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Explaining the budget to the hub

May 29th, 2023 at 01:49 am

The hub wanted me to create a written record of our financials in case anything happens to me.  Until now, he primarily has made the money, and I have managed it.  I have a fairly detailed process, but everything is on my computer - he prefers a notebook that we can keep in our safe.  I decided this was a GREAT opportunity to get him more involved with how finances work so that we can hopefully dial in the monthly budget a little more. I found a budget book with pages for listing our accounts, log in information, monthly budget and a register to show how money is being spent and which bucket the money is pulled from.  June is our starting month.  The reason this is so timely is that, just as I had a 5 year plan in place before I retired, the hub is now coming up on his final 5 years for working at his current job.  I want to make sure we are both savvy on the ebbs and flows of our finances and that we are dialed in and able to live within the anticipated monthly budget.

My hope is that this will alleviate those unanticipated wants being an expectation each month.  I will update progress as we go!  Fingers crossed.

Since I will be focused on tracking and explaining expenses, I plan to reduce our food costs as much as possible.  This past week, I used both the hubs and my rewards memberships at our two local grocers to purchase steaks that were discounted.  Each membership also included a $5 discount on top of the digital coupons used.  We got ribeye and tbones to last through the summer for about $60.  😀  Our freezer is stocked with chicken and pork already.  I make our bread, so much of our budget will be juices, fruits, veggies and spices.  I went shopping today and picked up several generic brands to see if there was much of a quality or taste difference.  So far, so good.

I receive my first social security check in August.  I am fortunate in that I have started working very pt for a company that provides care for the disabled and my "clients" are two of my daughters foster sons.  So my work is in her home, helping her care for them about 15 hours a week, which is just under the maximum I will be able to make and draw my social security.  Honestly, this doesnt feel like 'work' at all.  And, this augments the income nicely.  All of my pt earnings go into a vacation fund so that we can still splurge on occasional travel.  Since we have been living within a budget that includes only the hubs paychecks, the SS payments will start paying down our remaining mortgage faster, which will help pay it off by the time the hub retires.

The hub is continuing to contribute to his 401k until he retires.

And that's where we are currently at.  Hope all is well with everyone here!

9 months into retirement

March 25th, 2022 at 12:20 am

Its crazy to think I am in month 9 of my retirement!  As I reflect on these months, a few thoughts come to mind that I wanted to jot down!

1.  Taxes - we got a refund this year for the first time in years and it was significant!  With pre-retirement earnings, we never qualified for any of the stimulous money (since they continued to use our prior years earnings, we didnt receive the stimulous that was available earlier in 2021).  When we filed this year, we qualified and received an additional $5700!!  We also received a good refund aside from that!   1/2 of the money went to our final emergency fund savings which now is $100k.  The other half is in savings for upcoming expenses this year.

2. House payment - I regret not paying off our mortgage before I retired, but we are now paying an extra $1000 per month to the house payment (plus any extra income over budget).  I am finally looking at extra money as $$ to pay on the mortgage.  I wasnt comfortable doing this until I got the emergency fund up to our current level.  

3.  Food - while the hub is away working, I eat as inexpensively as possible.  I found a great recipe that I love using black beans and brown rice, both of which I buy in bulk.  Many meals cost pennies rather that dollars!  Thankfully, FD loves it too...she also loves ramen, eggs, pasta and salads!  When the hub IS home, we have a well stocked freezer of meats to pull from.  As meats come on sale, I stock up!  I also started stockpiling last year during holiday food sales - so we have lots of canned/frozen veggies, and other items we use regularly.

Black beans in the Instant Pot  (cook brown rice separately and combine with cooked beans as desired.  we make a lot of burritos with them)

1lb black beans, 5 cups water, 1 smoked hambone, 3 bullion cubes, 2 TBSP taco seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 onion diced and sauteed.  I cook for 1 hour and natural release for 25-30 min.

Silly frugal me, puts the hambone back in the freezer and then reuse it for a second batch before discarding it.  Wink

4.  Can/bottle returns - this is new for me.  Previously, I gave our cans/bottles away.  Now I have an account to return them myself and get extra $$.  I am using the $$ to help FD set goals and find ways to save towards the goal.  She really wants a pair of birkenstock sandals this summer, so she is saving her change, helping with the cans/bottles and realizing a little planning helps make a goal come true!  So far she has $35 in can/bottle money and $16 in cash. 

5.  Gasoline - holy gas prices!   Living 15 miles outside of town, we def plan trips to town to cover all errands for the week.  Thankfully, we have the stockpile and rarely have to run to get something outside of our weekly trip.   I generally go once each week to watch my youngest grandaughter and another day to take FD to her appts and all the other errands. 

6.  Airline tickets - Costco offered a great deal of 10% off airline gift cards at Christmas time.  Since the hub travels so much, I bought 10 - $500 gcs for $4500.  This will last us pretty much all year.  I hope Costco does this every year!  I have saved enough to buy another 10 (which is the max allowed) this year!  The mileage he earns goes for fun trips or vacations.  In May, DD1, her newly adopted daughter (13), me and FD (17) are flying down to California for a long girls weekend to celebrate the adoption.  Price for travel: $44 thanks to miles!

7.  Camping - because I am retired, and FD does school online, we can camp anytime we want when the hub is home.  A state perk for foster families is that we can camp for free at any state campground.  Weekends are often booked, but again, our flexibility allows us to camp during the week when spots are more readily available.  We have a beautiful 5th wheel that we paid off before I retired which we enjoy as much as possible.  However, gas prices will likely reduce the number of trips we take this year.

