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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!

Wonderful Thanksgiving!

November 27th, 2021 at 11:36 pm

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Ours was blessed with family and grandkids.  Two of my daughters each hosted a meal - one at 3pm and one at 6;30pm.  Both meals were fantastic! Needless to say, after playing with grandbabies all day and enjoying two delicious meals, I was tired and full when I got home!!   We spent yesterday at home relaxing and enjoying some quiet time.   We pulled two steaks out of the freezer and the hub bbq'd them for dinner, so yummy!

Today was much the same.  FD is spending the weekend with her older sister, so it is just the hub and me.  (A welcomed break!) We watched the new episodes of Yellowstone, went out to lunch for some yummy taco salads, and now just planning on another relaxing night.   If we have dinner, it will be leftovers or a sandwich.  I plan to work on a puzzle, get in a little housework, and wrap some Christmas presents.

With the hub working 3/3 rotations, paydays dont always align with a monthly budget, which is why I budget a month in advance.  This month, the rotation created enough overage that I was able to pay back the $4500 I borrowed from savings to buy the airline tickets that I got on sale.  woo-hoo!  This means that the money I normally would pay towards travel for the next 10 months can go into savings!  We are def noticing a difference in the grocery budget having the stockpile.  I plan to set aside our extra grocery money to continue to stockpile on sales so that we are always well prepared!!  It is such a nice feeling to know we have a full freezer and pantry...I dont want to go back to weekly grocery planning if we dont have to!




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!!  

Kicker surprise and leftovers

November 13th, 2021 at 08:27 pm

I went online to make an extra estimated tax payment and the Oregon Kicker calculator was available.  To my surprise we are scheduled to get a $2600 tax credit on our taxes this year.  Um, YAY.  So I decreased what I would have paid by $1000 to hopefully still leave a buffer but take advantage of the kicker news!  Since our income drastically decreased this year, and some of the hubs unemployement wont be taxable, I am fairly confident our tax liability will be gentler on us this year.  In any case, I will leave the extra money in the tax account just in case and not consider it extra until taxes are filed.   Finger crossed.  I am no tax expert by any means, but am simply guestimating based on prior years results. 

Our local store put roasts on sale 50% off.  I picked up 5 at about $10 per roast, and put 4 in the freezer.  I made a Mississipi roast a few days ago, which made 4 hearty meals.  This morning I shredded the rest of the meat and made eight roast/bean burritoes for the freezer - quick, easy lunches.  I have a little left over juice, which I will use a few drops for a flavor treat for dog's and cat's food.  Probably very unhealthy, but they enjoy the occasional treat.

Ibotta added a number of free after purchase rebates recently, so I purchased them to donate to the family thanksgiving dinner.  Stuffing mix, gravy packet, cream of mushroom soup, fried onion topping, and a few others I cant remember right now.  I typically use the app to save on things I would normally buy to save a little.  This last shopping trip was $71 and I got just under $15 back.   Ive been using the app since April and have gotten $56 back.  Every little bit helps.

FD was talking at school about her pay it forward gifts for the homeless and the school resource officer asked if he could contribute a couple of items to the bags - how very sweet.  He is a retired police officer and offered to go with her to deliver the bags to make sure she stays safe.    I just love our community.  I am not sure we'll be venturing into dangerous territory, but when the time comes, if his offer still stands, we will probably take him up on it and buy him lunch as a thank you. 

Today is cloudy cold day, I am enjoying some Christmas music on Pandora and just enjoying a stay home and putz day!!

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!

Hello Fall and all the fun that comes with it!

October 1st, 2021 at 02:04 am

I am so thankful that fall is here! With the hot, smoky summer behind us I can get out on our deck more and enjoy the hummingbirds and sunsets again! We have had some rain, which is awesome and the skies are back to blue.

Now that school has started, my days are getting into a nice routine. I am able to focus more on stretching our food budget by using coupons, sales and aps like Ibotta. I am enjoying the challenge of feeding us as budget savvy as possible! (A much easier feat when I don't have a teen with me at the grocery store slipping in all the extras!!)

I watch my youngest granddaughter (20 mos) every Monday. I love our Monday's together - she has so much energy and curiosity. This last Monday we went on a walk and found all the flowers and talked about the colors. She discovered some ornamental frogs in one yard and thought they were funny and pointed out an airplane overhead. I came home exhausted, but had such a happy heart by the end of the day.

