Posted in DIY Home & Repairs, Food and Entertainment, Gardening, Health and Wellbeing, Homesteading, Living Life

You Know It’s Spring When The Burpee Seed Catalog Arrives

I got my copy of the Burpee Seed Catalog in the mail the other day. Getting that catalog is a sure sign that spring is on its way. Temperatures here next week are going to hit the low 60s. After enduring weeks upon weeks of temps in the low teens, sixty degree weather will be a welcome relief from the cold, hard winter.

I don’t think I’ll be buying any seeds from Burpee this year. I still have a lot of seeds left over from last growing season. I’ve stored all my seeds in my freezer, as recommended. I don’t think it will make any difference because last growing season most of those seeds never fully matured. I wound up going to the local nursery here and buying vegetable plants already started. I’m almost certain I’ll be doing the same thing this year. Last year I planted too late (because the seeds never fully functioned). This growing season I’ll be more prepared.

I won’t be planting many vegetables this season either. My freezer is still stocked and yet untouched with most of the veggies grown last year. I have peppers, zucchini, pea pods, basil, parsley and rosemary still wrapped up in freezer bags, stored away. I still have 10 pints of San Marzano tomatoes stacked in my freezer that I purchased separately from a local farmer.

They say that you save money when you have your own vegetable garden. My calculations show that I lost money with my garden. Big time. My costs to buy the raised beds, dirt and top soils, fencing and posts came to $456.88 exactly. Normally, each week when I go food shopping I buy around $7.55 worth of fresh veggies (zucchini @.79, organic mixed salad @$2.59, broccoli head @$1.59, tomato @$1.99, cucumber @.59) from my local supermarket (Aldi’s). Based on my calculations it would take me 60.5 weeks just to break even. In other words, did I really need to start a vegetable garden in the first place?

I also planted two fruit trees: one peach and one apple. Within days the peach tree died and I got a refund. BTW, come to think about it, I got a lot of refunds from Burpee also. Each time a seed failed, I contacted Burpee and they issued me a no-questions-asked refund. So again? What was the purpose? I didn’t save any money. I lost money. The only sane reason I can come up with for having a veggie garden is that the tomatoes you grow taste better than what you buy in a store. Other than that, there is no justification, for me, for a vegetable garden. End of story.

This summer, I plan on being free from tending a vegetable garden.

Posted in Finance, Gardening, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement, RVing, Snowbirding, Travel, Weather

The Coronavirus. One Year Later.

I’ve been locked up inside my home since March 1, 2020. That’s a very long time to have been cut off from society in the face of a pandemic. In the beginning, last March, I remember politicians scoffing at the idea that things were going to get bleak. Our own Governor Cuomo made it a point last March 2020 to tout New York City only had 74 cases of the coronavirus. Upstate New York, where I live, had none.

Then on March 19th, my sister called me to tell me that our own brother, who resides in Florida permanently, had made a trip to NYC on March 9th to see his cancer specialist. My brother was in remission from bladder cancer. My brother, a retired doctor himself, was well aware of the pandemic dangers and thought he had taken all the necessary precautions. Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bill DeBlasio kept touting NYC was safe. Well, it wasn’t. By April 13th, my brother was dead from the coronavirus. This pandemic was real. The rest of my family was in total lock down by now. None of us were going anywhere.

What I remember most about last year when the virus first hit were the steps my husband and I had to take in order to be safe. We didn’t have masks so we never left our home. I started buying food over the internet. I tried Instagram at first but that was a total disaster. I was able to buy some food products from Amazon but I was being gouged and I knew it. I actually paid $20 for 2 pounds of beans where if I was able to get them at WalMart, a pound of these beans would have cost me only $1.34. I had to order flour and yeast directly from King Arthur and I had to wait over a month for the delivery. We found a cheese shop in Wisconsin that sent us cheese and some dried salamis to tide us over. When I went to re-order, they had nothing left to sell. One of our local neighbors runs a farm and she brought us over beef, eggs, bread and milk. She did this for us one more time and then told us she was never doing it again. It just was too dangerous to be outside in the state of New York.

I don’t even want to discuss how difficult it was to get toilet paper, sanitizers or disinfectant cleaning supplies. The worst part was waiting for those masks to arrive! From China, no less.

Last March 2020 there were no cases of the virus in upstate NY. Unbeknownst to us at the time, but well documented to the world today, our Governor Cuomo was secretly sending infected elderly people back upstate into the nursing homes, thus infecting the staff and almost all of the remaining elderly residents. Today, in a massive cover up, it has been revealed that more than 15,000 elderly people have needlessly died from the coronavirus, all at the hands of a politician who didn’t know what the fuck he was doing. Sorry. No nice words for this murderer. I remember when I first heard on the news that Cuomo was sending infected patients up here, I was screaming and yelling at my TV. But there was no one listening. We all were like sitting ducks, ready to be shot and killed by an invisible, lethal bullet, Covid-19. (click here for verification of this information)

Whatever plans or appointments hubby and I made for this past year, every single one of them were cancelled. No vacation. No going to the beach in the summer. No going to Florida in the winter to stay warm. I can’t remember any time that I’ve been in frigid upstate New York during the cold winter months of January, February (unbearable!) or March other than this past year! We have been trapped inside our home and on our property (thank God we live on 3.5 acres) for over 12 months, over 365 days, never seeing another human except delivery people or the mail person. We cancelled all medical appointments, dental appointments, home and vehicle repairs or maintenance. In other words, we put our lives on suspension. On hold.

