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Archive for August, 2008

More shopping savings

August 30th, 2008 at 06:43 pm

I'm following a blog of a woman who feeds 4 people on $800 a year. Amazing and very inspirational.

http://jane4girls800dollarannualbudget.blogspot.com/

I don't do near as well as she does but I did get some good deals this week. Went to King Soopers Wednesday and saved 64%. Spent $23.01 and saved $39.17

I got the following for free

10 oz grape tomatoes
1 lb carrots
1 package Fresh Express shredded cabbage
2 potatoes
1 onion
1 ear of corn
6 bananas
1 package ready to eat Uncle Ben's Cajun Style rice
3 16 oz cans of Planters cocktail peanuts
1 bottle French's mustard
2 boxes Rice a Roni Natures Way wild rice
1 4 pack Cottonelle TP

I had a coupon from Safeway for $10 off a $50 purchase which King Soopers took. It was pretty hard to get to $50 since I refuse to buy stuff when WalMart has it much cheaper. For example Ronzoni pasta is $1.50 at WalMart and #2.58 at King Soopers 42% difference. I have a $1 coupon so will get if from WalMart next week for .50 cents. I eventually got a large package of generic brand TP to make it to $50.

Went in town on Thursday and met a friend for lunch. Stopped at Target first and got $28 worth of stuff for less than $3 after a $10 rebate I will send in.

Target had Pop-Tarts on sale for $1.75 and had coupons for .50 cents each. So I printed 10 coupons and used 1 manufacture coupons for $1. Total cost before coupons $17.50 - $5 in Target coupons - $1 in other coupons = $11.50. And there is a Kelloggs rebate when you buy 10 items for $10 back so final price 10 boxes for $1.50 or .15 cents each.

I also picked up 5 trial size All laundry soap free after $1.00 coupons and 2 25 ct packs of Ziploc bags .50 cents each after coupons.

Went to Panera Bread for lunch. I'd never been there before. The sandwich was pretty good.

Went to the dollar movie and saw Kung Fu Panda for $1.50. It was cute. We wanted to see Mamma Mia but it wasn't playing at the regular theater and hadn't hit the dollar theater yet. Maybe next time.

Hit the used bookstore on the way home and traded for 6 books. No out of pocket.

Finished reading the library book Silent thunder by Iris Johansen and Roy Johansen. Mystery/Romance. Good

Finished reading the library book The lost duke of Wyndham by Julia Quinn. Romance. Very good.

waking up

August 26th, 2008 at 06:08 pm

For the first three weeks of my retirement I haven't done hardly anything. I feel like I've been on an extended vacation. I've mostly read, slept, cooked and watched TV. But that's ok. I really think I needed that time to de-stress. I'm feeling very relaxed now and my blood checks for the diabetes are the best they've been in a decade. I can't believe how much the lack of stress has helped lower those numbers. In fact they were so low one day I had to eat something to bring them up. That never happens. One of my main goals is too get of the medication this next year and this should certainly help.

I'm starting to wake up though from my vacation time and get energized to start doing something. Anything Smile I doubled the amount of walking I do each day from 40 min to 80 min. I've been walking with my mom for 40 min a day for years now, but I'm adding two more 20 min sessions after meals. This will also help with the blood control and maybe help me lose some weight which will also help with the blood.

I'm slowly getting my house really clean and will be working on decluttering also. I need to determine all the stuff to give to Goodwill before the end of the year since this is probably the last year I will have itemized deductions on my tax form.

I've started to do lists for each day and am getting most of the items done. Fall has always been an energizing time of year for me. It's my favorite with cooler days and nights.

I have a big pot of beans cooking today. Plan to have beans and rice for dinner.

