

Cell phone: $67.79
HVAC and water heater contract: $29.95 
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $102.55
Gasoline: $47.68
Groceries: $67.43
Health: $3.42 (co-pays, scripts refillsvitamins and personal health care items) 
Take Out/Dining Out: $32.61

Shopping: $0

AARP Yearly Renewal: $16

McAfee Anti Virus Yearly Renewal: $37.09

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt  

 

Notes: Good month overall, I squeaked in under my $70 target for groceries, no shopping, and was able to sweep some to savings.

10 Things I (mostly) No Longer Buy

July 24th, 2022 at 07:16 pm
  1. I cut out, or cut back on buying these things to save money, for health reasons, or have found alternatives. 
  2.  
  3. 1. Bottled water: I finally bought a filtered pitcher. 

  4.  
  1. 2. Cleaners: I buy these 4 things: bleach, vinegar, blue Dawn dish soap, and baking soda. I make my own cleaner and it works great. My house is clean and sanitized. DISCLAIMER: This does not work on all bathroom surfaces. It depends on your type of tub and shower materials. 

  2.  
  1. 3. Air fresheners and plug ins: I make a freshener using an essential oil. There are tons of recipes for this on-line. I really don’t even use this much as I am sensitive to most perfumes and fragrances. 

  1.  
  2. 4. Lunchmeat: It’s just too expensive. I really don’t miss it. 

  3.  
  1. 5. Soda: I drink mostly water. I do like diet iced tea with my meals and will have coffee in the morning and make an occasional iced coffee. 

  2.  
  1. 6. Pre-packaged salty snacks: I have zero willpower with chips and pretzels etc. And can you say shrinkflation? I buy bags of unpopped popcorn and use my air popper and a little melted butter if I am craving a crunchy snack. 

  2.  
  1. 7. Liquor: I have never been much of a drinker, so this was easy for me. I will occasionally have a glass of wine or a beer when I go out to dinner. 

  2.  
  1. 8. Most Vitamins and Supplements: I do buy and take a daily vitamin, and a prescription Vitamin D supplement per my doctor but no others. I really try and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

  2.  

  1. 9. Plastic food storage containers: A while ago I invested in some glass containers. They work great and last a long time.  

  1.  
  2. 10. Laundry soap, fabric softeners and dryer sheets. I still use them but will stop when I use up what I have on hand. I do have a good amount in my stockpile but will investigate alternatives when these are used up. 

 

These are just things that work for me that help me to save money and for health reasons. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with purchasing these items if they work for you! Since I retired, I have the time to make cleaners and research alternatives. I am also the only one in my household and I fully understand it is harder to cut out certain things if others in your household enjoy them. Is there anything you have stopped buying or found an alternative for?

Some July Updates

July 17th, 2022 at 07:00 pm

My July monthly spending so far is at $1086.06 with all of my usual bills paid, except my cell phone. My grocery spending so far is at $55.85. I will need to make one more shop, but just for a few things so I’m hoping to stay under $70 for the month.  

 

Many years ago, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my neck. I manage it mostly with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory meds, stretching exercises every day, and using a heating pad when necessary. But over the past few months the pain and stiffness has really been increasing, and my usual methods just weren’t working so well anymore. My doctor ordered an MRI since it had been many years since I had one. I wasn’t surprised that it has progressed to include moderate stenosis, and I have a herniated disk. The arthritis is very pronounced. I was given a script for a much stronger anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxer and to consider physical therapy to start with. This isn’t something that will ever get any better, and it will most likely continue to get worse as I age. So, finding effective ways to manage the pain is very important to my quality of life. 

 

Financially, my health insurance covers the PT, but I would have a $25 co-pay for each visit. If I go once a week that’s $100 a month expense. But it’s worth it. I went to PT a few years back for this issue and I remember that it really helped. I will try and pay for this out of my monthly earnings and not dip into savings to pay for it, but it stretches my already very tight budget even more. 

