Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life Happens But I Am Moving On

Sometimes things happen that are beyond my control.  I have been missing in action for the past week or so. But it's time to get back to business and move on.

One of the things that I do to save money when buying groceries is to menu plan from my stockpile. I know that a lot of people make a menu and then make a grocery list and shop. If that works for you then that's fine. I find that I spend less if I stockpile when the prices are at rock bottom. Then I make my menu plan based on what is in my freezer, fridge, and pantries.

Especially when winter is around the corner and we don't plan on going out much. So this month I have been stocking on those things that won't be at rock bottom for another year.We now have 4 turkeys in our freezer to eat every few months. That gives me cheap poultry for most of the year. Turkeys in our area have been on sale for $ .48 a lb. with a minimum $25. purchase. I bought a couple of those but I also splurged on two Butterballs at $ 1.19 a lb. Even though I had a turkey in the freezer from last year, I decided to thaw a  Butterball for Thanksgiving. It is much larger and the breasts are much meatier than my store brands. After Thanksgiving that will give me more meat for leftovers for our company and us to enjoy.

A side note on the turkeys. I have always known that frozen turkeys will last at least two years in my freezer. Have you noticed that this year, the companies are putting the expiration dates right on the turkey wrappers? The Butterballs that I purchased have an expiration date of 2017.

I would have loved to stock on some turkey breasts too but they are very expensive this year. Hopefully around April or May they will go on sale at a decent price and I can stock. I love those for sandwich meat.

I froze 12 bags of cranberries purchased  on a B1G1 sale. We use these to make cranberry sauce, muffins and cranberry orange bread.

Canned pumpkin was $ .89 a can so I ended up buying two cases. They will make cheap breads, muffins, pies and pancakes.

I purchased 30 lbs. of potatoes at $ .19 a  lb. I am trying something new this year to keep them for the winter. Last year I kept them in the basement and that didn't work well. A friend told me  that she keeps them in her garage and they have never frozen or rotted so we will try that.

I purchased enough flour, sugar, and other baking items to last until next November. The other items that I have stocked on are pecans and walnuts which I froze, 14 lbs. of unsalted butter, a case of evaporated milk, 10 cream of chicken soup (for a few casseroles), 6 low sodium chicken broth to use in sauces, 12 cream cheese, 6 whipping cream, and 15 bags of assorted frozen vegetables.

I do this all year long whenever items are at rock bottom. I purchase corned beefs at St. Patricks Day, legs of lamb at Easter, and hams at Christmas. 

So as you can see I always have food to make menus from. The picture above shows the menu plan that I made starting this past Sunday. It only takes me 15 minutes to decide and put the main items on it. Veggies and fruits just get added while I am cooking dinners.  I do this every week and post it in the kitchen where both my husband I can see it. I take into account what days are busier than others and if we are going out to eat.  

Today and tomorrow, I will be doing a lot of baking for Thanksgiving. Then my family will arrive for Thanksgiving and an extended stay. So I will be back on Tuesday with my November Monthly Expense Report.

I hope that each of you and your families have a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you have to travel, be safe.

Monday, November 16, 2015

My Weekend of Being Frugal

I had a very frugal weekend but that is something that I usually don't even think about any more. It is  just so ingrained in my psyche that I just do it.

But as I pondered what I would write about this morning, it occurred to me that not everyone has a frugal side to them. So perhaps some of these ideas could help them.

We had unexpected company this weekend. I am used to whipping up a quick breakfast,lunch, or dinner when that happens. However their visit occurred in between meals. Since I don't keep a lot snacks in the pantry, I took 2 cans of chickpeas and made a homemade hummus. Fortunately, I had some tahini in the house. I served it with cut up celery and carrot sticks.  I made some iced tea for a  quick beverage. We enjoyed their company and they loved the hummus.
We never left the house so no gasoline was used. We are still using the same tank of gasoline that we purchased the beginning of the month.