My husband lost all his work due to the virus. Without his money coming in, he was forced to take his Social Security early at age 63. This meant we would now have to permanently live on less retirement money for the rest of our lives (hubby was scheduled to take SS at age 65, for hundreds of dollars more per month!)

When the stimulus money came in, I put in a vegetable garden at the cost of $545. I did it to pass the time and also because none of us knew what the future would hold. There were a lot of food shortages going on. Needless to say, I froze most of the produce (green beans, zucchini, tomatoes and some herbs) in a new freezer I purchased specifically because of the coronavirus. Unfortunately, here it is a year later and all those vegetables are still sitting in my freezer. We didn’t utilize any of it.

We also used the rest of the stimulus money to buy a small pool (12X3) just to survive the hot summer months. It was the last pool available since almost everyone else had the same summer idea (and of course, I was gouged over the price!). We had to pay almost $500 just to fill it with water (that later got tossed come September). Nonetheless, hubby and I plowed forward.

Hubby and I live in a smallish home. We reside in four rooms, just barely 1120 sq ft. Needless to say, many, many times we were at each other’s throats. I dreamed of running away. But then the death of my brother haunted me, so I just stayed put. Hubby took over many of my chores because he was bored to tears. He started doing all the cooking, laundry, cleaning and minor repairing. I regretted selling my sewing machine. I could have been making my family and ourselves masks! I think the hardest part was never wearing my jeans or tee shirts. I basically wore pajamas or stretch pants most of the time.

This past winter has been hardest on me. I have been cold every single day. It was an unusually snowy winter. By the time November rolled around and snow covered most of the ground, I stopped going out for my daily walks. It was just too, too cold. I really missed our annual trek to Florida. To say I fell in to a depression would be citing my mental condition lightly. Our local library sponsored a weekly Covid-19 chat with a mental health professional but after a few months of that I refused to dial into Zoom anymore. I didn’t want to talk about the coronavirus anymore. I wanted to forget.

I can’t even look at myself in the mirror anymore. I think I finally look 70 years old. Hubby buzz cuts my hair. My eyebrows are a mess. I haven’t polished my nails in months. Sometimes weeks go by before I even cut my toenails. I sometimes eat out of the fridge with so much disdain that back in November I almost ate myself into oblivion. I got very sick on some sugar overload and thankfully, I’ve been eating healthier ever since. But those garden veggies are still in my freezer, untouched.

Enter the vaccine. I got both my shots in February. Hubby gets both his shots this March. It’s one full year later after the pandemic first hit America. Over the year I have given much thought to my life. Or waste of a life, if I get more specific. Since my brother died, my ex-sister-in-law recently passed away from the coronavirus. She and I spoke just a few short months ago. She was the only relative who called me after my brother died. She was the only one who reached out to me. Who would have known when she and I last spoke that one of us would be dead? I think her unexpected death bothered me more than my brother’s.

I just started reading this eBook today!

Once hubby gets his second vaccine shot, he and I will be able to have a lot more freedom over our lives. I’ll be perfectly honest with you. I took out $27,000 cash from our savings account and hubby and I bought a more powerful towing vehicle. As soon as hubby gets his 2nd shot, we’re hopping into our newish truck, hauling our RV and hitting the road. We’re going out west to The Grand Canyon (an unfulfilled goal of mine) and I couldn’t give a rat’s ass about any politician. They’re all a bunch of liars and crooks. We elect these people to govern but all they did, IMHO, was ruin the American economy and caused more deaths than was necessary. To hell with them all. To hell with everything.

Stick a fork in me. I’m done.

The snow is finally melting and I can see the stream running through my property once again!

Over the course of this past year I’ve learned to be more thankful and grateful for my paid-off home. Who’d a thunk that owing a mortgage-free home would be my get-out-of jail super card? I enjoy getting up in the morning, having a cup of coffee while sitting in my kitchen, looking out at the birds who flock to our well-stocked feeder. We’ve decided to stay put and be ever so thankful that we have a home to stay put in! I’ve already re-upped our Florida reservations, left a deposit for next snowbird season. I may start up my vegetable garden again but this time plant less veggies. Not more.

Upstate New York is filled with magnificent state parks just teaming with waterfalls, lakes and streams. All free to NY residents. When Governor Cuomo was lucid, he poured billions into fixing up NY’s existing state parks and recreation centers. That included RV sites and bathrooms! Thankfully, I booked a few sites already and as soon as the snows melt, hubby and I will be hiking again. (Fingers crossed I lose some of this covid-19 superweight!) I also already paid for the summer when hubby and I will return once again to our favorite beach in Newport, Rhode Island. (BTW, if you have an RV you better book soon as I’m not the only one with this idea. Everything is booking up super fast. Get out there!!!)

Needless to say, I’m back to wearing my jeans and my tee shirts. Last February 2020 I went on a shopping spree at a discount outlet just days before the coronavirus hit the nightly news. After 38 years of marriage, I finally bought myself a diamond wedding ring and my first designer handbag. Once the pandemic hit, I never wore nor used these items. They’ve been sitting in my closet all this time. Well, I’m using them now!

I got my hair professionally cut. I plucked my eyebrows. Cut my toe nails (pedicure coming up this spring). Painted my own nails. Spiffed up the house, the property and streamlined all the continuous cooking hubby and I have accomplished over this past year. I’m back to wearing all those new clothes I bought last year from the Chico’s outlet store. Hubby may have some work coming in this summer. Hubby has rescheduled his annual heart scan with his cardiologist this month. I’ll be back getting my annual mammogram this month also. It’s all good!

