Posted in Finance, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic

You Won’t Find Me In A Mall On Black Friday

I hate shopping. Especially for clothes. Shopping is very time consuming and if I’m not in the right mood, shopping can be downright excruciating. The second next thing I detest about shopping is doing it for Christmas. How many times have you placed a lot of thought and care into buying someone a present only to find out they hate it in the end? They secretly return your gift and get themselves something else. Like a cash refund!

My family and I decided a few years ago to forgo Christmas shopping for each other because primarily none of us could afford it. You could literally hear a massive sigh of relief as we exhaled our breath on the day we all decided to stop buying each other holiday gifts. It was a slow process towards other friends and family members but as the years progressed we bought and gave out less and less and less. Till the only presents we buy now are for the grandkids. (two: with a budget of $25 each)

Last year, however, hubby and I felt a bit slighted that for the previous five years we have bought each other nothing for Christmas. It finally got to us, after watching every body else open up presents for the holiday. So we decided that this year we would buy each other a “little” something. With the pandemic raging outside our comfort zone, we decided to give each other a health-related gift. Hubby bought me a treadmill and I bought hubby an iWatch Series 6 from Apple Inc.

Since we will probably be on some form of a lockdown till April or May 2021, hubby thought getting me a treadmill would be a good idea. We have to stay home more and with the cold winter weather fast approaching, utilizing an indoor treadmill would be an ideal solution for me. Treadmills are expensive and neither one of us want to lean too far away from our frugal lifestyle. So, a careful search online revealed that trusty WalMart has a certain selection of treadmills on clearance with many models at 50% off!

Just a few samples of the many, many treadmill choices at reduced pricing at WalMart.

Not pictured above, hubby settled on a model that originally sold for $600 at a now clearance price of $299. It’s suitable for apartments and folds easily which is perfect in our smallish home. Rather than keep it in the basement with hubby’s exercise equipment AND it’s very cold down there, I can store it in a corner of my office and have it available for my use at any time of the day. Or night!

For my husband, however, I did not go cheaply. He has a very serious heart condition and I thought the latest and greatest iWatch Series 6 model would be perfect for him. The Series 6 has the capability of properly monitoring his heart, blood pressure, activity, and with a touch of a button can perform an EKG on the spot. His pressure sometimes dips to dangerous levels and the iWatch can give him an early warning sign so he can adjust his meds ASAP. There are no bargains when it comes to the latest Apple devices. I could get $50 off at B&H but I would lose the zero interest buying directly from Apple Inc affords me. Hubby’s watch came to $399.

I bought hubby the blue model. He looks good in blue.

This holiday season, with so many people out of work and victim to food insecurity, hubby and I made a generous donation to a local food bank. We usually don’t make donations but this is a special year and we need to help as many others as financially possible. We also decided to buy small gifts for all of our neighbors since we all need each other more and more every day. Aldi sells a special, inexpensive box of Belgian chocolates for $3.99. We purchased 10 of those boxes to give to our neighbors.

Lastly, we are giving our UPS, Fed Ex and postal delivery person a cash gift each of $25. It’s not much but it’s the best we can do for these three dedicated people who have put their lives on the line to deliver the many, many packages that hubby and I have ordered online and through the mail over the past year. We’re also baking a large lasagna for the post office employees for one of their lunches in December. And to our local church (which we are not a part of BUT have worshiped there in times of trouble) we are making a generous cash donation also.

Those massive, hectic, insane Black Friday shopping frenzies will probably become a thing of the past. I don’t think they will be coming back any time soon. We need to be more mindful this season and think about all the others who are facing insurmountable hardships this coming new year. We also need to be kind to ourselves.

Let’s hope that scenes like these come to an end very soon:

preposterous!
Posted in Food and Entertainment, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement

Preparing A Few Pre-Thanksgiving Meals

It’ll be just the hubby and I this Thanksgiving. It would be a bit weird BUT ever since my kids got married and had their own children, they go every other year to their in-laws for Thanksgiving and Christmas. On those odd years, hubby and I spent a few holidays with my brother and sister. Now, with my brother gone and my sister’s home state in lockdown, hubby and I won’t be seeing anyone else anytime soon. So, in a way, hubs and I have learned to manage a holiday alone before. Surely, we can do it again. Of course, we’ll round up the new Zoom and/or FaceTime app and “visit” each other virtually for now.

Instead of preparing ALL our Thanksgiving favorites for just one day, we decided to pre-prepare a few dishes before the big day. This way we can fully enjoy most of our favorite foods without overloading the system.