I did a large load of laundry on Saturday morning  and hung it to dry in the basement. That will save on our energy bill. Speaking of energy bills, I have to read the meters today and submit those readings to my utility company. They estimate the bills every  other month and if I don't read it, they send me that estimated bill.  I hate estimates. I want to pay for what I have actually used.  I know that it will even out next month when they do read. But rates go up and down monthly, so I want to pay exactly what I owe.

I spent a few hours uncluttering the house on Saturday. I hate clutter so I like to keep on top of it. If you visited me, you would look around and say what clutter? But there is always a box or drawer or nook and cranny that needs to be gone through. I ended up with a large bag of clothing to donate to Goodwill.  I will get a receipt for tax purposes. I also found my rolling pin that I have been looking for since we moved here years ago. After holding out for a long time. I had just replaced it a few months ago. So it went into the garage sale pile for next spring. I also have a stack of books that I no longer want so they will get sold online. 

Do you have a garbage disposal? If so do you hate the way it smells sometimes? Ick! So I did my weekly cleaning of it with my homemade recipe. I make a 1/4 cup of lemon juice using my lemon powder and add 1/4 cup of baking soda to it. Mix it quickly because it fizzes up fast. Then pour it down the garbage disposal. Let it sit for 5 minutes and then run the garbage disposal with cold water. This keeps those smells away. If you don't have lemon powder or lemon juice, you can mix a little Lemonade KoolAid with water to make a 1/4 of a cup and then add the baking soda. 

I have a two piece Disposal Genie that keeps things  like silverware from going down into the drain where my garbage disposal is. I put that and my filter from my stove fan into the top rack of my dishwasher along with my sponge last night. I use the sanitize cycle to clean them really well.

I finally put our electric blanket on our bed yesterday. This allows us to turn the heat down another 2 degrees at night to save on energy. 

I planned to roast a large chicken for dinner last night. However, I took it out of the freezer too late for it to thaw all of the way. So I quickly had to change plans. Digging around in the freezer I found 3 bags consisting of fish fillets, French fries and onion rings. They were all about 1/8 full. So I baked them in the toaster oven and we had an easy dinner. I was happy to get rid of those bags since they were some of the last unhealthy things in the house. I have been trying to rid the house of all unhealthy food but will not throw out what I already had purchased since that would be wasteful. 

I got a head start on Thanksgiving and Christmas baking by making two loaves of homemade banana bread on Saturday. I hope today to bake two loaves of homemade cranberry bread today. They will be frozen until needed.

Dinner tonight will be the chicken, potatoes, carrots and celery all roasted in the same pan. I will make homemade gravy too. We will most likely get 5 meals from this chicken this week.

On Saturday night, neither my husband nor I were very hungry. So he ate a leftover piece of homemade pizza and I cooked a butternut squash with some  butter and brown sugar. YUM! 

Entertainment for my husband was football. I watched a movie on Netflix and did some reading.

I am sure I did more things but I am rushed for time today. Sorry that there are no pictures. My camera is giving me trouble so my husband will take a look at it for me. I hope you all have a frugal day!


Friday, November 13, 2015

Is The American Dream Dead?

I keep hearing that the American Dream is dead. Do you think that is true? If you do, turn off your TV. Don't believe what you hear or read. The politicians nor most of the main stream media can't be trusted. They lie to you every day to further their own agendas. That is the reason, I have turned the news off in this house. While I drink my coffee, I quickly skim the headlines online to make sure we haven't been attacked overnight and to make sure the economy hasn't collapsed. Then I don't look at it again until the next morning.

Whether or not you achieve the American Dream is in your hands and your hands alone! When I was growing up the American Dream was to work hard, save your money and achieve your goals. We were raised with a work ethic. The harder you worked in your job, the more you would achieve promotions which meant more money for the family. I don't believe the definition of the American Dream has changed. 

I do believe that the average household income today is higher than it has ever been. There are now 2 income households which were unheard of when I was growing up. That all started in the late 1960's and the 1970's. Of course costs have gone up but not as high proportionately as they were in the 1970's and 1980's. 