8. Part time job for me - I had thought I would need to return to work part time to be able to have "enough".  However, that has not been the case.  We are making it just fine as is and can still afford to pay house quicker Fostering a trouble teen is pretty much a full time job, especially with the hub gone 3 weeks at a time.  Between appointments, parenting, teaching her independence skills, and helping her feel safe and secure (something she has never had) I am "on" 24/7.  Thankfully I have this flexibility to be a full time parent and friend for her.

9. Time Management - Days can get away from me.  I have enjoyed the freedom to use all this time as I want.  That will not change....but time is finite, not infinite.  I am working on being more intentional with my time, while enjoying not having a schedule.    This continues to be a work in progress.

10.  Enjoying life - YES I DO!

2021 Reflections

January 1st, 2022 at 12:36 am

2021 has been a year of significant change in our household.  

1. Fostering - It's been a full year and without a doubt, fostering an at-risk teen is the hardest job Ive ever had.  Initially, there was a period of adjusting and our FD tried hard to prove that we were like all the others, that we would give up on her eventually, so why not push all the buttons to prove herself right.  Well, we arent like all the others and loved her through all the yucky stuff, sticking to our resolve that we were committed to being her last placement.  The next phase was settling, where she became more comfortable and started to feel like this was her forever home.  Late Q3 and Q4 she was reintroduced to in-person school and peers.  This would be our toughest test yet.   Ill just say, kids can be so mean.  And when youre already an at-risk youth, it doesnt take much to kick the inner demons into action and the subsequent self harm landed her in the hospital for a few weeks.  We brought her home just before Christmas and I have been her constant reassurance that this too shall pass ever since.  DHS of course had to put a solid safety plan into action, which I understand, but its wearing me out.   I am still 100% committed, I am just tired and it doesnt help that I caught a cold just before Christmas and have had little extra energy since.  DH is away at work until next week, so tonight FD and I will ring in the New Year ourselves.  Just what we both need IMHO.

2. Jobs- The hub was unemployed the first 5 months of 2021, which was a blessing actually as he was here to help with the fostering adjustments and to share the load of parenting.  He went back to work just a couple of weeks before I retired.  I had written a 5 year plan, 6 years ago and we managed to check off every box necessary for retirement to work.  The first couple of months were unnerving because we encounted a few unexpected expenses and we blew through more of our savings than I was comfortable with.  But thankfully, that turned around by the end of August and we have replenished the savings to where it was by year end.   Retirement is wonderful.  I am loving the freedom it allows. 

3. Health - Covid.  Got the shots, got the Covid and now considering boosters.  Covid continues to wreak havoc on everyday life.  Not much else to say. 

3.  Goals - I have so many things I want to accomplish - such as minimilizing clutter, traveling on a budget, and starting a garden.  2021 was not condusive to accomplishing these goals, so I am starting 2022 with plans to tackle all three.

And finally, I dont know about you, but I am BUMMED Betty White got this close to the big 100 and didnt make it.  I am a huge BW fan and am sad by this news.  RIP sweet lady.  

Happy New Year friends.  Looking forward to seeing what 2022 brings!

Chili, work and paying it forward

November 18th, 2021 at 06:10 pm

With our weather turning colder, I decided to make a big pot of chili for dinner a couple nights ago.  It turned out great and fed us a couple of meals.  Last night I turned the leftovers into 10 chili bean burritos and tucked them into the freezer.  These are a favorite go-to when I want a quick, easy lunch or dinner.  I used leftover hamburger for the meat, and canned beans/rotel that I got on sale - so the cost was around $10 for 14 servings!  

I pulled a steak out of the freezer and am going to try making beef broccoli for the first time tonight.  The recipe looks easy enough - so we shall see!  I am using a steak because all of my other meat is frozen in family size portions and a single steak will be enough for FD and I both.  If it turns out, the next time roast comes on sale I may get one and cut it into small portions for meals like this.

I have started researching ideas for some of the work I am doing for my son's business.  The first will be an onboarding checklist for new hires.  The business is growing so quickly that there is much opportunity for formalized processes.  They started as a two person business and have now grown to15 employees with the plan to add another 8-10 in the coming months!

All of FD's pay it forward bags are done.   She is super excited to hand them out.  We will be delivering just after Thanksgiving.  The school resource officer is on board with donating a few more items to the bags and going with her/us to help keep her safe.  I am excited to see her realize this goal.  I think this is the start of something bigger for her!!  

If six is good, 10 is better!

November 10th, 2021 at 04:23 am

I recently posted about the Alaska airlines gift card offer at Costco - $449 for each $500 gift card.  I had originally bought 6, but the limit was 10 per membership.  I decided to buy the additional 4 gift cards to get the full benefit of this discount.  Since the hub flies roundtrip  to Anchorage every 6 weeks, it made good sense to save on as many gift cards as possible.  I pulled the money out of savings to pay for the cards.  10% return is way more than I am getting in interest.  Ill just pay our monthly travel budget back to the savings account and will have this paid back by 2022 year end.  I paid for all the gift cards with my Amazon CC- which will result in an additional $50 in Amazon dollars.  I will use this $50 to buy handwarmers and other goodies for our homeless gifts for Christmas.  (Win-win).

