Embracing Compromise

“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” John Wooden

I had a conversation with my nephew Matt recently. Matt is a Marine Corps veteran (ooo-RAH!), married with 2 sweet little girls, and a recent college graduate getting ready to enter the work force as a civilian. I wanted to advise him about being sure to sign up for his employer’s retirement plan and he let me know he was on it! One topic led to another and we ended up discussing money management styles. While the conversation was not adversarial in the least, we didn’t exactly agree on how to do things, either. I’m a little bit “snowball” and he’s a little bit “avalanche”. (See what I did there?) (Please-some of you older readers let me know you get this reference!!) While I decided to be smart and remind him that avalanches start with snowballs, I definitely saw his point. He wasn’t comfortable dealing with his situation using the snowball method, and who am I to say he’s wrong? It works for him and his family and he’s working a plan. In the end, that is the most important thing. Lesson learned!

Even in my own situation I’ve found compromise is the best way to get it done. When the Hubs and I sat down to write our very first budget, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he had his own ideas on how he wanted to get our financial house in order before his impending retirement. His ideas were a little bit out of kilter with mine but rather than be stagnant and do nothing, we talked it over and decided a little bit of my way and a little bit of his way was the way to go. We are getting it done together using a variety of ideas from different sources that we’ve made our own. It really makes no difference how you get there. Communicating effectively, having a concrete plan that works, and reaching your goals is all that matters in the long run.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

F.O.M.O is a Four Letter Word

“For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Think about how much we are bombarded these days with offers too good to be true. Offers that are only good for the dreaded “Limited Time Only!!” How many times have you been sucked in and opened your wallet only to be filled with regret later that the too good to be true offer was, indeed, that?

I was presented with an opportunity recently that was related to something I have been thinking about doing for a good while. It was a GREAT opportunity but, naturally, as with all things opportunity related, there was a cost involved. Not bank breaking, but not something I could ever think about spending significant money on without discussing it with the Hubs first. More on that later.

F.O.M.O. Four little letters filled with angst. For the uninitiated, F.O.M.O. is an acronym for Fear Of Missing Out. (There’s an acronym for EVERYTHING these days, isn’t there??) Infomercials are the worst offenders when it comes to stoking the F.O.M.O. flames. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve gotten sucked in on occasion. There are several shelves in my basement filled with my impulse buys because it was “such a great deal!” and “I just have to have this NOW!” and the worst- “if I don’t get it NOW it won’t be here later!” I’m currently scheduling my fall yard sale.

Part of the “Older Wiser” in “Older Wiser Money Miser” comes from my thought process evolving away from the “I MUST BUY THIS NOW” mentality to being intentional my funds. Advertisers don’t make it easy, and my email is constantly filled with stores and websites generously offering their advice about how I should best spend my money. While I’ve unsubscribed from some of the more obnoxious offerings, most of the others are treated with a visit from my “DELETE” key pretty regularly. One of the perks of no longer having my satellite TV service is that I no long have access to QVC on my television. I used to keep it on for background noise and boy, are they GOOD at getting people to open their wallets! I still get their emails, and occasionally I’ll find something I need and the price is right, but I no longer subject myself to the drumbeat of the “great” deal.

The most important thing to remember is that it’s the job of the seller to sell stuff. Capitalism at its finest, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. As a responsible steward of your money, however, it’s your job to determine whether you truly need what the seller is buying, and if it’s worth the price they want you to pay. Sometimes it is, but most of the time it’s not. If you’re looking at something you think you need, sleep on it. If you still want/need it in the morning, it’ll still be there. If it’s not, the world keeps turning and Life Goes On (hat tip to Todd Rundgren).

Back to that GREAT opportunity I referred to earlier. After giving it some thought, I decided that it wasn’t the right time for me to commit my hard earned funds to something I’m not 100% sure I want to do. The “old” me would’ve jumped on it and regretted it later when it didn’t pan out like I had envisioned it would. The “older wiser” me is at peace with my decision with the knowledge I can revisit it later or possibly find it somewhere else better and cheaper! That, my friends, is progress like I never thought possible for myself, and you’re struggling with F.O.M.O., it’s possible for you, too.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Never too early/Not too late

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I will only recommend items I have personally used and all opinions are my own.

“When I was young I used to think that money was the most important thing in life; now that I’m old, I know it is.” Oscar Wilde

Ahh, retirement. That time of life where you can kick back and read a book all day long and no one will notice or care (unless the Honey-Do list is going unattended or dinner isn’t fixed…). Maybe you want to do volunteer work with your favorite charity. What could be better? Travel the world? Yes, please… All these things sound great until reality hits you in the face like a flying fish thrown at Pike Place.

A show of hands, please. And age of the reader does not matter. Have you started saving for retirement? For you youngsters, it’s never too early. For those of you who, like me, are of “a certain age”, it’s not too late to get started.