The thing that is so different today is that people spend their money faster than they earn it. They live off of credit cards and other loans. It's very hard to get ahead when you live like that. You are not helping your bottom line. Instead you are giving  your money away to corporations who will gladly take it. Our ancestors  and even some of my generation saved the money and then they made their purchase. My grandparents saved the cash to buy their home. There were no mortgages back then. If you didn't have the cash, you didn't purchase anything. There was no instant gratification.

So if you want to achieve the American Dream, pay off your debt and save for your goals. I know you may think that it is hard to do. You are right, habits are hard to break. But if you want  a better life for  your family, do what it takes and break those habits.

Then start saving for your goals and watch your net worth snowball. Why should you buy stuff from the  big corporations and then pay interest on your credit cards for the privilege of owning the stuff? I will bet that most of what you are buying are not necessities and you won't even remember them 6 months down the road. Stuff that will end up in landfills, is given away to charities or that you put up for sale at a garage sale for pennies on the dollar. Why do you keep making someone else rich? Make yourself rich by getting rid of your debt. Interest never sleeps even when you sleep. Wouldn't you rather have your money earn interest or dividends for you than pay interest to someone else? 

I am routing for all of you....those who owe debt and need to pay it off and those who owe no debt and are saving for their goals. I want all of you to happily retire someday whether that be in your 30's or 60's. It's all up to you which you pick.

That said I am impressed at how many 20 year olds today are saving massive amounts of money to be financially independent in their 30's or 40's. It tells me that  a lot of people truly get it. That saving money means freedom down the road. If they can do it, all of you can. You may not be able to save 50-70% of your income but I bet you can save a lot more than you do now. Even starting with 10%  is a step forward. 

All of you can have the American Dream. You just have to set your goals and work for it.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Planning for Thanksgiving

Have you made your plans for Thanksgiving? Are you having a DIY one?

We are doing it all ourselves. Happily our entire immediate family will be here for turkey day. It will be the first time we have been together here in a few years. My husband and I are very excited about spending the day with our children, their wives and our grandchildren.

So I have started to list out our menu to make sure that I have everything in the pantry, fridge and freezer. With the exception of celery and wine, I think we are pretty well set. I already have the 23 lb. turkey in my freezer that was purchased last year. If turkeys are a good price this year, I will buy a few for during the next year. 

Just about all of our ingredients were purchased on sale over the past month or so. Everything will be made from scratch except the jellied cranberry sauce.

We will be having turkey, gravy, sausage stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn casserole, pickles & olives, stuffed celery, cranberry sauce, rolls, and 3 different pies. I think they will be pumpkin, apple and blueberry. The blueberries were frozen at their peak this summer. Of course, ice cream will be an option also.

We will have wine with dinner, coffee after and an after dinner drink with dessert which usually ends up being eaten in the evening because we are all too stuffed to eat if after dinner. Any of you love Amarula?  It's a cream liqueur that is imported from South Africa. My son and DIL introduced it to us a while ago. I am lucky enough to have an unopened bottle on the shelf that was a gift from them. So that will be our after dinner drink.

Of course the wine I pick will be boxed because they are now just as good as the bottled and cheaper. Including the wine, my entire dinner will come in under $55.00 with lots of leftovers for the days that will follow. 

One year a long, long time ago, I was sick of cooking Thanksgiving dinner. So we took our children, my Mom and her husband out to a very nice restaurant for Thanksgiving dinner. I definitely enjoyed not cooking. However that said, it definitely wasn't the same. There were no leftovers and it wasn't as cozy as eating at home. I won't say that I will never do that again but I don't mind cooking Thanksgiving dinner so much anymore. And it is definitely cheaper than going out.

Nothing on our menu is overly fussy or majorly expensive. The Amarula would be but since it was a gift that defrays that cost. We pretty much stick to basics for holiday dinners that are inexpensive and yummy.