I think most people would have to agree that Amy Dacyczyn is the queen of frugal. When I read books/articles or blogs about saving money I get really tired of reading the back-handed slams at her. How many times have you read people saying they are frugal but wouldn't think of washing plastic bags or reusing dryer lint. That's fine, no one said you had to, but there's no need to slam the ideas as kooky or going too far or just plain cheap. She was making a point and her brand of frugality made most people think about what they were or weren't willing to do to save money. She never said you had to do everything she wrote about, so quit acting like your brand of frugality is so much better. Everyone has areas they will or won't go to for saving money. The point is to save money and live within your means and that's different for everyone. So if you don't care for an idea don't do it, but don't put down everyone else who does.

This is not aimed at anyone on this site, I've just read three different blogs and 2 books and they all made the same types of comments and it ticked me off. Smile

I finished reading the library book Vulcan's Forge by Jack Du Brul. Adventure. OK

I finished reading the library book Jhegaala by Steven Brust. Sci/Fi Good.

Did I miss the news about the big tomato crop disaster?

August 22nd, 2008 at 11:35 pm

I have a ton of coupons for $1 off the Muir Glen organic products. I've been buying them in 4 to 6 can lots all summer from WalMart. I was there Tuesday and paid $1.34 per can for the canned tomatoes with Basil and Garlic. This was an increase from $1.24 earlier in the year. I went again today with my mom and the price is now $1.98 WOW! I must have missed some important news about a tomato disaster. That's an increase of 32%. The plain canned tomatoes increased to $1.44. But with the $1 coupon they were only .44 cents so still a good buy an I bought 6 of the plain tomatoes. I use canned tomatoes a lot in soups, chili's, spagetti sauce, pasta dishes etc.

I bought some pasta on Tuesday also for 1.20 and now it's 1.28. But eggs have gone down almost 50 cents a dozen. So back to eating eggs more often and looking for sales on pasta. My overall spending on groceries has remained the same for several years now. I just look for bargains more, stock up or don't buy something that's gotten too expensive until it becomes more reasonable again.

Finished reading the library book Cheap eating : how to feed your family well and spend less by Pat Edwards. This was pretty good. A lot of good ideas on saving money on food.

Finished reading the library book Your Scandalous Ways by Loretta Chase. Romance. Very good. Funny and witty and smart.

Finished reading my book The Dragon Queen by Alice Borchardt. King Arthur. I have always enjoyed reading the King Arthur books. I must have read 40 versions of the story. This is a completly new take and it's excellent. It's supposed to be a trilogy and this first book concentrates on Guineviere's childhood. A second book is out and I've put a hold on it at the library. While searching for the third book in the trilogy though I found out the author died and so no ending. Big Bummer! For her and me. She's the sister of Anne Rice. I don't care for Anne Rice's books since I don't care for horror, but she is a good writer. It's interesting that the family produced two really good writers in such different categories.

early retirement blogs

August 20th, 2008 at 12:24 am

I've been looking for some blogs of people who have retired early. They are surprisingly hard to find. Most of the ones I do find are from people who want to retire early but haven't done so or from people who could retire early but again haven't done so.

I did find one I like at http://retiredsyd.typepad.com/retirement_a_fulltime_job/. I only have one issue with her. She is very concerned with how people will percieve her now that she is retired. Frankly I think retiring early is something to be proud of, not something to be be afraid to tell others because they might think you are lazy or boring. As far as I'm concerned if someone has a problem with my not working at this age - it's their problem not mine.

I used the $10 GC I got in the mail for Kohl's today and got 3 pair of gold toe crew socks. On sale from $12 for $9. $0 out of pocket.

The new Walgreens opened in my small town last week, but they don't have any of thier sale items so I wasn't very happy with them when I went there. They keep telling you to come back or get a rain check. I don't care to make multiple trips and the rain checks don't generate the Register Rewards so what good is that? Irritating Frown

Went to MacDonald's on the way home and got a free Southern Chicken sandwich with purchase of med drink. $1.61 The sandwich is ok, nothing special in my opinion. Chicken and pickles and bun.

My company finally mailed me the paperwork to get COBRA health coverage. I will fill it out and send it in tomorrow.