First, for the youngsters…

Think of something in life you’ve made a habit out of. Weekly manicure? Daily trip to the coffee shop? Movies out? While having fun with your money is one of the joys of becoming an adult, it’s never too early for you to start thinking about your retirement years. It seems like a lifetime away, and it is, but that lifetime will fly by in a wink. You’ll look around 40 years from now and wonder where the time went. Trust me on this one…What if you took some of that money you’re spending on indulgences and put it away for the proverbial rainy day? And before you think I’m against indulging yourself, the occasional indulgence is perfectly fine. It’s the daily & weekly indulgences that probably need to be given a second look as they can add up pretty quickly. Anyhow, if your employer offers a 401(k) or 403 (b) plan, take advantage of it. If they offer a match, contribute at least the minimum matching amount. More is better. but you don’t want to leave free money on the table! It’s also likely you can contribute to an Individual Retirement Account, or IRA, at the same time. You should consult with a professional financial advisor (as I am NOT one!) to advise you on what your individual limits are. Don’t wait on this-compound interest is a thing, and something you want to take advantage of early and often!

Now on to the older folks…

According to a study cited by Chris Hogan in his book, “Retire Inspired”, close to 35% of American retirees over the age of 65 rely almost entirely on a Social Security payment that averages only around $1,194 per month. He also cites studies that show half of 401(k) participants only have $10,000 saved for retirement. That’s scary stuff! I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like travel around the world money to me. The good news is, it’s not too late to get started saving for retirement. After age 50 the 2018 contribution limit into an IRA increases to $6,500. As with the youngsters, it’s best to rely on the advice of a professional financial planner to set you up and get your savings going. Depending on your situation there are multiple strategies you can employ to get to your goal of a stress-free retirement and a pro can help you get there.

I cannot stress enough the idea that it’s not too late to start saving for retirement if you’re in your 40s, 50s, or even in your 60s, especially if you own property. There are ways to fund your retirement if you’re late to the table. Don’t wait, though-every day that goes by is a lost opportunity. Check with friends and family and get a recommendation for a good financial planner. Wall Street Journal also has a guide for choosing a financial planner including some of the questions to ask before working with one. You may have to interview one or more before you find one that will help you reach your goals but don’t let that stop you. A little homework now will save you frustration later! It may even keep you from having to work longer than you had expected.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

Hide the packages…really?

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.” Albert Einstein

Back in the mid-1980s when the Hubs and I were living in Germany, I was out one night shopping BY MYSELF for a new coat. That didn’t happen often, and it was nice to be out for a little bit on my own. I found the most fabulous coat but it was, in my eyes, outrageously expensive! It was perfect, but it was MUCH more money than I’d ever spent on an item of clothing for myself in my life. Before I bought it, I called home to make sure the Hubs was OK with me spending that kind of money on the coat. I didn’t need his permission, but I felt like I needed to run it by him before I made the purchase. It was a good investment as I still have this coat and I still wear it to this day.

This story of my long-ago coat purchase brings me to a meme making the rounds recently on Facebook. It has me a bit perplexed and, quite frankly, a little bugged. It’s a picture of a doormat with a phrase that goes something like, “Postman, UPS guy, whoever, please hide packages from husband.” At first glance it was cute but then I started thinking about it a little. What kind of relationship exists when one spouse feels the need to hide purchases from the other? In addition to hiding the spending, I can see/hear the purchaser telling a child who witnesses the purchase to, “Don’t tell Daddy”, or “Don’t tell Mommy”, and bringing a child into the lie. In essence, spending money without your spouse’s knowledge is a lie. What kind of example does that set? I may be making a bit more out of this than what is there in reality, but I can see how some relationships actually exist like this. In my not-so-humble opinion, it’s a recipe for disaster both relationally and financially.

I don’t mean to sound judgmental but if you have a good relationship with your spouse, such behavior is SO unnecessary!! Spouses who communicate openly about their finances don’t need to hide their spending from each other! The obvious solution to this dilemma is to, wait for it, BUDGET for it! If you really don’t want your spouse to know what you’re buying, put a line item in your budget setting aside an amount each spouse can spend without consulting the other. The Hubs and I do this and it works really well. We can’t really avoid each other’s eyerolls over some of our purchases, but we have absolutely no say in how each of us spends the money we set aside for ourselves. And if what you’re wanting to buy costs more than what you have budgeted, revisit your budget or save up for it! OMG, what a concept! OK, that was a little judgmental-I admit it. It’s really just common sense, though. That, and showing respect for your spouse. Oh, and let’s not forget that trust thing. It’s pretty important.

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

I Fired my Housekeeper…

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. I will only recommend items I have personally used and all opinions are my own.