We will not be eating until around 6PM so that some  of my family can travel here that day. The others are coming early to help me cook. So I have baked homemade quick breads that have already been frozen, have cheese and crackers, plenty of nuts, and will cook some raw shrimp to have with cocktail sauce during the day.

So now I must go plan my cleaning and get the guest rooms ready. I hope to be all done by next Friday with all of that since we are having company that weekend also.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Am Frugal But Sometimes It Does Pay To Buy Cheaply

In a prior post I talked about how I am frugal not cheap. However, there are many things that I  do buy cheaply because it just makes sense.

I buy the cheapest toothpaste that I can find that has fluoride as an active ingredient. I can usually get Colgate or Crest for $ 1.00 or under after coupon.  

I do 8O% of my grocery shopping at Aldi's. I  buy their off brand names. They are cheaper and many of them are just as good as brand names or store brands. Produce is the only thing that I am leery of buying there. Many times when I have purchased their produce, it goes bad quickly. So I either price match it at Walmart or find it cheaper at our local produce store.

I buy the cheapest makeup that does the job. It is usually Maybelline. If I can find Cover Girl or Revlon with a large coupon then I will buy those. Sometimes I can find them at the Dollar Tree.

I buy always buy generic or store brand OTC drugs. I always used Robitussin cough syrup until one day I compared the ingredients to the store brand and they were exactly the same. Another example, we take 81 mg. aspirin every day for our health. I used to be able to keep us supplied cheaply by using coupons. That is no longer the case, so I buy a 1000 count bottle of these:

81 mg. Aspirin .

We always buy the generic (when available) prescription medication over the brand name. 

We both use Sonicare electric toothbrushes that we got free from our dentist. However, the replacement heads are expensive. So we tried these:

Replacement Heads .

They work as well as the Sonicare and we save about $10.00 for every two.

We have found toilet paper that we like at Sam's Club that is so much cheaper than others. It's called Pom and I just picked up a 45 roll package for $ 19.98. It not only saves us money but bought in bulk, it saves us time.

I stock on the cheapest shampoo and conditioner like VO5 when it is on sale for $ .79. It works as well as any of the others that are much more expensive.

We buy our wine in the box. It is cheaper than buying bottles and tastes just as good. We have found Peter Vella to be better than the average.

Even though I pay for my water that comes out of the tap, it is cheaper than buying bottled water and tastes just as good.

I buy my yeast for making bread and rolls from Sams Club in a 2 lb. package. It is so much cheaper than buying those small jars at the grocery store. I freeze the packages and just take out what I need. It stays fresh until it is gone. 

I buy the cheapest filters for my furnace that I can find in bulk packages at Walmart or our local hardware store. My heating man told me to do this years ago. He says the thicker filters block air flow.

We rarely buy cold cereal but when I do I have switched to store brands. They are just as good as the brand names.

When something has just one ingredient like salt, sugar, rice, oats and spices, I will buy the store brand or generic. I do the same for bleach. 

My husband loves his Diet Coke. But when it isn't on sale the Sam's brand is cheaper and he doesn't complain that it is different.

My husband has never eaten any mayonnaise but Hellman's or Best Foods. He insists that they are the best and that he can tell the difference. Recently, I was told by someone that Aldi's brand Burman's is Hellman's. I was very leery. However I bought a jar. He has been eating this brand for weeks and hasn't noticed that it isn't Hellman's. He hasn't even noticed that the jar says Burman's. 

We don't buy brand name gasoline for our car or lawn mower. The car runs just as well on the off brands and costs a lot less. Remember that all generic or store brand gasoline must meet regulatory requirements.

I use the cheapest denture cleaning tablets(usually the Walmart Equate brand) that I can find to clean my toilet bowl. They work just as well as buying expensive bowl cleaners. I just drop a tablet in and let it fizz and then clean with a brush.

I always buy store brand milk. I figure milk that comes out of udders doesn't change for the name  brand.

I am sure that your list will be different than mine. But these are the ones that we use all of the time.