 

My earnings from Swagbucks and My Points is now even more important. But it has been getting a bit harder to earn as they have cut out some activities that were easy money makers. It is taking me more time to earn the same amount of money each month. I will keep plugging along with it, because I really rely on this income, but I am starting to explore some other ways to make money from home. I really, really do not want to go back to working for an employer.  

 

I had lunch out yesterday with my family and we had a great time.  I also got together with some former co-workers for lunch last week. It seems that quite a few people have either retired or joined the ranks of those who joined the “great resignation”.  The college really needs some fresh leadership who is open to considering more flexible schedules and hybrid work from home models.  

 

I have started researching some new cell phone plans but have not made a decision about switching yet. Since I no longer have a home phone, having reliable cell service is my most important consideration when deciding who to go with.  

 

The weather here continues to be hot and humid with some really severe storms that seem to pop up almost every day. Next week’s forecast doesn’t look any better. 

Property Taxes

July 7th, 2022 at 04:37 pm

I received my property tax bill in the mail, and it does include the Homeowners Property Tax Credit of $991.00 that I was approved for. Total bill comes to $2,245.44 for the year. This also includes a discount of $9.89 for paying the full amount in the month of July. Last year, without the Homeowners Property Tax Credit I paid a total of $3235.36.  

 

Of the $2245.44 I paid this year, $1064.73 of it was “other charges” that includes things like, sewer benefit, sewer service, water benefit, water distribution and a bay restoration fee. Sigh.  

 

Before I retired, I had saved money into a separate savings account that I use only to pay yearly property taxes, car insurance, and condo insurance. When I am able to save any money from my monthly income (after my monthly expenses) and most of my yearly tax refund, I sweep it back into this account. Right now, I have a solid 15 years' worth of savings to cover these expenses. This account is not my emergency fund, I have a separate savings account for those kinds of expenses when they pop up. This system is working really well for me so far.  

 

This month so far, I have spent $28.93 on groceries. I’m trying to keep it another low spend month by using up what I have on hand. I was sent home with a bunch of leftovers from our 4th of July BBQ at my brother’s, so I’ll be using all that up this week. We had a wonderful time, and it was great to catch up with some of my cousins that I haven’t seen in a while. 

 

I was notified that my cell phone bill would be increasing by another $6 a month. Time to start looking around for a cheaper plan. I really dislike switching things when they work really well but at almost $66 a month with this increase, it’s just too much.  

 

The weather here in Maryland has been hot and humid and we have been getting a round of rain and thunderstorms nearly every day this week. Typical weather for us this time of year, except the storms seem much stronger with the last one producing a tornado just to the south of me.  

 

I hope everyone has a wonderful upcoming weekend!

June 2022 Savings/Spending

June 30th, 2022 at 02:12 pm

Income Total$1509.42

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $225 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal

     * $84.42 Credit Card Cash Back Rewards

      

Total Spending: $1127.87

Total Savings$381.55 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending) 
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $160.43

Cell phone: $59.78
HVAC and water heater contract: $29.95 
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $98.26
Gasoline: $0
Groceries: $32.03
Health: $69.72 (co-pays, scripts refillsvitamins and personal health care items) 
Take Out/Dining Out: $9.92

Shopping: $0

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt  

 

Notes: My grocery spending was great this month! I really focused on using what I had on hand. 

Great News!

June 20th, 2022 at 05:52 pm

Back in March I applied for a Homeowners Property Tax Credit through my county. This credit is income based, and it requires that applicants fill out a lengthy application and provide all of the required supporting income verification documentation, including the most recent tax return. This was my first time applying and the application was a bit confusing, so I was very surprised and happy when I received an e-mail this morning that my application had been approved and I would be receiving a $991.00 credit on my upcoming property tax bill!  

 

Our property tax cycle runs from July 1st through June 30th, so I am expecting my next bill early next month. Last year's bill was right around $3300 (for the full year) so this credit will be a big help. You must reapply every year, which I will do.   

 

What a great way to start the week!

Mid Month Update/Vacation Plans

June 15th, 2022 at 04:36 pm

At mid-month my total spending so far is $996.48. All my regular bills have already come in and have been paid except for my cell phone.  