Also, I received $30 in Kohls cash for the blankets  for the homeless that I bought.  Tomorrow, my 30% discount kicks in for Kohls, so I will use the Kohls cash and 30% off to buy something(s) on the Christmas list.   Another win-win.

I have been attending a foster class for several weeks, and each week receive a $25 gift card for attending.  Our last class is tomorrow and the gift card total will be $350.  The store they are originally to is a higher end grocery store.  But thankfully, they sale gift cards to Amazon.  I will trade the cards in for $350 in Amazon gift cards and use them for essentials in the coming months.  (Another win-win)

And finally, I am going to start working part time from home for my son's business.  They could use additional administrative help - and this will provide us a small additional income.  Any money earned will go towards vacation for us.  I dont forsee this being  more than $1000 a month, but that will augment our vacation fund nicely.  And, I will be able to help my son's team with expertise in fields I am well versed in.  (My final win-win)

Needless to say, I am feeling pretty good about these small wins!!


Stockpiling and Christmas

November 5th, 2021 at 11:50 pm

My son and DIL are at a conference this week, so they asked if I could come house, kid and pet sit while they are away.  Being retired means a big fat YES.  Even better, with the hubs mileage plan, me and FD were able to fly here for $11!!  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time with my Cali babies!!  Mom and dad come home tomorrow, and we fly home on Sunday.  It's been such a rewarding week.  I LOVE having the freedom to do stuff like this!

While the hub was home this last rotation, we bought an upright freezer on sale and stocked it full of meats and quick meals.  Now I will watch for sales and keep it stocked while taking advantage of good prices.  With all the turmoil going on in the world, we felt it was a good idea to do a little stockpiling just in case.  I have to say, it feels great to know we are prepared.  I also saw a sale on canned goods and stocked up on canned veggies.  I already had a stockpile of beans.  I still have several 5lb food storage buckets and plan to use those to store flour and sugar. 

The first few months of retirement was a period of adjusting to our new budget.  We were hit with a fair share of unexpected expenses (well repair, tires for our trailer, etc) but thankfully, things have settled down and we are back to living on our budget and having money left over for savings.  

Earlier this week, Costco had a flash sale on Alaska Airline gift cards.  $500 for $449.  I bought 6 of them, which will last use most of 2022!!  I generally budget $500 per month for the hubs travel expenses, so I will have savings paid back in 6 months for the gift cards.  

I took advantage of Kohl's Black Friday sale today and bought 10, good quality, warm fuzzy blankets at $8.50 each.  FD and I will add hand warmers and other goodies and hand out to homeless later this month.  I am budgeting $150 total for these or about $15 each.

I hope all is well with everyone.  I am looking forward to catching up on the blogs!


May 4th, 2021 at 02:42 pm

The hub is heading back to Alaska to work!  And the job has really good health insurance!  Check and check!  Now I can fully retire with peace of mind.  I am a happy camper. 

The girls started back to in-person school today.  The first time in a few years for them, so I am remaining cautiously optimistic things will go well.  We opted to keep them in a very small charter school (under 200 kids), rather than trying one of the larger, closer high schools (1500 kids).  Theyve been attending the charter school since theyve been in our care, and Ive been pretty impressed with the staff and how well they work with higher needs kids. Fingers crossed that this goes well.

My last day at work is June 4, but with the hub leaving, I will need to use up my PTO between the time he leaves and my last day to take care of all the shuffling with the girls.   I am really looking forward to this new chapter!


Another week in....

February 15th, 2021 at 12:17 am

The girls are adjusting to living together again.  I am glad we planned for each to have her own room and space, as its not been easy nor at times fun for them.  They have been through so much, and triggers are easily pulled, feelings easily hurt.  But for the most part, this past week was a success in my book.  We are still getting initial appointments made for our newest sister - dentist, doctor, therapist, etc.  We celebrated Valentines Day this morning, and it was such a blessing to have youngsters in the house again.  The rest of this day has just been what I call a pj day.  Everyone is just doing their own thing, reading, napping, snacking, etc.  I needed a mental break day.  Thankfully, its been a very calm day with the girls. 

The hub is still drawing unemployment.  He received a letter this week that his unemployment will be expiring soon, (why they dont give an actual date for "soon" is frustrating) which seems really fast.  He is going to call on Tuesday to find out what exactly that means.  He doesnt have to go back to work until I retire in June, but it helps to have the extra from unemployment to sock away.  I am hoping that soon is a few more weeks at least. 

I received a nice 4.5% merit increase after my annual review.  It feels so crazy to be walking away from my salary, but I am just so ready.   

My son asked me to assist with a write up this week for his website.  He was struggling with the flow of the information he was trying to present.  I spent about a half hour on it, and thankfully, he was thrilled with the result.  This is the type of PT work I will be doing for him in exchange for a small salary, which will be enough to cover my health insurance.  

Otherwise, time marches on.  Life is very good.  I hope all is good for all of you as well. 


Certified Foster Parents!

February 3rd, 2021 at 11:50 pm

We received an expedited certification today and are now official foster parents.  The step was taken to push this through because FD1's sister will be here on Friday.  So the next leg of this journey begins.  Part of the process includes a safety home inspection - which happened this morning.  In order to prepare for it, we decided to downsize and re-organize a couple of our current storage rooms.  (30 years of stuff can add up!)  Of course, decluttering is one of my goals this year so we made significant progress on tossing and donating things we no longer need or use. 