If you have cheaper alternatives that you use, please leave a comment and share your tip with all of us. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

How Much Do I Need to Save for Retirement?

This is the question that I hear all the time: How much do I need to save for retirement? I answer that question with a question: How much are you going to spend?

Your spending  decides how much you will need. It's one of the reasons that you should be tracking your expenses every month. It will give you an idea of what you spend. It will also show you where you can cut expenses.

I believe that you shouldn't retire with any debt: no mortgage, no car payments, no credit card debt, and  definitely no college loan debt for your children. Those payments have ruined many a retirement plan.

After you have tracked your expenses a few months, look them over really well. Which of those expenses will you have in retirement? Add up everything that you believe you will spend in one year in retirement. Then multiply that amount by 25-50 years. If you are retiring really early then use closer to that latter number of years.

I know no one knows how long they will live but you have to estimate it to make sure you have enough saved so that you won't run out of money. 

For example: Lets says you have realistically determined that you will need $25,000. per year to cover your expenses. You want to retire at 55 years of age. Your family history has shown that your family lives into their 70's. I would multiply $25,000. by 25 years of retirement. So this tells you that you will need a total of $ 625,000. If you want an early retirement at 40 or 50 then just multiply the $25,000. by those number of years. Your money  should be invested so that you are making money on it. 

Why do I use this formula? Because history has shown us that 4% percent is the safe withdrawal rate each year. It is the maximum rate at which you can spend your retirement savings and not run out of money.  Safe Withdrawal Rate

I know that you are thinking what if the economy is bad like it has been for the past 7 years. Well that is when you tighten up the budget a little and weather the storm. I know health care will go up and that we will have some inflation eventually even though it is has been at historic lows according to our government. I show you the Trinity Study because it is the only evidence out there that a 4% safe withdrawal rate will work best. Account in your savings and investments for the fact that we could have another period of 7-8 years like we have had these past years and save extra. 

We invested in stocks by buying mutual funds. I don't know about you but I am not a great stock picker. So we have used Vanguard Total Stock Index funds for years and that has worked well for us. You don't need a high commissioned stock broker to pick your stocks for you. They just pick your pocket with commissions and fees.  Only you can decide how you want to invest your money. But for the past 7 years interest rates on savings accounts and even CD's have been at historic lows. They barely pay 1/2%. When you need 4% or more, that 1/2% is not going to get you there.

That said, if you are not a risk taker, then you are going to have to use a lower withdrawal rate per year or save more money. Many seniors over the past few years have cut their withdrawal rate down to 2-3 % to weather the storm. If you are really worried about the 4% withdrawal rate, then save more money. Save 5,6, or 7%. Only you can determine what rate makes you comfortable. But you always have to be cognizant that when your money is in the stock market, you run a risk of losing it. So as you age, you should be rebalancing your portfolio to less risk.

We have a lot more money in investments than we will need but we wanted to account for a period of high inflation. We wanted to make sure that we could weather the storms. We lived through the 1980's when inflation was in the double digits. Our government tells us there is no inflation but that is because they don't take into account food costs. We all know that our food costs have skyrocketed over the past few years.  We also are always cutting our costs so that we can continue to save money every month. Only you can determine what you will save to make sure that you are comfortable with your retirement. I can only point out the Trinity Study that people have used for years to determine what they need in retirement. 

Many seniors have bolstered their retirement savings by taking part time jobs. But you can't count on that since in your old age you may not be healthy enough to work a part time job.  

To sum up, figure out what you need to save and then just do it. I know it's not easy but not having enough money in retirement for the basics of housing, utilities, property taxes, food, transportation and healthcare will definitely not be easy. Just ask any senior who has to decide between buying food or their meds monthly. As you saw in our October Expense Report, healthcare and food were two of our highest expenses.

Disclaimer: I am not a stock broker or even a financial planner so I can't determine what investments you put your money in. I can only tell you what has worked for us and about the Trinity Study. You have to make your own investment decisions. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

One Day In My Money Saving Life

The best way that I know how to show you what I do daily to save a few pennies is for you to go through a day with me.