“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight.” Scott Caan

I fired my housekeeper. Those of you who know me know what a big deal that is! You know how long and hard I fought for the “privilege” of paying someone to clean my house. It took me at least 25 years to break the Hubs down and get him to agree to this and once I did there was no going back! No going back, at least, until I took a good hard look at where my money was going. Paying someone to clean my house was probably one of the most self-indulgent things I’ve ever done in my life. I felt a good bit of shame when I thought about it because it really was selfish but what’s done is done. Since Doctor Who isn’t a “thing” in my world, there’s no turning back time to change anything. Moving on…

So now that I’m back to cleaning my own house again, I’ve had to figure out how to do it efficiently since I’m still as busy as I ever was. Once the Hubs got over the shock of me agreeing to fire the housekeeper, he agreed to take on some of the house cleaning chores. That was HUGE for me, since during the time before we had a housekeeper I was primarily responsible for keeping everything up. Between the Hubs, Sonny and me, we’ve divided up the chores so that everyone is contributing to keeping the house neat. It’s not perfect by any means but I couldn’t be happier! Now if I could only figure out a way to keep the dogs from shedding…

I’ve decided the best way to proceed is to stick to basically the same 2x/month schedule we had with the housekeeper. While I’m not a drill sergeant about it, we all know what we need to do and when we need to do it. My primary housekeeping job is the bathrooms. As much as I love them, there’s NO way my guys could clean bathrooms the way I think they need to be cleaned. Thankfully we only have 2 (at least until the basement is finished, but that’s a WHOLE other story…) so it only takes me about an hour 2x/month to get it done. It amazes me that I couldn’t find the time to do this in the past! 2 hours a month! D’oh!

One of the great time and money saving cleaning hacks I’ve discovered is the Vinegar & Blue Dawn hack. Vinegar is well known as a great natural cleaner and it is also a natural disinfectant. Not hospital grade disinfectant but it’ll kill some germs. Anyhow, I mix equal parts of blue Dawn dish liquid (it has to be blue for some reason but I’m good with that) and vinegar and put it in a spray bottle. It’s a little messy so I don’t use it on everything but I do use it on my bath tubs & shower. You could probably use the vinegar by itself but the Dawn helps it stick to the shower walls. Spray and leave for a few minutes, then rinse. The vinegar smell is not overwhelming, and I can’t remember the last time I saw my shower so shiny! It’s the little things, right?

Before y’all start thinking I’m the nastiest housekeeper this side of Oscar’s trash can, for the toilets and sinks it’s bleach all the way, baby! Lysol makes a good cleaner with bleach, and you can usually find coupons and sales at your grocery stores regularly. I stock up whenever I see it on sale.

I had been using paper towels but that got pretty costly pretty fast. The Hubs is a car guy and he usually has a pretty good supply of microfiber shop towels on hand. I’ll snag a few from his supply and keep them separate from his so that I’m not cleaning with greasy towels. Occasionally I’ll accompany him on his trips to the auto parts store or the hardware store and the microfiber towels they sell are usually a pretty good bargain! If you need something with a bit more scrubbing power, Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are daBOMB!

So, what are some of your time saving, money saving cleaning hacks? Please share in the comments!

Be well and God Bless…until we meet again.

 

Grocery shopping on a budget

Eating on a budget. A phrase that strikes fear in the heart of EVERY foodie I’ve ever known…

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch” – Orson Welles

Eating on a budget. A phrase that strikes fear in the heart of EVERY foodie I’ve ever known. Visions of “Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans” (hat tip to Dave Ramsey) or Spam casserole lurking (not dancing, LURKING) through their heads. If you want to eat on a budget, your food MUST be cheap, right? Truth is, eating well and being frugal does NOT mean eating cheap. I can remember several years ago I invited friends over for dinner and suddenly realized I had very little money and 12 (gulp-TWELVE!) hungry mouths to feed. I had 3 rather large boneless, skinless chicken breasts in my freezer and enough money in my pocket to buy some sides to go with them. I grilled the chicken breasts, cut them into bite sized pieces, and bought the ingredients to make a giant salad. Lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, cheese, and a couple of dressings. Along with a loaf of crusty bread, I created a salad bar for everyone to customize their salads to their taste. Those 3 chicken breasts fed my crowd a healthy meal and no one left hungry. To this day that meal is a staple in my house.

The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion publishes Cost of Food Reports stating what the average family should be paying for food on a weekly and monthly basis. The list is updated monthly and includes data in 4 separate cost levels. You can find the reports here.