We also now have 2 fire extinguishers, and 4 smoke detectors in the house.  Smile  

Tomorrow, I am leaving for the weekend on a pre-planned annual girlfriend trip. (Who doesnt need good girlfriend time right now???) While I am gone, the girls will be staying with DD2.

We had to complete a plethora of of the sheets was our financial position.  It was fun to fill out our payment, car insurance, utilities and food.  No car payment, no RV payment, no CC payments...  And compare it to our salary.  Over half of what we make, even with the hub on unemployement, is considered 'discretionary income'. 😎 We also had to list our net worth, and after adding in everything they suggested, we ended up with two commas!! I knew we were close, but it really felt good to see it on paper!

So, it's now official... FD1 made a social media post a few days ago telling her world that our family has changed her life.  Honestly, I dont need anything more for this service than that...



Unemployment pay and productive day

December 30th, 2020 at 10:01 pm

The unemployment office actually called the hub back yesterday and fixed the issue.  Apparently being RIF-ed twice in the same year is confusing. (RIF= reduction in force, aka laid off or termed) But now it is all figured out and his first $370 unemployment check should hit our account any day.  I decided not to have flex spending taken out of my paychecks for the few months I am working in 2021.  That bumped my paycheck up another $300 per month, which we can certainly use.  As it is, I am carrying over $500 in prepaid medical that I need to use up before I leave.  I plan to get all the annual stuff done between now and then so the $500 will hopefully be easily spent before then.

Today was productive.  I put on a pot of pinto beans and am making a loaf of bread.  This will be meals starting tomorrow, as tonight we are going to DD3s to visit with the baby and will pick up pizza on the way.  The hub cut more wood for our working supply, which we keep stacked on the front porch.  We just finished stacking it, and now we are ready for at least the next month.  We definitely are burning more wood with everyone being home all day and with this cold weather we've been having.  Thankfully the wood is basically free and it really helps to keep our electricity bill down!

I worked on my puzzle a little this morning, did a load of laundry and swept/vacuumed the floors.  I also started reading a new book, which I think I am going to enjoy.  Tomorrow I will take down the Christmas decorations and dust off for the new year.  



Gah- And just like that, plans change!

December 15th, 2020 at 10:14 pm

So true to 2020, the hub is now unemployed as of midnight tonight. The company he worked for sold, and the new company is not keeping the employees.  He will be shipping all of his tools home (thankfully the company is paying to ship - otherwise this would have been about $5k for us) and will fly home tomorrow.  He will likely work local for the forseeable future.  Easy come, easy go.

Thankfully, he will be able to draw $370 a week unemployment, and with my earnings we will still be bringing in about $2500 - 3000 more each month than we need for bills and livings expenses.  Thank goodness we paid everything off this year and have continued to live a fairly frugal lifestyle.  We have over a years expenses saved in our emergency funds.

I had not given my notice at work yet, so I can continue to work until June or beyond if need be.  Hopefully, the hub will find something he likes between now and then so I can still retire as planned.

2020, can you please just go away...and 2021, PLEASE be a kinder, gentler year - as we are all worn out. 

Time to dust off the parenting skills!

December 5th, 2020 at 08:45 pm

The hub is smoking a turkey today.  Since we didnt cook for Thanksgiving, or have any leftovers to enjoy, we decided to make a turkey and all the trimmings today for us, our new foster daughter (A), one of our soon to be adopted granddaughters, and our neighbor- who is like a surrogate mom to all of the grandkids.   

A is still adjusting to the transition.  She, understandably, has some deep rooted trust issues and we are giving her lots of space to figure out her place here while reminding her she is safe.  The hub and I are re-introducing ourselves to parenting a teenager and figuring out our role in her life.  This is new for all of us, so we are taking it slow. 

We are going to start a 1000 piece puzzle this afternoon.  This is something we can do together that is relaxing and provides an opportunity to visit at will.  It is also something all us girls like to do... the hub, not so much.  haha.

I have REALLY enjoyed this staycation week.  It was kinda like a trial retirement week, and I am very much looking forward to this pace when it gets here.   My house is clean, meals were homemade, I found a little time for me and my hobbies...and got in quite a bit of grandkid time.  Everything I love in life. 



Income increase for the winter - can we pay off our house?

December 1st, 2020 at 06:34 pm

The hub got a call from work that he will be returning to his 4/2 rotation when he returns this month.  Meaning, he will work 4 weeks, and be home for 2 weeks during the remainder of the winter (May-ish)  This will increase his monthly pay significantly and provides additional income I didnt budget for.  I will likely put most of it towards our mortgage, since that is our final debt.  I would love to have the mortgage paid off in 5 years, but since my income will decrease quite a bit by June, I am not sure how realistic that might be but it is something I am going to pencil out and see how we might get there!

DD2 called last night and said there is young girl who needs an emergency foster placement.  (This is such a recurring event here locally). Both DD1 and DD2 are at capacity, so she asked if we would be open to meeting her and possibly taking her in for a while.  If she still needs a placement today we will go and meet her.  She is older, 16.  I want to find out exactly what the situation is before considering this as an option.  I have a 3 bedroom house, and could easily take a child in, but it would have to be a good fit.  I guess we will see how this plays out.   

I am putting the finishing touches on my Christmas decorations today and making a couple loaves of bread.   The hub is going to make a pot of chili.  I am finishing off the last of the split pea soup. The hub doesnt like split pea soup, so he is eating sandwiches for lunch. 