I got up at 6AM so that I could take a walk (free exercise) before I made breakfast. After walking a mile and half, I arrived at home and took my navy shower using free samples of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and razors to shave my legs. Then I slathered on a free sample of lotion. We have a huge basket of free samples that I have collected. I am trying to use them all up. They don't save me any money just sitting in the basket. After my shower while my hair was air drying, I decided to go through that basket and take out any samples that I was sure  that we would not use. They will be saved in my gift closet to add to homemade gift baskets. While I was putting them away, I noticed that I had a nice supply of gift baskets that I had gotten at a garage sale this summer for $ .50 each. They will get used over the next year.

Then I opened the shades on the south side of the house to let the sun shine in. I most likely will follow the sun around the house opening shades when the sun is on them today. It is supposed to be 68 today so I doubt that the heat will come on. This is crazy weather for us for November.    

After making some coffee, I made a breakfast of homemade blueberry buttermilk pancakes. The blueberries were purchased fresh this summer when they were at their cheapest and frozen. I made enough pancakes for 4 meals worth. One meal will be eaten, one will go in the refrigerator, and two will get frozen for another week. They will warmed in the microwave when we want them. I always cook for more than one meal whether it be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Less time used by me and less energy spent which makes for a lower utility bill. My husband and I enjoyed them with some homemade syrup.

Before I did the dishes, I made a batch of homemade dill dip that I will be using at lunchtime. 

I had thrown a load of sheets in the washer before I started breakfast, so I hung them to dry after breakfast.

I then took some time to look at the grocery ads for the  week and decided that the only things I want to buy are Peanut Pan simply ground peanut butter for $ 1.00 a jar after coupon, some cans of evaporated milk at $ .69 each and a butternut squash for $ 1.29. I am hoping to make a run this week to Sam's Club for non - food items so most of my money will go there. 

I made a quick stop at our local grocery store, Aldi's, the library for two books, and filled the gas tank up in our car. I had $.10 off a gallon at our local grocery store station but the price was $ 2.33 a gallon. Another station on my route gives me $ .10 off a gallon because I let them take the cost directly from our checking account. After that $ .10 off a gallon, I would pay $ 2.19 a gallon. Another station a few feet away is cash only and their price was $ 2.23. So I stopped at the $ 2.19 a gallon station. This is the lowest price I have paid in years. Also, I am loving getting books to read at the library. I used to spend a bit of money at Amazon for books but I have given that bad habit up. Matter of fact, I am listing a number of books to sell this week that I no longer want or need. It's all part of decluttering.

When I came home, I cut up some carrot and celery sticks and sliced some radishes for the dill dip I made earlier. This was our lunch today.

Taking advantage of the weather, I washed the car in the driveway. I also cleaned the interior by vacuuming the carpeting and cleaning all of the other surfaces. Lastly, I washed all of the windows with homemade window cleaner.

After drying the car and taking a breather, I decided to clean both bathrooms and wash the tile floors. I used microfiber cloths for cleaning the jacuzzi and counters and sinks. I used sponges to clean the showers. I always use homemade cleaners for all of this. Then I cleaned the toilets with an old rag and a brush. I use the cheapest denture tablets from Walmart to clean the toilet bowls. I just let them fizz and sit until I am ready to clean them. 

I had been cleaning the basement this past weekend, so I dragged the couple of bags of garbage up to the trash can.Then I collected the rest of the garbage baskets in the house to also put in the trash so that we can put the cans out to the curb tonight for trash pickup in the morning. I also emptied the small recyclable bin under my kitchen sink into the recyclable barrel in the garage to get that ready. Then I washed that bin and dried it before it went back under the sink.

I needed a rest, so I sat and entered my husband's Coke caps into the Coke Rewards site since it is double points today. Then I prepped dinner and decided to read one of the library books that I got today until I made dinner.  