Thankfully, the cash outflow has slowed down and we have stayed more within the budget this past several weeks- a trend I hope continues for as long as possible. It is much less stressful when the unexpected outputs aren't hitting regularly...which gives me time to breathe and rebuild the buffer account! I definitely feel more in control financially when the hub is working his three week rotation and the teen is in school.

I am also finally getting back to minimalizing our home. Its been months since I have even had time to think about this but I am pulling it off the back burner now and creating a plan to use my free time to get some traction on this goal!

I talked to all the kiddo's about Christmas this year and how our budget looks much different now that I am retired. I think everyone was fully on board with scaling back. With all the bio's, adopted, foster and inherited grandkids, we are at 17. My brain hurt thinking about even one gift for each. Instead we are transitioning to a family gift. Much more doable and kinder to my sanity. Instead of opening gifts, we will focus on games, food, crafts and making memories. Something we should have done years ago, actually. I don't have a clear picture of what this means, but I am excited about it none-the-less.

Breakthrough Covid

September 5th, 2021 at 12:09 am

August was a blur.  I got sick with Covid, even being fully vaccinated - slept lots, drank lots of water, lost all taste and smell and lost 15 lbs in two weeks.  Thankfully, I am on the mend, symptoms are very mild at this point and I have now tested negative.  I can honestly say, even fully vaccinated, Covid sucks - but thankfully mine stayed upper respiratory and I didnt have to deal with lower respiratory issues.  The whole family got it at about the same time, all 17 of us.  4 were fully vaccinated and still got it, none of the cases became anywhere close to life threatening. (thank goodness).

Things are going great with FD.  We are planning to adopt her and her CASA is pushing for adoption to finish by Christmas.  That is crazy fast if they can pull it off.  FD turns 18 in July, so the clock is ticking.  Even tho she will be 18, she wont finish high school until 2024- so she will continue to receive some services until then.   In any case, the adoption is moving forward now and we are all excited to make her a permanent part of our family!

Financial wise, this has been more of a struggle than I anticipated.  The hub is not allowed extra overtime at his new job, which is something we counted on from his previous job.  In addition, the foster money has been cut by 2/3 since last April.  These two factors leave a deficit in the budget each month of about $800-1000.  Add to that all the extra expenses we have encountered, (water well, tires on our trailer, jacked up airline expenses, and several other unanticipated costs) and we have blown through much more of our emergency savings than I anticipated.  I am considering working for my son part time to help supplement the deficit.  But I am holding out to see how finances go once FD starts school.  The hubs job is also saying more OT is coming this winter.  Thankfully, we still have a nice cushion, but I dont want to deplete it anymore than we have above the current deficit.  

Otherwise, aside from Covid, retirment life has been great.  I LOVE the options that the extra time allows.  Its been a good summer.  Altho we have had a consistent heat wave all summer added to very hazy smoke filled air.  I am so ready for FALL and more energy to enjoy it.  


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!


Keeping up with all those doors

April 28th, 2021 at 08:40 pm

This past couple of weeks has been a whirlwind of doors opening and closing.  

I mentioned in a previous post that my retirement was going to be pushed back while I continued to work part time in order to keep my health insurance.  However, my job was not able to offer me a part time position. (door closed)  So, I looked into maintaining COBRA insurance and while it was expensive, it was full coverage that I was willing to pay for. (door open) However, the same afternoon I learned this, the hub got a call from a large company on the slope (Alaska) about an interview. (door open?) If this works out, they have a great insurance plan, which eliminates my need to carry COBRA. (door closing?)   The interview is this afternoon.  My fingers are crossed, as my last day at my job is June 4. 

The girls (foster daughters) are going to try in-person school starting next week for the remainder of the year.  (door opened).  They havent attended in person school in a couple of years.  Theyve worked really hard to get their grades up to As and Bs this term, so I am more comfortable letting them dip their toes back into in person school.  Hoping all goes well with this decison.  It is a small, charter school and the teachers all seem to be well plugged into the students.  Again, finger's crossed. 

I am getting dose #2 this afternoon for my covid vaccine.  Hopefully the effects will be gentle on me.  Tomorrow will tell, but regardless, I am relieved to have this will be done!!