My containers came for food storage.  I washed one of them out and will fill it with pinto beans today.  I want to keep a few pounds stored in gallon bags in the kitchen for easy access and then will put the rest in a second storage container.  

New laptop

November 30th, 2020 at 06:43 pm

In preparation for retirement, I knew I would need a laptop - since the one I currently use belongs to my job.  With today being 'cyber-monday' I went on the HP website and they had a few door buster sales.  I really dont understand the different types of laptops, but know my basic needs (which are very basic) and found one that I felt would work.  Total cost was $550 after upgrading a couple of options and adding on Microsoft 365 and 3 years of antivirus.  I am happy with the price, so long as the darn thing works for 3-5 years!  It won't get here until the first of the year, but I am not in a rush to get it so long as it arrives before I retire (which right now is somewhere between March and June).

The hubs 25 year old truck, which has 326k miles, may need some repairs soon.  The nice thing is that the hub is a mechanic and can usually get parts at a discount and do the repairs himself.  (Hense the reason the old truck is still plugging along).  He estimates about $1500 for the parts.  But he will do a thorough check of everything first, to make sure that's really what it needs.  This is a very small price to pay for the work that ol truck continues to do.  I shudder when I see replacement cost on a similar truck...  That is one expense we will eventually face and are planning for...but I am all for keeping this one running as long as it can!!

Today would have been our day to travel to the vacation home...a little bittersweet, but still so thankful my family is all healthy and we can re-plan at a future, hopefully safer, time. 




Frugal comfort food!

November 30th, 2020 at 12:29 am

There is something so rewarding about creating delicious comfort food for a fraction of what you would spend otherwise. I made a fresh warm loaf of bread this morning, and pulled a bag of leftover split pea soup out of the freezer. I heated up a bowl of the soup, added a few spices, cut off a nice crunchy end piece of the bread, added some butter, and WOW, lunch was served for under $.50. Food on the cheap!

The hub is on a road trip today with DD3 and the grandbaby to see his dad, so my dinner will be a repeat of lunch. Another $.50 and what an inexpensive day it was for me! (I am sure the hubs day will include gas, lunch, much more expensive than mine.) I am spending the day with a nice fire in the wood stove as I decorate the house for Christmas, do some laundry, and watch some TV. My kinda day for sure.  I am on vacation this next week, so I am not moving as quickly as I normally would on this Sunday. What I don't get done today, I can finish tomorrow!!

A dear friend's hub has covid, and is really not doing well. He has underlying conditions and is fighting for every breath, very weak. He is not in the hospital, they are saving those beds for the most critical situations... I sure hope he pulls through. So far, no improvement. But today he isnt worse than yesterday, so maybe he made it past that tipping point.

I didn't buy a single thing for black Friday this year. That is a FIRST for me.

Do you buy in bulk?

November 23rd, 2020 at 10:07 pm

We picked up a 50 lb bag of dry pinto beans today.  I usually pay $1.18 per pound, but buying in bulk brings the per pound cost down to .46.  Now, I just need to figure out how to store them so they are still good when I get to the end of the supply.  I am looking into food storage tubs.  I figure I will need 2 - 5 gallon tubs.

I am also looking for bulk flour, to see if I can bring my per pound cost down as well.  The best I have found recently was $2.29 for 10 lbs.  I am keeping an eye out for holiday sales and other sales in bulk to see if I can do better.  I have a good set up for 10 lbs, but if I get much more, I will likely need another 5 gallon storage bin for flour.

The bins are an expense up front, but will be offset if they help preserve shelf life and are still in good condition for future batches.

I am a newbie to bulk buying/storing and would LOVE ideas that some of my more seasoned frugal friends may have to share!!  Do's, Don'ts and anything in-between is welcome!

Update:  I found 6 food safe 5-gallon buckets with lids on Amazon.  I used some points that I had, and my final out of pocket cost was $20 for 6.  This will give me a few extra containers for other bulk buys.  Of course, trying to minimalize - buying extra made me twitch a little, but I am confident these will come in handy as I strive to drive food costs down. 

Presenter jitters and soup is good food!

October 29th, 2020 at 12:40 am

I have about an hour before I will be presenting online on emergency preparedness with my work team.  I do not enjoy presenting and am not one of those who think the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  I will be SO GLAD when this is over.  

A few weeks ago, the hub and I went to dinner with friends to a steak house.  It was quite the experience in that you only choose steak or chicken and everything else is served family style. (salad, bean soup, main meal and potato, fresh rolls and butter, and dessert)  We both chose steak.  I have never seen a steak that big - I believe the steaks ranged from 26-32 oz....wowza!  After eating a small amount of mine, I cut the remainder into four healthy chunks and put it in the freezer.  Today I used two of the chunks to make a beef barley soup.  OMG.  It turned out SO amazing.  The recipe made about 10 servings, which I will eat with some homemade bread.  Since the meat was made with leftovers, the barley and veggies were the only cost = I guestimate $3 for the ingredients.  The bread cost about .50 to make.  So in all, about .35 per serving.   I also had some red bean soup still, so I am freezing that to have when I am ready for a change from the current soup. 

I am LOVING calculating my meal costs and seeing how easily I can lower my food costs.  

The car place called today and the repairs will either be less than $200 or fully covered, depending on what the issue ends up being.  I am thankful it will be only $200 worst case.   I am just ready to have a car again.