Yesterday we made our annual lasagna. It came out super great this year. We stepped up a few ingredients and it made a difference. So, for two days, we indulged.

Next up? Sourdough stuffing with sausage and mushrooms!

Posted in Food and Entertainment, Living Life, Pandemic, Unprecedented

Our Favorite Diner Served Its Last Meal. It Permanently Closed Down Due To Covid-19.

Unbeknownst to us, when we stopped into our favorite diner the other day, our meal was the last meal this 10 year running restaurant would be serving. Right after we left, they posted a sign in their window stating they were closing down due to the pandemic. Their landlord raised the rent (idiot) and combined with their declining sales (only serving at 50% capacity) the diner could no longer afford to remain open.

According to the latest Economic Impact Report statement from YELP: over 98,000 restaurants have now permanently closed down due to Covid-19. Click here. That’s 60% of all restaurants in the United States!

Throughout the past six months, restaurants, bars and nightlife venues have been hit the hardest by the restrictions brought by the pandemic: 32,109 restaurants have closed, as of Aug. 31. The number of restaurants forced to permanently close is slightly above Yelp’s total average, at 61%.

Farewell my favorite diner. The neighborhood will sorely miss you. They had very reasonable prices for very reasonable meals.

Posted in Food and Entertainment, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Spiritual, Unprecedented

What Should We Be Thankful For This Thanksgiving?

I’m not going to list the many blessings the Good Lord has bestowed on myself and my family this year. Instead, I would like you to watch this CBS video of what a homeless man, named Gabriel (after the archangel) had to say about what he is most thankful for this holiday. The video was filmed in Kingston, NY which is not too far away from where I live. To think that there are so many in need, so close to my home, has been heart wrenching to say the least.

After you watch this video, you’ll understand why, come Thanksgiving Day, I’m going to go search the park benches and look for Gabriel. No one should be alone nor hungry on Thanksgiving Day. No one.

And, if you would like to make a donation to The People’s Place, click here.

Posted in Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement

How The Pandemic Has Affected My Memory

I don’t know about you, but I don’t/can’t/won’t remember anything about my past life, before this pandemic hit. All I have is today and the future. I don’t/can’t/won’t recall anything except the thinking and thought of survival and just about getting through this mess.

At first I thought it was just me. But after reading this article “Lockdown has affected your memory – here’s why” (click here) I’m finding out that what I am experiencing is quite common. “Many of us have found ourselves in an isolated routine during the pandemic – and it turns out, that’s not very good for your memories.”

The most obvious factor is isolation. We know that a lack of social contact can affect the brain negatively and that the effect is most serious in those already experiencing memory difficulties.

As soon as I think of something to do, it’s immediately forgotten. I have to sit for a moment and try to re-create the memory. I also can not remember my past life, how I lived, how I managed my money. I think I am so wrapped up in the current situation that my brain refuses to think of its past because it is so focused on its present and future. Can this be possible? We’ve been in lockdown for almost nine months. Surely the lockdown has taken a toll on my brain!

I find myself very depressed at times. Anxious, always. At night, before I go to sleep, a feeling of terror comes over me. Needless to say, I have stayed awake many a night only to sleep throughout the next day. Something like this would have bothered me before but I have no place to go to during the day. Nothing is scheduled. No one is coming over my home. No visitors. No friends. No family. Each and every one of them is terrified also that not only will they give me the virus but they’ll contract it themselves. So if I am up the whole night, I can sleep the whole next day without any consequences.

Remember, we all have to contend with my brother’s early death from the coronavirus back in April 2020. My SIL has not been out of their condo since. We still have not spoken to each other since my brother’s death. She said she is waiting for the vaccine. That might not come for another six months. Her own sister refuses to visit with her for fear of traveling from New Jersey to Florida and contracting the deadly disease.

Is it any wonder our brains are exploding? Who could remember anything under such fear tactics? “Both depression and anxiety are known to have an impact on memory. Worries tax our working memories, leaving us with less capacity available for remembering shopping lists or what we need to do for work.”

The good news is that there are things we can do about it.

Sometimes, just the simple act of going for a walk can make a huge difference in our pandemic lives. A walk, especially along unfamiliar streets, will bring your brain back to attention. Keeping a diary is another solution. Making a list and setting alerts can be beneficial too. That’s what I just started to do two weeks ago: making lists. To Do lists, food shopping lists, emergency lists, repair lists, things to cook, freezer counts………things like that. I’ve even made a To Do list of things to remind my husband to do.