In other words, I’m back. And I feel just like the Beatles did in their first movie’ Hard Days Night‘ when they could finally break free! And they busted out the back stage door and just enjoyed life!

Posted in Finance, Food and Entertainment, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement

Back To Thrifting and Just In Time.

Our local Goodwill closed here, due to the pandemic. We were ordered to stay home but I hadn’t missed our Goodwill till now. I need some things and I don’t want to pay full price. Now that we have a bit more freedom and can safely roam about the cabin, I was able to locate an open Goodwill store in another county. It was a bit of a drive but in the end, it was worth it.

First off, it was good to be in a bargaining frame of mind again. Second, the Goodwill store was right next to a very well kept Salvation Army Thrift Store, so it was a double feel-good whammy. Over the winter, with all the cooking and eating at home we did, I had chipped two of my soup bowls to the point that they were unusable. Normally, I would go to my Goodwill and easily find a replacement bowl at $1.00 each. Not this time. I looked for the same bowls online and found Amazon sold them BUT you had to buy a set of six and the total cost came to $19.05. Reluctantly I purchased them but when the shipment arrived at my home I was very hesitant to remove the dishes out of the box. I just could not justify spending the $19.

Now, I know I’m not cheap because I just bought a $40,000 pick up truck for cash (click here) and that’s a sign of not being a cheap person. I sincerely just could not justify the price. I couldn’t justify spending that amount of money on soup bowls when I know I could get what I needed for much, much less. The value just wasn’t there. Maybe that’s why I can buy cars and houses for cash because I am indeed careful with my money and super thrifty!

Needless to say, I couldn’t justify spending $19 on 6 soup bowls. I returned them and got my money back.

So, yesterday, the sun was shinning and it seemed like a good day to take a ride to the newfound Goodwill store. I was in heaven when I entered the store. I was finally with ‘my people’. There were rows and rows of clothes (“I’ll be back!”). The housewares were in the backend of the store. There were plenty of housewares to choose from but unfortunately, there were no Corelle dishes, which was odd. Normally, Goodwill would be swamped with Corelle. But as I noted, the price of Corelle has risen substantially. When I did a price check, if I were to replace my 4 person Corelle service set that I originally paid $21 for, today’s price would be $54.

So, I walked slowly through the ample displays and yes, I did find something that caught my eye. It was a four person soup set, complete with serving plates and a unique Asian, hand-painted design. The price was $4.99 which I confirmed with the clerk was for the set, not just individual pieces. It was also senior citizen day so I got an additional 10% off, which made the final price $4.49 for a beautiful (to me) soup set. It would be perfect for chili too and would make a great presentation for authentic onion soup (with the melted cheese on top). I was psyched!

I fell in love with this soup set for four. I also fell in love with the $4.49 price for all!

Naturally, when I got back home, I noted that the bottom of the set had the inscription: PMC Made In China. A quick look on Etsy.com revealed that this was an authentic, porcelain vintage set dating back to the 1980s and would clamor high prices today. Score!

The soup set cleaned up beautifully in the dishwasher. I can’t wait to use them! The soup set gives me that ‘good price’ feeling. I’m certain my soups and my chili will taste extra special in my ‘new’ set. That’s what buying well and justified does for me. Satisfaction completes me.

Looking forward to a happy shopping spree this spring!

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

Where Does Our Money Go? Look In The Mirror.

Ever since hubby retired (unofficially a few months ago) he’s been insisting on accompanying me on my once a week shopping sprees. In the beginning it was nice to have someone tag along. That is until I started looking at the store receipts. I noticed that every time we stopped to get gas, hubby would go inside the gas store to pay BUT he always came out with a little something.

A few times it would be a cup of coffee. Maybe some breath mints. Or a buttered roll. At first I didn’t think much of it but today……well, today all hell broke loose. Those things are starting to add up and it needs to stop, pronto. Now that we bought our newish car the other day, and I had to take a good deal of cash out of our savings account (click here for the details) my financial goals going forward have changed. We need to start saving money again and re-fill our coffers. Hubby knows this. We discussed it. But apparently it went in one ear and out the other. No way, Jose’. Things are different now. Our spending habits must change. There is no way in hell I am going to spend my senior years in poverty. Let me explain.

Our local Aldi’s ran out of dog bones (@$1.69 a box). After going to the store twice, we decided to try another outlet in another town. So, we hopped in our newish car to take our first ride and drive to a different county about 12 more miles further away. Hubby needed gas. He stopped to buy gas and sure enough he comes out with some extra goodies. A cup of coffee which neither one of us needed nor wanted ($1.25) and a bag of pretzels ($2.59) “Why did you buy these?” I asked. His reply was that he feels guilty just going into a Quick Mart and just buying gas. “But isn’t that what a Quick Mart is for? BUYING GAS??” Hubby just shrugged. Hubby wasted $3.84 in addition to us paying for the higher cost of gasoline nowadays!

We made it to the next county and hubby went in to Aldi’s to buy dog bones. They didn’t have them either. But hubby bought himself one dark chocolate bar for $1.99 BUT when I looked over his receipt (which he knows you’re supposed to do BEFORE you leave the store, he was charged for two dark chocolate bars!) Also, he bought dog treats, which we didn’t need because we already have them at home. PLUS he bought a small eco bag for .99, which again we don’t need. We have tons home. I told him to get the paper bag for just a nickle. To add insult to injury when I returned the shopping cart, the quarter wouldn’t return, as the cart was defective. All in all, hubby wasted $5.52 (plus tax) on this fast pit stop.