Well, time to get ready for this darn presentation.  Wish me luck!  Wink



Tonight's Dinner

October 24th, 2020 at 01:15 am

I continue to use up food I have here at home.  I wanted something other than soup/stew for dinner tonight, so I pulled a 1/2 chicken breast out of my 10-1b Costco frozen chicken breast pack and defrosted it today.   I spiced it up with seasonings and added some rosemary, thyme ( these were leftovers spices that I froze from the prime rib a few weeks ago- just learned I could freeze them!!), butter and lemon juice.  Its baking now.  (smells yummy) I am also making a cup of quinoa in my rice cooker with a chicken bullion cube for flavor.  I could add some salad, but I am not feeling that hungry tonight.  I have 2 slices of the homeade crusty bread I made earlier this week, but I will likely save those for tomorrow morning to enjoy with the last of my red grapes.   I am enjoying learning how to live and eat more frugally!!  What do you do to cut corners?


5th day without a car

October 23rd, 2020 at 11:19 pm

Last Sunday, I ran to Walmart to pick up just a few supplies to get me through the week and on my way home, my car died.  It would start, but then immediately shut down.  Of course, the hub is on rotation in I rummaged through my car paperwork and found the roadside assistance information, that I honestly had forgotten I even had.  (It was a free perk when I bought the car and never gave it a second thought, actually.)  I called the number, and YES, the assistance was covered so I had the car towed to the dealer. On Monday, I got a call from the dealer explaining that they were backlogged, but that I had missed a recall which was likely causing the issue AND It would be at least 4 weeks before I get my car back!!  UGH. 

Now the hub has a manual drive pickup...its over 20 years old and is a beast to shift.  Therefore, I am terrified to drive it.  So I called DD3 and she said they would trade me and I could use their car, but it would be Friday (today) before she could come out.  And here it is Friday, and I have been perfectly fine without the car.

I made the bean soup and some nice crusty bread, finished that and then make some leftover prime rib stew (yummy) and have started a second batch of bread.  I had bought yogurt and berries for breakfast, and string cheese and protein bars for snacks, plus a big container of red grapes.  I can still make it several more days with what I have on hand before the perishables need to be replaced.

This has been an unplanned yet eye opening practice run of life post retirement as I plan to limit driving to town, and eat homemade and frugally as much as possible.

A blessing in disguise I think.  Especially if that recall and the repairs are all under warranty!  Take THAT 2020!


Beans are soaking!

October 16th, 2020 at 03:38 am

I had a package of red beans in the cupboard and a ham hock in the freezer, so the first bean soup will be red beans and ham. I plan to toss in a yellow onion, celery and carrots in the morning. I will also post the seasoning I add in my post tomorrow. The bean soup should last me all weekend, and maybe into next week.

I picked up a brick of yeast at Costco today. I read that you can freeze this after opening to stretch the usage life. So I will be making some crusty bread to accompany the soup this weekend.

I also picked up a $4.99 chicken and an 8 pack of canned mixed beans (pinto, kidney and black) at Costco. I plan to make some chicken salad for lunch and debone the rest of the chicken for future meals. Then, boil the bones to make another soup- black bean (mixed beans and chicken).

Stay tuned. I will post as I go!

I went through my jewelry this afternoon and pulled several necklaces to send to Goodwill. The donation bag is almost full. I also filled a toss bag, which is now in the trash. I will be dropping off the goodwill bag in exchange for a receipt, and will put the toss bag into the can in the morning.

Soup season ahead!

October 14th, 2020 at 05:56 pm

We had quite a bit of leftovers from our trip. (Smoked prime rib, including bones as well as a healthy portion of steak) I cut the steak (it was HUGE) into 3 good sized chunks and packaged everything separately for future soups. With colder weather coming, soup is always a welcomed meal.

The hub is about to head back to work for 4 weeks, so I will use part of the meats to make beef/barley soup and prime rib stew. My goal this next 4 weeks is to see how frugally I can feed myself. Except for a few items, I have everything to make both soups. I also have a ham bone in the freezer for some pinto or red bean soup, and some chicken for black bean soup. I have a stock pile of cornbread mix and am itching to learn how to make crusty bread! The soups will make great lunches and dinners. Do you have a favorite soup?

I plan to get some yogurt and berries for breakfast and other fruit and use some of the carrots and celery (Ill be buying for the soups) as snacks.

Should be a fun challenge. I do have two meals out planned. A day with girlfriends this Saturday to a local winery, and a day with my daughters (lunch) at a nearby historical town. Otherwise, I am going to try to eat all other meals out of the stockpile. We will see how it goes!

The hub is burning a creosote log in our stove this morning. Not because we need to heat the house, but because it cleans the stove and pipe for the season. I just heard the air conditioner kick on, so he is turning that off and we will open some doors and windows. lol Now the stove will be ready to keep me warm when it gets a little colder out. I am really hoping to have a few weeks with no air conditioning or heating expenses - rather just dress in whatever layers it takes to stay comfortable.

He will also pull his dump trailer up to the house so I can toss the things that arent worth donating as my minimalism efforts continue. Smile I had a couple more items in the donate pile, and my girls said they wanted them..maybe I am on to something here...

Minimalism continues!