You can also harness your own imagination. If you want to remember to buy milk, bread and eggs, then before you go picture yourself visiting each of the necessary aisles in the actual shop you are going to. When you get there, this imaginary shopping trip will pop back into your mind and you’re more likely to remember everything you need.

Posted in DIY Home & Repairs, Food and Entertainment, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement

We Will Have Prepared 825 Meals In Our Kitchen Since First Lockdown

Hubby and I calculated that beginning March 1, 2020 (when we were first told to ‘stay inside’) when the pandemic first hit our area to November 30, 2020, we will have prepared 825 meals in our lowly, middle class, 19 year old kitchen. That’s 275 breakfasts, 275 lunches and 275 dinners. Never mind all the in-between snacks and countless times we have opened and closed the refrigerator, looking for something else to eat!

I don’t know how, our already 19 year old kitchen, has been able to stand up to such a constant barrage and frequent usage, but it has. Nonetheless, each and every night, I clean up the whole, daily cooking mess, scrub down the stove top, wipe down the fridge, clean up the quartz countertops, polish off the maple cabinetry and voila’ our kitchen is ready to serve us the very next day. Thank goodness we replaced all our appliances (stove, fridge, dishwasher) 4 years ago, so they are sorta new. If not, they would have surely broken down by now.

Over the years we did replace the laminate countertops with quartz stone. We did replace the sink, faucet, overhead vent, add in some extra lighting but the kitchen mostly still stands as it did 19 years ago when we first had our home built. It is astounding (to me) that the kitchen is still standing, despite it’s constant service to us and our family.

Here are just some of the fantastic dishes hubby and I have cooked up over the last nine months:

Posted in Finance, Living Life, Pets (dog), Puppies and dogs, Retirement

The Big Costs Of Little Dogs

We now have two dogs. One was a rescue. The newest is sort of a rescue. We rescued a little puppy from my daughter and granddaughter because the dad/husband was allergic to the dog. We decided to take on a little dog because we figured the expenses of a little dog would be, well, little. How much could a little dog eat? Or how much could a vet visit cost for a little dog?

We were wrong on all counts.

Meet our 10 year old, 60 pound rescue dog. She’s a Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog (click here for more info on the breed) We rescued her at 6 months at a fee of $480 which included the spay and the first round of vaccinations. She costs us between $25 and $50 a month for food and snacks. $150 for her annual vet visit.
Meet our six and a half pounder, 3.5 month old Maltipoo (designer dog cross between Maltese and toy poodle, click here) Original cost (which daughter paid) was $1,000. Daughter paid initial collar, leash, cage etc as a set up in August. Since then we have paid $424.06 for first vet visit and other set up necessities, $342.52 in October for 2nd set of shots, food, treats, sweaters etc, and as of today 11/14/20 we have spent another $308.27 for another round of shots, food, treats, toys, car carrier, shoulder carrier and grooming supplies. Just to get her face & butt trimmed cost us $30, thus the grooming supplies. We have to learn to do this ourselves. Please note: in 6 months our Maltipoo will be spayed at a cost of $600 (she has a birth hernia which must be removed at the same time of the spay). Can anyone say: ka-ching!!!

Since we have two female dogs in the house right now, the older one is a bit on the offensive. We have to be very, very careful because one bite from the big dog can harm the little dog. So, we’ve kept both dogs separate and have eased the big one to the little one very, very carefully. Each dog gets used to their new digs in their own time. We’re not rushing anyone. Thankfully our big dog has now learned to tolerate the little dog. Unfortunately, the little dog wants to play, play, play. The big dog wants to sleep, sleep, sleep.

The big dog is my husband’s dog and sleeps right next to him every night. The little dog is my dog (it’s now become a birthday present) and sleeps next to me on my side of the bed, in a crate! Hubby has been very supportive and very helpful. I don’t have to tell you that raising a puppy is very, very difficult for this old 70 year old. My back is killing me. The little puppy has been perfectly trained to pee and poop inside another smaller crate and I am appreciative of that. But I’m tired of picking up poop and wiping down pee. The weather has been too cold and wet to bring the puppy outside in the early morning or late evening. During the day, even in the rain, hubby takes her outside in our back yard, walk her, runs her and gives her special chicken liver treats (which she adores!) when she poops and pees outside.

Thank the Lord for husbands!

Our next challenge is self-grooming. At a cost of $65 to $72 (yes, can you believe that’s how much the groomers charge for this little 6 pound dog?) Hubs and I have been watching YouTube videos and have purchased semi-professional grooming kits and a grooming table (which I later sent back…..we can make our own). She’s easy enough to bathe in the bathroom sink and blow dry but as far as using a scissor or giving her a buzz cut, we’re at a loss. But learning.