I have spent $15.34 on groceries so far.  I expect a very low grocery spend this month. I have been using up what I have on hand, and what I receive from the senior center. 

We have firmed up the family vacations plans! My sister and BIL will be coming in from Texas, and then the whole family will be heading to a beach location for a week’s stay. It’s only a 3-hour drive from us, and we have been here many times before, but not in the last several years.  We have rented 2 condos in the same building. I will be in one, with my sister and BIL, and my brother, SIL and nephew will be in the other one, one floor below us. My cousin and his wife will most likely be joining us for a long weekend. We will be going in September, right after Labor Day. The rates are much lower, and it will be less crowded. My sister and BIL are generously picking up the cost of our condo. She said that they feel that since I put them up when they come to visit from Texas for long stays, this sort of “evens things out”.  It is futile to argue with her on this, so I happily accepted.  I will be saving up for gas, food, and fun. It has been quite a few years since I have been on a vacation, so I am super excited! 

In other frugal fun, my cousin’s employer gave him 4 tickets to our MLB teams home game on a recent Sunday afternoon. But not just the game, it was use of the company sky box! My cousin and his wife and me and my brother spent an amazing Sunday enjoying the game, a huge food spread, drinks etc. It was so much fun and completely free.  

My best friend and I have been enjoying some free neighborhood festivals and going to some yard sales. It seems so easy to find fun, free things to do in the spring and summer. I also have some lunch plans later in the month with some former co-workers.  

One thing I was a little concerned about when I retired was having enough resources to enjoy my freedom from the daily work grind. I knew I would be on a very tight budget, so finding free, or nearly free things to do would be important. So far, so good! My ex-husband and I traveled extensively when we were younger, and I no longer crave international travel. I don’t like to fly anymore so I am content with road trips, weekend getaways, or vacations that are drivable. I am finding that with a little effort, it is possible to have a full, fun life on a small budget! 

May 2022 Saving/Spending

May 31st, 2022 at 03:50 pm

Income Total$1425.00

     * $1200 Recurring monthly retirement account distribution  

     * $225 Swagbucks and My Points earnings (cash out to PayPal

      

Total Spending: $1347.52

Total Savings$77.48 (difference between monthly income and monthly spending) 
 
Fixed Expenses: 
Verizon bundle (internet, cable): $160.43

Cell phone: $59.78
HVAC and water heater contract: $29.95 
Condo Fee (includes water) $190.00 

Health Care: (includes health, dental, vision, prescription plans) $477.78 
 
Variables: 
Utilities: $78.24
Gasoline: $0
Groceries: $82.84
Health: $86.62 (co-pays, scripts refillsvitamins and personal health care items) 
Take Out/Dining Out: $54.39

Shopping: $79.49

CVS yearly Carepass renewal: $48.00

 

* Condo is paid in full 
* Car is paid in full (2017 Camry) 
* No other debt  

The Power of Community

May 22nd, 2022 at 04:36 pm

Last Friday our senior center received an unexpected donation of USDA food (produce) boxes and gallons of milk from a nearby food bank.  That food bank had a very large delivery of these items and after their own food distribution still had quite a few left and could not store them. They reached out to local churches and other food banks as well as our senior center to see if we were able to help distribute them to the community. Yes! 

 

I contacted my 5 families that don’t have transportation that I usually deliver to once a month and all 5 were interested, and I picked up another 6 families from another “route” because their regular volunteer who delivers to them was out of town. Everyone is in about a 10-mile radius, so it was an easy delivery.  

 

We also put the word out to our members to stop by the senior center to pick up.

  

Inside each produce box was a 5lb. bag of russet potatoes, 2 mini, organic watermelons, a small bag of yellow onions, and a bunch of loose sweet potatoes and carrots! And separately, the gallon of milk. It’s wonderful to be able to deliver, and receive, healthy produce.  