And finally, I recently added the girls rooms to our current cable TV account.  I knew it would add an additional $20 to our monthly plan, which was already ridiculously high, but I saw this is a financial trade off that allowed the girls a means of relaxing in the evening.  A loyalty ambassador for the cable company stopped by the day of the install and gave me a special phone number to call about getting our bill reduced.  I called the number and sure enough, they cut our bill to only $56 a month for the next year....a savings of $120!!!  This definitely helps with the budget as I leave employment.  They said to just call back each year and ask for this reduced rate....  I will believe it when I see it, but for the next year I am VERY thankful for that discount!!!

Now, to see how this interview goes with the hub....🤞

Life is busy

April 20th, 2021 at 04:25 pm

Life is busy and a little stressful.  Balancing full time work (from home), two teens in school (from home), and all the appointments that come with high risk foster kids, there isnt a lot of free time to just relax.  We were looking at in-school learning for the remainder of the year, but last night the school closed to in-school learning again because of a COVID outbreak.  I consider this a blessing in disguise, since I do not want COVID.  I am still a week away from the second dose of my vaccine, so I am still staying fairly safe and cautious. 

The hub is still looking for a job.  He has lots of applications out, but hasnt found the right one yet (he needs to secure insurance for me if possible).  Thankfully unemployment was extended until the end of August, so we have time. In the meantime, he is the primary "teacher and appointment manager" Because of his continued unemployment, I cant fully retire as I had hoped.  Health insurance is a big concern.  My boss is working to secure me a part time position so I can remain insured, but I wont find out if that is an option for a few more days.  If it works out, I will work about 20 hours a week (2.5 days), and have the other time to help the girls and perhaps see (watch) my youngest grandbaby more.  The department I work in will continue to work from home for quite a while (2 years?)

The girls are doing great.  We certainly have bumps in the road, coping and calming skills are a work in progress, but they have settled into a nice routine and are a real joy 90% of the time.  It is rewarding to see them finish childhood together!  (They turn 17 and 16 this summer)

Our plan this summer is to camp a lot more.  With the hubs freedom and my (hopefully) relaxed work schedule, we should be able to go as often as we would like for long weekends. 

I was really saddened to read of Ima/Julie's passing.  I enjoyed her posts and her inclusiveness with the challenges ($20 challenge, stair step challenge, etc.)  Rest in Peace sweet friend.  You left an impactful mark here at SA.  


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. 

Inexpensive meals continue

November 12th, 2020 at 08:00 pm

Yesterday I pulled out one of the half chicken breasts from the Costco frozen chicken.  They are huge.  A 10lb bag of chicken yields 9-10 half chicken breasts - so about a pound each.  I baked it with some seasonings, lemon juice and butter and made some quinoa.  So good.  I was able to cut the breast and quinoa into thirds, and made 3 meals out of it.  Since this made 3 meals, I calculated dinner at $.90!

For breakfast, I made a scramble using 2 eggs with ham (leftover from the slab for the split pea soup) and a little cheese.  I toasted some of the crusty bread and for about $.54 had a nice breakfast sandwich.

For lunch I had some split pea soup, which cost about $.50 per serving. 

I also snacked on some of the cheese and salami leftover from my girlfriend day last weekend.

And finally, I had a single very ripe banana that I needed to do something with.  So I made a tiny batch of banana muffins.  Flour, sugar, egg, banana, baking soda and powder and a little salt...and popped 5 muffins in the oven.  This will make 5 yummy snacks from something I almost tossed (and historically would have)!

Today will be much of the same, as I use up the leftovers. I am having fun with this micro-budgeting on my food expenses.   

I also stopped at the dollar store yesterday and picked up some storage bins.  I spent the afternoon organizing what is left in my closet.  I am still not 100% happy with the results.  I intend to go back through whats in those bins and downsize even more in the coming weeks.

This week - Split Pea soup

November 10th, 2020 at 07:33 pm

I have a big pot of split pea soup in the crockpot today.  I love this soup.  It ended up costing about $3 to make.  I used half the ham slab that I picked up for $2.99.  (The other half I will use with my eggs to make a nice breakfast scramble the next couple of days).   I added the usual veggies - onion, carrot, celery, garlic and some spices.  This will make 8-10 servings. I finished the last of the pinto beans last night.  I didnt need to freeze any, as they were yummy right up until the last bite.