When we first got the little puppy, I had increased our monthly dog budget from $50 a month to $75. After all, I asked myself, how much can a little dog eat? It wasn’t so much the food question, it was all the paraphernalia that must come with a little dog. They can’t walk for long, so they must be carried, in a sling (or a carriage!). They have to be carted in a crate or airline approved carriage bag (I got the latter, in case we fly somewhere together…..like Italy). Since the pup is so small (no more than 10 pounds at adult) they need sweaters and coats and boots when they go outside in inclement weather. Their necks are too delicate for collars. So, they need special harnesses and leashes. People, the list goes on and on and on and on.

A designer puppy wasn’t configured ever to be on our budget expense spread sheet!

My daughter did pay the first vet visit ($150.70) and has agreed to split the spay fee ($600/2=$300). Other than that, we are on our own. Thankfully the puppy came with some accoutrements but as you can see, it’s been costing us hundreds per month. I don’t know if this will be forever. Hopefully it will settle down. This was an expense, however, we weren’t prepared for.

But when you look at this little face, who the heck cares? We love her. It’s a done deal!

Daddy’s proud. Here’s hubby bringing puppy to the groomer (note above pic at beginning of post. Her eyes are now visible LOL!) All humans must wear masks and are NOT allowed inside the building. Our community loves and respects all animals, especially dogs (and horses!!!)
Posted in Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Politics, Retirement, Spiritual

How To Prepare For The Upcoming 4 to 6 Week Lockdown.

The coronavirus is almost totally out of control in the US. One of the new administration’s top medical professional, Dr. Michael Osterholm, a coronavirus advisor to the President-elect, is recommending that America can get the virus under control by going on a 4 to 6 week lockdown. (click here for the info) That means that other than non-essential workers and businesses will be shut down yet once again.

Shutting down businesses and paying people for lost wages for four to six weeks could help keep the coronavirus pandemic in check and get the economy on track until a vaccine is approved and distributed. We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies, to medium-sized companies or city, state, county governments. We could do all of that,” Osterholm said. “If we did that, then we could lock down for four to six weeks.

Just how does Dr. Michael Osterholm propose the government, now deeply in trillions of dollars of debt, (As of May 1, 2020 federal debt held by the public was $19.05 trillion and intragovernmental holdings were $5.9 trillion, for a total national debt of $24.95 trillion) pay for everyone’s lost wages etc. for the next four to six weeks? The answer is an easy one. Why, the new socialist government will take that money from YOU and then distribute it back to YOU and just about everyone else.

When you look at the personal savings rate in this country, it’s now gone from about 8 percent to over 22 percent,” Osterholm said. “We have a big pool of money out there that we could borrow.” Wait! There’s more: We could pay for a package right now to cover all of the wages, lost wages for individual workers, for losses to small companies to medium-sized companies,” and losses to lower levels of government, Osterholm said. (click here for the info)

That’s correct. “WE” have a big pool of other people’s hard earned money saved and “WE” could pay the package to cover everyone else, including smallish, local levels of government over the next 4 to 6 weeks. And if the government, for whatever strange reason, can not pay back the loan they took out against YOUR hard earned, saved money…..oh well. That’s socialism. It’s great until the government runs out of other people’s money.

We The People have been really screwed. Trump is no where to be found. He’s so caught up in a re-count, he has abandoned American citizens by droves. The main reason why he lost (and he did lose!) was all due to his inactivity regarding the coronavirus. I think part of the reason why Trump is acting crazed now is partly due to his recovery from the coronavirus. They say covid-19 affects the brain and is responsible for mental illness. Trump is guilty of that.

So, We The People, have a big problem on our hands. The new government is most assuredly going to lock us down for a few weeks (I personally think it will be months…or at least till most of us have taken the vaccine). We need to prepare for the upcoming lock down. That means we have to start stock piling again. Both in food, medical supplies and other necessities. If you haven’t already stocked up at least a 6 month supply of food, I believe you should start right NOW!

Hubby and I made a final trip to Aldi the other day. Please note: quantity limitations are back AND our Aldi did not have one single can of any type of beans in place. Rice was also low. We needed to stock up on water and there was no water! It’s a good thing we were stockpiling a little bit each week over the summer. I must have at least a one year supply of almost everything we need. The only problem I see is getting fresh milk (we have canned and dried milk), fresh eggs (however we have a neighbor down the block who just put in chickens), bread (I’m stocked up on flour and yeast) and fresh veggies (I froze most of my summer produce). The biggest concern I have is getting ingredients for a fresh salad. Hubby likes his daily salad. That he might have to suck up on. If Instacart is still around during the lockdown, I may just give them another try. (The first trial was a complete failure!)