Finished reading the library book The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. True crime. OK

Finished reading my book High Noon by Nora Roberts. Romance/Mystery Very good

Relaxed

August 16th, 2008 at 04:23 am

The last two nights we've had huge thunder and lightening storms around 2 and 4 in the morning. When I was working this would have caused me a lot of stress since I would be anxious because I wasn't sleeping and I knew I would be tired the next day. Now that I'm retired I just enjoyed the experience. I like lightening storms especially at night. I got up and opened up the drapes and watched for while. I knew I could sleep in as long as I wanted the next day and if I got tired during the day I could take a nap.

I'm feeling much more relaxed overall. I'm hoping to get off the blood pressure medicine sometime in the next year as the stress levels drop.

Finished reading the library book Phantom of the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon. Romance. Very Good.

Finished reading my book Innocent as Sin by Elizabeth Lowell. Romance. Very Good.

10 things that helped me to Retire Early

August 14th, 2008 at 12:32 am

1. I had a paradigm shift

It was the early 80s and I was in my early 20s. I was working an entry level job and living paycheck to paycheck. It was difficult to find jobs at the time and I was always living in fear of What ifÖ? What if I lost my job? What if my car breaks down? What if I get sick and canít work for a while? Etc, etc, etcÖ.

Then I ran across the following article in issue #4 of The Mother Earth News magazine. How to Retire 6 Months Every Year. The basic point of the article was by lowering your expenses to half of your income you could retire 6 months of the year.

What? What a minute, you mean there is another way to live? I donít have to work a 40 hour job for the rest of my life, constantly worrying about the future? This was a revelation to me. I had never considered retiring early or not working week-in and week-out until I was old. I didnít make enough to live on half my income and wasnít willing to go to the extremes the article suggested for cutting expenses. I also didnít want to quit work every 6 months and hope to find another one in the future. But the thought of lowering my expenses to where I could save enough and not have to work any longer by the time I was 40 was extremely appealing. So my goal was defined.

2. Create a financial foundation.

The first thing I decided to do was make myself more secure. I was tired of being afraid of a financial mishap. I had about $1000 in credit card debt and no savings. I started working all the overtime hours I could get and having garage sales and eventually paid off the debt. It took about 7 months. I also got a bonus of $500 around then and saved all of it for the start of my emergency fund. I gradually built my emergency fund up to $1000 which made me feel more secure. $1000 was 3 or 4 months living expenses at the time. It took a long time to actually get the $1000 to remain stable. It seemed like as soon as I got to $1000 I had to spend part of it on car repairs or replacement of some item. However, I eventually added a $100 monthly savings to my budget to cover unexpected expenses which helped stabilize my budget and made me feel much more secure.

3. Make a plan

I had defined my goal - retiring by age 40. Now I needed a plan on how to get there. Based on my living expenses at the time and adding a 10% cushion I decided I needed $10,000 a year to live on assuming my house was paid off. At the time you could make 13 - 14% on CDs, so I decided I needed to save $100,000 by the time I was 40 with a projected interest of 10%. I gave no thought to inflation at the time. I divided $100,000 by 15 years and came up with $550 a month. Well of course I couldnít afford to save that much, but I messed with the calculations and added in the interest I expected to earn during the 15 years and calculated projected raises and eventually got to a number I thought I could save each month. I donít remember what it was now, but it was a hefty amount by my living standards then. I determined to save a percentage of my salary each pay period. I think it was 5% to start and increase it by 1% each time I got a raise. The plan didnít work out exactly as I expected but at least I started and was saving and investing money.

4. Learn about investing

I started reading whatever books and magazines I could about investing to educate myself. I took advantage of the company stock plan and 401K offerings. I started prepaying my mortgage with any extra money that came my way.

5. Make adjustments to the plan.

At first the plan was too stringent and I rarely made my goals, but I was saving more than I would have without a plan. Eventually I started exceeding my savings goals. When I was 37 my job was outsourced and I was laid off. However, because I had built my foundation and had several months living expenses saved, plus my investments and low expenses I viewed it as an opportunity instead of a disaster. I knew my field was dwindling and jobs in the sector were not plentiful so I decided to take my severance pay, unemployment insurance, government grants and savings and go back to school to retrain in a new field.