For dinner, I roasted a chicken and some cut up veggies and potatoes in the same pan in my Breville toaster oven. When they came out of the oven I made homemade chicken gravy. I love my toaster oven because I rarely have to turn on my big oven which saves on energy costs. 

After we had dinner, the leftovers were safely put away for dinner tomorrow night. When the dishes were done, my husband and I decided to play a game of Scrabble at our game table. Then later we watched a movie on Netflix.  

We will read for a while before bed and then it will be lights out by 10PM.

So there is nothing remarkable about my day except that I am always cognizant of how I do things so that we save the most amount of money possible.

Did you do anything to save some money today?  Please feel free to leave a comment and share with all of us.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Best Deal On These That I Have Ever Seen

I happen to stumble across this on Amazon today. For any of you who are replacing your light bulbs with LED's, here is the best deal that I have ever seen on the 65W Canister lights for the ceiling. These are the ones that are in recessed lighting. They are 51% off at a cost of just $ 4.85 a bulb. This is super cheap for this bulb.

Canister LED Bulb 

This is not a deals blog but when I see something this good, I just have to share.

I have replaced all of my lighting in my home inside and out and the amount of  electricity that I am saving is huge. The bills are so much easier on the pocketbook now.

So if you are need of these, I would jump on this price.

October 2015 Expense Report

Here is our expense report for the month of October. It is every penny that we have spent during the month. Before you wonder why some categories are not shown this month, I will attempt to explain why.

This is after tax income or net income. We paid cash for our home and our car. So there is no mortgage or car loan payments. We pay our home and auto insurances yearly so you will see them during the months that we pay them. We pay our property taxes on undeveloped land in another state once a year. We own it with 2 other family members so we pay 1/3 of the taxes. We pay our property taxes on our home in September and January. Our property taxes in January include trash pickup for the year. We pay for water quarterly. We have one cell phone which we pay once a year. We give to charitable organizations once a year. Poverty programs receive over $2500. a year along with donations to other pet charities. You will not see them listed in our monthly expenses because we give them from our investments when and if we want to. I am not showing what we pay monthly for Medicare because we are reimbursed by a former employer. 

$ 454.05                      Groceries                         Food Only

$ 167.87                      Restaurant Meals             3 Birthday dinners, takeout                                                                             donuts and yogurt

$ 73.69                        Electric Bill                     $18. lower than last year

$ 19.24                        Natural Gas Bill               Cooking

$ 139.80                      Cable TV, Internet,Tel.    Home Telephone-necessity

$    7.99                       Netflix                           Entertainment 

$ 792.81                      Medical                         Insurance, prescriptions, Dr.
                                                                       & Dentist, medical equip.

$ 139.69                      Automobile                    2 year registration, etc.

$ 45.45                        Gasoline                       Car & Riding Mower

$ 115.42                      Gifts                             PIF with CC Reward Cash 

$ 461.14                      Household Goods           Non Food & Equipment

$ 59.85                       Household Maintenance   Alarm Monitoring, Teen Help

$ 51.94                       Property Taxes               Undeveloped acreage

$ 24.00                       Haircut                          Me

$2437.52                    Total Expenses 

Groceries are high this month because it includes some stockpiling for the winter months. Stockpiling will continue in November for turkeys, cranberries, and other rock bottom priced Thanksgiving items.

I don't think we have ever had such a high restaurant meal bill. We overdid it for my birthday but enjoyed it. We hope to reduce this cost next month. 

The electric bill is for last month and is lower than last year because we now have all LED lighting outside and inside our home.  The natural gas bill was for cooking on the stove top and oven.

We know that cable TV and Netflix are not real necessities but they are entertainment for us. We don't go out to the movies or sporting events anymore. Our internet is a necessity to keep in touch with family and friends and without it I would not be blogging. I recently got our cable company to reduce our monthly bill by almost $ 44. a month by threatening to cancel all of our services. We had the bill creep up to over $183. over 5 years. I tried to get it reduced in prior years with no luck except when they gave me credits for lousy service. I decided enough was enough. Finally I succeeded. I was prepared to cancel if they hadn't reduced it. I would have replaced the home phone with another cell phone, gotten internet elsewhere, and gone without the Cable TV. Besides having Netflix and Amazon Prime Movies, there are other options.  