Here is his receipt:

Next, we made a pit stop at Tractor Supply because they usually have dog bones. They didn’t. But this time hubby bought the dogs Variety Snaps which work just as well as dog bones and he picked up another much needed can of wet puppy food. Unfortunately, he also bought himself a bag of crappy, candy licorice and wasted another $2.99 (plus tax) doing so.

Here’s that receipt:

At the end of the day, hubby overspent in the amount of $12.35 (plus tax).

This is totally unacceptable! If he were to be so reckless like this every week, at the end of the year he would have mindlessly spent $642.22 (plus tax, so throw in another $51.38) for a grand total of $693.60!

THAT’S ALMOST $700 OF TOTALLY FOOLISH, WASTEFUL SPENDING! People scoff (as my husband does) at these little nickle and dime expenditures but they can add up to a lot of money quickly. Needless to say, all hell broke loose today. I entered another screaming match and lay down the law that this mindless spending has to cease and desist immediately. We’re too old now to be so reckless and careless.

This is why I would prefer to either grocery shop online or do the curbside delivery option. Statistics show that when you shop online you don’t overspend nor do you purchase impulse items. Unfortunately, Aldi doesn’t offer these services to us because we live so remotely. I can get these services with other grocery chains BUT their prices are 40% higher than Aldi’s so it’s not feasible.

My only other option is to tell hubby to stay home from now on. He’s got his dream car now. He should stay home and tinker in the garage with it like most other men do.

FOR $12.57 (INCLUDING TAX!) I COULD HAVE PURCHASED 7 POUNDS OF DOG BONES FROM AMAZON WHICH WOULD HAVE LASTED MY DOGS 7 MONTHS! CAME OUT TO $1.66 A POUND VS $1.69 FROM ALDI. KNOW WHAT? I JUST DID!! LIVE AND LEARN.

Posted in Finance, Food and Entertainment, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement, RVing, Travel, Uncategorized, Weather

LifeStyle Update. How The Pandemic Helped Me See My Future.

Being forced to stay inside my home this past year, due to the pandemic, gave me a lot of time to think about my life and going forward. First off, I’m happy and lucky to still be alive. My brother and ex-SIL weren’t as lucky. They both died due to the pandemic.

Back in November 2020, I was so distraught with my life here in America I had contemplated moving back to the homeland of my father, Italy. Click here for that info. My dad had left half of his parent’s home ownership to my brother, my sister and myself (now just to my sister and me). When I got in touch with my Italian cousins, who share part ownership with us, they told me that life in Italy had gotten so severe that the three of them had no choice but to sell the family home of our parents in order to survive. My sister and I were not upset because our dad had been sending them money for years. Without that American money and now with the onslaught of Covid-19, it was understandable and forgivable to us over what they had done. We only wished them well going forward. Italy has suffered greatly under the Great Pandemic. I have no idea if and when we can ever return. Italy is still without a vaccine program.

Another escape hatch I had contemplated was since we could no longer openly travel back and forth to winter in Florida, I had contemplated buying a manufactured home in Florida and staying there for 5 to 6 months out of the year. But after careful thought, hubby and I realized we already own a beautiful home up here in New York. After two failed relocations to Florida (Tampa and Sarasota) we didn’t want to make it Three’s A Crowd. Why rock the steady boat? I nixed buying anything in Florida permanently.

It turned out, after a year of contemplation, that my original plan, RVing to Florida in the winter, Newport RI in the summer and some other locations in-between was and still is the right choice for us. We have a beautiful, permanent home to live in. Rather than run away as I normally used to do (thinking I was unhappy) being forced to stay inside this home for a year completely changed my mind.

Turns out Dorothy (from the Wizard Of Oz) was right: There’s No Place Like Home!

Unfortunately, here in New York upstate, it’s still too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. Our RV solves those two problems. We did good.

Every Sunday, at the end of the week, I like to post some of the food dishes we prepared for ourselves during the week. Some are fresh. Some are leftovers. Some were quick frozen when last cooked months ago and defrosted and microwaved for an easy day off from cooking.

Tender, right off the bone, a rack of Baby Back Ribs with a side of home-made cole slaw!

My favorite breakfast meal: cheesy grits (very southern!) and grilled breakfast apple maple chicken sausages. So good!

Home made pizzas using Naan bread. Spinach Pie filled with leftover spinach and cheeses. De-frosted minestrone soup warmed up for the very last time. Delish!

Posted in Food and Entertainment, Living Life

Meat and Poultry Haul. How A Freezer Helps Us Save Money.

I usually don’t do grocery hauls but I thought I would address our beef/pork/chicken/turkey hauls. I personally stay away from all red meats but occasionally I will indulge in a chicken or turkey meal. Over the summer we bought a freezer and started storing any meat or poultry that went on sale. Over the last few months I’ve stopped buying beef and poultry and we’ve been eating out of our freezer. Today, some of those freezer shelves are bare so it’s time to re-stock up again.

I have only two requirements when it comes to beef, pork, chicken or turkey. #1 It has to be top quality. #2 It can not be over $2.00 a pound. I understand that sticking to #2 is getting to be more and more difficult. But if you look for sales, it can be done.

For example, you will NEVER see me buying something like this:

I will NEVER EVER buy anything this expensive!