I took every class I could cram in during the next year and got my 2 year degree in 1 year in Computers. I went thru all my liquid savings and had about $1000 left when I got a new job in my new field; for less money than I was making in my old field. I quickly advanced in the new field and was making more than I had in my previous field within a year. However I had lost quite a bit of momentum towards my goal of retiring at 40. By this time I was very interested in my new field and didnít want to retire at 40, I enjoyed my new job. My living expenses had increased during that time also. So I revised my goal to retire at 50 with $24,000 a year income. I determined I needed to have my house paid off and $600,000 in savings earning 5% a year.

6. Persevere during down times

There have been many downturns in the stock market during the last 25 years but I kept my money in regardless and continued to invest during good times and bad. When I started investing in stocks the DOW was 400 something. I went thru the 1987 Black Friday plunge. The early 90s downsizing craze. The 2000 tech market bust and now this years downturn, plus many other recessions in between. I didnít panic and sell when times got bad and then buy back when times were booming. I diversified and continued to invest during it all.

7. Know myself

I had to know what was important to me for this to work over all the years. Retiring early was the most important goal and many things were sacrificed for that, but I needed/wanted other things too. Everyone has certain levels of comfort where if they canít have enough of some things life is miserable and you canít continue with the plan. I analyzed what was important to me and directed my money to those things and scrimped on other items that I didnít care about.

Living alone was important to me. Having a nice, safe and comfortable house. It didnít have to be fancy, but it had to meet those criteria.

Having books to read. I like owning books so a pretty big chunk of my money was spent on books. Now Iíve mostly satisfied that need and am much more content with borrowing books verses owning. I still like to own some, but itís tapered off during the years.

Good, reliable transportation. It doesnít have to be expensive or fancy, but it has to be reliable.

Eating out. I enjoy eating out both for the food and the social aspect, so I budget for that at least twice a week.

Most everything else was lower on the list and could be put aside for other priorities. Vacations, clothes, gadgets etc.

8. Getting the most for my money

Savings always came first in my budget. To afford more for savings I had to make the rest of the budget stretch as much as possible so I didnít feel deprived. I started learning how to get the most for my money. Couponing, bargain hunting, using less, recycling etc all helped to make those dollars stretch farther and allow me to get the maximum amount for the money spent.

I read virtually every money saving book or article I could get my hands on to help with this. The best resource of course was the Tightwad Gazette. But I was constantly finding new ways to save money.

9. Revise the plan again.

After 11 years in my new job, the situation changed. It was no longer as interesting and the environment was much more stressful. I hated going to work and was under a lot of stress. I had been living on budgets and lowering my expenses for years so knew what I needed to live on. I reran the numbers on what I needed to retire and determined that if I was careful and adjusted as needed I could retire now. My new numbers were $18,000 to $21,000 a year income. I determined I needed my house paid off and $525,000 in savings. My house will be paid off this month. And I had more than the necessary savings. I also had a cache of money put aside to cover big expenses for the next 12 years until I am 60; when I can withdrawal money from my Roth IRA and not pay taxes on the withdrawals.

10. The courage to quit

I had determined that I could retire on paper. But we are in a downturn in the stock market and itís a scary time to retire. I think most anytime is scary. Even though you have planned and revised and thought and thought about every possible scenario and response, you still hesitate and wonder if youíve thought of everything and if your plan will really work. At the end of the day you have to just take the plunge and have the courage to follow the plan. So I retired at 47. Iíve been retired for less than 2 weeks now so it remains to be seen if it will work out long term. But I have faith that I can adjust for whatever comes my way and I will make this work.

Price matching at WalMart

August 12th, 2008 at 06:21 pm

There is a grocery store in the next town that has really good loss-leaders each week but since they are 40 miles away, round-trip, I never go there. Lately I started taking their ads to WalMart and getting the price-match. This is so cool. I went to WalMart for grocery shopping yesterday morning. It was pretty slow, which is what I'm looking for in a grocery shopping/Errands day. So Monday may become my grocery day.