October 8th, 2020 at 04:56 pm

In preparation for our trip tomorrow, I started packing yesterday. Since we are still changing seasons here and we are heading to a colder climate for our trip, I needed to go through the dark recesses of the closet to get to the warmer clothes. Since I was pulling so much out, I went ahead and started piles to donate and toss to continue with the minimalist efforts. I ended up with a bag FULL of clothes to donate. (Some I sadly never wore, and never will- online shopping is not my forte) My loss will hopefully be someone else's gain!

I still have a ways to go - I will soon be able to weed out all my work shirts, which will free up quite a bit more space. Since we have no plan to return to the office, I may go ahead and bag those up! (why not!)

I recently had blood work done and have received the results. Comparing them to 2 years ago, things dont look too bad, although there is definitely areas to improve. When the hub is gone, I eat much healthier, but when he is home its more meat and potatoes, which is his preference. I will find ways to change this. He can still eat as he likes, but I will be more purposeful in what I do and don't eat. This is huge for future financial wellness as well as health wellness, and just needs to happen.

I just have to say, I enjoy reading others' blogs but lately there arent as many as there used to be. I love sitting down with my coffee in the morning and catching up. To compensate, I am looking back at everyone's blogs to catch up on what I missed last year. I guess I am just trying to say you are all like dear ol' friends who I enjoy staying in touch with. I look forward to your new posts and responses! Thank you for the camaraderie!

Dwindling interest rate

October 7th, 2020 at 07:46 pm

I transferred our savings account to Discover at the end of the year last year because it was paying 1% and my credit union was only paying .05%. I was excited for the little increase the $ would be making....

Since then, it seems like each time I log in, it has dropped... .90, .80. 70 and today it was .60% Its still multiple times what I would make at the credit union, but c'mon!

I remember when I started in banking, checking accounts paid 5% and regular savings paid 7%!! Granted, inflation was crazy and home mortgage interest was around 12%. (I know I just aged myself, but being I am near retirement it wouldnt be too hard to figure out I am getting a little long in the tooth!)

Back then, people could count on CD interest to supplement their income...the end of the quarter was always busy with retirees coming in to wd their interest! But those days are long gone- both money wise and technology wise (ha)!

Now, I am NOT an advocate for savings rates to go back to the post deregulation period, but this is just sad!

I am not skilled at investing, but maybe its time to learn.. I AM open to suggestions at this juncture. I guess I should be thankful I don't have to PAY to have a safe place to keep my money!!

Spending money to save money

October 6th, 2020 at 08:51 pm

I ordered a cover for our 5th wheel today to protect it from the elements going forward. I should have done this much sooner, but at least I have done it now. It cost $230 (free shipping) and the potential savings it will ensure makes it a very worthwhile expense.

We purchased the 5th wheel a few years ago after wearing out our previous trailer. Our goal when we bought the 5th wheel was to have something that could become our Plan B for living arrangements or at a minimum, provide a comfortable travel experience. We spent the extra money to get one that will stay comfortable in very cold weather, has washer and dryer hookups, and a king sized bed. We have paid it off and stocked it with all our living supplies, so now it just costs us upkeep and insurance. (I will note that an additional expense that we are planning is the truck to pull it with. The hubs current truck does great but it is 21 years old!!)

The last couple of years we have not been able to use it as much as we would have liked, but starting next summer, we will be able to use it as often as the hubs schedule allows, which is at least 3 weeks each rotation!! I am super excited about that!

Needless to say, this was an investment that we want to have for years to come- so purchasing things to help extend its life expectancy is vital to us..and $230 is a small price to pay on this one.

Dining out - It isn't what it used to be, at least for us

October 4th, 2020 at 08:08 pm

The hub and I have not dined out much since March. Instead, the hub has really practiced and dialed in his smoking and bbqing skills and techniques. I have done the same with my baking and cooking skills. Needless to say, we have ate much cheaper, healthier and conveniently from home for months.

We live out in the country. We are about 30+ minutes away from most restaurants. So, in order to eat out, its at least an hour travel time (there and back) then seating, ordering and waiting... 2+ hours plus gas to go out to a $50 or more meal that we can make at home for usually a fraction of the cost.

Second, its just not the same quality anymore when compared to what we can make at home. After eating home cooking exclusively, eating out just doesn't taste as desirable anymore.

And finally, it's more risky, we have to wear a mask, and because they are limiting the number of diners- the wait time is frustrating.

I used to LOVE going out to eat, but our last two experiences have made me rethink if its really the same "treat' that it used to be, and honestly, its just NOT.

Is anyone else finding this to be true?

The silver lining of course, is that we are eating more frugally and healthy, which will align with retirement budget oh, so much better!!

Seasonal flu shot, medical insurance and budget stuff

October 1st, 2020 at 05:04 pm

Feeling a little like a pin cushion this morning after getting blood work and a seasonal flu shot. But CHECK MARK, those are now out of the way!

My job contracts with a dedicated clinic that serves the staff of 3 local businesses. It's really nice in that normal and routine things (non-narcotic drugs, shots, blood work, routine visits, etc) are completely free for staff. Things like controlled drugs, xrays, MRIs, etc must go through normal insurance/ co-pays.

Unfortunately, after the end of this month, my job is no longer contracting with this service, meaning I will need to find a new doctor and will go back to co-pays on everything. Its been so nice while it lasted. We also have the option of tele-med. Ive not tried that, but will give it a go and see how it works. In November, I will be added to the hubs insurance plan (since I will be leaving my job next year), so I may wait until then to find the new doctor.