I do most of my grocery shopping at Aldi. Although Aldi’s meat pricing is fair and just, they don’t always have the best quality. Especially in their chicken. Instead, we buy our chicken from a local grocer who sells only locally, farm raised chicken at $2.49 a pound (for cut up chicken). Occasionally they will have a sale and that is when we stock up on this specific chicken. The meat is delicious! We can get a whole chicken for $1.89 a pound. We can get the same chicken, cut up in 8ths for $1.99 a pound. We usually buy the latter.

Lately, however, we’ve been buying whole chickens and hubby’s been cutting them up into quarters. I do buy boneless chicken breasts from Aldi though. When on sale, the $1.69 per pound for boneless breasts is a price that can’t be beat plus the cutlets work out very well in our recipes. To be fair, Aldi does have great pork products as they come from Smithfield, which is available just about anywhere. We never, however, buy beef from Aldi. It’s just not worth it. The quality isn’t there.

Here’s today’s haul. Waiting to be placed into freezer bags, labeled, dated and stored inside our extra freezer
First up, I keep a running list of what is stored inside our extra freezer. Old list on the left. New list on the right after our current meat haul. We’re short on pre-made turkey burgers and pulled pork. Waiting for a sale on those two items and then our freezer will be properly stocked up.

Today’s haul included one cut up chicken at $1.99 a pound. This item is not pictured because hubby cooked it up as soon as we got home. We missed our chicken dinners. I didn’t realize hubby would cook it up so fast, so I went back and bought one more package and it is now in the freezer. We also bought a whole chicken this time, at $1.89 a pound as a means of possibly saving more money. Hubby’s not too keen on cutting up chicken but we’re going to give it a try. The butcher always separates the chicken’s backbone. We store those in a separate freezer bag in our freezer. We use them specifically to make chicken broth. Right now, we’ve got around 6 chicken backs to make broth.

Center cut pork chops were on sale at $1.79 a pound. I bought two packages of those, with each pack containing 4 beautiful pork chops! Chicken thighs, with the skin on were on sale at $1.29 a pound. I bought a double pack of those (8 per pack) and separated and froze two bags with 4 thighs per freezer bag. Hubby loves chicken thighs. I do not. The skin we can throw in the broth for flavor but skim the fat off after cooking.

As I’ve stated, beef prices are out of this world right now. I already have two packages of chopped meat in the freezer, plus two eye round roasts. I’ve been hankering for beef stew this winter and that meat was on sale at $3.59 a pound. I bought a smallish package which will be enough for a basic stew recipe. The last thing I purchased was their home made turkey and/or chicken sausages. You can’t get this anywhere. The store’s butchers make these up special. At $3.49 a pond (marked down from $3.99 a pound) I bought a small package of each (hot and sweet). They’re perfect to put into recipes (sausage & peppers with onions or as a seasoning in an Italian pasta dish).

Everything has all been neatly repackaged, labeled, dated and stored inside our extra freezer. My new list has been upgraded. Today’s price for current meat and poultry haul (including extra package of cut-up chicken) was $49.51.

Posted in DIY Home & Repairs, Finance, Homesteading, Living Life, Pets (dog), Retirement, RVing, Travel

How Good Negotiating Skills And A Touch Of Frugality Keep Us In Luxury.

It’s no secret that my husband and I live in a wealthy neighborhood. In fact, since the day we first met back in 1983 and we moved in together, we have always lived in very wealthy neighborhoods. How do we do it? By living in the most modest house on the block. Location. Location. Location. Our home may be a bit smallish BUT we have the zip code. And sometimes, that’s all that may matter.

In our current location, we did it by buying a distressed piece of land at a super great price and building our very own custom-made modular home upon it. We negotiated with the land owner over price (he was the one who was distressed. not the land.) His previous prospective buyers passed away before they purchased the land. We came along, had the money and a good gift of gab. Ditto for the modular construction company. Hubby GC’d most of the work himself (plumbing, electrical, construction) knew exactly how he wanted the home built (thus saving us thousands and thousands of dollars) and was able to erect a home valued at $275K (at that time) for only $170K. All for cash. No mortgage. No loans.

You can only do these things and get these things accomplished if you have a good deal of money in the bank. That’s where our frugality comes in. Once the seller knows you have cash to back up your negotiating, they are more than willing to make a deal. They know we have the potential to complete the sale. By our living close to the bone and within a budget, we get to deposit more money into savings and investments. Cash is the power needed to ‘Let’s Make A Deal’.

I have always chanted: I don’t want to be a millionaire. I just want to live like one.

That means living well, eating well and looking well. I don’t do this for other people. I do this for myself. I always wanted to prove to myself that I didn’t need to toil and denegrade myself for the almighty buck in order to live very well. Good negotiating skills will and can get you anything you want. You just better have the cash to back yourself up. Otherwise you’re just a babbling fool.

Living in a nice house and dressing in nice clothing doesn’t stop there. If you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk. That translates into you needing a stunning ride. Car. Vehicle. Mobile. I always made sure I drove a really nice automobile to close the packaged deal. Any fool can go into a car dealership, plunk down a bare minimum deposit and take out a bank loan. I haven’t bought a new vehicle in decades. I learned that lesson well. You buy used. Newly used. Maybe 2 or 3 years used. And you make sure you have your own expertly maintained, pre-used vehicle as part of your down payment before you whip out the balance in cash. It’s a trifecta that has never failed me. From Mercedes Benz to Datsun 240Zs to red convertible Mustangs, throw in a Corvette, or two; hubby and I have enjoyed driving luxury cars for decades.

I have always chanted: I want a top shelf life at bottom shelf prices.