Full Disclosure: Just so every knows, I voted for neither candidate. I submitted an absentee ballot and once I handed it in during the early voting period, I was unable to track it. I have no idea what happened to it (can anyone say ‘fraud’?) I had the opportunity to vote, in person, on Election Day, but I declined. I didn’t like either candidate, so I couldn’t vote for either one of them. I’ve put in an application to return to my home land, Italy and I have applied for dual citizenship through birthright. The waiting period, not considering the pandemic, is around two years. I just hope I am still alive by then and I can return to the seaside town of my father’s birth where I can die in peace. It is written in my will that after I die, I am to be cremated and my ashes to be spread in the waters of the Adriatic Seaside town of my father.

Posted in DIY Home & Repairs, Finance, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement

As Boomers Wealth Dwindles, More Find Themselves On The Lower End Of Income

There is no denying that the cornoavirus has eliminated much of peoples wealth. Especially hard hit are the Baby Boomers. Baby boomers own nearly half of privately-held businesses with employees in the U.S., according to Project Equity. Because of the pandemic “there was a 25% drop in the number of baby boomers who said they are self-employed or own their own business in the second quarter.” That impact affects 2.34 million businesses with 24.7 million employees and $5.1 trillion in sales, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.(Click here for more info)

With businesses suffering and unemployment up, savings are falling accordingly. The number of boomers who report having retirement or savings accounts has declined in the crisis. According to the Center for the New Middle class, only 20% of nonprime boomers said they had retirement accounts, down from 36% a year ago. Even wealthier boomers saw savings drop, with 38% of boomers with prime credit ratings saying they have retirement accounts, down from 45% a year ago.”

There is no alternative for these Baby Boomers. Each and every one of them will have to adjust their living lifestyle and learn to live on less. Much less. Consider them the newest entrants to Low Income Living.

But what exactly is considered ‘Low Income Living”? It’s not poverty level, to be sure. Low Income ratios depend on where you live. “In San Francisco, a family of four with an income as high as $105,000 per year would qualify for Section 8 subsidized housing vouchers. In New York, Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington, DC, a family of four making more than $70,000 could qualify. That’s no guarantee, though, that families will get the help.” Click here to get more info.

Our retirement income fluctuates between $29,000 and $36,000 per year. It’s based on two Social Security checks, one pension check and interest/dividends off of our investments. In New York we would be considered slightly higher than a Lower Income couple. Because of the pandemic, my younger husband lost all of his income and was forced to take Social Security earlier than we had planned. That meant even less of an income than we were counting on.

So what do you do? We looked over our expenses and started cutting corners. There wasn’t much to eliminate but we did have a way to pay off two zero interest loans. By paying off $8171 in consumer debt we re-aligned our budget to meet expenses with income. Most of that debt was for home maintenance (we average $3600 a year in home maintenance) and for vacations (we average $3000 a year in RV vacations) We’re always going to have home maintenance costs (as long as we remain here) and we will always have vacations costs. How do we go forward and continue to pay for these two budget items? For us it was eliminating our monthly dependence on our interest and dividends. We decided to let those two accounts build up annually (which comes to approximately $5,000 a year) and channel those resources towards the deficit. That means we have to adjust our living expenses down to approximately $30,000 to $31,000. No more zero interest loans.

There’s a plethora of articles, books, blogs and YouTube videos outlining the negative and positive sides of living on less of an income, with more and more writings on the subject each and every day. Why? Because more and more people, not just Baby Boomers, are having to learn how to live on less and love (like) it! It isn’t because we didn’t plan well enough or save more enough. It’s the (pandemic) economy stupid and it looks as if it’s going to be with us for another year or so. Baby Boomers have it the hardest because they can’t find outside work easily enough.

Two of my favorite YouTubers are:

Tawra from Living On A Dime To Grow Rich (click here). Tawra and her mother Jill, always have great ways to save money. Both ladies are also the authors of a neat cookbook entitled: Dining On A Dime. I personally never bought their book but many of their recipes can be found on their website. For free.

The Prepper Princess is doing a whole new series on low income living. Princess just downsized her life to the extreme and touts living on $12,000 a year. Granted she’s single, has no children and a very scary dog. You can catch the Princess by clicking here and see how she lives happily below the poverty line.