I got 6 8 oz cans of Hunts Tomato sauce for .33 cents each. WalMart regular price is .46 cents so saved .13 cents per/can or 28%

I got 2 pint sizes of Ben and Jerry's ice cream for $1. Regular price 2.98. Saved 33%

I got 3 18 oz jars of Peter Pan peanut butter for 1.50. Regular price was $2.68 55% saving. I had 3 $1 coupons so ended up paying .50 cents per jar.

I also bought the rest of my groceries which included another 8 15 oz cans of the Muir Glen organic tomatoes for .34 cents each after the $1 coupons.

Good mail day too. I got a $10 GC from Kohl's. A free sample of Dove shampoo. I got several very good coupons from Krogers and I got my gas bill. I do budget billing and the bill went from $34 a month to $14 a month for the next year. I have a $200 credit which is why it went down so much. That means last year I used $200 less energy than the year before even though the price went up.

I tried a new recipe that I'm not going to keep in my repetoire. Cauliflower mashed potatoes. I used Yukon Gold potatoes for the first time and I really like them. I will reuse them. I steamed them for 6 min in the microwave - new process and I liked that. I used buttermilk and no butter to mash. I really liked this and plan to do that again. However, the part where I steamed cauliflower and mashed it in with the potatoes will not be redone. Frown It wasn't that bad, but the texture was funny in some spots and you could tell it was cauliflower. I didn't care for it.

Today I am cooking pinto beans with onions, celery, beef bouillion, garlic, salt and pepper. I will add some smoked sausage latter on. This isn't a new recipe, just a good one. The house smells terrific.

Finished reading the library book The complete idiot's guide to type 2 diabetes by Davidson, Mayer B. Health. Ok nothing really new.

Finished reading my book The Shadow fo the Lion by Mercedes Lacky, Eric Flint an Dave Freer. Alternative history. Very good. Huge book over 900 pages but quite interesting.

Chunky spaghetti sauce

August 9th, 2008 at 03:58 pm

My spaghetti sauce turned out wonderful. Just the way I like it. Very chunky and lots of flavor.

Here's the recipe. I started with one from Recipezaar, but made several changes and I made a huge double batch to freeze.

Chunky Spaghetti sauce - serves 20

Ingredients
3 (14 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
2 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
2 (6 ounce) cans tomato paste
1 lbs ground beef
1 lbs Italian Sausage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (8 ounce) can mushrooms, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons oregano
4 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons salt
1 tsp pepper
grated parmesan cheese


Directions

1 Pour crushed tomatoes, tomato sauce, mushrooms and tomato paste into large crock pot and put on low.

2 While sauce simmers, brown meat and drain fat. Season meat with salt, pepper and garlic powder.

3 Add meat to sauce.

4 Chop onion, celery, garlic and add to pot.

5 Add oregano, basil, salt, and pepper.

6 Simmer all ingredients at least 2 hours before serving over favorite pasta and topped with parmesan.

Finished reading the library book With Every Breath by Lynn Kurland. Time travel romance. Very good.

spaghetti sauce

August 8th, 2008 at 10:16 pm

I went shopping with mom yesterday. Target was first where I got a free trial size bar of Dove soap and a free trail size of All laundry soap. I also picked up 6 25ct packages of Ziploc bags for .50 cents each. I had 3 $1/2 coupons.

Next was Walgreens where I got 4 boxes of Special K cereal for .50 cents

They had 4/$10 and I had a BOGO coupon and 2 $1 coupons so that made the price $5.50 and then they gave me a $5 register rollover coupon - final price 4 boxes for .50 cents.

I also got 3 18 oz jars Jif peanut butter for $4. On sale 3/$5 and I had a $1 coupon.

Next was Borders where I'm still using my free American Express Spring Fling Gift Cards. I got 3 books for free and used 2 25% off coupons on 2 of them.