Every single thing I own, from the every day dishes I keep in my kitchen cabinets down to the diamond ring on my finger, clothes on my back, every stick of furniture, every food tidbit that touches my lips, anything and everything that I buy, have all been negotiated for. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

Our 2013, fully loaded, super duper luxury Dodge Durango Citadel, valued at $56K when new, was purchased by us in 2015 for only $32K. $12K of the payment was from a trade in of our Ford Explorer and $20K in cash. So, realistically I only spent $20,000 in out-of-pocket cash to get a luxury car (It’s based on a 350 Mercedes Benz model. Chrysler and Mercedes jointly worked together that year on the Durango).

Fast forward to today and hubby and I are again in need of another vehicle. We used the Durango to tow our RV and it could only tow on flat land. No mountainous regions or hills could we travel. Over the past six years it didn’t bother us. We only traveled to Florida or Rhode Island and all that driving was on level ground. Lately, however, now that traveling is coming back into vogue, hubby and I want to explore the landscapes of both the Adirondack and Catskill mountains, Blue Ridge Parkway as well as finally driving out west and visiting The Grand Canyon and Sedona. It’s time. This dream has been put off long enough.

Hubby did his usual search. We interviewed a few dealerships. Got a feel for what our Durango would bring in. Hubby and I did have at least one heated argument. Well, actually two. One was he wanted a new tow vehicle because of all the added safety features. The Durango is loaded with safety and he got used to them. The second argument was he wanted to either lease the vehicle or take out a small loan. Have you looked at the prices of cars these days? They’re almost the price of a small home. That’s if you can even buy a car today? Used cars are few and far between. New cars, if not on the lot already, are facing a computer chip backlash and may take weeks, maybe months to get.

I would have neither one of his wants or desires. (This is why my husband will always be the poor boy he grew up as and I’ll always be the rich bitch I was brought up as. His family is poor. My family is rich. Opposites attract.) We need to stick to our budget and style of living. One: I don’t buy new cars because as soon as you drive them off the lot they lose 20% of their value. Better to buy a vehicle 2 years old, already depreciated thus saving yourself thousands and thousands of dollars. Two: I don’t deal with banks. They’re thieves, deceitful and liars. I had a car repossessed once because they said I missed a payment. When I called the bank manager, he confirmed he did receive the (late) payment BUT his bank needed the car more than I did due to their own financial problems. Nope. No car loans or leases for us.

Once hubs and I were on the same page, we went to work. Hubby is a fantastic mechanic and knows his vehicles inside and out. It took him a few days and a few dealership interviews but he located a vehicle that had mostly everything we wanted or needed moving forward in our towing requirements. A RAM pick up truck was going to bring us closer to The Grand Canyon than any other model. Cost was our first priority. Technology was second. Luxury was third. Have you seen some of these new fandangled pick up trucks lately? They’re geared for the long haul, with Navigation systems, leather seats, heated and air conditioned bucket power seating, Apple Play, USB ports, lumbar supports, super roomy, tons of storage space….the list goes on and on.

I love that this photo was shot in the desert.

The model we chose was a 2019 RAM 1500 Crew Cab. New, this pick up truck was $52,000. Today, the dealer wanted $42,000. What was our price (after two days of negotiations)? $37,500. What did we get for our 2013 Durango as a trade in? Their first offer was $10,000. Their last and final offer was $13,000. We took it. Total cash out-of-pocket for us was $24,500 (plus tax and a DMV $75 fee). Vehicle is a CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) still under original warranty with an extended warranty included and has very low mileage.

Our frugal ways made sure we had the cash saved and once the dust settled, it was a seamless purchasing experience. SCORE! Hubby has visions of towing his eventual sailboat. I just want to get our RV up in the mountains and I just want to start exploring some National Parks. Our new luxury truck has been puppy approved!

Posted in Finance, Health and Wellbeing, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement, Spiritual, Unprecedented

Almost Every One Of My Bills Has Gone Up Since January 1st and It’s Only February 24th 2021. What To Do?

On January 1st my Medicare insurance Part B went up 2.8%. The cost of my drug co-pays have gone up as well as my Part D additional Medicare insurance. My life insurance bill went up 11.7%. The price of a gallon of gasoline increased by 75.2% since last year. The cost of renewing my Driver’s License has increased, as well as my car’s registration and inspection fee. My car insurance has gone up 11.2%. My home heating costs are up by 27.3%. Don’t even get me started on the higher costs of food. What used to cost us $500 a week for two people has skyrocketed to $700 a week (with an occasional $800 thrown in there for a week or two). The price of meat has increased so much hubby and I contemplated becoming vegetarians. But I digress.

My property taxes increased by 22.4%. The cost of electricity has risen (thank the Lord I don’t live in Texas) a mere 3%. My vet bills have increased substantially. The cost of buying parts for repairs and maintenance upkeep have gone up so much that DIYing ourselves can not justify the added cost of labor and services. Restaurant meals are totally out of the question whether dine-in or dine-out. Simply going out for breakfast (the cheapest meal of the day) can set a couple back by $30. A take-away pizza can cost upwards of $20 straight out of a brick oven.

When I got this months’ sanitation bill for our barn, this note was attached:

Needless to say, we’re cancelling sanitation services at the barn.

The costs of almost every single thing we need, buy or use has gone up since January 1st 2021. And from what I’ve heard and read in the financials, they’re just getting started. We’re going to feel so much pain that emanates out of the burden of higher living costs that whatever we endured back in The Great Recession of 2008 is going to feel like a walk in a park. As the government prints more and more stimulus money, the American dollar’s value falls more and more (when compared to the Yen or the Euro). Thus you need more of those American bucks in order to afford anything. Our Federal government, our state government and all our local governments, thanks to both bad management AND the pandemic, are broke. They are going to scheme and try to get the money they need out of us any which way they can.