The hub's job is currently on a 4/4 rotation, so he works four weeks and then is off for four weeks. This started post covid shutdown, and may soon return to 3/3 or 4/2. But, until then, 4/4 means we can go almost a month without a paycheck from his job. This is why I budget the way that I do. He will get a partial week paycheck tomorrow, and then another, smaller one, on October 30. Before we were financially able to fund our budget a month in advance, it always felt like we were juggling to keep up. Our silver lining for the stay home order and the hubs unemployment for those 3 months is that we built our savings and now have less financial anxiety!

DD3's baby, 10 months, has started to take a step here and there. She is so stinking cute and growing SO fast.

Budget rollover - Welcome October!

September 30th, 2020 at 03:39 pm

We roll into our new budget cycle today. I transferred the full amount for October's bills from savings to our checking. All of October bills will just auto pay from this account- no additional effort is needed for the month. Easy Peasy.

I also transferred half of our household budget (food, gas, etc) into the household checking. It helps to do half now and half mid month to show the hub how it works. While he is home, he does the majority of our grocery shopping and prefers Walmart...but that means extra stuff often finds its way into the cart. Reminding him of our grocery budget helps a little, but we have a ways to go on this one. While he gets a nice allowance, for some reason, using the food budget for 'fun' stuff is easier for him (haha) I am sure his personal budget debit card has cobwebs on it.

I transferred the remaining $3k from savings to our long term savings.

Now, as we get paid, those paychecks will just go into savings for next months expenses. At the end of October, the same routine will happen. Smile

Have a great day all!

semi hoarder to minimalist - can I do it?

September 27th, 2020 at 03:05 am

During this next 6 months, I plan to downsize STUFF very intentionally. I started with my kitchen this weekend.

To get motivated, I have been watching you tube videos and researching various degrees and methods. I decided to start with tupperware. That drawer and a cupboard were scary and seemed overwhelming. However, once I got started, it got easier. Containers without lids and lids without containers were the first to go...and there were many of each. Then, I selected those that were most useful or that I liked using. Everything else, went. And finally any container that I had more than four went as well. I still have a healthy number of containers, but everything fits easily into one drawer. Any that are going and useful, will be donated, the rest will go in the trash.

Next was my very disorganized silverware drawer. Everything came out and I selected 8 of each item. Over the years, spoons and forks disappear, but butter knives and those larger serving spoons stick around. I must have weeded out 20+ butter knives and serving spoons. And now my silverware drawer is completely organized and everything has a home. The excess will be donated. Surely someone could use them.

My pantry got a major overhaul. All the shelves were emptied, my canned goods went on a large lazy susan, making it very easy to see what we have and find what we need. Outdated or unpopular stuff was trashed. Items are all grouped now. Less used items went on the bottom and top shelves and stuff we reach for routinely got the prime pantry real estate.

That was my achievement yesterday and today. Its a small start, but also a very motivating one. I am confident these changes will help save money. We have many boxes of pasta and cans of green beans, for example. Given my desire to minimize, I will be eager to use up what we have. And knowing exactly what we have will keep me from buying more because I cant find it.

After two days and just a few areas tackled, I have 3 boxes to donate. I have started a list of everything with approximate costs, so that I am ready when tax time comes around.

Tomorrow I hope to tackle my baking cupboard and then get to work on my closet. I figure it will take several months to get through the whole house, but it will be SO nice once I am done.

Have any of you gone this journey before, and if so, what great advice do you have? I am very open to suggestion!!

Relearning frugality

September 23rd, 2020 at 04:56 pm

I have to admit, while we have been hitting our financial goals, I have definitely moved away from many of my old frugal ways- some I had forgotten about. I am rereading my older blog posts and getting some GREAT ideas how to stretch our resources even further and it is reigniting my desire to do better.

I am so thankful to have this blog, going back FOURTEEN YEARS, to help remind me what has worked historically. The hits and misses, and most of all- how good it felt when we hit those milestones!

I will certainly be pulling from the past to help make better financial choices going forward!

Does anyone else do the same with their older blog posts? (Oh, and I also revisit others older posts as well, as there is a WEALTH of Knowledge in them!!)

Annual Skip a Payment

September 22nd, 2020 at 08:08 pm

My CU offers an annual option to skip your loan payment(s) in November.

I can remember years when taking advantage of this option was our primary $ source for Christmas shopping. I literally planned Christmas shopping around the amount of payments we were able to skip! (YIKES) This was back when all four kids lived at home, we had much lower income, and we were up to our eyeballs in debt. I looked forward to and relied on that wonderful notice that it was time once again...once the payments were skipped, I WENT SHOPPING! (Again, yikes)

Then came the years when the skip was nice to have, just for extras we wanted for the holidays or any upcoming vacation plans. I took advantage, but it was really just "extra" that enhanced what we were already planning. We didnt need to do it, but it was sure nice to have the extra.

Then, there were the years where we didn't skip any payments because our desire to payoff our debts far outweighed any need for "extra" money. Skipping a payment would have derailed our plans, and that was not something that enticed me in the least. I know some of my fellow bloggers here would have viewed a skip this way long before my financial brain caught on...just thankful I eventually saw the light!!

This year, when the skip offer arrived, there were no payments to skip. NONE. It is such a nice feeling to finally be in control of our finances like this. We owe our mortgage, but otherwise we are debt free.

So thank you CU for the offer, but finally, we have nothing to skip!

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