Tomorrow is Veterans day - a huge shout out and thank you to all Veterans for their services! 

My job is closed tomorrow, so I have the day off.  It is also the first of a 14 day step-back period for our county, and several counties in our state.  They are hoping to slow the Covid cases as we have had a significant increase in the last several weeks.   I wont really need to change anything for this period, since I stay home unless I need groceries or visit one of the kids homes.  I need to go by the dollar store to get a gift bag for a baby shower gift.  The shower is this Saturday, I will likely drop the gift off and, if I cant social distance adequately, wont linger long.  I don't want to risk exposure to someone who may not know they have the virus.  I am high-risk and risking getting it is just not worth it to me. 

I have been using our wood stove exclusively for heat.  The hub has had a wood yard for years and our wood is primarily free.  He works on log trucks in exchange for free wood.   Being home FT, I have learned the settings to heat the house without overheating our upstairs. 

I have also successfully trained my brain to turn off all lights when I am not in a space that needs lighting.  Overall, I am making the mental shift to living frugally and it feels great!

I am also finding our home much less chaotic with the decluttering efforts.  I still have a long ways to go, but the spaces I have finished are staying very clean and organized - and are actually calming to be in. 

All in all, super happy with progress - the hub rotates back home for a month starting on Saturday.  We shall see how well I can maintain everything while he is home.  Smile  Stay tuned!



Fun weekend and the car is back!

November 9th, 2020 at 02:10 am

I finally got my car back from the shop.  $207 out of pocket, the rest was covered by warranty.  I used the car to run errands on Saturday and to go watch my gd for DD3 today while momma painted her bedroom.  Gd will be turning one in 3 weeks.  She is toddling and is just a sweet, happy girl.  Thoroughly enjoyed my time with her. 

On the way home, I stopped and picked up a small ham slab (on sale for $2.99) to go in the split pea soup for this weeks soup.  Total cost of the soup will be about $4 and will make about 10 servings.  I made a loaf of bread on Saturday, and have enough left to last another 2-3 days.   

On Saturday, my friend came over for a girlfriend day.  We had planned on going to a local winery, but the weather was not cooperating since we would have had to sit outside (covid).  So we met here at my house and enjoyed the firepit on my deck.  I picked up some salami, cheese, grapes, pickled asparagus and pretzel chips at Costco- plus a couple bottles of grand reserve Chardonnay for just under $13 each. We spent much less than we would have at the winery, and I have a ton of leftovers to enjoy the next couple of weeks.  If I split out what we ate, I guestimate our girlfriend day cost about $50 (including wine) - not the most frugal day, but it was very enjoyable.  We visted around the fire outside and then when it got too chilly, we came inside and played a card game.  All in all, very awesome day.  I used my allowance to pay for the food and wine, since this was a special occasion for me and not something that should come from the food budget. 

I have one bowl of pinto beans left for tomorrow, and will be making the split pea soup for the rest of the week.   The store also had Jimmy Dean Delight breakfast sandwiches on sale for $5.49 for 4.  These are my go to breakfast or lunch when I need a quick, easy meal.  Higher protien, and reasonable carbs.  So I picked up two boxes and tucked them into the freezer.  Costco had a big container of greek yogurt (plain) on sale for $2.99.  I have blueberries and granola left over from last week, so this will be breakfast for several days.  

I spent some time decluttering one of our rooms this weekend and found an unopened container of Folgers coffee.  It is from our move a couple of years ago- so will provide at least a couple of weeks of "free" coffee for me.  Smile  

The hub will be home from Alaska next weekend and we will have almost a full month's food budget to live on, since I have been eating so cheaply. 

Feeling very good about choices this month.  


Happy Halloween and my magic number is FOUR!

October 31st, 2020 at 10:21 pm

Happy halloween all!  All my little grand-gobblins will be out and about tonight.  Ive received pictures of their costumes and theyre all so adorable!

I usually spend Halloween at home, with a toasty fire enjoying one of the scary shows.  We live in the country and homes are at least 2 acres apart, so we dont get trick or treaters here, although I do have some candy in the fridge left over from when the hub was last home that I can hand out if anyone shows up.

I've been putzin around the house, continuing to declutter and have a fire in the wood stove.  (My house was hanging around 60-61 all morning, so I thought it was a good day to warm things up.)