Hold onto your hat. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. Betty Davis.

I live on the outskirts of NYC, where my children still live. The costs of tolls & gasoline will now cost me $60 round trip should I want to make the 1.5 hour trip to visit them. No thanks. If I can’t find a parking space? I’d have to cough up another $50 to $75 to park in a public garage for 3 hours. Double no thanks.

The one good thing about this pandemic (if there could actually be anything good at all about this pandemic) is that it has forced my husband and I to stay in our home since March 1, 2020. Staying inside our home meant we stopped spending money. We cancelled our annual vacation. We never went to the beach during the summer. We never entertained. We never went out to eat. We never socialized with friends or family. We didn’t do anything. That in turn meant we didn’t spend any money either. So what did we do with our money? The same thing so many other retirees did with their money: we saved it!

We weren’t alone. Many, many Americans increased their savings by spending less on their lifestyle. Click here for more info. Covid actually increased our retirement savings and now, here we are faced with a mountain of increased costs and by golly, we have the money in the bank (and through investments) to pay these increases. But??? For how long?

Americans didn’t stop saving for their financial futures last year, even though the pandemic made it hard for many people just to make it to the next paycheck. Despite economic uncertainty, the average individual retirement balance hit a new record. That’s according to data from Fidelity, which analyzed retirement savings trends in the fourth quarter of 2020 across more than 30 million 401(k), IRA, and 403(b) accounts.

We got our money to grow and it will somehow keep up with the upcoming runaway inflation, through the power of compounding. Compounding means you earn a return not just on your money but also on the interest it has already accrued. Good compounding, however, is based on time. Lots and lots of time. We only had a year. So far. If we wanted to fully benefit from compounding, we need to NOT touch our money. So, then how are we going to deal with all those increases in our expenses? That’s a very good question. Without an easy solution. I’ve got a painful answer. It’ll mean sacrifice and doing without: it’s called cutting expenses!

After much kicking and screaming, I got our monthly food bill down to $400. It took a while to get hubby on board, but once he made the connection, he was in like Flint! We stopped buying ready-made foods, salad dressings, processed foods etc. I stopped shopping for idle expenditures. I returned an electric blanket, an air fryer, a few new clothes (geez, I miss my sewing machine!) Our Goodwill Store and local Thrift Stores have all closed down due to the pandemic so it’s been tough to find bargains.

I did all the other usual cost cutting we all do every once in a while: no cable/satellite. We installed an antenna and learned to love the free broadcasting stations as well as PBS. We only stream through Amazon Prime when we want to watch a movie. We cut all meals out. We cut our own hair. We cut the dogs hair! We’re putting in a pellet stove and telling the propane company to take a long walk off a very short pier. We turn off the lights, huddle in one room and use as little electricity as possible. This lowered our monthly bill by $50. Every little bit helps.

I do our own bookkeeping and taxes. We already got back our tax refunds! I made up fridge and freezer lists and started tracking our foods. There is no food waste here. More meatless meals during the week. No more beef steaks BUT we still have an occasional beef roast or beef stew. We buy whole chickens and cut them ourselves @.99 a pound vs $2.49 a pound. More soups. More home made hot chocolates. More watching and learning from other frugal couples.

Meet Emmy and Paul. Another New York, early retiree couple (at 55!!!), same as hubby and myself, who also live in upstate New York. It’s been fantastic finding their YouTube Channel, Frugal Money Saver (click here). And they are Italian just like hubby and me. How cool is that? One thing we Italians know, from surviving WWII, is how to be frugal and stretch a buck. I think it’s in our DNA. Here’s one of their early videos explaining how they manage to stay frugal and pay their bills while still on a fixed income:

In other words, with a stiff upper lip and the blessing of our good Lord up above, I have no doubt that my husband and I are going to meet the new financial challenges that will be coming our way, successfully.

If not, there’s always Nomadland (just fooling, but sometimes I seriously think about just giving it all up and running away in our RV!)

If you have any frugal tips you’d like to share, just leave them in the comment section down below. Also, if you want to share your stories on how you kept up with inflation, please feel free to write about them down below. We’re all in this together, unfortunately on the same boat!

Posted in Finance, Homesteading, Living Life, Pandemic, Retirement, RVing, Travel

Tired Of American Life: Try Nomadland

Hulu just released an award winning film, Nomadland, that finally epitomizes what all of us have been going through since The Great Recession of 2008. If we think things had gotten better in 2020, we were seriously wrong. Nomadland, starring Frances McDormand and Dave Strathairn, depicts how today’s modern American refuses to foot the bill for an American lifestyle. They are the only two professional actors in the movie. All the rest are as real as you and me. And they all tell their unique stories of why they dropped out of society and hit the road living in makeshift vans and run-down RVs.

Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. From director Chloé Zhao, NOMADLAND features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West.

The movie does NOT romanticize hitting the open road. It shows the brutal reality of what it is like to live full-time as a nomad, in a life only they can afford, taking craps in buckets, washing their private parts with vinegar and owning a few can openers as their most vital possessions. Rather than continue to fight for a job, a home, a place in society, these people have given up. Many are older and living off Social Security benefits they wrongfully started to collect at age 62. Most fund their nomadic lifestyles by working holiday shifts at Amazon fulfillment centers out west or from pushing a broom and a disinfectant mop while cleaning out the shit from public bathrooms. If you think I am being too brutal in my description of the movie, you’ll see for yourself how low the Great and once wealthy American has fallen.