We had a one day pass to SAMs and when we went in the lady at the door gave me a stack of free samples they were giving out. When I got home I opened them and each one had a free Ziploc storage bag inside. I got 8 of them. I also picked up 6 lbs of Walnuts. They were more than $1 lb cheaper at SAMs than at WalMert. I got 1 book for 30% off and 2 large jars of beef boullion and chicken boullion

Last stop was Whole Foods. I'd never been there before and don't expect to go back. I can't figure out how people can afford to feed there familes from there. Garlic and cauliflower were both 2.99/lb everything was hugely overpriced.

One of my retirement goals is to cook more and become a better cook. Today I am practicing making a spaghetti sauce. I like a chunky sauce with mushrooms, celery, garlic and tomato pieces visible in the sauce. I'm making a huge batch so will have some to share with parents and plenty to freeze. If I like the final result I'll post the recipe later.

I've been working on a jigsaw puzzle on and off all week and finished it today. Last night I sat down and was just planning to do a few pieces but I got on a roll and stayed up an extra hour. Oh well that's what retirement is for to continue doing something you are enjoying for as long as you want to.

I'm already much more relaxed and feel so free. I love this.

I got 4 tomatoes from my tomato plant today. The first ones and one cherry tomato. The cherry tomato was delicious. Will have some of the others tomorrow. I have a bunch more coming along. The netting I put around them is helping keep the birds away. I basically just stapled the fabric to itself around the tomato cage.

Finished reading the library book One Bite Stand by Nina Bangs. Supernatural. Good

Finished reading the library book Cash-rich retirement : use the investing techniques of the mega-wealthy to secure your retirement future by Schlagheck, Jim. Finance. Wasn't real impressed.

I am a night person

August 6th, 2008 at 04:28 pm

One of the downsides of retirement and having no set schedule is I am a night person. Going with my natural body rhythms means I stay up later and later each night and wake up later each morning. Now that isn't necessarily a bad thing except for when I want to do things with the rest of the world Smile

For example, last night I went to bed at midnight - deliberatly early so I would be able to get up by 8. However I've had a bad heat rash on my legs driving me crazy and not letting me sleep well so it was almost 9:30 when i actually got up. I was wanting to get up by around 8:30 because then I would be able to go to bed and to sleep tonight at midnight again. I need to get up at 8 tomorrow because my mom and I are going in town to shop. Oh well, I guess I will have to rely on the alarm. Smile

What usually happens when I have a lot of unstructured time is I stay up till 2 - 3 in the morning reading and sleep till 10:00 - 11:00, but I'm hoping to keep a fairly normal schedule so would like to keep a 12 - 1 sleep time and get up 8 - 9 each morning. This is much better than work though when it was a 7 hour sleep cycle. Now I can have 8 or more hours depending on how I'm feeling.

I went to the grocery store yesterday morning. I'm trying to figure out what's a good time to go. I normally went on Sunday morning while working since it was the least busy. I had read where the fewest people grocery shopped on Tuesdays so thought I would try that. I guess no one else in this area read that. It was pretty busy with customers but no cashiers. By the time I was ready to check out there were 8 people ahead of me with overflowing carts. What a pain. So I'm going to try Friday or Monday to see if those days are better. I may end up going back to my pre-retirement time since it was always pretty light.

Finished reading the library book One Bite Stand by Nina Bangs. Paranormal. Cute.

Finished reading the library book The Joy of Not Working by Ernie J. Zelinski. This was very good - thought provoking.

Officially retired

August 4th, 2008 at 05:20 pm

Friday was my last day at work and I am now officially retired. This morning is when I really felt retired since I stayed up reading till almost 2 last night and got up around 10 this morning. Leisurly morning breakfast and blogging so far.

One of the problems I'm facing is I have all this time and all these things I want to do it's hard to pick one and do it Smile

I have 3 tomatoes that are super close to being ready to pick. I bought some netting at WalMart yesterday and need to get out there and protect them from the birds

I finished reading my book The Hunted by William Johnson. Adventure. Very good.

I finished the library book Health Care on Less that you think by Fred Brock. Financial. Very good. Lot's of good information.