Our medical is very high this month because of an  emergency dental checkup and x-rays($250.00). It also includes a year's worth of hearing aid batteries, reading glasses, OTC drugs, vitamins, and a special pillow besides all of the other items listed in the chart.

The automobile expenses were the auto registration
($81.50) and the cost of getting our snow tires mounted on the car (50% off) and installing four new tire valve stems($58.19). We had been losing air in one of the rear regular tires for most of the spring and summer. We had taken it to two different shops and were told by both that we needed to check the air more often in the warmer weather and fill the tires up. So we have been doing that about once a month for about 6 months. With the summer tires off, my husband asked the tire place to look at the tires really well and find out if they saw a problem. Sure enough, we have been driving for 6 months with a huge nail wedged in that tire. We have taken 500 and 140 mile trips during that time. I guess we were lucky we didn't have a blowout. By state law, the shop could not repair the tire because of where the nail was. So we will be planning to buy two new tires for the rear in the spring when the snows come off.

I buy my gasoline at 2 different stations that are very close to my home.  If I have supermarket reward points for more than 10% off, I go to that station. If not, I go to a station that gives me 10% off for having it automatically come out of my checking account. Of course, I am always checking the price per gallon to get the best deal. This month's cost was one tank of gasoline and filling up the large container to refill the lawn mower tank. 

The gifts were for Christmas and a birthday and are all paid in full using my rewards card cash back for reward points and saved rebate cash. We charge almost everything all month to earn reward points. The credit card bills are paid in full every month. We have more Christmas shopping to do this week and then we should be done. You will see this excluded in the total since they were free with points and rebates.

The household goods included a leaf bagger for our John Deere riding lawn mower ($395.65), an outlet and wall plate, toilet paper, reusable Kcup lids, a toner waste container for our laser printer, tall kitchen garbage bags, and a 4 pack of packing tape. Next month this should be a lot lower. 

Household maintenance was our monthly house alarm monitoring fee of $ 29.85 and $ 30.00 to the teenager who does our weed wacking for us. They are both necessities. However this is the last month we should need to use the teenager until spring.

Property taxes were for our 1/3 share of undeveloped acreage that we own with family.

I have very short hair so the salon haircut is a necessity.

At the end of October, we were able to invest 63.9% of our net income (explained in a prior post).   We would like to see that number closer to 70% next month so that we can reach our goals.

I know a lot of you can't invest that much because you have children, debt, mortgage payments, car payments, kids in college, etc. However you can strive to raise the amount you do save and invest every month by paying off that debt and cutting costs. We are an example of what you can accomplish after decades of cutting costs and saving. We didn't get here overnight. It took years of planning, saving, investing and always trying to lower costs.

For those of you nearing retirement, the best advice I can give you is to lower your housing costs by paying off your mortgage before you retire. It is costly enough just for household maintenance and property and school taxes. I also urge all of you to realize that large items like cars and appliances all have to be replaced when they wear out even when you are retired so take that into account in your savings. 

For those of you with a long timeline until early retirement, time is on your side. Because we saved and invested early, we live well today in retirement. But we haven't stopped saving because costs keep going up, our family lives to their late 80's and early 90's, and we still have goals.

You may not be able to save as high a percentage of your net income as we do but even 10% is fantastic. That is where we started out years ago. As you get into the rhythm of saving and investing, it becomes a game. You try to beat your savings total month after month. You may have setbacks but that is okay. Don't let those setbacks discourage you. Just keep at it.   

I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have. Ask me by leaving a comment. I truly want all of you to be able to retire early and enjoy life on your own terms. Remember there is nothing better than not having to answer to a boss day in and day out. Not having a commute is a close second.