Bob Wells. Divorce and child support forced him to live in a van.

These nomads have it all planned out from beginning to end. Should their lives deteriorate even lower, or should they become ill and can no longer support their nomadic lifestyles, they are completely open to suicide. Bob Wells, the real life leader of van life is a strong proponent of taking one’s own life when all else has failed. Click here for a recent interview with the real Bob Wells.

Lovely.

The pandemic didn’t help their cause. Many people today have used their stimulus checks or government handouts to buy old cars, rusty vans and older model RVs so they can continue to give up on life and live for free off the government BLM land. There are even snippets in the movie that depict young adults, who too have given up on American life. Maybe they were saddled with unbearable student loans or come from broken, poor homes? Whatever their reason, they are living the nomadic lifestyle rather than try to be strong, fight back and continue to live a life worth living.

The movie is filled with playing victim. The movie takes place in 2012 as the economy is starting to recover from the 2008 Great Recession. One real estate agent is whining to Fern that if only he had bought up a bunch of distressed properties in 2008 he’d be a rich man in 2012. McDormand doesn’t miss a beat and blames the real estate agents for selling houses to people who could nil afford them. Yup. That’s right. Blame someone else for your own stupidity and then go take that shit in a bucket.

Many times throughout the movie, a home is offered to McDormand’s character. Friends offer a place to live. A love interest offers her a tiny home in the back of his son’s massive farm. Her sister offers her a room in her home. Each time Fern (McDormand) turns it down. Seems she prefers the freedom of living out of her broken down van (which needs $2300 worth of repairs which she borrows so easily from her sister, with the promise of paying it back in a year after another holiday stint at Amazon). Fern would rather indulge in a can of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, warmed up over a make shift outdoor kitchen, than live like a human with other humans.

McDormand, as most full time RVers and van lovers think that nature and earth’s beauty will fix all that ails them. There’s beauty, no doubt about it, in sunrises, sunsets, majestic deserts and expansive mountain formations but are they enough to cure what truly ails you? It’s getting easier and easier to tune in and drop out of daily living. Where was it ever written that life was easy? So then, why choose a nomadic lifestyle, which is harder, to cure whatever disappointment came your way?

The movie is about grief. Which seems to be almost rampant nowadays. Fern lost her husband, her job, her home, her possessions, her money and just about any other material possession there can be in life. The town she lived in actually closed up due to the recession. Once the main employer left, the town folded like a cheap camera. The story line is based on truth. Many of the people who appear in the movie are the real thing. Director Chloe Zhao did an excellent job interweaving all the different choices we have in our lives into one big beautiful package. The movie will haunt you. I implore you to watch it a few times to fully understand what has happened to the once great wealthy nation we used to call America.

The movie is playing in a few theaters nationwide, or you can see it for free, on Hulu, if you qualify for a free 30 day trial membership, click here.

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

What Is Happiness?

I have been locked inside my home since March 1, 2020. If there is one thing that I have learned from this pandemic is that it has given me ample time to think about my life, reflect on my choices and come to conclusions. Imagine my amazement when I came to realize that most of the decisions I have made in my lifetime (especially in the last few years) have been good ones. Maybe it’s time for me to not be so hard on myself and reflect on the good points in life, rather than the bad.

There is no doubt that we have been going through a prolonged period of bad tidings and bad cheer. It would seem almost impossible to find anything lately to be happy about and yet, there it is. Little snippets of love and joy that if we blink our eyes we shall miss them. Happiness doesn’t come to us. We make it happen. Happiness is an art. We create it.

According to the Dalai Lama: Overall, happiness is reached by keeping peace with others and one’s self, which can be reached through meditation and community service. Therefore, the Dalai Lama concludes that the purpose isn’t to create tension but a positive atmosphere. This gives our life meaning, which leads to overall happiness.

The Dalia Lama has been giving live broadcasts lately on what is truly happiness. I missed them all.

If you have anger, envy or hatred inside your soul, you can never be happy. The relationship between events and emotions create happiness. Events can cause one to be positive and kind. Or, if we let them, events can cause us to be selfish and unhappy. It’s a daily chore to set our minds out to seek and accept happiness.

Suffering is a natural part of life and something that we share with all other living creatures. Humans can confront suffering and seek out solutions. Animals can not. If we overreact or take suffering too personally, we can create our own unhappiness.

All things change. If you resist change, this can create suffering. Our suffering has meaning but we have to seek it out.

All life is subject to pain. Pain is essential to life. When used correctly, we can turn our pain into an important learning tool. Without the pain, we can not learn.

You have to intentionally choose to be happy. It’s as simple as that. And during these difficult and somewhat painful times we all are currently living in, it may be difficult for most to choose to be happy. I’m having a rough time of trying to be happy. Too many negative things have been happening and that has been my inspiration lately to try and understand it all. One of the good things about getting older is that you can look back on your expanse of life and view it with a different set of objectives. It’s called retrospect.

Did I do the right thing? Did I make the right choices? If I had to do it all over again, would I still do it the same way I already did? Some of the answers are yes. Some of the answers are no. But in the end, my result has been very clear: I made the right choices at the right time and if presented with the same exact situations, I would make the same exact choices. That’s a very revealing discovery. To know that you actually and really did do your best. The resulted state of mind should be happiness. Yet for me to be happy, I would have to choose to be happy.

As of now, I choose nothing.