Most of you have probably worked out your method of grocery shopping so what is about to follow is probably not new to you. If you think you’re spending too much money on food, however, it’s a worthy exercise to revisit your meal planning and shopping strategy. Here we go…

Meal planning on a budget is not rocket science but it is something that takes a little work to get good at. In my case, having a guy with Autism (or, as I prefer to call it, AWEtism) living with me makes it not only easy, but necessary. I developed the habit many years ago to make a menu to stem the flow of inevitable, “WHAT’S FOR DINNER?” queries. (And, yes, I meant to shout!) The menu is written and hangs on the refrigerator where everyone can see it. Before I sit down to write it, I make a mental note of what I have on hand. I also make sure I have a copy of my local grocery store’s sale flyer on hand for reference.

Once the menu is written it’s time to make the list. Don’t forget your breakfasts and lunches you can take to work (yes-we’re taking our lunch to work!). Be sure to write down EVERYTHING you think you’ll need. If something’s on sale and you have it in your budget, go ahead and stock up on that item providing you have room to store it. Be sure to include your family in the list making process so they can let you know if they need something. I keep a pad of paper with a pen in the kitchen, so they can write items down as they find they need them. This is important, because once the list is done, it’s DONE. Fini. Basta. No adding to it when you get to the store and see something shiny!

I’m sure y’all have heard this many times but it bears repeating. If you want to eat well and not spend a fortune, do not (I repeat, do NOT) enter any grocery store if you’re hungry. If you’re anything like me, you’ll fly through that store like Sherman stormed through Atlanta, no food will be safe, and your wallet will cry. I broke this cardinal rule recently and, if not for free samples, it would’ve gotten ugly REALLY fast!!

It’s probably not a good idea to shop with someone who can’t (or won’t) stick to a list because you WILL be sticking to that list. I used to allow my Sonny to add items to the cart at will. It was quite a shock to him when I actually made him put something back on the shelf that was not on the list. I believe the word he used was, “rude”. Yes, that was it. Rude. He quickly got over it when he saw I was serious. He’s actually a very good shopper and his eyes light up when he sees something he needs ON SALE! It makes him happy so it makes ME happy!

A word about coupons…where I live, at least, grocery stores are constantly changing their coupon policies. Double coupons used to be a wonderful thing, but you’d be hard pressed to find a store that offers double coupons now. Many manufacturer coupons force you to buy only certain items in their line or in strange quantities. It’s to the point where I don’t clip them much anymore although the store where I shop still allows stacking (Thank you, thebalanceeveryday.com!), which is nice.

So, what are some of your strategies for shopping for food on a budget? Do you have any favorite stores? Some good, healthy, budget friendly recipes? Leave a comment with some of your favorites!

Be well and God Bless-until we meet again…

A little Good News never hurt anyone

“Bad news isn’t wine. It doesn’t improve with age.” Colin Powell

If you’re anything like me, you watch the news for the weather and ignore most of the rest. “If it bleeds, it leads” is not too far off. I have absolutely NO intention of having heated discussions, political or otherwise, on this blog. There are plenty of other forums for that kind of thing. Periodically, I plan on sharing some of the good I observe in my day to day life and I hope you find it a refreshing distraction from the day to day STUFF that we see, hear and read every day. Now, on to the Good News of the day…

My commute to the office is a short one-less than 10 miles from my front door to the office. I’m usually out the door by 7 and at my desk by 7:30. My commute to work, thankfully, does not involve interstate driving so I can see what’s going on in the neighborhoods I’m driving through. There’s a guy out walking his dog-a nice sized Rottweiler who tries to “get” my car every time I drive by. He just wants to play and it makes me laugh every time I see him. Almost every day I see the same man and the same woman out for their morning run. Not together, but running the same sidewalk and getting it done before the nasty summer Georgia heat gets too unbearable. Then there’s the guy I’ve come to calling the Trash Guy…

Trash Guy is not a young man, but he’s not especially old, either. He’s got short curly hair that has more gray than blonde in it. He’s dressed as if he’s ready to go on a hike-floppy hat to keep the sun off his neck & head, cargo shorts, plaid cotton shirt, crew socks and what the Brits call “trainers” but we call tennis shoes whether they’re for tennis or not. Anyhow…he’s carrying a backpack and using a large walking stick.

The reason I call him Trash Guy is because he’s out most mornings picking up the trash on the side of the road. I don’t know what motivates him, but he sees a need and he’s filling it. I don’t see him every day, and I miss him when he’s not there, hoping it’s just because he’s decided to take the morning off and not because he’s ill or has some other trouble in his life he’s had to deal with.

I’ve often thought of stopping when I see him, rolling down the window, and shouting my thanks to him. I haven’t done it yet and I don’t really have a good excuse except to say that I’m driving and I have to watch for what is going on around me. I will promise you this, though-when a good opportunity presents itself I will stop and say, “hello” to him. I will ask his name and I will thank him for looking out for his neighborhood. I have no idea if he knows someone has noticed him and what he’s doing but he should be told his efforts are appreciated. I’ll report back when I have a chance to speak with him.

Be well and God Bless…until we meet again.