 

I was really impressed with the power of the community. Because the food bank, churches and our senior center were easily able to coordinate this, a whole lot of food that might have gone to waste was distributed. Our county councilman has been instrumental in bringing resources together, and we have a very strong volunteer base. In a world where so much is going wrong, it restores my faith in basic human kindness to see this kind of effort in action. There are some very good people out there. I know I post a lot about food on here, but the volunteer aspect of this is so important to me. There are people out there who are really hurting and need help. If you are reading this, and you are one of them, please don’t be embarrassed to reach out for help.

 

So now, I will be prepping and cooking and freezing a whole bunch of great healthy food! Those watermelons are absolutely delicious. I plan to blanch and freeze some of the carrots (there were so many) and plan to make some sweet potato fries and potato and onion pancakes with the russets. I was really happy to receive some onions as I was totally out. I was also out of milk and needed some for a few recipes I had been planning.  

 

This morning I went to CVS to stock back up on TP. I had a lot of extrabucks, my $10 carepass bucks and some digital coupons. I purchased 2, 12 packs of Scott TP, 2, 12 packs of Charmin TP (the mega rolls) and a 12-count pack of Tide pods. After all deductions I paid $16.47 (with tax) out of pocket. But I received $15 of extrabucks back to use on a future purchase. According to my receipt this was a 76% savings. 

 

Yesterday evening I went over to my brothers for dinner, we had burgers and dogs on the grill. He just found out that he will need hip replacement surgery very soon, probably right after 4th of July, so we needed to discuss how I can help him during his recovery. His wife is mostly in a wheelchair now, and his son is partially disabled from a stroke so this will be challenging. 

I also had lunch with a few friends last week, it was nice to catch up!

 

We are having a heatwave here in Maryland, in the mid 90’s, so I had to turn on the central air. I keep it at 77 during the day, and 75 at night and use a fan and so far, this feels comfortable. We will see how high my utility bill goes!

Mid Month Update

May 15th, 2022 at 10:20 pm

I went to the grocery store yesterday for a few things. My favorite International Delight coffee creamer was on a great sale, so I stocked up. I bought 2 of the large, half gallon size on sale for $4.99 each. The regular price is $6.49. The expiration date isn’t until October so they will keep.

  

The price of eggs went up again. An 18 count of large size, store brand eggs is now priced at $4.45. The price just 2 weeks ago was $4.29.  I continue to buy these for just .99 cents using my club card points. I hope they continue to offer this. 

 

I picked up 3 bags of shredded cheese on sale for $1.99 each if you buy 3, regular price is $2.39. I needed cheese for some meal plans, including lasagna, and some cheesy corn grits. I also bought a loaf of bread for $1.99.

 

In total I spent $18.93 with a savings of $7.66, not too bad. Careful grocery shopping and spending is a necessity for me these days.

 

I received some great items from this month’s senior center food distribution. A 5 lb. bag of flour, 2 bags of fresh apples, and a 2 lb. bag of Kanza Corn, corn grits. Apples are my favorite fruit and I usually eat one a day, so this was such a treat. I made some biscuits from scratch (my first attempt) and they turned out delicious! Thanks, Rob62521 for your biscuit recipe suggestion and the tip on how to best store flour. I don’t bake a lot so I never buy flour, but this gift will not go to waste!

 

There is a recipe on the bag of corn grits for Baked Corn Grits and Cheese that I will be making this week. I have also been using up other things I have received from the senior center. I made an applesauce cake to use up some individual snack cups of applesauce and a box of white cake mix. This cake was moist and very flavorful without being overly sweet. Very good.  

 

I have a lot of peanut butter and oatmeal to use up, so I have been researching some recipes on different things to bake with these.

  

I went out to lunch with some friends today, it was nice to get together and enjoy a fun afternoon.  

 

We have begun to plan a family vacation for September, the first vacation in many years. There is a popular beach destination that is only about a 3-hour drive away, so we decided to go there. Something to look forward to and an easy drive to get there.

 

Not much else happening. The weather has been hot and muggy the last few days with rain off and on and more rain and possible thunderstorms expected tomorrow. Sounds like a good day to stay in!


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