I've decided that 4 days is about how long I enjoy eating the same soup for lunch or dinner, or sometimes both.  I am enjoying the beef barley soup that I made on Wednesday, but was not as excited about it today as I was on Wednesday.  Its still very flavorful, so I froze the remaining and pulled out the leftover red bean soup for tomorrow and Monday.  Looks like about 2 bowls left...may be able to get 3.  I also pulled out half a chicken breast to thaw.  Its huge, so I should be able to get 2-3 meals out of it when added with some quinoa and greenbeans. I had planned on restocking this weekend, but now that Ive done inventory, I don't need anything. I have all the fixins still for pinto beans and split pea soup.  And I have plenty of ingredients for fresh bread, several cans of green beans, ample amount of quinoa, and a weeks worth of breakfast supplies(yogurt, blue berries, granola) I am opting out of going shopping this week.  (This is a rarity for me, I must be getting more serious about reducing my food expenses!)

I sat down this morning and started caluculating cost per serving of things like coffee and other drinks, snacks, how much a round trip to town costs, etc.  Its very enlightening.  For instance, gas to run to town is about 3.45 per trip.  Knowing this, I will start being more purposeful about those trips.   I have very recently decided to resign from my job early, as in Jan 4th.  This means, I will need to start frugal living sooner than thought.  But thats ok- I am comfortable with this decision, and it needs to happen.  

I hope you all have a safe evening.. Can you believe NOVEMBER is HERE??


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



5 more days with no car should = 5 no spend days!

October 27th, 2020 at 03:18 am

DD3 traded back the hubs truck (aka the beast) for her car Sunday afternoon.  So I am basically without a vehicle again until Saturday.  I am fine with this.  Today was a no spend I am sure the rest of the week will be as well, since I have no way to go anywhere. 

I enjoyed red beans and homemade bread today for lunch and dinner.  Switched up the flavors a bit by adding a bit of hot sauce and parmesian for the dinner beans.  I had a granola bar and some fruit for breakfast.  Meals today, well under $4 for the day.  

I sent my completed ballot to town with my neighbor to put in the ballot box for me.

Work will be VERY busy until November 30.  Lots of end of the year deadlines are coming due..and I intend to hit every one of them!!  Just makes for a higher level of stress until the end of November.


Yesterday's Post - Frugal meal plan

October 26th, 2020 at 02:47 pm

I've put on a pot of small red beans with a hamhock this morning for several meals this week.  Such an inexpensive, yet healthy dish for the week.  I should get 8-10 meals for about $4.  Since the bread only takes 3 cups of flour and scant amounts of yeast and salt, I guestimate less than .50 a loaf.  So, if I get 8 meals, thats .56 ish cents per meal!  Not bad for something I really enjoy.  Smile  I will polish off the last of my leftover prime rib stew for lunch today, and the beans will be dinner.  I just love the cooler weather and a piping hot bowl of goodness. 

Ive been sticking with lite vanilla greek yogurt (buy the large container), blueberries and a sprinkle of granola for breakfast.  This averages just under $1 per serving.

I did pick up some crystal lite to have something other than water.  However, I dont like the taste using the suggested ratio of powder to water, so I make mine much more diluted.  Instead of 8 cups of water, I double the amount.  Its not as sweet tasting, but still has a nice flavor. And I get double the amount!! Im sure there are lots of other ways to make flavored water that I would enjoy, but baby steps.  Smile

I dont use creamer with my coffee, but rather the pink pack sweetener (1 per cup of coffee) that I buy in bulk at Costco and only replace about every 5 years.  I do enjoy a cup or two of tea, especially this time of year, but I make the tea bag (.16) last for at least 2-3 uses.

With snacks - bananas, grapes, string cheese and granola bars (my big splurge!) I am eating for much less than $5 per day.  Somedays are even in the $3-4 range.

I just recently started this type of frugal meal planning to test how inexpensive I can eat when I am home alone.  And so far, it is a success.  I know I will need to cut our budget when I retire, so I am working on ways to test the waters now, so I will have a good plan when the time comes.  I dont anticipate the meat and potatoes hub will want this drastic of a change when he is home, so I won't be able to scale the food budget back as much as when he is away for work.  But, I am confident I can find ways even during those weeks to scale back at least a little.

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!